Archives For abuse

destructivemarriage-650x220bPastors, counselors, and ministry leaders at all levels are often the first responders couples turn to when struggling in their marriages. Unfortunately, ministers are often overwhelmed and not well trained to discern when the issues they are drawn into are normal marital conflict or emotional abuse.

Leslie Vernick and Chris Moles joined us on April 2, 2014, for a heart-to-heart discussion about how the church and people of faith can begin to address the growing problem of emotionally destructive marriages. Leslie brought her 30 years of experience as a counselor and relationship coach to help people helpers better understand that they can help couples ensnared in emotionally destructive marriages.

Chris, himself a senior pastor, also serves as a Batterer Intervention Specialist who has ministered to over 200 men who have been convicted of some form of domestic violence. Chris shared his passion, experience, and wisdom shepherding his local flock as well as a group of abusers that most of society has written off.

Together Leslie and Chris offered a uniquely Christian perspective on how to see, understand, and confront the emotionally destructive patterns in those who are abused and those who abuse.

In keeping with our ministry commitment to make the life-changing wisdom of the Bible understandable and accessible to all, we are making the content of this webinar available without cost or obligation to you and anyone you’d like to share it with.

To listen to the audio recording from the webinar, click the link: Shepherding the Emotionally Destructive Marriage.

To download the PowerPoint from the webinar, click the link: Shepherding the Emotionally Destructive Marriage PPT.

To get a free sample download from Leslie Vernick’s book, click the book title link: The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope. If you are interested in requesting a review copy of Leslie’s book, WaterBrook/Multnomah Press has graciously agreed to a free limited time offer of a review copy by clicking the following link: The Emotionally Destructive Marriage.

As a special gift to you as a pastor, counselor, or ministry leader, Leslie would also like to offer a special gift, thanking you for attending this webinar. Leslie is making available an ebooklet of previously unpublished material focused on the church’s response to emotionally destructive marriages. Click on this link, The Church’s Response To Emotionally Destructive Marriages, to receive that free material. Leslie is also offering 2 free training DVD’s to help you in your work with couples in emotionally destructive marriages. You can receive these additional resources by clicking on: Training DVD’s.

For a free download of an RBC booklet by counselors Jeff Olson & Tim Jackson (one of our hosts) click the title link: When Violence Comes Home. Another booklet on verbal abuse by Jeff Olson is also available at: When Words Hurt. Herb Vander Lugt, one of RBC Ministries’ past research editors, wrote a booklet about God’s heart for women living in abusive relationships. Click here for his booklet: God’s Protection for Women.

For further resources from RBC Ministries to help you understand more about abuse and what can be done to stop it, click the link: Abuse.

destructivemarriage-650x220 (1)All marriages struggle. A certain level of conflict is normal. But some conflict goes way beyond normal. It becomes harmful to the body and soul of those who are victims of this emotionally destructive form of abuse. So when does it step over a line and become destructive and dangerous?

Leslie Vernick and Chris Moles joined us on March 5, 2014, for a heart-to-heart conversation about how we can begin to address the growing problem of emotionally destructive marriages. Leslie brought her 30 years of experience as a counselor and relationship coach to help us better understand that there is hope and help for those entrapped in emotionally destructive marriages.

Chris is a senior pastor and a Batterer Intervention Specialist who brought his experience and wisdom from years of teaching the Scriptures to his local flock and ministering to over 200 men who have been convicted of some form of domestic violence.

Together they combined forces to enable us to offer a uniquely Christian perspective on how to see, understand, and confront the emotionally destructive patterns in marriages at risk.

In keeping with our ministry commitment to make the life-changing wisdom of the Bible understandable and accessible to all, we are making the content of this webinar available without cost or obligation to you and anyone you’d like to share it with.

To listen to the audio recording from the webinar as well as the bonus feature 30 minute Q&A after the webinar, click the link: The Emotionally Destructive Marriage.

To download the PowerPoint from the webinar, click the link: The Emotionally Destructive Marriage PPT.

