Bible Studies for Women

Verbal Abuse in Marriage

I'm often asked, "What about abuse, fornication, and adultery? When do you 'draw the line'?"

I do not believe God intends for a woman to stay in a marriage situation where she or her child is subjected to physical abuse or is in danger of getting a sexually transmitted disease due to continued promiscuity on the part of her mate. I think the word "continued" is an important one here.

There are situations where a mate may have a STD without continued promiscuity or with repentance and turning away from it. God may lead the couple, in this case, to determine ways to protect the non-afflicted partner.

Verbal abuse, on the other hand, is a very touchy subject with women and with psychologists. Most seem to advocate that a wife should never tolerate it. I agree. If mere tolerance is her attitude, she is allowing great harm to be done to herself.

There are also the children to consider. If they are being verbally abused, a mother must remember that she is the only protection her children have. She is the one who must make choices to safeguard their well-being.

Verbal abuse has the same potential to cause injury that physical abuse does. However, though Jesus was harmed physically even unto death, I do not believe he was harmed mentally, psychologically, or spiritually by the verbal abuse directed toward him.

That is not to say he was not hurt by it. I think it hurt him greatly. But the pain was not because of any damage to himself. It was because of damage to those who directed the abusive remarks to him.

He suffered emotional pain in the face of the abuse. But he always hurt for the abuser and not for himself.

In the midst of it all, "Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.' And they divided up his clothes by casting lots" (Luke 23:34).

Jesus suffered pain as he realized what these people were doing to themselves by their sinful remarks. But for Jesus personally I think the verbal abuse probably strengthened him. It strengthened his compassion for the great need of humanity. It strengthened his resolve to intervene. It strengthened his dependence upon his Father's love.

Jesus did not simply tolerate the abuse. He went out of his way to actively love the abuser. There is a tremendous difference.

Jesus was already perfect, so he could not be made better. You and I, on the other hand, are being remade by the hand of our Father into the image of his Son:

"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18 )

Verbal abuse has caused severe psychological damage to some. However, I do not believe it always has to damage us. I believe God can use it to strengthen us and help us conform to the image of Jesus.

We are commanded to "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children" (Ephesians 5:1).

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers" (Romans 8:28-29)

"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith -- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire -- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1 Peter 1:6-7)

Could it be possible that the verbal abuse some women experience is God's way of working things for good in our lives that we may be refined by the fire and proved genuine to the praise and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ? Could it be that he wants to use the abusive situation to teach us the same tender compassion for the abuser that Jesus displayed? Could it be that he wants to strengthen our hearts so that we can learn to have peace amidst every circumstance as we rest in him?

I cannot with good conscience advocate that women must leave their husbands just because they experience verbal abuse. Yet I realize that some are not able or ready to go through verbally abusive situations without being damaged themselves. I believe God understands this too.

So my position on the matter of verbal abuse is that a woman should step back and consider what is at stake. She should seek counsel and help from others whom she can trust. But most of all she should ask the Lord Jesus to direct her steps and show her what his plan for her is at this moment.

It may be that a temporary separation is right until she can get the help she needs to deal with the situation. However God leads her, she should be able to take whatever steps she must in her present circumstances without the Christian community throwing stones at her.

Hope in a House Divided has sought to be a safe haven for wounded women regardless of what the situations and circumstances in their marriage. As Christians we cannot judge our sisters. We seek to encourage, love and teach God's Word.

Lord, we ask that you show us your way and lead us to walk in your truth today. Amen.

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