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Through this letter, I want to help you . . . and specifically, I want to help you help others.
Remember in 2009 . . . images of the bloodied, swollen face of pop singer Rihanna? Remember the police reports of a violent encounter with her live-in boyfriend? This is just another gruesome glimpse of the painful reality for millions of women who live with an abusive partner. In the United States alone, about 1 in 3 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.1
Most people find it difficult to grasp these statistics. They wonder, Why does he do it? Why does she put up with it? Why doesn’t she just leave?
Though the psychology and background of individual instances of abuse are uniquely complex, one common denominator exists: Within the heart of every person are three God-given inner needs—the needs for love, significance, and security. At times, however, we attempt to get these needs met—illegitimately. Such is the case for those involved in domestic violence.
Typically, an abusive husband attacks his wife in order to feel significant. Meanwhile, the wife stays in the harmful relationship in order to feel secure . . . because she either feels that she can’t live without her husband or feels terrified that the violence will escalate if she leaves him. However, God’s solution for both partners is to look to Him to meet their deepest inner needs.
Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will meet all your needs
according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
Like a volcano, wife abuse rarely starts with a sudden outburst of physical force, but rather with intense, internal pressure in need of an outlet. Abusive patterns tend to develop in three stages that are cyclical and increasingly violent, casting an ominous pall over the heart and the home.
An environment of tension and anxiety marks this initial phase of wife abuse. This period typically begins with the husband’s communicating dissatisfaction over something small and blaming his wife. Through verbal and emotional abuse, a husband maintains control over his wife and creates fear of impending disaster.
During this period, many women believe the lies spoken about them and accept responsibility for their husbands’ unhappiness. Then they adjust their own behavior in an effort to please their husbands—anything to relieve the tension in their homes.
The pressure becomes so intense that the abuser erupts and gives full vent to his rage. When violent behavior is unleashed, sometimes family members, outsiders, or police may be called on to stop the rage. Like a volcanic eruption, this acute stage of aggression doesn’t last long, but over time these overpowering outbursts tend to become more frequent and more dangerous.
During this “honeymoon phase,” filled with tears, gifts, and promises, the abuser appears contrite. In fact, he dramatically transforms—from villainous to virtuous. Soothed by her husband’s loving actions—and with renewed hope for change and her deep desire for a successful marriage—she views his overtures as signs of repentance and extends forgiveness. But, as with all honeymoons, this one doesn’t last, and the cycle of abuse occurs again . . . and again.
Years ago, a pastor’s wife approached me . . . confiding about her physically abusive marriage. She explained that when she removed herself and her children from the abuse, she was bitterly criticized by her Christian friends. They told her she was disobeying God’s Word—specifically His command for wives to submit to their husbands.
Those same Christians didn’t mention, however, that the Bible also says we are to be subject to the governing authorities over us. In all states throughout North America, domestic violence is illegal . . . thus, no woman is called to submit to the illegal acts of her husband. I remember this downcast, dutiful woman telling me: “We have a higher concept of our husbands than we do of God.”
I shared with her that the Lord is the One we are to submit to and love first and foremost —with all of our hearts and minds. Acts 5:29 states, “. . . ‘We must obey God rather than human beings!’”
We are to align our thinking with His thinking. I asked this woman, “Does the Bible ever teach that we are to be abused? Is that the heart of Scripture?” No! Instead we read: “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter” (Proverbs 24:11).
In fact, the Bible gives specific instruction about dealing with those whose anger is easily kindled . . . including abusive husbands: “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered” (Proverbs 22:24). When verbal, emotional, and/or physical abuse is ongoing, not only is separation appropriate, but in many cases that separation can break the cycle of abuse by communicating that change is mandatory.
Fearful that things can never be different, millions of battered women live in fear today—not knowing where to turn . . . not knowing whom to trust. At Hope For The Heart, our great privilege is to stand in the gap for these women. With your help, we offer:
Over the last 26 years, our team has encouraged countless women to move out of harm’s way and to embrace the future that God has planned for them … a future designed to “… prosper you and not to harm…” (Jeremiah 29:11).
This month, as we focus on preventing, escaping, and ending domestic violence, there are three ways you can help others through our ministry:
#1: Make a financial contribution to help cover the cost of counseling materials on domestic violence for women and children in crisis. Many times, those who call us have little or no access to funds, which makes them financially dependent on their abuser. Having materials available at no cost is essential in order to provide hope for these wounded women. The Bible says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
#2: Give our book How to Rise Above Abuse to the Christian leaders in your life. An abused woman’s church is essential in helping reestablish her sense of self-worth and for providing a safe haven where dignity and trust can be rebuilt. The more that pastors and other leaders understand God’s heart on domestic violence, the greater the odds that women in crisis will get the wise counsel needed for helping them move out of harm’s way, rather than remaining in an abusive situation.
#3: Tell everyone in your network that Hope For The Heart offers life-transforming help. Share the amazing ways God is helping restore lives through this ministry. We are interested in making new friends in 2013, and we have a goal of helping more people find hope this year than ever before. Therefore, throughout February, when you share our story with someone new and they contact us—either online or by calling 1-800-488-HOPE (4673)—they will receive a free copy of our life-changing booklet Discovering Your God-Given Worth.
Please help me provide the practical tools necessary for individuals, families, and churches to stop rampant violence—the senseless suffering that daily occurs in homes where hope is so hard to find. If you’ve been blessed with a loving family, then give thanks to God by offering HOPE to someone needing help. If you know strugglers in crisis, please share our ministry so as to help them to find true peace … and genuine hope for their hearts.
Yours in the Lord’s hope,
P.S. A special note of caution: Violent outbursts can escalate when an angry man senses that his wife is planning to separate herself and her children from harm. Prepare for the worst by having a safe exit plan in place as detailed in our Biblical Counseling Keys on Wife Abuse. For a detailed list of strategies and information about how to involve the legal system in order to address domestic violence, contact your local authorities, a local women’s shelter, or Hope For The Heart at 1-800-488-HOPE (4673).
If you’re on Facebook, I invite you to connect with me at www.Facebook.com/June.Hunt.Hope. And if you’re not, take it from me: You’re never too old to start! See you there!