I just got back from my New Jersey speaking event at Hawthorne Gospel Church. One of the things I love about speaking is when I see the ‘lights go on” in women’s eyes when they realize that they are not as powerless, helpless, or hopeless as they’ve thought. You do have choices. You can change the trajectory of your day and the rest of your life. God says that we can be more than conquerors when we trust him (Romans 8:37)
Afterward, it was so fun to meet with CONQUER sisters and have time to connect with them and them with one another. I had to leave after an hour but they were still going strong. I love that women are helping other women to get healthier and stronger through loving one another, just as Jesus said.
Thanks so much for your prayers during the last 7 weeks of travel. I truly needed them to keep the pace up.
This week’s Question: I need help. I read all your books and took the steps to separate from my husband (emotional & physical abuse) but my emotions are a mess. He is not doing anything to try to save the marriage or show that he has changed. He hasn't even set up marriage counseling. I don't have any money to go to a Christian counselor. My pastor has told me he can't help me any further, I am stuck.
Answer: You are in a very difficult spot and I’m not surprised your emotions are a mess. Without knowing any more details than you’ve given, I imagine you separated not only for safety reasons but also in the hopes that your husband would “wake up” to his abusive behavior and get the help he needs in order to reconcile and restore your marriage.
The hard truth, however, is that he has not taken any steps to address his problem. You feel hurt, angry, discouraged, and frightened. Now what?
Helpless, hopeless and scared are probably the predominant emotions that mess with your mind. It’s important that you realize that your emotions may be powerful but they don’t always reflect reality. Things are not hopeless and you are not helpless, it just feels that way right now. Click To Tweet
You can’t fix his problem (his abusive behavior) but you must begin to address and work on your own problems if you are going to get a grip on your emotions as well as learn to live in a healthy way.
Your problems may be your fear of living alone, the lack of financial resources, the loneliness you feel, or even the anger and hurt you’ve experienced by his abuse and indifference to your pain. You say you don’t have the money to go to a Christian counselor but there is help out there for you if want it and you look for it. If you don’t work on your problems, you will be tempted to return to your abusive spouse without him making any of the changes needed to stop this abusive pattern. Is that what you want? Would that be in the best interests for you, your children, or even your spouse?
I’m not sure what your pastor meant when he said he can’t help you further. I don’t think your pastor can or should be the primary person to counsel you or your spouse with this problem but that does not mean that he cannot be instrumental in getting the church to be a supportive resource for you. Sadly often times when an abused spouse separates, the church withdraws support for both individuals in a troubled marriage.
But since your pastor has offered support to you in the past, ask him if he can recommend a wise woman in the congregation to be a supportive mentor to you during this time. In addition, you can get involved in a woman’s bible study in order to get around wise and hopefully healthier women as well as grow in your faith. If your church does not offer one, look for other locations that do. You must now take some proactive steps to help yourself if you are going to learn that you are not helpless.
Second, most communities have resources for abused women. I do not know your location but you can usually find these resources in the blue pages of your local telephone directory or google them on the Internet. They provide free counseling and support, sometimes even pro bono legal aid to help you through this process of getting financial support, a PFA (Protection from Abuse) if needed, and other things that will help you get on your feet right now. They won’t be able to fill in all of the gaps, and with recent funding cuts, many organizations can only provide the bare minimum of services, but you must seek out and get the help you so desperately need.
There are other churches that offer free or low-cost Christian counseling and if that isn’t an option, there is online counseling (go to www.aacc.net or www.focusonthefamily.com to find a Christian counselor who is experienced in these issues willing to work with you online). There are also low-cost mental health services in most communities as well as universities and colleges that may have interns. They may not be experts in abusive relationship issues, but they may be able to help you deal with some of your fears and runaway emotions.
There are books you can read (I recommend my book, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship as well as many others in the back of my book as additional resources). Many of these books and on-line resources are available at a community library or you can simply hang out in Barnes and Noble and read them there if you cannot afford to purchase them.
