I’m an abused woman. The man I married turned out not to be the man I thought I was marrying. His real colors revealed themselves within days of our “I do’s.” I spent 30 plus years trying to love, obey, and respect a man who abused me in nearly every way possible.
There are many women like me. Women whose men have, through their abuse, torn the very fabric of their lives to shreds. There’s no organic wholeness to their lives, just a grasping terror due to trying desperately to hold on. There’s no plan for the future, no stability to plan one, just a prayer to make it through this one minute. Over and over again, this one minute lived takes them to places they’re both afraid to face and hungry to embrace. Maybe it will bring the change, the hopeful future, they long for. More likely, it will bring more of the same brokenness, full of pain, fear and confusion, that has haunted their lives for years.
This is the life of an abused woman. As fear grows, hope diminishes until she is afraid to hope. Scripture says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13: 12) When disappointment builds on disappointment, it tips over into the overwhelming. Finally, there’s little reason to hope. Domestic abuse is a killer of hope, a destroyer of dreams.
Fear is a paralyzing force. As the blows from her husband intensify, be they verbal or physical, she retreats further inside herself, afraid even to look up lest she make him angry. It’s no different if the abused wife is a Christian. The life she lives, she lives alone. Afraid both of the consequences she’ll face from her abuser should she reach out to others, and simultaneously afraid of the reactions she might receive should those outside find out the secrets of her life, she keeps her horrible secrets to herself.
Alone but for Christ, she collapses and cries out at the foot of the cross.
Does God care about her pain? Does he see pain of her children? Does He want her to stay? Will He enable her to leave? How can she provide for her children? How can she protect them…their bodies, their hearts, their minds? How can she make it through another minute, let alone another day?
Thoughts and prayers, hope and fears, bump against one another during the crawling fearful minutes of her day. In the late night hours they mix and mingle, twisting crazily into one another, giving her yet another night of fitful sleep and terror-filled dreams.
Sometimes it becomes too much and she decides to reach out, to hope that just perhaps somebody might care…
You wouldn’t know by the responses of many in the church that God cares. Many are more willing to ignore such a woman than to get involved. Time and time again, an abused woman’s story is told; time and again, her story is ignored or disbelieved by those who claim the name of Christ. Refusal to listen, to help, to get involved crosses all denominational lines. If advice is given, it’s too often bad. “Go back home, serve him, keep praying, and know that you are suffering for Christ” seems to be the most widely used piece of junk advice Christians have to offer. Junk because in that one sentence, they are both linking Christ to her abuse and excusing themselves from having to extend any effort to help her.
But her pain remains, the tears keep on falling. And she’s still alone.
And for now, as in the past, too many churches keeps right on failing abused women and their children.
Mark 12: 31, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’