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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Dr. Charles Stanley » Charles Stanley - When We Are Abused

Charles Stanley - When We Are Abused

Charles Stanley - When We Are Abused
TOPICS: The Source of My Strength, Abuse

Three times the night before the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, He said this to His disciples. He said, "Love one another. Love one another. Love one another". And then, throughout the epistles, we find the writers of the epistles saying things like this, "Accept one another. Care for one another. Comfort one another. Be devoted to one another. Build up one another. Encourage one another. Forgive one another. Be patient with one another. Be hospitable toward one another. Be subject to one another. Stimulate one another. Serve one another". All through the Scriptures, God is giving us instructions about our relationship to each other. And when you think about all that is said in just those phrases that I've given you: love one another, serving one another, encouraging each other, stimulating one another, all of this makes something very, very clear, it is never, under any circumstance, justifiable to abuse someone else.

Abuse doesn't fit who we are as believers. It is never the will of God for His children to be abused. And that word today has become a very popular word. We hear about children being abused, parents being abused, husbands and wives abusing each other, governments abusing people. And the word simply means to harm someone, to injure then in some fashion, whether it is a physical abuse, sexual abuse, whether it is verbal abuse or emotional abuse, it doesn't make any difference what it is, none of that fits into what Jesus said when He said, "Love one another. Be hospitable toward one another, encourage each other, care for one another, comfort one another". And so, what I would like to do in this message is simply to share with you some things that are helpful, I hope, to people who are being abused.

In every church all over this land and in every nation on the face of this earth, there are people by the millions and millions and millions who have been abused, who are being abused, who have no earthly idea what to do and how to deal with that situation. So, in the thirteen, fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth chapters of John, this is where Jesus said to His disciples, "Love one another". And so, instead of taking a passage of Scripture in this message and expounding it, I want to give you some suggestions about how to deal with this whole problem of abuse. But I want to begin by distinguishing between abuse and discipline. Now, let me say this, that there are a lot of people who have been abused and some people would term abuse different things. For example, if someone is just criticized, they say, "Well, you have abused me".

I'm not talking about simple criticism, but I'm talking about that verbal or emotional abuse that is really damaging in a person's life. Now, when we think about abuse and we think about how people respond to it, people respond to it in all different ways, and some people will live all of their lives and never even question whether they have been abused or not. They will, somehow, wonder what's going on inside of them and never be able to identify what the root cause is. Some people know that they have been abused, but never have the courage to face up to it. People, especially who are sexually abused early in life, they cover it up. They keep it covered because they're embarrassed, not realizing that when this happens, it will come out, some way or the other, and it will spew out on people around them. You cannot cover those kind of abuses.

And so, when we think about the distinction between abuse and discipline, let me just say that discipline is always directed toward a person because of their behavior, always directed toward a specific behavior, whereas abuse has nothing to do with that person's behavior. It has to do with something on the inside of the abuser like a volcano that comes spewing out. It is anger, hostility, fear, bitterness, resentment, whatever it might be, but it's coming out. And what it does, it attaches itself or reacts toward a person that has nothing to do with that person's behavior. It's something on the inside of them. It is a predisposition that is there just looking for an excuse to express itself on someone else. Behavior, rather, discipline always has the best behavior of the other person in mind. It has, as its purpose, to correct something that the parent may know is not wise in the life of that child, whereas abuse is not concerned about someone's behavior or someone's best interest. It is getting something out that is on the inside.

Discipline is rooted in love, love for a person that desires the best for them, and therefore that discipline is exercised. And so, there's a great distinction between being abused and being disciplined. So, let me just begin by saying two things. Number one, I am sure that I don't have any earthly idea what abuse is like compared to most people, so I would not tell you anything about myself to say, "Look how awful my background was," but simply to say this: I share it because I want to say to you that if I'm willing to share it, you ought to be able and be willing to share maybe things that have hurt you in your past that you need to deal with and you just don't think you can tell anybody. Yes, you can, because sharing it is part of the healing process.

When I was about nine years of age, my mother married the second time. My father passed away when I was nine months of age. And so, she married a man that she thought would make me a good father, and about two weeks into that marriage, she realized that something was really wrong. And the tragedy of my mother's marriage the second time, was that all of my stepfather's brothers and sisters told her what a wonderful man he was and what a wonderful husband he would make, only for my mother to go back a few months later and question them. And this was their response, "Well, yeah, we knew he was like that, but we thought if he got married, he would change". What a devastating lie to tell my mother. But it was devastating, and it was a lie, and they knew better, but they told it. Don't ever make up something because you think things may get better if somebody does so and so, because, usually, they don't.

