A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Open Letter to Authors of Christian Marriage Books

Dear Authors of Christian Marriage Books,

Hey! Thanks for reading! First, I want to say thank you for getting all this wonderful material out there. You poured your heart and minds into your marriage theories. It takes guts to write a book. You are REALLY putting yourself out there.

I am sure that you recognize that we, at ACFJ (well, I don’t as much but most of the team) focus our energy on debunking theology that causes bondage. Jeff Crippen and Barbara Roberts have even written books to accomplish this. And, as a counselor, I recognize more and more each day that much of counseling is correcting theology that keeps women in abusive patterns in their thinking. Theology such as . . . patriarchy, divorce as a sin, etc. I owe a debt of gratitude to authors like Jeff and Barb for helping me sort through my own issues in this area. So, from time to time, we will review books . . . or bring books up that have caused a great deal of harm to suffering women. Your book might be on that list.

There really is no reason for you to listen to me. I do not think I am more special than anyone else. I do have some education and some experience. But, I am hoping that sharing my heart will touch yours.

I am in a healthy marriage now but I was not before. After a few years of continued healing from an abusive past, I can actually pick up a marriage book here and there and draw wisdom from it. That is because I am in a marriage where both my husband and I desire to love each other, to try and to truly resemble the Gospel of Christ and His Bride. However, when I was married to an abuser, your books were ammunition to my very soul. See . . . what we all feel you don’t understand is that an abuser will use anything to guilt and manipulate his victim. Anything. Your books were relished by my ex and ‘c’hristians around me and used to show me all of my shortcomings. They became books of accusations and additional law to the already heavy burden that was heaped upon my shoulders. And this tactic is not new. It is ancient. In fact, the Enemy, himself, used the Word of God (of all things!) to accuse Jesus. So, naturally, wicked men will use anything written by Christians, as well.  One member of our ACFJ team recently wrote this in a private thread:

The way I see it, there is no particular doctrine or system of theology, at least not within Christendom, responsible for abuse.  Abusers will pick up anything and use it for their abusive ends.  Satan did it with God’s word from the very beginning and has not stopped and even used God’s word against Him in the dessert, and it doesn’t get more right than straight from God’s mouth.  Abuse is about abusers, not the tools they use, because everything becomes a tool they use.  If you see what I mean. 

Personally, it is difficult for me to wrap my  mind around that fact that most of you do not even address the rampant abuse that is going on everywhere . . . . even in — nay, especially in — the Church. I don’t understand how one can write a marriage advice book without addressing it? Entitlement and abuse are the diseases of our culture right now . . . and their contagion is in the church. Perhaps you believe that people will just understand that your books are for those in healthy marriages. That makes no sense to me, seeing as a very small slice of the population have healthy marriages. Perhaps you assume that the Church does not have many abusive marriages?  This, too, is a nonsensical assumption, based on the divorce rates in the Church right now. I cannot speak for everyone on this team (I believe most would want an entire chapter) when I tell you that ALL I ASK is that you put a STRONG disclaimer at the beginning of your marriage advice books at the very least. Like this:

Just like anything else, this book is not meant to be a tool for brow-beating your spouse. This book is only intended to make strong marriages stronger. This book cannot be expected to help heal relationships where either spouse is an abuser.

Then, maybe just a definition of abuse. I like this one:

Abuse is fundamentally a mentality. It is a mindset of entitlement. The abuser sees himself* as entitled. He is the center of the world, and he demands that his victim make him the center of her world. His goal is power and control over others. For him, power and control are his natural right, and he feels quite justified in using whatever means are necessary to obtain that power and control. The abuser is not hampered in these efforts by the pangs of a healthy conscience and indeed often lacks a conscience.

While this mentality of power and control often expresses itself in various forms of physical abuse, it just as frequently employs tactics of verbal, emotional, financial, social, sexual and spiritual abuse. Thus, an abuser may never actually lay a hand on his wife and yet be very actively terrorizing her in incredibly damaging ways.

Abuse in any of its forms destroys the victim’s person. Abuse, in the end, is murder.

* Sometimes the genders are reversed.

I get it. You have poured your life’s work into your theories. You will defend them unto the death. It makes sense. Who would want to go back and undo all of that? So, I ask you to open your heart, please. Toward compassion. I want, very much, to believe that, if you knew — if you truly knew — how many victims are beat down with your life’s work, that you would add an addendum, do a re-print, make a disclaimer at the beginning of the book . . . something. Let the world of Christendom know that you will not contribute to the abuse of those who are oppressed. Now, you know. And I am appealing to your Christ-likeness. Because Christ would never contribute to abuse. He was the very opposite. Indeed, he came to set the captives free.

Sincerely,

Megan Cox

* * *

Update 18 Aug 2014, added by Barb.

