Does God Want Me to Stay in an Abusive Marriage?

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

This question was asked here and I know the person who asked it is one voice out of many, many more who are wondering the same thing. The answer is both simple and complex.

For the simple answer, God does not want you to remain in an abusive marriage. But before you run out the door, be sure you read the complex part of the answer, too.

Jesus stated the purpose of His coming in Luke 4: 18,19.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

Jesus came for the purpose of healing the brokenhearted, delivering captives, and liberating those who are bruised. That perfectly describes the condition of someone who is being abused in their marriage. Jesus came to rescue people from abusive relationships!

OK, I just heard a whole bunch of “wait a minute…” voices from readers. 😉 Go with me here a minute. The church has reduced Jesus’ purpose to saving souls from eternal damnation. Do you see that in this verse? Certainly it could be considered to be part of Jesus’ stated Luke 4 mission. But why do we limit Jesus’ purpose to less than what the Word plainly states?

Nowhere in the Word is there a place where God applauds or supports abuse. In fact, abuse is inherently opposite to God’s nature. If believers are made new creatures in Christ and partakers in His nature, how can we possible justify or excuse abusive behavior by someone bearing the name “Christian?”

If we assume an abusive spouse is not a believer (which may, in fact, be supportable by Scripture) is a Christian abused partner expected by God to remain in that abusive relationship? The answer is still no. A Christian does not enable another person to continue in sin. By remaining in an abusive marriage, a Christian sends the message that the abusive behavior is acceptable – and affirms the abusers sin.

Here comes the complex part, however. God does not want you to remain in an abusive marriage. But there is also a process for addressing the abuse. If there is physical violence, even just occasionally, an abused spouse needs to call local domestic violence support and carefully, but quickly, get outside the home into a safe place. In this situation, further Biblical steps need to occur from a position outside the same home as the abuser. If there is not physical danger, all but the final step of dealing with an abusive spouse can take place without physical separation.

So what are the steps to dealing with an abusive spouse?

First, I think we are all called to bring every detail of our lives to God for His insight and timing. Almost without exception (I’d say without exception but maybe there could be one) we need to clean our own slates first. As abused spouses we need to maintain first an attitude of, “Lord, change me.” God uses our difficult circumstances to teach us things we would not learn otherwise. So we must appreciate God’s process, even in exposing our own places that need to be refined and conforming us to the image of Christ while we are dealing with an abusive spouse.

Second, we have to maintain a humble spirit, remembering that God loves us all equally. It is easy to get a prideful and judgmental spirit. We have to remember that every person is created in the image of God, even this abuser, and so is worthy of basic human respect. Gal. 6:1 says,

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

Third, Matthew 18:15-17 outlines a very specific process for dealing with an offender, which would include marital abuse.

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

So we must first learn how to respectfully address the abuse within our marriage and establish correct boundaries. This is a learning process that can take months.

If the abusive spouse does not change when confronted privately, the abused spouse is to take a couple witnesses to confront the abuser again. These witnesses should be people the abuser respects and that the abused spouse can trust. At this point, I believe professional counseling is in order. A professional counselor can, in fact, be that witness. Another of the witnesses should be pastoral church leadership. This can be problematic because pastors don’t know how to address abuse correctly. But at least give the church the opportunity to do the right thing.

If abuse continues, the Word says the issue should be told to the church. This step is almost impossible to fulfill in the modern church. Pastors generally won’t allow it because they do not understand the Word on the subject. So, the abused spouse should attempt to press the pastor to allow this step, but if the pastor refuses, the abused spouse may need to move on to the final step.

The final step is removal from the relationship. Matthew 18 says to separate from the unrepentant offender. I Tim. 5:8 says a man who does not provide for his family (provision = financial, spiritual, emotional protection and leadership) has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. God calls an unrepentant abusive spouse an unbeliever. That is not my judgment; it is God’s. I Cor. 5:11 says believers are not to associate with, are not even to eat with, a person who is verbally abusive (“railer”). And I Cor. 7:13-15 says that if an unbelieving spouse removes (walks away from the marriage covenant – which can include staying in the house but leaving the relationship) himself from the marriage, the believing wife is to let him go. It may seem backwards for the believing wife to leave – but we have to remember that the “leaving” happens when a spouse does violence to his house (Mal. 2:13-16). The believing wife who removes to safety is not the one who abandoned the relationship.

