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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365 responses to Enough is Enough

  1. Gary, I cannot thank you enough for writing this post. I don’t really have the words to explain the joy at seeing this in writing…and from a Christian. Thank you! That’s all I have (I want to explain more, but can’t – that should show how much I appreciate your words).

    • Suzie, I couldn’t agree more. I too am unable to provide any details (probably for the same reasons as you) but I can say that as a woman who married in her late teens looking back over a 40-year marriage I sure wish my pastor would have done more than look down at his desk and tell me to wait for this to pass. We had that conversation in 1987.

  2. Does verbal and emotional abuse fall into this? Yelling, name calling, cursing, mocking (even my faith)?

    • Yes!!!! This is abuse.

    • Wanda Savarirayan January 1, 2017 at 12:32 am

      Yes. It most certainly does. it is called verbal abuse and it is horrible. I know because I have been a victim for 16 years. Yet God is my strength and He has grown me tremendously through the pain.

    • Yes Sharon. Abuse is not limited to physical violence. Verbal, emotion and psychological abuse is very real can be even more damaging at times. I remember moments where I wish my husband would just hit me. I wish I hadn’t waited until he got physical to leave.

    • Absolutely. That kind of abuse often leads to physical abuse, too.

  3. Separating is completely fine .. however both of them should not re marry at all. Marriage is a blessing, and both parties need to submit to God’s direction in their life and realize that they are not their own. We don’t go into marriage to find love, but to express it. Most modern marriages are just two people sucking the life out of each other, this wasn’t mean to be. And sadly, most people go into marriages unprepared for what the enemy throws at them. But yes, separate..but no..don’t re marry. Submit yourselves to the lord and let him decide …

    • Why can women who have left abusive men not remarry??

      • Because God said so. He said in 1 Corinthians 7:11 that they either have to remain single or reconcile. Anything else is adultery, even remarriage (Matt. 5:32).

      • Although it’s a shame a marriage has to fail .. marriage isn’t the answer. Jesus is..focus on him and your relationship with him. Jesus is, after all … all you need…

      • If a woman needs to get out of an abusive marriage, and it’s truly abusive, she should separate to protect yourself and to pray for her husband. Pray that God changes his heart and fills him with the Holy Spirit. If she wants to stay obedient to God’s Word, though, then she cannot remarry someone else unless her first husband is dead. [Matt 5:32; Matt 19:9; 1 Cor 10-11; Mark 10:1-12]. This is why Remarraige while her first husband lives is considered adultery in God’s Word. God wouldn’t repeat Himself throughout His Word if He didn’t feel it was very important and wanted it to be reiterated. God likens marriage to his relationship with us. You can’t just break your relationship/’marriage’ with Christ and go out and get another “husband”. This is also why Satan hates marriage and stops at nothing to destroy it…because it reminds him of our marriage to the King and he hates the Bride of Christ. That being said, I hate to see women being abused and if abuse is happening, the wife should leave to protect herself. But I would counsel her to pray long and hard for her husband, that the Holy Spirit would fill him. Verbal and emotional abuse is definitely abuse but the Bible tends to give fornication as the only reason for divorce. If a wife is being verbally and emotionally abused, I would counsel her to separate and pray with all her soul. God Bless. I hope this helps.

      • 1 Corinthians 7, Matthew 19:9

    • I was in an abusive relationship for several years. Every kind of abuse you can fathom. It took alot to leave, to recognize that the way he was treating me was not normal, was not becoming of a man who believed in God. I hated the idea of divorce, never thought it was for me, I never wanted to divorce him. I waited 3 years after separating to file for divorce. The reason I finally filed was because God sent me someone else. Someone who cared for me and my kids, someone who made me feel things I’d never felt in my life from another person, someone who stood by and helped me get through alot of emotions and pain and still helps me 8 years later. Someone who has made my life, this beautiful life and my children’s life a blessing. My current husband ( yes I remarried) is a blessing straight from God!! He is a blessing I never asked for, because I didn’t want to remarry. I love my husband very much and despite my past and the damage someone else caused, my husband loves me, for me, every single day. I can never thank God enough for sending me this man!
      So, while the idea of remarriage may not be in your cards, it was in my cards, because God gave me those cards and asked me to play them.

