A Cry For Justice

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

Encouragement and Wisdom From Psalm 40

Psalms 40:1-4 To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!

The miry bog. That’s what abuse is like in many ways. It sucks you down and holds you in a muddy vacuum that seems impossible to get out of. It is indeed “the pit of destruction,” always pulling you down, down, down. It sucks away your confidence. It saps your joy. It erodes the very essence of your being as a human being. It makes you sick, in every way, including physically. And then along comes the Lord Jesus Christ:

  • He inclined to me
  • He heard my cry
  • He drew me up
  • He set my feet upon a rock
  • He put a new song in my mouth

Many of you can testify to these things personally. While others passed you by, Jesus inclined to you. Have you ever heard something in the distance, or thought you did? “Hey, is that someone calling for help?” You stopped, you said “listen,” and you turned/inclined your head so your ears could get the maximum reception. “There it is again! Someone is in trouble!”  And off you went. Jesus Christ does that for His people. “Is that one of My lambs in trouble?”  Be assured and never doubt. He is the Good Shepherd. He hears our cry. Keeping crying. Keep calling.

And then He drew me up. The sucking pull of that pit of abuse is strong. “I will never let you go!” Deliverance seems impossible. But the Psalmist wants ALL of us to know — Christ is mighty. He is Almighty. He is able to draw YOU out of that pit of destruction.

How many of you can testify to the same? He set my feet upon a ROCK! He put a new song in my mouth. Your life has returned and you are singing again. For those who have experienced this salvation, sing away! For you who are still in that pit, keep crying out and don’t stop!  Make the Lord your trust.

And here is a final word from this Scripture for all of us. Listen carefully because here is God’s wisdom. Trust in the Lord for your deliverance. Do not do what so many of us spent so much time doing and which only enabled the sucking strength of the pit. Namely, do not put your trust in prideful, arrogant people who have chased after a lie and are laying that lie upon you, all the while pretending pridefully to be speaking the Lord’s truth. That is to say, don’t listen to the standard “christian” and “biblical” nonsense they spew out to you, telling you that abuse is not grounds for divorce, that counseling can fix your marriage, that you are unforgiving if you don’t do what they want, that…..well, you all can fill in the rest of this diabolical list.

Yep, that’s what the Lord calls all these people: Christians, pastors, counselors, authors — who are giving all this horrid advice and even commands to abuse victims — He says they are PROUD. They are full of themselves. And He says that they are people who have gone astray and have embraced a lie. Isn’t that amazing? A LIE! Think of it! Most of the teaching and counseling abuse victims have been receiving is a LIE. And it is the pride of man that feeds it.

Look to Christ. Open HIS Word. What is the character of the Lord that is presented there? Look at Jesus in the Gospels. Do you see Him dealing with abuse victims and the oppressed in the same way the majority of Christians have been taught to? Or do you see the Good Shepherd hearing the lamb’s cry and pulling His own out of that destruction?

He set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. That’s what His truth does. It restores not only our joy, but our confidence and faith. Plant your feet upon that Rock and proceed to walk now with confidence. It really is true. The truth shall set you free.


  1. Still Reforming

    Amen – may the Lord be glorified in all of our accounts; I am experiencing now what others have told (and continue to tell) here that there are things in our deliverance that show the Lord Himself has delivered us as only He can. May He get all of the glory for bringing such good to His people, even if we don’t see or know how yet, He is a very present help in time of need.

  2. This is wonderful, Jeff, thank you.

  3. Miss understood

    Amen! What encouraging words to start the day with. I have been “camped” out in Psalms lately, and oh how they have ministered to me on those days I just feel too weary to take another step or the days I am refreshed and ready to take on the battle……they encourage either way.

  4. Begin Healing

    One of my favorite Psalms. I love it even more now. Thank you Jeff.

  5. Anonymous

    I’m sitting in church for the first time in months. I want to be back in church. I feel like I’m beginning to find a way to get out of this pit I’ve been trapped in for so long.

    Then it happened. In the middle of the sermon on the life of Gideon the pastor begin making the second point which was that Sometimes we don need a fleece to be sure of Gods leading. Sometimes, we just need to do thing God’s way. At that point he walked over to the corner of the stage where I was sitting and it felt unmistakable that he was staring at me when he said, “God hates divorce.” He went on to say that if we’d do marriage Gods way God would make our marriage a blessing.

    My children all turned an stared at me. I hate feeling the pain but even more It hurts them and confused them.

