A Cry For Justice

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

How do we know the difference between God’s conviction and self doubt?

How do we know the difference between God’s conviction and self doubt? It seems like every time I get the courage to walk away from this, immediately I get scared, I feel like I’m doing the wrong thing, I question if it’s right, I feel sorry for him (especially if he’s being nice) etc. This seems to be the same pattern over and over. Even though I have every reason to leave, I still go through this every time. Is this normal? Or the holy spirit conviction to stay?

This question came in from a reader who is relatively new to the blog.

Would you like to offer your responses? Do you relate to this? How have your dealt with it?



  1. Anonymous

    Because we have been conditioned to believe we will fail. We won’t. God is on our side, the abuses we have endured break his heart and he will not leave us. I waited so long for change despite warnings and signs that he will never change. It’s still terrifying to think of but only on my weak days. Focus on Jesus. (He’s only nice to confuse you. I’ve lived through that too.)
    There is a life of freedom and peace waiting for you. Find good, godly emotional support and run!

  2. Sarah

    Hi, I know what you mean. Feelings can tell you one thing. Scriptures can tell you another thing. I do my homework, that’s how I get around it. God requires us to use our brains, since abusers mess with our emotions, we have to put how we feel aside for awhile. I researched all about abusers, their ability to change and what enables them. I looked at scriptures for their behavior and what God says about how to be treated. A lot is said in proverbs about “angry” people and people who do evil works. People who do evil yet act innocent, Pharasees. How did Jesus treat them? What did he say must be done to them? Once I stopped the sympathy (which enables them, like giving vodka to an alcoholic) I was able to stop the enabling emotions. Once I learned to do that I was able to put up the boundaries God requires. That became the way of the conviction of the spirit. Not the feel good easy stuff of love to the point of sickness but tough love that would lead to repentence. This takes time and is not for the faint hearted but when does the Spirit call us to a life of ease and enabling?

    • Anewanon

      THANK YOU SARAH, I needed to read what you wrote. I have been saying to myself all day, “Beliefs over feelings” … your post resonates with that. Also, I never put enabling in the category of “ease”. Good food for thought, thank you.

      • Sarah

        so glad I could help. It was the only way I could block his emotional tug on me!

  3. Amy

    I feel that it’s completely normal. I prayed for years for God to turn my husbands heart to himself, me, and our children. We went to Christian counsellors. He would “act nice” for a while. He has a sex addiction, is a compulsive liar and may have NPD. Finally, I started praying that God would shine light on the darkness and reveal His truth about what was going on. I prayed for clarity and He provided. I still went back hoping that things would change, but continued to pray for clarity and revelation and I got more than I wanted, honestly. But I also knew the truth about things that were going on. And now I’m a single mom of 3 who is in nursing school at age 47. And this is scary, but I know who holds my hand. I feel that fear of the unknown can prevent us from making hard decisions. As well as fear of judgement. I’m also a homeschooling mom. Getting a divorce is quite the taboo in these circles. But you can cling to the knowledge that God will stand by you and you’ll know when you need to act.

    • Letting Go

      Amy, you are strong and glad you are getting on your feet in your new life sooner than I did. I wasted 10 more years naively trying to save what was already gone. I just didn’t know how bad it was.

      My ex, too, was a covert manipulator, liar, but played the victim and poured on the charm so well, most people still do not catch on to what happened. He also was sex / porn addict.

      Praying for truth to be revealed was a tremendously important part of my experience too… and God delivered. Also more than I expected. And He is providing. It is an exercise in faith and trust in Him. He never fails.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Go Amy! You will get through school and you are on your way to a new life of freedom. Good job.

    • a prodigal daughter returns

      What a priceless treasure you will be in the nursing field too. The insight your experience with abuse provides will be a refuge to many.

  4. Anne

    I would love to hear responses to this as this is where I’ve been stuck for the last year. I just get enough courage to say, yes, this is wrong, it’s never going to really change … I need to go.

    Then I am struck with guilt and doubt, wondering, will this be the right thing to do? He’s being nice now. He just did “A”, which I asked him to do, but I haven’t done “B” in response because I don’t trust him or this good phase to last. Am I the awful one because I’m not changing back and doing what he wishes in return when he complies with one of my requests?

    If anyone knows how to stop this merry go round of self doubt, it would be so helpful to me. I go from being sure and certain that leaving is what I need to do to an agony of self doubt as soon as I think I’ve made the decision. And then I’m mad at myself for not being able to take a stand and do something.