And so, it was the beginning of a horrible marriage. And times when I was challenged in ways that I never thought I'd be challenged. Always criticized. Always felt I was a third party. And oftentimes got in fights. My mother always defended me. And I'm sure that I was not physically abused, because my mother would've laid down her life quickly before she would have allowed that to happen, though we did get in some brawls. And so, by the time I was a teenager and I had seen some things go on, like my mother being choked, and knowing that if I had had the privilege, at the moment, no telling what I would have done to my stepfather if I could have at that moment; loading my gun at night and placing it in the corner of the bedroom where I slept, by the bed, and locking the door because I didn't always know what was going to happen, and I know that may sound like, "Well, that doesn't sound very Christlike". Right. You're right.

But I was saved when I was twelve years of age, but I was scared. And I didn't know how to respond. I never read any books about any of this, because to my knowledge, there weren't any written. There were no seminars, nobody to tell me, "How do you grow up in this kind of a situation and circumstance"? And I was not the only member of that family who was treated in that way. The worst thing about leaving home to go to college was leaving my mother in a bad situation. And I would not even describe all the things that went on, except to say this: If you think that growing up in difficult circumstances does not have any effect on you, you'd better think twice, because, you see, all of us have a tape in our mind, and that tape has on it all the things that you and I began with from the time of our birth, maybe even before our birth, and either we recognize that, identify what's on the tape and deal with it, or we suffer from it all the days of our life.

And thank God, thank God for people in my life who have given me direction in years past who check out my own life and to be sure that I don't have any of that hostility and anger and bitterness and resentment left over from things that happened to me, because I have dealt with them. But I say all of that to say I know nothing about abuse compared to what so many people suffer here, not only in this country, but I think about people who have suffered such horrible, horrible abuse in other nations of the world, the way the governments have treated them and the way people have hurt physically, sexually, spiritually, mentally, emotionally in ways that most of us will never begin to understand.

So how do you respond to all of these things? Well, let me say, and I want to give you a number of things. And you may just jot them down. And you may not need them at all. Wonderful. I hope you don't. But I'll tell you one thing. You either live with someone who does, or you work around someone who does, or you have a friend who does. I guarantee you, you don't have to reach much further than arm's length to find somebody around you who is suffering from abuse and does not know that that's the problem, who will go through life unable to relate, can't ever be satisfied, walking out of situations, things don't get right, they run away, whatever it might be, not realizing that all of that stuff and junk was there, was given to them many years ago, or maybe not so many years ago. And now they're having to deal with it.

So, the first thing I want to suggest is simply this, and that is, as you think in terms of dealing with things and how to deal with them, number one, to seek God's guidance. "Lord, what would You have me to do"? Now, listen. There is no pat answer as to what to do in an abusive situation because all abuse is not the same. All of it is not motivated the same way. And so, to say to somebody, "Well, just get out," that is not always the answer. And some people will use that word, "abuse," today as an excuse to run or to escape. We're talking about the kind of abuse that brings great injury and great hurt. And so, here is a person, for example, who is physically being abused and physically being inflicted and injured. Then to say to that person to stay within that situation? No. Or someone, for example, who is being emotionally abused. You may say, "Well, they should just leave". You can't say that to everybody for the simple reason, that's why we say, "You ask God what you ought to do". And remember this. Listen carefully. God will never tell you to do anything that violates the living Word of God.

Secondly, pray for the abuser. Pray for the abuser. You say, "Well, I prayed and prayed and prayed. Nothing has happened". Well, let me give you something specific to pray for. If I had known this when I was a kid growing up, I would've known how to better to respond to my stepfather. But I didn't know this, and that is, pray for God to show you what motivates that person to act the way they act. Why does that person abuse someone else? Why do they treat someone else and try to injure them? Well, a lot of years went by, and so, I went to see my stepfather and my mom was still there then and they lived together, always did till he died.

And so, I went to see him to ask him to forgive me for my wrong responses to him because I'm sure I responded wrongly. And on several occasions, it could have been a disaster. And so, I went to ask him to forgive me. And I sat down across the table at lunch, and I said, I called him by name and I said, "I just need to ask you to forgive me for some things". And immediately he said, "Aw, you shouldn't d..." I said, "No, just let me finish". I never accused him of anything. I just said, "I need to ask you to forgive me for some things".

