This post is by Harriet Cook. Harriet is a wife, mother of adult children, and grandmother, loving and serving Jesus for 57 years in the Pacific Northwest. She does not deny there are some male abuse victims. However, her experience is with the gender usually more easily preyed upon.
In the 1950s through the 1970s I was nurtured in a healthy Christian home by parents who have just now celebrated 63 years of marriage. I’ve had the joy of being married 30+ years to a most wonderful husband.
Domestic abuse was quite hidden in decades of the past; it was hushed. I know my eyes did not see nor comprehend the damage inflicted upon some spouses. Since then I’ve encountered abuse’s ugly face as I walked for years with a friend on the brutal path to emancipation. Through that experience and others, the study of the topic, and the divulgences of survivors, my eyes have been opened. As I have learned their stories I can now count a minimum of 12 women who were, or are, the targets of domestic / intimate partner abuse and post-divorce harassment.
These women were not walking in Biblical disobedience by petulantly deciding they just didn’t want to be married anymore or because they found someone more attractive. On the contrary, most were trying their hardest to be the best wives possible and uphold their vows before their Lord. Though details differed, most were living with an enemy who shot them with various projectiles, then jeered at them for having the nerve to bleed and / or cry for help while burying the victim in wretched disgust!
Many had children in the tomb of abuse with them. These moms saw their children contracting diseases of the soul; yet another reason to escape so as to remove them from the contamination of abuse or show the adult children a better way.
Sadly, some escapees are scorned in unmerciful judgement by critics who lack the facts, the desire to know details beyond gossip level, have little compassion, and even less understanding of the nature of abuse, to say nothing of right dividing of Scripture.
Recently I pondered Jesus calling Lazarus forth. Yea! A brother brought back to his grieving sisters! High five! All is well! But the story doesn’t end there. Come learn with me.
John 11:44 reads that at the command of Jesus —
The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face…. [NIV]
Can you imagine the scene? Onlookers stand in stunned silence as Lazarus somehow gets off (out of?) the place where his body had lain. No doubt fearing the expected stench, the spectators probably took a step or two backwards. Lazarus stumbles, hops, falls (?!?) through the tomb opening bound like a mummy at a cheesy high school haunted house.
This scene is comparable to an abused woman fleeing an already broken marriage. Her head is wrapped in the fog deliberately created for her by the abuser to keep her off balance. She is bound both by the tactics of abuse and the PTSD resulting from the continual trauma. Surprised observers sometimes step back from the unmistakable odor of death and, quite frankly, so as to not be in the path of the death angel (abuser) that sometimes pursues her beyond the tomb.
In verse 35 Jesus wept. While God foreknew the sin that would bring death to mankind, He did not ordain death. Sin brings death. Death brings anguish to the living. Death wasn’t supposed to be and it brings Jesus sorrow.
So it is with marriage. God never designed marriage to be one partner habitually lording domination, manipulation and control over the other….all three being evidences of the spirit of witchcraft in operation (1 Samuel 15:23). Our loving Father established marriage as a type of the cherished relationship between Jesus and His Bride whom He laid down His life for. God weeps over the cruelty one spouse directs at another. Abuse is sin in any relationship. In marriage the sin of continual abuse breaks covenant, and it brings death.
“Oh, but we are ALL sinners!” parrot the naïve. Don’t go there with me. Submitting one’s sin nature to the cleansing blood of Jesus makes us new people. New in Christ. Our nature is changed as we submit to the sanctification process. We sin. We screw up. And we know it. We humbly repent and keep offering ourselves to be transformed into His image….and we are.
Habitual abuse is a different animal altogether! The abuser sees no wrong in his behavior. He knows others may think it is wrong, but he thinks it’s just fine for him to control and abuse his victim. Repeatedly lying to and about the victim, stealing, purposely ruining her credit, subverting, shaming, ridiculing, raging, imprisoning, gaslighting, abusing financially, sexually, emotionally, physically, spiritually, relationally (restricting access to others), parental alienation are the sick tools of domination’s lifestyle. Such a life is completely opposite the occasional “Oh honey, I was a jerk to you today, I was wrong. I’m so sorry.”
The abuser doesn’t abuse because he’s had a bad day. He doesn’t do it because of poor upbringing or trauma in his childhood. He. Does. It. Because. He. Can. It benefits him. We know this because, like a light switch, he can turn the malice off and on at will depending upon who is witnessing his actions. He controls his behavior. It is a choice.
“Habitual, consistent, chronic, practice, lifestyle.” These words differentiate between the occasional “jerk” behavior that plagues us all. Consider the “practice” of medicine. People are doctors because they practice medicine. It is who they are and what they do. People are abusers when they practice abuse. Like doctors, they daily hone and practice their skills. This perpetual lifestyle is evil. It is immoral. It is depraved. It is wicked.
