Finding Shelter
Mary DeMuth, She Reads Featured Author

"And I say, 'Oh that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest." Psalm 55:6-8 (ESV)

I'm not normally one to sense family secrets about people's lives, but this time I did. The moment "Sarah" walked through my front door for a Bible study, God whispered to me, "She needs help."

A few weeks later she asked if I could come over and talk.

She welcomed me to an immaculate house and peppered me with questions about how I managed our home. At first I answered her questions directly, but as she kept asking, I realized she was really asking something else: Why can't I be enough for my husband's expectations? She seemed frightened, jumpy.

That day my new friend Sarah confessed that her husband abused her. Emotionally. Physically. Psychologically. I prayed for her, gave her my phone number, and felt her burden in my gut.
She called after a violent episode, her two children crying in the back of her car. "I'm afraid," she told me.

I encouraged her to come over. Nearly at that moment, a friend of mine arrived and, through a series of God-moments, we worked together to get Sarah and her two children to a safe place.

In doing so, we feared for our safety. Her husband stalked us, called us in the middle of the night screaming. During one conversation, my husband asked him, "Why are you in seminary?"

"Because I want to pastor people." He said it as if the answer were obvious.

My husband cleared his throat in the quiet of our room. "If you can't shepherd your own family, you can't expect to shepherd others."

The man erupted, spewing obscenities. "She just needs to learn to submit!" With that, he hung up.

Since this time, we've encountered several hurting women married to men who pursued, or were active in, ministry. These women felt trapped, worried, and afraid. And because their husbands held the position they did, these wives didn't know how to find a safe place.

As a fiction author, I have written a series of novels with the purpose of exposing this kind of pain in Christian families. I didn't write to impugn or to harass, but to shed light on a sad reality. So that silent sufferers wouldn't feel alone. So that redemption could shine on such a dark family canvas.

Do you know a "Sarah"? Whether she is a friend, acquaintance, or the woman you look at each day in the mirror, there is something you can do. Pray fervently that God will give you the wisdom to find shelter. Pray for the courage to tell the truth, or to be a safe place for her to tell the truth. And believe that no one "deserves" punishment, violence, or verbal thrashings by a spouse. Remember that God's heart for marriage is unity, mutual understanding, longsuffering, love that overlooks shortfalls, and camaraderie.

May we all seek God's design for marriage and may those who need to find shelter hurry towards it.

Dear Lord, whether I am a Sarah, or a friend of a Sarah, give me wisdom. Make me aware if You desire for me to take a role in helping someone. I give You everything, including my fears, worries, and stress. Shine Your light on my family, I pray. And lead me to Your safe place. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Daisy Chain by Mary DeMuth. This book is one of the three fall selections for our recently launched SheReads Fiction Book Club.

Mary will be guest posting on the SheReads blog this week. If you would like to ask questions anonymously or dialogue further about this devotion, she welcomes you there and would love to hear from you!

When Life and Beliefs Collide: How Knowing God Makes a Difference by Carolyn Custis James

Application Steps:
If you're a Sarah: Seek solace in a safe friendship and share your story. If you fear for your life or your children's lives, contact your local battered women's shelter.

If you know a Sarah, pray that God would show you how you can be used in her life to help her find shelter from what she is going through.

Reflections:
Who benefits from me keeping a family secret like this?

How is it loving to allow someone to hurt you or others?

Power Verses:
Ephesians 4:15, "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every aspect into him who is the head, into Christ." (ESV)

Ephesians 5:11, "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness but instead, expose them." (ESV)

© 2009 by Mary DeMuth. All rights reserved.

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27 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you are going through a similar situation I encourage you to seek help immediately. It may be very difficult to do but it will be your best decision ever. I grew up in an abusive home and I can say unequivocally that the scars and consequences of suffering in silence are very real and they may have a ripple and long-term effect on the lives of those involved. I promised myself at an early age that I would never allow my children to suffer as I did. Our Lord granted me my most precious wish: a husband I can trust and who makes me and my children feel protected, not terrorized in our own home. Please save yourself and your children. Your future and theirs is at stake. YOU DESERVE TO BE LOVED AND RESPECTED BECAUSE YOU ARE A CHILD OF THE KING OF THE UNIVERSE. May God bless you and grant you the courage to open your heart to a trusted person.

Anonymous Teresa said...

