QUESTION: The Bible says divorce is wrong, but what if a husband is mentally abusive to his wife and kids, blaming everyone else for his actions? The kids can’t wait to leave home. I really don’t know how much more I can take.
ANSWER: “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless” (Malachi 2:16). Earlier editions translate the verse, “‘I hate divorce,’ says the LORD.”
And yet, God granted Moses (the law) authority to regulate divorce (Deuteronomy. 24:1-4, Matthew 19:3-9). Moses spoke to the man because he was more likely to divorce. His words seem to protect women. However, it is clear in the New Testament that women are included (Mark 10:11-12, I Corinthians 7:13).
Sin breaks up marriages. Civil law curbs our sins. People still sin, so God grants civil authorities the power to regulate divorce. Jesus spoke to us about situations in which one spouse suffers from the particular sins of the other. Adultery by its very nature breaks the bond of marriage (Matthew 19:3-9). Also, one spouse may refuse to remain married by abandoning his or her spouse. The law does not compel the other spouse to stay in such marriages (I Corinthians 7:15).
We are not obligated to divorce under these circumstances. Damaged marriages have endured by God’s grace, trust being restored by the power of God’s forgiveness and Christians who learn to forgive as God forgives us. Yet many marriages are broken beyond repair. In those cases, guilty spouses need to repent and receive God’s forgiveness in Jesus.
You, with your family, are living in an abusive situation. Should a husband be violent, a loving wife should remove herself and her family from danger. The violence you describe is mental and emotional to the point at which you say your children are anxious to escape and you are at the point you can’t take it anymore. It is difficult to know exactly what you mean that you can’t take it anymore. One might assume an emotional collapse, breakdown, or worse. With such a danger, it would be appropriate for you to remove your family from danger.
Without knowing more about the situation, it is difficult to give definitive advice. You may or may not be able to support yourself and your family without the help of your husband. You may think there is no other place to go, et cetera.
Should you choose to leave, there are options. The action might encourage your husband to join you in consulting with your pastor or some other counselor. God could certainly use this as a means of repairing your marriage and teaching your husband proper behavior toward those he claims to love.
Paul also speaks about remaining separate (I Corinthians 7:10-11). There is no rush to divorce. A time might come when there is no other choice. Speak to your pastor. He cares for you with Jesus’ love. He can help you determine your best options. He can also remind you that Jesus is with you even in those difficult situations. Your God loves you, your family, and your husband. He shed His blood so God could forgive us all and grant us holiness and eternal life by faith in Jesus. Turn to Him always in prayer, asking Him to call your husband to repentance and to give you strength and wisdom to do His will. He will be with you and take care of you.
Rev. Charles Keeler
Resurrection Lutheran Church
Winter Haven, FL