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“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?” Romans 8:24. I recently read this passage, and it hit home. It states that you hope for things that you don’t yet see—which is like praying for things you want to come to pass. When hope becomes reality, it ceases to be hope, nevertheless, we have to keep it alive.

As I reflect, my brain prefers the phrase, “I am hoping for” rather than “I am praying for.” Somehow the “hoping for” brings life. When I say these words, I can feel within me a positive level of energy and an assurance that change will come. “I am hoping for” keeps me confident and reassures me that I can achieve my goals and dreams. It also serves as a motivator to keep trying again when things don’t work out as I had expected. So, I decided to change from saying, “I am praying for” to “I am hoping for.”

What am I “hoping for?” They are too numerous to count! I hope that my children will succeed professionally, return to the foundation of their faith, take responsibility for their actions, marry godly people and serve the poor. I hope that I become an inspirational speaker to help empower abused women to change their lives. I hope to sell my book, A Path to Hope and create a nonprofit named after the book, to increase awareness of domestic violence and its effects on families, and to share information about strategies and resources that can be used to help victims of domestic violence. I hope that I can financially support myself and find a God-fearing man, one who is fun-loving and an encourager who genuinely loves me. My current hope is that my workshop, A Cry for Help, will make a difference and be the beginning of great things to come.

We all need hope. Without hope, life cannot go on. The good news here is, God wants each of us to be carriers of hope. Therefore, he made it clear how to get it and how to keep it alive. Now I will try to show you how to get it and keep it alive.

Hope comes from God

Romans 15:13 states, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”. I love this passage. It is used on the dedication page of my book and website banner, rosesaad.com. We can’t get hope on our own because it comes from God. God is the source of our hope. Hope is his secret pathway to him. But, he knew that it was going to be difficult for us to obtain it on our own, so he made Jesus as our forerunner, as explained in Hebrews 6:20. He stands on our behalf to help us see that what we hope for will indeed come to pass.

What about you? What are you “hoping for?” Are you going to the mediator? When we experience difficulties as we break free from abuse and other life challenges, we have to go to the middleman or mediator that God has designated for us to find hope. Hope will keep us focused as we seek help to change our situation.

Wait patiently for hope.

“But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:25). When we wait patiently, we keep hope alive. But it is difficult to wait patiently. Since I like to be in control and hate to wait, I find myself consistently stuck in the patience phase.

I am still waiting to see my hope to be a motivator for women who are experiencing abuse come to reality. In other areas of my life, it seems that everything is moving at a snail’s pace as I attempt to sell my book; maintain my blog (not receiving feedback is very discouraging); find the mentorship and resources to achieve my goals as an advocate for survivors of domestic violence; and to create my non-profit. God knew this stalled state would happen; for that reason, he made provision to help us wait.

Hold on to God’s promises as you wait.

When we start doubting, when our confidence falters, and we stop hoping or praying, God’s Holy Spirit can intervene and come to our rescue. Romans 8:26 tells us that the Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses by taking over our prayers so that we can keep hope alive. But the tricky part is that “the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:27).

And here is where we get trapped. For what, precisely, is the will of God? Well, when we hope for things to happen, it can’t be contrary to God’s word. For example, we cannot hope for the death of the person who wronged us. (Some writers of Psalms did this, but I guess it was before Jesus’s example.) God’s hope is pure and not the self-seeking hope that man devises. Nor can we follow our abusers’ sinful behaviors and hope that it will stop the abuse. We cannot follow someone’s sinful behavior and believe that we are following God’s will.

There are tons of promises in the scriptures. For example, Romans 8:28, states, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”. God will work for the good in all that I do. It might not be according to my expectations of what I hoped for, but whatever he does, it will be good for me.

Remember, “it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18). When he says he is going to work for your good, believe it. Every difficult situation you experienced in life has molded you for this present state you are now in. There is always a positive component to your most difficult experience. It might be the recognition of your inner strength, your resiliency as an overcomer. Or, your challenges were a motivator to seek God with all your heart, mind, and strength.

And when you have left behind your abusive relationship or any hardship of your old life, remember the end of the verse that started the previous paragraph: “we… who take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.” When you can see God working in your life, you are able to grasp the hope that he has already given you. Let this hope keep you going!

Faith is needed to keep hope alive.

To keep hope alive, faith is needed. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith means the confidence to assure yourself that the thing you’re hoping for, the thing you cannot yet see is real. Where there is faith, there is hope. Or rather, where there is hope, faith is pulling it along. Hope is always present, but it needs faith to validate its presence. Without faith, hope will cease to exist. Take a second to reflect on that thought.