An abused woman is living in a tomb surrounded by death while her essence, her personhood, decays. When the stone is rolled away and fresh air flows in she recognizes the death around her and in her… she’s infected with it through the choices of another.
The wedding promises of love, cherishing, and fidelity, give a glimpse into the union every bride is longing for and expecting. Regrettably, many discover that the spouse has worn an impenetrable mask of calculated goodness, yes, even “godliness” that he excels at using to fool everyone. The mask is conveniently discarded once the vows are spoken. Marriage made a sham by the vows he spoke under false pretenses.
When she seeks help through the court systems, pointy polluted fingers of family, friends, and / or church members level the accusation that she “broke the marriage”. How wrong is their utter arrogance! The abuser’s unrepentant, continual ruthlessness leveled against her broke the vows, and thus the marriage, before she ever left the home! Plainly stated, civil divorce legally ratifies the decision the abuser made to break the marriage.
Unfortunately, there are some who see her staggering out who tell her she must return to the tomb of the dead. That she has no right to be rescued from the destruction, decay, and death because, after all, SHE chose this life, bad as it may be, when she married this man. Marriage becomes the idol to be served. The blame is laid upon her for not serving the idol: “She made a bad choice; she must have chosen him out of God’s will; she is at fault.” Such logic is akin to blaming a rape victim for the perpetrator’s violence.
Did Lazarus do something out of God’s will to encourage his illness or was it just a result of a sin-cursed world? Scripture doesn’t tell us. Yet, Jesus apparently didn’t care what caused the death. He simply raised Lazarus to life again. Because that’s what Jesus does. He brings life out of death and sets the captives free.
If there is exegesis on the remainder of verse 44, I haven’t heard it yet —
Jesus said to them (the onlookers), “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” [NIV, words in parentheses added by the Guest poster.]
Lazarus needed help removing his bindings because he did not bind himself!
Thus Jesus commanded the bystanders to release Lazarus from his bindings. Amid joy at renewed life there were practical needs to be addressed. As the bindings came off he was naked in front of everyone! Moles, scars and every private part lay open to be viewed by those who loved him….and those who were merely gawkers. He needed clothing to cover his nakedness!
His financial dealings, having been rearranged as a consequence of his death, had to be reordered to care for him in his remaining years. Four days dead with no food? He could have been famished for a good home-cooked meal and a drink of water!
Jesus calls out the abused wife. Eyewitnesses are stunned and skeptical — “We never saw that side of him!” “Did you pray about this?” What kind of stupid asks a question like that? Of course she prayed about it as she cried out to God for help! “But he didn’t hit you, right?” “But he is a deacon / pastor / missionary / godly man, he couldn’t be like you are painting him!” All are inane comments of unbelief equating to “Hey, the tomb couldn’t have been that bad of a place for you to live!”
With the luxury of not living in a tomb, the presumptuous easily reach these conclusions and sanctimoniously spout them. They are totally ignorant of the shame and fear a woman must overcome just to admit she’s abused….even to herself!
As Lazarus had practical needs, so does the woman leaving abuse. Because He is in the business of releasing the captives, and we are His hands, Jesus commands us to remove her bindings. The abuse survivor, too, is naked with the raw pain of broken promises, shattered dreams, rejection, torment, shame, threats, fear, abandonment, and poverty. She needs “covering” that goes beyond mere clothing, which she may also desperately need.
The woman coming out of an abusive marriage needs to be gently washed, sometimes again and again, with kindness, compassion, and the Word of God! She must be patiently filled with the assurance of her Father’s limitless and passionate love for her since she unquestionably has been indoctrinated, by words and actions, that she is unlovable, that she is valueless.
Trusting again can be a fearful thing to one whose trust has been deliberately decimated. Her abuser distorted her reality on a regular basis, so disorientation in the real world is more often the rule than the exception. Thus, her frame of reference for “normal vs. not normal” is fragmented.
Often she is penniless because part of the pre-mediated emotional murder committed against her was the intentional manipulation of finances so she would find starting over nearly impossible.
There are many resources available to enlighten the concerned about the hideous patterns of abuse, the excuses offered, and the difficulty escaping it. Great places to start include A Cry For Justice [the website] and Lundy Bancroft [Internet Archive link]. Searches for “narcissistic abuse” on the internet and Pinterest are helpful, too. Not Under Bondage [Affiliate link] by Barbara Roberts excellently reveals the whole counsel of God regarding the “God hates divorce” misquote. A Cry for Justice [Affiliate link] and Unholy Charade [Affiliate link], both by Pastor Jeff Crippen, enlighten regarding abusers using, and hiding in, the church.
Psalms has dozens of passages revealing how God feels about abusers, oppressors and their victims. Some, like Psalm 82:3-4 below, command our part to play:
Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute.
Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. [NASB1995]
Here are some ways to partner with Jesus in fulfilling this Psalm and removing the grave clothes of a modern-day Lazarus:
- Can you listen (over and over again) without judging as she processes through the hurt?
- Can you discretely press some money into her hand? Poverty is a favorite tool of the abuser.
- Can you drive her to court and stand beside her as her knees shake under his venomous gaze?
- Can you fill a bag of groceries from your own pantry, or give a gift card for food or gas?
- Can you share a coat from your own closet when it’s cold out if you can’t do anything else?
- Can you host a GoFundMe account for legal fees she can’t afford?
- Can you pray? And let her KNOW you are standing with her?
- Can you hold her while she cries?
- Can you assure her that despite the abuser’s claims, she is NOT crazy but suffering from her abuser’s engineered cognitive dissonance?
- Can you praise her for her bravery in the face of her abuser’s “one step short of arrest” retaliation?
- Can you offer her the use of your computer if she doesn’t own one?
- Can you and your friends host a “Love Shower” if she’s not been allowed to take basic necessities from the family home in her attempt to start over?
- Can you help her figure out a budget when she does earn money?
- Can you let her know she can call you for emotional support anytime day or night?
- Can you offer her your extra bedroom while she gets on her feet?
- Can you watch her children while she meets with a lawyer?
- Can you believe she wouldn’t do something this drastic without a good reason?
- Can you go with her when she meets her lawyer to take notes for her to refer to later?
- Can you help her check her free credit report to see if her abuser has opened accounts in her name?
- Can you take her to a bank and teach her how to open an account? (A skill withheld in financial abuse.)
- Can you educate others to put aside their preconceived, and often sanctimonious, biases that threaten to re-abuse her in her time of desperate need?
- Can you stand up for her if members of her own family declare they are “neutral”? (“Neutral” = neutered where evil is concerned; it is cowardice.)
- Can you stand with her if weak church leadership sides with her abuser because it’s less messy for them?
- Can you put in a good word for her with a potential employer?
- Can you use your own healing from an abusive marriage to comfort and encourage her?
- Can you have her over for meals and holidays, especially if she is bereft of family?
- Can you help her laugh and forget her troubles for an hour?
- Can you make her YOUR family? Even give her a house key? (She may not have been allowed to have a key in the house she shared with her abuser.)
- Can you choose to use language such as “Have you considered….” rather than “You should….”?
- Can you suggest options, but not be offended if she is unable, or afraid, to follow your train of logic?
- Can you advise, but still support her in making her own decisions? Decision making may be new to her; she may need help seeing all sides of an issue — but she still must decide on her own.
- Can you show her what a healthy, God-honoring marriage looks like from the inside….in your home with all your warts, but also all your loving commitment to each other and the Lord?
- For that matter, does this topic bring to mind your behavior toward your spouse that you need to submit to Jesus and change?
- Can you stand up for her in the midst of gossip and declare “We have not walked in her shoes; there but for the grace of God go we! God is her judge, not any us.”?
- Can you LOVE HER?
You have no idea if you might be the one person standing between that bottle of pills or a razor blade poised over the wrist of an abused woman. A precious woman who has had her last ounce of emotional blood sucked out of her by the vampire delighting in destroying her. YOU might be the only one at that moment to hear Jesus command “Take off her grave clothes and let her go.”
So the question really isn’t “Can you….” but “Will you….”?
He who has pity (compassion, mercy, graciousness) on the poor lends to the Lord, And He will pay back what he has given. (Proverbs 19:17 [AMPC. words in parentheses added by the Guest poster.]
[September 5, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to September 5, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to September 5, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to September 5, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (September 5, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
Further Reading and Resources
Thursday Thought — How to Support an Abuse Victim
Two books for supporters of survivors
27 thoughts on “I’m Nobody Special; What Can I Do To Help Lazarus?”
Great post! Really makes you think about how Jesus said, “when you did it to the least of these, you did it to Me” [Paraphrase of Matthew 25:40.].
Yes! YES! Yeeeessssss! I will be sharing this with many church friends who are absolutely clueless. Thank you for articulating this so well.
May this be a blessing to all, Harriet.
Eyes that see and a heart of mercy! So rare!
Wow. Thank you so much for your kind and courageous words. I was just thinking the other day that while I haven’t had a ton of outright opposition and judgment over my need to escape abuse, I don’t feel I’ve had a lot of passionate support either. Why won’t the people who claim to love me stand up, get righteously angry, and defend me? Instead it’s always just a lot of talk, not a lot of action. Just like my abuser. I don’t even know you but I feel that your words are a welcome defense. Someone gets it. Thank you.
Amazing post. May this knowledge come to be widely known and acted upon in the church.
