Darby Strickland – Expert Contributor
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Hello and welcome to the Safe to Hope podcast. My name is Ann Maree and I’m the Executive Director for HelpHer and the host of this podcast. On the Safe to Hope: Hope Renewed in Light of Eternity podcast, we help women tell their story with an eye for God’s redemptive purposes. All suffering is loss, but God leaves nothing unused in His plans. We want to help women see His redemptive thread throughout their circumstances, and then look for opportunities to join with God in His transformational work.

Warning: Michelle’s story is for adult audiences only. This season includes discussions regarding marital, emotional, spiritual, and sexual abuse. We advise listener and reader discretion.

Hello and welcome to the Safe to Hope podcast. My name is Ann Maree and I’m the Executive Director for HelpHer and the host of this podcast. On the Safe to Hope: Hope Renewed in Light of Eternity podcast, we help women tell their story with an eye for God’s redemptive purposes. All suffering is loss, but God leaves nothing unused in His plans. We want to help women see His redemptive thread throughout their circumstances and then look for opportunities to join with God in His transformational work.

Ann Maree
In the last of three episodes of Michelle’s story, we focused our attention on how Michelle navigated some significant and hard thoughts and feelings, but also how God’s redemptive thread flowed throughout the circumstances. Michelle’s story left me speechless. Her passion for the Lord and faithfulness to His promises were such a reflection of our Father’s sustaining power, despite horrific circumstances. But I know not all of our listeners have had that same experience. So my prayer is that those of you who have not, will be able to lean on the hope of those of us who have. God’s promises are true, and will be evidently true one day when all things are made new again. But until that time, we long with you for healing as you share your story and experience the peace of knowing someone else is being encouraged in many ways by hearing your journey. Today, Darby Strickland and I will kind of pick back up where Michelle’s story left off. Our conversation is intended to build on some of the discussion from her previous episode.

Ann Maree:
It is my privilege today to introduce you to Darby Strickland. Welcome, Darby.

Darby:
Great to be here, Ann Maree.

Ann Maree:
Darby is a regular guest on the Safe to Hope Podcast. I’m sure you’ve heard her before. But in case you haven’t, I’ll just introduce her by way of saying that she’s a counselor, and she’s a faculty member for the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation, CCEF. She is an author; she has written Is It Abuse? A Biblical Guide to Identifying Domestic Abuse and Helping Victims which we highly recommend, especially for this series. She’s also a contributor to the free web-based training curriculum Becoming A Church That Cares Well for the Abused, as we spoke with Brad Hambrick, who is part of that, that project as well. You’ll recognize that name. And then Darby has a Master’s of Divinity degree in counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary, where she also currently teaches a course on counseling people in abusive marriages. Darby and her husband, John, take great delight in homeschooling their three children. I’m always thrilled when you can join us, Darby, on the podcast. And if the audience had listened since the beginning, they would be able to glean a bit about your work. But can you share something perhaps new about yourself or whatever you want us? Whatever you want to say whatever you want to tell us?

Darby
Yeah, I would say this last year, I’ve just really taken delight in – after so many years of working with victims and hearing about the impact of the trauma and the abuse on their children – this last year, the Lord has just been placing upon my heart to write more towards parents and how to help their children in trauma and crisis. And so yeah, I just feel like that’s something that I’ve been just working through and wrestling through and wanting to provide hope and resources for parents, because these situations are overwhelming for us. So they’re even more overwhelming for little people. And it’s just hard to figure out how to shepherd your children through this.

Ann Maree
Yeah. And I am so glad to hear that as we were talking earlier, before we started recording. The resources for children are so slim, especially as it relates to trauma and the hard things of life with just – that are, you know, dead on. They are hard for us, how much harder for the children.

Darby
Yeah, thank you. And I just think, and yet when we shepherd our children through it, the outcomes for them are much greater, better, and so we just have an opportunity of the gospel to really help them heal when they’re young.

Ann Maree
Well, I look forward to seeing this newest release in September from New Growth Press. And it’s super cute. I’m not gonna give away any details, but I’m excited to, to get a little fluffy thing myself.

Anyway, we’re just gonna transition here to our story, which the storyteller that we’re going to interact with today is Michelle and this, this is the last in her season of her story. The last time we were together, I was with Michelle, not Darby. And she shared a little bit about how she navigated her circumstances, in her relationship with the Lord, in the relationships in the church, and in relationship in general. And she just did such a beautiful job. Also, I was telling Darby before, that, I was so taken by her talk, in the last episode that I couldn’t speak, I had such a lump in my throat, and she ministered so greatly to me. And I probably said this already, but I can’t say it enough. Anyway. So if you haven’t listened to the last episode, in Michelle’s three part series, episode five, I would highly recommend that.

But for Darby and I, today, we’re just gonna, I’m going to ask some questions, and we’ll see where they where they go. But first of all, Darby if you don’t mind, how would you say, does care for the woman in abusive relationship run parallel to the gospel?

