I, along with many of my readers, repeatedly prayed for Naghmeh Abedini as soon as she disclosed she had suffered abuse from her husband, Saeed Abedini.
Naghmeh worked tirelessly to achieve freedom for Saeed from being unjustly imprisoned in Iran for trumped-up charges by the Iranian government. I imagine more than anything she was hopeful Saeed’s heart, soul, mind and strength would be physically and spiritually delivered once he left his captors. It was one year ago that Saeed was released and returned to America.
Naghmeh recently disclosed on her Facebook page this message:
“It is with a heavy and broken heart that I inform all of you who have prayed and wept with our family the last few years, that Saeed has rejected counseling for anger and abuse and has filed for a divorce. There will be a time to share more fully, but for now, we appreciate your prayers.”
Prayer warriors who have lived through their own abusive marriages and managed to break free to safety prayed that Saeed would be one of only a few, if not the first, to see he is abusive and desire to seek help and healing. But alas, he took the road most traveled, refused to repent, refused to acknowledge he needed help for addiction and abusive behaviors, and is actively working toward his marriage ending in divorce.
Since Saeed must like his life style and choices, I’m grateful that God has provided Naghmeh the avenue of divorce to achieve safety, sanity and healing.
It has saddened, frustrated and angered me to see people post on Facebook that Naghmeh could possibly try harder, pray more, forgive again, be more fun in the bedroom (this one infuriates me), and…wait for God to change Saeed’s heart. Seriously! If being starved and tortured in an Iranian prison for three years didn’t allow the Holy Spirit to prick his conscience that God wanted to work on his heart condition I don’t know that anything can grab Saeed’s attention!
Why do so many people in the church believe abused wives must stay with their abuser? Why do they believe the wife holds responsibility in how her abuser treats her? God does not love the institution of marriage more than he loves people. Yes, he created marriage but he also created the divorce decree, and He created it for situations like this. Naghmeh has biblical grounds to allow her marriage to end through divorce. Why do well-known Christians still support Saeed through finances, speaking engagements and asking him to help with other prisoner negotiations. Saeed needs to receive consequences from the Christian community for his abusive treatment toward his wife and for his non-repentance.
The church needs to be a safe place for victims; not a cover for abusers. Yes, abusers need the Lord and the church, but in context…for consequences, accountability, serious professional counseling, in-depth Bible study, mentoring, and massive amounts of prayer.
A year later, I celebrate Naghmeh Abedini for her quiet, godly spirit throughout the last year. I adore that as life became rougher, she became calmer—anchored to the Lord God Almighty. Resting in His sovereignty, accepting His peace, waiting on His timing, obeying His voice, and seeking His healing.
Naghmeh tenderly expressed through a brief exchange with me yesterday that the Gary Thomas article, Enough is Enough, “is the heart of what I believe and am praying for.”
In How Do We Respond: Part 2 I worked off the premise that, “Domestic violence and abuse of any type is not a marital issue; it is an abuse issue.”
“The abuser needs healing.”
Now on to my reasoning for having the abuser obtain counseling without the presence or help of the spouse: The victim shares no responsibility in the abuser’s character, attitude or actions.
There is scriptural precedence for blame not being split down the middle.
Let’s consider Nabal and Abigail from I Samuel 25. Abagail was living in an abusive nightmare. And let’s make one thing clear: No woman deserves to be abused. Education, social standing, beauty, or lack thereof…nothing gives cause for a human to be treated with abuse yet we read of Nabal, an abusive husband to, Abigail, “an intelligent and beautiful woman.” The Bible describes Nabal as harsh and evil in his dealings. I Samuel 25:3. I understand a good deal about narcissistic personality disorder and will restate what I have read numerous times from Christian psychologists; Nabal was a narcissist. He was utterly selfish, ungrateful, mean, sarcastic, arrogant, and lacked any amount of empathy.
An extremely wealthy Nabal refused David’s request to feed David’s 600 men. That was the hospitable custom of the day for travelers; especially since David and his men had been protecting Nabal’s workers from theft and harm during their stay in the desert. Thereafter, when David went to kill Nabal and the males who belonged to Nabal, he met Abigail riding her donkey on the road. She was a wise woman and was on her way to intercede with food and drinks, and to ask for forgiveness. I imagine she was thinking of her innocent family members; not Nabal. Abigail, “got off her donkey” and pleaded, “Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent.” After David listened to Abigail’s appeal, he was impressed by her and thanked her for keeping him from bloodshed that day.