Wow. Just wow. This is one of the best posts I have read about an abuse victim to date! Because I am visual I see so much in this analogy to Lazarus coming out of the tomb.
I will be sharing this with other Lazarus’ and with those who can help remove the bindings.
This post has given me an anonymous moniker to use online!
Hi, Lazarus, welcome to the blog. 🙂
We always like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
Thank you, Harriet!
Oh, Harriet — BRAVA! This is such a beautifully issued challenge. And so very powerful, I have tears in my eyes. Yes, there is a risk in helping to remove those bindings, but a momentary stench is so insignificant (and even petty) a thing compared to Christ raising someone from death into life. Thank you!
This author KNOWS the truth of the far reaching, pervasive IMPACT of domestic abuse on the victim, and those who help her. This author must have walked in the same place we have walked, and witnessed what we witnessed happen to our own daughter and family following her flight from her abuser.
Brought me to tears, recalling the impact on our lives, and our younger children, because of cowardice on the part of the extended family.
See no evil, hear no evil….
This author needs to write a book, and get it in the stands, and into the hands of preachers all over this nation!
Thank you. I feel less alone, in the battle every time I read ACFJ.
This post was amazing!!!
Staggeringly beautiful. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Sixteen years out of am abusive marriage, and this brought me further healing today. May God bless you as you minister.
Hi, EW, welcome to ACFJ. 🙂
I’m so glad you were helped by this post.
You may want to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
Thank you for recognizing and speaking truth!!!
My soul is soothed reading this! Our churches need this too so they can recognize how they can practically be the hands and feet of Jesus to an abused woman and her kids! It is a hard battle that is not over when she separates, the system abuses her too and inflicts untold wounds as the abuser who is so adept at twisting everything gets away with it over and over and over!!
Oh my. Amazing and wonderful.
Hi, D. 🙂
Welcome to our little blog.
Have you seen our New Users’ Info page? It gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
Just thank you. Feeling overwhelmed today and needed this.
Thank you for writing. This post oozes compassion, understanding, and wise counsel. For one who has not personally walked this path yourself, all I can say is that you must be an amazing ‘student’. I can only imagine how blessed the friend who you’ve walked alongside has been by you.
My personal road to healing is on-going. How I thank God for the friend (who sounds very much like yourself) who has been that steady support throughout the years and for countless others who God has used in shorter windows of time to encourage and bless me. For those who may not be intimately acquainted with someone walking this path, please know that just your ‘yes face’ (warm and caring instead of judgemental) towards someone leaving an abusive relationship is a huge gift in itself.
I was particularly touched by the following paragraph which I’ve copied below from your post and put at the end of this comment. The blessing of gentleness and patience, what unspeakable gifts!!! ….yes, a thousand times yes, to understand God’s love but also when gingerly entering frightening circumstances where we’re learning all over again to interact in healthy ways and face new situations when our confidence has been crushed. I’m crying tears of thankfulness as I type this to consider those God has put in my path that acted with that patience, gently supporting, accepting, repeating, and listening without obligation and not being offended when I withdrew temporarily back into my shell as it were to observe and regroup. Thank you for succinctly putting so many of my experiences into words and causing me to reflect on the many many ways God has faithfully ministered to my needs even in the middle of the suffering using the hands, feet, ears, mouths, and resources of His people.
Laying in bed and unable to sleep….rolling over between the layers of the unknown in my little world….all 4 of my babies in 2 different and disparaging directions….unable to prove that I am not indeed a sinner too….I climb onto my window seat to attempt gain of the open net….I smoke a shame-filled cigarette….searching for some sanity….an answer or clarity or at least some resolve….and the Lord finds mercy for me, directing me to this.
I am that Lazarus. I struggle to find the words around a confusion-filled mind, and see the keys through tear-filled eyes. For the first in some time, I have tears of genuine gratefulness to the Lord for bringing me here. I have felt so distant from Him off and on, so often off, unable to see past my own sin or perhaps feeling abandoned by Him as well. My church told me to get my head checked….so I did. Now I wonder if I am so cunning that I fooled a psychiatrist….could this all possibly be me? Looking back I swear what I see is destruction by my father, my first two children’s father, and now my husband. I swear I’m finally realizing that I have been toyed with by the hands of maybe more sinister sinners than I, and for most of the duration of my nearly 40 years alive. I have begun healthier ways….I am attempting ‘boundaries’….yet this disconnect from God has kept my wings bound, and so I continue to swirl, not certain of much anything.
