Abuse, Suffering

From Victimhood to Victory: Biblically Helping Abused Women Heal

Ever since the Me Too movement exploded on social media a couple of years ago, we’ve been hearing more and more heartbreaking stories of women who have experienced physical and sexual abuse. If anyone can help and should be helping victims of abuse, it ought to be the church. But, unfortunately, it seems that the people in the evangelical spotlight who are stepping up to advocate for victims are often popular false teachers.

In 2019, we saw Beth Moore take the lead at the Caring Well conference, which centered around helping abuse victims. Christine Caine is the founder and leader of A 21, an anti-human trafficking ministry. In 2018, Lisa Harper was the keynote speaker at the Pastors’ Wives Conference at the annual Southern Baptist Convention where she addressed the issue of abuse. And in addition to stepping out into the spotlight as champions for abuse victims, Beth Moore, Christine Caine, and Lisa Harper, as well as Joyce Meyer, Paula White, Lysa TerKeurst, Jackie Hill Perry – and many more, I’m sure – share their own personal stories of abuse at their conferences, in their books, and so on.

These are the people being showcased to the average Jane in the pew as those who care about abuse victims. These are the people who are actually (supposedly) doing something about abuse. By and large, we’re not seeing doctrinally sound men and women being put forth on the stage of the visible church as caring about abuse victims or doing anything about abuse.

And so, when an Evangelical woman is coming to terms with her abuse, these are the women she’s seeing, so these are the women and their resources that she reaches out for. And by the same token, because these false teachers are in the spotlight and have name recognition and resources available, and there aren’t very many well known doctrinally sound resources available, churches who want to help abuse victims are also reaching out and grabbing hold of false teaching to try to help the women in their churches.

So what we’re finding is that women who are victims of abuse are especially vulnerable to false teaching because they see these teachers as someone who has gone through the same thing they’ve gone through: “This teacher knows how I feel. She has experienced the same thing.” And that’s the primary reason victims seek out these false teachers, rather than seeking out someone who – regardless of whether or not he or she has experienced abuse – can help them to heal with rightly handled Scripture.

This is one reason I am purposely not disclosing in this article whether or not I have ever been abused. Because biblical healing from abuse isn’t about me or my personal experiences. It’s about what the Bible says. My experiences don’t change what God’s Word says. The Bible remains the same whether I’ve been abused or not. Scripture is our standard, not our personal experiences.

But, unfortunately in the church, and particularly in the realm of women’s Bible study, we have indoctrinated women with the idea that personal experience reigns, not Scripture. So what abused women get when they seek out these false teachers for help dealing with their abuse is exactly what I’ve said before is the problem with women’s Bible study in general: narcissism.

These victims of abuse don’t get taught how to biblically come to terms with what happened to them and how to biblically heal from it. They get a cheap, shallow compassion that teaches them to focus on their own pain and feelings, and to harbor bitterness against their abuser and everyone and everything else they can assign blame to for the abuse (some of those things supposedly being biblical complementarianism, sexism in the church, misogyny in the church, not enough women in positions of leadership in the church, as Beth Moore said at the Caring Well conference, etc.)

These women are being victimized twice.

And so these women are being victimized twice – once by the abuser, and once by false teachers who are not only not helping them to heal biblically, but are actually eroding biblical teaching and sound doctrine – for that woman personally and in the church in general – by saying that biblical precepts, such as leadership of the church being restricted to men, are at fault for their abuse. It’s really insidious, because what’s implied by this whole paradigm is that this mixture of focusing on your feelings and believing unbiblical teaching is the quick fix that will make them feel better right away. This is what will finally bring them healing and wholeness. They’re being sold a lie.

Praise be to God, there are lots of doctrinally sound Christians out there who are quietly, out of the spotlight, helping victims of abuse in a biblical way, one on one, in their own local churches. So, how are they doing it, and how should we be doing it? What are some biblical ways we can help abuse victims?

Genuine Compassion

Abuse is a horrible, despicable thing that no one should ever have to suffer. The pain that it causes doesn’t just magically disappear because it happened years ago. It is not something about which any woman should ever be told, “You just need to get over it and forget about it.”

And certainly no woman should ever be made to feel that it was her fault, or that if she had just done something differently it wouldn’t have happened. The sin of abuse lies with the abuser, not the victim.

The sin of abuse lies with the abuser, not the victim.