Abigail showed immense courage; plus she was sensible, capable and persuasive. Being an abused woman DOES NOT mean you are weak, incapable, stupid, unattractive, boring in the bedroom, or insensible. Most likely you are strong. How else could you survive the abuse? Nabal could have severely punished Abigail for her independent actions that went against the rules of marriage in those days. David and his men could have taken her life and continued on to massacre Nabal’s household. Yes, Abigail, was strong and courageous.
David was wise. He listened. He took extra time and effort to understand Abigail’s predicament. He did not hold Abigail responsible for her husband’s actions or tell her she held a portion of responsibility for his actions. Neither did the Lord; in fact, when Abigail told Nabal what she had done, “He became like a stone.” Possibly he became so worked up that, “His heart failed him.” Ten days later the Lord took Nabal.
I can’t tell you how many abused women have hoped for such an ending. I would like to take a poll and find out for myself. That may sound terrible but I’m just being honest. The flip side of this is the numerous women who were in total despair, saw no hope, and imagined there was no way out; choosing instead to end their lives with suicide.
Now let us take a look at Lot and his wife in Genesis 19. This is the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; the city which archaeologists claim to have found in the last few years.
Sodom and Gomorrah is a stern, wise warning that indulgence, not restrained by the Holy Spirit in us, arouses lust and can leave us continually wanting more. Lot, his wife and their family were told to, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back.” Lot’s wife disobeyed the urgent command and looking back, turned into a pillar of salt. Did the Lord judge Lot by his wife’s actions? No. Lot’s wife made an independent decision and received the foretold consequence for her actions.
Now we will look at Joseph in Genesis 39. He acted honorably with truth yet Potiphar’s wife persuasively lied resulting in Joseph’s imprisonment. I believe Potiphar probably knew his wife was lying and that is why he, “Burned with anger” when he heard the accusation. Because Potiphar’s entire household, including slaves and servants, heard the charge; he was forced to take swift action. Potiphar chose not to have Joseph executed; in fact, Potiphar (Captain of the guard a.k.a.; prison warden) still trusted and respected Joseph and saw fit to place Joseph in charge of everyone, and responsible for everything done in the prison.
This is often what women go through in joint counseling when the husband spins a different story. They play the role of victim and the wife gets scolded; leaving her isolated, in despair and in an emotional prison because the professional they trusted to see through the grand acting is blind, deaf and dumb to his antics. Her husband looks great to others around them, and she hurts and grieves horrifically behind closed doors in her home. It is common for the wife to be disbelieved; leaving her beaten down. The wife may feel like the counselor just dug her grave so her husband could bury her alive.
Another problem women tend to have is that some male counselors refuse to call the husband on the carpet over his abuse in front of the wife due to the patriarchal system to which some Christians adhere. In such cases the counselor will reprimand the wife for her desperation or for showing emotional responses to her deep marital wounds. A patriarchal social system can be defined as a system where men are in authority over women in all aspects of society; a false sense of male entitlement. This system employed by an abuser can lead to further verbal, emotional, physical and sexual abuse in the home; silencing the victim. We need people who will hear and,
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;
ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,
and see that they get justice.” Proverbs 31:8-9.
Many in our own American culture seem to hold a view of women as substandard beings. Case in point: Google all the revolting, insensitive, demeaning statements presidential hopeful, Donald Trump, says about women. We don’t need him standing at the top of that slippery slope encouraging other men to join him for the ride.
“Women, our gender will not flourish in a political climate where we are objectified OR deified.” –Beth Moore
The church needs to educate itself on domestic abuse. There are women you see in church every Sunday who are sitting next to their abuser. She has done nothing wrong and yet most counselors would give her at least a gentle rebuke for saying anything negative about her husband when she desperately needs someone to hold the abuser accountable. A gentle rebuke for the abuser serves no purpose; in fact it is a nauseating jest for the woman, as nothing changes. Only strong accountability by the church and a counselor who specializes in rehabilitating abusers will help.
To read a chilling account of a husband and wife who both lacked integrity and who were equally paired in their deceptive ways, duly receiving the same consequence, read Acts 5:1-11. This lesson is not about marital abuse but rather marital co-conspiracy. Peter exposed their fraud of lying to the Holy Spirit and embezzlement. The punishment was proportionate to both; death.
Isaiah 1:17 reads, “Learn to do good; seek justice; reprove the ruthless; defend the orphan; plead for the widow.” Women in this situation are widows; sometimes they are married widows because their husbands have emotionally and spiritually divorced them.
