How Do I Love Him Like God Does When I Feel Depleted?

Morning friend,

CONQUER is now OPEN but only until Friday at midnight. If you’re in a destructive marriage or getting out of one, you definitely will want to check out joining our group. If you’re curious, I invite you to attend our 3 hour Livestream event Friday from noon ET to 3pm where we will have women who are in CONQUER share their wins and how CONQUER has helped them. My coaches will teach you some strategies to calm yourself down, I’ll share, and we will have a special visit with my friend, Lysa Terkeurst. Put it on your calendar now so you don’t forget. Friday, April 19, noon ET- 3pm. Here is the link to my FB page where it will be hosted. You can also watch on YouTube

Today’s Question: I have an unusual circumstance. My husband has MS /multiple sclerosis. I'm in an online community that talks about MS rage like it's a thing – that some people with MS struggle with rage although I've been informed that not everyone with MS is an emotional abuser, but many are. 

I learned so much from your book and I've read much on this topic. Your words validated me in so many beautiful ways. I am thankful to you. I am unable to leave as my husband cannot take care of himself, and I am not sure what to do. I have waited until my third daughter graduated this May and my second daughter is leaving and getting married in June. After watching a recent YouTube video of yours about untwisting scripture, I realize I, (as a homeschooler), have been under the patriarchal beliefs in the Homeschool movement- Doug Phillips etc. I've been married for 32 years. In 2019, when my husband lost his business due to the disease, he came home full-time. I ended up getting very sick and debilitated. The abuse was in my face all day and night. I feel like I woke up from a bad dream. Although I knew he was a jerk I didn't realize the extent of the emotional abuse. I just kept submitting. I now have children with various emotional deregulation, OCD, etc. I believe as a result of this abuse. I feel so guilty that I stayed. This guilt has been affecting my health.

I am caught in the struggle of better or worse and serving him and taking care of him, but if I want to live a long life, I need to get out. My question is would God want me to serve my husband and am I loving him like God loves him? The guilt is relentless. I feel so sorry for my husband's condition. It's awful and I believe one of the causes of his rage and no control of his emotions. But it doesn't all account for his extreme selfishness and inability to look outside himself. I have a brother and an uncle who will no longer visit me because of his anger. I saw a counselor /psychologist for nine months until the insurance stop paying. What can I do? 

What are the resources when the person cannot take care of themselves? He has an elderly mother who can't help. No other family. Thank you for any help and or suggestions. Super grateful.

Answer: Whoa, you’ve got a lot on your plate, sweet girl. A disabled husband who can’t control his rages, grown-up children with emotional issues, a heap of shame and guilt for staying in this awful marriage for too long, and your own deteriorating health. 

Your primary question is: Would God want me to serve my husband and am I loving him like God loves him?

First, friend, you are not God. Only God is God and the quicker you accept that reality, the healthier you will start to become. That doesn’t mean you get a pass to ignore your husband or be mean to him, however, let’s look at what Biblical love looks like, even loving an enemy. 

The Bible tells us love does no harm (Romans 13:10). However, that doesn’t mean love never hurts (Proverbs 27:6). Telling someone the truth in love is mandated in the Bible (Ephesians 4:15), but sometimes the ugly truth hurts. When your husband got the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, I bet he felt hurt, but the doctor would not have loved him by lying to him about his true condition. God always tells us the truth. For example, God tells us, I love you (John 3:16), you are my image bearers (Psalm 139). And your sin separates you from me (Isaiah 59:2). Without repentance, we will be separated forever (John 3:36).  

God doesn’t lie and pretend about reality so that our feelings don’t get hurt. Jesus demonstrated tough love as he spoke to the Pharisees about their hypocrisy (Matthew 15:14), and Judas about his choice to betray him (John 13:27). Jesus tells us to love our enemy and seek his/her highest good (Matthew 5:43-44). Biblical love does not simply do whatever the other wants or cater to his/her selfishness. Nor does it enable someone else’s dysfunction or sin to continue to harm you or others. 