We all struggle with our faith. We all might ask ourselves, Do I have enough faith? God is not asking us to have a HUGE amount of faith. Jesus states in Matthew 17:20, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Recently, I saw an example of what a little faith looks like. A friend was wearing a locket with a mustard seed in a tiny glass bottle. I was amazed to see how small the seed was. I had to stare at the bottle to find it. It looked like a grain of sand. Yes, this is the size of all the faith we need. (But of course, some people don’t even have that much faith- Matthew 8:28).

Use hope as an anchor for your soul.

To stay connected to hope, you have to use it to anchor your soul. As told in Hebrews 6:19, hope keeps you firm and secure. Just as when a ship is at anchor or tied to the dock, it will not be pulled away by the wind. Hope as your anchor will keep you secure when the storms of life come your way.

Today, I want to encourage you to follow God’s instructions on how to keep hope alive. When it seems like things are not working out as you had anticipated, he wants you to hold on to hope. When you are feeling that you can’t get away from your abusive relationship, or if you have left the relationship but the burdens of caring for yourself and your children are weighing you down, you still can’t lose hope. Hope is the fire that will sustain your soul and restore your belief that change will come.

 

 

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August 14, 2018 2 comments
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To move forward and heal from a domestic abuse relationship, or any painful life experience, we have to go back to the past to see how it affects our present. Self-reflection is required to start the healing process. This means looking back to see how these painful experiences have impaired our thinking. The hard work will be to change those thoughts that keep us from healing.

As Christians, we have the incomparable power of God’s word to help us change our perceptions of painful experiences. For this blog, my primary focus is the spiritual aspect of breaking free from the thoughts that keep us stuck. These behaviors and beliefs that stop us from changing are what the scriptures call “strongholds.” Our strongholds can control our lives and make us susceptible to dangerous situations, such as abusive relationships.

What are Strongholds?

In the spiritual sense, strongholds are the walls that Satan uses to hold us captive. These walls keep us from understanding how God can change us from the inside out and allow us to do his work.

Strongholds stop us from achieving the plans God has for us. It stalls our spiritual growth and maturity and prevents us from transforming into his new creation.

For most of us, our emotions and emotional reactions are where Satan manipulates us to build his stronghold. He exploits our anxieties, fears, mistrust, lack of confidence, guilt, shame, anger, jealousy, envy, and many other emotions. These emotions might not be evident as we interact with others. We might not even be aware of how they hinder our ability to change. This ignorance allows Satan to fortify his walls, making it difficult to tear them down. As a result, we feel trapped.

Self-reflection is Required to Identify Strongholds

As I self-reflect, I am able to identify two significant strongholds within my Christian life. They are a lack of trust and a feeling of insignificance. When I became a Christian, I had difficulties surrendering to and trusting God. It didn’t mean that I didn’t believe him or his word. My lack of trust didn’t stop me from changing some of the behaviors that were contrary to his word—for example, gossiping or revenging when someone did me wrong. I tried to do the right things, yet I found it hard to let go of situations that were beyond my control.

The things that were beyond my control required trust in God. The way I dealt with them was to prepare for failure. When things didn’t work out as I expected, and since I had emotionally prepared myself to fail, it was easy to shrug it off and try something different. There was no residue of negative emotions such as bitterness. Instead, I felt a strong sense of motivation and the determination to try something new.

The feeling of insignificance, my second stronghold, has been a challenge to break. Piggybacking on this feeling is insecurity and lack of confidence. These emotional reactions influence my interactions with others. I am always analyzing other people’s responses to my presence. I allow them to define my self-respect. If they respond in a way I think is negative, I internalize those negative feelings. As a Christian, I am still working hard to break through that wall.

How to Break Strongholds

First, we have to become aware that God has given us the tools or weapons to destroy them. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 states, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (NIV).

We must develop the conviction that God has provided the weapons to fight, and they have the spiritual power to break down any barriers set by ourselves and others.

On the other hand, to achieve victory with our weapons, we have to identify the target—which means we have to recognize our strongholds. Furthermore, to effectively demolish them, we have to find the root or foundations of those strongholds and bring them down with God’s weapons.

For me, finding the root took a lot of prayer and self-reflection. When I was nine years old, my mother developed complications during the labor and delivery of my brother. On the way to the hospital, I stopped in the middle of a path and knelt down and prayed to God to let my mother live. After praying, I felt God’s presence. I thought that he had heard my prayer and would answer it. I walked the rest of the way imagining all the fun things my mother and I would do together after her discharge from the hospital.

After a brief visit with her, I skipped back home. A couple of hours later, while playing next door, I heard loud cries coming from my house but ignored them. I said to myself, “Why are they crying? My mother is OK.” I went home later and found out that my mother had died. What a shock! I did not cry. Instead, I felt a sense of anger and disappointment towards God.

This anger and disappointment towards God became the foundation of my lack of trust. I didn’t consciously tell others or say to myself, “I don’t trust God,” but that lack of confidence was embedded deeply in my heart and evident in my actions. For example, in all of my plans, there were always alternatives in case plan A didn’t work out.

