Christian Biblical Counsel: ABUSE, WIFE

Wife Abuse

Assault on a Woman’s Worth

by June Hunt

He was prominent in the community. What woman wouldn’t feel fortunate to be his wife? She certainly had all the finer things in life. And the children … didn’t they have the best that money could buy? How could she think about destroying such a picture-perfect family or risk stepping into a future unknown? Where would she go? What could she do? How would she support herself? And even worse, if she began to expose the terrible truth, would she lose the children? She felt hopeless. Who would believe her? She had been so skillful at hiding her feelings, as well as the bruises. With swollen, tear-stained eyes, she reasoned … It’s mostly my fault anyway!

Even when reason seems skewed, the Psalms offer hope for the afflicted.

“You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending … the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.”

(Psalm 10:17–18)

I.     Definitions

While abusive acts are committed by both husbands and wives, in cases of domestic violence, approximately 95 percent of the victims are women. Although the reality of wife battering reveals a long history of being tolerated—tolerated traditionally and even legally—abusive behavior has always grieved the heart of God. Any violation of this most sacred relationship always produces pain, but God promises to be close to the victim who suffers at the hands of an abuser.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

(Psalm 34:18)

A. What Is Abuse?

•     In general, the verb abuse means “to mistreat, hurt, or injure.”

•     The words abuse and violence are often used interchangeably, although the word violence implies an escalation of abuse and introduces the element of fear of harm as a means of control.

•     The Old Testament Hebrew word most often translated as “violent” or “violence” is chamas, which means “to mistreat.” Chamac is also translated as “malicious, destroy, wrong, crime, ruthless, plunder,” and “terror.”

God’s judgment falls on anyone who is   abusive or violent toward another.


“ ‘I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

(Malachi 2:16)

•     Domestic violence and family violence are the legal terms for physical spousal abuse, child abuse, elder abuse, or any other physically abusive relationship within the home or family.

•     Domestic violence refers to a pattern of coercive and violent behavior exercised by one adult in an intimate relationship with another.

•     Domestic violence is not an issue of “marriage problems” or “irreconcilable differences” solved by “conflict resolution.” This kind of abuse …

Affects everyone in the family

Bridges all levels in society: racial, religious, geographic, and economic

Undermines the value of others

Seeks to dominate others

Escalates in intensity and frequency

Spiritual leaders, family, and friends   need to be responsive when informed of spousal abuse. Violence of any kind   should never be tolerated nor hidden under the cover of “godly submission.”   The God of the Bible is our God of refuge … a stronghold of support and   defense against violence.


“My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—from violent men you save me.”

(2 Samuel 22:3)

Question: “Would God have my husband abuse me in order to punish me for my sins?”

Answer: No, there are many instances in Scripture of God using one nation to bring judgment upon another nation. However, there is no instance of God using the violence of a husband to punish his wife. God hates sin, and abuse is sin.

According to God, the relationship between husband and wife is to be a picture of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church. His instruction to husbands is for them to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave up His life for her.

Your husband’s thinking is obviously distorted, and he is being abusive simply because he is choosing wrong over right. While you are the recipient of your husband’s abuse, you are not the reason for his abuse. His violence exposes his sinfulness, not yours.

“Do what is just and right.… Do no wrong or violence.” (Jeremiah 22:3)

B. What Are the Different Types of Abuse?

Abusive behavior can be aggressive or passive, physical or psychological, direct or indirect, but regardless of the method, all abusive behavior comes from a hardened heart with the desire to punish, coerce, and control. Although the abuser treats his mate unjustly, he blames her for making him do it. It is never his fault … or so he says.

“In your heart you devise injustice, and your hands mete out violence on the earth.”

(Psalm 58:2)

Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse is the use of words or tone of voice in an attempt to control or hurt another person or to destroy that person’s self-worth. Verbal abuse can be as devastating as physical abuse within a marriage—a destroyer of respect, trust, and intimacy. Verbally abusive language is meant to do the following:

•     Intimidate with yelling or threats

•     Shame with humiliation or “guilt trips”

•     Silence with constant interruptions or changing topics

•     Confuse with mind games or by twisting what is said

•     Badger with excessive questioning or accusations

•     Deceive with half-truths or lies

•     “Guilt-jerk” with threats of self-injury or suicide

•     Insult with coarse language or profanity

•     Degrade with public or private put-downs

•     Control with criticism or sarcasm

•     Devalue by demeaning family or friends

•     Belittle by mocking or name-calling

•     Overpower by always claiming to be right

•     Disempower by continually dictating orders

•     Disrespect by denying that the abuse ever happened

•     Demoralize by making light of the abusive behavior

•     Accuse by blaming you for the abuse

•     Paralyze by threatening to report you as an unfit parent

“His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue.”

(Psalm 10:7)

Emotional Abuse

While all forms of mistreatment are emotionally abusive, certain behaviors can be overtly labeled as “emotional abuse.” An emotionally abusive behavior will fit into one of two categories: passive or aggressive.

•     Passive emotional abuse is characterized by:

—  Withholding emotional support

—  Withholding important information

—  Withholding money and access to the checkbook

—  Not giving appropriate attention or compliments

—  Not listening or responding

—  Not taking a fair share of responsibility

—  Not respecting your rights, opinions, or feelings

—  Sulking and brooding

—  Using the “silent treatment”

—  Choosing to be irritable

—  Manipulating the children

—  Neglecting important family gatherings

—  Failing to return home at a reasonable time

—  Refusing to help with children or housework

—  Refusing help to overcome an addiction (drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling)

—  Refusing to express true feelings

—  Refusing to leave when asked

—  Keeping weapons in order to frighten you

•     Aggressive emotional abuse is characterized by:

—  Isolating you from family and friends

—  Not allowing you to have any part in major decisions

—  Rushing your decision-making through intimidation

—  Intimidating looks or body language

—  Blocking the doorway when arguing

—  Hiding car keys as a means of control

—  Breaking promises or not keeping agreements

—  Making threatening gestures

—  Driving recklessly to instill fear

—  Excessive jealousy and suspicion

—  Prohibiting sleep

—  Damaging treasured items

—  Excessive anger

—  Continually checking up on you

—  Interfering with your work

—  Monitoring your phone calls

—  Making unwanted calls or visits

—  Following or stalking you

“In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises.”

