This is the first in a series of posts on the topic, “Five Lies Every Battered Woman of Faith Needs to Stop Believing.” Dear Jesus – please get this post into the hands of battered women all over the world by the power of your Holy Spirit.
Lie Number One: My husband’s abusive behavior continues because I am not praying hard enough and/ or God is not listening to my prayers.
In the twenty-two years I lived as a battered wife, I did a lot of praying. I did a lot of crying and I even tried fasting. What was the result of all my intercession and tears? Nothing. Not only did my husband continue to rage at me, back me up against walls, wield an occasional deadly weapon against me, and threaten to kill me, but his minimization and denial of these behaviors actually increased with the passage of time. So I came to the conclusion that God was not listening to my prayers, that I had been abandoned by my heavenly father, and that I was utterly alone. I Believed the lie that my husband’s abusive behavior was related to how hard I prayed, and this led me to false conclusions about God, which led me to despair.
First let’s look at the truth about God’s presence and his response to prayer. Many times over God tells us through his word that he will never leave us or forsake us. Deuteronomy 31:8 has this to say: “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Need more proof? Isaiah 42:16 “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” Let’s get that settled in our hearts right now. God will never leave us or forsake us and we are not alone. No matter how horrible your situation is right now – you are not alone. And what does God tell us about his response to our prayers? According to Psalm 116:1-2 our God hears and answers prayers. “I love the LORD because he hears and answers my prayers. Because he bends down and listens, I will pray as long as I have breath!” 1 John 5:15 has the following to say: “And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” That leads us to the million dollar question. “Why did twenty-two years of praying for my husband’s abusive behavior to change, not result in change?” I believe that I have discerned two answers to this question.
The first has to do with man’s will. According to Joshua 24:15 each and everyone of us has a choice to make. “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” And Jesus spoke of free will as well. In Mark 8:34 we read: “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” It is clear that we as human beings have been endowed by our creator with the ability to choose him or reject him. I believe that the abuse of women is a total affront to our loving God. It is rebellion. It is sin. I believe that God was more than willing and able to transform my husband, but he refused to repent and chose sin instead. Nothing is impossible with God, but he never forces us to cooperate. We all have a free will.
The second answer to the million dollar question has to do with God’s will. I have learned through my journey out of the darkness that it is never, ever God’s will for a woman to be abused. 1 John 1:5 has this to say: “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” This is another concept we must get settled in our hearts. Our God is good. Evil does not originate with him. It is therefore impossible for abuse of any kind to be God’s will. Yes he uses suffering to refine us, but suffering is different than evil (stay tuned for the next lie that battered women must stop believing. It’s a doozy and it deals with this issue in detail.) According to 1 John 5:14, if we pray according to God’s will we are going to get a big fat yes to our prayer. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” And again, in the words of Jesus, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” John 14:13. For more than two decades I prayed for my husband to be healed. I prayed for him to change. I prayed for the battering to stop. But I never prayed for deliverance from my marriage. It just didn’t occur to me that Jesus himself would be willing to lead me out of my violent situation.
One night my husband told me that he was going to kill me, and I could see by the hatred in his eyes that he was willing and capable to follow through with his threat. I saw a spirit of murder glaring back at me through his darkened eyes, and I knew that my violent death was an inevitable future event. After all, in the United States three women will be killed today by their husbands or intimate partners. It’s not that uncommon. That is when my prayers started changing, and much to my surprise and delight, things started happening. My great God, whose heart is tender for me and for you, started working daily miracles on my behalf. Ridiculous, amazing things had to happen in order for me to safely escape and stay alive. And he did it because for the first time in twenty-two years I was offering a prayer that was in accordance with God’s will, and and had nothing to do with man’s free will. It was his good will that I be set free from a secret life of shame and sorrow. It was his good will that I be saved from a violent death. It was his good will that I would be set free from terror. And I believe it is his will that I write this very piece at this very moment. It is not God’s will for you to be abused. It is his will for you to know that he will never leave you or forsake you. It is his will for you to know that he has heard every single prayer you have ever spoken. It is his will to set you free from shame and fear. Jesus said that when we know the truth it sets us free. It is my prayer that the Spirit of Revelation will touch your heart through these words, so that the lies you have been believing will be replaced by truth.