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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You are not to blame for his buse

If you are a woman who is being abused by your husband, you need to know that his abuse of you isn’t your fault. You didn’t bring the abuse on yourself. You aren’t, by somehow failing to please him in some way, asking to be abused. Your failures as a wife, however great or small, whether real or imagined by him, in no way gives your husband the right to seek to destroy your body, your mind, your heart, or your being. If you are a woman who is being abused by a man, the sin lies squarely on his shoulders and not on yours at all.

You didn’t cause the abuse by being sometimes being difficult. It doesn’t matter if you somehow “slip up” in your duties at times, serve supper late, fail to pick up the dry cleaning, or keep the house in a bit of a mess when you get busy. Maybe there are things you can do better but that can be said of all of us. Nothing you’ve done or haven’t done gives him the right to yell at you, smack you, terrorize you, castigate you, assault you, rape you, discipline you, or abuse you in any way, shape, form or fashion.

Abuse of any kind is the fault of the abuser. Abuse of any kind means the abuser is sinning not just against you but also against the Lord who created him.

Abuse needs no excuse. Abusers need no reason to abuse. They abuse because they are abusers. They don’t think like normal people, they don’t react like normal people, they don’t respond like normal people. They think, react and respond like abusive people because that is what they are. Because of that, it doesn’t matter if you failed or if you didn’t fail, they will abuse you anyway. Abusers can be driven to abuse by anything, or by nothing.

If you are being abused you have a right to protect yourself. You have a right to leave. To tell your story to someone who can help you. To get to safety. You have a right to protect yourself and your children. You have a right to divorce. You have a right to live in peace. You have a right to live a life that is free from abuse.

There’s a life out there that’s free from abuse. It’s where most people life. By God’s grace, it’s where you can live also.

Soli Deo gloria!


God’s Grace for the Abused by Wes Bredenhof

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” That Bible passage comes from verse 18 of Psalm 34.   Maybe you know what it’s like to be brokenhearted and crushed in spirit.  If you’ve ever been abused sexually, physically, or emotionally, then I know that you know.  Abuse of any kind crushes you down and leaves you broken.  And when this has happened to you, especially as a child, there are no easy answers.   It’s a real struggle to come to terms with what happened, and, strangely enough, it can be even harder if you have any kind of belief in the God of the Bible.

If you’ve been abused in any way, I want to acknowledge your pain as being very real and legitimate.  You may try to keep that pain filed away in the back of your soul somewhere, but you and I both know that it’s still there.  From time to time, it re-emerges to haunt you again – even if you thought that you’d dealt with it through counselling.  You have your pain and you have your questions.  And again, you may have your secret doubts about God and his love for you.

There is grace and compassion from God for you.  Even though you are broken.  Even though you may doubt God’s love, you doubt his ability to have kept you safe when you were abused.  Even though you are weak and broken, there is grace.  Even though you are crushed.  You’re sad and angry at the same time, maybe even angry at God.   God can look past it all.  God will give you grace, he will give what you don’t deserve.  God is still there for you, even if you have trouble accepting it.  There is grace for the abused.

Let me explain why that is.  You can only understand the depth of God’s grace when you look at the person who most clearly showed God’s grace in this world.   You have to look at Jesus Christ.  When we’ve been abused, the temptation is to think that we’re alone, that our situation is totally unique.  Perhaps in some ways it is.  But just think for a moment about the suffering that the Lord Jesus experienced.  He was physically abused horrifically in the last hours of his life.  Having had all his clothes stripped off him, there was a measure of sexual abuse in what he experienced.  But the worst part of his suffering was the emotional and spiritual angle.  No pictures or movies can adequately capture it.  He was rejected by God his Father.  He was rejected by all his friends and disciples.  Jesus Christ had done nothing wrong, yet he hung on the cross and suffered.  He deserved none of this!

Why did Jesus Christ have to experience all this abuse?  We ask the same questions about our own experiences.  We don’t often find answers that will satisfy us.   There are answers, but they seem trite.  But with the suffering and abuse of Jesus Christ, we have a different story.  There is an answer to why Jesus had to suffer.  The Bible clearly teaches that all are sinners.  Abusers and abused – all of us have fallen short of God’s holy standards.  We have put ourselves into debt with God.  The good news is that God sent Jesus Christ to pay the debt for all who believe in him.  There was a sense in what happened with Jesus:  it was for you!   He took all that hellish abuse for you, so that youcould have a friendly relationship with God.   You could not do that for yourself.  God did not owe it to you to send Jesus Christ.  He did it simply because he cared for you.

Do you see God’s grace in the abuse that Jesus Christ suffered?  It was horrible, but there was no other way for you to be saved.  Somebody had to step in and pay the price for your sins.  The only way you could do it is if you were to go to hell yourself.  You could spend an eternity in hell and you would never be finished paying for your sins.  Instead, when you hold on to Christ in faith, his suffering makes the payment for you.   The suffering of the Lord Jesus is the only thing that can make you acceptable to God.

