Janet Marie Napper and Brenda Branson. Overcoming Abuse God’s Way: Rags to Riches. Bloomington: WestBow Press, 2012. See here to buy the book.
This book is Janet Marie Napper’s testimony and reflections about her experiences with abuse, and how her Christian faith has helped her to move on. She was sexually abused as a child, and that made her feel worthless. She became promiscuous because she was desperately looking for love. She married people who physically and verbally abused her, or who were initially kind but became hateful towards her. When she became a Christian, she learned about God’s love for her, and she also observed love among Christians. Faith gave her more of a backbone. She arrived at a point where she did not need a man to feel fulfilled, so she turned down three marriage proposals. Eventually, she married a man with whom she could serve God.
I decided to read this book because I was curious about what it means to overcome abuse God’s way. I personally am not a victim of abuse, but I do know people who have been victims of abuse. I also struggle with passages in the Bible. I think that biblical concepts, such as forgiveness, reconciliation, meekness, submitting to one’s husband, turning the other cheek, and loving the unlovable can be misused in such a way as to tolerate or enable abusers. These themes do exist in Scripture, but there are also themes like justice and protecting people from harm. I was curious as to how the book would interact with those themes.
But I was also curious about how a person can move on from trauma. I have enough difficulty moving on from past slights, rejection, and unkindness towards me. But moving on from abuse? How could a person do that? And how could God expect a person to do that?
The book did not directly interact with many of the biblical themes that I mentioned above. At the same time, Napper did try to understand where abusers or people who failed to love her were coming from: to understand that they themselves were hurt, and to appreciate that even they are loved by God.
The book gives some practical tips on overcoming abuse from a Christian perspective. A lot of it involves embracing God’s love and no longer feeling worthless. Listening to the advice of wise Christians is also important, for Napper. She regrets that she did not do so before marrying a man she met in a bar, a man who knew the Bible yet was backslidden.
One may need to sift through what Napper says to discern the best way to overcome abuse. Napper says that she does not want to gossip about abusers. At the same time, she says it is a good idea to tell someone about the abuse. She talks about the time when she called the cops on her past husband. Yet, she also tells about a time when she feels God gave her the wisdom to respond to her past husband in a constructive manner. Perhaps one should not read this book with the attitude of “Go and do likewise” with respect to how Napper responded to abuse. Sometimes, she did the right thing. Some of what she did, however, may not have good results for another victim of abuse.
I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.