A Cry For Justice

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

Are You Finding Rest for Your Soul? If Not, You Aren’t Hearing Christ

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

As most all of you know, the reports we receive from oppressed victims of abusers is not this: “I went to my church for help and they were incredible. They helped me get free from this bondage of abuse.” Sometimes, every once in a while, we do get such a report and the Lord certainly blesses a church like that. But the norm is quite the opposite. The yoke put upon victims is anything but easy and light. Gentleness and humility are not the typical qualities victims find in their churches.

This is not Jesus Christ.

All through Scripture from Genesis to Revelation we have accounts of false shepherds who lay heavy burdens on the Lord’s people. We are warned against them and instructed not to yield to them for a moment. For example:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you–but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. (Matthew 23:1-4)

And of course many of the New Testament Epistles such as 2 Corinthians, Galatians, 2 Peter, Jude and others were written because false teachers with a false gospel were coming in among the churches and putting the people back into bondage to some kind of works righteousness. They did not represent Jesus Christ.

Many of us have grown up in the church. And sadly, many of us have been weaned on man’s traditions parading as the Word of God. Inevitably those traditions are either rank libertinism (sin all you want because we are under grace) or just as commonly, legalism. It takes Christians raised in such settings a long time to get out from under the load of such a yoke, and many abuse victims have remained in bondage to abuse for many years because they had this yoke of false, man-made teachings laid upon them all their lives.

How can we sort it all out? Well, Christ’s words above are a huge help. The fact is, if the christianity that you embrace is not giving “rest to your soul,” then something is wrong. “No, you cannot divorce your abuser! God does not permit it. Go home and try harder and pray for your husband.” I submit to you that this is not Jesus Christ. Christ’s words to His people are green pastures and still waters. He leads us into peaceful places where we can rest. Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd restores our souls. Is your soul being restored and are you finding rest in the words you are hearing preached to you? If so, that is wonderful. But if not, they are not the words of our Lord.

A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalms 23:1-6)

19 Comments

  1. Still Reforming

    “Gentleness and humility are not the typical qualities victims find in their churches. This is not Jesus Christ.”

    Thank you for this needed truth. Yes, so true. The more I look back at my former church, the more I see the imbalance. The presentation of forgiveness without repentance. Demands for mercy without justice. The arrogance and lack of humility.

    Thank you.

  2. a prodigal daughter returns

    What a good reminder and a principle that if we are not experiencing rest in our souls in a church, He is not there. If He is not present there why should I be. Matthew 11 is a favorite passage, the one that lead me to become a Christian. Yes, it is true that many of us raised in the church were indoctrinated about the chain of command giving males Lordship status over women. Long decades of oppression later I can say unequivocally the fruit of that twisting of scripture is hideous.
    Sometimes in the uncovering of all the darkness about abuse and the churches collusion with it, I forget about the faithfulness of God to lead His beloved into freedom. I forget about His faithfulness both to His promises and to me personally. But as I look at what I survived, I can see there was a shepherd who was cutting out the cancer in my soul. That unholy alliance to those that abused me and to false doctrines about who He actually was a life robbing cancer. He came to give me an abundant life, not one as a slave to the unkind.

    Cutting out those cancerous relationships hurt, there were long periods of silence, a sense of abandonment and hopelessness in a dark valley of despair. There were years of being the outcast and the misfit but I can say this now, God was infinitely faithful to not abandon me to the fate of dying in an abusive relationship or a lying church driven by a lying spirit about who He actually is.

    I saw this passage today, thinking that all these human betrayals and failures of which I’ve seen far too many lead me to a desperation for Jesus. Those betrayals of humans every where I looked for help, the church, counselors, friends reduced me to a theme song “Christ or Else I Die”. Because of this, Jesus, my everything and all, I am rich beyond description. God himself can revive our failing, fainting and broken hearts in a way that defies human ability or understanding. Abuse doesn’t have to be the end of the story but a renewed mind, soul, renewed hope and a sense of the favor of God. He is for us when man made solutions and unhelpful helpers are not. When friends forsake, families abandon, churches abuse and reject, God is there, with open arms saying “come home and rest child”
    Psalms 86 6 Will You not Yourself revive us again,That Your people may rejoice in You?
    7 Show us Your lovingkindness, O LORD, And grant us Your salvation.

