Stay in an abusive marriage? Stay with an abusive father or mother? To assert anyone should ever stay in an abusive relationship is counter to everything our culture teaches. We are to confront or flee abusive situations but we should never ever endure abusive situations or so we are told today even in the vast majority of Christian circles.
In my previous article “What Does The Bible Say About Abuse?” I talked about what abuse is from a Biblical perspective. I stated that the word abuse literally is “ab + use” which means to misuse or mistreat someone or something. I also talked about both emotional (including verbal) abuse and physical abuse as they are spoken to in the Bible with a specific emphasis on what abuse looks like in marriage and the family.
But what I did not cover were two important areas on this subject of abuse. The first is what role does God grant to the government in dealing with abuse? The second is how family members, including husbands, wives and children, should respond when they are abused by one another in various ways.
Did God Grant Government the Power To Determine What Abuse Is?
Many Christians instead of looking to the Bible for their definition of abuse instead look to their feelings, their culture and most commonly their civil government.
First we must understand that it is God who defines the responsibilities, rights and limitations of the spheres of authority of the civil government, the church and the family. Abuse is a moral issue and it is God and not culture or government that defines what is moral and what is immoral.
Many Christians have been wrongly taught that civil government is an unlimited power established by God. This comes from a false understanding of passages like the one below:
“13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.”
I Peter 2:13-14 (KJV)
Passages like the one above must be taken into context with the entirety of the Scriptures. Christ himself stated that civil government is in fact limited in its scope and authority:
“And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.”
Mark 12:17 (KJV)
Jesus did not say “Give to God what is God’s and everything else belongs to Caesar”. His words were carefully measured. He said to give to Caesar “the things that are Caesar’s” which tells us God actually intends for civil government to be limited.
So the next question we must ask is “What is the scope of responsibility and power that God has given to civil government?” The answer is found in Romans chapter 13:
“For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”
Romans 13:4 (KJV)
The government is God’s “revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil”. It is the civil government’s job to ENFORCE God’s moral law – not to MAKE moral law on its own. Murder is not wrong because the United States government or our State governments say it is wrong. Murder is wrong because God says it is wrong. So when police officers or other law enforcement officers arrest murderers to stand trial and ultimately face punishment they are acting as God’s ministers. When the judge or jury hand down the sentence they are acting as God’s revenger executing “wrath on him that doeth evil”.
Now our punishments for breaking God’s moral law may be different in each state, province or country but the moral law of God itself cannot be added to or changed by anyone but God himself.
The civil government must always be respectful of its limitations when it enters the sphere of the church or the home. This means that they must never usurp or take authority in matters which God has not given to the government but instead he has given to the church or the home.
When the government attempts to usurp authority in the church or the home Christians have the God given right and in most cases the responsibility to exercise civil disobedience against such usurpation.
God has appointed Pastors as the interpreters of God’s moral law in the church assembly and he has appointed husbands as the interpreters of God’s moral law in the home. God states this regarding our obedience to church leaders:
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”
Hebrews 13:17 (KJV)
When I walk into my church assembly I must always recognize that God has given my Pastor the spiritual oversight of that assembly. That means if I were to teach Sunday school in my church or teach from our pulpit in his absence I should not teach contrary interpretations to his that would cause division. This is one reason that I have not taught in the church I attend in many years and I would not because I might easily come into conflict with my Pastor’s interpretations on many doctrinal issues. Also I and my family follow whatever rules my pastor sets for dress standards for church activities if those standards are more conservative.
But think of how absurd it would be for me to go to my local mayor or state governor and ask them their interpretation of the scriptures and also what they think the rules for behavior within my church assembly should be. Imagine if I brought these interpretations back to my church and in direct defiance of my pastor began trying to implement them. Not only would these actions be absurd on my part – but they would be in direct contradiction to the Word of God. Those civil authorities have no authority in these matters in my church.
By the same token God does not tell wives when they have a moral or spiritual question to go seek out their Pastor, local mayor or state governor. Instead he tells them to seek out the spiritual head of their home:
“34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. 35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”
1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (KJV)
This is why it is highly inappropriate for government or church officials to come into a home and give wives or children instructions on morality that are counter to the teachings of the husband who is the head of that home. In fact, the husband is the only human authority in all the Scriptures where God commands the one under his authority to submit to him “as unto the Lord”:
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.”
Ephesians 5:22 (KJV)
It is a sad testament to the wicked times we live in that husbands, the most powerful of all human authorities that God ever established, have had their spiritual authority completely usurped and gutted by both our civil and our church authorities.
The Government Has Nullified God’s Law With Its Domestic Abuse Definitions
The Scriptures tell us this regarding God’s law:
“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”
Deuteronomy 4:2 (KJV)
As we previously established, the government has absolutely no right to add or take away from God’s moral law. None whatsoever. Also Christ spoke against human laws which nullify God’s laws:
“Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”
Mark 7:13 (KJV)
This is what our current US Justice Department definitions of domestic abuse do – they literally attempt to add to God’s moral law and in effect nullify God’s moral law in regard to this issue of domestic abuse. With that said I will briefly address some of this addition to and nullification of God’s law in current US Justice Department definitions of domestic abuse which you can find at https://www.justice.gov/ovw/domestic-violence. Also keep in mind that all these definitions have to do with domestic violence – meaning what is considered abuse in the home between members of the home.
The Government’s Definition of Abuse Vs The Bible’s Definition of Abuse
“Physical Abuse: Hitting, slapping, shoving, grabbing, pinching, biting, hair pulling, etc are types of physical abuse. This type of abuse also includes denying a partner medical care or forcing alcohol and/or drug use upon him or her.”
The first problem with this definition is that it completely negates any type of physical discipline which is commanded by God for children (Proverbs 23:13-14) and is also allowed by God for adults (Deuteronomy 25:1-3, Proverbs 19:29 and Proverbs 26:3). Under this definition of physical abuse spanking of one’s child or one’s wife would be consider abuse (See my article “Does the Bible Allow Wife Spanking” for more on that issue). A mother or father slapping their rebellious child even with an open palm (front handed) would be guilty of physical abuse under this definition.
I agreed in my previous article on abuse that things like shoving and punching have no place in the home not even as methods of discipline because they risk serious bodily injury or even death in violation of God’s law regarding limits on discipline (Exodus 21:26-27). I also agreed that things like biting, kicking and hair pulling have no place in the home as methods of discipline as it should be done in love and in control and not as brawl or a fight. But again overall the biggest problem with the government’s definition of physical abuse is that its definition negates physical discipline in the home which God allows.
“Sexual Abuse: Coercing or attempting to coerce any sexual contact or behavior without consent. Sexual abuse includes, but is certainly not limited to, marital rape, attacks on sexual parts of the body, forcing sex after physical violence has occurred, or treating one in a sexually demeaning manner.”
First we will address where this government definition of sexual abuse aligns with God’s moral law and that is regarding children. A parent has absolutely no right under God’s law to touch their child in a sexual way, to coerce them or force them to have sex. This is a violation of God’s moral laws regarding incest (Leviticus 18:6).
But really the heart of this definition is directed at husbands in regard to how they engage in sexual activity with their wives. And when applied to the husband/wife relationship this definition of sexual abuse for the most part nullifies God’s Word.
This government’s definition of sexual abuse as with physical abuse nullifies a husband’s God given sexual rights to his wife’s body in marriage. It also nullifies his right to discipline her for sexual refusal. The Bible says that sex is both a right and responsibility in marriage (Exodus 21:10-11, Proverbs 5:18-19, I Corinthians 7:3-4) and that the only thing that must be mutually agreed upon in the area of sex is when a couple will NOT have sex (I Corinthians 7:5) for a short time. See my articles on sexual refusal, sexual consent and forced sex in marriage for more on what the Bible says about these topics.
Emotional Abuse: Undermining an individual’s sense of self-worth and/or self-esteem is abusive. This may include, but is not limited to constant criticism, diminishing one’s abilities, name-calling, or damaging one’s relationship with his or her children.
