God is sovereign even over abuse
Sister, if you are being abused or if you know someone who might be being abused, I’m sorry. Welcome to my page on abuse. I pray it’s a blessing to you. Here we’ll look at what domestic abuse is and is not, the difference in a bad marriage and an abusive one, my own story of being abused, and some resources that might help you.
I was born into abuse and I married an abuser. I’ve experienced everything from physical to emotional abuse, from sexual to spiritual abuse. I’ve lived under the heavy hand of extreme financial abuse both with my father and my husband. Outside of my immediate family, I’ve experienced molestation by men I ought to have been able to trust and once was nearly raped.
But abuse doesn’t define me and it needn’t define you or those you love, either. God is sovereign, even over abuse.
A life spent in abuse
My father was a physically abusive drunk who neglected and abandoned his family repeatedly. One of my first two memories, bound up together so I don’t know which occurred first, is of him slamming his fist into our kitchen table, cursing my mother and threatening to knock her teeth down her throat. He was vulgar and loud. Terrifying. Even in my fear, I jumped between them with a tiny child’s determination to protect my Mama.
There’s so many stories–of him throwing me across a room and slamming me into a wall, of him burning my mother and breaking her nose, threatening her with a butcher knife, causing Mama to lose her jobs, lose her apartments, stealing our car, depriving me of needed medical care when I was but a few months old and running a raging fever for several days (which resulted in life-long health issues for me) and so much–so utterly much–more. We spent the first five years of my life in fear of Daddy, running away from him, reconciling with him, and having him abuse or abandon us. Again and again.
My mother, who was bi-polar and suffered from lifelong depression, was the best mother any child could have had for the first several years of my life. She became extremely emotionally abusive towards me when I was around 10 years old. From that point onward, I grew up hearing from her that I was evil, just like my father, that I hated her, being told that I was selfish and cruel, and being made fun of in painful and embarrassing ways. Her words still resonate in my heart and my mind.
I spent my life taking care of her. Since it was just she and I, there was no one else to step forward. I loved her and rejoiced in being able to care for her. I believed and valued the 5th commandment. Yet, the last time I talked to Mama, just days before she died, she once again told me just how disappointed in me she was and how I’d abused her all my life. It wasn’t true but it hurt nonetheless.
I married a man whom I thought was my knight in shining armor. He turned out to be a man who abused me in every way possible and who also abused my children. I’ve been left with bruises and cuts after his punishments. He crashed the car we were in while driving in a rage. I’ve been slapped by him more times than I could count, held against a wall while he raged at me, called vulgar names, and endlessly lied to and about.
He moved us endlessly as he lost one job after another, many in exceedingly poor condition. He ran up debt he couldn’t or wouldn’t pay (including in my name, without my permission), filed bankruptcy three times, and kept us secluded. So very often we did without the things we really needed. Many, many, times I turned to God asking for food, to keep the lights on, or a roof over our heads. Pain and fear was a constant in my life with him.
The last house we lived in together was falling to pieces, quite literally. We lived for five years in a house that had been broken into and destroyed. It was covered in graffiti throughout the inside. The flooring was rough and ugly. The kitchen cabinets had been yanked from the wall. There was a hole in the kitchen ceiling where water poured through when someone showered. The back porch was falling in. The air conditioner nor the furnace worked for much of our time there. Our furniture was in tatters and falling to pieces, we had little to nothing in most ways, and what we did have was damaged. Lest you think we lived there with the plan of fixing it up, you would be wrong. My husband stayed months behind on the rent and we barely kept the power on, and then only through the kindness of friends and agencies. We barely took care of ourselves, let alone had money to fix it up.
The question might arise as to why things were so bad and why didn’t we do more about it? That, too, is tied up in the abuse we suffered. My husband was on his next-to-last job when we moved there and, ultimately, another one he was fired from. It’s incredibly hard to be fired from a state job, yet he was. Afterwards, he became a box boy and then a janitor for a store down the road (a job he would also lose). Even with the state, he barely made enough to pay the rent and he utilities and he didn’t do that. My health prevents me from working and I was a mother of younger children, trying to protect, guide, raise, and defend them. Most of my now older children, affected as they were by the abuse we lived in, had moved on and refused to help in any way. My oldest son stayed and he helped. He gave up college and seminary for a time in order to be there for me and my children. I never asked him to but he felt the Lord would want him to. He injured his back on the job so severely that he ended up having to have back surgery which, ultimately, led to our release from the situation.
