A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

How Reformed theology brings me freedom, and how I respond to unfair accusations

This post is written by Ellie, one of our readers.

I keep thinking about ways I’ve been misunderstood by my abuser and his parents, and I daydream about trying to explain things so that [husband] and his parents will see and understand what happen and why I left, why I HAD to leave. But I know it’s a fruitless exercise. They can’t understand because they can’t acknowledge the abuse. It’s really like they speak a different language that I can’t learn and they won’t go to classes (to get educated on abuse) to learn to speak my language. So I can talk and explain and answer their questions (accusations) in good faith, really trying to help them see what happened and it won’t do ANY good. It’ll actually do harm. Every time I’ve tried to talk, even about NOTHING, it’s gone badly. There’s no point if there’s been no change.

I was listening to Saul stories this afternoon from the first book of Samuel. Saul was a madman! And David loved him and wanted good for him in spite of being abused. Surely David must’ve daydreamed about how this was all a big misunderstanding and how if he could just get Saul to listen and understand, he could go home. But even the one time that David DID seem to convince Saul that he had good intentions, David did NOT go home. Note to self . . . I can’t convince anyone of anything. Sigh.

What’s really helping me at this point is embracing a Reformed point of view. All these years I thought that I could win [husband’s] heart for the Lord. All these years I thought that if I’d love him and do everything right, he’d change. But realizing that I am unqualified for the job of saving anyone has been liberating. I was paralyzed with fear before. I thought that I would/could ruin everything. That if I’d just be nice, he’d attend church and make friends and God would get through to him. Nope. It’s not up to me. IT’S NOT UP TO ME!!!! I’m free. And I am being nicer to him than ever. Not in a way he appreciates. AT ALL. He doesn’t like having his sin exposed. He doesn’t like being held accountable for his abuse. But leaving him in the dark was NOT nice. Not at all. He can’t pretend any more. And that’s good.

And when the accuser(s) try to tell me that I am being unforgiving, I will remember this encouragement my friend gave the other day:

Philippians 4:8

“Whatever things are true. . . “  Truth is that you are a precious child of God — bought with a price. You are a loving wife and mother. When they say untrue things, such as that you are unforgiving, ugly [to your abuser], or whatever, speak truth to yourself. “They are speaking out of ignorance. God says. . . “

“. . . whatever things are lovely.”  Lovely is protection of your children. Lovely is choosing not to allow the sins of others to taint you. Lovely is rejecting the lies that people perpetuate to keep you in an ugly place.

Take each comment captive to the truth.

23 Comments

  1. Wendell G

    Very good, Ellie. I was recently asked by a Facebook friend whether she should tell the wife of a friend that he was committing adultery. In talking to her, she had bought into the lie that it was none of her business and that she would be meddling where she didn’t belong.

    She had talked to the adulterer and he just blew her off, so she was at a loss as to how to proceed. I could not tell her what to do (we aren’t supposed to do that in counseling situations, right?), but I did point her to the first 15 or so verses of Ephesians 5 and emphasized verse 11: “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them”.

    I pointed out that silence in the face of obvious sin is not only condoning the sin, but taking part in allowing the perp to get away with it. Yes, she could possibly lose a friend over it, and the wife may not believe, but that is not her responsibility. The results are in God’s hands. What kind of friend cheats on their spouse anyway?

    I think you make some excellent points. We don’t have the power to change our spouse. Yes, we are to be good witnesses to them, but that does not mean becoming the door mat. Call them to account and let God deal with the results, even if that calling into account means leaving them and exposing them (I know it is much more complicated than just leaving and exposing in abuse situations).

    I think part of the purpose of exposing sin is that it leaves the perp nowhere to hide…unless they are in a complicit church that just will not deal with the abuse or the abuser. Even then, we only do the best we can and let God write Ichabod over the door of such churches in His time.

  2. Katy

    this is great – although we know abuse functions freely in many Reformed churches, I did find some relief and freedom when I left the Baptist church for this very same reason. The idea that I could save someone – that I could love someone enough that they would be amazed and then decide to “choose God” all on their own – it’s bunk.
    You can show someone the love of Christ without having to submit to being tortured and controlled by them. Sometimes we see those crazy themes in fantasy novels and movies (Beauty and the Beast anyone?) – but in reality it’s not effective and it’s NOT REQUIRED.

  3. KingsDaughter

    “All these years I thought that if I’d love him and do everything right, he’d change. But realizing that I am unqualified for the job of saving anyone has been liberating. I was paralyzed with fear before.”