Darby
Yeah, I mean, I think it’d be helpful to use Luke 4 actually as our frame for thinking about that. These are the first words of Jesus’ public ministry. And here we’re actually hearing Him read from the scroll in Isaiah 61, verses 1 and 2, right. And Jesus is, He’s arriving on the scene. And He’s announcing that He came to heal the damage that sin brings into the world. Jesus is proclaiming redemption that He’s bringing, but He’s also really commenting on the damage that sin does. And He says, quite simply, “The Spirit of the LORD God is upon Me because the LORD has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor, He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” right. And there’s just so much damage that He is talking about… poverty, right… sin impoverishes, as well. It’s not just material poverty, but Jesus is bringing good news to the poor. Sin breaks heart, and Jesus has come to heal the brokenhearted. He’s also claiming to proclaim liberty to the captives, right? Sin enslaves people and Jesus has come to set them free. I mean, sin blinds us actually. Then Jesus comes to heal our spiritual blindness, right. And so our sin and the sins of others are oppressive, and Jesus comes to liberate those who are oppressed. And when we consider, right, this all, this damage that sin does, we just want to be people who are so thankful that He is not only preaching about the need for deliverance, but He actually brings deliverance, right. And more than that, Jesus is actually our Deliverer, right. And when we think about abuse, and Jesus’s mission for Himself, we must recognize that abuse has all these effects on people, right? It leaves people vulnerable in a combination of ways. You think about a domestic abuse victim, she often has to leave her home, she’s very vulnerable financially, she’s crushed by the weight of her husband’s sin against her. She’s been living, living dominated and enslaved by her spouse. Right, her own fear and anxieties often can become paralyzing. So the ways that she has been sinned against often caused her to have faith struggles, right, not seeing God clearly, or questioning if God’s caring for her personally, many of us would struggle in the same way, when we encounter such evil. So Michelle conveyed these things beautifully in her story and her struggles, we, we see the way that she struggles in these concrete ways. And in Luke 4, Jesus makes the point that He has in view, not just our sin, but also our full suffering. He started His ministry with the vulnerable are there on His heart, front and center, and He’s saying I am their Redeemer. I am their Rescuer. And so if tending to the vulnerable is part of Jesus’ mission, it has to be ours. So yeah, I just believe that His people, we are called to work towards the things that are on His heart. And in fact, we see it again in Jesus’ last recorded public sermon right in Matthew 25. He’s reminding us of how, when we have loved the least of these, that is how we have loved Him. So clearly the vulnerable, the oppressed are on His heart, so they have to be part of our mission and the church’s mission.

Ann Maree
Thank you. So helpful to think of the oppressor in a broader perspective… of the oppressed and sorry and abroad perspective, and I so appreciate how you exemplify interpretation. Even just of you know, recognizing that what Jesus is reading and Luke 4, and then applying it in a counseling situation. Someday, we should do a show on that. But But thank you for sharing a little bit more about even Christ’s heart and coming to rescue the the oppressed. I never thought of who the oppressed were until I started working with the abused and realized, oh, that’s who they Yeah, okay, now they are, of course, oppressed in other ways. But thank you for just shining a light on that particular way. But in that same vein, we also want to care well for the accused. And so how does calling unrepentant men to a higher standard run parallel to the gospel?

Darby
Right. And I think this is a principle that we want to be thinking about for all of us just the idea of repentance, right? It’s true for all of us that the Christian life is supposed to be one of repentance. Again, Jesus begins His preaching ministry with these words, He says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” from Matthew 4:17. Right, His words cause to turn away from our sin and towards Him, because He wants all of our hearts and all of our minds transformed. So we can live with Him in a new kingdom with new kingdom values. So we know this is true for all of us that repentance is so essential to our spiritual lives. In fact, Martin Luther, right, he made it one of these, the first of the 95 thesis. He says, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, Repent, he will the entire life of the believer to be one of repentance.” So, Martin Luther rightly saw it critical to our faith that we understand repentance, and make it a regular part of our lives. So that’s true for all of us, right? It’s vital for our relationship with the Lord, and others that we turn away from sin. And that’s not just at the moment of salvation, like we all have to be repeatedly growing in awareness of it and our continued need of a Savior. Now we’re thinking about oppressors, we’re looking at someone whose sin patterns are so pernicious, right. They’re the ones of coercive control or abuse, they are in a actually a very dangerous spiritual position. And we want them to repent, not just for the sake of the person that they are damaging, because they are grievously lost and in deep spiritual danger. And so it’s actually the most loving thing that we can do for them is to call them to repentance. Now, oppressors we know they’re often very blind to what they’re doing is wrong. They’re self-justifying. And they’re masters at blame-shifting. So for change to happen with them, they need first to have the insight that what they are doing is actually sin, and it’s against God’s Word. Right, they need to learn what they are doing is wrong. But they also need to learn to hate their sin and understand how they’re sinning against the Lord. So I think this is why bringing them the gospel is key, they can choose to live in a different way, as forgiven people knowing what it is to be loved by Jesus and loving people like Him, right, or they can continue to live in slave to their sins of oppression, which ironically, is the enslavement of others. So the gospel, and its invitation to repent and believe it’s just foundational to our work with oppressors.

