Introduction to “Wrestling with God”

If you've been a victim of abuse, you know that healing is a life long journey. The physical bruises and pain last a short time compared to the damage that has been has done to your heart and soul. These devotions are not meant to be a “quick fix”, but maybe they could be used as one more way that Jesus might bind up your broken heart.

Wrestling With God – Why?

The writer of this prayer is being completely honest with the Lord, explaining how he actually feels. He wonders why the Lord seems so far away. And more importantly he wants to know where the Lord was when he was experiencing so much trouble and suffering. Was the Lord hiding himself? Was he scared of his enemies? Did the Lord just not care that this Psalmist was suffering? You might be surprised to hear a man of God being so honest. Can we really say what we feel to the Lord? Can we really be so bold? Can I really say, “Lord, where were you when I was getting abused?”

The Wicked Are Proud of Their Evil

If we are going to walk down this road of being honest with God, we need to be able to voice what we see with our eyes. And that’s exactly what the Psalmist does in these verses. He sees that the wicked man is arrogant. He boldly goes after the weak without fear. And he boasts of what he does. He thinks it is just a game. He boasts of the cravings in his heart. He is so full of himself that he has no room for God. He has such a bloated of himself that he believes nothing will ever shake him.

Turning the Corner

In verse 12 the Psalmist begins to turn the corner and have some hope. Up to this moment he has been honest about his feelings of sadness and despair. He has wondered why God has allowed him to suffer, he has been honest about the arrogance of the wicked and their ability to destroy lives. But now he seems to find some hope. The writer says, “Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.” It’s amazing to see the Psalmist calling out to God even after he has suffered so much. You might expect him to give up on God or deny his existence, but deep down he knows that there is a good God. And if he really is a good God he will hate what is evil.

God Sees Me

The writer began this Psalm by saying, “Lord, why do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” When we suffer it seems like God was sleeping at the wheel. But now the writer says, “God sees the trouble of the afflicted.” I wonder what happened in his life that he had a change of heart and viewed God’s love differently. Did he read a specific promise in the Bible? Did something extraordinary happen in his life? How did he go from doubt to faith?

I Can Fall Into His Arms

Now comes the really hard part. In fact, it is so hard only the Holy Spirit can make this happen. Now, the Psalmist calls on all victims to commit themselves to the Lord as their helper. It is hard and impossible to do this on our own because our reason and emotions are telling us, “How can I commit myself to the Lord? He seems to have been absent in the past?” But the Psalmist, who was also a victim of abuse, has taken the first step, and he encourages us all to follow him.

Lord, Break Their Arm

The Psalmist doesn’t seem very Christian in this verse, does he? I thought Jesus said we are to turn the other cheek? I thought we were supposed to forgive and forget? Well, the only way I can “turn the other cheek” and let go of my anger is by knowing that God will right every wrong. The reason I don’t need to drink the poison of envy and hatred and bitterness is because God is in charge and he will judge all wickedness.

Walking In Peace

The Psalmist has come a long way from where he began his prayer. He began crying out to God in despair, pounding on his chest, and now he is praising him. He calls him his king who rules over all things. Then he speaks sweet words of faith to the Lord, “You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted, you encourage them and you listen to their cry.” What a change!

Philippians 1:27-28

27Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit,striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.

Nahum 3:1-7

1Woe to the city of blood,
full of lies,
full of plunder,
never without victims!
2The crack of whips,
the clatter of wheels,
galloping horses
and jolting chariots!
3Charging cavalry,
flashing swords
and glittering spears!
Many casualties,
piles of dead,
bodies without number,
people stumbling over the corpses—
4all because of the wanton lust of a prostitute,
alluring, the mistress of sorceries,
who enslaved nations by her prostitution
and peoples by her witchcraft.
5“I am against you,” declares the LordAlmighty.
“I will lift your skirts over your face.
I will show the nations your nakedness
and the kingdoms your shame.
6I will pelt you with filth,
I will treat you with contempt
and make you a spectacle.
7All who see you will flee from you and say,
‘Nineveh is in ruins—who will mourn for her?’
Where can I find anyone to comfort you?”

