by Rachel Cain
Unfortunately, too many Christian women have to endure the heartbreak of domestic abuse. Unfortunately, too many pastors and biblical counselors are ill-equipped to deal with the trauma and complexity of abuse cases. Unfortunately, some of us deal with abuse cases not only ineffectively, but in ways that are harmful at best and dangerous at worst.
In a love for the truth and heart for the hurting, Joy Forrest steps into the fold with “Called to Peace: A Survivor’s Guide to Finding Peace and Healing after Domestic Abuse”. Joy’s love for hurting women and passion for biblical counseling is palpable as she shares the story of her own abuse. In the pages of her story, a biblical counselor can easily find herself aching for the return of Christ and lamenting for her sisters that have been abused. But, Joy won’t allow us to stay there. Instead, she offers practical, biblical hope and help for both counselors and those who have endured abuse.
Abuse within Christian marriages adds a whole level of complexity to domestic violence. Much of this is due to our misapplied theology. Joy remembers times in which “deep down [she] thought that God cared more about [her] marriage than [her] life”. She notes that this is a common belief in abusive Christian marriages because abusive husbands are willing to manipulate their wives by tangling and distorting the very Scriptures that they should be able to cling to for comfort.
Possibly the most moving commentary Joy provides on the topic is when she noted the tendency of abused women to relate better with Jesus Christ than with God himself. Often, she states, “our view of God can be warped by those who abuse us”. Since Jesus was abused severely, women who have walked through abuse can identify with his pain, sorrow, and grief. Mistakenly, the women begin to believe that Christ is more relatable than the Father himself, viewing the Father as unforgiving, stern, or distant. To this, Christ says, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). The woman that has been abused can rest confidently knowing that the triune God is a sympathetic savior, full of grace, peace, and comfort. Christ “perfectly reflected the Father’s heart of love for us”.
Joy has provided a way for counselors to grow in compassion, skill, and love for women in her book. Her story is one in which others “meant evil against [her], but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20).