LIVE IN VICTORY AFTER SPOUSAL ABUSE
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LIVE IN VICTORY AFTER SPOUSAL ABUSE
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
While abusive acts are committed by both husbands and wives, in cases of domestic violence, approximately 95 percent of the victims are women. Although the reality of wife battering reveals a long history of being tolerated—tolerated traditionally and even legally—abusive behavior has always grieved the heart of God. Any violation of this most sacred relationship always produces pain, but God promises to be close to the victim who suffers at the hands of an abuser.
Abusive behavior can be aggressive or passive, physical or psychological, direct or indirect, but regardless of the method, all abusive behavior comes from a hardened heart with the desire to punish, coerce, and control. Although the abuser treats his mate unjustly, he blames her for making him do it. It is never his fault … or so he says.
“In your heart you devise injustice, and your hands mete out violence on the earth.”
What Is the Cycle of Abuse?
Like a volcano, abuse doesn’t start with a sudden outburst of physical force, but rather with intense internal pressure in need of an outlet. Abusive patterns develop in three stages that are cyclical, becoming increasingly violent. Family members who fall victim to these patterns feel traumatized by the mere anticipation of a violent eruption. Unfortunately, the escalating nature of abuse is rarely curbed without intervention and adequate accountability.
“Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness that would not be found out.”
What Is the Situational Setup for Abuse?
In an abusive relationship, both the husband and the wife bring certain emotional deficiencies into the marriage, creating an unhealthy dynamic. For the cycle of abuse to be broken, someone in the relationship must change. Either the abuser must stop abusing or the abused must stop accepting abuse. It takes only one person to break free from the painful pattern of relating that has them both ensnared. Though difficult, release is possible, especially through the power of the Lord.
“My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.”
Does God Care?
- God hears the cry of the battered and abused.
“You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.”
- God holds the victim of abuse in the palm of His hand.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
- God will rescue the victim of abuse and violence.
“He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.”
- God confirms the victim’s value and worth.
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
- God brings good out of the evil deeds of others.
“The Lord works out everything for his own ends—even the wicked for a day of disaster.”
Question: “How do I know if I should take action when I or someone I know is a victim of abuse?”
Answer: Whenever anyone, yourself included, is being abused, you need always to take some sort of action, even if it does not involve confronting the abuser.
- A safe rule of thumb is to never confront an abuser in a way or at a place that would put you in harm’s way. If you know you are not being led by the Lord to confront, then do not confront.
- Generally speaking, there is safety in numbers. So if you think it is not safe to confront alone, take someone with you who can keep the situation physically and emotionally safe for you.
- If someone you know is being abused and the person is powerless to stop the abuse, intervene on the person’s behalf. Either confront the abuser yourself, report the abuse to someone who can confront, or direct the victim to someone for counseling.
"Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?” (Proverbs 24:11–12)
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Consider Your Choices
Staying with an abuser while waiting for the next violent episode is not your only option. As with many major decisions in life, there is not just one viable choice. The issue of safety should be paramount, for until a safe haven is found, you cannot have the necessary focused attention to determine your best course of action. People in abusive relationships adopt various ways of responding to their mates, but you need to know that you have a God who not only watches over you, but who also will guide you in the way you should go.
“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.”
Habitual patterns of abusive behavior rarely change unless there is significant intervention, professional guidance, or both. Sometimes, though, a husband does become so convicted of his self-centered ways that he allows the Lord to give him a new heart, new desires, and the power to change. If your husband promises he has changed, you need wisdom to discern if the change is only temporary and manipulative … or if he is truly taking personal responsibility for his abusive behavior.
“Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse.”
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I no longer have a sense of fear when I am with him?
- Has he learned to control his anger without being verbally or emotionally abusive?
- Does he respect my right to disagree?
- Is he able to express his feelings of anger in a calm, nonthreatening way?
- Does he communicate feelings other than anger?
- Does he no longer blame me for his problems?
- Do I feel I am being treated with respect?
- Does he show consistent kindness and consideration toward me?
“Husbands … be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life.”
(1 Peter 3:7)
Seek God’s Security
“First seek the counsel of the Lord.”
(1 Kings 22:5 NIV)
Abuse does more than damage a woman’s body and impact her mind. The pain goes much deeper, breaking her heart and leaving her feeling as though she’ll never be able to trust anyone again. Unfortunately, this kind of heartache cannot heal itself over time, and no amount of positive actions can restore a woman’s sense of security when she has been abused by the man she loves. Only One can provide an eternal sanctuary.
Through His Son, Jesus, God offers hope and healing to all who are weary and broken. His path to healing may be long, and you may not find complete physical safety until heaven and God promises His guidance and comfort for everyone who believes in Jesus. If you entrust your heart to Him, He will always walk beside you.… You will never again face another day of fear and pain alone.
“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?’”
The moment you choose to believe in Him—entrusting your life to Christ—He gives you His Spirit to live inside you. Then the Spirit of Christ gives you His power to live the fulfilled life God has planned for you. If you want to be fully forgiven by God and become the person God created you to be, you can tell Him in a simple, heartfelt prayer like this:
Prayer of Salvation
“God, I want a real relationship with You. I admit that many times I’ve chosen to go my own way instead of Your way. Please forgive me for my sins. Jesus, thank You for dying on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins. Come into my life to be my Lord and my Savior. Through Your power, begin healing the hurts in my heart. Teach me to find my security and comfort in You alone. Make me the person You created me to be. In Your holy name I pray. Amen.”
Do’s and Don’ts for a Friend
Most victims choose to deny the severity of their situation by developing strong defense mechanisms. In addition to out-and-out denial that anything is wrong, wives tend to minimize or rationalize their husbands’ abusive behavior. It takes a leap of courage for even a good friend to admit that her marriage is not “made in heaven.” Be prepared to respond in love when she begins to share the secrets of her heart.
“The purposes of a man’s [or woman’s] heart are deep waters, but a man [or woman] of understanding draws them out.”
Don’t talk in generalities if you suspect abuse.
Do … Specifically ask if she has suffered physical harm.
Don’t treat the problem lightly or minimize the abuse.
Do … Realize that violence can be a matter of life or death … and that wife abuse is against the civil law, the moral law, and the law of God.
Don’t change the subject or act embarrassed if she reveals abuse.
Do … Encourage her to talk at any time about anything and be willing to listen.
Don’t blame her for the abuse.
Do … Help her see that no one can make another person sin—his abuse is solely his choice.
Don’t be afraid of her emotions.
Do … Allow her to express anger and fear, which are often avoided or denied.
Don’t advise her that she must preserve the family at all costs.
Do … Affirm that removing herself and her children out of harm’s way—separating—is not the same as divorcing.
Don’t send her home if she has been physically abused.
Do … Provide temporary shelter and assist her in discovering her options.
Don’t accuse her of failing to be submissive.
Do … Explain that it is not God’s will for anyone to suffer abuse for any reason.… Submission or lack of submission is not the issue.
Don’t merely tell her to report her injuries to a doctor or to the police.
Do … Accompany her to the hospital if she is willing, and help her fill out police reports.
Don’t allow her to stay all alone, paralyzed in fear of further abuse.
Do … Learn about her legal options. Go with her to court to get a restraining order.
Don’t try to provide more counseling than you are trained to give.
Do … Show her that you care and help her get counseling from someone who has experience in working with victims of violence.
Don’t assume she should know all the answers.
Do … Assure her that God will guide her and give her wisdom when she doesn’t know what to do.
“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”
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