If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain;
If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works? (Proverbs 24:11-12)
This guest post is by “Moving Forward,” one of our readers. She published it here [This link is broken and there is no replacement. Editors.] on her own blog. She was inspired to write it when she read a post at our blog titled All the things I didn’t tell you.
We need to give a trigger warning. The post contains descriptions of sexual abuse, obsession with guns and knives, and abuse connected with pregnancy/childbirth.
Have you ever wondered why my marriage ended? You thought we looked so good sitting on the pew with our adorable, well-behaved children. We appeared to be serious Christians, dedicated to God, the church, and our family.
Then you heard one day that we’d separated, and may have thought, this doesn’t sound good. Maybe those rumors we heard about her were true after all. It couldn’t possibly be him – we know how nice he is. She just sits in her pew, so antisocial.
Did you know he walked out on us? That he had threatened to many times? That I did what he wanted to get him to stay? That this time it was without warning?
You may have heard he begged to be allowed to return, but I refused his pleas, and that didn’t seem right to you. You still see him out and about. He still calls and visits you. He says he’s so lonely, that he didn’t mean to leave permanently, and is waiting for his wife to give him another chance. She pulled his children away, too, which hurts so much. He is so down, is receiving counselling for all the stress this is causing him. He just doesn’t get that she would do this to him (forgetting who left in the first place).
He’s very spiritual, I’ve seen it. He prays, reads devotionals, books. He talks often about how Jesus saved him. He knows his Bible, at least certain passages, very well.
He has always been helpful, thoughtful, and kind to you, always ready to serve. Surely he couldn’t be so bad?
When you “encouraged” me that marriages go through hard times, I was quiet and accepted the advice and books that you thought would help me get back on track as to what a good wife should be.
I was told not to talk about my crumbling marriage, so I didn’t, while he told anyone who would listen about the troubles he was having with his wife. My reputation received a beating, but I still chose to remain quiet as I had been asked to do.
Then one day he reappeared at church with his fiancé and I disappeared. Do you ever wonder why I never came back?
It’s because of the things I couldn’t tell you.
I couldn’t tell you that he has charmed and manipulated you as he did me. I understand your blindness because I was once blind, too, but I don’t understand why you choose to remain that way.
I couldn’t tell you he also fooled all the people he worked for. He walked out on them, also. Job after job.
My parents knew, though. They were anxious about my marriage, but I couldn’t see it. They were right to worry, but they wanted me to be happy, so said nothing, hoping it would all work out.
I never told anyone that within weeks of marriage the man that I married seemed to disappear. It was all about him and I must conform to his image of a wife or he would look elsewhere. It was subtle at first, but as the years passed the subtly faded.
I couldn’t tell you that I chased after him for approval and affection. I learned I was not a priority to him. You were, but not me, not the children. The words, “I love you” were spoken by him ad nauseum, but I wondered, what did love mean to him? Why did he ignore me? How come everyone else thinks he is so wonderful? Why doesn’t he show that side to me? What is wrong with me? I couldn’t understand. I felt like I was nothing to him.
I can tell you he never hit me with a physical object, but I couldn’t tell you I took a pounding from his words and attitudes. I had nightmares of him standing over me with a baseball bat while I cowered in a corner, trying to protect my head.
I couldn’t tell you of how obsessed with guns and knives he was, and how, when he was snapping at me and slamming doors, I feared for my life, hoping and praying he wouldn’t lose it and come after me with one of his many weapons. That at night I barricaded myself in a room with my smallest children in fear of what he might do to us.
I certainly knew I could never tell you about his sexual abuse of me. It took a while for me to realize one could be sexually abused in marriage. If you love me, you will lie with me, was the dictum stated loud and clear.
I couldn’t tell you how many times he hinted about other women through the years, committing both emotional and physical adultery, as I have learned.
I didn’t tell you about the babies I lost, and how he just went on with his day. It was forgotten in hours, but the bedroom wasn’t.
I couldn’t tell you that he was emotionally abusing the children with a variety of tactics that left them reeling, not sure if he loved them or hated them.
I couldn’t tell you how the fog of confusion about his behaviour was so deep and I was so lost in it I almost gave up my faith. But I couldn’t do that to the Saviour who did so much for me, so I clung to Him with all my might, and He carried me through.