Jeremiah 22:15-17

15“Does it make you a king
to have more and more cedar?
Did not your father have food and drink?
He did what was right and just,
so all went well with him.
16He defended the cause of the poor and needy,
and so all went well.
Is that not what it means to know me?”
declares the Lord.
17“But your eyes and your heart
are set only on dishonest gain,
on shedding innocent blood
and on oppression and extortion.”

Mark 7:5-8

5So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”
6He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“ ‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
7 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’
8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

Matthew 23:1-5, 11-13

1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.3So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.4They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacterieswide and the tassels on their garments long;
11The greatest among you will be your servant.12For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. 12For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. 13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

Ezekiel 22:25-26, 28

25There is a conspiracy of her princes within her like a roaring lion tearing its prey; they devour people, take treasures and precious things and make many widows within her. 26Her priests do violence to my law and profane my holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them.

28Her prophets whitewash these deeds for them by false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says’—when the Lord has not spoken.

James 3:5-6, 8-10

5Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.6The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

8but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
9With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.
10Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

2 Samuel 13:19-20

19Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornate robe she was wearing. She put her hands on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.
20Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.” And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.

Ezekiel 18:10-13

“Suppose he has a violent son, who sheds blood or does any of these other things11(though the father has done none of them):
“He eats at the mountain shrines.
He defiles his neighbor’s wife.
12He oppresses the poor and needy.
He commits robbery.
He does not return what he took in pledge.
He looks to the idols.
He does detestable things.
13He lends at interest and takes a profit.
Will such a man live? He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he is to be put to death; his blood will be on his own head.

Proverbs 1:15-19

My son, do not go along with them,
do not set foot on their paths;
16for their feet rush into evil,
they are swift to shed blood.
17How useless to spread a net
where every bird can see it!
18These men lie in wait for their own blood;
they ambush only themselves!
19Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain;
it takes away the life of those who get it.

Matthew 25:41-45

41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,
43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Matthew 21:15-16

15But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.
16“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.
“Yes,”replied Jesus, “have you never read,
“ ‘From the lips of children and infants
you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”

Joshua 6:22-25

22Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her.”23So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother, her brothers and sisters and all who belonged to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel.
24Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord’s house. 25But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day.

What if I can’t forgive?

Many survivors worry that God will condemn them if they cannot forgive the person that abused them. For example, one man said that he couldn’t forgive his father for torturing him repeatedly and was worried his soul was in jeopardy. If you are a Christian struggling with forgiveness, it is important to remember that you are not God. Accordingly, you will never be able to forgive or perform other works in the way God can. The scriptures make clear that only unbelief sets us apart from God (John 3:16).

In commenting on the obligation in the Lord’s Prayer to forgive others, Martin Luther said the devil lies to us when he says “You must forgive or you will not be forgiven; you have not forgiven; therefore despair.” Luther simply retorted that through faith we will want to forgive but may not forgive fully this side of heaven.

Why is it so difficult to forgive the one who abused me?

Those who are abused as children often have a difficult time with forgiving the person or persons who hurt them. In many cases this was a parent, grandparent, sibling, relative, or some other person that was close to you. This was someone you trusted, someone who was to care for you, but instead this person hurt you and took advantage of you.  

Another thing that can make forgiving your abuser difficult is that it may have happened many times over many years and in many different ways. Usually abuse does not come in a single form. Those who are abused sexually are often abused emotionally and spiritually. Likewise whose who suffer physical abuse often suffer verbal abuse as well.

Finally the person who abused you may not be sorry for what he or she did. Perhaps the person even denies that it ever happened. How can you forgive if the person isn’t even sorry for what he or she did, you may wonder?

These are only a few of the factors that make forgiveness a challenging task for those who have been abused. However, many survivors are able to work through this forgiveness process and heal from the abuse.

What is the difference between God’s forgiveness and ours?

There are two kinds of forgiveness. Vertical forgiveness is God forgiving us. It is a proclamation. It is a done deal. On the cross Jesus announced, “It is finished.” Because Jesus lived and died in our place, we have forgiveness and life. It is always perfect and complete in this life because it comes from God. When we approach God with humble and penitent hearts, he assures us, “Your sins are forgiven.” He can say that because Christ paid the price of our sins.

Horizontal forgiveness is different. It goes from person to person. It flows out of our love for Christ and our appreciation for what he has done for us. Unlike God forgiving us which is instantaneous and complete, our forgiveness of others is a process that is never perfect in this life.

