In Malachi 2:16, many Bibles have the words “I hate divorce, says the Lord God of Israel.” These words have been paraphrased and turned into the well known saying “God hates divorce.”
This saying is really problematic for victims of domestic abuse. It is bandied around like a proverb, dropped casually into sermons and magazine articles, propounded in marriage manuals, amplified in Bible studies, and thrust accusingly over cyberspace and kitchen tables. It appears to condemn all acts of divorcing, with no thought for who is the innocent party. Christian victims of domestic abuse have it carved in stone in their minds and feel trapped between two terrible alternatives: stay in the marriage (and suffer the destruction of ongoing abuse), or reap condemnation for divorcing their abusive partners.
A third alternative presented to the victim is almost as bad: separate from the abuser but never divorce — a limbo which still brings tongue wagging from the church and leaves the victim vulnerable to a dangerous reconciliation if an unreformed abuser makes an outward show of reformation.
Significantly, most people do not realise that Malachi 2:16, the text which has given rise to this saying, has been mistranslated. The incorrect translation came about as follows. The word “hates” in Malachi 2:16 is he hates. The Hebrew denotes third person masculine singular = he. The King James version had For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away. Many subsequent translations switched the third person “he” to a first person “I” without any grammatical warrant. For example, the 1984 NIV was “I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel. Possibly translators thought the switch was okay because it retained the sense of the KJV — that God feels the hatred [for divorce]. They did not seem to worry that “I hate divorce” was grammatically inaccurate to the original Hebrew.
But modern translations are starting to correct this mistake. The construction in Hebrew (“he hates… he covers”) shows that the one who feels the hatred is not God, but the divorcing husband. To be faithful to the Hebrew, the verse could be rendered, “If he hates and divorces,” says the Lord God of Israel, “he covers his garment with violence.” It is talking about a husband who hates his wife and divorces her because of his aversion for her. Therefore, Malachi 2:16 is only referring to a specific type of divorce: divorce for aversion, which could be dubbed “hatred divorce”. Divorce for hatred is treacherous divorce: if a man hates his wife and dismisses, he “covers his garment with violence” — his conduct is reprehensible, he has blood on his hands.
To date, three Bible versions have translated Malachi 2:16 correctly: the ESV, the Holman Christian Standard and the 2011 NIV. But these aren’t the only worthy translations. Since 1868, sixteen individual Hebrew scholars have translated the hatred as being what the divorcing husband feels, rather than what God feels. In my book Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion, I list all these translations.
The conclusion is simple. And liberating.
- God did NOT say “I hate divorce.”
- God doesn’t dislike all kinds of divorce; he only condemns the divorce which unjustly dismisses a spouse without valid grounds.
Examples of divorce without valid grounds might be when a man discards his wife for a younger woman; or a woman throws off her husband because he doesn’t earn enough to keep her in the luxury she believes she deserves; or a mate who says “We’re incompatible: my spouse hasn’t done anything really wrong, we just don’t have anything in common.”
Malachi 2:16 does not condemn all divorce. It certainly does not condemn the divorce which a person might take out because of the persistent misbehavior of their spouse. It doesn’t condemn divorces undertaken because of adultery, abuse or desertion.
Does it make much difference?
The correct translation of Malachi 2:16 makes a vast difference to victims of abuse who are devoted to the scriptures.
If they know that God does not condemn all divorce but only treacherous divorce, they will be much better positioned to make biblically informed decisions about their marriages.
The mistranslation of Malachi 2:16 has generated a load of malarkey (exaggerated or foolish talk usually intended to obscure, mislead, deceive or impress; nonsense; bunkum; empty rhetoric). Malachi-malarkey. Okay, I know that’s not the greatest pun, but humor me. 🙂
We need to stop saying “God hates divorce.”
The saying “God hates divorce” is unbiblical and unjust. It stigmatizes people who have divorced on valid grounds.
If you have never been divorced, you probably will not grasp how deep this stigma can be. It can cause profound and long-lasting guilt and self-condemnation. It besmirches anyone who divorces on valid biblical grounds: victims of domestic abuse; victims of unjust abandonment; the innocent party in adultery, and those who have chosen to divorce porn addicts, child abusers, thieves and murderers.
Victims of domestic abuse or other violations of the marriage covenant can be trapped in horrible marriages for a whole range of reasons. Let’s remove one of those reasons by banning the unscriptural slogan “God hates divorce”.
* * * * *
Here are the three modern Bible translations of Malachi 2:16 that accurately convey that the verb ‘hates’ is third person, not first person:
Holman Christian Standard Bible / Christian Standard Bible (HCSB / CSB)
Update: In 2017 the HCSB was revised and renamed the Christian Standard Bible. In the update they did not change their translation of Malachi 2:16
“If he hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice,” says the Lord of Hosts.
“The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the LORD Almighty.
English Standard (ESV)
“For the man who does not love his wife but divorces* her,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “covers his garment with violence,” says the Lord of hosts.
* Hebrew: who hates and divorces
For Further Reading
The Bible Does Allow Divorce for Domestic Abuse
Biblical Divorce for Abuse explained in a nutshell
Does God Hate Divorce? — Youtube interview with Barbara Roberts
The Bible does Allow Divorce for Domestic Abuse — guest post by Barbara Roberts at restoredrelationships.org [restoredrelationships.org is now restored-uk.org and the link has been updated to reflect the change. Editors.]
Remarriage after divorcing an Abuser in a nutshell
Church Discipline and Church Permission for Divorce — How my Mind has Changed
You have heard that it was said “God hates divorce,” but I say unto you…
96 thoughts on “God hates divorce? Not always.”
I feel like printing this out and nailing it to some church doors.
I have been doing it online whenever I see the incorrect usage.
Where are you getting the “valid biblical grounds” (eg: ” valid biblical grounds: victims of domestic abuse; victims of unjust abandonment; the innocent party in adultery, and those who have chosen to divorce porn addicts, child abusers, thieves and murderers”): that God does not condemn divorce?
‘a’ if you read my book Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion you will see that I have sound biblical reasons for saying that divorce is permissible for abuse, adultery and desertion. It would do injustice to my work to try to answer you question in a short blog comment. It needed a book to explain it as the misunderstanding of the divorce scriptures have been so complicated and interlaced for centuries. You can read reviews of my book here, here, and here.
[These links have been corrected to reflect the new URLS. Editors.]
A – Barbara’s book is an excellent resource. There are others available that you may want to read as well, with different authors approaching the topic from different perspectives.
David Instone-Brewer has a couple of books on this topic, in which he approaches the subject by studying the historical social standards for marriage and divorce during the old and new testament periods, as background for better understanding scriptural texts in the appropriate cultural setting Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context [Affiliate link]
In my book, “So You are a Believer who has been through Divorce,” I approach the subject by first looking at the broader scope of the biblical use of the terms covenant and redemption, and what the Bible has to say about keeping covenants and redemption from covenants So You are a Believer…Who has been through Divorce [Affiliate link]
“Divorce and Remarriage, a Redemptive Theology” by Rubel Shelly is another excellent text, in which Dr. Shelly approaches the subject from the perspective of both an experienced pastor / counselor and a theologian.
Go for it, Katy. We encourage republishing and quoting of our blog freely, so long as the quote does not misrepresent the meaning of the original material, and I’m sure you wouldn’t do that, dear friend 🙂
After all, God Himself divorced His unfaithful wife, Israel, in order to join Himself to His Bride. What liberation to realize that the Lord is also a divorcee!
Awesome post Barb. Awesome. I can’t wait to hear this from the pulpit. This is a powerful truth that the body of Christ needs to hear. As a woman who in all likelihood will be divorcing soon I am not looking forward to being stigmatised even though I was innocent of blame regarding my marriage ending. I am grateful I can point to these translations and use some of the other things I have learnt from the scriptures regarding biblical divorce to defend my decision because I know I will stand accused.
I have never felt stigmatised as a result of my divorce.
