Abuse is patently wrong, but when should you leave the marriage or relationship? Keep reading to find out when — and if — you should leave. In part 3 of this four-part series on abuse, biblical counselor Jim Newheiser evaluates common statements made about abuse. His article appeared first here at the Biblical Counseling Coalition and is used with permission. Read part 1 and part 2.
If You Feel You’re Being Mistreated, Should You Leave?
ASSERTION: If you feel that you are being mistreated or controlled, leave the relationship.
A valid concern: This statement is made because there are so many women who stay in dangerously abusive relationships when they have every right to seek safety and refuge.
Possible Harm of Believing the Assertion
The harm that can be caused: Those who are seeking to protect victims of abuse sometimes fail to distinguish between the degrees of sinful mistreatment that can take place in a marriage relationship.
The message some women get is that if your husband is to any extent controlling, manipulative, or angry, then you are in an abusive relationship and you need to get out. Women are told that an angry husband has broken the marriage covenant, and they have the right to divorce.
I affirm that a battered wife has every right to get away from a violent husband
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and that his failure to repent and to live at peace with her can eventually lead to the breakup of their marriage (1 Cor. 7:15). Sadly, however, I have seen women who are in difficult, but not violent marriages—in which there is often anger on both sides—who use the claim of abuse to divorce their husbands on less than biblical grounds.
The reality is that marriage brings together two sinners.
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Because of the fall, many marriages involve a struggle for control as described in Genesis 3:16. In many cases, both partners are guilty of sinful anger, which Jesus calls murderous (Matt. 5:21-22).
Wisely Investigating an Abuse Charge
It would be better to say: Wisdom needs to be exercised in distinguishing between degrees of sin in an allegedly abusive situation.
Just as the act of adultery is a greater threat to a marriage than a lustful look (Matt. 5:27-28), there is a difference between physical assault and a harsh word. Because Jesus declared, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt. 19:6b), every effort should be made to preserve marriages and to help both men and women who have fallen short of perfectly keeping the marriage covenant to change.
Church leaders shouldn’t swing from the extreme of sending women back to abusive situations to the other extreme of encouraging the breakup of marriages which might be restored
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. A man who refuses to repent of controlling and angry behavior may be put through a process of church discipline. This process will often give the time and space needed for the abuser’s heart to be more clearly revealed.
(Friend, are you in a controlling, destructive, or difficult marriage? Why not get the help you need? Learn more about confidential, compassionate, effective biblical counseling by Skype or in person.
Contact me today.–Lucy)
Sharing Hope with Your Heart,
Abused? Were you abused, phyically or sexually, in your marriage? In part 2 of this multi-part series on domestic violence, guest writer Jim Newheiser carefully looks at common assertions and takes a balanced view. This post appeared first here at the Biblical Counseling Coalition website and is reprinted with permission.
Read Part 1 here: When to believe the victim, when to believe the abuser
I am thankful to God that many necessary and important books and articles are being written to increase awareness of physical and sexual abuse. Abuse affect both the society at large and the Christian community in particular. Spiritual leaders have been rightly admonished for their failure to protect at-risk women and children.
Battered wives have been wrongly told that if they were just more loving and submissive, their husbands would change and the abuse would stop. They are then wrongly sent back to take further verbal and physical beatings. Many church leaders need to repent of their failure to “rescue the weak and needy; [and] deliver them out of the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 82:4).
While I affirm the importance of understanding the dark nature of abuse and protecting the victims of abuse, I am concerned that some, in their zeal to correct the failure of the past, have swung too far the other way. This can lead to false accusations and unnecessary family breakups.
I would like to give a few examples of what I believe to be common overstatements, and for each one, I will describe the good intention behind the statements, the harm which can be caused because of imbalanced thinking, and a more balanced way of expressing the same concerns.
If You Feel Abused, Then You Were Abused?
ASSERTION: If you feel abused, then you were abused.
- The valid concern: This statement is often made to express the reality that abuse may have taken place even if the abuser does not recognize or acknowledge his behavior (yelling, pushing, bullying, coercion, threats, and intimidation) as wrong.
- The harm that can be caused: On the other hand, the Bible teaches that it is possible to wrongly interpret the words, actions, and motives of others (1 Corinthians 2:11).