When we offer someone horizontal forgiveness, we are not saying that what the person did to us was okay. It was not. Nor does it mean that we will forget that it ever happened. We can’t. Horizontal forgiveness means that we give up our self-perceived right to get even. We leave justice in God’s hands and utilize the resources God has given us to respond to abuse—including using civil and criminal authorities.

Remember that this type of forgiveness is a process. It takes time.

What does it mean to forgive someone?

There is a lot of confusion about forgiveness, especially when it comes to child abuse. Sometimes a well-intended friend will tell us, “You just need to forgive and move on.” Or a relative may encourage us to “forgive and forget.” Both of these statements confuse rather than clarify the matter of forgiveness.

First let us consider what forgiveness is not. It is not saying what the person did was okay. It was not. It was wrong and it hurt us deeply. Nor does forgiveness mean we have to forget and act as though it never happen. That is not helpful either. If we know someone is an abuser, we need to remember that and do what we can to prevent that person from abusing us or others in the future. That was difficult to do as a child because of our vulnerable situation.

A simple definition of forgiveness is “giving up my self-perceived right to get even.” Romans 12 tells us, “’It is mine to avenge, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Giving up the desire to get even does not usually happen quickly. The person hurt us deeply, to our very heart and soul. Some days we may be ready to leave it in God’s hands. Other days we are filled with anger and hurt.  

The more we let go of this perceived right, the more we free ourselves from the captivity of the abuse. So we see that giving up the right is not something that benefits the abuser, but something that helps us in our journey of healing.  

Because forgiveness can be difficult and complex, it is helpful to seek out a pastor or Christian counselor to help us with this process.

What should I do if I plan to confront my abuser?

As noted Do I need to confront the person who abused me, God’s Word does not require you to confront your abuser and doing so may place you in danger of physical or emotional harm. If you are contemplating confronting your abuser, it is wise to discuss this thoroughly with a competent counselor who is trained in working with survivors of child abuse and who is current with the literature. A counselor can help you sort out the feelings you have about confronting the abuser and to assess the possible advantages and disadvantages of such a confrontation. If you choose to go forward, it is wise to have one or more professional support persons with you that can stop the meeting if it is harming you and can help you process your emotions after the confrontation.

Do I need to confront the person who abused me?

Although it is appropriate to report your abuser to the authorities and otherwise take actions to prevent him or her from abusing other children, God’s Word does not require you to confront the abuser. Indeed, it may be physically or emotionally harmful to speak directly with the person who violated you. Even if an offender admits the abuse, he or she may continue to blame you for the abuse or otherwise make you feel responsible. The confrontation may also cause the offender to destroy evidence. Sometimes, pastors and other Christians have told survivors to confront their abuser by citing the words of Jesus to go and show a fellow believer his or her faults (Matthew 18:15). However, this verse must be read in the context of all of the scriptures. When Jesus was in danger of being killed by King Herod, God did not tell Joseph to confront the would-be killer of his son. Through an Angel, God told Joseph to flee and not return until it was safe to do so (Matthew 2:13). Although it is important for civil, criminal and church authorities to confront a child abuser, God does not require victims to place themselves in physical or emotional danger.

Is it wrong for me as a Christian to report my abuser to Child Protective Services or law enforcement?

If your neighbor stole your car, you would report him to the police. Your abuser stole something from you much more valuable than a car. He stole a part of your very life and self from you. In doing so that person committed a crime and needs to suffer the consequences of his or her actions. It is not unforgiving or unchristian to report such a person. In fact, it is wise to do so. It forces the person to deal with the reality of what he or she did. It also reduces the likelihood that the person will abuse others in the future.

God established the church to help us forgive. He established the government to provide temporal justice and curb lawlessness in society. As Christians we enjoy the benefit of both realms.

What can I do to keep my children safe?

Our website includes a number of resources for parents and churches to use in teaching personal safety to their children and in developing church policies that limit the possibility a child may be abused inside the faith community. We’ve also included an article published by the National Child Protection Training Center that answers many common questions parents have. 

Can a survivor of child abuse or neglect heal?

