Unraveling Spiritual Abuse and Lies Abused Christian Women Struggle With: Part Two: Lies About God
“God allows abuse to happen for a reason.”
“God is in control of everything.”
“God suffered, so you need to suffer too.”
“Because God is faithful, He will heal your marriage.”
Have you heard these comments from Christians when you’ve tried to get help with your emotionally abusive marriage?
It’s time to look at the misinformation and brainwashing that we’ve been subjected to about who God is.
This is part two of the series: Unraveling Spiritual Abuse and Lies Abused Christian Women Struggle With
Part One: Our Broken Church
Part Two: Lies About God
Part Three: Lies About What Godliness Is
Part Four: Lies about Forgiveness
Part Five: Lies About Wives
Part Six: Lies About Husbands
Part Seven: Lies About Marriage
Part Eight: Lies About Feelings and Faith
Let’s to do some critical thinking
As we go through the lies in this series, I encourage you to use the 4 step process below to help you undo the brainwashing and spot possible mistranslations of the Bible that we talked about in Part One.
Do some critical thinking using the following 4 Cs. Ask yourself if the belief or theology you’re trusting lines up with:
The Character of God
The Consistency of what the rest of the Word says
The Context of the scripture in the book it’s in
Common Sense – don’t just believe what you’re being told, but think about it.
I used to be a fundamentalist Christian and I had been taught to believe all the lies below. As I learned about narcissism and abuse, these doctrines, clichés, and platitudes that I had tried to believe for years no longer made sense. I realized that if I believed them, God couldn’t be a loving God. This caused a devastating faith crisis for me, as it does for almost all abused women of faith.
These lies are used to justify abuse but they don’t tell us the truth about God. I think it’s about time to defend His character. When we truly know His character, we can discern if the confusing things we’re told about Him and His will are consistent with who He is.
Jesus came to show us our Father. When we really look at Jesus, rather than just believe what we’ve been told the Bible supposedly says in sermon after sermon, we can see our Father.
I promise you, it’s good news and it will set you free from a lot of confusion and pain.
So let’s dig deeper than the clichés to uncover our loving God.
God in control, God is sovereign
“These words are designed as a conversation stopper … exempting them from further discussion on the matters at hand and supposedly assuaging all my fears in four simple words. The only problem is—it’s not true, at least not in the way they might like it to be right now. In matters of injustice and suffering and evil—it essentially passes the buck to God.
But the story of the Scriptures, is one of this same God granting Humanity the power over their choices; giving them the ability to be co-creators in this world by the decisions they make.
Though God is all-powerful, God does not exercise that power to coerce us. We are not mindless robots simply performing the tasks we are pre-programmed to—we are fully responsible for the stuff we do and say and think.
I don’t believe Jesus spent three years imploring people to love their neighbors as themselves, to feed the poor, to protect the vulnerable, to love our enemies, and to bind up wounds of strangers—if God had already written the script and we’re all just playing the whole thing out in flesh and blood without getting to improvise and change lines.”
~ John Pavlovitz
If we believe that God is in control of everything (and therefore, everyone), we are set up for a faith crisis when we realize that wickedness is in our own home. We can’t understand why a loving God doesn’t intervene, doesn’t change our husband, and doesn’t make the abuse stop. I went through this, and I talk to women every week who are struggling with this.
Jesus said “Woe to anyone who causes another to stumble.” (Lk 17:1) and this doctrine causes us to stumble big time.
Because of free will, God can’t intervene when people are wicked to one another.
We’re not puppets being controlled by God. Everyone gets to choose whether to align themselves with the kingdom of God or the kingdom of the enemy.
Going to church, praying, and reading the bible doesn’t mean someone is choosing God– their heart, and how they treat others, shows which kingdom they’ve chosen.
Free will allows men to choose to abuse women and children, but God hates it.
“One of the most frustrating things I've been told is, ‘God is sovereign.’ This was just a cop-out from helping me when I was being abused.” ~ Covert Abuse Survivor
So when is God in control?
When we turn our lives over to Him and live in Truth, He can move in our lives with His love and power. When we seek Him and do our best to follow Him, He can be in control. When we are relationships with others who do the same, He can be in that relationship bringing peace. Abusers don’t turn their lives over to God or live in truth, so peace isn’t possible.
Abuse is God’s will
Who are these Christians who are so far off the rails of common sense that they say abuse is God’s will simply because it’s happening? They seem to have no clue about our loving God, and no conscience about the damage their distorted theology does to abused women.
Abuse is free will in action, not God’s will. To say that God’s will is abuse is calling Him the author of evil.
