At the end of myself…at the feet of Jesus

Matthew 25: 40, And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.


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Looking at Domestic Abuse Through a Biblical Lens

I guess my perspective is different from many Christians. I have lived among abusive people my whole life. The good Lord saw fit to not just dip my feet in the water of abuse but to plunge me into its depths. Because He graciously has allowed me to live in the midst of abusers (though many times, I must confess, I’d have much preferred He hadn’t), I have an understanding of what abusers do and what the abused go through at their hand. In the end, the pain God has allowed me to deal with has been a blessing in some ways because it’s opened my eyes in a way some folk’s eyes are never opened. I know the pain of abuse. I’ve lived with abuse. I’ve been abused by multiple family members at various times of my life. I understand abuse far too well. Because of this, this is where I take my stand: Domestic abuse in any form, by anyone towards anyone, is sin and the church needs to wake up and realize that there are abusers in their midst who are masquerading as Christians; these abusers are hurting their families, sinning against God, and bringing reproach on the church and on the name of God. The church needs to educate themselves about abuse. They need to help the abused who members of their churches. To fail to do so is to choose to sin.

If you’ve not walked in the shoes of Christians who have been abused by those they’ve loved, I guess it’s easy to look away. After all, you don’t understand what’s going on. Anyway, some of the people being accused of abuse are “just the nicest people” or “the best Christian man I know”. Right? It’s much easier to dismiss the accusations than it is to have to deal with the messy fall-out. Anyway, God hates divorce, doesn’t He, so what can you do?

No, you’ve got your facts wrong. God doesn’t hate all divorce. If He did, He wouldn’t have divorced Israel. But, it’s easier to say He hates divorce and just tell her that if she wants to please God she has to stay with her abuser, than it is to risk the wrath of her abuser, than it is to have to sit down and study that Scripture in context, or than it is to actually have to step up and figure out a way to help those who are abused.

Or it’s easier to say “Just leave” and leave it up to her to figure out how.

It’s easier to tell her that the man she’s accusing of abuse can’t possibly be doing what she’s said he is. After all, seeing him once a week or even two or three times a week means you know him far better than his wife does. Right? Wrong. You dismiss her concerns because you don’t want to be bothered.

Because you aren’t looking at her situation through a biblical lens.

There are a lot of godly women out there who really love the Lord and who haven’t a clue what they need to do because their man won’t stop abusing them, neglecting his duties, won’t provide properly and on and on, but who cares? It doesn’t affect you. It doesn’t stop you from sitting down to a good meal forgetting that somewhere in your city, a woman who loves God with all that she is, is struggling to figure out how to keep food on the table for the rest of the week, or is pulling roaches out of what little food she has and serving it anyway, or is not eating herself in order to feed her kids. It doesn’t stop you from buying two or even three cars while ignoring the fact that this woman who has claimed to be abused but you’ve wondered about her faithfulness because she isn’t always in church, isn’t showing up to church because she has no running car. It doesn’t stop you from buying brand new clothes for your family, forgetting that the woman and children you think are dressed so poorly probably don’t have a way to buy any clothes–not and have a hope of keeping food on the table. It doesn’t stop you from going on a vacation, all the while ignoring the fact that she’s about to be evicted because her husband failed to pay the rent–and this isn’t the first time it’s happened to her.

You need to know. You need to look. You need to see. You need to listen: Abused women, children, and sometimes even men (because, yes, men can be, and sometimes are abused by their partners), because of the stress they live in, tend to have more health issues than the non-abused and are often not allowed to have access to health care. They tend to eat more poorly, often because of lack of resources. They tend to be quiet and subdued because they are afraid of anyone finding out for fear of what will happen when the abuser finds out someone knows, or because they fear being looked down on because they’ve been abused, or because they’ve just been abused so much that they haven’t the strength to pretend all is well. Abusers often keep their money for themselves, even demand that the abused turn over their earnings to them, then they do what they want to with it (frequently providing for themselves but not for their family). Sometimes the abuser wastes his money through gambling, through drinking, by doing drugs, through other selfish purposes or by carelessness. Some abusers are so careless in their own lives that they keeps losing their job so they lose everything–over and over again. Whatever the reason, many of those who are abused live in roach-infested, mold-ridden, run-down houses, own shabby second-hand furniture, drive a barely working car (if they are allowed one), and wear clothes most of us would throw away. They are alienated from others because their abuser makes them be–so no one finds out his secret. They often don’t have friends. They often have no credit or their credit has been ruined by their abuser, and they often have no money, so they feel they have no way out.