The root cause of my feeling of insignificance also started during early childhood. I was told that my father didn’t want a child. When I was a preemie lying in an incubator, my father took one look and said, “That thing will not survive.” He later married and did not reveal to his wife that he already had a daughter. Not having a relationship with his new family made me feel as if I didn’t exist. And that led to the feeling of insignificance.

This feeling of insignificance was transferred to my adult and married life and has had an enormous impact on my self-image. For example, in my abusive marriage, one of the tactics used by my husband was to walk into the room, and when I said “Hi,” past me and walk by as if I wasn’t present. This behavior triggered the same feeling of insignificance conveyed by my father.

Apply God’s Truth

After finding the roots of the stronghold, we demolish those roots by attacking them with God’s truth. John 8:32 states, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Replace the lies with the truth.

As I return to those childhood experiences, the reality is that God was there, and he took care of me and protected me. He was there when bad things happened and when I didn’t understand the reason for those unfortunate events.

In Isaiah 46:3–4, the writer states that God was there since you were born. He “upheld you” and “carried you.” And he promises to carry you even when your hair becomes gray. He will “sustain” you and “rescue” you.

Psalm 139:13–15 states, “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous–how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb” (NLT).

As I applied these truths to my life, it awakened the realization that God was present during the painful events of my life, and he used them to lead me to reach out to him. The truth is, he allowed me to survive as a preemie in an environment that had no sophisticated technology to support a premature birth. And he protected me from harm even when I didn’t have a mother or father. When I can visualize God protecting me, it strengthens my faith. My lack of faith leads to lack of trust. But when my faith is increased, I am able to break my strongholds.

For my insignificance stronghold, many scriptures talk about our worth. For example, Matthew 10:29–31: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (NIV).

Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (NLT).

James 1:18: “He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession” (NLT).

 Exodus 9:16: “But I have spared you for a purpose—to show you my power and to spread my fame throughout the earth” (NLT).

These scriptures tell the truth about God’s view of me. I am part of God’s masterpiece. My piece may be a small part, but it has a place in his magnificent work of art. Without me the picture is incomplete. When completed, it radiates his glory. Yes, I am important!

Yes, Forgive

After applying God’s truths, we also have to forgive and let go of all the emotions that keep us chained within the strongholds. The facts of the event that started the hold on us will also help us to forgive.

For example, I had to go back and view the events of my early life and apply the truth. My father and mother were very young when they met. He just wanted to have fun, and not interested in any kind of serious relationship. And he definitely did not want a child. In his culture marriages were arranged by the family. Marrying a black woman could have led his family to disown him. I used those truths to find compassion for my father and forgive him. When I did that, I was able to break the walls and set free the emotions that held me captive. This process took time.

 Build New Walls

After breaking the walls and foundation, we have to build new walls using God’s tools to stop Satan from having an opportunity to rebuild.

Matthew 12:43-45 states, “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first” (NIV).

We have to protect ourselves. We can’t afford to keep an empty space or else we become easy targets for Satan. Some of the tools we can use to build our new walls are found in Galatians 5:22: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and self-control. We can grow strong walls when we are filled with the fruits of the spirit.

Change the Way You Think

To stop Satan from attacking our new home, we also need to change the way we think. Our thoughts trigger our emotions; therefore, we have to change the way we think. We can change the way we think by first accepting the truth of Proverbs 4:23, which states, “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts” (GNT).

Do not let every thought run freely in your mind. Choose carefully what you want to think about. 2 Corinthians 10:5 states, “…we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ” (NIV).

We make our thoughts obedient to Christ by thinking about what Paul listed in Philippians 4:8–9. He wants you to “fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (NLT). He wants us to imitate him. When we do, we will receive God’s peace. With God’s peace Satan will have no power to break our walls down.

Check out these blogs for changing negative thoughts and what to avoid. Remember, as Christians, we are instructed by Paul on how to replace our negative thoughts.

Regardless of our past experiences, such as abuse, God’s word has the power to help us break any hold caused by those experiences. But we will have to do the hard work to change our thoughts. When we are obedient to thinking like Christ, we have the power to break our strongholds and demolish Satan’s ability to keep us captive.

Image: Jon Shireman

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July 13, 2018 0 comment
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A Cry for Help is a domestic violence workshop scheduled for September 15, 2018. In researching how to host a successful event, I came across an Eventbrite marketing strategy timeline template. They recommend that you write a post stating the purpose of your event before the registration process. In other words, the why behind your actions is essential to convincing people to attend.

Why do I want to host a domestic violence workshop? In my last blog A Call for Action, I addressed some of the reasons for my actions. I want to educate others about domestic violence. My burning passion is to be an advocate, a voice within the church and the community for the victims and survivors of abuse. With that voice, I can empower other survivors to speak out – because collectively, we can make a difference.

