Good Morning Friends,
My newsletter entitled Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? is going out tomorrow. In it, you will get a sneak peak at my new website that will go live shortly, and I’m also giving away two (2) copies of Gary Thomas’ new book, Every Body Matters. Gary is the author of Sacred Marriage and Sacred Influence and his fabulous new book is about being a good steward of your body.
If you haven’t already signed up for my newsletter, please to go firstname.lastname@example.org so that you can get your first copy tomorrow morning.
FYI, once I switch to my new website, I will also be switching to a new delivery system for my newsletters, and you will need to resign up if you still want to receive them. I will post instructions on how to do that in my upcoming blogs and newsletters, but you must re-register to remain on my mailing list. Plus you will get a wonderful gift for re-registering–a downloadable presentation with slides answering the question, Does God Want me to be Happy?
I am also going to be running a contest to name my newest book. Tentatively it's titled The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, but I fear that title will get confused with my current book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship so I'm searching and praying for a new title and subtitle.
There are no guarantees the Publisher will approve the new title, but I'd really like to rename it something strong and usually they use what I suggest.
So friends, I'm challenging you to come up with a title and/or subtitle for this book. I will be running this contest for the next few months so you have plenty of time to give it some thought, and you can enter as many times as you'd like. In September, I will put the suggested titles in the newsletter, and the one that receives the most votes will receive an autographed copy of the new book (when it comes out) AND three (3) 45 minute coaching sessions valued at over $500.
Thank you for all your prayers and kind notes about my writing. I will be taking the week between May 23rd and 28th off from counseling and coaching to focus on my writing. I really need to make some progress in order to stay on schedule.
Today’s question is something I will be talking about more in my new book.
This week’s question: I separated from my husband after 25 years. I can remember being pregnant with my now 22 year old son feeling distraught and asking myself why I am having this man's baby?
The emotional destruction took place throughout 22 years of the marriage. I have asked numerous times to go for counseling and actually moved out twice only to come back to empty promises of change from him.
I feel a sense of peace in every cell of my body that I have not felt in decades. My concern is am I honoring God with my decision for self-preservation, my sanity?
Am I being a poor example of Christ to others by my decision?
Answer: Your question captures the dilemma so many women who are in an emotionally abusive/destructive marriage experience once they prioritize their sanity and safety over keeping the marriage together. They fear God’s anger and his disappointment. They fear being a poor representative of Christ and feel guilty when they finally say “I can’t do this anymore.”
I deeply appreciate that you don’t take your marriage vows lightly. We ought to press pause for self examination, prayer, and Biblical counsel if ever we consider separating from our spouse, so that if we separate, we are separating for biblical reasons and have as clear a conscious as possible.
Let me encourage you that God values physical safety and relational safety as much if not more than you do. For example, in spite of God’s general instructions to submit to the laws of the land and to higher authorities, when David feared for his life because of King Saul’s jealous rages, God didn’t instruct David to “submit to the King and trust me to take care of you” Instead, David fled, always respecting the position of King Saul, but not allowing himself to be abused by him. (Read 1Samuel 18-31 for the story.)
In another example, when Jesus was born and King Herod sought to exterminate all the Jewish babies two years and younger, God told Joseph in a dream to flee to Egypt until it was safe to return (Matthew 2:13-15).
When Rehab hid the Jewish spies, she lied to keep them safe and God commended her (Hebrews 11:31). I suspect those who lied to keep Jews safe from the Nazi army were equally commended by God.
Jesus himself valued safety and said even the well-being of an ox was a higher value to God than legalistically keeping the Sabbath by not working (Luke 14:5).
Safety is an important component of trust especially in marriage. There can be no freedom or honest communication if someone feels afraid or is threatened, either physically and/or emotionally or has a price to pay whenever they honestly share their thoughts and feelings.
Women (and sometimes men) fear taking measures to protect themselves because they’ve been taught it’s unbiblical or ungodly. They suffer endlessly with verbal battering, even physical abuse believing that by doing so, they’re being godly martyr’s. Keeping the family together at all costs is seen as God’s highest value.
Yet Proverbs 27:12 teaches us, “The prudent see danger and take refuge.”
Sanity is also an important value to God. By sanity I don’t just mean good mental health from a secular point of view, but good mental health from God’s point of view. Again the writer of Proverbs warns us of the devastating consequences of living with a contentious and argumentative person (Proverbs 15:4; 17:1; 25:24; 26:28).
The scriptures are clear. People influence and impact us, both for good and for evil. When we live with an abusive, destructive, manipulative, deceitful person, it definitely takes its toll on our mental, spiritual, emotional, physical and spiritual health.
Being sane from God’s perspective involves knowing, believing, and walking in the truth. Jesus says, “If your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is (Matthew 6:33). The apostle Paul says by nature we exchange the truth of God for a lie and that the more we do that, we become more and more insane (depraved mind) (Romans 1:25-28).
Walking in the light and truth are important values of God. When you live with someone who prefers deceit and darkness and twists and manipulates the truth, it can be very stressful.
However your question is, Are you being a poor example of Christ to others by leaving? My answer is maybe. You also could be a poor example of Christ by staying. You see it’s not whether you leave or stay that determines whether you are letting the love of Christ rule you, but how you leave or how you stay.
There are people who choose to stay in a destructive marriage (for lots of reasons) and are terrible examples of Christ. They are bitter, angry, spiteful, depressed, resentful, and demonstrate no joy, peace, or hope in their countenance. Likewise, those who leave a bad marriage can also leave with those same negative emotions in control rather than Christ.
So what would it look like to be Christ-like and God-honoring even while leaving a destructive marriage?
Here are a few thoughts for you to ponder. The apostle Paul says that we’re not to only look out for our own interests, but also to look out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). You are looking out for your interests for safety and sanity by leaving. That’s not ungodly or sinful. But if you want to be a godly wife, you must also look out for your husband’s interests. So what is your husband’s greatest need right now? Is it to stay with him, make his dinner, be his companion, and meet his sexual needs or is it something far more crucial to his long-term well-being? I believe your husband’s greatest need right now is to wake up from his slumber, from his darkness and to come to Christ and repent of his destructive behaviors. The question you must answer is would you more likely help meet his greatest need by leaving or by staying?
Second, God calls you to love your husband, even if he feels like your enemy right now. That is being Christ-like. However, you must also understand that unconditional love doesn’t entitle someone to unconditional relationship even with Jesus. The scriptures tell us that our sin separates us from close relationship from God. It doesn’t separate us from his love as Paul tells us that nothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:38,39), but it does separate us from his Presence.
If Jesus doesn’t offer unconditional relationship with everyone even when he loves them, I don’t think he expects that of us either. Sin not only separates us from God, it separates us from one another. Until your husband can see his sinful heart and actions as damaging not only you, but your marriage and is willing to actually do the work it takes to change them, it may be most Christ-like to stay compassionate toward him yet separate from him.
One more thing. For your own peace of mind, please ask God to show you how to represent him well in this time. You must let go of your desire for everyone to agree with your decision to separate. You may be Christ-like in all your actions and attitudes and people still may not like it. Jesus represented the character of God perfectly and yet there were those, especially religious leaders, who did not approve.
Friends, what words of wisdom can you give to help this woman separate well?
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