I hope I too may find others to walk this burdensome journey with….I see a comment mentioning risk….and I humbly wonder, what risk? Is it maybe that your Lazarus may not really be ‘dead,’ and so you’d be loving one that is not truthful? Is it that others would ridicule? Is it just ‘too much drama?’ Are we ‘too much drama?’ Is it that her abuser would hurt you? I genuinely ask, as I have wondered for so long why I walk alone. I wonder if so to build my resolve in Christ….or because I must lay in the bed I made….or if I kept confused too long and my husband is just that good that truly not even one believes me….or there is no love in this world….or maybe it’s that I really am crazy and I should be grateful that no one has committed me….yet. Is there something that I could do that would help others help me?
Regardless my path, THANK YOU. Thank you for giving me hope that there are others like you, and especially that maybe God isn’t finished with me yet. I don’t think there was a single line that didn’t make the tears fall a little harder at each one….tears of ‘she gets it!’ I can’t say how even more meaningful to read from a woman that has had a successful marriage, does honor our Lord, and yet still isn’t judging my bindings. Thank you for hopefully at least loosening the bindings enough to allow me to take a breath. Maybe my marriage is over, and I need to face it, I guess only the Lord knows that. But He did bless me with 4 wonderful children that do need their mama. So for them and I, thank you for helping me get through this night….and hopefully awakening tomorrow ready to fight for us another day….perhaps one day closer to bringing them home.
I hope it’s ok that I share this site, and particularly this piece, with other Lazaruses I may run into.
For any Lazaruses like me, may I also add LeslieVernick.com as a resource. Her site has been immensely helpful with Biblical approach too.
Thank you again….for sharing your beautiful heart.
Oh dear sister —
I treasure your words.
I hear you as you unwind the grave clothes.
Thank you for writing so powerfully.
Thank you for putting into words what you are feeling.
What it is like to be a Lazarus coming out of the tomb.
Let me reassure you that it’s okay to share this site with other Lazaruses.
Let me reassure you that you are welcome here, and so are other Lazaruses.
We do know about Leslie Vernick’s site. We know it is helping many victims of abuse.
I am glad we helped you get through the night.
May we and others help you get through many more nights; and may you help other Lazaruses get through many more nights, as they gradually unpeel and unwind the grave clothes….
Please keep commenting here. You have a wonderful voice. Your story will help others.
Love from Barb.
PS — I changed your screen name to Nameless But Having A Voice because you had given a name that could have revealed your email address. If you want us to change your screen name to something else, just email The woman behind the curtain: firstname.lastname@example.org — she will be more than happy to assist. 🙂
And you might like to read our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
Thank you so much, Ms. Barbara. And I sincerely appreciate the protection / correction.
It’s been a heart-in-my-throat kind of day. I am being punished for drawing recent lines….I knew the punishment would come and I am grateful that I was just strong enough to keep my head up, in front of those I needed to, especially my youngest children. I would have been teetering on the “just weak enough”, had I not read that last night and been able to turn towards the Lord.
I see God giving me enough strength so that now I can at least lift my head to Him. There was another time or two in my life where I felt I had finally “done my part” (ugh, the strict “Biblical upbringing” is a tough rut in my mind to even contemplate overcoming….the ‘ol “need to be perfect before I’m loved” is so painfully deep), and so felt “worthy” enough to read the Psalms and cry out like David….which is where the day began. I do not believe I would’ve stood through today’s heartache without that beginning….which for me came through the love of this author. There really is no greater persuader than love….our Father’s love.
How true is it that we seek His face in desperate times; though until now I could not find the clarity to do even that. He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves….because while I may have blindly “run for my life” (psychologically?….I had nothing left.)….He must’ve called, “Lazarus come forth!” The Lord gave me enough instinct to at least do that….perhaps in response to a command I didn’t consciously discern.
It is amazing how He has created our bodies and minds….the fight for survival….and to be a mama, how much more! I am grateful and perhaps a touch amazed that I still want to live….that the “comfort” of death didn’t settle. I know the “can’t-pick-myself-off-the-couch / or floor / or….” darkness….desperate for someone to rescue me….to command me out. Maybe I’m finding out that it was the Lord Himself that did just that….maybe that pure desperate animalistic survival code He created. Or perhaps the pure power of Him, His command to come out and be alive. Oh my Jesus, is that what you did? Was everything in me rebelling, unwilling to see the truth? And so You commanded my body to move it’s flippin’ legs already??! Teehee….I have to laugh at the oddity of my body doing what my mind could no longer discern….or my spirit dragging me by my bindings….magnetized towards Jesus’ beckoning!
Ladies….if any of you feel unable to lift your head or even a single toe today….just hold on till the sun rises in a few more hours. If you must, stay on the couch, it’s ok….do whatever you must to get through the night alive….for your heart is still beating. I know it feels like death….and it is….but there is One much greater, that even death must obey. And whether we lift and flee tomorrow because of our lil ones….or older ones….or because we must defy and rebel that darkness ensued….it is mend-able, our motive correctable. As this author reminds us, our Jesus didn’t care. Actually, am I mistaken or did Lazarus follow with a heftily sinful life? Yet still Christ chose him? Another Barabbas?