I am now separated and seeking a divorce for infidelity and abuse. My elders have deemed such a divorce to be biblical. His financial abuse and wastefulness was so extensive that even now, I am still struggling. How do you start over when you’ve had nothing for so long? A step at a time, over a long period of time. SDG
Even though I am now separated from him, the cycle of abuse continues through the lies he convinced some of my children to believe about me. Parental estrangement often accompanies domestic abuse. I am a mother of 9, I love all of my children as only a mother can; because of my husband and their own choices, not all of them have chosen to love me. Choosing to rebel, some have screamed at me, told me they hate me, cursed me, one son hit me and damaged my shoulder, and more.
The pain of all of this could be an endless morass of heartbreak. My reward is that those of my children who love the Lord truly love Him. Nothing makes me happier.
But God…what they meant for evil, He meant for good.
Comforted to comfort
One of the most comforting promises in Scripture for those who struggle is contained in 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4, Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
For those of us who have suffered under the heavy hand of domestic abuse and yet have put our faith and trust in the Lord and His ways, God promises to comfort us and then enable us to comfort others. This requires us to see God’s Word clearly and to see domestic abuse through God’s eyes. Too many in the church today view it through the lens of feminism.
A Christ honoring abuse ministry
Matthew 22: 36-40, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
In these dark desperate days the church is allowing domestic abuse in general and sexual abuse specifically to drive it towards Social Justice, towards being Woke. Towards sin.
Feminism has its thumbprint firmly on secular domestic abuse ministries and very often on those in the church, also. So often, when marriage problems arise, men are told they are in the wrong, even if they aren’t. Women are believed, even when they are lying. We’re told women can’t lie, wouldn’t lie, and thus must always be believe. Looking at Scripture proves that women can and do lie. Just look at the story of Potiphar’s wife and Joseph.
Domestic abuse cannot be understood nor can the victims of it truly be helped outside of the truth of God’s Word.
I believe that if churches can come alongside of those who have been abused in a Christ-honoring way it is a beautiful witness to the watching weary sin-sick world. But anything they do absolutely must be based in truth. There are many ways that churches can and ought to minister to those who have been or are being abused. These might involve counseling, financial counseling, coming alongside her children and involving them in normal family relationships (having the family over to dinner, going to ball games or other fun events, or simply having a game night, etc.), helping her or even the older children to find ways to bring in money, helping the mother of young children to find ways to work from home, helping find a place to stay or a way to furnish her home, and so on. No church can do everything but every single church, no matter how small, can do something to help those who have been victims of domestic abuse. Above all, all must be done for God’s glory.
The Lord calls us to love Him first and foremost and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This includes our care for those who have suffered the wrath of an abuser.
Domestic abuse hotline
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Deaf callers using video phone 1-855-812-1001 (Monday-Friday, 9 am -5 pm PST)
Help for your pets
Understanding domestic abuse
Domestic abuse is about control. The perpetrator uses fear, force, pain, humiliation, and/or coercion in order to gain control over another person, usually his spouse.
Not all abusers are male. I realize this. I’ve known some men who were abused by their wives, even some who were attacked by their girlfriends. Since feminism encourages the dominance of females, it’s also led to increased verbal, emotional, and even physical abuse of men. But since I write to and for women, I am choosing to write about male to female abuse. If you are a male reading this, the facts still apply to you. Just flip the pronouns.
The victim of abuse often isn’t aware that she is being abused. While this might seem amazing, it is absolutely true. What you grow up in or live for extended periods in becomes normal to you. If somehow the sky above your house could be orange while everywhere else it was blue, to you orange would be the color the sky ought to be. When you are told you do not matter, when pain accompanies your daily life, when everything is always your fault, when you live constantly in fear, that is your normal. If someone or something doesn’t awaken you from your confusion, you will remain confused. The fog that accompanies abuse is very real and not easy to overcome.
