Abuse: Why people accept it, but how to escape and live in freedom

Woman at beach freedom
A woman at the beach taking in the sun and fresh air—a representation of freedom and relaxation.

Last time I talked about how to identify abuse. We discovered whether it’s physical or spiritual, abuse is found everywhere. Today we’ll talk about freedom. We’ll uncover the following:

  • Why people accept abuse
  • The end result of such people
  • How to escape abuse
  • How to receive healing

The reasons behind abuse

Before we get into the above, we need to understand the reasons behind abuse. If you don’t know why something happens, you’re bound to repeat actions that can lead to your own mistreatment. There are three general reasons.

Ignorance

The world is full of sin and abuse is just around the corner. For this reason, anyone can wander into a harmful situation if they’re not careful. Abuse happens when one doesn’t quickly understand a particular person, group, or place is harmful or becoming harmful. This is due to ignorance (as we’ll discuss later) or deception where the perpetrator is masking their intentions. In either case, victims shouldn’t blame themselves for being deceived or failing to understand the situation quick enough. The only one to blame is the abuser.

Persecution

We as children of God are often mistreated for our obedience to Christ and righteous lifestyle, this is persecution. Persecution tests our faith and brings us rewards if we endure it (Matthew 5:10-11). As long as Satan is allowed to rule the world there will be persecution, but God gives us armor that protects our souls (Ephesians 6:14). While our bodies may be afflicted, our souls will go untouched. This abuse should never be blamed on ourselves, but on Christ, because he’s the reason we suffer (John 15:20). Thinking this way helps us not to take the abuse personally.

Punishment

Abuse is often allowed as a punishment for rejecting God’s leadership in our life. Basically, those who refuse to let God reign will find his protection withdrawn from their lives. They’ll unknowingly walk into situations that abuse them. This applies to everyone including the children of God.

A clear example is Israel. Black people today, who we believe are the true descendants of the Israelites, are experiencing abuse through the system of racism for their failure to obey the Lord as prophesied in Deuteronomy chapter 28. While God has removed his favor from the Hebrews, he doesn’t take pleasure in our pain or our deaths (Ezekiel 33:11).

In cases of rebellion against God, we must take personal responsibility for the consequences because we chose to follow our own way. However, if anyone chooses to repent and follow God, they will be blessed, restored and protected (2 Chronicles 7:14).


As you can see, abuse is something we don’t have to accept especially as children of God. The only instances where will have to endure it is through persecution. And even then, we’re only supposed to accept so much as Christ commands, “If they persecute you in one city, flee to another” (Matthew 10:23). So there’s a limit to what we’re supposed to take. With that said, I want to talk about why people put up with something they don’t have to.

Why people stay in abusive relationships

There are many reasons why people put up with mistreatment. Outsiders often look at abuse victims puzzled why they remain in such conditions, but obviously, there are other factors at work. We have to be sensitive and understand the reason people don’t leave abusive situations is because they’re ignorant to the truth.

1. They don’t understand what true love is

Some people don’t understand what true love is and/or, they don’t believe they deserve to be loved. True love is defined in the bible and has everything to do with the proper treatment of others:

4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT)

This is the love the fills the kingdom of God. Aside from those within his kingdom, God loved the world so much he gave his son so that anyone who believes in his son would not perish, but live forever in his kingdom (John 3:16).

The world is perishing for their sins, but God has already provided a remedy through faith in Jesus Christ. It’s God’s wish that no one perish but all experience the true love of God (2 Peter 3:9). The bible says:

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)

Again, God doesn’t want people to perish but live forever in love, joy, and peace.

2. They think they deserve to be abused

Some people feel they deserved to be mistreated as payment for their mistakes. But these people are trying to do something Jesus already did for them—Jesus took the punishment for their sins so they could live in freedom (Romans 3:25).