I didn’t tell you that it was the love and faithfulness of two ladies gently asking me if I had considered emotional abuse, that I was eventually freed from the darkness. It took three years, and being at my lowest point, before I looked it up and started working my way out of the fog.
I couldn’t tell you that before he left I had a breakdown and he just stood there keeping me cornered and terrified. Afterwards he acted like it had never happened.
I couldn’t tell you that not long before he walked out he had hardly spoken a word to me except through letters telling me how pathetic and unbiblical I was and that there would be consequences if I didn’t start acting like a proper wife and housekeeper should (all his definitions).
You couldn’t know the reasons why I chose to run the other way as he switched from – I want to come home…How dare you do this to me…I love you…You broke this marriage…I miss you…If only you were the wife you should have been…I promise things will change…You have ruined the children…Can I please come back…You are destroying my reputation, my witness.
I couldn’t tell you these things because I wanted to be a meek and quiet, obedient Christian lady who doesn’t make waves.
He told me he would leave the church so the children and I could continue attending in peace, but he lied.
He came back, and now you know why I didn’t.
That’s not the end of the story, though. Because I am gone, and you have shunned me completely, you will never know what God did. He rescued me from the darkness of abuse, and I love him more dearly and am closer to Him than I ever was before. My Lord has shown His love to me in so many ways. I’m sure He had plans also to show me love through His people, but that didn’t quite work out. However, God did and is doing wondrous things in my life, and I will be eternally grateful.
I can’t tell you of my dreams to help others survive and escape abuse, especially emotional and spiritual abuse, because you don’t want to hear it. But you may hear about my work, anyway. I can’t help that. I’m moving forward with my God and my life, wherever He chooses to take me. That’s what I couldn’t tell you.
17 thoughts on “A Letter to the Church – The Things I Couldn’t Tell You”
Thank you for sharing. Weeping and praying.
God’s plans always include encouragement from the Church. You were attending a church (gathering of people for selfish purposes)! I encourage you to search for one of those Churches that love the brethren and are committed to the Great Commission. It took some time but God led me to a real Church were my gifts are used well and I am loved and encouraged!
Hi Susan, I’m glad you have found a safe church, but please bear in mind that many of our readers have looked diligently and been unable to find a safe church in their area. It’s important to not make such readers feel like they have failed or like they are doing the wrong thing by not attending any bricks-and-mortar church. Hope you understand. 🙂
Catching up on recent comments and yes, Barb, you are so very right. I’ve been without a local church gathering for quite some time. Tonight confirmed how I would still feel alienated as I was in attendance at a board meeting for another institution and one of the pastor’s wives was there. I attempted to make conversation but she chose to speak to others. 😦
Same goes for counselors. If the abuser(s) have smeared you to a severe degree, it’s an unending struggle to try and find some support. Then, once several counselors and several medical professionals have ambushed, abused, and maliciously smeared you, it’s almost impossible to find anyone who is willing to help you. Just as abusers back abusers, so do dirty healthcare professionals and dirty counselors. All in corrupt service to an overwhelming discrediting, smear campaign started long, long ago by the original predator. Evildoers. There are so many wicked people. They run in packs, too.
Finding an untainted counselor in a smaller town is pretty much impossible. Just the same as locating a church that isn’t abuser-friendly and victim-hostile.
But there is no need to feel as though one has failed or not tried hard enough, or is too picky. There are just that few of good, safe, supportive environments / people / professionals these days. I feel the trappings of failure, but it is out of my control as they are who they are.
Thanking the Good LORD for this website and all the accessible content, rich in knowledge and hard-won (painfully gained) wisdom.
I’m not sure I entirely agree with your opening statement Susan, especially if you mean a bricks-and-mortar church or as you describe it as a gathering. I was startled when you said this. I definitely would not say God’s plans ALWAYS include the church. I’m not entirely sure what you mean by this.
“The church” needs explanation, as to what or whom you refer to. I do believe God in His wisdom does use His true church to bring about His plans. However He does not need us, but has ordained and at His will often uses us. He does on the other hand on many occasions act and move, teach and even admonish us without anyone but Himself involved.