So when we disciple a woman who is just beginning the journey of healing from her abuse, it should be handled with biblical compassion every step of the way. It’s important, especially in the beginning, to do what Romans 12:15 says, and “weep with those who weep”.

Let her pour out her feelings of pain and anger, and sit there in that with her.

Yes, that was awful.

No, you didn’t do anything to cause it. It wasn’t your fault.

That man was evil and took advantage of you. It was his sin, not yours.

We need to have that same heart for her that God has in Psalm 147:3: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

A Biblical Perspective of Suffering

It’s imperative that we have a biblical perspective of suffering so we can teach it to abuse victims. Because one of the things you’ll notice about the way false teachers approach the issue of abuse is that this component is completely missing. Why? Because walking through suffering in a biblical way can be hard and scary and painful and messy. It’s much easier to just smile and exude sympathy and say, “Just listen to me and I’ll tell you how to feel better right now.”

And if we’re honest with ourselves, that’s what we all want, isn’t it? Our flesh doesn’t want to suffer, we just want to feel better now. And that’s what makes this a hard sell that false teachers don’t want to deal with. It doesn’t fit in with their ear-tickling paradigm. But if we want to offer victims true help and true healing in Christ, we have to address the issue of suffering, and address it biblically and correctly.

A biblical theology of suffering applied to the issue of abuse understands that…

Everyone suffers. You’re not the first person to suffer, and you won’t be the last. 1 Peter 4:12 says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” When it comes to suffering, you’re not special, and neither am I. We don’t all suffer in the same way, but everybody suffers. It’s just the human condition resulting from the Fall.

Even Jesus suffered. Isaiah 53 tells us: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,”

Abuse is not a special class of suffering that exempts you from dealing with it in obedience to Scripture. We’re kind of seeing this line of thinking with homosexuality- that it’s a special class of sin that people don’t have to repent of. That homosexuals can hold onto their sin, cherish it in their hearts, and maybe even live it out, and still supposedly be biblical Christians.

And that’s the same sort of mindset a lot of the false teachers espouse: Abuse is a special class of suffering that you don’t have to walk through in a biblical way. You get to wallow in your victimhood for the rest of your life and think and act and feel and express yourself however you want to because you’ve been hurt so deeply. That’s not right. Perpetual victimhood is not biblical, it doesn’t help you heal, and it doesn’t bring your abuser to justice. It makes God look impotent and uncaring. If He can’t or won’t transform someone from victimhood to victory, how could He have the power to raise Christ from the dead? If He doesn’t care about a victim of abuse, why would He care about anybody else’s problems?

I would never minimize the pain and suffering of abuse victims, but all Believers are required by Scripture to act in a godly way regardless of their particular kind of suffering. Believers who have terminal diseases have to deal with that in a godly way. Believers who have lost a child have to deal with that in a godly way. Believers whose spouses have cheated on them have to deal with that in a godly way. Believers who are being tortured and persecuted just for being Christians have to deal with that in a godly way. We all have to bear up and respond to suffering in a godly way, regardless of what kind of suffering we’re dealing with.

1 Peter 4:19: “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”

Jesus understands your pain and serves as your perfect example for responding to suffering. Go back and read Isaiah 53. Go back and read the gospel accounts of Jesus’ trials, flogging, and crucifixion. He knows what it feels like to be abused. And look at the way he handled it. He didn’t give up. He didn’t feel sorry for himself or lash out at his abusers or become bitter. He didn’t blame God or the church or anyone else or His circumstances.

Jesus knows what it feels like to be abused.

Jesus kept his eyes on the Father. He continued to walk out God’s plan for Him and didn’t let the abusers distract him from that plan. He continued to behave in a godly way. He forgave his abusers, even though it must have been extraordinarily difficult. Remember what He said on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

You don’t have to suffer alone. If you are a Believer, the Holy Spirit dwells within you. He will enable you and empower you to suffer well. You are never alone.

“Pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” God says in 2 Corinthians 12:9. Ask God to carry you through the difficult times. Ask God to heal you, to help you forgive, to give you strength. Whatever you need, ask Him for it.

God has a purpose for your pain. The abuse you suffered was horrific, but in God’s economy, it wasn’t random and senseless. God can take what that abuser meant for evil and turn it around and use it for your good– to grow you and strengthen you. There are so many passages of Scripture that talk about this. One of my favorites is Romans 5:3-5:

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Jesus didn’t save you for you to live in self-pity, bitterness, unforgiveness, and victimhood. That is not the abundant life He promised you in John 10:10. It’s no life at all. Christians are not weak, helpless victims. Jesus makes us victors. Yes, what happened to you was unspeakably evil and hurtful. But in Christ, that’s not where your story ends!

