November 29, 2016

Enough is Enough

Gary Thomas — 

 

Abusive Men

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26

What does it mean to “hate” someone we are elsewhere called to sacrificially love? We are told to love even our enemies, yet Jesus here tells us to hate some of our closest family members. What could that mean?

Hatred here is Semitic hyperbole. In essence, it means “love less than.” There are times when our love and allegiance to God may be at odds with human loyalties; in those cases, love for God, His light and the way of truth, must always prevail.

It’s okay (actually, commendable) for me to love the Seattle Seahawks. But if my wife needs me to take her to the hospital in the middle of a game or needs me to pay her some attention, I have to act like I hate the Seahawks and not even consider my love for them in service to my wife.

Let’s apply this principle in regards to how the church views marriage and divorce.

I recently spoke at a long-standing North American woman’s conference and was overwhelmed by the quantity and horrific nature of things wives are having to put up with in their marriages. Between sessions, I was bombarded by heartfelt inquiries: “What does a wife do when her husband does this? Or that? Or keeps doing this?” It broke my heart. I felt like I needed to take a dozen showers that weekend.

This may sound like a rant, but please hang with me, as I think this conference was a divine appointment. I can’t get this out of my mind.

One wife began our conversation with, “God hates divorce, right?”

“Yes,” I said. “I believe He does.”

“So I’ve just got to accept what’s happening in my marriage, right?”

When she told me what was happening, I quickly corrected her. “If the cost of saving a marriage is destroying a woman, the cost is too high. God loves people more than he loves institutions.”

Her husband is a persistent porn addict. He has neglected her sexually except to fulfill his own increasingly bent desires. He keeps dangling divorce over her head, which makes her feel like a failure as a Christian. He presented her with a list of five things he wanted to do that he saw done in porn, and if she wasn’t willing, he was through with the marriage. She agreed to four of them, but just couldn’t do the fifth. And she feels guilty.

God hates divorce, right?

This is monstrous and vile. This woman needs to be protected from such grotesque abuse, and if divorce is the only weapon to protect her, then the church should thank God such a weapon exists.

A young wife, barely in her twenties, held a baby in a blanket and looked at me with tears. Her husband has a huge temper problem. He’s made her get out of the car on a highway with her baby, twice. “But both times he came back for us,” she said in his defense when I looked absolutely appalled. They were separated and she was living with her parents. She wanted to know if she should take him back because his psychiatrist supposedly said there wasn’t anything really wrong with him. Her husband doesn’t think he has a problem that, in fact, the problem is with her “lack of forgiveness.”

They had been married only three years and she had already lived through more torment (I’m not telling the full story) than a woman should face in a lifetime. My thoughts weren’t at all about how to “save” the marriage, but to ease her conscience and help her prepare for a new life—without him.

Church, God hates it when a woman is sexually degraded and forced to do things that disgust her. It should also make us want to vomit.

When a young man is so immature he puts his wife’s and baby’s life in danger on a highway (amongst other things), the thought that we’re worried about the “appropriateness” of divorce shows that our loyalties are with human institutions, not the divine will.

As Kevin DeYoung so ably puts it, “Every divorce is the result of sin, but not every divorce is sinful.”

Another woman told me about putting up with her husband’s appalling behavior for over forty years. I was invited to look in her face, see the struggle, see the heroic perseverance, but also be reminded that counsel has consequences. So when I talk to a young woman in her third year of marriage and it’s clear she’s married to a monster, and someone wants to “save” the marriage, I want them to realize they are likely sentencing her to four decades of abuse, perhaps because of a choice she made as a teenager. When these men aren’t confronted, and aren’t repentant, they don’t change.

Jesus said what he said about divorce to protect women, not to imprison them. Divorce was a weapon foisted against women in the first century, not one they could use, and it almost always left them destitute if their family of origin couldn’t or wouldn’t step up.

How does it honor the concept of “Christian marriage” to enforce the continuance of an abusive, destructive relationship that is slowly squeezing all life and joy out of a woman’s soul? Our focus has to be on urging men to love their wives like Christ loves the church, not on telling women to put up with husbands mistreating their wives like Satan mistreats us. We should confront and stop the work of Satan, not enable it.