“1st Peter 4:19 was quoted to me: ‘But let those who suffer according to God’s will and trust their souls to a faithful creator while doing good.’” ~ Covert Abuse Survivor
We are never called to stay in situations to make us suffer abuse at the hands of evil. God’s will for you is not to be harmed emotionally, mentally or physically by the man who vowed to loved you. But when you stand up for truth, expose evil, and walk way from abuse, which IS God’s will, you will be persecuted. That is suffering for God’s will, and you’ll need to trust God.
God causes or allows all suffering to happen for a reason
“I was told that God gives us tough times (even abuse) to make us stronger.” ~ Covert Abuse Survivor
I used to believe that because God is sovereign, everything that happens to us must come from His hand. I was told that bad things are from Him to cleanse us of sin, make us stronger in Him, bring our wandering heart back to him, or for some other mysterious reason that I wouldn’t understand until I saw Him face to face.
I thought this doctrine was comforting. It helped me make sense of a world I found confusing. I thought evil was “out there” in the “worldly” people and Christians were protected from it.
I didn’t truly understand free will. I thought I had this never-ending pit of sin inside of me that God was constantly trying to rid me of.
I was told, “God is a loving God and He knows better than we do, so be thankful for the suffering. Jesus suffered and we are privileged to enter into His suffering.” But it never made sense to me, deep down.
Nor did it bring my supposedly “wandering heart” back to Him. It made me lose trust in Him.
Then, when I realized my ex was using evil tactics and was a wicked person, I realized only a twisted theology would say there’s a “Godly” reason for this. God would have to be very double minded, hypocritical, and downright creepy to cause our suffering and then comfort us and set us free from it at the same time.
Only abusers create pain, and then “comfort” us in that pain. God is not an abuser and we have to reject every lie that paints Him as one.
Many people can hold onto this theology when they suffer an unintentional loss like a car wreck, or even death by cancer. (“Unintentional” because this is not evil inflicted upon them by another person.) But when faced with intentional suffering at the hands of another person, when looking squarely at evil in a human, it either changes your theology or you lose your faith.
I’ve never met a survivor of sexual abuse, spousal abuse, sex trafficking, or other forms of evil perpetrated by another human who was able to believe that a loving God wanted her or him to go through that.
I have to conclude that those who teach that God causes this kind of suffering are people who haven’t gone through any life shattering suffering at the hands of a person they thought loved them, have only experienced unintentional suffering, are in complete denial, or are abusers themselves hiding in the church.
Would a loving Father make His child suffer on purpose to bring her closer to Him?
Would He accuse her of not having enough faith when she draws back and loses trust?
This is not love.
God can use suffering (so accept it)
There is no doubt that God can, and will, use suffering for good. He promises to work all things for good (Rms 8:28), but that’s far different than causing suffering for our good. He’s a loving God who will bring beauty out of ashes.
For us to move closer to Him in our suffering, and to receive His comfort, we have to get rid of the lie that He’s causing it, and release ourselves from the false guilt that we brought it on ourselves. We need to understand free will.
God suffered, so we need to suffer too
“I was told that God suffered for our sins so we must be willing to suffer too, that Christ is our example.” ~ Covert Abuse Survivor
Jesus avoided suffering when He could, Paul walked away when he could (even sneaking away in the middle of the night), and David ran when he could.
Jesus suffered for our sins. It is finished. We aren’t Jesus and we aren’t asked to suffer for our husband’s sins. In fact, we are told to expose wickedness and have no fellowship with it.
If one member suffers, all suffer together. 1 Cor 12:26
These lies separate us from God when we need Him the most
These horrible doctrines cause damage because they separate us from our loving God when we need Him the most. Thinking that God is desiring our abuse breaks all trust in Him. It’s spiritual abuse to be told these lies by your husband, pastor, elders, family, or church.
What kind of suffering is God’s will?
There is true suffering for the gospel – for standing against evil and lies, and for sharing the gospel – and when we do this, we share in the suffering of Jesus who was also standing up against evil and lies. This isn’t the same as the suffering that a child experiences when she’s sexually assaulted by her father year after year, or a wife suffers while being covertly psychologically abused by her husband.
God won’t give you more than you can handle
If you believe that everything that happens to you is directly God’s will, and yet you also know God to be a loving God, you have to conclude that you can handle it.
This cliché is a complete misunderstanding of 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says,
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
The context of this verse is a discussion of the temptation of idolatry, not a discussion about abuse.
In fact, James 1:13 says,
When someone is tempted, he should not say, “I am being tempted by God,” because God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.
