The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice,Proverbs 12:15.
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love, Galatians 5:13.
Satan is attacking marriages. If marriages are undermined, then society will be a shamble because at the root of each society and civilization is the family. The attacks are coming from all corners: from pornography, homosexuality, trans-gendering, cohabitation and all sorts of vile practices. Interestingly cohabitation or shacking up has even become so tame compared to what we are experiencing now.
Then there are such issues as spousal abuse: physical abuse of all kinds perpetrated by spouses against each other, parents against children so that the marriage becomes shaky. There is also emotional (mental) abuse.
First, marriages don’t erode in a single step. It takes time, whether months, years or even in some cases decades to get to the splintered state it has arrived at. And many a time in the church when it becomes a crisis, it becomes the pastor’s responsibility and objective to call on the Lord so that with His wisdom, the damage and hemorrhaging will be stopped and an environment created where the marriage could possibly be salvaged and saved.
Now, there are some common themes that touch on marriages, for example:
- Unresolved problems: a tendency to fight about the same issues, again and again without resolution;
- Growing resentment: blaming each other, losing respect over time;
- Decreased intimacy and sharing: sexual distance and limited closeness;
- Busyness and lack of time for fun;
- Poor communication: lack of friendship with each other;
- Lack of spiritual intimacy: decreased time reading the Word and attending church;
- Failure to seek help: attempts to cope on their own.
Because of the failure to seek outside help, due especially to the threat coming from the spouse, a feeling of isolation and abandonment of the victimized is created.
FEELING OF ABANDONMENT
Isaiah 54:4-5 “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood (or divorce) you will remember no more. For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.
- To the victim I say, as you walk this road of betrayal and abandonment, know that, in Christ, you do not walk it utterly alone; the Lord is with you.
- First, think of the Man of Sorrows who walked the violent path, stumbling under the weight of the cross all the way to Mount Calvary. In your case, however, the roles are reversed and selflessly, the Man of Sorrows who is well acquainted with such grief steps beside you to shoulder the weight of the burden with and for you.
- Look at this verse, Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
So you are in a situation where your spouse is threatening to leave; here are some five things that you shouldn’t do when you are in such a situation.
1. Do Not Clutch and Clasp
- Why would you want to clutch, clasp, or cling when the other is indicating that he/she wants out and doesn’t want you? Why apologize, argue, beg, make demands or manipulate when pleading gripping, grasping and hanging on may only exacerbate the situation and “cheapen” you even more in his/her sight?
- Others cry, not only in pain but also because they hope to evoke compassion.
- Some fall sick or “accidentally” hurt themselves, and they do so in the hope that these tactics will trigger compassion or some kind of a rekindling of the love that the departing spouse may have lost.
- NOTE: no one who clutches and clasps, begs, or whines is attractive in any sense of the word and could end up self-victimizing.
- NOTE: a clutching and clasping behaviour sends the message to the departing spouse that you are so desperate that you will therefore take him/her back at any cost, no matter what he/she did, does or will do to you.
So in the final analysis, clinging causes the other person to pull away, further, further and further away.
2. Do Not Crumble
- Why do I say so? What happens is that most often the spouse who has decided to leave may display some fury and frustration as a reaction or response if the victimized spouse attempts a move that will deter their departure.
- So then, the best thing to do in response to such emotional abuse (threats, tantrums, and manipulations), is not to crumple or collapse in the face of the threat; do not give in. Rather, trust in the Lord because giving in typically leads to the same results as giving up.
What I am saying is that crumpling and crumbling helps the party desiring to depart to leave, and faster too!
3. Do Not Calculate
- To face this situation of a possible desertion after so many years of marriage is painful. You begin to play back in your mind all the problems you faced, all the sacrifices you made, all the opportunities you lost because you loved him/her and chose to be glued to him/her because you believed you were going to have a future together. You stood on God’s Word, faithfully, knowing that yours was a till-death-do-us-part, God-ordained marriage.
- So then, the anger welling inside of you could lead you to start calculating how you can seek revenge, payback for what he/she is doing to you, the humiliation, the embarrassment, even shame. Romans 12, says vengeance is the Lord’s.
Calculating makes the party desiring to depart justified and disgusted with you.
4. Do Not Control
- Why would you want to control him/her, especially considering the history you have had with this spouse? Don’t demand, dominate, or dictate. As fresh as the situation is, don’t try to keep your marriage together; you may fail. No one, especially adults want to be curbed or controlled in their activities and particularly in things they are bent on doing.
- Your first recourse is to hit the floor, on your knees and with your eyes lifted up to the hills from whence cometh your help (Psalm 121:1).
Controlling makes the party desiring to depart justified and angrier with you.
5. Do Not Comminate
Why the threat to leave? Joshua 1:5
- When you consider all that you have gone through with, or done for your spouse in the marriage, you may curse or declare to be evil or anathema or, threaten to leave and threaten the other by appealing to divine punishment. No. No. Don’t! Remember that you were in love with him/her right until when you found out that he/she wanted out.
- One key thing in marriage to remember is never threaten to leave.
- As in so many areas of the Christian life, God has already given us a memorable example to follow.