Look, I hate divorce as much as anyone. I have been married for 31 years and cannot fathom leaving my wife. I have prayed with couples, counselled with couples, written blog posts and articles and books, and have travelled to 49 of the 50 states and nine different countries to strengthen marriages in the church. By all accounts, I believe I’ve been an ambassador for improving and growing marriages.

The danger of what I’m saying is clear and even a little scary to me, because no marriage is easy. Every marriage must overcome hurt, pain, and sin. No husband is a saint, in the sense that every husband will need to be forgiven and will be troublesome and even hurtful at times to live with. I’m not talking about the common struggles of living with a common sinner, or every man and woman could pursue divorce. (There are many men who live with abuse and could “biblically” pursue a divorce as well.) Charging someone with “abuse” when it doesn’t truly apply is almost as evil as committing abuse, so we need to be careful we don’t bear “false witness” against a spouse to convince ourselves and others that we can legitimately pursue divorce to get out of a difficult marriage.

That’s why I love how some churches will meet with a couple and hear them out to give them some objective feedback, helping them to distinguish between normal marital friction and abusive behavior. Some women need to hear, “No, this isn’t normal. It’s abuse. You don’t have to put up with that.” Others need to hear, “We think what you’re facing are the normal difficulties of marriage and with counseling they can be overcome.” There’s no way a blog post (or even a book) can adequately anticipate all such questions.

I love marriage—even the struggles of marriage, which God can truly use to grow us and shape us—but I hate it when God’s daughters are abused. And I will never defend a marriage over a woman’s emotional, spiritual, and physical health.

I went back to my hotel room after that woman’s conference and almost felt like I had to vomit. I don’t know how God stands it, having to witness such horrific behavior leveled at his daughters.

Enough is enough!

Jesus says there are “levels” of love, and times when one loyalty must rise over another. Our loyalty to marriage is good and noble and true. But when loyalty to a relational structure allows evil to continue it is a false loyalty, even an evil loyalty.

Christian leaders and friends, we have to see that some evil men are using their wives’ Christian guilt and our teaching about the sanctity of marriage as a weapon to keep harming them. I can’t help feeling that if more women started saying, “This is over” and were backed up by a church that enabled them to escape instead of enabling the abuse to continue, other men in the church, tempted toward the same behavior, might finally wake up and change their ways.

Christians are more likely to have one-income families, making some Christian wives feel even more vulnerable. We have got to clean up our own house. We have got to say “Enough is enough.” We have got to put the fear of God in some terrible husbands’ hearts, because they sure don’t fear their wives and their lack of respect is leading to ongoing deplorable behavior.

I want a man who was abusive to have to explain to a potential second wife why his saintly first wife left him. Let men realize that behavior has consequences, and that wives are supposed to be cherished, not used, not abused, and never treated as sexual playthings. If a man wants the benefit and companionship of a good woman, let him earn it, and re-earn it, and let him know it can be lost.

Enough is enough.

I know I’m ranting. But I don’t think it was an accident that I was constantly stopped at that woman’s conference and forced to hear despicable story after despicable story (“forced” isn’t the right word. I could, of course, have walked away). I think God wanted me to see the breadth and depth of what is going on, and in this case, perhaps to be His voice.

Message received! We are called to love marriage, but when marriage enables evil, we should hate it (love it less) in comparison to a woman’s welfare.

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357 responses to Enough is Enough

  1. Disclaimer: Men who abuse their wives are vile. No ifs, ands, or buts.

    But reading this article, I realized I have never read a Christian woman blogger scold other Christian women to the same degree. So I have a challenge and promise to Gary Thomas or his readers: I will donate money to Gary Thomas’ ministry if someone can point me to just ONE article on the web where a Christian woman blogger scolds other Christian women to the same degree, using language just as strong (‘monster’, etc.) Scour the web! Can you find even one such article?

    And Gary writes: “If a man wants the benefit and companionship of a good woman, let him earn it, and re-earn it”. Where across the entire Web will you see this said in reverse by a woman, that a woman needs to earn (and re-earn) the benefit and companionship of a good man?

    • It’ll be interesting to see if you get any replies, Tom.

