A Cry For Justice

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

When You Leave Egypt You Will be Tempted to go Back

And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Exodus 16:2-3)

But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” (Exodus 17:3)

Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” (Numbers 14:1-3)

I suspect that I could simply post the verses above and most all of you would get the point without me even writing anything further. But I will.

One of the most disheartening and even frightening things that we experience (I imagine many of you have as well) when trying to help abuse victims is knowing that it is very likely that once they do leave the abuser, there is a likelihood that they will return. I think I read once that the average is something like seven “leavings” before it actually takes. You can correct me on that if need be.

Now, I do not quote the verses above about Israel grumbling and moaning and sinning in order to guilt any victim of abuse. They were indeed sinning, but an abuse victim who gets drawn back to her (or his) abuser is, in most cases at least, not sinning against the Lord. I simply point you all to these verses as a picture of what we can expect when we leave cruel bondage. We can count on being tempted to return to it.

As we walk through these very hard cases with victims, we feel the pressure right along with them. The danger of running the gauntlet of leaving, not to mention the difficulty of finding support when so many professionals don’t understand domestic abuse, can seem more scary than the danger of staying.  Living with the abuser is living with the devil we know, when we leave the abuser we may encounter other snakes under other rocks that we had no expectation of meeting, but lo! they strike us when we are wanting them help us. When you leave, here are some things that can and most likely will happen:

  • The abuser’s rage might increase in intensity (leaving can be the most dangerous time for a victim)
  • The abuser goes to work even more diligently to alienate your friends and family from you, blaming you for all marriage problems
  • A victim may find herself out of a job, out of money, wondering where she is going to live
  • Pastors and churches go to work to pressure and condemn the victim, insisting she return. She may be shunned by people she thought were her friends
  • And then the courtroom. The fear of losing child custody. Restraining orders. Legal bills.
  • The abuser may seize the victim’s car, taking away her only mode of transportation

All of this and more can happen when we knock the sand off our sandals and leave Egypt. And when it does, you can be sure that the victim is going to be tempted to just give in and return to bondage.

We need to be warned in advance of these things so that when they happen we will not be taken by surprise. Something like what Jesus warned us about in regard to the world:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Sometimes when we help a victim get free we can end up on the receiving end of words rather like this:

Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.” (Exodus 5:22-23)

Or like this:

They met Moses and Aaron, who were waiting for them, as they came out from Pharaoh; and they said to them, “The LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” (Exodus 5:20-21)

I have personally had this happen. One lady, in her confusion and suffering who had poured out the details of her situation to me over a period of several months, experienced a setback when she met with the elders of her church. She was scared, and I understand that. She wrote me that night and said “Oh, I wish I had just left well enough alone. I wish I had never contacted you.” I have not heard from her since.

Therefore, let’s all get a very firm hold on this truth:

When a victim resolves and sets out to leave her abuser, her situation may very well initially get worse rather than better. She needs to be warned in advance so that when that thirst in the wilderness sets in and she hears Egypt beckoning her, she won’t cave in.

Don’t go back to Egypt. There really wasn’t anything good there. It was slavery and death.

***

Related material:
Going Back To Egypt — a sermon by Dr Liam Goligher

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27 Comments

  1. Amy

    It was hard to stand firm in not going back to what was when my ex walked out and what made it harder was having those from my former church, including an elder and men from the men’s group, encourage my then-husband to return home because he was head of our household and tell me how God hates divorce and I needed to forgive, forget and reconcile.

    I stood firm and had many turn their backs on me, including at one point my own son who had such contempt for me I felt my heart ripped out. But I continued to stand firm in the Lord and not let those around me sway me into returning to my Egypt.

  2. joepote01

    Yes!

    Redemption…the just dissolution of the legal covenant…is addressed thru the divorce.

    Deliverance takes a bit longer. Deliverance includes letting go of all the emotional ties, spiritual bondage, and false perceptions…as well as false friends. Deliverance is a multi-stage process.

    http://josephjpote.com/2014/08/deliver-us/

  3. TuffEnuff

    I really needed this article today. Thank you. This site has been and is such a support to me.