The Bible tells you to love others as you love yourself (Matthew 22:37-39). You’ve heard the safety instructions given when you buckle your seatbelt on an airplane, “In cases of emergency, oxygen masks will drop down. Put your own oxygen mask on first.” This must be your first step to change what’s going on at home. You can’t make any good decisions about what to do next if your own mind, body, and spirit are fragile and compromised. This IS an emergency. You must start by loving you. 

Your conservative Christian community has wrongly taught you that prioritizing your own well-being is selfish and ungodly. That’s not true. It’s loving yourself so that you can love others well. Please know when you start to make this small change, you might be plagued with big guilt. Why? You’ve been taught that you can only honor God by putting yourself last. By giving up your rights. By fulfilling your “role” as the wife, and keeping your marriage together at all costs, any price, including your own health. But that’s not true. The truth is, you can’t even take proper care of your husband or seek his best when you are a mess.

What would happen to your husband if you died today in a car accident or had a heart attack and couldn’t care for him? Let’s start here: You asked what resources are available for a person who cannot take care of themselves. Medicaid? Nursing home? Assisted living? Home health care? Have you checked with your insurance company, his medical doctor, the Multiple Sclerosis community, your local chapter of ARP, or the Senior Center in your community? Reality says that his condition probably will get worse over time and you might not be able to fully care for him. What are your options? His options? Love becomes informed now. Information is power and helps you make better next-right choices instead of scrambling in panic at the last minute.

Second, it’s true that his MS rages may not be fully under his control. But from what you said, he shows no compassion or concern for the impact they cause you – like alienation from your brother and uncle, and what else? This says to me that his long-standing pattern of selfishness and self-centeredness (which is not due to his MS) is still active. Does he take medication for his emotional dysregulation? See a therapist, even virtually? If not, why not? There are things he CAN do to help himself when he’s in a bad place. Does he apologize for his outbursts? Show care for the pain he has caused you or others? Or is it still all about him? If so, that shows you he does not love you or care about you. It’s still all about him and his feelings/needs. That does not mean you treat him how he treats you but understand that because he does not care for your highest good or well-being, you must. 

Third, loving yourself means you have some boundaries in place especially when you sense he’s about to lose it. Despite what you’ve been taught from your church, boundaries are not unbiblical nor is it selfish for you to steward your own mental, physical, and financial health and safety. If he were coming at you with a knife, I hope you would feel it’s a good thing to run away (Proverbs 22:3). Call the police. Move to a locked bedroom. Put him in a safe place where he can’t hurt himself or others. You have limited capacity as all humans do. Remember, you are not God, please don’t try to be. You need sleep. You need safety. You need community and support. (God does not need these things, but humans do). What are you doing to lovingly meet your own needs here, not just be a servant of his needs and wants? Remember, your own oxygen mask needs to go on first. That enables you to be compassionate and helpful, without being depleted and at risk yourself.

Last, you are spending a ton of precious energy on guilt, shame, and regret. “I wish I would have…… I should have, could have……..” Paul encourages you, “Therefore, there is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). I’d encourage you to read over Romans 8 and put your name into the passage. If anyone could have been plagued with shame, guilt, and regret, Paul would be the man. Yet he was free from that. It’s not that he didn’t acknowledge his failures and past mistakes. He did. But he wasn’t stuck in rehearsing or regretting them. 

Jesus tells you that Satan is a liar and accuser (John 8:44) and when you hear that condemning voice in your head – remember, that voice is not from the Holy Spirit. Jesus reminds you that “my sheep know my voice” (John 10:27,28). When you are being condemned because you didn’t do this, or should have done that, recognize what’s happening. You are being accused. Say out loud to yourself, STOP IT. Next say, “There is no condemnation from God for me. No shame, no guilt.” That does not mean you do not have some lessons to learn, and changes to make, to get healthy, safe, and grow strong. But use your limited energy for future changes and growth, not regret and shame.

You can do this. Please consider joining CONQUER before we close to get additional support from an amazing community.  

Friend, how did you learn to let go of guilt and regret, stop listening to the liar and accuser and live in the peace and love of God? 