Jesus makes us victors.

As you walk with Christ – trusting Him, obeying Him, loving Him – day by day, He will bring you that peace that passes understanding. He will reveal Himself to you as hope of the hopeless. He will heal your broken heart and bind up your wounds. If you refuse to handle your pain biblically, you’re missing out on all of the good things God wants to use that pain for – the godly character He wants to build in you, the healing He wants to give you. If you refuse to handle your pain biblically, you’re choosing to give that abuser the power to continue to stand in the way of all those good gifts God wants to give you.

Your pain and suffering won’t last forever. Once Christ begins healing you, your pain will fade over time, and eventually He will wipe it out all together in Heaven. Consider these two wonderfully comforting and hope-giving passages:

2 Corinthians 4:17-18: For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Revelation 21:1,3-4: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more…And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Your suffering has a time limit.

Your suffering has a time limit, and one day God is going to take it away forever. Rest in that hope.

 

How can we biblically help abuse victims move from victimhood to victory? We continually take them back to the truth of God’s Word and remind them of His goodness and grace, and the hope and healing He wants to bring them through Christ.


Additional Resources:

This article is excerpted from the A Word Fitly Spoken Podcast episode It’s Time for Sound Leaders to Talk About Abuse

Band-Aids vs. Chemotherapy: Why Suffering Women are Drawn to False Doctrine and 7 Things We Can do to Help 

Weeping with Those Who Weep 

Christ- the Suffering Servant 

Six Reasons to Rejoice that Christ is Enough in Our Suffering 

True or False: Is Your Theology of Suffering Biblical? 

God’s Good Purposes in Suffering

Encouragement, Suffering

Five Words of Encouragement for Spiritual Warfare’s Battle-Weary Soldiers

Anybody who tells you the Christian life is all lollipops and unicorns is selling something. No reasonable person who is the slightest bit familiar with the New Testament or church history could honestly believe that. The New Testament church was born and baptized in blood – first the blood of Christ, and the blood of His martyred disciples ever since.

In the spirit, God blesses us with joy unspeakable and full of glory, the peace that passes all understanding, and the comfort of “Lo, I am with you always.” And that is much to be thankful for, because life in the robe of flesh would be unbearable without those blessings.

But as we walk this real, tangible, eat your veggies and brush your teeth phase of existence, Jesus isn’t just a pretty pink purse we pick up along the way to complement our life’s wardrobe. To put on Christ is to volunteer to wear a target on your back. And your front, come to think of it. Because when you unapologetically stand for Christ and the truth of His Word, you will not only face a full frontal attack from the world, you’ll also risk being stabbed in the back by those you thought were comrades in arms.

Dealing with and responding to those attacks – that’s what spiritual warfare is. Not this modern, ridiculous, NAR-inspired version of “binding” Satan and bellowing commands into the air as though you have the power and the authority to boss the devil around (Even Michael the archangel wouldn’t go there.). We’re called to be good soldiers of Christ Jesus, not the Commander.

As good soldiers in the Lord’s army (yes sir!) real, biblical spiritual warfare is being protected and prepared in the spirit to righteously and courageously walk out biblical truth on the battlefield of whatever tangible circumstances God has placed you in. It’s understanding that those attacking you are not your real enemy – not the ones calling the shots. They’re soldiers, just like you. They’re either lost and ensnared by the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will (kind of a spiritual Stockholm Syndrome), or it’s friendly fire from someone in your unit who’s saved, but has somehow, momentarily mistaken you for the enemy.

But the wounds of warfare are painful and debilitating no matter who’s wielding the weapon. So for all of you ladies who have been persecuted by the world, attacked by family, abused by fellow church members, and abandoned by friends simply for holding fast to Christ and His Word and refusing to compromise, let these words of encouragement from the very One you cling to salve your soul…

1.
Jesus knows how you feel

There will never be a moment when we can cry out to Jesus from the depths of our desperation, “You have no idea what this is like – how badly it hurts!”. Yes, He does. Not just because He’s omniscient. Not just because He knitted you together in your mother’s womb and knows all the secrets of your heart. But because He walked that lonely and painful road Himself, as a man in the flesh, just like you.