The abused Christian woman (or man) who gets up each morning and prays for the strength to get through the day and does all that they can to protect their children, to raise them and provide for them, is fighting a war most of you will never have to fight. And because they are so often ignored by the church, the very ones who should be helping them, they are fighting it alone.

You can ignore what I’ve written. You can refuse to care. But if you do, please don’t say you are doing all that you can to honor the Lord. According to statistics, one in four women will experience domestic violence at some point in her life. Maybe it’s a parent, a sibling, another relative, or her partner doing the abusing–but some of these “statistics” are sitting in your church.

I’m one of them.

This is just one issue the church is facing. Abortion. Biblical ignorance. Promiscuity. Poverty. Orphans. And on and on and on, the issues just mount up. Ignore these issues, forget that your help is needed and tell God you plan to do so or repent of your failure to care and ask the Lord how you can help. Somebody somewhere needs you to pray for them, to lend a helping hand, to be a friend, to teach them the truth of God’s Word. Look around you. God commanded us to be His hands and His feet. What are you doing to obey Him?

Soli Deo gloria!


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What the Abused Really Need

I remember the morning my Daddy jumped up and, cursing, screaming at Mama, “I’m going to shove your *** teeth down your throat!”. I can’t say I remember what happened that lead up to his outburst (though they were common) but I clearly remember jumping between them and yelling at him to “Leave my Mama alone!”. Mama was trying to pull me back, afraid of my father’s reaction. Instead of acting at all, he stared at me and turned and left the room. My memory ends there though I wish I could remember what came next. What did Mama say to me in those moments following his attack? Did she scold me for interfering? Did she hold me close and cry? Did she quickly dress me and herself and leave the house? I simply don’t know. Mama’s been gone for a long time now and even when she was here, asking her questions about my father led her down a pathway I seldom dared to tread.

Mama was an abused woman. I was an abused daughter. I married into an abusive family. The seeds of abuse grow in the hearts of those who have not the love of our Lord Jesus Christ and lay to waste precious lives. Abuse is sin, plain and simple. Those who live in abuse, grow up in abuse, have a difficult time understanding the love of God, trusting God or even understanding human love and trust. When your sky has been black around the clock all of your life are you really going to believe someone who tells you that where they live and, indeed, everywhere else, the sky is blue during daylight? Who could believe such a thing? That would be…weird.

Normal behavior is weird when you’ve been abused. What’s normal to others is so abnormal to you. They speak of trusting. You can’t trust. They speak of joy and happiness. You don’t feel. They speak of engaging, being involved, accomplishing goals. You go numb, hunker down and simply try to survive. The pathway to survival might include drinking (as it did for my father who himself was abused as a child), it might include drugs, promiscuity, overspending, dedication to perfection or any other kind of addiction or coping mechanism. They do that because they often don’t know what else to do. No one is there to teach them, help them or to care. They need someone. They need Christ.

Some Christians respond with loving compassion to those who have suffered abuse. My mother was blessed in that regard. When we finally managed to escape my father, we settled down in her hometown of Tallassee, Alabama. There we joined a church and that church surrounded us with love. They cared what she’d gone through. They hurt for her. They supported her in leaving my father. They even supported her when she, fearing that he would come kill her, take me and vanish with me, as he’d threatened to do so many times, decided to divorce him. The leadership of the church was with her every step of the way. Her story is an anomaly.  Most women suffering from abuse don’t have such loving responses from their churches. That hasn’t usually been my experience nor that of  most women I have spoken with.

