A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Allowing God to Affirm Me

It seems that victims (or former victims) of any kind of abuse hunger for validation in their hearts. Actually, not hunger — starve. Recently, one of our anonymous contributors wrote this post. And I quote:

When we are degraded and made to feel worthless and are unloved by the very one who is supposed to demonstrate Christ’s love to us, it distorts the entire picture of Christ and His love for us. I began to doubt and think that God saw me the way my abuser saw me. Hence, I began to look for approval from others, to be loved and accepted and so I could think that the abuser was wrong in his treatment of me – that I did not deserve it, and therefore God should not think of me that way either. If only I could gain acceptance and love somewhere.

I could easily have written this paragraph. In my first marriage, I was desperate to be loved and accepted. My view of God eroded and I did not know how to redeem it on my own. And I was very sure that God’s view of me was poor, as well. When I went to church, I was looking for some sort of esteem somewhere . . . anywhere. I have since repented of this, as church is not  to be used that way. In fact, no person or institution or anything is to be used that way. Sadly, wherever I went for validation, I found none. I just was not in the right place for that. But, it may have been a blessing. Our esteem is not to be found in man. It is always a joy when someone reminds me that I am a child of God, when someone edifies or lifts me up or encourages me. We are called to do this for each other and it is important. But, ultimately, we do not rely on people for our worth, right? Ultimately, our worth is very much found in Christ. We all know that. But, how do we get there? I mean, how does a person learn to anchor herself or himself to the Anchor of our souls? I will share with you a few things that I have done to help myself become solid in my identity in Christ. Hopefully, it will help others who have had the same struggles as I.

First, (and I believe I have mentioned this before), I have written down the lies that I have been told about myself and the lies I have believed all on my own. These lies are on the left side of the paper. On the right side, I have listed the Truth. Sometimes, I attach Scripture, as well. For example, one of the lies is this: “You are a burden”. To this, I have replied:

I am not a burden, I have gifts that will bless others and honor God. I am part of a Chosen People, a Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation and God’s special possession. 1 Peter 2:9

I keep this list in my Bible and read it almost every day.

Next . . . I listen much much more to Jesus during my prayer time. Today, I was struggling . . . feeling a bit low as I allowed the lies to creep back into my mind. I read through 1 John this morning and then, just defeated, I put my head down on the table and wept. And then, something new happened. I felt as though God had His hand on my shoulder (at the risk of sounding really surreal). I just listened. And, as I listened, God brought to mind all of the precious, emotion-filled moments of my life . . . the eight or nine times where I just knew He was there . . . the times where I knew I loved Him . . . the times where I knew His hand was on me . . . and, one by one, He played them back to me like a movie. He started with when I was little . . .

. . . The time when I was 7 years old and my earthly father took me through a book to explain what Communion was and why we do it. I began to love Jesus then.

. . . The time when I was 8 years old and home sick from church. I laid in my grandmother’s guest room and watched some form of the Jesus Movie in its entirety. I wept. My heart ached that my sin would pin Jesus to a cross.

. . . The time when I was 11 and I could not get enough of the Bible narratives. Reading them on my own, I developed a real love for God’s Word.

. . . Again, at age 11, when I cried out to Jesus in loneliness on my bed, begging to know Him, wanting to be loved. I knew I needed Him.

. . . The time when I was in college and I felt distant from Him. Waking up in the middle of the night, I wept as I drew near to Him again for the first time in a long time.

. . . The time I was notified by a policeman and a priest at the front door that my parents had been killed in a car accident. He held me up — literally. And then He held me for weeks and months afterward.

. . . The four hours afterward when I waited through a long night alone (besides our dog barking) for four hours at our kitchen table . . . waiting until morning to call my siblings and tell them we had lost our parents. It was the longest wait of my life, and Jesus was there.

. . . Every single time I wept alone in the bathroom or in my bed during the 11-12 years of my first marriage. Jesus was there; He never left me.

. . . When my faith was hanging by a thread, amidst extreme confusion and persecution, after I left my first husband. Weeping in our tiny kitchen/bathroom/laundry room, God told me that He still required obedience — to love those around me and love Him with all my heart. The comfort was astounding.

By listening to Christ this morning, and opening my heart to really hear Him, He brought to my memory the nearness of Him within the different stages of my life. I was so reassured, friends, that I belong to Him and always have. Even as I write this, my words are inadequate to describe how I walked away with a full heart and confidence in my spirit as I had just experienced the Holy Spirit witnessing to my spirit that I am sealed in Him.

My sweet husband, David, shared a verse with me the other day:

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant. Psalm 25:14 ESV

Here it is in two different versions:

The Lord confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them. NIV

God-friendship is for God-worshipers;
They are the ones he confides in. The Message

God speaks to us in our relationship with Him. Confides (astounding). Rarely am I quiet enough to listen! But, I will be doing that a whole lot more now! He is our King and our Friend (amazing). By listening to Him today, He graciously and mercifully reminded me of who I am. I cannot urge others enough to turn to Him and allow His truth to sink in. I am more stable than ever. I thought I had to somehow come up with my thicker skin.