      As for donating to my ministry: we don’t receive donations. I encourage people to give their offerings to their church or, if they want to focus on a marriage ministry, to Focus on the Family or Family Life Today.

  2. It kind of amazes me how some people would still want a person who has experienced systematic abuse to simply stay and pray it away.

    I had a wife who was abusive almost the entirety of our marriage. If I didn’t leave I could’ve been seriously hurt or essentially had false allegations made about me to hurt me. Once left if I didn’t divorce I could have further things happen to me to hurt me.

    Once you’ve lived under a patter of abuse there’s no way to ever know it won’t happen again however much someone seems to change and living a life of fear waiting for the shoe to drop is a joyless life.

  3. Amen.
    I struggle much with the thought process I’ve been raised in and wondering what is normal and truly Christian in marriage and what really constitutes grounds for divorce. After living with verbal abuse for 10 plus years I left my angry husband for a year, 7 years ago and only reconciled when the church we attended begged me to leave what they dubbed my sinful ways and promised they would be active in checking in on us. They have not.
    My husband can be a good man but chooses anger. A few years back we lost our daughter which happened to be his favorite child (we have 4) in a tragic accident which was my fault. so grief complicates our story too…
    Since then he did come to a point where he became a Christian, something he’d professed his whole life and for a brief time he was truly kind. Now I am back to living on pins and needles trying to figure out what will make him angry next. My children live that way too and my 10 year old is constantly asking why daddy doesn’t love us. It’s random things but often it seems to be financially triggered. Yesterday he was angry all afternoon because I bought myself a $12 teapot because mine was broken (but still functional) I’m constantly apologizing because I’m always in the wrong, a detail that drives me crazy and is exhausting.
    He never takes me on dates unless I plan them. Never brings me flowers. Never notices how hard I work every day to be what he needs..
    I know I do indeed fail.
    I mess up. A lot
    I know our situation is less then optimal but I don’t know what my right response is.
    I don’t want to leave. I want to fight for my marriage but my spirit and will to fight is dying.

    • Mae, please read UnHoly Charade By Jeff Crippen and Not Under Bondage. Their website cryingoutforjustice.com was a Godsend for me! No wife is perfect but that does not excuse patterns of abuse. I grappled with the same guilt that he could be a good man sometimes, or so I thought, but a good husband does not repeatedly abuse his wife in any form, may it be verbal, spiritual, physcial. I know the feeling of exhausted, confused and dying inside, praying to the Lord for help. His help came not in the form I thought, which I thought he would change my husband but the help came that I have divorced my husband and so much clarity and healing came. It was a painful painful process and you second guess and pray and pray, but find people that see the truth like in this article. I was married for 15 years and tried to do everthing to fight for my marriage but in the end there was no real marriage to fight for and it isn’t good for your kids, in the long run, they will see that this behavior is not acceptable treatment of a wife or children. The transition will be hard but it is worth it. I am so so sorry you have had to endure the loss of a child in the midst of all this as well. The Lord is for the oppressed, the women the children. You do not have to spend the rest of your life this way.
      Divorce is never optimal ( I NEVER thought I would be divorced not EVER) but many times it can be the better of the two choices for you and your children. My heart and prayers go out to you!

  4. June will be the 20th Anniversary to my first wife. She was amazing. She did everything for me. She was faithful, diligent, and hard-working. She was the love of my life–at least I thought she was. It turned out, my true love was myself. We were divorced after 12 years of marriage because of my selfishness and sin. My first marriage was damaged by my sexual addiction and my overbearing demands that my wife serve me.
    I remarried two years later. My new wife had just left an overbearing, immoral husband, and was very distrustful. Because of her previous hurts, she refused to do hardly anything for me. But I had repented after my divorce, so that was fine by me. After repenting to the Lord, of my 1st failure, he showed me a new way. A man doesn’t become a husband to be served. But to serve. Men who need to be served are weak. Real men are stronger than their wives. Their the ones who dig deep when you’re both tired. They handle their own problems, then come help you with yours. They are more patient. They take leadership in the marriage by being the one to reconnect after conflict. THAT is strength. My first wife served me, and I took advantage of her. Now I serve my new wife, because I want to be the strong one, the one with bigger shoulders, with more to give. My first wife was hurt badly by our divorce, but she gave new another chance. This year will be 20th and 8th anniversaries.