For this workshop, there are two types of people that I would like to speak to. The first is any woman who is a survivor of domestic violence. Let me emphasize here that men are victims too and can certainly benefit from the workshop, but the primary focus is on the woman for the simple reason that most domestic violence victims are female. My second audience is the community in which the woman interacts. This means anyone who wants to know more about domestic violence and how to help.

As a survivor and a Christian, my faith was central in helping me to understand the effects of the violence on my physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being. It also allowed me to realize that violence was not God’s will for my life. I want women of faith who have experienced abuse to develop a conviction that the Scriptures have the power to educate and transform their lives regardless of the pain they have endured.  Jesus states in Matthew 22:29, “You are in error because you do not know the power of the Scriptures or the power of God.”

We cannot underestimate the power of God. He can change every situation according to his will. Many abused women may have felt rejection from their members of faith when they came forward to expose the abuse. They were judged by others and blamed for what was occurring in the relationship. And some had to leave the church community due to lack of support. Regardless of those experiences, God is supreme, and he has the power to change the course of their lives.

I also want survivors to recognize the power of education. Education is essential to understanding the dynamics of abuse and its impact on one’s physical, emotional, and spiritual self. This knowledge will influence the type of help that is needed and show one how to tap into the resources to change his or her situation.

The second purpose of the workshop is to educate the community, most specifically the church. This need for education was recently reaffirmed by two courageous women who are members of the Mennonite church. When they broke the silence, they were blamed, misjudged, and shunned by others within their church family. In essence, they experienced rejection from their community. When I asked one of the women why she stayed, she answered, “If I leave, how will I make a difference?”  Her response struck a chord within me and reignited my desire to overcome my fears not to give up.  Regardless of their experiences, these women were willing to stay for the overall good and bear the emotional pain that comes with rejection.

I love my church family and I am fortunate to have an excellent group of people who loved my children and me and still do today. They are also instrumental in my success as a parent and are responsible for the maturation of my faith. However, as with most churches, there is still denial that abuse is occurring within the congregation. I pray that I, like my courageous friends, will have the voice to make a difference.

“Why are most churches in denial?” I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt. I have come to believe that addressing abuse is like opening Pandora’s box. When the evil is exposed it will become too obvious to ignore and the church will have the moral duty to respond.

I am sure that there are many plausible-sounding reasons for not breaking the silence within the church environment.  One possible reason may be the inability to identify abuse in relationships where there is no physical evidence of violence. The dismissive claim that abuse is a relational problem rather than a power and control issue shows the need for education. Education is required to distinguish abusive behaviors from normal relationship problems and to apply the appropriate interventions.

Other reasons could be the possibility of personal danger or legal implications when trying to help. We have all heard stories about people who lost their lives by trying to help. And yet there is some risk attached to anything we do in life. Shouldn’t we take the chance if it means saving someone?

A Cry for Help will educate those who are willing to remove some of the barriers to helping victims of abuse. We will define what domestic violence means, show how to create an environment for breaking the silence, and offer resources to make referrals to the community. We will discuss how we can give help, whether as laypersons or as individuals with no leadership function within the church. Lastly, we will help you understand what your legal role is and what you are not required to do.

The speakers are highly trained in their specialties, in addition to being survivors of domestic abuse as well as advocates who are actively involved in educating the church and the community on how to help.

Look out for the registration information on  A Path to Hope, or check out my website rosesaad.com. I hope you will join me on September 15, 2018.  Together we can make a difference!

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April 21, 2018 0 comment
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As a survivor and an advocate for victims of domestic abuse, there are three areas that I wish to address as a platform. Too often survivors do not have a voice. Their voices have been taken away by the violence. But when we educate ourselves as survivors about the dynamics of violence and tell others what we want and need, our voices are infused with power. We become catalysts for change. With united voices, change is certain to happen.

We can no longer sit back and watch others suffer. As Christians, we are empowered by God to change the situation. When we are steeped in God’s power no one can stand in our way. We will be able to speak the truth with love regardless of the responses from others, even from our leaders of faith

As I address those areas I want to change, I hope to encourage those who are reading this to respond. This response could mean getting involved in your community, speaking out against violence against women and children, or by supporting your local domestic violence center. We all have the moral responsibility to stop violence against others.

Education

In the absence of physical evidence (such as bruises), people might not think domestic abuse is happening. Depictions of physical violence in the media reinforce this type of thinking. The violence shown on our screens may attract viewers, but none of these media seriously try to educate the public or call upon them to take action. But the abused woman who is watching these violent scenes is flooded with shame and humiliation. There are no real takeaways or solutions that might help one to understand the physical and psychological impact of the abuse on her wellbeing, let alone the resources to seek help.

Too often the question is asked, “Why doesn’t she leave?”  I believe there is a knowledge deficit on the part of the individual who is asking this question. To answer that question, one must understand the dynamics of abuse. The public needs to understand how easy it is for someone to get trapped in the cycle of abuse and how hard it is to get out.

