Abuse can happen to a person at any age, and when it happens most victims are not aware that it is happening.
For example, I have heard of the term gaslighting as it applied to political parties, but I was not aware that it also can be applied to abusive relationships. Here is what was said in a recent Insider Magazine article:
· Gaslighting happens when an abuser tries to control a victim by twisting their sense of reality
· An example of gaslighting would be a partner doing something abusive and then denying it happened
· Gaslighters may also convince their victims that they're mentally unfit or too sensitive
· Gaslighting is a type of emotional abuse that can happen to anyone, especially in romantic relationships
Narcissism is a classic case of where this type of behavior happens, and is often not noticed by the victim until they become a victim.
One of the antennas I have put up in recent years is the antenna of abuse. We hear stories of abuse every day in the news, but abuse can find itself weaseling into church circles as well. In churches, it is often discovered through the church’s view of authority. There is shaming that happens if you don’t believe exactly as the leader believes, and that shaming sounds spiritual and Biblical. However, if you analyze how the leaders sees authority you will discover there is insecurity at the core of the demands to believe exactly as they present it.
My very first funeral was the death of a baby who died just after it was born. The church where the parents attended condemned the parents for not believing right to keep their baby from dying. They insinuated that the right kind of faith would have prevented this baby from dying. Not only was this an insult to God, who has the right to give and take life, it was an insult to these parents who were believers and they trusted God to heal their baby. But it was not what God wanted. We can argue that point at another time, but ultimately God has the final say in what happens to us in life. We may not agree with the circumstances or the conclusion, but God is still in control. We can blame Him, hate Him, or we can learn to trust Him in the difficult decisions that are made, even when they end negatively.
My point today has to do with abuse. Everyone will experience abuse in life. Sometimes it is as a child, in our peer groups, or in a marriage … abuse will try to find a way to torment you in some way. Your reaction is what this test is all about. How you react will tell the world, the devil, and ultimately God, where you place your ultimate faith and trust. The world wants to make fun of you and make your faith in God a joke. We know that already. The devil wants to prove his point that God is incompetent to meet your needs, and all His requirements to serve Him do not work. And finally, your test will say something to God about your faith in Him. As Job discovered:
Job 13:15 God might kill me, but I have no other hope. I am going to argue my case with him.
The point here is simple. Do I trust God even if the circumstances go against me? Do I trust God over the circumstances? The devil wants to argue that the circumstances are the real test … how did it turn out? God says circumstances mean nothing, He is above circumstances, and even if it appears that the circumstances win, God has the final say. And God would say to you, “Do you believe this?” There is the test. Baby dies, no answer, but God replenishes. Does the baby become irrelevant? No, the baby is the catalyst to go beyond the circumstance to trust God. Circumstances are never greater than God … ever! Daniel in the lion’s den is a great example where circumstances should win and prove victorious, but God defeated that den of lions.
You may be in an abusive relationship or marriage, and the circumstances are impossible. The question I would ask you is: “Who’s bigger? God? Or the circumstances you find yourself in?” If you are being abused, you have every right to flee that relationship to safety. Any abused person is traumatized and does not have the capacity to cope in defending off the abusers’ advances. Get away, pray, seek counsel, and make the abuse known to those who will prosecute, arrest, or get counseling for the abuser. Never, ever, stay in an abusive situation because of principle. The only principle you need to invoke is the principle of safety for yourself and others also affected by the abuse.
If you are in a church where the leadership are abusing the church through their Biblical teaching … confront it and leave. Do not be afraid to confront anyone who is abusing God’s Word. Authority is given to the church … not to individual leaders who think they have the right to it. If any leaders of any church or ministry have authority that is not governed by others to hold them accountable, my advice is to flee.
I have been involved in ministries where the leader is abusive and the end result is always the same. They abuse their followers until they can’t any longer, then these abusing leaders will seek out new victims and the cycle of abuse continues. As I said in the beginning, most abused people do not know at the time of the abuse that an abusive leader is using them. There is so much abuse in the name of Jesus. I can’t begin to tell you the stories of abuse, but believe me, abuse in the name of Jesus in the ministry of the church is prolific.
One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12, addresses a gift of discernment. It is a gift missing in the most ministries today. But discernment is about knowing where the motive is wrong in the ministry and where abuse can be occurring.
God needs discerning people working in His ministries. We cannot allow abuse anywhere in the church or in the ministries we lead. Abuse is the devil simply attacking us because of our faithfulness to God. When you are faithful, the devil will find a way to tempt you, ruin you, or simply torment you. The counter-attack is simple … resist and stand firm and God will do the rest.
James 4:7 So, humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler