Samuel, Day 20: Confronting Abuse in Your Family


Read 1 Samuel, chapter 20 and 21

I saw something in chapter 20 that I’ve never seen here before. David confronted Jonathan with the truth about his father Saul. Saul was out to kill David, but Jonathan didn’t want to believe it.

It dawned on me that this happens in many homes of abusers. Abuse of all kinds (physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, etc.) is often hidden from the family. The abuser knows his or her behavior is wrong so they keep it secret and threaten the abused if they ever reveal it.

In this story, Saul is the abuser, David is the abused, and Jonathan is the ignorant family member. When David confronts Jonathan with the truth, Jonathan can’t believe it. Listen to how Jonathan is quick to defend his father:

“That’s unthinkable! You’re not going to die! My father does nothing without telling me, whether it’s important or not. Why should my father hide this from me? It’s just not that way.” 1 Samuel 20:2

But it WAS that way. More than he could imagine. It was just so hard to believe that Jonathan’s first reaction was to deny it.

I often wonder how the abused person feels when they finally have the courage to open up about what’s been happening and someone tells them that it’s not possible. How shaming it must feel. What they are being told is that they are overreacting at best, and a liar at worst. Not the response you need in that moment.

Thankfully, David didn’t back down. He persisted:

I solemnly swear, as the LORD and you live, I’m only one step away from death.”1 Samuel 20:3

And thankfully, Jonathan was willing to at least consider that David wasn’t lying.

“As the LORD God of Israel ⌊is my witness⌋,” Jonathan continued, “I’ll find out in the next two or three days how my father feels about you. If he does feel kindly toward you, then I will send someone to tell you. 1 Samuel 20:12

Jonathan was willing to consider David’s accusation because Jonathan trusted David that much. But many abused people aren’t so lucky. Family members often “circle the wagons” and turn the accusation back on the accuser, refusing to look at the reality of the abuse that may have existed for years.

It makes sense, if you think about it. To admit that abuse has existed in your home does two things: one, it implicates someone you love. It shatters the image you have of them and you aren’t so sure you will know how to treat them or think of them if the accusation is true. Two, it implicates you for being blind to something that took place under your same roof. That’s hard to swallow. How could you have been so blind? It’s much easier to just ignore or deny the accusation.

David and Jonathan set up a way to determine if David was right or not. And sure enough, David was right about Saul. Saul’s anger at David’s absence proved it. And Jonathan experienced first hand the wrath of his dad:

Saul raised his spear to strike him. Then Jonathan knew his father was determined to kill David.  Jonathan got up from the table very angry and ate nothing that second day of the month. He was worried sick about David because Jonathan had been humiliated by his own father. 1 Samuel 20:33, 34

I realize that you probably didn’t expect abuse to come up as a devotional topic. Maybe it makes you uncomfortable. But it’s more common than we like to admit and God wants to bring it out of hiding.

Maybe abuse is the secret you and your family have been keeping. This story shows that, like David, we should expose abuse. And like Jonathan, we need to break the silence and listen to those who have the courage to bring it up.

This issue may not affect you, but it affects someone you know. Maybe it would be good to send them this post today.

Prayer: Father, it’s sad to admit that abuse happens in so many homes today, even the homes of Christians. Help us to find the courage to confront it and admit to it when it’s exposed. And then bring the healing to everyone involved that only you can bring. Amen.

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