Ann Maree
Yeah, and you’re touching on several interesting points to here with repentance. I don’t know why. And well, I guess it’s just a humbling thing. But why we resist as believers, this incredible gift that we can even repent, you know, that it’s a possibility that we do wrong, while it is possible that we’ll do wrong, but that we can repent of those wrongs, of those sins of those heart issues. It’s a gift and a blessing. I don’t know where you said this before, when we should never run out of material, we should always have something right. That we can be repenting of, and just having that kind of outlook on ourselves. And in particular, if if it’s an accused, oppressor, yeah. Especially, and you’re not saying they’re not Christians? I don’t think that’s not Yeah. Okay. You’re shaking your head, okay. You’re not saying they’re not. You’re not saying they’re unbelievers. It’s right.

Darby
They might be but they may not be.

Ann Maree
Exactly. So yes. And the gospel is for unbelievers and believers, right. So.

Darby
Amen.

Ann Maree
Yeah, just to clarify that a little bit. This is a short question, but I should probably lead into it a little bit and say, in certain circumstances we’ve heard in our, in our caregiving, women who’ve been taught that if they if they stay, if they endure the abuse, persevere, that that somehow makes them more righteous. So the question I have for you here was, does enduring abuse make women any holier?

Darby
That is just a sad question that we even have to answer it. But I think it’s important to park on it for a minute or two, because many Christian women, particularly I hear this with 1 Peter 3:1-6, right, it’s misapplied to mean, and that is good to endure abuse to win over your husband. And as a result, it’ll make you holier, and it’s just such a grossly misused passage. So let me read it first really quickly, and I just want to make some key points. But I think it’s really important to slow down, because I know my counselees have really wrestled here, because it’s something that they hear over and over. So the passage just reads, “Likewise, wives be subjected to your own husband, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be one without word by the conduct of their wives. When they see respectful and pure conduct, do not let your adorning the external, the braiding of your hair and putting on a gold jewelry or clothing you wear. But let your adorning be in the hidden part of your heart, but the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves by submitting to their own husbands.” So you can see in there, again, if you are gentle and quiet, and submissive, you will be holy. But I think it’s just important to back up and really think about what that passage was talking about. Peter was actually just addressing a common problem at the time, which is different than our day where Christian women were becoming believers before their husbands right, it was right after Christ had been. The gospel was spreading, and women were becoming believers, while they were married to men who weren’t becoming Christians at the same time that they were were. And they actually just needed to know how to handle witnessing for Christ in their homes now being unequally yoked. And Peter is just telling them, that submission here is good. Right, but when taken out of context, and it’s applied to abuse actually, this passage is quite dangerous and wrong. Right? Suffering physical abuse in marriage does not accomplish redemption, right. We all know that only Jesus suffering on the cross does that. It’s not our suffering, it’s Christ firstly. Secondly, God does not want us to overlook what He hates, right? He doesn’t want our wives to be subjected to violence or abuse ever. We see this in Colossians 3:19. But also God desires wives to bless their husbands by the ones that are doing evil by getting them the help they desperately need for their depraved sin. So, again, we go further in verse seven, and we read that Peter stresses a need of husbands to be gentle with their wives, right, “live with your wives in an understanding way, showing them honor as the woman is the weaker vessel and their heirs with you.” Right. So nowhere in this chapter, which we I find is used over and over again, suggests that a wife should actually endure abuse, nor does enduring abuse make you holy. So I think it’s just really important that we’re clear that being married does not require enduring violence or any other form of coercive control. When your husband is abusing you, he’s desecrating the image of God in you. And this is a severe sin pattern. And it grieves the Lord and He wants us to seek help. So addressing abuse actually is loving for your offending spouse, right? We just talked about how oppressors are in a really dangerous spiritual position. And it’s actually our job as spouses to confront and resist sin, right? That’s another way we might think about holiness, we are actually called to be holy, we are called to be set apart to be different. And in that we are called to bear witness to God and His righteousness, right? God says, “Be holy for I am holy”, He is saying to you be different from this world, I want you to live out and show what righteousness is. And part of that is actually to identify and address sin, right, just like God does not tolerate sin, nor should we tolerate it or endure it. So I would just say sin defiles. And our job is actually to pursue holiness, which means we are actually exposing and seeking to root out sin. I hope that’s a helpful way to think about that teaching.

Ann Maree
I think it is, wow. I’m a fan. So yeah, I think it is but yeah, so it is a very, um, I think solid understanding of that passage. One of the things that I was thinking though is you are talking is even our name of our ministry. It’s a help. It’s a wife’s help of her husband to not let him remain in that in that sinful state. Not, again, what I would have thought of when I thought of helping my husband, but it can be. So I hate to hear that discouraged, to let him live in his sin. And that it’s the most loving thing that we could possibly do for each other. So, in that kind of, on that note, Michelle talked to me a little bit in her last session when we were together about God actively reframing her story. So I just want to play what she said, and then I’ll ask you a question.

