God Answers Prayer in Abusive Marriages

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

Spending 20 years in an abusive marriage had a profound affect on my theology.  I believe I learned things I would never have learned were it not for that crucible.  The things I believed, based on years in church, Bible college, academic Bible study, etc. were tested in real life.  This is where theology matters.  Many people spend entire careers becoming experts on theology and stand as “voices of truth,” proclaiming dogmatically their theology is Biblically accurate.  But it if doesn’t stand the test of life, it is worthless.

One thing I believed for many years was that God would answer my prayers for my marriage, my husband and my children.  I believe in God’s sovereignty, I believe He is all-powerful, and I know the abuse in my marriage was not His will since it was totally unrighteous and utterly antithetical to His nature.  Since God answers prayer, and I believe He does, and abuse is a violation of His nature, He would certainly answer my prayers to change my husband’s heart, right?

Wrong.  Actually, right answer, wrong question.  God does answer prayer.  But many times He does so after changing the question.  I have learned He is more interested in turning our erroneous paradigms inside out so we learn the right prayer to pray.  Then He is able to answer our prayers. 

After years on my face with God I realized He would not force my husband to change against his will, no matter how much I prayed for this to happen for the sake of my children and me.  He created man with a free will.  God is able to force man to change his mind, but He limits Himself to the parameters He gave man as a unique creation.  It would not be free will if man could not tell God ‘no.’  (A first strike against my Calvinist theology.)  Rather, God shows His amazing sovereignty and creativity by accomplishing His purposes in, through, and around the choices man makes.

When in a prolonged impossible situation like I was in, I finally got to the point of being willing to ask God to change my understanding, even if it meant completely changing my paradigm of reality.  Because I was willing to get to this point, I am where I am now.  And I hope other people can be helped as a result.  Over the course of the years there were several times when God completely overturned my understanding of reality, with its attendant theology.

Various erroneous theological points have a domino affect on others once they are toppled.  When I understood that God would not violate Gary’s free will and force him to change, then I had to ask the question, “So does God abandon wives and children in abusive homes?”  This one took a LONG time for me to understand. 

There are church leaders who hold so rigidly to the point of not separating marriages they literally teach it must be God’s will for wives and children in abusive homes to stay there and “suffer for righteousness sake.”  This is easy theology for someone who doesn’t have to live in it every day.  But eventually I came to accept this theology cannot be correct because it is a fundamental violation of God’s nature and of Jesus’ stated purpose in coming to earth.

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. — Luke 4:18,19

In fact, this is what the Word says is the gospel (the definition of the word “gospel” is a sacred cow I’ll tip another day). It cannot be God’s will to abandon wives and children in abusive homes.

So once I understood it was not God’s will to abandon my children and I in our abusive home and He would not force Gary to change, I was left with the question, “how does God intend to save us from this situation?”

The next understanding was when I realized that legally I would be considered liable if Gary were accused of child abuse and I knew about it and had done nothing. The Word tells us to submit to civil authorities. You can’t pick one part of the Word to obey to the exclusion, or direction violation, of another. The sanctity of marriage is not more important than obedience to civil authorities. Abuse is a criminal action and we are required to comply with the authorities and not protect, hide or aid abusers. The church has a responsibility to obey the law. When the church tells women and children to remain in an abusive home, they violate both God’s law and the laws of our country.

As a woman in an abusive marriage I had a responsibility to stand against that abuse. But I still wasn’t completely confident that stand went so far as divorce. At the two times I felt there was an imminent chance the children could be taken by DFCS because of the abuse (and the first time I was also afraid for our lives) I took the kids and left him. But I didn’t want to give up on our marriage or on Gary if there was any hope. While I realized his behavior was abusive, I didn’t understand the nature of abuse well enough to grasp its pervasive nature or the significance of non-physical violence. My eyes were completely on the physical violence until I left him for the final time. I tried to remonstrate with him about the verbal abuse and reason with him. I always thought if I could only get him to listen to reason I could get him to see what he was doing because it was so obvious.

Ultimately, I came to understand I had two choices – and the choice was up to me. I could stay in my marriage, allow my daughter to grow up in an abusive home and accept the fact I would physically die. The consequences of violence is murder and death. That’s in the Word.  The Word also says death and life are in the power of the tongue.  It means that literally.  My immune system had shut down due to the constant stress and I got cancer. My body would take no more. 

While I was recovering from chemo I realized every time Gary started yelling or started into one of his tirades I had an automatic, uncontrollable “fight-or-flight” reaction.  God made our bodies that way.  Our bodies release adrenalin in preparation to either fight or run.  When that happens excessively or constantly it will destroy the human immune system, leading to any auto-immune or stress-related disease there is.  These diseases can kill.  God won’t get in the way of the consequences we choose when we fail to obey the rest of His Word.