    • Vinelife,
      I just want to say, as a child of an an abusive father, it was not easy going through the divorce 15 years ago. My mom took me and my siblings out of it to protect all of us, and she later remarried about two years later to a man who was and is a godsend -he even went so far as adopting us as his own, like how God adopts us as His own.
      I understand what you are saying, but what about for those children who need a father (or mother) in their life, like myself? Are they to just not have that figure in their life anymore or are they to be passed back and forth? I needed a dad, but not one who was abusive.

      -Your sister in Christ

    • That’s not biblical. You need to research it.

      • Sorry, it isn’t clear which comment I was replying to! And there’s no way to edit or delete comments. I meant, it isn’t biblical to tell someone they can’t remarry after leaving an abusive relationship. I was replying to Vinelife.

  4. I stayed in an abusive marriage for 20 years. I remember, about 10 years into it, when he started beating the kids, I went to my bishop and asked him why my husband was doing this, what enjoyment he got from it that would induce him not to want to stop. My bishop said “what makes you think he’s enjoying it?” Satan truly does want all to be miserable like unto himself.

  5. Thank you so much for these words. I myself went through a divorce 3 years ago. It took me almost 7 years of our 8 year marriage to leave in fear of sinning against God. I told myself that “marriage was not an option” as I grew up in a divorced home and told myself that I would not put my children through that as well. Shortly after our wedding I discovered that the man I married was not the man I thought he was. I didn’t understand how I could have been so blinded by love that his true nature never was revealed to me until we were already married. One year into our marriage I had been lied to so many time that I always questioned if what he said was truth. I found drugs, porn, rage and verbal abuse underneath it all…and all of it explained away with Gods gift of grace. I told myself he just needed healing and so we pursued marriage counseling….numerous counselors told me I was the problem. He was a master manipulator and liar. He could convince anyone he was a saint and only I saw what was underneath when we got home. I was afraid to leave, and also afraid to tell the complete truth for so Many years. I got the courage to leave him 3 times but every time I went back in hopes that it would promote true change but it always quickly went back to it’s viscous cycle of rage and abuse. I will never forget the words my sister said to me that made me realize what I needed to do (I finally told the truth to someone). She said “why are you so adament about your girls not living in a broken home? We both did and we turned out great”. I realized that she was absolutely right and that I had an opportunity with my children. I could stay and teach them how not to treat a woman or I could leave and have 50% of there time to start over and reteach them about love and marriage. I chose the ladder and am better for it. Our divorce ripped through me though and i am still recovering in the rejection I felt from “the church” as I was viewed as the bad guy for leaving her poor husband. It still hurts my heart as people don’t know the truth in what happened behind those closed doors but your article just brought so much hope into the unspoken realities of my once marriage. Thank you!

  6. It seems to me that the church has for so long been about power, namely masculine power. These conversations need to be happening more and more and I’m grateful for them. Can we move from power to love. Love is the most powerful force in the universe. Can we risk giving up our power (men) in the name of love and find that power more than we ever have!

    • Yes, I agree. Hierarchy, power, and authority have no place in marriage. I do not believe that power simply corrupts people. I believe that abusers are attracted to positions of power. Male and female. People after God’s own heart do not want to wield authority over their spouse.

      • Lisa, I am sure you mean well by your comments. However, the biblical model is clear that sacrificial male authority within marriage is proper and good (Eph 5). The church (believers) must teach & model it in proper context while holding men accountable for their actions. The main problem I see today is that many churches today are market driven and are not willing to confront sin and disciple families in godly Christian living. All the more reason to make the hunt for a New Testament church the TOP PRIORITY in the life of your family.