    When I think about it now, I have no idea how I ever bought into the lie that “MY” behavior had that much power! I spent seven years trying to prove to my “wounded” husband that I was not wicked and evil like all the other people who wounded him (which was almost EVERY person he ever met) and therefore he did not have to treat me so badly ( I had no idea that it was “abuse”). He’s still trying to “justify” his hatred towards me.
    The awesome, amazing thing is that once you get out of the fog and begin to think again and draw appropriate boundaries, their manipulative tactics have very little power!
    THAT is freedom!
    I’m on a little bit of a freedom high right now as I just had a very clear & healthy conversation with my abuser. It did not win him over (and it should NOT) but it was truth!
    I’ll share a summary if that’s OK?
    We were talking about counselors when I told him to choose whomever he felt would best suit him because in the end it doesn’t matter how he gets there, I won’t move forward until he is there. He made mutualizing comments, which instead of being defensive about, I said “that’s great, if there are behaviors you need to see in me in order for you to feel safe then you should know what those are!” He couldn’t argue with that and agreed adding the condition of a third party to determine if we were healthy enough. I went on to explain that for me, I already knew what I needed to see and didn’t need a “third party” to determine if I would be safe. The conversation turned towards scripture and how I could justify such a stance. I named a few examples where we are told to evaluate and look for signs. He demanded chapter & verse not just “principles”. Then I explained that truly in the end I don’t need to justify my choices to him because I will stand before the judgement seat alone. He blew that off and agreed that I had the right to be wrong, too (but the look on his face said that if I wanted to be right I’d better agree with whatever his POV was). I agreed and gave myself the freedom to be wrong. In the end that was all he had left [the physical form of control has temporarily been removed b/c I exposed it to others and in order to maintain his claim of innocence he can no longer use that tactic] to get me to agree with him and he tried it again with the same emotionless response from me. I verbalized again for him that he could convince every person that I’m wrong and use whatever scripture he wanted, I will still be confident of my ability to choose my actions and he is completely free to choose his own.
    Can I tell you that this conversation left him completely depressed? I don’t know if that was his true feelings or just another way to get me to set aside my boundaries.
    What I can say is that I have never felt so free and empowered!

    • Cheering and singing alleluia from the bleachers, Kings Daughter. What a great vignette!

      • KingsDaughter

        Thanks! It sure did feel good! God has been so FAITHFUL!

    • Still Scared( but getting angry)

      Yes, also Cheering for you!! YAY!!

      • Memphis Rayne

        KD…I loved your letter!!! I am captivated by the knowledge you have, and understanding of what you deal with, and yet you are still going at it!!!! Kudos!!! In just the short time you have been here, you are setting yourself free….I cannot wait, I am on the edge with you!!!

        The process in your thinking is inately the same as what I went through, but I went through that process truly understanding the horse was already dead!! But yet I kept trying, as if like Ellie said, fully knowing “it would not make any difference”

        oxoxo good stuff.

      • KingsDaughter

        Thanks, StillScared! I didn’t know if anyone would really see the roadblocks in that conversation. I was praising God in the midst of it as each one was revealed. It sort of felt like one of those driving video games, only this time (b/c I really stink at those games) I had skill that was not my own. I’ve also simultaneously been learning about “authenticity” and I think that has helped put me back in control of my car. Freedom!

      • KingsDaughter

        Memphis, What encouraging words! Thank you, Dear Sister! God is surely close to the brokenhearted, right? I’m amazed at the “radical” health He has brought to my understanding! He is so completely faithful!
        Funny to read your “dead horse” comment today as I was just mulling over the fact (in response to yet another “helper” advising me to join my husband in marriage couseling) that The marriage covenant is already broken (the horse is dead), I’m just giving God time to work, knowing He is the only one who can fix this if my husband chooses to let Him work. The parable of the barren fig tree in Luke 13:6-9 really spoke to me about this. One thing the dresser of the vineyard asked for was time and that is the one thing I can give. I have a vague idea about the amount of time but know God will show me through each stage when the appropriate time to cut down this tree is.

  4. Brian

    Yes, Ellie, yes! And the sooner that we realize that someone is an abuser and confront the abuse either as the person being abused, who educates themselves and realizes what is happening, OR as an observer such as a friend or family member who is willing to confront the abuser and deal with the consequences of confronting someone like that. The sooner that happens, the sooner the abuse can be stopped. I have noticed that as an abuser goes on unchallenged, he becomes emboldened and more evil and manipulative. They build up over time to more and worse abuse. So if we can educate young people about what to look for in potential mates, or boyfriends, certain red flags perhaps, then maybe we can at least help them go into relationships with open eyes or avoid abusers altogether.

    The other thing about confronting abusers is that there is strength in numbers. Prayer and help from above is crucial, but having several people that will not bend and be manipulated by the abuser and stand steadfast against the abuse and abuser, makes all the difference. Support of the abused and educating her and helping her understand the things in your post above is always critical to help her think straight about her abuser and how God sees her. Thank you for this post!

