Galatians 2:20 ESV I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
What do you do with your life after you have gotten free from an abuser? In most cases of course we all know that being totally free isn’t possible because of things like joint custody of children, visitation, relatives who often ally with the abuser, and so on. And there are triggering events and places that can replay the trauma. Nevertheless, we need to be able to get on with life. Here are some of my thoughts on this subject and I hope they will be helpful.
I have never experienced domestic abuse in marriage. But I am quite familiar with the beast because my abusers have been many and they all fit many of the very same mentality and tactics that characterize domestic abusers. For the most part, I met them in church. In the churches that I have pastored. They were in every single one. They lusted for power and control. In fact, getting power and control was their very motive for playing Christian and being in a church. As pastor, I was their biggest threat and thus their target. At the hands of such evil ones I have experienced firsthand-
- Economic abuse – keep the pastor poor so he is easier to control, more dependent
- Gaslighting – you did this and you said that. I saw you. (When in fact I did no such things)
- Guilting and Accusation – you know, most people in this church find that you are harsh and hard to talk to (when in reality I was only hard to talk to for the wicked. They hated truth)
- Isolation – long stories here, but one of the main ploys under this heading was how I was expected to live in the church owned parsonage right next to the church building
- Control of Sermon and teaching subject matter – I never yielded to this tactic and their fangs really showed as a result
I could go on and on but you get the idea. Abusers are all out of the same school run by the devil. These tactics of wickedness come to them as naturally as a lion preying on a gazelle.
After years of having to deal with many, many such people, usually every day and certainly every single Sunday, the dawn broke and the last one was gone. Each one had to be confronted – and that required that first myself and other genuine Christians had to grow in wisdom about evil. Some left. Others had to be put out of the church. All took other people with them.
So I know this beast called abuse.
So how do you move on? As I noted above, there are lingering situational issues to be dealt with and endured. Most survivors do not have deep pockets, so economic problems are part of their lives. They have no church home and most friends abandoned them. They devoted years of their life to raising their children, schooling them, being a wife and mother – so after decades of this they have no current job skills. These are all hard issues to deal with.
But what I want to talk about here are more fundamental matters that will do more to help you move on and heal than anything else as you recognize them. So, here we go:
- You must be born again. And then you must realize who you are in Christ. That is why I quoted the verse from Galatians above. Your fundamental identity, if you know Christ, is that you are a new creation in whom Christ lives. All that your abuser told you regarding who you ARE, was a pack of lies. In this regard I highly recommend David Needham’s book, Birthright: Christian, do you Know Who You Are?*
- It will get better. Believe this. By “it,” I mean all the effects of the evil that was put upon you by that abuser. For example, for a long time I got tensed up when I had to go in places (like a store) where the wicked often went. But no more. It went away. Now I am like, “yeah, alright, there they are.” And you know what else? As years pass, these wicked ones actually increasingly become strangers to you. No kidding. I have actually had them not even recognize me. And more – I didn’t even recognize them. They are like ghosts out of a past that is like a misty, distant dream.
- You do not need another husband (or wife). You can remarry – all those pastors and theologians that forbid you to do so are wrongly trying to enslave you. But what I mean by need is more like what I would call neediness. This is why coming to terms with point #1 above – your relationship with Christ – is so important. He is sufficient for you. But I have known numbers of women who have had this neediness built into them either by a mother, or by teaching in a church, or from some other source. And you know what this so often leads to? Marrying another abuser. That is a cruel pattern (see John 4, the woman at the well). If you have gotten free of an abuser and you are thinking that the cure for what still ails you is surely another husband, then look out. Get some help understanding yourself in this area. Don’t keep getting in a train wreck.
- Don’t remain stuck in a victim mentality. You have been victimized, but you need not embrace an identity of victim that defines who you are. Perhaps you could think back to who you were before the abuser came along and largely re-molded you into the image he could control. Many survivors and victims have told me that “I used to be happy and confident and people liked me. But now I don’t even recognize that person.” I hear you on this! I understand. But don’t stay stuck there. Embrace again some of the things you used to enjoy. Get some training in a new skill or career field. Pick up that musical instrument again.
- Don’t live in regret. That is to say, don’t yield to the false thinking of “I should have stayed in Egypt.” I can confidently tell you that I have never met an abuse survivor who left their abuser and who now regrets doing so. Sure, I know many who will say that thoughts like that have played out in their mind at times, but then the truth prevails. Slavery in Pharaoh’s Egypt was NOT better than freedom across the Red Sea.
These are some of my thoughts on life after abuse. I am sure that many of you have some great suggestions too and you are very welcome to share them here in the comments.
Philippians 4:12-13 ESV I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. (13) I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
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