  5. I stayed and kept forgiving OVER AND OVER AND OVER. What good did it do? None. He just kept saying how sorry he was and then things would be ok for a while, then I would catch him watching porn again.

    So now I think this: I should have left him the second time. I wasted 17 years of my life nursing him after four horrendous surgeries, wiped his backside, waited on him hand and foot. And he would not change his porn habit. Or could not. But does it really matter which, would not or could not?

    The result is the same. My self-esteem is non-existent, my sexuality is DEAD. I am too old to look for another husband and besides, I have completely lost my faith in love. Because of him.

    My faith in God suffered for all these years. I kept thinking God must not love me at all. But it was my husband who did not love me enough to keep the promises he made over and over and over.

    GOD knows and sees all. Men make excuses for their behavior all they want. GOD knows and sees all. Husbands may fool their preachers, their mothers, their children and friends. But wives know and GOD knows. Period.

    Great article here.

  6. Gary… thank you.
    Those of you thumping the bible quoting verse…you missed the point completely… by close-minded choice. Shame on you. Absolutely shame on you for upholding a man’s excuse to be less than a man. Hiding behind a piece of paper because their own actions are lacking… they fail to speak for him.
    It happens often this attitude … woman bow to your man… scripture is left out that also states… he should be a man WORTHY of that bow. You earn respect. Marriage is not any different. You earn it daily not just long enough to con someone into taking your crap.
    I am a pastor’s grandaughter. I have seen the vile ways a man with such a title treats his chatel… wife & children. They are often the worse offender than a common man trying to find his way. God is love. Love is not abuse, in any form.

    My now ex-husband strangled me over and over in a 30 min fight for my life when our daughter was 2 months old. There were other things, but nobody cares about the more covert behaviors. Some men are monsters. Plain & simple, and as with any other monster of society, they should be dealt with, swiftly and not coddled. If not by jury than by peers. If a judge or jury says what they do is wrong. If a book says they are wrong… then, they are wrong. It does not matter that their victim of choice is their wife, quietly killing her behind closed doors with the nod of apathy given by many “Christians”… to preserve a piece of paper. If she’s dead, then he killed her…no matter if that be of heart, mind, spirit or body. And THAT is a sin.

  7. “According to a 2010 national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Department of Justice, in the last 12 months more men than women were victims of intimate partner physical violence and over 40% of severe physical violence was directed at men.” Gary, I love your heart for women. You obviously have a wonderful wife and can’t imagine the monster who would abuse her. I’d encourage you to poll men and ask them to come forward with their stories. While obtaining an Order of Protection the other day against my ex, I was shocked to hear her say that more and more men are coming forward, and how proud she was of me. 4+ years of harassment, hitting, punching, slapping, sexual manipulation… from a “saint” in many eyes. School teacher, mother, active in church… demanding demeaning sex and making false police reports, over and over. And I was told, “you wouldn’t believe how many men are in this situation” by a counselor at a domestic violence non-profit and shelter. Not excusing the monsters who treat their wives horribly. But sometimes the roaring lion wears heels, my brother. If it’s true that HALF of abuse is from women, why have I NEVER heard a pastor, teacher, shepherd preach, teach, admonish the women to stop that? In my lifetime, I probably won’t.

  8. Ok Folks let’s keep it simple, the truth is God wants husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Check it and see how Jesus did that. Did he do it be tearing the church down with hurtful, spiteful, selfish self-seeking words or actions? Did Christ love the church by beating them, not being responsible or taking care of their needs, causing the church to fear for their safety for the safety of their children by their actions and words? Did Christ seek to put himself first at any point in time in showing His love, care for the church? And yes wives and husbands when not being selfish, which any sin is, will not seek to take advantage of the care, love and trust that the other spouse is giving.

    Keep it simple sin in its essence is selfishness in every form. For a man or woman who has been confronted time and again with his sin who says he repents and says he has changed and then he goes and does the same thing again and again, no. Each one of us have choices to make. God hates divorce and He hates sin. Could it be that the sin that leads to the divorce is what really has God upset more than anything?