    • Memphis Rayne

      For sure, an abuse victom can be set free if the numbers were in her favor!!! If only that were how it happened in real life. Unfortunately there are just too many reasons for leaders in the church to make it out to be something else, something a little less ugly. That is the single most valuable tool an abuser has to entrap his victom, his allies….wether they know the truth or unwittingly are manipulated…..Abusers will NEVER see the need for change in a church environment that supports them emotionally, or gives them sympathy, or just plain stands with them silently. Unfortunately that is the way it goes down leaving victoms left alone to sort out the mirked up truth, thats why it takes sooo long to get free because even in that process of breaking free they find judgement in staying, and judgement in leaving. So sad = (

  5. Thank you immensely for this post! God knew I needed it. (I just talked to a pastor who doesn’t believe me, and I am so discouraged.) The verse, Phil. 4:8 is one I decided to memorize a few days ago. If I were feeling brave, I could have written your post. But my heart is so heavy with sadness. A word in season can be like a door out of a dark place.

  6. Still Scared( but getting angry)

    I love the example of David and Saul. God brought that to mind to me many times. I had a few counselors in the beginning that told me it didn’t apply to me because they weren’t married. I politely didn’t listen to them because I knew it did!

    • Katy

      Oh Oh! OH!
      You’ve just given me flashbacks….of trying to point out certain things in the scriptures and being told “that’s out of context. It’s not talking about marriage” —!!!! I can see now what a nasty little trick that was! “those scriptures about evil people and fleeing from them don’t apply to you. YOU have to suffer.”
      that burns me up so bad
      :<

      • Still Scared( but getting angry)

        I know!! I know!! At first I would listen, re-read, pray again and not say anything just go the way God was leading me. Now, well, now I am more likely to say, “No, it does apply. Should I follow the words of men or God?”

      • KingsDaughter

        Agreed! Telling someone that God has different principles based on the type of relationship is hogwash! If God hates abuse, He hates abuse in ALL cases! He is not double-minded like we are!

  7. As I See It Only

    Having had first-hand experience of both spousal and spiritual abuse in the Reformed circle of churches, I would warn anyone that thinks their newly-embraced Reformed church will be a safe place. It may not be. As many have noted, ‘take every thought [and word and deed] captive’ and ‘watch for fruit’. Wolves (abusers) often like the challenge of infiltrating a church that should have a solid wall of biblical protection around its sheep. All those I have tested so far have holes in the walls and no one is guarding the breach, let along repairing the wall. We once fell prey to the abusive character in a spouse–do not fall prey once again to the abusive character in a church.

    • Memphis Rayne

      I know so MANY times I had trusted people that said they understood, and was decieved. So many times that had happened that I felt better off just keeping my mouth shut. I knew they judged me, I knew they looked at me as lier, I knew I was dead to them. I mean I am still dumbfounded by how I stayed trapped so long spiritually in drought, spent my entire existence as the outsider looking in, beat myself up because I started believing that NOT fitting in was because something was wrong with me?? You have 1500 people siding with your abuser, condemning you and your kids for wanting out, then you have the financial rug that can be pulled out at any second based on his whim, ….I mean I felt like hanging myself with the tight rope I was walking on…..

      ….so this post is so good, because it is not until you realize the truth that “NOTHING, NOTHING YOU DO OR SAY IS GOING TO BE THE RIGHT MAGICAL COMBINATION TO MAKE AN ABUSER SEE WHAT HE IS, NOTHING, NO REASONING WILL MATTER, NO LOGIC, NO TRUTH(BECAUSE THEY DO NOT LIVE IN THE TRUTH)……SO YA, SET YOURSELF FREE, HE IS GODS PROBLEM, AND WHEN YOU TAKE HOLD OF THE TRUTH THAT AN ABUSER DOES NOT KNOW GOD PERSONALLY, AND IS NOT CAPABLE OF REGENERATION WHILE STILL ABUSING THEN YOU UNDERSTAND ITS NOT YOUR BALLGAME TO PLAY ANYMORE…..OR PLAY ALL YOU WANT BUT YOU WILL NEVER WIN.

      • Brian

        Well-said Memphis! Thank you for making this so clear! I have witnessed this several times. Even if the abuser admits some wrong, he immediately reverts to blaming someone for that wrong that he did.

    • Good point, AISIO. A church that professes Reformed theology may not get it about abuse and the abuser’s mentality, and so may not necessarily be a safe place for a victim of spousal abuse.
      I think Ellie was talking about the doctrine of soteriology in Reformed theology (soteriology = how the doctrine of how salvation comes about): how only when God quickens the spiritually-dead spirit to life does regeneration take place; it is God’s election and God’s initiative and God’s active application of grace to a dead-in-sins person, which brings about that person’s regeneration. (that sentence is not phrased well because I am not a trained theologian)

      So Ellie was talking about that doctrine in Reformed theology, not necessarily about churches that say they hold to Reformed theology. There can be a giant gap between espoused theology and actual practice, as we all know.

  8. Ellie

    I started testing out Reformed ideas long before I went to a Reformed church. It was a search for “abuse” on Sermon Audio that got me +/- 21 hours of solid teaching on abuse (thanks Jeff C). Only in realizing that ONLY GOD CAN CHANGE A SINNER’S HEART did I have the freedom to let go. I feel safe in this little church. I see how they’ve backed a friend who needed it. I see how they’ve rallied to her family’s aid and I am in awe. But my hope and trust is in God. I am free.

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