So, I could leave my daughter with an abusive father and die.  Or I could dare to trust God outside the box. God’s Word says I have a responsibility to obey civil authorities, I have a responsibility to stand up for the afflicted in my own home, including myself. God’s Word even says we are to separate ourselves from people who act the way Gary did – I dared to believe that meant me too. God says more about divorce than “I hate divorce” (see the series What the Bible Says About Divorce).

Bottom line, God wanted to answer my prayer to save me and my children from abuse. I merely had to trust Him enough to be proactive in my obedience, instead of passively waiting for a rescue boat when He gave me two feet to walk away. It was the hardest thing I have ever done but the fruit has shown it was the right choice.

So yes, God does answer prayer in abusive marriages. But perhaps not the way you are expecting. His answer may be to turn your theology upside down and ask you to step up to the plate and take active responsibility to save yourself and your children.

26 Responses

  1. I am married to a man whose abuse manifests itself verbally. (He is incarcerated so thats all he can do.) His abuse revolves primarily around false accusations. He accuses me constantly of cheating on him. He has no proof (none to be had since Im completely faithful) yet it doesnt stop him from spewing the vilest comments he can on me. His imagination is all thats needed to set him off. I took the role of defending myself constantly for the first three years of our marriage but in the last six months or so, I’ve grown weary of this. His accusations will climax with him telling me Im a *hore and he wants a divorce and he never wants to see me again and on and on…and an hour later, a day later…he’s swearing he didnt mean it and he’s sorry and he’ll never say those things again. I’ve done quite a bit of research on False Repentance and he seems to fit the bill…I just dont know what to do. He gets out in about seven weeks and I’ve demanded a biblical separation..which equates to me not answering the phone so that he can verbally berate and abuse me…but I dont know if thats enough. If he is willing to go to irrational lengths based on purely his imagination..is there any hope that my deeds will ever assuage him? He apologizes (worldly repentance) every time…and then he does it again. I dont know if its just me who needs to keep the faith or if Im allowing a demon to bind me (thru my husband.)

    • Putting boundaries in place in this situation is correct. You are right in your assessment of his “repentance.” You’ll need to see how he responds to know what to do next. Let God work out the process, whether it works toward reconciliation or further separation. It will depend on your husband’s choices. There’s no way to know yet – but it will be revealed in time.

      — Danni

  2. I have separated myself from my husband because of his abusive behaviour. Some have been verbal, violent acts infront of me and the children and so forth and I’ve never wanted to divorce because of the view the church has on marriages divorce. I know God always hears our prayers no matter what situation we are in and even when we are not doing the right things but He also expects us to protect ourselves and our family from the influences of the evil one. Abuse is a tool that Satan uses to destroy marriages, families and individual people. The Bible teaches ‘Ye shall know them by their fruits’ meaning if you truly want to know someone then it shows in their actions and what proceeds forth from that. My experience with my husband has always been a band aid ‘sorry’ and then he goes right back to doing what he said he was sorry for and so on. In years of believing he would change I always stayed and gave him the benefit of the doubt but day in day out of the same things can not be wrong to say that my husband doesnt have a desire at this time in his life to change and commit to God maybe one day he might but I’m at the point where I know I can not take it anymore and that I know he is using his ‘Free Will’ in the wrong way. My role as a mother is to nuture and strengthen my children in teach them to walk the path the Lord would have them walk. That would be very difficult to do if my husband was to still be living with me at this time. All I can do is pray for him, no God can not force him to choose the right and stop being abusive but I know God has the power to touch his heart with His Spirit and soften it so that he can reach a point of true repentance, which is saying Sorry and Never Doing It Again!

    • Marie,

      thanks for your thoughts.
      I just now stumbled upon this website.
      I was one of those “band aid” sorry husbands.
      My heart goes out to you like it does to my exwife.
      I was critical and passive as a husband and father.
      My wife made the decision to move out, and that was one big event to change my life around.
      Maybe God can’t force, but maybe he can influence.
      Was Paul forced, when God confronted him about his persecution of the Christians?
      Maybe not, but what was it then?

      I am changing, and just when I think that I deserve a merit badge, somebody tells me to look deeper. My exwife is good at that, she knows me quite well. I appreciate her insight, it is valuable. My changes are not instantaneous, but they are there, bit by bit.

      I am still not sure about the divorce issue, but I am quite sure that a truly abused woman should move out from under the same house as the abusive husband. God does do miracles, and there are many success stories out there to prove it.

      Pray for your husband, as I will, and be in the Word.. And I encourage to keep in a good church, and surround yourself with good christians, Read good christian books with your children, and even christian audio dramas.
      I am sorry that your husband is where he is at, and you have to do things for the children that he should be doing. I am greatly encouraged by the heart that shines through your words. Be strong in the Lord.

      i am learning to look at my ex with eyes of compassion, as God calls us .. “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” 1 Peter 3:6. I did not really live with her in an understanding way..maybe just short spells of compassion, but not truly living that way.
      Oh and I don’t think God was really answering prayers either.

