Spiritual Obstacles to Ending an Abusive Relationship

One of the things which is often not appreciated is just how difficult it is for a victim of abuse even to get to the stage of confiding in Brothers and Sisters and the various spiritual hurdles they have to overcome before taking action (in addition to all the 'normal' obstacles common to believers and non-believers alike).

Thinking back to my own experiences and spiritual struggles, I would like to point out some of the issues I struggles with, which kept me silent for much too long, prevented me from seeking help or taking advantage of the protection offered by the law of the land and the Police. Hence this is written from my perspective, that of a Sister, married to an abusive husband-brother:

There are many Scriptural reasons which prevented me from speaking out and seeking help and which left me confused about my position regarding the abuse, including the belief that

  • we should not go to law against our Brother (1 Cor. 6:5-7), hence even where the law of the land could help to protect us from the violence or assaults we are experiencing, we deny ourselves that protection.

  • we should submit to our husband as unto Christ (Eph. 5:22,24; Col. 3:18), even where our husband is not acting in a Christ-like manner (1 Pet. 3:1) our body no longer belongs to us but to our husband - what right do we therefore have to his treatment of it/us? (1 Cor. 7:4)- this is especially a problem if we are the victims of sexual abuse or marital rape ... do we have a right to our husbands using our bodies sexually against our will or is that defrauding him?

  • we must not separate ourselves from our husbands, but are bound for life by marriage (1 Cor. 7:10,39) - hence even moving into a refuge or safehouse to escape the abuse is not an option we would consider as that would seem to be a separating of ourselves from our husband.

  • we should forgive each other (Mat. 18:21,22 and countless others) and should repay evil with good, allowing ourselves to be defrauded and turn the other cheek (1 Pet. 3:9; Rom. 12:17; 1 Thes. 5:15 and Mat. 5:39) - so each time we are abused or assaulted, we forgive our husband, try to blot it out from our minds, try to be a better wife to him and put our trust in him again.

  • when faced with troubles, we should pray about it, and if we have enough faith, the prayer will have results (Jas. 5:13-16; Mat. 17:20) – if therefore the abuse continues after prayer, the fault must lie with us, our lack of faith or selfish motives, for it says: "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives" (Jas. 4:3)

  • we believe that we reap what we sow, hence the abuse must be due to our sinfulness (Gal. 6:7; Ecc. 11:1 and many more)

  • if we are truly trying to follow our Lord, then we keep no record of wrongs, but try to continue to love and act out that love (1 Cor. 13:4-7)

Added to that, what examples do we find in Scripture?

  • Hagar was suffering abuse at the hands of her mistress, and was told to go back and submit herself when she fled the abuse (Gen. 16:6)

  • Job suffered, though he was righteous – should we too not accept good from God and not trouble? (Job 2:10)

  • Many OT prophets suffered, and bore it with patience, and they should be an example to us (Jas. 5:10,11)

  • Time and again we read about suffering, and the need to bear it (1 Pet. 2: 19-21; 3:14,17 and 4:19) and in some way that suffering is for our own good (1 Pet. 1:6,7; Rom. 5:3-5 and Is. 38:17)

We believe that "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (1 Cor. 10:13), and hence that no matter how hard the abuse, we can bear it and it is a lack of faith to give up and escape it, but God will find the solution and end it.

And we also believe that "all things work together for good to those who love God" (Rom. 8:28), hence if it does not look too 'good' it must be our love that is lacking, the fault is ours.

On one hand we realise that our husband is being overtaking in a fault, and we have a duty to try to prevent him from sinning (Gal. 6:1), on the other hand, we feel responsible for the abuse, as though we were the ones causing our husband-brother to stumble and sin (Mark 9:42,43) hence the fault lies with us, and we need to do the changing. What right then do we have to object to the speck in our brother's eye, when we have a moat in our own? (Mat. 7:4-5) How can we throw the first stone? (John 8:7).

There are also other hurdles to overcome, which are specific to our Community and similar ones:

  • we are reticent about approaching or seeking help from the 'World', for is not friendship with the World, enmity to God? (Jas. 4:4)

  • Nor do we want to admit to that type of problem, because we like to portray ourselves – the Christadelphians – as being separate and unaffected by worldly problems, we don't want to let the side down and admit our imperfections, or bring the Truth into disrepute.

  • We should not be a bad example to younger members, or even our children, by giving up and ended a marriage which is abusive.

  • Since the issues of abuse are still largely taboo within Christadelphia, we feel as though we must be the faulty ones to appear to be the only ones to be experiencing this.

  • We do not want to blacken our husband's name among our Brothers and Sisters, don't want them to be thought of badly, or suffer the condemnation of their spiritual and ecclesial family. Despite the abuse, we still love them, and would rather suffer ourselves than see them suffer.

  • We do not want to bring shame on our husband-brother or the Community, and feel that to speak out about it, break the silence, would bring shame, rather than realising that it is the abuse itself which does so ... how often is the messenger blamed for the message?

  • We fear not being believed even if we do speak out, especially where our husband is a well-respected speaker, holds an office within the ecclesia, or where we have come in from the outside and so automatically get less credence than if we had grown up in the 'nurture and admonishion of the Lord'.

I could go on and on about the various spiritual struggles we face, but will leave it at that for now. Suffice it to say, before the ecclesia is a position to act either in trying to help the abuser to own his/her actions and heal, or in support of the victim of abuse, there is a very long, hard spiritual journey for the victim just in being able to admit the abuse for what it is, let alone speak out about it and bring the problem before the ecclesia.

There is still a lot of work to do within our Community.


This page was last updated June 2004