LORD, I FIND IT DIFFICULT to tell my story. Sometimes I forget the details. I forget the conflict. I forget the emotions because you have helped me to overcome. If it is your will, help me to recall as if it was yesterday.
I remember searching for you because I felt lonely and needed your peace. I needed your peace in my time of storm. My life was a storm then. My marriage had fallen apart and the abuse had intensified. In my mind, I felt like I was locked in prison. Instead of loving me, my husband made me fear him. Yet you made me feel like I was in the eye of the storm— all around me was chaos, but you kept me in a place of peace and calmness.
You, Lord, were like the light that brightens the ground after a storm. The peace and beauty you showed me motivated me to wake up at 4:00 a.m. to worship you. I was eager to meditate on your Word because I knew that in you alone I would find my strength and peace.
Although I had your peace, I still found myself wanting answers from you. I remember struggling and wrestling with you. I remember asking the “why” questions. I remember questioning my faith. If I had faith, then why wasn’t my husband changing?
I remember being told that my relationship with my husband is the same as my relationship with God. WOW! Will I ever have a good relationship with you since my relationship with my husband is cool and distant?
I remember asking the questions about forgiveness. Does it mean I haven’t forgiven my husband because I react to his behaviors? If I have forgiven, why does he provoke the same emotions as before?
What about suffering? We are supposed to persevere in our sufferings. I remember someone using 1 Peter 2 to demonstrate that I must persevere in my sufferings. Is my relationship with my husband the same as a slave to his master? I am commanded to respect my husband, but am I a slave? Am I a slave to be beaten by my master? Sarah called her husband “master,” but Abraham loved his wife and always protected her. If he is my master, as Abraham was Sarah’s, he should protect and not hurt me.
What about the instructions to submit? Was I submissive enough? Does submission mean that I do not have any input in the decision-making process and must do everything he tells me to do? Does it mean I stand still while he screams at me with degrading and belittling names in the presence of my children? Doesn’t that tell him and my children that it is OK for someone to call someone else stupid or degrading names?
What a dilemma! I constantly felt guilty, fearful, anxious, angry, shameful, hopeless, and helpless. I felt guilty because I thought about giving up on my marriage. Does it mean that I am impatient to wait for change? Did that mean I didn’t trust you to change my situation?
But during my times of confusion, you were there. You showed me that the solution was to separate and escape the abuse. I struggled with this solution because I did not want to break my marriage covenant and my understanding of your scriptures. I wanted my reasons to leave to be based on biblical convictions.
I examined scriptures that dealt with marriage and divorce and found that adultery was a reason for divorce (Matthew 19:9). My husband committed adultery, but I forgave him for that. I thought about leaving after a bad beating, and had him arrested, but ended up taking him back.
Ultimately, I developed a personal conviction and left my marriage because of the psychological and physical abuse. No one deserves to be beaten down physically and emotionally, especially by a person who professes to love her. In Malachi 2:16, you said you hate divorce but you also “hate a man’s covering himself with violence.”
When I accepted Christ as my Lord, you gave me the same inheritance as every other Christian. You love me same as everyone else in your family. You love me and don’t want me to be abused.
Edith’s story is from my book, A Path to Hope: Restoring the Spirit of the Abused Christian Woman. Her story is my story and the stories of most abused Christian women. Her interaction with God encapsulates the spiritual conflict or dilemma that is experienced by any Christian woman.
The term “spiritual dilemma” was taken from When Violence Begins at Home by K. J. Wilson. Spiritual dilemmas relate to the feeling of abandonment by God, the reason for suffering, the benefit of submission, and the justification for separation or divorce.1
I like this term because it exemplifies the inner struggles that the Christian woman is faced with as she experiences domestic abuse. Whatever she does to resolve her situation will have unpleasant outcomes or result in a double whammy.
I remember searching for a deeper understanding of the attributes of God during my abusive relationship. I dug into the scriptures to gain wisdom and to find meaning in my experience of my abuse. During this quest, I struggled with God just like Edith. Why was he allowing me to suffer? Why wasn’t God changing my husband? Was it because I had hidden sins? Didn’t I have faith? Wasn’t I submissive enough? Did thinking about divorce mean that I was impatient and didn’t trust God to change my situation? Those were the types of questions I was asking God.
I believed then that my struggle with God was unique and that my emotional reactions were also unique. I wish I knew what I know now that other Christian women were having the same feelings. This knowledge might have saved me from suffering alone.
Later in the relationship, the book that helped me recognized that I wasn’t alone was Marie Fortune’s Keeping the Faith. She brought to light the questions that I was asking myself about my relationship, about God, and my reaction to what others were telling me about my relationship.
Most Christian women endure these conflicting emotions towards God alone. And when the abuse is exposed the well-meaning advice of others makes her situation worse. When the woman tells about her conflicts, the response she gets is often one of judgment and blame. As a result, she learns to internalized her suffering.
It is essential that we identify and address the woman’s spiritual conflicts and help her to resolve them. When we do, she will develop her convictions and feel empowered to break free from the bonds of domestic abuse. Her power is the choice she makes to stop the violence.
In my next series of blogs, I will address the spiritual dilemmas from the perspective of the abused Christian woman. I will use my experience, along with those experiences of other abused Christian women that I have met. I believe that when the woman understands her dilemma, she can then change her misconceptions about God and receive the strength she needs to resolve her situation.
God gives his wisdom freely to anyone who seeks him. James 1:5 states, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” When we gain wisdom from the scriptures, it has the power to set us free. When we break free, then through God can help others do the same.
Next Blog: The Abused Christin Woman: Why Am I Suffering?
1K.J. Wilson, When Violence Begins at Home: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding and Ending Domestic Abuse (Alameda: Hunter House, 1997), 181.