  5. Kim

    What all victims of narcissists need to know is they do not have the same emotions we do, they are moral terrorists and most importantly they are SUPREME actors and have learned to mimic kind behavior when it suits them or when they are planning to draw you back in. They never change. Once a person realizes they have a narcissist in their lives, the ONLY thing to do for the protection of your children and you is to secretly plan to get out. PERIOD. The man you fell in love with never existed and is incapable of love, therefore he never loved you or the children, but was acting. Learn Gray Rock, save money, tell no one except the most trusted (even that is risky), collect documents, Interview lawyers (only male) to vet out if they have knowledge of narcs and are not a narc themselves. If there is no money, go to a womens shelter to see about services referrals. Acceptance of this reality is key in order to act. Do not confuse doubt with conviction of the Holy Spirit. Narcs are truly the sons of Satan. It is Satan putting the doubt there. Pray to Jesus, ask for His guidance and hand your life to Him. He will give you the strength and most importantly peace in your heart to get through.

    • KayE

      Kim-I’m just genuinely wondering why you advise only male lawyers?
      My female lawyer did a reasonably good job, even despite the fact she wasn’t completely familiar with the way abusers work. To me a good lawyer is someone who knows the law well and works efficiently so that you don’t end up paying too much. Looking back, I wasted too much time worrying about how to find the right lawyer. Nowadays I would say it’s just vital to get legal advice AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE , even if a victim / survivor isn’t yet sure about leaving.

    • Anewanon

      Good post. I agree with everything – except that I would give women lawyers (who have a good reputation) a shot too – especially if you have a woman judge, as I did, and they have some good history with that females judge. Sometimes women lawyers and women judges understand “narcs”. Although the judge is to remain impartial, I got the impression that while she carefully ruled by the laws, she understood what was really going on and the greyer areas were ruled accordingly. She threw large bones to him on the finances, but my kids are safe with me, and that is what mattered to me. I think she picked up on that and I am grateful. My ex is probably grateful that he got the lions share of the money and no responsibility. I CAN live with that.

    • standsfortruth

      I loved and agree with everything you said Kim, but I had hired a male lawyer that said all right things in the beginning only to capitulate and bow to the opposing counsils suggestions when pressed durring trial.
      Mind you, I paid this firm a significant one time flat rate fee knowing my abuser would drag out the divorce process, thinking I would save money
      (Which he did drag it out)

      Anyway to make a long story short, this male lawyer had a good guy facade, but proved to be abusive and tried to pressure me into making decisions that I was not comfortable with.
      I ended up secretly checking with other lawyers to see if the way I was being treated and what I was being told was right.
      (My lawyer’s manager threatened me if I sought advice from other counsel that they would fire me.😮)
      I could not trust them, because their primary motivation was ending my case the fastest way possible, (which was treating my interests unethically).

      Can you imagine dodging your abuser’s lies, and your lawyer’s manipulation at the same time?

      Anyway since I did not agree to my lawyer’s ultimatums to get me to sign contracts that had connecting stipulations that they didn’t want me to think about, or consider before signing.
      He finally withdrew from representing me, because I saw through his schemes, and refused to play along,
      Thank the Lord.

      In some cases no lawyer is better than the wrong lawyer.
      Even though I am out what I paid, I am so relieved, because I could not trust them.
      This is why I would now consider female representation. (Because these men did not care about me.)

  6. Desiree

    If you’re being abused, I can’t imagine it’s the Holy Spirit’s conviction to stay. That said, I think that you have to be ready to leave. For me, staying was no longer an option. My ex-husband wept copiously, sent prayers and letters of love, and begged me to give him a second chance. I found out later that he was on a variety of dating websites during this period of “intense grief,” and when it was clear I wasn’t going to fold, his approach became malicious. He used others to try to talk some sense into me–to help me see his pain and his love for me and our children. So be ready for an intense period of self-doubt when you leave: your ex will appear wounded, and others will undoubtedly judge you for it. But eventually, when the dust settles, you’ll see that you should have trusted your gut all along. And God will be right there with you.

  7. standsfortruth

    My abuser still does this (tries to talk nice, like that’s how things always were) to get me to doubt myself, and try to get me to come back to him.
    Even today- although I am now free of him.
    He still tries to tell me what he thinks (his projection) my reality is, to get me to doubt myself, and puts enough truth in it, that an onlooker (that doesn’t know my history or reality) might think he is being quite rational.
    But that is only a lure…

    Truth be told, even when I was with him, he could never look me in the eye, and ask the question
    “How are WE doing?” to see how I would respond.
    He knew how he treated me (ruthlessly), and that question would have only set him up for the scrutiny of truth.
    Journaling also helps to see what is going on when the FOG is soo thick…

    • Hi Standsfortruth, you said

      He still tries to tell me what he thinks (his projection) my reality is,

      May I suggest that rather than calling this his projection, it is perhaps better to call it his malicious claims and false accusations about what your reality is.

      Projection, in psychology, means something pretty different from what abusers typically do. I learned this from Dr George Simon’s books.