We need to be careful our phrases do not give the hint that the church must be obeyed as [if] they are God’s instrument on earth, almost infallible-like. Many of us realise sadly the church and many of its leaders, whilst taking this view to support their power control over our lives have all too often failed and have done more damage to the flock than nurturing them in true love. There is a role for the church in the truest sense of the word and that is for fellowship, teaching and encouragement and to preach His word to others but we dare not fall into the belief that the church governs us and is the means to show us God’s plan. On the contrary only God can do that and ultimately it is He who guides us into all truth, not any fellowship.
How many times have we heard of churches or leaders trying to tell us God’s will or plan for our lives. I’ve had many good people almost tell me God’s will for my life before He has even revealed it to me and on some occasions contrary to how the Holy Spirit was leading. I have often heard people in board meetings or committees strongly say God has told them His will on a matter, only to later admit it was really their own selfish desires for something to be implemented. God most certainly does use the church and its leaders to encourage, if they are truly following God. However God can use anything or anyone to bring about His plans. Even a donkey was used of God to speak to Balaam in the Old Testament.
However, we must discern truth and no church or leader can claim to be teaching God’s plan unless it is backed up by God’s Word anointed by His Holy Spirit. The church is not part of this holy Trinity!!
I cannot in a fallen world state categorically that word ALWAYS regarding the church, and that it is the only means or always of revealing God’s plan or implementing God’s plan.
God will always bring about His plans no matter what and certainly does despite the folly of man. He most certainly does not need us to bring about His plans.
Read through the book of Genesis and you will find many times God promises something, mankind failed and yet God’s plan still prevailed.
I do believe God uses His true church, i.e. the people who have truly trusted Christ as Saviour and who truly belong to Him. Yes there should be encouragement etc if the church is Christ-like. However, we are not God and we all differ in personality, in our ‘periphery’ doctrinal beliefs and we often make mistakes and get it wrong. It takes a lot of courage to step out and trust someone again if we have been betrayed and abused, even the true church of Jesus Christ.
However that true church is a far cry from a physical bricks-and-mortar place or a mere gathering where people who say they are Christian meet. That is only a building and the gathering may not necessarily be the true church. That is only people and may be made up of true and mixed with, as we say so much here, also wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Unfortunately there are very few churches who will, if any, 100% understand and will encourage a victim. There are those I agree who do welcome and will despite their lack of understanding support the victim as best they can, but they are rare; often in many cases hard to find. Finding one who may then fit your way of worship and doctrinal beliefs etc may make it even harder again. I know of many fantastic churches but I would never darken their doors as I know I would not feel comfortable and therefore truly be myself in order to heal in those places.
It’s not perhaps so easy as you have stated, or come across in your statement, as we would love it to be. I am thrilled that you have found somewhere. It is very hard for some and yet others find quite quickly somewhere that helps and gives them the chance to live again. I know for me, I struggle. It is safer and wiser for many of us (certainly for me) to remain wary and continue just to seek God in our own being. If I meet some fellow true believer that I feel I can have support and fellowship with that will be fine. I cannot say I will not be wary and very much on my guard. It may take years to build up that trust. I had a pastor I knew all my Christian life and worked extremely closely with and stood in support of during many times of severe criticism, yet after all those years I still received the heaviest blow perhaps ever to my spirit from him.
Even two Christians who meet anywhere, in the Bible constitutes a true church.
Yet equally Christ says:
So together or singular with God He will work out His plans, this we can be assured of. Many missionaries in some situations are alone. It’s not easy but God still encourages and still reveals His plan. It cannot be tied solely down to “the church” or any particular fellowship.
I know for me at present in a very Christianised, biblical and truly evangelical-filled country, there is nowhere, that I know of, who would fully encourage or stand by what I’ve been through. I know of leaderships that might, but I cannot put myself at present at risk of further abuse within a fellowship once anyone gets hold of what I’ve been through or even has heard from my wife or her allies and has been manipulated. The divorce word is such taboo I doubt there is anywhere I would feel fully at home in or accepted. I do know many may accept, but you definitely will never be allowed to be involved in any shape or form regarding leadership, etc. You are only accepted after divorce in some places almost like a second class citizen. I am also well-known around some Christian circles which makes it extremely difficult to go anywhere without being known or formerly known and not to be at the heart of some perhaps very damaging gossip. I cannot at present take that risk. I cannot begin to tell you how risky it is for me with my past and present life all mixed up.
