“I don’t want to leave my husband! I just want him to stop hurting me!” This is what a family friend shared over the holidays. A lot of people will hear a statement like this from a woman in an abusive marriage and think “Why doesn’t she just leave him?” But those that have been in an abusive relationship can understand what she is going through. The person that is now causing her so much pain wasn’t always that way. They were high school sweethearts and got married immediately after graduating high school. With over twenty years under their belts and three children together, leaving the marriage feels to her like the unthinkable.
When the life that you’ve built surrounds and anchors the lives of children, decisions are often complex and extremely consequential. Even in the best situation, the fabric of lives can be very fragile, and if abuse in any form is a part of the equation, that fabric is already unraveling. In the beginning, my friend didn’t tell anyone that her husband had started to say hurtful and demeaning things to her, even in front of their kids. The physical abuse started when the arguments became more frequent, and her husband started slapping her face when things got heated. Then, one evening he came home late, and when she said something about it, his anger became out of control. He wouldn’t stop hitting her and their oldest son jumped in to defend his mom.
Domestic violence and abuse is defined as violent or aggressive behavior within the home, typically involving the violent abuse of a spouse. But we know that it also happens in relationships between couples that are not married. Instances of abusive behavior is increasing among teens dating in high school and on college campuses as well. I recall a few instances of hearing about dorm-mates and other young women that were in abusive relationships when I was in college. I imagine there were many other cases of abuse where these women suffered in silence, too afraid to tell anyone about what was happening.
If it were as simple as just walking away, the instances of domestic violence and abuse would not be increasing at the rate it is. But we’re talking about patterns of behavior that are deeply rooted in both the victim and abuser, and when we’re stuck in patterns that are destructive to our souls, it is unquestionably a kind of bondage.
None of us have it all together, and when it comes to someone taking the power that God has given us or our giving it up to them so freely, we need the kind of internal strength and help that only the Lord can provide. All of us are broken inside in some way. We can’t fix ourselves. It is impossible for any of us to come to Jesus Christ as perfect human beings. It doesn’t work that way. He tells us in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me!” We are to come as we are, broken and all, because only Jesus Christ can do a work on the inside of us through his Spirit.
Galatians 5:1(MSG) tells us, “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” This is exactly what an abusive relationship is—it’s a harness of slavery, designed to steal our joy and power so that we feel hopeless and helpless. We don’t have to live that way, because Jesus Christ has set us free to live a free life. He will help us take a stand if we will give ourselves to him completely. A victim may be financially dependent on their abusive partner. Without money, or even a place to go, it can seem impossible for them to leave the relationship, but Jesus Christ said in Matthew 19:26 that with God all things are possible.
My friend is struggling to do what is right for her family. Her husband is not who he used to be, and only God knows why. We can never know what is in another person’s heart or why they harbor such anger, but God doesn’t want anyone to be abused. It’s not His Will. He also doesn’t want any child to witness or be involved in the abusive relationship of their parents. We must pray to Him in the powerful name of Jesus Christ, because God can and will help! For any person that is dealing with an abusive partner, know that God wants to rescue you and the very first step towards being free is believing that through Him, it is possible.■
Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
“All Things Are Possible with God”, written for Overcomingdomesticviolenceorg.wordpress.com. Copyright ©2022. All rights reserved. All done to the glory of God through Jesus Christ, our Lord!