Many survivors of abuse and neglect lead productive lives free of many of the adverse medical and mental health conditions previously discussed. How quickly, and to what extent a victim of abuse heals is dependent on a number of factors. How quickly was there an intervention? Did the doctors, counselors and clergy who intervened respond competently? Does the survivor have a network of friends and family members who are supportive? There is a body of research on resilience which finds that simple things such as keeping a child in school, getting them involved in sports, music and other activities that build self-esteem and model non-abusive responses to conflict can be very important. There is also a substantial body of research that maintain a connection to faith, including a healthy sense of spirituality, can reduce the potential short and long term impact of abuse.

Does abuse impact boys and girls differently?

There is research suggesting boys may delay disclosing sexual abuse longer than girls—perhaps as long as 20 years. Studies indicate boys have myriad fears that keep them quiet including fears of being labeled weak or gay as a result of sexual abuse. In our society, we often make jokes about boys who are sexually abused by older girls or women. As a result, a boy sexually abused by a woman feels guilty for not “enjoying” the victimization. In designing church policies and in implementing personal safety programming, it is critical to keep in mind these differences and to specifically address fears that may be unique to boys.

What is the spiritual impact of child abuse and neglect?

According to 34 major studies involving more than 19,000 abused children, a significant number of children suffer “spiritual injuries.” This can happen when the abuser uses religion in the abuse of a child. For example, a parent may beat a child while telling his son or daughter that the beating was ordained by God. Spiritual injuries can also result because a child is confused by God’s response to the abuse. For example, a child may have asked God to stop the abuse and is saddened or angry that God did not answer the prayer in the way the victim desired. Research has found that left unaddressed, spiritual injuries can also impair our physical and mental health.

How does abuse or neglect impact a child emotionally and physically?

In a series of studies of more than 450,000 patients, the Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanents found that physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and other forms of maltreatment are associated with higher risks of numerous medical and mental health conditions including cancer, heart disease, liver disease, depression, anxiety disorders, and sleep disorders. The researchers found that the greater number of categories of abuse a patient endured, the greater the potential impact on their health.

If you or someone you know has experienced child abuse, you may want to acquaint yourself with Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) research and to discuss this with your doctor, counselor or other professionals.

You may want to start by clicking on the following link to the CDC about the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) 

How often are children abused by other children?

Approximately one-third of sexually abused children are abused by other children, including siblings. The brain of children is very different than that of adults and the motivation for sexual misconduct is often different. Our website includes links to professional articles and resources that can help you understand the research about juveniles who commit sexual offenses. If you know a child who has sexually abused another child, it is critical to report the conduct to the authorities and to make sure the child receives appropriate treatment. Again, our website has links to organizations and publications that can assist you.

How often are children abused or neglected in multiple ways?

Most abused or neglected children are violated in multiple ways. Specifically, 66% of children abused in one way are abused in at least two ways and approximately 30% of abused children are maltreated in five or more categories (physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, witnessing violence, etc.). This is why it is important to pay attention to all possible forms of abuse and, when working with a survivor, to keep in mind the likelihood he or she has been abused in many ways.  If you would like to read more about this research, we recommend the following articles: David Heather A. Turner, David Finkelhor, and Richard Omrod, Poly-Victimization in a National Sample of Children and Youth, 38(3) American Journal of Preventive Medicine 323 (2010); David Finkelhor, Richard K. Omrod, Hather A. Turner, 31 Journal of Child Abuse & Neglect 7 (2007).

Who commits child abuse and neglect?

Every ten years, the United States Department of Health conducts a massive study to determine as much information as possible about child abuse in the United States. This research has consistently found that most children are abused or neglected by their biological parents or their non-biological parent or partner. Specifically, the researchers found that 100% of neglected children, 93% of emotionally abused children, 91% of physically abused children, and 60% of sexually abused children have been victimized by their biological or non-biological parents or partners. Others who may abuse children include those who have access to children through day cares, schools, churches and other youth serving organizations.

Read this research, known as the National Incidence Study.

How prevalent is child abuse and neglect?

The Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente queried 17,000 men and women to determine how many endured abuse as children. The population studied was representative of the United States population as a whole. More than one out of four women (28%) and approximately one of six men (16%) said they were sexually abused during childhood. More than one out of four (28%) said they were physically abused as children which the researchers defined as being hit hard enough to receive injuries. More than one out ten adults said they were emotionally abused (11%) as children. Thirteen percent grew up in homes where their mothers were treated violently. With respect to neglect, 10% were denied the basic necessities of life (food, clothing, shelter, etc.) and 15% were emotionally neglected in that they grew up in homes where their parents or other caretakers never expressed affection to them.

What is child abuse and neglect?

Children are abused or neglected in many ways. A child may be beaten. A child may be touched sexually or forced to touch sexually another person. A parent or other caretaker may emotionally abuse a child by telling them they are of no value or should have never been born. A child is also maltreated when a parent fails to feed or cloth a child or denies essential medical care. Children are also maltreated when they witness violence between their parents. Although child abuse laws differ from state to state, our website includes a summary of standard definitions developed by the World Health Organization and International Society on Child Abuse and Neglect.

Understanding and Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: A Primer for Parents and Caretakers

Parents, grandparents and other caretakers often have many questions about speaking to their children about abuse and in otherwise keeping them as safe as possible. This article poses a number of common questions and provides answers written by the staff of the National Child Protection Training Center. Downloadable Version (PDF)

Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect

There are numerous federal and state laws that define child abuse and neglect. In determining whether or not a specific action violates civil or criminal law, it is necessary to consult with local authorities. The following general definitions of child abuse and neglect are taken from the World Health Organization and the International Society on Child Abuse and Neglect.
See the Definitions

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: The ACE Study

The CDC and Kaiser Permanente have studied the impact of child physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and other adverse childhood experiences on our health. It is important to consider the potential impact on child abuse and neglect on our health and to discuss these issues with our medical and mental health providers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: The ACE Study

Scriptural Passages Condemning Child Abuse

Scriptural Passages Condemning Child Abuse

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
–Jesus Christ (Matthew 19:14)

Throughout the Bible, God makes clear that child abuse is a sin and that our Lord cares deeply for the suffering. Nowhere is this more clear than in the life and teachings of Jesus.

The life and teachings of Jesus

The Gospel writers tell us that Jesus repeatedly expressed compassion toward children and issued harsh warnings to those who would hurt them. Indeed, his very life on earth makes clear the Lord’s condemnation of the sin of child abuse.

The Bible tells us that Jesus was the descendant of a sexually exploited woman (Joshua 2, Joshua 6:22-25; Hebrews 11:31; Matthew 1:5) and was frequently seen in the company of those who were sexually exploited (Matthew 9:10). Not only did Jesus minister to the sexually abused, He promised them the very kingdom of God (Matthew 21:31). Our Lord scolded the disciples for keeping children away from him and warned that it would be better to be drowned in the sea with a millstone around our neck than to hurt a child (Matthew 18:6). Jesus said that the angels of children have direct access to God (Matthew 18:10) and that the spiritual insight of children often exceeds that of the most learned theologians (Matthew 21:15-16; Luke 10:21).

Jesus also had strong words for those who preached in his name but failed to care for those who were suffering—promising to one day tell these false Christians “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23; Matthew 26:41-45).

Jesus also knows what it is like to be abused. According to the prophet Isaiah, Jesus is a Savior who was “despised and rejected of men” and who “carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3-4). As a baby, Jesus narrowly escaped being murdered (Matthew 2:16). As a man, Jesus was stripped of his clothing, mocked, beaten and tortured to death. Clearly, Jesus is a God who truly understands all the world can do to a child. If you are a survivor of abuse, know that when you pray to Jesus you are not communicating with a distant, cosmic spirit. You are praying to the God of the universe who took on flesh and suffered with and for us.

Biblical passages addressing the sin of child abuse

In addition to the Gospel writers, the other books of the Bible contain numerous condemnations of the sin of abuse and neglect—and repeatedly cry for justice and mercy for victims.

Physical abuse

The following verses condemn physical abuse:

Sexual abuse

The following verses condemn sexual abuse:

The Bible also describes the impact of sexual abuse on the victim: 2 Samuel 13:19-20

Child neglect

Neglect is condemned in 1 Timothy 5:8.