Michelle on recording
I do think he has helped me understand kind of the idea or the notion of a wounded healer that has an interesting background. But for me, at least for a long time, I thought that I had to have all the answers, be in full time ministry have a really strong family, even what we were just talking about, you know, being in the Word, you know, very, in a devotional setting, it didn’t really occur to me that, you know, sometimes being on your closet floor, on your face and saying, “Jesus be near” right, that’s, that’s staying close to the Lord too. So I just had this really kind of limited vision of of what it meant to walk with, with Christ, and I don’t think that that idea that we have to have all the answers that we have to necessarily be in a strong place in our faith, in order to help other people is necessarily true. I still struggle so much. Some days, you know, more than others. And yet, there are times when I can really connect with someone who was also in pain because of that. I understand triggers, and anger and depression, and powerlessness that comes with trauma. And those weren’t things that I really understood before. And and in fact, some days, I’m right there alongside that person and Jesus always shows up, always, when I am literally at my weakest. That’s when He can take my story and use it in some way. And so that reframing that I am not the hero of the story, I don’t need to be. That’s a load that none of us as humans were designed to carry. And so there’s just so much relief in that. There’s such a burden of like, self-preservation that is lifted when I approach my story as as someone who has been deeply wounded, who has struggled tremendously, and sometimes still is.

Ann Maree
So what she’s saying here is a reframing of her story, but also her ability in, in the midst of her story, her ability to care and so many times we think, would like Michelle, we need to be skillful in caring for others, but in the kingdom of God. He also uses our experiences to comfort others, as 2 Corinthians 1:4 says. What are some of the ways we can actively place our comfort at the disposal of others who are also trying to find their way through a similar darkness and confusion?

Darby
Yeah, I think that’s just such a beautiful question to even to consider. I think even if we just consider 2 Corinthians 1:4 for a second. I just think reading the Scripture is important. So I’m going to do it. It says, “Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.” Right, right there, there’s a promise to us the God of all comfort, who comforts comforts us in our affliction. And this is what Michelle’s point was right, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort which we ourselves are comforted by God. So I think it’s just important to think about what Scripture’s saying here, right? Wise and compassionate counsel is oriented by these two different realities. One is, as we struggle in this life, as we are personally sustained by God. And we’ve heard the many beautiful ways in the last episode that Michelle was sustained. There were places that He met her needs. In particular, He brought so many passages of Scripture and made them alive to her. And this is also true of us, right? When we turn to God in His Word, we’re going to be blessed with these rich blessings. And then, secondly, when we receive that gift, right, with the comfort that God’s given us, whether it’s wisdom or insight, patience, or hope or just the grace to endure suffering, then when we encounter the struggles of somebody else, we see this passage is instructing us to actually bring ourselves and our life experience of the God who met us, right, and that God’s love changed everything for us. To the people that He places in our path and Michelle saying, I can be in progress. I don’t have to be healed, I am still healing. But the Lord has taught me through my suffering sweet things about Him that I can’t help but share, right. What she experienced from God, she shared. I know I was comforted deeply by her sharing it you said similarly, Ann Maree, right? We were profoundly blessed, because of what, how the Lord comforted her. And I just think there’s just a great freedom for all of us about being able to be transparent about our sufferings, right? Michelle has done that in such a way she actually featured what God has done, how He met her. Again, this is a deep encouragement for us. So what God impresses upon our hearts is what we share. So when we suffer with God, right, we will be comforted, we will also know our weaknesses and how dependent we are. Right. And the goal of the Christian life is actually to become much more dependent on Jesus. And this is, it’s a beautiful testimony. But it’s also a goal that we share with all our brothers and sisters. And so yeah, we do this, right. And how do we do this? How do we share the comfort we’ve first received? And I think it’s just like Michelle said, right, we first become people who actually turned to the Lord in our time of distress. And Michelle was able to share a plethora of ways that God met her, because she turned to Him. And she expected to hear answers to her cries, right? And she spoke expecting He would answer her maybe not in the beginning of her story. But that’s where she is living today. And so, right, then we just keep a beautiful record of the way that God’s meeting us through scriptures. Or he often puts a hymn or praise music in my mind, or people in the body of Christ. And it was last night I was at a support group. And the ways that the women were encouraging one another was beautiful, right, we’re just called to help others. And so we remember that we are the helped, right, helping others as another way to put it. So we just want to be just mindful that when God is comforting us, He’s actually strengthening us, in the midst of our weaknesses, our pain and our need. And our faith is deepened, our hope grows, and it’s going to build fruit of the Spirit in your life, in my life when we turn to the Lord. And so if we look at how our sufferings manifest the growth of the Spirit in us, it just helps us we become better helpers. And so the truths that we’re learning about God are the things that we now can share with great confidence. So I would say, just listening, right to Michelle, our belief was strengthened because of her belief, and her expounding on like how God met her through people, family passages of scripture, she really got brought, I would say, God’s promises to life for us. And we’ve all really actually grown because of how the Lord met her. And the same is going to be true of us. We will bless others when we share with the same transparency of how the Lord has met us.