  9. I can’t thank you enough for this post. I actually sobbed reading it. Finally. Thank you. My story is too long, but I spent twenty-one collective years married twice, suffering infidelity, porn and alcohol addiction, verbal and sexual abuse and daily situations that you’ve related in your post. Now that I’ve been married again for nearly eight years, I can see the difference between normal sin and working out issues versus abuse. But I’ve felt guilty all these years. I didn’t believe in divorce, but wouldn’t stay married while my first husband had an affair, and after four separations to “repair” my second marriage I finally let go and divorced again. It devastated me. I know God hates divorce and I believe it is not right for that reason, but I felt as if God said it was okay to leave both those situations. And yet…so many well meaning family and “friends” insisted that I was not trusting God (even my ex told me that). Pastors told me to stay and “give him another chance” and “learn to be submissive.” I tried. But finally someone saw the truth and helped me break free. I started a new life, stayed single for a number of years to heal and finally met my current husband who is kind, gently, loving and such a blessing! God has used your post to release that last bit of questioning guilt. “Did I really hear God?” “Did I make it worse than it really was to justify myself?” “Was it really that big of a deal?” “Did I try hard enough?” “Maybe it really was all my fault.” Again, I say thank you. Your voice is one of truth my husband and I respect. Thank you for using it to rescue and heal. In reading Abigail’s response above, I must say that each situation is subject to God. She obviously feels led to stay in her marriage at this point.Only God knows each person’s heart and where it will lead. And yes, we can learn a lot in difficulty as you’ve taught in your book, Sacred Marriage. We can also become harmed, numb and ineffective as well without even realizing it. I’m not saying this is the case for this woman, but it was for me. When daily survival becomes your way of life, I believe it is valid to say that God may have more than that for us. Each has to seek God specifically for his/her situation and act accordingly. I thank you for your voice of healing and freedom.

    • I totally agree with you Laura. I am happy for you. I know out God is a God of hope and love. I have learned the last couple of years abuse comes in many forms and it is not always physical. I would have never thought I was in an abusive marriage, others saw it, not me not until after. I divorced after 23 years of doing my best and what I believed God wanted me to do. I also struggled with the what if it is me, what am I doing wrong or not hard enough process. At the end of the day it comes down to how many times has the sin been confronted, boundaries set, and then trust broken time and again in so many ways. When I decided to separate and then divorce is was a very difficult decision and I am confident it was was the right decision and I had peace from God. I refuse to go back and will move forward. God always has more for us… Life more abundantly which to me is living and growing in Him. God also does not want us to fear and fear is just as sneaky and deceitful as sin. It’s like weeds that have huge spreading underground root systems.

  10. Jesusisreal0923 January 5, 2017 at 10:27 pm

    My marriage hardly falls under abuse – but in a Christian marriage – with a pastor husband – I can say it destroys me with its neglect. It’s not what is done, but what is bypassed, unseen, untouched and covered over with a phony facade of do goodish for ministry recipients to the oversight of our family and marriage. What can you do with a loveless, void and emotionally absent man in a marriage who finds all worth and validation in a position and little value in human relationships, especially at home. A man who declares, teaches, and preaches God’s love but has little to none to offer within personal relationships. There is no playbook for neglect. He retreats, he doesn’t raise fists. He works to “provide” He doesn’t smash walls and threaten me. Our marriage is like a living plant that is grossly neglected with its basic nutrient necessities, it daily withers and dies, perishing from lack. It is not violent or brutal – it just slowly loses all luster and life. I have not been beaten – I’ve been thirsty for the care and oversight that is given to ministry – in the name of God – to the starvation of our own family. The death of my own heart, my own dreams and my own understanding of Father’s love representing in marriage is something I accepted I can’t have. I wrote it off as a sacrificial reminder of how Jesus loves me. But when is that enough? Where and how do those lines get drawn? I’m not sure anymore.