Some will say removal from the relationship should be for an open-ended period of separation (which could be permanent if there is no repentance); others recommend divorce. I recommend you have a relationship with God whereby you allow Him to direct you because there is not a universal answer at this point. It may very well be that the only way to secure safe custody of children and spousal support for those children is through divorce. This is not out of line. And if the abusive spouse chooses to remarry that will certainly be the final nail in the door to possibility of reconciliation – a choice made by the abuser, not the victim of abuse who took the necessary, and Biblically supported, steps to address an abusive spouse.

God offers hope, not a lifetime sentence, to abuse victims. If you are in an abusive marriage you need to 1) get support for yourself that will stand by you throughout, 2) be willing to take the time to work through the Biblical process, and 3) stay on your face with God throughout the process, asking Him to change you. As hard as it is, this can be the fire that makes you into the person God desires you to be. It is hard and seems far too long in the process, but God is faithful and He does work all things together for good for those who love Him.

147 Responses

  1. Dear Danni, Sherri, and Barbara,

    Thank you all so much for your kind and enlightening responses. Danni you are so right about the boundaries book and my right to say no. The part they failed to address was if you are married to an abuser things would probably get worse instead of better. Its so sad that even most of the self help books are written with the thought in mind that all a women has to do is change herself and everything else will fall into place. Then when you add the church and all of the teaching about getting your eyes off of what your husband is doing and on to yourself and what you can change about you (the only person you can change is yourself) it sets you up for a lifetime of futility. Not that working on your self is bad or that I did not need to work on myself but no one ever told me that if I was married to an abuser I would be risking getting my collarbone broken, losing my marriage, my children, my reputation, or my sanity.
    Sherri when I read your comment about not hanging out with an angry man the words jumped off the page at me! You are so right. Looking back I can see that the men I married were angry. On some level I guess I knew that but did not give the fact that they were angry the attention that it deserved. The fact that they hid it very well until after we were married did not help and that most of the pastors in the churches we attended were also angry. To tell you the truth I was so brainwashed that there was something wrong with me for being unequally yoked to a non Christian that I thought if I could just marry a Christian everything would be alright. I did seek help in my first and second marriages from the local domestic violence shelter and started taking classes for women that were co-dependant but the church frowned on that for going outside of the church and getting information that was secular and humanistic.Blah Blah Blah To tell you all the truth at the very core of my issues with this the greatest pain I am still suffering is not the abuse I suffered but the reaction and counsel of the pastors and counselors that I went to for help.I feel like I am a leper. If you could do anything for me it would be to help me sort that out. I have read so many self help books, gone to so many pastors,counselors, seminars ministry teams only to find out that what I have been doing has been counterproductive and never really addressing the issue.
    Barbara you say its not my fault, it was never my fault and I was not to blame ( I cried when I read this and I don’t cry anymore) but I feel so double minded I think I am going to go crazy. You say if I had done real recovery work I would not have been a sitting duck for an abuser. Where do I go to do real recovery work? It sure as hell is not in the church.

    • To tell you all the truth at the very core of my issues with this the greatest pain I am still suffering is not the abuse I suffered but the reaction and counsel of the pastors and counselors that I went to for help. I feel like I am a leper… Where do I go to do real recovery work? It sure as hell is not in the church.

      I completely understand what you are saying. I have felt the same thing. I think this is because of the injustice of what happens with the church. We are supposed to go to the church and our pastors for help. But what is happening is that when we do we are punished, not only for going for help but for having a problem. We are being told, in practical reality, that God is an abuser. What are we supposed to do with that?

      I believe the only place to go for help is directly to God Himself. This is what I have done and the fruit is pure gold and 100% reliable. Is God Who He says He is, or not? The Word says the Holy Spirit was given to be our counselor and our comforter. So we can go to Him for that with confidence that He will give it. James 1 says if we lack wisdom we can ask for it and be sure of receiving it as long as we do not doubt. And we can pray, with the man who sought healing for his daughter, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”

      I recommend starting out with just the Bible and a blank journal. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you (John 13-17) and ask for wisdom (James 1). Then read. Write down in your journal what the Holy Spirit points out to you. Over time, that journal becomes your own personal counseling from Him. It is amazing how it works.

