December - January 2023
Lighting the Darkness
Abigail: From Victim to Victor
By Lee Ann Wilfong
1 Samuel 25:1-42
Tucked away in the final chapters of the book of 1 Samuel, we find a remarkable story, with a plotline that rivals any great cinematic saga. A tragedy in the “early scenes,” the tale of Abigail, Nabal, David, and—most importantly—God, transforms this account into a story of grace.
Let’s start with the back story: David was mourning Samuel’s death while running for his life from King Saul. He and his men were suffering sorrow, weariness, fear, and hunger. David sent men to see Nabal, owner of the wilderness region where they were hiding, to ask for food. Verse 3 introduces us to this man and his wife. Nabal was churlish, harsh, rude, and brutal, an unmanageable, stubborn, ill-tempered drunk. (His name means fool.) In contrast, his wife Abigail was a woman of good understanding and of a beautiful countenance—brains as well as beauty.
Her name means cause of joy.
What an ill-matched couple! It is likely, given the traditions of that day, Abigail was party to an arranged marriage. Nabal would have seemed a great catch to a father seeking a wealthy provider for his daughter. However, before long, Abigail found herself married to a far different man than her father imagined, suffering pain and sorrow from the husband who should have protected her. But Abigail did not bemoan her lot in life. She knew God, and although trapped in a difficult marriage, she honored her commitment.
When David’s men asked Nabal for food, the tyrant abruptly and rudely refused. Before departing, one of the young men encountered Abigail and told her about Nabal’s behavior, revealing the miserly nature of her abusive husband. I am sure she was not surprised since she had witnessed (and experienced) his mean ways. Abigail immediately set about gathering supplies, carefully hiding her actions from Nabal, of course. She delivered the provisions to David, knowing it was the right thing to do.
When I read this story, a word immediately comes to mind, a word not found in the Bible, but which certainly describes Abigail: enabler. Abusive men are often drawn to loving, helpful women who take care of them. An admirable characteristic in a God-ordained, mutually loving marriage, it is destructive in an abusive relationship. Abusers take advantage of their mild-tempered and caring spouses. As both an abused woman and an enabler, Abigail covered for her husband’s brutish ways, sought to smooth things over with David’s men, while hiding her actions and appeasing the abuser. Still, Abigail must be commended for her hospitable, kind, and generous actions toward these men who desperately needed help.
For Abigail, the nightmare marriage ended abruptly when Nabal died. But for many women, the nightmares continue for long years, and sometimes end another tragic way—their own death at the hands of their abusers. It is certainly reasonable to label Abigail as victim. She was trapped in a marriage filled with abuse and heartache. However, she still lived a life of generosity, love, and endurance that pleased God and glorified Him. Because of her goodness, she prevailed and eventually married David (verse 39), the man who would become king of Israel. God blessed the couple with a child. No longer a victim, she became a victor!
Yet even if the story had ended differently, and Abigail had died at the hands of Nabal, she still would be a victor because she trusted God and remained faithful to Him.
Fast forward a few years—make that three millennia—to the present day. Some things never change. Many marriages are still abusive. Take Jacque, a beautiful, young woman whose parents attend our church. Jacque was saved as a young girl, baptized, and became active in our congregation. If you had to describe Jacque in one word, the word would be sweet.
After graduating from high school, she attended a nearby university where she met a man who soon asked her to marry him. They wed in her home church, and Jacque looked so happy on her wedding day—excited to start a new life. She progressed quickly into management in her insurance career. In contrast, her new husband never held a job for long, and, according to him, it was always the company’s fault when he left a job or was fired. Although the couple depended on Jacque’s income to pay the bills, they were able to live comfortably due to her success.
However, the couple struggled to have children. After visiting specialists and trying everything, Jacque underwent in vitro fertilization. It worked—in triplicate! She was ecstatic when she learned triplets were on the way, and a short time later, she delivered three beautiful babies. Her family offered their full support after the babies were born, and Jacque and the babies often stayed with her sister on weekends. During these visits, the family learned Jacque’s marriage was not what they thought. They began to hear about incidents when her husband’s temper boiled over into physical abuse.
When the triplets turned four, Jacque knew her situation had to change. Up to that point, she had been the only target of the abuse, but when the children began to face the threat of suffering, she left the abusive situation and filed for divorce. Her husband told her repeatedly if she divorced him, she would sign her own death certificate. She believed him! She knew he might kill her, but she also knew she had to protect those three beautiful babies.
Jacque did not make this decision lightly, and she carefully avoided any loopholes her husband might find to skirt the law and take possession of the children. She secretly confided to her closest friends and her sister, without giving all the details. She also kept a secret journal on a laptop in her office, completely unknown to her husband. In that digital journal, she chronicled the many times she was abused or threatened, sometimes in the presence of the children.