Oh how I hated hearing this verse thrown in my face, over and over, by Christians. When my abusive ex left 4 years ago I was finally free. I felt like the Israelites, finally free from captivity. And then suddenly, there was that verse from Malachi, looming over me, putting me back into bondage. How I wept because of it. Why? Because I did not want to go against what God would want me to do, but I just knew that staying that marriage would be the death of me…maybe not physically for I thankfully was never physically abused, but I would have ended up a shell of a person with no life left in my soul.
So, I finally said, ENOUGH! I decided to research this verse for myself, because I just could not believe that my Father would want me, His daughter, to continue suffering and just staying, along with her children, so a man could continue abusing them.
I thought there had to be more to it than just simply God hating divorce. I wondered in my mind, WHY did He hate divorce. What did it say before that verse? What caused men to divorce their wives?
So, I began reading that verse in various translations, and what I found just seemed to simple. Was I really the only one that saw it? Why did everyone want to throw one little verse at me when there was so much more to it? Maybe I just didn’t really understand it, I thought, but yet, it was right in front of me, in God’s Word…the reason behind him hating divorce. Violence of men towards their wives.
Malachi 2:14 – “…the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of they youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet she is they companion, and the wife of they covenant.”
Malachi 2:15b – “Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.”
Malachi 2:16 – “For the Lord, the god of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts, therefore take heed to your spirit that ye deal not treacherously.”
God hated (hates) the violence of men against their wives. That seemed simple enough, yet no one ever talked about that part of it, They simply laid the guilt trip of “God hates divorce” or “you have no grounds for divorce”.
I grow strong enough and bold enough to start countering people who spewed out, “well, God hates divorce” by saying to them, “God hates a lot of things, but He especially hates husbands treating their wives violently which in turn leads to divorce.”
Usually, that shut them up and they honestly, did not know what to say.
I’ve been divorced for almost 3 years now and remarried for almost 2 to an amazing man. I am in a healthy marriage full of love and respect. And now when I hear someone talk about God hating divorce, I put a little smile on my face and say, “let’s talk about what God REALLY hates!” 🙂
Yes! Read in context, we can easily see that the sin being addressed in Malachi 2 is the sin of treachery, not divorce. Treachery against God, treachery against their israelite brothers, and treachery (abuse) against their spouses.
In fact, in parallel passages in Jeremiah, we find that the sin of treachery is exactly what prompted God to declare that He had divorced the Kingdom of Israel (though not the Kingdom of Judah).
God hates treachery so much, that He, Himself, has divorced on account of treachery.
I love your response, “let’s talk about what God REALLY hates!”
Thanks for sharing!
Thank you for sharing so well.
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I love what you wrote, Amy! Thank you for sharing that. I am just today coming to understand this passage in context, because it has been told to me so much, as well that God hates divorce.
I have to say I have never felt more loved by God, more like His daughter whom He cares about to read in context this very passage that people use to clobber us with! Verse 17 [of Malachi 2] is key:
God condemns those who deal treacherously with their wives and then think they are in favor with God.
This is one of the strongest passages, in my opinion, for being able to protect ourselves from our abusive husbands. They are not right, even if they feign spirituality. With my husband, I hope he is getting right with God, and the less he tries to get me back and just tries to get his heart right, the more convinced I will be that he is repenting, and praise the Lord for healing souls. No, I wasn’t abused every day, and that’s what tends to give me pause and think that I have made too much of this. But those who have witnessed it think I have not made enough of a deal of it. But the fact that my psyche has changed, and it took me so long to get over being able to turn up my heat [heart?] to where I want it, to not hear condemnation in my head for every innocent mistake like missing an exit, finally being able to see myself as a capable, intelligent woman again, feeling free to follow the lead from my Savior without obstruction from my husband or guilt that I am harming him because of my passion for the Lord, suggests that I have been affected negatively from this relationship. I have such a low self-esteem. I have to with the Lord’s help build back up so I can be a confident woman again.
Hanging on to this one to give to my DivorceCare class! I heard this over and over from my abuser, “God hates divorce!” all the while he’s courting other women as I sat in that limbo-land. Waiting to see if he would “get it”. Needless to say, he didn’t ever get it. God hates violence, anger out of control, venomous words, actions and words that pierce ones’ soul. What is it that people don’t get?!!! Yes, God is a just God; yes, He is a God who loves us to the CORE; and yes, He wants good and what’s best for us! Humans twist His words to fit their circumstances all the time and makes things so much more complicated. Trust HIS words in it’s entirety… not the mere words of man/woman, chopped up to suit their purposes.
Thank you for that. As a divorced Christian I have dealt with this problem at least until I remarried and then became a widow. I have been told that particular problem was my punishment which I did not receive. I know the feeling of God’s arms around me and the sound of His heartbeat in my ear. I know I am loved unconditionally.
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I remember how much the “God hates divorce” slogan used to turn my stomach. I felt so trapped. Leaving him would be sin, but staying would be continual torture and death. I have to admit that I sometimes find myself feeling bitter towards God because He allowed these poor translations to become part of His Holy Word and so many women suffer needlessly because of it.
funny the abusers use this to keep us trapped in a loveless marriage. and a violent one… it is really there low self esteem that they cant be alone.
Colleen, may I gently correct you on one point? It is not the abusers’ ‘low self esteem’ that makes them ‘feel they can’t be alone.’ It is their desire to maintain control over their victims.
Abusers love to play the ‘poor me’ card. And many many people in society buy that card when they play it. But that card is just part of their deception: their tactics to keep everyone’s attention away from their real problem: that they are abusers; that they choose to believe their are superior to others; that they choose to believe they are entitled to mistreat their targets; that they actually LIKE keeping the upper hand and throwing everyone off track by multitudes of red herring tactics (like playing the pity card).
I encourage you to read Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He Do That? [Affiliate link] You can find it listed under our Resources tab. It explains the mentality of abusers.
You might also like to read these posts:
Nor Shall Your Eye Pity Him
Christians Need to Get “Pity” Right and Stop Pitying the Wicked While Refusing Pity to the Innocent
Do not Pity the Wicked: Abusers Use Pity as a Snare
Reblogged this on Tùr Làidir [Internet Archive link] and commented:
It always struck me as inconsistent that God hated divorce yet divorced Israel. This article shows what God really said. The correct translation of Malachi 2:16 makes perfect sense and is wholly consistent with the rest of scripture.
Even if the translation was “I hate divorce,” it didn’t stop Jesus allowing it at the very least for adultery in the Gospels. So it would be illegitimate from the start to claim that this verse meant God hates all divorce, even if there were no translation problems. And as many have pointed out already, when God divorcing Israel is thrown into the mix, along with the statements about financial neglect, etc. in the Epistles, the picture becomes even clearer.
Reblogged this on Redeemed! [Internet Archive link] and commented:
I had intended to do a post about the oft misquoted “God hates divorce” snatched out of context from Malachi 2:16. However, Barbara Roberts at Crying Out for Justice posted on this topic this morning, doing a much better job than I could have done. So, I’m reposting hers.
Barbara, thank you for posting this!
I don’t know whether you posted it on account of my questions, last night, or if the timing just worked out. Either way, this is very helpful.
I was planning to do a post on this passage, on my blog. Now, I think I’ll just repost yours (assuming I can figure out how to do that).
Thank you, so much!
The timing was just seredipitous, Joe. I’d written and scheduled that post several days before I got you email. 🙂
[…] begun planning a post on this topic, when I read Barbara Roberts’ post, this afternoon, at Crying Out for Justice blog. Barbara pretty much said what I intended, more skillfully than I would have said it. […]
I wish that we had an actual translation of the Bible as it should be without people putting what they think it should be in it. Wouldn’t we all be much better off if we had only one proper translation instead of dozens with people’s interpretations? Of course, there would have to be others for different languages, but how many English translations do we really need. I have said this to people before and had the reply that they all mean the same thing. Obviously, in the case of Malachi 2:16 that is not true.
