Morning friend,

Last week we talked about letting go of unrealistic hope. Letting go of that hope isn’t meant to leave you feeling bereft of options, but it’s to open your eyes to the options that are available to you. To help you stop knocking your head against doors you have no power to open.

I believe this whole topic of our expectations merits more conversation. All of us have expectations of ourselves, of others, of life, and even of God. When those expectations are not met, we can become disappointed, even despondent and angry that life, God, or other people aren’t coming through for us like we’d like or hoped they would (see my previous blog on discouragement).

Then what? What is our next step forward when those we hoped would care, don’t care as we need them to care? Or they don’t show up or step up to confront our destructive spouse or fix our marriage or provide support? Do we drown in our disappointment, anger, and helplessness, ….what might be possible if we, even in our disappointment, learn to rise up and discover new possibilities? 

This week’s question: Who is there to go to when no family and the church did not help or listen; they said suffer :((((((((. The assistant pastor said it’s not his place to do anything. The pastor would have cared but they removed him. They even had a man who addresses addictions; still nothing was done. I had to leave there. 

And the women were mean to me.

Now all those people are not there anymore, and a new young pastor is appointed. Do I risk going back and what should I say? What to do and nowhere to go?

I shouldn’t have to pay for support or friends or a Christian sister. 

I just want to be happy and have never consented to abuse in any form, but I have nowhere to go.

Answer: I am so sorry that your family, friends, and church let you down. Many Christians have no idea on how to respond wisely to marriages that are destructive. In trying to be Biblically helpful they often provide simplistic answers to complicated problems which end up failing both individuals as well as the marriage. 

I’m not sure what kind of help you are seeking but if you’re looking for someone experienced in domestic abuse, you can usually find free support groups from your local domestic violence group and their number is 1-800 799 SAFE.

You can also find some churches that provide low-cost or even free counseling and other support services, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be experienced or helpful with your particular problem.

Can I ask you a question? You present your situation as if your hope was that someone should have done something that would have fixed your husband/marriage? What exactly would that be? How could someone else – a pastor, counselor, friend, or relative make your husband do something or be someone he had no desire to be? Even God himself doesn’t make someone change or be who they have no heart or desire to become. 

I agree your church could and should have been more helpful and supportive toward you, but again let me ask you what exactly would you have liked them to do? Sometimes we have expectations of others that are not possible or realistic for them to meet. No one can fix your life, your marriage, or make you happy. They can show care. They can provide wisdom and guidance. They can have a conversation with you over your options. They can pray with you and share God’s word with you. They can help you financially until you get on your feet. And all those things are of great help and support. But you are the only one who can take action steps towards the goals you have –such as getting safe, having good friends, and being happy.

You said you should not have to pay for a friend or a Christian sister and you’re right. But friends and sisters have their own lives, their own problems, and responsibilities to tend to. When you are in a crisis or in a chronically tough place, it may be hard for them to be as available as you need. Plus, they may not be equipped or may feel scared or overwhelmed with some of what’s going on with you. They may encourage you to get professional help, not because they don’t care but because they do care. Finding a good counselor or coach can be a necessary next step, but you still have your own work to do to get healthy and whole even if it was not your fault you got broken. [Tweet “There is nowhere you can “go” where you will be fixed, helped, or “taken care of” without you having to work on yourself.”]

For example. imagine you were hit by a car and broke both legs. Unfair. Unjust. Especially because the person who hit you, drove off and left you lying by the side of the road. You’re hurt, legs broken, and angry that this happened to you. Now what?

A bystander can demonstrate care for you and call an ambulance to take you to the hospital. The police can help and look for the person who did this, arrest them, and I hope they do. But whether they do or don’t, their actions will not fix your two broken legs. You still have to consent to and cooperate with your treatment. You still have to endure the pain of two broken legs. You still have to engage in physical therapy to help your legs regain their strength so you can walk in the future without a limp. The doctor can help you. The therapist can help you, but she can’t walk for you to rebuild your muscles and strengthen your legs, only you can do that.