Here’s a good idea! A rating system for marriage books using three color codes on the front of the book:
1) blue is for disappointing marriages
2) orange is for dealing with difficult marriages
3) red (stop sign perhaps??!) is used to identify books dealing with destructive marriages.

[This idea came from a reader’s comment at another post]

81 Comments

  1. Meg, just as I was typing a critique for a friend re one of these “Christian marriage books,” this blog post came in! Perfect timing! You said EXACTLY what I was trying to communicate to my friend. The book supposedly is to help separated or divorced people “recover,” but so far, it is having the opposite effect. Thank you!

  2. Well said.

    Now that I’m out, I can see how healthy marriages can be strengthened through some of the advice offered in *some* of the books out there. (Some. Others just need a good burning but that’s another story. ) But it still smarts knowing how the opinions of men (actually, mostly women) were presented as law and used to beat me into submission to a force that refused to bow to the Almighty.

    As you say, an entire chapter and a list of resources would be a big help in any book on marriage, even if it’s in the appendix.

  3. Good word, Megan, solid thoughts.

  4. Persis

    Thank you, Megan. You’ve said what was on my heart much more graciously than I ever could.

    I came across a quote from a beloved author of marriage/women’s books that could possibly be used to counsel women to remain in an abusive situation and provide ammo for the abuser. It certainly set off my alarm bells. I want to give the author the benefit of the doubt because abuse, especially in Christian homes, isn’t even on the radar for most people. I don’t know how well my concerns would be received because people get defensive about their favorite authors. But this isn’t about attacking people. This is about bringing issues into the light and raising awareness.

  5. BeginHealing

    I hope this is read and applied 🙂 He came to set the captives free ❤

  6. thepersistentwidow

    Meg, this is a great post. I can’t comprehend how the authors of Christian marriage books, most of them degreed counselors, can continue to ignore the presence of abuse in this world. What benefit is a counselor who chooses to ignore the fact that there are people with defiant, evil personalities who have no intention whatsoever to love their spouse but to use them? Regardless of how many years of study it took to get such a degree, what benefit is such a deficient outlook if it doesn’t provide real help? I can’t think of any reason to consult with or buy books from someone who is working with misinformation and blatant ignorance. Christians should insist on wise counselors not fools.

    If these authors live such sheltered lives that they are unaware of abuse and continue to cause more harm than good through their intervention, they should find other work and leave counseling to those who are properly trained. It is a great evil that they are pandering these worthless books to Christ’s suffering people causing more them more pain and potential danger. If they intend that these books not be used in cases of abuse, they should state that plainly.

    I think that these authors know exactly what they are doing. I think that for whatever reason, they have a hidden agenda to force marriage permanency theology on people and have predetermined the outcome of their “counseling” service before the couple walks in the door or buys their book. Seemingly they concur with Piper, the only enforceable marriage vow is “Til death do you part.”

    • Patty

      Sadly, research shows that fewer than 10% of therapist pick up on domestic violence in vignettes designed to show domestic violence and even fewer have any training on domestic abuse. Too many are biased by their theology or training to see the problem in “communication” or the “emotionality of women.” We have a long way to go.

  7. lydia

    I have seen those books make some healthy marriages unhealthy because one spouse totally bought into following some man made formula for marriage

    • Lovesthetruth

      Unfortunately Lydia….so have I!

    • That’s interesting Lydia. Would you be able to flesh your comment out in more detail? Don’t say anything that would be too identifying of the persons involved, but paint us more of a picture if you can about what happened and how those healthy marriages devolved and what marriage formula was being applied. You can make a composite story of several cases into one, if that would help keep the individuals identities from being guessed.

  8. Carmen S.

    Jeff or Barb,
    You might want to link to a Huffington Post article.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-shore/pastors-and-domestic-viol_b_858363.html

    Why Pastors Struggle With Confronting Domestic Violence ( John Shore 05/9/11)

    • Anonymous

      Carmen S — thank you for the Huffington Post link — so well written — vivid word pictures —

      Guys who abuse their wives and children are typically the friendliest, most sincere, open, warm, kind, generous, good-natured people you’d ever want filling your hat with horse crap when you’re not looking. …They could talk the stink off a skunk. And guess who’s at the top of the list of people the abuser is determined to fool? Exactly: The family pastor. Who is very much inclined to love and trust people…. A pastor faced with a domestic violence problem is like a football player faced with a curling stone: he kind of knows what to do with it, but not really.

    • StrongerNow

      Excellent article. He covers all of the reasons that pastors fall short when faced with Domestic Violence. It’s just surreal as a battered wife to sit in the counseling chair and describe the things your husband is doing to you, and have your pastor dismiss your story. I walked away asking myself, “Does he think I’m a raving lunatic? How could he listen to what I said, and not see that something needs to be done? Either I need to be protected – if it’s all true – or I need to be put away – if I’ve imagined it!”

    • Still Scared( but getting angry)

      Especially the not wanting to believe in evil. The Big Foot analogy was great.

