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Today’s Question: My husband and I attended a Baptist church for many years. My husband has a Catholic background I have a Methodist/Presbyterian background. I followed my husband to this church where he found great contentment. I figured I would love the Lord no matter where I was. Many things took place that were emotionally destructive over the years. We were on our best behavior at church. But at home and in front of our blended family we were not what a Christian marriage should be.
Repentance or remorse just wasn’t a part of the 10-year marriage and like cancer, it grew into its destructive state. I am now legally separated from my husband. I promised the pastor well over a year ago that I would meet with him after the separation was final. Now that it is final I needed to follow through with my commitment to meet with him.
When I did the pastor asked me to read Romans 12:1-2, and he wanted me to think about it and talk to him about it. My first thoughts are:
(1) I feel this church supports oppressive marriages.
(2) I do not trust my husband. I think he would use this scripture to protect his belief that we should not be separated, although this scripture can refer to the renewing of my mind with help understanding why I had become so bitter and resentful after hearing and reading some of your counsel.
(3) I do hope to live a holy and acceptable life pleasing to God, separating from my husband mentally and emotionally to protect me from his manipulation and control.
Thank you in advance for taking the time to comment. Your comments will help me contemplate what I need to discuss with the Pastor.
Answer: Your pastor chose an interesting passage for you to contemplate and if you’re in the kind of church you describe my guess is your pastor wanted you to latch onto Paul’s words in this passage where he said: “Don’t be conformed to this world’s way of thinking.”
It’s just a guess based on my experiences with well-meaning pastors but he probably wanted you to reach a conclusion something like this:
The world tells you that you should protect yourself from your abusive/destructive spouse by separating, but that’s not God’s way. You need to have your thinking transformed in order to think God’s way if you want to live a holy, acceptable, and pleasing to God kind of life. God’s way is to suffer patiently for Jesus by staying in your marriage because that’s what brings him the most glory.
This is the kind of counsel where well-intended but horribly unequipped pastors and Christian counselors can cause women in abusive/destructive marriages harm and spiritual confusion. You’ve said you want to please God and live a holy life before him and you’ve been aware that your own pain has led to some bitterness and resentment.
But if your pastor is saying what I think he might be saying, from his point of view there is only one way to do that when you’re in a destructive marriage and that is to stay, no matter what.
That’s not true. [Tweet “When you stand up and say “no” to abuse and sin and refuse to allow it to reign in your heart or your home you ARE doing God’s will.”] Placating an abuser or pretending and lying to cover up sin gives God no glory. It destroys the marital relationship as God intended and it gives the abuser the false idea that his sin is not that bad. If you choose that path, how could your husband possibly see the truth that he needs to repent? We are called to expose the deeds done in darkness, not cover them up or indulge them (Ephesians 5:11).
Scripture amply supports God’s stance against abuse and the tactics of abusers. He says he hates injustice, oppressors, liars, hypocrites, and those who abuse their power to hurt and take advantage of others.
Here is just a sampling of some verses:
“The Lord examines the righteous but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates.” Psalm 11:5
Then I said,
“Listen, you leaders of Jacob,
you rulers of Israel.
Should you not embrace justice,
you who hate good and love evil;
who tear the skin from my people
and the flesh from their bones;
who eat my people’s flesh,
strip off their skin
and break their bones in pieces;
who chop them up like meat for the pan,
like flesh for the pot?”
Then they will cry out to the Lord,
but he will not answer them.
At that time he will hide his face from them
because of the evil they have done.
This is what the Lord says:
“As for the prophets
who lead my people astray,
they proclaim ‘peace’
if they have something to eat,
but prepare to wage war against anyone
who refuses to feed them.
Therefore night will come over you, without visions,
and darkness, without divination.
The sun will set for the prophets,
and the day will go dark for them.
The seers will be ashamed
and the diviners disgraced.
Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
I am not listening.
Your hands are full of blood!
Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
[Tweet “God will hold accountable those who abuse others and misuse their power, so why doesn’t the church?”] (See Psalm 10, especially verses 13-18)
Therefore, you are not being “conformed” to this world’s way of thinking when you seek to protect yourself and your children from an abuser. You are conforming your thinking to God’s thinking. First by valuing your safety and sanity (which God values), and second, by holding the abuser accountable and calling him to repentance in order for true reconciliation of the relationship to be possible, which is also God’s will when relationships are broken.
You may also want to read my blog Does God Want me to Suffer Silently According to 1Peter 3 and Lessons from Sarah’s Story.
Friend, what Scripture verses have helped you “see” that God cares about you and hates what’s happening to you? Let’s try to gather together as many Bible verses as we can that support God’s view so that confusion is cleared up around some of these false teachings so that spiritual oppression isn’t as easily masked as Biblical truth.
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Ok….this very passage says ‘do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind’.
Patterns of this world will always get incorporated into the church. We are not immune. And if we can admit that, then we will be willing to look at what lies the church is believing.
Prov 4:23 ’Above all else guard you heart, for it is the wellspring of your life.’ This honours God. Allowing the repeated trampling of our heart (mind, will and emotions) does not bring God Glory.
In order for a marriage to be God honouring, each spouse must be reconciled to God first. This involves allowing God to remove idols from our individual hearts. If a spouse refuses to go through that process in proximity of their spouse then space must be created for them to be accountable to God. Creating that space is actually giving them a gift.
Separation is what Loving someone who will not take responsibility for their sin, PRACTICALLY looks like.
We can’t claim to love someone and not go to battle FOR them AGAINST the sin that has trapped them.
1John 3:18 ‘let us not love with words and speech but with actions and in truth’
“A man of great wrath shall suffer punishment: For if thou deliver him, yet thou must do it again.”
Proverbs 19:19 KJV
This is poignant and so critical for Christian women to understand. Many of us learned to excuse the abuser under God’s law.
Jesus, a champion of women, showed his allegiance to those who are being hurt in God’s name.
I cannot express how much I needed this support of Leslie and the group in Conquer when I felt alone in my family and church.
I wanted to serve and love God, first and foremost but it is virtually impossible when the person you trusted most, told me I was crazy and wrong.
I’m two years down the road now. My intelligence and good decision making immediately returned to me once I was helped and coached not to accept untruths about me.
Many thanks from a weary traveler who is blossoming into who God intended me to be.
A pastor had me read the us folling article:
He read some tobme and had me finish the article. It is a very good article and helpful. However when my husband contacted him after I shared this with my husband the pastor turned on me. In fact the pastor text me and said don’t ever contact me again about your marriage. I was hurt as I had looked up and respected this pastor. He knew my husband’s narcissistic issues as he had not only counseled us but he and his ex-wife. It really hurt me a d I was bitter for a short time. I realized I had to forgive him and move on. I remember when I was younger a preacher had a sermon titled God keeps the books! That gave me a sense of peace, while I forgave I haven’t forgotten. If people do not have much knowledge of narcissists they really cannot understand what we go through especially as a wife or the children in the hone. It is a generational tue as well which is the case with my husband. It dates back to many generations. I hope you read thus article and share with others. I didn’t understand narcissism only I went through it and it makes no sense to degrade, and tear down another human being to the level they do and in the midst they say they are Christians. Narcissism to be is associated with Satan. It certainly isn’t a Godly trait. I am still in this almost 9 year marriage but I will get out finally. It will be my 7th attempt. I wish there was a rehabilitation for those put through the narcissistic abuse, I will be the first to sign up and go. I totally need to de-program from all that has happened. He has my mind and I want to be free to think, feel, and speak for myself what I think without being corrected or told how to feel. It is a long process and a hard one. Thank you for all your emails and YouTube videos.
I had found a comment on Leslie’s blog awhile back referencing Dr Les Carter. His YouTube videos on narcissists have helped me so much.