To educate the public, domestic abuse must first be defined. There are different types of abuse. Emotional or psychological abuse is rampant in abusive relationships and occurs far more often than physical violence.

Physical abuse entails more than physical assault; it also includes physically blocking someone’s movement or locking her out of the house.

Sexual abuse or rape is extremely prevalent in a violent relationship. Even though a woman may realize that sexual coercion is occurring in her relationship, it is easier to deny it than to admit it to others.

Other types of abuse are economical and spiritual. Economic abuse is not paying the bills, refusing to give the woman money, or refusing to support the family. Spiritual abuse is using religion to justify one’s position as a controller, invoking God to instill fear, or preventing the woman from going to church.

Understanding the tactics and the cycle of violence will expose how the abuser operates to gain power and control. Establishing power and control is the abuser’s objective.

It is easy for the victim to get caught in the web of violence. The abuser is not always violent or domineering. Indeed, the relationship may appear quite normal – on the surface. The victim might not even believe she is in an abusive relationship. Or she might realize that her relationship is abusive, but the powerful force called the honeymoon phase binds her to the relationship. During this phase, and after a violent episode, the abuser exhibits acts of kindness, apologizes for his behavior, and promises not to hurt her again. He might even agree to seek counseling. These types of behaviors reinforce the hope that the abuser can change. That hope makes it difficult for the victim to leave.

However, over time and without intervention, the impact of the abuse on the victim’s psychological and physical health makes it harder to escape. As she attempts to cope with the abuse, she develops a sense of failure and shame. She is overwhelmed by feelings of humiliation, embarrassment, self-blame, fear, and denial. All these reactions end up weakening her self-esteem and eroding her ability to manage her life and seek help.

Society needs to be educated on how to remove the misinformation about victims of abuse. Victims of rape and domestic violence are still stigmatized by our society. They are often seen as weak or foolish and of somehow at fault for bringing the situation down upon themselves. A statement such as “She must like the abuse, or she would have left the relationship” reinforces this type of misconception. Also, victims of violence are perceived as a byproduct of a marginalized environment; perhaps they use drugs and alcohol or are poor and uneducated. This belief cannot be further from the truth. Abuse can occur in any social group, regardless of economic status or educational attainment.

I have seen so many comments on a video or story about an abused woman who refuses to leave a relationship. She is often called many unpleasant names. It is critical that we teach others about the dynamics of domestic violence and its consequences. It is only by abandoning misconceptions and negative attitudes towards abused women that people can give them the help they need.

It is also important that education includes the prevention of abuse. Prevention is the key to ending domestic violence. For example, helping women identify red flags early in the relationship can help them make informed decisions before committing to marriage. Common red flags are routine road rage/aggressive driving, lack of respect for her privacy and personal boundaries, excessive jealousy, and rushing the idea of living together or marriage. Too often women are unaware of these red flags, or they may feel that something is wrong but ignore their intuition. When something doesn’t feel right, the woman should give careful thought to those feelings. When her psyche is being violated, the relationship is not right!

Access to Resources and Support

When someone is trying to get out from an abusive relationship, it is important to remind her that SHE CANNOT DO IT BY HERSELF! She needs the community’s help. The first step in seeking help is for the victim to have validation of her story. Validating that the abuser’s behaviors are wrong and shouldn’t be tolerated is an essential step to empowerment. Not only should validation and protection of the victim begin with the victim’s family, but the abuser’s family should be an advocate and a voice for the victim as well.

The victims and abusers should have easy access to community resources. The community, including family members, should shoulder the responsibility for upholding the law and holding abusers accountable for their actions. Safety should always be the highest priority. Therefore, members of the community should refer victims – even those who do not have any evidence of physical assault – to agencies that specialize in domestic abuse.

The Church/Religious Organizations

The church and other religious organizations can no longer be silent about domestic abuse. According to statistics, one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Members of the Christian church and other religions are not immune from this condition. The church cannot keep quiet while its members are suffering. We are called to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. When we turn away and pretend that abuse is not occurring, we are refusing to follow the footsteps of Jesus.

To address the problem, religious organizations must first learn everything about domestic violence. Training is required for the church leaders to be able to identify the symptoms of domestic violence. It is important to note that domestic violence is not due to lack of communication and should not be viewed as a relationship problem. To collect the data and make the appropriate diagnosis and intervention, a safe environment where the victim can discuss her experiences is a must. Therefore, the church must provide a non-judgmental environment where the woman can talk openly.

Churches and other religious organizations must collaborate with agencies in the community that specialize in helping domestic violence victims. Few churches have the resources to protect the victim when her safety is threatened. Nor can they provide legal counsel or the physical and psychological interventions that are needed to help the victim recover. As a result, the church must make referrals.