The problem is, some passages are really tough to interpret, and bias creeps in. Yes, we’d be better off with one correct translation, but part of this fallen world is that we struggle to get it right.
Even David Instone-Brewer translates Malichai as God being the one hating, but takes it more like God hates the one who causes divorce. I think there’s solid evidence to show that the one hating in the passage is the Israelite (he’s hating his wife when he divorces her). Of course, I’m hardly a scholar.
But it is frustrating because it seems difficult to know if you can trust what you read in scripture because of the bias that all translators have. I’ve been struggling a lot with this recently.
I struggle with this a lot too. Scripture admonishes us to study and show ourselves approved, but it does seem like you have to be a scholar to get it right. What happens to folks who never find books like we read here, or sites like this one? It seems so unfair that we suffer from lack of knowledge (my people perish for lack of knowledge) when the truth seems to be hidden so deeply in scripture that average folks can’t grasp it.
Sometimes I feel so angry when confronted with the permanence of marriage and/or the divorce for adultery only doctrine, but can you really blame people for believing this? Without the social context that David Instone-Brewer and Barbara explain in their books, it’s understandable why Christians take this stance.
This is one of those things I “wrestle” with God about. Why? Why did He allow this?
I think we begin to get it right by asking God to translate His heart to us. We can’t worry about how others “get it”. We can reflect God’s true image by what we know to be true. I ask daily for His Spirit to show me what I must change and to fill those broken places in my heart with His Spirit. In that way Truth enters my heart. I still get frustrated and He keeps showing me what needs to change and someday We’ll get it right. We have to study, but we have to remember to include Him in that process. Continue to ask Him what he means. He can get us past the bias of men.
Oh, yes it is frustrating. With so much bias, people can pick and choose what the Word of God really is. I know people who believe the KJV to be THE version that God inspired in translation and will read no other. If that is true, which update? What year was the true translation made? Oh the looks I get having asked these questions.
Without any particular translation in front of me, I believe that God hates the sin that causes divorce more than the actual separation. He wants marriage to mirror the way He wants the relationship He wants between Himself and the church. Unfortunately, it is looking like that mirror is showing the way the church reflects Him and it isn’t the way he wants it.
It’s challenging, for sure, trying to apply the appropriate social/cultural context, and looking at Hebrew word tenses that the Hebrew scholars can’t seem to agree on.
However, so very much falls into place by simply reading each passage in the context of the full passage, to discern the most obvious intent. Then compare each passage to what the full Bible says about God’s heart on that subject.
Without any of Barbara’s background on the Hebrew word tenses, I came to the conclusion that this passage was not about God opposing dirvorce, but rather about God opposing treachery, simply by reading the full passage in its own context. Barbara’s detailed word study of Malachi 2:16 provides further substantiation for what the overall context clues already indicated.
I have only just recently had the blinders lifted from my eyes and been made to face the truth of my life and marriage. It is gut wrenching to have my pastor tell me he is not sure how I have lasted this long but in the same conversation tell me I don’t have a biblical reason for divorce and I have to reconcile. The phrase God Hates Divorce was like a painful slap and push towards broken submission. I love my God and do not want to do something that he hates. In my heart something was not right. How could my heavenly Father who’s love for me is endless and without condition hate divorce so much that he wanted me to continue to die a slow emotional death. He knows my heart and the depth of my pain and fear. How could He want me to re-enter this marriage after revealing the rot in my husbands heart? This article, this website, was an almost immediate answer to prayer. Awake at 1 am with my heart aching and my head spinning I prayed for Him to settle my mind and give me rest. I still couldn’t sleep and my mind was to jumbled to pray so I opened my laptop to occupy my mind. With in a few clicks I ended up here. Feeling so blessed, feeling understood, and learning to understand what I am going through. The physical reaction my body has when people tell me but he is repentant ….. I instantly feel a tightening in my stomach, a wall around my heart, and I stop breathing. They don’t live with him. They don’t see the anger in his eyes. They don’t live with the constant manipulation and disregard for their needs. They are being manipulated by a smart and charming man.
Dear BeginHealing, thank you so much for this comment of yours. It blesses me whenever I know of someone being set free from pernicious false doctrine. I totally understand about that physical reaction in your body. It is wise to listen to it.
Barbara’s book was the answer to prayer I needed during those last gut wrenching months before I finally broke free, and this website has been a continual source of growth and healing for me. Things had gotten so bad that all I could pray anymore was, “Dear God, deliver me from this evil. Dear God, deliver me from this evil” over and over again. I know the agony you speak of… feeling trapped (due to false doctrine) because if you leave you sin against God, but if you stay you will die spiritually, emotionally, and possibly even physically. I look back and wonder how I survived. God is so good and He lead me to freedom. I am happy that He has lead you too.
Dear Barbra. Your affirmation to listen to my body….thank you. I feel like those moments are God whispers or sometimes God shouts to be careful. I feel like I need to listen to them. But people I respect and trust say things that are contrary to my “whispers” or “shouts”. It has left me very confused and full of self doubt.
BeginHealing – That was, for me, one of the important lessons learned from the abusive marriage and the subsequent divorce…learning to trust my instincts. That’s not to say my gut reaction is always 100% correct, but it is most often an indicator of something being amiss that I need to pay heed to. That twisting of the gut is a God-given warning that something is likely not right and I need to use caution while praying for discernment.
No, Being Healed, they don’t. They don’t live with him or see what you see. They don’t understand the word “repentant”. If they did, they would not be using it in your circumstance. You see the continuation of his actions and how he hides them from others. God loves you, me, Barb and all of the others who bring their trials and support here. He does not love our abusers more. He is aware that their are more than one person in a marriage and a true marriage has 2 people working together with the help of God. Anything else is not a true marriage. I have come to use the term anti-marriage and anti-husband more frequently.
A husband is loving and puts the needs of his family before himself. He gently leads his family so that their moral and spiritual charachter are developed and become glory to our Heavenly Father. He shows honor to his wife so that his children will know how their own families should look. He spends time with his family. He leads them in Bible study and prayer. This man did not live in my “home”. It was a facade. My children want nothing to do with the man who did live there, well still does, but I do not.
The people that are giving you so-called Biblical instruction are double minded, which we are not to be. They cannot tell you they don’t know how you lasted and in the next breath say you have to continue doing it. It is not their decision. Obviously that is what happened, but conviction should have come to this person’s heart immediately. The decision is between you and God what you should take or not take, if you should continue imprisoned in bondage or set the captive free. We know what we have been through and have the honor of taking it to God personally. No man or woman makes decisions for us. God and God alone is my guide and yours. We can take advice from people but that is all it is, it is not God’s final say.
Do not be decieved or imprisoned by men, is my prayer for you.
Thank you all so much for your affirmations and understanding. This is all so painfully new to me. I repeated the abuse I saw growing up. So, in many ways it was normal to me. Until he took it to a new and heartbreaking level. God showed me my husbands heart and what he is capable of. I believe this happened because my loving Father wants me and my children out of this situation. But facing the reality that I have been living in is very painful. I was trying to live up to my vows, I was trying to be loyal, I was trying to do the right thing. There is a very fine line between optimism and denial. I hope that my children can someday forgive me for having them live in this situation for so long. No child should hear their father say he is going to kick their a*****. Thankfully, he never actually did but I know first hand that regularly hearing a threat is also very frightening and damaging.
“There is a very fine line between optimism and denial.”
So very true, BeginHealing! I think every abuse survivor has struggled with this, at some point…I know I have.
The important part, I think, is to begin to act based on the truth, as it is revealed to us. It’s okay that we were once deceived…it’s okay that some of that deception may have been at least partially self-inflicted. The important thing is to act based on truth, as we do become aware…and to continue trusting God to lead us into liberty.
Blessings to you!