      • standsfortruth

        Thank you Barbara,
        you are right..
        It was alot like him trying to redefine my reality. Evil.

  8. Angie

    I normally don’t respond but THIS… This hits home with me. Even after I left, I struggled with self doubt for a long time. Three things I did:

    1) I happened to find a great counselor. Every time I was about to back out of my decision, I made sure to see her first. She never told me what to do but rather asked a series of questions that helped me arrive at my original decision – that this is the only decision I have to make for myself and my children to have a chance at a good life, one without manipulation and control, one with a free will to make and set boundaries for ourselves, and a chance to rediscover who God made me to be and live that out without fear. Every time I left her office, I was once again confident in my decision.

    2) I had to start journaling! When I decided to, I went back in my mind and wrote as many facts as I could about what has happened in our marriage. Then I contributed with new occurrences. When doing this, I could look back and see the patterns of destruction. The patterns of manipulation. I had to write. And I had to read it often.

    3) PRAY. I prayed for strength to follow through with the decision I know God had already led me to make. I prayed for strength to give my children a chance at a healthy life.

    It’s so hard! Especially when you’re a person who tends to believe and see the best in everyone. But if you’re in a destructive relationship, and it’s been proven over and over again, there is only one decision to make that will result in a healthy “you.”

  9. Amy

    This is the direct result of the crazy-making cycle which happens in abusive relationships. It creates confusion and doubt in the victim to where you don’t know which end is up anymore. Even when you’re positive you’re not crazy, even when you truly know your spouse is abusive, and you know without a doubt how they treat you is so very wrong — suddenly there is this calm, they are nice and bam!, you begin doubting yourself and may even start feeling sorry for them because well, maybe, just maybe it’s you who has been too harsh with them or too sensitive, and after all look how nice he is being, etc etc etc.

    STOP! This is crazy making at its best and it will leaving you spinning with doubts, and that is exactly how he wants it to be. You know the truth of your situation. You know how you are treated is wrong, is abusive.

    The Holy Spirit convicts us so we will turn away from sin in our lives. Wanting to leave an abusive marriage is NOT sinful, the abuse is! God hates violence of one spouse towards the other, so why would He be wanting you to stay in a violent marriage. He should be convicting your husband of the wrong he is doing.

    What you are feeling is the doubt that has been planted over time — and that is what your husband is hoping for. That you will allow those doubts keep you hostage to his abuse.

    God would never want any of His Children to just stay and suffer. Suffering occurs when we stand for what is right — and abuse is wrong!

    The first step is always the hardest, but God will never leave you nor forsake you — and I can attest to the fact that there is a full abundant life on the other side of abuse. I became a single mom to two boys seven years ago in my forties when my abusive ex left — and although I won’t say the road was always easy, the journey was well worth it and has led me to a wonderful life!

    I pray you find your way out…

  10. Letting Go

    My conscience would not let me leave without Biblical grounds for divorce (adultery or abandonment) or physical abuse. There was no physical abuse, but lots of emotional and financial, and hiding and lying and stonewalling. Then when I discovered his porn addiction, that was apparently his last straw. He instantly moved out, which he was planning to do later anyway. He would not admit the affair with his secretary, so I hired a detective to prove it and was awarded support in the divorce because we had been married over 10 years (25 actually). He had been trying to delay filing for a year to establish 1-year separation in order to file a no-fault divorce with no alimony or child support.

    I do not know the details of your circumstances, but hopefully your pastor and elders are there to support you, though many churches do not know how to do that even when counselors are trying to help us work through the church. As has been detailed many times on this site, don’t let church members put the load of guilt on you and persuade you to stay or save the marriage at all costs.

    And see an attorney asap. Do that first of all. Even if you do not separate. Just so you know your options and how to protect yourself.

    You said you “have every reason to leave”. It sounds like either denial (desire to save a marriage that is not saveable – I held on to mine way too long), or fear of the unknown (that is powerful for us too) are factors.

    You will work through those in your own time, because what happened to you was probably gradual for you too. Pray for clarity, and you will know when the point of change arrives. If you don’t rock the boat, your present circumstances could potentially continue for quite a while longer. I wasted an extra 10 years of my life trying to “save the marriage no matter what”. I sooo regret that. I thought I was doing the “honorable” thing. It was just enabling more abuse and making me even more the fool.

    It comes down to your decision of if or when your quality of life will ever improve, and whether you want to take charge or let it ride. It was hard for me to reach the point of letting go of a marriage that was long dead. I wish I had been stronger sooner. Hired my detective sooner. Started my new life sooner. It gets harder to start over the older you get. It is hard to put emotion aside when this was supposed to be your family for life. But you must act on what you know is right in your head, and let your heart catch up later.

