Lie Number Five: If I flee from my abusive marriage I am “giving up” and showing a lack of faith.
An integral part of keeping my secret life a secret was waking up on Sunday morning, putting on a smile along with my make up, and heading out the door to church. I tried my best to look happy and relaxed as I shook hands with the greeters at the doors. When friends and acquaintances asked me how I was, I told them that I was fine. Of course I wasn’t fine. I was desperately sad and disappointed. Because I had married a Christian man I thought that our life together would be filled with love for God and love for one another, but that was not the truth of my life. Instead, I lived a life of fear, shame, and confusion. Sundays were especially confusing because that was when I got to see my husband in action. He worked the room with his humor and charm. He smiled kindly and patted backs and he told all the right jokes. He goofed off with the kids in the foyer, and he listened intently with concern if anyone shared about a difficulty that they were facing. He took notes during the sermon and highlighted scripture in his bible. He held my hand in church and put his arm across my shoulders. “Am I crazy?” I asked myself as glanced at the peaceful husband sitting next to me attentively listening to the sermon. My mind started to race as I relived the scene that had taken place in our home just before church. What started out as an argument over nothing had escalated, and before I knew it his body was pressed up against mine and I was backed up against a wall as he shook his fist over my head. “Do you want me to show you what a monster looks like?” he threatened through gritted teeth as his spittle filled the air. I dropped to the ground, and he mocked me for being dramatic. And now less then thirty minutes later we were sitting in church together. I watched him calmly write a scripture reference in the outline before he returned his attention to the pastor. “I must be going crazy.”
Did you know that confusion does not come from God? “For God is not a God of confusion, but a God of peace…” (1 Corinthians 14:33a) Where there is confusion, you can be sure that the enemy is present. A confused mind is fertile ground for the evil spirit. My husband was particularly hostile on Sundays, and I believe it is because the evil spirit wanted me in a state of confusion whenever I came to church. Why? So that he could use preaching from the pulpit, whether sound or unsound, to lure me into believing the lies that kept me bound in darkness. There is one recurrent theme which led me to believe the lie that if I fled from my abusive marriage I was “giving up” or showing a lack of faith, and I if you have spent any time in church you have heard it too: We fail to receive the fulfillment of God’s promises to us when we lack faith and we give up too soon.
This teaching, in the right context, is sound doctrine. Abraham waited thirty years from the time God first told him that he was going to be the father of many, until Sarah conceived. Joseph spent years in a prison before receiving the fulfillment of the promise that he would be raised to a place of power and prominence. Both of these biblical giants made a choice to keep walking in faith, and to keep holding onto the promises of God, even when their circumstances told them that what God had promised was not going to happen. They had to make a decision to not give up. Conversely, the Israelites were loaded with good promises from God when he freed them from slavery in Egypt, but they did not receive the fulfillment of the promises because of their lack of faith. They gave up, and they were not allowed to enter into the promised land because of it. Because God is a God of mercy, he allowed the next generation to see the fulfillment of the promises, but the original generation never took ahold of all the good things that God had promised them.
There is a critical component that the evil spirit wants you to overlook whenever this doctrine of keeping the faith and not giving up is taught. Without fail, every single instance recorded in scripture that teaches us to keep the faith and to not give up, begins with a specific promise spoken by God. Did God specifically tell you that you are going to win the lottery if you just have faith and never give up? If not, this doctrine has no bearing on whether or not you are going to win the lottery. The concept of enduring faith and never giving up is only relevant if God has spoken a specific promise to you. God never gave me a word that he was calling me to be a battered wife. He never promised me that if I stayed in violence and terror, he was going to force my husband to repent. But I took this teaching to heart and decided that I just needed to have more faith and never give up, when all the while God was really calling me to run to him. We are to submit ourselves to God and resist the devil (James 4:7), not submit ourselves to the devil and resist God. Remember – if any scripture or preaching leads you to a conclusion that is in opposition to the character of God you must reject it. God is love. It is not his will for you to allow yourself or your children to be physically, psychologically, or sexually abused while you keep having faith and refuse to give up. This is a deception by the evil spirit; your enemy who prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour.
Ever since Jesus set me free from my life of fear and shame, one of my very favorite things to do is to mock the devil by worshiping Jesus. I’m not going to lie – it feels really good to know that all I have to do is raise my hands toward heaven and start praising the name of Jesus in order to stick it to the evil spirit. I used to be the one on laying on the ground with my enemies foot pressed against my throat, and now, thanks be to God, it’s the other way around! If God can do this for me, he can do it for you. So let’s mock the evil spirit together right now, shall we?
“Dear Jesus, we proclaim that you are Lord. You are high and lifted up. We worship the name that is above all names, and we give you all glory, praise, and honor. You are our healer. You are our deliverer. You are our strength. We declare that you are worthy of our trust. We declare that you are faithful and true. We declare that you keep your promises. We know that you will never give up on us. As you lead us to freedom, safety, healing, and wholeness, give us the power to endure in faith and to never give up. It is in your mighty name we pray. Amen.”