(Psalm 10:2)

Physical Abuse/Violence

Physical abuse involves any use of size, strength, or presence to control or hurt someone. Often beginning with verbal threats of physical harm—“You’ll wish you had never been born.”—the verbal abuse escalates to physical abuse.

•     Acts of violence include:

—  pushing/shoving

—  punching/slapping

—  kicking/tripping

—  grabbing/choking

—  confining/locking up

—  binding/chaining

—  scratching/pinching

—  poking/piercing

—  burning/scalding

—  biting/spitting

—  pinning down

—  pulling hair

—  twisting arm

—  hitting walls

—  slamming doors

—  throwing objects

—  knocking out teeth

—  breaking items

—  destroying property

—  using weapons (stabbing/shooting)

—  threatening with weapons

—  harming a pet

—  killing a pet

—  kidnapping her child

—  harming her child

—  killing her child

“Do not envy wicked men, do not desire their company; for their hearts plot violence, and their lips talk about making trouble.”

(Proverbs 24:1–2)

Sexual Abuse/Violence

Because many believe that a wife is to be submissive to all her husband’s desires, many married women experience sexual abuse without realizing it. Sexual abuse and/or violence includes:

•     Sexually degrading attitudes and treatment

•     Discrimination based on gender

•     Withholding sexual intimacy and romance

•     Unjust accusations of extramarital affairs

•     Brazen flirtation with members of the opposite sex

•     Threats of forced sex

•     Forced sex (“mate rape”)

•     Sodomy

•     Obscene gestures

•     Homosexuality

•     Adultery

•     Forced involvement in perverse sexual acts

•     Using objects on sexual parts

•     Forced involvement in pornography

•     Coerced sexual acts with others for entertainment

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”

(Hebrews 13:4)

C. What Is Misogyny?

The English word misogyny comes from the Greek misogynia (miso, which means “hatred,” and gyne, which means “woman”). Misogyny means “hatred and distrust of women.” The misogynist may have experienced emotional or physical harm from a woman during his childhood. Therefore, he overgeneralizes, thinking all women are the same. His behavior toward women, especially toward his wife, reflects the bitterness and hatred stored within his soul.

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”

(Matthew 12:35)

•     The misogynist:

—  Has a gender prejudice against all women

—  Thinks women are weak and despises their weakness

—  Feels both threatened and enraged by tears

—  Acts both lovingly and hatefully toward women

—  Primarily uses mental and emotional abuse to control women

D. Where Is God in All This?

Is God just a bystander in life, passively watching as the innocent suffer and the wicked prosper? Never! Then, in the midst of injustice, where is the heavenly Father? He is with you just as He was with His Son when Jesus endured unjust suffering at the most pivotal point in history … the Crucifixion. God the Father watched with a broken heart, even though He knew that only His Son’s death could pay the penalty for the sins of the world.

When the deepest part of your heart cries His name, He responds with deep love and compassion. God’s purpose for allowing you to suffer may seem shrouded in a cloud of mystery. At those times, when you cannot see His hand, you can always trust His heart.

“Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.”

(Lamentations 3:32–33)

God’s Heart on Violence

•     God hates violence.

“The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates.” (Psalm 11:5)

•     God judges those who are violent.

“God said to Noah, ‘I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence.’ ” (Genesis 6:13)

•     God is angry with violent behavior.

“Must they also fill the land with violence and continually provoke me to anger?” (Ezekiel 8:17)

•     God prohibits violent people from positions of leadership.

“Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.” (Titus 1:7)

•     God commands those who are violent to change.

“Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right.” (Ezekiel 45:9)

Question:I am angry with God. If God is just, why does He allow abuse?”

Answer: You are living with misplaced blame. Realize God did not create human beings to be puppets to do His will, but rather He allows all people to choose wrong from right … even if they go against His will. Don’t blame God when people choose to do wrong. They are the guilty ones—not God. Rest assured, God is just … and He will punish those who abuse you.

“God is just: he will pay back trouble to those who trouble you.” (2 Thessalonians 1:6)

God’s Heart for the Victim

•     God hears the cry of the battered and abused.

“You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.” (Psalm 10:17)

•     God holds the victim of abuse in the palm of His hand.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

•     God will rescue the victim of abuse and violence.

“He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.” (Psalm 72:14)

•     God confirms the victim’s value and worth.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6–7)

•     God brings good out of the evil deeds of others.

“The Lord works out everything for his own ends—even the wicked for a day of disaster.” (Proverbs 16:4)

Question: “How do I know if I should take action when I or someone I know is a victim of abuse?”

Answer: Whenever anyone, yourself included, is being abused, you need always to take some sort of action, even if it does not involve confronting the abuser.

—  A safe rule of thumb is to never confront an abuser in a way or at a place that would put you in harm’s way. If you know you are not being led by the Lord to confront, then do not confront.

—  Generally speaking, there is safety in numbers. So if you think it is not safe to confront alone, take someone with you who can keep the situation physically and emotionally safe for you.

—  If someone you know is being abused and the person is powerless to stop the abuse, intervene on the person’s behalf. Either confront the abuser yourself, report the abuse to someone who can confront, or direct the victim to someone for counseling.

“Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?” (Proverbs 24:11–12)


II.    Characteristics

Who are the abusers? Do you know anyone who is being abused? Since one out of every three women are victims of domestic violence, you probably do know someone who is or has been abused. She could be your doctor or dentist, your secretary or sister, your beautician or boss … or your best friend. The abuser could be your preacher or postman, your salesman or son, your banker or broker … or your best friend.

Seldom do we know what takes place behind closed doors. But God sees everything, and He knows the hurt within every heart.

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

(Hebrews 4:13)

A. What Is the Cycle of Abuse?

Like a volcano, abuse doesn’t start with a sudden outburst of physical force, but rather with intense internal pressure in need of an outlet. Abusive patterns develop in three stages that are cyclical, becoming increasingly violent. Family members who fall victim to these patterns feel traumatized by the mere anticipation of a violent eruption. Unfortunately, the escalating nature of abuse is rarely curbed without intervention and adequate accountability.

“Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness that would not be found out.”

(Psalm 10:15)

•     Agitated Stage

An environment of tension and anxiety marks the beginning phase of abuse. The husband communicates his dissatisfaction over something small and blames his wife. Through verbal and emotional abuse, a husband maintains passive psychological control over his wife and creates fear of impending disaster. During this stage many women buy into the lies spoken to them and accept responsibility for their husbands’ unhappiness. Then they try to adjust their own behavior in an effort to please their husbands and relieve the tension in their homes.

“From the fruit of his lips a man enjoys good things, but the unfaithful have a craving for violence.” (Proverbs 13:2)

•     Acute Stage

In this phase, the pressure becomes so intense that the abuser erupts and gives full vent to his rage. When violent behavior is unleashed, family members, outsiders, or police are often called upon to diffuse the rage. This acute stage of aggressive behavior doesn’t last long, but over time these overpowering outbursts tend to become more frequent and more dangerous.

“An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.” (Proverbs 29:22)

•     Apologetic Stage

During this “honeymoon phase,” the abuser becomes contrite, and the wife feels soothed by her husband’s loving actions. With renewed hope for change and her deep desire to have a successful marriage, she views his overtures as apologies and extends forgiveness. But, as with all honeymoons, they don’t last, and the cycle of anger occurs again … and again.

“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 27:12)

This temporary honeymoon phase is characterized by a dramatic transformation from being villainous to virtuous. This transformation is demonstrated by a number of the following:

•     Apologies

•     Crying

•     Gifts

•     Helpfulness

•     Bargaining

•     Penitence

•     Peacemaking

•     Accepting responsibility

•     Remorse

•     Romance

•     Promises

•     Pleading

B. What Is the Situational Setup for Abuse?

In an abusive relationship, both the husband and the wife bring certain emotional deficiencies into the marriage, creating an unhealthy dynamic. For the cycle of abuse to be broken, someone in the relationship must change. Either the abuser must stop abusing or the abused must stop accepting abuse. It takes only one person to break free from the painful pattern of relating that has them both ensnared. Though difficult, release is possible, especially through the power of the Lord.

“My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare.”

(Psalm 25:15)

The   Abuser


The   Abused


•     Low self-worth


•     Low self-worth


•     Emotionally dependent on her


•     Emotionally dependent on him


•     Emotionally depressed


•     Emotionally depressed


•     Believes in male supremacy


•     Believes in family unity


•     Exaggerated jealousy


•     Exaggerated guilt


•     Insatiable ego


•     Insecure ego


•     Short fuse


•     Long fuse


•     Explosive emotions


•     Stifled emotions


•     Lives with suspicion


•     Lives with fear


•     Fears being betrayed


•     Fears being abandoned


•     Uses sex to dominate


•     Uses sex to establish intimacy


•     Displays anger


•     Denies anger


•     Blames her for his abuse


•     Accepts responsibility for his abuse


•     Believes she is the problem


•     Believes she is the problem


Q “Can people ever really change?”

Yes. God would never tell people to change if they couldn’t change.

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” (Ephesians 4:31)


III.   Causes

The way couples relate to each other is often a mirror of the way their parents related to one another. Behavioral patterns—both positive and negative—are learned. In abusive marriages, typically either the husband or the wife or both grew up in an abusive home. Therefore, an abusive environment was the normal. They often don’t realize that their normal isn’t “normal.” Little do they know that their sin patterns are generational. The God of the Bible says,

“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.”

(Hosea 4:6)

A. Why Does He Do It?

•     He grew up watching abuse between his parents.

•     He experienced abuse as a child.

•     He views her as a possession instead of as a person.

•     He has not been taught how to love.

•     He thinks using force is his “right” as a husband.

•     He fears she could be unfaithful.

•     He fears losing her.

•     He becomes angry when she shows weakness.

•     He sees himself as a victim.

•     He thinks she has taken power from him.

•     He blames her for his low self-esteem.

•     He thinks violence is his way of getting even or retaliating.

•     He believes his power demonstrates his superiority.

•     He wants to feel significant and in control.

•     He feels he has the right to control her.

•     He possesses an unbiblical view of submission.

•     He handles stress immaturely.

•     He has learned that violence works.

Q “If sin is passed down from generation to generation, how can a person change?”

Abuse is a matter of the heart! Matthew 12:35 says, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” God promises that those who come to Him will be given a new heart with the power to change any generational pattern of sin.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:26–27)

B. Why Doesn’t She Leave?

•     She is terrified of her husband and what he will do if she leaves.

•     She feels helpless, as if she has no power.

•     She believes abuse is normal and that she must accept it.

•     She has low self-esteem.

•     She is afraid he will take her children.

•     She is manipulated by his threats of suicide.

•     She loves her husband and hopes and prays he’ll change.

•     She has an incorrect understanding of Biblical submission.

•     She doesn’t know that she has the right to separate in order to achieve a healthy relationship.

•     She blames herself and believes she deserves to be abused.

•     She wants to protect the family image, thinking that family “problems” are private.

•     She feels that “any father” for the children is better than “no father.”

•     She fears she can’t make it financially without him.

•     She has been isolated from supportive people.

•     She has been told by family, friends, and church leaders to stay.

•     She fears living alone.

•     She doesn’t want the stigma of depending on welfare or living in a shelter.

•     She believes that her husband and children are all she has.

•     She has been told she is insane, and she fears that is true.

•     She doesn’t know there are organizations and services to help her.

•     She trusts his promise to never do it again.

Q “If I am in a violent or threatening situation, is it all right for me to leave?”

In the Bible a hierarchy of submission exists, with God being the highest authority. Scripture reveals that godly people sometimes physically separated from their ungodly authorities. Biblically, we are to submit to our governing authorities, yet David fled King Saul … with God’s blessing. Although David was one of the king’s subjects, when Saul’s actions became violent, David escaped.

“The Lord was with David but had left Saul.… Saul tried to pin him to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him as Saul drove the spear into the wall. That night David made good his escape.” (1 Samuel 18:12; 19:10)

C. Why Does She Leave?

•     She finally realizes he will not change if circumstances remain the same.

