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Lesson 6: When Its Not Ideal

"I have told him a thousand times that he needs to get his life right with God. What more can I do?"

A strand of glossy auburn hair fell across Lee's eye, and she impatiently brushed it behind her ear. Expensive rings sparkled on her hands, and a large gold chain gleamed against her designer suit. When Lee and Ray got married, neither of them had been Christian believers. They had both been active in the business world, and they still enjoyed equally successful careers. Lee was executive vice president for a national ad agency. Ray was a corporate attorney.

Two years before, Lee had been led to the Lord by a woman friend, and her hunger for spiritual values had propelled her into a hectic pursuit of Bible studies, sermon tapes, and Christian music. She craved growth, and she had a genuine desire to see God's hand at work in her life. Lee's attitudes, behavior, and style had been dramatically transformed by her newfound faith.

Meanwhile, her husband was still the same old Ray—shady in his business dealings, ruthless in his contract negotiations, and vulgar in his humor and vocabulary.

The Christian faith had clearly become a stumbling block in this once happy marriage. And, aggressive as she was, Lee wasn't about to let an opportunity pass without reminding Ray that he was an infidel—in thought, word, and deed.

"I'm not afraid to tell him what I think about it; you can be sure of that!" Lee announced rather proudly.

I looked at her in amusement. "What would you think if I told you never to mention your Christian faith again?"

Without hesitation, Lee replied, "I'd say you're wrong. Jesus gave the Great Commission to all of us. We're supposed to share our faith with everyone—including our husbands."

"Lee, the Lord has some special instructions for women like you. They are simple: Pray for your husband, live a godly life in front of him, treat him with respect, and don't talk about your faith unless he asks."

"That's ridiculous! Ray will never come to God if I don't say anything. I'm the only Christian he knows. Look, Vickie, you've got to help me find a way to convince him to become a Christian. Otherwise I think our marriage is doomed. He's awful!"

Let's face it, we live in a fallen world. Sometimes we women don't measure up to God's standards. At other times, the men in our lives don't. There are wives who refuse to submit because they think it somehow makes them inferior. And there are husbands who use submission as a club to get their own way. They do not love sacrificially at all.

Lee's situation raises some very important issues. What does the Bible have to say about the profane, irreverent husband? About the selfish, irresponsible one? About the unsaved husband? About the abuser? Scripture doesn't give us an exact verse for each of these, but there are principles in the Bible which do give us guidelines. Some of these guidelines are not easy to follow. They are a challenge for us.

Wives, in the same way, be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

1 Peter 3:1-6

Men Who Say No to God

Let me explain what this passage doesn't mean. First of all, it is not a promise to a Christian woman who has decided to marry an unsaved man, that her good conduct will win her husband to Christ. This passage is not a carte blanche for you to say, "I can marry anybody I want, and God will eventually save him." God's Word clearly says that the only person a believer should marry is another believer (1 Cor. 7:39; 2 Cor. 6:14).

Peter was addressing a group of new believers. When the gospel had first been presented to them, in some cases, several wives had responded in faith, but their husbands hadn't. This was a situation where both spouses were unsaved when they got married, and one had since come to know the Lord.

And another thing, if you are "unequally yoked," no matter how you got that way, you don't become the head of the home just because you are more spiritually alive. Unfortunately, this is what some women think. Peter's words really address that misconception.

Now let's look at what this passage from Peter's epistle does say to us. What is the spiritual equation in your home? You may not be able to talk freely about Christian things because of your husband's personality. He may be unsaved, unresponsive, difficult, or totally obstinate. He may be in a state of unbelieving disobedience. The primary reference here is to the unsaved mate. But after years of counseling women, I know all too well that some of our saved mates can be unreceptive to spiritual issues, too.

Consciously or unconsciously, some men have determined that they are not going to grow in grace any more. They are sick of Bible studies. They refuse to attend church unless they feel like it. They're telling us, either in word or action, "Okay, you can go on and on with this Christian thing, but I am going to stay right here, and I am not moving. I'm not going to become a fanatic, too!"

I believe Peter's words can pertain to Christian wives of unbelievers as well as to the wives of Christian men who are in rebellion. In either case, the same principles apply.