    My husband never physically abused me, but he was supposed to be a Christian, was seeing a counselor without me to work on his issues. But all this was a smokescreen to hide a secret life with his secretary. Even when I knew rationally it was over, it was hard to “pull the trigger” until my detective brought back the truth. I had to act though I didn’t want to even then.

    It is usually worse than we know, and my advice is not to be naive and live in fear and denial. Many women stay trapped too long.

    Again, I do not know your specifics, but be strong and do what God leads you is right. The Holy Spirit will bear witness with your spirit. You will know. There is freedom beyond the pain and confusion.

  11. kind of anonymous

    Hi there, relate to your dilemma. Here’s what I know about how God convicts us or leads us. Might only be two cents’ worth but maybe it will help 🙂

    First conviction usually relates to something we are doing that displeases God. Two scriptures come to mind that speak to this. God has not given us a spirit of fear but of love, power and a sound mind. And that fear has to do with punishment. Sorry am on lunch at work so don’t have references, may all be one scripture, perhaps admins can correct if need be. Since God doesn’t use fear and threats to lead us by, its 99 percent certain that its not Him making you feel afraid but fear that you are doing something bad / wrong for which you will be censured and punished. If you are living with incessant cruelty, mental abuse, living in fear, and there is no repentance on the part of the one committing the sin, and God has NOT given you a specific word of direction to hold tight because He is going to do xyz then I’d say that there is no sin in removing yourself from an unsafe situation. (I realize some from the reformed position do not believe that God EVER speaks apart from the Bible but I do think His sheep hear His voice and that His way of guiding us can include hearing Him very distinctly in our hearts or spirits, just not anything that ever contradicts His word.)

    Conviction from God always leads somewhere, it doesn’t just drop a boulder in our path so we are blocked and stuck. “You will hear a voice behind you, saying THIS is the way, walk ye in it”. I think this is in proverbs. When God doesn’t want you to do something because it’s sin, He provides a way out either strength and grace to say no, and / or an alternative direction. He doesn’t play head-games or jerk us around. Even when we have to face having committed a serious or heinous sin, conviction from God leads to repentance with godly sorrow; that kind of sorrow has hope, the other kind just endlessly harangues you and beats you up until you cannot get up from your crushed position. God’s ways are redemptive. They bring light, truth, love, peace, clarity and sight; God speaks truth and shows you what to do to be free and keeps His word. Satan’s ways are destructive, they bring condemnation, confusion and chaos, ambiguity, endless hoops to jump through without delivering the promised freedom. And self doubt turns us inward, whereas when its God we are clear on what He wants us to do and surrendered to Him. Hope something here helps. 🙂

    • HisBannerOverMeIsLove

      God’s ways are redemptive. They bring light, truth, love, peace, clarity and sight; God speaks truth and shows you what to do to be free and keeps His word. Satan’s ways are destructive, they bring condemnation, confusion and chaos, ambiguity, endless hoops to jump through without delivering the promised freedom. And self doubt turns us inward, whereas when its God we are clear on what He wants us to do and surrendered to Him. Hope something here helps 🙂

      This helped me today 🙂
      I just got a job and put some of the kids in school. It felt terrible going thru this but now that they are signed up it seems like a beautiful way for all of us to begin to get some rest from the house etc. Everyday was confusing. And there were endless hoops to jump. As soon as I finished enrollment there was a bit of happy feeling. I’m still sad it all didn’t work the other way but it’s not the end of the world and we’ll 🙂 be better. So there is peace and clarity. 🙂

  12. Renewed Spirit

    educate yourself!

  13. M&M

    Genesis 29:31-35 shows us that some husbands won’t love their wives despite the wife’s great efforts to be lovable. It looks like Leah recognized that he’s not going to change after her 4th child.

    • Suzanne

      I’m not sure that the marriage of Leah and Jacob is a good example for our purposes here. After all, Jacob was promised Rachel, worked for her for 7 years, and was told that the veiled bride he was given in marriage was Rachel when it was actually Leah. Jacob wasn’t the injured party here and I don’t fault him for failing to love a woman he was tricked into marrying. Leah obeyed her father when he ordered her to lie and caused great pain to her husband and her sister. I don’t feel sorry for her.

      • I too tend to think that Jacob’s failure to love Leah is a story we need to handle carefully. Yes, he failed to love her. But he had been coerced into marrying her in the first place. Like so many situations where one person could be said to mistreat another, the context is everything. And that means thinking about all the nuances and back-stories in that particular case.

        The case of Jacob and Leah is not the only story in the Bible which shows that some men do not love their wives. In the NT there are two places where the Greek word astorge occurs. Astorgos means “devoid of natural or instinctive affection, without affection to kindred.” (link [Internet Archive link])

        The KJV translates astorge as ‘without natural affection’.

        2 Tim 3:1-5 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

        Romans 1:28-32 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

        Since the Bible clearly tells us that some people lack natural affection for family members, it follows that there are some men who do not love their wives.