      I shall now pray for your husband and read on….

  3. My husband is killing me with abuse–I no longer have the strength to make a decision and follow through–I’ve lost my job because of my health. I don’t want to die like this–can anyone offer a suggestion?

    • GBA,

      My recommendation would be to get support and let them help you. Contact the local family services department and ask them for a referral to someone who can help you. You do need someone to help you once it gets to this point — and that’s OK.

      — Danni

  4. I have been with this abusive man for 14 yrs,and been married for 9 yrs.He abused me before we even got married,but thought that he would change.I have left him so many times but have come back beacause i thought he has really changed,but only few months down the line he is back to his abusive tendencies.I know now that he is not going to change,and i earnestly want to get out of this marriage i can’t take the abuse any longer,my spirit refuses to be here any longer.pls how do i get out from this toxic relationship.

    • I’d recommending getting some advice from either local family services organizations or a legal representative. I can see that you are not in the US, so I don’t know the process and system where you are.

      — Danni

  5. My husband has always had issues with alcohol and prescription drugs. It gives him this alter personality. The last encounter caused him to actually hit me. He didn’t bruise me but it was enough for me to call the police and have him arrested. I have been praying for a miracle and a few days after, I got a call from one of the pastors and he said that my husband was in his office seeking professional help and had accepted Jesus Christ as his savior. Since then he has made a point to start AA, go to the Dr and have his medication looked at, and is in counseling with the Pastor. I am trying to find other couples who have gone through similar situation and have a good happy ending. My parents do not act like true Christians and instead of recognizing that he is seeking help they want me to divorce him and leave.

    When I let him back in the home I made a list of rules/boundaries. Its been a struggle and I feel alone in the sense that I am seeking encouragement support from others that have or are in my shoes. He has never hit anyone before but has had a self destructive behavior. We have since removed all alcohol and he has stopped taking Ambien.

    Are there any success stories where God has worked in the marriage and there is a light at the end of the tunnel??

    • Yes! There are success stories. I don’t have any posted here, but they are out there. I’ve known quite a few. And you are doing all the right things at this point. I think you are right to try to work it out and give him a chance to demonstrate a changed heart. There’s no way to see the future yet, but I think you are doing the right thing right now. One thing – the success stories start with something like what you described — he voluntarily got himself help. That is HUGE. Whether he chooses to follow through will be something he has to walk out. But that was an excellent start.

      — Danni

  6. I have been married to my husband for 9 years. He is currently in jail for domestic violence. He is overtly insecure about his relationship with me & always accuses me that I will be leaving him. After he beat me up, I still love him & hope that if we can work this out I will still stay with him. We have children together. Do you think I will give our marriage another try or should I leave him?

    • Daizy,

      Florence’s comments are right on target.

      Your husband is an abuser and he has not changed. Regardless of your feelings, it would be very unwise for you to reconcile with him.

      It is not abnormal for you to have feelings still – and most of those feelings are for the man you thought he was or that he is when he’s on his best behavior. But how do you feel when he’s beating you? That’s the same person and that’s the person you would be going back to.

      Think of your children’s best interests too. Is this how you want them to be treated? Is it how you want them to learn to treat their spouses and your grandchildren? Is this the kind of person you want your children to marry? Because that is what will happen. You are training your children by your example and his.

      — Danni

  7. Hi Daizy,
    Sorry to hear that your another one in this same “insane” world. Re-read what you have written. He is in jail for hurting you and you still say that you love him…That is not love in staying with him, but is fear….because you have children and you don’t know if you could make it alone.
    Since your asking if you should take him back…..I would say no….He will conform his behavior long enough to get back into the house and the same issues will rise, because he is pretending he is fixed but just long enough to get home and you lay your guard down. There is a big difference between conforming (changing the outward behavior) and transforming (changing from the inside out)….
    I was there for just under 20 yrs and filed for divorce a yr and half ago, and we still are going around there, because to him he is still in control and he still thinks that he owns me…….I praise the Lord though that he finally flushed his feathers and showed church who he really is, when he blew into a staff meeting with the pastors and his authority. Praise the Lord….not once but a couple of times. Then demanded that whatever tithe I had given , he was there to take it back because he thinks everything is his…Yes, just like Judas here isn’t it?
    Do not make your choices or decisions Daizy based on fear…..or possible loneliness….
    I pray for peace that passes all understanding that will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus….

  8. There IS hope and you do need to get out. I would highly recommend that you talk to someone from your local family and children’s services office for advice or a referral to someone who can advise you on how you may be able to accomplish this. What he is doing is blatant abuse. He doesn’t have to leave marks and the smart ones don’t. This is a seriously bad situation.

    God has answers! If you walk toward them, knowing He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6), you will find them opening before your feet.


    — Danni

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: