When going through very difficult times, believers might ask other believers, “Why does God allow suffering?” This is a valid question. In response, believers might share:
“Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.” Hebrews 2:18 NLT
Believers might then say what we are going through is nothing like what Jesus or Job suffered–my goodness, Job lost his children, wealth, health, friends, and unity with his wife to name a few of his problems.
Both of these responses are Truth, but what about the suffering God endured?
Maybe a different question to ponder to arrive at the answer to our question is, “Why does God allow Himself to suffer?”
God planned to have His Son crushed, and it was called a “good plan”:
“But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief [. . .] and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.”
from Isaiah 53:10 NLT
It sounds like an extremely painful plan full of suffering. How is suffering good? Jesus died so that “When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins” (Isaiah 53:11 NLT).
The suffering of Jesus resulted in believers being forgiven–Thank You, Jesus! Even with the knowledge God had of the outcome of His Son’s suffering, I am sure it was painful to tell Jesus, “No” three times when Jesus asked the Father to remove the cup of suffering:
“He told them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, ‘My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.’ Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, ‘Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!’ Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, ‘My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.’ When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open. So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again.” Matthew 26:38-44 NLT
As if denying His Son’s request three times was not painful enough, the Father then watched His Son being tortured, beaten, and ultimately murdered. The Father had to turn away from the Son when the sins of the world were placed on Jesus:
“At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ which means ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?'” Matthew 27:46 NLT
Why does God allow Himself to suffer?
Jesus suffered and died to forgive our sins out of love so that we can live with Him in heaven. God crafted the good plan to crush Jesus out of love for us, His lost sheep, so we can be reunited with God. God denied the prayer requests of Jesus out of love for us. Jesus prayed, “Thy will be done” out of love for the Father.
God is all-powerful and all-knowing, and He loves us, so why does He allow suffering?
The short answer is, He loves us. When we suffer, we draw closer to Him. That is a goal of our time on Earth, to draw closer to God every day. Suffering and trials result in us doing that.
Why do we need suffering to draw closer to Him? Human nature, for “No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God” (Romans 3:11 NLT).
Can you recall a time when there was a desperate need in your life-–illness, job loss, death, etc.? The way you prayed during that time probably looks very different from the way you pray daily.
Drawing closer to God every day is what is best for us. God loves us and wants the best for us.
We lift up all who are suffering. Abandonment. Sickness. Depression. Addiction. Unemployment. Abuse. Grief. And other burdens. May this be the day they draw closer to You. May this be the day they feel immersed in Your love. May this be the day they rise up from the burden and feel Your joy. Your peace. Your love.
Being a single parent/guardian is not easy. For starters, you are the spiritual leader of the home. You are the sole provider for the children God blessed you with. There is a lot of pressure to keep food on the table, clothing on their backs, and a roof over their heads. You cannot just “take a break” when you need one. The more children you have, the less time you have to yourself – including trying to shower or get any sleep.
Please do not misunderstand me, I am incredibly grateful to God for my children. Throughout the years of abuse endured at the hands of their father, my kids were the only things to keep me going. And even more so since we left their father.
My kids are each funny, full of laughter and have different perspectives. One of my children has multiple cognitive disabilities. She has taught me more than I could ever teach her. The way she looks at life and how she processes information is incredible to me. I consider each of my children a gift and her “disabilities” are also gifts to our family.
While you might feel alone raising kids, I have learned that I am not alone. Jesus is with me (Deuteronomy 31:6). He is the One who holds me at night when I am scared. He is the One to whom I bring problems and fears. Daily, I pray earnestly for His wisdom to help me raise the kids in a manner that glorifies Him. Through the storms of life – illness, tragedy or job loss – we simply must trust in Him.
If you are a single parent/guardian, know that you are not alone. God is right there with you, co-parenting. You may not always feel that way, but He is. God loaned us His kids, we are the stewards of His children. He loves them more than we do. We must trust in His love and provision for the kids and for us. If you are raising kids alone because of the choices of others, forgive those people. Forgiveness does not mean you agree with what they did, but instead you are freeing yourself from their control over you (Colossians 3:13).