I fear that sometimes when we are a legitimate victim and someone has damaged our soul, our spirit, and/or our body, we resist and resent the harsh reality that we still need to be responsible for our own healing. We rage inside with the injustice of it all. It’s not fair and it’s wrong that we are stuck with all this damage. And in a sense, it’s true, it’s not fair or just or right. But what are your alternatives? [Tweet “If you don’t do your work to heal, then you are the one who stays broken and damaged.”] Is that what you want? To live crippled because someone ran you over and broke your legs and you refused to take the responsibility for your healing because it wasn’t your fault or fair that your legs got broken?

Do you want to spend the next 12 months sick and angry that your husband or your pastor or church friends didn’t come through for you? Or… do you want to learn to come through for you and do what you need to do to get well? Friend, God loves you and wants you to be well. I’m truly sorry your friends and family let you down, but I hope you choose life and do what you can to get healthy and strong.

Friend, when and how have you turned that corner from being angry someone ruined your life to starting to make wise decisions to heal and fix your life?

PS: If you find yourself a chronic people pleaser you may be interested in our 6 week Moving Beyond People Pleasing Group Coaching program that starts in July. Check it out here

22 Comments

  1. Autumn on June 29, 2022 at 6:33 pm

    No one can ruin your life. You made the choice to marry the person and have children with them. That was YOUR choice. Once you realized you were tricked by a sly, manipulative abuser, the responsibility is on you to get out of the relationship. It is not your church’s responsibility to help you. No modern woman should enter into marriage without a skill of some kind that could support herself and her children. That is just common sense for contemporary living.

    No one is likely to give you the help you need to leave, accept that and take responsibility for you and your situation. Use all the government and legal aide you can find. You might be entitled to more than you realize. Your situation is going to get even more messy and painful…..but on the other side of this suffering and loss….comes freedom, dignity, self respect and safety.

    • Bridge on July 2, 2022 at 10:47 am

      Well said, I’d somewhat insensitive, but what about the not so modern women? Or the older 60’s something women? Or the women who have been so emotionally pulverised to even think about what to wear for the day let alone fill out all the red tape involved for the tinniest assistance? (In this country particularly).

      We will help ourselves, we’re strong & capable & deserve freedom dignity & self respect & especially safety…but empathy & compassion are essential to us to begin to get liberation from sick self-centred people who have hidden agendas & a sense of entitlement, that we could never have seen or known, no matter how intelligent or ‘modern’ women we are (or meant to be).

      • Autumn on July 2, 2022 at 8:11 pm

        Yes, Bridge. I agree, my replies can seem insensitive to some personality types. I found direct communication to have been the most useful in helping me escape abuse. I needed the blunt facts and some frank talk to shake my deep, deep denial.

        Yes, we do better with help, even if we have to pay for such help. I hear you with the obstacles that develop such as age and mental deterioration from CPTSD. The truth of our situations are terrible, evil and often criminal. Thankfully, many people have no idea about the dynamics of trauma and emotional abuse. Education is power. That is our first hope of transitioning out of bondage.

  2. Sue on July 2, 2022 at 8:58 am

    This happened in my former church – not to me but several women came forward seeking help but were also told to suffer-it was their job. This is spiritual abuse added to the abuse they were already experiencing. The church turned on them and anyone who tried to help them. No one knew where or how to try and find help. The church was very isolating, so most of the friends they had were in that church or churches affiliated. So they suddenly had no friends or support of a church family. In some churches like this the girls/women aren’t allowed to go to college or work.
    Finding an advocate is very helpful but it was difficult. One of the women reached out to the Called To Peace Ministry and they were able to put her in touch with advocate in her area and it has been very helpful.

    • Free on July 5, 2022 at 7:00 pm

      This is so sad to read. If only it was an isolated incident. Why don’t we hear about the sin of domestic abuse, sexual entitlement, coercive control and evil behavior from the pulpit? Why are spouses immune to the scriptural directive to flee evil and put those who are evil out of fellowship? I don’t get it.

  3. Chris on July 2, 2022 at 9:08 am

    This is good! I see this in many situations for myself and others! As long as we do not take responsibility for and action toward our own recovery or goals, we remain a victim or stuck.

  4. Reva on July 2, 2022 at 9:45 am

    I am so sorry. I think that many women in abusive relationships feel this way and you are not alone. The abuser is not held accountable and it can feel like you are on quicksand. Lundy Bancroft speaks to this. It certainly isn’t fair. That does means that you will have to do more work to get yourself to safety- you can search carefully for a therapist who specializes in domestic abuse. Setting boundaries and even leaving necessary. You have worth. Other people may not be able to support you right now but that doesn’t mean that you deserve being mistreated. Sending blessings your way.