Trusting Him Who Judges Justly

Peter had said in the previous chapter, "Slaves submit yourself to your masters with all respect. Not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh." This also applies to wives because a few lines later Peter says, "Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands." Wives are to respond to difficult husbands "in the same way" that a slave was to render faithful, efficient, loyal service to a difficult master.

A slave was to obey even if his master treated him harshly while he was doing his job well. The Christian slave was to do so because he was conscious of God, and Peter used Christ as an example—the ultimate example. Jesus Christ, who was sinless, suffered unjustly and accepted unfair treatment without retaliating.

I know. We all groan inside when we hear this sort of thing. It is so easy to snap back—so easy to pay back. But do you realize that if Jesus Christ had not done what He did, none of us would know God? None of us would be forgiven. None of us would have the assurance of heaven. He suffered for redemptive reasons. And I believe that we can live in a difficult situation for redemptive purposes, too. The reason Jesus was able to bear the burden of unjust treatment was because He entrusted Himself "to him who judges justly." We can do the same.

We have a heavenly Father who knows our limits and our abilities. He esteems justice and recognizes inequity. He knows our hearts and our motives. We can commit ourselves and our cause to Him. I believe that we can both give and receive encouragement in this regard. The route is not always an escape from the situation. Sometimes the route may be one of endurance—an endurance that God enables us to live out.

A Strong, Silent Message

Peter says that unbelieving husbands may be won over without a word, without corrective conversations, simply by the behavior of their wives. A man can be changed just by observing the purity and reverence of his wife's life.

I think this is probably the hardest thing for a woman to do—to keep quiet and just let her actions speak for her. Have you ever thought, Oh, Lord, I really want him to know this! How am I going to get it across? Let's see—I'll think of some tactful way of saying it. Maybe I can put a tape in our tapedeck. Or leave the Bible open. Or lay a tract out where he'll see it.

Don't take on the responsibility for your husband's spiritual development. You don't need to be clever or covert. God is saying, "I know that you are limited because of the submission-leadership relationship. And I am promising you some strong help."

First of all, God wants you to know that you are not the only means by which He is able to reach this man. You aren't solely responsible. God is able to bring all kinds of other people and circumstances into the picture. He has ways of reaching out to your husband that you can't even imagine. Meanwhile, your husband can't help but observe the purity and the reverence for God in your life, an attitude which controls everything you do. Your behavior is going to make an impact on him whether you think it will or not.

Outstanding, Not Outrageous

With this in mind, begin to realize that if you want to influence your husband, you have to have a different value system than this world's. For example, you are not going to seduce him into Christianity. You have to leave behind worldly ideas and the world's approach. Tell yourself, "My outward appearance as well as my actions are going to mirror the beliefs I treasure on the inside."

I get really upset with Christian books that advocate sexual manipulation. Just remember that whatever you gain by manipulation you must maintain by manipulation. It is so much better to honestly say, "Lord, I can't do anything about his beliefs or his behavior. So I give this man into Your hands." God will bless your attitude of submission, both to your husband and to God, as a means of evangelism.

We say, "How am I going to make this man become more spiritual?"

God says, "I am going to use you to win him to Me without another word said. I am going to enable you by the spirit of God to conduct yourself in such a loving and irreproachable way that it will have an impact on him—whether he admits it or not."

What talking won't do, kindness and purity will. Peter wanted these women to understand that their beauty wasn't supposed to come merely from outward adornment. Now this doesn't mean that we can't wear jewelry. Or enjoy pretty clothes. And it doesn't mean that we shouldn't fix our hair attractively.

In those decadent Roman times, coiffures were sometimes so elaborate that a woman might need a slave to walk behind her, propping her hair up with a pole! These flamboyant coiffures were intricately adorned with jewels and gold and pearls. Peter is talking about extreme, way-out clothes. He is not talking about ordinary apparel.

Let's not get the idea, like some of the old Quakers, that Christian women should be garbed in gray and black, or that we are particularly spiritual if we look terrible. God's woman is consistent. She is attractive. She does not use extreme, outlandish sexual techniques to win her husband. She is going to have a beauty that is unfading, a beauty that comes from "a gentle and quiet spirit."

Following in Sarah's Footsteps

Meekness means controlled strength. And a woman with a meek, gentle spirit is not agitated by circumstances. She is not panicked by every new thing that comes along. She does not respond to surprises by blowing her top. Her quiet spirit flows directly from her staunch hope and trust in God. The way to win a difficult husband is to have a spirit like Jesus Christ. A spirit that is unruffled. A spirit that can face tragedy. A spirit that can deal with unwarranted suffering.