        • The problem with “sacrificial male authority” is that too many men are not transformed enough to be able to handle the “authority” piece. They see authority and think abusive power. I think we would be well served to use different language. The spirit of the text is not abusive power.

    • Real male power is sacrificial authority that selflessly loves our wives while not insisting on our own way, but carefully applying the Scriptures with patience. There will always be bumps in the road, but these can be handled with humility and grace.

  7. “I want a man who was abusive to have to explain to a potential second wife why his saintly first wife left him.” I can tell you how an abusive man would explain it: It was his wife’s fault — she wouldn’t submit, she didn’t meet his needs, she was critical and unforgiving, nothing he did was good enough for her, etc., etc., etc.

    • spot on! I just recently interacted with my ex, he is still pointing out all my behaviors…which, I admit, I became quite nasty at times and reacted abusively back when my boundaries I attempted to set up to stop his verbal assaults on me were pushed. My career choice is substance abuse counseling, so, its not like I hadn’t a clue how to communicate with him. My area of expertise is addictions and mental health. I am also a survivor of abuse. He used my past against me, and, well, its a long story. He is a very intelligent crafty man that knows how to weave a story of how he was abused by me. He had two so called Christian counselors that did far more damage by enabling him…

    • Yup. That is exactly how.

  8. Some men and women abuse because that is what they grew up with. The church needs to be a community that calls out abusive behavior, teaches healthy boundaries, and preaches a Savior that empowers “abusers” to change.
    If a spouse is physically abusive, call the police. With verbal & emotional abuse, get yourself into a healthy church community. Look for classes about setting healthy boundaries and invite your spouse to join you. Invite healthy people into your life and introduce them to your spouse. Ask healthy people to keep you accountable for your behavior as it is easy to focus on our spouse’s unhealthy behavior while minimizing our own.
    I know men & women who were abusive, but transformed by a healthy church community and a spouse who had faith in a Mighty God.

    • Knowing you mean well, I’d like to respond that it’s not always that simple. My pastor advised me for several years to call the police when my husband would act violently toward me and our children; while now I wish I had done so, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it at the time. Please don’t judge me…one never knows how s/he would respond to such a situation until living it. I certainly would never have predicted my own reactions!

      After many years of silent suffering, I finally opened up to our pastor when my husband’s abuse escalated to include our children; my husband admitted what he had done and half-heartedly participated in counseling. However, no amount of faith, love, respect for his position, or submission on my part nor Biblical counseling by numerous pastors over a decade nor even a Christian residential treatment program has brought about the transformation you have witnessed in some cases. Can it happen? Absolutely! But God does not bully an abuser (or anyone else) into repentance.

    • My “Christian” husband threatened to put a scissors through my forehead if I dialed 911. He was 6 foot 2 and weighed 300 pounds and certainly could have.

    • Yes! Thank you!

  9. Unfortunately, I have witnessed a wife verbally, emotionally, and spiritually abuse her husband and yet claim to be abused. She claimed he was abusive, yet she tore him down verbally, polarized her children against him, and pressured him to stop getting together with men who were meeting with him for Bible study and challenging him to grow and change.
    The pastor of our church confronted her, as have I and other friends who know the family, but she calls her husband a monster and refuses to take responsibility for her own attitude & behavior. She has isolated the children from family & friends who don’t agree with her.
    So, before you believe a woman who claims she is abused, spend time with the family to evaluate who is the real abuser.

    • A good reminder to be slow to judge and level accusations. Instead care by asking good questions.

    • Abusers are notorious for convincing others that they are the victims. I really hope that’s not happening here. It’s very difficult to turn children against a parent, children are so forgiving. I would be listening to what they have to say.