Ann Maree
I like that. I like all of what you said. And I like the part where you said that helped, helping others, just a simplified version of the verse. And I didn’t ask you this. And so I’m not I don’t mean to, like, critique or come up with the other side of the story. But I’m thinking to myself, I’m I’m a problem person, I see problems pretty quickly. I think there’s strength in that, but there’s also great weakness in it. And as you’re talking, I’m thinking that this is my weakness in that I’m always viewing the problems in my circumstances. And it takes a lot of energy, a lot of discipline, a lot of sleep, a lot of taking care of myself to be able to turn my eyes, you know, turn your eyes toward Jesus, and see where He’s working and see where He is in the suffering. I could cry thinking about it because it is a hard, it is hard labor to do and it comes easier with practice for sure. But I just want to mention, because there are people who are listening, who who kind of think sometimes why aren’t I there yet? Why is she rich in her relationship with the Lord and I’m still you know, struggling? I feel like I can say this, but maybe not, we’ll, we’ll see how it goes. But I think movement is the key. movement backwards sometimes happens, but just you know, in keeping moving forward in your relationship with the Lord or sometimes backwards, just keep moving.

Darby
Or even just being. I know even in my support group, one of the most beautiful nights we had – I can remember it years ago – this woman just brought out all her journals saying, ‘I prayed for years for my marriage and for my husband to stop being so brutal. And He never answered me. And I’m just done praying’. Right? And I, why would I continue to ask the One who has not answered my prayers? And, but then we just were able to talk to the Lord about that. Yeah, you know, so I was like, well, let’s just ask, ask you, Jesus. Like, why, what? Why? Why haven’t you answered me? And and even in her just putting that question out that weighs huge amount of faith. And in the next year, the things that flowed from that I can’t even tell you. So it’s, it’s okay to say, ‘I don’t feel any comfort. You know, you’ve promised me comfort and I don’t yet feel it. Help me understand what you’re what you’re doing, because I can’t see anything’. And I think that’s where the beauty of community is, because so many other women in that room who had similar stories, could say, ‘yeah, that was once my question’, or ‘this is a truth that comforted me in that moment’. She needed to be… she could not turn to Jesus by herself. Right? She needed the other people to help her pivot. And that’s just the beauty of community. And it wasn’t shaming, right? You need to trust Jesus, it wasn’t that kind of moment. It was more confessional and tender of, ‘we need to help you see what you cannot see.’

Ann Maree
Yeah, the healing happens in community. Yep. That’s a good segue to the next question, which actually, I’m going to, I’m going to play a bit of Michelle’s recording again. And that was I wanted to know from her on this line of thinking, how did her experience impact how she really relates to others. So let’s listen to what she had to say.

Michelle on recording
And so to be able to walk alongside other people that are struggling, and, and to truly be able to say, ‘Look, I know, I understand’. I remember, some days, it’s even, ‘yes, I’m still there, too’, or just ‘yesterday was a hard day for me’. It’s not necessarily a club that you really seek out, or you want to be a part of. But it is something that I have come to value, and I hope that God can continue to use. I want the church to be known as a place of healing, a place of rest. And so ultimately, that comes through the gospel, but it is lived out by communities of faith that know how to respond to trauma, that can recognize abuse, and can truly help people heal through the power of what Jesus did for us.

Ann Maree
So this might sound like it’s off topic, but it isn’t , I promise. To be trauma-informed seems to be a new idea within biblical counseling care, even maybe controversial in that people may think it’s just a secular idea. It might be new to our care in biblical counseling. Or maybe it’s just now there’s a word for the fallen human experience. In Romans 8, Paul said that the whole creation, the whole creation groans, which I assume includes the physical as well as the spiritual world. And in Luke 22 in fact, we read of Jesus physically sweating blood in response to an internal agony He was experiencing. And arguably, there are multiple situations which we find in Scripture where it could be considered trauma-inducing. I’m not sure if the word we use matters, I mean, we can call it crisis, we can call it suffering, or we can call it jelly beans or I mean, the word just does not matter. The question for us is, how do we, in the church, become more concerned about women in any type of crisis, invested enough, so to care well for others and make churches safe places for healing?

