Abuse Exposed

Abuse is such an ugly topic; it pains me to write about it. But left unaddressed, its sinister message continues to radiate through layer after layer of its victim’s soul, damaging the very essence of the image of God within. Following my own devastating experience of abuse, I wrestled for years with gut-wrenching questions about what I was worth in light of the treatment of me that God and others seemed to deem “beneath their notice.”

They clothe themselves with violence. … They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression. … They say, “How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?”
Psalm 73:6-8, 11

Did God not see what was happening to me? Did He not hear me calling for help? I thought He was the righteous Judge of all the earth, the One who sees everything and calls the wicked to account. So why did they get away with treating me this way? Is this really how He is going to let my story end, with me a broken mess and my abusers perfectly unscathed?

The outcome of our story is not a matter of “if” but “when,” because it lies in the hands of a just, faithful God.

But that isn’t how the stories of His other abused children turned out. God saw what had happened to Bathsheba. He took note of how Uriah was handled. And He was not about to turn a blind eye to such abuse, even if it was at the hands of one of His favorites, a man after His own heart.

The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. … Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
2 Samuel 12:1-4

How could David live with himself? Surely he knew that his actions were wrong, and yet somehow he managed to justify them to himself. Despite his un-confessed sin against Bathsheba and Uriah, David maintained a strong sense of his own righteousness and a quick willingness to judge others. After all, he was God’s appointed leader, the one called to make sure everyone else was obeying God’s law.

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
2 Samuel 12:5-6

What David could not see in himself, he readily identified in others. So when the prophet Nathan approached him with the case of one man using his power to take advantage of another, David did not hesitate to judge such behavior as intolerably wrong, deserving of severe punishment.

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. … I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own.’
2 Samuel 12:7-9

In one of His grand reversals, God yanked the carpet out from underneath David’s royal feet, leaving him flat on his face, defenseless and exposed. Who did he think he was, taking all the privilege and position that God had given him and using it to get more? God had not given him the right to treat others however he deemed fit. He named the people David had abused, cataloguing his crimes against them. They were precious to God too, and He was here to judge the judge for their abuse.

The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants? … But suppose the servant … then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants … That servant who knows his master’s will and … does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. … From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
Luke 12:42-48

David was not above the law, somehow an exception to the standards that he held for others. In fact, God judged him all the more severely because David knew His standards and ignored them, because he used his position of leadership to get away with his own self-indulgence. God had entrusted him with much, and he had abused it. Did he really think that God wouldn’t notice?

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’ ”
2 Samuel 12:11-12

God had seen every action, heard every word, noted every detail of their mistreatment. What David had done in secret, God was going to make public. What David had thought he would get away with, God was going to repay in the sight of all. And the price was going to be high, so much so that anyone who heard of it would wince at its brutality.

For all those who have suffered at the hands of others, who have wondered if God really notices or will ever right such horrible wrongs, the story of God’s harsh retribution of David’s crimes lays our questions to rest. (If anything, it moves us to compassion on behalf of our abusers, making us want to ask God to go a little easier on them.) Yes, He will vindicate our suffering; He will expose our abuse, no matter how important or invincible our abusers may seem. This is what we are worth to God. The outcome of our story is not a matter of “if” but “when,” because it lies in the hands of a just, faithful God.

15 thoughts on “Abuse Exposed”

  1. Abuse is a horrible ugly thing, but I suppose it will continue until Jesus returns. But we can be sure that no matter what we have gone through, He is keeping the record. Not only that, He will pour oil on our wounds and bind them up and give us beauty for ashes. He loves us, and said he’d never leave us or forsake us. That gives me comfort.
    Thank you for a beautiful and meaningful post.

    1. I admit, Scarlett, that I have often struggled to understand why He still allows abuse, especially within the church. But like you, my hope is rooted in His character. He despises abuse and at the same time He is somehow redeeming it to us, accomplishing for us some greater “glory” because of what we have suffered. (Rom. 8:17-18) May He hold us all close to His heart while He walks us on these painful roads towards healing.

  2. Articles such as this one can only help both abuser and abused, yet another perfect example of how Christ redeems ugliness, spreading his grace, beauty, and healing to the many through the sufferings of His own.

    1. I pray He will use it to bring healing, Pam. The world can be such an ugly place, but He is a God who specializes in messes. Thanks for the reminder of how His sufferings redeem our own!

    1. Ellen, it’s what I needed to hear, too! Thankfully, recognizing the damage is only the first step in a process that leads to an identity even more rooted in God, even more gloriously reflecting His image. May He continue to do His beautiful work in you.

  3. It would be a better world if everyone were able to speak openly of pain. How free we would all be in seeing ourselves in eachothers eyes. Bravo, Tiffany for strength of character and Faith in God to be wide open. How beautiful you are.

    1. Thank you, Collette. Isn’t this what He created us to be, a loving, sharing community who can bear each others’ burdens and celebrate each others’ successes? May He continue to reflect His radiant grace to all who know you.

  4. Man, this was a really good one! Those are some really hard questions. I could actually feel my blood pressure rising just reading about those who abuse their power, especially abusers who do it in the name of the Church. Oy, still struggle with this question of when will God hold them to account.

    1. Thanks, Ben. Each time I hear another story of spiritual abuse, I have a similar visceral reaction. I can only trust that our gut responses are mere reflections of how God feels about abuse, especially when it is done in His name. Asking the question “when” rather than “if” He will hold them to account reveals your faith. He will do it, it’s just a matter of time. In the meantime, I pray they will repent and be spared, rather than receiving the full measure of wrath coming.

  5. ” the story of God’s harsh retribution of David’s crimes lays our questions to rest. (If anything, it moves us to compassion on behalf of our abusers, making us want to ask God to go a little easier on them.) Yes, He will vindicate our suffering; He will expose our abuse, no matter how important or invincible our abusers may seem. ”

    No, it doesn’t move me to compassion. I don’t want God to go easier on them. The longer they go without punishment the more abuse they are inflicting on others and the more I want justice and not mercy. They could repent, but they haven’t yet. I don’t expect them to, if they ever do repent for real; then that’s a whole nother thing I have to be dealt with by God about. I’m fine with God exacting vengeance while I’m doing what I can to bring justice on this side of hell. It’s a balance.

    1. I understand your sentiment, Shelly. I think Moses felt much the same way, leaving Pharoah’s presence for the last time after years of repeated abuse and broken promises (Exodus 10:27–29; 11:4–8). If Pharaoh had repented, he would have been spared. But he didn’t, and he wasn’t. There is a point where righteous indignation is a godly emotion. On the other hand, we also have the example of Jesus weeping over His unrepentant people, who had abused the prophets and were about to abuse Him. I like how you look back to God to give you the right feelings/response to this. I think He leads us in different ways at different times. May His way prevail!

  6. I really appreciate your biblical perspective on abuse and your compassion for others. May the good Lord continue to bless you as you bless others in return. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Angela. I’m convinced that the Bible has so much more to say about the messy stuff of life than we give it credit for. But God is not blind to human struggles. He engages them fully, both in His Word and in the life of His Son. You are right–He is good.

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