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We are valuable to God, and His sacrifice for us proves that. No matter what we have been told, what experiences we have had, what mistakes we have made, God loves us and wants us to be loved. We do not have to labor in an arena God never intended for us to labor in, He wants us to be free. If you are in a relationship that threatens your mental and physical health, your soul and your temple, seek guidance and strength from a God who knows your struggle. He is ready to deliver you because you have dwelt long enough on this mountain.
In the last thirty years, volumes of information have been produced about domestic violence. One important dimension of this time has been the new effort of the church to cope with the religious and spiritual aspects of these traumatic experiences.
This book serves as an instrument, introducing tools and principles to utilize nouthetic counseling as it concerns victims of domestic violence. Nouthetic counseling, as introduced by Jay Adams in Competent to Counsel, is motivated by love and concern, teaching, correcting, and using the principles and practices of the scripture to bring about a change in someone's life.
I pray it will empower victims and counselors alike through the journey to healing from domestic violence. I hope it will also acquaint the reader with the topic of nouthetic counseling, give tools in preparation for a more extensive study of domestic violence, and outline areas for further exploration. It may also create a dialogue in communities of faith and encourage victims to connect with those equipped to empower them through the word of God. I believe we will soon have a setting in which women and men consistently receive Godly counsel, and in doing so their violent predicament becomes nonexistent based on the strength they find in God. In the end, I hope the words you have read will provoke thought, discussion, action, and finally usher in healing.
The focus of much of the research I have done has been on victims of domestic violence and I felt I should link nouthetic counseling as a way to go deeper in this research. I have identified sources that devote some space to this area, and will serve as an excellent starting point. The message within brings to light some of the thought processes surrounding a victim of abuse and the place of God's word in their life, while offering alternatives within the church.
I firmly believe that a victim's exposure to this type of counseling will lead to an increase in escaping an abusive relationship and promote healing. I also believe that a woman or man in a violent situation might sometimes be shaped by the presence of spiritual and religious facets. This can be a blessing or a hindrance depending upon how it is viewed by the victim and how it is presented to them. I've learned that victims are able to cope in various ways, and the presence of faith and spirituality can be a tool used in overcoming their grim reality if applied correctly.
Consequences of religious misconceptions can be critical and an inability to effectively provide needed services to victims who are misunderstood and alienated could be detrimental. Without these competencies, society is likely to be a part of the problem, rather than a provider of solutions. My hope is that through these pages, I can introduce a refreshing way for the victim of domestic violence to look at their present and future, and create a yearning for those who strive to be competent counselors.
This topic is of vital importance because victims have traditionally been too afraid to breach the subject with pastors or churches (body of believers) that could be likewise, ill-equipped to deal with this issue. Victims need to know there is a way of escape and that it is through the word and nouthetic counseling can be a response to the violence individuals have encountered for years and may continue to encounter. This counseling is just the beginning of the work the church needs to ensure that victims feel safe and know that they can do all things through Christ; and this includes gaining victory over domestic violence.
Pastors and churches have a way to help victims by confronting in love and counseling based on what the word of God says. Within the scriptures, the God-breathed word is the answer to every question, and a solution to every problem, including domestic violence. Throughout these pages, I will address and encourage the counselors who are going to be presented with this situation, as well as the victims going through these trying times.
Children of God, let me encourage you today to seek healing. Let these words be the impetus that you use to further your quest for God and usher you down the road of becoming the survivor God has already ordained you to be. Allow these words to prick your heart as a counselor, so you can bear witness to the healing you are about to see.
Let me encourage you to seek healing from the wounds of shame, defeat, depression, embarrassment and worthlessness; physical, mental and emotional scars. Let me encourage you to seek healing with the help of our Father, who is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above all that we could ever ask or think. Get ready to lift up your banner of praise. I encourage you to heal!
Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men; preserve me from violent men. Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; Preserve me from violent men, Who have purposed to make my steps stumble. Psalm 140:1, 4
Samantha was 25 years old. She met her boyfriend Michael, through a friend, he was 28. They dated for about 6 months and then decided to move in together. One month into this arrangement, Samantha saw another side of Michael. He became controlling and physically abusive; he would call her names and put her down, causing low self-esteem. Michael pushed Samantha and slapped her often when he became frustrated by something she said or did. He was very manipulative by blaming her for all the issues they had in their relationship. He would constantly blame her for every problem he had when he became overwhelmed by life's difficulties. Michael tried to control her by calling her cell phone all day and night and monitoring her whereabouts. He had severe mood swings, being pleasant one moment and enraged the next. Samantha was a friendly person, however this made Michael very suspicious, thinking that everyone she spoke with might take her away from him or come in between their relationship. Samantha tried to reassure him and did all she could to prevent his temper from flaring up. She walked around on egg shells every day and began to lose focus in school and at work. With her love and persistence, she thought he might be able to get through his troubles and change. Several months went by and they eventually married; Samantha thought that this would change him and help him with many of his insecurities and mood swings. Unfortunately, the verbal, emotional and physical abuse increased. They sought secular counseling, which only put a band-aid on the situation. As a last resort, they requested the help of a nouthetic counselor on staff at their local church ...
The Dynamics of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is the emotional, mental, physical and financial abuse of one person toward another. It is known by many names: domestic abuse, spousal abuse, intimate violence, dating violence and relational violence. It refers to a wide variety of behaviors used by men or women, to exert power and control over their intimate or former partner.
Domestic violence also seeks to establish power and control over another person through fear and intimidation. Those who perpetrate this behavior believe that they are entitled to control their partners. They believe the violence is acceptable and will produce some desired result. Therefore, domestic violence can be seen as a purposeful and instrumental behavior to the abuser.
Examples of this type of abuse usually focus on the physical aspect of pushing, hitting, pulling, punching, and grabbing. However, it also includes psychological abuse such as playing mind games and making the other person feel as though they are paranoid or crazy; and even sexual abuse such as forcing someone to have sexual contact without their consent. Keep in mind that there can be sexual abuse within any relationship including marriage. The other components some do not see as abuse are emotional abuse (name-calling and put-downs), economic and financial control (giving a partner an allowance or not allowing the partner to work), threats regarding children, intimidation, isolation (keeping the partner away from family and friends); and many other behaviors which, while all are not criminal acts, do reinforce control over the victim.
Although this book and much of the research focuses on women, men are also victims of domestic violence. Anyone can be a victim, it does not matter the class or race, economic status or religion, location or church affiliation.
Domestic violence is a widespread societal problem with consequences reaching far beyond the family. It is conduct that has devastating effects for the individual victims, their children, their families and their communities. In addition to these immediate effects, violence within the family becomes a way of life, and is the breeding ground for other social problems such as substance abuse, juvenile delinquency and other violent crimes. Understanding the complexities of this violence is the first step toward preventing primary and secondary victimization.
Some have the belief that abuse is a generational issue; those who perpetrate the violence are more likely to have witnessed and experienced abuse as children. For example, a young boy who has witnessed his father being abusive may grow up to be an abuser, and a woman who has been sexually abused as a child is more likely to be a victim of abuse or sexual violence as an adult. The list can go on and on ... the effects are certainly far-reaching.
Some believe this to be a private matter, something that should be dealt with within the confines of the home or behind closed doors. The belief is that the consequences should come from within and not be the product of outside influences. Although legal remedies and systems of social support are now available to those in violent situations, it is difficult to imagine the isolation and helplessness felt for so long before these were available. We no longer have to hide behind closed doors; we can fling those doors open and escape.
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She would move around from house to house until they became fed up with helping her because she would never leave her abuser ... but she never had the strength ... she was depressed all the time, about everything. If she could just love him more, he would stop hitting her. Her mother had stuck it out in her own violent relationship ever since she could remember ...
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How are those in the faith community responding to violence when they are confronted with it? The apostle Paul wrote that in his own life, he fought against violence. Instead of fists, guns, knives or hurtful words, he used weapons of righteousness; according to II Corinthians 6; leaning and depending on God for his strength.
God gives His people the weapons of righteousness to fight against evil and violence. These weapons may seem feeble to a spiritually untrained eye, but they are mighty in God. So "take up the whole armor of God" to stand firm and fight against evil and violence in the home and in the community. Fight to get your life back, your family back and your community back.
The faith community is not immune to the devastating effects of violence or the temptation to use it. Some have been victims, not only perpetrated by strangers, but by those they live with and love. Behind the closed doors of many homes, a secret violence lurks, leaving tragic scars on its victims and causing lifelong consequences. Unfortunately, victims have suffered in silence for years ... they no longer have to. God cares very deeply for victims of violence. Throughout the Psalms, David cries out for deliverance from the hand of the oppressor. According to Romans 12, God has a tender heart toward those who have been victimized by cruelty and violence, and we can take comfort in knowing that a decisive judgment awaits those who oppress and hurt others. Hide in the word of God, allow the Lord to deliver you and embrace His word as your guide. We need to rally around the hurting and be the vessel God can use to bring victory.