I am not educated enough to know whether it is our beating heart, the Holy Spirit, our intuition or our instinct….but it IS all from our Lord. And I do know that it was a call to life for me, to live outside of the darkness of that stinky tomb. As you lay there, listen….is He calling you out too? So much of you may feel destroyed, like death has taken over….you may not feel there is anything left to trust….I know. Be it through our husbands, or our husbands themselves, the evil one has taken so much. But if your heart is beating still, and you can read this….dare to believe that Jesus is calling you in ANY direction. Only He and you know if it is within your marriage or outside. But if the sun has risen and the hours have passed….run. Let whatever part of you is able to run, and run. Run to Him. The rest will follow. And outside that tomb I know we will both find others that are willing to unbind us, see us naked, and help us into breathing again. And we WILL help the next….
Thank you again. And thank you, Ms. Barbara.
Dear Nameless But Having A Voice,
You nailed it. Not everyone is convinced of the victim’s truthfulness, especially when the narcissistic abuser has been creating a deceptive narrative about who she is and what she’s supposedly done. Not convinced enough anyway to commit to the long haul of helping her get her life back.
Not to mention there are different levels of involvement. I tend to think that Lazarus’ sisters were probably the first ones to jump in and start the unwrapping and continued to stick close to his side. But, perhaps Benjamin the weaver was prompted by God to run home to grab a garment for Lazarus then God didn’t prompt him to do anything else. Then maybe Jacob was prompted by God to lend his talents as the best bread baker in town to offer Lazarus and his sisters several loaves of bread so the sisters wouldn’t have to immediately tend to kitchen duties, but could talk with Lazarus about what he saw beyond the veil.
I would suppose “ridicule” could be the word used for those helping abused female versions of Lazarus today. People who then come under the scrutiny of those church leaders and members who are still of the mistaken belief that a woman leaving a marriage for any reason besides adultery is the one at fault for “breaking” the marriage and denounce anyone who assists her. But “rebuke” and “condemn” are probably more accurate.
And yes, there is LOTS of drama. From him, family, friends, sometimes the church, the legal system, poverty, fear, twisted reality that needs to be challenged and changed. It is….wearying. And because divorce from a narcissistic abuser is never quick, committing to be a binding-remover is often a huge time commitment, not to mention resources (gas for trips to court because Lazarus is often too stressed to drive, and other unexpected expenditures….but GOD does provide!).
Not everyone feels equipped to step into the role of binding-remover, nor have the faith that God will equip them for the journey, nor does everyone have the obedience factor in their lives to say “Yes, Lord” when He puts a person needing help in their path.
Let’s not overlook that not everyone in town was there at the tomb when Lazarus was called forth and thus not everyone who knew Lazarus heard Jesus say to remove the bindings and set him free.
Yes, if binding-removing people know the abuser well enough, some ARE afraid of him. If he is capable of that level of abuse towards the wife of his covenant relationship, they probably rightly figure he has no scruples about laying his wrath on them, either! Thus, they’d really prefer to just dodge the bullet.
You asked “What can I do to help others help me?” That’s where some survivors on this website might have suggestions for you. Survivors: What has worked for you? Friends of survivors: If you were on the fence about stepping up to help, what changed your mind to eventually step into the field and walk through the horse cah cah with the victim?
From my limited viewpoint reading your comments, I think you are more alive than you might realize because you are already desiring, and reaching out, to help others. And no matter who a person is or what their situation is, it is healthy to reach beyond oneself to extend a hand to others. Keep close to Jesus. Read Psalms and Proverbs. Memorize Psalm 91. God bless you.
Thank you, Ms. Harriet, and ok re the passages. I don’t know how alive I am or should I say feel, I just know that you’re right. It is good to help others, even while in the cah cah (you actually made me laugh out loud, and I have been crying straight through the past 4 days. Is that how you spell that word, huh? My kiddos laugh when I use that word….thank you for that.). There’s someone else that is a few steps behind me and I know at least I can’t really see much past a step or two anyway. Something that stuck with me in recovery….helping someone else to get ‘out of yourself.’
Knowing that I have to be as honest as I am aware, I am confessing that reading about the ‘ridicule’ triggered some anger. As I’m trying to look at that, maybe it’s because I too have been concerned, when on the other side. I am ashamed. I wonder how many women I brushed off because I felt that icky drama feel….and probably….no I’m sure I did….felt they were at least exaggerating, and probably disgruntled at their husband / boyfriend. Oh my.
I hope I’m not attempting to defend myself here, but I honestly, truly had no idea people like this exist. Whatsoever. I knew people had anger issues, as I grew up in an extremely physically abusive home. And because I did my best to avoid it, I kept in quiet observation, coming to the conclusion that people had varying degrees of internal pain.