  9. Megan C, well done! I remember myself being oblivious to abuse, what it is/does, and relating to it as a Christian. Combined with wanting to “let my light shine” and “help” other married women. Thinking I was priviledged with “special knowledge.” I still look back and shudder. But had I known I would have modified or kept quiet. Knowledge/ “special knowledge” puffs up and that is probably one more reason James 3:1 says not many should teach. Luckily one woman practically ate me alive so I wasn’t so bold after that. Not that she was right in handling it that way but still sometimes we should rebuke sharply (although in her case she went overboard). God bless.

  10. granonine

    This is an excellent letter. As one of those beleaugered Christian counselors, it is important to me that you all know that there IS one of us out there who sees, understands, realizes that abuse exists in Christian homes and churches, often under the guise of submission and God-given leadership. Years ago, I heard a renowned speaker on marriage and the family yell from his pulpit that “You men need to get your wives in LINE!” More recently, I heard a pastor counsel a woman that other women had put up with a lot more than she had, and as long as there were no broken bones she needed to stay in the marriage.

    Are you all angry now? I don’t blame you. Me too. There is nothing godly about any of that, and I’m so glad that there are others out there who are saying so.

    • Granonine, I think I can guess what you mean by ‘beleagured Christian counselors’ but would you care to explain it more, so I can see whether my guess is correct? 🙂

      And btw, if you haven’t already seen them you may be interested in these posts we published a while ago by Catherine DeLoach Lewis, a Christian counselor:

      https://cryingoutforjustice.blog/2013/08/20/interview-with-catherine-deloach-lewis-part-one/
      https://cryingoutforjustice.blog/2013/08/21/interview-with-catherine-deloach-lewis-part-2/

      • granonine

        Beleagured. Well, as I’m sure you’re aware, not all Christians believe that Christian counseling is necessary or even appropriate, taking the position that it’s just a sin problem; get right with God and you’ll be healed of everything. And there are believers who come to my office expecting me to change whoever in their lives is creating their angst, which of course is impossible 🙂 Sometimes I get couples. The man wants me to set his wife straight, and the wife wants me to turn her lion into a lamb. And then, one of my favorite but most difficult client-category includes the survivors of abuse ranging from childhood molestation to domestic violence. I’m thankful that I have a pastor who is grateful that there are Bible-believing counselors out there to help pastors with the incredibly difficult job of helping people in a world where everything we grew up believing is being attacked by Satan in every conceivable way. Yes, sometimes I feel beleagured. But, you know, I wouldn’t give it up for the world, and most of the time I’m just so thankful to be doing the work God has given me.

        And thanks for the links!

      • Thanks Granonine. So the beleaguered bit is referring to how some Christians scoff at counseling. I get it.

      • granonine

        🙂

  11. freeing hope

    So much insight in your post, Megan! I’m going to share it on my facebook pages. Well-intentioned people need to wake up and see that their “good intentions” are contributing to abuse.

    • MeganC

      Thank you, friend!

  12. Valerie

    I can’t count the number of marriage books I have on my shelves. Over the years I was continually seeking how to be a better wife since my husband was consistently telling me in subtle ways I was not doing a good job at pleasing him and that my expectations where too high. I also obediently read books on how to please your husband sexually (some written from Christian perspectives) when he told me this was my issue. Before I realized I was in an abusive marriage I didn’t really question the fact that he was not reading these books along with me. Somehow I convinced myself that the health of the marriage was my responsibility since I was the relationship creature in our marriage. I know now this is unbiblical. How can a woman bear the responsible for the health of the marriage when she is instructed to be submissive (defer to) her husband?

    I cried many, many hours while reading these books. There were days I had to force myself to keep reading when inwardly I was crying. “I’m already doing that!!”. I felt like a failure. I felt shame. I felt hopeless. As I saw it for the most part I was doing all these books were saying I should do and yet I was so unhappy in our marriage and my husband was unhappy with me.

    These kinds of books were a real setback to me and I wince as I recall asking my husband how I was doing in some areas or how I could improve on specific things that were mentioned in these books. I was feeding him venom to poison me with.

    That said, I do think there are marriages that can be helped by the advice given in these books. I have friends who are disrespectful to their husbands. I see husbands who don’t see the need to know their wives. Women who do constantly nag and expect their husband to meet all their emotional needs. Not every marriage is abusive and can be strengthened through awareness.

    But….to those in abusive marriages these books can only increase a sense of shame and false guilt. Yet scripture can also be used against victims in the wrong way. Anything can be a weapon in the wrong hands.

    More disclaimers may help but ultimately we as a community of believers must be more aware that abuse is real, even in households professing the name of Christ.

    [Note from Barb Roberts: I have bolded some of the text in Valerie’s comment in the hope that if authors and counselors are quickly scanning this thread, they will at least read the bold parts.]