•     She understands that leaving may be the only way to get her husband to change.

•     He is now acting out his threats of abuse.

•     His abuse is occurring more frequently.

•     He has begun to abuse the children.

•     She wants to prevent the children from adopting his behavior.

•     She has found help through friends, family, church, or professional organizations.

•     She realizes it is not God’s will for anyone to be abused.

•     She is afraid for her life or for the lives of her children.

•     She realizes there is a thin line between threats and homicide.

Q “Since the Bible teaches ‘Wives, submit to your husbands,’ isn’t leaving an abusive husband against the teaching of the Bible?”

The Bible gives specific instruction to the wife of a hot-tempered man. When she is in danger, temporary separation is appropriate.

“Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered.” (Proverbs 22:24)

D. Root Cause

Some people can’t comprehend the why’s of abuse. “Why does he do it?” “Why does she accept it?” Within the heart of every person are three God-given inner needs—the need for love, for significance and for security. At times we attempt to get our needs met illegitimately. The abuser abuses his victim in order to feel significant. The abused stays in the abusive relationship in order to feel secure … either because she feels she can’t live without him or feels terrified that the violence will escalate if she leaves him. God’s solution is that they both need to look to the Lord to meet their deepest inner needs.

“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

(Isaiah 58:11)

Wrong Belief of Abusers Who Abuse in Order to Feel Significant:

“She’s to blame for what’s happening. As head of the home, she belongs to me. If I don’t control her, I could lose her, so I’ll do whatever if takes to show her who’s boss.”

Wrong Belief of an Abused Person Who Accepts Abuse in Order to Feel Secure:

“I’m to blame for what he’s doing to me. If I don’t give in to him, I could lose him. He is my security.” Or, “If I don’t give in to him, he could kill me. Pleasing him is my only security.”

Right Belief of the Abuser:

I am the only one responsible for my abusive behavior. She is not to blame. Even if I lose her, I’ll never lose God. He is my source of significance and promises to meet my needs.

“My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

Right Belief of the Abused:

I’m not to blame for my husband’s abuse. Even if I lose him, I will never lose Jesus, who lives in me. Because the Lord promises to be my provider, I will depend on Him to meet all my needs. The Lord is my source of security.

“For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name.” (Isaiah 54:5)


IV.  Steps to Solution

“Rescue me, O Lord, from evil men; protect me from men of violence.”

(Psalm 140:1)

A. Key Verse to Memorize

“A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.”

(Proverbs 19:19)

B. Key Passage to Read and Reread

For the Abused:


For the Abuser:


Psalm 91


Psalm 94


God is …




God will …




•     your   shelter


v.   1


•     avenge   your victim(s)


v.   1


•     your   resting place


v.   1


•     judge   you


v.   2


•     Your   refuge


v.   2


•     pay   you back what you deserve


v.   2


•     Your   fortress


v.   2


You are …




•     Your   God


v.   2


•     arrogant


v.   4




v.   3


•     boatful


v.   4


•     your   cover


v.   4


•     senseless


v.   8


•     your   shield


v.   4


•     a   fool


v.   8


•     your   rampart


v.   4


God …




•     your   dwelling


v.   9


•     hears   the abuse


v.   9


•     your   guardian


v.   11


•     sees   the abuse


v.   9


•     your   rescuer


v.   11


•     punishes   your sin


v.   10


•     your   protector


v.   11


•     knows   your thoughts


v.   10


•     your   answer


v.   15


God will …




•     your   deliverer


v.   15


•     dig   a pit for you


v.   13


•     your   salvation


v.   16


•     rise   up against you


v.   16






•     stand   up against you


v.   16






•     repay   you for your sins


v.   23






•     destroy   you for your wickedness


v.   23


C. Seek God’s Security

Abuse does more than damage a woman’s body and impact her mind. The pain goes much deeper, breaking her heart and leaving her feeling as though she’ll never be able to trust anyone again. Unfortunately, this kind of heartache cannot heal itself over time, and no amount of positive actions can restore a woman’s sense of security when she has been abused by the man she loves. Only One can provide an eternal sanctuary.

Through His Son, Jesus, God offers hope and healing to all who are weary and broken. His path to healing may be long, and you may not find complete physical safety until heaven, but God promises His guidance and comfort for everyone who believes in Jesus. If you entrust your heart to Him, He will always walk beside you.… You will never again face another day of fear and pain alone.

How to Have Security That Lasts Forever

#1  God’s Purpose for You … is Salvation.

—  What was God’s motive in sending Christ to earth? To condemn you? No … to express His love for you by saving you!

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16–17)

—  What was Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth? To make everything perfect and to remove all sin? No … to forgive your sins, empower you to have victory over sin, and enable you to live a fulfilled life!

“I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

#2  Your Problem … is Sin.

—  What exactly is sin? Sin is living independently of God’s standard—knowing what is right, but choosing wrong.

“Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (James 4:17)

—  What is the major consequence of sin? Spiritual death, spiritual separation from God.

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

#3  God’s Provision for You … is the Savior.

—  Can anything remove the penalty for sin? Yes. Jesus died on the cross to personally pay the penalty for your sins.

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

—  What is the solution to being separated from God? Belief in Jesus Christ as the only way to God the Father.

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ ” (John 14:6)

#4  Your Part … is Surrender.

—  Place your faith in (rely on) Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and reject your “good works” as a means of gaining God’s approval.

“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9)

—  Give Christ control of your life, entrusting yourself to Him.

“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?’ ” (Matthew 16:24–26)

The moment you choose to believe in Him—entrusting your life to Christ—He gives you His Spirit to live inside you. Then the Spirit of Christ gives you His power to live the fulfilled life God has planned for you. If you want to be fully forgiven by God and become the person God created you to be, you can tell Him in a simple, heartfelt prayer like this:

Prayer of Salvation

“God,   I want a real relationship with You. I admit that many times I’ve chosen to   go my own way instead of Your way. Please forgive me for my sins. Jesus,   thank You for dying on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins. Come into my   life to be my Lord and my Savior. Through Your power, begin healing the hurts   in my heart. Teach me to find my security and comfort in You alone. Make me   the person You created me to be. In Your holy name I pray. Amen.”


