A Cry For Justice

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

The Lord Is My Shepherd

I am mostly numb to Scriptures that talk about God’s protection. There, I said it. I wrestle with God on this every day, so I might as well say it out loud too. I don’t want to be numb to them and I do believe in and love God. I do believe there has to be a reason for the pain we are allowed to go through and a reason why God doesn’t always rescue or rescues much later than He could have. But I don’t understand that reason.

I used to beg and plead and beg again, over and over and over and over, over many, many years for God to either change my husband, change me or release me. For 17 years, none of that happened. All that did happen was a growing hatred of myself and belief in the lies my abuser fed me about myself. Lies that would cling to my soul and tear at my heart and mind for years and years to come. Lies that would cripple my ability to trust another human being again. Lies that jaded me to the life of joy in the Lord I thought I was supposed to have, as a wife and a Christian.

Abuse shatters many of the false assumptions that give us security (for example, bad things do not happen to good people; God will never let evil people harm me; if I pray, the abuse will stop; most people are basically good). Abuse causes people to feel unsafe and powerless. The world is increasingly viewed as hostile and dangerous. Hence, abuse survivors feel safer and more powerful if they avoid the vulnerability that comes from trusting others. Furthermore, shattered assumptions about the world often cause abuse survivors to become disillusioned, which in turn fractures trust and intimacy.  (Mending The Soul: Understanding And Healing Abuse [*Affiliate link],  Steven R. Tracy)

As Mr. Tracy rightly points out, many of the assumptions that people have, which comfort and help them through life, are simply no longer there for victims of abuse. We don’t look at Scripture or life the same way as someone who has not been abused. Many of us feel a disconnect when we read about God’s protection, especially those who still are or were trapped in the abuse for many years, with no understanding of why God did not come and rescue them. The sense of trust that God loves us enough to keep us safe was lost in the years of abuse we couldn’t escape from.

Judith Herman. author of Trauma and Recovery [*Affiliate link], explains it this way:

Traumatized people feel utterly abandoned, utterly alone, cast out of the human and divine systems of care and protection that sustain life. Thereafter, a sense of alienation, of disconnection, pervades every relationship, from the most intimate family bonds to the most abstract affirmations of community and religion. When trust is lost, traumatized people feel they belong more to the dead than to the living.

For me, I have been a believer in Christ and a Christ follower for many years, so I know intellectually that by God’s nature, there somehow was protection, even during the years of abuse. But I can’t see how. I can’t really connect with those promises anymore. I started to lose the ability to do that when I was ten, because that’s how old I was when I escaped an attempted kidnapping. Later, the abuse from my ex cemented my inability to believe in safety anymore, to the point where now I instinctively throw up my walls, any time those verses on protection are brought out. Numb. Disconnected from them.

The bottom line is that I know God intends and has plans to give me a future and a hope. But a man who had evil, selfish desires decided to attempt to destroy those plans and replace them with his own for nearly half of my life. I believe God can bring beauty from these ashes and in some ways, I am already seeing that he has and is doing that. I know Him as my redeemer, my savior. He opened my eyes to the abuse, He helped me leave it. He gave me courage to defy the culturally ruled ‘church’ and trust His Word and merciful character, so I could get out of the hell that was killing me. He is healing me now and will be, I am sure, for years to come.

I can see Him so clearly as my redeemer, my savior for all of these things and more, but I’m still trying hard to understand Him as my protector. That one is much harder for me today. And so I wrestle, because I want to understand that part of Him and justify it with the ugly hopelessness I experienced for so long, justify it with why other women die at the hands of their abusers, thinking they were honoring God in doing so, because their church or pastor told them they must stay. Where was their “wake up” from the fog? Where was that promise of protection for them?

In the end, I may never get the answer. In the end, I think I have to remember that God’s ways are not our ways and God thinks so much bigger than I can, and then I must wait on Him to help me learn to trust Him again. In the end, He must know far better than I can understand, how He has and will continue to protect me.

So while I may not feel the comfort of those verses right now, I can choose to believe that they are real, and I guess that’s what trust really is to begin with anyway. Trust is an action, not a feeling. Just because you fear, doesn’t mean you can’t learn to trust. Trust means you look past your fear and hold to God.

And that’s what I’m trying to do now. I’m holding on and asking Him to fix me. For now, all I know is that I’m not letting go and I think for now, that’s all He needs me to do.

