After living through a nightmare so far beyond anything I could have imagined, I am clearly convinced God is much more interested in our callings than our comfort. In September 2016 my marriage and dreams for the future came crashing down around me when I learned my husband had been living a lie. The kind, honorable, trustworthy and compassionate man I fell in love with had been a persona to cover a darkened and burdened heart incapable of experiencing unconditional love. I was a victim of seduction and deceit in the worst way. An affair alone would have been devastating but to learn the sordid details of things he did and said behind my back for the length of our marriage was absolutely crushing.
It's not easy to reflect on the pain of the past, especially when you are made to feel responsible for the pain by your perpetrator. To aid in the process of understanding the type of emotional abuse I suffered in my marriage, God blessed me with the opportunity to meet twice a month with a Christian counselor that not only knows me but my ex-husband as well.
Sadly, I realize this isn’t always the case for women who have suffered emotional abuse in their marriage. This is the reason that I have chosen to speak up and share my story publicly. Without wise counsel and revelation from the Lord, I would still be so stuck in a pit of despair that I am derailed from fulfilling my divine purpose in life.
I spent 2017 in hibernation mode. Being too frail, broken and overwhelmed with rejection, shame and guilt to do the social activities I did prior to my marriage. As a woman who suffered childhood abuse and chronic self-worth issues, I was “ripe for the picking” for a man like my ex-husband to woo into marriage.
Many women like myself don’t recognize we are in an abusive relationship. In fact, more than a year later, my experience seems too surreal to be true. What I have since learned is, most abusers are very charming, attentive to your needs and extremely loving and caring. They typically lavish you with love and show you deep appreciation, so we often miss the signs of controlling behavior. This is all part of the scheme, to make us trust them and develop feelings for them. Why do they do this? Because it is easier to control someone that loves and trusts you.
In my case, I was living with what my counselor refers to as a “covert narcissist”. She tried to soothe my feelings of guilt stating that there was no way I could have known that I was marrying a narcissist. After 37 years of professional counseling, she had also been deceived by the true intentions of my ex-husband. In the case of covert narcissists, it is extremely difficult to discern the true nature of the individual – a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Over the course of our marriage, my husband used a form of psychological abuse often used by narcissists called, gaslighting. Once I filed for divorce, I was advised to reach out to women in my ex-husband’s past and inquire about their relationships. At least two women had gone through the same abusive treatment I had experienced. In fact, one kind-hearted woman told me I was lucky to have been spared years of heartache with my ex, as she referred to her time with him as “some of the darkest days I have ever known.”
As followers of Christ, we should never be surprised when we come across trials in life. Jesus clearly states that we “…will have many trials and sorrows, but take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33; 2 Timothy 3:1-6
We can take heart because Jesus will never abandon us to deal with our troubles in our own strength. When we let God heal our past hurts, He not only wants to help us, but He also wants to use our experiences as a gateway through which others can experience the same type of healing. But we cannot move beyond our pain and learn how to love and forgive others until we have personally experienced the love of God. We must allow him to fill the handicap places in our hearts. 2 Corinthians 1:4
We must understand that comfort doesn’t necessarily mean that God will immediately deliver us from our painful circumstances. It can also mean receiving strength, encouragement and hope to deal with our troubles. The more we suffer, the more comfort God will give us. Every trial that we endure will help us comfort other people who are suffering similar troubles.Psalm 84:5-7
“The richest testimonies come from people Christ has made whole who still remember what it was like to be broken" Beth Moore
We can place our hope on the fact that God always gives us the strength to do what He has commanded. The strength may not be evident however until we step out in faith and begin doing the task. Walking forward, not looking back at the pain but truly resting in God’s truth. Romans 12:2 . When we have been in a situation or a relationship where our self-esteem has been torn down and our mind has been inundated with lies, we need to “renew” our mind.
"The person coming out from under the influence of lies desperately needs a season of intense deprogramming. Until you are less vulnerable, flood your mind primarily with Truth and secondarily with materials that line up with the Truth. Coming out from under the influence of a long-term stronghold can be like coming out from under the influence of a drug.” – Beth Moore, Breaking Free Bible Study
When we have been victims of abuse it is common to suffer from debilitating negative emotions. Hindsight is 20/20 so we feel a lot of guilt, shame, and anxiety because we were so blind to what was going on. A crucial step in the healing process is understanding that shame is one of the deepest roots of our emotions when we experience abandonment, rejection and betrayal. Shame is the enemy’s greatest weapon. He knows that shame snuffs out our spirit. God wants our spirit to be awake and filled with peace, joy and all the fruits of His Spirit which lives in us as believers. The enemy knows we can be very powerful in bringing others to know Jesus, so he is going to do everything he can to derail us.
Suffering is training ground for Christian maturity. When God delivers us from our worst fears we can clearly see that what God can do for us is far greater than ANYTHING that can be done to us. I believe God carefully and graciously allowed me to experience the pain of an adulterous and abusive marriage, so I would discover I would not wither away and die. Don’t get me wrong, God didn’t create the storm, but He allowed me to walk the road of redemptive suffering as part of the fallout of someone else’s immoral choices and selfish actions.
To be honest, I am now grateful to have experienced this season in my life. Intimacy with God grows through sharing every realm of experience. Had I not gone through this terrible suffering I would never have gotten as close to the Lord as I have. I would never have realized how much He loves me. Psalm 119:50 He taught me that fruitful relationships are relationships where each person can be who God created them to be. Any relationship where one person is being controlled, constantly being neglected, demeaned, insulted or made to feel bad about themselves is NOT a fruitful relationship. Nor is it a relationship that is healthy or loving by any stretch of the imagination. Further, any relationship that causes you to shrink back from your commitment or passion for God is NOT a good relationship. Matt 12:31-33
We cannot allow another person to define us by the way they need us. I was nothing more than a trophy wife, something my ex-husband could use to boost his self-esteem while he methodically destroyed my self-confidence. As he whittled away at my identity in Christ, my identity got skewed from who I was in Christ to my value (or lack of value) in being his wife. One of the most important relationship lessons I have learned from this disastrous marriage is that you must let a person be who they are and allow their identity in Christ to surface and blossom. When you give a person this type of freedom to be who they are you could find yourself being married to someone who is interesting, who is intriguing. But, to discover that interesting and intriguing person, you cannot lock them in a prison of who you need them to be for yourself.
We must remember that God’s plan is the ultimate plan for our lives. We must remember that we have a very limited perspective. We see the start and God sees the start, the middle and the end. We must trust that He knows best. It’s not until we believe that what is in our future is better than what is in our past that we will ever be able to forget and press onward.
*** Watch Kelly and I's live interview on Instagram on this topic below***
THE SOUND IS BAD, IT PICKED UP MY KIDS VOICES FOR SOME REASON BUT IT GETS BETTER AS IT GOES**
**Kelly Kirby is an artist, writer and Jesus girl with a passion for helping others discover and embrace the beautiful woman of God they were created to be. She enjoys spending time with God each day, playing tennis, yoga, paddle boarding and making custom designed jewelry. Kelly has a heart for missions and is a dedicated supporter of Fallen Sparrow, a 501c3 organization created in 2008 to help provide funding for the care of at-risk children. She will be serving on her 4th mission trip to Cambodia this summer as a member of the Fallen Sparrow mission team. http://fallensparrow.org/
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