We received several emails from a woman who is in a marriage where her husband has been violent towards her and her children. She is living in constant fear of the possibility that her husband may again loose his temper and become abusive. She is concerned that he is monitoring her emails so this article is actually the first time she is hearing my opinion on her situation as she had previously asked us not to reply to her emails for fear of her husband seeing the email and hitting her again.
To summarize her emails, she is wondering about whether or not she has biblical grounds to divorce her husband if he continues to be abusive and she is asking for help in knowing where to establish boundaries in light of Christian forgiveness. If she is allowed to divorce him, she is asking if she is then allowed to remarry someone else. Her emails reflect that her husband responds to her in ways that are typical of abusive spouses; controlling her friendships and actions, threats of keeping her children from her if she leaves and other attempts at intimidation, frequent declarations of love and repentance without any sign to seek help, and alienation.
So, what do I think?
Dear Sister in Christ,
I am so sorry that your husband has created an environment of fear in your home and I grieve for the painful circumstances you are enduring both emotionally and physically. I am certain that the emotional pain of watching your husband hit your children is as hurtful as the physical pain you endure when he is violent towards you. I am sorry that you are in a marriage where your husband is not protecting and loving you as he ought to, that he does not accurately reflect to you the love of Jesus which is the clearest command to husbands in scripture. My heart breaks for you and the many other women who are in situations just like yours.
So to be clear, on the practical side of this equation, it is my opinion that because of the actions of your husband it would be a greater error on your part to keep your children in a home where their and your safety is in question. The emotional scarring of abuse is horrible and the longer they are kept in potentially violent situations, the harder it will be for them to overcome the trauma of it. Depending on where you live, you may actually be at risk of having legal action taken against you if you knowingly keep them in a home where they have been abused and do not report it. I am unclear as to how extensive the abuse has been, but if I understand the circumstances accurately, your husband will probably become violent again if he finds out that you are leaving and I suspect that you will need to file a restraining order against him for you and the children. I know that it is common to want to hide any evidence of abuse, but it will be important for you to keep a record of these events and it may help if you consult with a lawyer who can help you with that.
Now biblically speaking, I believe you also have more than enough scriptural support to get you and your children separated from him. I hope you are in a church community that can help you as you are going to need a lot of help in your healing journey from this. Regarding divorce and remarriage, based on my knowledge of God as revealed through His Word, a husband who is violent towards his wife and children has already broken covenant with them. Can God bring redemption? Yes, it is possible, but very uncommon because even a truly repentant abuser needs to have more than just repentance. Something in your husband is broken. Unless it is healed by God and God alone, I do not believe that repentance will lead to a permanent change in his behaviour. Because I do not know your husband or the depth of his brokenness I hesitate to give you parameters around if and when you should take the step towards divorce and remarriage. This is why I hope you have a wise church community that you are a part of. Salvation from this is impossible, but what is impossible with man is possible with God (Luke 18:27) and if healing is to come, a God-focused church community will give you the support you need to navigate through any miracle that might come to your husband’s heart. Your marriage might be miraculously healed, or it may end in divorce. I’ll take the miracle any day of the week, but if there is no will on the part of your husband to get truly free, divorce might become the only option. Is it ideal? No, but if your husband stays holding on to his brokenness and pride, I do believe that it is sometimes a reasonable outcome and God will be faithful to help you in it.
In regards to forgiveness, this sort of deep wounding is likely the sort of thing where you will chose it in your heart to begin with and then the reality of becoming free from your hurt and anger will come in waves. Whatever the process looks like for you, just stay close to Jesus’ heart and allow Him to redeem the hard things that you encounter. Although he doesn’t send hardship, he doesn’t waste it either. You’ll find that things will happen that seem to open up the wound of this tragedy in your life. Jesus will take those situations and speak truth to you resulting in healing. Then things will get better (because His healing is AMAZING), and you will be rejoicing at your victory in forgiveness. And then another thing will happen which reminds you of another area of wounding and you’ll go through it again, and every time you will become more and more free. The key is to stay close to Jesus so that when these things come, you are holding onto your identity as His daughter rather than the identity of being a victim of abuse. Your children, too, will go through a process like this so encourage them to continue holding on to Jesus and going to Him with their hurt. But make no mistake. Forgiveness does NOT equal staying in a violent relationship.
Thank you for being brave enough to ask for guidance. I hope my words to you are helpful. If I know this community of women like I think I do, I am sure that many of them will stand along side me in support of you. We pray for you and the many other women in similar circumstances. May God bring you out of the violence and fear into His peace and freedom.
Disclaimer: This article is based on my opinion only and is not meant to be taken as authoritative on any situation of domestic violence. I recommend that all who are in a situation of domestic violence seek professional and legal advice from someone in their geographic area.
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