And then as we began to talk, my stepfather told me about this. I wish I had known this years ago. He said, it just came out. It's not something he intended to tell me. He said, "You know, when I was a boy," he said, "I wanted to be a doctor. And I told my father I wanted to go to college and be a doctor". And he says, "He wouldn't let me go to college. He made me stay on the farm and work". And he said, "I had to work on the farm, and he wouldn't let me get off. He wouldn't let me go anywhere. He just made me work every day". He said, "Until finally I just left. I just picked up my little stuff and I left". He left. He got him a job cooking in some little Podunk restaurant somewhere. He always had menial jobs. He never did anything much to make any money.

But here's what happened to him, and here's the reason. I want you to listen carefully. Because his father wouldn't let him become a doctor, wouldn't let him go to college, he developed a root of bitterness, resentment, anger, and hostility. You can never keep these poisons to yourself. They will always erupt. There are, it's like a volcano. Ultimately, it's coming out. And so, what happened? He just spewed it on everybody around him. What he was feeling toward his father, he spewed on me, my mother, his brothers, his sisters, and everybody else, our friends, people he worked with. He spewed all of that on them.

Now, that's what happens when the poison of bitterness, resentment, hostility, and anger is on the inside of you. And let me say this, if you refuse to look back, if you refuse to deal with it, you are going to hurt and destroy the people you love most. While you cover up what has happened in your past, you are destroying the people who are living in your present. It happens every day and it brings great hurt and turmoil. And that's why just to hold it down, push it down, deny it, refuse that it's ever happened or it's ever been there is devastating to people who love you with all of their heart.

The third thing I would suggest is this, and that is, not to blame God. Do not blame God. The one thing Satan would love for you to do is say, "Well, God did this. Here's what God did. God wanted to correct my life and God wanted to get rid of sin in my life and so He caused my parent or my son or my daughter to abuse me". Listen to me carefully. God never, under any circumstance, ever instigates, institutes, initiates in any fashion any kind of abuse. That is not of God. That is totally opposite of everything God says. He says, "Love one another and serve one another, encourage each other and build up one another and care for one another and comfort one another and be patient with one another and submit to one another". That has nothing to do, that's totally opposite from abusing each other.

And so, Satan would love for the person who is being abused to think, "God is doing this to me for a specific reason. There must be something in my life that God wants to correct". No, God will take advantage, and He will use that, if we'll allow Him, to our advantage in our life, to grow us up and mature us, but He is never the cause. He is never the instigator of any kind of abuse whatsoever. That is not the purpose, the plan, the will, the desire, or the method of God.

The fourth thing I would say is to forgive the abuser. Now, forgiving the abuser isn't something you say, "Well, I just can't do that because you don't know how I've been treated". Now, listen to me carefully. Now, I know this is hard and I know that some of you would say, "Well, yes, but you haven't been treated the way I have". That's absolutely true. I'm sure that's true. "You don't know the kind of emotional, physical, or sexual damage it's done in my life". I'm sure I don't understand that. But this much I do know: that harboring anger, resentment, hostility, and bitterness, listen, an unforgiving spirit is worse than a cancer on the inside. An unforgiving spirit is like a well, like a spring of poison. And what it does, it penetrates every single facet of a person's life. An unforgiving spirit is absolutely, listen, absolutely unjustifiable. You cannot justify an unforgiving spirit.

And then, number five, I want to say, is equally important, and that is, to forgive the one who allowed the abuse. Now, there are young people who grow up and they're adults today who say, "My mother stood by, and she knew what was going on and she let it happen anyway". And so, the unforgiving spirit, oftentimes, is just as much toward the person who stood by and allowed it to happen as the person who did the abusing. And so, it's easy to blame someone else. Now, what we have to ask is this: Why did that person stand by? And it may that you'll have to go back to one of your parents and say, "You know, I've held it against you all these years for you allowing this to happen to me. Would you just sort of tell me why we just put up with that"? And, somehow, more than likely, you're gonna find out that there was, in their mind, a legitimate reason, or in their thinking, they felt so inadequate and so scared that they didn't even know how to handle admitting that a husband or a wife was abusing a child. I'm simply saying these are some things that you need to consider when it comes to dealing with abuse.

The next thing I would say, which would be number six, is to choose the truth about yourself. And the best way to find out what the truth is, is to get in the Word of God and find out what He says about you. And you know what? When somebody says, "You're no good, you don't count, you're not worth anything," you just let that go in one ear and out the other, because that didn't come from heaven. It came from the pit. But, you see, it's damaging, because everybody needs to feel a sense that they belong, a sense of value, that they're worth something, and to feel competent. Those three attitudes are essential to every person's emotional health: a feeling of belonging, a feeling of worth, and a feeling of competence.