    • Yes! I was there, friend. You aren’t alone. I’m sure he also doesn’t want to get marital counseling because he counsels couples all the time, and it’s helped them? He may have even given you books to read about marriage and being a godly wife? I finally decided enough is enough when my 8 year old daughter told me one day that she never wanted to get married because she wanted to grow up and be HAPPY. I felt like I was sacrificing my kids’ future relationships to stay married. By allowing them to grow up in such a destructive home environment, I was perpetuating a cycle of ungodly behavior. It wasn’t until I realized how dangerous it was for them to see, not only their dad, but a PASTOR act this way that I had to get out. I understand where you are coming from. Just know that if you choose to divorce him, it may be a very lonely and frustrating road ahead of you, but you can find peace and discover the God of your youth again. He loves you as His daughter and cares about you as a Father. God bless you!

    • I’m a pastor married to a pastor. I understand some of these dynamics, as they can be potential pitfalls for any person in ministry, which is why we need to be aware and called to accountability all the more. (And why congregations and their governing boards need to think through how to care for pastors’ families and encourage more balance in life.) What you describe is not what God would desire for any marriage – of a ministry leader or otherwise. Just as abuse cannot be tolerated forever, this kind of neglect is not healthy or sustainable either.
      A comments forum isn’t the best place for me or others to ask multiple questions or dole out advice, but I would urge you to seek counsel from someone who can help you communicate your feelings and needs to your husband in a way that sets clear boundaries around ministry and family obligations and expectations for serious change. You and your children should not be martyrs for the church.

  11. I have a family member who was an alcoholic and an abuser. He was also tried hard to be a good dad. His wife has steel backbone of faith, and is a survivor. She did leave him several times, but he would clean up his act and she would go back. She had health issues and couldn’t hold a regular job. Things were better at the end of his life, and what worries me is that his youngest daughter, who didn’t see the worst of him, is now grown and married, idolizes her dad, and talks about what she drinks–her good memories and love for her dad seem to blind her to the less than good side of him. He could talk God, but not act it.

  12. No question that there are abusive people in this world, but it is important I think to understand that abuse often comes from hurt, and how often does that hurt come from the spouse who later suffers from the abuse? I do look at porn sometimes, I wouldn’t call it an addiction because it doesn’t control other parts of my life- that’s not a justification – it is a wrong choice that I make, and a dangerous one – I know. The reason I turn to porn sometimes is because often it is the only place to turn to feed my sex drive and sexual imaginations. After ten years of marriage my wife does not open up sexually, refuses to be vulnerable in bed and is not willing to try to work together to change this. You could tell me all the usual things that I could do to be more appealing and its all there. I’m in decent shape, work hard, spend time with the kids, help around the house, do projects for her, and make big life decisions with her dreams in mind. i take her to dinner, buy flowers, non-sexual touching — and still I feel like I am on my own sexually, and yes I’ve told her of my struggles. I never watched porn before our marriage or even early in the marriage. So to put things in order first there was the cold bedroom, then I dabbled in porn, let’s say in another ten years I develop a porn addiction. At that point do I become an abuser of my wife – when the issue was born from her negligence, and then she is justified in divorce? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made my share of mistakes, but I’ve always tried to put her first. My point is these issues may be more complicated then they initially seem.

    • Your choices are always yours. Every time. Your choice to look at porn is yours. And it seems that you feel this could lead to an addiction. The choice is yours to keep looking, and the addiction is a consequence that is also yours. If that happens is there really solace in blaming your wife? you will be the only person who now has the power to stop the behavior that leads to addiction, and if you don’t, then you will be the only person who has the power to end your addiction. By choosing to continue you are choosing addiction and all the problems that come along with it- often abuse of a spouse and seeing them as an object.

      Your wife’s choices might seemingly make it harder for you to do the right thing in this situation, and I truly feel compassion for you in that area, but it just doesn’t change the fact that your actions and response to her remain your decision, always. Perhaps a counselor could help you sort out how your actions are against what you seem to believe.

    • Ever consider that your wide may have been sexually molested or abused? It wasn’t until I finally slowed down 5 years ago at the age of 36 that the memories of my own sexual molestation at the age of 3 flooded back. After intensive counseling, I was able to heal. And within 6-12 months was able to finally start learning what enjoying sex could mean 15 years into our marriage.

