I want to tell you a story.

There’s this man who’s completely in love with this woman. He’s known her since forever, but each day he finds himself falling even more in love with her. Her smile, her quirks, her laugh…everything about her pulls at his heart. He finds himself thinking about her when she’s gone and coming up with any reason he can just to see her. He would do anything for her.

The problem is, this woman has a boyfriend already. And not just any boyfriend: an abusive boyfriend. He manipulates her, he lies to her, he belittles her. Worst of all, he does it in such a way that she doesn’t even see it as abuse; instead, she mistakes it for love.

The man who really loves her has tried to reach her, but he can’t. He’s forced to sit by and watch as his beloved is hurt time and time again. He knows she deserves so much better, and he wants to give her that and more — but instead, he must endure the sight of her suffering, and he feels in his heart the drop of her every tear….

We hear stories like this all the time, and all the while we wonder how someone can fall into that kind of relationship. But it’s not just the woman suffering domestic abuse that falls for it.

Every single one of us does.

The woman in this story is you. The woman in this story is me.

And our abuser is the lies of this world.

When we allow the media, other peoples’ judgments, or self-negativity to dictate our lives, we indeed fall into an abusive relationship with this world. A relationship that manipulates how we act or dress. That takes away our time and consumes our thoughts. That manipulates us into becoming someone other than who we truly are and makes us feel as if we’ll never be enough.

Christ, our Savior, stands by and watches as His Church, His bride — each one of us — settles for this abusive love, when it’s His own heart that He holds out for us to take.

So when abuse masks itself as love, how can we tell the difference between that and the real thing?

Here’s how:

Abusive love whispers sweet lies into your ear, while Christ’s love speaks truthinto your heart.

Abusive love never comes through and always lets you down, while Christ’s promises never fail.

Abusive love tells you that you must change, it’s all your fault, you must be better because you are not good enough and not worthy of love; Christ’s love tells you that you are beautiful, that you are uniquely designed and that you are unconditionally loved.

Abusive love is selfish and seeks to take, to use, while Christ’s love is selfless and seeks only to give, to serve.

Abusive love breaks you down and tears your heart; Christ’s love builds you up and restores your brokenness.

Here’s what you can do right now to end the cycle in your heart:

1. Know your worth.
Whether it’s a person in your life, the ideals of society or the thoughts that race through your mind, we must stop the hold that abusive love has on our hearts. We are worth so much more. We are being offered so much more. And we are worthy of this love He freely gives — simply because He made us and loves us.

It’s time to allow Christ’s love to come into our lives and purge its abusive counterfeit. A purging of this kind though will not be easy; it may be as hard as a break-up. But that is, in fact, what it is…

2. “Break up” with self-hatred and negative thoughts.
Break up with those people in your life that are dragging you down a path towards destruction. Break up with the lies that the devil whispers to you that you are not worthy of love or forgiveness. Recognize those thoughts when they come.

3. Ask someone to pray with you.
We can’t fight these lies on our own. We need Christ. We need to bring them into the light, to talk about the wounds within us with trusted family, friends and mentors. Ask them to pray with you and to renounce the lies you’re facing and to claim the truth of Christ’s love for you.

Christ’s love is waiting for you. Though it’s hard and messy, break up with these false loves so He can begin to reveal to you the love you were created for — the love that has been waiting for you all along.

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