    • MeganC

      Thank you for your comment, Valerie. And welcome to our blog — we are glad to have you here. I felt like I could have written your entire first paragraph. So many of us have been there before and it is a very hopeless and dismal place to be. 😦 And, yes. Hopefully, in the future, more and more people will become aware of how rampant abuse is in our culture — especially the Christian culture. Big hugs to you, friend.

    • Anonymous

      Is it possible to have ‘twin marriages’? Valerie, you described it very well. MeganC … Thank you for this post. I haven’t had a chance to read all the reviews but I found this ACFJ link which links to several book reviews.
      https://cryingoutforjustice.blog//?s=book+reviews&submit=Search https://cryingoutforjustice.blog/2013/05/07/reviewing-books-on-amazon/
      If there are better links, let us know as the reviews have prompted me to budget for the purchase of the “recommended” books:-)

    • Lovesthetruth

      Valerie I could have written your first paragraph also! That is exactly what has happened to me. It took me SO LONG and so many tears to finally get it! I’m just glad I got it!! And I’m glad for blogs like this one 🙂

      • Leslie

        Me too!

  13. I’ve share this post on my FB wall. It’s great Meg. So compassionate and gracious. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • MeganC

      Thanks, Barb. xoxo

  14. Annie

    Great post, Megan! It’s not just authors of Christian books, but moderators of Christian marriage websites and facebook pages that also need to take note. Not only do they often fail to address abuse in marriage, those who do include a sentence or two do not adequately define what abuse is. This is so vital for abuse victims who often do not understand what they are facing, and equally important for those who are friends of the abused, who need to be educated to recognize abuse. Instead, they are often trained by these teachings to overlook, dismiss or minimize abuse claims and add to the injury.

    • freeing hope

      So right, Annie!

    • MeganC

      Absolutely, Annie! Thank you!

  15. Anon

    Now is there any way of getting this letter to these authors?

    • One way (of many) is for readers who can safely do so sending the link to an author of their choice. Either on the author’s own website, their FB page if they have one, their church, their seminary email address, their twitter feed, their google+ account, etc. Please take this action of your own accord, and feel free to do it liberally! Or print it out and send it by snail mail. 🙂

  16. Brenda R

    Megan, You’ve out done yourself. This is a wonderful letter. Whether or not it will penetrate the hard hearts and heads of the authors of these books remains to be seen.

    Carmen: Thank you for the article. It was a good read.

  17. Robert Simpson

    Another observation: An abusive pastor who manipulated/abused his wife into doing his bidding, carried his abuse into the church, (I was his first target), and when I began resisting, she stood by his side and began her own abusive tactics and enabled him to continue his abuse. We had to leave our church of 22 years as there was no repentance after the issue was confronted. Her learning was, “If the wife just submitted/did what the husband wanted, there wouldn’t be abuse. And likewise if I would just do what her husband wanted (submission) there wouldn’t be conflict.” My gifts were to be buried so he could be in control. That is abuse in the home and in the church. This is a murder/rape of the soul. And it is taking time to heal.

    • Robert, those exact same words were used by another abusive husband I know about. This man said to his pastor, “I told my wife that if she just submitted to me there wouldn’t be conflict. When she did that, our marriage got much better.” This man has been proven, over and abundantly, to be an abuser. And sadly, his wife is totally in accord with him and they abuse people together.

      • Victoria

        That was the mentality of my ex as well. His excuse for any conflict was that ‘we don’t agree”. Translation: I needed to think like him and do exactly as he said. I was to have no mind of my own, no opinions, and he expected complete obedience. We were to be of one mind: his! I focused on him in our “marriage”….and he focused on him as well. There was always that veiled threat that if he didn’t get his way I would regret it. Of course, when I did comply to keep the peace he would always find new ways to stir up problems and raise the bar to keep me trying harder.

        At the emergency hearing after he was investigated for child abuse and removed from the home, he told the judge, “my wife and I don’t agree on how to raise the kids”. Yeah, I didn’t agree to beating them in the name of “discipline”, and he saw that as a marriage conflict!

      • Brenda R

        Victoria,
        It is hard to imagine a man saying that beating his children and your not agreeing to it was a “marriage conflict”. Of course, I was told that if my daughter needed to be slapped across the head, he would do it. We did have words about that one as she was not even a year old at the time. He never did hit her, he spoiled her. It was me and my son that he hit.

      • At the emergency hearing after he was investigated for child abuse and removed from the home, he told the judge, “my wife and I don’t agree on how to raise the kids”.

        That is minimization on steroids! with a pinch of subtly covert blame shifting thrown in for good measure!