While we need to be careful of how subjective this government definition of emotional abuse is I think for the most part it aligns with what the Scriptures say that we should generally be trying to build people up and not tear them down(Ephesians 4:29,James 3:8-10). See my article on “What Does the Bible Say About Abuse?” for more on the subject of emotional abuse.
Economic Abuse: Is defined as making or attempting to make an individual financially dependent by maintaining total control over financial resources, withholding one’s access to money, or forbidding one’s attendance at school or employment.
This government definition of “Economic Abuse” is a complete addition to God’s moral law and it also nullifies a husband’s rights toward his wife under God’s law. And again let’s not kid ourselves that they are speaking equally to husbands and wives. This is an attack on patriarchy and men having their wives being economically dependent on them.
The fact is this definition of Economic abuse is exactly the opposite of God’s moral law on this issue. In Exodus 21:10-11 we are told that if a man does not provide his wife with food and clothing she may be free of him (divorced from him). God considers it economic abuse when a man forces his wife to economically independent of him, not when he forces his wife to be economically dependent on him.
And yes husbands under God’s law can absolutely forbid their wives from going to college or seeking careers as wives are to be subject their husbands in EVERYTHING as the Church submits to Christ in everything (Ephesians 5:24).
Also as far as household finances go – whether a husband allows his wife to work or not all the financial decision making comes under his direction. If he wants to take away his wife’s ATM card he can do that under God’s law.
Psychological Abuse: Elements of psychological abuse include – but are not limited to – causing fear by intimidation; threatening physical harm to self, partner, children, or partner’s family or friends; destruction of pets and property; and forcing isolation from family, friends, or school and/or work.
If read in a certain way, the government’s definition of psychological abuse may actually align with the Scriptures. God does forbid the use of threatening (Ephesians 6:9). If a husband or wife threatens to kill themselves or their children or pets or to destroy property if they don’t get what they want that is the very definition of threatening behavior which is condemned by the Word of God.
However a warning from an authority toward one under them of the consequences of their actions is not engaging in threatening or psychological abuse. If I isolate my teen son from friends that are bad influences on him is that psychological abuse? The answer is no. It all depends on my motivation. Is my intent simply to exert my power over him or is it actually for his own good? If it is the latter there is nothing immoral about this from a Biblical perspective.
Many people would agree that the example I gave is not immoral. But what if I replaced my son in that example with my wife? OH NO – that is completely different right? Why? Most people would respond “Because she is an adult”. First of all the Bible does not recognize the recently invented social class of “adult”. Instead it recognizes the three primary social classes of Man, Woman and Child. The Bible makes no distinction when it comes to the discipline of wives and children. If my wife was talking to or hanging out with other women who were bad spiritual influences on her affecting her morals, relationship with God or with me I have absolutely ever right before God as her spiritual authority to restrict her access to those women.
The Bible teaches a clear social order – the husband is the head of the wife and children are under the authority of their parents(Ephesians 5:23-24, Ephesians 6:1-3).
And for all you feminists out there the practice of a husband exercising his spiritual authority over his wife in these ways does not infantilize her or make her equal with her children. God has granted a wife and mother more rights than he has her children. She has sexual rights to her husbands body and she is given the position of manager of the home and of the children which are sacred and honored roles. She of course exercises these positions under the authority of her husband but by no means does the Bible make wives and children equals with another.
So when we throw out the straw-man argument that a husband exercising control over his wife infantilizes her we come to the real heart of the issue. Feminists don’t like the fact that while God gives women more rights than children he does not give women equal rights with men. In other words, its not about women be treated as children but its about women be treated as women. Feminists want women treated as men.
When Are Women Allowed To Approach Civil or Church Authorities About Abuse?
A wife and mother should only go around her husband who is her spiritual authority in the gravest of circumstances. If a husband violates the Exodus 21:26-27 principle and threatens or actually causes serious bodily harm or what he is doing has the potential of causing death to her or her children a wife has every right to approach her church authorities and civil authorities.
In I Samuel 25 we see that Abagail went against her husband’s wishes to save her family from his wicked actions that would have had them killed. This teaches us that if a woman finds out her husband is involved in some criminal or otherwise wicked activity that endangers the life of her family she has every right to go to the civil authorities to protect her life and the life of her children.
Also if a wife finds out that her husband has been sexually abusing one of her children in violation of the Leviticus 18:6 principle she has every right to turn her husband over to both the church and civil authorities. When husbands commit such heinous acts they invalidate their ownership and headship over their wives and children allowing their wives and children to be freed from them.
Why God Wants You to Stay in an Abusive Relationship
The natural follow up question to what we have just said about a woman and her children being able to free from a man who physically abuses them(by Biblical standards of course) is “What about non-physical abuse like emotional and verbal abuse? What recourse does a wife have in such situations?”
First I will fully agree that men can abuse their wives in non-physical and less extreme ways than what I have previously mentioned. A husband may not be a drug dealer who places his family’s life in jeopardy by his wicked lifestyle and he may not ever lay a hand on either his wife or children in a sinful manner. But perhaps he has a problem with anger and flying off the handle and saying hurtful things.
Maybe he has a problem with bitterness and taking that out on the family in various emotional or verbal ways. Maybe he is hyper critical toward his wife and children and never uplifts them. Maybe he even abuses his authority and gets off on power kicks and trying to humiliate his wife or children by various unreasonable demands. Maybe he isolates his family not for their protection but to project his power over them. There could be a myriad of ways that a husband either verbally or emotionally abuses his wife and children or he simply abuses his power to meet his own ego needs.
I also want to stop here for a second and make a very important point on this subject of abuse. Often times we center these discussions of domestic abuse on husbands and fathers but we forget that wives and moms can and do physically, verbally and emotionally abuse their husbands and children as well. Do wives or moms sometimes engage in hypercritical behavior toward their husbands or children? You bet they do. Do some wives or moms even punch, shove or engage in other forms of physical abuse toward their husbands or children? You bet they do. Do some wives play emotional games with their husbands and insult their manliness or sexual ability? You bet they do. Do some women push their husbands away sexually which is a form of emotional abuse toward men? Absolutely there are many women who engage in these behaviors.
Also children sometimes abuse their parents in various ways. Do children steal money from their parents? Yes they do. Do children despise and curse their parents? Yes they do. Do some children strike their parents? Yes they do. Do children reject their parent’s authority over them? This happens all the time in our day and age.
But let’s now return specifically to the subject of wives and children enduring emotional, verbal and other forms of abuse that are not the physical or life threatening types of abuse we have previously mentioned that would warrant outside intervention and in many cases divorce.
As I mentioned at the introduction of this article our modern culture has an attitude that we should never endure any kind of abuse from anyone whether it be someone who is our equal and especially from someone who is our authority. We are told to confront the person and then flee the relationship if the abuser does not repent and change their ways.
But when we read the Scriptures we see a very different view of how we should respond to abuse:
“18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. 19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: 24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”
I Peter 2:18-24 (KJV)
When we endure grief or suffer wrongly at the hands of others, in other words when we endure mistreatment which is abuse and take it patiently the Scriptures tell us “this is acceptable with God”. God is not excusing the actions of the abusers. But God is saying when we are on the receiving end of various kinds of abuse and we take it patiently that this is acceptable with God.
Such a thought is foreign to our thinking but the Scriptures tell us “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8).
We often talk on this blog about how God likes to image or model things. Man was created to image God and thereby bring him glory (I Corinthians 11:7) and woman and by extension marriage was created to help man fully image God as a husband and father (I Corinthians 11:9, Ephesians 5:22-33). When it comes to this matter of suffering abuse – we, both men and women, actually model Christ when we suffer abuse from others taking it patiently as he did. And that is why God wants you to stay in an abusive relationship.
Now again we must look at this passage in light of the entirety of the Scriptures. I have already shown that God does not expect us to stay and endure physical abuse that could risk serious injury or death from Exodus 21:26-27.
There were certain areas Jesus would not go into during his ministry because he knew the Jews there sought to kill him (John 7:1) and it was not yet his time to die. Although Paul suffered great persecutions he also sought to avoid them at times (II Corinthians 11:33). But did Christ or Paul run from “verbal and emotional abuse” as we often hear people telling us to do today? No. They were fleeing the threat of serious bodily injury or in most cases death.
