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 loved this article. It was wonderful and I needed to hear it. A thousand thanks to the author.

  2. Hi everyone
    The words “I hate divorce” which appear in most Bibles are a mistranslation of the Hebrew. It should read something like “He who hates and divorces… covers his garment with violence.” (Malachi 2:16). See the English Standard Version or the Holman Christian Standard Bible for their renderings as they both convey the Hebrew correctly.
    In my book (Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion) I take a whole chapter plus a lengthy appendix demonstrating that Malachi 2:16 has been mistranslated in most versions. I have 18 scholars who agree that it has been mistranslated. When I found out what the real translation should be I felt immense relief. So many victims of abuse have felt condemned and entrapped by the idea that God hates divorce, and it is not true. God hates treacherous divorce but he does not hate divorce undertaken as a discipline procedure against a spouse who is maltreating their partner.

  3. I really needed to read this tonight. Thank you so much!
    I wish that people would stop telling me that it won’t happen again.

  4. Well, I’m here to tell you — OH YES IT WILL! It always happens again. That’s the nature of abuse. People who think different are unfortunately utterly ignorant of the nature of abuse and about the Word of God regarding the entire issue. That’s the truth.

    — Danni

  5. I would like to thank you for this article. I really needed this. I am in an abusive marriage of almost ten years. I have told myself time and time that this is how my life is going to be. I stayed with my first husband for twelve years. It almost costed me my life! I am in the process of walking away for the marriage I am in now. It has been physical in the past but it’s more verbal and emotional now which I believe is worst! I agree with the other writer, eventually an abuser will find away to hit you or abuse you in some kind of way again. I would not wish abuse on anyone because it leaves scares on your heart that only the holy spirit can heal. I guess the hardest part for me is believing God will and can deliver me. I feel so helpless when I look at my two beautiful daughter sand tell them that we are going to continue to live this way until God says we can leave. Somedays I want to lay down and die.

  6. Oh Angela, I am so terribly sorry about what you are going through!! Danni is right, God does give you permission to walk away from your abuser. Your husband has broken and is repeatedly desecrating his sacred marriage vows to love and cherish. When you married, God and the laws of our land did not leave you helpless. The marriage covenant is a legal contract. Your husband vowed before God and man that he would cherish you and he has behaved contemptuously toward his vows to God. In both the Bible and in law, when one person breaks their contract, the other has legal and biblical permission to take action to protect him/ herself.

    In addition, if you do not get out, the harm to your 2 beautiful daughters will continue to inflict more and more destruction. As it is, they are likely to choose husbands just like him. It is imperitive that you make sure they have lots of time around men who are godly role models. If they only focus on what they do not want, they are likely to end up with what they focused on. They need to focus on the good qualities they do want, so they can recognize them and move toward them.

    Before you get out, consult a lawyer (unless you have to get out immediately to preserve your life) to make sure you can protect your daughters. Far too many times the court takes children away from their “unstable” mother, who is that way because of the abuse she suffered, and put them with their abusive father. A lawyer can help you make choices that will make it less likely the court will take your daughters from you–who are the healthier parent.

  7. Hi all, I M so glad to have found this. U dont know how long I have been searching.
    Things R sometimes even worse in Asia – not just hubby but in-laws too & further your own family may not believe U or think U shd bear with it!!
    Thank God for this site. I have not the time to read in detail but will. Thanks.

    • I’m glad you found it! You’re right – as bad as it is here in the States, it can be much worse in other countries and cultures. It’s wrong wherever it occurs because God’s Word and His nature are universal!!!

      You’re welcome here and you can e-mail if you want/need to as well.

      — Danni

  8. Danni,
    I am so grateful for your website.
    I am in an emotionally and verbally abusive marriage (going on 5 years) and wanting to get out.
    I am finding there is so much division in the church regarding these issues.
    But I believe it is time for the bondages to be broken! and you are playing a huge role.

    I am compiling some research and information I’ve gathered through books and the net to present to our women’s ministry at my local church. I am going to include some of your articles and your web address, as I know some other women of my church are experiencing the same abuse, but keeping silent.
    Thank you for being a lighthouse.

    I happen to believe that as we enter the approaching of the Lord, that heaven is trying to reach us and not us “flying off” into heaven. The Bible says that the end will be like the beginning.
    Could it be that God is speaking through so many like ourselves on these issues now more than ever in order to usher in the new church?

    God says in His word that everything was perfect in the garden of Eden. That said, I’m sure that Eve never experienced abuse from Adam…..until the day of the partaking from the tree of knowledge. Without Adam’s spiritual leadership she was deceived and then Adam sinned by blaming Eve and then, both , of course, hiding.
    Perhaps you could write an article about the fall in the Garden of Eden and how it relates to these horrible abuses we are facing today.
    Once again, thank you.
    Stay Blessed
    Gretchen Cline

    • 😉 Actually, I have an article started re: the Fall — but along with quite a few others, I end up with not enough time to get them all done! The really in-depth ones are difficult to get finished because they take more time than a blog post that can be popped off with relative ease. LOL!

      The Fall has everything to do with the abuses we experience today. HUGE theology there.

      I’m glad you found the site. And thank you for sharing it with others. We have to spread the word – because there is desperate need.

      — Danni

  9. I am not from an abusive family or had an abusive relationship (as such) but I have, for a very long time (perhaps from God?), had a great deal of compassion in the area of abuse (any kind). I have had the priviledge of gaining a lot of deep insight into the topic. I work with teenagers and have had a lot of training and experience. I also suffered some sort of “spiritual abuse” during a year out with the church (UK) and have never been the same since. 15 years later I STILL struggle to totally trust God and often feel that he is against me and even women generally! I always fight against it and pray for help but it keeps coming back over and over! Anyone got any advice on this as it deeply affects my relationship with God??

  10. Thank you so much. I agree with what you wrote and came to the same conclusion three years ago, saving my children and myself from my ex-husband’s violence. I might have left him sooner, if it weren’t for my wrong understanding of God’s will for women and children of abuse. Some Christians abandoned us, but, thankfully, many were willing to help protect us through the hardest time of our lives. The problem is, the Court did not protect our children enough. Our judge placed our children back with my ex-husband part-time and my daughter was sexually assaulted by my ex-husband. Since my son had no evidence of abuse, the judge ruled to keep him in my ex-husband’s custody 50% of the time. My daughter is safe now, but I pray daily for my son’s protection. I have little hope, since God did not protect my daughter, even when I tried my best to keep her safe.

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