Hello! Susan here with my monthly contribution to the Leslie Vernick & Co blog. We have entered the Lenten Season and many of you are taking part in special practices. For me, this is a time of reflection and lament. I have been accessing several resources to help me know myself and discover my faults and blind spots. I praise God for all He has provided for me in order to be right with Him. As I recall the work of Jesus, I am in awe of both His humble mercy and His great majesty.
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty of our sins. (Romans 3:23-24)
Rejoice! Easter is Coming!
This Week’s Question: I have been in this relationship for 15 years and have made excuses for far too long. There have been some unforgiveables that have opened my eyes and led me here. I have left the home with the kids, but he won't talk to me and just bullies me about how inconvenient I am being. Are there any resources I can point to for HIM to work on and discover his ungodly ways? I have a hard time in the moment saying anything because I truly am speechless by his increasingly mean and abusive behavior. My wall is so tall I am not sure he could ever knock it down to start over. I know my silence isn't good either – I almost feel like I am playing the same games he does! I just can't muster up the energy to fight anymore. The breaking point was his invasion of my privacy and reading my messages on his computer – he refuses to talk to me about why he started to do it and just threw a flippant “I want a new husband” text to my sister in my face. After some thought, the fact that he IS reading my texts and isn't concerned about my mental well-being is disturbing – there are some dark messages in there! It just shows how little he actually does care for me. In studying Leslie's book, I do think my purpose is to show him God's true character (that he didn't learn from his southern Christian upbringing) but how do I do that? He mocks me and my “godliness” as if I know nothing! Coming from a broken home, I don't want to play the games my parents did – he will be the worst co-parent I already know. But how do I lead him to water so that he can work on himself?
Coach Susan’s Response: I commend you for acknowledging the hard truths that have led you to this place. Although you have not been specific about what “unforgivables” you have experienced, I will assume they are things you would consider to be deal breakers in the relationship. It sounds as though serious relational boundaries have been disregarded. That can be devastatingly disappointing. You have been brave to take your needs seriously and find psychological and physical safety for you and your children.
I would like to encourage you to continue to be diligent about your commitment to the truth. If you listen to your own voice, you have already discerned that his mean and abusive behaviors are increasing as you move toward your own well-being. He believes it is just an inconvenience to him that you are making a move forward to find safety. Your safety matters! Perhaps you have had conversations over the 15 years to let him know how his destructive behavior is affecting you. If you have already given him feedback and he has mocked you, it is very likely he does not want to recognize his destructive ways. Trust the truth of what you see in his actions.
You stated you have had a hard time saying anything in the moment. Although it may be used as such, remaining silent is not always a destructive tool. Silence can also come from a place of survival or even wisdom. I believe you are speechless because your body is shutting down in self-protection. When we are threatened, our brain goes into fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. Being in survival mode takes immense effort and therefore our thinking brain shuts down to conserve energy. Perhaps you are freezing in fear. In the past, you used your energy to fight. Fighting with your husband was likely a protective measure as well. It is not going to go anywhere except toward creating a winner and a loser. Alternatively, healthy, assertive discussions can help to resolve conflict and foster connection.
You have built protection around your heart for a reason; he doesn’t get to “knock down” that protection without your consent. If he were to start over by treating you differently for a long period of time and establishing a new pattern of behavior, you may choose to lower that wall of protection yourself. If you remove your boundaries of protection to allow him to start over without any evidence of real change, he will likely harm you again. It would not be wise for you to allow him access to your heart given the current pattern of abusive behavior he has established.
You believe your purpose is to show him God’s true character and point him to Jesus, where he will discover his ungodly ways. So let's break that down to see what God’s true character calls us to. Do you recall the initialism of WWJD? In this instance we can ask, “what DID Jesus do”, not just what would He do? Jesus was mocked and abused as well. What did He do about that?
You were likely taught that when Jesus was mocked and abused, He endured the suffering and allowed it to be part of His mission. He was willing to take on the suffering of the world and used it to bring about redemption and salvation. This is true. Is it the full story?
I implore you to search the scriptures for more examples. However, here are just a few that took place a short time before Jesus went to the cross. Jesus left, not once, but three times because the religious leaders intended to mock and abuse Him.
In John 7:1, although He was expected to arrive before the Feast of Booths, Jesus would not yet go to Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him. Verses 10:39-40 teach us that because of the increasing hostility, as well as efforts to stone and arrest Him, Jesus escaped and went to an unpopulated area across the Jordan. Later on in verses 11:53-54 Jesus stayed near the wilderness, no longer walking openly among the Jews, whom He loved and wanted to save.
It is not always God’s will to endure suffering. If He makes it possible to flee danger, then flee. Like Jesus, we are to follow the will of God wherever that leads. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) Dear one, please don’t suffer in vain.
Jesus fulfilled His unique calling when He suffered intense abuse and died for our sins, but He did not always choose to endure suffering. Sometimes he left the abuse and mocking to find safety with The Father. Other times, He knew He had other purposes to fulfill and fled. Either way, Jesus's example of humility and grace in the face of suffering and abuse is an example that we can all strive to emulate. He showed us that it is possible to love our enemies and forgive those who hurt us. He also showed us that we can be strong in the face of adversity and that we can remain faithful even when we are persecuted. Remember this; at times God calls us to suffer for good and other times He calls us to flee evil.
You asked, “But how do I lead him to water so that he can work on himself?” Like my friend Chris Moles, founder of MenOfPeace.org, often says, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”. You can, however, feed him crackers”. In other words, make him thirsty for the one to true God and the amazing life that comes from knowing Jesus. He may become thirsty when he sees how satisfying a life with Jesus can be through the witness of your life. Likewise, he may become thirsty when he experiences the natural consequences of treating someone with abuse or indifference. The relationship becomes damaged or broken and the perks of that relationship are no longer available for use.
God has instilled an insatiable thirst in all of us that only He can satisfy. In John 7:37-38 Jesus invites us to this truth, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me. Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”
All have the ability to accept the satisfying gift of the Holy Spirit, yet not all do. The Word of God and the prompting of the Holy Spirit are the ultimate resources to help us see our ungodly ways.
I encourage you to place your focus on gaining the resources you need in order to be safe and well. God does have a purpose for your life which will reflect His glorious character. Stay close to Him and He will guide you in the direction of His will.
Beloved Readers, how are you following the will of God in your destructive relationship? What character traits is He building in you as you suffer for good or flee evil?
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