So what this means on a practical level is this. As a wife or as a child there are going to be days when your husband or your father may act in the flesh and not in the spirit. He may say hurtful things. He may raise his voice for what appears to be no reason at all. He may act sinfully toward you by being verbally or emotionally abusive. But his wrong actions do not justify wrong actions on your part. Not only should you never return insult for insult or repay any type of verbal or emotional abuse but you must also never forget your subordinate place as either the wife or the child.
It is not your place to rebuke your husband or our father for emotional or verbal abuses.
Now does that mean that a wife or child can never express grievances they have with their husband or father? No. I don’t think that is wrong but it should never come across as if they are they are equals and are teaching the husband or father. In the book of Job we read:
“13 If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they contended with me; 14 What then shall I do when God riseth up? and when he visiteth, what shall I answer him? 15 Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb?”
Job 31:13-15 (KJV)
This is a teaching which applies to those of us who are in authority over others no matter what sphere it is in including the home. We as husbands must realize that if we have truly wronged those under us God allows them to bring their grievances to us. If we do not act justly toward those under us it is God who will rise up against us. That is why God warns husbands that if they mistreat their wives he will not hear their prayers (I Peter 3:7).
When it comes to expressing grievances we must realize this can abused as well. Remember that God tells wives in I Peter 3:1-2 to win their husbands who are disobedient to the word by their subjection and reverent behavior. If you as a wife are expressing your grievances with your husband every five minutes you are not “taking it patiently” as I Peter 2:20 exhorts you to do.
The same goes for children. Far too often in our culture we make children feel completely comfortable confronting their parents with accusations of unfair treatment on a regular basis. Again we need to teach our children that they too need to be “taking it patiently” and following the example of Christ in suffering what they believe to be wrong doing.
Wives and children also need to be reminded of something on a regular basis. Just because you feel you have been mistreated does not mean you actually have been mistreated. Sometimes your feelings can blind you to reality that is going on. You need to step back and look objectively at what has occurred to see if what actually happened was in fact fair treatment that was warranted because of your behavior.
Should Authorities Allow Abuse From Their Subordinates?
But now we come to the issue of husbands, fathers and mothers who might suffer abuse at the hands of those God has placed under their spiritual authority. Should authority figures react to abuse from their subordinates in the same way that their subordinates should react to abuse from them? Should they simply endure and take patiently all forms of abuse from their subordinates as long as they are not being physically abused or having their life threatened?
To answer these questions we must first understand that all authorities God has instituted have not only a right but also a responsibility to discipline those under their authority. Church leaders have a right and responsibility to discipline those within their assemblies, civil authorities have a right and responsibility to discipline those within their local, state or national jurisdictions and husbands and parents have a right and responsibility to discipline those in their home.
In the case of the family if a husband or parent allows all mistreatment of themselves by their wife or children to go unpunished then they would be violating the spiritual duty God has given them to rebuke and chasten those under their authority(Proverbs 23:13-14, Revelation 3:19).
So for instance if a man’s wife or child is cursing him, or disrespecting him or telling him they do not have to obey him then he is called by God to discipline them. Yes these actions are an abuse toward him and mistreatment of him. They are hurtful and unkind. But for the husband or father in this situation they must remember that this is not about their feelings of hurt after being mistreated by their wife or child. It is about their solemn responsibility as the head of their home to discipline their family members. That is why husbands and fathers must always realize that true Biblical discipline should never be an act of revenge for some incurred abuse, but rather it is an act of love to discipline the other and perhaps cause them to repent and change their ways.
Notice earlier that I said a husband or parent should not allow “all” mistreatment of themselves but the key word is “all”. As human authorities we cannot read or control the thoughts and feelings of those who are our subordinates. We can only hold our subordinates accountable for their words and actions, not their thoughts and feelings.
So we may see that our wife or child does the right thing after being disciplined but they still seem to have an attitude of bitterness toward us. No husband wants to be despised by his wife and no father or mother wants to be despised by their child. But at these times we must enter in prayer for our wives and children knowing that we can only seek to correct the outward actions as human authorities and only God can correct the heart.
If you as a husband or father live to always feel liked and loved by your wife or children then you will not discipline them as God has called you to and you will fail to be the husband and father God wants you to be. Not being liked at times is part of the job description gentlemen.
14 “What If” Questions About Marriage
What if my spouse makes fun of my looks on a regular basis?
What if my spouse hurls insults at me on a daily basis?
What if my spouse is hyper critical toward me on a daily basis?
What if my spouse is bipolar or has some other mental illness and refuses to get professional help?
What if my spouse has some type of addiction?
What if my husband abuses his power and gets off on using his power to make me do ridiculous things?
What if my husband is a selfish lover and never asks me what I want in our sex life?
What if my husband never talks to me and only wants sex?
What if my wife is a contentious and brawling woman toward me on a daily basis?
What if my wife is like a constant dripping water and nags me on daily basis?
What if my husband is a workaholic?
What if my wife is never satisfied with anything I buy her (our house, her clothes, our car…etc.)?
What if my wife always gives me grudgingly given sex?
What if my wife is a selfish lover and only wants sex her way?
The answer to all these “What If” questions is the same. Search the Scriptures and you will find there is absolutely no allowance for divorce in any of these situations. All of these situations are hard to live with if you are the spouse who has to endure them. But God does not give us an easy way out but instead he tells us this regarding the trials we face in life:
“3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope”
Romans 5:3-4 (KJV)
Often times the greatest trials we face in life are a result of the actions of those closest to us. It might be our spouse whose behavior tries our faith on a daily basis. It might be our child. It might be our parents. But in all these cases God does not allow us to simply push the eject button and leave these relationships because they are hard to endure. He calls us to lean on him for strength knowing that his grace is sufficient to get us through each day of these trials.
When we as husbands or wives continue to live with a spouse that verbally or emotionally abuses us or they just make life difficult for us we not only follow Christ’s pattern in taking such abuses patiently on a regular basis, but we also honor God by showing our commitment to his institution of marriage. This is why staying in an abusive relationship can actually bring glory and honor to God.
Is It Wrong to Feel Hurt Because of Abuse?
This is a very legitimate question. Even if we as Christians set out to follow Christ’s example in taking patiently the abuse we may suffer from others does this mean it is wrong for us to allow ourselves to experience anguish or hurt because of past or even future abuses we know are going to happen?
Again we have Christ’s example to answer this question for us:
“41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, 42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. 43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
Luke 22:41-44 (KJV)
You think your husband’s verbal and emotional abuse is bad? You think your parent’s emotional or verbal abuse is bad? Think of the abuse Christ suffered. And because he was God in the flesh he knew before he suffered exactly what he was going to suffer. Christ was literally in “agony” knowing what he was about to face. He asked his father if it was his will that he would remove this coming trial – yet he prayed not his will, but his father’s be done.
So again Christ is our model in dealing with abuse that we suffer from others. It is not wrong to feel hurt about past abuses or impending abuse that we know we will continue to suffer on daily basis from our family member. It is not wrong to agonize over these things. We are not called to suppress our feelings. Christ did not suppress his. But Christ controlled his feelings, he did not let them control him. We should all follow Christ’s example when suffering abuse asking God to remove the abuse perhaps by changing the heart of the abuser. But we should always end such prayers the same way Christ ended his – “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done“.
Our culture teaches us a one size fits all approach to when others mistreat us (abuse us). They teach us we should never allow any type of mistreatment from others to go unchecked and unchallenged. We are told we must confront all forms of abuse from wherever they come and they make absolutely no distinctions between a husband and wife, a parent and child, an employer and employee, a church member and a Pastor or a citizen and his government.
We have literally created “grievance industries” within our political arenas, business arenas, churches and families where people air their grievances both big and small and real or imagined with one another on daily basis. There is very little following of Christ’s example in regard to abuse to “take it patiently”.
So from our world’s perspective children are encouraged to correct and rebuke their parents for every harsh word they may speak toward them. Wives are encouraged to confront every harsh word their husband speaks toward them. And this pattern is seen in churches as well as nations. In other words – every perceived or actual injustice is encouraged to be confronted no matter where it is or how it occurs.
