Healing abuse and its after effects is possible if you know Jesus. I believe that and so did King David in the Bible. In Psalms 147:3 NIV David states, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” David went through a lot in his life. His heart was broken many times, by his sons, by those in his kingdom, perhaps even by his own Father. As I study the Word of God, I see that David was very much abused by an authority figure. Saul literally tried to kill him. This abuse sent David running and he had to hide out and make himself scarce until Saul finally died. Saul was the abuser and David was the abused. But at the end of David’s life he was saying that God was able to heal the broken hearted and bind their wounds.
Sometime God heals in a moment. I believe in the work of the Holy Spirit. I believe that God can heal a broken heart. I have seen this happen many times. But usually healing abuse doesn’t happen in one prayer session. Most generally, individuals find healing when they are able to go trough a process that helps them. Ministries like Celebrate Recovery are a place where hurting people, those who have suffered abuse, and those who have done the abusing, can come and find a place of healing. The process of doing a step study, working through the 12 steps, especially as if it is accompanied with loving and caring sponsors and accountability partners can do wonders to help restore a sense of wholeness to those who are broken.
Of course, David had no such options. But a close study of his life reveals startling characteristics to some of the principles taught in recovery ministry. I want to quickly list for you six types of abuse that cause great hurt in humanity.
- Verbal Abuse
- Emotional Abuse
- Sexual Abuse
- Physical Abuse
- Self Abuse
- Spiritual Abuse
While David didn’t suffer all of these types of abuses. The emotional abuse that Saul inflicted upon him as he continually tried to kill him must have weighed heavy upon him. It affected every aspect of his life. How did David handle this? What does God expect us to do to heal abuse?
Six Things David Did In Healing Abuse That We Can Do As Well
- Stop Denying What Has Happened Or Is Happening.
Denial is what happens to individuals when looking at the real truth of the situation they are in or had been in is just too painful. It’s easier to just not talk about it. In many families there is an unspoken rule that says, “We don’t talk about the family pain and issues.” We learn defense mechanisms to help us with our denial. It’s easier to stay busy. It’s easier to pretend it didn’t happen. It’s easier to just self-medicate. And that way when things aren’t going well we have an excuse:
“Well, I was drunk and that wasn’t really me.”
“I was stoned so I put myself there and so I am not really responsible.”
“It won’t happen again. He promised.”
As we make excuse and deny our reality, we get stuck in life. We can’t move forward because it’s too painful. We aren’t really healed. We are not really well. We just kind of go in circles. It’s easier to just stay stuck, because moving forward might upset the apple cart. We deny that there is a problem or an issue by pushing it to the back of our mind.
David did not deny what had happened to him, or the danger he was in as Saul set out to kill him. Remember, David became almost like a son in Saul’s house. Jonathan, Saul’s son was David’s best friend. He had fought for this King. I am sure his heart felt loyal to Saul. David understood that God had anointed him king.
But Saul became an abuser when he threw the spear at David. David hung around just long enough for it to happen a second time. 1 Samuel 18:11 “And Saul cast the spear, for he said, “I will pin David to the wall!” But David escaped his presence twice.” His denial period was very short. But after the second spear came his way. David fled.
We also must be willing to come out of denial. Tell someone. Find help. Face the issues in your life. In the end you will be glad you did.
- Recognize Abusers Can Have Good Points.
Saul was the worst type of abuser in that he literally tried to kill David. The fact that Saul is seen in the Word as an abuser is even astounding. It shows us something. Abusers can have good sides. Abusers may have important positions such as king or pastor or teacher or coach. Abusers may have been used by God in the past. Healing abuse will not happen if we don’t recognize people are made up of positives and negatives. Saul was an amazing man and had some powerful positive attributes in his life.
- Saul was anointed by God. 1 Samuel 10:1
- Saul had the gift of prophecy. 1 Samuel 10:6 “The Spirit of the LORD will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person.”
- Saul appeared to be humble. Samuel gathers the whole crowd and says, “We’re going to crown our king.” And lo and behold Saul is chosen to be the one crowned and they can’t find him. The Bible says he was hiding behind the baggage. 1 Samuel 10:22 “And the Lord answered, “There he is, hidden among the equipment.”
- Saul was impressive in appearance. He was one of the beautiful people. 1 Samuel 10:23 “So they ran and brought him from there; and when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward.”
- Saul won a great victory for Israel in 1 Samuel 11 by saving Jabesh Gilead. So Saul had many qualitis.
