“Oh, my God, look around this place,
Oh, my God, can I complain?”
Jars of Clay
Abuse is a terrible experience. Generally, when we hear the word abuse, this one time or ongoing event finds association with the female lived experience. Yet we understand more acutely this lived experience touches children and men.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports the following:
Abuse though cannot be relegated to physical acts which have damaged the body. Abuse, can take the form of emotional and psychological trauma, sexual abuse, neglect of basic human needs in the case of children, the handicapped, and elderly, and any misuse of influence in a relationship which creates an environment in which a person perceives his or her self-worth is being actively diminished.
I personally have interacted with men, women, and children who have experienced some form of abuse. It is a devastating situation in which there are no easy solutions. Every situation has its unique circumstances and I have learned one should tread lightly by listening and being supportive.
The Psalms offer an opportunity for a person in an abusive situation to know he or she can traverse multiple landscapes of emotional, physical, and spiritual terrains to deal with this difficult lived experience. Like Psalm 23, we typically do not imagine David walking in the “valley of the shadow of death,” we imagine ourselves. Psalm 109 offers a similar situation.
The Psalmist is you.
The Psalmist is the man or woman who has been raped. She is the young woman who stands in the choir on Sunday and endures the constant berating of her partner because of her weight. He is the young boy who experiences the sexual touches of his mother’s boyfriend and the young boy is told, “If you say anything, I will hurt your mother.” The Psalmist is the young valedictorian who has been threatened by her boyfriend because she double tapped an Instagram post of a male friend she has known since elementary school. The Psalmist is any of us who have gone through or currently experience physical, sexual, emotional, or technological abuse.
How does the Psalmist respond on this rocky terrain of abuse?
You launch a complaint towards heaven because your life, the opportunity for you to move forward has been cut off by lying tongues of wickedness, deceit, and hate. From your innermost being you question why such things have been said or done to you. “I have given love. I receive hate. I have given passion and I receive words which harm me. I have offered what is most precious to me and all I receive is a fist.” Your complaint has been sent heavenward and you long for some type of response.
The terrain changes. I think it is part of our human experience to ask for some swift judgment. If the universe itself bends towards righteousness and justice, it seems only appropriate when I am harmed, my pain functions as small catalyst in the universe towards this equitable outcome.
So, as the Psalmist, I ask heaven to assign a wickedness which is capable to meet my abuser face to face. In your pain, when you are alone, you are secretly calling out for justice to be done. You want his or her life seized so that the pain you have experienced may be felt in his or her own family. This psalm reveals there is room for you to feel this way. There is room for you in the emotional isolation, the long lonely nights of crying, and the despondent looks to call out for heaven to strip everything from your abuser and have his or her sin rest forever upon their life.
This is an emotional catharsis of cries of complaint and cries for justice. Verses sixteen through twenty reveal you want whoever is listening to know the guilt of your abuser and the pain he or she causes. You want to be specific about the lack of kindness, how they do not value human life, and how he or she embraces like clothing a type of life which only brings despair.
I cannot ignore the emotional and physical wear and tear it has on you. Your heart is sick. The very depth of your being, your capacity to give to another is on the verge of death. Your abuse has probably become overwhelming you wonder if your presence is felt. Does anyone notice or are you simply a shadow which will disappear at sunset? You are not an insect to be swatted away. You are not the joke of the one who treats you as one to be scorned.
I want those who have traveled the landscape of abuse or are currently in an abusive situation to know God desires for you to express the totality of your lived experience towards him. He does not stand in judgment of you. He has established himself as the one who hears the groans and cries of those who call out from the abusive land and he will come down to rescue. I don’t know when your slavery will end but I do know at some appointed time God has someone-righteous not wicked- to confront your abuser, deliver you from your abuse, and with the same mouth which spoke with a justified complaint and cried for justice, this same mouth “will give great thanks to the Lord.”