When abuse revelations come forth from a woman in ministry, or she is married to a spouse in ministry, or is publicly well-known—few are interested in hearing the truth of her suffering, and fewer are willing to risk supporting her. It’s uncomfortable to hear. Unless you are living it, it is difficult to imagine such behavior is possible from someone who has been held in such high regard. Although the husband has emotionally and spiritually left the wife he pours on the charisma, charming smiles, spiritual talk, and engaging conversation to outsiders.
“I fear many of us have confused Christendom with Christ. We equate Christian institutions and organizations with the Son of God. They are not the same. Christendom is not even the same as the true body of Christ. Jesus Himself told us that. He said there are tares among the wheat, wolves among the sheep, and whitewashed humans posing as believers — sometimes in leadership. We long to be comfortable somewhere, to fit in, to feel at home, and so we let ourselves think Christendom is safe and fail to see and assess and discern. Instead we listen and follow, or we remain silent. Many poor sheep have unknowingly followed a blind guide and landed in a pit. Christendom, like all institutions or organizations, tries to protect itself. If you doubt that, just expose a case of child sexual abuse by a leader and watch what happens. Christendom has used Scripture to support or hide slavery, racism, domestic violence, and other cruelties our God hates. I fear Christendom today has become less interested in truth and more interested in power and protecting that power. Many have acquired fame, money, status, reputation, and kingdoms. At the same time we are steeped in pornography, marriages are failing in large numbers, the next generation is turning away, and we tolerate leaders in our organizations and pulpits who feed off the sheep. We have had a lot of recent headlines about Christian leaders and Christian systems that look nothing like our Lord. Christendom is not Christ.”¹ – Diane Langberg
This reminds me of when leaders were waiting to see if Jesus would challenge Sabbath teachings by healing a man, (Mark 3) and a woman (Luke 13) on that day. Jesus did heal the needy man and woman, and he told the leaders that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. I believe the same applies to marriage.
The church must choose to love people more than they love things such as the institution of marriage. My commitment to my marriage covenant, and my false belief that divorce was wrong in all cases, kept me in a very sick and dangerous marriage for too long. You cannot make your husband love you, or reason with him to stop the abuse.
Wives in abusive relationships long for their abuser to be reasonable. This will not happen. He’ll justify every offensive word and action. His refusal is the headquarters of his control. Nothing is more frustrating, or more difficult, than living with an unfair, unreasonable, and self-centered abuser.
I have learned that the percentage of abusive men who actually change is close to nil. It usually only escalates. This is a sad fact. It isn’t hopeless if the husband wants to work through the dysfunction because he, “Can do all things through Christ who strengthens” him. We know our God is the God who makes impossibilities possible.
Regardless of an abuser’s cruelty, selfishness, deceit, unfaithfulness, addiction, and/or weakness,—it can’t trump God’s strength.
Prayer for Naghmeh is essential during this time. I hope many more choose to cover her in prayer.
Naghmeh is handling the marital separation with strength that comes only from God, and I admire how she is taking her stand quietly, working hopefully, not bashing her husband, and yet preserving her own dignity.
Domestic violence and abuse of any type is not a marital issue; it is an abuse issue.
The abuser needs healing.
If a woman’s husband has cancer she cannot go to the doctor and receive treatment for him, nor can she consume half of his prescriptions for him. He would need to take all the treatments and meds by himself; for himself. In the case of marital abuse; experts recommend isolated counseling for the abuser. Alone. Long term. Without the spouse.
Today I again write from a place of vulnerability for the sake of abused Christian wives, especially pastors’ and missionaries’ wives, who are in abusive marriages. My heart goes out to hurting women who are not believed when they finally muster up the courage to tell their family, friends and/or church that they have been secretly abused in their own home and are now seeking help and healing.
You never know what goes on in someone else’s home. You have no way of understanding if the woman sitting next to you in Bible study, or worshiping next to you in church is secretly being mistreated in her home. If she should muster up the courage to tell you; please listen. Please believe her.
What is at the root of abuse?
Most abuse comes from one, or a combination, of these factors:
Pornography and sexual addictions
Personality disorders or untreated mental illness
Deep seeded societal and/or nonbiblical religious views of women as objects/property
The abuser has a background of victimization
The abuser is emulating what they learned as a child from their own dysfunctional parent/s.
Yet an admission of guilt from the abuser is rare; and more exceptional is an abuser seeking heartfelt help to overcome their attitudes and actions. What’s more common is the abuser denying responsibility, placing the blame on the victim, and justifying every unloving word, dishonorable behavior, and/or violent act. As if this isn’t difficult enough for the wife to survive (or in some cases the man because there are abused men too) she has to endure his grand acting ability to win over anyone who will listen to him.