Here are some additional resources that you can explore so that you can begin to dig yourself out of the situation you are in and experience healing.
For additional education and resources on domestic violence, as well as e-learning, go to www.theraveproject.org
Another educational resource is www.focusministries1.org
The hotline for domestic violence is 800 799 7233 (SAFE). They can help you walk through your safety plan and tell you of additional resources you can access
In the Bible there is a story about a Gentile woman who asked Jesus to heal her daughter from demon possession. Jesus didn’t answer her at first and the disciples eventually asked him to shoo her away because she was bothering them with all her begging.
When Jesus finally did answer he told her he was only there to help the lost sheep of Israel. But that response did not deter this woman. She was desperate AND persistent. She knew her daughter needed help and she was not giving up until she got it (Matthew 15:23-28). Jesus commended her for her faith and her tenacity.
In another story, Jesus tells of the persistent widow who keeps pestering the judge until he gives her the justice she needs (Luke 18:1-8). These passages encourage women not to be deterred with a first or second or third “no.” As women, we tend to be more passive, less assertive and are willing to receive a no and feel that is the final answer. But often a no turns into a yes when we continue to plead our case.
Please seek the help you need. The answer isn’t to just learn to live with an abusive spouse. The answer is to get God-centered, strong, and healthy enough to stand firm so that you can invite your husband to do the work he needs to do in order to truly reconcile your marriage. And, if your husband chooses not to, being able to let go and stand in God’s strength.
Friends, how have you learned to get stronger, even while afraid. Even when you didn’t know what to do? What were your first steps forward out of helplessness and fear?
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You have been instrumental in helping me navigate and extricate from a 30 year abusive “marriage.” The church folks I went to for help had a permanence view of marriage “at all costs” and NO knowledge or experience with emotional abuse. Hundress of stories of how the church reabused women who came for help with abuse, yet you consistently encourage women to go to these people for support. The church is not a safe place for abused women. They need to at LEAST know some of the likely responses and be warned about how to navigate THAT ignorance. Itherwise, you are sending shattered vulnerable women to more abuse and they won’t even know what hit them.
Debby, I don’t know how long you have been reading this blog, but I understand your concern about Leslie “consistently encouraging people to go to church leadership for support.” As a balance, there is this statement from Leslie: “I don’t think your pastor can or should be the primary person to counsel you or your spouse with this problem but that does not mean that he cannot be instrumental in getting the church to be a supportive resource for you. Sadly often times when an abused spouse separates, the church withdraws support.” So she is advocating being cautious when asking for help within the church, and she always has. Some of the women here have received wonderful help from their churches, and others have been further harmed. We have to be careful, and sometimes women and men get “burned” while trying to seek help. My stand has always been that most pastors are not trained adequately to help with these kinds of issues, and fortunately, Leslie has been traveling all over the country to try to teach ministers and other support people how to help those in abusive relationships. If the attitude that you described as a “permanence view of marriage” exists in a church, I would say, “go elsewhere,” and I feel pretty sure Leslie would, too.
I am so glad that you have been able to extricate yourself from the abuse and dysfunction of your marriage, and I pray that God continue to strengthen and bless and protect and provide for you.
You may be pleased to know that Leslie is on the front lines trying to educate pastors and church representatives in how to 1) recognize and 2) respond to abuse of all kinds and forms and shapes and sizes. To that end, I understand that she has been instrumental in putting together a curriculum for churches to give them the tools necessary to navigate these situations. I know she exhaustively speaks and travels and reaches out to further educate and assist as well. I don’t think I could keep up her pace, and I, for one, am grateful for her passion and her willingness to sacrifice what could otherwise be a very tranquil and comfortable season of life in order to be the hands and feet of God and further her message and mission.
The work is not done, and it is not a one-person job. I encourage all of us to bring Leslie’s work to the attention of the church reps and pastors in our spheres so that change can be affected more deeply and more quickly. In the meantime, I don’t believe it is inappropriate to send people to churches -but only having first armed them (us) -as Leslie does- with the information and Biblical truths necessary to filter what may be encountered there.