An abuser defines reality for his victim. He wants his victim to see herself through his lens rather than through the lens of truth. He demands and receives compliance because he gives her no choice. If she is knocked down often enough, she becomes compliant–whether the knockdown is physical, emotional, verbal, or otherwise. Many victims have no one to turn to.
Domestic abuse might be spiritual abuse or control, physical battering, destruction of property, ongoing verbal and emotional cruelty, threats of harm to children or pets or possessions, isolation, financial and physical deprivation, and sexual abuse. The victim is blamed for the abuse she suffers and told if she’d only do better or be better, etc., he wouldn’t be forced to do or say the things he does. The victim is often forced to apologize to the abuser for things she’s neither done or said. Abusers use fear to demand obedience. This is a different kind of fear than that of reverent fear. This is a fear of pain, fear of what the abuser might say or do, and sometimes even a fear for one’s life.
Abuse follows a cycle of abuse, abuser’s guilt, victim blaming, and promises to do better. Desiring to believe that it’s now over, the victim often accepts the apologies and fails to seek help.
The Cycle of abuse
Something happens to cause your abuser to lash out. It might be problems at work, not feeling well, not getting enough sleep, drinking or drugs, pornography, family problems, or something else.
The victim, sensing something is wrong, seeks to rectify it. She becomes hypersensitive to his needs, seeking to provide comfort and to relieve the tension, and does all she can not to set her abuser off.
Abuse of whatever sort or sorts ensues. The abuser might blame the one he is abusing, telling her that she has set him off, has failed in some way and thus caused him to abuse her, and so on. This is false. Even if she has failed him in some way, her failure never excuses his abuse of her (and vice versa).
- Honeymoon stage
After having abused his victim, the abuser often attempts to use kindness, gifts, compliments, and more to bring about forgiveness and reconciliation. This loving behavior often causes the victim to feel more loving towards her abuser and leads her to believe that this, not the abuse, is reality.
- Peace and calm ensues for a time
During this period, the abuser might blame others for his abuse, apologize but justify his behavior, minimize or deny his abuse, accuse his victim of provoking the abuse, make promises that the abuse is in the past, lavish his victim with shows of love, etc. The result of this is that the victim excuses the abuse, doubts her memory, and convinces herself that the abuse was really nothing. She starts to believe that the abuse is all in the past, the abuser has really changed, and that nothing like that will ever happen again (if it was even an event). And then it does…repeatedly…again and again and again and….
A bad marriage or an abusive marriage?
Below are some signs that you might be being abused. Keep in mind that some of these are far worse than others and experiencing one or two of them doesn’t necessarily mean that you are being abused (though you might well be). An isolated incident doesn’t mean that you have been abused (though it depends on what happened, for instance if he hits you, he has abused you. Period.).
There’s a world of difference between a bad marriage and an abusive one. In a bad marriage, due to a lack of caring or a failure to communicate–and always, a failure to seek the Lord’s pleasure–partners might misunderstand, taunt, heartlessly tease, even belittle one another, without abuse being present. In a domestic abuse situation, the abuse is focused in one direction–there is an abuser and there is a victim of abuse. One person controls, manipulates, and brings pain; the other is the victim of control, manipulation, and pain.
Abusers use fear to demand obedience. This is a different kind of fear than that of reverent fear. This is a fear of pain, fear of what the abuser might say or do, and sometimes even a fear for one’s life.
Signs of abuse in marriage
If you are being abused, your spouse may engage in some, many, or all of these behaviors….
