Most of the time I write to women who are married to husbands who are generally good-willed men and are not in on-going unrepentant sin.
Today is different. Today I write to women who suffer because their husbands physically, emotionally, sexually, or spiritually abuse them.
I don’t know how to write this post. I don’t have experience with abuse, and no matter what words I say, they won’t be enough to heal your pain.
Let me tell you why I’m writing this post that I don’t know how to write.
In my blog, I write from my own experience to encourage women as they grow in the area of sexual intimacy. I open up my life and my heart. You see my growth, just as you see the areas where I still need to do some growing. I don’t hide the messy stuff.
What you read in my words here is the authentic me.
When I learn that my words have helped a woman in her marriage, it means so much. But sometimes I am grieved to learn that my words have been used for something other than healing.
I get many emails that make my heart ache from the pain that has been shared. What breaks my heart the most is when I hear from a woman whose husband has used my writing . . . my story . . . my life . . . me . . . to berate her and to guilt her into fulfilling his sexual desire, no matter what it is or how she feels about it. He will say, “See? This Christian woman is saying that it is a sin to deny me.”
It breaks my heart—and then fills me with anger toward a man who uses what I have written to abuse his wife. The most recent email like this was a few months ago, sent to me from a throw-away email address so I couldn’t reply and so the woman’s husband wouldn’t know that she had contacted me. This email told me how my words had been twisted by an abusive husband. He had used them to justify his forcing her to have sex.
Since receiving that email, I’ve thought about this post. Because I didn’t know how to write it, I kept it on the backburner—until this week. In his recent post Enough Is Enough, Gary Thomas wrote about what he heard at a conference as women shared their stories of various kinds of abuse from their husbands—physical, emotional, sexual, and spiritual.
He expressed his shock at what he heard. I found it sad that he was shocked to hear these stories. I’ve heard stories similar to the ones he shared countless times throughout my life. How can anyone be shocked to hear them? Then I realized that what was even sadder is the fact that I wasn’t shocked at all. I’ve heard these stories so many times that hearing them again results in another sigh of resignation from me.
Two things in particular encouraged me in his post: 1) He reminded us that a woman’s health (physical, emotional, or spiritual) is more important than the institution of marriage, and 2) the church needs to help abused women rather than enable the abuser.
He wrote, “Christian leaders and friends, we have to see that some evil men are using their wives’ Christian guilt and our teaching about the sanctity of marriage as a weapon to keep harming them.”
His words—along with my realization that I’ve heard so many stories of abuse that I’ve lost my sense of shock—motivated me to pull this post off the backburner.
As I was thinking this morning about how to write this post, I ran across words that chilled me. Embedded in an article about another subject, a Christian woman wrote that women should stay with their abusive husbands—and she gave scripture and admonition to convince them that this was the only option that God would approve of. Furthermore, she expressed absolutely no compassion for the suffering of abused women and talked about how their suffering was good for them. I felt the same anger at her words as I do when I learn that a husband has used my words to control and dominate his wife.
I’ve been sitting here today, trying to avoid writing this post about a subject I know little about and that I don’t know how to write. Yet every step I’ve made today, I’ve thought about what it would be like to be an abused woman who is searching for help in dealing with the abuse. What she finds is words that say that if she wants to get into heaven, she must stay and suffer.
I can’t let those be the only words that an abused woman might see today.
With every post I write, I picture a woman sitting at my kitchen table, having coffee and probably some chocolate with me. I try to write what I imagine I would say to her.
The woman I am picturing now is so weary. So worn. She questions her worth. She is mentally exhausted from trying to predict her husband’s words and actions to avoid upsetting him. She feels like she has failed at sacrificial love and at winning her husband without a word.
Her spirit has been crushed.
Are you that woman, sitting across the table from me?
Here, please, allow me to speak.
Hear these words, from my heart to yours.
- You didn’t cause the abuse, and you can’t fix it. Your husband’s wrong beliefs and wrong thoughts caused the abuse.
- If your husband is abusing you, he has violated his marriage vows.
- Sex (or the lack thereof) didn’t cause the abuse. More sex, or different sex, won’t make the abuse go away.
- Your husband’s abuse is not your fault. It is his fault. Not yours.
My heart aches when I think about what you—and so many of our other Christian sisters—experience at the hands and words of the man who promised to love and care for you.
I want to reach across the table, hold your hand, and give you a shoulder to cry on. I want you to know I pray for you. I want to look for even one small way to ease your pain.
I can’t tell you what to do. No path ahead of you will be an easy one. What I can tell you is this: whatever path you travel, God is there to comfort you.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3
My dear sister, God sees you, and he sees your pain. He weeps at your suffering. He loves you and wants to see you whole—not crushed by a husband who abuses you.
You are God’s beloved daughter.
I have no words that will make things better. I have no power to stop the abuse. I can’t take away your suffering, although I wish I could.
All I can do is sit and weep with you.
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
- American Association of Christian Counselors
Do you have resources to suggest for women whose husbands are abusing them? Please share them.