    • I do agree with your posting. Part of that is due to just finishing listening to an
      8 hour continuing educational class called, “Emotional Manipulation: Understanding Manipulators and their Victims”, which I purchased from Regardless of the gender of the abuser, they will blame the victim. And that drives the victim more crazy. The term is “gas-lighting”, which is from an old movie where the husband was using the gas upstairs in the attic for projects while his wife below said the lights were flickering (from the lack of gas). He basically told her she was crazy and that their was no gas issues going on. The speaker in the course does refer historically to the male as typically being an “overt aggressor” (thus easy to spot) and the female as more of an “covert aggressor” (thus, very difficult to spot or find fault with), which he also says is the same as being a manipulator. I sense it really takes some deep insights into the family sometimes to tell what is going on…. maybe in many situations, some are obvious jerks, I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors…. but I do not that covert aggression seems to get a free pass from responsibility and can make the victim look like the bad person in the situation. From a distance, no one can discern who is the real perpetrator.

  10. Thank you for writing this post. I have been going through a difficult divorce for almost 3 years now and I’ve been married 21 years. My husband is a deacon in our church and I’ve contacted my pastor over 50 times and begged him to talk to me and give me advice but he’s only responded once and said “prayers going up for you.” My dad is also a deacon and he’s taken my husbands side and they’ve kept my boys who were my world from me for over two years. My husband ran his diesel truck into the side door of the truck my pawpaw and I were in. It pinned me inside and I have lifelong injuries. My pawpaw will never fully recover either because he’s 92 years old. This happened in August 2015. I have lived with mental and physical abuse for 21 years but the crazy thing is I love him and I wanted more than anything for our marriage to work. I never imagined life without him. While I was teaching VBS I found out my husband was visiting the newest church member at her noise who is 10 years younger than he and I and I was teaching her kids in my VBS class while he was visiting her. He has had several other girlfriends and openly takes them out in public and sits in church on Sunday and helps serve the lords supper because he is a deacon. Before we married I asked him if he knew the lord as his savior and he said he didn’t so I told him about Jesus Christ and I told him I couldn’t marry a man who didn’t know the Lord. I prayed for him everyday and I prayed he would be asked to be a deacon. I feel like I’ve failed as s Christian, a daughter bc my dad takes his side, a wife bc my husband doesn’t love me and he’s been with so many other women, and as a mother because I haven’t saw my boys the last two Christmas. I know God has a plan but I’ve lost everything and don’t know what my purpose on earth is anymore. I don’t understand how he can remain a deacon. I’ve cried everyday for over two years now. I begged him to go to counseling but he refused. He locked me out of our home and I’ve spent nights in homeless shelters and I know what it’s like to be hungry and not have food. Ive been cold and needed a warm place to stay but he refused to let me in our home and only ignores me and laughs at me. He’s taught our boys to disrespect me and our oldest has cussed me like I never imagined anyone could talk to a person. I just don’t know what God wants me to do. I didn’t want my marriage to fail. I will always love my husband but I’m scared of him and he doesn’t want me anyways.

    • Oh, Kim, my heart goes out to you. I will be praying for you. You have a hard road ahead; my advice for you is to leave and find a real church where the Bible is preached, applied, and modelled. Only then will you find the godly support and Christian purpose that you desparately need to keep going.

    • Kim,
      Free and confidential help is available for you – call the National domestic violence hotline at 800-799-SAFE. They can direct you to a domestic violence agency in your area and many, many of these agencies have Christians like me working there. You can ask for faith support, even if it’s not a faith-based agency. I’m so sorry this happened – you are not alone, and it’s not your fault. Help is available.