      This takes time. It is not an overnight or immediate fix. It is a growing process, just as if we were in counseling with a psychologist. But it’s a whole lot cheaper and no insurance hassles. 😉 And the results are better.

      This is where my heart is for writing now, and why I’ve been rather silent in recent months. I’m just trying to figure out how to start communicating what God has taught me – but I know there are a lot of us who need to know.

      God has answers and comfort for you – I guarantee it.



  2. Dear Mary
    thanks so much for all your words.
    If I have made you feel concerned about being double-minded, please forgive me. After I wrote that last post I reflected on it and realized that it could have put you in a double-bird, as in “It’s not my fault” (“But IS it my fault because I didn’t do enough recovery work…?”)
    I meant to write another post to try to qualify what I said, and make it less likely that you would hear it as a personal attack, but life was busy and I hadn’t got to it yet.

    Obviously you DID attempt recovery work, by going to pastors, counselors, seminars, ministry teams … and also the secular DV support system. But none of these places gave you answers .The Christian ones bamboozled you and compounded your false guilt and self-blame. AND they forbade you from going to the secular support system!

    How angry is God at such miscarriages of justice? I would think He is very angry indeed.

    The standard advice in Christian psychology and relationship books (if they even include a paragraph or chapter on marital abuse … which many don’t) is to tell the victim, “Speak to your pastor.” As if pastors are going to give good advice! Reality is, at this point in time most pastors give bad advice. Far too often, they don’t have a clue. It was not included in their initial training, or if it was mentioned, the training was poor and potentially would cause further harm to victims.

    And pastors often elevate marriage onto such a pedestal that they can’t even contemplate the thought of allowing it to end.

    They have a weirdly bifurcated view:
    “Save the marriage at all costs.” is a core principle they hold. But if you ask them “Should an abused wife stay with an abuser husband?” they will often answer, “Of course not!”

    Yet they don’t stop to examine the contradiction between these two views, let alone spend a few minutes trying to empathetically imagine what victims must feel like when they hear this schizophrenic teaching.

    How to find real recovery? While I agree with Danni’s suggestion, I am not sure that is the major way for everyone. It kinda was a way for me, in the early days post-separation, but I desperately needed confirmation and support from people as well as from God.
    I needed contact with others in varied shapes and forms:

    1. sharing with fellow survivors (esp Christian survivors)
    2. anyone who would listen unhurriedly without passing judgment ,and would support me by saying simple things like “It wasn’t your fault.”
    3. people who could help me sort out my scriptural dilemmas
    4. people (esp men, esp male Christian leaders) who would validate that what I had done in the marriage and the separation was right, godly, non-vindictive, justified by Scripture, and permitted/endorsed by the church.

    A tall order!

    Some of that I got by going to a secular support group for victim/survivors. We benefited so much from the group that we kept meeting for ages after official group (run by paid facilitators) had concluded.
    Some I got by reading books (and now there are websites too; there weren’t ten years ago).
    The ‘non-judgmental, supportive listening’ I never really got much of, unless it was from fellow survivors or paid counselors. I always wanted it from the normal folk in my church, but they rarely could give it.
    The affirmation and vindication from male church leaders I was able to get from a pastor (not the leaders in the church that had condemned me when my marriage ended, but the pastor of the church I found after leaving that condemning church). Most other survivors I know have not had the joy of finding affirmation and vindication from a church leader yet. I am SO fortunate to have had this. It helped enormously.

    My need for answers to my scriptural dilemmas was only partly met by reading the writings of others. The books I found did not answer my questions in sufficient detail. So I ploughed into Scripture, reading the Bible cover to cover and making notes of every verse that said something relevant to domestic abuse. I ended up categorizing them into different lists, like “scriptures that condemn abuse”, “scriptures that describe the effects of abuse”, “scriptures that advise separation from abusers”, “scriptures that tell the church what to do about abusers”, etc. From this labor, and my still desperate need for a book that answered all the apparently pious teachings that put victims of abuse into a gigantic spiderweb of Catch 22s, I eventually found myself writing a book. That then turned into two books, the first of which is published (Not Under Bondage) and the second of which is still in preparation.

    Mary, I would suggest keep reading and posting on blogs such as this, for as long as it continues to help your recovery and make you feel stronger, more free of self-blame, and more sure of how the Bible really DOESN”T condone domestic abuse and really DOES give answers and support to victims.

    Bless you lots.