Even Paul, who was being persecuted for the gospel, never said that God didn’t give him more than He could handle. He said,
We were completely overwhelmed, beyond our strength, so that we even despaired of life itself. 1 Cor 1:8
No woman should be expected to “handle” abuse. This lie keeps women in emotionally abusive marriages that are destroying them.
God’s in the miracle business
How many of you have prayed for God to knock your husband down in a flash of light like he did Paul, or for some other miracle to change your husband? I sure did, for years. But once again, we are face to face with free will. God can’t change someone who doesn’t want to change. And very few abusers want to change.
Because God is faithful, He will heal your marriage
“I was told that God is bigger than any issue and if I will just turn my marriage over to Him, then He will be ‘faithful’ to keep His promises.” ~ Covert Abuse Survivor
Waiting for years and years for God to be faithful to His “promise” to change our abuser is a real faith killer. God won’t make Himself “bigger” than an abuser’s free will.
God wants to redeem our lives, and most often we need to get away from abuse for Him to do that. When we live in abuse, we are forced to live a lie and to fellowship with darkness. God wants us to live in truth and light, for He is truth and light, and we find Him there. He would never condemn us for staying in abuse, but our suffering breaks His heart.
His powers to redeem our lives are limited by the free will of the abuser interfering with our life. The most beautiful stories of redemption I hear are from women who have left and see God move mountains to bring them healing and restoration.
Jesus came to set us free
Jesus came to reveal the Father to us. In Jesus we see God’s pure love, compassion, and faithfulness. We see His desire for freedom for the oppressed, downtrodden, marginalized, and captives. We see His anger at evil, bondage, and legalism.
Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He came to give us a direct connection to the Father that’s outside religion, and to remove any mediator between us and God (such as a pastor).
He came to put His Holy Spirit in us to guide us and comfort us. He came to bring our spirits back to Life, and He put His Life in us to work in us.
Jesus came to bring us truth. He came to free us from the kingdom of darkness and evil, the kingdom of lies, accusation, deception, and hatred. He did not come to bring us into bondage of any kind.
God is safe, and here’s what He really says about suffering:
~ Suffering breaks God’s heart (Gen 6:5-6)
~ He wants people rescued from hand of oppressors (Jer 22:3)
~ He came to bind up the brokenhearted, not cause it (Is 61:1)
~ Abuse is not from His hand (Is 54:15)
~ He’s our comfort in suffering (Is 66: 3)
~ He doesn’t want us to suffer at the hands of evil (Mt 6:13).
~ God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 Jn 1:5)
~ He loves us with perfect love (Jer 31:3, 1 Jn 4:8)
~ He’s our refuge and strength (Deut 33:27, Jer 16:19, Ps 46:1)
~ He’ll heal our broken heart Is 61:1-2 (Ps 147: 3 Ps 34:18)
~ He came to set the captive free and release us from darkness (Is 61:1-2, Is 58:6)
~ He’ll never leave us (Heb 13:5)
~ He will bring justice (Matt 25:46)
~ He will not break a bruised reed (Is 42:3)
~ He can use evil for good (not that he causes it) (Rom 8:28)
Our Jesus comes into our suffering, heals our heart, gives us beauty for ashes, brings joy out of our mourning and praise out of our despair (Is 61:3)
But He does even more than that:
Luke 7:36-50 When Jesus was dining with Simon the Pharisee and the woman (a “sinner” and probably a prostitute) anointed Jesus with oil and wiped his feet with her tears and hair (scandalous at that time). Simon shamed her and Jesus publicly.
This woman was already shamed and put aside by her community as a “sinner.” All accusing eyes were on her– judging, rejecting, and condemning her.
Jesus didn’t shame or reject her. He accepted and defended her, and in doing so, He willingly took on the shame and accusation that was being directed at her, with no thought to himself.
He forgave her of her sins to remove the barrier that excluded her from her community. Jesus knew the “sinner” loved Him, and knew that the Pharisee was judging Him. The Pharisee didn’t approve of the woman, but Jesus didn’t approve of the Pharisee.
When you are accused, lied about, rejected, and shunned, Jesus is aligning Himself with you, taking on the false shame that is heaped on you, and inviting you to join the community of those who know who He really is.
Renewing your Mind and Undoing Brainwashing
As you wrestle with these lies, seek the Lord for yourself. His Spirit is in you to guide you into truth.
For every doctrine you believe, think it through with the 4 Cs.
Compare the confusing theology you’ve been taught against God’s character –love, compassion, freedom, light, comfort and peace.
Rather than causing or allowing the suffering and evil of abuse, God wants us to get as far away from abusers as we can, and to keep them out of the church.