“I tried (fill in the blank) and it didn’t work….” We look for solutions to problems, problems much bigger than ourselves. We believe God is true, right and BIG, but what where do we turn when His Word doesn’t work?
This scenario is especially true in domestic abuse situations. Pastors, husbands, church leaders, even well-meaning ones, dole out Scripture like prescription medication on insurance. Women have tried, and tried, and failed.
Maybe the problem isn’t the medication, but 1) the diagnosis or 2) the intended result.
- The diagnosis. A woman endured hip replacement only to discover her back was the problem. The issue was misdiagnosed. Spiritually, those who are uninformed, misinformed, or under-informed easily dole out Scriptural diagnoses without a correct or full understanding of the issue. “Pray more.” “Submit more.” “What is his favorite _____?” The problem is not a desire to please her husband. Many times, it’s the opposite. As a result of fear, manipulation and coercion, she is desperate to please him and has done (will do) anything and everything possible. The problem is his love for himself, power and control and her inability to address or confront it.
- The intended result. When asked, “What do you mean, ‘It didn’t work?'” Individuals will often cite more conflict, a less-than-desired outcome, or negative effect. The fact is, a sinful response to biblical truth is not failure; it’s to be expected. Very rarely do the words of Christ knock ’em dead (like the soldiers who encountered Christ in the Garden and “drew back and fell to the ground” John 18:6).
It is most common for those on the outside to misdiagnose. It is most common for those experiencing abuse to expect a different outcome.
If there is a sense of disorder, chaos, and confusion in a marriage, look for self-seeking and envy. Separate the individuals and provide a confidential, supportive environment. Ask questions. More questions. Deep questions. Believe the submissive partner in the relationship. 1 Peter 3:7 says, “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”
A husband and wife who view their roles differently (headship and helpmeet, respectively), experience the same relationship differently. Whether it’s a professional, personal, or covenant relationship, we recognize that different roles result in different ways of thinking and responding. A husband and church that practice a complementarian view of Scripture must consider the inherently weaker position of women in relation to their needs, desires, safety, insights, and concerns. Complementarianism requires that husbands and those who model male leadership invest more effort (not less) and own God-given responsibility to seek out, hear, and listen to women due to man’s sinful nature, inherent ignorance of his wife’s role, predetermined assumptions and expectations. That is the warning Peter provides, “…live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker….and show her honor as a fellow heir….” God does not view women as less valuable, important, intelligent, gifted, or loved. Each person, regardless of his or her role, shares the same essence, value, design, and preference.
If God’s Word is being followed, but the results bring greater danger, fear, belittling, abuse, and threats, continue to trust and obey. Watch your abuser interact with others. He does not treat them the way he treats you. Record your conversations. If he talked like that to your pastor, what would happen?!
As hard as it is to swallow, he is making a conscious choice to treat you that way; to “lord it over” you and/or your children. He can behave differently. You see it all the time. But before challenging him on his behavior or communicating expectations, be smart. Get a plan. The heart of his choices–any of our choices–is worship. He is worshiping himself, so getting in between him and his idol is a dangerous game. Look at safety plans. If your desire to trust and obey God is going to put you in danger with your abuser, think about his responses and what needs to be in place before you make changes.
To the extent possible, involve someone who believes you. Someone you can trust. Someone who will support your desire to love God first and your neighbor (husband) in a way he may not understand or approve. You may need to ask for secular help (call the domestic abuse hotline (1-800-799-7233)) or contact someone local. They are experts who know how to help, what you’re facing, and are willing to let you make the decisions.
It may mean leaving your church or husband, at least temporarily, as a means of finding safety and sanity. Your husband may or may not change. God’s Word does not promise a godly marriage, children, or an intact family as a result of obedience. He does promise He will never leave you or forsake you. He promises to forgive our sin, transform, and recreate us in Christ Jesus. We must be very careful to discern what He does and does not say.
God’s Word is true. He alone brings hope and healing, but not always the way we’d like. We do know He is with us. He is able, merciful, good, kind, and loving.
Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
2 from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I,
3 for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy. (Psalm 61:1-3)