Recently, I had this conversation with a gentleman regarding domestic abuse. “What percentage of the situations you work with are successful?”
A trained biblical counselor, I asked, “How would you define ‘success?'”
“Well, now,” he responded. “How many marriages stay together?”
That is a difficult question. The fact is that the statistics relating to controlling, angry men are varied and inconsistent. Because I counsel women and children, not men, I can’t speak to that, but there is evidence that counseling, therapy, and education simply make abusers better at what they do.
The statistics, both inside and outside the church, are disheartening. Especially for pastors or men who view marriage as the end goal. I have heard pastors use sports jargon to communicate–as if they are responsible–how many marriages they’ve “saved” or “lost.” They will say, “My marriage counseling is 2 and 0” with a goal of sending a married couple home together–to stay together. But what if that’s not God’s goal? What if we have placed our hope in marriage?
When we put our hope in “marriage”–living in the same house under the same roof regardless of wedding vows, living in direct opposition to God’s character and Word–we have missed the point. And we will be disappointed. Over and over. We will send women into dangerous homes (at worst) to serve at the cost of themselves and the benefit of their husband (at best).
I would submit that Christlikeness is the goal. Reconciliation with God is the goal.
If marriage does not accomplish sanctification–if it allows one individual to dominate and sin against another repeatedly and unrepentantly–it’s not only the wrong goal, it’s a bad one.
True hope is found in Jesus, not marriage.
If you and honestly believe “…that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose,” we will accept separation and divorce as “all things.” Divorce is not the goal. Separation is not the goal. But they may be steps to the ultimate goal: “to become conformed to the image of His Son…” (Romans 8:28-29).
Where is your hope?
If your hope is in an individual changing, that may never happen. You and I can’t make that decision, there is nothing we can say or do anything to assure another’s change or transformation.
If your hope is a healthy, thriving marriage with an abusive spouse, again, you can’t control or make that decision. That is not in your realm of influence.
If your hope is in Jesus Christ, crucified, risen, and coming again, you are thinking biblically. My personal hope is that He IS using all things to accomplish His good work in my life–the work of making me more like Him. That may mean taking steps of courage, love, and seeking another’s best by removing myself from someone who sins against me (and our children) repeatedly, intentionally, without repentance.
I’m not a man-hater. I’m not a marriage-hater. I truly desire to love what God loves and hate what He hates. He hates those who deal treacherously with their wives (Malachi 2). When His Spirit comes upon me, I preach good news to the poor, proclaim release to captives, and set free the oppressed (Luke 3). I’m a God lover. A Jesus follower. He alone is my goal and my hope.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which perishes though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written: “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
17 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you 21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1)