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not…
…we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted…
…He was oppressed, and he was afflicted…
…By oppression and judgment he was taken away…
…And they made his grave with the wicked…although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
From Isaiah 53

But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
Psalm 22:6-8

Many of them said, “[Jesus] has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?”
John 10:20

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me [Jesus] before it hated you.
John 15:18

and coming to his hometown [Jesus] taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?…And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.”
Matthew 13:54,57

Jesus knows how you feel, Dear One. He knows.

2.
Jesus loves you

There may be times when you feel like everyone is against you. It’s hard to be hated. But hold on to this truth and don’t let go of it: Jesus loves you. He delights in you. He will never turn His face away from you.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
Jeremiah 31:3b

All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
Psalm 25.10

I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul,
Psalm 31:7

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
2 Thessalonians 3:5

3.
Jesus will sustain you

Jesus isn’t a lifeline that only reaches halfway across the rushing river. He is our rock. Our fortress. Strength. Sustenance. Stability. What He brings you to, He will bring you through, as the old saying goes. He’s not going to abandon you in the middle of your troubles or fail to provide grace and help when you need it. You can trust Him.

you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:9-10

Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.
Psalm 54:4

So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
Hebrews 13:6

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
Psalm 55:22

our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:7b-8

4.
Jesus will honor you

In the world’s eyes, voluntarily suffering for the name of Christ is shameful, pitiable, foolish, and worthy of derision. In God’s economy, sharing in Christ’s sufferings is an honor and worthy of reward.

and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
Acts 5:40-41

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:10-12

[Moses] choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.
Hebrews 11:25-26

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you…Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
1 Peter 4:13-14,16

5.
Jesus will vindicate you

Perhaps one of the greatest comforts in the midst of the battle fatigue of spiritual warfare is God’s omniscience and justice. Not a single insult will be hurled at you that escapes His notice. None of the flak you’ve taken for Him will slip through the cracks and be forgotten. One day, whether here or hereafter, God will set everything right.

Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all.
Isaiah 41:11-12

For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.
Psalm 135:14

You have seen the wrong done to me, O Lord; judge my cause. You have seen all their vengeance, all their plots against me. You have heard their taunts, O Lord, all their plots against me. The lips and thoughts of my assailants are against me all the day long. Behold their sitting and their rising; I am the object of their taunts.

You will repay them, O Lord, according to the work of their hands. You will give them dullness of heart; your curse will be on them. You will pursue them in anger and destroy them from under your heavens, O Lord.
Lamentations 3:59-66

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
Revelation 6:9-10

As you suffer for the Name above all names and do battle for His cause, strengthen your hands for combat with His great and precious promises, which can never be broken. Rest in Jesus’ love for you. Know that He understands your pain and anguish. Trust Him to sustain you. Believe that He will honor and vindicate you. For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Which promises do you cling to in the midst of spiritual warfare?

Easter, Suffering

Christ- the Suffering Servant

Originally published April 14, 2017

Isaiah 53

Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

What a beautiful passage describing Christ’s suffering for us. Usually, when we think about suffering, we think about suffering we’ve personally experienced, things loved ones have been through, newsworthy events from around the globe, and natural disasters. And, as normal human beings in a broken, sinful world, that’s what we tend to do- we think of people, topics, and circumstances in light of our experiences with them or how they affect us. But as Christians, it’s imperative that, when we think of suffering, we look first to Christ, the Suffering Servant, and see all other suffering in light of His suffering.

Certainly, Isaiah 53 doesn’t cover every aspect or incident of Christ’s suffering, but let’s take a look at a few of these verses that prophesy – over 700 years before He was ever born – about the suffering of Christ.

Christ suffered physically
Most have read the Bible’s account of the crucifixion. But in the same way a verbal description of abortion doesn’t really capture the horror of the act the way a video can, our English words used in Isaiah 53 can’t adequately express the extreme physical suffering Christ endured on the cross. The cross was such an agonizing experience we had to invent a new word for that kind of suffering: excruciating. Ex– out of, cruciare– the crucifixion. Suffering drawn out of the cross.

So, how did Christ suffer physically?

Verse 5 says He was pierced, crushed, chastised, and wounded. Let’s take a closer look at those words:

Pierced– The Hebrew word means: “to wound (fatally), bore through” We see this with the crown of thorns that “bore through” Jesus’ head and the nails that pierced His hands and feet.