For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 1 Corinthians 2:11
For example, Eli falsely accused Hannah of drunkenness because her lips were moving as she prayed (1 Samuel 2:12ff). We cannot judge one person merely by the subjective feelings of another. For example, a man may be in a rush and accidentally bump into his wife (with whom he had had a recent conflict) as he turns a corner. She may accuse him of doing it deliberately to harm her when that was never his motive.
Words also can be misunderstood. What is taken by one person as angry and abusive might have never been intended as such. Nor might it have been interpreted this way by an objective third party.
Scripture reminds us: “Love hopes all things” (1 Cor. 13:7); in other words, love seeks to assume the best.
3. It would be better to say: A person who feels abused should be helped to objectively evaluate what has happened and to get assistance if genuine abuse has taken place. Part of this objective evaluation involves considering the ongoing pattern and cumulative effect of the accused person’s behavior, as well as the immediate accusation at hand. Proper evaluation over time keeps us from wrongly escalating the consequences for one individual incident while also not dismissing the whole situation because one incident wasn’t deemed as abusive.
Sometimes a Victim Has a Sin Issue Too
ASSERTION: It is never the victim’s fault.
- The valid concern: Many abusers claim that their victims are to blame because the victim provoked him or failed to be as good a wife or child as they should be. Many victims suffer from false guilt. There is no valid excuse for physical or sexual abuse.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18
2. The harm that can be caused: Some victims have sin issues which also need to be addressed. I counseled in a case in which a wife would berate and insult her husband, saying “Come on Jesus man, hit me!” She admitted that she felt that she had won the argument when he finally struck her. Again, I emphasize there was no excuse for him hitting her. But she also needed to address her personal sinfulness.
There have been cases of sexual assault in which the woman got herself into an extremely compromising and dangerous situation (i.e., drunk, alone, and making out with a man with whom she is not married). Again, the man should have stopped when she said, “no”
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(also see Habakkuk 2:15). If he assaults her, he is guilty of a crime and should be punished. But she also needs to acknowledge before God her personal sin in the situation. Deuteronomy 22:23-24 addresses situations like this.
3. It would be better to say: Abuse is never justified, but victims may need to examine themselves to see if they have any sin for which they also need to seek God’s forgiveness.
(Friend, if someone has abused you, please seek help from a caring pastor, a spiritually wise woman at your church, or from a biblical counselor, who counsels the compassionate, effective Word to your hurting heart. Learn more about biblical counseling by Skype.–LAM)
Sharing Hope with Your Heart,
Single woman, here’s encouragement for you: Marriage is not the purpose of life. Whether you’ve never married, are divorced, or are a widow, you can honor God through singleness. This reassuring article by Lilly Park, a Crossroads Bible College professor, appeared first here on The Biblical Counseling Coalition website and is used with permission.
How do we talk about singleness in a way that honors God and values all stages of life? A person might be single, because of never marrying, being divorced, or being widowed.
Sometimes the church and Christian colleges give the impression that marriage is the goal of life. This is disconcerting, because it could instill an idolatrous view of marriage and the perception that life is incomplete without a spouse. Unintentionally, we discourage single adults who are trying to serve God well or might not be single by choice. Here are some biblical principles to frame our thinking about singleness and marriage.
Marriage Is Not the Purpose of Life
Marriage is good but not the purpose of life. If marriage is the goal of life, then Jesus and Paul didn’t live purposefully, which is far from the truth. It’s also interesting that marriage is not a reality in heaven (Matthew 22:30). Please know that I have a high view of marriage and believe it is a blessing from God.
Sometimes, however, I think we can exalt marriage as “the” goal of the Christian life. Once that goal is achieved, we might be tempted to forget God’s greater purpose for our lives and the meaning of life.
If marriage (or any other ideal) is our ultimate goal in life, then we are probably not living for God’s glory. For instance, I’ve met husbands and wives who seem more interested in pleasing their spouse or receiving their approval.
Singleness and Marriage Are Good
Both singleness and marriage are good (1 Corinthians 7:17-24). The single life is not an inferior status or a waiting zone for a more satisfying life. If we’re not careful, marriage becomes a form of self-actualization (“I’m complete”) that the Bible doesn’t support. When marriage becomes the highest desire, our lives revolve around getting married.
“If only I was more thin, successful, or funny.” It never ends.
