Divorce in a Christian home isn’t something people like to touch on or talk about. A few people shared a blog post by a Christian author/speaker recently on Facebook and I’ve since seen it swirling around (it was so popular, in fact, that his website crashed a few times that day). It was sitting heavy on my heart since I first read it and I wanted to share it on my blog but I didn’t know how best to articulate what I wanted to add.
The blog post was this and I encourage everyone to read it:
The reason why it was sitting so heavy is because I know of more than a handful of women who needed to read his message. See, part of making a true connection with people is that you learn about their brokenness and you learn about the darkness in their lives. Lord knows I’ve shared my darkness in my dark times and it seems now I am light for other people’s darkness.
Like Mr. Thomas wrote in his blog, I too have heard some pretty serious stories where a spouse has stayed in a marriage long beyond the expiration date of it… OR no steps were/are being taken to improve the marriage. Husbands or wives feel like they are doing their children a favor by staying together and those decisions are between them and God. However, for my girlfriends who I see that are sinking… how is that a good thing for the children? In extreme situations where one spouse is in deep depravity and there exists emotional and/or verbal abuse in the home, how is that good for the children to see?
What happens in stories like that is the children grow up and carry the generational sin of the family with them. Think of this way… I grew up in a home where cursing was common place. Not BAD cursing (never the F-word or anything derogatory or crude) but cursing nonetheless. So, guess what I struggle with? Cursing. I don’t curse around my children but the common four letter words that I grew up with just roll off my tongue. They just do. Guess what the bible says about this…
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. – Ephesians 5:4
So, when I would get so frustrated at work and slam someone across my computer screen or stub my toe and utter something profane… that isn’t how God wants us to live.
Families with other sin tendencies pass along those problems as well. Let me share about a friend I have from college. Her dad was a severe non-functioning alcoholic. She witnessed her dad verbally and emotionally abuse her mother. While the children (she has an older brother) didn’t receive any abuse, as the mom ensured that the father’s interaction with the children was minimal, they witnessed way too much. While there was no physical striking of the mom, she was often cornered and spat on and was called horrible names. Her Christian mother couldn’t fathom divorcing her dad, leaving her children “fatherless.” Eventually, when the girl was in middle school, her mother decided to separate from the dad. She tried a few times to allow her husband to move back in, despite him never attempting to get help for his problem. The results would end the same and he was back on the street, sleeping around with other women and in his car. When my friend graduated from college the mom decided it was time to finally divorce her abusive husband – a choice she struggled with for a long time afterward, unsure it was something God wanted her to do.
My friend believed her mom had taken the family situation to her church pastor years prior. If the pastor had made any inroads, there should have been a conversation (possibly) with the husband but definitely a strengthening conversation to the wife.
In the land of the COMPLETELY misused statement ever of “this is your cross to bear,” Mr. Thomas is telling church leaders and members of churches to quit stigmatizing divorce in situations where it IS correct and actually beneficial. Yet, he doesn’t do a very good job of empowering the women.
Granted, that’s a tough job to do. A spouse in an abusive marriage (ANY kind of abuse) is likely not going to tell a soul for fear of the wrath he or she would receive at home (what happens in the home, stays in the home, right?). In this situation, that spouse is unable to follow the method described in Matthew 18:15-17:
If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
That spouse would be afraid to take “one or two others along” for fear of what would happen next. If a wife is at the point of letting her abusive husband know that she’s told one or two others about what is happening at home, she also better be prepared to leave the house (with her children, if they exist) to an undisclosed location. Seriously.
[Sidenote: I just realized that I know of three, THREE, college-educated women in my life where their boyfriend/spouse (also highly educated – I’m just saying this issue goes beyond socioeconomic statuses) has held a gun to their face threatening to kill them if they left. Two other women watched their husbands put a gun to their own heads, threatening suicide if the woman left. By God’s grace all of these women have moved on from those mentally ill men, not one bullet shot.]
Let us not ignore the long term affects to a spouse in an abusive relationship either. Psychology journals report abused spouses develop PTSD, substance abuse disorders and/or anxiety disorders. Extreme abuse can lead to personality, identity and even sexual disorders. At the very least, routine abuse DOES lead to self-esteem problems and depression.
Many churches/pastors love to see the restoration of marriages and see the work of God in people’s lives first hand but they sometimes fail to recognize when the person sitting in their office is in need of professional help. Sending someone to get professional help doesn’t mean God isn’t still working, He’s just working outside the church’s four walls… as He should. He’s God. He can work where He wants to.
It is my very strong opinion that in addition to “this is my cross to bear” being a staple thought of any victim Christian spouse, they also confuse the idea of forgiveness and reconciliation… a lengthy topic I hope to write much more about later. I will say that this confusion, however, DEFINITELY shackles people to broken relationships.
What happened to my friend’s mom? My friend moved away after college and we only exchange emails from time to time. I know when the mom quickly moved, she didn’t tell her ex-husband the address or new phone number. Even though her dad died just a few year ago, the divorce has had long lasting effects on the adult children. My friend has been through a few marriages, always afraid of being controlled so she is an aggressor… an unnecessary coping mechanism for her own protection. Her brother, sadly, has been a physical abuser in relationships… decades prior he said he would never grow up and be like his dad.
So, I’m thankful that Gary Thomas’ blog is on the internet among Christian circles, and I’m glad he was brave enough to share it. Much more needs to be said and done for the hearts of the victim spouse than what seems to be happening, Christian or non-Christian.
I once spoke with a Christian marriage counselor about divorce. He told me that divorce is actually a good thing to have “out there.” It’s a boundary. If a person goes too far a consequence needs to happen. Spouses should not be exempt from boundaries within their marriage.
My girlfriends, I love you. You know who you are. I pray for you often. Remember that He shows us our path and He WILL show you your’s.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13