- Over and over in the Bible He tells us He loves us. Over and over He tells us that He’s committed to us. He tells us that He hates divorce. He tells us to forgive.
- He tells us over and over that He will never leave us nor forsake us.
- And in Ezekiel He says, “I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,” (Ezekiel16:8). With God, a covenant is a covenant and He uses an entire Book, the Book of Hosea to remind us of that.
Now, here are some five things that you should do when you are in such a situation.
1. Do Be Patient
Love is patient, and patience buys time.
- If he/she seems in a hurry to leave, take a step toward dissolving your marriage, then do not join his/her race. When you are being wronged, always remember that time is on your side; and, it is also the time for you to pray.
- If he/she’s involved with someone else, besides enough time passing to, hopefully, erode the intensity of the emotions in that adulterous relationship, you have the time to pray, seek counsel, pray some more in order for you to make the right decision.
This is very important to note.
- When you feel you may react or do something very rash or brash through anger, pain, or frustration, for example, saying “Sure, I’m out too; don’t ever come back. I need a divorce,” ask yourself, “If I do this, how will I feel about it in seven days? Seven months? Seven years?” You see I use the number “seven” because it is one of the most significant numbers in the Holy Bible and is the number of completion, of spiritual perfection. Marriage is also a spiritual covenant between three parties, which includes God; so rushing to break it is an affront to God. Let God complete what that spouse started.
- Do not sacrifice your long-term future for a short-term emotion; and for every action you take, remember that your spouse will have a reaction. Most probably the departing spouse wants you to make that move so he/she can say you broke the covenant.
- Whether Christian or not, marriage covenants that are rocky demonstrate that as long as one spouse talks about divorce, it suddenly becomes a viable option.
- So be calm, be patient. Remember, Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
- Psalm 37:7 also says, “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!”
2. Do Persevere
- In a situation like this, persevering is the twin of patience and I have to admit that it takes energy to have or practice both. Furthermore, it takes strength to work at saving a marriage especially when your spouse wants to leave. You need to persevere and stay strong in the Lord.
- One of the ways to persevere is to find a support system of trusted people who will encourage you and who, besides being advisors and prayer intercessors will be optimistic about the possibility of reconciliation.
- Yes, always have your mind and eye on reconciliation. That is what we learn in the Book of Hosea when God told Hosea to marry Gomer the harlot.
- A Christian marriage makes a “No matter what decision” by stating that the will is to persevere, to do whatever it will take to prevent divorce from occurring.
3. Do Invite a Trusted Third Party
- As a Christian, sure, the expectation is that there are several trusted brothers and sisters in the Lord but I think that after talking to the Lord, the first trusted person you may want to talk to is your pastor; it is not always so but you have to have a trusted person that you can talk to. Ask that trusted individual to intervene in your marriage. So like I said, it may be a pastor, a family member (e.g., parent, or even a child/children if mature), a friend.
- Ask your helper to spend some time with your spouse, to listen to him/her, and to do everything possible to influence him/her to agree to marriage counseling.
- Though it may be that only one spouse want to save the marriage, going to counsel could be very beneficial and helpful.
4. Do Keep Hope Alive
- There are times when life feels terrible and the future looks bleak. A spouse threatening to leave a marriage, no matter how long that marriage has existed is one of those terrible times.
- God Himself said, Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
- Keeping hope alive, means maintaining your integrity and remaining committed to your marriage, even if it appears to be over.
- Unless your spouse has left and is remarried, the possibility of reconciliation always remains. You will be surprised how many couples have remarried even decades after they divorced.
- The question is “What do you decide to do?”
5. Do Take Care of Yourself.
You have a duty to discharge so with all that is going on, you need to focus on taking care of yourself. Some of the things that you can do are:
- Wait on the Lord so you can grow spiritually. 1 Timothy 4:8 reminds us that For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
- Then exercise, which includes eating right, and as you should.
- Do other things, for example, start a new hobby to keep your mind away from the prevailing situation and prevent you from being obsessed with your troubles.
- Stay involved in your church’s activities. Do the Lord’s work.
- Get individual counseling.
- Whether your marriage makes it or not, you need to provide for yourself spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically.
Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Applied to your situation, this means you must do whatever you can to resolve the underlying problems leading to the divorce.
“as far as it depends on you.” This implies that
- you cannot take responsibility for the choices of your spouse,
- nor should you force the marriage to stay together.
- Pursuing peace does not mean begging your spouse to stay. As I said before, such behaviour feeds into abusive and even destructive patterns.
- If he/she wants to leave, let him/her leave. Don’t force anything.
- And you know, if it is the Lord’s will for him/her to come back asking for forgiveness, that is exactly what will happen.
Before I end
Remember that you are always special to God thus you are not on God’s “plan B.”
- God’s blessing is not just for intact families, but for all who remain faithful to Him.
- The enemy will try to convince you that God can no longer use you, that your divorce is the “scarlet letter” that puts you in a lower class of Christians.