The Biblical approach to us handling mistreatment which is abuse is not a “one size fits all approach”. The type of abuse and the sphere it occurs in whether in marriage and the family, the church or in society with government are handled differently if we are following Biblical principles in these areas.
Those in authority must confront sinful words and actions of those under them whether those words or actions are direct abuses toward the authority themselves or toward others. But these actions of discipline are not to be a repayment of sorts for abuses incurred but rather they are meant to be corrective actions taken in love to help that person better conform themselves to God’s moral law.
Those under authority while having the right to address grievances with their authority should not over use this right. The over usage of the ability to respectfully air grievances with one’s authority goes against Christ’s example of “taking it patiently”. Also specifically when it comes to wives, if a wife is airing grievances ever five minutes with her husband she is violating the I Peter 3:1-2 principle that she is to win her husband who is being disobedient to the Word with her subjection and reverence, not her contentions.
So on the one hand Biblically speaking we do not have to suffer or allow every kind of abuse from every sphere in our life but on the other hand the Bible does not allow us to or encourage us to do what the world says and confront EVERY kind of abuse or mistreatment toward us no matter what the offense is or where it comes from.
We all need to look to Christ’s example of “taking it patiently”.
44 thoughts on “Why God Wants You to STAY in an Abusive Relationship”
“What if my husband abuses his power and gets off on using his power to make me do ridiculous things?”
I appreciate this Godly advice. There are times I believe Jim goes too far in setting rules for me with regards to my appearance (only dresses and only wearing high heeled shoes) and what I have to ask permission to do (everything).
If I were to impulsively act out during one of these times of frustrations, I could remove myself from being able to minister to Jim and our family. If I claimed abuse to friends or family because of my inconvenience or discomfort, I could irreparably alter our situation and cause intrusion by government of other parties.
Bottom line— its not about me. Its about bringing glory to God by pleasing our husbands and being the best helpmate and mothers we can be.
The popular view is that any behavior that can be classified as “abusive” is practically criminal behavior and grounds for divorce. But unloving behavior varies widely from an unintentional slight all the way up to murder. Where on the scale of bad behavior does real “abuse” lie? Do we have to dig out a law book and define it legally?
The prohibition against divorce/remarriage in the Bible is not for the purpose of trapping people in horrific relationships. The intention is to prevent men from dealing treacherously with their wives – growing tired of them, bitter against them, and ditching them.
Divorce/remarriage is a legal necessity for unbelievers because of the hardness of men’s hearts. Christians are called to a higher standard. It is expected that two married believers can work through their problems. They ought to stay together.
If two Christians are having real problems, the wife might temporarily leave. She may not take the kids, the house or her husbands money. She is still married and should be seeking reconciliation. If this were the rule in the churches, women would be less inclined to leave their marriages.
What if a Christian woman is married to an unbeliever? “The woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.” The original word translated “pleased” means that he enthusiastically agrees to cooperate with her to reach solutions – to achieve the things both have committed to do together. If he is making her life a living hell, then he is not “pleased to dwell with her,” even if he forbids her from leaving. She may leave, she is not under bondage.
Amen! It’s nice to see another woman enjoying her role. 🙂 It isn’t always easy, and yes, at times it can seem very unfair. However, every time I step back and look at the dynamic of our marriage, I see how much of a blessing it is.
Magnificent work on this article, BGR! 🙂 God bless you, and keep up the good work! @Daniel Christians can be divorced for other reasons.
Christ was abused and suffered for an ungrateful bride. The early church martyrs suffered abuse because they were grateful recipients of His grace. They reasoned that if Christ was abused then being like Christ might sometimes mean suffering abuse. Holiness meant more to them than comfort and affluence. It is as if they thought that the kingdom was worth more than their personal happiness. It is shameful that the modern church has embraced the opposite.
Most women today: “My husband doesn’t treat me like a Disney princess and is mean to me sometimes, so I’m going to selfishly destroy my children’s lives by tearing the family apart.”
Goes and marries jerk who makes first guy look like prince charming. Children grow up to be degenerates who hate their dad.
Women are inherently emotional creatures. This is why God’s law is the way it is.
Jamie, I am sorry to hear of your situation. It sounds like your husband is abusing his authority. I am blessed to have a husband who does not feel the need to have a say in every little thing I do. He has the final say on big issues like major purchases, job moves, investments etc. but he would never even think of giving me rules for clothes. He doesn’t expect me to ask permission to do anything. I do as I please, and he trusts me.
Jamie, I have an honest question. Does it feel cruel for your husband to require you to wear dresses and heels? Can you take of your shoes at home, especially for housekeeping? I am not trying to be critical. As a soon-to-be bride, I want to have an understanding of what is reasonable so I can prepare to be a helpmeet. I’d love to hear what others have to say about women’s dress and if this is something husbands often require. Thank you for your help!!!!!!
I am happy that you and your husband have found a mutually suitable arrangement. However, my situation is just as mutually pleasing— as long as I look at it long term. For example, are there times when I grow tired of always wearing dresses? Yes. it can be frustrating to always be the most dressed up person in the room and to answer the persistent questions of “Do you always dress up? Don’t your feet hurt?” However, in the long term, my husband keeps me dressed up to set me apart and to reinforce that I must rely upon him (needing a arm to lean up when we are outside, or looking to him to answer questions from my family as to why I wear dresses all the time, or letting him do the manual labor chores that would be inappropriate to do in high heels). So, yes, the world would call it “abuse”. But, I consider it that he loves me enough to take care of me and cherish me as his princess.
To each their own, I guess
@BGR, I understand where you’re coming from and appreciate that you’re tackling such controversial topics. However, I don’t think the title gives the appropriate impression. Yes, it gets attention… but people who don’t read the whole article are going to leave with the idea that God is pro-abuse. I don’t think that’s the message you intended to broadcast. Anyways, appreciate what you’re doing. Keep up the good work 🙂
So, you’re in favor of Shria law and courts for Muslims in America (and elsewhere)?
You’re ok with female genital mutilation for Muslim women in America (and elsewhere)?
You’re ok with public executions of Muslim women in America (and elsewhere) for immodest dress?
You’re ok with Muslim men legally murdering their wife and/or children for honor killings in America (and elsewhere)?
After all, under Islamic Law, the husband in the house is the legal head of the household.
I just want to be clear because not all Americans are Christian and different religions have different (so-called) “holy” scriptures.
Have I got you right?
BTW, I am a devout, born-again, evangelical follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.
@Chris Your comment to BGR is simply stupid. How you read the article and got that out of it I don’t know. Your reply seems like an ad hominem attack, which as a true believer in Christ, if indeed you are one, you should be ashamed of doing against a brother in Christ.
Thank you for your feedback and support. On the title – I absolutely know it was a provocative title and it was meant to be. Imagine if I would have title the article “How to deal with abuse from a Christian perspective?” – this would not have made many people think to even read it because they have a preconceived notion that we never have to tolerate any kind of abuse and they would just go on their way.
But the title is an absolutely true statement and it was the most important point I wanted to get across. Sometimes God does want you to stay in an abusive relationship depending on what kind of abuse it is. We are living in a world that tells people they don’t have to tolerate any abuse from anyone and can just leave every relationship for any type of perceived or actual abuse. I am meaning to take that false and damaging philosophy head on. So while it was provocative – it was also an absolutely true statement to make. And I want people to read the article. In it they will see that I show God is NOT pro abuse. God will judge true abusers.
In the You Tube video that Rachel Oats did responding to this article she made the same argument you did about Muslims. I have already responded to one comment she made and that response you can find here https://biblicalgenderroles.com/2018/03/14/are-feelings-a-better-basis-for-relationships-than-the-bible/ and I link there to her video. In my next episode I will be taking on the Muslim argument and the general issue of how government plays into this and this will answer your questions. So check back for that response.
Hi Tyler. I won’t cut and paste the entire article, but I could because in its entirety it was clear to me what was being said, which is why I wrote what I wrote, none the less, here’s a small example (remember the context is husbands rights over his family, including spousal abuse): “The civil government must always be respectful of its limitations when it enters the sphere of the church or the home. This means that they must never usurp or take authority in matters which God has not given to the government but instead he has given to the church or the home….God has appointed Pastors as the interpreters of God’s moral law in the church assembly and he has appointed husbands as the interpreters of God’s moral law in the home.”