Emotional abuse

Emotional or verbal abuse is condemned in the following verses:

Spiritual abuse

Spiritual abuse is condemned in the following verses:

The responsibility of leaders to protect the vulnerable

The following verses remind us of the responsibility of leaders to aid and protect the vulnerable:

The obligation of Christians to confront abuse and other types of evil

These verses address the obligation of leaders to confront abuse and other types of evil:

God’s judgment on unrepentant abusers

These verses address God’s judgment on abusers:

Psalm 143

1Lord, hear my prayer,
listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
come to my relief.
2Do not bring your servant into judgment,
for no one living is righteous before you.
3The enemy pursues me,
he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in the darkness
like those long dead.
4So my spirit grows faint within me;
my heart within me is dismayed.
5I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.
6I spread out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land.

7Answer me quickly, Lord;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
8Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.
9Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
for I hide myself in you.
10Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.

11For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life;
in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
12In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
destroy all my foes,
for I am your servant.

Psalm 119:81-88

81My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
but I have put my hope in your word.
82My eyes fail, looking for your promise;
I say, “When will you comfort me?”
83Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke,
I do not forget your decrees.
84How long must your servant wait?
When will you punish my persecutors?
85The arrogant dig pits to trap me,
contrary to your law.
86All your commands are trustworthy;
help me, for I am being persecuted without cause.
87They almost wiped me from the earth,
but I have not forsaken your precepts.
88In your unfailing love preserve my life,
that I may obey the statutes of your mouth.

Psalm 119:25-32

25I am laid low in the dust;
preserve my life according to your word.
26I gave an account of my ways and you answered me;
teach me your decrees.

27Cause me to understand the way of your precepts,
that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds.
28My soul is weary with sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word.
29Keep me from deceitful ways;
be gracious to me and teach me your law.
30I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
I have set my heart on your laws.
31I hold fast to your statutes, Lord;
do not let me be put to shame.
32I run in the path of your commands,
for you have broadened my understanding.

Psalm 129

1“They have greatly oppressed me from my youth,”
let Israel say;
2“they have greatly oppressed me from my youth,
but they have not gained the victory over me.
3Plowmen have plowed my back
and made their furrows long.
4But the Lord is righteous;
he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.”

5May all who hate Zion
be turned back in shame.
6May they be like grass on the roof,
which withers before it can grow;
7a reaper cannot fill his hands with it,
nor one who gathers fill his arms.
8May those who pass by not say to them,
“The blessing of the Lord be on you;
we bless you in the name of the Lord.”

Psalm 109

1My God, whom I praise,
do not remain silent,
2for people who are wicked and deceitful
have opened their mouths against me;
they have spoken against me with lying tongues.
3With words of hatred they surround me;
they attack me without cause.
4In return for my friendship they accuse me,
but I am a man of prayer.
5They repay me evil for good,
and hatred for my friendship.

6Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy;
let an accuser stand at his right hand.
7When he is tried, let him be found guilty,
and may his prayers condemn him.
8May his days be few;
may another take his place of leadership.
9May his children be fatherless
and his wife a widow.
10May his children be wandering beggars;
may they be driven from their ruined homes.
11May a creditor seize all he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.
12May no one extend kindness to him
or take pity on his fatherless children.
13May his descendants be cut off,
their names blotted out from the next generation.
14May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the Lord;
may the sin of his mother never be blotted out.
15May their sins always remain before the Lord,
that he may blot out their name from the earth.

16For he never thought of doing a kindness,
but hounded to death the poor
and the needy and the brokenhearted.
17He loved to pronounce a curse—
may it come back on him.
He found no pleasure in blessing—
may it be far from him.
18He wore cursing as his garment;
it entered into his body like water,
into his bones like oil.
19May it be like a cloak wrapped about him,
like a belt tied forever around him.
20May this be the Lord’s payment to my accusers,
to those who speak evil of me.

21But you, Sovereign Lord,
help me for your name’s sake;
out of the goodness of your love, deliver me.
22For I am poor and needy,
and my heart is wounded within me.
23I fade away like an evening shadow;
I am shaken off like a locust.
24My knees give way from fasting;
my body is thin and gaunt.
25I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
when they see me, they shake their heads.

26Help me, Lord my God;
save me according to your unfailing love.
27Let them know that it is your hand,
that you, Lord, have done it.
28While they curse, may you bless;
may those who attack me be put to shame,
but may your servant rejoice.
29May my accusers be clothed with disgrace
and wrapped in shame as in a cloak.