Darby
Yeah, that’s a fantastic question, because I think we get hung up on words. Right? So maybe it’s even helpful to back up and think about the discussion around trauma-informed care, because I actually think that’s a very important one for the church. And really, it’s just another way to ask, the question is like, ‘What do I need to learn, or to understand or know about the experience of trauma before I care about the tender soul that God has entrusted me with’ or and then, right, ‘How does Scripture speak to a person’s heart and situation?’ And I think to do so is sorry, we’re actually becoming trauma-informed and we’re being biblical about it. And we just really have to think about how would Scripture instruct us to do that? Scripture does talk about suffering, but it does talk about distress, right. Agony. There are places – where we didn’t – wasn’t used the word trauma, but it is at the higher end of suffering and distress. And so I’ve been just think about if we, we don’t react to how the world is framing things. We just want to be actually thinking about our own goals of what God calling us to, right. Because our actual are… our goals for providing good biblical care or counseling, actually should compel us to learn more about people and the problem. So we actually want to learn about trauma and how it has impacted the person that we’re caring for. We recognize as Christians, we want to be mining the Scriptures so that we can speak to a person’s situation and condition. We shouldn’t be afraid to acknowledge the fact that we are embodied souls, right. And so our bodies might need just as much support as our spiritual lives. And trauma kind of pushes in and it helps us see the connectedness of the body, right, and how it is impacted by great suffering. So again, just we want to be communities that help heal. And we know that the human heart is always interpreting suffering, and it’s experience. And we want to be people who guide a sufferer as they’re… through their suffering, and help them see God’s pursuit of them. So we need to address these questions. But I would actually say at its core, trauma-informed just really means to be familiar with the signs and symptoms of trauma and to understand how suffering has impacted a person. And so it’s just it’s important to make these observations, we should not fear them, we should just want to make them biblical. So yeah, how do I how do I want to encourage you to be thinking about it? Yeah, I just really want to encourage us good care has always been our calling. Good biblical counseling has always necessitated and always requires that we do these things: understand the person, understand the problem, and dive deep into Scripture and make that connection. So I would just say what’s challenging, right is that trauma makes us think more deeply about being embodied souls, that suffering has this impact on the body. Or that suffering actually has a spiritual dimension? Or how do we think about people who whose biggest sin problem is not their own sin, but it’s actually someone else’s sin. And so when we’re encountering these, the vast impacts of trauma were actually helped we’re pushed back into Scripture, in ways that help us look at suffering, in ways in which the church hasn’t always done well. So I think it’s just this wonderful opportunity to learn more about the Lord’s heart for the variety of impacts when someone is suffering in such extreme ways.

Ann Maree
Yeah, it’s interesting. You and I kind of came up in the biblical counseling world many years ago, me more than you may be but I’m because I’m older, not because I’m wiser. And so when we counsel sinners, and I’m thinking of Michael Emlet, Sinners, Saints, Sinner, Sufferers and Saints… I can’t remember the order he put them in… when we when we counsel sinners we are always counseling both body and soul, right? Always spirit and mind. With sufferers, I don’t think we’ve done that. At least we may have done it, but not perhaps like you’ve been just saying here we’re not digging in deep enough into the Scriptures to find out what that looks like.

Darby
The Psalms talk about a variety of expressions of the body being impacted, right… crying day and night, not being able to sleep, not being able to eat, shaking, it’s all in there, right. The effects on the body. Job, in particular, you see his expressions of anguish are bodily… and so I think that just gives us great freedom… like it’s not a sin to be in anguish, right. When your body is done because it has been so devastated by someone else’s or brokenness, fallenness of the world, it’s… we just have to… we have to lovingly address it, and not rebuke someone’s bodily response.

Ann Maree
Yeah, a good word. Thank you. Well, I am going to break here a moment here and just say, I’m anxious to hear Derby speak at a couple plenaries at CCEF conference this fall – October in Virginia Beach. (For details on the CCEF Conference on Trauma, Virginia Beach, visit https://www.ccef.org/conference/2023-national-conference/) What are the dates October? I don’t know. You don’t have to answer. We’ll put it in the show notes. No worries. But yes, just be excited that Derby will be leading a couple of those sessions that we can learn more, as well. And that’s the topic of the entire conference.

So Michelle quoted from Henry Nouwen – and I hadn’t read him in years and years and years – but I picked up for whatever reason, I thought I would pick up his book again, and I pulled this quote out, he says, “We know that if there is hope for a better world in the future, the signs must be visible in the present.” And Paul, even in 2 Corinthians 3 writes, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known”. And you know, that is just such an important truth to remember. But right now, hope is often dim. How does future hope inform our day today? Particularly, particularly for those who have suffered the betrayal of something like marital rape?