We moved out of the house to escape an incredibly toxic environment. We no longer have interactions with their father except when he reaches out demanding money. We are surrounded by thoughtful neighbors, and God has certainly blessed us! If you are not a single parent/guardian, please consider making dinner for a household that is. Or in these times of COVID, a gift card for pizza or other food delivery would be incredibly appreciated. In our new place, we have a neighbor who cooks for us. I am grateful to him for giving me a “night off,” so to speak, where I do not have to cook. We have another neighbor that has given the kids gift cards for pizza delivery.
If you know someone who is a single parent/guardian, please pray about how to help. Maybe place a gift card (for pizza delivery or for a grocery store) anonymously in their mailbox. Or perhaps cooking them dinner if everyone feels comfortable during COVID. Babysitting is a bit tougher depending on how well they know you and COVID, etc. Offer to pick something up for them if you are running to the grocery store. I can tell you that I have another neighbor that does that for me, and he is a God-send.
I come from a long line of single moms. We are stubborn and independent, which is what has protected our children through the generations. If that is you, please consider this. Some of the people that help me are saved and some are not. Perhaps me accepting their help will pave the way to have a conversation about Jesus. God sends people to help His children. While it may be hard to accept help, pray about it and see if God wants to use you to speak into that person’s life.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 NIV
The process of obtaining a divorce has taken a very long time. During that time, God has moved in miraculous ways; He sent believers into my path at the most unexpected times and at the most unexpected places. For example, as various bank employees told me how my former spouse stole my identity and I started to cry, they quoted Scripture to me. That happened on four different occasions at three different financial institutions. Words of faith, hope, and love were shared with me by complete strangers. God is always going before us and walking with us and being our rear guard too.
“You will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” Isaiah 52:12 NIV
These are Scriptures, not my opinion or an empty hope.
I have seen Him move in less obvious ways too. He was very hard at work when I was struggling the most and wandering in my desert, although I did not see it.
One day during my quiet time, I heard God telling me to approach a co-worker and share the Gospel. I had no idea what this person’s values were, let alone religious beliefs. So I started to pray for the Spirit to show me the right time and way to reach him.
I enlisted the help of a friend of mine, who is a prayer warrior, during this time to ensure that two of us were praying. Over the next few weeks, I prayed and was shown how to approach my co-worker in a way that would be embraced.
As someone who loves to share the Gospel, I have witnessed many reactions from others; everything from acceptance to rejection and in between. The more you share the Gospel, the more experiences you have that you can apply to future situations.
I asked my co-worker if he believed in a higher power. He said yes. I then asked what faith he was. He responded Baptist. I have learned that when someone responds with a denomination, we should not assume they know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. More times than not, they are not actively practicing or that was how they were raised and so on.
It is critical to ensure they know Jesus as Lord. To do that, I ask one key question. The question that immediately polarizes the conversation. There is no gray space:
“If you were to die tonight, where would you go and why?”
I have never seen this question fail to guide the rest of the conversation. Either the answer is something like, “Heaven, because of Jesus” or not.
My co-worker and I had been friends for about two years by the time I asked him “The Question.” We each were married and pretending that all was well in our lives. We each were burying pain. We each were experiencing and ignoring similar suffering. We each were being abused by our spouses, in different ways but nonetheless abused. We each stayed for different reasons. Mine was the kids and his was because he felt trapped and hoped not to live much longer.
We knew none of this about the other when God burdened me to ask “The Question.”
At that point in my marriage, I was channeling 100% of my energy into my kids. So what if my spouse treated me the way he did? The kids were fine. Not true, but I believed it at the time. Kids see more than you think they do.
I prayed and looked for the opportune time to ask my co-worker, “If you were to die tonight, where would you go and why?”
Ever since I was saved, I love sharing the Gospel. It is mind blowing to me that the Creator of the universe chooses to use sinners like me to share Jesus with people. The most meaningful moments in my life are having the honor of watching the veil be pierced, the scales fall from eyes and people realize their desperate need for Jesus. They physically change before your eyes, whether they start to cry, drop to their knees or just grab you and hold on. It is an incredible privilege. Sharing Jesus is what we are left here to do (Matthew 28:19-20). You interact with eternity when you share the Good News with people.
My co-worker’s reply was, “Heaven, I hope. Because I’m a good person?” No mention of Jesus.