What Can You Expect Now?

If you sincerely prayed this prayer, look at what God’s Word says that He does for you!

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

(Psalm 147:3)

D. Correct the Confusion

The woman who sincerely wants to please God, but who is not grounded in the Word of God, can become captive to an incorrect understanding of “Biblical submission.” All too easily, she accepts abuse, thinking it is right when God says it is wrong. One key to correcting the confusion is seeing Scripture in light of its context. This is done by reading a verse such as “Wives, submit to your husbands” (Ephesians 5:22) and then …

•     Looking at the surrounding verses

•     Looking at the purpose of the passage or book in which the verse is found

•     Looking at the whole counsel of God’s Word on submission and how we are to relate to one another

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

(2 Timothy 2:15)

Arguments and Answers

•     Argument: “When Jesus said, ‘Turn the other cheek,’ He meant that women should submit to abuse.”

Answer: When you look at these words of Jesus, the context is the issue of retaliation: refuse to retaliate evil for evil. Jesus was not advocating abuse.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:38–39)

The backdrop of “turning the other cheek” was refusing to take personal revenge rather than promoting abuse.

•     Argument: “Since Jesus submitted Himself to abuse, if a woman wants to be Christlike, she must also submit to abuse.”

Answer: If a woman wants to be Christlike, she will notice that on numerous occasions when the enemies of Jesus sought to harm Him, He eluded them and escaped. However, when the time came for Him to take away the sins of the world, Jesus allowed His blood to be the payment price to purchase our forgiveness. Clearly, Jesus did not randomly submit to abuse.

“Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life.… Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.” (John 7:1; 10:39)

•     Argument: “First Peter 2 says we are called to endure ‘unjust suffering.’ Therefore, women should take such suffering as ‘commendable before God.’ ”

“For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.” (1 Peter 2:19)

Answer: The context of this passage in 1 Peter refers to suffering “because you are conscious of God,” which means suffering ridicule, criticism, and rejection because of your faith—not because you are a woman. God does not call women to be continually abused by their loved ones. Men who abuse their wives do so because of their own ungodliness. In fact, in 1 Peter, God specifically calls husbands to love their wives and treat them with respect.

“Husbands, in the same way 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)

•     Argument: “An abused woman should view her suffering as the ‘cross’ she is called to bear.”

“If anyone would come after me [Jesus], he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

Answer: Nowhere does the Bible indicate that the cross is an instrument of physical and emotional pain to be inflicted upon a woman. In context, Jesus was saying the cross is a symbol of death—death to self-centered living, death to self-rule so that the Lord can rule our hearts and lives. The very next verse confirms that the cross stands for yielding our lives to the Lord, not yielding our lives to abuse.

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)

•     Argument: “God made men superior to women, which means women are inferior.”

Answer: God made women and men different from one another, with different roles and functions. The Bible does not say that God regards men as superior and women as inferior, but rather as equal.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

•     Argument: “Since Ephesians 5:24 says, ‘Wives should submit to their husbands in everything,’ a wife must submit unconditionally … even to a husband’s abuse.”

Answer: This conclusion contradicts other Scripture. A hierarchy of submission is demonstrated when the apostles refused to obey the high priest and instead obeyed the Great Commission by continuing to teach in the name of Jesus (Matthew 28:19, 20). They committed a severely punishable offense by directly disobeying the high priest in order to submit to God. Similarly, if a husband expects his wife to do something that God says is wrong, the wife is to disobey her husband in order to submit to God. Our Lord clearly states His opposition to violence, as well as His position that husbands are to treat their wives with respect.

“Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men!’ ” (Acts 5:29)

•     Argument: “Because the Bible says, ‘The husband is the head of the wife,’ a wife must not resist being abused by her husband.”

Answer: A wife is to submit to the headship of her husband, but the Bible nowhere implies she is to submit to the abuse of her husband. She is to respect his position, not be victimized by his power. In Ephesians 5:23, the husband and wife relationship is compared to the relationship of Christ and the church. Christ is the head of His church, “His body.” Although the husband is the head of his wife, no head abuses its own body. A husband never chooses to beat his body with a hammer—unless, of course, he is “out of his head” (mentally ill)! Instead, he does whatever he can to protect and provide for his own body. A godly man will treat his wife in the same way.

“For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.… Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church.” (Ephesians 5:23, 28–29)

Q “My husband says that because I am a Christian, I must submit to whatever he says. Must I submit when he pressures me to do certain things that violate my conscience, such as watching pornography and even wife-swapping?”

No, in the Bible, a “hierarchy” of submission exists to guide our decision making. Based on Ephesians 5:21, we are to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This is mutual submission and includes both husbands and wives deferring to the desires of each other. The next verse says, “Wives, submit to your husbands” (verse 22). The Bible also says we are to submit to the governing authorities (Romans 13:1), and ultimately, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Clearly the highest authority is God, next is the governing authorities and then is the husband. Thus, if your husband’s request is illegal or against God’s will, you must not submit.

“This is love for God: to obey his commands.” (1 John 5:3)

E. Consider Your Choices

Staying with an abuser while waiting for the next violent episode is not your only option. As with many major decisions in life, there is not just one viable choice. The issue of safety should be paramount, for until a safe haven is found, you cannot have the necessary focused attention to determine your best course of action. People in abusive relationships adopt various ways of responding to their mates, but you need to know that you have a God who not only watches over you, but who also will guide you in the way you should go.

“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.”

(Psalm 32:7–8)

Ostrich Outlook

The ostrich denies the situation, minimizes the seriousness, or rationalizes the abuser’s behavior—even to the point of self-blame. “If I just did everything right, he wouldn’t be this way. It’s all my fault!” This choice leads him to disrespect her all the more.

Martyr Mate

The martyr decides to be a “silent sufferer” in a destructive relationship. This is a dangerous choice. To survive, she must lose the voice of truth in order to avoid contradicting him, so as not to risk a violent reaction.

Puppet Partner

The puppet disowns her feelings, denies her anger, and lives emotionally divorced. This choice also leaves her vulnerable to potential danger. Abusive marriages do not remain static; abuse that goes unchallenged becomes increasingly violent.