Thank you Mary for letting God use you to expose an awful truth that really affects so many families. I was recently involved in such a situation with a close family member and I will definitely be praying as to forwarding her this devotion. She and her husband have since reconciled and are attending church, but have not truly surrendered it all unto the Lord. Hopefully this devo may be a "light" pointing them both to seek out sound biblical counseling. Blessings & Peace.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was a "Sarah".....even in "the ministry." One day, my sister pulled up in her vehicle, backed it up in our driveway to the travel trailer in which we lived and were to travel to obtain support from churches to be missionaries. She said to me, "Pack your stuff now before he gets home. You're leaving." She was at that time and still is a very strong christian woman, wise beyond her years. She saw the results of what others did not know.

Our daughter had come to hide behind my skirt if a man was around. Does that tell you anything? She received her first spanking at the age of six months when we were cleaning the church building b/c she wouldn't stop fussing. When we were rescued, she was 18 months old.

My sister knew that my husband would call her house looking for me when he got home. She helped me write a script to stick to during that conversation, b/c she knew in my zombie-like state and desire to be submissive, that I would return. He begged me to "just come home and let's pray." "Let's pray" meant his prayers, not my own. I had been punished before for being so tired late at night and falling asleep as we knelt by the bed in prayer.
It was hard, but I stuck to my guns.

That was about 26 years ago. I'm not sure that our daughter or I would be here today had we not been rescued.

On another note.....perhaps you may not see or know of the situation behind closed doors, but there are other tell-tale signs. For instance, I was not anorexic, but I had wasted away to 98 pounds and my cheek bones stuck out. I am 5'5" tall. If you see this, it could be depression from a series of life events. I had lost the desire to eat, but did eat a bit when I prepared our meals.

Should you get involved? Let me say this: If you were a shepard and there was a feeble sheep in the flock who was being abused by an aggressive sheep, would you separate out the feeble to care for it in order that it might thrive by your care? Would you discipline the aggressive sheep to change its behavior?

Blogger Mary DeMuth said...

Anonymous, You are so brave. And your words are a deep blessing.

Teresa, I'm glad to hear that this couple is getting help and that you were there to help.

Anonymous, What a powerful story! How amazing that your sister risked to help you. And your analogy about the sheep and shepherd is beautiful. You should consider writing about it.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband has never been verbally or physically abusive, or punitive. In fact, he's often emotionally absent. He's just made many reckless decisions that have negatively affected our lives and the lives of our children. I'm always trying to pick up the pieces. I feel like the fighter who is knocked down and gets up only to be knocked down again. For a long time my husband was not saved. I believe he is now, but we are still suffering the consequences of those reckless choices. What does a woman do in this situation?

Blogger Mary DeMuth said...

Anonymous,

Wow, that's really hard. In a very real sense, though, it sounds like there is abuse of some sort. How is it loving to make reckless decisions that hurt your family? I'm thankful he has come back to Jesus. That's great news. Mind if I pray for you?

Lord, You know this heartache. You suffered often for others' reckless decisions. You bore the brunt of others' sins. So come to the aid of this dear woman. Help her to find her hope in You. Give her strength. Help her forgive her husband. And walk alongside him. Help him to come to a place of deep repentance and brokenness over his past choices. Bring this family into the light. Amen.

Blogger Joan Davis said...

God never ceases to amaze me with his timely words. Just this morning I have been berating myself for not writing more on the story I want to tell. My story. Not that I was in the ministry, not even a very good "christian." However, I was still stuck in an abusive marriage and feeling lost. I haven't been able to make much headway after a chapter or two because I find the memories so difficult to relive in my mind. Yet, I just know I have to get it out because there is a reason God saved me.

I believe there are many women held hostage to this situation, feeling alone, feeling like they are failures and that God failed them. I want so badly to tell them even when I couldn't see it, or sense it, God was with me every step of my journey. And, how I just love Him more and more every day for showing me life really can be good.

God keeps showing me there are women who need this message.

Blogger Mary DeMuth said...

Joan,

Thank you for being brave to share a bit of your story here. Wow.

It's not easy to write a book about a story like that. Be sure you grieve and heal properly so you write from a position of healing.

Anonymous Tina said...

This is such a good article with a crucial message. Thanks for sharing.

Blogger Mary DeMuth said...

Tina, thank you so much. You blessed me.

