Lilly Park
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Responding to Abuse, Part II

June 23, 2015

Lilly Park

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Lilly Park

Based on the comments to my previous post on emotional abuse, I want to clarify or expand on a few selected points. I’m also aware that abuse is a sensitive topic and misunderstandings will occur. My prayer is that this post might provide some clarity or at least encourage people to seek help if they have not done so already. The resources at the end are not comprehensive but provide a starting point.

10 Foundational Principles

  1. Let’s call abuse for what it is—abuse. Some Christians prefer to use other terms, for various reasons, but if carefully explained, the term “abuse” conveys the serious, not to mention sinful, nature of the mistreatment.
  1. Abuse occurs in various ways: physically, verbally, and emotionally. Sometimes, the term “abuse” gives the impression that it only applies to extreme situations. In general, if you have concerns or are unsure about something in your marriage, talk to a godly Christian for some perspective. Don’t wait until the situation becomes worse.
  1. Abuse is a spiritual problem. A person who abuses others has no fear of God. Until we interpret abuse as a sin problem, our solutions will be temporal, external-oriented, and ultimately unsatisfying. True hope for change is found in God.
  1. In the name of “submission,” don’t overlook the husband’s sin. (I’m not saying that we should constantly look for sin, but the opposite tends to be the problem in abusive relationships.) On the other hand, don’t overlook personal sins either (Matthew 7:4). We’re not responsible for other people’s sins, but do we provoke or tempt people to sin? Let’s approach God with pure hearts.
  1. Submission does not mean passivity, having no voice or being a doormat in marriage. The Christian concept of submission is not the problem. The problem is a sinful distortion of submission. Let’s not redefine God’s understanding of submission but seek a better understanding of it, so that we know how to submit, according to God’s design.
  1. It is not unspiritual to seek help from others. Sometimes, legal and other types of aid might be helpful. Seek help but don’t feel compelled to follow the advice if you’re uncomfortable with it.
  1. Related to point 5, trusting God does not mean passivity, doing nothing. Rather, trusting God results in obedience. Seek help and wisdom from trustworthy people, but trust God with the outcome.
  1. The authority for the Christian life is God’s Word, not people’s words. Hence, we need God’s wisdom found in Scripture, especially when our emotions are overwhelming. Psalm 119 provides short, simple verses that remind us of our need for God’s wisdom in life.
  1. We should do what is right and promotes peace but remember that the outcome is not in our control (Romans 12:17-18). See also the rest of Romans 12 on loving others and trusting God. No matter what happens, we need to remember that God knows everything and will judge us individually for our responses.
  1. Sometimes, we think divorce is the answer. While in some cases divorce may be a biblical option, it should be viewed as the last option. Seek counseling, even if your spouse is not interested.

4 Questions for the Person in an Abusive Relationship

Some questions for the Christian man or woman in an abusive relationship:

  1. What is the source of your faith or hope during this difficult time? Whether you find immediate help or not, will you continually trust God (Ecclesiastes 7:14) by seeking His wisdom found in Scripture, praying to Him, and fellowshipping with other Christians, whenever possible? It is critical that your ultimate trust is in God, not people or organizations. Trusting God gives us courage and wisdom to make decisions that are honoring to Him, and sometimes the decisions require tremendous courage.
  1. Have you shared what is happening with trustworthy, godly Christians? Also, what are your greatest fears? Is it related to finances? Reputation? Loneliness? Physical harm? Being specific can help others know how to help you more accurately. If you’re uncomfortable with their suggestions, let them know. Remember, other people can provide support, but they cannot make the changes or decisions for you.
  1. What is your end goal? Is it for your spouse to change? Is it for a happy marriage? Such desires are not necessarily wrong (and God certainly has a high view of marriage), but they can serve as false hopes, controlling your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. It’s easy to cling to a “good” moment, hoping that he or she has changed. But, inevitably, a “bad” moment occurs. There are several solid marriage books. One that might be particularly helpful is Dave Harvey’s book, When Sinners Say I Do. Harvey discusses the reality of marriage, especially when conflicts occur, and shares true hope found in the gospel. (Books, of course, do not replace the hard work of loving others, but they can supplement our understanding of God as revealed in Scripture and provide encouragement, especially if counseling is not an immediate option.)