Such wise words Joe. Thanks. I needed to hear that today. I still torment myself from time to time about the fact that I allowed myself to be deceived for so long. I love what you say “…. act based on truth as we do become aware… and continue trusting God.. ”
One thing I tell everyone who will listen is to never ignore your gut feelings, intuition, or times in which you believe God has spoken to you. I ignored those things for so long and suffered 12 miserable years of abuse because of it. But once I began to trust my gut, and my intuition, and stop doubting when God had spoken to me, I finally found freedom. I believe our intuition is a God-given gift, lovingly given to protect us from harm and danger. But we are not taught as Christians to trust it or to pay any attention to it. And I believe that God does indeed speak to us, especially when we are in danger. He speaks to us individually in ways that He as our loving Heavenly Father knows that we will understand, but those around us may not understand. He knows us so intimately that He knows exactly how to get our attention and how to speak to us. Unfortunately we are taught to doubt and ignore these things which brings us much harm and suffering. I ignored these things for so long and suffered so much, but I am free now. Our children will forgive us. I’m sure of it.
Thank you Joe. I am leaning on God’s love and strength to help me through the pain that comes from discovering my truth. Psalm 91 an 40 have been etched onto my heart.
This is not really related to the post but I could use a little advice. I am very new to my understanding the abuse that I have been living with. I should mention that my husband is not physically abusive he would throw things and punch walls but never me. My abuse was just emotional at the hands of a narcissist. He has regularly threatened our children with violence but never followed through. He does appear to be trying to change that. So far he has stayed consistent but it has only been a couple of months. He escalated things past my breaking point about 4 months ago. I would be happy to share what that was but I don’t want my post to be too long.
Anyway, my husband had been gone for 3 days for work and came home last night. I felt really good when he was gone centered, strong , engaged in my life, and connected to my God. When he came home the anxiety and anger I felt was just too much. My mind was reeling, I was shutting down, and I had a hard time thinking clearly. I felt like a trapped animal. Last night I just couldn’t take it anymore. I asked him to please try to find another place to stay, I never act impulsively like that…ever. He gave a few excuses as to why this was not possible or too difficult one of the reasons being that the friends that offered him a place to stay had a dog……Really?!?! Anyway he did relent and agreed to look for another place to stay. I am encouraged by the fact that I was not met with rage, deflection, or too much manipulation. But I am so very unused to addressing or speaking up for my needs. I have spent the last 20 years learning that my role was to keep him happy and facilitate his needs. If I didn’t there was usually some sort of backlash usually rage, manipulation, or just outright dismissal of my needs. I am actually confused right now that I spoke my need and it was met with some but minimal resistance. But I think he knows he has a lot to lose if he acts out right now so he is being very good. I think on some level right now he is seeing himself as the victim because he is trying and I am still keeping my distance, I am becoming the unloving, unchristian wife. I was told by my pastor that he thinks I am hard hearted towards my husband. I am fearful of trusting the lasting nature of these changes.
Where do I go from here? Marriage counseling terrifies me because I don’t want to let him know what I am thinking or he may use it against me or twist it around and confuse me. I also worry about being in the hands of a counselor that does not understand emotional abuse and will be easily manipulated by my very smart and charming husband. I don’t think I am ever going to be able to trust him or feel safe with him again. I just want out I am so exhausted. Is it wrong to want out already? Do I need to try one more time to see if he really is going to change this time? Or can I just start letting go? I would really appreciate some feedback from those of you with some hind sight. Thank you ❤
BeginHealing – Welcome to our small but growing community of people who have experienced or are still experiencing everything you have so well described here. You asked “Do I need to try one more time to see if he really is going to change this time? Or can I just start letting go?”
Let go. He isn’t going to change. Proceed based upon that assumption and you won’t go wrong. All of the feelings that you described within yourself are absolutely valid. In those times when he is not there, you are getting a taste of what life would be like without him. And I imagine that you are seeing that it tastes pretty good!
No, you are correct – you are not going to be able to trust him or feel safe with him again and you are very wise to recognize this. In cases like yours, divorce is a very good thing. He is actually the one who has destroyed the marriage. You will only be filing the paperwork.
Many if not most of our readers would tell you that if they did anything wrong, it was that they stayed in the abuse too long.
If you haven’t done much reading on abuse, please do so. We always recommend, of course, our own books — A Cry for Justice: How the Evil of Domestic Abuse Hides in Your Church and Barbara’s book Not Under Bondage, both available at Amazon. Reading those books will take you a long, long way down the road to healing.
Many blessings in Christ. Stay with us and feel free to tell more of your story in your comments.
BeginHealing – I support all that Pastor Crippen just stated, and would add this. Don’t assume he’s serious about finding another place to stay. That’s an awfully easy thing to delay indefinitely. It would be a good idea for you to consider finding another place to live. His procrastination should not be allowed to block your path to freedom.
BH, The best thing I did was leave my husband almost 5 months ago and legally separate. I had similar issues to yours. I wanted to get a cat when we were first married. His response is go ahead and I’ll kill it. When it was finally his idea for me to have a cat he brought one home like it was a gift. The stories go on and on.
When I first left I said if he would get counseling and I would have access to that person to monitor progress that I might consider meeting with him and consider marriage counseling. It didn’t take long to know these things would never happen and even if they did I would never trust him again. He twists everything I say to make himself look like a martyr. It only took him about a week after I left to find someone to soothe his wounds and tell him how great he is. That person is his X. I now know they are more than just “friends” as he says and I have gone on to the final step with petitioning the court to change the legal separation to divorce.
I hope he does change, but knowing that he has lied to me within the past 48 hours I don’t see it happening, If he does change it will have to be for him. As for me, it won’t matter. The line was crossed so long ago. He threatened me with divorce since a couple of months after the wedding. Of course, that has been twisted as well. He says that I have wanted a divorce for 16 years. That would mean that I wanted to divorce him the day we got married. We have no children together, so I am free.
You have already done far more than should be expected. The line has been crossed.
BeginHealing, I also support everything Pastor Crippen and Joe said. If you haven’t already looked through our Resources page found at the top menu bar, please do. The books that Pastor refers to are there as well as online resources pertaining to “Deciding to stay or leave” and “Safety Planning”. I mention safety planning because often times the abuse will escalate when the victim leaves because the abuser is losing his power and control. I’ve been free for two years, and while my x never hit me his abuse in other ways escalated when I left. Over these past two years his true, hidden heart has been revealed and it is ugly.
Thank you all so much. Pastor Jeff, I bawled when I read what you wrote. Thank you so much for being so direct. One question, if his repentance is real will I be offending God if I still need to leave? Abandonment is only a valid biblical reason for divorce if he is not a believer, right??
I downloaded a few of the books from your site starting with Why Does He Do That?
My breaking point was hit 4 months ago when I was facing an escalating cancer scare and needed surgery. The day before I had to to in for blood work to test for tumor markers he asked me for a divorce. He knew everything I was dealing with and he was with me when I lost my mother to the same cancer. He knew how much this specter scared me. When I asked him why he couldn’t have waited until after I knew for sure that I don’t have cancer he basically told me it wouldn’t have changed his path. We were not in a fight he just came into our room and dropped it on me. He had removed himself from our bedroom the 2 months before this event and was clearly angry with me during this time it was written all over his face. I didn’t ask why he had left our bed because I could just feel the anger rolling off of him and I didn’t want to pull that trigger. Something in me broke the day he asked me for a divorce. We were not the kind of couple that would threaten each other with divorce. Only one time before this did it get thrown out and that was in the middle of a fight. I stepped in when he was yelling at my son and he escalated and REALLY exploded. Threatened to move out and leave me etc…. I should have just let him go at that point. But I fought to have him stay. However, I learned a lesson that day….don’t stand up to him even if he is verbally attacking one of your children. I will have to ask my children for their forgiveness for not protecting them better.
Now he is claiming to be repentant and going through a sanctification. He is meeting with a Christian counselor every other week over the phone. I have no access to this man but I also haven’t asked. I have been seeing a secular counselor. My children are my world. It is killing me what they have been through and what they will still have to face.