    It felt like such a safe sermon topic. But I’m leaving feeling like the church has stomped on my fingers as I tried to climb out of this pit.

    • soldiergirl

      Wow Anonymous, it makes me wonder whos behind the influence of the sermons these days.. Sorry that happened to you.
      I have given up church going after my experience of denial of abuse, and the verbal whippings to submit to my abuser in the midst of the congragation.
      I did not find any truth in that, only a cold slap in the face of truth.
      Its just not a safe place to go anymore, unless you first find out the pastors take on abuse, divorse, and remarriage.
      Hugs and prayers for what you endured.

    • healingInHim

      Anonymous — Your first paragraph sounds so much like my testimony. The same has happened to me via the ‘c’hurch, email correspondence, etc. All I have to cling to is THE TRUTH. I don’t know how many times I have been reminded that I am a sinner, too so I should have more grace for ‘him’. (… being drawn out of ‘the pit’ is such a vivid description) Forgiveness and grace have all been extended. For many years, the enemy was sly in taking advantage of my tender heart to only deceive others into believing the false character of my spouse.

    • That’s terrible! This man is ignorant. How does he think God will make an abusive marriage a blessing to the abused partner without overriding the abuser’s free will?

      That sounds so dismaying, just when you had gone back to church. You have all my sympathy. I don’t believe this is the way God wants his churches to treat you! You should have love and support, not ignorant condemnation.

      As someone wrote elsewhere on this site, it takes two to tango well but only one to ruin the dance. You can’t do a good dance, or marriage, with someone who doesn’t want to do it the way that works.

      I prayed that God will restore your soul and will bring you the treatment he wants you to have. Also that he will enlighten this ignorant and insensitive pastor and convict him.

      All best wishes.

    • Desiring healing

      May I encourage you…I am a Christian school teacher of 1st grade and am also in the process of going through a divorce with my 3 children at my side. I taught the lesson of Gideon a few weeks ago and tears came to my eyes as I saw my life in Gideon’s. When Gideon was hiding and threshing his wheat the angel approached him and Gideon looked around to be sure the angel spoke to him as he called him “a mighty man of valor”. Gideon trusted God and God came through. I can identify with Gideon asking “huh? You talking to me? Courageous?”. Then God moved in my heart and encouraged me with the fact that in Him I AM courageous just like Gideon. May I say that even going back to church where you obviously have been hurt before was a step of courage. The pastor was right….you may not need a fleece to see that his flock is not a safe place for you to be. May God lead you to a safe healing place where you and your children can worship and and be loved just as you are now! God has helped me to find that place of new beginnings. In my church recovery group when one of the girls divorce was finalized we all clapped and cheered. Then giggled because we were standing in a church classroom rejoicing over a divorce. Rather unusual…God will lead you like he did Gideon. But he also had to thin the troops so that there was no mistake that the victory was through Christ and none other. Praying for your new beginning.

  6. So ironic….20 years ago when in college I had this as my life verse since I was on a singing group seemed fitting. Did not really have a relationship with Christ then but was involved in legalistic religion training for ministry. No real hardships at that point of my life that I could see. Now fast forward 20 years, 17 years of ministry, 18 years of marriage, and an awakening to the abuse of religion, narcissism, and abusers. Now this passage has true meaning and I can passionately feel the psalmist cry. Thank you for the timely reminder that life now is more like what Christ intended it to be.

  7. Gary W

    Divorce, correctly understood, is perpetrated by the spouse who destroys a marriage by abuse, neglect, betrayal, etc. Where divorce as so understood has occurred, God commanded the granting of a certificate of divorce. See Mt. 5:31, 19:7. The “pastor” Anonymous describes is basically saying that God hates, not the destruction of a marriage, but the very certification of such destruction He once commanded. I doubt that God hates that which He has commanded.

    While many “pastors” would obstruct the ability of a victim of abuse to obtain the certificate of divorce, which in the U.S. takes the form of a court decree, they fail to do anything effective to eradicate the prevalence of marital abuse. Instead of ministering to victims of abuse, they heap on obligation, to the point of becoming accomplices to the sin of the imposition of involuntary servitude—of de facto enslavement—of the victim-spouse to her tormentor.

