Morning friend,

I am in Dallas, TX this week for the American Association of Christian Counselors conference. I’d appreciate your prayers as I am speaking several times around some tough topics. Pray I can stay focused and honor God in all I say.

Question: I do not normally do this, but I am lost and broken. You see when I met my husband we were both Christians but I was hurt from a church so pulled away. This resulted in me going through the motions with church. My husband was much the same but for different reasons, however once COVID hit things changed. 

My husband connected with a fundamentalist church and everything changed. All of sudden I was expected to homeschool my kids, quit my job, drop out of my master’s degree for counseling since it was seen as worldly.

I was expected to obey and follow my husband at all cost and that by not doing so I became the enemy and unrepentant, dishonoring God. Furthermore, the church was controlling but my husband didn't see it. They told me I was not allowed to come; they separated my family and encouraged us to spank our kids which I do not agree with. 

This has led me to lose my husband and I worry will I lose God? I have become angry with God, I have started to dislike Him if He is who the church says he is. I have also realized that I cannot save my marriage without submitting to abusive control. I will lose myself and God if I do. I am just lost and broken and don't know what's next as I have no one left in my life there for me.

Answer: I’m so sorry you are experiencing this. You already know this church is unhealthy so why have you given them so much power to define your reality and to define God? Friend, God is there for you even when you’re mad at him. He has always been there for you. He doesn’t change. God is for us, even when we’re not paying attention to him. The Bible tells us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). We don’t have to be a certain way for God to love us or be for us, not against us. (Romans 8:31 – I’d encourage you to read all of Romans 8.)

This fundamentalist church is controlling and legalistic and, in my opinion, wrong in how they have treated you and your family. It is not their job to dictate to you how to raise your kids, whether you can go to college or have a career. That is controlling. Their job is to be a family of God and show the power of love to a hurting world. Because they are conservative, they have valued what they see as “truth” more than they have valued love. Yet 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that if we speak with the tongues of angels (truth) but do not have love, we sound like a clanging gong or clashing symbol.” In other words, people can’t hear us. They put their hands over their ears. 

But I am concerned that you pulled away from a former church that hurt you as well, so are you attracted to churches that are controlling, and then when you resist, you are rejected or you reject them? Just something to think about.

God tells us that his will is for you to mature into the woman he made you to become (Ephesians 4:13-16). You say you feel broken and don’t know what to do next. No one feels there for you. Do you not have friends? Siblings? Colleagues at school or work? Maybe that’s a place to start. We all need good people in our life for support and care. However, there is not one person who will always be there for you. Not a husband, friend or child. Not because you are not worthy, but because it’s just too big a responsibility for one person to bear. God is always there for you, but no one else can take his place. God will send different people into your life to meet your needs but not one person who will be your rock. God is your rock. That’s why it’s important for you to start there.

You say you feel lost. You were in school to receive your master's in counseling. You already know that our feelings are great informants but don’t always tell us the truth or lead us in positive directions. But lost is a good word for what you do feel so let me ask you would it look like, feel like and sound like if you weren’t lost any more? If you knew what direction your life wanted to take, at least initial first steps? Is there anything in your school program that would allow you to get some personal counseling to sort through all of this and figure out what you’d like to do next? Many graduate programs do use interns to help students and this may be a very low-cost option for you to simply dialogue with someone who can be there for you, even if in a professional way.

Today we all use a GPS on our phone to help us get where we need to go, especially when we feel lost. God’s GPS, God’s Positioning System is the Bible and he reminds us repeatedly that we can trust him to lead you where we need to go. (Psalm 32:8). That doesn’t mean just sitting still and waiting. But if you take some of the above steps, I believe you will gain greater clarity by starting to move forward. Just like we trust our GPS on our phone even when we don’t see the whole route, we just take turn by turn by turn and eventually we get to where we want to go (Proverbs 3:5,6).