    • Victoria

      We had a pastor and wife exactly as like this for many years. The wife was in “perfect submission” to her arrogant husband, and my ex delighted in comparing me to her (unfavorably, of course). They greatly enabled my ex and I was still in the fog of thinking if only I tried harder, maybe he would stop being mean and demanding…
      I confided some of the abuse to the pastor’s wife and being the good little Stepford that she was, she told her husband, who then went on to tell mine. You can imagine the repercussions at home of that little scenario. The pastor told me that I needed to submit more and watch my attitude to avoid getting him angry (have you heard that one before?). He went on to say that the man is capable of a big blow up, but only after the wife does a thousand little things to irritate him and build up his anger. So it was my fault.

      I ended up feeling very unsafe around those people.

      • Brenda R

        Victoria,

        What about the thousand little things that he would do that could irritate you? That is such an ignorant issue on his part. It puts the wife in a place of needing to be perfect in order to not irritate her husband. I only know of One who was perfect and He died on a cross for my sins.

  18. Amy

    What a fantastic post! I cannot count the number of Christian marriage books I read throughout my 20 year abusive marriage and every single one of them made me feel even more hopeless. The Love and Respect book was one of the worst, along with The Love Dare, ugh!
    Finally, I found Lundy Bancroft’s book, Why Does he Do That and finally came to realize that the abuse wasn’t a marriage issue which could be resolved by following some formula of loving and respecting more. The abuse was my ex’s own problem and although it was destroying our marriage it was his issue that only he could fix if he so chose to… which he didn’t. It was easier to blame me for his problems, for a marriage falling apart. So be it, I’m just glad to rid of him and now in a healthy marriage for over two years.
    I will definitely be sharing this post on my blog.

    Eds. note: Mark Baker has a 12-page PDF that exposes the biblical error of the Love & Respect book by Eggerichs.

    • MeganC

      Thanks, Anon. Yes . . . You hit the nail on the head there — ” . . . abuse wasn’t a marriage issue which could be resolved by following some formula of loving and respecting more.”

      We put a tremendous burden on the victim when we make her responsible for changing an abuser. Only Christ can do such a work in the heart of a human being!

  19. Hester

    So after seeing it recommended here, I’m reading How to Spot a Dangerous Man Before You Get Involved by Sandra Brown. When it came in the mail I was idly paging through it, and on the page I opened to was a list of healthy vs. unhealthy relationship characteristics. It struck me as I read through that list that about 50% of the things in the “unhealthy” column are promoted by Christian marriage books, conferences, etc. Some, like various forms of manipulative behavior, are even billed as “cute” and turned into jokes. That pretty much says everything IMO.

    • Brenda R

      Hester.

      Thank you for bringing that up. I need that book.

    • Just be aware, readers, that Sandra Brown seems to have quite a hard-sell approach on her website and in her emails if you subscribe to them (my opinion). I have not read her book.

    • Also, again speaking personally, I find that Brown often uses the term ‘pathological’ for the abuser. That may be appropriate in some ways, but when she talks about ‘women who are in relationships with pathologicals’ I find it off-putting because it seems to have shades of blaming the victim. I don’t think that Brown herself necessarily has a blame-the-victim attitude, but that expression she uses could easily be interpreted or used by others who DO have a blame-the-victim attitude hidden in the cracks somewhere.

      • I’m not done with the book yet but it seems good so far. It is very geared to women who have been previously involved with the various types of dangerous men she describes, which is not me (young single woman planning to start dating soon and reading the book to help me avoid a bad situation in the first place). Her definition of “dangerous man” also includes more psychological profiles than the ones frequently discussed here (NPD, sociopath, etc.), though the resulting behaviors she describes are usually abusive to some degree.

        And yes, you’re right, there is some phraseology in the book that could be twisted into victim-blaming by hostile parties. In context it seems to be Brown encouraging women to examine the reasons they got involved with the dangerous man in question. So I agree with you that Brown probably isn’t victim-blaming herself, but her language could be abused.

        It’s also important to remember that she has in mind two consenting adults, not something like clergy sex abuse or pedophilia where there are consent-complicating factors involved from the start, esp. in the chapter on married/engaged men who have affairs (thinking of the Doug Phillips situation here).

        I’m considering reviewing the book when I’m done, mostly in light of the Christian marriage teaching element I mentioned above.

      • Thanks Hester. Shoot us an email with a heads up for that post you’re planning, if you can.

      • Brenda R

        Barb, Is this another book that should have warning labels on it? I think my gut is really starting to see warnings on it’s own. It only took 56 years to start looking for them. : )
        I thought the book sounded like a good read, but perhaps I should just listen for the signs.

      • I think Hester’s review of it will be helpful. And I’ll ask Katy to review it as well for our blog. Not that we don’t trust you Hester, but Katy being a survivor of domestic abuse may have a slightly different response to the book than you (hester).

      • No, I get it. I’ve tried to train myself to anticipate others’ triggers, but I fully admit that my lack of them personally might still cause me to miss something that would set someone else off. I do think it would be really helpful, though, for people to read those two perspectives side by side, about the same book – you don’t often see that.