My own home fellowship was as loving and understanding and as evangelical a church as they come yet I know I would not be 100% safe there. Abusers are within and definite wolves in sheep’s clothing.
So I do not agree with a broad-stroke brush we must get encouragement via the church. God is not restricted!! We cannot put a wide blanket over everything and need to take each individual as they come and meet them where they are at. We cannot broadly make such statements without qualifying it.
However I do see the place for good sound fellowship and yes it’s important for growth but not the be-all and end-all if we cannot meet for good reason. I know of Christians even here who have no other Christian witness for miles around and have no choice but just to trust God alone.
I would hate anyone as Barb has rightly said, feel even more a failure or ungodly simply due to the fact they have not been able to find or get some Christian fellowship. On reading it at first I felt that.
In my case there’s a massive amount of pain even just wrapped up in simply going anywhere near what could even be a good fellowship. I dread going to funerals as I have to force myself to cross a line that is not only fearful but extremely dangerous as it opens me up to further abuse and can potentially bring further damage to an already broken spirit. Feeling forced to shake hands with those who have opposed me in the past or have brought about terrible spiritual damage and broke my spirit. (that’s how my dad would see it)
Yes it’s a hurdle I need to climb but I think your opening comment was perhaps a tad forceful (probably not meant, I’m sure, but rang alarm bells certainly for me) and not taking into consideration (again I’m sure unintentional) some of us who would dearly love to have fellowship but can’t. At least just not yet. We need time to heal and time to recover and for me I’m definitely not at the stage I can even truly worship or pray or be part of a fellowship. There are so many triggers and pain in it all. I cannot even bring myself to lift the guitar to strum it let alone play it. The pain of spiritual abuse is terrible but I struggle to listen even to hymns on telly [TV] or a sermon. Pastor Jeff’s sermons on domestic abuse I found here are the first (apart from at one funeral) I’ve heard in many years and I still struggle as there are so many triggers you won’t believe [it]. When you gave your all to serve the Lord faithfully and it has been in seconds snatched and destroyed before you and all that entails, meeting and trusting anyone let alone worshipping and listening to preaching….it’s just not as easy as some think it should be. I wish it was.
For now I get the point you are trying to make but in no way could I be part of a fellowship, no matter how good it may be. I will settle for the true church of true believers who here and in other places, or books [that] encourage me and let me heal at my own pace. In time I will as God leads me, or others come across my path, find what our hearts yearn for, but only in God’s time. I must needs be careful not to damage myself, but yes I can still search and keep my eyes and ears open for somewhere.
I’ve responded to this post, it’s something my mother and sister could easily have said – your opening line. They so desperately want me to grow in Christ but cannot see the healing process and growth already. They will not let me heal as God takes His time with me. Often I heard “but you need to get right back!” They want everything as it was and don’t get the fact that things will never be the same again. They think because I once was never hardly out of the church preaching and teaching etc that after all the abuse it should be just like a switch to switch back on, and get right back at it.
Oh how I would dearly love that, but only in God’s timing not any other person’s. That brings me to another point as in my case if I step into a fellowship knowing what I used to do (this is always happening in my home church) they expect you to be serving or getting back up there. Many who do not know or understand are doing immense damage each time they say “wish you were back! We need you back! Things are not the same! It would be fantastic if you were hear again!” This is of course for selfish reasons, but it breaks my heart to hear. So I try stay clear. I’m not too long in other places when someone who knows me or knows someone else who has told them about me (often minus the abuse and heartache) and they want me to be involved again. I hardly have the self-esteem to go out to the shops at times. I’m not at that stage. I feel claustrophobic and need away. We do well to remember many are even after many years still in recovery but many of these new fellowships may only hear or see one side of us. Which side though, and what do they truly think? Do I dare take the risk saying to others and open myself up to more hurt and pain. I need to be very very wise. For now, in my opinion for me, it’s wiser to recover alone, despite that I hate being alone. To be honest I’d rather just have someone say “It doesn’t matter where you have been or what you have come through….you can tell me more if and when you think it’s ok. For now I appreciate you and am your friend and love you. I accept you as you are now (a hug!!). This is all I need for now.” It’s not happened in over 5 / 6 or more years.