Over a series of conversations and emails, I explored the Gospel with my co-worker. One Sunday afternoon, I was incredibly burdened to enter a time of intense prayer for him, though I had no idea why. I had never felt like that, as if the Holy Spirit was telling me to pray as if my co-worker’s life depended on it.
So I did.
My co-worker recently recalled:
For years – most of my marriage, in fact – I had been repeating the words “I wish I was dead” inside my head for most of almost every day. Despite these negative thoughts, I had not often seriously contemplated ending my life on my own. It was simply a wish, a desire for it all to end. Then, I wouldn’t be trapped anymore.
That Sunday afternoon was different. Actually, that whole weekend had been different. By the end of it, I was devising creative methods to kill myself with objects I had on hand. The thing is, I didn’t really understand why I wanted to end it all. There were no logical reasons. Not even illogical ones.
I was blessed in that JC had recently started talking to me about Jesus. I had started reading the Bible. Knowing a little about my anxiety, she had introduced me to a local church that also streamed its services online. Many of those early sermons had spoken to me. On this Sunday, I was hoping for the same. I needed to hear something to get the dark thoughts out of my head. Instead of a real service, though, it was only what I call an “infomercial” for the church’s community groups. Not helpful. At all.
Though she had no idea what I was going through, I prayed JC would have some words for me that would help, and I promptly fell asleep in the middle of the afternoon. When I awoke, there was an email from her, along with a link to an older sermon by a different pastor.
When I went upstairs to my little office to watch it, this sermon gave me some perspective about the gift that is life. Yet, I still felt in a dark place. I revealed some of this to JC when replying to her email.
Once my co-worker shared with me what was happening, I realized that while I was crying out to Jesus on his behalf, he was wrestling with spiritual warfare. He was not yet a believer, so God had sent me to battle for him – to pray for his very soul.
I emailed him back with a high-level overview of spiritual warfare and gave him some suggestions, including Scriptures to read. My co-worker then accepted Jesus while I was still in fervent prayer. I did not receive his email with the news right away, though, as I had been burdened by the Holy Spirit to remain in focused prayer.
While he had been wrestling with his faith, I had literally been crying out to Jesus and spending hours in prayer for him. I have never been that focused on anyone for that long in prayer without knowing why.
After I concluded my time of prayer and worship, I picked up my phone and there was the email from my co-worker sharing his decision to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
My co-worker recalled:
JC had referenced a number of verses in her email about spiritual warfare to help me, including some in John. As I was flipping through my Bible, I could not find John. I was still a newbie at all of this, but I had never once had a problem finding a book before, including John. I even went to the index, and yet still found myself looking on the wrong page.
I realized something did not want me to read those references, so I focused my mind until, of course, they were there – as they had been all along.
After that, I knew that I had to accept Jesus in my heart. All the while, unbeknownst to me, JC was praying for me. If I ever had any doubts about the power of prayer, that Sunday evening abolished them.
Even after I was born again, very dark images tried to enter my mind that night as I was falling asleep – right in that time where you are not quite awake but not quite asleep. But I prayed them away. . .twice. . .and was able to have a restful sleep. It was all so very fascinating to me to realize that the world worked in a completely different way than I ever thought.
Ever since those hours when I was praying for him and he was battling spiritually with his belief in Jesus, my co-worker and I have become what I will call “spiritually entangled.”
God blesses obedience. My co-worker, Snow, heeded the call of Jesus, and I prayed when I felt led to. Being spiritually entangled is an amazing gift that I struggle to explain. We hear each other’s thoughts, we feel what the other feels – physically and emotionally – and we each help the other grow in Jesus daily.
Even though we are no longer co-workers, we communicate daily. We read Bible plans and pray together via text or over the phone. We challenge each other to have faith in Jesus, despite trials.
Presently, Snow is my best friend, and we are each unmarried now and working on healing from the abusive marriages we endured. Years later, we still hear each other’s thoughts and feel what the other feels. The more we pray and read the Bible together, the more the spiritual entanglement grows.
God was moving in mighty ways while I was wandering in my desert enduring many trials during my divorce. God was also moving in mighty ways as Snow and I battled for his soul.