Some people believe God is like some parents who condemn them to eternal punishment, but God is nothing like sinful earthly parents. Here’s how God feels about his creation:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him (Psalm 103:11)

We see through these two verses God is about loving and blessing his creation IF they respect and honor him. If you’ve repented of your sins and now follow him, you no longer should live under punishment as the devil would like you to believe. Here’s another reassuring scripture:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Sometimes Satan wants you to think you must accept your abusive condition for your prior mistakes, but this is a lie. Once you realize your mistakes and turn to him, God is moving to heal and restore you. God loves you.

God desires that no one continue to experience abuse, but live in a loving relationship with him and his children. But he knows everyone won’t choose to. But for those who want him, being born again is the first step, and walking in the Spirit is the next. As we do this, we will be protected by God.

3. They think there are no alternatives

Some married people believe, since God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), they must remain in an abusive marriage. What they fail to overlook is separation as a viable option. They’re not divorcing, but separating because of the abuse—there’s a difference. I believe God agrees with something like this when Paul wrote:

But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. (1 Cor 7:15)

While the context of the scripture is regarding the unbeliever wanting to leave and therefore letting them go, I want to focus on the latter part where it says, “God has called us to peace.” Abuse is not peace and therefore a reason to separate. And again, the kingdom of heaven is about peace. I want to be clear, I’m not advocating divorce or remarriage, but separation in the case of abuse.

Separation says, “I’m not taking this anymore. I’m a human being. I’m supposed to be loved and respected, not abused.” But to remain in a place like that is to enable the sin. Saints don’t do that. We don’t enable sin and we don’t accept mistreatment because we know this isn’t God’s will for us.

Likewise, leaving an abusive church, or employer or a school is saying the same thing: “I’m supposed to be respected and loved, not misused.”

But some feel they were “planted in a church”, and therefore can’t leave. Of all places, the church of God is where love should be found the most if it’s not, you must remove yourself because that fellowship isn’t rooted in Christ.

Some people believe if they leave, they will be no other options. But there’s always other options. Let God show you. God delivered Israel from the abuse of the Egyptians to what looked like a dead-end road. Then God parted the Red Sea and eventually brought them into the Promised Land. Great things can happen if you follow God, so be led by his Spirit.

4. They lack faith in God’s remedy

Sadly many people get to the place where they know they shouldn’t accept abuse any longer and make an exodus, but they don’t trust God. They don’t believe God can provide for them apart from that racist job, or that abusive spouse.

They don’t believe in God’s ability to restore their marriage. They don’t have faith in God to lead them to a better congregation, or to keep them holy while he prepares a church that’s founded in him. The bible says:

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

If you can’t believe God’s word, then you’re in trouble. But there’s a remedy for that too. A man once cried to Jesus saying, “I believe, but help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). He could’ve been saying, “I believe you can do some things, but not everything.” If this is your case, the bible has a solution:

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)

The remedy for insufficient faith is meditating on God’s word day and night (Psalm 1:1-3). Continue to recite his word out loud until it becomes a part of you. I’m not talking about reading chapter after chapter, rather pick a verse or two that speak to your situation, and meditate on those.

Here’s an example: If you can’t believe God can supply ALL your needs after you leave that job or spouse, study Philippians 4:19 and Matthew 6:24-33, but especially the last verse of chapter 6 which says:

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)

It’s up to you to study God’s word concerning your matter. Also, God knows it’s hard to believe him especially when you’ve been bathed in so many lies of this world, but his Spirit can give you the faith to believe:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

So believe the truth about love, and believe that God can deliver you from abuse, and you will be set free.

Improper healing and the result of abuse

So we’ve seen the reasons why people remain in abusive situations, now let’s look at what can happen if they aren’t healed. Many people, though they walked away from the abuse, did not heal. Here are five behaviors you need to look at to determine if you need a doctor. These are listed from the least destructive to the greatest:

1. Escapism

If you engage in an excessive amount of entertainment, you may be trying to escape the open wounds of abuse. Movies, TV, music, social media, games, sports and porn will never bring healing.