It’s good intentions to say we need to meet and be encouraged by others. It is right and good we get GOOD fellowship definitely, but I believe God understands and He is not a God of force but love and gentleness, in time He will lead us with loving persuasion, knowing our frame.
Praising God that you and your children were able to get away from him. It’s utterly impossible to thrive in proximity to evil, it crushes all joy, talent, dreams and pleasures from life.
I could never understand why a man (such as your husband, or such as my father) would want to degrade and harm his own wife and children…when all they want to do is love him. Love means nothing to these abusive men. They only enjoy wicked things. Thank you for sharing your story.
You speak truth, Song of Joy, and you say it so well! Evildoers seek to deceive, steal, kill, and destroy.
Thank you for writing that! It makes me frustrated, sad and mad to see the church so often perpetrating abuse by suppressing marital abuse or failing to deal with it. After I lived through this and was shunned and abused by my local church, I am still seeing it happen in churches…will this ever end? There are churches that DO see it and DO support the oppressed and DO confront abuse…that IS encouraging to see the church acting as the church.
Dear ‘Moving’ – I hope it was therapeutic for you to share this, and we thank you for doing so. God is so much more faithful than people…
Much, much love and hats off to you Moving Forward, for writing and sharing, and being so transparent.
Your last paragraph was worth the read for sure. (I always get a bit nervous when there is a trigger warning. Of course I only keep reading if the Lord prompts me, but that doesn’t mean I do not feel sorely when reading about such horrific events!)
I rejoiced at how He has worked in your life and brought so much beauty out of such ashes. I pray it will encourage the MANY who need to read such testimonies! It DOES make a difference when we know we’re not alone, and are reminded at how faithful He is.
I’m also sure that many struggle with holding onto the Lord while living in such darkness, with a person who they love, and claims to love them—but is a lying and sadistic abuser. Who sends out all sorts of mixed messages, ranging from blame deflection, self-pity, selfishness and absurd accusations and lies.
Yep. That was my childhood right there. That was one of the things I couldn’t cope with. I was supposed to “model” their pretending, but I just couldn’t do it.
The assumptions and mindset of those around you really resonated with me:
Marital abuse and possible separation incidents, when it comes to the surface, does seem to start with rumors starting to swirl. And as with all rumors, they are either not true at all, partially true, or very one sided.
This is where I think statements like you mentioned come out. To be honest, IMO, I try to give a BIT of grace when such ugly truths come out, because shock and automatic denial or disbelief are real things. I do try to give a church or a community [time] to process how stunned they are before letting the awful truths sink in.
But that’s not the endgame. If they were blinded by charm, manipulation and deceit, they’re not alone. In your words, you too were once blind, but you chose to take the blinders off.
I used to think (years ago) abuse should be very obvious to either the one experiencing it, or to those around them. Even if there are not outward wounds. Even if you don’t see the abuse with your own eyes (which of course rarely, if ever happens).
But the inward scars can’t hide forever. And if someone is so deeply unhappy and / or “antisocial” could it be that they are simply so scarred and scared on the inside, that they need someone to ask them: are you all right?
After I processed some of my abusive childhood and other abusive situations, I realized that one of my main takeaways from it all was confusion. As you mentioned, you didn’t know what was wrong with you, or why you weren’t a priority to him, and why he behaved this way to you. But not to others! They got Dr. Jekyll while you got Mr. Hyde.
Even as a child, I knew I was being abused. But I was so confused that that took over everything else. It’s 100% abnormal for a father (or a husband, in your case) to treat you that way. Yet that was happening to me. What was going on?
For example, it would be 100% abnormal to believe that the sun revolves around the earth. It used to be 100% normal to think that way, but through education and evidence, we now know differently.
Can you imagine if there were some today, who insist that the sun revolves around us, despite mounds and mounds of evidence to the contrary?
So why would it ever be considered normal and right and healthy, to 100% support the abuser and 100% shun the victim? The explanations of: “but he seemed so nice” do not matter. It was a “nice” idea to think the earth was the center of the universe at one time, but that was clearly debunked.
It’s “nice” to believe that your perception of someone, who cleverly manipulated everyone around him, was not wrong or erroneous in any way. “Nice” to believe you weren’t fooled, because you’re too smart to be taken in.