Merry-Go-Round Mate

The “merry-go-rounder” has already divorced several abusive husbands and is still looking for another partner to provide the love and support. With these choices, she keeps going in circles. Until she gains insight into the reasons for his abusive behavior and is willing to take steps to protect herself and her children, the pattern of abuse will continue. More than likely, she will marry yet another abuser.

Q “I’ve helped a woman who was abused and beaten get a restraining order. Why did she—and so many others—go back home where she’ll be beaten again?”

She will continue to go back to her abuser until she feels that both she and the children can be truly safe apart from him. That means there must be a double safety net of both community services and individual support on which she knows she can rely.

Boundary Builder

The boundary builder sets healthy boundaries for herself. She tolerates only behavior that is acceptable and nonviolent. This positive choice offers the possibility of permanent change. She prays for God to give her the wisdom and courage to stand up to the opposition that will invariably come and for the ability to follow through with consequences as she establishes new standards for the way her husband relates to her.

Departing Dove

The departing dove leaves—at least for a while—to show the seriousness of the abuse. This choice is an attempt to force her husband to either deal with his abusive behavior or to suffer the consequence of losing her. While seeking counseling for herself, she requires her husband to get professional help. She makes it clear that if he refuses help, she will choose to remain separated from him.

“My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest—I would flee far away and stay in the desert; Selah I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.’ ”

(Psalm 55:4–8)

Q “How can I know whether my husband has really changed?”

Habitual patterns of abusive behavior rarely change unless there is significant intervention, professional guidance, or both. Sometimes, though, a husband does become so convicted of his self-centered ways that he allows the Lord to give him a new heart, new desires, and the power to change. If your husband promises he has changed, you need wisdom to discern if the change is only temporary and manipulative … or if he is truly taking personal responsibility for his abusive behavior.

“Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse.” (Proverbs 2:12)

•     Ask yourself these questions:

—  Do I no longer have a sense of fear when I am with him?

—  Has he learned to control his anger without being verbally or emotionally abusive?

—  Does he respect my right to disagree?

—  Is he able to express his feelings of anger in a calm, nonthreatening way?

—  Does he communicate feelings other than anger?

—  Does he no longer blame me for his problems?

—  Do I feel I am being treated with respect?

—  Does he show consistent kindness and consideration toward me?

“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.” (1 Peter 3:7)

F.  Build Healthy Boundaries

Begin a new way of thinking about yourself, about God, and about abuse.

•     God did not create you so that you would be abused.

•     Abuse is a sin against God’s creation.

•     You were not created to be abused.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

Overcome fear of the unknown by trusting God with the future.


•     “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4)

•     “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

•     “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” (Psalm 56:3)

•     “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Understand the Biblical mandate to hold abusers accountable.

•     Confrontation is Biblical.

•     Confrontation can be used by God’s Spirit to convict the abuser.

•     Lack of confrontation enables abusers to continue abusing others.

“Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness that would not be found out.” (Psalm 10:15)

Notify others of your needs (supportive friends, relatives, or others).

•     They must believe you.

•     They must be trustworthy.

•     They must not divulge your new location to your husband if you leave.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

Develop God’s perspective on Biblical submission.

•     Submission never gives license for abuse.

•     Submission is not to be demanded—it should be a voluntary deference to the desire of another.

•     Submission is designed by God to be a way of life for everyone.

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

Admit your anger and practice forgiveness.

•     Confirm the hurt.

•     Confess your anger.

•     Choose to forgive.

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15)

Recognize your own codependent patterns of relating, and change the way you respond.

•     Don’t respond fearfully, hiding the truth.

•     Don’t think you can change him.

•     Don’t take responsibility for his behavior.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)

Identify healthy boundaries for yourself, and commit to maintaining them.

•     Communicate your boundaries.

•     State what you will do if he crosses your boundaries.

•     Follow through if he crosses your boundaries.

For example: State firmly that the next time he abuses you, you will call the police … or he can no longer live at home … or you will leave with the children. Then—follow through with the promised action.

“A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.” (Proverbs 19:19)

Ensure your personal safety (and that of your children) immediately.

•     Have an action plan.

•     Know ahead of time where you will go and whom you will call. Have the necessary numbers easily accessible.

•     Involve your church. Know the person to contact for help ahead of time.

“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8)

See your identity as not in your role as wife, which can change, but as a precious child of God through your belief in Jesus Christ, which cannot change.

•     God chose you.

•     God adopted you.

•     God redeemed you.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)

Q “I know I should have boundaries when my husband is abusive, but how do I present them to my husband?”

Tell him, “I love you and want our marriage to work. But, just as there are penalties for crossing boundary lines in sports, there are penalties for crossing boundary lines in marriage. And you’ve crossed a boundary line in our marriage. I absolutely will not live with an abusive man. Ultimately, you will decide if we get together again or not. I will know what your decision is by your actions toward me. If you really want us to live together again as husband and wife, I will know by the respect you show me and by the way you treat me. You have the power to make or break our marriage through your actions. The choice is yours.” You must follow through with the consequences, then you will avoid the way of many wives who are not wise.

“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways.” (Proverbs 14:8)

G. Strategies for Safety

Violent outbursts can occur at any time. If you have communicated your boundaries or have decided to leave, this time could be particularly dangerous for you. Many abusers tend to become enraged when they discover a different dynamic in the relationship. They begin to fear losing control of you and losing the family. The greatest danger to a woman comes when a husband discovers his wife has intentions of leaving. A wife who is wise will have prepared for the worst by having a safety plan for leaving.24

“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.”

(Proverbs 27:12)

•     Confide the seriousness of your situation to trustworthy people:

—  Ask if you could stay with them at a moment’s notice if the need arises.

—  Ask them to call the police if they hear screams or hitting.

—  Store a bag of extra clothing at a confidant’s house.

—  Select a code word (such as “blue eggs”) or a signal (turning on a certain light) to use as a sign for your friends and family to call the police.

—  Talk with a doctor or nurse about the violence. (Ask them to take photographs of the injuries and to document the abuse in your medical records.)