The abuse and suffering of Jesus Christ makes sense.  We can see God’s grace in that.  God’s grace is that through the abuse of Jesus Christ, we receive what we did not deserve.  Through the abuse of Jesus, we receive a relationship with God and the life that lasts forever.

Now, let’s go back to your own abuse and suffering.  Where is God’s grace in what happened to you?   I’m going to be careful here, because I don’t know exactly what you’ve been through.  I don’t know where you’re at right now.  I can only work with what I do know.   I know that you’re not responsible for what happened to you.  And another thing I know, and you should know too, is what we began with from Psalm 34: “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  The Lord is close to you.  This means that God is relationally close to you in your brokenheartedness.   If you are holding on to Jesus Christ for your salvation, God promises that he is close.  Now maybe you don’t feel that closeness, but he is there.  He also promises to save you – that doesn’t mean that he’s going to stop all the hurt and suffering in your life.  No, we’re going to see that the promise is bigger than that.

When we believe that the Lord Jesus is our Saviour, we want to believe that life will be easier and make more sense.  But it doesn’t always work that way.  Sometimes life becomes tougher and more confusing.  We want to believe that we have a God who will stop every bad thing from happening to us.  We want to believe that we have a God who is in control and who’s only going to bring good things our way.   We want to believe that the story of Job in the Old Testament is just an exception.  But here again, we have to look to Jesus.  His path to victory was through suffering.  He had to travel through the valley of the shadow of death.   In fact, more often than not, Christians suffer.  The so-called victorious Christian life with no struggles, with no suffering and all sunny skies is the exception, not the rule.  I just mentioned Job, but you can read Psalm 73 to see the same thing happening.  In that Psalm, a man wonders why the wicked seem to have everything going good, but the believers are suffering.  What sense does it make?  The answer doesn’t come until he goes to the temple.  At the temple, he sees the sacrifices of all the animals and he’s reminded that eternal death is the punishment for sin.  God points out that he needs to think “big picture.”

That’s hard to do when we’ve been abused.  It’s even harder to think big picture when the abuse is ongoing.  It’s not easy to have an eternal perspective.  But this is what faith is about.  Even though things look off, you have to trust God’s promise that he is near you, even though you can’t understand how that’s being worked out.   Because of Jesus Christ, God is working in your life, even through your abuse and sufferings.  You have to think ahead in faith.  Though it’s incredibly hard to do it, you have to think along the lines of what we read in Romans 8:18, “I consider that the present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”  The present life is suffering and abuse.  It’s real and it weighs us down.  But there is a future.  The future is glory and it will be revealed in us.  This is God’s promise to you.  He makes another promise in verse 28 of Romans 8, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  And then a couple verses further, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

If you’ve been abused, you probably don’t feel like God has been much for you in your life.  Again, here’s where faith comes in the picture.  To grasp what I’m getting at, you need to think of yourself differently.  We like to think that we’re quite intelligent, understanding people.  We’ve reached a level of maturity.  But as Christians, we come to see ourselves differently.   I used to live in a BC town where there were a number of mentally handicapped people.  One of them was a young woman, perhaps in her twenties.  She had a caregiver who took her out every day.  Without her caregiver, she would likely never have been able to get out of bed, eat proper meals, and so on.  She was totally dependent on her caregiver.  She trusted her caregiver to do the right thing for her each day.  I suppose she may not always have understood why her caregiver did certain things.    But yet she trusted her.  We see the same thing with infant children and their parents.   They don’t understand, especially in the midst of pain, but typically they go on trusting.  They know that their parents and caregivers are really for them.  When we think about God’s closeness to us, we need to think in these terms.  Hard though it may be, we need to see ourselves as entirely dependent on God and his goodness.  As we do that, we will not only know about God’s grace, we will also experience it in our lives.

And as we experience that grace for ourselves in relation to God, we will also be more ready and willing to share it with others.  One of the biggest steps an abused person can take is to extend grace and forgiveness to the one who abused them.  Maybe you’re not ready for that yet.  It may take some time.  But as you meaningfully reflect on God’s grace for you in Jesus Christ, at some point you’ll want to share that grace with the person or people who’ve hurt you.  They don’t deserve your forgiveness, do they?  But when you give that forgiveness, what are you saying about God?   You’re saying, “In giving Jesus Christ, my God has been so gracious to me, I will extend the same grace to you.”  In that way, God’s goodness gets amplified in this broken world.  More people will come to see and appreciate the depth of God’s grace for sinners.

If you’ve been abused, there is God’s grace and healing for you in Jesus Christ.  May God bless you with his grace in the Lord Jesus.