Where do you want to go? I don’t know your personal goals but I hope that one of your desires is to move towards greater healing, growth and maturity in Christ. That is God’s will for you too, so you can trust him to take you step by step guiding you forward. Your job is to listen and follow. That’s why it’s so important that even though you’re mad at him, that you open your heart and talk with him. He can handle your anger. He can handle your questions. Nothing is too hard for him. (Jeremiah 32:27) 

Please determine not to let this church or your husband’s behavior take you to a dark place. Although God is there for you and he will never leave you, he also never forces you to follow or to listen to him. He’s the opposite of controlling. That’s why your church’s behavior was so off. I hope you choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Friend, when you have felt lost and broken, what were your first next right steps forward? Let’s help our sister here by sharing some practical solutions together.

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14 Comments

  1. Elaine on September 8, 2022 at 8:24 am

    My sister,
    God has not done theses things to you. The broken sinful world we live in has only pain to give. The Word says we wrestle not with people but with Satan and his demons.
    Run to God, tell Him how you feel, pour out your heat to Him and confess that you can’t live this life without Him and ask Him into your life and allow Him to help you. Read the Word and obey it. Make reading the Bible and praying a daily habit and you will begin to see and feel relief, peace, guidance and acceptance from your Heavenly Father God.
    It’s always the right next step to Begin With God!
    I wish for you all the best God has planned for you.
    Elaine

    • Dwight Hasbrouck on September 8, 2022 at 9:56 am

      My spirit grieves when I hear cases like this.
      I put myself in this wife’s position and then ask the Holy Spirit to comfort encourage strengthen and guide her
      Too many husbands that profess by their mouth to be true follower servant’s of Jesus are so often far from God and not allowing Jesus to be the Lord of their lives
      A healthy John 3:3/3:5:husband puts the interests of his wife and family before his own
      Jesus warns us well about goof ball man infused doctrine church groups
      It infuriates me to the core that there exists SO many church groups that are off base and off track about true Christianity
      My prayer for this dear very challenged sister is for God’s intervention along with the Holy Spirit to do a huge wake up call on her blind ignorant and deceived husband
      Thank you Leslie for your A+ counsel and biblical reality truth encouragement
      Dwight 😇☝️🙏💪💜

  2. Sonshine on September 8, 2022 at 8:25 am

    When I felt lost and broken, I reached out to a counsellor to talk through my feelings and get perspective on what I needed to do to come out of the dark place. I also find worship music uplifting, going for a run or just crying my heart out.

  3. Pauline Page on September 8, 2022 at 9:15 am

    I am learning to sit with Jesus for guidance. And then I do something good for myself for self-care. Yesterday I signed divorce papers and this morning the first thing I did was I went for a bike ride to Exercise. And I use it as a form of worship to the Lord. Jesus and I had a nice time ,giving him my Care’s on the bike ride. What a peaceful morning and taking charge of my life. Today’s a new day and a new beginning, this week was the week of tears, for today there is peace. I will be praying for my dear sister that feels lost. I have been there. Set with Jesus and tell him what’s in your heart. You need to let it out. He will listen to you. Then listen to praise or hymns. . Sing to Jesus as a sacrifice Even when you don’t feel it. For the spirit of heaviness will fell from you when you put on the garment of praise. I am praying that God will send you one good friend that you can talk with. Two nights ago I put my heart on the Conquer support group because I didn’t have anybody to share the brokenness in my heart at that time of early morning.. And my sisters reached out to me. We are here for you. We are stronger together. Love you dear sister.

  4. Sandy M. on September 8, 2022 at 9:20 am

    When I’ve felt lost and alone, I have leaned HARD into the Lord, reading His Word in different translations so that familiar passages “pop,” becoming fresh and new and overwhelmingly full of God’s love and grace for me. (Echo Leslie’s suggestion to read Romans 8 – one of my go-to favorites!) I have read GOOD books (Leslie’s “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage” was a literal lifesaver for me; my favorite devotional book has become Paul Tripp’s “New Morning Mercies”). I began attending a Christian recovery group (Celebrate Recovery) and I am finding great hope and healing in that. I have found a GREAT church and cultivated new friendships with other godly but broken people, finding great encouragement in walking alongside them. I don’t know your name, but our God does, and I have lifted you to His throne this morning. Don’t give up and don’t buy Satan’s lie that you are alone. Our God has promised to never leave nor forsake you and He is fighting for you and He always will. You are loved!!