        FWIW, if we’re using the Amazon system, at the moment the book seems to landing in the neighborhood of 4 stars, with 1 star knocked off for the ambiguous terminology discussed above.

  20. IamMyBeloved's

    Great post, Megan. Read so many of these books myself, just trying to figure out how to stop the abuse and be a better wife, because of course it was my fault that he was abusing. These books truly did nothing more than to solidify the falseness of my belief – it was somehow my fault. I now find them all to be a “works” based message and find that they were all used against me by the abuser and each time I would apply their “truths” to my life, the abuse escalated. I have seen enough godly couples now to know, that marriage between two godly Christians can be beautiful. But I have also seen that most of those couples do not even read books like the ones I read, and that the patriarch teachings from these books only enable an abuser to continue to abuse. What you have stated about a godly marriage is true. No one living in abuse, has what can be qualified as a “godly marriage”. Thanks for sharing a picture of what godly marriage looks like. I understand that good books on marriage (not strict patriarch books) can be of value to a healthy marriage – but I do hope that these authors take this letter to heart and add a page fitting to what you have described.

    • Anonymous

      IamMyBeloved’s – you stated it well. I can reflect on when I first became drawn towards reading these books and thinking, “I must be doing something wrong.” And yet I also knew that if we ‘both’ were accountable to God, well, then we should have a Christ-honoring marriage. Godly couples reverence the Lord and live it; their children are nurtured by it. As you stated, godly couples don’t read or need to read these books.
      Excellent post and comments.

      • IamMyBeloved's

        Anon-I think that godly couples can read the books to help them in areas, but their reason is completely different – as Megan said. Good things can be gleaned, if the marriage is healthy already. I hope I didn’t make it sound as if godly couples have no problems – hence no reason to ever need a book. I just believe that if their focus is Christ first, then they would need less books on marriage in the first place. I think that a Christian marriage, is one where both spouses are focused on Christ and their own lives before him, individually and then as a married couple. In abuse, the focus of worship is on the abuser and his demands and desires – not God – and so there really is no godly marriage.

      • Brenda R

        Even John Piper admits that his marriage has not always reflected Christ and the church as he thinks it should. Instead of writing his book, he probably should have read a few better than the one he put out.

  21. Anonymous

    IamMyBeloved’s – Yes, I agree that godly couples have problems … and your reply to me has stated it well, again. I apologize if ‘my comment’ misrepresented you. The focus is supposed to be Christ not the abuser … and we are held accountable before God as individuals.
    After several years of emotional battles, very often, the victim who desires to please the Lord is drawn to the ‘marriage books’. Sadly, they feel re-victimized as these authors will imply that the victim is not truly obeying the Word otherwise their spouse would respond in kind.
    Not sure if anyone else is experiencing this but I am receiving several e-alerts from ministries offering ‘marriage books’ and have seen ads for churches offering ‘marriage enrichment’ classes — this is all leading up to Valentine’s Day — for godly marriages, this is fine but for abusive relationships, marriage enrichment classes are often only a Band-Aid for a situation that requires major heart surgery.

    • IamMyBeloved's

      No worries here – Anon! I was just clarifying and did not think you misrepresented me – just thought I needed to clarify myself! I agree with your comment here. We too have seen the heightened invites to marriage seminars around Valentine’s Day. My sarcastic thought about this, is that Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about love and we ought not confuse an abusive marriage with love.

  22. I hesitate to share this because it “outs” me as someone who believes God can speak to you. But when I was young and trapped in an abusive marriage, I read book after book on “Christian marriage.” I was pounded down by the things they said. One day I heard God break through my thoughts (not out loud but kind of loud in my head), “STOP reading those books.” I turned to the Bible, though it was years before I began to properly understand it because I had been so programmed to read certain ideas into familiar portions of scripture. Great post, Megan. Thank you.

    • MeganC

      I think that is beautiful, Becky. Thank you for sharing. Big hugs.

    • Brenda R

      Becky,
      As a child, I was told that God doesn’t literally speak to you. But I have no doubt that is not true. He speaks through our thoughts and dreams. I have had more than one, “where did that come from” moment. There was no one else in the room and I heard a man’s voice calling me. He speaks to us through His word. I have read passages many times and the 12th or however many time grasp something that I have never seen before.

      On another blog that I read there have been 2 men putting down the work and the women who frequent there. One said that we should read the Bible it is simple and should be easy for anyone to understand. My reply was, not really. If you think the Bible is that simple then you are probably feasting on the milk of the Word and perhaps they should ask God to provide them with a deeper connection with the meat of the Word. God may not appear in a burning bush and speak to us, but he does speak to us if we are willing and take the time to listen. And let’s face it, He is God. He can do whatever He wants.