Karen, very well said. Thank you.
Your warning about “likely responses” and how to “navigate ignorance” is a good point. Lesley’s idea that pastors should be a good resource is also true. Pastors are just people. Like doctors, attorneys or accountants, some are better informed and more capable than others, as you know. Life is always “buyer beware” and so we always need to stay in close relationship with God in order to make the necessary discernments, right?
Reading the Word ourselves, and staying in-relationship with God, makes us better equipped to find someone we can talk to; someone who has a truly biblical perspective.
I’m not saying that Truth is fuzzy or negotiable or up for interpretation, but rather that we need to be prepared to encounter people who don’t have what we need and who don’t share our understanding of God’s word.
For example, a lawyer with a different world-view than ours might not be a good fit for us. Likewise, a pastor with a different set of beliefs than ours might not be a good fit. Warn people? Sure. Of course. Just because someone in a position of “authority” speaks, doesn’t mean that what they’ve said is Truth. Only “Scripture” is “Truth” and God calls on us to become intimately acquainted with His Word. So, sure, put it out there as a warning: Study and pray and learn the Truth for yourself, then trust God to direct your path.
If God will not violate our free-will with respect to choosing Him, then our “free will” is a pretty big responsibility. We need to know the Word by reading the Bible and being in relationship with God. Only then can we have true confidence about God’s Will for us.
So, if/when a pastor’s beliefs or behaviors are not aligning with what the Word says? Then we find people who can back up their beliefs with Scripture and we use our own God-given discernment, yes?
People are “just people” even if they are ministers, counselors, or whatevers. Lesley’s point about not “giving-up” is Scriptural. I want to make that my starting point: “What does Scripture say?”
God leaves it up to us: 2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV) Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
It’s up to us to be in relationship with God through reading our Bible. That’s our immunity from both ignorant or evil “authority figures” who would stand between us and God. We are truly free and at peace when we intimately know the Truth: God’s Word.
Do we need help in life? Sure. I know I do, but as with attorneys, doctors, and chefs – they’re all just people with their own pasts, beliefs, capabilities, ideas, integrity, intelligence, and characters! They’re just PEOPLE. As is obvious, characteristics vary wildly among any group of humans (pastors included). So we must use our own God-Given “ears-to-hear” and our own discernment with respect to who we allow to influence us, no? If /when we go through a few wrong advice-givers? Oh well. There’s nothing we can do but shake it off, learn from it, and keep going.
Our answers are in the Word of God, and through reading the Bible we draw closer to God day-by-day, hallelujah.
For sure, Debby, you are absolutely right to warn women that they may well be kicked in the teeth (proverbially) if/when they reach out. You’re right!!! It’s a shame, but it’s a reality. Lesley’s answer seems to be the only right answer: We have to keep on reading the Word, praying, listening, looking and seeking, until we reach the quality person/people who can/will offer the quality help we need. That’s the example God gave to us in His love letter; the Bible.
I agree whole heartedly with what Leslie is establishing with facts about the venue and availability of what is out there for abused women to access. If you were raised in a cult-type church where the men, aka. the husband was the sole head of the woman, and if a woman did approach clergy, she would have been given the ultimatum of being told to ‘go home and submit some more’. There was no recourse for the woman, and yes, like the poster woman, she was ‘stuck’. But that is not the case these days. The abused woman has to go out there and do the foot-work of believing that God will direct her to the right people who will be there to help her. I think Leslie has touched just about every facet of how to go about doing that. Or the woman can take a friend or relative who knows of her situation along with her to get help. She doesn’t have to go alone, but should have support from someone who can comfort her along the way. Don’t let Satan paralyze you spiritually, as God is greater than our hearts and he is certainly greater than our enemy. And pray, and pray and pray! God will provide a way of escape so that you will be able to bear it. He PROMISES us that escape! Yes, and read Leslie’s The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, as we are not under any time frame here, unless you are in an abusive emergency situation, and Leslie has listed the Domestic Hot line. It takes time to comprehend these issues, and to be able to grow and move forward into a more healthy mind-set. Everyone’s circumstances are similar yet also different. The Holy Spirit is there to guide us into all truth, and a safety plan which will work for our own circumstance.. Confronting an abusive man is not safe! Which there are churches which say to confront the abuser, BUT doing that is probably one of the worst things you can do in a high-conflict marriage. Many of these men DO NOT CHANGE! And you have to get help. .
