I know too many women who have been abused. If it was only one, it would still be too many. Unfortunately, the number of women I have personally encountered is much higher. Some of those women have lost their grip on reality and their mental stability, things that are not very easily recovered.
I am speaking primarily of emotional abuse, meant to devalue, control, manipulate, and create fear. It is shaming and contemptuous. Women who try harder do not find themselves loved better in return. Their actions only lend power to the one who is hurting them.
None of these women, or their marriages, fit the stereotypical image of abusive relationships. They appeared healthy and happy, their husbands solid, Christian men, sometimes leaders in the church. They didn’t seem mousy and bedraggled, the doormat one would expect to find.
Seldom were their cries for help listened to or believed. They came away with the understanding that their husbands were too like-able or their marriage to valuable, that we are each our own worst enemy and must fix ourselves first, that their children’s suffering would be far greater from divorce than abuse, or that they should suck it up because marriage is hard for everyone. If only they would die to self and submit to their husbands, things would be better. Those who removed themselves to safety were often told that the first order of business was to get them back in the house, because separation is a death sentence for marriage.
This post is not meant to dissect poor handling of abuse cases. I do, however, want to promote a Godly, Biblical initial response. Please say very little to begin with when a woman talks of hardship in her marriage. Listen closely, speak little, and when you do, ask questions that will shed more light on the situation (James 1:19). Do not try to connect her stories to stories of your own. Continue to listen, for as long as it takes, not only to get a better picture but to show honor and care for a hurting individual. She may not even use the word abuse, it will feel too extreme to her, her love for her husband too great to want to hurt his reputation. But she can’t afford to be ignored.
We, as Jesus body, His hands and feet, His eyes and ears, cannot afford to ignore the hurting, destitute, devalued, and vulnerable (1 John 3:16-18). By the time a woman is crying for help, sometimes barely whispering for it, she may be at the end of her rope. You may be surprised by who it is asking for help, her countenance has never given you any hint. She may seem like a very strong woman, who knows her own mind. She may be a woman who shows no fear and never seems to worry.
But please, please listen. Pray for wisdom and discernment. Seek out both sides if safe to do so. Pray with the woman, weep with her (Romans 12:15), check in frequently, seek out reputable god-centered counselors for her, hug her, offer her a safe zone should she need an escape, and support in any way you can. Be a lifeline for a drowning person.
Please do not simply tell her to trust Jesus, to find her strength in the Lord, to wait for His deliverance, if you do not plan to assist in that deliverance (Proverbs 14:31; 24:11; Isaiah 1:17). I am not suggesting running mindlessly into the fray with no wisdom or expertise to guide. I am imploring a James 2:15-17 mindset. Prayerfully consider how you can help. Ask experts how you can help. Ask the woman how you can help.
The abused woman will need all those Bible promises, but chances are she is well aware of them and has been clinging to them for quite some time. Any strength you see is the strength she derives from the Lord Himself, her strong tower (Proverbs 18:10). She has probably learned deep trust in Jesus already by casting all her cares on Him, over and over again (1 Peter 5:7). And her plight might seem unbelievable because she has been looking to Him all along, making her face radiant (Psalm 34:4-5).
I have been surprised by the women who have asked me for help. I wouldn’t have expected it from them or their husbands. The women are some of the most beautiful and gentle women I know, fully trusting in Jesus and ministering to everyone around them. They lend credence to Psalm 34:5, that those who look to Him are radiant. It isn’t an empty promise. But neither is the promise that when the righteous cry, the LORD hears and saves him from his troubles (Psalm 34:6-7; 17). If you learn of abuse, He has called you to be part of that deliverance, in some form. Please do not turn a deaf ear. I have yet to meet a woman in the church, claiming abuse, for whom it has not been proven true. They need love, encouragement, and support.
Too many women are suffering alone.
©️Erika Rice 2018