In a family, one of the greatest advantages of the family is that you belong, and somebody thinks you are worth something that they would marry you and live with you, and that you are competent, that you can take care of and you can provide. And in the church, we all belong to this family. And we all value one another. We all have different gifts. We're different but we value each other. And we believe that each other is competent. That's why you have a place of service and that you're capable. And when you eliminate a sense of belonging, that means "I don't belong, and so I'm rejected," a sense of worth, "I have no value. I'm worthless," and "I'm not competent". And, my friend, you have a person who is emotionally damaged, deeply, deeply damaged. And so, when you and I begin to believe the truth about ourselves, what happens? We begin to step out of the horrible results and effects of this kind of abuse.

Then I would say, number seven, and that is to open yourself up to godly healing. Now, I want you to listen very carefully to what I'm going to say, and I speak out of experience, and I speak for the benefit of multitudes of people, I hope. When I say, "Open yourself up to healing," what has to be healed? Well, if you were physically abused back yonder somewhere, more than likely, if somebody broke and arm or cut you or something, that's been healed and you've gotten over that and you think, "Well, hey, you know, I'm over that abuse". No, you're not. That's just the outward sign. Because if someone emotionally abused you, you never did see that, but you felt it.

You see, the healing process has to take place in our memories. What do I remember? What did I feel? What was I feeling when this was going on? You may have felt dirty if you were sexually abused. Or you may have just put your mind in neutral and tried to just be in some kind of ethereal something somewhere while it was happening. Or you may have felt, "I must deserve this". Or you may have felt hatred, bitterness, and hostility toward the person who was doing it. Those memories have to be healed, or those memories are like poison. And so, God is willing to heal.

Now, Jesus Christ, who is the source of our strength for every need that we have, He is willing to heal that. But now listen. It may be that you may need to talk to somebody else about it and get it out. Maybe it's something that you've never shared with anyone. Maybe you never even thought about the fact that that's part of something going on inside of you. But let me say this, and I want you to listen very carefully. Sometimes you may need to go to some godly counselor. Now, listen carefully. You be sure the person who is your counselor is a godly counselor and not someone who simply says, "I'm a Christian," or who hangs out a shingle that they're a Christian counselor, because let me tell you something.

If a person is not a true, godly counselor, here's what they'll do: They'll say, "I'm a Christian". You won't hear much about the Word of God in that counseling. You won't hear much or anything about Jesus or about the Word of God, but what you'll have is you'll have ungodly, worldly psychology and counseling that has nothing to do with the principles of Scripture. And when you allow those things to perpetrate your mind and your emotions and your will, you will end up in worse shape than you were before you ever went to that counselor because it will cause confusion and it will be trying to put together the principles of Scripture with ungodly counsel, and all it does is lengthens the time, multiplies, and deepens the hurt of those around you.

The next thing I would simply say is this: Choose to just move forward in your life. If you're a person who's been abused and you say, "Well, here's what happened to me; therefore, I can't". Don't say that. You can do anything God wants you to do. And this is why Jesus Christ, in your life, is so absolutely essential. He, within you, will enable you, listen, to be healed of your abuse. He will enable you to pick up those broken pieces, those shattered parts of your life, and He will put them back together in the most beautiful way. And He can make you, listen, he can make you as if you never suffered any abuse whatsoever. He can heal you of bad memories. He can put the broken pieces back together.

You can move on in life and do what? God can accomplish in your life everything that He chooses to accomplish. And no matter what has happened to you, here's what you can do, you can know that Romans 8:28 is right and true, that no matter what's happened in the past, that you can pick up the pieces and move on, and that God will do this: He'll take all the hurts, all the injury, all the pain, all the suffering, and all the heartache. You know what He'll do? He'll work that in your life in some fashion to make you a blessing to someone else because we're all servants. So, don't just look back and say, "Well, this is the way I was treated, therefore", therefore nothing, "This is the way I was treated. That may be what happened to me in the past, but this is who I am now. And God is my Savior, my Lord, and my Master, and He says, in Christ Jesus, that He will enable me to do and to accomplish and to achieve everything that He calls me to do".

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". Listen, no matter what's happened in the past, the past, listen, the past cannot hold you back from doing what God wants you to do unless you allow it to happen. You can be healed of the effects of that abuse. He will free you and liberate you from what's going on in your life right now if you're willing to trust Him, surrender your life to Him. And listen. The omnipotent Christ, who lives within you, will keep you, provide for you and heal you and make you someone whom He can use to bring glory to His name.
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