That's not to say she pretends nothing is wrong, practicing denial and refusing to admit to adversity. How can a woman cope with her troubles? Peter tells us the secret—she puts her confidence in God. She trusts Him with her life and with her husband. And notice what it says about Sarah being our example: "You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear" ( 1 Pet. 3:6).

In the midst of doing right, to what are we the most vulnerable? Anxiety. Panic. Fear.

What if he gets mad at me?

Suppose he gets abusive?

Suppose he takes away some of the things I enjoy? Through prayer and focus upon God's Word, we can entrust ourselves to God and allow Him to protect our interests.

Naturally, things don't always work out the way we want them to. I love the fact that Sarah is the example that is used (Genesis 12-23). What kind of person was Sarah? Was she a doormat? Hardly! Do you notice that every time Sarah gave her husband advice, he took it, whether it was good advice or not?

The last time that Sarah advised her husband, she told him to get rid of his son Ishmael. Abraham didn't want to do it, but God told him, "Do whatever Sarah tells you." We have a woman here who was anything but a pushover. She was not a silent partner. She was actively involved. She protected her husband. She was interested in his concerns. She was committed to his walk with God. I think it's noteworthy that God used a woman like Sarah—a woman with normal emotions, a woman who experienced deep heartache—as a role model for us.

Sarah was infertile, and knew to the depths of her soul what barrenness meant. She had experienced all of the reproach that went with it. She knew what it was to be jealous. In fact, she became violent with her servant Hagar, who was mother of Abraham's son Ishmael. God understands our feminine nature. He understands our needs as women. And in spite of her failings, He uses Sarah as an example of a holy woman, a woman set apart for God (1 Pet. 3:6).

I am so glad God didn't use someone like Ruth for this particular role model. It's much more difficult to relate to Ruth, because everything she did was good. He gave us somebody who was more like we are. And Sarah was a wonderful woman. She respected and honored Abraham, shared his dreams, and supported his walk with God.

And what happened to Sarah when her husband failed her, abandoned her to Pharaoh's harem, and lied to save his own skin? God rescued her, not once but twice, even though she'd gone along with Abraham's lie, agreeing that she was his sister. Remember, her motive was to protect her husband's life, so she cooperated with his dishonest scheme. Incidentally, don't use that as an excuse to do wrong. Sarah thought their situation was a matter of life and death.

Why Some Prayers Are Unanswered

As we noted in an earlier chapter, Peter gave the men he was addressing a warning.

Husbands . . . be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

1 Peter 3:7

He was saying, "If you don't treat your wife properly, when you pray something is going to snip your prayer off before it ever reaches heaven." Being harsh, bitter, demanding, selfish, and arrogant toward your wife will mar your fellowship with God and result in unanswered prayer.

I wonder how many prayers are unanswered right now because some men have this kind of an attitude toward their wives? By the way, I personally suspect that the woman who takes the position of "Well, I'm more spiritual than he is so I'm taking over!" is in the same danger.

No matter what, a man is not supposed to look on his wife with scorn because she doesn't happen to have the same muscle structure he has or the same hormonal makeup. And yet that is often what we see today. Even in churches we pick up that macho idea, "Isn't that just like a woman? What do you expect from a woman?"

Within the Christian community that type of woman bashing is not spiritual, and it is not biblical. And it was certainly nothing Jesus ever did. In fact, when you find the disciples railing at Mary because, in all her emotion, she wasted her precious, fragrant ointment on Jesus, He said, "Leave her alone, she has done a beautiful thing to me. And wherever the gospel is given, she will be remembered . . . she has done what she could." I think God wants each of us to treasure that assurance within our own hearts. By faith, let's believe that when we have done what we could within our circumstances, He is pleased with us.

"Heirs with you" reminds us that men and women are saved the same way. They confess that they are sinners, believe that Jesus Christ, God's Son, died in their place and trust Him alone for forgiveness and eternal life. There is no distinction. Men and women will have an equal share in the coming age. And even now we have an equal share in the grace of God in salvation and in the blessings of being in God's family.

