Domestic violence: imparting empathy & hope
CENTRAL ASIA (BP) -- I left my medical practice in the States and moved to Central Asia 16 years ago, where I now serve in medical ministry for women. I live in a beautiful country full of towering mountains and pristine lakes. Its hospitable people are beautiful as well. But underneath many smiling faces, there are often deep hurts.
Her story is not uncommon. We have had frequent encounters with abused women in our clinic. One of our patients was a young woman who became pregnant soon after being kidnapped to become a bride. She ended up losing the baby because of an STD received from her husband. She miscarried their second baby after her husband beat her into unconsciousness.
Anyone working with abused women understands that the issues we have faced in our clinic are difficult. Some of us can identify with abuse, but many simply can't. Does that mean that those who have never been mistreated have nothing to offer? The answer is a resounding "no." We have everything to offer because we have Jesus. Even if we have not been abused, we know a Savior who was. He was mocked, ridiculed, scorned, beaten and publicly humiliated. We may not know what it feels like to experience that type of abuse, but Jesus does.
I recently listened to a Tim Keller sermon from John 11 about the death of Lazarus. Keller spoke of how Jesus didn't try to downplay Martha and Mary's grief over Lazarus' death. He knew He would raise Lazarus. He knew that joy was coming, yet He cried. Jesus fully entered into life here on earth. He was all in. Following Christ's example, we should not withdraw from those who are suffering. Rather, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can draw near with empathy and true love.
Step into suffering with empathy & hope
There are so many questions surrounding the issue of abuse and how we should interact with women who are victims of domestic violence. I think the following recommendations -- fruit from years of knowing and learning from Gulmira -- embody the kind of love that Christ showed:
-- Uphold the importance of prayer.
Cry out to God, the Rescuer and Deliverer. If the abused woman is a believer, help her learn how to pray about her circumstances. If she is not, ask her how you can pray for her and pray with her when possible.
-- Help her find a safe place.
If an abused woman needs a house, help her find a place to live. Keep in mind that many women often return to their abusive situations after a temporary reprieve. She needs to decide for herself what to do.
-- Encourage with eternal hope.
Remind her that the brokenness of this life is not the end. Tell her to look to Christ, who secured an eternal hope that is an anchor for our lives. Explain the peace and life that come by faith in Jesus as her Savior.
-- Be a friend.
Make yourself available and meet with her frequently. Listen patiently. If she appears distant or agitated, remember that she is under a lot of stress.
-- Speak of God's tender love for her.
Many abused women see themselves as unworthy of love. They believe that they deserve the abuse. Remind them that they are precious in God's eyes and yours.
John Stott said that God is the "lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross.... He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over we boldly stamp another mark, the cross that symbolizes divine suffering." 
We hope to make our center in Central Asia a place where we can listen to women, tell them about Jesus, encourage them in their faith, teach them to pray for their situation, and offer physical help if they want it. May we, with Jesus's help, fully enter into these women's lives and walk alongside them as we share His overwhelming love and proclaim that His redemptive suffering gives us life.
Resources for learning how to serve abused women:
-- The Christian Counseling and Education Foundation, www.ccef.org.
-- Healing the Wounds of Trauma (2013), a resource of the American Bible Society's Healing Trauma Institute, by Harriet Hill, Margaret Hill, Richard Baggé and Pat Miersma.
-- Truth, Tears, Anger and Grace, a sermon by Timothy J. Keller, online at www.gospelinlife.com/truth-tears-anger-and-grace-5247.
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