Marriage is not our identity. Yes, it often changes the last name for women and adds new roles and responsibilities for both spouses, but marriage doesn’t change our fundamental being as children of God. It doesn’t change who we are as people. We’re also not less worthy as a Christian if we’re divorced.
Single or Married, You Are Created to Glorify God
God created us to glorify him, whether single or married. The Bible focuses more on our relationship with God than on human relationships (Matthew 22:37-40). God didn’t redeem us for the purpose of earthly marriage, but marriage is a part of God’s plan for most individuals.
How one glorifies God will look different as a single or married person because of different priorities and responsibilities, but bearing fruit is not an option for a Christian (John 15:8). With this understanding, we are exhorted to be faithful in following Christ and becoming more like him (Colossians 2:6-7).
Marriage Is Not About You
Marriage is not about me but God’s glory. That’s why marriage is not the solution for loneliness, discontentment, or instability. Discontentment is a spiritual problem, not a lack-of-spouse problem.
It basically says to God, “My way, my timing!” If a person is discontent as a single, he or she will find something else to be discontent about as a married person.
“I want a bigger house.”
“I want a child.”
“I want more respect.”
“I want more love.”
Getting married is not difficult, but marrying God’s way is a conviction. It includes no “missionary dating” (2 Corinthians 6:14) or shortcuts. A person’s salvation and relationship with God are essential conversations for a budding relationships; so is spending quality time together and in groups. Also, it helps to think about how the relationship displays belief in God. Does the interaction stand out because Christlikeness is evident? How does the relationship with God affect the relationship?
Single or Married, Live for God
Single or married, let’s make the most of our days in living for God. I’ve been inspired by both single and married individuals. For example, I think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, of William Wilberforce and Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth (both married at a later age), of John Stott and so many others who live purposefully. On the other hand, I sometimes meet single women who plan to start serving the church or pursue some passion after marriage.
Why not now?
Sharing Hope with Your Heart,
SUBMISSION? Use this S word among girlfriends in church or on a night out and toes curl.
Many people misunderstand what the Bible means when it says that wives are to “be submissive” to their husbands. This includes many married women I’ve counseled.
Forever I’ll remember the panicked call from a friend whose former college roommate fled her West Coast home, very pregnant and with two little ones in tow. The former roommate and I soon talked by phone. Through sobs the story came out:
Fearing for her children’s safety and her own sanity, she packed bags and drove east toward her childhood home.
Do you have a handle on the real meaning of submisison? Has someone use care about used this word against you in order to manipulate you or shame you?
For this article, I turned to Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by John Piper and Wayne Grudem for answers and discovered 7 lies about submision I share with your. Read 1 Peter 3:1-7 here and the 7 below. My prayer is for you to understand God’s plan for marriage and to learn common abuses over submission, like the one my pregnant counselee had encountered.
Lie 1: Put Your Huband in the Place of Christ
Christ is always first. 1 Peter 2:21 says,
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men (1 Peter 2:13).
Rather, look to Christ and follow him.
Lie 2: Never Try to Influence Your Husband
You should influence your husband, wisely and winsomely. For instance, a wife whose husband is an unbeliever ought to win him over (to Christian faith) “without words by their behavior”–pure and reverent.
Lie 3: Stop Thinking for Yourself
Peter speaks directly to wives in 1 Peter 3:1-6, not to the husbands. He wants them to think about God’s Word and apply it to their lives. My former counselee who had put a safe distance between her and her husband reported that he told her what she should think. She wasn’t allowed to think for herself. Have you received a similar edict from your husband?
Lie 4: Give in to Your Husband’s Demands
When a husband demands that a wife sin, she must say “no” to her huband. Her refusal to sin lines up with Peter’s command to have proper conduct among unbelievers:
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
Lie 5: You Are Less Competent Than Your Husband
This is another lie. In fact, some wives have far greater spiritual insight than husbands. This is certainly true when a Christian wife is married to an unbelieving spouse. She has the Holy Spirit dwelling within her. He does not.
Lie 6: Submission Means Wives Should Fear
On the contrary, Peter says wives should not “give way to fear” (verse 6). The instruction for husbands to respect their wives as “the weaker partner” has nothing to do with a woman’s lack of courage when endangered.
Lie 7: Submission Means Wives Are ‘Less Than’
Jesus submitted to God the Father, and he has dignitity and honor. A wife’s submission to her husband is similiar to Christ’s submission to the Father; they have equal importance.