30With my mouth I will greatly extol the Lord;
in the great throng of worshipers I will praise him.
31For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
to save their lives from those who would condemn them.

Psalm 35

1Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me.
2Take up shield and armor;
arise and come to my aid.
3Brandish spear and javelin
against those who pursue me.
Say to me,
“I am your salvation.”

4May those who seek my life
be disgraced and put to shame;
may those who plot my ruin
be turned back in dismay.
5May they be like chaff before the wind,
with the angel of the Lord driving them away;
6may their path be dark and slippery,
with the angel of the Lord pursuing them.

7Since they hid their net for me without cause
and without cause dug a pit for me,
8may ruin overtake them by surprise—
may the net they hid entangle them,
may they fall into the pit, to their ruin.
9Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord
and delight in his salvation.
10My whole being will exclaim,
“Who is like you, Lord?
You rescue the poor from those too strong for them,
the poor and needy from those who rob them.”

11Ruthless witnesses come forward;
they question me on things I know nothing about.
12They repay me evil for good
and leave me like one bereaved.
13Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth
and humbled myself with fasting.
When my prayers returned to me unanswered,
14I went about mourning
as though for my friend or brother.
I bowed my head in grief
as though weeping for my mother.
15But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee;
assailants gathered against me without my knowledge.
They slandered me without ceasing.
16Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked;
they gnashed their teeth at me.

17How long, Lord, will you look on?
Rescue me from their ravages,
my precious life from these lions.
18I will give you thanks in the great assembly;
among the throngs I will praise you.
19Do not let those gloat over me
who are my enemies without cause;
do not let those who hate me without reason
maliciously wink the eye.
20They do not speak peaceably,
but devise false accusations
against those who live quietly in the land.
21They sneer at me and say, “Aha! Aha!
With our own eyes we have seen it.”

22Lord, you have seen this; do not be silent.
Do not be far from me, Lord.
23Awake, and rise to my defense!
Contend for me, my God and Lord.
24Vindicate me in your righteousness, Lord my God;
do not let them gloat over me.
25Do not let them think, “Aha, just what we wanted!”
or say, “We have swallowed him up.”

26May all who gloat over my distress
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who exalt themselves over me
be clothed with shame and disgrace.
27May those who delight in my vindication
shout for joy and gladness;
may they always say, “The Lord be exalted,
who delights in the well-being of his servant.”

28My tongue will proclaim your righteousness,
your praises all day long.

Psalm 102

1Hear my prayer, Lord;
let my cry for help come to you.
2Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.

3For my days vanish like smoke;
my bones burn like glowing embers.
4My heart is blighted and withered like grass;
I forget to eat my food.
5In my distress I groan aloud
and am reduced to skin and bones.
6I am like a desert owl,
like an owl among the ruins.
7I lie awake; I have become
like a bird alone on a roof.
8All day long my enemies taunt me;
those who rail against me use my name as a curse.
9For I eat ashes as my food
and mingle my drink with tears
10because of your great wrath,
for you have taken me up and thrown me aside.
11My days are like the evening shadow;
I wither away like grass.

12But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever;
your renown endures through all generations.
13You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to show favor to her;
the appointed time has come.
14For her stones are dear to your servants;
her very dust moves them to pity.
15The nations will fear the name of the Lord,
all the kings of the earth will revere your glory.
16For the Lord will rebuild Zion
and appear in his glory.
17He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;
he will not despise their plea.

18Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the Lord:
19“The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,
20to hear the groans of the prisoners
and release those condemned to death.”
21So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion
and his praise in Jerusalem
22when the peoples and the kingdoms
assemble to worship the Lord.

23In the course of my life he broke my strength;
he cut short my days.
24So I said:
“Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days;
your years go on through all generations.
25In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.
27But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.
28The children of your servants will live in your presence;
their descendants will be established before you.”

Psalm 77

1I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
2When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.

3I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.
4You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
5I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
6I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart meditated and my spirit asked:

7“Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
8Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
9Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

10Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
11I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

13Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
14You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
15With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

16The waters saw you, God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
17The clouds poured down water,
the heavens resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
18Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
19Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.

20You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.