        In his book The Four Loves, C S Lewis wrote about storge — the word without the prefix ‘a’. He called storge ‘the empathy bond’.

      • M&M

        Oh……I wasn’t thinking of the whole context……just of the fact that you can’t make a person love you……whether Leah is perpetrator or not depends if she was legally allowed to defy her father, but either way Jacob wasn’t the bad guy.

  14. Joy

    I can personally relate to your questions, having asked the same ones myself in the past. Here’s my advice on getting confirmation of God’s conviction: I don’t personally know if you’re in a committed marriage yet, or if the man you need to leave is your fiancé or your boyfriend; however, because most people marry their abusers before they leave, I’m going to assume this man is your husband.

    Leaving is one of the most difficult situations to be in, especially acting on your decision to leave. The self-doubt of whether to leave or not, because what you’re doing is wrong to society’s and your abuser’s eyes, especially when the person who is abusing you has decided to be nice for a time, is particularly hard to combat. This niceness may last for a week, or even months. You know already that this niceness won’t last forever, it isn’t permanent. Sooner or later, the person who acts so sweet and thoughtful now because he feels guilty for treating you so horribly not so long ago, will abuse you yet again to feel like he’s powerful and in control. I don’t have to tell you all of this, because you already know the cycle of abuse, having lived through it.

    Like you’ve said, you have every reason to leave, yet self-doubt, first from your confidence being taken away piece by piece from the abuse you have suffered from, and second, from society idolizing marriage to the point of insisting that couples in an abusive marriage either stay together or reconcile at a later time, because society doesn’t want to face the damage of abuse, despite the fact that separating and divorcing might be the best thing for you to do for yourself.

    The best way I’ve found to know if a decision is God’s conviction or self-doubt, is to test the thought repeatedly being planted in your head. A great verse to use is Philippians 4:8. This verse instructs Christians to focus on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. If your thought is one or all of these qualities, then it is a conviction from God. Another way to test your thought is figuring out if your husband is keeping his marriage vows. Marriage is supposed to be based on love. A verse that defines love is 1 Corinthians 13:4. This verse says love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, does not boast, is not proud, does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongdoing, or delight in evil, but always rejoices with the truth. Love always protects, always trusts, always trusts, always perseveres, and never fails. Now that you know what love is supposed to be and do, can you honestly say that your husband loves you? Doesn’t he do the very thing that the Bible verse instructs is not to do? Isn’t he impatient, unkind, envious, boasts, is proud, is dishonorable to yourself and others by secretly abusing you behind people’s backs, while putting on a good face to the public, seeks to please himself instead of truly caring about you by getting the help he so desperately needs, instead of temporarily making up for it by buying you presents and doing things that please you to appease his own guilty conscious. Isn’t he easily angered, keeps records of your wrongdoings, does not protect you, does not trust you, does not hope for you to do better by growing as a person who tries to do the right thing, and does not persevere in trying to do the right thing himself, much less encourage you to do the right thing?

    Now, I don’t personally know the faults of this person you wonder if you should leave, but I can tell you that most abusers do the opposite of loving others, instead, they idolize themselves, and expect others to idolize them, too. Nobody’s perfect, so of course you expect the person to make mistakes, which makes you inclined to forgive your husband when he mistreats you. However, if your husband repeats the very same mistakes, expecting you to forgive him and take him back every time he does wrong, he’s taking advantage of you. If your husband does the opposite of what the definition of love is according to the Bible, repeatedly, then he does not love you, instead, he wants to control and suppress you, and that is not part of a marriage. Instead, that is slavery under a wicked master, which does not make a good marriage, at all.

    A less well known Bible verse about people like your husband, fiancé or boyfriend, is 1 Corinthians 5, especially 1 Corinthians 5:9-11, according to the New International Version:

    When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin or are greedy, or cheat people, or are worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims that they are a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people.

    You already know that your husband abuses you. What does the bible, written by people of God say to do? It says to not associate with abusers, which you say your husband is. God also repeatedly plants the thought of you leaving your abusive husband in your head, which is a good thought, to not have anything to do with this man, based on the Bible. I’d say this is God’s conviction to you to leave your abusive husband, forever.

    Moving out will [or may — Eds] take some planning. Have you saved up some money separately from your husband’s account? Do you have trusted family or close friends you can stay with until you can get a place of your own? There are domestic abuse shelters you can stay in who can help you get on your feet if you don’t have any close family or friends. Even living on benefits provided by the government would be better than being abused by your husband, at least it would give you a chance to heal from your physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds you’ve suffered from, until you can get a good paying job. This is only the beginning of your journey toward a healthier you.