Psalm 23 in my words:

The Lord is my protector.

I have all I need in Him.

He lets my hurting heart,

rest in His Grace.

He walks with me,

through my pain

And helps me find peace.

He strengthens my heart.

He shows me the way He has for me.

A way that honors Him.

Even in my darkest times,

I don’t have to be afraid

Because you are right beside me.

You haven’t left me.

I am not alone.

Your guidance and protection

Comfort me and keep me safe.

You give me treasure,

In the midst of pain.

I learn and understand.

I seek less of me and more of you.

You give me wisdom and discernment,

More than I deserve.

Your incredible and faithful love

Will hold me and sustain me

Every day of my life,

And I will seek your face,

Forever. Amen.

 

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21 Comments

  1. Seeing Clearly

    Your words, “I can choose to believe that they are real”, referring to difficult scripture allows you and God to make those verses true to you personally. Little, by little, they will become true in your life, but not in ways you anticipate. It is now a beautiful part of your life’s journey. Sometimes I see a HUGE shade tree with all the abused of the world sitting together under it. It is the most precious setting in the whole world. Jesus is sitting beside each of us, smiling and crying. And at once, we understand the verses in our hearts. Bless you, precious one.

  2. anonymous

    I have never doubted God’s protection but I have had a somber ‘wake-up call’ as to whom I could trust and yes, HIS ways are so much higher and better than we can imagine, however, only eternity will reveal this. Thank you for this post.

  3. Gary W

    Where even trust in God’s promises has been stolen, what my analytical mind has to offer may be cold comfort, but let me try. In ESV, with KJV in brackets, we read:

    At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
    And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin [But whoso shall OFFEND one of these little ones which believe in me], it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations to sin [Woe unto the world because of OFFENCES]! For it is necessary that temptations [OFFENCES] come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation [OFFENCE] comes!” (Matthew 18:1-7 ESV, KJV in brackets, emphasis added)

    ESV translates two different Greek words, hamartanō and skandalizō, as “sin.” Hamartanō is the word that is usually rendered “sin.” KJV distinguishes hamartanō from skandalizō by rendering skandalizō as “offend.”

    Thayer’s gives as one of the definitions of skandalizō: “To cause a person to begin to DISTRUST AND DESERT one whom he ought to trust and obey” (emphasis added).

    It is noteworthy that when Jesus then begins to speak of the one sheep that has gone astray (active voice), the Greek words can also be translated with the sense of the sheep having been led astray (passive voice). Regardless of whether the lamb has gone astray or has been led astray (or driven away), it is clear that our heavenly Father abandons all others in pursuit of His lamb who finds herself isolated, alone and without hope. Whatever else may be indicated, He abandons all others in pursuit of His lamb that has been driven to begin to distrust and desert both Himself and those who would be true ministers.

    Again, I recognize that my attempt here at critical analysis may be cold comfort. And yet. And yet… Maybe there is in fact some comfort, some hope, in being reminded that our Lord abandons all others in pursuit of His dear one whose ability to trust has been stolen, who is lost in the wilderness of lovelessness, alienation and stigmatization, who has been driven to the very edge of despair — and maybe beyond.

    • Anon

      Gary, thank you for your words, which are comforting indeed. Let me tell you why 🙂 My trust in God’s protection is not quite as damaged as my trust in a church or in Christians. But herein lies the dilemma: how do you grow your trust and love of God if you cannot fully trust your church family? Your analysis makes it clear that Jesus despises the act of abuse that causes His little ones to lose trust and desert the very ones they need to trust in order to thrive. He understands that it is an extreme struggle to continue to grow in faith when you can’t participate fully in your local parish. He even warned against it in the strongest possible terms. It makes me feel less guilty about my distrust, skepticism, coldness and distance toward the church.

      • Gary W

        Anon,

        We can prayerfully seek out trustworthy friends, being always careful to keep our pearls from pigs (Matthew 7:6), and to be innocent as doves, wise as serpents (Matthew 10:16). However, even as we learn trust in the aftermath of betrayal, we need not be held hostage by others’ failings. We can ourselves always be careful to be trustworthy, and faithful and true. If He is merciful to the merciful, blameless to the blameless, and pure to the pure (Psalm 18:25-26), and if we receive according to a measure that is greater than the measure we give (Luke 6:38), will not the One who is called Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11) prove Himself faithful to those who are faithful, and trustworthy to those who are trustworthy? If you test my hypothesis, and if He proves it true in your experience, your testimony will carry a great deal more weight than my mere reading of Scripture. If my hypothesis should seem to fail, He is still faithful and true. It’s just that it might then be necessary to consider what some have referred to as the dark night of the soul (e.g. Saint John of the Cross), which I fancy he saves for those He calls to the greatest heights. Or maybe there would be some other explanation, but He WILL be trustworthy, because He is faithful and true.

