I think that so often times we read the story of Jonah and think, “Wow, Jonah is so bad. I’m not like that. I would have forgiven the people in Nineveh if I were in that situation.”
But if we are genuinely honest with ourselves, there’s a little bit of Jonah in all of us.
We know that the people in our lives, our enemies, those that attack us, deserve punishment and yet we see them, getting along with life not being punished. We know that God is fair and so we cry out for His justice to rain down and take care of the situation, but like in the situation with Jonah, we only see God being merciful to the person who’s attacking us and we wonder why.
It’s hard to watch sometimes, if we are honest with ourselves.
We want to see vindication.
We want to see justice.
We want to see God’s mercy upon us, the innocent.
God understands that, but He does call us to more, to deal with abuse in relationships in a godly and becoming way.
How to Deal With Abuse in Relationships
This week I was attacked, again, by my ex-husband. He is just being really mean, constantly using his words as daggers to me and there’s not really a whole lot I can do about it. Because of the kids, I’m bound to him in a talking relationship and it’s not fun. I continually ask him to live in peace and it’s just never effective. The abuse and lies continue, well after the marriage is over. He feels like he can speak to me however he wishes and his heart is incredibly deceived (he’s not saved so he cannot see anything clearly).
I’ve taken steps to block him on my phone and his emails automatically go to a folder, instead of straight to my inbox, so that I only have to check it very seldom. These have been really great steps for me in order to keep him out of my life and away from me as much as humanly possible, in order to live in peace.
But I think of Jonah and how I wish God would just punish him and get him away from me forever. That I’d never have to deal with him and his abusive ways ever again.
Maybe you are struggling with a relationship that is abusive as well and you’re just not sure what to do.
I can tell you for a fact, that being like Jonah, indifferent to the person, is not what God’s called us to do. But there are some things that can really help you, as you deal with relationships that are abusive in nature.
1) See them how God sees them
Pray to see them how God sees them, through His infinite wisdom and care. He loves them, just as much as He loves you. He does not wish any should perish (2 Peter 3:9), including your enemies.
With that said, He is also just and will absolutely punish unrepentant sin, but that is HIS domain, NOT yours. Be sure you are not seeking your own vengeance (Romans 12:17-19).
2) God will punish
Understand that God WILL punish in His own perfect timing. He is way more patient than we are. It may not be in our time.
God knows when the perfect timing is to exact justice in order that the maximum results are derived from every single possible angle.
Think of it like this. We often see life as “killing one bird with one stone”. God, in His vast foreknowledge and wisdom, can see all angles and always tries to “kill as many birds with one stone” as possible.
Therefore, punishment must wait in many cases, because He is allowing and aligning all events to work toward getting as much results as possible from that one event.
Therefore, His timing is impeccable.
3) Leave it to God
As difficult as it is, we have to leave it all in God’s hands. We have to understand that there are things we cannot see. We don’t know everything about the situation and whatever it is we DO see, is only a small portion of the reality going on in the situation.
We must leave everything in His very capable hands and let Him deal with it, casting our burdens upon Him (Psalm 55:22).
We need to get to a place in our heart of praying for His will, not our own secret (and often selfish) desires.
4) Forgive them
They may not deserve to be forgiven and forgiving someone definitely doesn’t mean to continue to allow people to abuse you (whether physically, spiritually, or emotionally) but it does mean that you let the situation go and if needed, the person as well, which brings us to the next point…
If they are attacking you or abusing you and after you’ve asked them kindly to stop, if they do not stop, you need to step back from the relationship, possibly even ending it.
We are called to live in peace (Romans 12:18), not pieces.
It means we do not allow others to cut us to pieces, especially if they are hostile toward us. We cannot control them, but we don’t have to sit there and take it either.
If you’re over 18, for an example and not living with your parents, and they are treating you very badly, the Bible calls us to honor our parents (Ephesians 6:2) right, so how do we handle that?
Respect them, but back off from the relationship.
If they are treating you like dirt, then you don’t have to be super involved in their life. The Bible says respect them, it doesn’t say, spend oodles and oodles of time with them. When they are bad to you, leave them alone. When they are kind, spend time with them. Over time this will help them understand it’s not okay to treat someone like dirt.
If they are hostile toward you, provoking a conflict, be respectful and tell them what’s bothering you. If they don’t agree with you, that’s not really your problem. Again, we can’t control other people, all we can do is point them to the truth and pray they are able to hear and accept it and more importantly, change bad behavior.
If it’s a friend who’s treating you badly and you’ve talked to them about it and it continues with no apology, it’s probably time to leave the friendship. Shake the dust off your feet (Matthew 10:14), knowing you’ve done your best in the situation and leave it all to God, meanwhile praying for their hearts to be turned back to God.
If you are being physically abused, you need to get to a safe place. If you’re married, that means to remove yourself from the situation and get safe. It does not automatically mean divorce, but it does mean that you need to be safe from harm (this also applies to your children as you are their protector).
If you are living with someone (whom you’re not married to) and they are physically abusing you, it’s time to leave the relationship and do not look back. People often do not change and if they are doing this to you while not married, they are just going to harm you when married. You deserve better and can find a man to treat you with love and gentleness. It may mean waiting a while to find him, but pray a lot about it and seek God’s will. Please also understand that it is not God’s will to be physically intimate with someone outside of marriage, so leaving the situation is a good idea also in order that you be free from habitual sin.
If it’s your parents physically abusing you, get help. Seek help from your local church, a counselor, or police if needed. Physical abuse is not okay.
6) Pray for your heart
After you’ve done all that, it’s important to make sure that your own heart is 100% free and clear of sin. Make sure that nothing they are saying to you is true, through prayer, and make sure that your heart toward them, the situation, and others is aligned with God.
You want to make sure that you do not get bitter or allow unforgiveness to stir in your heart. It’ll only hurt YOU in the long run!
Also, remember how we talked about God punishing unrepentant sin above? This is a great time to make sure our own hearts are free of that. I pray so very often that God forgive me of my sins, but also for the sins that I don’t know about.
Because we all sin, all the time and it’s important to pray for forgiveness of the sins we commit every day that we have no clue we are committing. In this way, we can be sure our hearts are free of sin as Jesus washes away our sins and removes them from us as far as the east is to the west (Psalm 103:12).