•     Plan an escape route:

—  If an argument begins, move away from any room containing weapons (such as the kitchen) and move to a room that has an exit (not the bathroom).

—  Identify which emergency exits you can use (doors, windows, elevator, stairwell) and practice getting out safely.

—  Rehearse the escape plan with your children.

•     Place physical evidence of violence with a trusted confidant or in a safety deposit box:

—  Documentation of physical injuries to you or your children

—  Pictures of damaged property (such as broken furniture, doors, and walls)

•     When considering leaving an abusive relationship:

—  Keep a log of the abuse by date and event. Include physical evidence of his threats from his letters and e-mails, voice mail, and answering machine messages.

—  Open a post office box in your name.

—  Open a checking and/or savings account in your name.

—  Accumulate some emergency cash and keep it hidden or give it to a confidant for safekeeping.

—  Put aside jewelry, silver, or other valuables that your batterer would not miss and that could be quickly sold for cash.

—  Keep an extra set of car keys hidden (also house and office keys).

•     Identify essential or meaningful items you can gather quickly (but remember that your safety must be your first concern):

—  Children’s favorite toys and blankets

—  Pictures

—  Sentimental items

—  Medicines

—  Address book

•     Keep important papers and documents easily accessible and together in one place (but remember that everything on this list can be replaced):

—  Birth certificates

—  Social security cards

—  Welfare identification

—  Driver’s license and registration

—  Passport(s), green card(s), visa(s), work permit

—  Family medical records

—  School records

—  Bank books, money, credit cards

—  Insurance papers (health, car, house)

—  Deeds or other legal records (lease, rental, house deed, mortgage payment book)

—  Current unpaid bills

—  Divorce papers

—  Protective order/restraining order (keep with you at all times)

•     Create a list of phone numbers you may need for emergencies:

—  Local emergency number, if there is one   (example: 911)




—  Local police




—  Women’s Shelter




—  County Registry of Protective Orders




—  Salvation Army




—  Work number




—  Employer’s or supervisor’s home number




—  Church number




—  Minister’s home number




—  Hotline for domestic violence




—  Friends








•     If you obtain a restraining order/protective order:

—  Inform family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers of the court order.

—  Ask them to be ready to call the police if the abuser appears and then refuses to leave.

—  Change the locks and install deadbolt locks.

—  Install metal doors.

—  Install a security system.

—  Install smoke detectors.

—  Install an outside lighting system.

•     How to avoid harassment at work:

—  Confide in a coworker about the problem.

—  Provide a picture of the abuser to those who need to know.

—  Inform the head of security at the office building.

—  Ask someone to screen your calls, if possible.

—  Ask someone to escort you to and from the car, bus, or train.

Q “My friend’s husband continues to be physically violent toward her. Other than leaving with their children, what recourse does she have?”

A wife who has been victimized by her husband should not be doubly victimized by having to leave her own home. Since he is the violator, don’t assume that she should be the one to leave. She could first call the District Attorney’s office to inquire about the state’s laws, protective orders, and court orders that can force the husband to leave the premises. If you are having difficulty getting information, call a shelter for battered women, a hotline for domestic violence, the Salvation Army, or an attorney who specializes in Family Law and can provide legal ways to protect your entire family.

“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways.” (Proverbs 14:8)

Q “What protection is available through the legal system?”

In the absence of a divorce action, a Peace Bond is issued before a Justice of the Peace in a Civil Court. This is the legal instrument mainly used for domestic violence. In a divorce action, the attorney requests a Restraining Order to protect the parties from further harassment and violence. Such an order is issued routinely by a Family Court Judge. Suspicion of violence or threats are not enough to warrant the issuance of any order by a judge. There must be documented, physical contact recorded in police reports before a judge will consider issuing any order.

“It will go well with those who convict the guilty, and rich blessing will come upon them.” (Proverbs 24:25)

If you live in a place where the legal   system does not offer protection against domestic abuse, find help through   the church or seek refuge with sympathetic friends or neighbors. God is aware   of your situation, and He will guide you to a place of safety.


“My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—from violent men you save me.”

(2 Samuel 22:3)

H. Biblical Bill of Rights for Surviving an Abusive Marriage

Some people present the idea that when you come into a relationship with Christ, you give up all your rights. This simply is not true. You always have the God-given right to live your life according to God’s Word in order that you may accomplish God’s will. For example, if someone pressures you to go against God’s will by using Scripture out of context, such as, “Wives, submit to your husbands” (Ephesians 5:22), in order to force you to commit an immoral sexual act, it is God’s will that you not do it. You “must obey God rather than men!” (Acts 5:29).

•     God’s will is that you … receive respect from your mate.

“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect.” (1 Peter 3:7)

•     God’s will is that you … experience mutual submission.

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

•     God’s will is that you … have truth spoken to you in a loving manner.

“Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15)

•     God’s will is that you … have anger expressed toward you in appropriate ways.

“In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” (Ephesians 4:26)

•     God’s will is that you … spend personal time alone.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35)

•     God’s will is that you … use your unique talents and gifts to serve others.

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)

•     God’s will is that you … enjoy freedom from fear.

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ ” (Romans 8:15)

•     God’s will is that you … seek emotional and spiritual support from others.

“Let us not give up meeting together … but let us encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)

•     God’s will is that you … report abuse to governmental authorities.

“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men … who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.” (1 Peter 2:13–14)

•     God’s will is that you … leave an abusive relationship.

“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 27:12)

I.  Positive Action from the Pulpit

All too often church leaders counsel women using Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, submit to your husbands,” but ignore the subsequent passage, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

Sadly, the church has been silent far too long on the sin of wife abuse. It is past time for pastors to speak out from the pulpit against all forms of domestic violence and to initiate programs that address the needs of victims. All church members need to take this travesty seriously by acting on their God-given responsibility and opening their doors, as well as their hearts, to the victims. Jesus even tells us that when we help victims we are doing it for Him.

“ ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?… I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these … you did for me.’ ”

(Matthew 25:37–40)

Start Making a Difference

•     Openly address from the pulpit the topic of domestic violence—even abuse within the church.

•     Present messages—sermons, Bible studies, and seminars—on anger management and conflict resolution.

•     Invite domestic violence experts to make presentations on abuse issues.