Looking back, I believe Jacque knew her husband would not stop the abuse until she was dead, and her fears were accurate. On a weekday in June, the couple met at the attorney’s office and signed a separation agreement. Jacque had allowed him a brief visit with their son (one of the triplets) as an appeasement to avoid more abuse. When they left the attorney’s office, her husband told her to pick up their son at the home where they lived together previously. While this was not the plan, Jacque was willing to do it to get her son. Her husband manipulated the situation, knowing she would come for her child. The last image of Jacque was captured by security video at her bank, where she withdrew money her husband demanded in exchange for handing over her son. It was Jacque’s last act in life.
Two long years followed before her husband finally revealed where he had hidden her body in exchange for a plea deal to lighten his sentence. The details of Jacque’s death were horrific. She was a victim in the full sense of the word. But, in her death, she ensured her children would be delivered from the monster she had married; they would not endure his abuse. I can’t help but believe Jacque pled with God to protect her babies. And God answered those prayers. He listened to His beloved child. God was with her children through the horrible aftermath, placing people in their lives to love and protect them.
Jacque left all the evidence needed to prove her husband was a liar and an evil man. She did everything possible to protect her children, and she succeeded. Then she trusted God to do what she could not do—protect them after her own death. I don’t call Jacque a victim; I proclaim
her a victor!
It has been more than a decade since that dark day when Jacque’s life ended tragically. Today, the triplets are healthy, happy, beautiful Christian teens who know they are loved by their aunt and uncle (now their adopted parents). They celebrate their mother every day, knowing she loved them fiercely and gave her life for their safety. They revere the memories of their victorious mom.
Sadly, Jacque is only one of millions of abused women in the world today, often trapped by a monster spouse who makes living a nightmare. Do you know an Abigail or Jacque? Statistics tell us it is likely someone in your circle of friends and family is hiding abuse from you. Please learn the signs, be a trustworthy friend, and do everything you can to end abuse. Help victims become victors. Pray for God’s discernment to recognize signs of abuse and pray for courage to intervene and to help a woman who cannot help herself.
About the Author: Lee Ann and Vernon Wilfong live in Park Hills, Missouri. They have two adult daughters, Megan and Tracy; son-in-law Kurt; and a grandson named Malachi. Lee Ann attends Leadington Free Will Baptist Church. She serves on the Board of WNAC and chairs the Missouri Women’s Ministry. Learn more: wnac.org
"The Triplets" Today
By Tracy Wilfong and Kurt Labruyere
If you saw them today, you would see three normal teenagers involved in all the usual things: sports, friends, school, and (of course) their phones. But I still see three of the bravest kindergarteners I ever had the privilege to teach.
Truthfully, I knew about them, prayed for them, and met them long before their first day in my class. We called them “the triplets” when they frequently visited our church, which was anytime their mom was in town visiting her parents, whom I have known and loved my whole life. I remember the horror we all felt when we heard Jacque was missing. Our first thoughts were of the innocent children whose lives would be changed forever. That was in June, and that seemingly endless summer the family sought justice for Jacque and began caring for three children who had to navigate life without their amazing mom.
In August, the triplets started kindergarten, and because God has even the tiniest details in His hands, I also was starting my first year as a teacher. I already had spent time with the kids, teaching them in children’s church, so the family hoped the familiar face would comfort them as they started school. Before the year started, I spent time with each family represented in our class, explaining the situation with the triplets. Because Jacque’s story was well known in our area, everyone knew about the tragedy.
The family obviously wanted to protect the children from the horror of what happened, so they only knew their mom was gone, and they called her their “Angel Mommy.” They didn’t know about their father’s involvement but knew he was gone too. We decided our classroom would be a safe place for them. We united to protect them and to help them and their family through this incredibly difficult time. Those wonderful parents had conversations with their own kids to prepare them and to help them understand (as best they could) why the triplets’ mommy was no longer here.
On many days, they cried because they missed their mom, and they wanted her to be there for family events. Other days, anger and confusion would be too much for their young hearts, and one would yell or scream. On occasion, they would say something with childlike faith that brought tears to my eyes. But we also had days when they laughed and days when they learned to do something new or days when they were proud to tell us about something they did with their aunt and uncle.
Each had a distinct personality, and each dealt with fear, anger, and confusion in his or her own way. But they also each possessed an unwavering faith in God, and I heard each of them utter prayers wise beyond their years. I know without a doubt they taught me more that year than I taught them.
Every time I met with their aunt, we ended up crying together and wishing Jacque could have seen them do this or that or had been here to see all the new things they were learning. I know they all still wish for that. But I believe Jacque is with them. They have her strength and determination. I saw those three kids show amazing strength through the nightmare they endured, and that is a reflection of Jacque’s strength. Jacque only got to be their mommy on this earth for a few years, but we know she was an incredible mom because they are three amazing, smart, funny, talented, and loving kids.
Today they are teens, learning to drive, excelling in sports and school activities, and planning for their futures. They are active in church youth group and are even still friends with some of the kids from their kindergarten class. Anyone who knows them and their story cannot help but be amazed and thankful for their lives today. Their mommy would be very proud of her babies.
About the Author: Tracy (Wilfong) and Kurt LaBruyere live in Park Hills, Missouri. Tracy is the leader of the District WAC and she teaches kindergarten in a small Christian school. Learn more: WNAC.org.