BH, I’m not Jeff, but I will throw in my 2 cents. I’m not sure anyone can tell you what to do. You certainly have grounds for divorce, at least from what I have come to see in Scripture and believe.
The question is should you, and that is more tricky. Some things that I would caution is that when someone says they are repenting, the only way to know for sure is time. True repentance, versus temporary remorse is that repentance will have a long lasting, cumulative effect. You will notice not only short term, but long term behavior changes. If a person is just sorry they did something, they can easily slip back into the same behavior.
Unfortunately, you have no way of knowing at this time whether it is real or not and staying could put you and the kids in danger. It could simply be a ploy to get you back and these things often are.
One indicator is whether he has been abusive in any way over the course of your marriage. Was this a one time occurrence or is there a pattern?
What he did to you when you were facing a cancer scare was unconscionable! Even if he wanted a divorce, he could have waited and at least given you a modicum of human compassion. It was cruel and unnecessary, and though the Bible says you should forgive, I don’t see that you have to trust him.
Perhaps Jeff or one of the others has more or better insights, but that is how I see it.
Wendell, this was the most hurtful thing that he has done so far but our life together was mostly about him and my meeting his needs. He was not always awful. But there is a history there. Holes punched in many walls, objects thrown, my needs being repeatedly ignored, my physical boundaries not being respected, my feeling intimidated to speak up or having to wait for the right moment to tell him something he may not like hearing. I have spent almost 20 years trying not to rock the boat and keep him happy. Sadly, this was normal to me. I grew up in a similar situation. I am grateful for the awakening that my loving Father is blessing me with. No matter how painful it is.
I should clarify that my surgery was successful and the final biopsy was benign. I am so grateful that I was spared that awful fate. I think I may have had a complete breakdown if I had cancer along with this awful mess.
Praise God for the diagnosis. I am a cancer survivor and know how it feels!
From your description, he sounds very much like a narcissist and abuser. I think you would be justified and will not offend God.
Be prepared though. There are many in the “c”hurch who will reject you and pressure you to go back. Don’t let them put you under the burden of guilt.
I also used to beg my husband to stay after he would explode and threaten me with abandonment. Finally, the last time he exploded like that, I just let him go. It was the best thing I ever did.
Lundy Bancroft’s book is what got me out of the marriage, but the healing came later through time, and then meeting the people on this blog, and reading their books and discovering what the Bible really says about marriage. It’s been almost 5 years now, my kids are doing well, and God has been faithful.
Hang in there – the answers will come. You don’t have to fight for it – you only have to ask and it will be placed in your hands. xoxo
BeginHealing – Based on my understanding of scripture and your descriptions of ongoing verbal and emotional abuse, you have every right to leave, every right to divorce, and every right to never trust him again.
Only you can decide what you should do. However, I don’t think you need fear offending God in this matter. God is for you and for your children.
For me, biblical examples of abuse and how it was handled help bring clarity. You might enjoy these two posts in which I discussed examples of abuse and forgiveness…one with reconciliation and one without reconciliation: Forgiveness with Boundaries [Internet Archive link] and Reconciled by Trial [Internet Archive link]
Thank you Joe those were well written and helpful. He has asked me for forgiveness but I struggle with letting any part of my barrier down while I am around him. I know I will be able to get to the point of forgiveness. I wish I had the strength for immediate forgiveness like David. Maybe it is because I don’t trust my own ability to maintain a healthy boundary. If I forgive right now I feel like I will be more vulnerable and he will take advantage. But I know I will get to the point of forgiveness and I have told him as much. Joesph’s example is something I can relate to. I need lots of time and space. I am willing to let God teach me through this trail and I will praise Him for walking me through it and for what I learn along the way.
BeginHealing – One take-away for me, from both of these stories, is that in neither case did they allow themselves to be put in a position of vulnerability to the abuser. Both David and Joseph set clearly defined boundaries which they actively defended.
In the case of Joseph, he eventually did reconcile with his brothers, but it took the passage of many years and many tests of character before he was ready to do that.
In the case of David, there never was any reconciliation with Saul.
Both David and Joseph were greatly blessed by God!
Your words of:
“Maybe it is because I don’t trust my own ability to maintain a healthy boundary. If I forgive right now I feel like I will be more vulnerable and he will take advantage. But I know I will get to the point of forgiveness and I have told him as much.”
remind me of David Ausburger’s article on “The F Word”, which is somewhere on this blog. David talks about the mistake churches make in pressing for forgiveness too early in the piece because they don’t recognize that that kind of forgiveness is precisely what keeps the victim in the cycle of abuse in the first place. It is part of the problem, and cannot be offered as a solution in the same form that will draw the victim back to the problem.
It is telling, BeginHealing, that he is the one demanding forgiveness, because he knows that he can maintain domination that way. You seem to be able to see that giving in too quickly will make you vulnerable to his abuse. Seems like a wise self-observation.
That article by David Augsburger about The F Word: Forgiveness and it’s Imitations [Internet Archive link] is on our Resources list. I think it’s on the page What does Scripture Really Say?
Very wise. Forgiving is for you not for him. So that your heart will not bring out the same destruction that your husbands has. Forgiving doesn’t mean resuming unconditional relationship. It doesn’t mean having relationship at all. It means you have let it go. X in my situation doesn’t understand that. He thinks if I have forgiven him I should move back in and start the mess all over again. NOT. It just means that my heart is clear and I do not hold anger for what has been done, but I am on a new path that doesn’t involve him any longer.
I’m so sorry for what you have gone through. Your husband sounds a lot like my ex, so I can really relate and empathize with you. He used to make me sleep on the couch when I was having chest pains or gall bladder attacks because he needed his sleep and I was keeping him up! These type of men are not capable of considering the needs of anyone but their own.
There’s a thread somewhere on here about the dangers of couples counseling. Look under the TAGS for couple’s counseling and scroll down to “The Dangers of Couple’s Counseling.” I just want to be sure you read that in case your therapist or his therapist suggests couple’s counseling. Much harm and even danger can result in attempting couples counseling with an abuser. I myself experienced this because I didn’t know any better and I thought I was doing the right thing, but it only ended up hurting me and the children.
Also, please consider reading Barbara’s book, Not Under Bondage. You can read my review (and many others) of it on amazon. Her book is very enlightening and validating. Jeff’s book, A Cry for Justice, is also a tremendous blessing to those suffering abuse. When I read his book I was amazed and very comforted by how much he understood about what I had endured at the hands of my abuser. (I need to get over there and write a review of his book as well).
God bless you.
All I can say right now is that i feel so very VERY blessed to have found this community. I don’t know any of you but love you all so much for your understanding and support. My inner turmoil these last 4 months has been awful absolutely confusing and awful. I still don’t feel great but I do feel understood and you all are helping me to understand myself better as well. Thank you all so much.
The following comment is by Annie:
Focus on the Family has a booklet called “Should I Get a Divorce: Thing You Should Know Before You Call the Attorney” by Amy Desai, who also wrote a series on Divorce for their website.
While there is no denying the impact of divorce on children and the imperative to warn Christians about the far-reaching consequences of deciding to divorce, the entire article is only addressed to non-abusive marital couples. This not only makes for an imbalanced article by not speaking to the high proportion of couples in trouble because of chronic mistreatment, it is terribly irresponsible by causing harm to those victims by giving them the impression that staying and working at the marriage are the only solutions. The mental, emotional and often physical harm incurred from taking this path is incalculable.
To be fair, the author does not claim that the advice given is applicable only to marriages not touched by abuse. I am being charitable in making that assumption, as it would be even more of indictment on the author if she considers her advice to stay the most appropriate advice to ALL spouses considering leaving the marriage. In one section entitled “Who Gets Divorced?” Amy Desai quoted research to indicate that most couples divorcing do not have a history of high conflict, then she goes on to say that kids in those situations suffer the most. She doesn’t, however, address those couples with intolerable conflict – what are they to do? If she didn’t mean for the booklet to cover those, she should have put a caveat and made it very clear. By not doing so, she is part of the problem of the injustice victims of domestic abuse in the church face. In desperation and under threat, they search high and low for answers, and all they are likely to find in well-known family organisations is advice such as this one. Focus on the Family, you can do better that that!
