Sometimes the church isn’t the safest place

Every marriage faces difficulties, even Christian ones. But a difficult marriage or even a bad marriage isn’t an abusive marriage.  A disengaged husband, an unaffirming wife, isn’t being abusive. They are failing in their roles but their actions don’t come up to the definition of abuse.

Abuse is the use or misuse of a person for your own purposes or pleasure. It involves the use of cruel words or actions towards another for the purpose of manipulation or control. Abuse comes in many categories but the main ones an abused spouse might face are physical, emotional, verbal, sexual and financial.

Most abuse victims are female, though male abuse can and does take place. Since most abuse is by a male perpetrator towards a female victim, this will be what the rest of this article assumes.

Abuse doesn’t just happen “out there”. It’s not just to “those kinds of people”, or to a certain race, age or social level. Domestic abuse happens to all races, all ages, all religious persuasions, and in all social classes. It happens in the church, too. One in four women in the U.S.A. experience domestic abuse at some point in her life. Some of these women are Christian women. Some of them you probably know but are probably unaware of what she might be facing.

Part of the trauma of living in domestic abuse as a Christian woman is that you don’t know who to trust with your story. Most Christian women who finally get up the courage to tell someone tell their pastor. Sadly, most pastors are not prepared to understand or deal with abuse. I’ve known so many Christian ladies whose husbands were horrible–behind closed doors. Out in public, they seemed to be the salt of the earth. When these ladies turned to the church, they were either turned away, blamed, told to work on themselves, or sent back into the abuse with directions to serve him better and love him more.

Most pastors just don’t get it when it comes to domestic abuse. And, it sadly seems that many of them just don’t want to. It’s so much easier to pass by on the other side of the road, issuing platitudes as one passes, than it is to stop and bind up open gaping wounds–inside wounds or outside ones–of one who is being abused. Getting involved means getting dirty. It might be costly financially, it takes time, and it takes concerted effort to learn about abuse and the needs of abused women and their children. It’s plain hard. And most of them don’t want to have to get involved. I know. I’ve tried to find a pastor who had the wisdom needed to help me to have the wisdom to figure things out.

When I have tried talking to pastors, several of them over several years, about my situation, I was 1) thrown out of one pastor’s office, 2) another told me to divorce him but no further help was offered, 3) still another told me he had anger issues and I needed to be more understanding, 4) another told me that “if you are telling the truth your life is a mixed up mess”; again, no further help or guidance was offered, 5) another offered to talk to him, offered us couple’s counseling but refused to speak to me alone. And there were other responses, none of them good.

Only one of them ever offered to listen further (the anger issues pastor). He eventually listened and tried to help–though by that time we had moved away then he moved even farther away and because of that there was little he could do long distance. The others–nothing. No counsel, no guidance. Nothing.

Not one of them, except for him, tried to come to an understanding of what I was facing. Among the abused Christian wives that I’ve known, and I’ve known quite a few, it has been exceedingly rare for any of them to receive the kind of counsel, love, guidance, or help that they really and truly needed from their pastors or from their brothers and sisters in Christ. That’s not to say that it doesn’t happen. It does happen. It happened to my mother when she left my abusive father for the final time. I have read about it happening (the new lead pastor in John Piper’s church really seems to “get it”–though Mr. Piper himself didn’t seem to). I’ve worked with a pastor whom I later wrote a book with (though we never met) who gets it. But most pastors don’t get it.

Lest you think I don’t love God’s people, I do. Church is one of my favorite places. It’s also one where I often dread to go. Once my situation becomes obvious (and it’s not really that hard to figure out if you know what you’re looking for), the pitying looks, the side glances, being talked about and ignored begins. I’ve experienced it all and more–in two states, multiple conservative denominations, and in many towns and cities.

I’ve learned, through many a painful trial and error, that God’s people are not always like Him. Where He welcomes the oppressed, His people often treat us as if we are lepers. Oh, the stories I could tell–the way I’ve been treated, things said to me, things done or left undone. Worse, the way my precious children have been treated by God’s own people because of our circumstances–shameful doesn’t even begin to cover it.

I was born into abuse. I married an abuser. Some would say my story fit the pattern–an abused girl marrying a man just like her Dad. But I say that those would would say that are missing the greatest part of my story: Jesus. Though I’ve lived through immense pain, pain formed by the depravity of ones whom I should have been able to trust, God has redeemed my story. He has made me whole.