I saw my dad be loving at times, and thought that “that’s who he was”. That insane man I saw — [I thought] “that was him hurting”….and maybe he sensed my ‘love,’ and so that was why I didn’t get ‘it’ like that. I perhaps didn’t trigger his pain.
But oh have I been scared when I’ve witnessed my own ‘losing it.’ Smacking my husband scared the cah cah out of me. I analyzed over and over why and how….I knew it came directly from the pain I was experiencing in a particular argument. I could see him pushing my buttons, but what on earth went through me that I was so desperate for it to stop that I resorted to trying to stop him physically? But I knew it was from pain, and I was just as desperate to find another way to ‘get it out.’
(Please bear and stay with me….I see my digression.)
I at least assumed everyone felt pain in varying degrees and those, like my husband (and other’s husbands) could fare much better if we didn’t judge, rather loved more. [I thought] I / we could be capable of “loving it out of them”. I believe it for myself (my only change ever, has come through love). I think I actually judged those wives for “not loving enough”.
So, tabling the judgement part, as I’ll take that awareness to the Lord, and at least there’s a touch of clarity there, I want to ask about the other part of my digression.
Do others even know people like this (excessively manipulative, brain-bending, outright-purposeful-indescribable-hurt-you-with-your-deepest-vulnerabilities-type?) exist?
Despite growing up in the situation I did, I had absolutely no flipping clue that ‘people’ could ever be capable of hurting others (much less those they loved….for those were the safest ones, the ones that most certainly would never) PURPOSEFULLY.
THAT, Ms. Harriet or Ms. Barbara, is what has blown my mind. Did I miss that class? Or is it seemingly that others, like me, just don’t even know it exists? Unless they experience it themselves? And so truly, any bindings that we see on each other, are always assumed to be of our own making?
I mean I certainly judged, in fact would grow irritated at others, when I didn’t see them doing something about their own ‘issues.’ Is that the consensus? But what about those actually in the social service fields? Aren’t they specifically educated on this sort of thing? I struggle to even say this, as I’m afraid to lose this new-found safe place, that you too will question my truth….but I will anyway (Ugh the fear of not knowing if I’m sharing in the right place, and then not knowing if I’m believed….that pain and fear is brutal for me.)….but my mental stability has been questioned now numerous times. Yes, by my husband in so very many ways….both to me and to others, but also by those I’ve sought help from. So much so that I really do wonder and wrestle with not knowing if I’m truly missing the boat here….that maybe I am pitied from afar because I ‘just can’t see how screwed up I am’….that I believe my own lies perhaps.
Because if anyone actually believed me, surely I would even get a call, or a text….or some little help to loosen some kind of binding…. If anyone actually did believe that what I discern to be real, is actually real, they would engage in some sort of way, right? If it really is / was as bad I think, of course others would know that any kind of ‘unbinding’ whatsoever is necessary for this woman and her children to survive, right?
And isn’t that what we sing and preach and claim we are as Christ followers? We are not just Lazarus-lovers, but we are unbinders as well?
I share this last lil part because I am at a loss for what to do, and it is why I have been almost constantly tearful the last several days.
My second husband [I] trusted promised he wouldn’t do to me what my older children’s father did. I went through years of custody battles with that first husband, he and his mother taking me to court endlessly to try to take away my babies. I believe because I did the right things; I did not speak poorly of their father, not even in court, I trusted the Lord with them, I lived ‘right,’ I believe that is why they were never successful.
Not believing others could actually manipulate children, I didn’t protect my children from them as I should….every time their father was released from prison, I allowed them visits with him….and in all the in-between times, weekends with those grandparents. Slowly but surely they were chipping away at my older kids’ trust in me, while I also allowed their stepfather (my second husband) to confuse us all. I maintained guilt because of the several times I had ‘lost it.’ Recently, their father and grandmother pulled those kids right out from under my feet, and their stepfather was not allowed contact.
My contact was then eased out, and I had no strength from it all to fight. And now my second husband has done the same with the children I have had with him. So while I try to gain clarity and strength and take my little ones back, he has passed another big blow at me, though he claims innocence.
In my attempt to hold boundaries [details redacted]….and since I drew more solid boundaries, I haven’t seen the kids over the last [x number of] weekends.
[….] he was gone almost their entire existence, whether working or pouting [….] he knows that I was heavily engaged in all of the kiddos education, etc….and he had a part only seldom.
Well, he does know that last year was devastating for me, that [as per former church’s advice] I used it as a time to ‘grow in not needing others’ / ‘rejection’ / ‘it’s just me n Jesus’.[….] And that the older kid’s father went in and ‘took over’. And how hurt I was that I never heard from a single (church) member of our former church.