    • IamMyBeloved's

      Prodigal Daughter – this is so good and I love the verses you closed your comment with!

  3. Overcomer

    Oh, yes, how Jesus does give rest for our souls. Thank you Pastor Jeff, you really minister to me as a survivor of abuse. I want to share with you all that I have obtained my divorce decree from my abuser and I am free! Thank you Jesus!

    • I celebrate that milestone with you, Overcomer. 🙂

    • Bitter But Getting Better

      Overcomer, Congratulations!!!!! Blessings to you in your new freedom!

    • thepersistentwidow

      So glad for you, Overcomer! That is wonderful news!

    • Barnabasintraining

      I want to share with you all that I have obtained my divorce decree from my abuser and I am free! Thank you Jesus!

      Woohoo! 😀

    • Still Reforming

      Congratulations, Overcomer! I rejoice with you for your freedom!

  4. Barnabasintraining

    The fact is, if the christianity that you embrace is not giving “rest to your soul,” then something is wrong.

    Thank you Jeff!!!! 🙂

  5. Mark

    “I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

    I definitely have found rest for my soul and green pastures to lie down in, as my eyes have been opened to God’s truth of the real problem of abuse and understanding the evil operating within abusers.
    But interestingly with that understand God is empowering me to fear no evil. (This has been a pleasant surprise.) As I stand by Him I see His rod and staff operating on behalf of me, His sheep and against MY enemies. He prepares a table before me in the presence of MY enemies where I sit in His strength and renewed confidence like a victorious warrior. My head, mind now anointed with the oil of His Holy Spirit and my once empty dry cup overflows with His life.
    So now I find, not only does God deliver us as victims out of this great evil called abuse, He also delivers us into this great work of His Gospel, sharing our stories and sharing the truth of God’s Word (which now makes more sense then ever before) to lead the captives free, and confronting our abusers with renewed strength and clarity of thought. Those who Christ has set free are free indeed. Go forth in the mighty power and strength of the Lord. Fear no evil. Your new platform is or will be “a table prepared by The Lord in the presence of YOUR enemies. May I suggest the tables have been turned. (indeed they have!)

    God bless your might army, we stand at attention ready to serve you in your power and strength.

  6. grace551

    My pastor told me recently that my husband isn’t abusive, he only thinks he is because I am so controlling I have made him think so! My husband has completed an abuser program and appears to be changing (3 months very different behaviour so far). Our pastor thinks I am denying responsibility for my share on the marriage problems and unfairly blaming most of them on Husband (H). I asked him what about the fact that H was assessed and given a place on the (free, government-funded) program, and he said sometimes people see what they expect to see. Sigh.

    The other men thought H was abusive too, and he thought he was like them. Can’t help wondering why the pastor thinks so badly of me? I never did him any harm.

    • Golly, grace551

      “sometimes people see what they expect to see” — your pastor needs to realise how much this applies to him.

      He is an arrogant and haughty man who is blind to how much gender prejudice and male superiority undergirds his thinking. Unlike the facilitators of the secular program your H has been going to, your pastor not had training in dealing with domestic abuse perpetrators, but he thinks he knows better than them.

      I think your pastor is a very dangerous man to be interacting with, in your circumstances. His attitudes could crush you, if you took them seriously.

      • grace551

        Thank you, Barbara! That’s how I see it – he thinks he knows better than them. I won’t be interacting with him on this subject any more. I did feel crushed after this meeting – that he would think so badly of me. It did at least explain why he has been cold and angry with me from the beginning, and only seemed to have compassion for my husband (so dominated by me, evidently!).

        However, both of us think the pastor is wrong, and I have given up hope of him getting a better picture.

        To be quite fair, my H has previously misled this pastor. Before H changed his behaviour he was very self-deceptive and manipulated the pastor for pity, so he didn’t give a true impression at all. Not that that explains why the pastor believed him and not me.

        H is now going to ask for a meeting to try to set the record straight. Humanly speaking, it looks unlikely that this will make a difference, but all things are possible for God.

        Otherwise I will have to keep away from the pastor or we will have to move churches. I do really like that church otherwise and have many friends there. Besides which, I feel called to the ministry and this man is my only route forward. I am near the age threshold for being too old to start training, and if I move churches and ask about becoming a minister, my new pastor will ask this one for a reference.

        Please pray that God will show him the truth! Thank you.