•     Establish a domestic violence committee to address abuse issues.

•     Require premarital counseling for couples planning to marry. Specifically address domestic violence, as well as how to handle anger, arguments, control, and conflict resolution.

•     Prepare youth programs that address dangerous dating separately for boys and for girls.

•     Establish church procedures for holding abusers accountable.

•     Confront abusers, offering help in how to handle both anger and conflicts.

•     Access counselors trained in domestic violence and lawyers who specialize in Family Law.

•     Talk and pray with victims about the possibility of temporarily leaving their physically abusive partners if the violence continues.

•     Provide a temporary safe place for victims and their children who are living in danger.

•     Arrange counseling sessions for abusers as well as the abused (but NOT couples’ counseling—the woman will be too intimidated).

•     Give financial support to shelters for abused women and children.

•     Designate an “Abuse Presentation” day, week, or month to educate and activate church members.

•     Encourage testimonials in the church from survivors of abuse as well as repentant abusers.

“Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?”

(Proverbs 24:11–12)

J.  Do’s and Don’ts for a Friend

Most victims choose to deny the severity of their situation by developing strong defense mechanisms. In addition to out-and-out denial that anything is wrong, wives tend to minimize or rationalize their husbands’ abusive behavior. It takes a leap of courage for even a good friend to admit that her marriage is not “made in heaven.” Be prepared to respond in love when she begins to share the secrets of her heart.

“The purposes of a man’s [or woman’s] heart are deep waters, but a man [or woman] of understanding draws them out.”

(Proverbs 20:5)

Don’t talk in generalities if you suspect abuse.

Do … Specifically ask if she has suffered physical harm.

Don’t treat the problem lightly or minimize the abuse.

Do … Realize that violence can be a matter of life or death … and that wife abuse is against the civil law, the moral law, and the law of God.

Don’t change the subject or act embarrassed if she reveals abuse.

Do … Encourage her to talk at any time about anything and be willing to listen.

Don’t blame her for the abuse.

Do … Help her see that no one can make another person sin—his abuse is solely his choice.

Don’t be afraid of her emotions.

Do … Allow her to express anger and fear, which are often avoided or denied.

Don’t advise her that she must preserve the family at all costs.

Do … Affirm that removing herself and her children out of harm’s way—separating—is not the same as divorcing.

Don’t send her home if she has been physically abused.

Do … Provide temporary shelter and assist her in discovering her options.

Don’t accuse her of failing to be submissive.

Do … Explain that it is not God’s will for anyone to suffer abuse for any reason.… Submission or lack of submission is not the issue.

Don’t merely tell her to report her injuries to a doctor or to the police.

Do … Accompany her to the hospital if she is willing, and help her fill out police reports.

Don’t allow her to stay all alone, paralyzed in fear of further abuse.

Do … Learn about her legal options. Go with her to court to get a restraining order.

Don’t try to provide more counseling than you are trained to give.

Do … Show her that you care and help her get counseling from someone who has experience in working with victims of violence.

Don’t assume she should know all the answers.

Do … Assure her that God will guide her and give her wisdom when she doesn’t know what to do.

“The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”

(Psalm 9:9–10)

Is   a husband’s “headship” a license for wife abuse? To the contrary! Does your   head seek to hurt your hand? Does your brain seek to break your bone?

No,   your head protects and provides for your body at all costs. Likewise, the   husband, as the God-ordained head of the wife, is to protect her from harm,   or else he forfeits his right to headship. How significant that Christ, as   the Head of the church, not only loved her, but gave Himself up for her!

—June   Hunt


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.… Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.… No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of punishment.”


Selected Bibliography

Alsdurf, James, and Phyllis Alsdurf. Battered Into Submission. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1989.

Buhler, Rich. New Choices New Boundaries. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991.

Cloud, Henry, and John Townsend. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.

Crabb, Lawrence J., Jr. Understanding People: Deep Longings for Relationship. Ministry Resources Library. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987.

Gaddis, Patricia Riddle. Battered But Not Broken: Help for Abused Wives and Their Church Families. Valley Forge, PA: Judson, 1994.

Gaddis, Patricia Riddle. Dangerous Dating: Helping Young Women Say No to Abusive Relationships. Colorado Springs, CO: Harold Shaw/Waterbrook, 2000.

Hemfelt, Robert, Frank Minirth, and Paul Meier. Love is a Choice: Recovery for Codependent Relationships. Minirth-Meier Series. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1989.

Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Jackson, Tim, and Jeff Olson. When Violence Comes Home: Help for Victims of Spouse Abuse. Grand Rapids: Radio Bible Class, 1995.

Jantz, Gregory L. Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995.

Ketterman, Grace. Verbal Abuse: Healing the Hidden Wound. Ann Arbor, MI: Servant, 1992.

Martin, Grant L. Counseling for Family Violence and Abuse. Dallas: Word, 1987.

McGee, Robert S. The Search for Significance. 2nd ed. Houston, TX: Rapha, 1990. McDill, S. R., and Linda McDill. Shattered And Broken. Tarrytown, NY: Fleming H. Revell, 1991.

National Women’s Abuse Prevention Project. Helping the Battered Woman: A Guide for Family & Friends. Washington, DC: Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime, U.S. Dept. of Justice, 1988.

Parker, Christina B. When Someone You Love Drinks Too Much: A Christian Guide to Addiction, Codependence & Recovery. New York: Harper & Row, 1990.

Rinck, Margaret. Christian Men Who Hate Women. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990.

Spouse Abuse Awareness. Guidelines for Religious Workers. Nashville: Spouse Abuse Awareness, 1988.

Strom, Kay Marshall. In the Name of Submission. Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1986.

Task Force on Families in Crisis. The Violent Person and Abuse. Nashville: Family Violence Prevention Project, Office for Victims of Crime. Office of Justice Programs, 1986.

Texas Department of Human Services. Family Violence and Addiction: Implications for Treatment. Austin, TX: Texas Dept. of Human Services, 1989.

What Every Congregation Needs to Know About Domestic Violence. Seattle, WA: Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence, 1994.[1]


[1] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Wife Abuse: Assault on a Woman’s Worth (1–32). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

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