    If you do decide to leave, then just be prepared for your husband to try to take you back, including being apologetic and nice, downplaying the abuse, making false promises that he won’t keep, and claiming that you’re the lying abuser while he is the victim. That will be the time to stand strong, knowing what your husband did to you. This will be a long journey, but it’s worth all of the effort. Thank you for having the courage to ask your questions. Please keep us updated on what you decide.

  15. a prodigal daughter returns

    What an important question and thank you Barb for submitting it to ACFJ readers because God is near the broken in heart and does give such wisdom to them. I think the confusion about guidance and questioning one’s ability to choose rightly is a result of abuse. Probably most of us have been brainwashed to deeply doubt ourselves. In my case the brainwashing occurred on 2 levels.

    1) I was taught over and over that women are easily deceived by satan, this introduced sanctioned doubt that God was able to override the devil in the hearts of women. In addition, it was women’s sin nature that sought to rule over man by having an opinion different than their husbands.

    After that soul annihilation which distorted the image of God and His value of women I was brainwashed that my brain was literally broken.

    2) In mental health there is a term that is very dangerous to abuse survivors. Used in tremendously manipulative ways to discredit perception and accounts of abuse and effectively silence a victim I get very alarmed when I hear this term used. I heard it a lot when someone wanted a relative to do thus and such and they resisted, the “concerned family member” would say my relative has “anosognosia “. The junk science word means “broken brain”. Therefore the very thing most of us rely of to gather facts and figure out course of action doesn’t work.

    How did God guide me when I believed I was a particular target of deception from the devil and that my brain was broken? This speaks to the fact it is not my ability to hear or be guided but His extraordinary ability to guide. He knows our phone number, He knows how we hear, He knows how to speak to us and over time and practice we understand more clearly what that looks like as He renews our mind.

    While the “word” can be twisted, it has really brought comfort and guidance to me with these few passages.

    James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
    James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

    Peace doesn’t mean you don’t have doubts and questions but turmoil know gives me pause to pray.

    An example of being guided by “peace” occurred when I was in a very evil cult, only I didn’t know it was. They were so loving and I was glued to them because the group was my life Yet one day I got up and felt this tremendous urge to leave the commune. There was something really disturbing my spirit but I had no reason for it or name for it They never let anyone go without a major fight but God was working and the details I needed to work out came together miraculously and peacefully.

    As I was boarding a plane I said “Lord am I walking away from your perfect will, is the devil going to get me, please let me know”. I sat down and saw a familiar looking woman sitting next to me; she had her Bible open. With a shock I realised she was my high school English teacher. I shared I was leaving my religious group and very scared and unsure if I was doing the right thing. She told me, she just walked away from an engagement with the same questions but the Lord gave her this promise. It was this,

    Psalms 147 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.

    She said she didn’t know if she was doing the right thing but she hoped in God’s mercy. She prayed with me and I knew that God was in my decision and if I failed to make the right one I could hope in His mercy. He does create the desires of our heart as we look to him and our hope is in Him. We prayed together, and it was the most beautiful fellowship. God took my fearful doubting heart and need for a sign and gave me one on a random flight in which I was assigned to a seat next to a trusted former teacher.

    We can bring our doubts and fears to Him. He delights in those prayers for guidance. He remembers we are dust and reliant on Him.

    • Anotheranon

      Prodigal Daughter,
      Thank You for sharing this amazing story! Our God is truly a God of miracles isn’t He?

  16. His Banner Over Me Is Love

    This is something I really struggled with, and still do- in a different way, even though I have been separated two years now.
    I left my church two years ago due to the pastor taking my husband’s side and using the pulpit to preach at me. I have not been to a traditional church since, but the other day was at a meeting in someone’s home with a guest speaker. He started speaking about ‘doing hard things for God’ and how God will always equip us and help us do things we think are impossible. It really triggered me and brought back all the times id been told to stay in my marriage (of over 20 years), and made me doubt my decision to leave him. I was thinking maybe I should have stayed, maybe that was God’s plan – even though I believe God lead me out. It really shock me up and upset me.

    I had been planning to find a new church (I do participate in a homegroup at the moment, which I love), but now I’m thinking i’m not ready to back to ‘church’ or if I ever will. So I can totally understand the lady who wrote this question even though I KNOW I have done the right thing.

    I really believe that certain scriptures and themes eg suffering can really ‘play on the minds’ of sincere Christians and make us question if the decision to leave is right – even though we know it is.

    • UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


      I agree, His Banner. At the church I currently attend in the flesh (in contrast to my cyberspace attendance at the church where Jeff Crippen is the pastor, which I consider my REAL church service each week) I have had problems with how the Doctrine of Suffering was preached from the pulpit one day. I spoke to the preacher afterwards, expressing my grave concerns and pointing out how unless he puts in caveats for the abused (especially an abused spouse) who might be listening to him, he could do great damage. He looked shocked. He clearly had never had anyone say that to him before. Maybe he had never had anyone confront him about what he preached before. Certainly I doubt he had ever had a woman confront him. So he looked at me agape and then came out with some lame ‘explanations’ which showed me he still wasn’t understanding what I was saying to him.