        I appreciate the work of everyone at ACFJ very much.

  7. HisBannerOverMeIsLove

    I was told by the p in front of h that I see everything through the grid of abuse. I tend to exaggerate. I paint my h as an evil man. This in turn frustrates my h and every good thing he has been working on is looked at as not good enough by me. I need to respect and trust my h. He in turn needs to love and trust me. That I undermine h with the children (because I’ve discussed the abuse? Or turned the one incident in to the professionals? I’m guessing here. )

    All my long emails and longer phone calls telling all that happened to p are seen as talking bad about h behind his back and pitting the p against my h. It has been told me we can all 3 meet. Then everything is in the open and p has a clear conscience about hearing all of it. When the story is told back both me and h have “our perspective” and it’s noted we both have different accounts of what happened and they are completely different. So it was summed up to neither of us see ourselves as we are. We are [Eds: not?] Objective.

    Later my h says I guess you’ve know about this a lot longer than me. I didn’t know what this was. I assumed “this” was abuse. After all that I really didn’t know what I could do. It seemed the p would not give any relief and I had thought it was separation time. Now I’m going back to trying to communicate and love one another and trust one another. I felt I was already trying all that…minus trust.

    H called to check on me and apologize. Now all tender and concerned. I wanted to know what “this” was. He avoided it for a while. And had something for me to help him with to change. I said no. I won’t be responsible for what you have to do. Well he came home..apologized to the whole family for scaring us and being abusive at times. I was almost unmoved. I feel hard hearted. My children sobbed. H sobbed. When he asked me to forgive him for being abussive I said I do. I added but I won’t endure another abusive anthing and I won’t allow the children to either. So he’s “afraid” of if it happens again. My reply..if this is real repentance it won’t happen but if it’s an emotional apology it will happen again and we won’t be sticking around. I feel sort if numb. I felt happy later because the children said some personal things I know they have been feeling for a long time. They seemed relieved. An adult child mentioned much later this was the 3rd time dad had apologized like that. Hmmmm. I remember it beginning as an apology and ending with if you kids would just behave I wouldn’t have to get so mad etc. This seemed different because he called it abuse. I don’t know. Maybe I’ve been duped again??? Time will tell.

    • One thing is very clear to me from that: your pastor doesn’t understand abuse. An abusive husband will know that such a pastor will be his ally, whether wittingly or unwittingly. And the more allies an abuser has, the less likely he is to really change.

  8. imsetfree

    Only very recently have I come to know Jesus is rest. Before I knew only guilt fear and legalism

  9. imsetfree

    One thing that helped me was learning who I am in Christ. For a start I had to learn that I WAS in Christ because I lacked assurance of salvation and had been told that I had either lost it or would lose it if I sinned. Over the past few months I am learning to accept the truth of Phil 1:6 and also that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. This is a big step forward for me. However one thing I still struggle with is getting the voice of my abuser out of my head when he told me I was crazy or exaggerating or just causing trouble. Often my abuser would belittle my experiences by telling me God has told him I was lying or faking what was happening. So a big part of me has no idea how God really sees the abused part of me. Or is he like my abuser in that sense that He just doesn’t see it?

  10. Savedbygrace

    Dear Imsetfree, In Genesis 16 there is an encouraging story of a servant girl named Hagar who was in dire circumstances and greatly distressed. She didn’t know if God cared for her in the midst of her trouble. God goes to great lengths to reassure her, and her yet to be born son is given the name Ishmael ( meaning ‘the God who hears’) – that will always remind her of God’s concern for them-and Hagar calls God ‘elroi’ – ‘the God who sees’. The result of all this led her to say ‘I have seen God’.
    God hears and sees you. He loves you very much. He cares about your distress and circumstances. The Bible is full of real life accounts of God being proactvely for the weak and powerless. He is our defender and rescuer. Keep trusting him:)
    On the practical side of ‘getting the abusers voice out of your head’… I find it helps to have something to replace it with eg an opposite affirmation or verse of scripture so that as soon as you start hearing the accusations you can dispel them by saying ( out loud if you can) the real truths you need to hear. I also find Christian music very uplifting to fill my mind with a healthy alternative..blessings to you.. from your sister in Australia 🙂

    PS two of my fave enouraging songs at the moment are Iam by Crowder and Glorious Unfolding by Steven Curtis Chapman

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