To get a free sample download from Leslie Vernick’s book, click the book title link: The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope. For additional resources from Leslie, check out her website at:

For a free download of an RBC booklet by counselors Jeff Olson & Tim Jackson (one of our hosts) click the title link: When Violence Comes Home. Another booklet on verbal abuse by Jeff Olson is also available at: When Words Hurt.

For further resources from RBC Ministries to help you understand more about abuse and what can be done to stop it, click the link: Abuse.

Piling Up Stones

Dennis Moles —  January 22, 2013 — Leave a comment

This past weekend was a special time for me as a dad, a friend, and the follower of Jesus. It was a time of remembering the past, connecting with the present, and casting a vision for the future.

Every January the current and former members of a college organization called Theta Rho Epsilon meet for a weekend retreat. This year the meeting was in Chicago and my sons and I attended. Theta Rho Epsilon, which we affectionately call OPE (pronounced Opie—like Ron Howard’s character on the Andy Griffith show) is a men’s organization that began at Cedarville University back in the early nineties. The purpose and creed of OPE is summed up by Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” And for the last 20 years I have lived in community, often from a considerable geographical distance, with these guys—each of us trying to help the others look, act, and love like Jesus Christ.

When OPE began, I don’t think any of us had a clear idea how important the relationships we were making would be to us and our families. From the very best of times to the very worst of times, these guys have been there for me and I have been there for them.

As we gathered this weekend with friends old and new, I was reminded of the profound truth that none of us were meant to take this journey of discipleship alone. I was reminded that I need my brothers and they need me. I was reminded of the story we share and was encouraged by the story we are writing. But this year something else profound took place. This year all the alumni set aside some time to have a special ceremony for our sons.

It wasn’t elaborate. We simply told them stories, presented them with gifts, and shared our hearts. Essentially, we reminded them of the story of Joshua leading the children of Israel across the Jordan: 

When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.” . . . “These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” . . . “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground’ ” (Joshua 4:1-7, 21-22).

This past Saturday we piled up stones of our own. We reminded our sons, who range in age from 6 to 14, of the story of OPE. How before any of them was born we set out to help each other follow Jesus. How we have continued through the years to sharpen one another for the purpose of looking, acting, and loving like Christ. After we shared our story, we confessed to them that our greatest desire is for them to follow Jesus too and to know that they have a community of men who love them and are there for them no matter what.

Each boy left Chicago this weekend having received a necklace, hearing a declaration, and receiving a promise. The necklace simply reads “Proverbs 27:17.” It was presented to them by a man other than their dad with the simple declaration, “We choose you; we love you.” And it was solidified as 12 men stood to their feet and made these promises to 8 boys:

“We promise, as time and opportunity allows, to be a sharpening influence in your lives.”

“We commit, as the Holy Spirit brings you to our minds, to pray for you.”

“We are willing, should you ever need us, to be a safe place for you to share your questions and struggles as you grow and progress through life.”

“Regardless of the choices and decisions you make, we choose you.”

This weekend reminded me that I need to take more time to pile up stones. I need to remember the faithfulness of God in the past and declare that faithfulness in the present. It reminded me that I need my brothers, and it reminded me to pray for my own kids that they would find the same kind of relationships that God has blessed me with.

How long has it been since you piled up some stones?

The Fear of Love

Tim Jackson —  July 23, 2012 — 8 Comments

I recently chatted with a young woman who survived growing up in a dangerous home with an evil father. Oh, he looked normal enough to outsiders—kept a job, paid the bills, went to church, and played the part for the public—but in private, he was a cruel, sadistic beast who preyed upon the insecurities of his wife and children.

How did she survive? She became a runner. She learned how to outdistance the problem, literally and emotionally.

In junior and senior high school, she ran track. She was a fierce competitor. She’d had lots of practice. Putting distance between herself and a threatening adversary became second nature not only on the track, but also off the track in her relationships.

Now that she’s found a good man who—unlike her dad—can be trusted, she’s discovered that she just can’t stop running. She readily admits the undeniable longing for love deeply embedded in her heart. But while that desire entices her, it terrifies her even more!