“Husbands are the interpreter of God’s moral law in the home”, that’s what it says. So, am I not correct in saying that if the US Government gives/allows Christian husbands to have that power in their Christian homes, then, because in America freedom of religion is a basic right, then the Government should also give Islamic husbands the same enormous power over their Islamic wives and children? And arent the Sharia Courts in Europe designed to usurp the basic rights government guarantees all citizens and return those rights to the (Islamic) “church” and husbands, leading to genital mutilation, beatings, and honor killings?
Here in America the parameters of each citizen’s rights were set in the Constitution. Therefore the Government has to have authority over churchs and husbands in the area of personal-individual rights to assure they are protected.
I cannot think of anything better than a Biblical marriage. Unfortunately too many men, even Christian men, don’t handle that power wisely and too often are poor leaders.
I say the Biblical recipe for a Godly husband in today’s world is learned over time within a Christ-centered marriage. It’s not automatic.
If a woman or her children are being abused by the husband, Christian or not, she has the moral obligation to get her and the kids out of the house as quickly as possible. I’m confident God will honor her wise decision, and even if it is a sin, I’m also confident the blood of Jesus will cover that too.
Respectfully, I think you need to re-examine your understanding of salvation, and what Jesus did for us on the cross.
@Chris That’s an insult to me. Where in my comment to you did I give any incorrect indication about the nature of Salvation? The answer is nowhere, and I’m only bothering to respond to that nonsense from you to defend myself against false charge. As to the rest of what you said, false religions should be ignored by any government, and the Bible and true God acknowledge both here, and everywhere, and lands governed according to Scripture. That would include allowing others to choose what religion they want to believe in and to practice it to limited degrees, but also punish any evil, as shown by Scripture, committed by such people as choose to reject God and practice false religion. Governments ought to be set up according to Scripture.
As for me, I’m grateful that Jesus raised the bar so high that no-one could meet it. Then He became sin for me and you and nailed it to the cross so we can be secure in our hope for eternity. Then he rose from the grave so we had proof the He really is God incarnate. Amen!
Thank God that no religious rules and no self-flagellation INCLUDING thinking that being beaten up by an abusive spouse somehow glorifies God (a loving FATHER), and is required for screw-ups like me to be righteous in God’s holy eyes. Know the truth and the truth will set you free.
Ladies, don’t stay in an abusive marriage. Seek help for you and your husband and be ready to leave if necessary.
To be frank, I am more concerned with the changing goal post of what abuse is and is not that affects how marriage should work (culture vs. bible). These changing goal posts that say everything is abuse and everyone is equal and no one should have to do anything they don’t want to completely short change God’s design for marriage and cause considerably failure and hardship among Christians and others.
No true follower of Jesus who wishes to be under His authority wants to see a wife or children being abused. Let that sync in for a moment for those who would quickly suggest that this is what any true Christian wants simply because they have a different opinion about how biblical marriage should be.
For those situations where a husband is truly abusive (again by biblical standards) when his wife his trying her best to be workable, it is a terrible, horrible, and disgusting situation. These men are facing the Lord’s judgement on such matters.
With all this said, we live in a feel good, do what you want, no one is accountable, no one is responsible, and no one should have to do anything they don’t want to do society. Anything that violates these so called honorable principals is deemed abuse. Proponents of these ideas would say “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.”. The bible however has a far different attitude of responsibility and doing what is right to others, especially those you are responsible to. The bible goes further to even specifically address responsibilities and rights between husbands and wives to encourage Godly and God honoring marriages that are not only successful, but a true blessing to both husband and wife. Anything that changes this design, or changes rights, or changes the goal posts of what is right or wrong based on societal and cultural values instead of scripture will cause havoc and chaos in marriages. The enemy has his hand in all of this.
Husbands need to lead their families – they have been assigned this role and they are responsible for it. Sometimes that is going to mean correcting a wife or directing her to go in a different direction. What society calls inequality, abuse, or treating a wife like a child, but society is wrong. God loves those he disciplines, and a husband should also discipline those he loves when necessary.
If you don’t want to be under a husband’s authority, then don’t get married. Just don’t get married under the false ideas of marriage that our culture sells, because they will likely fail you and leave you and your children in divorce. if you are going to be a wife, you need to pursue, love, respect, and obey your husband. You need to be a blessing to him so that he can’t even imagine life without you.
Bride to Be,
Thanks for your question and concern. I respectfully do not think it is cruel for my husband to select my clothing (which happens to be dresses and heels) for my daily attire. Yes, I even wear heels when working around the house (although, he often allows me to wear my shorter 2 inch heels for strenuous chores). This is just one area that I can give him the desires of his heart and show my deference to him.
He works 40-50 hours a week, to provide a wonderful lifestyle for me and the kids. He comes home stressed, often working with women who dress and act like men. If I can be his oasis and speak in softer tones, and dress very delicately to give him a respite from the normal world, then I am honored to do so.
Most of the women I encounter at church, the store, and at my kids’ school do not know what to make of me–well, honestly, I know many do not take me seriously. I remember working at the school carnival in the cake walk,in a sundress and sky high heeled sandals–with all of the others in shorts, pants, and flip flops. I got many disapproving looks and some catty from the others, simply because I dressed in the manner my husband expected. But, when I went home that day, my husband helped get the kids ready for bed, led a family devotion in the Bible, and planned a weekend getaway for the two of us for a shopping trip and a spa.
If that counts as cruelty or abuse by my husband, sign me up for more. 🙂
Jamie, if you enjoy it its not abuse. Go for it. If Bride-to-Be doesn’t want her husband to tell her how to dress she shouldn’t put up with it. Can we all agree that among we Christians that abuse is something that demeans or endangers a person, like physical beatings, torture, and verbal abuse. If Bride-to-Be doesn’t want to dress as-per hubby’s instructions, then don’t dress that way. Stand your ground. If it results in a coolness toward you by him, then so be it, it should pass if he’s really a Godly man and really loves you. Jesus didn’t throw hissy-fits when He didn’t get his way and neither do Godly men. If it turns into physical or verbal abuse then he has crossed the line and he is the one not doing his job of “love your wife, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”. The next step would be to tell him to back off and after that to start Christian counseling…or call the police. If the Christian counselor tells you its his right to discipline you then find another counselor, possible not a Christian. If that doesn’t work and he continues to abuse you then leave the bum. He’s may be saved, but he’s not imitating Jesus.
Bride-to-Be, believe that “the glory of God is man fully alive” and that doesn’t include living in fear. Jesus died on the cross to free us from many things, one of those things is oppressive religion. If you have an over-bearing or abusive husband who points to scripture to justify his actions that is no different than the yoke of oppressive, soul-sucking religion the Pharisees put on the lay Jews of Jesus’ day.
Know the truth and the truth will set you free. Choose to be free!
Let me get this straight:
Don’t submit to your husband in anything you don’t feel like. Check.
When he rightfully gets upset about it, it is his problem and not yours. Check.
Go find a counselor who will side with you and tell him he is the wrong (it won’t be hard in today’s world). Check.
If he doesn’t get over it and act perfectly and do all that the bible tells him to do all the while while you don’t do what the bible tells you do to, just abandon your marriage vows and leave him. Check.
Chris – your advice is 100% terrible and goes 100% against scripture, yet you keep talking about what the Christian thing to do is! Oh the irony!!!
Bride to be – my advice is to ask your future husband what respect looks like to him. Ask him what his expectations are for when you are married. It doesn’t really matter what other people’s husbands expect, they won’t be yours! If you work hard to follow Proverbs 31:12, it is hard to go wrong.
Excellent and concise breakdown of Chris’s arguments. Amen brother.
Respectfully, you missed my entire point. Most of the time I do not like, nor find my husband’s rules for my dress or conduct convenient. I naturally rebel, at times, to being micromanaged in those areas. When I rebel, he corrects me in a reasonable way, with a balance of grace and justice.