- The devil will try to convince you that you are old, all washed out and no one will want you. Don’t believe that lie that’s coming from the father of lies
- In contrast, Scripture promises, “. . . in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
- As a believer, you should see your marital problems as a spiritual issue. As such, you should understand the importance of praying and interceding on behalf of the other. So if you are caught in such an unpleasant situation, please pray. Don’t neglect this. Pray that God will give you the wisdom that you need in your relationship (James 1:5) and also to make the right decisions.
- Yes, pray for your spouse. Pray that God will give you love for him/her again (1 Corinthians 13), despite what he/she has done to betray your trust in him/her.
- During this time of great difficulty you should actually pray that God does reveal your faults as well; this is key. In this way, you will be able to strengthen yourself.
- Remember as well that you absolutely cannot change your spouse. Only God and your spouse can do that.
Ephesians 5:22-33 may probably not be his/her favourite verses right now when he/she’s threatening to leave, when the situation is still unfolding; but, it is God’s Word and in these verses He commands husbands to love their wives. And wives are told to submit to their husbands.
- Both of these statements are not conditional on the other person’s actions.
- Wives should submit whether their husband love them or not.
- Husbands should love whether their wife submits or not.
What if he/she wants to come back? – FORGIVENESS
- If the adultery and sexual immorality committed by the sinning spouse stops and he/she repents, and want to come back, then you are encouraged to do the very best and give the unfaithful spouse the chance by forgiving him/her (Mark 11:25; Luke 6:27-28); it is not an easy thing to do so you need to pray about it and see if taking him/her back is what you want. In Hosea’s case, the Lord demonstrates that forgiveness and love when He told Hosea to take back Gomer.
- God is all about forgiveness and we are told to forgive our brothers or sisters when they fall and want to be restored.
- Tell your spouse that you’d choose to marry him or her again if presented with a different choice. Of course, receiving the unfaithful spouse back is entirely dependent on you the one who was betrayed.
Are There Biblical Grounds For Divorce? I am going to be very brief on this topic; as the Lord wills, we will be treating this subject in the near future.
Divorce is a death – the death of a marriage. There are indeed biblical grounds for getting a divorce and it is in extreme cases; for example, ongoing, unrepentant adultery.
Jesus said, “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife [and husband of course], except for sexual immorality, makes her [or him] the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matt 5:37. 19:9). This is just the tip of this subject. Paul deals with the rest of it in 1 Corinthians.
So, divorce is a last resort but if there is no other choice and adultery persists with no signs of remorse, repentance, or change, then divorce is permitted.
What about physical abuse? I know I talked about emotional abuse earlier so let me say this, that some believe that if there is physical abuse against a spouse or physical or sexual abuse of the children in that marriage and that is never resolved, they may divorce.
However, I say that divorce is not always an option; the Bible does not automatically permit divorce in the case of a battered wife and it does not specifically instruct the physically abused spouse to divorce the abusive individual. Rather, the wisdom of the Bible is that the brutalized spouse should be alert, defensive and cautious. Look at what Proverbs 14:16 says, A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident. If the aggressor is wise, he/she will depart from terrorizing the other spouse.
If, for example, a woman is in a situation where her husband beats her up, then she is justified if she protects herself by leaving; otherwise, she would be a fool if she does not. Can you imagine, staying there and allowing your drunken husband to knock and kick you around all the time? How wise is that, staying there? Submission to your husband doesn’t mean stay with him and be his punching bag. There are legitimate steps that you can take to avoid the assaults and at the least, she should move out immediately and report this domestic assault to the police.
What did God say in 1 Corinthians 10:13?There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Do you see the last line, “make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it?” Escape. Don’t sit there for him to beat you to a pulp or to death. Leave!
You see, beating up a wife (and it could be a wife beating up her husband) is in fact, the clearest and most obvious kind of disobedience to the Lord’s command to husbands, says Ephesians 5:25. It says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” When did you last read about or see Jesus, in the Scriptures, beating up the church? Moreover, as a child of God, your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit so why harbour or allow such abuse? The Holy Spirit won’t tolerate such insults and seeing that we are all created in God’s image, we want to maintain a vessel that is fit for His use.
So, pray for that abusive spouse, submit to him/love her like Christ loves the church in every way you can, encourage him/her to seek advice and counsel from trusted others preferably his/her pastor or reliable others like those who are scripturally well versed or biblically mature. Moreover, do everything you can to heal the problems which caused that spouse to be so choleric and cantankerous. Remember what God told us through the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:10-15? He said that you have to stay and yes, pray, For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband. When you pray, you sanctify that marital relationship (that is, the abusive spouse) by your presence as a beloved child of God.
What do you do in the case of emotional abuse? Well then, my answer is that if you are truly not in any physical danger, or even if he/she is an unbeliever who is hostile to the things of God, God does not desire for you to up and leave (i.e. divorce), no. Rather, like I said previously, God expects you, as His child, to stay and pray so that your presence will sanctify that spouse (1 Corinthians 7:10-15). Remember, He the Lord is your Protector.
So the bottom line is that if you have an abusive drunk for a husband, if you have a violence-prone, woman-beating husband and he raises his wound-inflicting hand on you, you as a wife should do all you can to remove yourself from that or any other kind of danger. How? By leaving the home if that is the option you have. It is necessary that you do so. And know what? God is glorified. Amen.