Why? Because she’s realizing that running has become a way of life.

The truth is, all relationships are risky and have the potential for both pain and pleasure. Running is her way to manage that potential for pain in her relationships. Admittedly, it helped her survive an abusive situation, but now it’s sabotaging her potential for joy in a relationship with a man who truly loves her.

It’s her fear of love that’s paralyzing her from moving forward.

John Eldredge wrote in Wild at Heart, “The only thing more tragic than the tragedy that happens to us is the way we handle it” (p. 106).

Oddly enough, for many it’s the fear of losing love that shuts love down before it even has a chance to take root and grow.

This young woman’s fear of intimacy, of getting close, of finally being loved paralyzes her heart, preventing her from exchanging her running shoes for a pair of dancing shoes.

For many who have suffered the torment of growing up in an abusive home, their capacity to trust others to deeply love and care for them and not leave them is greatly diminished. They find it next to impossible to believe anyone will stay in their lives for an extended time, much less for a lifetime. They are always waiting for the other shoe to drop, dashing their hopes for a meaningful relationship yet again.

The solution for many is, “Just don’t get close to anyone. Outdistance the pain. Never commit. Keep moving, and you’ll never feel the pain of abandonment or abuse again.”

Unfortunately it works for a while . . . with some of the pain. But it’s a thief. It steals. It kills. And it destroys one’s opportunity to playfully splash around in the refreshing waters of committed love.

But there is hope. The antidote to our fear is perfect love. The problem is we are not perfectly loved. Or are we?

John, the apostle of love, said it best: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18 NIV). It’s God’s perfect love for us that can infuse us with the courage necessary to take the risk of loving others. And that’s the antidote that can transform any of us from “runners” to “lovers.” John’s words are a necessary reminder when we panic and start lacing up our running shoes. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

So, what shoes are you wearing these days? Running shoes or dancing shoes? I love to hear your thoughts and stories.



Exploited Sexuality

Tim Jackson —  November 21, 2011 — 6 Comments

As a follow up to my post last week about the PSU sexual abuse scandal, I’ve been painfully reminded of how often we refuse to talk about things that really matter, things shrouded in secrecy that are just too uncomfortable for us to discuss without stepping on toes or seeming to be insensitive. Frankly, these are not topics of polite conversation.

But when we don’t talk about them, when we don’t bring them into the light, they continue to fester and breed like an untreated cancer in the clandestine shadows of secrecy. And people get hurt. Children get hurt. And none of us should ever be okay with that.

So we’re uncomfortable.

My first thought is: “I’m uncomfortable with it.” I take no joy in writing about this in a blog. I’d much rather be talking about last weeks Penn State football game with Ohio State than the sexual abuse scandal that still engulfs that campus.

My second thought is: “Too bad.” It’s about time we learn to deal with our discomfort and engage in the real battles for the hearts and souls of people who are at risk and being exploited. And if we’re honest, that means both the abused and the abusers.

And that makes me feel really uncomfortable. But that’s where people of faith are most needed to stand up and be counted as “salt and light” (Matt. 5:13-16) in a very dark and unsavory place.

Sexual abuse is just one of those banned topics in church.

Several recent blogs highlight the trouble we’ve had in being honest with ourselves and dealing with our discomfort in speaking openly about tough issues. Dan Allender’s blog, JoePa and Sermon Selection, frankly brings to light how uncomfortable pastors have been and still are when it comes to addressing the issue of sexual abuse in church.

Thom Rainer, in his blog to Church leaders, Sex Scandals, Penn State, and Protecting Our Children, writes about sexual abuse and doing everything we can as a faith community to prevent it from happening on our watch as well as dealing quickly and decisively when it is exposed.

But sexual abuse is only one strain of the world wide epidemic of exploited sexuality.

Sexuality has been hijacked by the enemy of our souls. Satan, as part of his cunning strategy for defacing the image of God in men and woman alike, demeaning and defrauding  sexuality in a myriad of ways. Remember, Jesus identified Satan’s lethal agenda as to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). Why would we not think that includes our sexuality?