Jesus was aligning the lives of two wounded butterflies to cross paths with each other. Our paths are permanently intertwined – one that would join Jesus in helping me heal so I can soar.
“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.” Isaiah 58:8 NIV
However your marriage ended and for whatever reason, there is life afterwards. God has plans for you, there are many, many verses about this.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'” Jeremiah 29:11 NLT
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 NLT
God is not done with you here, or He would have called you Home. Tell yourself that as many times as necessary until you believe it. He uses everyone who is willing to be used.
For me, the actual process of getting divorced resembled a daily, mental, emotional, and spiritual beating due to the choices of my former spouse. Regardless of the choices of others, however, you can control yourself – how you react or not. It is critical to grow in your relationship with Jesus. This is true whether you are divorced or not; consider this the mission of our days. We must be close to Jesus so we can fulfill the command He gave us.
“Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'” Matthew 28:18-20 NLT
How we can go and tell others about Him if we do not know Him? Put as much as energy as you can into knowing Jesus – pray, read the Bible, fast, seek Him with all of your heart. Disregard what others say and do, and keep your eyes squarely on Jesus. He goes before you, walks alongside you, and goes behind you.
“You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.” Psalm 139:5 NLT
“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:8 NLT
I was a wounded butterfly, very wounded. In every sense of the word: physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially, mentally, and any other way you can contemplate. In many ways, I allowed my spouse to take who I was created to be in God and mold me into what he wanted me to be instead. I own that – I needed to seek deep within to begin to see the places where I put my spouse above who I am in God.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalm 139:23-24 NLT
Once I started to see, I fell into the arms of Jesus and asked Him to please take over every piece of my life – and I had to mean it. I faltered, there were and are times that I seized back decision-making. When that happens, the quicker I realize I have done it and turn it back over to Jesus, the better off I am.
God has been working on my heart and my kids – healing us and restoring us to who we buried to appease my former spouse. God is bringing back who we are in Him and highlighting new pieces of ourselves that He created. It has been freeing to give Him the chisel and step out of the way.
The way God works is beyond human comprehension. Sometimes, we can figure out what He is doing and other times, not. I believe in the Bible, so I firmly believe that no matter what is happening to me, God will use it for my good.
Yes, I was a severely wounded butterfly, but that never changed the fact that I am His masterpiece.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 NLT
At my most wounded points, I kept fighting to keep my eyes on Jesus – many times, that meant collapsing on the floor in a puddle of tears. But He is always there. He is always before our eyes.
Focus on Him.
He has worked on me and is still working on me. He has repaired my wings and sent me on new journeys that I never could have imagined. He has used me and my story to help others in ways that I could not have envisioned in my wildest dreams. If you seek first the Kingdom of God above all else, He will move in your life. Give Him everything – your wounds, your hurts, your shame, your secrets, your regrets, whatever – give it to Him. I now have blessings that I can barely describe in words.
In a future post, I will share one of the most incredible blessings Jesus gave me. One I was definitely not seeking. He sent another wounded butterfly to help me soar even higher in Jesus.
I was married for over two decades. Neither of us were believers in Jesus when we got married. Twelve years into our marriage, I came to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I became a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”). I no longer cared about material things and keeping up with the Joneses. Instead, I suddenly cared about tithing and giving away money to causes that I felt led to support. I now wanted to pray and read the Bible daily.
As a family, we had been sitting in church every Sunday for seven years prior to me being saved. We went to church because once you had kids, “that is what you do” – take them to church. During this time period, my friend invited me to her church. I thought I would go with her to be nice. I did not realize it at the time, but that decision would be a turning point for everyone in my household. After that first visit, I knew that my kids and I needed to attend this new church.
My husband was not saved, so I believed that the Holy Spirit was leading the family to this new church through me. My spouse did not care if or where we went to church, so we started to attend the new church every week. Two years after making the switch to the new church, my spouse chose to get baptized. I was so excited, thinking that finally we would be on the same page with handling our finances, raising the kids, going on mission trips, etc. Some of that happened, but most did not.