        “Let God be true though every one were a liar. . .” Romans 3:4.

      • Amen, Gary W!

      • Anon, one of our fellow bloggers, survivor of domestic abuse, has just published a post that you may find useful or interesting.
        They’re Nicer Now [Internet Archive link]

        If you don’t relate to it at the moment, please forgive me for suggesting it. I don’t want to come across as if I know what is best or most helpful for you.

      • Brenda R

        Barbara,
        Thank you for the link. It is just one more reminder of what I have, where I’ve been and where I am going. I seem to be reading a lot of tear inspirers this morning.

      • Brenda R

        Anon,
        If you can’t trust your church family, maybe you may want to shop for a new church. Look around at what there is out there. You may decide that you already have the best, but maybe not. I am in a church that I trust. Do I trust 100% of the people?–NO!! I proceed with caution. I firmly believe that we need one another and the local body acting together, yet with different strengths brings a more harmonious outcome whether services are held in a designated building or a house church. If your church is covering sin, it may be time to move on.

        Churches change over time. If you have a change in leaders, which does not mean “my way or the highway”, there can be problems or it might make it better. No church leader has a right to make your decisions for you or absolve someone of heinous sin that should have been turned over to police. There is an elder at my church whom is a dear man. When someone introduces him as an elder, he says “that just means that I am old”. It is more than that, he is someone who I would turn to and goes out of his way to make sure that people have what they need. If you get so-called “Christians” in the mix that are actually wolves, then you either need to cast them out “as a church” or find a new church. I do not feel in any way that I would stay with my church if these things were not identified and taken care of quickly.

        Do I agree 100% with everything that the speaker each Sunday has to say?–Absolutely not. I question what is said, often. If I really feel that something is wrong, I’m not going to let the topic die, such as not addressing abuse if marriage, headship, submission etc. are discussed. I won’t take that lying down. But when I do agree, I tell them so.

        The church had Baptist on its door before I joined and is now a Bible church. There are many former Catholics, Lutherans, other denominations and some that were there since it was called a temple over 75 years ago. There is a lot of love there. If Christians are busy about the Lord’s work, there leaves no time for monkey business. I don’t believe you will ever fully trust people in general. I know I don’t. We live in a fallen world with fallen people. I have found most recently that my trust in God is only based on my relationship with Him, not other people. We need to be there for one another, but we are going to have disappointments in other Christians, because we are not perfect. As for God being our protector, I like to refer back to when I had little ones to take care of. They may fall and skin their knees. Did I want that to happen–in no way. I couldn’t stop it but, I was there to help them up and held them until they were off again. God is standing right with us even through the bad. Men can take our lives, but God will never fail us.

        My pastor gave a sermon on being imperfect yesterday. It went right through to my heart. There is never going to be a perfect church, perfect leaders, perfect elders, a perfect president or congress. Everyone is accountable to someone. If a church leader fails, then they should be accountable to the church. If a church member fails, they are also accountable to the church. The church body has to call out sin and not avoid it. We will never be perfect until the Lord calls His children home. We have to do the best we can with what we have to work with. The only person I am responsible for, since my children are grown, is ME. I have to give account for my life before God, no on else.

    • Gary, I found your word study very helpful. I also did some formatting on it; it’s easy from the back of the blog :). Trust you don’t mind.

      “To cause a person to begin to DISTRUST AND DESERT one whom he ought to trust and obey” — that is a very good description of one of the serious consequences of abuse. And how lovely to be reminded that Jesus patiently and individually seeks His sheep who have been egregiously sinned against by others and are lost in some out of the way hole in the desert of fear and confusion.

    • healingInHim

      This post is very articulate. Gary W, your comment has brought many tears. I don’t know, maybe I’m crying because I’m so emotionally and physically spent but your reference to the Father abandoning all in order to find the ‘one’ “driven away” really hit the heart. That’s it. As I’ve attempted to describe to others what I am living through, all I have been able to say is that “I feel pushed away by those whom I desired to trust and obey … yes, “DISTRUST AND DESERT” … that’s what I’m living and it is a very lonely time except for my personal relationship with Christ.