That’s not to say my story has been an easy one. Far from it, in fact. Even now, the trauma of abuse haunts me. I live with its impact every single day. Our financial struggles are formed by it. Financial abuse, financial misuse through carelessness, has been part of my craggy pathway–along with other, equally painful, types of abuse. But, even in the pain, God has formed a way for me to tread. The way is winding, painful, and often darkened. I cannot see its end but I can see the One who is leading me. And, even in want, even in times of great need and financial uncertainty, that is enough. I don’t have to worry for I trust in God’s character. I have no idea what to do about the past due rent, how to afford to fix the van or the dryer or…so much more…but I don’t really have to worry about those things. God has all of those issues safe in His hands, and I trust  Him.

So why am I sharing this? Because things need to change. God has taught us how we are to treat one another and the way I’ve been treated by God’s people, the way so many in my circumstances have been treated, does not honor Him. If you read this and your heart is touched, look around you. Somewhere, in your congregation is a woman just like me. She needs you. Just like I need you and other Christians. We’re not so different from you, she and I. We’ve been beaten down by words or force, manipulated, treated cruelly. We’re hurting, me and my abused sisters-in-Christ. Part of the reason we’re hurting is that we have been ignored, overlooked, or even flat-out blamed for our own pain by our fellow Christians, for so very long. It’s bad enough our husbands hurt us. Please don’t add to the pain.

The church isn’t always the safest place for an abused woman but hopefully one day that will change. It is my fervent hope and prayer that God’s people develop God’s heart for the oppressed. I’ll never be one who will say that I love Jesus just not the church. I do love the church but, sadly, the church hasn’t always known how to love me or others like me. You can help change that. Hopefully, I can too. Jesus is honored when we love one another in word and deed–by serving, by sharing, by doing. Remember the second greatest commandment then put yourself in my place: if you were me, or if you were the abused woman in your church, how would you want us to “love thy neighbour as thyself”?

The marriage of joy and sorrow: a personal story



Tonight as I head to bed, my heart is heavy. Our family is facing so many difficulties. Hard times brought on by circumstances beyond my control seek to overwhelm us. Hard times that I have had nothing to do with but that I am paying the price for nonetheless. As are my children. The rent has come due, and passed, and come due again, and there’s no way to pay it. No way to prepare for Winter–clothes that were carefully packed away were rained on. I didn’t know the roof to the storage shed leaked. When I discovered it did, it was too late. Our Winter clothing–gone, given over to mildew. No way to fix those things that so need to be repaired–the dryer, the van, the stove, the fridge all are showing their age at such an inopportune time. Sometimes the van simply doesn’t work at all. There’s nothing I can do to repair them, no way to do much of anything, to pay for much of anything–and there’s so many needs.

And Christmas. Oh, Christmas. I just don’t want to think about it. What should be joyful is instead overwhelming.

My little son came to me the other day wanting to talk. He’d overheard his father talking to me about our finances, heard him saying things a child shouldn’t know. He wanted to know if we’d ever be so poor that we’d have to live on the street. “Mama, I don’t want to live on the street.” My heart broke. I assured him that God would take care of us, that that wasn’t going to happen. But, fear rises up because we’re so far behind….

My story is a melding of twin realities, the marriage of the joy of trusting in the Lord and the sorrows that seek to overwhelm us. The burden of seemingly endless struggles and trials mix and mingle with the trust that nothing will happen to us that God cannot handle. Jesus is the beginning and the end of my story. If He weren’t, I couldn’t hold on.

Sometimes, I just beg Him to help me to know what to do, to have the wisdom to just get through the day. Even though I know better, sometimes I foolishly worry that something might somehow interrupt God’s plans. That, despite all of my promises to my child, things might indeed somehow fall apart.

Then I shudder at how weak, how small, my faith is.

Our God is a God who isn’t limited by time or space. He’s a God outside of those things, outside of normal limitations because He’s the One who created everything–including what is ultimately somehow “limiting” me and my circumstances. But how to believe it? So much has gone wrong for so very long. So many unexpected expenses, so much family pain, so many sorrows–the financial has been, in many ways, the least of it. So this is where we end up, struggling, hurting, doing our best to stay one step ahead of utter brokenness. The utilities are so high and are past due, the rent remains unpaid, the the landlord could show up any day asking us to leave, and we’d have no choice but to do so. And no place to go, no one to turn to. And with all of that, we’re still struggling just to get through one more day.

What do I make of this, God? How do I trust when there’s no place to turn for relief?

No one to run to…but You. And You’re enough. 

God is always enough

God’s faithfulness is ultimately the end of my story even when there is no end in sight. Somehow God is going to help us, somehow something somewhere will turn and things will work out. I believe that…most of the time. But what if He doesn’t? If He doesn’t, there’s a reason and I can still trust Him. Even if things fail, He never does. Even if sorrows multiply, so will His faithfulness.

