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.”
There is scriptural precedence for blame not being split down the middle. This is a point we all need to understand when it comes to marital problems.
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.
This is a continuation of my last blog post, “Naghmeh Abedini: How Do We Respond?”
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.
As I wrote in my last blog post; Christian women are taught to stay, pray, hope, encourage, love through actions, and wait on God. Here is the catch—God gives us free choice and the spouse has a choice in the outcome. The above does not apply in an abusive marriage or a marriage plagued with unfaithfulness. God does allow for separation and divorce. See Toxic Intervention. A Toxic Relationship and a Therapeutic Separation. Biblical Permission to Leave a Toxic Spouse.
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
- Substance abuse
- 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 full respect. (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:
FACEBOOK: Saeed Abedini added 2 new photos — with Saeed Abedini.
Warm Greetings Dear Saints!
We Love because He first Loved us. (1John 4:19)
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 updated my blog with a new look—check it out! While you’re there read my latest post, part 1, random thoughts on the Abedini’s marriage where I will share my thoughts on spousal abuse in the Christian home.
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.
Below you will find links to interviews and more articles.
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
Do you believe her? Naghmeh Abedini, wife of imprisoned for his faith Pastor Saeed claims she has been silent about the abuse she suffered from him.