      Ever since then, most of the people in that church have put out suspicious and guarded vibes towards me, or that’s how it seems to me. Sigh.

      • M&M

        😦 😦

    • Not Too Late

      His Banner, I find that many Christian themes (in sermons, articles, conversations, social media posts) tend to contain half-truths that sound convincing but under scrutiny don’t stand up so well. Christians as a whole are not taught nor encouraged to use the mind to reason or critically analyze the ideas that are spread. “Groupthink” is a phenomenon in the church that stifles questioning and causes people to doubt themselves if they don’t agree with the majority.

      Back to the original post, the anxiety about leaving is probably caused by the strong human desire to belong and avoid rejection. It is definitely not the Holy Spirit’s conviction. The Holy Spirit is a spirit of truth and if we walk away from falsehood, we can hardly be grieving the Holy Spirit.

  17. Anewanon

    Oh yes, this is a good one! I definitely had this dilemma, and then after I was divorced, now I am plagued with “OK is this conviction or self-BLAME for leaving”. I never got closure and am still looking for it.

    And yet, I have friends who have self-blame for NOT leaving. They look at their kids’ lives and feel guilt that their kids had an abuser in the home for so many years.

    This is a very hard and yet very personal question. I am so glad it is being explored here. Do be gentle responders! Thanks.

  18. kim

    I think it is important to remember that Satan is the father of lies and the accuser of the brethren. No abuser every truly accepts responsibility for their own evil behavior, and they always believe someone else (you) are at fault for every problem. The guilt you feel comes from the accuser of the brethren, not God. And that guilt is a lie, in keeping with Satan’s fatherhood of lies. You mention that your abuser “acts nice” sometimes, but that is just a smokescreen or distraction that he puts up. In a normal, healthy relationship, we “act nice” (godly, thoughtfully, respectfully) as a matter of course, and don’t hold our “nice” behavior over another person’s head, or use it to try to extract concessions from them.

  19. Bitter But Getting Better

    I can relate to the question. I have been wondering the same thing myself and so was glad to see it being addressed. Personally after being emotionally abused for close to four decades, I was at the end of hope. Sadly I have to admit that I was suicidal. The day I seriously considered ending my life was the day that God brought resources that have helped me ever since. I left my husband and lived alone for a year. It was the best year of my life. My abusive husband did all the manipulative wooing and kindness routine and I moved back with him. It was @ the time I moved back that I found this website & learned the truth of what he was doing. I am becoming a different person than I was before. I live w/ him, for now, because financially I must, but emotionally I am divorced from him for ever. As soon as I returned he started all the same behaviors but I no longer dance the dance. Day by day I am learning how to live in a world filled with abusers. It is kind of scary.

    I try to do what Jesus did in the desert when He fought the devil. He used scripture as a sword and so I have literally hundreds of scriptures that I use as weapons to help me try to stay sane. It is not always easy but it’s a whole lot better than when I don’t do that. Right here in front of me is Psalm 37:1 Do not fret because of evil doers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. Charles Spurgeon, a preacher from the 1800s, said of this passage: It is like envying a fat bull who wins ribbons right before it is killed. He continues, ungodly rich men are but as beasts fattened for the slaughter. Word pictures like that help me to hang on to scripture for my very life.

    Thank you to all who shared today. Reading through has strengthened my spirit so much more than I can express. I learn much from your experiences. Today Kim, was the first time I have heard of Gray Rock. I looked quickly at it and it seems to be a good resource so thanks for sharing that.

    I will share a resource that I love too. It’s a book that was compiled of all the sermons that the above mentioned Charles Spurgeon preached on suffering. It’s called Beside Still Waters. He spent great periods of his life in deep depression and so was no stranger to suffering. I know, we all relate to different teachers and Spurgeon is one I return to again and again.

    Blessings to you all!

    • Thank you BBGB.

      BTW, readers, we didn’t need to check out that book by Spurgeon because we know that Spurgeon is sound.

      Normally, we don’t publish comments that recommend resources (click here to see the post where we explain why) but we don’t need to adhere to that policy when it’s teaching by Spurgeon.

  20. Anonymous

    In answer to the question, the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin. It is not sinful to leave an abusive or adulterous husband. Those feelings of guilt and shame are not from God. They are emotions and are not reliable. We must keep going back to the Lord and asking Him and often His words will be words of strength and comfort and when directive, may go against what our Christian culture is convinced He would have us do. I speak of the culture not the word of God.