By the way; the above is not limited to marriages. It can be found in other relationships: Friendships, significant others, extended family, siblings, co-workers, politicians, community leaders, or neighbors.
In Naghmeh Abedini’s case she has to endure seeing television and internet interviews, and reading newspapers, blogs, forums and Facebook posts where Saeed acts like nothing is wrong except a wife who has undergone extreme stress for the last few years during his imprisonment and needs help overcoming her issues.
I understand some of Naghmeh’s heartache and frustration, but I never suffered in a media driven, national and international, environment as she is.
By the way—you’ll notice I don’t refer to Saeed as, Pastor Saeed. It is purposeful due to the fact that he is not an ordained pastor through any church denomination, or non-denomination; rather he purchased a mail order certificate.¹ Plus the Bible has clear teachings about those in leadership and teaching positions in the church for which Saeed does not presently qualify.
“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of fullrespect.(If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.” I Timothy 3:1-7
In a statement to the Idaho Statesman (January 30, 2016), Saeed thanked his wife for advocating on his behalf. He said that his marriage is troubled and that he is not perfect, but he downplayed the allegations of abuse.
“Much of what I have read in Naghmeh’s posts and subsequent media reports is not true,” he said in the statement. “But I believe we should work on our relationship in private and not on social media or other media.”
“In private.” “Not on social media or other media.”His words.
Two weeks later on social media Saeed posted this:
This is my first post on Facebook after 4 long years of imprisonment. I see there is a LOVE story between us as I went through hardship of imprisonment by you showing your support with sending hundreds & thousands of letters of encouragement and LOVE to the prison. 1000’s of cities and countries and locations gathering for pray vigils, sending gifts to my wife and children, etc.. .
You created a LOVE story that even Muslims in Iran talked about.
My beloved sisters and brothers, I want you to know how much I LOVE you and how much Your prayers and support changed my situation and how much I am thankful for your heart and Care.
I am grateful for marriage counselors who have been helping me but my wife’s relationship with me is not good at this point, so we need prayer that she joins this counseling process with us.
Free By Christ For Christ
An emotionally and spiritually healthy husband would not put such a spin on his words. I read an agenda, an ulterior motive coming through loud and clear. He could have requested, “Please pray for my family” but didn’t. He referred to marital problems and stated, “My wife’s relationship with me is not good.” He manipulated words to indicate to his readers that Naghmeh is the one getting in the way of reconciliation; not him. Please refer to my opening paragraph, “Domestic violence and abuse of any type is not a marital issue; it is an abuse issue.”
Abusers lack humility and honesty. They fail to take responsibility for their role in the condition of their family and marriage.
A godly man would not treat his wife like this—he should advocate his willingness to seek healing and restoration, or make a full admission and acknowledge she has biblical grounds to leave him. Publically, Saeed is making no attempt to win her back. We read nothing like this.
This reminds me of my own ex-husband. He was abusive in the home, ripe with mental illness, and void of conscience all while publicly portraying the godly, soul-winning, personable, full of charisma, scripture quoting, dynamic speaking pastor.
While he was sitting in jail, awaiting trial for being a child molester he penned a letter. The letter was downright disturbing for me to read but what angered me was the fact that the evangelistic association he sent it to believed him. Then they adored him—and praised him—and forwarded the letter to their prayer and financial partners all over the world so they could pray for this (supposed) humble, misunderstood, wrongly accused man of God. Read the letter here: Man Sentenced to Life in Prison Under Jessica’s Law
Based on personal messages I receive from readers; abusers know no boundaries and come from every walk of life including Christian ministry homes. I read of abuse in evangelical homes being common place. I read of some church ministries which recommend the wife stay silent for the sake of Christ’s reputation. What!
Christ does not need us to protect His reputation. He is completely secure in who He is. There is nothing we can do, good or evil, that changes who He is and what He can do.
The book of Isaiah holds a prophecy of the coming Messiah: “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,” Isaiah 61:1b
He came to set us free; on earth, and for eternity.
“Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead expose them;” Ephesians 5:11
Sincere sorrow, true repentance, and a renewed heart toward his wife and children would keep Saeed Abedini out of the spotlight, or at least initiate confessing his problems so healing and reconciliation could happen in his family. Instead he is enjoying the fame and taking advantage of the free press, television air time, and financial help while it is available while showing no remorse for his actions toward his wife.