  5. Nancy on July 2, 2022 at 10:37 am

    Hi there,

    I didn’t have any support nearby either.

    I had this blog and all Leslie’s free YouTube videos ( thank you Leslie!) and I had her book.

    I never reached out to my church or told anyone in my Bible study group. That’s because of stories like yours. I’m so sorry for what you, and so many others, have been through.

    Once my husband was taking the steps he towards healing I felt safe enough to tell my pastor a little bit. Unfortunately she treated him very poorly which significantly stunted his growth. This was a significant lack of spiritual maturity on her part.

    We ended up leaving that church because of that.

  6. Reva on July 2, 2022 at 11:08 am

    I’m so sorry. Many women in abusive relationships have felt the same way. You are not alone. Know that you can get to safety, and while it isn’t fair that you have to work so hard to get help, you can do it. Lundy Bancroft speaks yo this in his books. Finding a therapist who specializes in and understands domestic abuse is so important. You want to find someone who puts your safety and healing first (not your marriage). Sending blessings to you.

  7. Debbie T on July 2, 2022 at 12:12 pm

    I remember ‘the way it is suppose to be’ kept clouding my thinking. Marriage described in the Bible is what God desires and I felt if we could ‘just do it’ then all would be good. It wasn’t until I had earnestly prayed for several friends to become Christian but didn’t (yet) that I learned the true way it’s suppose to be. During that season I was so frustrated directing God to ‘just’ open their eyes, ears, and hearts. After all, I knew that they should become followers of Christ! At one point while I was trying to put the squeeze on God that the Spirit reminded me that Jesus doesn’t force himself on people, he gives them the choice to receive him. That’s when I realized God does not manipulate or force and I should respect their will as well. After that I could be clear with making reasonable request of my husband (now ex) and then watch for what he chose to do. He knew how to reach a pastor, counselor, or start a healthy conversation with me, and he chose not to.

    • Chris Ann on July 2, 2022 at 6:22 pm

      Debbie, I love your last comment: …he chose not too. Thanks for sharing it just confirms what I am going through!

      • Autumn on July 3, 2022 at 7:50 am

        I Debbie’s entry too.

        I wrote this as a note to myself. “He lost the privilege of having me in his life due to his chronic, abusive behavior.” We need to put the blame on and upon the one doing the harmful things, not take responsibility for someone else’s behavior and try to fix them.

        • Autumn on July 3, 2022 at 7:53 am

          *like Debbie’s entry.

          Beautiful how she revealed how her eyes were opened to truth. Our gentle, loving God speaks to us in unique and specific ways!

  8. Lora on July 2, 2022 at 4:51 pm

    This is such a good post and very wise counsel, Leslie. It gives me perspective on those I have tried to “help” as well as my own expectations of others. Thanks for the loving honesty.

  9. Chris Ann on July 2, 2022 at 6:19 pm

    there’s nothing fair about abuse in marriage. I guess I turned a corner when I remember seeing the words stop pretending! I did some work on Leslie support groups and trauma therapy and just telling the truth to myself and to save others. I stopped rescuing my husband. Now I’m accepting what the next chapter of my life may look like on my own by myself by myself without my husband but not by myself I have developed really wonderful sisters in the Lord my family I started just telling the truth not out of anger but just so that I stop pretending. right now I am becoming a strong stable person learning that whatever life throws my way I can handle it. I’m having to let go of fear and trust the Lord sometimes minute by minute. I keep wanting to fall back into pretend that everything’s OK when it is absolutely not OK. I have to say I feel as if I’m exploded inside and I’m a big blank slate and I just keep giving this blank slate to the Lord and waiting on him to show me take steps to get free financially and relationally. So thank you Leslie for these last messages surrounding people pleasing I did the where the challenge week which was incredibly shifting again showing me truth truth truthAnd also thanks for the support of all of the sisters in the groups that continue to show support and to be honest so that I can see myself in them and continue to find my way.

  10. Autumn on July 3, 2022 at 7:53 am

    *like Debbie’s entry.

    Beautiful how she revealed how her eyes were opened to truth. Our gentle, loving God speaks to us in unique and specific ways!