Look up Dr.Les Carter on utube. He helped me understand narcissism. Once you understand how they operate it helps to know it’s not you but them. I also followed Leslie as her advice is spot on. Totally healing will come. My church also was not understanding and I find this a big issue but it theirs not mine. My husband divorced me because I refused to reconcile after separating and attempting to reconcile but it goes in cycles. With good Christian counselling and psychologist and with following Leslie. I joined Conquer for a year and connected with another woman in my area who attended the on line conference. I feel sadness for the loss of my marriage, as I always thought it would be for life but abuse is not a marriage issue it causes marriage issues as Leslie says.
I am so glad i left and divorced my emotionallyand verbally abusive husband. At 72 years old i married a man 14 years younger. I thought he would take care of me lovingly as i became older. To the contrary he was controling possessive emotionally and as i learned a covert narcissist. I went to the church in desperation. He was an employee supervisor and served regularily at the church. When they realized the marriage was in trouble they tried to save it in my estimation to save face. He was in close connection to the pastors and many important people in the church. When the counceling and marriage classes and spiritual grown classes didnt work because his same patterns didnt change and my response became more agressive and my mental health was in serious danger i said i was done and was lead to leave for good.i can remember where i was standing when the Holy Spirit said to me you cant do rhis anymore. I ask the church to help me keep him under control but when i refused to come in again and i said what do you want me to do have a heart attack or stroke. They just told me i didnt have grounds for a divorce. They then turned their back on me and not one word from anyone to check on me or my circumstances or mental state. the church rejection has been the hardesr part of my recovery.He got fired from his supervisor position but is still active and working at the church in a visual position not sure if it is volunteer or paid. Position
Some verses that have helped me are 2 Thes. 2,3,6; 1 Cor. 5:11. These verses refer to staying away from a brother (i.e. believer) who demonstrates evil behavior. How can the word tell us to avoid a fellow believer who is evil, not even to eat with such a one, but then require a woman to stay in the same house with one? There are not many verses that directly address abusive marriages, but the one that stands out to me is in Malachi 2:14-16. Yes, the Lord hates divorce, but from this verse we can see that it is because the believer is not taking heed to his spirit, to deal with his wife in a godly way.
“I was amazed to see that no one intervened to help the oppressed,
So I myself stepped in to save them with my strong arm”
The Lord is on the side of the oppressed, He opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. It is no new thing for those who have the power to help, to resist getting involved. God will not forsake you. Our God is El Roi, the God who sees! The Lord is even now creating a way out for myself and my children, and I am amazed at His provision and grace.
Oh my goodness! This is so true. Thank you Leslie for yet another clear, precise and truthful answer.
Oh that more pastors and elders will desire deeply to care for the vulnerable sheep in their folk!!
Yes, Leslie, ‘SOME” pastors MAY be “well-intentioned,” but please always keep it ‘out front’ for women/wives to understand that many, many, many pastors are NOT “well-intentioned,” but rather they strongly believe that men/husbands are to be kept comfortable in all ways, at all times, and this NO MATTER the abuse and traumatic wounds which they are inflicting upon their wives (and also their minor children, whether directly or indirectly). A pastor from a local, larger evangelical church stated that Christian husbands who have childhood wounds (um, who?? doesn’t?; and why?? are WIVES not ALSO excused in abusing their husbands if THEY have childhood wounds??) are excused in abusing their wife and minor children. Yeah, I challenge him to find THAT teaching even remotely in Scripture…that ANYone is excused for abusing others on the basis of having had childhood wounds!
Gen 2:18 it is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.
When a wife respectfully gives input to her husband, and he doesn’t value it or consider it, then he is a fool. He is disregarding the good and necessary gift that God gave him. He is even more of a fool if he mistreats her for doing what God called her to do-voice her opinion.
The following link in your blog post does not work. It says, “Page not found.”
Thanks for letting us know. It is fixed.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom . To Him be the glory forever and ever ! 2Timothy 4:18