You might think that domestic abuse is something you will never have to deal with. Something far away and foreign to you. You might be right but, honestly, I don’t think so. More likely you simply aren’t adept at seeing the signs. One in four women in the USA is affected by domestic abuse at some point in her life. One in four. That means that somewhere along the way every single person has likely come across someone who has been abused or is presently being abused. Most likely, you’ve come across several. Likely there are some in your church right now.

You don’t know what to do? Be Christ to them. If they don’t know Him, teach them of Him. Then serve them. That’s what He’d do. And that’s what they really need.

 

 


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When a Woman is Abused

(Statistics tell us that approximately one in three women are abused at some point in their life. That means that if you yourself are not abused then surely you know someone who is.)

 

If a Christian woman is abused by her husband, whether the abuse is emotional, physical, spiritual or sexual, it isn’t because

she didn’t submit enough,

she hasn’t tried hard enough,

she didn’t love him enough,

she didn’t spend enough time in prayer for her husband

and for their marriage,

that she didn’t study the Word

or didn’t believe the Word

or didn’t try to obey the Word with everything within her.

If she gets to the point where she is thinking about separating from her husband, or even divorcing him, after many hours of prayer and many hours of Bible study and more tears than you could ever even begin to imagine, it doesn’t necessarily follow that

she never loved him,

she is a feminist,

that she wants to be separated or divorced,

that she doesn’t believe in biblical womanhood,

that she didn’t long for a traditional marriage,

that she didn’t try hard enough to be a good wife,

that she isn’t a good Christian.

If you should happen to meet a woman who has been abused, you will probably think that she is

distant,

cold,

self-involved,

shy.

Most likely this is because she is

shattered,

broken,

alone

and confused.

If you have never walked in her steps, if you’ve never heard the words designed to destroy you coming from the mouth of the one who swore before God and others that he would love you forever, if you’ve never been, literally and physically backed into a corner with absolutely no way out,  then you probably have absolutely no clue how

betrayed,

devastated,

shocked,

heart-broken

and hurt an abused woman feels.

If a woman has been beaten down, physically or emotionally, and she is brave enough to seek help,

go to her,

applaud her,

pray for her and with her,

and help her,

because, most likely, she has absolutely no idea what she is going to do next.

Her fear and confusion will be even more evident, more overwhelming, more devastating to her if she has children. Remember that and love her and love her children, also.

Comfort them,

pray for them,

listen to them,

do something kind for them,

let them know that someone cares

even if their daddy doesn’t.

Emotional abuse, physical abuse, spiritual abuse and sexual abuse of wives is real and far more common than most folks realize. It happens even in what others perceive to be “Christian” families. Even if the abuse is just aimed at the wife, the children will still be injured from the fallout. Frequently, though, it isn’t just fallout that hurts them; abusers of wives often go on to become abusers of children, too. Often abuse doesn’t stop with just words even if that is where it starts. If a man will break his wife with his words, many times, he will manifest force against her somehow, someway, sometime. It just might bleed out to the children, also.

Abuse isn’t the wife’s fault. It isn’t the children’s fault. No one deserves to be hurt like this.

If you know about a case of domestic abuse, consider that perhaps God has put you here with this family and has prepared you for such a time as this. If so, you have an obligation to

pray,

to love,

to be available to her as she tries to rebuild her life

and the lives of her children,

to listen

and listen again and again,

to cry with her,

to protect,

to defend,

to get her and her children to safety if need be

and to help her start over.

When it is over, when she has taken the step to protect her and her children that she never dreamed that she would ever have to take, remember that

she doesn’t need condemnation, she needs assurance that she is accepted and safe with you and in her church.

Keep in mind that…

her dreams are gone, help her to dream new ones;

her life is shattered, help her to build it again;

her children need love and guidance, see yourself as part of their healing;

she herself needs a friend, be one

and always, always pray for her and for her children.