What the Bible Says about Violence
God loves us and wants us to love Him, each other, and ourselves. God never intended anyone to be victimized, and it is important that we love and respect ourselves, holding ourselves in high regard. Men and women must love God and each other as the commandments require. Domestic violence is sin and violent interactions break the greatest commandments. Violence is incompatible with love and that is why it is important to embrace God's word to find out exactly what it says to us about God's love. Furthermore, we know the Holy Spirit neither produces nor condones abuse, for love and gentleness are Fruit of the Spirit according to Galatians. We are precious to Him.
We are valuable to God and His sacrifice for us proves that. No matter what we have been told, what experiences we have had, what mistakes we have made, God loves us and wants us to be loved. No one has the authority to degrade and harm us. If we are in a relationship that threatens our mental and physical health, our soul and our temple, seek guidance and strength from the Spirit about how to bring life back into a peaceful place. We should consult with those who counsel with God as the center to assist in adopting a lifestyle that will bring us under His command to love ourselves.
I wholeheartedly support resources in the community that are not grounded in faith necessarily, such as safe shelters, medical and mental health facilities, social service agencies, and the like. These services, coupled with scripture-based counseling and support are great avenues in helping someone in need. It is a "whole-listic" approach that can be most helpful.
Women have lived in a world that has imposed its destructive actions of abuse, messages that bind or burden, inevitably producing guilt and shame. Most have internalized these destructive messages and now find themselves laboring in arenas that God never created them to labor in. God never intended us to be anyone's punching bag or emotional dumpster; nor did he intend us to be used sexually against our will for someone's gratification. According to Genesis, God has created us in His image and He proclaimed, "It is good". We are fearfully and wonderfully made, says the word of God. God smiled when He created us. He smiles when we praise Him, worship Him, call out to Him, cry to Him, and seek Him. Seek God, we no longer have to be a victim, He will deliver us.
Healthy and Unhealthy Relationships
Many people struggle with relationships in which there is distrust, doubt, disrespect, or hurt. Some do not know what a healthy relationship is and may not know how to properly handle conflict. Baggage from other relationships, toxic or unhealthy relationships, brought into a new relationship causes that current one to struggle. Communication is important in order to have successful and healthy relationships, peaceful and productive interactions.
A healthy relationship is one in which we feel secure. One that we are each other's friend, are each other's family, we blend our lives. We trust in and are confident in the fact that our partner has our best interest at heart. There are no secrets and we are not afraid to ask questions or share our feelings. If we let our partner know that we need them, they are there for us every step of the way. If we are hurt by them, we can share this and in turn, they consider our feelings, making the necessary adjustments to ensure the hurt doesn't continue. An apology goes a long way, and being able to do that, mean it, and work hard so that the same mistakes do not happen is essential in a healthy relationship. A healthy relationship is one that doesn't blame, produce hitting, yelling, grabbing, or denying that there are problems.
If we are hurt and make a request of our mate for reconciliation and they do not want to see our side of the concern, disregard our feelings, or make us seem as though we are "paranoid" or "not trusting", this is shifting the blame and not acknowledging the other's hurt. This is unhealthy. If we disagree with a decision that our partner makes and can only argue about it and not discuss it; or our partner picks an argument to make us feel bad or turns the issue around and begins to point out our faults, then this is unhealthy. Unhealthy relationships are also filled with berating questions or comments: "where are you going, who are you talking to, why didn't you call me back, why aren't you answering my calls, where were you today, I drove by and you weren't at work or at school". We cannot feel comfortable in our own world because of always feeling on edge and walking on egg shells. God Provides a Way of Escape
We are always wondering if we are going to say the right thing or spend time second guessing ourselves as to whether we should say anything at all, and how it will be received. If we share with our partner how difficult something in our relationship is to deal with, whether is it their character or the decisions they are making, and they act as if it's not a big deal, this is unhealthy. If someone blames us for the bruises they put on us, or the anger they cannot control, then it's an unhealthy relationship. The first step is admitting that there are issues or concerns, and if someone is not willing to do that at the basic level, there will certainly be deeper problems in the future.
The abuser needs to feel in control, lacks adequate self-esteem and respect for themselves and their partner. They have a need to feel superior and have a sense of entitlement-this can be difficult to chip away at, yet can be done if they only first recognize there is a problem and allow God to change them.
It is so very important to look into our heart and determine what we will and will not compromise on. We must determine within ourselves what we will put up with and what we will not. What we will let go of and what means the most to us. We must also decide when enough is enough, and we are the only ones that can decide that.
Excerpted from God Provides a Way of Escape by Gwendola Williams Copyright © 2012 by Dr. Gwendola Williams. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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