I’ve found that black people, in particular, who watch too many slave movies where blacks are being graphically abused have not healed themselves. Movies which depict physical and sexual abuse against black people seem to be something they’re entertained by. They watch movies like this because misery loves company. Instead of healing, they share in the pain of others.

If this is you, this is a sign abuse have perverted you. Why would you want to watch your own people be graphically beaten, demeaned and smeared all over the ground like excrement! I’m not saying you enjoy those scenes, but you watch anyway.

If someone was to show you a video of your close family members being abused, would you, in your right mind, continue to watch that, or go further and pay money to see it again and again? That’s insane. But that’s what black folks do when they run to the theater to watch movies like 12 Years a Slave, and Precious.

2. Self-destruction

Some people don’t use entertainment to cope, instead, they live in constant anger. We’ve all known older people who seem to always be mean for no reason. It’s because they’re bitter and resentful due to some traumatic experience. Instead of getting healed, they live in misery. It can get worse when they abuse alcohol and drugs to cope with the demons now in their soul due to unforgiveness. If this is you, you need the Doctor.

3. Perversion

Some people express their wounds through projecting a false masculinity as outlined in a previous article, or through homosexuality, promiscuity, or becoming a pedophile. This is usually due to sexual abuse. Again, if this is you, it’s because you didn’t heal. The abuse rewired you into a lifestyle that will eventually destroy you. But God can change all that.

4. Rejection of entire groups

Some people have the mentality that everyone’s to blame and must be punished. Example: some women believe all men are dogs. Some men believe all women are witches. Some foreign nations believe all Americans are evil; or that all European Jews are evil and must be destroyed.

Some saints have rejected all forms of leadership in the church because some pastors have abused their positions. Some black people, due to racism, believe all white people are the devil and have no chance at eternal life.

The truth is: everyone’s not to blame. Everyone should not be punished, but at this point, these wounded individuals have become potential tools of hate against various groups.

5. Entitlement

Some people feel entitled to things in life due to their abuse even if those things are acquired at the harmful expense of others. These wounded souls seek status, praise, and worship from the world often through the process of exploitation, dishonesty, and abuse. Accountable is extremely uncomfortable for them so anyone who rebukes them is rejected and vilified.

In my opinion, most people engage in one or more of these behaviors on this list. If you’ve seen yourself on this, and you’ve experienced abuse, you haven’t healed. You’re potentially another abuser in the making, but there’s hope, Jesus came to heal you.

How to get out

So, if you’ve seen these behaviors in yourself, don’t fret, God can fix it (Titus 2:11-12). If you’re already moved away from an abusive environment, you can skip down to the last part of this article about proper healing. If you’re still in an abusive situation, here’s how to get free.

First, confess your sins and repent (1 John 1:9). God’s not going to save or protect you if you’re walking in known sin. Next, place your faith in Christ as your Lord and savior from now on (Romans 10:9).

Make a declaration to yourself and to God that you want his kingdom and his love, and not this counterfeit mess the world tries to sell you. Believe what Jesus came to do when he said:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised. (Luke 4:18)

Believe that God is going to save you. In some cases, he will remove the abuser. In other cases, he may have you leave. You must pray and be led by his Spirit. Use the following instructions, according to your situation as a template, but be led by his Spirit:

Marriage

In some violent cases, you just need to make preparation to leave and get away without notifying your spouse. There are support services and shelters out there. You can file for separation if necessary—making it clear you won’t tolerate abuse anymore. Call the police if you need to. If children are involved, take them along. We often think about women in these situations, but many men are experiencing the same thing.

Family and “friends”

Notification and then separation is often the best way to deal with it. If the person or group is violent, of course, don’t give them a heads-up you’re leaving them, just leave. You can also report the abuse to the local authorities or abuse hotlines for support.

Church

Jesus, in Matthew 18:15 instructs saints on how to deal with offensive brothers and sisters. Your first resort should be to go to the offender and finally to the elders of the church. True churches remove abusers from the flock, fake churches harbor them.