As this long night goes forward for me, I remember the story of Elijah running from Ahab and Jezebel. He was spent, worn out, exhausted. Fearful and consumed with “what if”, he was ready to give up and die. God didn’t scold him. He didn’t correct his theology. No, He remembered that Elijah was dust, a man exhausted from his struggles. A man needing to rest. So God let him. Elijah slept and, when he awoke, God fed him. God took care of his physical needs first–then he prepared him to go forward. This wasn’t the first time–or the second–that God had made a point to provide for His prophet. The first time God used ravens to feed him (1 Kings 17: 2-6). The second time, God used a widow woman’s oil and flour, which God kept from running out, to feed not only Elijah but the woman and her son (1 Kings 17: 8-16). This time God sends an angel to feed him and give him water (1 Kings 19: 1-9).

Elijah’s God is my God–One and the same. He’s unchangeable, and He’s good. And, in the deafening silence of our struggles, in the dark night hours when I feel so overwhelmed, so afraid, so alone, I remember that God cared for His prophet–not just spiritually but physically also–and I rest in Him.

Soli Deo gloria!

Lest We Forget

Originally posted on Blog of a Mad Black Woman:


As you breathe right now, another person takes his last for your freedom.


They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,

We shall remember them.


All gave some; some gave all.


A tribute to the eight million horses, donkeys and mules who died in wars for their respective armies.

Lest we forget. <3

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The Knife That Killed Your Beloved.

Originally posted on One Christian Dad:


Imagine for a moment that one of your loved ones was kidnapped.

Maybe your son or daughter.

Maybe a mother.

Or a father.



Imagine that your beloved was stripped naked, beaten, whipped, humiliated, and tortured for three days. Bruised, cut, bleeding, slowly dying in excruciating and undeserved pain. Finally the killing blow is mercifully administered with a swift slice of a knife across the jugular.

They bleed out.

All is silent.

Imagine now, that one day you arrive home and at your door there is a white box with big bow on it, a gift to you. You open the box to find the knife that killed your beloved. Still stained with the blood. Inside the box you also find a little card describing in gruesome detail, how it was used torture and finally kill your beloved.

Would you try to wash the blood off and put it in…

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I Can’t Sit Down, Shut Up, and Play Nice

Originally posted on Michelle Lesley:

sit down shut up 2

“She’s at it again, going off the deep end about some church or Christian celebrity who does things just a little differently. She’s so nit picky, judgmental, and divisive. Why doesn’t she just shut up and be nice?”

That’s what I imagine most of my friends on my (personal) Facebook page are thinking whenever I post something about the latest false doctrine or false teacher. Maybe that’s what you think, too. “Ugh. One of those dreaded discernment bloggers.”

I don’t consider myself a discernment blogger, but rather a discipleship blogger. Discernment (warning against false teachers and false doctrine) is part of discipleship, but so is missions and evangelism, Bible study, and assorted “Christian living” topics, all of which I try to cover in balance.

Nobody seems to mind those latter topics, but a lot of people get their noses out of joint when I call attention to a false teacher…

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A praying man

Originally posted on The Wanderer:

I wonder if you have a praying man? In God’s kindness, I think I have just gained another. I know I already have at least one. He is an older friend, a man who assures me that I can safely get on with the work that the Lord has given me to do, because he is interceding for me. I know he is entirely reliable. I have heard him pray. It is a blessing to my heart to know that this father in the faith is storming heaven on my behalf day by day, that I need only to drop him a note with a particular request and he is sure to take it to the Lord. It is almost a dangerous confidence – so certain am I of his efficacious dealings with God through Christ that I could become inclined to pray less for myself (and how I wish…

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I Am Blogging For God’s Glory…(or am I?)

Originally posted on One Christian Dad:


This morning, over at HeadHeartHand, I read a great article by David Murray called Bonfire Repentance.  The article is about idolatry, and how the Heidlelberg Catechism delves into that subject. In the article he mentions as possible idols: blog stats, facebook likes etc. The very things that might cause pride within me as a blogger, and become idols to me.  I often ask myself, “Am I blogging to God’s glory or am I blogging for my own?”  

I can say that I usually am blogging for Gods glory, one of my rules is to sit on articles and pray about it prior to posting, and I usually have someone read them over, especially the controversial topics. But sometimes the answer is not what it should be, sometimes I like the “likes,” and sometimes the shares do mean more than they ought too.

The ironic thing is that this…

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