    • And I agree re: the additional means of support! We need community in a variety of forms to help us along the way as well. Thanks for bringing that up, Barb!

      — Danni

  3. Dear Barb,
    No you did not make me feel concerned about being double minded or that I did not do enough recovery work. I think what I was trying to say was that because of you and Danni and this blog the light is starting to dawn that I have been doing the WRONG kind of recovery work for many years. I feel double minded because I have so many years of the schizophrenic teachings that I do not know if I can recover from it.
    As far as seeking the kind of support you are talking about I would not even know where to look. About a year ago I gave up looking outside myself for any kind of support at all. After my husband and I counseled with our pastor for a while and I realized it was going to be more of the same mixture that I have gotten before I decided that I was not going to go down that road again.This pastor even recognized that my husband was angry and what he was doing was wrong and that I was not to blame but that was as far as it went. He was too busy to take the time needed to support us until it came to some kind of conclusion. So I have been without any support at all unless I talk to my couple of close friends, my mom or my sister. But although they acknowledge that it is abuse(sometimes) they are just as confused as I am as to what to do about it since they have been exposed to the same information from the “Christian”perspective. It was not until about three weeks ago that I got on the computer and typed in” Christian men that abuse women” that I stumbled on to a blog about men who were speaking out against Christian men that abuse women and why. Several weeks before this I was in such a state of mental confusion and emotional turmoil that I had been praying and crying out (screaming) to God and asking him to tell me the truth about what had gone on in my marriages. Was it me?I literally thought I was going to go crazy or die. The day that I typed in those words and found out that this is something that has been going on in the church for hundreds of years and that it was not my fault the fog began to lift and I felt like I’d been delivered from hell itself. So here I am. Please forgive me if I sound a little scattered and schizophrenic because I am and I know it but I hope you can hang in there with me long enough for me to start figuring some of this out.

    I can’t remember if I mentioned that my current husband was a former pastor or not but that is why I think I am off the charts as far as being totally bamboozled! Enough for now that’s a whole other story.

  4. Dear Mary,
    I’m glad my words hadn’t caused problems for you.
    Welcome to the world of Christian victim/survivors who are getting their heads sorted out!

    Your current husband being a former pastor is not surprising. My ex wasn’t a pastor or leader, but many women on blogs like this are (or were) married to Christian leaders. Susan Greenfield and Jocelyn Andersen (whose books Danni recommends, see the left sidebar on this site) were each married to pastors. It makes it all harder if you’re married to a pastor or leader. But not impossible.

    Have you looked at my site yet? There are some resources there that might be helpful to you.
    Take care, and love for now.

  5. Dear Barb,
    I would love to look at your site but don’t know how to get there.Could you please tell me how? I plan on purchasing your book also along with the other ones Danni mentions here as soon as I can. I had to take a break from self help books along with other outside contacts such as counseling, talking to my pastor, ministry etc. because of the crazy mixed messages I was getting. The only book I have read that even touched on what I was suffering was “The Verbally Abusive Relationship” that a counselor recommended in my last marriage.(its probably the reason I eventually got out of that marriage otherwise I would have never figured it out he was so good at making me look bad and himself look good) Out of all of the self help books that I read in all of those years that is the only book that shed some light on what I was going through. So I am excited to know that there are more out there that address abuse especially abuse in the Christian community. Of course it did not address what would happen when I began to figure out what was happening to me and began to move away from my husbands abuse. I am treated like a leper in my community while he still attends the old church we attended.He is newly married to the worship leaders friend with the pastors blessing. Even having the ceremony in the church when the pastor will not marry others that have been divorced. Then after five years of being single thinking I was healthier and had done enough recovery work I started seeing a former pastor that knew my situation and acted like he understood what had happened to me and my children. We even went to counseling( when I noticed some body language he had when he was interacting with my teenage son) with the counselor that had helped me walk through my separation and divorce and he told me that I was suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome and that “Bob” was not like my former husband and I needed to tell myself when those feelings came up that “that was then and this is now”. Low and behold I was picking up on abuse and my own counselor did not catch it because “Bob” was a pastor and there is no way he could have been just like my ex-husband! I should have listened to my gut because that is just what turned out to be true. What a joke! Thirty years in the church and researching everything I could about domestic violence and staying within the church walls so I would be protected and look what happened! I think I am the one who has anger problems now. I am so angry that I have spent so many years in a system that I thought had the answers for my life only to find out I have taken a thirty year detour down into hell itself.