      • Valerie

        Yes, Brenda, something I heard once that really stuck with me is that scripture is something that needs to be discerned and not easily understood. The reasoning being that God wants us (requires us) to dig into His word and He promises us that if we seek we will find. Our searching is part of our way we show our devotion and love to Him I think. Like what we’ve been asking of our spouses- if you love me you will want to know me!

        I also feel God speaking to my spirit regarding matters. It isn’t usually an audible voice in my case but more of a truth that is penetrated into me like light blasting through me with the words. However I have found this to be a time of discernment also because there are times when it is our own thoughts/wishful thinking that we at times perceive as being divinely inspired. When there is much at stake I try to have my insight confirmed.

      • Brenda R

        Valerie, Exactly. Confirm and reconfirm again. I have found that it is ok to go back and ask God, “did I hear you right”. If he points me to Ninevah, I should stay away from large sea creatures and do what he says.

      • Brenda R

        I should add the voice was entirely from within even though loud enough to think there was someone standing over me and not like I heard an audible voice from across the room.

    • One day I heard God break through my thoughts (not out loud but kind of loud in my head),

      I’ve had that happen too.

    • Becky, you need not fear outing yourself as someone who believes God can speak to you. Check out our Testimonies page and you’ll see many other readers of this blog have experienced personal direction from God. We don’t endorse the hyper-charismatic ‘chasing words from the Lord’ type of stuff, but we do recognise that God speaks to people individually at times. I’m one who can testify to it too from my own experience. Yes, I believe we should test such revelation to make sure it does run counter to the Word, and it is wise ask God to confirm a direction if you feel unsure, but don’t deny the possibility or you put yourself at risk of pushing God away and disobeying him.

      I know one survivor of domestic abuse who testifies that God told her to leave the marriage and she did not obey. Some time later, her husband brutally raped her. God then spoke to her again even more firmly, and she KNEW that if she did not leave now she would be culpable for participating in her husband’s sin. She fled. Believe me, she fled. And she now realises that she disobeyed God when he first instructed her to leave, and if she had obeyed then she would not have suffered that rape.

    • IamMyBeloved's

      Becky – I think we all here probably have a story about “hearing God” speak to us in certain ways. I don’t think any of us would say it was an audible voice, but it was the Holy Spirit in us, leading us, encouraging us, comforting us and doing all the things that He is supposed to do – AND we are supposed to hear His voice and follow Him! So glad you shared this!

  23. Carmen S.

    Be very careful as to wanting to hear God’s voice. John Piper has been mixed up with the charismatic movement all the way back to his days at Fuller Theological Seminary, when he attended a John Wimber workshop. Piper has been the key pioneer of “New Calvinism”, which is continuationist. He also promotes contemplative/centering prayer, which comes from medieval mysticism and the Roman Catholic Church.

    Now that I have your attention, let me share a wonderful testimony of my Orthodox Presyterian pastor ( who never wanted to be a pastor…but instead wanted to be a lawyer). How many of you remember anything from when you were three years old?

    When he was three his toy fire truck engine was stolen from his front yard. Later in the day, during a walk, he noticed another toy engine in neighbor’s front yard. “Someone took mine, I’ll take this one.” Later that evening, his father said, “Oh, I see you found your fire engine.” This little three-year-old was so overcome with the knowledge of his sin, that he took that toy, ran down the street, and threw it into the neighbor’s yard.

    Again, as a three-year-old, he and his friends were sitting on a fence, discussing where babies came from. ( My pastor is presently 54 years old. This was before cable TV and the internet, and who knows what else.) He came up with an elaborate idea that angels assembled babies in an angel factory. One angel would screw on a leg, and then down the conveyor belt the baby would go, until the next angle screwed on an arm, etc.

    Out of nowhere came a voice. Not audible. “I MADE YOU, AND YOU WILL GLORIFY ME!”

    He remembers it as clearly as if it happened yesterday, and, yes, my pastor does indeed humbly glorify the Lord God. He also “gets it” in regards to domestic abuse, John Piper, and celebrity preacher/pastors. We are blessed.

    • Carmen, thankyou! Please tell your pastor that his testimonies encouraged me 🙂 🙂

    • And Carmen, I agree with you about the need to be careful about wanting to hear God’s voice. As I just wrote in response to Becky in this thread, it is wise to test any thing like that. I know, having been in pentecostal circles in years gone past, that there is a lot of crazy nonsense and extremism in that sector and that wrong theology is often attached to it too in a symbiotic way that makes it very dangerous. So I want you to know that I appreciate your cautioning us, even while I appreciate and validate the genuine hearing-from-God experiences that some Christians have had. Hope we can all live with us being at slighly different points on the spectrum here!

      And regarding John Piper’s openness to things charismatic, Peter Masters says that too in his article Christian Hedonism: Is It Right? (I’m going to be featuring this article in a post later this month.)