As my ex-husband insisted, God had called him to the ministry and not even his wife and child were going to keep him from his calling. The truth was he relished the public popularity ministry afforded him, and he enjoyed his sinful, messed up choices in life more than he desired healing and reconciliation.
Many friends, mentors, family members and church leaders attempted to call my ex-husband (at the time my husband) to accountability. People saw character flaws, sin issues, and leadership problems but he refused help, church discipline, and would not listen to those in authority over him.
I’m glad Saeed Abedini was delivered from an unjust prison sentence. I pray he finds the strength and courage to repent, honor God and honor Naghmeh, and show both God and Naghmeh respect from a grateful heart; a heart full of healed, true love.
In my next post I will give scriptural precedence for blame not being split down the middle for a marriage in crisis due to abuse.
Naghmeh remains verbally, publicly challenged by many who do not believe her story. I hope through sharing my history and insight with my readers that more people choose to trust her testimony, and lift her up in prayer.
¹. Facedbook; Naghmeh Abedini, public profile page, March 1, 2016, 6:07 a.m.
I’ve never found a handbook that teaches a woman how to, step by step, respond or react to her abuser. Emotionally and spiritually there is rarely consistent logic to a victim’s response to abuse. It isn’t easy to reconcile what’s supposed to be love with what is committed as abuse. No two abusers are alike and their victims have different coping techniques.
In this, and future posts, I will share my thoughts on Naghmeh Abedini’s abuse allegations.
An abuse victim play-by-play book doesn’t exist; however, there are helpful books on the subject that can now be found for sale or at your local library; for that I’m thankful.
Why did Naghmeh take so long to tell, you may be asking?
Possibly, simply because Christian women don’t tell.
Good wives don’t talk poorly about their husbands. You never tell your family because that may incite them to not like him—and they might encourage you to leave him. We are taught at Bible College, in the church and by godly older women that we never speak poorly of our husbands; especially when you are in the ministry—which she was.
They are to encourage their husbands, respect their husbands, forgive them, pray for them, hope in them, help them, and make love a daily action even when they don’t feel like it. Be intentional about how they respond in love; not frustration or anger. Don’t dwell on the negative; concentrate on the good parts. Be the one to set the tone for the atmosphere in their home to keep it positive and productive. Let go of pride.
Don’t compare their marriage to anyone else’s marriage. Don’t compare their attitude or actions to his. Pray that God will change their heart and through that, improve the difficulties in their marriage.
Care, adore, smile, kiss passionately, forgive, forgive again, be gracious, listen, compliment him, comfort him, and be content. Stay…always stay the course—it WILL pay off. It will! It does not matter how the woman feels; what matters is how they respond. With God, all things are possible! Especially if both of you profess Christ as your Lord and Savior.(The above does not apply in an abusive marriage or a marriage plagued with unfaithfulness.)
Remember there were reasons she grew to love him in the first place. There were and are good qualities too.
Many Christian women who are abused by their husbands often suffer in silence; praying and waiting on God to deliver them while being careful not to shout from the rooftops, or whisper in the corner, their husband’s abusive nature.
Add in public ministry, and revealing the abuse becomes more difficult. Remember she did take legal action against him in 2007 for domestic abuse.
On top of all this, if it were me, I would begin to notice that life was easier without him around. A wife would notice, “I’m beginning to feel like myself again, I am competent, I’m not crazy, and it’s not all my fault.” The realization might be followed by a sigh of relief that the abuse has stopped due to his imprisonment.
Then God calls you to do what no one else will have the passion to do for the father of your children, and that is be a voice to citizens, churches and government for the plight of persecuted Christians around the globe; along with, your husband and other American citizens being held hostage; wrongly imprisoned in Iran. Toss in being in the international spotlight and you have a recipe for keeping quiet in the moment.
And if God called me to do this for my husband; I would hope and believe with all my heart that the man I love would come home, if he comes home, a changed man. Come home repentant and apologetic for the ways he abused me and didn’t love me the way God intended for him to love me. Yes, in my mind I would believe God allowed him to be wrongly imprisoned to get his attention and lead him to change his heart and actions.
We can make many guesses as to why God allowed Saeed to be freed from prison at the same time as allowing this story to come out in the news. I believe God’s heart and will is to humble and bring Saeed Abedini to true repentance—something being a hostage in prison seemingly failed to do.
I also believe God wants to set the prisoners of spousal abuse free. Naghmeh’s story has international pull. Let’s pray for freedom to happen instead of enabling her husband’s sin through undeserved flattering praise.