  6. Mary I think alot of us feel as you do.

    Click on Barbara’s name “barbara roberts’ at the top of her post to you – its a link directly to her site.

    I think the counterdictions is what got me, and no one could answer me in a way for me to understand WHY that was! They didn’t like questions all the time. I received alot of , “You just need more faith” type of answers. When I found scripture that gave me hope – they said it didn’t apply. I found there is alot of excuses, and nothing of substance with alot of people. Its sad!

    I’m glad you found the blog!

  7. Dear Hannah,

    Thank you for telling me how to get to Barbara’s site.. I clicked on your name and I see you have a site also! I feel like a whole new world has opened up to me and I am so thankful that you are all out there doing what you can to get the word out about domestic abuse in the church. Then again it seems bittersweet. Is that normal?

  8. I think bittersweet is a good word for it.

    Someone said something to me a number of years ago when it comes to the bittersweet part.

    “Welcome to the club no one wanted to be part of”

    lol of course there was more, but I will never forget that sentence! It was so telling, and true!

  9. My 18 year old daughter had this to say to me after I tried to tell her some of the problems I was having with church and not being involved as much as she would like me to be. This is part of a text message she sent me last night

    : ” Sometimes it just seems like you say a lot of negative stuff about the things that I’m involved in so I get upset fast. Like stuff with school and church and dad and stuff. Thats why sometimes I don’t want to talk to you about stuff cuz it feels like you ignore what I say and talk for a long time about how people hurt you then you don’t try to help me with what I came to talk to you about in the first place.”

    How am I supposed to navigate a relationship with my daughter when she is thriving in the environments that I was abused in? The only time I say anything to her is when she is having a problem with something and I try to tell her my experience with it so she can gain perspective from my point of view and my experience with abusive systems. If everything is fine in her world I don’t try to dump my crap on her but if she is struggling I try and let her know that I understand what she is going through and what happened to me to validate her. She sees it all as me being negative. I feel like my daughter is abusing me also by not realizing the gravity of what I went through and minimizing everything to me just being negative. How can you teach your children about abuse without destroying your own relationship with them? Or is the relationship already destroyed because she’s been manipulated to believe I’m just being negative? I feel crazy every time I have to talk to her about her problems because she is involved with her dad, church ,and school and those are the very people and places I was abused when I was married to her dad. Most of her problems are because of the authoritarian systems and control those systems want to have. She is a pleaser and a very wonderful girl. I don’t want her to end up ” old and bitter” like me but I don’t want her to be taken advantage of and set up to not recognize abuse for what it is either.

