There’s a lot in this world that can hinder our faith and spiritual growth, and few things can damage us like abusive relationships. From feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, fear, shame, and regret—whether we are the abused, the abuser, or both—the affects abuse has on our inner-self might make us feel distant from God and from the promises of Jesus Christ. We might even start viewing God differently.
In “When Abuse Affects our View of God (Part 1) – Overcoming Effects of Childhood Abuse and Trauma” we briefly discussed how abuse changes our physical brains and what that might mean when viewed from a Christian perspective. We also discussed that Jesus is the remedy for these negative effects.
*note* There were some small but important points that were not made clear enough in Part 1, and because of the sensitive nature of the topic, it was important that I make some changes. If you read Part 1 before 3/30/18, you might consider re-reading. Especially if the article had a discouraging effect on you. Updates are in the In Conclusion section and marked with an *
In this article, we will consider how abusive relationships (marriages in particular) can hinder our growth and impact our ideas about God. We will also consider how Jesus might react to our situation. Of course we cannot create a blanket statement in that regard. The point in that exercise is to reflect on our relationships in light of Christian values.
How abusive relationships affect our view of God
When we endure abuse from romantic partners, this can lead to a whole slew of complications within us psychologically—or if you’re willing to accept it—spiritually. It can be very easy for people on the outside to wonder why we deal with such things, but the nature of abusive relationships goes deep into the recesses of our being, often stemming from past abuse and trauma in childhood.
As those who are “espoused to Christ,” what affect might abuse in our relationships have on the way we interact with God?
If we are afraid to approach our spouse (or partner) with a problem because we are afraid of how he or she might react, do we carry that over towards God? Do we feel like He will ignore us or view our concerns unworthy of His time and attention?
If our husbands do not take care to provide for the family, do we fear God will not provide our needs? If we fear our wives will not respect us but instead are condescending and contentious, will we view God as overly-critical and refuse to see the wisdom of His ways?
If our spouse is unfaithful, deceitful, and manipulative, we might become hard-wired for mistrust, making it hard to have faith in God and trust in Him.
We can develop this thought on and on. The point is, if you have been or are currently in an abusive relationship, consider how this might be affecting your view of God negatively so you can approach him for healing.
What would Jesus say to victims of abusive relationships?
For starters, are you in an abusive relationship or an abusive marriage? If you are not married and the abusive partner in your life is not a Christian that strives to walk in the ways of Jesus Christ, then get out. It is not wise to marry outside of the faith.
Maybe you’re at a point in your life where you aren’t all that zealous about the faith, so it’s not such a big deal to you. What if that changes? What if you start to grow in a direction that is totally opposite of your unbelieving spouse? How will you have a relationship when your basic set of values are different? How will you raise children? This is not something to take lightly. Leaving can be very painful, but it pales in comparison to being “yolked” to an unbeliever for the rest of your life.
If you are married to an abusive person, this makes things more complicated. For one, consider your own self. Are you abusive too? We are not responsible for the actions of others. However, often things can much improve if we look to our own selves first. Prayerfully seek the wisdom Jesus has for you. It might mean leaving. It might mean praying daily and seeking your own healing that will later inspire change in your spouse. Of course we are not expected to stay in situations that could put our lives at risk. Ultimately, this is a matter of individual conscience that is between you and the Lord—and no one can judge you in this.
If you’re getting over a past relationship of abuse, know that the Lord is here to help you overcome the damage. He will not only help you heal from the affects of the abuse you endured, he will evaluate your own heart so that you do not carry the bad habits you might have over into the relationship God means for you.
All things are coming together for your good. That cannot be stressed enough. When dealing with abuse, it can seem like all is hopeless and there is no point to anything anymore. For children of God, this is not so. In prayer, ask the Lord to show you how this is shaping you for the better or leading you towards where He wants you to be.
What would Jesus say to abusive partners?
Again, let’s start with the unwed couples. If your relationship is unhealthy and one of you is not serious about Jesus and living according to Godly values, whether you are the abused or the abuser, it might be best to move on.
If you’re a Christian that struggles with being abusive, marrying an unbeliever or a luke-warm Christian will likely add to your troubles instead of leading you away from them. Marriage to a loving, gentle, and patient person might be part of God’s plan for healing in your life. In either case, marriage to another abusive person will only make matters worse for both of you.
If you are a married Christian that struggles with abusing his or her spouse, this is not good. Marriage is meant to bring glory to God as a reflection of the relationship between Jesus and the church. If you love the Lord, then you want to bring him honor and some part of you understands that abuse is never okay. Take some comfort in knowing that Jesus is very merciful to those who are repentant and want to conform to his image and purposes of marriage.
Talk to your spouse and express to them your desire to be the partner God wants you to be, work together towards that goal, and if you keep Jesus at the center of your relationships there will be positive changes. If your are an abusive spouse and you’re married to an unbeliever, seek the Lord with all your might. The changes in you might inspire your spouse to seek Jesus as you become living proof of the gospel.
Lastly, push past the pain with faith. As part of your healing, the Spirit might make your behavior painfully obvious to you. Instead of feeling defeated or ignoring the Spirit, rejoice that the Lord is dealing with your as one of His. God chastens those He loves.
You might become aware of past experiences that caused you to form bad habits, go thorough a period of forgiving others who abused you, and face the humbling experience of asking others to forgive you. Whatever the Lord brings you though, go through it with as much thankfulness and faith as you can muster—always remembering that you are HIS workmanship and though you might be going through the fire now, you will come out of this and you will praise the Lord and rejoice in the freedom only he can provide!
Healing is Possible. Jesus Said So!
Jesus came to “bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound” (Isaiah 6:1) Within this powerful statement, there is much hope for us!
There is hope in healing as he writes the laws of the kingdom in our “inward parts” How awesome is that!? We are told that Jesus came to write the laws of the kingdom in our minds and in our hearts—even before people knew that our minds were physically altered by abuse, thereby having affects on our nature.
We are not to be bound by the prisons of this world—the strongholds of sin that destroy our lives and relationships. The promises of Jesus are astounding and incredible! Have faith in them! This is “good news” indeed!!
When we start considering and discussing the complexities of abuse within relationships, there are volumes of things that can be written—and indeed have been. There is help out there for those who are either on the fence about entering into marriage with an abuser, feel trapped in an abusive marriage, or are trapped in a patterns of abusing those they love.
This is a very sensitive matter, and it can be easy for people to pass judgment and say that we should react in a certain way. However, the ultimate judge is God, so the best thing is for each person to seek the Holy Spirit for counsel.
When considering the ways in which abuse affects our view of God, I think a lot of this is solved just by becoming aware. Once we realize what is happening, then we are in a better place to seek the Lord so that we can be freed from negative mindsets that hinder our relationship with Him. If we are children of the promise, regardless of how abuse has affected our lives, Jesus will give us everything we need for healing and bringing God glory.
There is no sin or hurt that is too big for Jesus to handle, and if we put our faith in Him, we will find the guidance we need to make the right choices, support along the way, and healing so that we can live a life of victory!
This article is part 2 of a 3-part series, “When Abuse Affects Our View of God.” Part 3 will discuss abuse within the church. This is a sub-series within “For Christians Abused by Christians.”