Years went by, and the marriage spiraled downwards in a big way. After many years of prayer and fasts, one final incident led me to take the kids and leave my spouse. At that time, I made the decision to be Christlike – no matter what. I placed this verse in the bathroom mirror to see it daily:
“Be Christlike” is a phrase we Christians like to throw around. For me, it meant initially trying to collaborate with my spouse and work through the separation agreement together. This would protect the kids, save time and money, and perhaps provide a healthy example of how to divorce like a Christian.
My spouse chose a different path, which unfortunately has resulted in a lot of money, time, and attorneys. Being Christlike does not mean you refuse to defend yourself or your children. Jesus defended the defenseless. I asked God to show me the attorney He wanted me to have to defend my kids and me against the onslaught. There are Christian attorneys out there, I know a few. Whether you choose a Christian attorney or a non-believer, God will use you to draw that person closer to Him. Conduct yourself in a manner that exalts God at all times, regardless of how the other parties are behaving. You represent Christ. Pray for your attorney, and let him or her know you are doing so and that you are praying for your spouse, too.
Being Christlike for me became praying before responding to lawyers, after my spouse chose the path he did. I would daily bathe my actions and words in prayer; I would spread out legal letters before the Lord like Hezekiah and seek the Lord’s will in all that I do. Every time my spouse tried something, I would “spread it out before the Lord.”
“Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: ‘LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Give ear, LORD, and hear; open your eyes, LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God. It is true, LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. Now, LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, LORD, are God.'” 2 Kings 19:14–19 NIV.
I kept these verses as a screenshot on my phone and would literally read them whenever I saw an email from my spouse or his attorney. I would then listen for the Lord. This helped me hear Him and be Christlike before responding. It also took my focus and energy off of whatever latest game my spouse was trying to play and onto God and how to bring Him glory.
My spouse came after me and every asset that ever existed whether he had a legal right to it or not. The one item he never once brought up was the kids. He never asked for visitation or custody of them. He only wanted access to their money.
I was dead set on being like Jesus throughout the divorce process. I prayed daily (and still do) to be Christlike to my spouse. My divorce has been going on for over a year now. Some of that length is because I chose to be Christlike. For example, I could have had my spouse served by the sheriff. I chose not to do that, but instead I try to be as collaborative as possible. I also could have filed abuse charges to move things along. I chose not to do that, either, as my spouse did not want the kids, so there was no concern about custody. In addition, the kids would have had to relive what they had endured, and I wanted to shield them from any further harm.
My priority was and is my kids. My abusive spouse knows this, so he would attempt to poison the kids by accusing me of committing adultery or other things that were not true. How I handled this game of my spouse is if I learned of a lie that he told them, I discussed it with my children factually and injected truth. I never called my spouse names or told them anything bad about their father. As the divorce progressed, my spouse came after money that belonged to the kids. I fought to protect their assets.
I am honest with them. If they learn things and they ask, I respond one of two ways: With the truth and only the truth – no emotion or opinions because I view that to be the Christlike approach; the other response is if I do not know the truth, I direct them to ask their father.
There are times that my spouse will plant lies with friends or family with the intent they get back to the kids. I do not pretend to know or assume the truth, so I again point the kids to their father.
They never once have reached out to him in these scenarios. Kids are smarter than we sometimes give them credit for being. When they have one parent belittling the other and not wanting to spend time with them except to pour them full of negativity, the other parent being Christlike is a stark contrast.
In addition to lying and trying to steal from the kids, my spouse also used my social security number at multiple banks without my knowledge or permission. Again, I could have filed charges. My prayers led me to conclude that pressing charges against the father of my children would achieve nothing. Instead, I closed all the credit cards he ran up, and I froze my credit. I went to the banks and reported the incidents so they put flags on all of my accounts and cards. I informed my spouse that I knew what he did and let him know he needed to get his own credit cards as the ones he used in my name were closed. He also stole user accounts like eBay and assumed my identity in those ways as well.
As the attorneys worked to share documents to determine what was fair, even more things turned up where my spouse had stolen from me or the kids. I chose not to focus on the past, as all money is God’s money. God will deal with my spouse as He sees fit. (Romans 12:19 NLT: “Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the LORD.”).
The kids to this day still do not know all of the things their father tried to do to them. I challenge myself with every conversation as to whether it is gossip or edifying and necessary. Every tactic against the kids has failed because God has protected them.
