“Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18.
- Recognize Christ alone can be the Savior from sin for both yourself and the abuser.
A sinful life pattern which often emerges is a compulsion to try to “help” the abuser out of his pattern. This pattern becomes more pronounced often if the abuser is also an addict to drugs or alcohol or sexually promiscuous. This pattern of compulsive attempts to “help” likewise is a sinful reaction to the abuse, that of presumption. No human being has either the capacity or responsibility to “help” another person out of his sinful life patterns in an unscriptural fashion.
- Receive his forgiveness and power to overcome sinful emotional reactions to abuse.
An abused person is a victim, of course, but still remains a human being under the power of fallen human nature. A perfect victim would not react to suffering by falling into sinful reactions; unfortunately, victims who themselves have the tendencies of fallen human nature often do.
The Apostle Peter wrote the description of Jesus’s example of the proper reaction to suffering for those who suffer:
“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we, having died to sins, should live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like seep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls”(I Peter 2:21-25).
Peter’s description of the Christlike reaction to suffering originally was meant for Christian slaves who were undergoing abuse by cruel masters. It is, though, applicable to anyone who has undergone physical and verbal abuse.
The essence of the reaction of Jesus was that the sin of his abusers did not mean for him to react with sin.
- First, he refused the aggressive reaction to verbal and physical abuse; he did not retaliate with insults to the verbal abuse offered to him, nor did he react with threats of violence to the violence inflicted upon him.
- Next, he refused the passive reaction of fear to the verbal and physical abuse inflicted upon himself, by the strength of his trust in the justice of God the Father. His suffering of the cross was by no means because of any personal weakness and helplessness. Jesus was not a “wimp”; in fact, he could have avoided the cross entirely and could have left the cross at any time if he were not totally surrendered to the will of the Father to suffer and die for the sins of the world.
The suffering of Jesus was, moreover, a constructive, purposeful suffering. The whole purpose of the crucifixion was, from the intention of Satan, to destroy him. In the purpose of God, though, he turned it into good for those that he loved by making it the sacrifice for the sins of the world and the payment for eternal life for his followers. His suffering then meant freedom for his followers from the power of sin, so that they could live in the power of righteousness in eternal life. Even more, his suffering provided healing for his people; reading this passage, Christian slaves might think of their healing from the marks of their beatings by his being beaten and whipped for them.
Apart from a scriptural understanding of and Christlike reaction to suffering, an abused person can generally fall into one of two sinful life patterns in reaction to his or her abuse.
1. The reaction of fear: This can become a life-dominating fear of others that will mean further sins of unbelief and disobedience:
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare (a stumblingblock to many sins),
but whoever trusts in the Lord will be kept safe”
2. The reaction of anger: This can lead to an aggressive life pattern in which the abused becomes the abuser, through having seen and imitated his relations to others:
“Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man,
do not associate with one easily angered,
or you may learn his ways,
and get yourself ensnared”
- Receive the comfort of Jesus for the pain and anguish of your suffering.
The comfort of Jesus means his promise and offer of healing for a broken heart: II Corinthians 1:3-5; comfort for those who have suffered; the abused can be comforters to those who suffer, sympathetic and the avenues of the comfort of Christ to others, avoid becoming abusive, because you know how it feels
- Allow Jesus to mold a new respect in dealing with earthly authority.
Sometimes the abused have problems with trust and dealing with earthly authorities. They may reject earthly authority and become fiercely independent. But this means becoming like sheep going astray, each one turning to his own way. Jesus is the authority who understands and who cares above all others. Trusting Jesus and his will is the first step back to a right relationship with earthly authorities.
- Allow Jesus to guide, strengthen and fill you for a new life of loving others as he has loved you.
The abused often have problems with love and vulnerability. But caring for others will mean learning to become vulnerable to others again. This means coming close enough and trusting enough to be hurt again. Note that Jesus puts his heart on the line every moment in his relationship with us!
- Learn how valuable you and others are to God as human beings as the basis of a proper self respect and respect for others.
Learning your personal value to God means learning also the value of others as well. This means unlearning any habits of denigration of others: James 3:9: “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.”
- Live in the new reality of who you are in Christ and the power of his Holy Spirit.
All scripture references taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society and used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.