I read how he whined and complained and professed love and heartache and loneliness and “why me” and blamed everyone but himself.
It’s “nice” to feel compassionate towards this “poor, nice man,” but did you ever ask him why his marriage is in so much trouble in the first place? And if you did ask, did you 100% believe him, simply because “he’s so nice?” And nice people never lie?
Anyone who spends too much time away from home, in the guise of serving God and serving others, is not being “nice” at all to his or her family.
Add to that, that he was actively and cruelly abusing his family, perfectly content in his abuse—because he had made sure he crafted and installed a 100% solid image of being so “nice” outside the home.
Your 100% certainty of him being so “nice” that you refused to believe the victim’s narrative, indicates that you were 100% deceived.
This is partially why I feel a tad sorry for those that have shut me out, actively tried to discourage and demean me over my lifetime. They 100% missed out on watching Him work in my life, and using me to bless those around me.
I believe God called me to set an example for those persons who now act like I don’t exist. It was to point them to Him, so they’d see who He really was. Either I failed, or they failed to take it to heart. That’s up to Him. I’m trying to say: “that didn’t quite work out” as you have, but I’m not there yet. I DO believe I did the best I could, regardless of how it ended up.
They don’t want to hear about it, either. I 100% hope they never hear about it, to be honest, because they would not understand, IMO.
You don’t have to dream about helping others. You already ARE helping so many, just with your testimony.
(…….insert net-speak for wordless sorrow and grief……..)
So very powerful and helpful, Moving Forward. Such a validation of what too many of us have lived through. And such a triumph of your indomitable spirit and God’s grace!
I can’t begin to say how much I appreciate this blog and the people who come to it. Four years ago when I sat down at the computer and typed in “emotional abuse” for the first time, ACFJ immediately came up. It was exactly what I needed and was the catalyst to the learning and journey that took me out of the fog. I’ve learned a lot from other sources, but it is here that I see love and balance and people being real and above all I see God at work.
Thanks for all your love and prayers and encouraging comments. Hugs to this wonderful community of survivors and those who come to learn how to support survivors. You are all awesome!
Moving Forward, THANK YOU. This is very powerful. You have walked through the valley of the shadow of death while others watched and did nothing. And yet…. You’re right, God has done great things! As you have stated, I also believe part of God’s plan is to have His love shown to you through His people. It’s tragic that your church (among so many others) failed to do that. So here’s some love going out to you right now. It may be a bit after the fact, but I do hope you’ll accept this love and encouragement from a sister in Christ. God loves you, I love you, and I pray that your message of hope continues to shine.
Keening, so interesting that you should mention the valley of the shadow of death. Those first months after he left I shook like a leaf and my heart pounded like crazy anytime I received an email or saw him. It was Psalm 23:4 —
–that got me through. As I would repeat it in my head, God would give me peace. It was such a miracle as I experienced the power of God’s Word as I never had before.
My pastor and his wife knew I had a serious reaction to my ex’s presence, but instead of coming alongside and caring they just questioned and thought I was over-reacting.
It is lonely now with no church and in a community where I only know one person. I so gratefully receive and appreciate the love of my sisters on this blog, and pray for and love them in return.
Wow, Moving Forward. I feel like we’re sisters. This is my history too. My now ex-husband left me and our daughter after 20 years of marriage. Just never came home one day. I was serving in the church while he wasn’t, and though he disappeared from the church – just as he did our home – boom. One day he just showed back up – four months later – to that church, who welcomed him without question. I left the church that day because she and I were so afraid by that point that we didn’t want to be in the same place with him. He wasn’t communicating with me, but apparently he did with church members and the pastor, so the church stood by him, though several had heard my concerns privately up to that point over the years, nevertheless, it was he who was supported. After the divorce I returned from time to time (on a holiday or VBS) and I can’t tell you the glares and even verbal berating from one of the pastors that I got. It was remarkable.
I think nothing has changed from Biblical times. The church is like the temple leaders of Jesus’ day. He had harsher words for the Pharisees than for the woman caught in adultery or other sinners. He knows who are His. I’d rather be churchless out here in the wilderness than worshiping in a brick-and-mortar among those who aren’t His.
I was really moved by your testimony, Moving Forward. Thank you for sharing it.