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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