As it turns out, Jesus is my thicker skin. He is my defense. He is my Strong Tower. And He covers me.

17 Comments

  1. Desiring healing

    Beautifully spoken, Megan. I can relate with the feelings of longing to feel loved and accepted. I know the feeling stretched back even further than my relationship with husband. But he only deepened and made the hole wider. Having been reared in a family with a patriarchy mentality I understand that so often we just think “well, if I do this one more thing they will be proud of me and love me.” Unfortunately, that same attitude translates into my relationship with God. If I do this one more thing God will give me approval and love me. I am slowly breaking away from that broken mentality and proper counsel and a good home church with healthy community and support are only going to help replace that thinking.
    Just yesterday, I had a tough day it was the day I was to go to court for a permanent restraining order against my husband. Just 2 days prior I was notified by my attorney that I would have to speak out against him myself and I was panic and anxiety driven. Translates fearful of man and not of God. All day prior to court, friends kept reassuring me of Gods love for his daughter and that his favor was with the direction I was going to protect myself and kids from their dad of 18 years. By the time I went to court, my spirit was so much calmer, and I knew no matter the outcome God would be speaking thru me and not myself. By the end of the day, my restraining order was extended so that an investigation could be done and my husband, me and the kids all get interviewed. My husband came to court that day prepared to make the hearing a custody hearing and that is what it boiled down to. I sat in the corner of the courtroom waiting for the finalization of paperwork for an hour just sobbing because I hurt for my children. The children (13,10,7) do not want to see their dad (drug abuse though claims clean, manipulates, shames, blames, unstable in his position on matters, can’t keep his word, narcissistic). They have not seen or talked to him in a month and now the judge wants them to have Christmas visitation and every weekend til the end of the year when I have another hearing date. I was so broken for my children and felt I did not do enough to fight for them. (Right there needing validation from God that he approved what I was doing). I know God’s hand was all over me that day and he guided my mouth. But I still have that place of doubt sometimes and so often look for God to just come thru for me in a way I want him too. Stepping back I realize my ultimate goal yesterday was to get restraining order which will probably happen, but my kids are given the opportunity to see the tactics on their own and formulate their own opinions with God guiding them just as God guided me. My heart aches as I know I send my children to their dad and his mom who he lives with in a 1 bedroom apt (she was a victim of severe abuse and never left with her kids but always returned, and saw the same story in my house while she lived with us and did nothing but cower). I know God will protect my children but tears just well up in the pain I feel for them. I will take some time and just listen and reflect on the good he has done for me. Thanks for the encouragement.

    • MeganC

      Friend . . . Thank you for sharing your story. You have just been through so much — I mean, just yesterday! I have prayed for you several times today. I can tell you have such wisdom and you are taking the right paths to protect the children and allow them to see what has been happening. I understand that pain you feel, as a mother, watching them sort things out in their minds. I am praying for peace for them and for you.

      It is hard to come to terms with the fact that God just simply loves us because He does when we have grown up in a goal-oriented or conditional family. Big hugs.

    • Dear DH, thanks for updating us. I have prayed for your court appearance, and it’s good to hear how it went. Praise God you are seeing the positives in it, even though there are negatives and really hard things in it too. Dear God, please guide and carry DH and her children through these straits; bring justice, freedom, wisdom, and strength to them, and help them all cling to you under the shelter of your wings.

  2. Yep. Not one word of condemnation as one whose salvation is “suspect” because you filed for divorce. That may be man’s assertion, but the Spirit’s testimony is:

    What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Romans 8:31-34

    • MeganC

      I love that, BIT. Thank you.

  3. Sue H.

    Megan, this is SO comforting and encouraging! To know, first, that you still occasionally reach back to the lies, but recognize it when you do and take the way of escape. Second, that you have coined an expression that I can grasp: God is my thicker skin, so I don’t have to become callous in order to be protected from my abuser (whom I have finally left after 40 years). I can allow myself to feel and to care without becoming a victim again. Thank you.

    • I agree Sue, that expression stood out for me too. God is my thicker skin. what a relief!

  4. Brenda R

    Beautifully said, Megan. I need reminders that I am not defined by what people think or don’t think of me. I am God’s and that is all that matters.