I take comfort in this verse when I find myself wishing I could share things with the kids that are not edifying and necessary to protect them:
“For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.” Luke 8:17 NLT
Being Christlike, does not mean being weak or avoiding fights for what matters. It is about focusing your energy on God and what brings Him glory. Defending the weak is Christlike. God does not condone anyone being abused physically, spiritually, financially, or any other way.
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Matthew 18:6 NIV
To be clear, I do feel hurt or anger about the awful things my spouse does. However, I quickly take those thoughts captive and hand them and my spouse over to God. My thoughts, words, and actions are what I can control and force to be obedient to Jesus. I gave my spouse over to God and pray for him multiple times a day to have a closer relationship with Jesus.
“It is written: ‘”As surely as I live,” says the Lord, “every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.”‘” Romans 14:11 NIV
Just like my spouse will have to stand before God and account for all that he did and said, so will I. I am not perfect, but I am trying the best I can to be Christlike and show my kids there is a way to behave like Jesus in the face of adversity. God knows my heart and my intent.
Your actions and words are speaking volumes; what are they saying to those observing you? No matter what fiery darts are thrown at you, you need to look your kids (or whomever) in their eyes and be able to say, “I acted as Jesus would.”
It takes patience, walking in the Spirit, a ton of prayer, and trust in God for everything. The end result will be you will draw closer to Jesus and stand before God having tried your best to reflect His Son.
Today’s post serves as a sort of epilogue to JC’s multipart series on surviving abuse. However, abuse recovery is an ongoing process, and she will likely provide further updates down the road. Below are links to all of the installments in the “Nobody Knew, Yet Everybody Knew” series:
My kids and I are now safe – we moved out and are beginning the long, arduous healing process. You never know how badly you were “damaged” until you are out of a situation. Once my kids were freed, I began to see how much they had lost themselves to survive in that environment.
It was such a slow fading away of ourselves that none of us saw it. We would tone down our laughter or our jokes for fear of being too loud and causing an outburst. We stopped having people over because we were ashamed of what my spouse might say to embarrass us or the guest. We stopped going out because there were so many hurdles to get “approval.” Not to mention trackers were on all our phones so we could be hunted down when desired.
It is now easy to see how much control my spouse asserted over us. The weapons that were used against us were sometimes subtle, sometimes not. When my therapist said I have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I thought, “no way.” But the more I live out of that environment, the more I see that my kids and I definitely do have PTSD.
My spouse continues to attempt to control me and the kids, even though he is not physically present in our lives. Just this week, he stole more money from the kids and then came after me again. The games continue weekly, sometimes daily.
Here is the secret to continued survival and, even better, for you to flourish: Peace – and perspective from that peace.
In John 14:27, Jesus said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (NIV).
I either believe Him or I do not. If I believe Jesus, then I have His peace, and I need to focus on that. He also told me not to be troubled or afraid. If my spouse wishes to steal from his kids, there may be nothing I can do about that. But – this I know – God loves my kids even more than I do. He is their Father in Heaven and nobody will be successful messing with His kids. Sure, things may temporarily appear that way – but God is justice. We tend to focus on God is love, and He is, but God is also justice.
There is nothing I can do sometimes to protect my kids against the attacks launched by their earthly father, so I pray daily for their father and rest in the knowledge that God is justice. Sometimes I do not even know what to pray, but the Spirit does (Romans 8:26). My role is to pray for their earthly father daily and, in God’s strength, to best protect the kids God has loaned me. What God does with those prayers and what God does with someone who does such terrible things to his own children is up to Him.
It is very hard to heal the wounds when you keep getting attacked. I have had to learn that my healing is not contingent on the attacks ending – because they may not. My spouse lives to hurt me and the kids – so I needed perspective. I turned to the Bible, and God gave me this verse:
“Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28 NLT
This does not mean we are barred from defending ourselves or our kids when physically attacked (as mentioned in Part 2). It does mean that there may be people who live to hurt you. Abusive spouses may make it their missions in life to hurt you, especially once you leave them. They may not relent, and you need to be prepared for that.
