A reader recently wrote the following question:
I am struggling greatly and most of the help and support I am reading automatically assumes one is devout Christian who would not not be deeply questioning the role of God in your experience as an abuse victim. If He is a good Father why would he permit something like this knowing that abuse fog, trauma bonding, etc. are part of the way He made us and that it keeps us stuck, and He doesn’t intervene, prayers go unanswered, faithfulness is not rewarded, etc. I’m pretty angry and trying to understand and work through but keep running into brick walls. Nothing explains it well and blind faith and not questioning helped get me into the problems in the first place. I need to understand and not just accept. Thanks for any thoughts on the matter.
I can relate to that gut wrenching feeling of abandonment. Everyone else in your life seems to be abandoning you, and God doesn’t seem to do anything about it. It’s like He has joined forces with the abuse and is, Himself, being abusive by ignoring your cries for help. In the middle of the night when that feeling hits, it’s actually a physical pain in your core. It’s worse than spousal and church abandonment. If God has forsaken us, (or isn’t even there) what do we have? Who are we? Where can we turn for hope? It’s excruciating.
Your experience is actually normal and to be expected as part of the healing process. You’re angry? You bet you are! Who wouldn’t be? Underneath anger is hurt. The deeper the hurt, the deeper the anger. That’s part of being a flesh-and-blood human being, and God gave us that emotion for some very important reasons.
Emotional abuse that involved another person using God or His Word as a weapon of control is also called SPIRITUAL ABUSE, and this type of abuse is horrific in its potential to destroy one’s faith in God. Can you imagine how it plays into the hands of the enemy of our souls—and how deeply it grieves our Heavenly Father who loves us so incredibly much and would never, ever, in a million bazillion years abandon His beloved child?
Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close. Psalm 27:10
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! Isaiah 49:15
Did you realize that Jesus, Himself, was spiritually abused by religious people and ultimately and REALLY abandoned by God? Satan abused Him with the Word of God (Matt. 4:1-22). The religious people murdered Him. And just as His life was ebbing out of His broken body, God the Father turned His face away from Christ in repulsion as all our shit was heaped on Him (Mark 15:34). You are in good company. The best company. Jesus Christ knows, really knows, the hell you are going through.
So why isn’t He doing anything about it?
He is. He’s doing something about it. The fact that you are reading this article and searching this blog proves it. I believe He led you here. You are somewhere one of the stages of your journey to healing, and it is absolutely a divinely appointed journey that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. You are somewhere in the beginning or middle, and those are the places you can really feel lost.
Think about any story you’ve ever read or any movie you’ve ever watched. There are always, always parts of the story where the main characters are really in a pickle with no visible way out. No hope. No help. So then, when the help comes, it is quite a rush, isn’t it? That’s what makes the story incredibly satisfying.
God is the greatest story teller in the universe, and He is telling a story through your life. You think you are an insignificant dot in the universe? Think again. That’s how God works. He takes dots of nothingness and makes breathtaking art. That’s you. That’s your story. Your life. Your essence.
So why did God let me get into this mess to begin with?
I’ve wondered that. I grew up in a very conservative Christian family. My deepest ambition was to bring glory to God with my life. I wanted to share Christ with everyone I knew (and I did!) I wanted to marry a committed Christian man and have babies and be the best wife and mom in the world. Anyone who knows me also knows I pour my guts into everything I set out to do, and my marriage and family were no exception.
Yet things were all wrong from the very beginning. I continued to believe in faith that my life was exactly as it should be, and I plowed ahead in spite of the pain. But you know what? We don’t live in a perfect world. This world is broken by sin, and everyone around us is a dirty rotten sinner, just like us. We all make stupid choices, and those around us make stupid choices. Some get lucky—and others don’t. The Bible says the rain falls on the bad and the good (Matthew 5:45). It’s sort of a crap shoot.
But God. He comes in and takes care of His children when they suffer, whether it is because of their own choices or the choices of those around them. His children are those who look to Him for salvation. For help. For forgiveness. For wisdom. His children are not just anyone who calls themselves a Christian. I know this can get really confusing for us because our abusers and their buddies call themselves Christians, but they are not repentant and are certainly not looking for help or forgiveness or wisdom. (They don’t need it! They are rockstars!) They do not strive to love. They are haters disguised as lovers. Blech.
So things went wrong in your life. You ended up with an oppressive partner. You believed the lies he and others fed you. You tried hard doing all the wrong things. You did all of this in good faith, believing God would reward you and honor your hard work behind the scenes. And now, here you are, faced with a home in utter shambles and very few choices—all of them pretty shitty looking. So what gives?
