What About Abuse?

When we talk about standing for your marriage or keeping your covenant, often people in abusive relationships believe we are saying they should continue taking abuse in the name of faithfulness. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Abuse, whether verbal, physical, psychological, or sexual, is one of the many ways the enemy attacks relationship. When you make the choice to stand against the enemy and agree with God, it is important that you separate natural things from spiritual things.

People who abuse others are operating out of their own wounding and many times have been abused themselves. I am not excusing the behavior, but I do acknowledge that Jesus Christ died for that person and wants to see him or her healed and restored just as much as He desires the same for the one being abused.

Many times abuse begins long before marriage. The one being abused grows to accept the behavior and might even expect it to change after the wedding. As you well know if you have been abused, it only gets worse as time goes on.

Whether abuse begins early in a relationship or develops over time, it demoralizes the one being abused. Fear, guilt, blame, and shame accompany abuse. In the cycle of abuse, the one being abused may assume responsibility for the reaction of the abuser. “If only I hadn’t done this or said that. It’s my fault.”

Additionally, the abuser often follows abuse with a showering of attention and/or gifts to reaffirm his or her “love” for the one abused. This can give hope to the abused one that things are changing. Promises that it will never happen again, though, soon disappear as the cycle repeats itself over and over again.

If you are in that type of relationship, you need to seek help. Standing for your marriage does not mean accepting abuse. If you or your children or another member of your family is in physical danger, you need to take measures to get out of danger. There is a huge difference between that, though, and divorce.

The world, and unfortunately many Christian counselors, believe the only way to deal with abuse is to get rid of the abuser. Finding a counselor who will help you reach a safe place and help you heal, but not tell you to walk out of the marriage is extremely difficult. If we were simply dealing with human behavior and the world’s way of handling it, I could understand their point. But we are not!

Scripture tells us that we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus. His blood paid the price to overcome sin. The power of His love and forgiveness are not reserved just for those that we deem “redeemable”, but extends to all through His faith for them. Scripture after scripture speaks of the power we have in the Spirit to overcome and to walk in victory. We are not victims when we are in Christ. We are victors!

I know that what I am saying is not easy to hear, but far too often we have seen people walk out of a marriage without ever dealing with their own issues. Often they walk right back into a similar situation. You are not responsible for the behavior of the abuser, but you can be obedient for yourself and allow the Lord to bring healing and restoration to your life

As you begin healing and growing stronger, you can start to identify the enemy operating through your spouse and learn to take authority over that activity. Again, it does not mean you have to subject yourself to the behavior, but you learn that greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. My husband was never physically abusive, but his verbal abuse viciously attacked both our children and me. Over time I learned how to silence those spirits when they were in my presence because they had to submit to Jesus Christ within me. Eventually they had to release their hold on my husband as the transforming power of Jesus changed his heart and life.

So, if you are married to someone who is abusing you, get help. Recognize the difference between finding a safe place and divorcing. Find a counselor who will help you face the issues of your own heart and help you heal. Learn who you truly are in Christ and how precious you are to Him! Grow strong in the Spirit. And then ask the Lord how to stand and pray for your spouse to be set free from the enemy’s hold. Love, Marilyn

Romans 8; 1 John 4:4; 2 Corinthians 10:3-6; 1 Corinthians 15:57; Nehemiah 4:14

Who Is Responsible?

As I’ve said a number of times, we are responsible for our own actions and words. We are not responsible for the words and actions of others. If someone does something that upsets us, we can tell them. “When you do (or say) that, I feel angry.” Not “When you do (or say that), you make me angry.”

No one can make you feel anything.

Nor can you make someone else feel something. We each choose to feel what we feel. If we say something hurtful to someone, we are 100% responsible for our words. If they decide to blast us with angry rejection, they are 100% responsible for their words. We can make choices about how we will react to other people. And other people can make choices about how they react to us. And the one making the choice is responsible for the choice made.

There is someone I love very much in my extended family who has made choices throughout the years to react in anger and retaliation to family members. After an angry tirade of abusive words, this person always says, “I wouldn’t have had to say those things if you hadn’t……..” Many people who are the victims of abuse hear those words often. The message is, “Your choices are totally to blame for my behavior.” That is 100% wrong!

The codependent patterns in my life developed early in childhood and for years my reaction to this person was to placate and and excuse behavior. I blamed myself for triggering the episodes. I learned early in life that whatever happened to me was completely my fault and if I were just a better person, if I just said and did the right things, I wouldn’t have to endure the tirades.

As I began this journey of healing, I realized that no matter what I had done or said, I did not deserve to be treated with verbal abuse. I had assumed responsibility for another person’s behavior and had been held responsible by my family for fixing the problem. As a result, I had carried that responsibility into my marriage, into ministry, and all other areas of my life. If something went wrong, I thought it was because I had not performed the way I should have. And it was my job to fix it.

A little over three years ago that person in my family attacked me verbally again. This time I did not take responsibility for that reaction. I did not try to fix it. There were consequences, as there always are when we begin to stand up for ourselves. That person determined to end our relationship and has not spoken to me since. My family turned to me to fix it. There was the usual implication that I had helped cause it. This time I stood my ground. I was willing to talk with that person and work things out, but I would not just ignore the behavior and pretend everything was okay as I had in the past. There are consequences to abusing people and that person has never had to face them.

As a family we had always ignored behavior so that person would be comfortable. This time was different.I have contacted that person once since then to express my love while at the same time standing firm that the decision to renew relationship must be accompanied by a willingness to address issues. So far, I have received no response. It is sad, but it is the reality of the situation. I cannot make that person change. I am not responsible for that person’s change. I am responsible for my own changes. I pray that some day that person will choose to get healthy and to deal with issues. Until then, I will continue to love, but I refuse to be abused.

Do you feel responsible for everything negative that happens in your life? Do you blame yourself when things go wrong? Be honest with yourself today. Look at the last issue you faced in your marriage. Take responsibility for what you said or did. No one “made” you do or say those things. You are responsible for yourself, for your decisions and your choices, and for your actions and reactions.

Now release responsibility for everything else. How your spouse responds is not your responsibility. How your children respond is not your responsibility. How anyone in your life responds or reacts is not your responsibility. When our spouse is not listening to the Lord or following His directions in life, his or her reactions will many times be ungodly. If you are reacting to your spouse’s reactions, you will enter into a vortex that begins to suck the very life out of you. Dysfunctional behavior only reflects dysfunction. Do not use it as your barometer for normality.

I have said it before and will say it again and again. Keep your eyes on Jesus and ask Him what you should say and do. He is not dysfunctional nor is He reactionary. You can trust what He tells you. It will keep you solid and strong when the storm swirls around you. Like Peter walking on the water, you can only be swallowed up by circumstances when you take your eyes off Jesus. Love, Marilyn

And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” Matthew 8:24-27

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.”  Proverbs 18:21