You need to understand that God is your Protector. God has made it clear we are to fear Him and not be afraid. We are to take everything to Him in prayer and not worry about anything. He is in control. This perspective can be hard to maintain at times when it seems like your abuser is constantly coming out on top. But, make no mistake, God sees all, and God is justice.
Your path to healing must be rooted firmly in Jesus and Jesus alone – not whether your spouse stops the mind games, the manipulation, the hate, the theft, the lying, or other forms of abuse. Once you have removed yourself and your kids to a safe environment, expect the hits to keep coming in new forms. Surround yourself with your support group, get a good therapist, do not be afraid to call the police, and above all, anchor yourself and your kids to the Protector, the Savior, the Creator of all things – Jesus Christ.
Please bless all survivors of abuse. May You fill them with Your strength, Your peace, and Your resolve.
May You restore what slowly faded away, so Your light may shine ever bright through them.
You are love. You are justice. You are our Protector. We love You.
I had to learn forgiveness. I needed to forgive my abuser, the same one who abused my kids.
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.” Matthew 6:14 NLT
It took time to forgive. I learned that praying for someone daily is a great start on the road to forgiving that person. I started to pray daily that is how I would behave towards my abuser.
“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32 NLT
Please take note that forgiving someone does not mean that you agree with or condone their behavior. Forgiveness is for you, not the one you are forgiving. When you harbor unforgiveness towards someone, you are giving that person control over you. You are better than that.
When I saw how hard it would be to forgive the abuser for what he did to my kids, I knew only the power of prayer, a strong support system, and spending more time with Jesus would enable the forgiveness to flow. There were days I absolutely did not want to pray for my abuser, but I did it anyway. After about a year, I finally let it all go. I let go of the hurt, the resentment, and whatever else I felt. It was very freeing to say to God, “He is yours, deal with him as you see fit.”
I know God does not condone abuse; we are created in His image. I also know He does not take kindly to people who abuse kids.
“And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” Mark 9:42 KJV
I now faithfully pray for my abuser multiple times a day, and I mean those prayers with all my heart. My prayer has been and continues to be, “Let today be the day that (spouse) walks closer to You than ever before.”
I realized recently that specific prayer is something I want, too. Each day, I want to be closer to Jesus than the day before. Therein lies the key – pray a prayer for your abuser that you would pray for yourself, too.
And the other key is that a relationship with Jesus is all that matters. There is nothing else in this entire world or lifetime that will be more important than a relationship with Jesus. If you know Jesus as your Lord, strengthen your relationship everyday. The closer you are to Him, the closer you are to having the wisdom, strength and discernment you need to live in a way that pleases God. Every day, I pray that God will help me to be Christlike to my abuser.
I am learning that being Christlike does not equate to weakness. My therapist says to be “aggressively Christlike.” I am very much still a work in progress in this arena. I treat my abuser as Christlike as possible because I have three kids watching me. They know Momma loves Jesus. I must set an example for them.
Throughout my divorce and the time leading up to it, my spouse did and said many things to try to hurt me or the kids. And as he ramped up his ugliness, I ramped up the Light.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” John 1:5 NLT
This verse came to life before my eyes. I was praying and fasting and studying the Word so much that my abuser could not stand to be in the same room with me for more than 90 seconds. The light makes the dark flee. This was a huge unexpected bonus for me.
Jesus is the only One that can help my abuser. It is freeing to let him go. Put that energy towards deepening your relationship with Jesus and showing the fruit of the Spirit to everyone around you.
As a single Mom, my identity has completely shifted. I have to look my kids in the face everyday knowing that they witnessed how I treated their earthly father: The words I said and did not say, the actions I responded to and did not respond to. I worked daily at being Christlike, and I continue to work daily at it.
The abuser is still in my life, although in a much more limited way. Due to prayers and the strength from God to be as Christlike as possible, I walked away knowing that I did everything I could to treat my abuser as a child of God, as a person made in the image of God.
You must stay strong in the Spirit, do it for Jesus, and do it for your kids. Do it for yourself.
I refused to stoop to his level and engage in mind games. Because of my relationship with Jesus, I had and have daily peace. Recently, I asked my abuser how I could pray for him. He asked for “peaceful sleep.”
While I am sorry he is having trouble sleeping, I sleep just fine.