images of stones

Words That Hit Like Stones to a Wife Navigating Abuse

Can you relate to the woman caught in adultery in John 8? I have never committed adultery, yet I have been her.  We all have. The reason may have been different but each one of us has stood before accusers with Jesus as the only one standing up for us.

It’s very common for women in emotionally and spiritually abusive marriages to feel isolated and condemned like this woman. Abuse often creates a response of shame and insecurity as most victims are groomed to believe they are the problem. Like the woman caught in adultery, assumptions are made about a situation outsiders can only speculate on as they do not have the whole story. In fact, the woman coming forward may or may not realize what she is dealing with is actually abuse at this point. When a woman finally opens up about difficulty in her marriage or seeks counsel from others in the church, she often finds herself surrounded by those ready to throw stones (some are intentional, but most are unintentional by well-meaning individuals).

Stones that are thrown at a woman in an abusive marriage sound like this:

“Are you submitting to your husband?”

“Make sure you’re showing him respect.”

“Give him more sex.”

“Are you meeting his needs?”

“Be his peace.”

“Pray more and have faith.”

And the most condemning stone of all: “God hates divorce.”

If you’ve never been in this situation you don’t realize the wife of an abuser has done all of these things only to find the abuse escalates as a result. What better set up for an abuser than a wife who submits to his abuse, shows him respect despite his disrespectful behavior, is willing to sleep with him even when her body is not honored, attempts to meet his needs and be his peace all while she is praying fervently for God to intervene.

This wife has prayed more than anyone could imagine and the only way she is able to get out of bed and walk through her day is because the ONE solid thing she has to stand on is her faith. She has endured all these things because she believes God hates divorce and it’s her cross to bear. She is fighting for God’s covenant to be honored and upheld and in most cases, for her children to have a stable, loving home as God intended. Yet, stones are cast at her while her abuser walks comfortably elsewhere, similar to the man in John 8. Where was he? Deuteronomy 22:22 states, “If a man is discovered committing adultery, both he and the woman must die.” However, only the woman was brought before Jesus. Does this sound familiar?

If you are a woman in this situation I want us to have an honest Biblical conversation.

Who and what we submit to matters to God.

God calls us to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21) and specifically to husbands who are submitting to God by loving their wives as Christ loved the church leading and sanctifying her as part of his own body (Ephesians 5:22-30). This is a beautiful design in healthy Christian marriages with both husband and wife committed to honoring God’s design for marriage. However, we are never commanded to submit ourselves to leadership that is contrary to that of Christ. To do so would be aligning ourselves with evil, which is strictly forbidden (Proverbs 4:14, 2 Corinthians 6:14-15, 1 Corinthians 5:11, 2 Timothy 3:5). We are called to follow Christ above any human and yes, that includes wayward husbands.

We are called to follow Christ above any human
and yes, that includes wayward husbands.

Your body is God’s Holy Temple deserving of respect and honor.

As a believer, your body is a temple housing the Holy Spirit within you (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). How we allow others to treat our body is how we allow them to treat God (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). When we submit ourselves to be dishonored sexually by one who does not honor our bodies we are allowing tables in our temple that Jesus would knock over and condemn.  Sex in a covenant marriage is a beautiful thing when both husband and wife respect and honor one another as God intended. But just as the Temple was not to be used as a market for personal gain, neither should our bodies. Dear Wife, you are certainly not obligated to participate under these circumstances.

In Biblical marriage, “Husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. no one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the Church. And we are members of his body.” (Ephesians 5:28-30) Any man who is exhibiting otherwise is not upholding his covenant and therefore, no longer has spiritual access to that which is designed to exist in covenant marriage.

Only God can meet our needs.

A wife can create moments of peace in the home but there is nothing a wife can provide a husband that will ever replace a relationship with Christ. Lasting peace is a gift from Christ alone (John 14:27).  If a spouse does not have the peace of Christ in their heart, there is nothing a wife can do to impart lasting peace. Dear Wife, you are not responsible for your husband’s peace. That is the job of the Holy Spirit and your husband has to be a willing recipient, which leads into the next truth.

A wife is not her husband’s Holy Spirit.

A wife is not her husband’s Holy Spirit nor is she responsible for His salvation. That is God’s job alone. Prayer is a powerful weapon and should be fully present in all marriages. However, salvation and heart change ultimately come from God. Can God change hearts? He absolutely can and we’ve all seen or heard of miraculous heart change – it is definitely possible. But God works with willing hearts and does not force His way on us. If someone does not find the way of God to be worthwhile, He will abandon them to their foolish thinking to do things that ought not to be done (Romans 1:28). It’s a hard truth to accept at times but just because someone knows what they should do does not mean they will do it. I’ve sat across from husbands who specifically stated they knew what God wanted them to do but they were not going to do it and believed their own way was better. It’s a chilling moment to hear someone say this and wives in abusive marriages are often faced with this reality daily.

God hates the sin and abuse that lead to divorce.

God hates the sin and consequences of divorce but He does NOT hate the divorced. He hates the pain and sorrow felt as a result of covenant abandonment. Jesus Himself acknowledges the pain of divorce was never what God intended but due to a fallen world, God knew there would be instances where divorce would be necessary and permitted due to hardness of hearts (Matthew 19:8).

When read in context, Malachi 2 refers to God hating the abuse and neglect of the marriage covenant that ultimately leads to divorce. He was speaking to the Israelite men who were abandoning their wives to pursue lustful desires and idolatry. God is not condemning divorce itself but rather the actions that led to divorce, the unrepentant sin that dissolves a marriage covenant.

Dear Wife, you are not bound to an abusive husband who has abandoned the spiritual marriage covenant for God has called you to live in peace (1 Corinthians 7:15). He sees you. He knows every detail of your situation and His desire for you is peace.

When Malachi 2 is read in context, God is condemning abuse and neglect of the marriage covenant. “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful (Malachi2:16 NIV). He is NOT condemning a wife who has been spiritually divorced by an unrepentant husband for moving on with her life. He has called her to live a life of peace.

Legal divorce is just that: the legal recognition of what has already been spiritually disbanded by hard heartedness. Divorce is not a legal document in the eyes of God: it’s the absence of covenant honoring behavior.

Divorce is not a legal document in the eyes of God:
it’s the absence of covenant honoring behavior.

The stones of the accusers held no power in the presence of Jesus.

If you have ever felt like the woman caught in adultery, brought before accusers with stones in hand, I want you to notice one thing: Jesus stood by this woman when no one else did. He will do the same for you. The stones in their hands held no power in the presence of the Holy One who could see all.

Only Jesus knew her story as only Jesus knows your story. Although she was not innocent as none of us are, Jesus let her know He saw her pain and heard her cries. He sees your pain, dear wife, and hears your cries. Don’t focus on the stones others want to throw, focus on Jesus, the One who has the power to set you free. The written words of Jesus blocked the impact of the stones meant for this woman and His written Word does the same for you now.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”John 8:32

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