All religions must bear the responsibility if they refuse to address abuse, or if they discourage the victim from seeking help. In most cases, the misinterpretation of scriptures by those who are supposedly helping the woman can end up harming her psychological and spiritual wellbeing and make it difficult for her to break free from her torment. The role of the church is to clarify the scriptures and allow the woman to develop her own convictions as she seeks spiritual and emotional healing. The scriptures have the power to help the woman break free. This can be achieved by helping the woman build her faith so that she changes her perception of how God sees her as his child. As a part of his family, she is not meant to be abused.

The scriptures can be used to address abuse. God’s response to sin does not change, regardless of the sin. Sin is sin. The role of the church is to hold its members accountable for their sins. Domestic violence is sin, and every sin requires repentance. Repentance is a complete change of heart as in 2 Corinthians 7:10-11. It requires godly sorrow that leads to the urgency to change, which means admitting that one is an abuser and asking others to help him change his behaviors. If the abuser refuses to change, then Jesus states in Matthew 18:15-17 that we should treat that person as “a pagan or a tax collector.” In the case of domestic violence, when the abuser refuses to stop his destructive actions, then the victim has not only the moral right but an obligation to seek a legal separation.

Scriptures that address submission, such as Ephesians 5:22-24, need to be clarified. The church should define what submission is not. Submission is not accepting verbal or physical or sexual abuse. Other scriptures that address suffering (e.g., 1 Peter 2:21-23) are misused to reinforce that abuse is a woman’s cross to bear. But Jesus’ suffering was by choice and for a good purpose; the abused woman’s suffering is forced upon her and produces nothing good. It covers up the sins of the abuser while letting him escape the consequences. By not letting the abuser reap the consequences of his behaviors, we encourage the woman to violate the laws of the land.

Stopping the violence and holding perpetrators accountable starts within the family and extends outward to the community and society. We can no longer sit back and watch our mothers, sisters, and daughters endure violence. All faiths must acknowledge that violence is occurring among their members. The community is morally obligated to protect the woman and her children from violence.

Individually, we all have a moral responsibility to stop violence against women. What are you going to do?

Please, Mark Your Calendars!

Out of my desire to empower survivors to speak out and learn how they can make a difference together, I will be organizing a workshop called A Cry for Help. Preliminary date for the workshop is September 15, 2018.

The purpose of this workshop is to educate members and leaders of faith communities about domestic violence and how to better support those who suffer from this violence. A Cry for Help will be primarily conducted by survivors of domestic violence. It is time that the survivors have a voice. We believe that survivors can best discover and communicate their needs and struggles within their faith communities.

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March 3, 2018 0 comment
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“Submission” is a word that, when associated with relationships, provokes strong feelings. As a result of my own experiences, the word gives me a surge of nausea and the urge to defend myself. Then my anger comes to the surface because I feel that I am going to be judged or blamed for not doing something. This type of reaction comes from the word itself and what it implies. It usually implies subordination or obedience to someone. You are subordinate, and another person has power over you.

This meaning is evident in society’s view of male/female roles. The male is expected to be in charge. Also, our religious teachings help maintain this idea. It seems that, when submission is discussed, an inference is made that someone is doing something wrong. In most cases, it is the fault of the woman because our religious teachings state that she is called to submit to her husband.

The problem here is, most of the scriptures that are used to defend submission are taken out of context, or that emphasis is placed on a part and not on the whole. I recall listening to numerous sermons on relationships. At first, I was excited because I expected the speaker to describe submission, and that I would hear the word “abuse” and “what submission is not.” But that never happened. Instead, the sermons raised more questions than they answered.

I often used to ask myself, “What is submission?” Does it mean I must stand and do nothing while my husband screams and calls me things no woman should be called?  And that he could physically attack me without fear of being called to account for his actions. Should I keep letting him squander our money and not intervene? Does he have complete power to make all the decisions concerning the household? Am I responsible only for taking care of the children and the house? With no answers to these questions, I could only feel guilt and self-blame, and the belief that I wasn’t submissive enough.

One of the scriptures that are taken out of context, to the detriment of abused women everywhere is Ephesians 5:22-24:

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. (NIV)

After reading this scripture, my brain would focus on a few words in the passage and miss the overall meaning. I would fix my attention on the statement “wives should submit to their husbands in everything,” which was taken to literally mean I was to let him control all areas of my life.

The concentration on these few sentences in Ephesians 5 is often applied to women who are in abusive marriages. The first sentence in verse 22, “wives submit yourselves to your own husbands,” is usually the primary focus when they seek help for their relationships. It took me a while to redirect my attention and read the passages in their entirety to understand what Paul was saying.

