Blessing for the Ultimate Sacrifice in an Abusive Marriage

By Danni Moss
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When I refer to the ultimate sacrifice in an abusive marriage, most people’s minds probably think of what mine would – what happens if you actually die in an abusive marriage? However, that’s not what I’m talking about.

There is a sacrifice that may become necessary and it is one that the most dedicated of us do not want to make – in fact, many refuse to make.

The most determined of us hold firmly to our marriage vows and refuse to consider that God could actually lead another way. While we believe our actions are demonstrating huge faith and sacrifice for the cause of Christ, they may actually be an expression of unbelief.

First of all is the issue of holding to our marriage vows. God Himself cannot keep a covenant where the other party persists in violation. The other party’s violation voids God’s agreement and His blessing. God is faithful; that is His nature. And that is the deep desire of many of us in our marriages. We are faithful; we will remain faithful no matter what. But we cannot make the choice for the other person to remain faithful. And that voids our ability to maintain our end of the covenant. If we have a wrong belief (unbelief) about this issue of our marriage vows, we will remain in a situation God does not expect or want for us.

Second, we have to understand there is literally an issue of idolatry in place when dealing with an abusive spouse. I address this issue briefly in the article The Issue at the Heart of Domestic Violence. When it comes right down to it, we have to choose which master we will serve. Remaining in a marriage of spiritual idolatry boils down to a problem with unbelief – we do not believe God sees it just that black and white.

Another thing that can keep us in unbelief is our own selfishness. Yes, that’s what I said. It can be very hard to look at this hiding in the corners of our heart. You see, if we walk away we give up a lot. We give up our image, we give up our identity as a wife (huge!), we probably give up friendships and even church support we have valued immensely, we give up the respect of others. We may even think we are giving up on ourselves and God and our family – though this is not the truth. We may give up our home and our financial security.

For me, the single biggest step of faith I ever made was believing God when He told me to get out of my marriage and follow Him. It was a daring, blind step of audacious faith – and it came at huge expense. I did lose friends, family, church support, my identity, my role as a wife, my home and financial security (such as they were), and the respect of others.

But, I dared to believe what God told me.

Today, He gave me a huge blessing. Actually, today He gave me the promise of a huge blessing – which is sitting right in the Word and I had never realized it applied directly to me.

And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,

But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

Mark 10:29-30

Now, lest anyone think that this sacrifice in an abusive marriage isn’t about the gospel, it is indeed about the gospel. Not only is it an issue of obedience to God, it is quite literally about the gospel. Jesus defined the gospel 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.

The gospel includes healing the brokenhearted, preaching deliverance to captives, setting at liberty those that are bruised, and preaching the favorable – full of God’s favor! year of the Lord. The gospel is not just about going to heaven when we die. And that is definitely not what Jesus modeled in His earthly ministry, nor does it describe the fulfillment of what Jesus very specifically commissioned his followers to do when He left. Eternal life starts at the day of salvation and God’s salvation is for every part of our lives, not just our eternal destiny.

The promise of a blessing is literally also for those of us who have left husbands (or wives, as the case may be), family, friends, churches, homes, and financial provision to leave an idolatrous marriage and follow ONE God. God promises us a hundredfoldin this world – not only in the world to come!

This is a powerful promise for those who will dare to let go and abandon themselves to God. The sacrifice is astronomical – but God’s promise is a hundred times bigger.

The Issue at the Heart of Domestic Abuse

I was doing some reading today and a phrase struck me, right in the middle of a letter someone had written. I’ve been trying to think how to put this thought into words and here it was, already done:

…an abused spouse is in bondage and cannot make Jesus Lord over her life as the abuser lords over her heart and mind, leaving the person unable to think correctly, living in constant fear rather than loving submission to God and each other. It is a known fact that spousal abuse causes damage to mind, soul, and spirit that is often irreversible…

This bit is from a letter quoted in an article called Divorce and the Church.

When an abusive spouse demands dominance of his wife’s time, thoughts, actions, viewpoints, theology, political opinions, dinner plans, housekeeping techniques, self-image – every littlest part of her being – he is making an idol of himself.

When an abuser says his wife is less than God says she is, he is making a god of himself. He is saying his opinion carries more weight than God’s opinion of his wife; therefore, He is greater than God.

God says she is good. God says He created her specifically, for a unique purpose. When an abuser says his wife is stupid, worthless, ignorant, rebellious, wicked, (you fill in the blanks), he is calling God a liar and making a god of himself because he is saying he is right and God is wrong.

When he accuses her where God does not, he is making a god of himself. He is holding his judgment higher than God’s judgment.

When an abuser physically hurts his wife, he demands that she violate her allegiance to God, who has told her to keep her body, His temple. So the abuser is usurping authority to denigrate the temple of God.

When an abuser says he is his wife’s absolute authority and everything he says is God’s word to her, he is making an idol of himself. Jesus died to enable a personal relationship between each of us and God Himself. Each of us must personally accept Christ as Savior. A husband cannot do that for his wife. Accepting Christ establishes a personal relationship with God; from that beginning the rest is a personal relationship as well. The Holy Spirit indwells each of us and speaks to each of us, personally. Any husband who stands in the middle of that, and demands that his voice is greater than God’s to her, is making an idol of himself.

An abuser demands that his wife divide her allegiance. She can be a Christian and follow God only where it doesn’t contradict his demands of her.

This is fundamentally why an abuse victim cannot remain with a spouse who persists in his abuse. If the abuser will not repent, fully – which includes taking all responsibility, making restitution and submitting to long-term accountability – that wife is obligated to God to separate from a man who demands she serve two masters and deny her Lord God.

In fact, in Ezra 10, God told the Israelites to divorce their wives who worshiped idols. In Is. 50:1 and Jer. 3:8 God says He divorced Israel because of their idolatry. Idolatry is absolutely a Biblical reason for divorce.

There is freedom in this understanding. This is a freedom the church needs to wrap their hands around and stop tying chains of bondage around abuse victims. When churches demand that abuse victims stay in an abusive marriage, they are participating in idolatry. They are agreeing with a false god and telling someone under their supposed spiritual protection (shepherd – servant guarding the flock for his master) to deny their faith and serve a false god. This is a very serious issue. The church should fall on its face in repentance for this sin. It is grievous. We should be helping victims to safety, not holding the doors to their cells shut.