- belittles you or your efforts
- is controlling
- cannot be pleased
- makes you believe that you cannot do anything right
- causes you to feel afraid, helpless, numb
- makes you believe that you deserve to be hurt
- does and says things to cause you to doubt yourself
- causes you to have trouble making decisions
- makes you wonder if you are crazy
- humiliates you
- says you are stupid, an idiot, etc., and so on
- has a bad or unpredictable temper
- blames you for the abuse (you made me do this)
- hits you
- yells at you
- gives you the silent treatment
- treats you like a slave or says you are his slave
- treats you like a sex object
- calls you vile or vulgar names
- is abusive during sexual relations
- says you have no rights
- tells you need to be punished for being a you or for being a woman
- is possessive or excessively jealous of you
- prevents you from seeing your family or friends
- constantly checks up on you (in order to control you)
- prevents you from leaving the house alone
- controls the finances
- prevents you from having proper health care
- rapes you (yes, mutual physical satisfaction is God-commanded; rape is different)
- punishes you
- threatens to abandon you, put you in a corner, lock you in a room, etc., or actually does so
- he threatens harm to your family or friends
- threatens to harm you or your children
- he threatens to harm you or your children if you tell anyone about the abuse or if you leave him
- threatens to kill himself if you leave him
- causes you to lose your job
- causes you to lose items to repossession
- sells, gives away, or destroys things that are important to you
- throws things, breaks things, punches holes in walls
- hurts your pets or threatens to
- prevents you from using the phone or the computer (to prevent you from getting help)
- forces you to perform degrading sexual acts
- demands that you give up your rights or says you have no rights
- insists you change who you are in order to please him
Can abusers change?
Abusers can change but it is rare that they do. Abusers have a heart that is hardened by their sin. They don’t care about pleasing God so they are not bound by His Word or by a desire to be a good husband. Their only desire is to please themselves.
But God…He can do anything. Sometimes, He does. If an abuser does change, he will change completely. He will be brought to repentance and will no longer blame you for the abuse. He will completely change the way he relates to you, treats you, and the way he speaks to and of you. He won’t have to tell you or others that he has changed; the change will be obvious to everyone.
The abuser will not only repent to you, he will repent to others. This means that he will repent to and make things right with anyone who has been affected by his abuse, misled by him, lied to by him, anyone deceived about his treatment of you or your reactions or intentions (including children, other family members, friends, etc.). He will repent first and foremost before God. If such repentance happens, it will be obvious. He will then seek to honor God as a husband, through the way he treats you and your children. If such change is not evident, he didn’t truly repent.
Not all of these boooks are written from a Christian perspective and those that are cannot be seen as a theological textbook; all of these have some good information on issues relating to domestic abuse. By Christian I mean that they embrace biblical principals; I am not endorsing everything every author believes.
If you purchase a book through a link below, I will receive a small commission.
Shame Interrupted by Edward T. Welch (Christian)
Divorce and Remarriage in the Church: Biblical Solutions for Pastoral Realities by David Instone-Brewer (this was recommended by several reformed pastors) (Christian)
A statement on the book on abuse that I co-authored
In 2010, I came across a sermon series on domestic abuse that Reformed Baptist Pastor Jeff Crippen had just posted online. I’d woken up in the wee hours of that morning full of fear and overwhelmed by the pain in my family due to my husband’s cruelty. After listening to the sermons, I contacted Pastor Crippen to thank him for what he’d posted. Two years later, we co-wrote the book A Cry for Justice: How the Evil of Domestic Abuse Hides in Your Church.
A couple of years later, I ended our association. After being welcomed in the abuse community, which is overwhelmingly feministic and progressive, he began embracing feminist, leftist, humanistic beliefs that were not Christ-honoring. I couldn’t support that so after I wrote him a letter begging him to reconsider some of his newer stances and he refused, we parted ways.
Through his blog, Pastor Crippen publicly attacked RC Sproul and John MacArthur, among others. He attacked patriarchy (which towards the end of our association, he said he now hated) and even complementarianism (stating that for the husband to be the leader was unfair and abusive). Pastor Crippen wrote a post stating that having disavowed both of these due to his eyes being opened by his new associates, he went on to state that his marriage was now “equal” in roles and responsibility. He also wrote (in a post he later deleted) that abortion was acceptable in cases of rape and to state otherwise was to abuse women who’d already been abused by rape. And so on…. Eventually he left the blog and most if not all of his posts were deleted at his request by Barbara Roberts, who now runs the blog.
Pastor Crippen never paid me for my work on the book. He has publicly spread lies about me that, through those who know us both, have come back to me. I’m not telling you this to attack him. I would invite you to pray for him.