  4. Daffodil

    Even after he divorced me, he continues to try to “annul” our marriage to cover his tracks. In each denial he received, he blamed me.He blamed me after the divorce for the spousal maintenance the judge ordered. Every time he faces a roadblock to what he wants, he blames me. I’ve prayed the Holy Spirit will at last open his eyes to see it’s God Almighty he’s been fighting, not me.

  5. Anonymous

    Excellent article, Pastor. And thank you for shedding light on life after leaving an abuser.

    In my own case when I finally did leave, I was broken down physically, emotionally, mentally & all the rest – nothing new here, you are all familiar with this state of being. I returned to my home state and country (was in his country for some time) and in all sincerity, I was trying to come to terms with the reality that I really was a victim of psychological terrorism.

    I went No Contact for many months; he never stopped harassing; he came to my home state, begged and pleaded and I still did not go back. For several more months I went no contact. I was doing everything possible to rebuild my life and my career. I felt very lonely and isolated. I did not want sympathy. I guess what I really wanted was someone to understand my “new reality” and to come alongside me and help me to heal. But life moves on, people live their lives, things seem to continue as usual, and then it dawned on me, I AM DIFFERENT. Abuse changes you. It now becomes a part of who you are as a survivor.

    And here you said it, Pastor: “Living with the abuser is living with the devil we know, when we leave the abuser we may encounter other snakes under other rocks that we had no expectation of meeting, but lo! they strike us when we are wanting them to help us.” Better the devil you know than the one you don’t…

    I WENT BACK! I am ashamed to admit it. As he begged and pleaded and pretended to be very ill, I recall thinking if I do not go back to see if he really is repentant (now I see how tricked I really was), I will always be haunted for not giving him another chance. After 5 weeks I needed to be physically rescued by a family member.

    I recognize, too, my reputation was at stake for having gone back. One could easily say, “Must not have been that bad, she went back.” And that is understandable. All the more reason light NEEDS to be shed on the aftermath – things that come in to play when a weakened victim returns to Egypt!

    To this very day, and with great sober-mindedness, I am chilled as I recall how the affects of living with real evil will crush, destroy, murder and kill. Evil people are very dangerous and will stop at nothing to overtake us.

    Dr. Liam Goligher, whose Esther series you have posted on this blog, preached an excellent sermon entitled: Going Back To Egypt.

    • A

      Average return of seven times should be shared more often. I’m working with a young lady at church who is dealing with this issue. She is so confused and is now with her abuser since he pulled the “I don’t know how I’ll live without you” card a few days ago. (Yeah, I know, gag). Thankful, she is still on some waiting lists for housing while she gives him this second chance. I have no expectation of him changing, but know that leaving and returning is part of the process. After I left my ex, a wise woman told me that it takes time for hope to die. (Hope that he’ll change). I know hope just hasn’t died yet with my friend.

      • Charis

        “I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” TS Eliot

        One of the dearest quotes during my hardest of days while I was doing the hard work of healing and waiting and walking one dark step at a time.
        Mostly that first line: “…be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing….”

      • joepote01

        April –

        The very fact that he views the relationship as essential to his happiness (“I don’t know how I’ll live without you”) is evidence that he still does not understand the depth of his offense nor the peril of his weakness. He is still viewing the relationship from a completely selfish perspective (his desire is more important than her protection). And he still has completely unrealistic expectations (her job is to make him happy…the purpose of the relationship is to make him feel fulfilled).

        If you enjoy JRR Tolkien, you might like this post discussing this topic: http://josephjpote.com/2013/01/boromirs-remorse/

        Praying for your friend!

      • JoePote01- your post about remorse was SO HELPFUL and needed today!!! You and your sister are wonderful for putting this information out there…. it’s desperately needed and I am so grateful for you speaking up and sharing!!! This spoke EXACTLY to what I am dealing with in this very moment…. HUGS from afar

      • Seeing Clearly

        JoePote1, that link to your blog post was AMAZING and EXACTLY what I needed to hear right this moment…. bless you for reaching out and speaking up with your sister… you two are a godsend!