  11. graceiscome on July 4, 2022 at 12:14 pm

    Counseling is almost essential. I agree with Leslie (if I am hearing your heart correctly) that you can’t really expect another brother or sister to fill the role that truly a counselor is meant to fill. If we weren’t in these broken times, it would be different. But like Leslie stated very correctly, it seems that almost everyone is dealing with something (whether it is “out in the open” or behind closed doors) and so there is often just so much “reserve” that someone has to help carry another’s deep situation. And that’s o.k. I have learned over the many years of hoping that another would do or say something to help fix my own situation that all this does is eventually wear the other person down. Some will hang in there; others will find the need to pull back. And really, it’s not being a friend to that person to lean on him or her “as if” he or she were a counselor. A counselor is someone who is supposed to be there to hear, listen, and respond; and if it is a God-provided one, he or she can really walk with you through whatever it is you are facing until you are stronger to be able to manage: you and God. And then you are freer to enjoy your true friendships/brother-sisterships and even minister to others (but step-by-step…smile). I hope this helps and doesn’t sound critical. And remember, in the Bible it does state that it’s o.k. for folks to be able receive compensation for the work they do for God. (I hope I am referencing that correctly). God bless you and your journey. With love…

  12. Aly on July 7, 2022 at 9:55 am

    I think what is confusing is that many churches offer a message of hope & healing and especially support. Not only that, many churches see themselves as the spiritual extended family to others and for many of us that can feel like a safe place to have a sounding board or even some intervention in a difficult or destructive relationship.
    Having people within a church tell the writer above, to suffer…
    Feels like more twisted scripture advice that can create more trauma to a person who needs help! One of the most difficult things in abuse dynamics is not being BELiEVED.
    I’m not sure I understood the writer in that she didn’t want to pay for a professional, maybe she was looking for sister support or church support through her process? Having a paid professional is usually essential but so is having other forms of support during the process. Many of us idealize and wants those place to be our church families. But then we find out that they don’t always want to know the mess or serious things in our lives and they certainly don’t want to help hold any of it. So I think that is where a lot of ignorant comments re-injure a person trying to come out of the fog.

  13. Dove on July 18, 2022 at 1:31 pm

    From my own experience, I can save that there is nothing so devastating as putting hope and trust in people whose very role is to be there for the church, only to be not believed, silenced, ignored and shamed. I understand that those in church leadership may not be fully equipped and qualified to council an abused person, nor should they be. But they most certainly should care for, advise, validate and love that individual. They shouldn’t elevate the abuser, give him positions of authority, have him teach in the church as they have done in my situation. They have been made fully aware of his behaviour in our family, his anger and control, lies and manipulation to myself and my children. But rather than call him out on this, rebuke and chasten, they befriended him even more. They saw the prison we are living in and simply left us there without hope, without any validation of our pain. I echo this woman’s thoughts. Where do we go from here.

    • Leslie Vernick on July 18, 2022 at 8:44 pm

      Dove, for sure we would expect the church to care and “do something.” But we don’t want to leave our well-being in someone else’s hands when they don’t. For example, iF my MD doesn’t offer appropriate care for my illness, I am going to find another doctor, not just feel angry that he didn’t help me. Indeed I may be angry he didn’t help me, but I won’t keep banging my head against the wall of an indifferent or incompetent response. In the same way, if church leadership protects and sides with the abuser instead of advocating and protecting the abused, that should clue you in right away that this is not a church that is safe, and I would go as far to say, they must not believe God’s word, because God is clearly on the side of the oppressed, not the oppressor. So to expect them to “care” or “help” is expecting something from a group or person who has clearly told you that they are unwilling or unable to help. Time to move on and find support elsewhere.

      • Dove on July 20, 2022 at 1:03 am

        Thank you Leslie. You are most definitely right that it is time to move on. So hard to actually make that move, however, or to even know where to start. I would so love to have access to Godly counsel. There are no Christian counselors for me to even reach out to in my area. It’s hard to make this step alone, to rely on my own self doubting and fearful resolve. I’m so afraid of making wrong steps, that I stay glued to where I am. Paralyzed.

        • Leslie Vernick on July 20, 2022 at 7:48 pm

          Dove I’d encourage you to join CONQUER – which is our educational and support group which opens its doors in September. You will get a lot of support and guidance from our program.

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