Today is day two of audio taping my book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. If you think of me today (Wednesday), say a prayer for me, please. And again for Friday. But, once it’s done, it will be awesome to have this information on audiobook for people to listen to.
This week’s question is one from a response to last week’s blog. I thought it deserved a little more in depth answer than what I could provide in my short response to her. She asked:
Question: You mentioned that our hearts are predisposed to believe lies first. My question is this: how can I know that leaving is right for me and my family if biblically all I can see is 1. divorce is only an option for adultery 2. God says vengeance is His, and 3. He (God) will not give me what I cannot handle. Each time I am prepared to leave my (not God-honoring and at times verbally abusive and controlling) marriage, something holds me back. Is it Fear or God? How can I distinguish between the 2? I also have a hard time trusting my own thoughts, and my capability of finding and identifying God’s will for my life. Am I supposed to wait for God to deliver me or take a more proactive measure?? 3+ years of this dilemma is making me so weary!
Answer: First, I’ve already mentioned in other blogs as well in my book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, that there are different opinions on Biblical grounds for divorce. But what you are saying is the only grounds you see right now is for adultery. To explore a broader perspective, I’d encourage you to read Barbara Robert’s book, Not Under Bondage and/or Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible by David Instone-Brewer.
These two books tackle the various Biblical interpretations and the passages that support other views on divorce other than what is traditionally held by conservative Christians. As you are reading, ask the Holy Spirit to teach you truth, as Jesus promises in John 16:13.
That brings me to your second dilemma – the ability to trust your own mind. I don’t think God has designed us to completely trust our own mind. However, He has given us a mind to use and tells us to pray for wisdom from above (James 1:5) and to seek wise counsel from other individuals (Proverbs 11:15 and Proverbs 15:22).
Proverbs tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Wisdom takes God’s word coupled with our mind and will and puts it into practical application in real life situations. For example, Proverbs 2:12 says, “Wisdom will save you from evil people, from those whose words are twisted. These men turn from the right way to walk down dark paths, they take pleasure in doing wrong, and they enjoy the twisted ways of evil. Their actions are crooked and their ways are wrong.”
Proverbs also says, “Turn away from evil, then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.” (Proverbs 3:7,8). and “The prudent see danger and take refuge.” (Proverbs 27:12). As you think through God’s whole counsel and not individual verses, you may begin to see an entirely different picture of what you should do in your marriage. If you’d like to see more information and scripture verses on Guidelines for Biblical Separation, please go to my special report on this topic.
You ask what’s holding you back from leaving? Is it fear or God? It could be both. Realistically it is scary to leave a marriage – for various reasons. Even women who are quite sure God is leading them out of bondage feel scared to actually make those steps. But perhaps God is also checking your heart attitude about why you are leaving and how you are leaving.
You talk about vengeance being God’s domain and you’re right. That leads me to wonder if you’re leaving out of vengeance rather than for safety reasons. Or to let your spouse know by your actions that his abusive behavior will no longer be acceptable and you cannot continue to live with him in the same home if he is not willing to change it. Most women in destructive marriages who separate or end up divorcing do so for safety reasons- physical, emotional, financial, sexual, and/or spiritual safety. They are not out to harm their spouse but to keep their spouse from harming them and/or their children.
I think it’s important for you to know that the Bible assures us of many things, but it never promises that we won’t be slammed with overwhelming hardship. Job is a good example of overwhelming stress. Job’s ten children were killed in an accident, his financial resources were wiped out, and his health failed, all within a span of a few weeks. In addition to physical and emotional pain, the endless negativity and criticism from Job’s wife and friends added more stress to his broken heart and weakened body. It’s no wonder that he said he’s rather die than continue to live that way (Job 7:15).
Jesus himself says to be prepared, that we will have tribulations (John 16:33). The apostle Paul said he suffered “hardships beyond our ability to endure.” It was so much that he “despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8).
I think one of the things that puts many women in destructive marriages over the edge is not their spouse’s destructiveness or what God is asking of them, but their own internal lies. It’s their unrealistic expectations of themselves, that somehow they should be able to handle it all and do so with a good attitude. They expect themselves to somehow be able to continue to endure abuse, verbal batterings, sexual abuse and humiliation, financial mismanagement, continued deceit, and crazy conversations that leave them reeling with their head spinning and still respond with loving, warm affection for their spouse. They wonder why God isn’t helping them live these idealistic goals out. Yet Scripture tells us of the terrible consequences we suffer when we live with a foolish, argumentative, irresponsible, abusive, evil, deceitful person.
Many women put unrealistic expectations on themselves to do it all, be it all, and have it all. The truth is, we’re not perfect. We can’t do it all or please everyone all the time. We get worn out and beaten down. I don’t think God expects otherwise. He has created us. He warns us of the consequences of living with destructive people. He gives us his wisdom to navigate through the tough process of confrontation and reconciliation. When that fails, what’s next?
Paul encourages us, “Repay no one evil for evil but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:17-18). Is it possible for you to live peaceably with your spouse? If not, then perhaps you have done all you can do and it’s time to acknowledge your humanity and realize that you cannot fix a bad marriage all by yourself. That doesn’t mean you immediately file for divorce. But it may mean that you separate yourself from the abuser. For the purpose of sending the clear message that the way we are living is not healthy, not honoring one another and not glorifying to God. Not to mention the horrible example to your children.
This may be the only consequence that will speak loud enough to wake your spouse up to his destructive behaviors. God is good to the saint and sinner alike and loves both unconditionally, but as I’ve said before, he does not offer unconditional relationship to both the penitent sinner and the prideful, rebellious person. Why do you think he expects that of you?
Friends, how have you learned to listen to God’s wisdom coupled with your own mind in making good choices in your marriage?