You are on the brink of huge transformation—that’s what!
Here’s the glorious truth: we all start out as little creepy crawly caterpillars who know very little and can do very little. But that is not your destiny, my friend! Your destiny is so far beyond what your caterpillar mind can imagine! You are used to just seeing dirt and leaves and shadows. But one day you will see the tops of lovely gardens and trees and meadows with majestic mountains in the distance. You will fly through white- cloud-dotted blue atmosphere with your heart beating in rhythm with the universe your God created.
You are experiencing the pains of transformation, and oh, does it hurt, but oh, is it worth it! Transformation requires a complete overhaul of your belief systems. You will need to abandon the man-made rules and regs of your religious community and embrace the Grace and Peace offered to you through the blood of Jesus Christ. You will taste and see that the Lord is good even when people are like fingernails on a chalkboard. (HERE is an excellent article that unravels just one of the popular, but misguided, teachings in Christianity that actually keep women in abusive situations totally stuck.)
So what can you do to cooperate with this God-appointed transformation?
When I was at the bottom of my very deep pit, I could do nothing but rock myself and say, “God, help me. God, help me. God, help me.” I couldn’t pray anything else because I felt that all my millions of prayers up to that point had been ignored. What was the point of asking for something God obviously didn’t want me or my family to have? So I figured I’d just ask for help, and let Him help however He wanted. I was skeptical that even this would “work.” But what else was there to do other than kill myself?
I had, for the first time in my life, a very difficult time reading my Bible as well. Again, all the verses that had been used against me by my spouse and his church to shame and control me kept popping out, and I wanted to vomit. I couldn’t separate the Bible from the religious haters who used it like a club on my head.
Except the Psalms. It was like the Psalms were off limits to the religious people. The Psalms were for the broken people. The angry people. The people in agony. The hopeless people. The frightened people. They were for the me people. HERE is an example of how God used the Psalms to talk to me when I was in that dark place.
I could also bring myself to read bits and pieces of books that were healing and that helped me unravel “Christian” lies and ground myself in true, Bible TRUTH. Some I’d recommend include:
The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen
Divorce and Remarriage in the Church by David Instone-Brewer
Switch on Your Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf
No More Christian Nice Girl by Paul Coughlin
Changes that Heal by Henry Cloud
Twelve “Christian” Beliefs That Can Drive You Crazy by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
I also listened to (and still do!) sermons by Sam Powell on Sermon Audio. He has helped so many of us unravel twisted Scripture. I grew up in a Christian home, went to a Christian college, have been involved in churches and ministry my entire life, and I’ve heard thousands of sermons over that time period. I’ve done dozens of Bible studies, minored in Bible in college, and read through the entire Bible numerous times in my life. But I learn something brand new every single time I listen to Sam Powell. If you want help in renewing your mind, start listening to him each day when you are doing laundry or driving in your car.
My final recommendation, for now, is music. Lots of music. Check out my Overcomer playlist on Spotify (below). I’ve slowly compiled that list over the past five years, so it marks different stages in the process. You’ll find both Christian and secular music there. (Some of the most healing pieces have been secular. All truth originates in God, Himself.)
So how does God fit into your toxic marriage?
The answer to this question is that He doesn’t. The Holy Spirit lives within individuals. Not institutions. He is not the author of your toxic marriage, nor does He dangle the “way out” carrot in front of your nose with a sadistic cackle. He is the Author of your LIFE, which happens to include the circumstantial fact that you are married to an abusive individual. (Or maybe you are separated or pursuing a divorce. Whatever the case may be. Your life is what it is, and He is INVOLVED.)
Marriage isn’t a jail sentence. You aren’t a POW (no matter what anyone tells you. Totally wrong metaphor.) God’s Word doesn’t promote oppression. The opposite is true. It provides a way out for people who live under oppression, but that truth has been covered up and kept from many Christians in the recent history of Christendom for the simple purpose of power and control. Maybe you bought the same propaganda I did. It’s designed to keep you stuck and powerless to be and do all that God created you to be and do.
Suffering involuntarily in such a way that evil is allowed to thrive is NOT what glorifies God. It’s suffering for standing up for what it TRUE and RIGHT that glorifies God. And telling yourself the truth about your relationship is the first step to being set free. It’s time to untangle yourself from the web of lies and fly away.
Nothing can separate you from the love of God. His love and His truth is what will eventually lead you out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39