It’s my opinion that many people avoid helping (anyone–but especially married women) because it’s complicated. There’s this whole he said/she said debate, and the individual listening is likely to relate more to one individual than the other. If only we had the wisdom of Solomon-!
That was my prayer as I read the account of the two prostitutes and their babies in 1 Kings 3:16-28. After reading the book of Proverbs (perhaps I’ll put the two together at some point), here’s what I observed:
- There was a distinct conflict and loss. Two women who lived together each had a baby of similar age (v. 18) Notice, it is the victim that presents the story in its entirety (v. 17-21).
- Solomon listened to the whole story and ensuing disagreement without interruption or clarification (v. 16-22).
- Solomon succinctly summarized the issue (v. 23).
- Solomon exposed the hearts of the women by threatening loss (v. 24-25).
- The woman who loved life was willing to sacrifice at great cost to herself (v. 26).
- The woman who was in it for herself, had no concern for others (v. 26).
- Solomon rewarded the woman who was willing to take the greatest risk at personal cost (v. 27)
In the same way, those who interact with husbands and wives, not knowing whom to believe, can do the same.
- Make space for a woman to tell her story in its entirety, without interruption or other power plays. It may mean hearing her out apart from her husband.
(Consider how the guilty woman would have presented the evidence, twisting or skewing facts. A victim presents the situation with awareness of her own responses, words, and actions. But the guilty party blameshifts, justifies, rationalizes or outright denies his own personal responsibility.)
- Listen completely and carefully.
- Summarize the issue. Don’t get caught up in the weeds (Only God knows. We must be in constant prayer-!)
- Seek to expose the heart of each individual in the form of an assignment, change in living arrangements, etc. then carefully observe the response.
- The one who wants to please God will prayerfully do what you ask. She will make changes. She will ask others for help. She will try. Again.
(Please, please take time to think through the fact that she may be at mile marker 279 with her husband and you’re at mile marker 1. Don’t make her go back a significant distance to try and change things for your sake. Take the time to get caught up to speed and serve her well in preparing for mile marker 280, 290, 300, etc.)
- It will be evident who is in it for himself. Jesus is not about “saving a marriage” (I can’t recall a biblical reference for saving marriages). Jesus is all for saving souls. If one party has no concern for the life and safety of another, especially at cost to himself, you are likely dealing with a corpse. That is not a marriage problem, but a personal problem. It does not require marriage counseling, but evangelism and practical consequences/training.
- God has gifted His people to reward those who desire to walk with Him. Provide prayer support, practical support, encouragement, comfort, and friendship. Make room for her to worship and heal. Apply salve and balm in your words and response.
Pastors, biblical counselors, and disciplemakers who desire to address heart attitudes won’t demand evidence or stories of physical abuse before they get involved. If it’s a heart issue, a husband’s response to his wife is all the evidence we need to seek Jesus; to love like Jesus.
Please. Prayerfully apply wisdom, kick up the dust and get your feet dirty–like Jesus.