Women, it is important for you to know, if you are living in a situation which is harsh and wrong, that God does not approve of it. It should make you feel better to know that God isn't pleased with your circumstances. Please be reassured of His concern and compassion, even if Bible verses have been misused to tell you otherwise.

It disturbs me when I hear people distort Scripture to force something God does not want. You can trust in God—He isn't against women. God isn't up there saying, "That's the way to treat them, you guys." I want you to realize that the Lord really is on your side and has promised to help you.

Is Abuse Permissible?

What about wife abuse? This isn't just happening down in some poor neighborhood across town. Sad to say, wife abuse is common even in Christian churches. The following excerpt from a Moody Monthly article by Chuck and Winnie Christiansen typifies the kind of advice that a woman has often received when she said, "My husband is abusive and violent. What can I do?"

Dear Chuck and Winnie:

Where in the Bible does it give my husband permission to beat me? My husband claims to be a Christian, we go to church and as far as anyone is concerned he is a wonderful guy. But at home it is another story. He has thrown me, beaten me and threatened our children; we have two small ones. I am now separated from him, but my pastor told me I should go home. He said God has called me to be an abused wife. I asked, did God call my husband to be an abuser? He is supposed to be a Christian. Where in the Bible does it tell husbands to beat their wives? The pastor replied, "That isn't the issue. The issue is that it is your place to submit." I said I couldn't accept that. I left because I feared for my life and the lives of my children. Would God want me and my children living in danger? It's my non-Christian friends who told me to leave and to start a life of my own with my children. I am confused. Can you help?

I couldn't agree more emphatically with the answer the Christiansens gave to this poor woman. They assured her that there is definitely no verse in the entire Bible which gives a husband, whether he's a believer or not, the right to abuse either his wife or his children. And to use the passages regarding marital submission as justification for such actions is heresy. Such a man is simply twisting the Bible around to endorse his violence.

Some misinformed teachers have said that Genesis 3:16 warrants either verbal or physical abuse. That is absurd. We've already learned that God's words to Eve were simply a prediction of what would happen in family relationships because of the Fall. It is unthinkable that God would direct men to dehumanize their wives or to destroy their children physically or emotionally.

We've seen, in Ephesians 5, that Paul reveals the kind of love God expects husbands to have for their wives. It is Christ's love. It is a giving, sacrificial love that causes a man to be willing to lay his life down for his spouse. God does not take lightly the abuse of any of His children, or the distortion of Scripture to support it.

Darrell was youth pastor at a large, thriving evangelical church. He was blond, boyish, and lovable. He was a wonderful storyteller with an engaging sense of humor. Charm was his middle name. Darrell, his petite wife, Pat, and their two children were the very picture of the "perfect Christian couple." They sat together in church, and he told endearing little stories about their kids to illustrate his occasional sermons.

No one had a clue about the violence that went on behind the closed doors of their home.

One day Pat came to see me. There was a faint purple blotch on her left cheek, and an incredible weariness in her eyes. I guessed her problem before she even told me. "Vickie, I can't believe I'm going to tell you this . . ."

I prayed silently that she would find the courage to continue. Most battered women are so accustomed to hiding their husbands' behavior that they find it almost impossible to speak about it openly.

"My husband Darrell has a wonderful ministry. He has led so many kids to the Lord, and they all cling to his every word. He really is a wonderful man in so many ways. But . . ."

"Go ahead, Pat."

"He has a tendency to lose his temper, and . . ." "Is he physically abusive?"

Pat looked at me in amazement. "How did you know?" "Tell me about it, Pat."

Pat explained that Darrell had come from a violent, alcoholic family. His father had beaten his mother, and his mother had beaten her children.

One terrible night, her head bleeding and her face bruised, Pat had tried to confront him with his legacy of violence. Darrell had arrogantly responded, "Hey, that's just the way I am. I'm the head of this house, and I'll do what I want. If you'd do things my way, you wouldn't get into trouble. You're a lazy slob anyway."

Pat had been immediately apologetic. "I know, I know. I could try harder. But what about the kids? Why are you so hard on them?"

"Spare the rod and spoil the child," he'd laughed flippantly.

"They're just as lazy and undisciplined as you are. They need to be whipped into shape."

I listened sadly as Pat recounted her conversations with her husband. Unfortunately, this wasn't my first exposure to abuse within the church. Or my last. Such behavior is all too common, and it hides behind a clever mask—the misused word submission.