  10. I appreciate your transparency Mary. I too am trying to relate to my own daughter who is now 21 1/2 who was fondled by my husband (her dad) in Jan 2000. I went to the library to check out books about abuse so that I could try to understand the dynamics that surrounded it all. I wanted to help her and understand WHY my husband turned on her. I had no clue. Yet, over the last 10 years (while my husband has been serving a 10 year suspended sentence), I’ve been learning about domestic abuse issues and see how I was manipulated, controlled, etc. I am a 1st generation Christian trying to learn (with the Holy Spirit’s guidance) God’s WAY for living life HIS way, and repenting of my sinful behaviours and attitudes. The LORD has been faithful to help me to change ME so that I could become well and reject the lies of the enemy (satan) that I had believed as truth. He (satan) comes to kill, steal and to destroy, BUT GOD comes to give us life more abundantly. (John 10:10) 1611 KJV There was much confusion as I tried to be submissive and forgiving toward my husband, etc. I didn’t understand how I was suppose to act like Sarah in obeying her husband when one of the 10 Commandments says we are not to lie! I saw a contradiction. I was confused. (In the last few days I read Danni’s article in regards to Sarah obeying her husband and found it to make sense of this particular passage). I too sought out help. I live in the country (isolation) and my husband was good at making people believe he was the good guy and I was the crazy one. He still is doing that. Sadly, I didn’t have alot of good information from a CHRISTIAN (Biblical Worldview) that accurately could pin point ABUSE until recently since God lead me to Danni’s website from website. After my daughter was abused, I read Henry Cloud’s and John Townsend’s book called “Boundaries” and “Boundaries in Marriage”. I also read books like “Hurt People – hurt People” by Sandra D. Wilson who also has a book called “Released from Shame”. She was a victim of ual abuse as well. TOO many Christians say that we must beware of psychoheresy (mixing psychology in with God’s Word). I do agree for this can bring confusion at times as well. Yet, it was the book “Search For Significance” by Robert McGee that helped the LIGHT BULB go on for me in order to understand Scriptures more accurately and bring hope into my life. JESUS can direct us to resources that can bring correct understanding about the Scriptures. The HOLY SPIRIT is our Counselor and can show us the correct understanding of Scriptures when we ask HIM to help us. He is faithful and just. He says for us to ask, seek and knock. Just in the past few months, I did purchase many of the books on Danni’s website. These books have been very good to bring the healing and understanding that I NEEDED. I want the LORD to use my abusive past to bring hope and healing to those that may be still going through it themselves. Many Christians fear what they do not understand. Many may mean well, but are totally ignorant about the dynamics of abuse. I’ve learned to forgive those that have made comments to me like: A Proverbs 31 woman does her husband good all the days of her life, and not harm” after I called the authorities to report my husband’s crime of molestation of my daughter. Come to find out, by my delaying in reporting the abuse, I was placing myself and my children in danger and the court system would see my actions as trying to “enable and cover up” my husband’s abuse. I could have gone to jail and/or lose my children. I was afraid for my children when my husband admitted to me what he had done to my daughter. I do believe he is saved, but is ly minded. Long story….but my own daughter has been attending a bible college where she is taught that the BIBLE is the only book we need for ultimate healing. I do believe this is true to an extent. Yet, it was my reading books like those I mentioned above, reading articles off of this website (that the LORD directed me to a few months ago) that have really brought hope, courage and healing into my life. I love my daughter, and I too have tried to share some things with her. Our relationship is strained. Yet, I am not her. I can only change me and pray for her. People have to WANT to be well. She has been busy working, doing Bible College, working at a Youth and Deaf Ranch, etc. which has kept her so busy that I feel she doesn’t want to deal with her own issues of abuse. I have shared with her that GOD can use her to reach others that have been abused as she becomes healthy in her heart, mind and soul through God’s WORD. She is very sick (physically) and I believe some (if not a majority of her health issues) are related to her NOT dealing with her abuse issues. She tries to make me feel guilty, and is somewhat abusive toward me as well. She hasn’t walked in my shoes. I was not ually abused as a child, but was ually, emotionally, mentally, physically abused in my marriage. I’ve learned alot about my “stinkin-thinkin” over the years, and with God’s help I have replaced lies (I had believed as truth before) with God’s TRUTH now. I’ve been thru the valley of the shadow of . Now, I’m thankful to share that GOD has brought me through it and HE gets all the praise and glory for guiding me and keeping me through the storm of abuse. I have been seperated for 9 1/2 years from my husband. I am in the process of getting a divorce. I have not seen a repentant heart by my husband. His secular counseling hasn’t done alot for him (in my opinion) that he has been court ordered to take. There is hope and healing for you and all women that want to be well. I wanted to be well, yet…I didn’t have alot of resources or people that understood my situation I was in. Yet, I was not forgotten or forsaken by my LORD. He has guided me and lead me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. He is doing the same for you. Take heart and know that GOD will continue to lead you as you seek HIM with all of your heart, mind and soul. It looks like you are doing that now. God Bless.

    • Lisa,

      Your post is excellent.

      One of the things about environments like you mentioned where your daughter is in school (reading between the lines I have an idea of what type of school she is in) is that this mentality actually keeps people in bondage. It is true that psychology has no real heart answers. It cannot discern the thoughts and intents of the heart, bring conviction, and change a person from the heart out. But the Word also talks about times when the children of the world are wiser than the children of God (very loose personal translation). Not because their conclusions are right or righteous (the parable of the wicked steward) but because they exercise more common sense and evaluate life issues logically and reasonable.

      This is something that psychology does do. While psychological theory can be rooted in all kinds of bad theology (anything from atheism, Eastern mysticism, humanism, etc.) the one thing it does do is research. Many people have spent many years studying and recording human behavior. This incredible body of material is very helpful for understanding a lot of different things about human behavior. It still can’t change a heart, but it can give us a tremendous amount of insight into things, which we can then combine with spiritual wisdom and study of the Word of God — and learn things we would almost certainly never grasp if it were not for this “human” study.