  11. I love this article, I could have used this years ago! I was in an abusive marriage and was at a complete loss. I wanted to make my marriage work and my husband wanted to as well and we went to counseling with two different pastors. They confronted him about the abuse and because he confessed and said he wanted to change they thought it was all good. They thought we just needed to work on communication and understand a biblical relationship. Unfortunately my husbands issues were far deeper. I saw the cycle of abuse continuing and it would only be a matter of time before it turned physical again. I decided to separate from him and try to still work it out but ultimately I had to file for divorce. I struggled so much because as a Christian I felt like it wasn’t a clear cut issue but I felt the holy spirt leading me to divorce which was so very confusing to me. I have not regretted the divorce. I later learned my ex-husband had a significant history of abuse and still behaves in stalking type behavior. It still is a hard thing to look back on and I really hope the church learns a different way to address this issue. Abusers(men or women) need to be held accountable and must be made to confront whatever in their past is causing this behavior and spouses must be protected and not shamed into staying in a physically or mentally unsafe environment.

  12. I believe the false idea that marriage is a covenant and not a contract has lulled peopled to sleep. We can treat our spouse anyway we choose because they are stuck for life. That isn’t the sense of urgency and accountability that a contract wou!d require. Forget the lie that it is an unbreakable covenant and go back to the jewish contract talked about in exodus and deuteronomy.

    • It is a holy covenant and it should be taken seriously. I’m not sure if you missed something in the article? What this is saying is that you shouldn’t abuse what the Bible says to force a woman, or man for that matter, into staying in an unhealthy marriage. Contract or covenant, doesn’t matter.

    • Thank you for your post. I totally agree. The covenant idea very dangerous. I have heard countless people in church use that term. I am not sure where it came from but it’s dangerous because it fosters abuse and gives the abused no power and no out.

  13. A great article, sadly addressing an issue within my own family. A son accused of being presumably verbally abusive by the wife who wants out of the marriage. Real reason is probably more linked to financial issues. The difficulty to me seems to be defining exactly what is abuse in these circumstances. Am I abused or do I abuse. Over 40 years married and sometimes I feel battered and unloved, and I’m sure my wife may well say the same although must say from both sides it is entirely non physical. No alcohol, drugs etc. We set off saying divorce is not an option although I hold a slightly different view now. However, I do feel that for some believers it is an option taken far too easily these days, but also have to agree with your article that church can also condemn when it should not.

  14. Oh my Lord, I have been married n living separated for almost 6 yrs now. My husband threw me n my son out to the streets several times, and until today he gets the excuse of telling me he did it because I wasn’t paying my share of the bills :(. Never thought my life would of turn into a disaster just because I didn’t want to keep living in sin and be ok in front of God… After this and so many other things.. I have stayed, I was trying to save my marriage but things was getting worst.. the verbal abuse this man used on me. I will never recommend to my worst enemy. He have destroyed myself steam my confident, my dignity.. the only reason why I have stayed thinking that one day God will change his way of thinking, and maybe turn into God and change his life. I’m still married to this man, and is sooooo hard to get him of my life after I told this is it.. I’m going insane, blames me for everything, has a problem with the way I’m the things I like to do in church my relationship with my… he wants me to change all tgis in other for him to be with me.. I can’t n will never do that.. I feel so hopeless sometimes. I feel that I have wasted 6 yrs of my life after saving myself for a good man and I end up with the wrong one for going ahead of God’s plan. If I don’t get out of this I’m gonna drive myself even crazier.. I don’t believe in divorce, but if this is what’s gonna take me to fulfill God’s plan then let it be..cuz I can’t take it anymore…..

    • I went through this same train saving my marriage for my kids until I was pulled out onto a stretcher with the ambulance. Keep u and ur kids (if u have kids) safe by seeking counsel and living in 2 houses until it’s a safe place to return to. This could be a long process. But some people believe it’s either stay or leave. But the other option is above. You will need a very long time of counsel as the way you have been treated seems like normal. You will need reprogramming and prayer. But the stay and pray method got me life changing injuries. Hugs.

    • Thank you for your post. I totally agree. The covenant idea very dangerous. I have heard countless people in church use that term. I am not sure where it came from but it’s dangerous because it fosters abuse and gives the abused no power and no out.