Thank you for your wisdom and perseverance to help. I have read your book the Emotionally Destructive Marriage and in chapter 12 it says there is a version of it available on line for the husband. I am not finding it and would appreciate some direction.
i myself is with a abusive cheating Jezebel spirit and high narcissistic man.(husband) I don’t think he ever loved me but i still have love for him. What helps me is after his wicked acts he ends up in jail due to his behavior and god not being in his life so i’m still with him but away from him just as much as i spend time with him. I been praying about it and this was my answer… check it out.. i just wanted my marriage to work i really love him but this was my answer……….in the Benson commentary version…For three things the earth will shake and four it cannot rest — That is, the inhabitants of the earth; is disquieted — By their insolence and impudence they cause great disturbances in the places where they live; for four it cannot rest — They are intolerable in human societies. For a servant when he regaineth — When he is advanced to great power and dignity; for such a one is ignorant and unfit for his place, and therefore commits many errors; he is poor, and therefore insatiable; he is proud and imperious, and usually injurious and cruel; and a fool — A conceited fool, or an obstinately wicked man; when he is filled with meat — When he is over fed, his meat and drink heating his blood, and stirring him up to many insolence’s: or, when he abounds in wealth, which, in that case, is like a sword in a madman’s hand, being an instrument and occasion of many acts of wickedness and mischief. For an odious woman — Proud and perverse, and full of other offensive qualities; when she is married — For then she displays all those ill humors which before she concealed. And a handmaid that is heir — Which great and sudden change transports her beside herself, and makes her insufferably proud and scornful…….it was Greek when i first read it i didn’t understand it but after i researched further, when i did understand my answer i cried for weeks..so i really understand the cycle of abuse broken homes bad relationships wicked people and loneliness and depression etc. Hope this helps somebody please give me feedback
Been going through counseling for many years now. My counselor advised me to write my husband a letter. So I did. In the letter I stated what I was not going to tolerate any more from him. That was last January/ Feb. And he got better, but has not changed. I am still struggling. It is so hard for me to face the reality of how he treats me. I have a really hard time facing and and being able to reread the letter i wrote and remember what I was holding him accountable for. It’s just so hard to face because it makes me feel like I can’t trust him. And worse I feel worthless and unloved because I don’t understand why i am not important enough for him to change and not treat me like an idiot. I try to focus on who i am in Christ rather than letting him get to me, but I am just not there yet. And I feel guilty every time I have to confront him. Every time I try to confront him it is extremely difficult to not get into strife with him. He often lashes out in anger. I feel like I have no right to stand up for myself without paying a price. I know it is my fault for not standing up for myself more. I just can’t seem to make myself be strong. I refuse to get into strife with him. When he says things that provoke me into a fight I stop talking. He doe not seem to be able to work things out with me without blaming me or making an excuse for his bad behavior. Then as you know the other part of the cycle is he becomes very charming then he gets irritated about something again. Cycle repeats. I am constantly feeling upset on and off and i don’t like living this way. And I know i need to make changes in me, I need to be stronger, but when i feel like I am having to stand up to him and face these difficult issues I also feel like I am betraying him. I know that isn’t true, but those feelings are what I think causes me to feel so helpless. I struggle so much with having to be the emotional responsible one in the marriage. I don’t want this position I didn’t ask for it. And it feels like he is not ever really there for me because he doesn’t accept me as I am, imperfect.