  5. fiftyandfree

    Angela Thomas’ book, Do You Think I’m Beautiful? really helps me with this but I still struggle with feelings of worthlessness and low self esteem from time to time (too often, really). I think anyone who’s been abused will suffer from self doubt, self loathing, low self-esteem, lack of confidence, etc. Especially if there was childhood abuse, which there was in my life. The childhood abuse made me ripe for becoming entrapped and marrying a con-artist and abuser, and then the marital abuse further solidified the feelings of worthlessness, BUT God is good (Amen!) and slowly I am learning who I am in HIM and I am healing. There is hope no matter what abuse we’ve endured. That Hope is Christ.

    Desiring Healing,

    I feel your pain. When will these judges make decisions that are truly in the best interest of our children? Have faith that your love and your teaching of biblical truth does have a tremendous impact on your children and God knows what they have to endure when they are with their dad and He will protect them. Pray that the Lord protects their minds and hearts and that He gives them understanding and wisdom so that they will trust the Lord in all things. The thing that helps me more than anything when my children are with their dad is to remind myself that these children are truly the Lord’s children and continually leaving them in His loving hands when I cannot be with them. It’s not easy but over the months I am seeing time and time again how He does protect them (Praise God!) and I am seeing how the trials and tribulations are growing faith in my children’s hearts (Praise God).

  6. Katy

    love this Meg – He confides in those who fear Him – or, as Psalm 91 says – He will call to me and I will answer, because he knows My name

    • MeganC

      Love that. xo

  7. How did you find the ability to trust another man again and remarry? I’m still in my marriage, I wonder if anyone could love me or if i could trust again … A damaged woman that has been hurt so much in my life. I have been criticised so much and am now so hypers sensitive. I have given my heart to my husband. I have shared deep heart stuff and had it thrown back in my face.
    I admire you for keeping so close to Jesus through it all. Thanks for encouraging me today to keep the most important relationship alive and look to Him for affirmation and love.

    • MeganC

      Loves6 — That is another blog post that I am actually working on! 🙂 But, I will tell you that, when I was in my first marriage, I wondered all of those same things. And I left the marriage pretty sure that no one would want me, that I was “damaged goods” and that I would have to find a way to make it on my own in this life. I, too, was hyper-sensitive (I am still working on that but it has massively improved). And I understand the pain of being vulnerable with others, only to see it mocked or thrown in your face. All I can say, succinctly, is that there are those who are like Christ . . . there are those who are careful with the secret thoughts of your heart . . . there are those who can bring you comfort and love and peace in life-giving relationships. And, yes . . . even though my faith was hanging by a thread, I could not give up on the truth of God’s Word — even when I wasn’t sure what that was, anymore.

      You are in a tough spot right now . . . I am whispering prayers for you right now. xo

      • Brenda R

        MeganC, I will be looking forward to that blog. Having been through more than 1 abusive marriage and childhood, I feel happy being free and scared to death of getting close to anyone. I feel very awkward conversing with men in general. I will say hello to my neighbors and respond to a question, but try to get away quickly. Love your posts.

  8. Otter

    Such a beautiful post, Megan! Thank you for this uplifting message. I think so many abuse victims fall into abusive situations because of rejection or poor self-esteem in our past. I know when I was a teen, I endured terrible peer abuse for many years that eroded my self-worth (despite my attempts to ignore and throw myself into over-achievement and hard work). So an abusive person is the “perfect storm” for us. We are dazzled at first by what seems to be very enthusiastic acceptance (even adoration), and then that is suddenly pulled away from us. Then we feel we have to “earn” the abuser’s acceptance and approval back when the Narcissist begins to work his/her path to conquer and destroy.

    Stepping out of this cycle, I still hear my ex-fiance’s words in my head…that I’m incapable of loving someone because of my work ethic…that I’m unable to prioritize “what’s important” (translation: him…not my very needy students)…or that I’m selfish, uncaring, and unable to love someone else. At the time, I just couldn’t understand how he could ever think such things, and I remember wanting so desperately for him to see what was really in my heart and how hard I was trying to “put the relationship first.” Now I realize how I could have never proven myself to him. He was a demanding, bottomless cavern expecting to be filled (and then enraged when a mere mortal couldn’t do this). Half a year later, I still find myself hearing these words, and I battle wanting to prove them wrong. That’s when I must rely on God and ask him to show me His plans and priorities. In many ways, I feel God is now using this to heal a life-long problem of “people-pleasing.” God promises to use our suffering for good, and He’s working in our hearts to heal us…even when we don’t realize it!

  9. Finding Answers

    Megan C.and many others in the ACFJ community write of weeping, of crying…

    I never learned to cry, unless the pain became / becomes unbearable and had / have no other outlet. Then, it was / is like spontaneous combustion, and I felt / feel ashamed.

    I can read or watch something, listen to someone, listen to music, and my heart breaks. My eyes remain dry. I am not heartless, though my face might tell another story.

    My heart can ache, can feel pain, yet my eyes remain dry.

    I do not know how to undo the shame.

    • You don’t have to know how to undo the shame. God knows how to undo it and He is very gently leading you…

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