Nora chuckled, but laughing didn’t stop her from crying. Her friend, Allie, had a knack for soothing awkward situations. She knew just what to say to lighten the mood. Nora knew Allie wasn’t uncomfortable; teasing was just her way to ease tension. Nora dabbed at her tears with a napkin and looked for the waitress, “I should go,” she said, “Rob will be home soon and he’ll wonder where I’ve been all afternoon.”
The two women had agreed on this lunch date weeks ago. Nora had no idea her husband’s explosive outburst the night before would shadow their pleasant afternoon. His timing to hurl some rather choice insults—laden with words she would never repeat—was impeccable. His disgusting taunts still echoed in Nora’s mind. The shame of it all made her cry.
Allie was a friend Nora could lean on. Sometimes she advised her in the worst way… “Nora, if you would just…” and then tell her to do something that implied she had control over Rob’s oppressive behavior. But nonetheless, Allie’s love for Nora was genuine.
Women like Nora need friends like Allie. The circumstances of their abusive relationship are isolating. It keeps them at arm’s length from other people. To have a friend who respects them as an image bearer is invaluable. I’ve heard many victims express this need. If oppressed women could share how we can help, this is what they might say:
Please, treat me like an adult.
One characteristic of an abusive home is that the husband treats his wife like a child. In an oppressive marriage, he calls the shots and determines direction. He’s the king of his castle and his wife is there to serve his every desire. A woman in this kind of relationship loses agency; her God-given right to make her own decisions. Eventually, if she remains in the marriage long enough, she forgets how to make choices on her own.
Everyone will stand before the Lord one day…
Editor’s Note: This is the third post in a series of posts on one another care in the church. To read the other posts, click here.
Most mornings you can find me curled up in the corner of my couch reading Scripture. Now, I’d love for you to think that makes me super virtuous; however, I must confess I read the news and social media first. I’m still working on my priorities.
Daily “demotions” (as I like to call them) are one of my favorite times of the day. God speaks to me through His word and I discover something new about Him and His world just about every time.
I can’t tell you how often God then uses those quiet moments with Him to equip me to minister to others. Frequently I find that the very words He applied to my soul in the morning help in a conversation with a friend or counselee later in the day. He does that. His words are our daily nourishment; however, they are also meant for us to use to sustain one another (Col. 3:16). This is just one of several ways we can prepare in advance of sharing the word with someone who is struggling. This means we need to pay attention to how God meets us with His word.
Another way is to build a counseling toolkit. A toolkit can be made up of sermons, devotionals, and/or Bible Study materials adapted for use in counsel. For instance, what was the last sermon you heard? What were your pastor’s three main points? How did he apply them? What was the main take away from your last Bible study? Create a journal with these messages and record the insights you’ve gleaned…
emember one of the first times I helped someone journey through the pain, suffering, and shame that is associated with abuse. What happened to my sweet, young friend was awful—but as common as abuse is, her experience was unique to her. So, I did everything I could think of to prepare in order to help her. I read books. I looked up articles. I sought the wisdom of those who had spent way more time counseling the victims of this dreadful sin than I. And yet, when it came time to actually speak with her, the Lord ever so gently redirected me back to His all sufficient word. The passages the Holy Spirit brought to my mind did not deal directly with abuse, however God’s words did not go out to my friend and come back void. His word did all He intended it to do (Isa. 55:11).
Recently, I heard Nancy Guthrie speak at a conference. She said she was on a mission to bring the Bible back to Bible Study. Similarly, I am on a mission to bring Scripture back to one another care. Suffering originated in the Fall, so all of life’s problems from that point forward are, at their root, matters which highlight our broken relationship with God.
Scripture Shapes One Another Care
Caregiving in the context of the local church is the personal ministry of the word. It is bringing God’s truth, God’s promises, and God’s commands to bear on life’s problems (2 Pet. 1:3). It is God’s word that compels the Christian walk. It is knowing Him and His ways that propels us on the path that He ordains. But what exactly does that look like for a caregiver?
Well, the responsibilities of a woman in the church who helps women in crisis can be found in the passages Paul wrote to Timothy regarding the office of elder. I just made a bunch of you itchy by associating women helpers in the church with the office gifts, didn’t I? Bear with me a moment…
There are numerous commands in the New Testament for both men and women in the church to “imitate their leaders” (2 Thess. 3:7, 9; Phil. 3:17, 4:9; 1 Cor. 4:16; Heb. 13:7; 1 Peter 5:3).
I came into the Bible study exhausted, un-showered, wearing a baseball hat, and clutching not a Bible, but a Tupperware container that held my cold, left-over dinner. All around me swirled comments and scripture readings, but on that night, the best I could do was show up and absorb it. And it was amazing.
You see, until that fall, I had been the leader of that very Bible study. For years I arrived dressed and prepared, sparkling and engaged, mentally ready and willing to share and teach God’s word. I poured hours into the group; I mentored and encouraged the women and rarely needed a week off. God gave me the gift of teaching and the time to prepare.
But then my schedule changed, and I couldn’t keep all the balls in the air. In fact, the balls were falling everywhere. I knew I had to step down from leading the Bible study. I still worked at the church by day, but God made it increasingly clear that my evenings would require a different focus and a reshuffling of priorities.
It was time to replace myself.
Often in ministry we face this transition with fear. Our roles, whether paid or volunteer, handle the very word of God. What if all the work we’ve done is swiftly undone? What if years of relationship building are lost in the face of change? What if the person who comes after us is not gifted in the same way we are?
Here’s the answer: Relax, it was never about you…
Every church has at least one. Usually they like to run in packs. They are often heard before they are seen – their animated laughter carrying faster than their goofy jokes. Personal grooming has yet to become a priority in large part because their mamas can hardly keep the wardrobe up to speed with their voracious appetites and growing bodies.
This group is often feared in Sunday school classes or midweek Bible studies. They don’t seem to show an interest in anything related to books, they have trouble sitting still, and their fascination with fart jokes makes most ladies squirm. What are we to do with this strange group of humans that can seem so difficult to engage and manage?
If you’ve ever worked in Children’s ministry or a classroom setting, you will immediately recognize these individuals as tweenage boys (ages 9-12). They are beyond the cuddly tikes that adored snuggle time, yet not the full grown men ready to conquer the world with a warrior’s heart. These tweens are caught in the middle of those that still collect stickers and the ones who now shave their whiskers.
In spite of the differences to their often gentler and quieter female counterparts, I have come to adore working with these unabashedly boisterous individuals. If you know a few tricks, they can be a true delight to teach and disciple…