Sexual exploitation, in all it’s forms–from advertising, media programing, the ever-widening spectrum of pornographic images, the vulgar and demeaning language that has become common place in music, social media, and on middle school campuses, sexual abuse, and the plague of human sexual trafficking–are a coordinated attack on the beauty of God Himself that He breathed into our sexuality.

I would contend that we have problems with sexual abuse because of the sexual tsunami that has reeked havoc on the world of gender, both male and female, in a post-Fall world. And this is nothing new.

The Bible records story after story of sexual exploitation (just to name a few: Gen. 19:4-13, 30-38; 38:11-26; Judges 19:22-30; 2 Sam. 11:1-27; 13:1-34; Luke 7:36-50; John 4:7-30; 8:4-11). These disruptive stories have all too often been ignored for the more palatable passages of scripture that are–shall we say–less disturbing.

But just stop for a moment and think about it.

Why would God intentionally record these stories of sexual exploitation in sacred text?

I can think of a few reasons why He’s not silent on this topic, and I’m sure there are more:

  1. Because He doesn’t want us to be silent on the topic.
  2. Because of His great love for victims of sexual exploitation.
  3. Because His intention is to bring healing and hope to victims of sexual exploitation.

If this it true, then people of faith can no longer remain silent on these topics.  We must be at the forefront of addressing them. Instead of reserving that discussion for a counselor’s office or a courtroom,  we must speak more openly and honestly about the destructive forces at work regarding the exploitation of both male and female sexuality on all fronts in our culture.

That’s my take on it all. How about you? Let me hear your voices. Speak up and let others know that it’s time to break the conspiracy of silence. Let’s join our voices together.




Sexual Abuse Scandal

Tim Jackson —  November 16, 2011 — Leave a comment

It has been hard to miss the top news story of the past 14 days on US media outlets–the child sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the campus of Penn State University, engulfing a prestigious football program, it’s coaches, and administration. The University has come under fire for how the current coaches and staff handled the alleged sexual abuse of young boys by a former PSU coach.

As a boy, I grew up an hour away from State College, Pennsylvania. I’ve rooted for Penn State football for the last 50 years. It’s hard to describe the thoughts and feelings that have been pulsating through me for the past two weeks.

Disbelief. Disgust. Grief. Outrage. Shock. To name a few.

But primarily? Heartache.

As a counselor who has spent hundreds of hours helping many men and women work through their past of childhood sexual abuse–dealing with the trauma, the pain, the shame, the secrets, and the long-term devastation of abuse–to rebuild productive lives, I am angry.

Angry that anyone–no matter what their status is within any organization–from janitors to presidents–would allow any form of suspected child abusive behavior to go on without it being quickly exposed to the proper authorities and decisively addressed, so that first and foremost the children are protected and those responsible are held accountable.

But, in spite of how I feel, I must reserve judgment for those who know all the evidence in the case. I simply don’t know what really happened. What I do know is the allegations I hear reported in the media and the published grand jury report. And, make no mistake about it, the allegations are bad.

But, there is a process that cannot be hijacked in the media’s court of public opinion. I can quickly jump to conclusions about what has happened and what should or shouldn’t be done to those involved without knowing the full details of the case. That’s what trials are for.

My concern is that in the media feeding frenzy for the most salacious story out there, that what gets whipped up in the watching audience is a lynch mob mentality that is dangerous.

It’s clear what is needed: protection for children and justice for those who abuse them.

I know my own weakness and my snap judgement without ample evidence can quickly cross the invisible ethical line between seeking justice and justifying revenge. God reminds me that none of us are qualified for the task of vengeance–not by a long shot. That’s His realm exclusively. Mortals need not apply.

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Rom. 12:19, 20)

James 1:19, 20 also provides a well heeded warning:

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

But lest we think that God takes abuse lightly, consider Jesus’ own words in Luke 17:1, 2 regarding those who would dare to harm a child:

“Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.”

