This God - His way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; He is a shield to all those who take refuge in Him. Psalm 18:30
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer's; He makes me tread on my high places. Habakkuk 3:17-19
Over the past 2 years the above verses have become very important to me. Many times when I have been greatly distressed and in great emotional pain, I have prayed the first verse over and over and over again.
The desire to write this post has been strong for over a year. A few painful events took place and I did want to share them with you while I was going through them but I wasn't done learning what God had for me out of those events so I thought it best to stay quiet while I dealt with the pain, praying that when I did share those events with you I would do so with a better view of God and His work in my life.
The picture at the top of the post is of a small portion of a dress. This dress is simple looking with a small amount of lace and beading. This dress hangs in a bag in my closet. This dress is my wedding dress. Over 2 years ago this dress did not make it to the wedding and neither did I.
Sisters, I am thankful that I didn't make it to that wedding. The reason for my thankfulness is because God saved me from marrying a predatory controlling abuser.
Looking back, I should have ended the relationship early with the person that became my fiance. The control and emotional abuse were observable early on but I didn't see those behaviors for what they were. So, why didn't I end things earlier? Why didn't I see the bad behaviors? Simply put: I loved that person and they told me they loved me too.
I am thankful that about a month and half before the wedding my eyes were opened to the controlling behavior and the relationship ended. There was a lot of pain when that relationship stopped. I don't like pain. But the pain drove me to my knees to plead with God for reconciliation. As the weeks and months passed, my eyes were opened to the emotional and spiritual abuse I had been submitting myself to and I became thankful that God had answered "no" to my pleas.
I am sorry that some people were hit with the 'shrapnel' of the relationship as it ended. Some of the relationships with some people stopped immediately because they proved untrustworthy and some relationships continued for a short time until they proved to bring more grief than healing. Right or wrong, some relationships ended because I didn't want to bring conflict between spouses so I pulled myself away to preserve marital harmony.
I am thankful for the resources that God put before me to help me learn about forgiveness. The pastors at the church I was attending at the time were never able to explain forgiveness to me nor were they able to understand the abuse that I had suffered. My mom send me a book called How to Forgive When You Don't Feel Like It by June Hunt. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has reached the point of knowing they need to forgive someone but are struggling to do it. The most important thing I learned from the book is that when I chose to forgive the person who abused me, I was not excusing their behavior. Forgiving that person means that I am handing them over to God and trusting that God will deal with that person in His perfect way and in His perfect timing.
I am thankful that when the relationship ended, it ended in an area where I had good friends. I don't even want to imagine what it would have been like if the breakup had happened in a place where I was isolated and knew no one. I am thankful they were there to offer support, listen to me sob, and just be present when I was feeling lonely.
I am thankful for the family and friends who lived far away and prayed for me and sent me notes of encouragement. Those notes and phone calls were the breaths of fresh air that I needed when grief felt like it was suffocating me.
I am thankful that I was able to find another church to attend. I am not one that advocates for people jump from church to church but I wasn't able to remain at the church the person and I had attended together. I couldn't stay at a church where people put him on a pedestal because of his salvation story and manipulative behavior. I couldn't stay at a church where I did not feel spiritually, emotionally, and physically safe. The church I now attend is one where God has put me to work to minister to other people so they may grow in their knowledge of Him.
I am thankful there are people who have answered God's call in their life to be Christian counselors. Sisters, never consider it a sign of weakness to go to Christian counseling for help. Pastors do not always have the awareness or skills to deal with abuse within the church. I won't get into the nitty-gritty details but I do remember one counseling session where I stated many of the controlling and abusive events that had happened during the relationship. In God's perfect timing, that session came after a time where my mind had started to tell me I must have made things worse than they really were. Having to list out all of those events proved to me that I had not exaggerated things. Counseling provided me with more tools to help me with my grief and recovery.
I am thankful that there are no acceptable reasons for abuse. I am not perfect; I'm a sinful creature saved by God's grace. But my imperfections are no excuse for abuse.
I am thankful that I turned to God more and more as I recovered from the pain. I found a renewed joy in reading and studying His Word. I desire to share that joy with others and to encourage others to dig into Scripture on a regular basis.
I am thankful that the lessons I learned from my experience have allowed me to minister to other ladies and to allow them to minister to me. I have found a sisterhood at my church which has become an important part of my healing process.
I am thankful that I can pray for his new fiance. I pray regularly that God will protect her from the abuse and control of the person she is engaged to marry. I also pray that the people this person ministers to will only hear and see God through that ministry and not the person that enjoys being the center of attention.
I know that I am not done learning from my experience. My prayer is that my eyes and heart will stay open to what God has for me to learn and that maybe the words in this post will be helpful to another sister.
As I post this on America's Independence Day, I encourage you, sisters, to find the freedom to be thankful for God's work in your life even in those painful times in our lives.
Resources I recommend for further study on forgiveness, abuse, and growing in the Lord:
+ Forgiveness: http://www.hopefortheheart.org/forgiveness/
+ When Love Hurts: When Abuse is Worse than Divorce- a 4 part video program looking at understanding and healing abuse: http://dod.org/programs/when-love-hurts-understanding-and-healing-domestic-abuse-when-abuse-is-worse-than-divorce-part-i/
+ Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse by Steven Tracy
+ How to Forgive When You Don't Feel Like It by June Hunt
+ When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James
+ Lord, Where are You When Bad Things Happen? by Kay Arthur
+ Shepherding a Women's Heart by Beverly Hislop
+ Shepherding Women in Pain by Beverly Hislop
I didn't provide links for the books because I don't want to influence people to purchase them from a specific location. Check with your local library, local book store, local Christian store, or any online store you use to get books (CBD, AbeBooks, or Amazon). If you have resources to recommend as well, please share them in the comments.