Darby
Yeah, I always say hope and anguish, they are two truths. Just they’re competing realities in a trauma victim, right. And some days you live with hope. And some days you live in anguish, and, and hopefully you can find space to live with them both, right? We, we don’t want to live hopeful in a way that we are called to forget the stuff, reality of suffering. And yet we don’t want to suffer without hope. And there’s just a high calling to live with those two realities, like hope God, right that that is a high, high calling. I think it’s really helpful, right? We know of what had been will be like, you know, he’ll wipe away every tear. But how do we practice for that here? Like how do we, how do we see the shadow of what’s to come? And, and how do we find moments that point here to what’s coming? I think Psalm 23 actually talks about many things we can count on now. And the beautiful things that are to come, right when we are in glory. It’s written by David, he certainly knew trouble. He knew what it was like to be very, very afraid, enemies surrounding him. And he teaches us so many wonderful things about God’s care. Right. And in Psalm 23, David’s telling us that God promises that He’s always gonna give you what he needs. Even when we’re scared and afraid. Sometimes we don’t know what’s going to help us. But we can ask God to help us because He knows what we need. And again, just the idea in that Psalm of God says, “I’m going to lead you to a place of rest”, right? And, and, in one sense, Glory is the final rest. But also, in the real sense here, there are moments of rest and breaks, and the Holy Spirit can break in and give moments of deep comfort, right. And so yeah, I often just think about even just that picture of what it means to be in a place of rest. And what that would look like here, how we get little shadows of it. We’re always going to be struggling and walking towards that greater rest. But He promised he’s going to give us rest, right? I always like to just think of Him tucking us in. Or the idea of sheep, right? They don’t like to lie down and rest if they hear anything that might scare them. Whether it’s like a dog or a scary wind. God knows that we cannot sleep, we cannot rest when we are unsettled. And just the idea of Him watching over us. So there’s that like that promise of now with that hope of later. And again, we’re just His so when life is scary when you’re in that dark valley, God’s promising to be with us. So what does that look like today? That might look like… I got a text from a friend who was encouragement, I was able to laugh at something I was watching. God’s always looking out for us in a small and the big. How does He meet you? What does it mean that He is with me today? And and yet knowing that one day… are going to be… we’re going to be perfectly comforted, perfectly provided for protected, restored. And I think that verse about providing I think of sex abuse victims in marriage particularly, is that idea of Psalm 23, when he talks about being at the banquet table like imagining being in the presence of the Lord, feasting as part of His family, in the presence of my enemies, and there’s just this beautiful picture of not only protection, right, but also vindication. And I just think that’s such an that’s in that Psalm. It’s just, it’s, it’s not just that we’re going to be with Him, but we’re going to be vindicated, we’re going to be protected, we’re going to be brought into His home. And that’s just a beautiful picture. And there’s slivers of that here. And if we can look for the slivers of the promises of Psalm 23, as we’re in the valley, and that’s walking us out of it, we know that one day, Yeah, it those things will be fulfilled in ways we can’t imagine.

Ann Maree
Yeah, I could have asked it in a number of ways. But good point, bringing up justice, there will be a day when we will be vindicated. Those who are abused and have heard the lies and the manipulation, there will be vindication, there is a day coming. But then just thinking back to your support group example, and if you’re not, if you’re not getting those little glimpses, ask the Lord, I guarantee He will show you a glimpse of His glory in those moments of desperation. He wants to care for us that way. Now, you know, me going back to the problem perspective, you might, you know, you might miss Him. But you know, ask the Lord and then watch. Watch to see what happens.

Darby
Yeah, I think right for us, all right, for anyone enduring abuse, and you bring up a really important point, it’s a really hard task, right? And so if you’re, if you’re in that valley, like the whole picture of the valley is you can’t see out you can’t, we’re instructed to look up to the hills, but like, our vision is really eclipsed by the suffering around us. So I would just encourage you just saying, like, start by trying to look at Jesus and knowing what it was like for him, asking, like, how has He, sufferings like me, He too, is despised and rejected. He knows what it is like for you to suffer. And so maybe if I start to believe that He knows what it is like, that He knows what it’s like, for me, because He too endured it, maybe then you can start to believe right? That He knows and sees me. And that’s just that pivot. Like, if you can’t see what He’s doing for you, maybe just start to look at what He has endured. Right. And so in the Psalms are His… the cries of His heart as well. And so use some of those because if we, the more we believe that He knows what it is, like, we we come to understand He really is compassionate. That’s when we don’t know that He knows what it’s like for us, it’s hard to believe that He cares when we’re still so affected and impacted.

Ann Maree
Wow, good. Good idea there. Thank you. Okay, so I’m just asking this generally, and you can answer however, or even you could talk about something else if you want to. Michelle’s experience had a variety of levels of isolation from the silence she felt in keeping the family secrets, you know, from her from her children, and I’m sure extended family, the hopelessness that anything would ever be different. The thought that she had no one or no place, she felt she could go with her story. Is there anything that you would talk to our audience about in regards to that type of just total isolation feeling?

Darby
Yeah, I think one of the things in particular, abuse is isolating and that it only needs silence to continue and to increase. But when you look at sexual abuse in marriage, that’s even more isolating. People don’t talk about sex. So I would just encourage helpers, really, just to be courageous and ask. So if you’re walking alongside someone who’s suffering abuse, if you’re hearing that they have a spouse, that’s entitled, just be asking, ‘you know, has your husband struggled with pornography?’ That’s a great, great segue question or what ways has entitlement entered your sexual relationship?… or so many women that is part of their story. And just by giving them the ability, introducing the subject lifts shame, but it invites people to talk about things that they feel are unspeakable, but they really need to be talked about. So I think that’s one thing I think we can all do, is when we hear about. Yeah, coercive control, and oppression, I would say 70% of the Christian woman I counsel are also being sexually abused. So I think to the helper we want to ask those uncomfortable questions. I know when I first started counseling, I had to like say things out loud in my room by myself because I didn’t want to use certain words or say certain things. So that’s like we’re just saying, but that’s what God did, right, Jesus when He came and He entered the world, He, I think about Him touching the leppers lips, like He was not afraid to be contaminated to care for somebody else. So we have to be willing to be contaminated in a sense with information about that the, right, and we have to be willing to do something so uncomfortable for ourselves so that someone can find healing. And I just think marital sex abuse is so difficult to reveal. And many women don’t even put the pieces together themselves until a long time later. So ask and then ask again in months and years. Yeah.