The allegations and charges of child abuse are serious. The coverup is evidence that something is seriously broken and needs to be fixed. The power and money that the big business of college sports wields is a challenging force that must be harnessed lest it run wild and unbridled. Hopefully, this scandal will bring that conversation to the forefront as well.

And finally, I’ve heard more public appeals and witnessed more examples of public prayer for all the victims involved in this situation than I’ve seen since 9/11. That is telling. In times of pain and desperation when we need wisdom to know how to respond to a tragic situation that is unimaginable in it’s scope and destruction, we naturally turn to the only true source of comfort, strength, and wisdom.

Let’s pray together that we will all strive  . . . “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8). If we do, then something good will begin to take root and grow out of a horribly destructive and dark situation.


This quote from Bob Marley (1945-1981) caught my attention because it’s poignant, true, honest, pure.

It leaves me questioning, who is worth suffering for?

My children of course; that one is easy.

But must I suffer for someone who has evil intentions towards me, someone who is hurting the essence of who I am?

I don’t think so and this is why:

Our dignity is all you and I really have. When that is assaulted, we choose whether to protect it or allow it to be destroyed.  

We suffer to spread good things like love, faith, and kindness. When we suffer for these things, we’re spreading goodwill to all men, not promulgating evil.  Here are two sets of examples that some of us have been face with. Choose which group you’d suffer for.

Example set 1:  Do you suffer for the husband who is so absentminded that he forgets your anniversary?  Do you suffer for the wife who frequently burns your toast? Do you suffer for the husband or wife who can’t keep the house clean to your liking or who lost his or her job due to down-sizing? Do you suffer for the spouse who, because of past sexual abuse, really struggles in the area of physical intimacy? Do you suffer for and with the spouse battling cancer?

Example set 2:  Do you suffer for the husband who hits you? Do you suffer for the wife who mocks you and laughs at your attempts to make a connection with her? Do you suffer for the husband who turns every argument around making it all about you and how you’ve failed?  Do you suffer for the wife who calls you horrible names? Do you suffer for the spouse who withholds affection and emotional closeness from you even though you’ve done nothing to warrant that kind of withdrawal?

The difference between the two sets of examples is one of intentionality. The purpose of the second group is to belittle, put down, degrade, control, to assault your dignity. The first group is being human; while the second group is being. . . well, downright evil. Evil seeks to put people in prisons. Love sets us free.

If love sets us free, then let love set you free from an abusive relationship. You’re not obligated to hang around for your spouse (or anyone) to completely destroy your sense of identity. Your dignity – protect it and you’ll be free.


Someone recently asked me how can an adult child “honors” an emotionally abusive parent. Sadly, it’s an important question that many face. While there isn’t a blanket answer because each situation is different, there are some general thoughts to think through that apply to nearly every situation.

There is no question that the Bible teaches the importance of honoring our parents (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:2-3). It is not a matter to be taken lightly. To honor our parents, however, does not mean that we should ignore or tolerate their abusive behavior. In fact, ignoring and tolerating abuse would be dishonoring and unloving.

Unfortunately, many adults who have been abused by their parents as children allow emotional abuse to continue for fear of being completely cut-off and abandoned by their parents. It seems that some would rather put up with their parents abuse than to be ignored and abandoned by their parents. To be abandoned by one’s parents seems to be a greater pain and therefore is avoided at all costs, even if that means allowing the abuse to continue.

When a person continues to tolerate emotional abuse from their parents by ignoring it and maybe hoping things will improve, they are neither loving nor honoring their parents. If that person were to honestly examine their motives, they would most likely see that they are not motivated by a desire to love their parents but rather by a desire to keep themselves safe from the deeper pain of being abandoned. And without even knowing it, they are actually contributing to the problem with their silence. Their silence enables rather than stands against further emotional abuse. That’s not what is best for themselves or their parents, therefore it’s not love.