Agreed. If you’re going to give advice you’ve got to cover the big picture and not minimize what could be happening in the home. I listen to Focus on the Family while at work. Sometimes I would like to reach through the radio and say “what are you doing, do you know what harm you could be causing.” It is Focus on the Family in the same light as Love Your Marriage. What they should say is Focus on the Ideal Family, what they think a family is. And wouldn’t we all like that. Meet the Stepford’s.
Jeff S said to me recently:
The idea that It’s no big deal is exactly what I encountered when I was discovering how many Hebrew scholars had written academic papers saying that “God hates divorce” is a mistranslation of Malachi 2:16. The scholars said in their academic papers that Malachi 2:16 had been mistranslated, but they concluded that it doesn’t matter all that much because the passage is still condemning divorce.
They appeared to have no idea of how the mistranslation stabs victims of abuse. They just have no insight into the experience of victims — they are blind, insensitive, lacking in empathy. And because they are unaware, they make no effort to imagine how these things impact victims.
John Piper teaches no divorce for any reason, which is not scriptural. He realizes that many in his own church, which takes 3 buildings to hold on Sunday morning, do not agree, which I was glad to hear. It is a big deal to me. His book kept me in bondage for 3 years longer than I needed to be, but I was a zombie the entire time. I did not want that man to touch me, hug me. I felt like a molester was touching me. I was past the point of there being any love left. That was gone. I was trying to live with the anti-husband. Everything he had already done had killed the relationship and John Piper’s words and the fact that my church was teaching it was killing me further. I thank God for first finding Leslie Vernick’s books and site and then ACFJ. God’s leadership here saved my life and is giving me a new one.
The divorce should be final in the next few days and with that I am changing back to my maiden name. That is the last control he will have over me. (I hope). In the legal separation He had a paragraph restricting me from changing my name. It will be a hassle making sure I change it everywhere, but I think it will be worth it. Funny things is I hated my maiden name while I had it, but now happy to have it back.
I have been reminded in the last couple of days: I was smugly asked, “Did you think he was just going away when you left?” I will pray for him, which I did do for a while, but have since turned him over to God. For the first time it really bothered me that someone wanted to pray for him even though it should be ok if they should choose to do so.
In his email telling me that he dropped off the signed divorce paper to my attorney, which I have still not confirmed, he stated. “I tell all my family and friends that you hated me, you stole all of the money from the bank accounts, and took everything that wasn’t tied down. You just wanted my money (he had $0 when we met and a mortgage free home and $35k in his 401k when I left). And you had a boyfriend waiting for you.” None of it true, but it still hurts to think that is probably what they will think.
I am much better off now and my relationship with God is stronger, although always room for improvement. Those little digs bite sometimes. Two steps forward, and one step back.
Brenda R – “1 Jn 5:16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life–to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.”
I believe that John is speaking of an apostate. Someone who has professed Christ but through word or action shows that their profession is false. Someone who has heard and heard and heard the gospel, claimed Christ, “tasted” of the benefits of Christ, been in the company of Christ’s people, and yet in reality spurns Christ. Isn’t it interesting? There ARE people that we are not bound to pray for.
Domestic Violence, is not acceptable full stop. Violence against a spouse, because a man reacts physically/verbally to show his stance as the head of the house is unacceptable. It is when a woman like myself learnt to behave because the bible told me to submit myself unto my husband regardless, and when the husband plays on the fact that’s what the word of God says makes a man the hypocrite to the word of God. Gods love is pure and holy, it is not corrupted.
When we hurt another human being, the after feelings we feel are remorse, and we revisit the sinful thoughts we had of doing nothing else but to verbally abuse or worser to physically abuse another human is a sin before God. When Cain slew Abel, he committed a sin. It does not say he committed an act of love. But it made Cain become a vagabond, and when men commit a physical act of violence against their supposed loved one, it displeases God. But when a man repeatedly commits this sin in any form of domestic violence, it bridges a gap and puts a woman in the position of making the choice to leave for her safety and her children’s. At no point did God say to Adam the first man “put her in line with your fist”.
I was a victim for 17 years until I could take it no more. My teenage sons soon became victims in the last 4 years of my marriage to their father.suffered everyday some form of abuse while I went to church and cried out to God, and asked for God to keep me safe from the evil harm and the danger within in my own household everyday. Not outside my house, but the carnal minded man, who backslid when we had our first child in our first year of marriage. A man that never relied on God, but was worldly and put God aside. I chose to live with him through thick and thin, but how much should a woman bear as the weaker vessel? After 17 years, I was exhausted.
After he made my son walk home one day on a highway because he answered his dad in defensive tone of voice, and his father threatened me with violence because my child needed to learn like a dog, I hated him more to the point that I wanted God to take him from this earth. When that same son one day wrote a letter of suicide, and his brother alerted me, I cried and begged him to not do it. You see, my children became victims of a coward who thought he could beat us all to fear him. But really, he lived an abnormal life growing up. Fatherless, and accepting new siblings by different fathers. His heart was hardened and one day he told me of his hate for whores, especially women that bear children to different men and never being married. That was his lame excuse one day after he beat me senseless, because he constantly called me a whore like every other woman. He was acting out hate on me, believing I was his mother. Unfortunately his own insecurities about me killed our love. I tried to get him to counselling, but his pride stopped him, and I was hurt every time for suggesting he needed help.
I never stopped going to my church, then 3 years ago, he decided that he was going to come back to church. I almost fell over myself, because he was still abusive big time. While he was given a role in Sunday School as a teacher, I started to internalise hate because he never acknowledged my efforts for taking our children always to Gods house.
He controlled me, I wasn’t allowed to have Facebook, email, text friends or families while he did. One day God revealed to me he was always an adulterer behind my back. I asked why he had Facebook, and my best friend in the church told me of his Facebook friends comments each time he posted or he posted. One night after church I caught him and the young maiden standing in a courtship stance in the dark in front of our car. He acted guiltily, by saying it’s not like I’m doing anything with her. Well I doubted that he could ever love me again, because we did stop sleeping in the same room for the last four years of our marriage. I became very lonely as well. but I know God was preparing me for my pathway today. Today I’m lonely still, but happy, knowing that God will supply my need of true love one day, but not a carnal minded man, but a man who will love and protect me from evil, harm, and danger outside of my household. We are both seeking divorce now based on irreconcilable differences, mine being domestic violence, his is denial, and our children are happier now, and don’t see me cry anymore or in hospitals, or at the police stations anymore. Or on the phone to my parents who worried constantly. If domestic violence is an act justified by coward men, seen correct by them, then why is there no peace in warring souls. God is a God of peace and love. My next journey in life challenges me to forgive and move on and forward.
Oh wow, Resilient Woman, thanks so much for telling your story! I hope you don’t mind that I added paragraph breaks to it.
We hope you keep coming here and become part of our little cyber community. I think you will find many supportive and likeminded people here. 🙂 Hugs to you.
Well said, Resilient woman. There are many types of murder. Your husband murdered your love for him by his repeated actions. My heart going out to you to you and your children. I know how it feels to be lonely. I was lonely when I was with X and I am lonely now, but it is truly a happy loneliness. I have begun to find ways to serve others and it brings true love to my life. It isn’t the same as having a constant friend there beside me. I honestly don’t know what that would feel like. A Godly man wanting to fill his righteous role in marriage is foreign.
I have decided that if there is another man in my life he must be pink with purple polka dots and since there is no such a man……love through service is wonderful. I prayed for a Christian husband throughout marriage and the answer was no.
