The Bible: What to Say and Not Say to an Abuse Survivor

By Nancy Virden (c) 2019

Neglect and abuse, emotional and otherwise, may carve false beliefs into a victim’s mindset. One such belief is the devaluation of self. Another is a general distrust. Doesn’t it make sense then, that one who cannot believe one is worthy of love would struggle with the concept of grace? If significant people have repeatedly demanded a price for one’s existence, how will words like holy, love, and sin translate to one’s spirit?

Grace, the best Christmas gift ever

It is likely you have heard of the phrase, “John 3:16”.  Fewer know it is a Bible verse, and of those who do, fewer still know what it says. Whatever you are aware of it, you may be surprised by what follows in verse 17.

John 3: 16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:17: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him, might be saved.

The original word translated into the English begotten, means One and Only or unique. While we are children of God when we believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection for the saving of our souls (explained in verses 14-15),  we are adopted. Jesus is the only begotten Son.

Here’s the surprising beauty 

We can never be good enough to appease a holy God. Never.  Yes, that is beautiful! 

Jesus did not come to demand we work our way into God’s good graces. He was not hoping to wipe out the world and throw anyone away.  He still is not looking for the next opportunity to pin someone to the wall. The point of his coming to earth was to give everyone the opportunity to be with him forever. 

Encourage a survivor of abuse with these words

First, validate the neglect and abuse suffered by the victim. Do not easily buy the abuser’s excuses, tears, admissions of guilt, or repentance. This person has been deceiving for a long time and is good at it. If he or she has been in the church long, religious “language” comes easily. 

Second, avoid interrogating or asking intrusive questions of the victim. This is not a trial; allow the Holy Spirit to do his job. 

Third, speak the truth. Draw attention to the fact that an abuser is never right in acting out. No victim ever caused another person to act out abusively.

We have a spiritual enemy who loves to lie and will pounce on any vulnerability to put power behind those lies. The trauma of neglect and other forms of abuse has served as a jumping-off point for those lies. With help and time, the truth of a survivor’s great worth in the eyes of God will rise above false blame and other messages from the abuser.

Share gently the truth of God’s unending love, proving how it compares to earthly superficial, and temporary love. Show that he embraces anyone who comes to Jesus. No false sense of being “too bad for God” that cemented into a victim’s belief system is unchangeable. 

Speak of trust and be trustworthy.  Show the scriptures that support your positive message. This is to prove you are not making it up. Do not add to a sense of condemnation by using scripture to teach the victim how to think more along with your liking.

Trust comes with time and experience. By learning that God’s love is never fake, and seeing you demonstrate it, the survivor may come to understand that God abandons no one.

Finally, wait patiently 

Let the survivor who is newly free from an abuser talk and talk and talk some more if needed.  This is a crucial and painful time for mental processing, challenging and changing one’s core beliefs, and shifting one’s worldview.

This is often best done with a professional. Be helpful in finding the right specialist, possibly a trauma therapist. Listen non-judgementally, but do not attempt to practice therapy (telling people how to think, what to do) unless you are trained to do so.

Allow as much time as a person who is escaping abuse needs to overcome the past. Pray, do not rush. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Proverbs 18:13-14  (NLT)
Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish. The human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear a crushed spirit?


Nancy Virden Seminar, May-2016
Photo Joe Boyle Photography

Always the Fight Ministries (ATFM) has been displaying compassion for those fighting mental illness, addiction, or abuse since 2012. Nancy is the founder and voice of ATFM and openly shares her emotional resurrection from despair. 


NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional, and speak only from personal experiences and observations. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.
If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.
If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. or go to your nearest emergency room. In the EU call 112. (For other international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours!


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