      • Brenda R

        Masters article makes far more sense than the writings of John Piper. Not that everything he says is wrong, but his concepts always seem to revolve around his own view rather than God’s. I have read his book on Christian Hedonism and felt like I shouldn’t take it to heart throughout the read. I like to read authors who help put into perspective God’s view point and not their own.

  24. Carmen S.

    Barb, I’ll gladly let him know. By the way, he preaches without quoting from popular books. In a recent sermon he said, “The Gospel Coalition has replaced the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.” I was amazed that he doesn’t even quote commentaries. “I don’t have time to read them.” He actually preaches his own sermon directly from reading the text. I didn’t know someone could do that. (a grad of Westminster Seminary, CA.)

    The Peter Masters’ article is superb. “He is the master of the oblique approach, but at times his rather contrived reasoning leaves one grateful that Scripture, by contrast, is so straightforward and free from philosophical gymnastics.” That thought came to my mind just the other day. Piper is exhausting, confusing, seems to milk a paragraph for all it’s worth, goes round in circles, and ends up saying not very much. Compare that to the Apostle Paul. Few words, and yet every word has deep meaning. I actually hugged my Bible close to me and thanked the Lord for His life-giving Word. Rather than wanting to hear God’s voice, read His Word. It brings tears to my eyes every time I open that Book. Prayers and blessing to everyone of you 🙂

    • Anonymous

      Hey Barbara and Carmen, I’m really enjoying the discussion on carefully discerning the hearing of God’s voice. Carmen, you are blessed to have a pastor/shepherd that preaches/teaches the Word so the flock can understand it. Barbara, thank you for Peter Masters’ article, dated Feb 7, 2006! There are many like Masters who for many years have attempted to warn; only “those who have ears to hear, will hear”.

  25. A friend of mine gave me “Power of a Praying Wife” recently. I got so mad at that book. It is ridiculous. Now my husband is not abusive, but his family is. So am recognizing all the crap in that book for what it is. This woman should NOT be writing books for marriage problems. When she acts like if our marriage fails, or our husbands continue to rage, it is our fault for not praying more?! Or being thin enough?! Or making dinner right?! She is crazy!!!! I started taking notes in the book about how stupid it is. Then I threw it across the room, and talked to my husband about how stupid it is. And he agreed!!!

    I ended up finding this online and it was an “Ah-Ha” moment.

    Pass it along to anyone that might be struggling with abuse–NEVER RECOMMEND THE POWER OF A PRAYING WIFE.

    This woman said that if she had followed the advice in the book, she would be dead by now.

    Here is a link:

    http://god-loves-women.webs.com/Stormie%20Omartian.pdf

  26. April

    I am being set free by this topic….!! And on the subject of God speaking to us….once I was begging my husband to “allow” me to buy food for dinner instead of cooking. He grudgingly gave me money for burritos. While, in line at the place, a Christian man and I struck up a convoersation…he had a Christian vibe! It’s endeed that, the Holy Spirit directed him to get off at THAT PARTICULAR EXIT. Later he offers to buy dinner for me and my husband ( I through in me being married, early on). I say “no thanks,” Later in the parking lot….he comes back to me and tells me the Holy Spirit told him to give me money for dinner…and so he gave me $20..the same amount my husband was grumbling about. The man then gives me a “word” from the Lord …which basically which began with the strange words “God loves women.” I was heavily into patriarchy ideas at that time…and needed to hear that message. It struck me very deeply…I was sobbing in the parking lot…and praising God on the way home. His Word brings life, light and healing! I have been avoiding my bible lately as each time I pick it up – i simply sob…but maybe that’s where I need to be right now.

    • Brenda R

      April, Your story brought me to tears. There are Godly men out there. God sent one to you to let you know that He loves you. Patriarchy is a yoke put on women by ungodly men. God wanted you released from that burden. These things let us know that God is truly with us, all of the time. God knows what you are feeling through your tears and in your heart.

  27. Sunflower

    I’ve been looking for any article on this website that would address novels and movies. This is not it but I haven’t found one so I’ll say something here. I think many of us wives have compromised on who we married as well as stayed with an abusive man partly because in many many novels and movies, someone says just the right thing to the abusive person, trusts him even though he’s not trustworthy, and the light goes on, ding!, and he changes. Forever. In an instant. So, he just didn’t get it before, that’s all. It’s a ‘knowledge’ problem. Wrong! It’s a heart issue, and all the talk will not make a difference

  28. A Bruised Reed

    Oh, that book Love and Respect was pushed by our previous pastor. My STB ex started leaving that out for me to “see” in the hopes that I would pick it up again, re read it, and discover once again how I was not a respectful wife. I guess when something was such a great tool for him in the past, he figured he could recycle it and get more abuse out of it.

    Eds. note: Love & Respect: Biblical or Deceptive? by Mark Baker is a 12-page PDF that exposes the biblical error of the Love & Respect book by Eggerich.

    And another review that exposes Eggerichs’ errors: Love, Respect, and Proof Texts.

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