Look closely at this scripture: it has a pretty clear directive of how we should submit. First, it states, “as you do to the Lord.” What does it mean to submit to the Lord? Is our Lord Jesus an abuser? We can all answer with a resounding NO! He was never unkind to anyone, even when he rebuked the Pharisees. He spoke the truth. He wasn’t mean-spirited or manipulative. He was filled with love and compassion, as seen during his interactions with all people, and especially with women.

When we as Christians submit to Christ, we are making him the Lord of our lives and an example to follow. We promise to do what he will do, which means, not concealing the sins of others.

This verse goes on to state that wives should submit as “the church submits to Christ.” How does the church submit to Christ? The church is supposed to reflect Christ and be the beacon of hope for others, and not keep silent when some of its members are suffering unjustly. The church’s role is to help its members follow Christ. As Christians, we shouldn’t let someone who is not following Christ set the example for us to follow.

Besides, submission goes both ways. It says in Ephesians 5:21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Both husband and wife should submit to one another out of respect for Christ. We have to do what Christ would do, not what we would do. Our love for Christ has to be the motivator as we follow him.

We are also called to submit to the rulers of the land. “Submit yourself for the Lord’s sake to every human authority … or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and commend those who do right” (1 Peter 2:13-14, NIV). As Christian wives, we receive conflicting messages: we are told to bring charges against a stranger who assaults us, but we must take no action when our husband is the assailant. As a result, we are being asked to break the laws of the land by covering up our partners’ abuses.

When the word submission is not specific as “what is” and “what is not,” it makes it easy to accept abuse. As I look back, I wish I had heard what submission is not. Maybe it might have helped me to gain the insight that my submissive behaviors weren’t Jesus’s expectation of me. Now I know and believe that the purpose of submission was never intended to cover up someone else’s sins. Submission doesn’t mean we submit to verbal abuse, physical assault, or rape. It doesn’t say we should allow our partners to separate us from our family or friends. Nor does it deny us the right to speak our minds or exercise our right to partake in decisions that impact our lives.

Check out this link to read more about what submission is not.

When we speak out against our abuse and when we demand that our partners stop abusing us, then we are truly submitting to Christ. And we are obeying his instructions to submit to the laws of the land when we seek legal recourse against those who refuse to stop hurting us.

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February 2, 2018 0 comment
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1 Peter 2: 21–23 states, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate. When he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”

I met a woman who had left her violent husband and was going through divorce proceedings. She was angry at the legal system for allowing her husband to stretch out the process. She felt that, due to his status in the military, the judge was lenient with him and accepted his excuses to constantly reschedule the hearings. Rescheduling was a financial burden for her because she had to pay for her lawyer’s time with each new change. Yet her anger at her husband’s manipulating the courts was nothing compared to her feelings towards God. At any mention of God, her body stiffened and her language was overcome with emotion. “God? Where is God? Why is he allowing me to suffer? How can he let my husband get away with the pain he’s causing?” Her tone of voice was so intense that it made me want to leave the room.

“Where is God?” “Why is he is allowing me to suffer?” “Why has he abandoned me?” These are questions that many Christian women ask when they are experiencing domestic violence. I used to ask myself the same questions. As Christians, we often turn to the scriptures to explain our suffering. They are used to justify the reasons for our suffering. In 1 Peter 2 we are told, “Didn’t Christ suffer unjustly?” He suffered physical pain and false accusations. He was spat on, called names, and made the center of cruel jokes, but he didn’t retaliate. Since he suffered in silence and did not retaliate, we too are expected to do likewise and follow in his footsteps.

But when 1 Peter is used to justify our sufferings, it makes it easy to accept abuse, and it also produces guilt. We feel guilty because our suffering is less than what Jesus experienced on the cross. I felt guilty because I wasn’t suffering as much as Jesus was suffering. Therefore, by this logic, I had no right to complain. When we think this way, we accept abuse and come to believe that we are following Christ’s footsteps.

We are told that our abusive marriage is our “cross to bear,” that it is God’s will for our lives. Our suffering is rationalized with scriptures like Matthew 16:24, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me” and Luke 14:27, “You cannot be my disciple if you do not carry your own cross, and follow me” (NLT).

The question here is, what is the cross we have to bear? Is it our “cross” to be beaten until we cannot see through our blackened eyes or speak through swollen lips? Is every vicious act our “cross?” Does bearing our cross mean we must accept insults, physical threats, or separation from our friends and family?

One of the books that helped me decide that my suffering was neither my cross nor God’s will for my life was, No Place for Abuse, by Catherine Kroeger and Nancy Nason-Clark. They point out that Christ went to the cross voluntarily. His suffering was for a greater good, which is salvation for all. Carrying our cross means surrendering to God and allowing Christ to lead us, and not to be led by the sinful actions of others.