    While these “pastors” would adamantly enslave victims of destroyed marriages to their tormentors, they will very often jump at the opportunity to excommunicate those victims who avail themselves of the liberty our Lord affords in the form of a certificate (or decree) of divorce. It is no surprise that those who take little if any note of the depredations that destroy marriages think nothing of breaking fellowship with spouse-victims. Logically speaking, however, it should be surprising that the very “pastors” who would prohibit a certificate/decree recognizing the destruction of a marriage will be quick to direct a resolution, decree or order of excommunication to the victim-spouse who obtains a Biblical certificate/decree of divorce—all the while continuing, in increasing measure, to embrace the spouse-perpetrator. It is all quite hypocritical.

    • soldiergirl

      Gary, i appreciate your understanding of the bible and read your replies to my friend over the phone. (She use to go to the same church as i did until they excommunicated me.) Anyway its good to hear another man contributing to the conversation and adding more insight.

  8. Seeing Clearly

    Jeff, as I came to the last 2 paragraphs, I realized I was sitting taller and holding my chin/head higher. Thank you.

  9. Gary W

    If a survivor of spousal abuse wishes to participate in a traditional church organization, I suggest that it might be useful to seek a place where the pastor, like God, has come through divorce through no fault of their own. Some will point out that 1 Timothy 3:2 requires that an overseer be the husband of one wife, but surely we are to look at the principle behind Paul’s instruction rather than applying the instruction woodenly and legalistically. I submit that what Paul requires is that an overseer be a faithful person. S/he is not disqualified by the unfaithfulness of their former spouse. If one must read Paul woodenly, then who is to say that every pastor must also be an overseer. Actually, it would be refreshing to come across a pastor who was content to shepherd the flock without lording it over the flock, as so many elders/bishops/overseers think is their right.

    • Amen, Gary!
      This is what I say in Not Under Bondage (p. 60) about what Paul is getting at when he says an elder should be a ‘husband of one wife’:

      Husband of one wife probably means a church leader should have exemplary sexual morality. It may be similar to our phrase “he only has eyes for one woman”. If he is married he should not show sexual interest in a woman other than his wife. He should not keep a concubine as well as a wife — an acceptable practice in Greek culture. He should not resort to slaves or prostitutes for sexual pleasure, as was common in Greek and Roman cultures. If he is single he should not have a casual or self-indulgent approach to the opposite sex.

      All the other interpretations of this phrase are implausible. It cannot mean church leaders must not have two successive marriages as this would exclude remarried widowers as well as remarried divorcees. It cannot mean remarried divorcees should all be excluded from leadership, as that would imply a double standard. All remarried divorcees would be prohibited from church leadership, even if they bore no guilt for the divorce or had repented of their sin; yet men who repented of pre-marital sex, theft, alcoholism, witchcraft or murder might (with other criteria being present) be eligible for church leadership.

      The parallel phrase wife of one man (1 Tim. 5:9) is given as the characteristic of a godly widow who would be entitled to the church’s financial support. This phrase cannot mean “currently married” because in 5:9 it is used of widows. Nor can it mean “not remarried after her husband had died” for Paul encouraged younger widows to remarry only five verses later.

      Neither can these phrases [wife of one husband / husband of one wife] be about having more than one spouse at a time. Such an interpretation would make nonsense of 1 Timothy 5:9 because it wasn’t legal for women to have more than one husband at a time. Gentile men could not legally have more than one wife at once and Jews living in Asia conformed to this practice. Thus Paul would not have been writing to the Asian-based Timothy warning him against polygamy.

  10. joyisnowfree

    Yes! There is now singing and peace. I’m being harassed day and night and he is practically begging to come home. But why would I trade beauty for ashes? or joy for sorrow? NO!!!! POLY DOESN’T WANT A CRACKER!!!!!

  11. Amen!

  12. Brenda R

    He set my feet upon a ROCK! He put a new song in my mouth. Your life has returned and you are singing again.

    Amen. I’ve had my ups and downs along the way, but God has been unwavering. His Word lifts me up when I begin to fall. He gives me peace in my heart, mind and soul.

    Beautiful truths.

  13. Jeff, thanks for this post. It makes the psalm come even more powerful for me.

    Christians, pastors, counselors, authors — who are giving all this horrid advice and even commands to abuse victims — He says they are PROUD. They are full of themselves. And He says that they are people who have gone astray and have embraced a lie. Isn’t that amazing? A LIE! Think of it! Most of the teaching and counseling abuse victims have been receiving is a LIE. And it is the pride of man that feeds it.