Mind if I pray for those who are affected directly by domestic abuse?

Lord, be with those women today who are hurting, aching, worrying, wondering. Lift each head. Give hope and courage and strength. Provide help supernaturally. Deliver. Free. Encourage. Save. Lord, only You can do marvels like that. We trust you. Amen.

Blogger Proverbs 27:19 said...

Fear is a big factor in not telling others the truth about what's going on in our homes sometimes. We tend to think that if we "spill it" then our husband's reputation will be ruined and if he is involved in ministry that's not good.

However, why we believe these lies, I do not know, but I do know that if we ALL begin to share our stories then it will be easier for us to ask for help and notice the lie for what it is.

This is the truth, "The honor of bearing our Christian title does not make us perfect."

smooches,
Larie

Blogger smithsk said...

I found this post via twitter. Powerful story. How much is the verse - "Wives submit" been abused!
I Peter 3: says if a husband acts like a brute toward his wife, his prayers will be hindered.

Blogger Mary DeMuth said...

Proverbs 29: Great words of wisdom, and wonderful quote. Thanks!

Thanks, too, for your words, smithsk.

Blogger Amy Carroll said...

Wow, Mary. I just heard a very similar story this weekend. I'm so thankful that you were a friend who helped. Thanks for sharing this for those of us who also want to be loving friends.

Blogger Mary DeMuth said...

Thanks so much, Amy.

I will say that it's important to count the cost as you help women in this situation. It can be scary.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Men who abuse their wives, especially those in ministry, should be terrified to face Jesus Christ. He will hold them very accountable, especially if they call themselves Christian and use the Bible to terrorize others. It's a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the Living God. There will be a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth!

Blogger Mary DeMuth said...

Anonymous,

Sometimes I think about that when anyone hurts someone, particularly if they never admit what they did. I'm thankful I don't run the universe, and that God sees every situation perfectly.

Anonymous Brenda Branson said...

Great article, Mary. There are a lot of free written resources available at www.brokenpeople.org for women who need help dealing with domestic violence.

Blogger Renee Swope said...

Mary, today's devotion was so powerful. Thank you for being the voice that opened the way for women to be real with their hurts and their stories. You have such an amazing shepherd's heart. I treasure that about you!!!

Renee

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is being interesting to see how quickly we all encourage a woman to take the children and seek safety. I whole heartedly agree. I must ask do we encourage an abused man to do the same? Our son's wife verbally abused him to the point all love was obliterated. She has several occasions actually attacked him physically. However, when she kicked him out most people told him he must return "for the sake of the children". There is no way we would suggest that to a woman. And we would help her get the children out of the situation. We need to not forget in this post women's liberation society to be ready to help a spouse no matter the sex.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It amazes me that today of this was the devotion. Today I told my husband to leave our home. He is a very verbally abusive alcohol. He had been sober for 30 days, and began struggling but rather than turning to the resources he began drinking. Saying it is because I do nothing and am not supportive enough.
We have two boys ages 4 and 2 who see their father like this. It scares me, but I feel guilty because when he is sober I don't want my children to grow up without their father. I always let him come back home and he only stops drinking for a short time. He has not worked steadily for almost 6 months and we are on the verge of losing everything. My eldest son thinks it is his fault and he needs to take care of his father. I am scared, but I know the Lord is with me and loves me. I just struggle with if the Lord will forgive me if I leave my husband.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can say it a situation like this is not easy. everyone else can tell you what to do but they truely don't understand. you really love this person and when they are being nice its wonderful, but you just wait to see when the bomb is going to fall. I have tried giving all this to GOD sometimes i think GOD cant forgive me since my husband cant either. I just keep praying thats the only thing I know to do.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to comment again on the last two Anonymous posts. My heart is breaking for you because I know just how you feel. I know you feel alone and I know you are scared. First off let me tell you that YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Even if you have not confided in anyone else God sees, and knows all. He knows your pain and struggles. HE knows the difficulty of trying to make your situation better, thinking that YOU can fix it. You cannot fix it alone. No matter how you try to keep your husband happy and sober, no matter how you worry about making things run smoothly in your home, you are not solely responsible.

It was always something in my own home. No matter what I did, or didn't do, it was never enough, it was never good enough, clean enough, fast enough, loving enough. It doesn't matter that you are being blamed, don't pile it on yourself.

