For many years I have been writing words meant to offer comfort to the discouraged. Some of the articles have been more general in nature and some more specific. I want to spend some time in this article on one very specific area of pain; quite frankly, some may find it uncomfortable to read. I am talking about the subject of spousal abuse.
Over the years, it has been a very sobering and unhappy fact of ministry that I have been exposed to people involved in this very troubling problem. I certainly will not share any confidences, but I know of and have spoken to and counseled victims of abuse which includes verbal abuse and physical abuse. I have also shared in the experiences of friends and fellow preachers who have had the same experiences. If these were isolated incidents, it might not be the best subject for such an article as this; if it were only one or two who had so suffered, it would be appropriate to say these words to those few victims and leave this space for something else, perhaps. Unfortunately (shamefully), these are not isolated incidents. What I want to offer in this space are words of comfort for those who feel so isolated, even when they are surrounded by people who love them.
The reason for that last sentence is the pattern that I have noticed and discussed with others who have encountered it. And that is the pattern, or tendency, of victims of spousal abuse to blame themselves. Even when the victim understands in a very cognizant way that the real culprit is the abuser, there is still the feeling of guilt and shame. That is the reason for choosing the title “It’s Not Your Fault!” It’s really not. I do not mean to excuse sin on the part of the victim by making such a statement, but even sinful behavior on the part of a wife does not merit a husband’s comment, “There are lots of women prettier and smarter than you!” Nor does any sin she may have committed make it ok to beat her up!
There is a great temptation here to go on a tirade about men, or those who think themselves men, who treat their wives this way, but that is not the purpose of this article. I have learned that the almost universal tendency is to react to suffering of this kind by trying to hide the problem. Victims do not want their closest friends and family to know that they are suffering abuse. Even if our friends and family know something is wrong, we don’t want them to know what or how bad. Please know that such feelings are natural. If those friends and family wished us well and were happy for us in our new married life, it is very hard to shatter their vision with reality; or at least, that’s what we tell ourselves. So, what do you do?
I will not tell you that you should just forget your feelings and tell everyone you know all about your problems. I understand the private nature of your pain and suffering. However, there are some things you can do that will help endure the pain. First of all, if you are in physical danger, remove yourself from that danger as quickly and as best as you can. This is not a comment about divorce, but of personal physical safety. What else can we do? In listening to and crying with victims who have described spouses who have made it a regular practice to find other sex partners, even openly, have regularly and daily belittled and humiliated them, have beaten them to the point of requiring medical attention, I have responded on more than one occasion that I wish there were a magic wand I could wave that could take away all the pain. Sadly, there is not, but thanks be to God, there are some things we can do. God did not put us on this earth, or in His church, alone. We are, if we are Christians, part of a family who loves us. I have learned that there is a very real need to find someone to talk to who will offer comfort, even if that comfort is nothing more than a hand to hold, shoulder to cry on, or a neck to hug. Maybe it’s just too painful and sensitive to bring it all out into the open; I understand that, but try to find someone who loves you and will listen without judging and will offer words of comfort and encouragement. Unfortunately, there are some, even Christians, who do not want to be bothered with other people’s problems. The reality of that fact has caused some victims of spousal abuse to tell me that they do not want to “bother” me or “burden” me with their problems. A lesson that, unfortunately, took the Lord a few years to teach me is that there is great reward in ministering to others and I am very quick to tell those who express that reservation to me now that it is a great blessing to me to help someone else through a difficult time. So, do not believe the devil when he tells you that no one wants to hear your problems, or no one really cares about you.
You are not alone! I am not a professional counselor; I don’t have all the answers, but I have learned that most people who are discouraged for whatever reason, and victims of spousal abuse would be no different, feel alone, even to the point of feeling abandoned by God. I repeat: you are not alone! This article is not that magic wand I wish I had. There is not an easy fix to this problem, but there is the comfort that God offers. He has not forgotten you; He is not unaware of your suffering. The devil really doesn’t care if your husband beats you or not; he just wants you to give up on God. God has not given up on you, so don’t give up on Him! He knows you have the strenth to endure any temptation, even the temptation to give up your faith because of your suffering, and He has provided a way of escape from that temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). The first couple of steps down that way of escape are refusing to give up on Him and realizing that the guilt the abuser has placed on you is not yours. It is not your fault! There are people who love you and will help if you will reach out to them; and there is Someone Who loves you and weeps with you in your suffering. Take His hand and do not let go no matter what! I hope you know that I love you, too.