Crushed– The Hebrew means: “to be broken, shattered, beat to pieces” Interestingly, it can also mean “contrite”- He was contrite for our iniquities.

Chastisement– The Hebrew means: “discipline” as you would discipline a naughty child

Wounds/stripes– The Hebrew means: “a welt, blueness, bruise, hurt”

The flogging. The thorns. The pummeling He took from the soldiers. And carrying the cross to Calvary after all of that. Nails through His wrists, nails through His feet, the agony of trying to breathe, and, finally, the spear through His side. Jesus’ physical body took some of the worst abuse that’s ever been doled out by professional torturers.

Christ suffered emotionally
Jesus was a human being, just like you and me. That means he had feelings and emotions just like you and I do, and people and circumstances hurt Him just like they hurt us.

He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Jesus had loved ones die and friends betray Him and turn their backs on Him. He wasn’t immune to the hurts of life.

We esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. Stricken, smitten, afflicted- those aren’t words we use very often. What do they mean? Stricken is to reach out and touch someone. It’s the same idea as God striking someone down or striking someone with leprosy. Smitten by God– same idea, but with more of a judgment or punishment angle: “smite, chastise, send judgment upon, punish, destroy.” To be afflicted is to be “oppressed, humiliated, be bowed down.”

This phrase in verse 4 carries the idea that people thought Jesus had done something(s) that so displeased God that that God’s punitive hand of judgment was upon His life. Of course, that wasn’t true. Yet, there were people thought of Him that way and treated Him that way- at the cross, certainly, but also, to some extent, during His life.

And yes, that grieved Him as the God who loved and wanted to save these people, but, on the human side, well, we all know how it feels to be misunderstood and misrepresented. Christ felt those slings and arrows of the heart.

Christ suffered spiritually
When I say Christ “suffered spiritually” I want to be clear that I do not mean anything ever happened to Christ that marred His sinless perfection or in any way diminished His deity. What I mean is that He suffered due to fallen man’s sinfulness regarding theological or spiritual issues. For example:

He was despised and rejected by men…he was despised, and we esteemed him not. We see this constantly in the gospels. The Pharisees were always trying to trick Jesus and trap Him with difficult questions. They repeatedly accused Him of “working” on the Sabbath by healing people, picking grain and eating it, and so on. They plotted against Him. They tried to stone Him. Even at the end, when He was on the cross, Scripture says “they hurled insults at Him.”

And why? These aren’t just playground bullies picking on a random kid for no reason. They had a reason. And those insults the chief priests and scribes and elders hurled at Jesus in Matthew 27:42-43 sum up that reason pretty neatly:

He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’

Jesus was God. He was their Messiah. Yet these men didn’t want to humble themselves and admit it and bow the knee to Him. They looked Jesus in the eye – the God who loved them, created them, and breathed the breath of life into them – and said: We will not have this King reign over us! They despised and rejected the core of who Jesus was: Savior, King, Son of God.

But Jesus suffered in other spiritual ways, too…

The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
[He was] stricken for the transgression of my people
His soul makes an offering for guilt
He shall bear their iniquities
He bore the sin of many

Christ carried our sin. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree… (1 Peter 2:24). There’s no way we could begin to fathom what it was like for Christ to carry every single sin of billions of people in His body. But He didn’t just have the weight of that sin on His shoulders, He also propitiated God’s wrath toward every single one of those sins. God poured out the cup of His wrath for our sin and Jesus drank every last drop of it.

Jesus suffered tremendously. How did He respond to all that suffering?

Christ’s Response to Suffering
Hebrews 2:17 tells us: Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect.

One of the ways Jesus was made like us, His brothers, was that He suffered. He suffered physically, He suffered emotionally, and He suffered “spiritually,” just like we do. In fact, He suffered far more in each of these respects than any of us ever have or ever will.

But what’s even more amazing to me than the actual extent of Jesus’ suffering was the fact that He endured all of it, from the moment of His birth to the moment of His death without ever sinning. Not even once. Not even in His thoughts or the attitude of His heart.

That’s huge. Think of the suffering you’ve experienced in your life and how you responded to it. I’ve retaliated against people who have hurt me, or at least harbored bitterness against them. During times of calamity, I’ve yelled at God, I’ve questioned His love for me, I’ve not trusted Him, I’ve been angry at Him.

But Jesus never had a sinful response to suffering. How did He respond?