  15. Dear GOD IN HEAVEN, this is refreshing to read. I was this woman, 20 years, and the Church sadly was not my protector. (as a whole)
    I won’t read other comments, as it is not my norm to do so, but I really wanted to give you a positive injection.
    I did leave, God does heal, and His Grace is not just for the abuser, but for the abused.
    Please God, let some pastor somewhere read this, and save the life of a woman.

    • Yes. I also was told by the church to stay and pray and still suffer with much emotional hurt with that part.
      But the stay and pray method got me life changing injuries.
      I as well pray that no other woman in Christian counselling have to be counselled as if it’s regular marriage counselling when a man needs counsel on being an abusive man.

  16. Xian Janeway,

    There’s clearly a lot of grief behind your words. I’m sorry for that. And I am constantly striving to be do a better job, with sermons, and writings, to be clear and to anticipate potential misunderstandings. I’m far from perfect but striving to improve.

    Having said that, I can’t say I agree with your critique, as I think it is rather unfair.

    1. I don’t see how telling the true story of a woman whose husband gave her an STD encourages women to stay in an abusive marriage. The facts were what the facts were. The story doesn’t excuse the husband. It just tells what happened. And I still don’t see how that encourages a woman to stay in an abusive marriage.

    2. I think God DOES hate divorce. That doesn’t mean he likes it. No, I didn’t think to include abuse there, but you’re faulting me for not trying to anticipate extended applications. And keep in mind, just TWO PAGES later, I do say, “But sometimes divorce can even be the right choice.”

    3. Once again, you very conveniently (for your purposes) left out the line two paragraphs above it: “But sometimes divorce can even be the right choice.”

    4. You’re right–there is no exception mentioned. But the words on their own are true, are they not? Must I repeat that divorce is sometimes allowed every other page? This is all in the same chapter! I just think it’s a rather harsh judgment on your part to try to twist words that encourage us to persevere in difficult marriages (for they are all difficult in their own way) into supporting people to stay in abusive marriages, especially when, in this very chapter, I say there ARE occasions when divorce can be considered (though I don’t in this book specifically mention abuse). I can see how someone in an abusive marriage might feel as you do, but that was not my intent. And that’s why, when A Lifelong Love came out, I wrote an appendix, “God Hates Domestic Violence.” And why I’ve written this blog post.

    It’s obvious you’ve been hurt, and it’s understandable that someone with personal experience with this would desire that their case always be in the front part of a writer’s mind as he/she deals with any issue, but that’s not realistic. Writers have to be concise and succinct or we’ll lose our readers.

    Because of this, while it might bother you, I have to say, I stand by these passages in Sacred Marriage. I want couples to push through the difficulties (NOT abuse). I don’t want couples to give up. I think we should fight against divorce with all we have. I believe divorce is a terrible (though sometimes necessary) option.

    In the end, I’m just not sure it’s realistic to put a caveat on every single page that I’m not talking about abuse. I certainly WILL be more mindful of this in the future however, as I was when writing A Lifelong Love (and the upcoming release of Cherish)

    • Wait, where in her response was it “obvious” she was hurt? She quoted your book.

      Also you’re going through her response saying it’s all unfair and taken out of context, not the whole story, etc, but then at the end you say you’re going to be “more mindful” of this in the future? You can’t have it both ways. Either her correction as one of your readers has validity that you can thank her for, or it’s completely off base. Your tone is condescending, especially with assuming she’s coming from hurt. But here’s the thing – if theoretically she was, you’re minimizing possibly enlightening correction from a victim for the sake of “being succint and keeping readers”? Just look at how that sounds. I know you’re not writing books on this subject just to get readers and a following – no, this subject is too important to let victim’s perspectives slip through the cracks.

      Given the extreme gravity of this topic, and the potential for misunderstanding with disastrous consequences, which you clearly know, I don’t think going “overboard” on clarification is remotely a bad thing. You’re the writer, the leader in this field. How your followers follow, and that they get the full picture as best you can, has got to be important.