      When you study human behavior and see patterns that go together, etc. and then you read the Word, and see things like all the things Proverbs has to say about anger, treachery, violence, etc. and combine that with understanding of the New Testament where very clear boundaries and consequences are outlined for people who persist in gross sin — you reach entirely different conclusions and understandings of the Word as it relates to issues such as abuse.

      Unfortunately, Christian environments which teach the absolute avoidance of all “worldly” wisdom tend to substitute a religious form of wrong “wisdom” based on religious tradition and misuse of the Word resulting from lack of knowledge (like being able to see the connections of behaviors and then what the Word says about them). What comes out of this is a crippled church, full of hurting people, who are busily “performing” to be acceptable and hiding what’s really happening in their hearts because if anyone knew, they would only be judged and condemned. And one of the many consequences of this is literal physical illness and disease. This is not the only cause of illness and disease in the church, of course, but it is a significant one.

      Dealing with adult children who grew up in abuse in a Christian home is very difficult. I’m dealing with two of my own, whose problems are seemingly polar opposites, but both very real and serious in their own way. It is HARD, and I don’t really know all the answers. I try to be sure my children know I love them unconditionally, I try to keep my hands off and my mouth shut unless I’m asked, and to speak the truth in love whenever the Holy Spirit provides the opportunity. Ultimately, they are going to have to get there with God on their own. They are adults and have to learn to relate with Him personally. But I want them to know I love them and am on their side, by their side (even when I can’t condone their behavior, which they will also know).

      — Danni

      • Dear Danni, Lisa and Mary
        wow, this is a fruitful discussion! Thanks everyone for contributing so much.
        Danni, your discussion of the interaction between psychology and Christianity is superb.

        Lisa and Mary, let me share with you some of the things I did with my teenage daughter.
        Background: her dad (my ex) did mistreat her.
        This happened when she was about to become a teenager.
        After the incident(s) I withheld visitation. He never took me back to court for breach of visitation orders. She is now an adult.
        Prior to visitation ceasing, she was quite loyal to him and anti me. After visitation ceased, it took many months or even a year or two (can’t remember exactly now) for her thinking to get straightened out. And the straightening out was greatly assisted by the fact that she no longer had contact with him. If your child is still having contact with the abuser, it is not so straightforward, and all you can do is do what you can. You can’t prevent all the damage as you have no control over the abuser’s words and conduct.

        I had some similar difficulties with my daughter that you’ve described, Lisa and Mary. She complained that I always talked about my pain and she often accused me of being ‘too sensitive’. These accusations were her way of countering my complaints that she was disrespecting me, or that I did not get much support from the church. It seemed to me that she had unconsciously modeled much of her behavior on her dad’s behavior, and did not want to (or could not see) that she had done this. It was also hard to disentangle how much of this was ‘normal’ teenage self-centredness, and how much was a result of the abusive stresses she grew up in.

        To try to deal with her perceiving me as ‘too sensitive’ or ‘always focusing on how I’d been so hurt’, when she unburdened herself to me about some problem in her life, I would try as much as possible to actively listen (listen and paraphrase back to her what she was saying, to make her feel she’d been heard well) and then just ask questions rather than offer a comment from my own experience. Questions like “what do you think you can do about that?”, or “How would you like to handle that?” or “How do you feel about that?”.

        Before offering something from my own experience, or some advice, I might say, “I could say something here, but I’m not sure you want to hear what I think. ” This gave her control. Often she would say “OK, mum, tell me what you think.” But having giving prior permission like this, she would then be less inclined to rail against me for having a different point of view to hers.

        Another technique that worked well was to say “Well that’s how Dad (or church, or school…) think about that [whatever the topic or issue was]. But I have a different view.”

        That way I wasn’t pushing my view down her throat, or correcting the sub-biblical or anti-biblical view of the significant others in her life, I was simply signalling that I had a difference of opinion. A lot of the time she didn’t want to hear those differences spelled out.

        Don’t forget, we have time on our side: kids tend to mature as they get older, and they usually work out things for themselves eventually. If we model biblical conduct, on most occasions the child / maturing adult will eventually sort out right from wrong.

        And Lisa, my daughter did not want to look much at the incidents that happened with her father. I had to learn to leave the healing timetable to her and God.

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