Jesus Christ never treated women in a hard-hearted or dismissive way, or used violence against women for any purpose. Jesus came to give our dignity, worth and voice back to us.
Over time I have become a HUGE advocate of individual treatment for abusers; which does not include traditional marital counseling between the husband and wife. THIS DOES NOT WORK! Abusers tend to be smooth talkers who NEVER take responsibility for their actions. NEVER! They spin, justify and explain away every abusive word and action. This can cause total despair for the wife and has on occasion led to abused women committing suicide.
I’m saddened that there are several men, and even some pastors and leaders, who are treating Naghmeh in a dismissive—you have a part in this too—way. She is the victim! She bears no responsibility in Saeed’s treatment of her. For Saeed, or anyone, to say counseling cannot happen unless Naghmeh joins him is foolish.¹ At this point they do not need marital counseling; Saeed needs long-term, professional counsel from a godly teacher who specializes in rehabilitating abusers. Until then, Naghmeh has every right to maintain distance. Most counselors would want to split blame down the middle between Saeed and Naghmeh, but those who specialize in treating abusers know all the blame goes squarely on the shoulders of Saeed.
Few want to risk supporting the abused wife.
Please join me in supporting her through prayer to the One who hears, who knows, who cares, and who acts on behalf of the prayers.
To be continued…
¹. Facedbook; Saeed Abedini, public profile page, February 14, 2016 at 10:38 p.m.
Today’s post is for those who spent the last three and a half years praying for the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini from his unjust prison sentence in the Iranian prison system. More specifically, if Naghmeh’s testimony is true, this is for those who support her on a new path of setting boundaries as God invites her to participate in the next redemptive part of the story in her husband’s life. Saeed was delivered from the chains of physical prison but she now has a new prison to pray him out of; and it’s a prison that Satan has every intention of keeping Saeed in for life.
Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Satan missed out on killing Saeed Abedini, he stole his testimony (the good news is it can be reclaimed), and Satan desires to destroy the Abedini’s family unit.
I’ve struggled on the path of boundary setting several times in my life, and continue to battle there. Years ago I was led by the Lord to legally separate from my first husband as a means to get his attention that life could not go on as it had. That history gives me a passion for women in difficult relationships and allows me a perception to understand their heart, insecurities, questions and needs. Fortunately the Lord provides a safe place to wrestle through our struggles, brokenness, and call to obedience. If Naghmeh is experiencing anything like I did, she is laboring through her fasting and prayer time with eagerness to CLEARLY hear God’s answers and leading. I imagine she longs to obey her heavenly Father. I know I begged the Lord to not allow me to make a mistake; to make it so clear to this, ‘Dust’ (Psalm 103:14) that there would be no way for me to miss His answer. And most importantly, if I was praying outside of God’s heart and will for my marriage and family—outside of the very best He had for us, that He would override my desires and requests with His sovereignty. Lastly, if I errored I decided I would rather error in faith than in unbelief, rebellion or inaction.
I remember all too well the people who did not believe me. I’m grateful to this day the Lord gave me peace to move forward, not look back, and not concern myself with other people’s opinions. That was difficult for this people pleaser! I remember my, then, husband telling friends and ministry associates that I was having emotional difficulties and that he would be gracious to give me the time I needed to find help and healing. There were abundant lies told about me. He insisted I was causing marital problems since I didn’t want to go back into the ministry with him and because I refused to leave my parents. Both were non-truths! In the end I lost dozens, if not hundreds, of friends and ministry contacts. In the void, God provided me with rich, mature, enduring friendships.
Fast-forward eighteen years: Vindication and justice prevailed. The times when I asked God for an immediate fix and instant safety for my daughter and myself; God was working out a permanent solution for our safety and the protection of children in churches where this man could potentially find more victims. This man now sits in prison for the rest of his life, without the possibility of parole for 25 years. The Lord, acting on the prayers of friends, family and GiveMe Chocolate readers put a known pedophile where he belongs!
Now rewind. During those years of a difficult marriage with an abusive, mentally ill husband I consumed Christian books on marriage. In the process I realized those were great book, but not for my marriage.
So if you are thinking Naghmeh could benefit from Christian marriage and counseling books; please don’t. They are not the place for Naghmeh to begin; no, no, no! Those books are for couples in normal, godly relationships who have hit a rough spot; possibly even infidelity, but who both want to work on honest reconciliation. What Naghmeh is going through is on a different level and she needs mature, godly counsel who understands the abuse she has lived through. More importantly, Saeed needs mature, godly counsel who understands his Islamic background, personality issues, beliefs about women, and addictions. He can choose to stop the wrong behavior, wrong beliefs, and wrong words. It’s up to him.