  13. Thank you for writing on this controversial topic. I stayed in an emotionally, sexually, and financially abusive marriage for 20 years because I was a “Pastor’s Wife” and believed to divorce was sinful, even though I was losing my mind and physical health and was practically raising our 2 sons on my own because my husband was too busy disciplining other men’s sons. I believed that if I could become the perfect wife and mom that surely I would someday win the heart of the man I had married; I was wrong. It was only after the abusive behavior toward my oldest which led to him leaving home that I gathered the courage to move toward divorcing my husband. Elders who were content to look the other way in fear of losing such a gifted pastor did me and my boys a great injustice, and left me very disillusioned for many years and led to a 2 year period of being unchurched. The pain of 20 years of being unloved led to a failed suicide attempt as well. Thankfully, the Lord intervened, spared my life, and gave me the grace to get through the divorce and start a new life with my boys. NO HUMAN DESERVES TO BE ABUSED! God is love and abuse has no place in a marriage!

    • Thanks for sharing your story. I can empathize with being a former pastor’s wife and leaving. The church has so much to learn about caring for pastor’s and their families. I was very disillusioned about church and Christianity after my experience. I never had ANYONE reach out to me, in a church of literally THOUSANDS, to ask if I was ok. I later found out that he had been telling people at church that I was suffering from severe depression and may need to be hospitalized! ( None of which was true, mind you.) This realization made the silence from the elders and their wives even more hurtful. Don’t they care at all? I plan to write a book to help women like us. These situations are killing the Church from the inside out. Thanks again for sharing!

  14. Dear Gary,

    Thank you for your heart for women and your courage to stand against injustice. If I were to tell you my story, you would likely have a similar response to me as you did to those women at the conference. That is why I don’t share my story anymore, because well-meaning, godly people like yourself often get it wrong, but for all the right reasons. The Lord has taught me much in my three year journey through an abusive marriage, and I share it here in case it is helpful to you and others. I submit to you the following:

    #1. I have learned to “hate” my husband and family- this means that I do not put them first in my life or my heart. When they demand things of me that would cause me to disobey my Lord, I say NO. God loves me so much that He is jealous for me and will not allow anyone to usurp His place in my life. When my husband acts as though he is a god to be served (idolatry), I reject this for worship of the true God. Yes, I incur much *more* abuse because of this, but God has protected me every time.

    #2. Divorce is not a godly weapon against abuse. Divorce is a worldly and fleshly weapon. Yes it may accomplish some good (e.g. safety) but it can never break the demonic stronghold of abuse. “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” (2 Cor. 10:3-4). I have personally witnessed miracles and watched the Lord protect me and my children in a way that no human court ever could.

    #3. The root of any abusive relationship is pride/idolatry. The sins that flow from this are anger, rage, bitterness, slander, malice, etc. The bad news is, these sin patterns cannot be broken by the person caught in them (Romans 8:7). And let’s remember that our struggle is NOT against flesh and blood (Eph 6:12). When a woman, or any person is abused, it is Satan attacking the person through a human being who has become enslaved to do his will (2 Tim. 2:26). Satan is the true enemy. People who are abusing must be held accountable, but really are in far more danger, being that their souls will be eternally lost (Gal 5:19-21). The good news is, Jesus is in the business of saving sinners and NO sin is too great for Him (Titus 3:3-5).

    #4. You called marriage a “human institution.” Surely, it is not. Matthew 19:4-6, among other verses makes this clear. I wonder if your heart-strings are being tugged to pull you into a more humanistic view of marriage, rather than a divine one.

    #5. True biblical submission can only come from a heart that is humble before God and trusts in Him, rather than in her husband (1 Peter 3:5-6). Submission means yielding our rights out of selfless love; this makes it infinitely different than enabling or being passive, which is fear-based and focused on self-preservation. We women need to learn how to be warriors, to overcome the fear and break the power of the lies, and stand firm in the spiritual armour of the Lord. Yes, do it from a safe distance! But don’t give up. God created marriage and He will bless our obedience. It IS possible to live a victorious Christian life while walking through this dark valley, and to choose neither divorce NOR enabling abuse. Remember that the good Shepherd walks beside us, and Satan and his demons are actually afraid of US because of that very truth.