But there was another part to King Saul. There was some darkness in his life. Had Saul recognized and owned it for what it was the scripture would be different. But Saul lived in denial, even when people told him the truth. Jonathan told him, listen, David isn’t your enemy, and for a short while he listened.
We have to be cautious about the dark parts of our life. Sometimes we deny our own faults and weaknesses by saying, “Look at all the good parts of me. I do good things.” And we ignore the parts in us that we should own and bring to God to get fixed.
Or, we deny the faults and weakness of others by saying, “Look at the good they do, at least he brings home a paycheck. He is a good father. She is a good mom.” Instead of realizing this person is an abuser.
That dark side got the best of Saul. After David killed Goliath he heard what the women were saying in 1 Samuel 18:7 “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” Saul was angry and the saying displeased him. He thought they like David better than me. The scripture says that a distressing spirit from the Lord came upon him. 1 Samuel 18:11 tells us what happened. David was playing the harp in Saul’s presence. David was like one of his sons in the house. And that man, with all of his good characteristics, in spite of the anointing, in spite of all the good he had done, became an abuser. 1 Samuel 18:11 “And Saul cast the spear, for he said, “I will pin David to the wall!” But David escaped his presence twice.”
3. Run If You Have To
How did David handle it? He decided to run. He didn’t say to himself, “Well I’m going to stay here and be a martyr.” David had done nothing to Saul other than give him respect, even risking his own life for Saul’s kingdom. Notice what David did. 1 Samuel 19:10b “…and he drove the spear into the wall. So David fled and escaped that night.”
Sometimes the best option is to run. If a person is being abused, they should remove themselves from the situation. The first step to healing abuse sometimes is making the decision to leave.
Where did David run?
The first place he ran to was…
a. To God
David chronicled so many of his thoughts in the Psalms. I love the way the Message paraphrases Psalm 31. It kind of gives us insight.
Psalm 31:1-5 The Message
“I run to you, God; I run for dear life.
Don’t let me down!
Take me seriously this time!
Get down on my level and listen,
and please—no procrastination!
Your granite cave a hiding place,
your high cliff aerie a place of safety.
3-5 You’re my cave to hide in,
my cliff to climb.
Be my safe leader,
be my true mountain guide.
Free me from hidden traps;
I want to hide in you.
I’ve put my life in your hands.
You won’t drop me,
you’ll never let me down.”
David ran to God, he cried out to God, he looked to God for his safety. He looked to God to be his place of refuge. Healing and safety and security is found in Him. David looked for wisdom and guidance from God as well.
The beautiful thing is that God has promised wisdom to all who will ask for it. God has said that he will lead us by his Spirit. Sometimes these situations are not the easiest to navigate. But like David we can run to God and make Him our refuge.
And then we know that David ran
b. To a place of physical safety
David found himself in many different places of refuge, we have read the names of some of these places in the Word. Whether it was the Cave of Adullam, the Wilderness of Paran, the Wilderness of En Gedi, or the Forest of Hereth, those places became David’s safe place. David said, I am going to find a place of physical safety.
The story of David running and fleeing from his abuser parallels the story that many have. It’s not easy to start over. It’s not easy to move out of a house into an apartment. It’s not easy to move back to your old home town, or back in with your parents. But the key is that your life is valuable.
David saw himself and his life and his destiny as worth it. He knew what God had promised. He knew God would bring that destiny to path. It was as though God lead David from place to place. And he will do the same for you. Don’t be afraid! Trust in him.
And then David ran…
c. To people who would give him support
Don’t think that it is God’s plan that you just handle everything by yourself. That is our American way isn’t it? We pride ourselves on our ability to maintain independence. But that is not His way, God created us for community. God created the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. God wants for you to be connected with brothers and sisters.
Do what you can to develop a support system. Perhaps visit a Celebrate Recovery to find support there. Maybe you just gather some friends and family around you. But listen, don’t face life alone. Join a local church. Attend a small group. God wants you to have support.
You can see this in the story of David as he flees from his abuser. He seeks counsel and confides in and shares his life with his good friend Jonathan. Saul goes to Samuel, his spiritual advisor, to seek counsel and to stay with him for a period of time. He turns to Ahimelech the priest to get bread. Ahimelech gives him a needed sword. David finds a wife by the name of Abagail, and she gives him support. Finally he goes to the Cave of Adullam and he gathers some people around him. All of those who were in debt, or in distress, or discontented become David’s men. Until finally he is surrounded by as many as 400 men.
This is the point: You need others. So trust God to bring you the people you need in your life.
