Updated: Jan 31, 2020
With one final shove, she fell to the floor. Tears poured from her eyes. With her heart and mind full of confusion and panic, she looked up from the bedroom floor into the face of her husband and was met with a cold, dark stare and a clenched jaw. She shuddered. His anger was clear. Fear and pain gripped her chest as he began to spew words that penetrated the deepest parts of her heart. Foul language, name calling and cruel insults were hurled at her, one right after another. Unable to stop shaking, she sat on the floor and absorbed each word like a sponge absorbs water. I don’t want you! Do you hear that? I don’t want you! I don’t want your sex! I don’t want any part of you! EVER! You are crazy! I can’t believe I have to be married to you! Time seemed to both speed up and slow down and soon he was gone, out the door with a loud slam.
Hours later, curled up in bed, she replayed it all in her head. I just wanted to talk, she thought. I just wanted him to spend some time with me. We rarely spend quality time together. Her eyes filled with fresh tears as she touched her head – still sore from being pushed hard against the wall. In the darkness of the bedroom, she replayed in her mind every shove, every scowl, every painful grip. She cringed as she remembered the hatred in his eyes as he spat in her face. Shame filled her heart and the loneliness was overwhelming. This can’t be my life. What will people say? What can I do? How can I change? Am I even a Christian? How could I possibly be if my husband hates me so much? I have to work harder… In a painful mixture of grief and fear, she closed her eyes and fell into a restless sleep.
This woman’s story is just one of millions. And sadly, the stories of abused women are most often overlooked or completely silenced altogether. If you were to dive into the life of each and every hurting woman, you would likely find a blend of confusion and anguish with a heaping dose of denial. Their reality is too painful to acknowledge as true. The truth is too awful to accept. Many times, they retreat into the shadows where it’s easier to conceal all the darkness of their world. From the outside, we see the smiles and filtered Instagram posts not the moments of raw agony and weeping on the closet floor. We can pretend these women aren’t out there but statistics do not lie:
On average, nearly 20 million people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States alone.
1 in 3 women have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.
1 in 4 women have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.
The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%.
Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.
19% of domestic violence involves a weapon.
Domestic victimization is correlated with a higher rate of depression and suicidal behavior.
Women abused by their intimate partners are more vulnerable to contracting HIV or other STI’s due to forced intercourse or prolonged exposure to stress.
Physical, mental, and sexual and reproductive health effects have been linked with intimate partner violence including adolescent pregnancy, unintended pregnancy in general, miscarriage, stillbirth, intrauterine hemorrhage, nutritional deficiency, abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal problems, neurological disorders, chronic pain, disability, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as noncommunicable diseases such as hypertension, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Victims of domestic violence are also at higher risk for developing addictions to alcohol, tobacco, or drugs.
Clearly, we have an epidemic. The question is this: What does God think about it? Scripture shows us that Jesus cares deeply for women. While on earth, he was seen speaking to women in public places and offering women - even pagan women - salvation and restoration. While the culture He lived in prevented women from even worshipping alongside men, Jesus chose to break that wall down, reaching down and offering hope and healing and, ultimately, His eternal presence to the world. It has been made clear in Scripture that God hates violence, that Jesus cares for both men and women and that the mark of a follower of Jesus is faithfulness, selflessness and love, not merciless totalitarianism. So as those who name the name of Christ, what are we going to do about this epidemic? Because the truth is, women have suffered abuse for millennia and - to date - the church has been little to no help at all. In fact, in far too many cases, the church has contributed to the problem with both its laziness and its false doctrine. Like it or not, there is a clear pattern of the church inadvertently allowing abusive men to continue abusing their wives. I’ve seen in it in the denominations where male headship is taught as a doctrine of control and tyranny; where the pious and arrogant twist God’s Holy Word to justify and/or excuse their cruelty and their sin. Instead of rightly dividing Scripture and gently washing the daughters of God with the Word, they pollute the teaching on the submission of women in order to exercise their own power and elevate their sin of pride. Additionally, I have seen the church fail abused women within the denominations which teach that marital love and forgiveness means enduring hits, shoves, yelling and threats; the mantra of which seems to be, “Just grin and bear it because – remember - Jesus is love, sister.” Oh, God forbid. It isn’t the teachings within the Bible, it's the distortion of the teaching which is the problem. Using the holy, divine word of God to condone or white wash what He hates is inexcusable. May God have mercy on every professed believer who practices such spiritual abuse. If the church is meant to be a sanctuary and refuge for the vulnerable, why are so many victims manipulated into silent acceptance of wrongdoing? Why are women forcibly drowned in a culture of victim shaming and victim blaming? The answer is simple: Sin.
The sin of power when God says all power belongs to Himself (Is. 44:24; Jer. 32:17; Rev. 11:17).
The sin of self exaltation when God says He alone is worthy of the throne (Rev. 4:11; 1 Chron. 29:11).
The sin of idolatry when God says He will destroy all that we put before Him (Gal. 5:19-21; Col. 3:5; Jonah 2:8).
The sin of cruelty when God says to be kind and tenderhearted to your brothers and sisters (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:14).
The sin of manipulation when God says to love in truth with authenticity (1 Corinth. 13:1-13).
The sin of pride which is the root of all sin (Prov. 11:2; Prov. 16:5; James 4:6).
On and on it goes. To the Church: I exhort you to open your eyes and see that woman; see that girl. Look at her face and notice the anxiety. Look into her eyes and see the questions and the fear and the pain. Reach out to her. Don’t say “go in peace” as she walks into her home where chaos reigns as the master. Love on her with practical love, feed her with spiritual food, meet a need, ease a fear, wipe a tear and, most of all, carry that girl to the cross where all of her wounds can be healed. To the hurting woman: Sister, you are loved. You were never meant to be deliberately hurt or oppressed. You are not worthless and no matter what vehement lies are hurled at you, you did nothing to deserve what you are going through. Though you may feel alone, you have an Advocate who is a Champion for the lost, the wounded, the forsaken, the lonely and the cast down. He is acutely aware of every fear that penetrates your heart in the night. He is well acquainted with the sorrow that goes so deep there are no human words to describe it. He understands shame. He sees your desperation for a safe place. And regardless of what you may think or believe, He is always able to bring you out of the blackness of sin’s prison and into the light and freedom of His love. From my heart to yours, may we press on to be more like Jesus, putting feet to our faith by turning outward and actually being who we say we are. Go out and find her....and bring her to Jesus.
If you are being abused, please call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).