Every so often I am overwhelmed that God lets me be on His team and gives me a front row seat in watching Him work his redemptive healing power. These past two weeks was one of those times. For the last five months I have facilitated a Bible study for women overcoming toxic relationships through a local church as well as leading a support group for women through a local counseling practice. Our time together has now come to an end, and the changes that God has brought in these beautiful women in this short time is nothing short of God’s miraculous love doing what it does – fighting for his children, healing and redeeming people.
In Isaiah 61, scriptures tell us that God Himself heals the hearts of the broken-hearted, proclaims liberty to the captives, opens the prison doors for the prisoners, and comforts those who mourn. He replaces the ashes of mourning with a crown of beauty, sadness with joy, and fear with praise and courage. He promises to rebuild devastated homes, stop generational curses, and give His people a double portion of blessings to replace their shame and confusion. He brings justice on those who contend with His own, and directs the path of His people with His truth. And then He promises to do a beautiful thing: He calls his children “oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord.”
I doubt there is a more comforting, lovely passage of scripture for those whose hearts and homes and lives have been torn apart by domestic abuse.
I have come to recognize that, more than anything, domestic abuse is a spiritual battle. Satan would like nothing more than to keep women stuck in hopeless, abusive marriages. The Enemy of our souls knows that a strong woman who is on fire for God is a huge threat to him, and the best way to keep her ineffective is to keep her tied to an abuser, so that she can never become the woman God designed her to be. The great Deceiver keeps her there with lies – that her abuser will change if she prays enough, that if she is nicer to him he will be nicer to her, that if she submits to his every whim he will be better, that everything must be her fault, that God will be mad at her if she leaves him, that she must be a quiet doormat because that is what scripture requires, that divorce is a sin. The list of lies is endless.
During the course of the last five months, I have watched as God has worked in the lives of His daughters, started the process of healing and hope, fought on their behalf, and kept His promises. As they learned about how very much their Heavenly Father loves them, delights in them, and wants the best for them, they realized God’s Truth that they were called to live a life of abundance and joy, not one under the oppression of a dictator. As they learned the tactics that abusers use – not just physical abuse, but also everything from gaslighting and manipulation to financial tyranny and abandonment – they recognized that their husband is a minion of the Enemy, not the man of God that he claims. As they learned that God created his daughters to be strong and courageous warriors in bringing His Kingdom to earth, they threw off the notion that women need to be submissive, wimpy servants who cower under an evil tyrant. As they learned that God promises to go with us and equip us with His boldness and courage, the chains of abuse began to break, the doors of the prison of abusive homes were opened, and I saw women break free from decades – yes, decades – of abuse in so-called “Christian” marriages. And then I observed something that only Jehovah Rapha, the God who Heals, can do. When they were out from under the evil cloud of abuse, their hearts began to heal, they found joy again, they started new homes filled with peace, and they were blessed with jobs – even though some had been out of the work force for years. And God planted them as oaks of righteousness – a strong safe place of refuge with deep roots, wide arms and comforting shade for their children and others.
During one session, I brought in a crown and asked each woman to take a photo of herself with a crown on her head to remind her of her true identity. As they were reminded that they were daughters of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, their perspective changed from a peasant girl, who had resigned herself to be thankful for scraps, to royalty, whose Father has entrusted her with a kingdom and who expects excellence and goodness and the Spirit of the Lord in a partner.
These last five months the kingdom of heaven broke through the darkness. God fought for His daughters and began His redemptive work in them, which He will see through until they are healed and whole. Women were transformed from victim to victorious. And I heard the voice of God saying, “These are my daughters! No, Satan. You can’t have them. Not then, not now, not ever.”