    I do believe that my marriage struggles have made me more holy, though deeply broken and not at all happy in an earthly sense. Yet I have come to know Jesus in a way that has given me profound JOY that I would not trade for anything. I have managed to stay safe through separation, and do not believe that the bible gives any biblical grounds for divorce and remarriage. I was not promised an easy life nor a safe one. Let’s not make safety the number one priority, but instead, knowing and obeying the Lord.

    Thank you for listening.

    Regards,

    Abigail (not my real name)

    • I’d have to agree with nearly every point here in Abigail’s comment. My only question is once a man has been left how’s he supposed to make anything right and be able to work on restoring the marriage if his ex never wants to reconcile or speak with him again? Listening to Gary’s advice here I can see why women who follow him into a divorce on this blog feel empowered to do so by his opinion and fail to see where they’re only permitted to stay separate (if they choose to go against God’s command to ‘not leave’ 1Cor. 7:10), but not divorce in abusive marriages and not seek to remarry other men until that living husband dies as 1 Cor. 7:39 points out. In fact marriage as a divine institution in a Christian sense is one man with one woman for life as an example of how Christ loved us and died for us even when we were so out of love with Him. There is a salvation principle that is being represented here that the Christian man and woman being bound for life to their spouse shouldn’t forsake (of coarse if they don’t profess to be a believer that wouldn’t apply in their reasoning especially if they are being led to believe that marriage is just a human institution. If both are believers both man and wife are bound to Christ in a marriage and He doesn’t let us go so we as an example should not either (genuine belief in Christ sticks, He’s promised us that). Sometimes there is the case of being unequally yoked and even then 1 Cor. 7 emphasizes for the believer to stay unless they are the one being served a divorce which was my case. I’m proud of Christian men and woman everywhere who put up with their less than perfect husbands and wives and choose to stay and pray their way thru difficult marriages instead of giving up easily by separating which is a slippery slope that leads to a divorce in most cases. Ppl like to say relationships are hopeless and it may seem yours is but if you are a Christian think of how God must think about you and your sin. We all sin. If after you begin professing and believing in Christ for salvation you slip into some sin or other repeatedly do you think God just looks down on individuals and says; well, that one has let too much water go under the bridge. His/Her grace is up I’m not going to save them and Im going to just let them continue going down the river to an eternal hell?
      I hardly think so. Have some faith in God, you say He loves you. If they were truly a Christian I believe He chastens His children and there are several examples of Him as the Good Shepherd who seeks those ones of His who go astray to save them. Shepherds were known for breaking a habitually wandering sheep’s leg and carrying it back and forth from the sheepfold to pasture till it healed up and learned to obey. I think separation at times is a legitimate measure to bring about proper reconciliation to a marriage but not one so called Christian divorcing another professing Christian. Let’s clean up our own house and get a real biblical view on marriage and reconciliation instead of condoning ‘Christian divorces’.
      A church should never advise to seek a divorce. In special cases that is an individuals choice but churches and so called counsellor’s and teachers who believe the Bible they teach out of had better beware of how they cast judgement against God’s institution of marriage. The Word of God says christian leaders have a stricter and higher code to uphold than the common man and that blood could easily be on their hands if they choose to do the judging! We all know that the Bible doesn’t cut corners on anything so let’s let It speak for Itself and let’s all obey what It says. Divorce is overrated, and should be avoided if at all possible. God still hates divorce.

      • Hurt divorcee, I’d urge you to check out Rejoice Marriage Ministries for biblical advice on how to reconcile a dead marriage. Stay faithful to your spouse and let God deal with them. There are some amazing testimonies there of marriages restored after years of separation and divorce, including lengthy periods of no communication. There is no sin that God can’t heal and forgive, including porn addictions, affairs, and abuse. The founders of that ministry can testify to that. Often when a spouse says they want nothing to do with you, it is due to hurt and unforgiveness, and God will have the final word. He can heal all wounds and soften anyone’s heart. Be warned though, standing for a marriage isn’t for the faint of heart or those who want a quick fix. Learning to love like Jesus is painful and requires daily dying to self. But it will be God’s best for your life. Blessings to you.

    • I think your response makes the most Biblical sense of any of the comments posted. Well said.

    • Abigail, thank you for laying out the response you did. My husband and both agree with what you’ve shared.

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