It is an honor to mentor women who are finding the courage to leave an abusive relationship. Breaking free from an abusive spouse or partner is no easy task—I know, because I lived it. There are many daunting obstacles, both internal and external, to overcome. Fear, anxiety, manipulation, deceit, and financial insecurity to name a few. In my experience, battered women from all walks of life will eventually come face to face with these obstacles during their brave and difficult journey to freedom.
I have discovered that there is another obstacle that is unique to women of faith. Without fail, every single woman of faith that I mentor eventually asks me the same question. “What if I am out of God’s will?” Add the fear of being deceived by the enemy and being out of God’s will to the aforementioned obstacles, and you have a recipe for total confusion which can lead to remaining in or returning to abuse.
I believe the Spirit is prompting me to write in response to this question because he knows that it plagues the minds of many of his precious daughters. If you have asked this question yourself, God wants you to know that he sees your heart. He knows how hard you are trying. He knows that you want to do the right thing. He wants you to stop trying so hard. Just be still and know that he is God. And I have really good news. He has made it very, very simple! All you have to do is make a decision to follow his path.
Did you know that there are two distinctly different paths laid out before each and every one of us? These two paths lead to different ends. One is inspired by the Holy Spirit, and the other is inspired by the evil spirit. Jesus described these two paths in John 10:10:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
Some will tell you that this can only be applied to salvation, but I disagree. I know for certain that I belonged to God the entire time I lived in abuse. I loved Jesus and his Spirit lived in me. If my husband had followed through with his threat to kill me, I know I would have gone to the arms of my loving savior. But even so, the devil was totally having his way with me. He was stealing from me and destroying my life, and he almost succeeded in killing me. I stayed on Satan’s path because I was trying so hard to remain in God’s will. I can just imagine the inscription on my tombstone: “Here lies Jenny. Sure she’s dead, but at least she kept the Law.” Does anyone else see the insanity in this?
I have excellent news for you. All the confusion, self-doubt, and double-mindedness that you are experiencing right now can instantly be dealt with and vanquished. The declaration of Jesus can be used as a “spiritual litmus test” as you make decisions and judgements regarding your abusive relationship. The definition of the litmus test is as follows: A decisively indicative test. No guess work involved. Decisive. Indicative. That sounds like a recipe for peace of mind. So how do you apply the “spiritual litmus test” to your situation? Just ask yourself which of the two ends remaining in abuse or returning to abuse will lead to—theft, death, and destruction, or abundant life.
I want you to really take a moment to think about this, and be willing to face the truth. In your personal experience, has remaining in your abusive situation led to theft, death, and destruction, or abundant life? I believe if you are honest with yourself there is only one answer. Living in abuse has robbed you of peace, safety, joy, happiness, self-worth, and respect. Choosing to remain in your abusive relationship has also brought the death of dreams. Remember the good dreams you held in your heart the day you walked down the aisle? Dreams of a happy and fulfilling marriage. Dreams of true love and companionship. Dreams of mutual respect and honesty. Dreams of safety and protection. What has happened to those dreams? Are you living in them today? Finally, living with a batterer most definitely brings destruction. Destruction of trust, destruction of your sound mind, destruction of daily joy, destruction of self-image.
Is this the path to an abundant life that Jesus himself came to provide for you? I believe the answer is no. Just in case you still aren’t so sure, let me tell you a couple of critical things to bring this message home. First, if you are currently living in an abusive relationship, I know it is hard to believe that life abundantly can be a reality for you. Those of you who are in the early stages of your journey to freedom may be feeling the same way. You are experiencing all of the seemingly negative consequences of leaving: dealing with the courts, financial insecurity, abandonment by friends and perhaps the church, but you have yet to experience the abundant life that Jesus proclaimed. I have walked in your shoes and I can tell you most assuredly that life abundantly is a very real future reality for you if you will only follow Jesus. It’s important to remember that your exodus from abuse is being opposed by the enemy. When you make a decision to leave your abusive relationship, Satan does not give up. He doesn’t say “Oh well, I guess the whole stealing, killing, and destroying thing didn’t pan out so I am just going to move on.” He is a formidable foe and he is relentless. That is why everything can seem so dark and difficult at first, but take heart! Jesus has overcome and he is fighting for you.
I am currently living the abundant life that Jesus spoke of, and it is amazing. I sleep soundly at night. I am no longer afraid. I no longer believe that I am crazy. I don’t walk on eggshells. I am not financially destitute. My heart is light. I have true joy. I like myself again. I don’t cry myself to sleep anymore. I am no longer isolated. My new abundant life is filled with good friends, a healthy sense of self, peace that passes understanding, joy like a fountain, and a sound mind. The abundant life is real, and Jesus came to give it to you!
Another critical concept to understand is that Satan can and will use people to keep you from following Jesus into this life abundantly. Unfortunately, some of these people are well-meaning friends, family, and church leaders. They will encourage you to keep the Law at all costs, not realizing that they are responding to you in the same attitude and spirit that Jesus so fiercely opposed in the pharisees of old. Read Luke 13:10-17 for an illustration of this concept. Jesus healed a woman who had been bent over for eighteen years, and he had the audacity to do so on the Sabbath. The religious leaders were furious with him for breaking the law, but showed absolutely no compassion for the woman. Her suffering meant nothing to them. The cool part is that Jesus set them straight. He told them that they were wrong and that he was right. When someone tells you that it is God’s will for you to remain in abuse, they are wrong as well. These people are in effect declaring that the Law is more important than your life, and that the blood of Jesus isn’t enough. They do not realize that they are being used by the enemy to keep you on his evil path, although that is exactly what they are doing. I know this from personal experience because when I was walking in darkness I was one of these people. Just be aware that you will encounter good people who are unknowingly bound by the religious spirit. They will add to your confusion and self-doubt, so it is your right to say “Thank you, but no thank you” to their advice. You can apply the “spiritual litmus test” to these relationships as well, which will help you discern who you can safely receive counsel from.
So now the choice is yours. Will you follow Jesus to live life abundantly? Will you choose his path? I would be lying if I said it was going to be easy. Escaping from my abuser was the most difficult trial I have ever endured. It took a lot longer than I wanted it to and it was harder than I had hoped. Obtaining something of great value requires a tremendous amount of effort, and there is nothing more valuable than freedom. I promise that you won’t be alone – not for one single second. You just do what I did. Grab hold of the beautiful, nail-scarred hands that are reaching out to you right at this moment. Look into his tender eyes and keep your gaze fixed there. Allow him to lead you to safety, healing, and wholeness in his name as you walk the path to life abundantly together. I promise you won’t regret it.