Under your definition, that would be “abuse”
My advice to Bride to Be is sound. Marriage will often be inconvenient, and if her husband is like mine, she will find it difficult to graciously submit at all times. I do believe that she needs to “count the cost” now and decide whether a Biblical marriage is something she will submit herself to. Thanks.
Hi Jamie. I have no argument with what you say and it sounds like you have a good marriage. Like you, I think my point is being missed. The article lead me to visualize a wife enduring a level of abuse that we can all agree is abuse: physical force imposed by a stronger human (her husband) via a spanking, a slap or a beating, and/or constant brow-beating, an inability to be satisfied and verbal cruelty (think Tonya Harding’s mother in “I Tonya”), then being told by her church she has to stay in the marriage. I disagree with that perspective 100%.
I remember listening to a radio program early in my Christian walk, hosted by Moody Bible Institute’s Donald Cole, the original Bible Answer Man. The subject was Eph 5:22 – 33. One caller brought up the abuse question. I’ll never forget Mr. Cole’s answer, “if it was my daughter, I’d get her out of the house. Her safety is a higher order than his rights.”
Great conversation everyone.
Chris this is just the point – we cannot “all agree that physical force imposed by a stronger human” is ALWAYS wrong. It is not my friend. If a parent(stronger human being) uses physical force against a weaker human being(their child) to spank them or even make them go to their room that is NOT abuse. If a police officer use force to make someone comply with his lawful orders that is NOT abuse.
Like wise it is not a sin when a husband(typically the stronger human being) uses physical force to spank his wife, or even slap his wife in a controlled manner.
This is the problem I was trying to address in this article – that Christians like yourself and non-believers make all forms of physical discipline of the husband toward his wife abuse and that sir is simply not the case. As I stated in the article – I would completely agree with you that if a husband is punching his wife in the face, shoving her to ground or doing other things that risk serious bodily harm or even death she should get out for her own safety. Amen and Amen.
But how can you say that things like “constant brow-beating, an inability to be satisfied and verbal cruelty” are threatening a woman’s safety? I am not saying these behaviors are right in a husband and they could be forms of emotional or verbal abuse. But these are NOT safety concerns and the scriptures make no allowance for divorce or even separation in these kinds of cases. The Scriptures tell us:
Do you know what “froward” means? It can mean ‘harsh’,’cruel’ or ‘unreasonable’ as it is translated in other translations. God does not say – “if you authority is good and gentle – then submit to them, otherwise if they are harsh or cruel or unreasonable you don’t have to. In fact you can just leave.”
There is not one passage of Scripture which frees women from marriages or says they can even separate based on emotional or verbal cruelty. Not one. I did make the case for leaving based on true physical abuse based on the Exodus 21:26-27 where the one in authority is doing things that truely threaten the physical safety of the one under them. But that is not what we are talking about here.
You have not yet supplied one Scripture passage Chris to back your position on women being able to leave because their husbands verbally or emotionally abuse them. You have not supplied one passage that shows a husband is abusing his wife if he strictly controls what she wears. I challenge you to find such a passage. You won’t find it. Ephesians 5:24 tells women they must submit to their husbands in EVERYTHING. Everything would include clothing, where they go and the friends they hang out with just name a few things. Now some husbands grant their wives more freedom than others in this area and this the husband’s discretion to do so.
BGR….I just wanted to clarify to you that ongoing verbal and emotional abuse can be physical abuse in that it can cause such trauma that it manifests physically, even to the point of physical pain, lethargy, being unable to get out of bed, more prone to diseases due to lower immune system from the stress….
I have heard from women who endured times of physical abuse and times of emotional abuse and they tend to say the emotional abuse was worse. Others who were victims of emotional abuse, but not physical abuse have expressed wishing he would hit her so she could go get help.
True emotional abuse is a big deal. It may not kill the human, but it destroys their humanity. It has driven people to madness, insanity, suicide, murder. It’s a bigger deal than just shedding tears over being called bad names every day. It is so much bigger than that.
I don’t disagree that emotional abuse can be a big deal. I am not arguing that emotional abuse is good or right. But God calls us to endure it and find a way to process it. This is the clear teaching of the Scriptures. It is not just when our authority is “good and gentle”(I Peter 2:18) toward us, but also when they are “froward”(harsh, cruel and unreasonable) that we must continue to submit to them.
God says he will deal with our authorities who mistreat us but we are not free to leave because of emotional abuse – you won’t find that allowance anywhere in the scriptures:
What you are describing is psychosomatic physical disorders. If a Christian is allowing themselves to have psychosomatic physical disorders because of verbal or emotionally abusive behavior it shows they are rejecting Christ’s example in suffering and are not living by faith. If when we suffer we always look to Christ in his example in suffering we will not have psychosomatic physical disorders as a result of the verbal and emotional abuse we suffer.
“But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”
I Peter 5:10 (KJV)
How else do you explain the clear reading of I Peter 2:18-24 calling us as Christian to endure suffering and grief and in doing so we follow the example of Christ?
The problem with our culture is that we have created a society of victims and that has lead to a massive increase in instances of depression, anxiety and a host of other mental disorder issues. If you are constantly thinking about how people mistreat you and feeling sorry for yourself you will get depressed, you will have lethargy and host of other issues.
But if you lean on God when others mistreat you and remember Christ as your example in suffering you will not suffer from psychosomatic physical disorders.
I was doing some research on the role of godly husbands and wives and marriage and came across this blog post.
I believe wholeheartedly in the scriptural admonition that men and women surrender themselves to one another in the marriage covenant, and do so cheerfully.
I know there are women infected with the Jezebel spirit of feminism and it guides their interpretation of scripture and their role as wife and mother. I also know that there are base and filthy men who don’t give a damn about edifying their wives, treating them as heirs and joint heirs, as neighbors, and as human beings. These men demand – and even take – sex from their wives, even if it makes them physically sick, depressed, and suicidal.
Who are we to say they aren’t Christian men and that they love the Lord? They are Christians who married wives who professed to also be Christians. So they need to follow scripture to the letter, I suppose….yet something about treating your spouse like a waste receptacle doesn’t set right with me.
My personal experience is that I have never had a problem getting sex from the women I’ve desired (fornication or not) and if I ever marry again, I don’t anticipate having that problem either. I know how to love, lead, and treat a woman properly and keep her panties wet damn near all the time and she wants to satisfy me – not because she has to.
I’ll NEVER roll over in the middle of the night and stick my penis in my wife’s mouth and say “suck it, because it’s your duty to do so.” Technically she HAS to do it, but because of how I live my woman will pant for it like the deer pants for the refreshing waters of a pond. Most Christian men don’t have that luxury. The scripture is the fulcrum for them as they are physically repulsive and emotionally callous. For them, the scripture is a godsend (no pun intended). I know women who get UTI’s and shingles and other STD’s from their husbands ALL THE TIME…but they endure it because they are good Christian wives and wouldn’t dare go against the mandate.
I see lots of Christian women who are crestfallen, depressed, and suicidal because they are whores in their own homes with no agency, no voice and (technically) no choice. And knowing that their husbands treating them with a lack of dignity is neither neglect or abuse – it’s quite sad.
Jamie, I hope you see this. I don’t know how to “tag” your name so that you will be notified. You always seem open to sharing your story, and I am just innocently curious. I was wondering what you mean by asking permission to do “everything.” Does this literally mean everything? Going to the bathroom? Eating? Does Jim choose what books you read and what music you listen to?
I am not trying to probe; I am engaged and am learning about godly marriages through the examples of others.
I tried to reply to you last week but unfortunately my comment never made it through. As a newly-engaged Christian woman, I am studying Biblical models of marriage and I was very curious about your example. What do you mean when you say you ask permission for “everything?” Does your husband choose what books you read, movies you watch, etc? How far does “everything” extend? I ask because I want my marriage to be pleasing to God and I am genuinely trying to gather examples from other Christian married couples.
I have been in an very verbally and emotionally marriage for almost 20 years. As a Christian I do not want a divorce. Everything I have been though has been and is currently effecting my health. Is a Christian to suffer unto death with verbal and emotional abuse?
