©2005 Sis. Kimberly Hartfield, B.S., M.S.
Many young Christian women delve into the romantic ideology of marriage, believing that they have met their Prince Charming. They enter into that relationship blinded from the realities of the imperfections of their chosen mate, many times refusing to prayerfully consider God’s will in the matter. Rather than prayerfully asking God “Is this the man You want for me”; they plead shopping list style saying, “I want this particular make and model of man” never considering that this particular man may not be in God’s best interest for her. As Christians, we are called, not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, but to be equally yoked with another believer. When we ignore this warning, or if we simply are not careful and prayerful in the choice of our spouse, we may find ourselves in an incompatible, or worse, an abusive situation.
Young women considering marriage should be made aware of early warning signs and look for the possibility for violence in their potential spouses. Her family should also look for any visible signs of physical aggression such as unexplained bruises or marks. Family and friends of the young woman can also be on the look out for suspicious behaviors and verbal aggression. Any form of verbally, mentally, sexually, or physically aggressive play or behavior should be noted as a potential risk for future violence. Any sudden or unexplained angry outbursts should also be noted, especially if there seems to be an insignificant or insufficient reason for the outburst. What may seem to be a stressful blow up could very well be an early warning sign of a possible abuser. The young woman and her loved ones must trust their instincts when they feel something is not quite right. The young woman should never dismiss evident warning signals, nor take for granted the truth of her partner’s excuses or his blatant blaming as the truth of her own fault. Potentially abusive partners are most likely on their best behavior before the marriage, and are likely to change for the worst after the wedding day.
There are several factors in a relationship that could be indicators of the potential for possible future abuse. One of the first things that an abusive partner will do is to attempt to isolate the victim from loved and trusted friends and family members. This can be a physical isolation, but more often than not, it is a form of mental isolation. This can emanate from the abuser in the form of seeds of doubt and mistrust planted by the abuser and formed by the victim when she believes the insinuations made about those close to her, or formed against the victim herself by those closest to her at the suggestion of the abuser. An abuser will often try to convince the victim and those who love her that she is mentally or emotionally unstable by calling her “crazy.”
Once the attempt at isolation is underway, the abuser will try to undermine the self-confidence of his victim in other ways and begin to dominate every aspect of the victim’s life, including the victim’s thought and behavior patterns. Fear and intimidation tactics are often employed by the abuser in order to maintain control. The abuse usually progresses through stages of mental, verbal, sexual, and physical forms, or any combination of these. Some examples of mentally abusive tactics are hiding car keys, controlling monetary access, and punching or kicking the air or surfaces near the victim for the purpose of intimidation. These may progress to more aggressive forms of physical and sexual abuse that often become quite violent and sometimes deadly in nature. Physical abuse is most likely to occur when the abuser feels that his victim is beyond his complete control.
Any woman caught in an abusive relationship needs to first ask herself if she or her children are in any immediate danger and if so she should seek counsel from a trusted source and secure a safe atmosphere for herself and her children. Then she will be at liberty to prayerfully consider her next step to her and her family’s ultimate well being. At this point, the Christian woman may have to consider the possibility of separation or even divorce, while seeking divine guidance through her particular situation.
Many Biblical passages dealing with the marital relationship seem to be somewhat unclear where abuse is concerned, but when we look at the overall scriptural context, we know that Jesus never condoned any kind of mistreatment of any person in the Scripture. In the context of the marital relationship, partners are to be submissive to one another in the love of the Lord. The love of Christ is never domineering or abusive. Christ never forced anyone to do anything. He simply loved them into submission. He gave himself up for the Church even unto death in order to show His undying love for it, knowing that ultimately the Church would love Him back and desire to serve Him and do the will of Yahweh God. Submission was never intended to be the self-serving of one partner over the other in any relationship.
Neither did Jesus, nor the Biblical Scripture, ever condone divorce, but only allowed for it under certain conditions; the primary consideration being adultery by an unfaithful spouse, and the secondary consideration being abandonment by an unbelieving spouse. A few Christian authorities have considered abuse as a type of emotional abandonment, and believe that God also allows for divorce in these relationships. Other authorities do not see it this way. The conflicting views of these authorities have kept many women in abusive relationships for years. Under the guise of encouraging women to be submissive to their husbands, Christian authorities have condemned women to their eventual death, because the women were unsure of the biblical perspective on submission and abuse. Women can and should seek the counsel of leading Christian authorities, but a Christian woman’s ultimate authority should be the guidance of her own conscience by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures.
The Bible clearly says that if a woman should leave her husband, she should remain unmarried or be reconciled to her own husband. Remaining separated or divorced without the consideration of remarriage could be a wise choice though a difficult one, considering the possibility of potential problems of stepfamilies in today’s culture, especially where pedophilia (childhood sexual abuse) and other forms of child abuse could be a problem in families where young children may be affected. Pedophiles often target young women who are looking for love, with small children, whether they are male or female. But when a woman divorces early in life this may be an unpractical impossibility. One portion of Scripture that speaks of young widows, states that it would be better to marry than to burn with desire. This could also be said in the circumstance of a young divorcee. In a sense, the death of a marriage is akin to the death of a spouse. God can and will forgive someone who made a wrong choice in a marriage partner and chooses to divorce, just as he forgives those who commit adultery or any other sin, only if they seek His forgiveness and mercy. When a young woman seeks God divine guidance, she may eventually find herself in a healthy and godly relationship in the future.
But we should never say that divorce is the only solution to marital abuse, but that it is a possible resolution to an unfortunate circumstance. Christ did not command divorce, but He said that Moses allowed for it, due to the hardness of mankind’s heart. Under the stated circumstances, partners who are willing to repent and forgive and seek professional help or Christian counsel, can and have repaired their relationship to become a healthy and committed Christian Family. It should be noted that forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation, when one partner refuses to repent of ungodly and abusive behavior. Reconciliation should only take place where repentance or a complete change of behavior has occurred. But the backbone of this kind of Christian relationship is faith in God’s power to heal it. Without healthy Christian guidance, prayer, and study of the Holy Scriptures on the part of both individuals in that relationship, the marriage will continue to be at risk for future abuse and possibly divorce.
Until a woman recognizes the fact that the only Prince Charming she may ever know is the Lord Jesus Christ and that He is the only One who can truly love her as she needs to be loved, she will continue searching for that love in the dark forest of despair. Jesus is the only One who can redeem her from the heartbreaks of this world and she must realize that her mate is not her savior and he will never be perfect, nor love her unconditionally as only Jesus can. If a Christian woman finds herself in an abusive situation, whether mental, verbal, physical, or sexual, she must acknowledge Jesus as her Savior and the Lord of her life and pray for divine guidance if she is to find her way out of that dark forest.
Author Kimberly Hartfield’s A Little Redneck Theology