Ann Maree
Yeah, that’s a good word. That’s a really important word for the help hurt for the woman who, yeah, who’s seeking to help somebody else. I, like you, I don’t often hear from the woman about her sexual abuse, I think you said something like it takes a couple of years before that might even come out of her mouth. So we do need to be, as helpers, proactive and asking good questions. And of course, we’re going to keep her dignity at the forefront of our minds of what what we ask and how we ask it. And when we ask, and even in the context of when that question gets asked. But it’s being proactive, for sure. I think that’s the only way it’s going to come out. And podcasts like this, where women are brave enough to tell what happened. And Michelle even did talk about how she didn’t even recognize it as, as even something wrong. So the more that we can talk about that publicly, as well. So thank you. Thank you for all of everything you’ve, you’ve talked about, is there anything else? Am I interrupting you?

Darby
No, I just think we just I think we just learned by listening. We’ve all learned a lot from Michelle. And, you know, for those people who are Michelle still in the midst of that, you know, I think it’s just remembering it’s a multi-year journey. This is where the Lord is going to take you. And it took her a lot of help and support to get there. And, you know, maybe just the first prayer is is Lord bring me someone who understands. Yeah, that’s a good friend. So that’s for the rest of us. So I’m getting choked up, and we want to be people who understand so that when someone needs to enlist us, right, we’re ready.

Ann Maree
Thank you, Darby. As always, it’s a pleasure to have you on the podcast. In particular, I know how many projects you’ve got that you’re juggling right now and that you give us your time and your wisdom, and your heart, is just a blessing to the ministry and to the people who are listening to the, to the podcast. And they they don’t know this, but you do so much more than just show up on a podcast every once in a while. But we are so privileged to have you as one of our key supporters both in front of the mic and behind and as you serve the HelpHer board, so well. Like give one caveat…She has great ideas, and I love to implement them…and it’s why I’m so crazy busy. But her ideas are so good. Anyway, bless you, friend. Great to have you here.

Darby
Ann Maree, I just so appreciate your your understanding of what the church has been called to be and your desire to really help women in places where they don’t have the natural support around them with, that the Lord would intend, so you give so many sacrificial hours and I just think it’s important that yeah, we we just note your sacrifice and the sacrifice of people who are willing to tell their stories. It’s just a really it’s a gift to the church. So thank you and them.

Ann Maree
Yeah. And ditto gifts, your gifts to the church.

That’s all for today. And thank you again for joining us. Make sure to join us again on September 5, where we will start the third season with a storyteller on the Safe to Hope podcast.

If you want to know more about domestic abuse I suggest you go to Called to Peace.org. A ministry specific to domestic abuse. You’ll find a lot of information and resources.

As I mentioned in the beginning, Darby Strickland’s book Is It Abuse? is excellent for both victims and church leaders for identifying the patterns of abuse and in particular her chapter on marital sexual abuse in that book.

In addition, I recommend Dr. Jeremy Pierre and Dr. Greg Wilson’s book When Home Hurts and that book is particularly helpful for church leaders.

Safe to Hope is a production of HelpHer. Our Executive Producer is Ann Maree Goudzwaard. Safe to Hope is written and mixed by Ann Maree and edited by Ann Maree and Helen Weigt. Music is Waterfall and is licensed by Pixabay. We hope you enjoyed this episode in the Safe To Hope podcast series.

Safe To Hope is one of the resources offered through the ministry of HelpHer, a 501C3 that provides training, resources, and the people necessary in order for the church to shepherd women well. Your donations make it possible for HelpHer to serve women and churches as they navigate crises. All donations are tax-deductible. If you’d be interested in partnering with this ministry, go to help her resources.com and click the donate link in the menu. If you’d like more information or would like to speak to someone about ministry goals, or advocacy needs, go to help her resources.com That’s help her resources.com

We value and respect conversations with all our guests. Opinions, viewpoints, and convictions may differ so we encourage our listeners to practice discernment. As well. guests do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of HelpHer. It is our hope that this podcast is a platform for hearing and learning rather than causing division or strife.

Please note, abuse situations have common patterns of behavior, responses, and environments. Any familiarity construed by the listener is of their own opinion and interpretation. Our podcast does not accuse individuals or organizations.

The podcast is for informational purposes and is not a substitute for professional care, diagnosis, or treatment.

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For details on the CCEF Conference on Trauma, Virginia Beach, visit https://www.ccef.org/conference/2023-national-conference/If you want to know more about domestic abuse I suggest you go to Called to Peace.org. A ministry specific to domestic abuse. You’ll find a lot of information and resources.

Darby Strickland’s book Is It Abuse? is excellent for both victims and church leaders for identifying the patterns of abuse and in particular her chapter on marital sexual abuse in that book. Dr. Jeremy Pierre and Dr. Greg Wilson’s book When Home Hurts is particularly helpful for church leaders.

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