Open Letter To A Friend
My heart hurts for you and I want you to be free. I know your head tells you you need to leave but you feel your heart and faith demands that you stay. I know that I cannot tell you what to do, but I desperately desire that you should understand God’s heart for the oppressed and that he is a deliverer, not an enslaver.
Many are telling you now that God demands for you to remain and allow your abuser to leave. They tell you this is what the scripture demands, yet I want to encourage you this is not so. When Paul speaks of not divorcing unbelievers in 1 Cor 7, he is not talking about abuse situations. When Jesus talks about divorce only being allowed for adultery, he is not talking about abuse situations, but rather a specific type of divorce that men were treacherously divorcing their wives for “any cause” rather than adultery, which is the only reason that type of divorce allowed (but all in the first century understood divorce was scriptural for neglect, which includes abuse). When people tell you “God hates divorce”, this is a clear mistranslation of scripture – the person hating is the man divorcing his wife, which he does treacherously, not as a means of protection. Divorce exists because sometimes we need to set boundaries, and this is a boundary even God was willing to set with Israel.
Many are telling you that you can change him – this is popular marital advice given in many Christian circles, but it is wrong. No matter how you perform, submit, or sacrifice as a wife you do not have the power, responsibility, or right to change him. The only thing that can bring repentance is a heart transplant performed by the Holy Spirit. Nowhere does the scripture teach that we can change others through our good behavior. If your husband has walked away from the truth, you cannot bring him back.
Many are telling you that your job is to wait on God to perform a miracle, but this is not how God asks that we live. He does not ask us to place ourselves in peril awaiting on his intervention; in fact he says precisely the opposite. When Satan told Jesus to throw himself off a cliff and rely on the angels to save him, Jesus rebuked him that we ought not to test God. God may deliver us from peril, but there is a difference between peril we choose to be in and that which is put upon us.
I believe God condoned divorce and remarriage for an innocent spouse who stood in danger of being mistreated (abused) by a harsh ungodly spouse, and this is what we read about in Exodus 21:10-11, Deut. 21:14 and 1 Cor. 7:15, along with the parallel where God himself divorces Israel in Jeremiah 3.
Many tell you that you are to suffer in this life and not to flee suffering. This is not the example set by the Apostles or Jesus himself. While at times they did submit to suffering, there are many examples of Jesus or the Apostles fleeing their persecutors. Turn the other check does not mean we submit to being abused, but that we forgive sacrificially – there is a big difference. Do not allow others to call you to suffering, especially those who do not understand your suffering.
Here is what I will tell you: marriage is made for man, not man for marriage. God holds you as an individual higher than the institution of marriage. He loves you, knows you, sees you, and desires good things for you. Do not allow yourself to suffer at the demands of others when God does not demand it; if you do you suffer for the pleasure of man, not God. There is NO condemnation for those in Christ; if your faith is in him you will not live a life of guilt and shame no matter what you choose. Christ came so that we can live life abundantly, not live in darkness or regret.
Do not be quick to discount what your mind tells you or advice from unbelievers, for the scripture is clear that God reveals truth to unbelievers. Where the teaching of this general revelation contradicts scripture we must reject it, but where it does not we must heed its wisdom. We must not ignore the great amount of work done in the name of defending the abused and broken. The church has demonstrated a lot of ignorance and given much bad advice on the subject of marriage and divorce. I believe it is in the process of waking up to this fact, and when it does it will be able to advise abuse victims far more effectively than anything the world has to offer, but for the moment the best information about understanding abuse many times comes from secular sources; we should not ignore these. They will tell you that abusers rarely, if ever change. They will tell you abusers seek to control their victims and believe they are entitled to be served. They will tell you abusers will offer periods of peace and appear to give in to their victims, but this is only a calm in which they tighten their grip for further overt abuse. They will tell you that an abuser can masquerade, many times for years, as a person of light so that you will always have the false hope that he can again become the man you once knew, trusted, and committed your life to.
I want you to have life and freedom in Christ. I want you to know that he loves you and desires for you to be loved and cherished. He does not want you to be abused or dealt with treacherously. Jesus always showed compassion for the oppressed, and there is little more oppressive than our most intimate relationships, those who know us the best, looking past our humanity to fulfill their own needs. Please pray and know that God provides real deliverance, real restoration, and sets the prisoner free.