Logically, we know that refuge centres set up for women who are abused, are a good thing. Any good friend or father who walks into a room where a woman is being abused by her partner, physically, sexually or even emotionally, would pull that woman out and set her free. No one wants to see a loved one being abused. Victims of abuse are never going to live out their purpose as long as they are being tormented physically or emotionally. The affects of that abuse extend into the neural pathways of their brain which take therapy and recovery to rewire- if they ever get help.
God doesn’t desire abuse for us. He doesn’t want to bring harm against us. He wants us to know and live out our purpose. His desire for us not to sin is rooted in the fact that He doesn’t want us to harm ourselves. Self-harm isn’t limited to putting a blade to your skin. Self-harm extends to the self-sabotaging acts we do when we don’t understand how valuable we are and how amazing God is.
I want to take you back to the story of the Israelites in Egypt. (If you’ve ever watched Prince of Egypt, you’ll get the gist of the story.) We often forget that Egypt was once their promised land.
Joseph went through years of imprisonment and slavery which led him into the palace of Pharaoh in Egypt. Here, he was able to provide for his family who were about to die of starvation in their home country. Instead, they came to Egypt so that God could provide for them and they were given a place of favour because of Joseph. Joseph had envisioned this position years before and made the mistake of telling his brothers. They tried to sabotage his vision and turned their backs on him because they were jealous of him (and thought he was crazy!) Years later, those very same brothers got to experience the grace of God and forgiveness of their brother when they realised that he, in fact, was going to be their only means of survival. Joseph not only forgave them but he saw what they did as God’s leading them into the promised dream he had had. His perspective was pure. (See Genesis 45-47)
Jacob (aka Israel) and his sons went and settled there probably not ever thinking they’d want to leave. Often we stay in a place or house or country because AT ONE STAGE, that was our promise. But God is a God of seasons and seasons change. He is a God who does new things ALL. THE. TIME.
Egypt, however, soon turned into a prison for the future generations of Israel. They were being abused and enslaved, pushed to their very limits by cruel task masters. They cried out for help, asking God to rescue them from the prison they found themselves in. Oppressed and bewildered, God raised up another man who had been through the process of isolation and rejection—enter Prince of Egypt. Moses (a native Israelite who had been brought up in an Egyptian palace) didn’t think he was worthy to be used by God. He thought he had blown all chances because in the back of the desert one day, he killed an Egyptian task master who was abusing his people. Maybe it was his heart for justice that God saw even in his act of disobedience to God’s law- murder.
God didn’t justify it, neither did he disqualify Moses. Moses was out in the wilderness for 40 years before God called him to be the answer to the Israelites prayers.
Egypt had been a promise of provision and the place where God set up the tribes of Israel- Family and order within community. It was significant in the history of Israel. Yet, years later as corruption and jealousy crept in on a larger scale, the Israelites no longer experienced blessing in that land, but burden.
Too often, we assume that the thing that God originally sent into our lives to bless us, will continually remain that way- whether it be a gift or a person. But, at the end of the day, God is God and only HE remains the same. Only when we see things like Joseph, through an eternal perspective, can we live content with the way God chooses to move us around- either geographically or relationally.
Psalm 81:5-7 (NKJV). This He established in Joseph as a testimony, when He went throughout the land of Egypt, Where I heard a language I did not understand. “I removed his shoulder from the burden; His hands were freed from the baskets. You called in trouble, and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder, I tested you at the waters of Meribah.”
These verses are talking about the Israelites when God set them free from Egypt. It started with a testimony for Joseph, but ended up a burden for God’s people. How many women, enter into a covenant relationship, thinking that they have received their promise from God, only to be abused and tormented by the one who was meant to be their provision and their protector. They, too, are calling out to God in their distress, often in secret and feeling the pressure of those around them who are putting yokes on them that they feel like they can’t break out of.
Yokes of legalism and religiousness. Yokes of guilt and shame. Yokes of expectations for change that they can’t make happen in someone else but can make happen in themselves- if they leave. I was one of those wives and I remember coming through a two year season of intense abuse and shame and God showing me this verse. I was reminded that He cares- that He doesn’t just remove the burden from our shoulders- but He REMOVES OUR SHOULDERS FROM THE BURDEN! He pulls us out from underneath and deals with the hand that has been oppressing us, taking us to new levels of faith in Him.
But after this God has a call to the Israelites to make sure they step up their game and continue to follow Him. He says in vs. 11-12: But My people would not heed My voice, And Israel would have none of Me. So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels.
Can Christian men abuse their wives? The short answer to that question would be explained in these verses. God still gives us free choice and God ultimately has established laws of sowing and reaping. Wives are not responsible for the choices their husbands makes. He will be accountable to God for all his actions as she will be responsible for hers. Too many wives are out there taking responsibility for their abusive husbands actions. They get caught up in blame and shame and low-self belief…often because they’ve been emotionally abused to the point that their minds and souls have surrendered to apathy.
God wants freedom for us. He doesn’t expect us to live in slavery and oppression, abuse and neglect and risk harm. Adultery isn’t the only option God gives for divorce. He died for the person, not for the institution. He loves His daughters and He hears our cries. In my last two years, I’ve heard too many victims of abuse, try to justify why they left an abusive relationship because they feel judged or they stay in abuse and addictive relationships because they don’t want to break God’s commandments.
Divorce is not the unpardonable sin. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is. If the Holy Spirit exists in a marriage, then there is going to be freedom and liberty. “Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NKJV).
Whom the Son sets free, is free indeed. Hallelujah.