      • Xian Janeway and Daniel,

        Xian Janeway HAS been hurt–by having to walk through this with others. That’s not dismissive, and it’s not condescending. It’s clear she has more than theoretical knowledge of it, even if it has been gained by grieving with others–as I have. I have been hurt by domestic violence myself though I’ve never been a victim of it, and part of that hurt is why I wrote this blog post. This was in no way intended as a slam, or I’d be slamming myself.

        For the record, my next marriage book after Sacred Marriage was Sacred Influence, a book for wives. From pages 152 to 155 I have an extended discussion urging women to (wisely, carefully and with counsel) leave abusive marriages. I make it clear that any attempt to use Sacred Marriage as cover for abuse is a misapplication. I lay out the biblical case for leaving such abuse, and quote some respected authorities who work with domestic violence, warning against spiritualizing it or minimizing it. It’s not one paragraph. It’s four pages.

        In my next marriage book, A Lifelong Love, I have an entire appendix entitled “God Hates Domestic Violence.”

        From that context, perhaps I was a bit sensitive when it appeared to me that some readers want to assume that one truth–God can use a difficult marriage–applied in an erroneous way (“therefore stay in an abusive marriage”) calls me to renounce prior work. I have gone out of my way to confront this–thus this blog post! And I’m caught off-guard when accusations seem to say I’ve been part of the problem. More than I’m zealous for me, I’m zealous for the way God has used Sacred Marriage in so many positive ways. I hear stories almost daily, still, fifteen years after the book came out.

        We need to hold in tension that God can shape us through the difficulties of marriage, without assuming that justifies violence and abuse. It’s not either-or, and that’s what I was trying to defend with Xian Janeway.

        Daniel, it’s not easy to carry in tension the need to hold readers, address diverse and various situations, and still maintain a platform to be read. My expression of that challenge is not dismissive of Xian Janeway–it’s my daily reality. I can be grateful for how God has used works in the past while still wanting to do a better job of communicating in the future. I don’t see how this needs to be “either or,” as you put it.

  17. Thank you so much for this post! Myriads of Christian women have been misled to put up with extreme abuse in every form and encouraged to keep silent because “love suffers long”..”a wise woman builds her own house”, emphasising the letter and not the spirit of the word. God hates oppression in any form. We are to build on God’s word, not cultural expectation. Abuse is rife and the voice of truth like yours will set more free!

  18. You said on Facebook “Several of the comments criticize me but we’ve left them up because I believe wisdom and truth is best discerned in community; where I’m wrong, I want to be corrected. Leaving up opposing viewpoints can help genuine seekers sort through conflicting arguments.”

    I know of at least two comments that have been deleted. What’s going on?

    • We deleted one because the woman included her full name with strong accusations. It’s not fair to all parties involved when someone may not be able to present their side of the story. We deleted another because a man wrote something that my assistant I felt would be offensive to 99% of the women and most of the men who read this blog and so, for his own good, we didn’t want him to be pilloried. I don’t mind if someone disagrees with me in a reasonable way, but if they say something that is so out there, we don’t feel the need to offer a platform. They can get their own blog for that.

      Please keep in mind, we lost the ability to post many questions and replies when our web team was upgrading us to a new platform. There were several days where nothing got posted.