The suffering experienced in an abusive relationship is involuntary and has no benefit to anyone, not even the abuser. Where are the good results from the abuse? Is standing and letting someone inflict pain doing any good or saving anyone? Did you choose to be beaten or verbally insulted? I am pretty sure that no one enters a relationship knowing she is going to be hurt. And surely no one believes that putting up with the violence will stop it. I have yet to meet a woman whose suffering caused her abusive partner to clean up his act.

Covering up someone else’s sins and quietly accepting abuse is not the kind of suffering that leads to good results. It only allows the abuser to dodge the consequences of his cruelty.

Also, surrendering to God’s will does not mean accepting senseless suffering and the abuser’s lack of remorse. Yes, the word senseless is appropriate when we suffer at the hands of someone who professes to love us.

Carrying our cross does not mean accepting every mistreatment by others, especially when God has given us the power to make changes. Abuse destroys the souls of both victim and abuser. When I finally accepted these facts, I was able to set boundaries and seek accountability for my ex-husband’s actions.

What about you? God loves you. And, as his daughter, you have a much higher calling than to be a victim. You don’t need to suffer senselessly. Jesus has freed you from oppression (Luke 4: 18–19) and will bind and heal your broken heart (Isaiah 61: 1–2). That means that he has set you free from abuse and will comfort you when you suffer. Since he has set you free, you need no longer be burdened by the bondage of abuse (Galatians 5: 1).

He wants you to live life to the fullest (John 10: 10), which means a life free of violence for you and your children. When Jesus was crucified, he took upon himself the suffering deserved by all sinners. Therefore, you don’t have to suffer as he did. 1 Peter 2: 24 states, “He personally carried away our sins in his own body on the cross. So, we can be dead to sins and live for what is right” (NLT). Do what is right by exposing the abuse and seeking accountability which is repentance. Repentance means showing remorse and making amends for the suffering he caused. Making amends at the very least is that he stops abusing you.

Next Blog: The Christian Abused Woman: What Submission is Not

*No Place for Abuse: Biblical & Practical Resources to Counteract Domestic Violence by Catherine Clark Kroeger & Nancy Nason-Clark

Path to Hope: Restoring the Spirit of the Abused Christian Woman by Rose Saad

 

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January 12, 2018 1 comment
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From Edith:

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.

 

 

 

 

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December 5, 2017 0 comment
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My book, A Path to Hope: Restoring the Spirit of the Abused Christian Woman, was published more than a year ago. I had anticipated a significant audience, speaking engagements, and collaborating with others who are working with victims of domestic violence. What I didn’t anticipate was that I would be in a state where my purpose and mission was not defined, and experiencing difficulty navigating social media. I spent most of my time focusing on what others were doing and comparing their actions to what I was doing (or not doing). My hypercritical self-image led to feelings of disappointment and defeat.
I tell myself that I don’t want to be like everyone else, yet I am not sure of what my particular role is. I know what I don’t want to do. For example, I don’t want to spend all my time to have to advocate to change the laws for abuse victims. I would also prefer not to engage in intellectual or biblical debates about what the scriptures say about abuse. And yet I do want to be the abused woman’s voice, to be her advocate within and outside the church. The question is, How?
As I self-reflect, some questions demand answers. Questions like, “Why did you write a book?” “Why are you willing to share your heart with the public?” “Are you ready to risk your privacy and the privacy of your children?” These questions might seem simple at first, but the emotional strength that is required to answer them is overwhelming. To answer, I will have to expose a part of my inner being.
I believe that my answers should overcome the emotional risks and inspire me to stand firm even when life becomes overwhelming. The answer is that my core values, which include my beliefs and my desire to make a difference, should serve as a catalyst for my actions. I believe that every woman who is experiencing domestic violence has the moral and legal right to protect herself and her children against violence. I also believe that she has the God-given power to bring about change. Her power lies in her decision to break free.
I also believe that education is a powerful tool for change. For the woman of faith, education includes understanding the interpretations of her religious scriptures. Understanding the dynamics of domestic violence and its physical and psychological impact was critical in helping me seek change. Studying the scriptures empowered me to change my perception of the abuse, which led to the conviction that God does not want me to be abused.
To return to the question, why did I write A Path to Hope? The answer is, I did it to educate female victims of violence and help lead them to God for emotional and spiritual healing. I also wanted to encourage them to have a voice within their faith communities.
Too often, women and girls who are experiencing violence do not have a voice. (I realize that men are also victimized, but my primary focus is on women.) Their voices are suppressed by the abusers and their communities, but when they learn about the dynamics of violence and tell others their stories, their voices will be heard. They will be catalysts for change. With united voices and God as the focus of their interactions, change is bound to happen. I wish to see this vision come to pass.
As part of making my vision a reality, I am going to write a series of blog posts called, “I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now.” They are based on my journey to find clarity and understand the dynamics of domestic abuse and how the scriptures helped me to break free. I am passionate about sharing my story because I want others to know that they, too, can break free.
Will you join me?
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:3).
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September 8, 2017 3 comments
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