Further Resources

For Christians, our goal in life is to glorify God, in every aspect of our lives. Indeed, it will look different for each person, each marriage. So, please talk to someone if you have problems in your marriage

Also, here is a link to a list of resources on abuse: 17 Top Resources on Responding to Abuse.

Join the Conversation

What foundational principles would you offer regarding abusive relationships?


3 thoughts on “Responding to Abuse, Part II

  1. Thank you for posting these articles on a subject that gets far too little attention in the church. As a biblical counselor, former domestic violence program spokesperson, and former victim I have been involved with scores of these cases. Unfortunately, in the vast majority of them, I have seen the church follow the husband’s lead and minimize the abuse– especially when there is no physical harm involved. The church needs to understand that there is a very fine line between emotional and physical abuse. In fact, the Power and Control Wheel developed by one of the country’s first DV shelters identifies common traits associated with domestic violence, and the vast majority of them do not involve physical harm. I have met many women who lived with years of emotional abuse before it became physical. Abusers use a variety of control measures to keep their victims under control. It is often only when they feel that control is being threatened that physical violence occurs. It is obvious, based on all the comments on your first article, that we have a serious problem that needs to be addressed, and truly doing that will involve challenging the way we have counseled this issue. Far too often the burden falls on the wife to submit, and win him without a word. The problem is that submitting to malicious control simply serves to empower a husband’s sinful motives. It has burdened my heart to witness this sort of counsel over and over. Finally, an ethics class in seminary helped me settle my own conflict with submission and emotional abuse. If anyone is interested.. https://joyforrest.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/biblical-headship-and-submission-in-emotionally-abusive-marriages/

  2. Joy,

    I find your comment commical. We were part of a new church for 9 months. 3 divorces took place in that time. All were filed by the wives. All 3 were condoned by the elders and pastor. In two of the instances the husbands attended church else where. Can you say ‘lack of submission’ on the wives part? Why would a husband “want” their wife (and of course, kids) to attend another church? You’re right, they wouldn’t, but if the wife was submissive, she would be attending the church the husband goes to. Abusive? Where is the abuse in that? Where?
    The 1 out of 3 was infidelity due to the wife witholding sex. Which is the abuse? With holding or the adultery? Which one was addressed in the church? Your right again. Only the adultery, how dare he want sex with his wife on a regular basis. He should just deal with being tempted without her help from keeping him tempted.

    First off, statistics state women are more abusive. Men are more violent when abusive, but studies state women are more abusive verbally and emotionally. They are also more likely to be abusive to children than men, again not as violent, but more abusive.

    2nd, where are the men’s shelters?

  3. Lilly,

    This is what men are putting up with. Why is it that we always assume it is women who are the victims.

    Judges ordered to favour women in courts

    In Britain, Judges are now ordered to “show more mercy” on female criminals when deciding what sentence they should be given. (x)

    In North Carolina (and probably other states), it turns out that assaulting a female is a class A1 misdemeanor only if the attacker is “a male person at least 18 years of age”; every other type of assault when it comes to gender, is generally a class 2 misdemeanor. This can translate into a substantial difference in sentencing. (x)

    Studies Prove Women are more aggressive then men

    This bibliography examines 286 scholarly investigations: 221 empirical studies and 65 reviews and/or analyses, which demonstrate that women are as physically aggressive, or more aggressive, than men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners. The aggregate sample size in the reviewed studies exceeds 371,600. (x)

    Paternity fraud rampant in the US

    Paternity fraud is rampant in the US. In as many as 30% of cases, fathers are being forced to pay child support for children who are not theirs. (x)

    Rampant false restraining orders against husbands

    Of 302 men who experienced domestic violence by their wives, 38.7% reported that she filed a restraining order against him under false pretenses. (x)

    Men routinely given obscenely longer sentences just for being a man …

    Average sentences for same crime under similar circumstances (robbed someone with a gun, knife, etc):

    Female – 18.51 months
    Male – 51.52 months (x)

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