    So true!
    God says this in His Word. So if we say it in our posts on this blog, we are not being *too harsh*. We cannot be accused of *falsely accusing* those Christians, pastors, counselors, authors, by calling them proud. God says it. We are only repeating what God says. Yes we do accuse them of pride, but we do so truly, not falsely. We call them prideful because the Bible calls them prideful. We say they have embraced a lie because the Bible says they have embraced a lie.

    And the Bible clearly links the two things: They have embraced the lie because they are proud. It is wrong to just see them as having embraced a lie out of ignorance, so all they need is education to come out of their ignorance. Yes, they need education, but they will only accept education IF they repent of their pride and are willing to drop it, to humble themselves, to seek forgiveness from those they have injured by their mis-teaching.

    I’ve seen it time and time again, how we try to educate leaders, authors, counselors, etc. And they may learn a bit of what we say, or seem to learn it. But if the pride is still there, whatever they have *learned* from us will only be on the surface and it will easily blow away when they are confronted with the hard stuff, the stuff where the rubber meets the road. Their pride is the obstacle. And no-one prideful is truly educable.

  14. Valerie

    Thank you for this much needed scripture hug.

  15. Not Too Late

    Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!

    Amen! Why go after a lie when the truth of Christ sets us free!

  16. Thanks Jeff, ironically I had just been reading and meditating on these scriptures and here they are! Amen, a Godincidence! I feel strong and yet there is this other feeling that is present, but not clear or obvious. It is almost like a dark looming, but it does not feel evil, rather a daunting inevitability. My situation is much the same (still separated, but same house) and yet different in that the general mood (his) is somber. There is not the usual goings on of trying to make a situation that is awkward, into something resembling normalcy, or even happy. I have felt like (and have) praying for God’s mercy in the situation. Maybe the Holidays are bringing a nostalgia (to him) to this crazy turn of events, I don’t know.

    Has anyone experienced the Lord warning, or getting a feeling against calling (spreading it around) your ex or current h a Narcissist? I’m finding it difficult to explain but, I am so careful about using that word and saying it to people. And I mean close people, not just anyone and everyone. It is strange, but due to so many people who “think” they know what a Narcissist is and does, and really have no idea, it almost seems as if it is counter productive in some instances.

    I suppose I bring it up because I had a relative in town and in brief, I said what the status was with my h and I. No details, just general facts. They went to another family member and I don’t know who brought it up, but the second family member said the word Narcissist to them about my h. I had been very careful NOT to say that, but this other person had no problem putting it out there. I feel as though it should be my place to say or not to say it, and that it should be respected. It really made me wonder about this (big mouth) person, what were they thinking? Discretion anyone???

    • Valerie

      Survivorthrivor, I rarely use the terminology of him being a Narcissist except with those who have already been deemed safe- and this was only after some time had passed from my first realization of NPD. When I first realized this is what I was dealing with I wanted to shout it to the world because I finally had the validation I had been looking for. But you are right in that with many it is counter productive. We speak to others from the viewpoint of having lived with this crazy making and cruelty, however, others only see what he has shown them so to put a label like that according to their reality only makes you look petty, bitter and an alarmist. You are right that most people (myself included up to recently) didn’t have a clue as to what NPD was really about. I think you are wise in keeping the label to yourself unless you feel called otherwise. You know it, God knows it and sometimes that just has to be enough because people can react in ways that only inhibit your healing.

    • Seeing Clearly

      I don’t use the N word, in reference to my ex. That word is open to their own interpretation, which leaves me an unpredictable place. People love to gossip, plain fact. He was the charismatic minister, I the depressed spouse. People don’t want him to stop being who they want him to be.

      He has since married a woman who was a parishioner. I think that stirred confusion for the curious. Now, 5+ years from the divorce, I can truthfully speak about myself, not him, and leave a bigger statement. They notice how remarkably healthy I look. My demeanor is upbeat. I can truthfully say that I no longer need the heavy meds. I smile when I say I feel good and look forward to getting up in the morning. I tell them how my days are spent caring for family members.

      They walk away and draw their own conclusions. Ultimately, they do that anyway.

      Actually, I think it helps them when I say I am still processing the confusion I lived in and repatterning unhealthy ways of relating. Perhaps it is that they can identify with the word ‘confusion’, which is where they have remained, trying to figure out why I divorced a minister.

      I hope this helps a little.

      • I think it helps them when I say I am still processing the confusion I lived in and repatterning unhealthy ways of relating. Perhaps it is that they can identify with the word ‘confusion’, which is where they have remained, trying to figure out why I divorced a minister.

        so much wisdom in that!