    • joepote01

      “I recall thinking if I do not go back to see if he really is repentant (now I see how tricked I really was), I will always be haunted for not giving him another chance.”

      I remember going thru the same sort of thinking. I even remember having a discussion with my sister one time and saying, “What if this time she has really repented? She is doing all the right things. I just can’t leave when she’s doing all the right things. What if I waited this long and endured all this mistreatment just to quit when she was right on the verge of true repentance?”

      What I couldn’t see then…and see so clearly now…is “So what?” So what if she had been right on the verge of true repentance? Her repentance is not dependent on relationship with me. And my life was going thru a major upheaval no matter what. And God was going to be with me and I was going to be fine through divorce.

      If she had been truly repentant (she wasn’t) there would have been no harm and little lost by leaving. As it turned out she was not truly repentant and there was much unnecessary pain and sorrow from staying.

      This thinking relies on seeing divorce as just the most awful thing that could happen to a Christian…and it’s not…not by a long shot.

      Blessings to you, Anonymous!

      • Charis

        Her repentance is not dependent on relationship with me. And my life was going thru a major upheaval no matter what. And God was going to be with me and I was going to be fine through divorce.

        Leaving the “Land of What If” and moving forward into this place of Resolve is a deeper stage of healing. Although leaving the What If’s happened awhile back for me, it is is only recently that I can more fully call myself a resident of Resolve.

        Still – as this post points out – the pull of Egypt is undeniable. Not that I want to return. Never! The call of false guilt is strong as is that which is laid upon me by outsiders. “What if he repents…would you go back? Don’t you think you should?”

        Being more firmly settled in Resolve, I can clearly say, “No. Nor do I feel beholden to do so.”

        Excellent points, Joe. Thank you.

      • Daughter of the King

        Joepote- Thank you for being a part of this blog, and sharing part of your story with us, as well as your insights. Abusers are not only men, but women as well. My coworker was married to an evil woman. She used to hit him and do everything possible to get him to hit her, then she would have had him arrested for domestic violence. Praise God he was able to endure and get free!

      • joepote01

        Charis –

        I remember someone asking me that question after the divorce, “If she repented and wanted to reconcile would you? Shouldn’t you?”

        My response at the time: “There are several billion people living on this planet. Out of all those people, she is the only one I know for certain I cannot live in covenant with.”

        Yes…it is a place of Resolve. 🙂

        Blessings to you!

      • Anonymous

        Well divorce clearly is not the most awful thing that can happen to a Christian. God’s healing balm has me at a place now where even if the most godly and respected person I know were to come to me and say, “I believe your ex is a changed man,” I would not want to be anywhere near him. And that is not to say that I hold bitterness or unforgiveness because by God’s grace I do not. But what I do hold is the memory of the real evil heaped upon me and he is a man whom I would never be able to trust, ever! And I no longer yearn nor have a desire to be a wife to such a man.

        Many blessings to you as well, Joe. You appear to be well on your way to healing.

    • Here is a link to Dr Liam Goligher’s sermon Going Back To Egypt.

  6. Anonymous

    Thanks so much for pointing out the JRR Tolkien post. Positively excellent!!

    • joepote01

      You are so welcome! Thank you for reading it! 🙂

  7. jesusfollowingishard

    There is that heartbroken, I love him so much part of me that if not for support would try again, I can see where God has gone before me. A short time ago I was certain I would lose my settlement in lieau of child support(I didn’t lose it thank Jesus) I felt this unspoken idea that I was being coerced to reconcile but knew there was no way, that it would never work and it would be better to get welfare for my daughter who has a disability and to trust friends and church to fill in financial gaps till it came through and to work on getting a good work for finances and still raise my littles well.

    I can not reconcile because I would get anxiety, panic attacks if I did. The anxiety would turn into depression. My oldest would move out. My littles would be overwhelmed by chaos. I’ve had amazing emotional support from my counselors, from my pastor and wife, from my former pastor, from my friends, from my oldest. This site and other writers such as Joe Pote and Tolkien and C.S.Lewis have preserved my sanity and helped me be reasonable. It’s not reasonable to reconcile. But oh my heart i want just try again, fix things work it out, but I know better, I will not once let alone seven times.