If you believe the leadership is corrupted, and you’re in an Institutional Church, following that scripture won’t do you any good, so just leave. Save yourself the frustration and abuse from combating with these people who don’t respect the Bible, or care about your soul. These people are not your brothers and sisters, but the enemies of God (Luke 8:21).

If you were deeply integrated into the church and know you’ll probably get calls and questions about your absence, send a letter to those “friends” and family there notifying them of your reasons for leaving. This way there’s a record and no one can speculate. Please understand you may be persecuted for exposing their mess, but God will protect you.

Employment

While you can notify leadership about racism on your job, usually, if it’s already there, it’s because the leadership doesn’t care. Also, feeling like a slave and voicing it to your CEO or anyone else usually won’t change anything, and you’ll likely be fired.

So just put in your resignation when you have enough faith God will take care of you and your family. In some cases, God will replace management so you won’t have to leave. Or, he may have you abruptly leave without giving notice. Be led by the Spirit, and understand that God is your provider.

School

Homeschooling and online education can be another option, but trust the Lord to find a better learning environment. Most often, black parents want the best education for their children and end up sending them to racist schools that destroy the child’s perception of reality.

I also want to be clear: I don’t believe in shielding children from the harsh realities of the world. Children should be taught how to deal with racism or bullies at school. For college students, this can be tricky having already paid for some education, but be led by the Spirit in such cases.

Bad neighborhoods

You can’t always just pick up and leave, but if God is giving you the resources to do so, do it. Through prayer, he can also transform your environment and remove the abusive parties so you don’t have to leave. Or, God can protect you from the abusers if he decides to keep you there while you wait to move to a new location. Remember, God is your protector.

Racist stores and businesses

If you visit a store that frequently mistreats you, stop shopping there. You may feel it’s more convenient, but your spiritual health is more important than saving a few dollars. You’re actually paying more in soul dollars than in paper dollars. There are always other stores, so do a Google search and if not local, you can always purchase online. It’s also important to report your experience by leaving a review on a site like Yelp or Google Business or even an email to the head of the company.

In most of these cases, you need to be bold and speak out about the abuse and make a record of it. Keeping quiet about it keeps the abuse going. Posting some kind of record is not to be used as revenge, but it’s a note in the spiritual realm that what was done was wrong and it will no longer be accepted by you. However, if more people made a record of abuse, more predators would be exposed.

Demonic abuse

In the case of demonic harassment, after you’ve confessed and repented of your sins, take your authority in Christ as mentioned in Luke 10:19, and command those evil spirits to go. Make sure you’re not holding on to anything of those deceptions like believing you should remain under punishment, or believing you don’t deserve love.

You have truly forgiven when you no longer feel they owe you something.

Above all, make sure you have forgiven everyone who’s hurt you. You have truly forgiven when you no longer feel they owe you something.

Just because the pain is still there, doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven if you know you truly did. And just because you look forward to God’s justice, doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven either. Finally, handle the enemy according to the word when it says:

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)

Proper healing

And now to healing—the most important part. Understanding what true love is and expecting nothing less from anyone is the first step towards healing. Next, is forgiveness—I can’t stress this enough. You can’t hold a grudge and expect God to heal you. See my series on forgiveness and remember the words of Jesus:

But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:15)

If you think forgiveness is hard, that’s because it can be, but God will give you the power to forgive. Last, ask for healing. Acknowledge that only God can fix the wounds in your soul. You are not Wolverine from the X-Men. Your soul does not self-regenerate. No amount of human effort can fix a wounded soul, only Christ can. As you believe in his power to repair you, you will be healed and begin to walk in freedom.

This article is part of the series, "Freedom from Abuse"

  1. Abuse: Identifying physical and spiritual abuse everywhere
  2. Abuse: Why people accept it, but how to escape and live in freedom
  3. The Breastplate of Righteousness: The Ultimate Protection

Written by Neal Chester (Nealreal) and published February 3, 2017. If this was helpful, share it using the buttons below. If you'd like to redistribute this article in other ways, visit our terms for more information. For other inquiries, please contact us.