    • Kim on September 8, 2022 at 10:05 am

      Celebrate recovery, Leslie’s book, serving, and a renewed relationship with the Lord, Life is so much better even if things didn’t not work out the way I had thought, God has given me a different life, a new life. Every day Walking with God instead of beating y head against the wall trying to make Him give me the life I thought I wanted. God is so good

  5. Kim on September 8, 2022 at 10:02 am

    I am listening and wonder what the resistance to what the church and her husband are suggesting (encouraging or demanding). Nothing is perfect. Sometimes, we pull back and the control or struggle is a power struggle and not the actual suggestion, request or demand. I was married for 30 yrs. I did I was the one that was wanting to do all the things they were asking of you.. I wanted to. I felt called to. I told my husband, he response was, you will know if you are called. I agree, then, we must listen, tust and obey. He wasn’t feeling the same call but supported me in what I chose as long as he didn’t have to do anything. I wanted him to feel and want what I wanted. I had a lot of fear, I was seeing things through fear, not truth. We were both very controlling in our own way. I was a deferring wife, but fear caused me to not be happy about obeying my husband. The joy was not there. Scripture is full of instructions about HOW we do things, the attitude and heart we do them with. Coercion and control are not of God, they are the enemy’s tools.

    If there is a pattern of control and a stale-mate, maybe look at that. I went thru a hard time in my marriage, 5 years before I even had any idea that it would end badly. I felt alone, he was pulling away, things were falling apart in every area of my life. Everything was out of control, life was not so manageable. I was being refined, God put me through some hardship and I was on my knees, seeking His best. I like to say, “I spun plates and God let them fall and crash to the ground and break into a million little pieces” I spent the greater part of 5 years learning about my contributions and character defects. I believe if my husband had not been unfaithful (I could not share him with other women), there would have been a chance for us, if was willing to do the work,. Both parties need to be willing to do the work. I realized many of our issues were caused by the way we responded to each others need to control. Anger, resistance, poor communication, insecurity, self-pity, hopelessness, putting up walls, blame, excuses, etc..

    I was in a house with 6 people and I felt more alone than I did when when I lived alone. God showed me that He will never leave me nor forsake me He showed me that I must obey Him above all things and He will give me the ability to walk in the path that He has set before me. Wants and needs are not the same. God basically stripped everything away and I was left broken (this can be a sweet spot) I was left seeking the Lord like never before. I would call that time a time of hopelessness and despair. Sound familiar? So many of God’s chosen people went through a similar time, hopelessness and despair. Jesus is our Hope, and when we abide in Him, Nothing is impossible. Anytime I see the words, Nothing is Impossible for God, I smile because I know it is true. I am not an optimist, I have faith in God Who holds all things in His hands, but He requires that we trust and obey to see the impossible in our own lives/struggles bear fruit.

    God asked me (Literally) Do you love me? Do you trust me? Will you obey me? Even if nothing changes? I said yes to all, even though the last question was harder to say yes to.. I am so grateful for the refining fire. I learned that there is an eternal perspective and God was showing me His heart toward me was, He loved me, (No matter what) He has plans for me, He wants me to spend eternity with Him, this world is not perfect and I need to look at things from an eternal perspective. That meant, stop looking at their stuff and look at my own.There will be a chance to do that, when I could separate what was mine and what was theirs.

    My hope was restored, my heart was healed, I saw my value in God’s eyes, and that no one could take away. My life has changed so much, it doesn’t look like anything I would have imagined or wanted. It is better and real and I am experiencing a wholeness, completeness, and freedom I never had. Not because I am independent of my husband’s requests but because I do defer to my husband (My new husband) but because I am walking with God and trusting Him above my own plans and fears, I am making necessary sacrifices to give up the power struggles.

    Study Brokenness in the Bible, You will be amazed. God does miracles when we let Him. He takes us and makes us new, takes that heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh, He gives us new eyes, He gives us a heart to understand His ways. and hunger and thirst for righteousness.

