While the truths of the gospel are essential for every believer, they are uniquely profound for victims of domestic abuse. Abuse of any kind is life altering and tends to be identity shaping. Thankfully, the gospel speaks to our deepest questions of who we are and where we stand with God, rooting both of these realities in the perfect person and work of Jesus Christ.
We should not assume that the indicative truths of the gospel are clearly understood or readily embraced by the victim we are counseling. If spiritual abuse has been a tactic leveraged by the abuser to maintain control, it’s likely that these truths have been warped and weaponized against her. If this is the case, be prepared to patiently and compassionately uncover the specifics of the spiritual abuse she has endured. Only after gaining a clear picture of the spiritual abuse will you be able to engage with how her abuser’s actions have particularly affected her hearing and understanding of the Scriptures and God Himself.
One of the ways we can help a victim more clearly see the (possibly unfamiliar) truth and goodness of the gospel is to contrast it with the (very familiar) deceptive and destructive nature of her abuser. I’ve listed below four examples statements which compare an abuser’s sinful actions against his victim to God’s redemptive movements toward her.
- Whereas your abuser may speak words of condemnation and shame, Christ stands as your righteous advocate speaking words of mercy and forgiveness (Psalm 22:5; 116:1; John 3:17-18; Rom 8:1, 33-34; 9:16; 10:11; 1 John 1:9; 2:1).
- Whereas your abuser may willingly sacrifice you for His own sake, Christ has already willingly sacrificed Himself for yours (Isaiah 53; John 3:16; Rom 8:31-32; Gal 1:3-5; 2:20).
- Whereas your abuser may determine your welcome based on your adherence to and compliance with the sinful demands of his flesh, God has determined your welcome based on Christ’s adherence to and compliance with the righteous demands of His Law (Rom 3:21-26; 8:2-4, 35-39; Gal 2:16).
- Whereas your abuser may prey on and take advantage of your areas of weakness, God moves toward you, ministers to you, and shows Himself strong in the areas you are weak (Rom 5:6; 8:26; 2 Corinth 12:8-10).
As you work with your counselee to specifically apply the good news of the gospel to her particular experiences of abuse, I recommend these resources for additional reading.
- A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God’s Love by Milton Vincent.
- Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life by Elyse Fitzpatrick
- Comforts from the Cross: Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Time by Elyse Fitzpatrick
 To better understand the dynamics and impact of spiritual abuse in the home, I recommend Chapter 9 of Darby Strickland’s book, Is it Abuse? : A Biblical Guide to Identifying Domestic Abuse and Helping Victims. In it she states, “Sufferers are prone to hear what they have been conditioned to believe, and thus they will import all the distortions that they have been hearing into whatever Scripture passage we have open before them. It is the twisting and corruption of true things into untrue things that make working with spiritual abuse victims complex.”