Here are some accusations toward Naghmeh I have read:
“Think about it for a minute – Saeed’s in jail, he’s getting severely beaten BUT he has enough time to abuse his wife during the brief phone calls or Skype sessions? Wow, he’s quite a guy – and I say that with sarcasm. Quite frankly, I find that scenario difficult to believe.”
Reply: Unfortunately, it is possible to verbally and emotionally abuse your spouse over the phone or via the internet/Skype.
“There are two sides to every story.”
Reply: If Naghmeh’s accusations are true there are not two sides to the story, but possibly five sides to the story (As was in my case):
Naghmeh’s side of what she has lived through and understands.
Naghmeh’s hind-sight that will take years to sort through because of the lasting effects of post-traumatic stress disorder from the spousal abuse and the trauma of the last three and a half years.
Saeed’s version of what he is telling people.
Saeed’s motivation for the abuse he acted out upon his wife, and the addictions about which only he knows the full truth.
God’s truth since He understands His children better than we understand ourselves.
I want to make clear that when abuse is taking place the victim needs support, trust and understanding. Saying there are two sides to abuse is like saying I don’t believe you. If you were to physically see the man beating up the woman, breaking her arm and bruising her face, would you say, “Yes, but the abuser has a side to his story too and we need to hear why he is acting out this way?” NO! We would say, “Stop it.” We would call the police; we would want to protect her; would we not? Verbal and emotional abuse are equally wrong, but possibly make coping more difficult because no one can see, and often do not believe, the abuse under which the spouse is suffering.
Here is Naghmeh Abedini’s Facebook post from shortly after her husband was released from Iran:
“Where’s the proof?”
Reply: Here is a piece of evidence. Saeed plead guilty to a domestic abuse charge.
If the allegations against Saeed Abedini are true, and if he has a church ministry that ordained him a pastor; his ordination needs to be revoked until restoration is complete.
Finally, I’m grateful four American men who were wrongly imprisoned in Iran are now safely back in America.
My prayer is for the Abedini family to find rest for their weary souls.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11: 28-30
This is what the Lord says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16
Have you seen the recent news regarding imprisoned pastor, Saeed Abedini? His wife, Naghmeh, revealed to her inner circle of friends abuse she has suffered from her husband. The letter was somehow leaked to the media.
Here are my thoughts on the matter:
If it is true; oh, please don’t think unkind thoughts of her. Abused people don’t always make sense to the outside world. I speak from experience as one who has been down the path.
Many abused Christian wives are simply doing the best they can at the time. Most of all, they are attempting to hear the Lord and be obedient to the calling He has placed on our lives.
And here is a thought you perhaps have not thought of: Sometimes God calls people to marry a person who is unfaithful and/or abusive. If you think this goes against everything God stands for; think again. Read the book of Hosea for starters. God ordained for Hosea to marry Gomer; who was unloving and unfaithful. We are reminded through this story how undeserving we are of God’s always faithful, unconditional love. His love is constant and our salvation, eternity living in His presence, is guaranteed to those who place their faith in His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ. God is Sovereign—although I admit I don’t always agree with or understand His ways or timing—I do trust Him.
Although abuse cannot be verified, it is possible that Naghmeh has survived and blossomed under her, supposed, oppressive relationship with her husband. She may have suffered in silence for many years while being viewed as nothing more than a man’s piece of property; without losing her sanity, integrity in Christ, her ability to raise her children, and obedience to follow God’s calling to advocate for those wrongly imprisoned and for the persecuted church. She may have needlessly, in some regards, and obediently in others, sacrificially given of herself.
I speak from experience when I tell you that it can be nearly impossible to reconcile in your heart and mind a public man who boldly teaches the word of God and prays, with the private man who secretly treats his wife in the home with ridicule, resentment, the silent treatment, physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse due to his addiction to pornography.
Naghmeh may be on her way to healing, if it is all true, while still not seeing Saeed’s sin in full. I remember those days all too well. When I was divorcing my abusive husband years ago, I had two different attorneys tell me I was still protecting my husband instead of revealing his problems. I was told I was the text book example of an abused wife and that I would need extensive counseling to help me find my way through the fog. They were right! I pray the Christian community, and well known Christian counselors, make themselves available to Naghmeh and her children for ongoing therapy, Bible study and prayer.