When my husband was finally arrested (unrelated charges) I was devestated, but I realized this was the way to my freedom. It was tough, and it took a lot of time, it took sessions at our local women's shelter. What broke my heart most was when my daughter said "Mommy, I'm glad the bad men took Daddy away because he was mean to you." (Bad men being the police who arrested him in front of her.) Could there be anything worse than hearing these words from my 3 year old? Yes, but only if we had stayed with him and kept making excuses for his behavior. I shudder to think what could have happened.

Lord, I pray for these women that I know you love. Father, let them feel Your love. Send them comfort and help. Send them Godly friends. God, please keep them safe. And Lord, let them understand how they are cherished by You. Amen

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to comment again on the last two Anonymous posts. My heart is breaking for you because I know just how you feel. I know you feel alone and I know you are scared. First off let me tell you that YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Even if you have not confided in anyone else God sees, and knows all. He knows your pain and struggles. HE knows the difficulty of trying to make your situation better, thinking that YOU can fix it. You cannot fix it alone. No matter how you try to keep your husband happy and sober, no matter how you worry about making things run smoothly in your home, you are not solely responsible.

It was always something in my own home. No matter what I did, or didn't do, it was never enough, it was never good enough, clean enough, fast enough, loving enough. It doesn't matter that you are being blamed, don't pile it on yourself.

When my husband was finally arrested (unrelated charges) I was devestated, but I realized this was the way to my freedom. It was tough, and it took a lot of time, it took sessions at our local women's shelter. What broke my heart most was when my daughter said "Mommy, I'm glad the bad men took Daddy away because he was mean to you." (Bad men being the police who arrested him in front of her.) Could there be anything worse than hearing these words from my 3 year old? Yes, but only if we had stayed with him and kept making excuses for his behavior. I shudder to think what could have happened.

Lord, I pray for these women that I know you love. Father, let them feel Your love. Send them comfort and help. Send them Godly friends. God, please keep them safe. And Lord, let them understand how they are cherished by You. Amen

Blogger Mary DeMuth said...

Thanks for that link, Brenda.

Renee, that really blesses me that you see that. Thanks so much.


Anonymous 1: Great point about women who abuse. It does happen. I can only imagine how painful that could be. Abuse in any form, from any gender is painful. And I will say that the barbs I've received from women tend to hurt me the most.

Anonymous 2: Wow, that's a really hard place to be. But remember this: When you kindly discipline your children, you are doing so to reveal their sin. It wouldn't be good for you to allow them to continually sin, so you let them suffer the consequences of their choices. It's the same with a spouse. How is it loving him to let him sin? There must be true, consistent consequences to his behavior or he will never get help.

Anonymous 3: Praying is absolutely key. But also remember this: God loves YOU. I have often fallen into the trap thinking that God is passionate about everyone else, that He forgives "them," forgetting that I am just as loved. Try to see yourself outside yourself, as you would a stranger. Then observe how you treat yourself. Would that be loving? Also identify your self-talk. Are you brutalizing yourself with your internal thoughts? Remember that the voice of God is still, quiet, encouraging. Often we listen to the wrong voices, lose all sense of our own worth, and slip into allowing others to berate or hurt us. God LOVES YOU. You. You. Rest there.

Anonymous 4: I am so thankful you are safe, and that you've come out on the other side, offering encouragement and prayers for other women. What a blessing you are!

Anonymous Sara said...

I'm a Sarah, just spelled Sara. :-) My husband is emotionally and verbally abusive in the home, but perfectly charming and "godly" outside the home. While we have done years of counseling, I have seen no fruit. My husband serves in a leadership position in the recovery ministry in our church. Over the last few years I have been exposing my husband's abuse to trusted leaders in our church. Many of them fully support me, for which I am very grateful. I have had other pastors blame me, so I am especially thankful for their support. One of our current pastors in particular supports my husband, "has his back", but Jesus told me HE has MY back. I continue to pray for his sin to come even further into the light.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just ran across this site as I googled something about Christian women and abuse. Thankfully, I was able to get out of an abusive marriage. However, my ex continues to "verbally/emotionally" abuse me through texts, emails and letters via mail. When trying to get help from his pastor - I was told that I'm the problem and not being the Christian woman I proclaim to be. So....while asking for help is a great idea - it may further victimize you. Please be careful in who you trust with your "secret".

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