    PS I found during that 5-6 year period of time, I found the most encouragement in a support group, (I went to “celebrate recovery” for co-dependents) I also started serving almost immediately. Serving helps us to stop thinking so much about ourselves (Gt out of our head), giving us a break from the need to control every detail and wait on the Lord. Serving others is healthy and helped me to see things differently as was aware of the needs and hurts of others. I developed greater capacity to show empathy for others and myself. Not because I had to or because I was earning acceptance (a Co dependent trait), but because I genuinely felt compassion and love. Be kind to yourself and NEVER forget, God Can and will (if you let HIm) work all things together for Good!

  6. JoAnn on September 8, 2022 at 10:19 am

    Dear “Lost and Broken,”
    These previous replies are all wonderfully helpful. Each one has several helpful pointers, so I encourage you to print them out on paper so that you can carry them with you for encouragement. Better yet, build your own composite of all the suggestions and practice one step at a time. Please start with daily time in the word of God, getting to know Him and opening your heart to the God who is revealed in His word.
    Many people do things “in the name of God” that are not what He wants. (Matt. 7:23) It can be hard to hear God’s truth when there are other, louder voices screaming at you, so you will need to find a quiet place and time to listen for guidance.
    My heart breaks for you. May the Lord be a real and present “light shining in a dark place” to you.

  7. Barbara McElroy on September 8, 2022 at 10:22 am

    My family was part of a cult like church for years. You describe your church as “fundamental” but when it’s controlling that’s not right. It took years to realize and get out. Don’t wait. Get your kids out. Leslie’s right, God is able to love us through our anger. You sound like a very intelligent woman. Don’t be afraid of your husband’s threats. There are probably family members who have been very concerned about you and your family. God has already directed you to Leslie and He will show you people who can help you. Praise and worship music will help you and reading God’s word. “They word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path”

  8. Sally on September 8, 2022 at 1:51 pm

    When I’m at my lowest I’ve found 4 things that comfort me – reading Psalms and David’s anger at God, getting a Bible that prints Jesus’ words in another color(often red) and read only Jesus’ words, praying constantly & exercising outside in nature.
    Hope this helps.
    God Bless!

  9. Judi on September 8, 2022 at 3:52 pm

    This is more of a suggestion than a question, I know.
    Have you ever considered writing a book with your amazing letter responses similar to Robin Norwood’s book “Letters from Women Who Love Too Much (and experience too little in return)?
    I have been counseling clients in the addiction /abuse field for many years; still, every time I read your letters I gain some insight due to their relevant succinctness. Thanks for sharing!

  10. J on September 8, 2022 at 5:04 pm

    I just want to speak to the shame the OP may be feeling. I went through a very similar situation of my spouse entering a fundamentalist Bible study group after I informed him I could no longer live in our abusive, controlling, and indifferent marriage. His response was to “become the spiritual head of our home” with an iron fist, telling us all these things that we could and could no longer do. It made me crazy. He finally moved out (taking one like-minded child with him). And I was left in a pit of shame and depression – thought I could never be God’s daughter again due to all my failures that were repeatedly paraded into my head. After months of feeling this way I was literally hit with the truth of Romans 8:38 – NOTHING can separate us from the love of God. Nothing – none of their rules, their parenting suggestions, their opinions”, etc. NOTHING. I threw off that shame and came running back to Him – He is the only one to value and love us fully. Don’t let them take Him away from you.

  11. Carrie Baker on September 9, 2022 at 12:40 am

    Dear Lost and Broken… Your story parallels mine! I was refused to finish my Master’s in counseling (I had completed the curriculum and 3 weeks from graduating, my husband said “no”.) I was ousted by a church and the worst enemy I had was my Pastor’s wife who warned my best friend that she needed to be careful of me because my husband was such a good guy and “there’s 2 sides to every story”. When confronted she said she was just encouraging my friend to not encourage me to divorce my husband. She was “protecting” my friend from me. I was reprimanded for not upholding the “sanctity of marriage” by another “best” friend. My other friend whom I had given thousands of dollars to helping her escape her threatening husband was told to no longer “fellowship” with me because I wasn’t following godly counsel, this also from the Pastor’s wife and she still to this day will not speak to me and I no longer have a relationship with her. I still am skiddish in the church I’m in now because of all the slander that was said against me in the other churches I was very involved in. I homeschooled my children for 12 years and found myself without income after my husband kicked our 11year old son at the throat. In the end I was the bad guy for not “submitting” to my husband. Why the Pastor’s wife targeted me I don’t know. But what I do know now having been lost and broken… GOD WILL NEVER GIVE UP ON YOU. If others (even if they are HIS children) don’t show love to you that is NOT GOD, for GOD IS LOVE. I did give up on GOD and HE sent a friend who had also suffered through a nasty divorce and had difficulty in the church as well, she came and set a porch full of groceries the very moment I told GOD “I’m DONE” I gave up…. I didn’t want to be mistreated anymore… I didn’t have any money coming in….. I had 4 kids to take care of… I was lost and broken and I quit…. MY FATHER DIDN’T GIVE UP ON ME AND HE WON’T GIVE UP ON YOU. I can say that because in all that time, not one bill went unpaid, not one time did I not have groceries, not one time did I not have gas money, or money for insurance…. HE WAS FAITHFUL TO ME AND MY CHILDREN. HE WILL BE THERE FOR YOU. No matter your hurt, anger, despondency, confusion, lack of faith, or even spite… NO MATTER WHAT….. GOD LOVES YOU. Just as you are because HE IS LOVE. HE made you, wrote a book about you (Ps 139:16) and even thinks about you very tenderly and lovingly. HIS thoughts are not ever evil towards you (Jer. 29:11) Ask your Father in Heaven to show you TRUTH and to nourish your soul giving you that drink in a dry and thirsty land (wilderness trials). I pray this…. Father in Heaven. Please help this dear Sister in her hurt and pain to be granted courage, faith, truth, and most of all may the blindness caused by many who sinned against her be done away with YOUR WORD and those who TRULY. LOVE YOU please send them her way. She doesn’t need those who are “most miserable comforters” as Job had but she needs words of LIFE, LOVE, and TRUTH that can only come from YOU. FATHER, please grant her a blessing that is so close and in her “bosom” as YOUR WORD states that she KNOWS it was a very personal blessing from YOU. Increase her faith and show her YOUR loving kindnesses and tender mercies. PLEASE FATHER, grant her peace in the depths of her soul and may she know that JESUS HIMSELF is praying for her now as her advocate and Saviour. Thank you FATHER for YOUR GOODNESS and thank you for all these who are so encouraging and helpful. In the name of the LORD JESUS CHRIST i pray all this….. AMEN… Be blessed Dear Sister. Continued prayer will be made for you! Carrie

  12. Terri Lisenbe on September 12, 2022 at 6:04 am

    When coming through a time like that- I encourage get to know God for who He really is. Loving God and Father, protector, patient and kind and long suffering, not easily angered, provider, peace giver, uplifter, wisdom giver, eternal, strengthener, constant and unchanging, healer, redeemer, lover, mighty, grace giver and every good thing you coukd ever hope for or want.

    Something really good to know and understand is that God was no where in the abuse and control and accusations and blame and shame. That is not who He is and it is not okay with Him. He is not who the hurtful, controlling, and abusive person or church or spirit is connected to all of that.

    He was and is never against you- condemning and compromising you. He is always for you and He loves you- even more than you are for yourself. He wants the very best for you. It is true- God will never leave you or forsake you.

    He loves you dearly and His love changes everything for good!!!. .

    With God you have an amazing life ahead of you.

    For me- reading and learning with The Emotionally Destructive Relationship book by Leslie Vernick was part of God saving me and delivering me.

    I would encourage-
    Stay connected to God- vertical, stay in the truth as much as you know and hold onto your joy. The Joy of the Lord is your strength and Joy is vital to life.

    It is a process! And you come through and some things feel painful but joy is where you are headed!!

    My testimony- I cried out to God- He heard my prayer- He delivered me- He healed me and He is restoring my life and it is beautiful and filled with joy!

    Finding out how much God lived me changed everything!!!

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