The Bible calls Christians to a love that is without hypocrisy, that is to hate what is evil and cling to what is good, both in ourselves and others (Rom.12:9). In a situation where a parent is emotionally abusive love often asks the question “What is wrong within the person that needs to be disrupted so that good and life can start to emerge?” In almost every instance, this involves drawing strong lines that say “It’s no longer okay for you to abuse me.”

Check out the following video insights by Larry Crabb and Gene Getz on setting boundaries and honoring difficult parents:—emGene-Getzem-%28Video-Insight%29__VATR006I048.aspx



The Desire for Vengeance

Jeff Olson —  February 10, 2011 — 4 Comments

I once spoke with a man whose son had been brutally murdered by a close family friend. In the years to follow, the man talked of his burning desire for revenge. He said he wanted to turn this tremendous burden over to Jesus. He knew that bitterness had overtaken his heart and crowded out everything else that was good. But it seemed like no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t let go of the desire for vengeance.

One of the things God put on my heart to say this man shocked him at first, but it also freed him up to see he had other options. I told him that his desire for revenge was not completely off-base or ungodly. I went on to explain that the apostle Paul, when writing to Christians, said, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20).

Paul’s statement is a promise to believers for revenge. In other words, Paul was encouraging his readers to be patient because the day will come when vengeance will be theirs and God’s. A time is coming where they will have the opportunity to make the one, Satan, (who is indirectly and ultimately responsible for all of the tragedies in life), pay under their feet.

So part of the desire to take revenge is godly, as long as it’s not misplaced and done in God’s timing. In the meantime, God calls us to conquer evil by “doing good” to those people who harm us (Romans 12:21). In other words, the Christian way is not to be overcome by evil by doing evil back to those who harm us, but to overcome and defeat evil by doing good.

Some may understand the idea of “doing good” as a call to become passive and pleasant, and to pretend nothing ever happened. But that’s not the case. Yes, sometimes “doing good” is blessing others with unexpected acts of kindness or civility. But doing good to those who hurt us also involves intentionally drawing strong lines and giving some serious consequences that force them to own and deal with their sinful and harmful choices. It often says to those who’ve hurt us, “While there is still some unfinished business for us to resolve before we can move forward, I’m not going to relate to you solely on the basis of the hurt you’ve caused me. The hurt is still there for me, but I’m going to relate to you on the basis of something more. As I wrestle with the hurt you’ve done to me, I want to relate to you in ways that can conquer evil in your life and prevent the evil of bitterness from overtaking mine.”

None of us are fully at this place. But as I suggested to the man whose son had been murdered, with the help of the One who was brutally beaten and murdered Himself, we can all move closer to the place where we can start to genuinely consider all that’s involved in “doing good” to those who have deeply hurt us.

Letting pain breathe

Jeff Olson —  January 13, 2011 — 5 Comments

Recently I watched the movie Open Range. It was a Christmas present.

Westerns don’t normally interest me, but this film drew me in. There was one scene, in particular, that grabbed my attention.

One of the main characters in the film is Charlie Waite (played by Kevin Costner). He’s a Cowboy trying to escape a past filled with pain and regret. During the night, he has a nightmare of being attacked by a masked gunman. The woman, whose house he was staying in, heard Charlie stirring and tried to wake him up. Startled, Charlie momentarily mistook the woman for the man in his dream and drew his pistol on her.

The next morning at breakfast, Charlie apologized to the woman. He went on to explain that he was trying to put some bad times behind him “but sometimes they don’t stay put.” The woman paused for a moment and then spoke these profound words to Charlie,

“Always make me feel better to let things breathe a little—not bury them.”

As a counselor, I couldn’t have said it better. When we bury and try to suffocate the painful realities of life, they start to own us in ways that are not good. It’s best to let them “breathe a little.”

Facing our pain is not about becoming bitter and angry. It’s about putting our hearts in a honest position where we can begin to heal.

Whatever it is, leaning into our pain and letting it breath allows deep lies and false interpretations of events to surface so they can be identified, challenged, and replaced with what it is true. It’s a difficult process for sure, but it allows God to speak into our painful places and bring truth that heals our wounded hearts.

Is there a pain you need to let breathe?