How my heart completely breaks for you if you are suffering at the hands of a cruel, abusive or violent husband who is not meeting his responsibilities to love, provide for, protect and lead his family in the ways that would honor God. (Ephesians 5:22-33)
I pray for healing for your spirit, for your children, for your husband and your marriage - and I completely believe that Christ is able to bring beauty from ashes in even the most awful situations.
FIND HELP, ASAP!
Please seek godly help! Learning about respect and biblical submission is good, and I think it may help in many situations. But there are some men who will be abusive no matter what their wives do – and that is not a wife’s fault!!! There are also some husbands who, in the name of being the “spiritual authority” demand their wives’ “submission” and total obedience. They ignore all the other verses in scripture and ignore what God commands them to do – to love, honor and protect their wives and to lead them selflessly and humbly. They ignore the fact that they will stand before God and give an account one day and live as if they answer to no one.
That is not at all how God describes godly leadership in His Word. Husbands are never commanded to force their wives to obey God’s Word for them to submit. Submission is a voluntary act that a woman does out of reverence to Christ. If a husband is demanding that she put him in the place of God in her life or that she must obey him without question or he tells her she has no right to share her perspective, feelings and opinions – that is NOT a godly situation and a wife in such a situation needs godly help.
You are going to need greater resources than I can offer here if this is your situation..
Your obedience to God will certainly help your situation – but respect and honoring your husband’s leadership can’t “fix” your husband’s PTSD, ADD, Asberger’s, narcissism, mental disorders, alcoholism, drug addiction, infidelity, criminal behavior, severe emotional/spiritual/physical abuse… etc.
You cannot change your husband. Only God can heal and change him. You are not the Holy Spirit. Your love is not powerful enough to fix mental problems or addictions. (To learn about healthy boundaries and control, please click here or check out Henry Cloud’s book, “Boundaries.”.)
God’s love is powerful enough to change your husband – but that is in God’s hands, not yours.
We are commanded by God to submit to our husbands “in The Lord.” If a husband is asking us to condone his sin or to commit sin or violate God’s Word – then the authority of God’s Word trumps our husbands’ God-given authority.
I do not believe that it is wise to submit to/cooperate with a man actively under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or a man with an untreated mental disorder that is altering his thinking, or a man who is entrenched in some kind of major sin addiction (infidelity, gambling, false doctrine/cult practices, homosexuality, criminal activity, etc).
There are times when physical separation may be very necessary. Seek God’s will, His Word, His face, His power and His glory.
GOD DESIRES US TO RESPOND IN GODLINESS EVEN WHEN WE ARE SINNED AGAINST
I believe that God’s Word applies that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who mistreat us and overcome evil with good. Adding our own sin to our husbands’ sin will only make things much worse. I believe we are always called by God to respond in the power of His Spirit and not to sin ourselves, even when we are sinned against.
But if things are out of control in your marriage – and your husband’s thinking is impaired, or you or your children are in actual danger – please find godly, experienced, local help – a Christian pastor, counselor, a women’s shelter or at least an older godly wife to help you find some help.
You may need to get somewhere safe for a time and pray for wisdom and seek God’s direction as you pray for healing and reconciliation. There are even times, unfortunately, when divorce may be necessary.
PLEASE, do NOT initiate violence towards your husband! That is foolish! If you try to get him to hit you and get physical with you – you will probably get hurt! No one should be throwing things, hitting anyone or committing any kind of violence against anyone in any relationship.
Husbands and wives ought to both be treating each other with respect and love!
If you are in danger – please find a way to safely get out!
SUBMISSION DOES NOT MEAN
Submitting to our husbands in the Lord does not mean we have to be slaves, we have no voice and can’t say what we need/want or how we feel or take abuse, or allow our children to suffer abuse. There are churches and individuals who take the concept of submission and warp it into something abusive, oppressive and controlling – that does not glorify God!
I don’t believe that biblical submission means a wife must “mindlessly do anything her husband tells her to do.”