Can you list for me some examples of things your husband does that you feel are verbally and emotionally abusive toward you? I think it might be instructive for other men and women reading this so they can understand what you believe is verbal and emotional abuse on the part of your husband. Then I will fully answer your question.
Sure, my husband has many rules around the house that our children and myself follow. Examples of these rules are; how to get into and out of the shower (only under the spigot not in back of the shower), my pillow has to be in a particular place, window shades turned the direction that he wants them to be, the kids cannot use an eraser on mistakes they can only cross it out, and many, many, more. Over the years there probably have been hundreds and hundreds of rules, some come and some go. When he sets a rule there is no negotiation, they are his rules to follow. We do our best to follow the rules, we do not complain, we just do them. If a rule is over looked, not done to his likening or forgotten, then all hell gets to be unleashed. Why, because we are stupid, idiots, and he gets to spew anger. We’ve been swore at, given the silent treatment, yelled at and whatever fits his fancy for the moment. These outburst may or may not happen. There is always a chance that we may have overlooked an obscure rule that has not been enforced or he has forgotten about and all of a sudden remembers it. There are to many to rules to remember and do all of them. In my opinion these are done to control us with anger.
He talks excessively about himself, his job and what he likes to talk about. He will NOT talk about anything that does not pertain to him. If I should bring something up that is not to do with him, he will turn his back and walk away in the middle of what I am saying, start an argument, and / or be rude in his responses which are usually; “that is / was dumb (or whatever choice word he decides to use)” or might say something like “I don’t care leave me alone”.
My husband NEVER asks or inguires about my day, how myself or the kids are doing. He would NEVER say please, thank you, or I’m sorry. He does not give the children praise for doing a good job. He does not asks our thought or opinion on a matter. He does not engage in any activities with us or say anything that is kind. Basically he does not really know us; he is just consumed with himself.
He controls what and how we say things; I can no longer ask him if he has had a good day, because a good day “only’ means he made a $1000 that day on his side job. So that question should not be asked, because he most likely is not going to made a $1000 a day on his side hustle. Yesterday, I related a story of an accident that someone told me about, I related it verbatim as it was told to me. His response to the car accident; you always twist things and that is not how an car accident happens.
He is a civil engineer, he claims the county, state and D.O.T. do not like him. He is always having conflict at work. I believe his employer overlooks his issues as he is very good at what he does. He has said to me that his employer has not been awarded jobs because he would be the engineer on the project, and they do not like him. Over all he is very argumentative, negative, controlling and hard to work with. So, it not just here at home.
The only people or groups that do not truly know him would be the church and my family, he masquerades round like he is perfect in their company. He is estranged from his extended family, the rest of his family seem to get along. I do not know what happened, he is just not involved with them. If I was to make a guess I think he choose to not be involved in their lives. I have covered for him for almost 20 years. Within this year things got so bad that I let my sister listen to a recorded conversation. My husband knows I have recorded him, as I told him I would have to take it to the church if he did not stop the anger and yelling. My sister and her husband are in the ministry, I went to her first. She couldn’t hardly believe what I have been living in until she listened to the recordings. I have not yet gone to the church as I have no idea what to expect from my husband, I’m basically scared.
Herein lies the current problem; after almost 20 year of this I feel it is affecting my health. I have every digestive issue you can imagine, have lost 1/3 to 1/2 of my hair, thyroid and adrenal problems, cannot process some of my own thinking (problem solving, sort term memory), physically feel week at times, some anxiety and I can feel stress and dread enter my body when my husband comes home.
There has been so much anger and crazy making over the years that I feel it is wrong to stay in a relationship that has unjustified long term anger and things that I have had to go thru. This email really does not cover any of the day to day experiences, and the effects on the children. It would be ridiculously long. I have not been rebellious or unsubmissive. I have been submissive in the face of sin; uncontrolled anger is sin. When I stand back and look at submitting long term to uncontrolled anger and abuse, all for being the submissive wife it somehow just seems wrong.
There has been no physical abuse, although my husband has thrown a stack of cardboard at me. It missed me, I believe his intent was to miss me and just to scare me.
The Bible tells us to flee from evil, it does not say except in a marriage filled with evil. There are more scriptures that talk generally about how to handle abuse (evil, anger whatever a person calls it) than there are about abusive marriages. Since the Bible is silent on abusive marriages, but very vocal on general abuse, shouldn’t we be silent on abusive marriages and let the person in the abusive marriage seek their guidance thru the scriptures that talks general about how to handle the abuse? People on the outside have no idea what really goes on in someone else’s home. Perhaps the lines are blurred and it goes from verbal abuse to physical with no warning. It would be horrible to have physical abuse at the hand of a husband, church or counselor telling her to stay in the abusive marriage. Are’t we taking the power of God away from her, I see no scripture that says a wife cannot seeks Gods will for herself in light of verbal abuse.
Most of my life has been living a verbal abuse under the unseen hand of the church, elders, leaders or whatever powers that be. Yes, Jesus was abused, but we are humans and for most of my live I have been verbal abused and it has ruined my life.
Thank you in advance for your insight on my situation, Glenna
I read your article. You presented your argument in a well studied manner in which you used Scripture to justify remaining in an abusive relationship. At the same time I must disagree with you.
While the Bible teaches enduring hardships and tribulations, I don’t see anywhere Jesus expected us to be perpetual victims and punching bags. There has to be a point where either one of two things will occur: the abusive spouse will repent and being to turn things around, or the situation will become worse to the point of either death or divorce.
At one time I would have agreed with you and even taught along similar lines. Then I went through the experience. I suffered marital problems where I was berated by my wife, criticized at every turn, denied love and affection, then it escalated to where my bank account was drained and finally adultery (the one grounds that we can agree on) was confirmed.
At what point do we say enough is enough? Are we supposed to continue to just take the abuse and never stand up for ourselves and our family members who also must endure this? How many households must suffer financial ruin, physical injury, mental anguish, or ultimately death at the abuser’s hands?
Having been at one time a minister in an abusive church, I witnessed first hand how these teachings hurt families. When we force wives or husbands to remain in an abusive relationship, we as Christians aren’t much better than the Muslims whose record of condoning violence against their wives is well documented. This is one reason why more Christians avoid church than attend. We failed in providing real solutions to help abuse victims. We just throw the victims back in the shark tank to be eaten afresh.
Thank you for your respectful comment. I wrote an article tonight addressing your comment and you larger email you sent you me.
You can find it here – Not All Abuse Must Be Taken
If there is SOLID PROOF that any man physically or emotionally abuses MY daughter.
1. If I don’t outright kick his teeth in.
2. I will RUIN him, socially, materially, and financially.
3. He REPENTS and/or chooses to release my daughter from the marriage.
I don’t care what ANYONE says.
That Brotha Pedat – good on you for being protective of your daughter. #1 – I get it, and I’d say there may very well be situations where a dad needs to bring some righteous anger on a husband who has done something horrific. Such a dad would need to keep in mind also that interfering in what God has joined together should be done as a matter of last resort. You can’t be a third wheel in someone else’s marriage – if you give her away – she is no longer yours. I guess what I am saying is that it had better be something serious in my mind (I do think physical abuse is serious). #3 – I don’t think a husband can release a wife from marriage biblically.
Chris – The problem with your statement is that abuse covers a wide range these days. Everything from the horrible situation where a husband is wrongly taking some sort of rage out against his wife (this is actual abuse) all the way to she didn’t get her new countertop that she wanted wanted wanted (this is NOT actual abuse). Emotional abuse is pretty much defined as she didn’t get her way these days which is not what the bible teaches. I’m not saying that real emotional abuse doesn’t happen, just that it is the new get out of jail free card for a lot of wives who simply don’t want to do what scripture tells them to. This isn’t a gray area, the situation in question can be brought into focus with what the Word says which will show whether it is abuse or just a wife who didn’t get her way.
Something that I think has been entirely lost in this post and comments is that it is the big picture that needs to be looked at. We know God hates divorce. We also know that God hates sin, and He hates seeing someone in a bad situation. I don’t think anyone is arguing that abuse is a good thing, yet that is the argument brought against anyone who says, wait, let’s test this with Scripture. We are all sinners and I’m not defending a husband who goes the wrong way and abuses his wife physically, but ultimately the big picture is restoration of the husband and the marriage if that is possible. Separation for a time may be the right thing. A wife thinking she can just leave, divorce, and remarry would be wise to consult scripture because she is very likely condemning her new husband to adultery along with herself.