Hello. I don’t know how I ended up here, but my husband of 17 years left me and our two sons, just before Christmas. I was planning on leaving him once I could support my kids, but the thing is, who gets married to get divorced? I certainly didn’t, and I was happy initially, although he was always bad with money, but I assumed he would change once he had a family. Boy was I wrong. Not only did he become even worse with money, and always had us behind in rent and bills, but he blamed me for his inability to pay anything. It was my fault, even though he made good money. Certainly enough to look after a family of four. Yes he was controlling. Kicked me once after I stopped him from rubbing my sons nose in his urine after he had an accident. Always nice to others, father, sister etc, never us. Arguments became common, I prayed a lot for things to change. My father died, but he gave very little support and comfort afterwards. The children and I walked on egg shells. I wasn’t perfect and even fell for a man online during the later years when I fell into depression and missing my father, but I was craving love so badly at that time. I was very lost. Hurting, insecure, my faith was dying, I was suicidal, but even when I begged him to listen to me, he said everything was BS. He just hurled cruel words and pushed me away. I asked for patience, understanding and support, but I received none. He was always up to no good on Facebook, even long before I met anyone online. I know what I saw, but he denied it, but never minded calling me a you know what. I needed him, and all he did was fall further behind on everything, not caring if we had power cut off, and my kids were always hungry. I don’t mean to go on, but after he left, and left me with bills, me and the children felt a huge weight lifted from us. My faith was becoming stronger and healthier than ever before, but today I was reading about how God won’t let us divorce because he hates it, My world sank. I mean I always knew divorce was wrong, but this sent me into a mess. I cried to God again and kept crying. I told him he may as well finish me off now, since I’m stuck. I will have to stay in this destructive loveless, financially stressful, abusive, controlling marriage til I die, which really seemed the only way to be free. Then I found this site. I’m not real good at understanding scripture, but this did ease my mind and heart. I went from wanting to jump from a cliff, to smiling again. I need God, and I don’t wanna lose his love, and I don’t want another man. I just need to know he won’t send me away for removing something that was slowly killing everything about me and my children. Thank you
Dear Lost, from what you describe your husband was an abuser and you are fortunate he left. I hope he stays away and doesn’t bother you any more, but if he tries to come back into your life you can tell him you don’t want him back and if he persists go to the police and apply for a protection order. I am so glad you have found our little blog. Stick around, as there are many people here who will support you.
If you haven’t already done so, you might like to read our Info For New Users page. And you might want to subscribe by email (there is a place to do that in the sidebar on the right). Hope you keep coming back. Blessings and (((hugs))) from Barb
Lost – You’ve described a very abusive relationship. I’m so glad God led you to this site. You’ll find lots of support and understanding here. Most of us have been in abusive marriages, ourselves, and many have divorced from the abusive spouse.
No, God does not hate just divorce. In fact, God Himself divorced the kingdom of Israel (composed of the ten northern tribes) as recorded in Jeremiah 3:8, “And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce…”
God uses just divorce as His tool of redemption to deliver His children from covenants of abusive bondage.
For more reading about this false notion that “divorce is sin” you might try this post: Divorce is Sin… Says Who? – Guest Article by Joe Pote
May God bless you, comfort you, guide you, and deliver you!
I agree with Barbara, Joe, and Brenda.
Hello Lost. I’m glad you found us. I was in a very similar situation as you for a very long time. Suffering at the hands of an abusive husband, but feeling hopelesssly trapped because I believed divorce would be sin. Death would have been preferable to continuing on. But God is so good and he lead me to Barbara Robert’s book, “Not Under Bondage,” and to this site, and another book, “Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, the Social and Literary Context” by David Instone-Brewer, and finally the chains fell off and I discovered with joy that I could be free. You can be too! I will be praying for you! You have found a group of people who know what you are going through and who will support and pray for you. Praise God!
Lost, I believe you got here the same way many of us did. God lead us here. I couldn’t tell you how I found this site. I don’t believe I knew the day I found it, but I praise God for it.
If you haven’t already, change the locks. This is not a man you want to come back, at least not as he was. This man was abusing you and your children. Your husband didn’t give you comfort or support when your Father passed. Mine demanded sex the day I buried my grandson. All of us here have similar yet different stories. Your husband left, praise God, I had to leave because mine wouldn’t go. He locked me out of the house before I completely moved out. I don’t know where you live but you should check into the laws in your area. Legal Separation can protect you from his future financial situations. Divorce may not set well with you now, but please think about the fact that he actually abandoned you and your family long before he walked out the door.
You will find support here. I will be praying for you as I know others will be. I suggest you read Barbara’s book. While you are reading it read all of the scripture that is used within it. Ask God for wisdom as you read. Ask for his guidance in your situation. Hugs and prayers are headed your way-they will know how to get there!! : )
Barbara – this is SUCH a valuable and helpful insight. THANK YOU! Malachi 2:16 makes so much more sense now and I am so grateful for your and Joe Pote’s voices on this. So glad you posted the link to it on the CT article.
Thanks Bronwyn. I always am encouraged when people appreciate what I have written about Malachi 2:16. 🙂 Blessings to you.
Can I change my mind and say yes please to reviewing your book? I was under the impression that it was soon-to-be-released and I would need to read it ASAP, but I see now it is very much released and reviewed. I would like to read it and review it if I didn’t have a deadline 🙂
Great Bronwyn. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you a review copy.
my ex abused me and the kids… when I left him he gave me the “GOD HATES DIVORCE” cry… I asked him 2 questions… 1. if God hates divorce then why did you divorce the wife before me… to which he said that was ok because he “wasn’t in the will of God then… question 2… does God like you to abuse us… he said he didn’t abuse only teaching us the “right way” he never thought that he abused us…. he is dead now .. hope he repented with the Lord before he died..
That’s amazing, Barbara…really eye-opening and hope-giving. Thank you! I have been afraid to divorce/separate because I don’t want to be forced apart from my children. One minute, he threatens..the next, he says I’m right. Last week he road-raged with us all in the car. I am reading Should I Stay or Should I go by Lundy Bancroft right now. Trying to gather resources and make new boundaries, which seem to be unsuccessful..but not giving up yet. This reminds me of the story when Jesus saved a woman from being stoned. The church doesn’t seem much above the men of Jesus’ day- same critical, judging spirit.
Thanks for the encouragement, NT wife. I understand your fear and the dilemma you are in. Glad to hear you are reading stuff by Lundy. 🙂
Thanks to this post I researched just a wee bit this morning on these verses, comparing a few translations and commentaries. How refreshing it was to read the following in Matthew Henry’s Unabridged Commentary: “In all this they covered violence with their garment; they abused their wives, and were vexatious to them, and yet, in the sight of others, they pretended to be very loving to them and tender of them, and to cast a skirt over them. It is common for those who do violence to advance some specious pretence or other wherewith to cover it as with a garment. “Thanks for the encouragement to really study this for ourselves. How sad that this topic is neglected by the church in general. I suppose if leaders don’t think this issue affects them personally, it’s a subject that’s not worth looking into – and yet Jesus said to Peter, “if you love Me, feed My sheep.” Still, a few lambs are left to wander off alone, some aimlessly, as the church abandons them. Thanks again. Here’s the link: Malachi – Chap. II [Internet Archive link]
Hi Newlyanon, I know about that commment by Matthew Henry. I did not refer to it in my book or in any of my blog posts. Why? Because while the comment does give encouragement to victims of abuse, Henry was in error to say the the garment covers the violence. In the Hebrew text, the garment is the thing that is covered, not the thing that covers something else.
Many translations and commenters get this wrong. They think that the garment covers the violence, but in fact the violence covers the garment. The phrase “he covers his garment with violence” is probably a Hebrew idiom rather like “he has blood on his hands” — i.e. he is guilty.
The misunderstanding of what covers what is not a big deal, but I prefer not to recycle an incorrect idea.
Not wanting to pour too much cold water on you discovery, since you found it helpful (validating) because it talks about how abuse is covert and disguised under the “Mr Nice Guy” facade. But I’m a bit of a stickler for accurate use of scripture.