When faced with battered women, my answer is always the same: "You've got to bring it out into the open, Pat." "What? But I can't! It will destroy our lives."

"Your husband is abusive, both verbally and physically. You can't continue to enable him in his behavior. It's wrong. And it's dangerous. Starting right now, you and I are going to work together on a strategy to discourage that behavior and help to heal the marriage."

Dangerous, Destructive Secrets

If physical violence is a pattern in your home, the worst thing you can do is to keep it a secret. When you hide your husband's mistreatment of you, you essentially give him permission to continue his bad behavior. Abusers hate exposure. And they know that some women keep their conduct a secret because they feel so ashamed.

Women who are abused almost always believe that it's their fault. The abuser has told them, "I did it because of the way you acted." Or, "If you hadn't said what you said, I wouldn't have done it." So who is getting the blame for it all? The one who is abused. On top of the punishment, she is also expected to take the responsibility. And unfortunately, abused women usually accept those accusations. They say to themselves, "Well, he's right. If I hadn't shot off my mouth, or if I'd kept the house clean, or if I had scrubbed the bathroom, it wouldn't have happened."

In fact, I have heard too many times about women who have gone to a pastor or counselor for help, and they've been asked, "What are you doing to provoke it? Quit doing it!" What does this imply? That men have the right to abuse women. If you go for help and are asked questions like that, find someone else to talk to—someone who will listen. What we have to do, with God's guidance and help, is bring about consequences that are so unpleasant that these men are motivated to stop their abuses.

Those consequences might entail reporting specific incidents to a pastor or elder—even to the police if necessary. A woman in church leadership should be able to provide you with good counsel. Unpleasant consequences might even mean that you have to leave home, taking your children with you. This is not done for the purpose of ending the marriage, but with the intention of healing it. Unless there is a realization of what life would be like without their wives and children, some men may never stop their abusive behavior.

And you'll need to be strong in your position. Suppose you say, "I want our marriage to be right, and I am not coming back unless we get counseling."

Your husband says, "Okay, I'll go to counseling." So you move right back in. What do you think will happen?

You need to see that your abusive spouse is seriously involved in counseling. He needs it, and so do you, so that ground rules can be established. And there has to be some system of accountability. Perhaps an older couple who have had a good marriage will be available to help lovingly.

Women often get locked into abusive situations for financial reasons. If they do leave and go somewhere with their children, who is going to support them? Most communities now have shelters and refuges. Extended family, such as parents, grandparents, or aunts and uncles, may be able to assist. And churches should be ready to refer women to homes that have been made available to abused women until something is done to heal the marriage.

Often an abusive man is frustrated inside. He may have been unsuccessfully looking for a job for six months. Many times a man like that has come out of an abusive home and is following the pattern he has observed since childhood. His mother "took it" so he figures his wife will take it. All of his frustrations come out on the one closest to him.

These men can find counsel in anonymous groups for abusers, which will help them work through their inappropriate behavior. The key to all of this is a sincere desire for change. And, unfortunately, most men won't see any reason to change if the victim of their abuse takes it silently.

Enough Is Enough

There is a time, in some situations, where someone needs to say, "Enough is enough," and "Stop it." There is no biblical support for the abuse of women and children to continue. For a man to dehumanize the woman who is his partner, his mate, and an equal with him before God is unconscionable. Within the church, particularly, it has gone on much too long.

Let me make a point here. You are not responsible for your husband's behavior. He has probably told you, "If you had done this, or if you hadn't done that, I wouldn't have hit you." No matter what you did or didn't do, a chronic abuser would find some reason to blame you for the bruises and injuries he gave you.

All of us can improve what we do. And your husband may not be entirely wrong in his assessment of your conduct. Nonetheless, his response is wrong. If you are doing things which you really should not do, of course you need to stop, but you must not accept this kind of behavior as normal. And you must not feel that God commands you to stay indefinitely in this situation.

There are times when it's necessary to exercise tough love. Sometimes a woman tells me that her husband is having an affair, and "It's not the first time, but he always tells me it won't happen again." I urge firm confrontation, even separation, to get his attention and convince him that she will not accept that lifestyle any longer. If he is willing to go for counseling and end his infidelity, the marriage may have a good chance of being restored. Women are usually so humiliated by infidelity that we must help them maintain their dignity and assign responsibility where it belongs.