Naghmeh talks of Saeed’s love and passion for Jesus, which I believe, but if he abuses his wife; even though his salvation is secure, Saeed is out of fellowship with God and his prayers are not being heard. (John 9:31, Proverbs 28:9, Psalm 66:18, Isaiah 59:2, James 4:3, Galatians 5:22-23) And as for Saeed being, “An amazing dad who pours spiritual truths into his children’s lives;” the bigger truth is perhaps, if he is indeed abusive, that proclaiming scriptural truths at the same time as abusing your wife has huge, profound ramifications on your children’s perception of God and their ability to follow after Him. And if it is true, for her children’s sake, I hope a counselor is able to teach her how to help her children understand that daddy’s abusive behavior is not normal, healthy, or acceptable to God. Should Saeed be freed from prison; and healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation be found they will know how to set healthy boundaries and protect their heart, soul, mind and strength if any generational abusive tendencies resurface.
Naghmeh showed her vulnerability to her closest friends, but I’m glad she chose it none the less. Women aren’t always believed when they finally find the courage to expose their abusive husband. Sometimes women are accused of being vain, other times people turn away in disgust, or think the wife is looking for sympathy or fame. Naghmeh wrote to friends whom she believed would provide safety and hope for healing and peace. Sharing her secret pain has most likely been the greatest sacrifice of her personal feelings. If she did so out of obedience to the Lord; she can trust it is God working out His plan for her family’s life.
My family has been praying for Pastor Saeed’s release from prison for three years; as well as, for God’s heart and will to be done in this situation. We will continue to pray the later while praying for Naghmeh and her children’s healing, and we will pray for Pastor Saeeds restoration, healing and freedom from injustices.
The below letter is from Naghmeh Abedini’s personal but public Facebook page published yesterday, December 7, 2015:
“To my dearest friends,
After a month of resting and healing and sitting at the feet of Jesus, today I felt led to share.
Three years ago, when Saeed was put in the Iranian prison for his faith, the Lord called me to get up and not only advocate for Saeed, but also to share the Gospel message and to advocate for the persecuted church. I was freed from so much fear and it was a step of faith for me to get up and move. When I did obey, I could see that I could DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME (Philippians 4:13) That by Grace of God I could get on airplanes. That by God’s Grace I could speak in front of heads of governments, parliaments, the congress, thousands of people and our own president and I was able to open my mouth through the Grace of God and represent Christ and to share Christ with so many. It was overwhelming seeing how Jesus had become my STRENGTH through my utter WEAKNESS.
A month ago, the Lord asked me to stop and sit. It took another step of faith to stop everything and just sit at the feet of Jesus and to hear from Him. It was freeing to see that by Grace of God none of the fame and attention or praises of men had gotten to me and that I could drop everything the moment my Savior told me to drop it and to go back to being a single mom in Boise, Idaho. It was freeing to let go of the FALSE SENSE of SECURITY that money was bringing into my life (through speaking engagements) and to know that the only thing that all I desperately needed was Jesus. That my true security rests in Jesus. That Jesus is my day to day provider.
I had to turn off every voice including my own and only care about what Jesus was saying to me. It was hard. With the news that came out recently (an email I had sent to prayer partners was leaked to media), stones were being thrown at me left and right and many religious leaders who saw me wounded and bleeding passed on by afraid to touch me or this whole mess/situation. It was hard, but Jesus kept telling me to be silent and to look to Him.
The truth is that I still love my husband more than ever and my advocacy for him has taken a new form of interceding on my knees. The truth is I can not deny Saeed’s love and passion for Jesus and that he continues to suffer in the Iranian prison because of his genuine love for Jesus and his refusal to deny Him. I can not deny the amazing dad he has been to our kids and the spiritual truths he poured into their life until the moment he was arrested. But at the same time I can not deny the very dark parts of our marriage and serious issues Saeed continues to struggle with.
So I open myself up once again and become real and raw in asking you to join me in praying for Saeed. This time not only for his physical chains, but the spiritual chains that have bound him for so many years. Those chains that have stuck to him from the culture he was raised in (Middle East) and from his former religion (Islam). I believe that God will use Saeed’s imprisonment to break Saeed of these chains and to refine him and use him as a vessel for the work that He has prepared for him.
I am not sure how often I will be providing updates, but I will share as the Lord leads. Starting January 5, I am going to start another 21 days of prayer and fasting. It will be a time of drawing closer to the Lord and sharing what He lays on my heart. I hope they will be a source of blessing and encouragement to you as well.
I praise God for all of the ups and downs, excitements and disappointments, and for the many pains and tears. They have been good for me. They are a great tool to refine us and keep our eyes on Jesus.