[….] I do not know what to do. [Summary: Second husband is seeking allies in former church, and looks like he will be successful in using and manipulating the naivety of that church to help prevent her from seeing the kids and doing what all good mothers want to do — help the kids through times of stress and transition….] He doing this to coerce me to come back. [….]
I am holding strong and not going back [….] assuming that really was the right thing. But I am crushed. I do not have anyone I can ask to [assist or be a witness….]. I am at a loss, and I am asking if anyone has any insight whatsoever on what would be best to do
Ladies, I am sorry about the length of this and if it is all over the place. I am not feeling well but since I have exhausted any direction I know of to go in, I wanted to at least get a chance of any feedback out before I step away. Ms. Barbara, please take out whatever you see necessary, whether it [is] unsafe or is too confusing. Thank you for allowing me a place to come.
Dear Nameless But Having A Voice.
Sorry it took me a while to edit your comment. If you want to have your comments published more quickly, I suggest you make shorter comments (and it’s okay to submit several short comments one after the other!).
And if you are not too tired, I suggest you read what we published of your comment and how I redacted it. That will give you an idea of what to airbrush and how to say things without giving full identifying details. I’m not blaming you — no one when they start this process off has much of an idea of how to summarize or airbrush their story for the public internet in a way that keeps them more safe. 🙂 So you are not the only survivor of abuse who tells a long story. There is ALWAYS a long and complicated story with domestic abuse — because abusers are so clever at abusing in MULTIPLE and COVERT ways for a very long time before the victim comes to the awareness that she is being abused, and it’s intolerable.
You did not miss that class, because that class is almost never taught. And in churches it is even less likely to be taught than in secular schools and colleges.
We here at this blog have only learned the content of that class by (a) our own painful experiences at the hands of malignant narcissists — wolves in sheep’s clothing; and (b) reading about the mindset and tactics and methods of abusers from the few professionals in this world who truly ‘get it’.
We recommend the work of Dr George Simon Jr, Allan Wade and a few others. In our observation relatively few ‘helping’ professionals really get how intentionally wicked some people are.
There are so many myths out there which people believe. One of those myths is ‘hurting people hurt people’. It’s not entirely a falsehood, but it’s a giant misunderstanding because it leaves out the VITAL fact that some people hurt others INTENTIONALLY and with forethought, craftiness, scheming and deliberation. You have been married to two such men. And your father was almost certainly one too.
You are not crazy. You are not mentally ill. You are not sick. Your husbands have been abusers. And abusers almost always tell their victims ‘You are crazy’. They may not necessarily make that accusation in words, but they imply it in myriads of ways.
It is so common that many many victims of domestic abuse report things like “I feel like I am going crazy” or “I wonder if I’m crazy”.
The ‘you are crazy’ accusation is a giant false accusation made by the abuser. And the abuser is skilled at enlisting the church to back him up in that accusation.
But you are NOT crazy. And you are not alone. We believe you. It is not your fault. You are not to blame.
As for the dilemma with seeing your kids and getting custody — it’s a horrible dilemma. We don’t really have any perfect answers or advice. But I encourage you to dig into our Resources tab and look for the stuff about children and child custody.
Here are two sub-pages in our Resources that might be particularly helpful.
Children of Domestic Abuse
Pastor Jeff, I just now, New Year’s Day, finished ready one of my Christmas gifts: “Unholy Charade”. This book is so good. When I wrote the “Lazarus” post above I did so entirely at God’s leading. My suggestions for how to help were mostly drawn from the experiences of one particular extreme case of abuse and the subsequent journey to freedom that I was honored to partner with. When I read almost verbatim suggestions in your book (published — and unread — before my contribution) my heart was encouraged “Yes, I did hear from God!” because sometimes we struggle with thinking we just don’t hear Him, at least not often enough. What a blessing Barbara’s and your books have been! Thank you for expressing the heart of Jesus so well.
🙂 🙂 🙂
Came Alongside – Barbara and I have both experienced the very same thing you speak of. You know, you grow up in the church and hear about all these stories of saints who experienced the Lord and how He spoke to them and how He accomplished great things through them, but you don’t see such things in your own life. I didn’t either. But after years and years of being oppressed by wolves in wool in the church, I can confidently say that the Lord did come to me, open my eyes to this evil that is so pervasive in the church, and enable me to preach sermons on it and write books about it. Barbara will say the same thing about her book and ministry too. And when the book is finished, I still look at a copy laying on my desk sometimes, and I have a kind of surreal feeling of, “did I write that? How could I have written that?” No, I was not inerrantly inspired but I can tell you that it was the Lord by His Spirit directing me to know what to write. So yes, we know exactly what you are talking about here.
Re-reading Harriet’s original post, including the longer comment farther down the page….
(….insert whatever the net-speak is for speechless….)