Laura grew up in a home where love and kindness were unheard of, and abuse was the norm. Night after night she would hide in her bedroom as her dad came home drunk and beat up her mother. Laura always vowed silently, “It’ll never happen to me.”
When Laura was just 17, she married Pete, hoping to escape her terrible home life. She just knew Pete would be a different kind of husband than her father had been. He didn’t drink at all—he was a good Christian, an active churchgoer. Everyone liked him and looked up to him.
Pete did have a sharp temper, but he used words instead of fists to express his anger, and to Laura that seemed like an improvement. He was very possessive of Laura, jealous when she talked to other men or even went out with her women friends. But that just made Laura feel loved, cared for, and cherished.
Soon, things began to change. Once they were married, Pete seemed less and less able to control his temper. His cutting words became more and more cruel and demeaning. Laura didn’t have much self-esteem to start with, and after a few years of living with Pete she was sure she was stupid, ugly, and incompetent—because he told her so.
And Pete no longer stopped at abusive words. More and more frequently, his anger exploded into shoving, pushing, and hitting. Sometimes Laura would go to great difficulty to hide the bruises he inflicted on her so that they could go to church together and look like a perfect, happy, Christian couple.
Throughout all this, Pete continued to be active and respected in his church. Everyone thought of him as a good Christian man. Laura suffered silently, never telling a soul and never thinking of leaving him. As the years went by, they had three children together. She was sure it would be wrong to break up the family.
Then one day she discovered Pete spanking their five-year-old son for disobeying. But this was no ordinary spanking. Pete was brutally beating the helpless little boy, leaving scars and bruises on his small body.
Laura knew things had to change. That night, when Pete was asleep, she threw a few belongings into shopping bags and herded her children out to the car. Homeless and frightened, she and her children drove away into the night.
For Laura, the worst part of her ordeal was the response she received from some friends in church when they learned that she had left Pete. Many of these good Christian people tried to tell Laura it was her duty to stay with her abusive husband. “The Bible tells us to ‘turn the other cheek,’ they insisted. The husband is head of the wife, and you have to submit to him, whatever he does to you,” they said. Even Laura’s pastor told her she should go back to her husband, and pray that he would stop abusing her.
Were Laura’s friends right? Does the Bible tell us that Christians should submit to being abused, physically, mentally, and emotionally? Is this what God has in mind for His children?
It’s true that the Bible does say, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.” Ephesians 5:22, 23, NIV. It’s also true that Jesus did tell His followers: “Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matthew 5:39, NIV.
These two texts, taken out of context, have been used to convince many women like Laura that they are required to remain in abusive situations, to continue putting themselves and their children in danger. But like everything in the Bible, these passages need to be read in their full context.
The passage in Ephesians—the one that says the wives should submit to their husbands—goes on to say, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself…. Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:25, 28, 33, NIV.
Was Laura’s husband showing this kind of Christ like, self-sacrificing love to her? No, of course he was not. Love and respect are two sides of the same coin. Both are needed in a relationship. The kind of respect the Bible talks about wives having for their husbands must be earned by Christ like love.
As for Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek, He was talking about our human desire to get revenge on others. The common saying at the time was “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”—in fact, that was the law God gave the people of Israel back in the time of Moses.
But Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44, NIV. Laura can continue to show Christian love for her husband as she prays that God will help him to deal with his angry and abusive behavior.
Laura does not need to buy herself a gun, sneak back into the house late at night, and shoot him to get revenge. But neither does she need to stay and give him further opportunities to hurt her and their children. If she did that, she would not be showing love to herself, to her children, or even to her husband. Allowing him to continue sinning is not loving him.
I know that there are people who are trapped right now in abusive relationships. There are women like Laura, living in fear of their husband’s anger. There are children and young people silently suffering physical, emotional, even sexual abuse. There are married people—both men and women—whose spirits are broken and crushed by words of hatred and cruelty from a harsh and abusive spouse.
My friend, if you are living through this painful experience, you need to know that God cares about you. You need to know that you are valuable and precious in the sight of your heavenly Father.
I’d like to share a very special Bible verse with you, one that I hope you will claim as your own. It’s found in the book of Jeremiah: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11, NIV.
Yes, God has a plan for your life. At this moment you may find it difficult to believe that anyone cares about you, or that your future holds anything other than more pain and suffering. But God has plans to prosper you, not to harm you. His plans for you include hope and a future.
Following God’s plan for your life, finding hope and a future, may sometimes mean that you like Laura, need to leave a situation where you are physically in danger. It may mean that you need to speak out, to tell someone else that you are being hurt or abused, to seek help. It may mean talking to a counselor, a doctor, or a minister who is skilled in dealing with problems like yours and can help you find a way out of your situation.
For so many people in abusive situations, shame and guilt are the shackles that hold them in place. You may feel the same way. Because of what you have been through, you may actually believe that you don’t deserve anything better, that you are somehow to blame for what has happened to you, that you are worthless.
But in God’s Word we read this amazing truth: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17, NIV.
To God’s people, Israel, in Bible times, the Temple was the most sacred spot on earth. It was there that God came to live among them, with His actual presence. In the passage we just read, the apostle Paul is telling the new Christian believers that they themselves—their human bodies—are just as sacred and holy as God’s Temple. God’s Holy Spirit lives inside every human being who loves and accepts Him, and that makes you incredibly valuable to God.
God does not want to see anyone destroy, damage, or defile His Temple. He doesn’t want to see anyone destroy, damage, or defile one of His children either.
In fact, Jesus had some very stern words for people who hurt His children. In the ninth chapter of the book of Mark we read: “Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, ‘Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me;… and whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.’” Mark 9:36, 37, 42, NKJV.
Never doubt that God wants to love and protect every one of His children—including you. You may ask yourself, “Why hasn’t God protected me before now? Why hasn’t He helped me escape this situation? Why has He allowed this to happen?”
We serve a powerful God, my friend, but we also serve a God who values human free will. It is never God’s will for any of His precious children to suffer. Though God is all-powerful, He does not interfere with a human being’s freedom of choice. So sometimes, on this earth, human beings do things to each other that God hates. He hates to see His children being hurt, abused, and damaged. But because He allows us freedom of choice, He doesn’t always intervene directly when these things happen.
He does promise us help in every situation, however. “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV.
God promises strength, courage, and a way of escape. For some that way of escape may be through these words they’re reading right now. Perhaps God is using these moments to tell you that it’s time to make a change. Time to tell someone you trust that you’ve been abused. Time to seek aid from a caring person who can help you find a way out.
The Bible tells us that, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” Proverbs 18:10, NIV. In ancient times someone being pursued by an enemy could run to a fortified city, tower, or castle. Safe behind its walls, protected by armed men and stone battlements, the fugitive could hide, knowing his attacker could not find him.
My friend, will you allow the Lord to be your strong tower today? He loves you. He values you. He has plans for you—He wants to give you hope and a future. He wants to heal the pain of the abuse you are suffering and help you find a way out, to a better life that lies beyond. Will you trust in Him? Will you run to His strong tower and be saved?
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