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:23

In some cases, Jesus just didn’t respond at all to the person or situation causing the suffering. He communed with God instead. Jesus knew that He was in God’s hands and God would mete out judgment at the proper time.

But this is the same Jesus who instructed us to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, give your cloak as well as your tunic. And Jesus certainly embodied these responses to those who caused Him suffering.

Let’s look at Jesus’ response to Pilate in John 18:33-38. But before we do, bear in mind that Jesus has the power to call down any number of angels to destroy Pilate, the courtyard where He’s about to be flogged, Calvary, Jerusalem, the whole world, if He wants to, in order to avoid the suffering He’s about to endure, and Jesus is fully aware of that. But watch how He responds to Pilate:

So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him.

Jesus took the time to, essentially, share the gospel with this horrid man, whose next move was to have Jesus taken out and beaten to a bloody pulp. Jesus not only refused to retaliate against Pilate, He blessed him with the gospel instead.

When Jesus was on the cross, how did He respond to those who had crucified Him and those who were mocking and insulting Him? Did He yell back? Tell them they were all going to burn in Hell? No, He prayed for them: Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Every time Jesus suffered, He responded to it in exactly the right, godly way. He trusted Himself, the situation, and everyone involved to God, He loved His enemies, and He said or did whatever would best proclaim the gospel or glorify God in that situation.

It’s difficult to wrap our minds around all of the ways Jesus suffered, and more difficult still to comprehend that He never responded sinfully to His suffering. But perhaps the most baffling aspect of Jesus’ suffering is that He willingly chose to endure it all for rebellious, thankless, undeserving sinners like you and me. To serve us. To purchase the salvation we could never earn. To live the life we could not live. To die the death we could not die. And to conquer the grave that, for us, was unconquerable.

All hail King Jesus- the Suffering Servant.

False Doctrine, False Teachers, Suffering

Throwback Thursday ~ Band-Aids vs. Chemotherapy: Why Suffering Women are Drawn to False Doctrine and 7 Things We Can do to Help

Originally published October 7, 2016suffering-women-false-doctrine

 

Joyce Meyer. Beth Moore. Paula White. Lysa TerKeurst. Christine Caine. Lisa Harper. What do all of these women have in common?

Yes, they’re all false teachers, but they’re also all victims of sexual abuse.

I haven’t conducted a scientific poll, survey, or longitudinal study, so my observations could be way off base, but I’ve been noticing lately – from hearing these women’s testimonies, reading comments on their blog articles, and talking to women who follow them – that women who have been sexually abused seem to be particularly vulnerable to “feel good” false doctrine.

And it’s not just victims of sexual abuse. It’s women who are suffering from the death of a child or spouse, divorce, infertility, illness, spousal abuse- all of those agonies that strike right at the core of women’s hearts. You’ll find them in droves at the conferences, book signings, and blogs of false teachers.

Why is that?

Because those things hurt. I mean, “I want to crawl under the covers and die,” hurt. “My life is over,” hurt. “An elephant is sitting on my chest and I can’t breathe,” hurt. These precious, beautiful souls God created for joy are walking through something no human being should ever have to experience.

And Satan, that evil beast, is right there to exploit their pain and make things worse by molesting them spiritually. He sends false teachers to whisper sweetly in their ears, “It hurts, doesn’t it? But I can make all that pain go away, now.

Let’s just be honest for a minute. That’s what we all want. I don’t care how doctrinally sound and spiritually mature you are- when excruciating pain explodes into your life, you don’t skip through the tulips to meet it with a smile on your face and a giddy tune on your lips. You just want it to go away. And like a confidence man with a wagon full of snake oil, false teachers are at the ready to offer a magic elixir that will miraculously cure what ails you. Instantly.

“You’re God’s masterpiece- His princess!”

“It’s never God’s will for you to suffer.”

“Just declare the things that are not as though they are!”

“God will give you back what you lost a hundredfold.”

“Sow a seed into my ministry and God will open up the windows of heaven and pour out His blessings!”

“Your words create reality. Just speak out what you want and you can have it!”

“No weapon formed against you shall prosper!”

“God wants to do the impossible in your life, so dream big dreams!”

In other words, “Just do or believe X. You’ll feel better and your situation will turn around. I suffered just like you did, and look what God did for me!” The only problem with that kind of teaching is…well…the Bible. The Bible doesn’t make that sort of promise to anyone, in fact it says just the opposite. Jesus promised us tribulationJames, various trialsPaul, persecutionPeter, suffering.