That Brotha Pedat,
I don’t want to get into a big discussion on the Biblical view of divorce in this thread – I will just point the readers to my article If We Treated Divorce Like Killing where I did an exhaustive look at divorce by analyzing every verse in the Bible from the Old Testament to The New, the words spoken on divorce before Christ’s earthly ministry, what he said during that time, and then what his Apostles said afterwards. With that being said I absolutely see by looking at the entirety of the Bible an allowance for a woman divorcing her husband if he fails to provide for her(he is a lazy bum), he refuses to have sex with her, if he abandons her or if he abuses her.
I also believe we can see that God wants men to act as a check on other men. Yes in marriage, the father hands over his duty as his daughters primary protector to her husband.
But then we must ask what is a husband called to protect his wife from? Ultimately he is called to protect her from the effects of sin in this world. Because we live in a sin cursed world – there are some men who seek to hurt our wives and husbands are called to be ready if necessary to lay down their lives to protect their wives.
Sometimes a husband must protect his wife even from her own inclination to sin. And yes sometimes Husbands sin against their wives as well.
But what is the default response of a wife to be to her husband’s sin against her?
The Bible tells us that in I Peter 3:1-2:
The default response of a wife toward her husband who sins, whether against her or others is to win him WITHOUT THE WORD, by her behavior and pure life and reverence toward him.
But of course we also recognize there are exceptions for extreme behavior such as physical abuse which threatens or causes great bodily harm. We have the Abigail principle found in I Samuel 25 where a husband’s behavior placed his family in danger of death and we also have the principle found in Exodus 21:26-27 that even slaves were to be freed from their masters for causing them great bodily harm and wives have more rights than slaves, not less rights.
So having said all that – I believe in this kind of extreme situation where my daughter’s husband had gone from being her protector to being the one she needed protection from that it is my job as her father and her brothers should come in as well to help set this man straight. And that may even involve me contacting the police in some extreme situations. I agree that no man should step in another man’s territory lightly, but there are extreme situations where I believe God wants this to occur.
But That Brotha Pedat – I think you need to be careful with emotional abuse. If your daughter’s husband hurts your daughter’s feelings in anyway or makes her cry for any reason are you going to call that emotional abuse? Are you going to come running in to the rescue her if a tear ever falls from her face? Or will you realize that sometimes, perhaps many times, when a woman cries it is no different than a child crying when a parent has to correct their wrong behavior?
And even if your daughter did nothing wrong a man making his wife cry or hurting her feelings is not grounds for divorce. There are some harsh men who are mean to their wives – and I am not saying this behavior is right. It is wrong. But not grounds for divorce.
If I were to see this kind of behavior(being too harsh and mean toward her) going on with my daughter’s husband I would probably take him out for coffee and have some words with him – man to man. Nothing Biblically stops me from doing that. But at the same time I must realize my daughter is a sinner as well, and perhaps while he said something in sin, maybe my daughter did before that as well. So I need to give my daughter’s husband the benefit of the doubt.
I just want to say thank you, BGR, for this article. I read this months ago, being almost hopeless and not knowing what to do. I was contemplating leaving my husband, but after reading this article, l decided to simmer down and deal with things in a biblical way. It has helped me, and it has also improved my marriage in this area. Verbal and emotional abuse does hurt, but it only has the power to ruin you if you allow it too. I no longer allow verbal and emotional abuse to get the best of me, because of what my Heavenly Father says. Not only about how I should handle it, but also about me. So once again, thank you.
Thank you for this. My husband sometimes strikes me in the face when I have been too loud sometimes, and I know he’s only doing it because he loves me. My face stings when he loves me, but I know my pain is nothing compared to Christ’s loving pain he endured for my husband and I’s mercy. I’m so grateful to him for saving us and sometimes I cry at night because my husband likes to remind me of the pain Christ endured and I just get so overwhelmed with love and emotion…. I know He only wants the best for us and my husband is such a beautiful head to our home, my children are so well behaved after his discipline that I know God picked out the best husband and father he could have for me.
The article was well written. The first thing to remember about God’s word is that it is speaking to believers, not unbelievers, and places a higher standard on believers. 2 Corinthians 6:17 Therefore come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, say the Lord……… This means that we as Christians should not embrace the teaching of this world. As Christians we have a better understanding of God’s word and how to apply it in our lives, married or single. We as Christians desire to do all things with love. We live in a fallen world, and we all have sins in our lifes, but Christ taught us to love one another. Asking in love for your wife to dress a certain way is not abuse. How we say things matters. Christian live by a higher standard, or at least they should be living by Godly standards and not worldly standards.
Thanks for the article. You have truely taken a lot of cricism for it. People do not want to hear that we do have to do that which we do not want to do.
Some things are black and white, and for the believer difficult. In fact, impossible without utter dependence on Jesus to accomplish. Which draws me closer to Him, my true spouse. The devastation divorce creates is very real and scares me to the core. I’ve seen it over and over. Even a teen’s suicide as a result of a close family. 25 years of marriage and it has been uphill most of the way. I’m not even sure how it has survived other than divine interention. Has it taken a toll, you bet. Would divorce have taken a toll as well? Of course. God bless you on your journey friends. This place is not Heaven, do not expect it to be. Thanks for the article, it kept me going for another few laps.
Can you or have you written an article further explaining your views on “psychosomatic” suffering? I’ve been in an emotionally abusive marriage for 19 years and have physical health issues because of the constant stress/anxiety. My nervous system has now been rewired to constantly be in fight/flight mode. I have complex ptsd and am currently in counseling. I’d like to continue in my marriage if possible, but how am I to suffer like Christ? How can a human take on or endure what God Himself did? I am frequently reminded of Jesus being betrayed, lied to, neglected, etc and I know He sees me, but I’m not Him and don’t know how much more I can endure.
I’m also wondering what your thoughts on emotional adultery are. Thanks for this most thought-provoking and challenging article.
Psychosomatic suffering is a result of emotional/verbal abuse. As I showed in this article, the Bible’s teachings on suffering abuse are very different than our modern American views. We are told in our culture that we should never tolerate any abuse from anyone, whether they be “micro aggressions” or “macro aggressions”. But the Bible says the very opposite of this. As you said yourself, Christ is our example in suffering.
Let me be clear as always, that when I teach God’s truth from 1 Peter 2:18-25 that we as Christians are called to suffer abuses this does not mean the ones doing the abusing are right. And of course we must always make sure we get our definitions what is and is not abuse from the Bible, and not humanist sources. And I also tell people the truth based on Exodus 21:26-27, that we while we are called to suffer most abuses, there are limits. Christ was beaten near death and then placed on the cross to die. The Bible is not calling for wives or children or people in the normal course of life to suffer such things. Exodus 21:26-27 is clear that if someone is under the authority of another is caused permanent or life threatening injuries by that person they should be able to be freed from that person and that would very much apply to wives with their husbands or children with their parents.
But apart from permanent or life threatening injuries we are called to suffer all abuses. And sadly, there is a lot of painful abuse some people can dole out that is not life threatening or causing permanent injury. And emotional/verbal abuse is a good example of that.
As to your question – how can a human take what God himself did? The answer is only through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is also about confronting our wrong thoughts with Scriptures. When we have thoughts of quitting (flight) or fighting (reviling back to that person) we must take those thoughts captive to Christ. We must remind ourselves that we have made a sacred covenant of marriage before God, and that sacred covenant cannot be broke for just any abuse from our spouse. It is a very limited type of abuse for which God allows to be freed from them.
Adultery is a totally separate topic here from abuse, do me a favor an post your question on that at this article I wrote – https://biblicalgenderroles.com/2015/08/16/does-god-allow-divorce-for-adultery/
I may answer is there or write a whole new article on that subject. I am assuming your are speaking of your husband’s behavior? If so make sure with your question you give some details to what he is doing that you consider to be emotional adultery on that article I wrote on adultery.