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This week’s question is from a fellow Christian counselor who is struggling with what she knows to be true and her personal experience. I felt this sister reflected the angst of many who really try to follow God’s plan for her life and then ends up
in a wilderness of suffering, scratching her head and wondering, “Does God see me?”
Today’s Question: I am a Licensed Clinician and having been practicing for about 12 or so years. I thank God everyday for the skills that have kept me sane in a web of chaos, anger and deceit created by my husband. Without them and the Lord I don't know how I would have survived being faithful to a husband that has starved me of all provision.
I followed biblical counsel prior to marriage, sought the Lord's RSVP to marry my husband and set all the appropriate boundaries. How could this have happened?
Now I am reflecting back asking “Did I miss something?” How could I end up in such a fruitless marriage. I have searched for 7 years for one sentence to describe the pain and confusion I have endured. I finally found it! “He came through my life like a hurricane, exited and left me standing in the rubble trying to rebuild the life that he destroyed. He has no recognition and feels no remorse.
Despite my husband's lack of any type of provision…I stand on the truth of God's word and take my marital vows seriously! I don't want a divorce…BUT how much can one person take? I feel like I am going “CRAZY!” The more Christian wisdom I seek the more confused I become.
I don't want to manipulate God's word for my benefit or relieve myself from this pain or journey. But surely God does not require that we live in this type of hell simply to remain faithful to our marriage vows. His word gives two options for divorce. What now? Forever damned?
How do I heal? Where is God in all of this? I have set the appropriate boundaries and continue to do so along with communicating cold hard truths (in love) to my husband despite his ability to conceptualize the data. He appears to be making some changes, but I am so far into the red. Even if he can stick with it…How can I survive such slow and ongoing progress when I have been starved beyond belief? It is like I have been sitting at God's banquet table for 7 years…without one meal!
I don't know the answer, but continuing to “Bear up under this” is NOT. Continuing to exercise the muscle of faith is not making the marriage stronger and feels like an exhaustive & fruitless exercise.
What is the answer? When is enough…just enough? And how do you sort through the hard truths of God's word. I have sought much Christian guidance and sad to say…it has been horribly ineffective and more damaging! Pastoral staff have simply caused more pain and cause those in search of God's truth and healing to retreat into isolation for refuge…which leads you back to the place you started.
I don't want to break the vow I made to God in this marriage and yet I am trapped in a marriage that I am trying to survive while dying more every day. What is the answer? Does joy exist? What does it look like? What does a biblical recovering/healing marriage model look like?
Surely, I am more to God than just a sacrificial lamb! I am very ashamed that this is my life and more deeply ashamed as a Clinician that I find myself in this predicament. I am not looking for an easy way out…I want out through the way of the truth (whatever that looks like). But the darkness has become so dense I cannot find the light!
Answer: I hear you. I left much of your question in tact because you articulated so well the anguish that so many women feel in this kind of marriage. I also wanted other Christian leaders to see how deeply hurt you have been by the lack of wise counsel. This grieves me. My heart’s desire is that pastors, Christian leaders, counselors and Biblical counselors would understand the dynamics of these relationships more clearly so that they would be able to offer wise and competent help.
I could answer your questions from many different perspectives. If you’ve read past answers you will probably have already sensed some of what I’m about to say, but I just want to add some new thoughts and a couple of reminders.
You desire to honor your marriage vows and keep the sacred covenant of marriage and from what you’ve indicated, it sounds like you have. But you can’t keep your marriage covenant intact by yourself. It is a sacred covenant entered into between two people. When one breaks the covenant, or is faithless, the relationship is broken. The good news is it can be restored through personal repentance. The bad news is that without that, the marriage can never be what God intends.
Here me: Sin damages relationships. You only have to start reading in Genesis to see the truth of this. Cain killed Abel. Joseph brother’s sold him into slavery. Jacob stole Essau’s birthright and they feuded for years before reconciling.
God made a sacred covenant with the Jewish people but when Israel and Judah left God to worship idols, their relationship with God was broken. After much anguish, God gave them a certificate of divorce, while still longing for their heart-felt repentance. He did not want their lip service or going through the motions kind of relationship, he wanted genuine love and repentance (See Jeremiah 3:6-14).
You are right to want to see repentance, remorse and recognition of your husband’s sin against you, but it is not happening. There is more lip service but not real change.
You said that you believe the scriptures give only two reasons for divorce but you did not mention what they are. Most likely you are referencing adultery and abandonment. I don’t know if you qualify because of adultery but it definitely sounds as if you’ve been abandoned, financially, emotionally, and spiritually, even if your husband continues to reside in your house.
When a couple enters into the sacred covenant of marriage you make promises to be sexually faithful and to be faithful to provide, protect and care for the one you are marrying. Abandonment isn’t simply physically leaving the home you share, it is failing to keep your covenantal promises with no recognition, no remorse, and no repentance. It’s an overall lack of faithfulness, maybe not sexually but emotionally, financially, spiritually, relationally. It’s taking care of your own needs at your partner’s expense. It’s not caring, not providing, not protecting and not honoring. It’s leaving the relationship even when you haven’t physically left the physical domain.
So dear one, God knows your betrayal. God understands your pain. Even though you felt his blessing on your choice of a life-partner, he does not control your husband’s choices anymore than he controlled Israel’s choices.
I know you do not want a divorce, but the truth is, you have been divorced, perhaps not legally yet but emotionally and spiritually. Now it’s time for you to heal and the only way to do that is to live in truth and reality and not what you wished would be.
I fear sometimes the church has made the same mistake with the sacredness of marriage that the Pharisees in Christ’s day made with the sacredness of the Sabbath. Jesus’ “irreverent” behavior on the Sabbath infuriated the religious leaders. He wasn’t following the “rules” He healed people. He allowed his disciples to pick grain. Yet when challenged, Jesus responded by asking, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or destroy it? (See Mark 3 and Luke 6).
Jesus said that Moses allowed divorce because of their hardness of heart. (Matthew 19:8-9) He went on to rebuke the trivial reasons that men divorced their wives and affirm that marriage was meant to be permanent, but even Jesus acknowledged that sometimes it isn’t possible. In the Old Testament we see that even God divorced Israel and Judah for their hardness of heart. (Jeremiah 3) all the while hoping she would come to her senses and repent.
Loss of trust and loss of relationship are the consequences of serious, unrepentant sin even in marriage. Stop beating yourself up and start to move toward God in healing and restoration of your own relationship with him. He is for you not against you. He loves you with an everlasting love and has not abandoned you. He does not ask you to be the sacrificial lamb, he already provided one. Jesus.
Just because you are a Christian counselor doesn’t mean you can work magic in your marriage. You cannot change your husband. You may influence him and invite him into change, but ultimately his change of heart and habit is between him and God.
In my book The Emotionally Destructive Relationship I speak about my own struggle dealing with my destructive relationship with my mother. As a Christian and Christian counselor I felt like I should know what to do to fix this. I could not. All I could do was work on me and heal so that I would not be destroyed. Please get yourself into some supportive relationships and perhaps godly counsel so that you can work on your healing.