The truth is, since the Fall, we live in a broken, sinful world. We’re going to suffer. It’s often going to be long, painful, and messy. Sometimes, there won’t be a cure this side of Glory. God’s promise to followers of Christ is not that He will eradicate our suffering, but that He will walk through it with us.

So how do we provide chemotherapy for the soul to an anguished woman who just wants a pretty Hello Kitty Band-Aid for her emotions or life circumstances? How do we impart hard, healing truth when she’s being seduced by an easy, deadly lie?

1. Be honest.
Don’t be tempted to “compete” with false teachers by telling her God’s going to fix everything the way she wants it. She might die from the cancer she was just diagnosed with. She might never be able to get pregnant. Her estranged husband might not come back. Things might not get better. They might get worse.

2. Walk with her.
Joyce Meyer isn’t going to be there at three in the morning when she can’t stop crying. Beth Moore isn’t going to go to court with her and hold her hand when the verdict is handed down. Christine Caine isn’t going to pull her hair back when she’s vomiting from chemo. You be there. You comfort her. That’s why God put you in her life.

3. Set her mind on things above, not on earthly things.
Help her keep her eyes focused on Christ, not her situation. Pray with her. Sing songs of praise with her. Remind her of the gospel. Lead her to be thankful. Take her to church. Recite Scripture together.

4. Shut up.
Some of us are fixers. We want to make people feel better or fix their situation by doing something, saying something, teaching something. And a lot of times that’s not what a suffering woman needs. She just needs a hug. Someone to sit and cry with. Someone to eat raw cookie dough with. Hush. We don’t have to talk things to death all the time, and we’re probably not going to be able to fix the situation anyway.

5. Rehearse God’s real promises.
The false teachers are throwing sparkly fake promises at her. You give her the real ones. They’re so much better.

6. Suffer well.
Suffering is going to come your way, too, or maybe it already has. Set an example by being real about your own struggles and failures, yet testifying to God’s faithfulness during tribulation. What did you learn from your suffering? How did it build your trust in God and draw you closer to Him?

7. Pray.
Ask God to give you wisdom about what to say or do to help and comfort her. And intercede for her and her situation, as well, because, ultimately, regardless of your words or actions, it is the Holy Spirit’s job to comfort her heart and give her peace and trust in God. (Hmmm…maybe that’s why He’s called the Comforter?)

The desire to escape from suffering is normal and in no way an indication of a lack of faith. Even Jesus prayed in the garden that if there were some other way than the cross, God would “let this cup pass” from Him. But sometimes, as difficult as it is to understand, suffering is part of God’s plan for our lives. It’s not His desire that we escape it but that we depend on Him, rest in Him, trust Him, and obey Him as He carries us through it. When we love our sisters in Christ, this is the truth we will impart to them, not the heal-all salve of improved life circumstances and feel good-ism the used car salesmen of evangelicalism are hawking.

Death, Suffering

On Funerals, Grieving, and Suffering

 

I’m at a funeral today. Earlier this week we received the sad news that a young, dear member of our church family passed away unexpectedly. If you have a moment, your prayers for his parents and family would be most appreciated.

If you’re a long-time reader, you’ll recall me saying that blogging is something I do in my spare time. After serving my husband and children. After serving my church family. This week, there’s just no time to spare to write an original article for today. My husband needs shirts ironed for the services. There’s food to cook and helping to do. And, honestly, that’s where my heart and mind are – not on writing, but with my family and church family.

Sadly, at one time or another, death will intrude like an unwelcome visitor on all of our lives. Living in a fallen world, we will lose someone dear to us and we’ll have the opportunity to comfort and serve others who are grieving the death of a loved one.

I’ve written several articles along those lines, and I thought it might be helpful to gather them all into one place for handy reference. Whether you are suffering or you are ministering to the bereaved, I hope you’ll find these to be beneficial resources.

 

 

Ministering to the Bereaved

Churchmanship 101: Funerals

Weeping with Those Who Weep

Band-Aids vs. Chemotherapy: Why Suffering Women are
Drawn to False Doctrine and 7 Things We Can do to Help

 

 

Suffering

Christ- the Suffering Servant

Six Reasons to Rejoice that Christ is Enough in Our Suffering

In the Mean Time

True or False: Is Your Theology of Suffering Biblical?

God’s Good Purposes in Suffering