    • Still Reforming

      survivorthrivor2, I had been comfortable using that term (although not to my abuser directly, but only here on-line in forums where it is understood, and then using it in my own journal notes), but I am learning during the process I am in now to not use the term because we are not “professionals.” Not that I/we don’t understand what our abusers are and agree they are that term, but it generally won’t be recognized by authorities who have decision-making power over any process of divorce, custody, etc. Therefore if it ever moves into a realm of real separation (ie, not under the same roof) or divorce for you, it is advisable to stick to the facts of what the abuser says and does in order to demonstrate a pattern of behavior over time. I think it wise counsel to not verbalize the term either (as you have not done) lest it turn against you at some point in the future. I verbalized the term rarely and only among those I trusted, and one of those individuals counseled me to be careful about using it also.

  17. Lisa

    Jeff, this is the verse you wrote in response to my 11/26/14 post on your 11/26/14 topic! Such a good one and I know that it wouldn’t have meant anything to me a couple of years ago. But now…! Yes, indeed. I was in that pit and the enemy kept trying to keep me in it. Each bit of progress I made to get out of that muck and mire something would happen and my emotions and thoughts would entangle me again and send me back down into it. And, it’s dark down there. I cried lots of tears. I am so grateful that the Lord’s promise is that HE hears our cry and HE answers us and HE delivers us. When I finally got a revelation of God’s Grace instead of operating from the perspective of shame based thinking I was free. The need for permission from somebody and everybody to leave ended because I finally heard God tell me. All those thoughts based on what I felt I should do really blocked my hearing the Lord for too long. What eventually was revealed to me was my wrong thought process that if I stayed God would love me more because I stayed and didn’t break a marriage. Obviously, I didn’t get the concept and reality of unconditional love! I began to see how stuck I was; how my life and thoughts without even knowing it were based on conditional love. My mind understood the words, but my heart and spirit didn’t have the full revelation until then…..that God’s love isn’t earned; it’s unconditional and we can’t do any more or less to be loved more by HIM. I was doing what I thought I should do rather than hear God, take HIS courage, and get out of the toxicity. God’s GRACE is soooo beautiful and sweet and powerful. And yes, HE did give me a new song and a new dance. Praised my way through and out and now praising HIM in thanksgiving and continual victory. So grateful……

    • thepersistentwidow

      Lisa, thank you, thank you for the beautiful, encouraging, God glorifying paragraph you wrote here. This really strikes me:

      “The need for permission from somebody and everybody to leave ended because I finally heard God tell me. All those thoughts based on what I felt I should do really blocked my hearing the Lord for too long.”

      The church fails abuse victims time and time again because they have manufactured laws of obedience for Christians. They suffocate us and lead us to despair. We were bought by Christ and freed to walk in newness of life by his Spirit, therefore our conscience does not convict us for divorcing the abuser. We know it was the most godly choice for our families and ourselves to leave the evil. The abuser finally received the consequences for his wicked actions and was offered a chance to see just how lost he really is. It was best for everyone.

      So glad for you sister! We rejoice in your freedom from abuse and the legalistic church. This is what true Christian living is…trusting God fully and praising him with a thankful heart! Wow! Your story makes me thankful, too!

  18. Anne

    I was strongly encouraged by my oldest and dearest friend yesterday. I didn’t know exactly where to share this, but I wanted to share in case it encourages anyone else. I hope many of you have friends like this:

    My friend said: “To me, you are like the the bird in the poem by Maya Angelou “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” – it’s just not a racism issue that traps you.

    My gut tells me strongly that one day, your cage door will open, and you will fly free and a whole new world will be there for you to explore. Till then, hang in there and lean on those of us who can understand and support you!”

    Caged Bird – Maya Angelou
    The free bird leaps
    on the back of the wind
    and floats downstream
    till the current ends
    and dips his wings
    in the orange sun rays
    and dares to claim the sky.

    But a bird that stalks
    down his narrow cage
    can seldom see through
    his bars of rage
    his wings are clipped and
    his feet are tied
    so he opens his throat to sing.

    The caged bird sings
    with fearful trill
    of the things unknown
    but longed for still
    and his tune is heard
    on the distant hill for the caged bird
    sings of freedom

    The free bird thinks of another breeze
    and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
    and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
    and he names the sky his own.

    But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
    his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
    his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
    so he opens his throat to sing

    The caged bird sings
    with a fearful trill
    of things unknown
    but longed for still
    and his tune is heard
    on the distant hill
    for the caged bird
    sings of freedom.

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