What Submission Means
“Be submissive to your husbands” (verse 1) basically means that a wife willingly affirms the leadership of the husband.
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It doesn’t mean she’s a doormat or has no say or lacks value. Rather,
In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives, as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Ephesians 5:28)
Both the husband and wife are called to self-sacrifice. Look at the word the apostle Paul selected for love. It is agape in the Greek. This self-sacrificing kind of love isn’t about sex or affection or brotherly kindness. It is the kind that lays down one’s life for the other.
As a Bible study author astutely pointed out, an argument in a home where a husband loves his wife and she submits to his leadership might sound like,
“I insist that you have your way.”
“No, no, really, I insist you have your way.”
Just imagine that was the tone of your arguments, with the husband trying to out-sacrifice his wife and the wife trying to out-submit her husband. Just imagine the number of marriages that would thrive. The kids too.
I encourage you to read Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood for yourself. It sheds light on many Scripture passages that have confused men and women, leading to clarity in the roles of husband and wife in the home, church, and personal life.
Let us live in harmony with one another, as God intends.
Sharing Hope with Your Heart,
Is there life after divorce? Yes! There definitely is.
No one need to tell you divorce is a type of death. Sure, you have a pulse but your dreams cracked open, and you feel broken. Shattered.
“Will I ever be happy?” a recently divorced woman and mother of several adult children asked me.
“Yes, as God fits together the pieces, and as you apply God’s Word to your life, you’ll experience a joy that’s deeper than circumstantial happiness,” I replied. “Do you want to get better?”
She twisted the tissue in her hands. “Yes.”
In this article, I’ll share hope and help in three significant ways:
- Identifying the ultimate cause of divorce
- Giving encouragement from divorced Christian women.
- Three tips toward wholeness after divorce.
Ultimate Cause of Divorce
The ultimate cause of divorce is sin. Sin is selfish, prideful, and misaligned with God’s written Word, that is, the Bible. In the Bible, God gives two legitimate grounds for divorce
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- Unrepentant, sexual adultery. (Matthew 5:31, 19:9)
- Desertion by an unbeliever. (1 Corinthians 7:15-16)
Even though these are legitimate grounds for divorce, God always meant for marriage to be for life. In Malachi 2:16, God says he hates divorce because it’s borne from sin and brings destruction.
In what ways have you experienced the effects of destruction? Have you received care or condemnation from your Christian friends?
Remember, for Christians:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1, ESV)
God doesn’t condemn you, dear friend, even though you and your ex sinned against each other. When God brings together two sinners in a marriage, guess what? They sin. God uses marriage to chip away at your character flaws–and his. Sometimes marital conflict seems unbearable, doesn’t it?
“I used to feel rejected,” Lana said. “That first year was unbearable. My sleep was awful and I couldn’t stop eating junk food.
A neighbor asked me over for coffee. This was a turning point.
“We talked and I began to see that it wasn’t just his fault. I was selfish too. My friend listened. I thank God for her.”
“I went back to bed after I got the kids off to school,” Annie shared. “Life seemed black after the divorce. What kept me going were my kids and going to church on Sundays.
“I thought I went to church for them so they could be in Sunday School, but
the worship songs melted by hardened heart.
“I began to look up again. It still hurts and money is still tight, but I have hope now.”
“My husband was into porn,” Jess said. “I didn’t know about his addiction when we married. We talked to the pastor. Justin would stop for a while then I’d catch him at it again. I felt so numb, I didn’t know what to do. He said he didn’t want to hurt me so he divorced me.”
“I guess the good that came out of it was getting counseling and growing closer to the Lord.”
Three Tips Toward Wholeness
- Learn conflict resolution. A main reason for bitterness in marriage is failing to work through problems. Commit to speaking the truth in love to family members, coworkers, and people at church and in your neighborhood. When you speak the truth in love, you communicate your feelings lovingly and work toward a solution.
- Figure out what kindles your anger and fear. As your identify the thoughts that prompt your emotions you can change them. “Take every thought captive to obey Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:5).
- Cling to your identity in Christ. You are God’s beloved child. Get my 64-page eBook to savor the “5 Amazing Names God Calls You!”
Join the Conversation
How has divorced touched your life? Where did you find hope and healing?
AN OFFER: Get a free consultation! Great for any woman going through hurt or who has questions. Contact me now.
Sharing Hope with Your Heart,