  4. KayJay

    This was such a beautiful post. I have tears in my eyes, as psalm 23 has been running through my mind for the past several months through different struggles. He truly is our Good Shepherd! Bless you, sister!

    • Seeing Clearly

      I agree that her rendition of Psalm 23 is specific for the struggling heart. Just as the psalmists was. It speaks clearly to me, as well.

  5. JaneN.

    Beautiful and comforting post to me. Your Psalm 23 is worthy of framing and memorizing. Thank you.

  6. Brenda R

    This was wonderfully put and is a writing of great honesty. I share in your pain as most writing here do. Replace the kidnapping with a childhood of sexual abuse and it could be my story. It is a very recent occurrence that I feel like I can trust SOME people again. I know that God was with me all the time, but I didn’t feel protected at all. I was with each of my children when they were growing up, but I could not protect them from all that would happen to them in their lives even when I wanted to. We live in a fallen world and God wants us to rely on and be completely dependent on Him even when it is hard and we think He has abandoned us. I failed in this department. Trying to protect myself, got me nowhere.

    I don’t understand why at 56 years old, just over a year ago, God came to my rescue and took me out of a life of abuse. I don’t see myself as anymore deserving than the woman who has lost her life to an abusive husband or father. The bottom line is, God has a plan. I do not understand that plan, but I don’t have to. My part is to believe in Him and trust Him as my Rock, my Savior and my Salvation. In obedience to Christ, I am to tell others about Him and live a life pleasing, yet imperfect, for Him. If in that life I can help even one woman come out of the fog and escape from abuse into freedom, I will be most thankful.

    Gary W,
    You may be analytical, bit I find no coldness in the comforts that you reminded me of. The one who lead the little girl into distrust of her King and having no value of her life is in the hands and wrath of Him. The ones that misused and abused her as an adult, are also in His hands. Praise God, He did not give up on me no matter how long it took. The lamb is back in the flock.

  7. Well said..Ive found it hard to explain….the difference between whats in my head and what I feel in my heart….I know the bible is truth…but my heart has been so wounded I dont trust anyone even God….I just go threw the motions…maybe some day I will be able to.

  8. REM

    I felt like she was reading my mind as well.
    I even recently went through disconnect struggle after a younger woman friend whose husband was abusive as well, but in therapy and on medication for his temper (he really was trying) died in a car accident. I struggled with wondering “how come she gets a second chance at freedom) He was really working hard at their relationships. me I’m still stuck. Waiting for someone to walk me out of this…

  9. Gracie71

    I’m feeling the same lately. I’m in a situation with my husband. Not violent, but after years of emotional abuse, lying, etc. I just want to be away from him. Financially that isn’t doable though. I can’t afford to move. I don’t have my own car. He won’t leave. I want to move out of state to a be near an awesome church I found, it’s a hour drive and gas isn’t cheap. I have asked God to move me from this situation, and He hasn’t. So I go back to the old mindsets that maybe I’m supposed to stay with my husband, maybe I’m sinning somehow….I don’t know. I am trying to trust and believe God…but after my childhood with an abusive dad, being hurt by male pastors, and being hurt by my husband who according to the church ‘is supposed to represent Jesus’ in my marriage…it is very very hard.

    • Brenda R

      Gracie71,
      When I first really sincerely asked God to remove me from my circumstance, a lifetime of abuse at the hands of one man or another, I asked for my own death as it would be better that X had more time to find the Lord. I prayed, cried, read my Bible and books about marriage, divorce and abuse. That went on for 3 years. I was working so that made it easier for me, but during that 3 years I was preparing to leave just in case. At the end of that time, God made it clear that it was time.
      I cannot make the decision for you, but you may want to look at what help the new church could be to you. Look for jobs in the area that you want to relocate. Look for rooms for rent to get you started. Maybe someone in the church has something available. Above all, stay close to God and ask for his wisdom, guidance and strength. I will pray for you as well..

      • Gracie71

        Thanks Brenda. I have not had the courage to ask since I just started going. Part of me is also scared to ask, as I am not 100% sure what their views on divorce are. I am not at a place there yet where I feel I can share my story…being vague is the best thing for me right now.

  10. Brenda R

    Gracie71,
    I will continue to pray for you no matter your decision.

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