    Recently, I had to choose between keeping an abusive situation quiet or reporting it to the police. My emotions and several of the Christians around me were convinced (and had scripture to back it up) that the godly thing was to keep it in house and out of the courts. Yet, as I kept asking the Lord for the truth, I came across Boz Tchividjian’s writings and started to become more and more sure that I needed to report.

    The same happened when I divorced my porn addicted husband after nearly two decades of marriage. Oh! How many sermons pierced my heart with scriptures against divorce. It was a trap baited with passages from the Bible. It didn’t matter that my wise friends supported my decision or that it was biblical. Still, I struggled with guilt. Then one day I was at church praying in tongues (I’m a Pentecostal, so this is normal). A man came up to me after and said he knew what I’d been saying. I was really curious. This man did not know me or my circumstances. He said, “God’s not going to heal it. Your marriage. God’s not going to heal it. He’s doing a new thing.” He told me later he expected me to be upset and really hadn’t wanted to tell me. Instead, it was the most freeing thing he could have said. I was overjoyed as I knew that Jesus, The Truth, had cut through all the confusion, deception, fog, and answered my prayer and it had to come through someone who didn’t know me.

    I think the best answer to the question posed is that we must learn the true character of God. It’s in His nature to bring us to the truth, because He is The Truth. If we ask Him, He will send us Boz T, or an English teacher on a plane, or an uncomfortable stranger, or a blog post from Pastor Crippen because He has promised to lead us into all truth, if we ask Him and are willing to listen.

    He weeps over the abuse so many are suffering under. The calling card of Jesus was delivered in Luke 4:18-19. He came to preach the gospel to the poor, heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, bring sight to the blind, free the oppressed, and proclaim the favorable year of the Lord. This is who He is. We can take comfort in that and be confident He is with us.

    • amen! What a wonderful comment. Thank-you Anonymous.

  21. Angel

    I need an answer to this myself. If it wasn’t for meeting a new friend i probably would be in a mental ward from my husband the abuser. Time n time again I took him back. Only to be used. Because I’ve put my kids first. I think that guy [Eds: this word ‘guy’ may have been a typo; we’ve corrected other typos in the text but can’t figure out this one] feeling is God’s way of telling us Get AWAY FROM THIS EVIL NARICISST! But being a Christian if we know in our hearts we tried God, will send us a godly spouse.

    • Dear Angel
      welcome to the blog. I altered your screen name in the comment you submitted, for your safety.
      I urge you to check out our New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      Regarding your suggestion that “being a Christian if we know in our hearts we tried God, will send us a godly spouse,” I have to respectfully disagree with you on that. Some of us have found a good spouse after divorcing an abuser. Many of us have not. Some of us thought we had found a good spouse, but it turned out that person was just another wolf in sheep’s clothing. So there are different outcomes. And I don’t think that ‘being a Christian and knowing in our hearts that we tried’ means that we will be guaranteed a new spouse who treats us well. But it DOES mean that we are not held guilty for leaving that sham of a marriage in which we were abused.

      We are glad you have found the blog; hope you stick around 🙂

    • Not Too Late

      Suggestion for typo – maybe “guy” was meant to be “gut”?

  22. For myself, discerning the difference between God’s conviction and self-doubt has been a very long learning curve. If I were to sum it up, I would say that the more I learned sound doctrine and how it differed from the shonky and sub-biblical ideas that float round masquerading as Christian doctrine, the more I was freed from false guilt and false ‘shoulds’.

    And as I dispelled the false notions about what Scripture says, I became progressively more able to reject those false ideas when I came across them, or when they were pushed at me by others, including people in pulpits. Knowing the truth sets us free. For me, learning the truths contained and woven in Scripture has progressively enabled me to discern the difference between the Holy Spirit convicting or warning me, and the enemy and his lies making me doubt and suspect myself.

    There is a ‘taste’ of self-doubt when it comes from the evil one who wants to make me stumble and get bound in the quagmire. It has a taste of harsh accusation, strangulation of my spirit, squashing of my best qualities and my natural (healthy) abilities, preferences, desires and needs. God’s conviction is, for me, generally more tender; and even when it is warning me or reminding me that I am doing or am about to do wrong, it does not sarcastically scorn me or seek to trap me in a cell.

    God’s conviction and leading could seem out-of-line when compared to the ‘c’hristian ethos I’d been taught, but the mismatch was between the sub-biblical churchianity I’d been absorbing and the true leading of God in harmony with His Word as I read and studied it myself.

    There is no mismatch between God’s conviction in our individual spirits and the whole and well-balanced counsel of God in the Word. The disjunction is only between the false teaching that abounds in so much of the church, and the true teaching of the Word illuminated and applied by the Holy Spirit to my life.

  23. Finding Answers

    In my own life, the leading of the Holy Spirit varies…

    He has led me when neither my heart nor my mind could be trusted.

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