  19. Dear Gary,
    Thank you. I don’t know how to say it so you understand just how thankful I am. I am a member of a church that values Scripture and Biblical teaching. They talk about the tough stuff and it was one of the things that drew me to it. However, I found myself needing help in my marriage – desperately. I sought wise counsel for 4 years before finally saying enough is enough. I was placed under church discipline without even having a pastor or elder meet with me (alone) to search the Scripture. No one called to pray with me. I was simply told “We’ll be praying for you as you make your decision…” Then, when the discipline was handed down, I have been ignored. They told me God would remove His blessing from me. They told me that I was inviting chaos to reign in my home. They told me it would be my fault if my daughters end up divorced in their future marriages. They said that I didn’t have to agree with them, but they were disappointed I wouldn’t obey them when I was the one that became a member and put myself under their leadership. I have had a horrible 2016 coming to grips with the fact that my spiritual leaders are so hurtfully human. I was sent your article by a friend that has watched me almost drown in the pain of being disciplined without discussion or prayer. I am anguished over the fact that this has occurred. But it took my husband almost 15 years to do to me what the church did in 7 months – make me feel like a second class, disposable person. Your article has given me hope. Your words have been used against me – particularly the “marriage is to make us holy not happy” line being taken out of context. I AGREE with what you teach. I AGREE with God. I HATE divorce too. No woman stands before the love of her life wanting this the be the end of the fairy tale. Thank you for helping me see that to stay and allow my husband to continue to abuse and neglect me and my children, is not acceptable to Jesus. Your words validate my personal study on why I feel I have biblical grounds to end this. It truly was the marriage ends or I end… Enough is enough and I thank you and pray that many elders and pastors take heed. Thank you for reminding me what I have stated to my pastor – all divorces are a result of sin, but not all divorces are sinful. You have given me much peace this night. I am praying that 2017 will be much better – I will most likely be with another group of believers, but I will never leave behind the kind friends like the one that sent me your article as a life line. Thank you – from the depths of my being – thank you.

    • When I was struggling in a similar place as yours, I read the words “There ARE covenant-breaking behaviors.” That clarified almost everything for me. Sexual perversion, immorality, adultery and unfaithfulness are all signs of an already-broken covenant. It defiles the one-flesh relationship and destroys the sanctity (holiness) of the marriage bed. Overpowering a wife’s ideas, her conscience, her choices and her opinions is unloving, abusive and mostly sinful. Lying, controlling and manipulating a spouse is not Christ-like and demonstrated a self-focused world instead of an other-centered servant heart. My husband (sounds a little like yours) is described in 2 Timothy 3- angry, abusive, violent/ brutal, wicked, hater of God, hater of authority, jealous, impatient, lover of money… I have great compassion for women who are married to a 2 Timothy 3 man- it’s crushing. I also was crushed by the church. I also heard that it would be my fault if my boys never had happy marriages, and never recovered from my “selfish choice.” I lost every ministry opportunity I was in, lost my reputation, lost my boys, lost my hope and my faith in one 20-minute meeting with a pastor. Never did get a fair hearing with any member of staff, and was excommunicated by a letter signed by all 15 pastors (only 3 even knew who I was). I have come to believe (after 10 years divorced) the world and the devil have been allowed to infiltrate the churches and blind the young people– they haven’t heard they shouldn’t have sex or watch porn because of the damage it will do to their marriages. They haven’t heard how much work it is to have a good, strong marriage. They don’t know it isn’t all about them and their sexual pleasures- they’ve heard they are princesses and leaders and can do anything they want with no limitations. So they DO! We are the church- WE need to take a stand that says NO to abuse, wrong uses of power, hateful words, manipulative threats, sexual perversions. We need to bring strong consequences (including arrest and jail time) to bear on a person who is accused of physical violence or sexual misconduct. We as women need to speak out against the threats, the power plays, the porn addictions and all the other soul-destroying things that happen in secret behind our closed doors. Start bringing public pressure to bear on these bad people (men and women). (Sorry, I started out in agreement, and ended up with my own rant!)

  20. Children who see abuse grow up to be abusers, and watch DHS rip them out of the home the first time a neighbor calls the police & they label it domestic violence. Yes talk about the kids, it’s against the law literally considered neglect and abuse by DHS for them to be in a home with domestic violence. I’ve seen it many times. abuse in any form is wrong and should be stopped. Unfortunately statistics show abusive men do not change. Look it up.