- Set Appropriate Boundaries
Boundaries are verbal statements that help us to define who we are and what will and will not be tolerated by us. For more information on this, read Henry Cloud’s book entitle Boundaries, When to say no, when to say yes, how to take control of your life. Of course, abusers do not respect boundaries, so when dealing with abusers you must be willing to have other support in your life.
One of David’s boundaries was that he would not touch the Lord’s anointed. That was a personal belief that he had. Two times David had opportunity to literally kill the one who was abusing him, and he would have been justified at men’s sight in doing but he refused to do it. But David wouldn’t cross that line. Once in a cave where he was hiding, and then again when he snuck into Saul’s camp. He had opportunity to break that boundary.
Another boundary he had to make was to tell his best friend goodbye and not see Jonathan anymore.
He did so. I am sure it broke his heart. But he had to set a boundary, because had he continued to try to see Jonathan it would have put his own life at risk. And although David loved Jonathan he set a boundary.
Abusers are those who do not see boundaries. And many times, those who are abused do not know how to set appropriate boundaries. That is why this is so important.
We need to remember that God is the inventor of boundaries. God is the creator of boundaries. He tells the sea, go this far and no further. He created boundaries in the garden of Eden. God gave Israel the land promised to Abraham. And he told Abraham, these are the boundaries. And then, God set moral boundaries. He said, don’t sleep with your sister. He said, don’t murder. He said, don’t lie. These are all boundaries that God has set.
The issue with abusers and those who are being abused is usually a boundary issue. That is why you need people in your life to assist you in this process.
I have a boundary. I am not going to be cursed at. I am not talking about if someone says a cuss word in my presence. That doesn’t bother me. But if someone decides that they are going to cuss me out. I am going to set a boundary. I am going to tell them, even if I offended them or hurt them in some way:
“I don’t deserve to be cursed at. I am going to remove myself from this room and when you are able to have a calm discussion, we can talk but until then I am out of here.” By the way, you don’t deserve to be cussed at either.
Sometimes people need help in learning how to say, I won’t be treated this way! This is not to say that it is someone’s fault when an abuser crosses a boundary. But rather I am saying that in healing abuse, we must strengthen our resolve to have appropriate boundaries. Reconciliation or even having a feeling of safety is impossible unless appropriate boundaries are established.
I want you to notice what this point doesn’t say. It doesn’t say, forgive and reconcile. I love to see that happen, but trust and developing a relationship take time. And sometimes, reconciliation is impossible. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t forgive. We forgive in order to free ourselves. When we forgive, we free ourselves from bitterness, anger, and from the desire to seek vengeance on the person or their family. Forgiveness is not putting yourself in a place to be hurt again. It is not saying that what happened to you didn’t matter or wasn’t wrong. Forgiveness is simply releasing the pain and hurt and the situation into God’s hands.
David was estranged from Saul until Saul finally died. But I honestly believe in all of those years when David was fleeing he had dealt with his own self to the degree where he was free. He had forgiven Saul.
I never have found a verse that says that exactly. But it is pretty obvious from his actions.
- In 2 Samuel 1 David writes a lamentation following Saul’s death. In that lamentation he honors Saul for his accomplishments. He says good things about him.
- The man who announced that he had killed Saul made a mistake by thinking David would be happy about that, David had him put to death.
- And then, David looked for someone in Saul’s household that he could show kindness to. 2 Samuel 9, He found Mephibosheth who was one of Saul and Jonathans relatives who was lame in his feet and David brought him to his own house and had him sit around his table.
Forgiveness brings healing to you. Someone once said that refusing to forgive is like swallowing poison and hoping the other person dies. Forgiving is necessary for us to be right with God. Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Many people struggle in forgiving those who have abused them, because they don’t understand the meaning of forgiveness. Unforgiveness keeps a chain upon us that is linked to that abuse we suffered.
Forgiving is one of the necessary steps to healing abuse.
- Spend Time In His Presence
No one teaches us more than David about the presence of the Lord. We know that David was a worshipper. Being in the manifest presence of the Lord is also necessary for healing abuse. When David came back to Ziklag and found it burned to the ground, his wife taken, and his men turning against him, David knew what to do. David encouraged himself in the Lord. The psalmist of Israel knew how to sing, to dance, to worship, to meditate and enjoy his God. David knew that as he worshipped the presence of God would fall around him, that is why David wrote these words in Psalm 16 “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
In Psalms 147:3 NIV David states, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” If you are hurting emotionally or other ways from the abuse you have suffered. Run to the presence of God. I have personally found that it is the most wonderful way for healing to come.