    • joepote01

      It’s hard…but God, our Redeemer and Deliverer, is faithful!

      Praying for you and your children!

  8. Renae

    Your statement about being warned and prepared is very vital. My counselor at the time instructed me to “run the experiment” about how my now ex felt about the relationship with zero discussion about possible outcomes. I got blindsided and taken advantage of in my broken state when he “discarded” me. To this day I feel like it was medical malpractice for a PhD to make such a recommendation without preparation.

  9. BreatheAgain

    JoePote, you said: “The very fact that he views the relationship as essential to his happiness (“I don’t know how I’ll live without you”) is evidence that he still does not understand the depth of his offense nor the peril of his weakness.”

    This is a big problem for me. When I last tried to separate from husband, he got very angry and was yelling at me, “I love you and i want to spend the rest of my life with you.” I know when i do broach the subject of my plan to move out, I want a third party present. I don’t know how i will live with h. in the same house after that, even for a short time. I don’t understand how people like him can claim to love you and want to stay with you while treating you badly and being angry and resentful of you at the same time. It throws me off and makes me feel like I have to defend myself. I feel scared of him even though he has not hit me. I almost expect he will hit me at some point. Not sure. I hate feeling this way. At the same time I can so relate to this whole post about the temptation to go back to Egypt. I feel sorry for him and I don’t want for him to have to live alone….I don’t look forward to living alone either. But I don’t see anything else to do except to get away from him.

    • Seeing the Light

      BreatheAgain – To quote you:

      I don’t understand how people like him can claim to love you and want to stay with you while treating you badly and being angry and resentful of you at the same time. It throws me off and makes me feel like I have to defend myself. I feel scared of him even though he has not hit me.

      I so understand what you have said here. Mine can’t actually say the words, “I love you,” but he can spew forth accusation after accusation, make fun of any attempt of mine to tell him what I think or feel, and then with a pink/red face fill with contempt, angrily tell me that if he didn’t love me (which he is so very offended I dared to suggest) – through the power of God and his commitment to God – he wouldn’t be treating me so well! It doesn’t make any sense. That contempt on his face is what scares me.

      • Anonymous

        …he can spew forth accusation after accusation…. make fun of any attempt of mine to tell him what I think or feel….fill[ed] with contempt….

        From an article about one of the Columbine killers when identifying him as a psychopath (capitalized words done for emphasis);

        But Fuselier [one of the doctors who was evaluating the mental states of the shooters by reviewing one of the two killers journal entries] recognized a far more revealing emotion bursting through, both fueling and overshadowing the hate. What the boy was really expressing was CONTEMPT.

        He is DISGUSTED with the morons around him. These are not the rantings of an angry young man…These are the rantings of someone with a messianic-grade superiority complex, out to punish the entire human race for its appalling inferiority. It may look like hate, but “It’s more about demeaning other people,” says Hare.

        A second confirmation of the diagnosis was Harris’ perpetual deceitfulness….

        None of his victims means anything to the psychopath. He recognizes other people only as means to obtain what he desires. Not only does he feel no guilt for destroying their lives, he doesn’t grasp what they feel.

        Psychopaths feel contempt and disgust for the “weak” emotions those fettered by conscience have such as love, guilt, shame or gratefulness. Most of us here seem to have missed this invaluable and awareness-bringing Sunday School class.

  10. Anonymous

    Reading this post and comments reminds me of something God has done for me that for most of my life I didn’t see for the blessing that it was / is.

    I’ve never had anywhere to go back to. When I joined the military it was because I had to have a job and this was (by FAR) my best option at the time. My family, due to severe personality disorders, is unable to learn from their past or realistically plan for their future or for their children’s future. I’ve never been cared for or thought of as a child is supposed to be. When I read in the bible (as an adult) that parents were supposed to put money away for their children and not the other way around–this was the first time I had heard this–as I’d been raised to believe the children were supposed to provide for their parents. I’ve realized over the past decade that I’ve had an extremely traumatic childhood and had never been able to just be a kid or to rest. I’d worked doing one job or another from my youth. Looking back, I see that when I joined the military I already had severe PTSD but made it through by God’s grace.

