Yesterday, Jessica at Bohemian Bowmans wrote a thought provoking post entitled, “When the Church Supports Abuse.” It raised the question of whether God would ever direct someone to leave their spouse.
In an age when, according to Divorce Statistics, the divorce rate is approaching 50% and expected to pass that soon, and when marriage, co-habitaion, abuse, and hearing God’s voice are all controversial and often seem up for personal interpretation, I think there comes a point when Christians need to stop a moment and empirically examine their hearts and lives and see if they are really hearing that still small voice, or if it is merely their changing whim and fancy.
First of all, Scripture tells us that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). He also says not to deal treacherously with the wife of your youth: same verse.
If you answer “yes” to any of the following, God probably isn’t telling you to leave your spouse:
- I just don’t feel that “spark” anymore.
- I don’t think we are “in love.”
- I met someone who I think is my soul mate!
- My marriage is boring/stagnant.
If any of those apply to you, suck it up, get some marriage counseling and learn to love your spouse again. These also may be warning signs of deeper dysfunction, especially if you or your spouse seem to be heading down the road to depression, so really seek out some wise counsel to help navigate your way back to (or into for the first time) a healthy and thriving relationship.
On the other hand, God may really be trying to get your attention and you should get out.
When I was a small child, I lived in an alcoholic household. My parents were not the alcoholics, though; it was my grandparents (mother’s parents) who lived with us. My mother’s acceptance of her abusive parents in our lives had wreaked havoc on our entire home situation. They had taken over our house and property and the five of us (my parents, myself, and two siblings) were literally stuck living in the attic of our home. There were constant fights and arguments, and the cops were always being called out.
One night, it turned explosively violent, with my grandmother physically attacking my father, right in front of myself and my two younger siblings. My father packed me and my brother and sister in the car, and took us out of state to his parents’ house– without telling my mother– and then called her and told her that if she did not remove her parents from our home, she would not see us again.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. My father knew we were in danger, and my mother, even though it was a difficult place for her, had to choose: her family or the abuse. It was a wake up call.
She chose us (thankfully) and her parents were moved out of our house. (They remained on the property though, in an apartment that was separate from the house, and things happened that I believe made both my parents wish they had made them move far far away. Eventually, they were evicted from the property entirely.)
Sometimes, we are too close to the situation and are not able to even recognize if we are in an abusive situation. And not all abusers are men. If you are a man in an abusive situation, or suspect your children are in danger, please do not suffer in silence, or allow your children to suffer.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline asks the following questions. If you answer yes to any of them (about yourself OR your children), then seek help.
Does your partner:
- Embarrass you with put-downs?
- Look at you or act in ways that scare you?
- Control what you do, who you see or talk to or where you go?
- Stop you from seeing your friends or family members?
- Take your money or Social Security check, make you ask for money or refuse to give you money?
- Make all of the decisions?
- Tell you that you’re a bad parent or threaten to take away or hurt your children?
- Prevent you from working or attending school?
- Act like the abuse is no big deal, it’s your fault, or even deny doing it?
- Destroy your property or threaten to kill your pets?
- Intimidate you with guns, knives or other weapons?
- Shove you, slap you, choke you, or hit you?
- Force you to try and drop charges?
- Threaten to commit suicide?
- Threaten to kill you?
If you answered yes to any of the above, you may be in an abusive relationship, and should look into finding help. If you fear for your life, or the lives of your children, or suspect (or know) that your spouse has touched them inappropriately, GET OUT– seek help and find a safe place for your family.
One day, I hope to provide a safe haven for folks who are hurting, scared and in need of help. In the meantime, there are places you can go and folks you can turn to.
Often times, even though a pastor or family member may be the first person you wish to turn to for direction and help, it is good to keep in mind that many folks are not trained to deal with abusive situations and while they may mean well, do not know what is the right thing to do for your given situation. If you feel you cannot turn to your family for help, or if you do not feel you are being heard or supported by your clergy, here are some other places you can call for assistance.
If you feel the church you belong to condones or allows abusive situations, get out. Spiritual abuse is just another from of violence on our persons, and is just as reprehensible: a broken spirit is just as much of a wound as a broken arm.
Resources and links for help:
- Focus Ministries
- Katy Christian Ministries Domestic Abuse Center
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline Resource Download Center