I believe it is a wife’s duty and responsibility to tell her husband how she feels, what she needs, what she wants AND to respectfully, humbly and firmly stand against him if he sins or asks her to sin. It is her duty to bring ALL of her personhood, faith, feelings, ideas, talents, energy, passion and strengths to the marriage. She is to use her “influence authority” to inspire her husband and to influence him toward godliness.
Biblical submission means that when a husband and wife don’t agree – the wife graciously cooperates with the husband’s decision (unless he is asking her to sin or asking her to cooperate with his sin or asking her to dishonor God) – trusting God to lead her through her husband. It is a GIFT she gives to her husband out of her love and reverence for Christ. Submission and respect cannot be forced or coerced any more than a husband’s love and godly servant leadership could be forced or coerced.
For the believer – submission begins with my total submission to Jesus as my LORD. I obey His Word and seek to honor Him because I love and reverence Him. If someone is asking me to directly violate God’s Word – I must choose to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)
SOMETIMES WE MUST CONFRONT SIN
Respect doesn’t mean that we respect our husbands’ sin or what they do wrong!!!! Respect doesn’t mean we never address our husbands’ sin or that we act like he didn’t hurt us when he did or that his wrongdoing is ok.
We respect the fact that our husbands are in the position “husband,” and because of that position, God has given them authority over us and our children. It is a similar concept as we respect the office of “president” even when we don’t agree with the president, but if the president commits crimes – he will face punishment and judgment by those in authority over him. God never calls us to respect our husbands’ infidelity, addictions or physical or sexual abuse or criminal activity.
The reason He commands us to respect our husbands is because respect is the only way to get through to a man’s heart.
There are times when we must respectfully confront our husbands in love and truth. (Matthew 7:1-6 and Matthew 18). But we must be sure that WE are in right standing with God first – that we repent of any pride, rebellion against God’s Word, disrespect in our marriage, unforgiveness, bitterness, idolatry (putting other things above God), lust, malice, rage, etc… first. Only after we have dealt with our own sin will we be able to respectfully, calmly, lovingly, gently address our husbands’ sin. If your husband is sinning against you, and you are being abused – you may need godly help outside of the marriage to help you get things straightened out.
Husbands are 100% responsible for their own sins before God.
Wives are 100% responsible for their own sins before God.
I write my blog from the perspective of a wife who was controlling and disrespectful with a passive husband.
I do not have a history of being abused. My parents were godly, Christian parents who set a good example of marriage. There was never violence in our marriage on either side and my husband and I were never abused as children. My husband doesn’t raise his voice or yell at me. He has never attempted to physically harm me. He has never called me names or verbally abused me. I am not equipped to give advice to wives in abusive situations.
Some people raise concerns at times about my blog – saying that I am endorsing husbands abusing their wives.
Let me be as clear as I possibly can.
I absolutely NEVER condone abuse of any kind towards anyone. Abuse is sin. It offends God. It is destructive and it is wrong. People will be accountable to God for abusing others – unless they repent and find forgiveness in Christ – and they will be accountable to the law. Abusers need help immediately. And spouses who are being abused need help immediately.
Some people believe that because I don’t teach husbands and don’t tell them what to do – that I am saying that wives are totally responsible for all marriage and relationship problems. That is not at all what I am saying.
Men and women are all wretched sinners – capable of plenty of different kinds of evil.
When two sinners marry, they both sin against each other. There are very few cases where one person is 100% responsible and the other is 100% innocent. We each must look at our own sin, our own accountability before God and our own obedience to God’s Word – and it is my goal to help wives focus on their end of the relationship, their sin and their responsiblity. But husbands have an equal , if not greater, responsibility to focus on their sin, their accountability before God and their obedience to God’s Word. Abused wives are not responsible for being abused and abusive husbands are not innocent. Neither are abused husbands responsible for being abused – and their abusive wives are not innocent.
There are absolutely times when the loving and respectful thing to do can be:
- separation until there is healing
- creating healthy boundaries
- asking for abuse to stop
- seeking help outside of the marriage from a professional counselor/doctor/pastor
And there can also be times when divorce is, sadly, unavoidable.