    When I married my husband I thought I’d found a decent human who saw my heart and loved me for it. I had part of it right. He saw my heart all right and proceeded to steal from it and imprison and destroy me by it. The usual tactics were employed of getting and keeping me pregnant and keeping us poor and barely able to keep our heads above water.

    I’m at a place for the first time in my life where I don’t have to willingly allow others to rape me–because THIS IS HOW I VIEW MY ENTIRE LIFE–that I was conditioned to allow and open myself up to everyone to be emotionally, spiritually and even physically raped. God also allows me to see how the many abusers in my life have nearly stolen and destroyed all the gifts God gave me that were meant to glorify Him and to bless me as his child. Almost.

    I’ve stayed with my husband / abuser because I simply had no where else to go. Returning to Egypt (my family) was not an option, and I never wanted to be a burden to the few true friends I’ve had over the years (who were in the same situation as myself anyway). God has painstakingly taught me — empowered me– to build a secure fortress erected by Him through boundaries He’s enacted and enforced in my life with my husband. For now. And in this fortress He’s allowing me to rest and to heal.

    I see through my last daughter the difference having a loving parent who aided their child in having a good start in life, changes everything. This child has no college debt (she obtained scholarships and went to one of the least expensive colleges in the nation), was able to have her first home set up because we scoured the want ads and went to garage and estate sales in preparation for her first home. In addition to the physical amenities, God has endowed her with a lifetime of wisdom through the extremely hard trials He put us through over the past decade.

    And here’s the difference. She is allowed to live her life, to experience the here and now without the major weight of the lies and guilt thrust on so many of us. She DOES have a home to come back to when she needs a rest or when she simply wants to be loved. She is not forced to deny reality or childishly (abusers want to keep us childlike in our thinking in order to control us) look back at her previous life through rose-colored glasses–as though her previous life was perfect compared to the current life she’s living. (This is what the Israelites were doing.) And her current life IS fraught with strife and abusers and mean people BUT she knows the good people as well and is able to embrace them and steer away from the evil ones. She can “in real time” admit what she’s experiencing is hard and stressful but she has the ability to deal with it and to forge ahead. It’s all through God’s grace and knowing the truth about evil helps her to keep things in perspective and also lets her look ahead instead of looking back. Seeing what God has done in her life has blessed and encouraged me–if nothing else to know that if I would have had a chance to start off on the right foot with a foundation of love and caring and THE TRUTH about evil and God–I may have been able to make better choices and perhaps had a more satisfying outcome.

  11. This is so true. Once you determine to leave your abuser, you must employ every measure you can, to increase your odds of good success.

    Things have to be done in order, and you need to be committed to the plan in order to get out as much in tact as possible

    Cover your bases. In other words secure ahead of time those things that are important to you.

    For me before the divorce, I made sure I secured a vehicle in my name..
    After that I secretly applied for a job and got one so I had a source of income.
    My abuser was so untrustworthy that I knew I had to beef up my security even before he filed on me.
    So once I got paychecks coming in from my job, I changed the door locks to my car and installed a deadbolt on my private room door and kept both locked 24-7. And kept my keys clipped onto my belt all the time so my abuser did not have opportunity to compromise my situtation.
    I also opened a private Po box and had my important mail -rerouted to that po address, and after that-I changed my credit card “account numbers” so that my abuser could no longer secretly charge my credit cards at will.

    My children at that time had become little informants to him (out of fear and confusion), so I quit answering their questions and started prefacing any replies to them with the phrase “What is your need to know?”
    most of the time they just replied, oh I dont know…Im just curious..
    That doesent cut it.
    (Not a good reason to jepordise and expose your plans.)
    After a while they quit asking…

    So It became the norm after that for Mom to ask the questions and them to awnser, and keeping my plans to myself.

    Just by employing this practice of
    “Im No longer telling all, and changing my mindset to Now I’ll be asking the questions ” -changed the power dynamic in my family Back into my court and gave me more -respect of boundries durring that time.

    • Seeing Clearly

      Thank you Standsfortruth…. these things are so good to know!!! I’m getting there!

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