High on my list of books for recommended reading is Love Must Be Tough. The author, James Dobson, maintains that we should not allow a person to continue in inappropriate behavior. He asserts that we are not supposed to be enablers, and when a spouse continues to provide "second chances," no ultimatum is issued.

Perhaps you've been taught to simply sit still and pray. But when the circumstances continue year in and year out, it's obvious that other parties have concluded they can get away with their wrongdoing. That's why Dobson suggests that wives give ultimatums to their husbands. When I counsel such women I often ask, "Do you want to go on all your life like this?"

"No, I really don't," is usually their response.

"Well, then, you are going to have to confront him. But the choice is yours."

When counseling, whatever you do, don't get locked into your position and say, "You can never divorce for any reason." An unfaithful mate has broken the marriage. That doesn't mean they have to divorce. Sometimes people will reconcile and find themselves with a stronger marriage than ever. But women who are the victims of persistent unfaithfulness need to know that they are biblically free to make a choice (Matt. 19:9).

Claire's husband was living in another city during the week, coming home only on some weekends. Finally, after six months or so, she came into my office and said, "Vickie, do you think he might be having an affair?"

I looked at her and said "Honey, of course he's having an affair! I can tell you right now that he is."

"Really? How can you be sure?"

I looked at Claire in amazement. Wouldn't you be a little suspicious if your out-of-town husband never told you where you could reach him at night, and the only place you could talk to him was in the office during the day?

Claire finally confronted him. Yes, indeed there was another woman. To make matters worse, her husband said he couldn't decide which one of them he wanted to stay with! Each weekend he would come home, and Claire would be there waiting for him, hoping against hope that he would stay. But after the weekend at home, he would invariably return to the other woman's arms.

Claire called me more than once saying, "Vickie, I'm so miserable. I just hate living like this!"

"I have real problems with what you're doing, Claire. You're allowing your husband to make a choice he doesn't have the right to make. He is married to you, and no one else. And unless you make that perfectly clear to him, he's going to carry on like this forever."

After several more months of agony, Claire finally called me on the phone and said "Okay, I am really getting mad!"

I said "Well good! It's about time! So what are you going to do about it?"

"I'm going to tell him that he either comes home to stay or I'm divorcing him."

She did so. And he moved back home. But believe me—as long as Claire's husband could have it both ways, he wasn't about to make a choice. They both have had to undergo serious counseling to restore their marriage.

Giving All You Can Give

Now don't consider all this an excuse to pack your bags every time your husband crosses his eyes at you! You know there is such a thing as conflict. Every marriage has it, and it is actually very healthy. Ruth Graham once said, "If Billy and I agreed on everything, one of us would be unnecessary." There needs to be communication, a way of working through issues without exploding. There needs to be self-control.

We must do everything we can to preserve our marriages. But we do not have to let things that are totally out of line continue indefinitely because we are told to "submit." Whatever it takes, do everything you can. Sometimes you may be wise to have a third-party mediator. Or find an older couple whom you admire—mature people who have worked through their own difficulties—and seek their involvement. You may need to seek professional help, especially when violence is a factor. But don't just place abusive or immoral behavior under the heading of "submission" and let it go on indefinitely. If you do, it will destroy you. It will wreck your marriage. It will devastate your children.

Sadly, hidden abuse and adultery are much more prevalent in the church than you ever could imagine. And as you reach out to other women, you'll eventually have someone approach you with those kinds of problems. Whatever you do, don't ever try to make a woman or child stay in a place where they are in danger of serious physical harm. Women have been killed because they hung on too long when they were told it was the right thing to do.

Some years ago there was a cover article in Christianity Today called "Wife Abuse, the Secret Crime in the Church." It is real and it is there, both in verbal and physical terms. If it is happening to you, don't be ashamed. Don't take all the blame. Get help. Get counseling. Get out if you must.

And as a concerned friend to someone in trouble, be compassionate. Don't just pat yourself on the back because it isn't happening to you. Instead, thank God for your own better circumstances and then open your arms in compassion, in counsel, in instruction, in prayer, and in firmness wherever this is happening.

God has given us His guidelines. Everything isn't always ideal, and there are no guaranteed happy endings. But as women helping women, we can help ease the pain, lift the burden, shield from danger, and leave the results to God.

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