I hope this makes sense. If not, tell me and I’ll try to explain it more.
Barbara and Newlyanon –
You might enjoy this recent post on my blog, in which I discuss the contrast between the phrase “covers his garment with violence” and the word translated as “treacherously” which has a literal meaning of “covers violence as with a garment.”
Biblical Word Play [Internet Archive link]
It seems to me this may be an intentional play on words, in Hebrew/Chaldean…especially since they both are used in the same verse…
Barbara, I too am a stickler for accuracy in Scripture and so I greatly, greatly appreciate your correction here on Henry’s misinterpretation. Thank you. I likewise appreciate your graciousness in not wanting to “pour cold water” on what I found to be encouraging. I think I was so delighted because so few men of God seem to recognize the insidious covert deceiver for who he is – and so many victims remain unsupported by the church. I can’t tell you how very much the ministry of this website, as well as Jeff’s book (and yours, which I hope is on Kindle soon – still praying for those volunteers!) mean to me. Thank you again!
I have a question. Domestic abuse is indeed tragic; it doesn’t help that many an Evangelical Pastor and ‘mature’ Christians are guilty of this sin, and it is indeed left unaddressed in most cases…
[ note from Barb: the bulk of this comment has been deleted because it would have been to triggering for many of our readers. It was basically a question about why I say divorce is permitted for domestic abuse, and how I reconcile that with the dire situation in which marriage as an institution is in today.]
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!
TBR I suggest you read my book as it will answer your question. And you could also read these posts as supplementary reading:
Please Don’t Pray That My Marriage Will be Restored
To pray for our abusers… or not? (we don’t need to pray for the sin that leads to death)
The bottom line is, the importance of upholding the institution of marriage does not trump the safety of the individuals within it. It is useless, and not righteous, to try to keep a marriage going when it is characterised by coercive control. When a ‘marriage’ is a place not of love and companionship and mutual respect, but a place where one partner is destroying the life and soul of the other partner it is not a marriage, it is an anti-marriage. And no amount of prayer and longsuffering by the oppressed partner can change the wickedness of an abuser.
BTW, I removed the URL you had given so it is not able to be found by anyone who clicks on your gravatar. I will not enter into debate with you on our publishing policy. You can find it under our ‘Our Beliefs’ tab in the top menu.
Barbara, I think you may have misunderstood the intent and the gist of my comment. The question is more about a proper ‘Gospel’ response to painful relationships / friendships than it is about protecting an ‘institution’ (of abuse, etc…).
There are options that exist for protecting the abused party; yet you seem to find divorce to be the ONLY option. Which I find ungracious1…
Btw, I wholeheartedly agree with you on the principle of what needs to be done to protect a woman and children from abuse (the LAW). But what happens when the mom and children cannot sustain themselves on their own? For some families (many, where I live), this is very tough as the wife is likely to come from an extremely poor background and is likely to have to leave her suburbia environment to go back to a squatter-camp; which still doesn’t even guarantee that her family will be able to eat anything. Abusive men know this and they will use every opportunity to continue to do their evil deed unless someone brings in both the Law and the GOSPEL to ‘restore’ the situation, not merely to ‘end it’.
So, you and I agree on what that man deserves (divorce, possibly jail time); but I want to talk about something else: what he doesn’t deserve. I want to talk about the Gospel of grace.
1I know this is a difficult topic. Abuse, much like prejudice (which I’ve experienced a great many times), is painful and it always borders on the ‘irrational’ to openly talk about it; but I think focusing on the Gospel can help us in being more effective in reaching out to various perpetrators and others who do not understand your point of view. I feel like I’m being misunderstood and dismissed because of the lack of Gospel-centredness in this dialogue.
Maybe I am wrong. Keep well.
Okay TBR, I shall reply to your comment more fully when I have the time.
In the meantime, I still encourage you to check out my book as I have a chapter in it called Biblical Action Steps in which I refer to the many biblical texts which endorse Christians separating from their opponents and persecutors and from those who reject the gospel or who disregard important precepts for godly living. The biblical principle of separation applies across a spectrum, with different degrees of separation being suitable in response to different degrees of sinful conduct.
TBR, I’m not Barbara, but I’m following this thread. With respect to your words “restore the situation, not merely to end it,” may I suggest that you read the post “Please Don’t Pray that my Marriage Be Restored”? Please Don’t Pray That My Marriage Will be Restored It explains in a reasonable way, not “bordering on the irrational” (as you write) why many of us still living with abuse (whether separating or not) reject presentation of the gospel ad infinitum. Many of us have been living and presenting the gospel for years if not decades, and many of us find that Jesus’ words re: time to shake the dust off your feet and move on applicable to our situations. Many also suffer traumatic stress given the length and (ofttimes deceptive) nature of the abuse, so it would gracious on your part to extend these victims a little understanding with respect to their needs and anguish and not just focus on presentation of the gospel to perpetrators of abuse who (more often than not) know the gospel and wield it like a sword.
TBR, if a victim of abuse is going to be exposed to the risk of poverty and starvation because she leaves her abuser, that means the society she lives in needs to improve its justice system, its economic inequities, and its social welfare services. The problem of poverty and social inequity is grave, certainly, but to play the ‘risk of poverty’ card (as you have done) to try to argue for restoration of the marriage is a false argument and a red herring.
The gospel certainly applies to all people. The gospel applies to abusers with the firm force of the Law of God: repent of your sins and fall humbly before Christ. Most abusers do not repent. That’s the reality which we know and which multitudes of Christian victims confirm. Abusers often feign repentance, they perform some semblance of shallow, partial repentance, but the core heart change does not happen. So the gospel message that applies in such cases is:
— the continuing call issued by God for the hard-hearted abuser to repent, which the abuser generally continues to disregard— and God has warned that He will not strive with man forever, and Judgement Day is coming;
— the instruction to the believer to ‘have nothing to do’ with such people, to avoid them (2 Tim. 3:1-5); to decidedly disassociate from them and treat them as unbelievers (1 Cor 5:9-13), and yes, if the victim so chooses, that may include divorce (1 Cor. 7:15).
I do not say that all victims should or must divorce their abusers. I only say that a victim is free, biblically speaking, to divorce if she or he so wishes. I let the victim choose what to do, whether to divorce, whether to separate, whether to have a separation under the same roof, or whatever.
I do not tell each victim to divorce. You have mischaracterized me there. I am not in a position to tell a particular victim what is best to do in her situation. But I do with confidence tell victims that if they divorce their abusers, that act of divorce will not be a sin on the victim’s part. The sin lies in the court of the abuser: it was and is the abuser’s evildoing and hardness of heart which so egregiously trashed and trampled the marriage covenant that the victim has full liberty to divorce if she (or he) so decides.
It was a long hard road for me to get to the place where I could say God is allowing me to divorce this man. It was so difficult to imagine that it wasn’t sin and it was actually allowed and I was not condemned to brokenness and loneliness just because he chose sexual addiction and infidelity and sin. I was lucky enough to have a church and wonderful pastors who walked with me and encouraged me. It was my own sense of judgement that weighed me down…my own sense of the Christian body telling me that “God hates Divorce”….end of story. I now have so much more compassion and am much more appreciative of the grace God extends us in the area of broken, unfaithful, abusive spouses! I passionately believe that the church needs to step up and stand with victims and hold wayward spouses accountable while educating everyone about recognizing when and how the covenant isbroken and what God allows. Thank you!
What a great post!! Well said. So many people I want to share with. This is an eye opener for me because never could reconcile this passage with other scriptures.
Thanks for the encouragement MaxGrace! Share it far and wide! So many people need to understand this. 🙂
Thank you for addressing this topic. To those of us who feel so helpless in an abusive marriage AND love the Lord with all their heart mind and soul… It’s hope. Because the last thing I want to do is make a huge life decision knowing that God doesn’t support it. All the while suffering physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually from the abuse that continues to haunt me. 😭
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