That is something for which people will have to seek God’s face, pray unceasingly and listen carefully to His Word and His Spirit for wisdom. I am not in a place to tell women what to do in these situations. God’s wisdom is infinitely higher than mine.
If there are serious problems in your marriage – physical abuse, major verbal abuse, major control by one spouse, substance or alcohol abuse, uncontrolled mental health disorders, infidelity… those things go way beyond the scope of my blog. I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist. I am not a licensed counselor. I am not a pastor. I have not experienced abuse myself. I am not writing for women in these situations.
If you are a wife who has gone almost totally quiet and silent and your husband is extremely controlling – my blog may not be a good fit for you – I am concerned that my blog may make things worse for you because of the filters you will read through because of your background and scars. You may want to find a blog written by a godly wife who has gone through a similar experience as yours who can offer more wisdom about the obstacles and challenges you face. (Nina Roesner author of “The Respect Dare” hopes to have a site up specifically for abused wives in March of 2014)
Some Signs of an Extremely Controlling Husband:
- he tends to try to isolate his wife from all other people including friends, family members, neighbors and church
- he may be very jealous
- he may be quite demanding and insist on her wearing her clothes, fixing her hair a certain way, having the house cleaned in a very specific manner or he goes into a rage
- he may blame 100% of the problems in the marriage totally on his wife
- he may never apologize or admit any sin/wrongdoing of his own
- he may “punish” his wife when she takes the slightest mis-step
- he may be very unforgiving
- he may DEMAND his wife’s submission and “obedience” instead of appreciating that biblical submission is a gift a wife gives freely out of her love and reverence for Christ. It cannot be forced or coerced.
- he may talk a lot about his wife’s disrespect and make everything her fault
- he may have a history of being abused himself
- he may have a drug/alcohol addiction or mental disorder (respect and biblical submission are great, but they can’t cure diseases or addictions. It is impossible to rationalize with someone who is not in his right mind. If your husband is not of sound mind – it is probably not safe to submit to him. You may need outside help ASAP)
- he may be violent
- he may make threats of violence
If you or your children are not safe – I want to say “LEAVE and LEAVE NOW!” But I know that sometimes a woman’s greatest risk of being severely hurt or injured is when she tries to escape from an abusive man. So – I pray that you will find godly counsel, wise and professional counsel – and seek God’s wisdom, not mine, if this is your situation. My blog is not written for wives in abusive situations. I believe God’s Word is truth in every situation. But I don’t have the experience or credentials to guide women through abusive situations like this.
This is a link to a post by Nina Roesner – author of The Respect Dare – that I think may be very helpful. She recommends the book “The Emotionally Destructive Relationship” by Leslie Vernick.
The Doctrine of Spiritual Authority - my notes from a class I took on this subject from a man who has been an ordained minister for over 45 years. I asked him about wives who are abused and whose husbands are actively addicted to drugs/alcohol or who are not in their right minds. His comments about that are at the bottom of this post.
Sacred Influence by Gary Thomas
One of my readers suggests:
I’d like to recommend the following site. http://cryingoutforjustice.wordpress.com/contact-about-us/ Jeff Crippen does an excellent job in his sermons of bringing to light biblical approaches to abuse. The one thing I would add that I feel he doesn’t always do the best job of is reminding us that abusers are certainly capable of experiencing redemption through the Lord. Though, statistically, it’s a small percentage of those who experience a heart change and thus change their ways. This should be remembered when advising anyone in an abusive situation. So, I do think someone like Jeff Crippen – speaking with such power on this issue – is what some people need to get them to sit up and take notice of how wrong and devastating this stuff really is and how it is dealt with in scripture. So much negativity and fear of misdirecting someone gets placed on divorce. And rightfully so. However, I strongly believe it is just as necessary to be this way toward abusive situations.
Please give these wives the wisdom and direction they need to find the help You have for them. Heal these broken marriages and remove the influence of the enemy in these homes! Let Your Spirit be free to work in these husbands and wives and children’s lives. Please restore these families to Yourself and to each other whole and healthy and let them bring great glory to Your Name!