8 Comments

  1. Caroline Abbott on April 17, 2024 at 9:51 am

    I love your response Leslie. I would ask this sweet lady the question: How would God want me to care for myself? She is every bit as loved by God as her husband is.

  2. Sheri M. on April 18, 2024 at 9:12 am

    I am in awe of the wisdom in this response that God provides to you and your staff. This is divinely appointed and came in my email at a perfect time. As a counselor myself, I had a scenario this week, where the roles are reversed – the ill wife is abusive towards the husband. And, the husband is struggling to care for himself. I was praying for guidance with this couple, which was provided here. Thank you!

  3. April on April 18, 2024 at 9:37 am

    Thank you for asking the question, and thank you for the response.

    How let go?
    – (Philippians 3:13b) Paul also said: ONE thing I do: FORGETting what lies behind and REACHing FORWARD to what lies ahead
    -Turn the mind to something else: go to sleep, sing a favorite song to worship the LOVING Savior. focus on a verse as suggested, go out and enjoy the wind or sky or green until you feel your body relax (for as long as it takes). This is far better than “wasting precious energy on guilt, shame, and regret.”
    -Have NO doubt: God loves you just as you are. Nothing you have done or will do will change His immense love for you.

  4. Pamela Reinhardt on April 18, 2024 at 9:46 am

    I would add that when you begin to put your oxygen mask on….you will most likely get tremendous pushback from him & everyone else who has the unbiblical mindset. Be prepared!

  5. Anonymous on April 18, 2024 at 10:16 am

    Prayers for this person. I cannot imagine how trapped she must feel. I applaud her bravery for getting this far and I pray wisdom and strength for the road ahead.

    I believe this response is a rounded, grounded, call to maturity, way of understanding scripture. It makes me so frustrated when institutions focus on self serving verses while women are walking on eggshells with a partner who is bent on continuing in his selfish, childish, dysregulated ways. I’m so thankful for Leslie and her team for showing – with detailed and appropriate references to scripture – that all people are called to maturity and virtue. And I’m so thankful this group has the courage to boldly call out what should be obvious: if he can control it when it serves him, he can control it. And, if something prevents him from being able to control it and if he were an ordinary adult (let alone a mature Christian), he would be pained to know his lack of control is hurting others (not to mention his own wife). And, if he can adapt when it suits him, then he’d adapt to the idea he has hurt others. And, if he is or becomes truly not capable of knowing, understanding, or controlling himself or his behavior, I’m thinking he should be deemed incapacitated. And, if that is the case, while he deserves human dignity, it would be inappropriate for him to be in charge of others.

    • Connie on April 18, 2024 at 12:30 pm

      I agree with all of the above. I would like to add, that while I did all those things, like get the knowledge of who I am in Christ and tell myself the correct scripture, not much changed until I started asking God to impart into my spirit and soul how He feels about me. Then be still and know. The scriptures aren’t magic incantations. Jesus said to the goats, I never knew you. As in Adam knew Eve. I think the church has taught us to make a god of our husbands. I’m still with the man who says he wants to live like a bachelor with a maid. I’m learning to run under the shadow of God’s wing, let Him put a hedge between me and that man, set the firm boundaries, cry out for justice. Knowledge is very important, yet it didn’t give me what I needed to actually pull it off without guilt. Fire all the idols and find that quiet place to KNOW Him. Be patient with yourself, it takes time to shut up all the voices, including your own and your husband’s.

  6. JoAnn on April 18, 2024 at 11:13 am

    As one who is in a position of needing to take care of your husband, Leslie’s advice is so vital. You need time each day, and maybe more than once a day, to recharge by spending time alone to read your bible and talk with the Lord. God wants to supply you with His rich grace to meet the demands of your life. Reading the word with an attitude of prayer and taking in the truth as your food will refresh you and supply you with God’s all-sufficient grace. So important for all of us, especially when we are in demanding situations. Ten minutes can make a difference. And when you do, also drink a big glass of water to refresh your body, too.

  7. Esther J on April 18, 2024 at 12:06 pm

    Crying after reading this. It was exactly what I needed to hear today, especially the last part of shame, guilt and regret. Such a powerful reminder for anyone who struggles with that.

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