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Does God Trap Women in Marriages to Abusive Men?

Patsy Rae Dawson

Review of Barbara Roberts' book
Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery & Desertion

An abused woman herself, Barbara clearly answers the question I've asked abused women for nearly 20 years, “Why do you stay?” Most victims do not know why they continue to “spend all their energies walking on eggshells and trying to 'fix' the relationship.”

Copyright © 2008 by Patsy Rae Dawson LLC. All rights reserved. See Permission to Reproduce below.After 35 years of teaching on marriage, training at two women's shelters, and looking back at what happened to many of my students, I highly recommend Not Under Bondage. Barbara's insights and teaching is badly needed by Christians who often neglect God's righteous solution of disciplinary divorce for certain problems that fail to respond to implementing God's word into the relationship.

If more people exercised God's way of escape by divorcing for impenitent sin in their homes, I believe Christians would exert tremendous peer pressure on wayward spouses as they acknowledge that God does not tolerate ungodly conduct among family members. Sin thrives on secrecy and a mate falsely thinking, It's my fault, instead of demanding accountability.

As Christians, we often focus so strongly on saving the marriage that we turn a blind eye to the other person's free will in choosing to be abusive rather than loving. Love is a choice as is demonstrated by the commands in the Bible to love others. We don't earn another person's love. And often the justifications for refusing to love are utterly ridiculous and selfish.

Sometimes God's answer to marriage problems is divorce, and when we resist that answer, we are flirting with harm for our spouses, children, and ourselves. Counselors at women's shelters report that unchecked abuse always gets worse. Sometimes it gets worse so slowly, that the violated mate does not realize what is happening until the sin is so entrenched in the marriage that reconciliation is impossible. Earlier punitive divorce may well have been the catalyst to turn a sinner from his destructive behavior toward his mate and children, and even himself.

Every person who feels trapped by God in a loveless or abusive marriage needs to study this book. It may not have been God, but man's ignorance that ensnared them. The irony is that when God's people believe they are trapped and then work hard "to just survive," they are actually creating an environment that allows the mate's sin to flourish.

Barbara will stretch your mind as she explores word meanings, the context, and the consistency of how words are used in other passages. She skillfully proves that our slogan, "God hates divorces," ignores both the meanings of words and the grammar in Mal. 2:16. After you read this chapter, you may want to correct the way you quote that catchphrase.

The first eye opening chapter, "What is abuse?" makes the whole book worth reading whether you agree with anything else. She discusses:

* Emotional abuse: "Is the most frequent form of relational sin. It permeates all other areas of a relationship and is at the core of the other forms of abuse listed here…."

* Coercion and threats: "This category comes under emotional abuse, but because coercion and threats are so powerful in maintaining control of the relationship, these strategies need special consideration…."

* Social abuse: "When a victim is isolated from friends and family…."

* Financial abuse: "Some perpetrators determine how the family finances are spent or managed without their spouse's consent or awareness. They put the household on a budget that is inappropriately tight, given the amount of money coming in to the family…."

* Using and harming children: "Using or manipulating children is actually child abuse. An abuser may teach the children to dislike the other parent or disobey her legitimate authority…."

* Sexual abuse: "To ignore when a partner says 'No,' to attempt to force a partner to do something that they feel morally obligated to avoid, or uncomfortable doing, is sexual abuse…."

* Physical abuse: "This may include pushing, shoving, hitting, throwing things aggressively, choking and murder. It also includes damaging property and the neglect of basic physical and medical needs…."

* Spiritual abuse: "An abuser may redefine, twist and invert the meaning of biblical passages to justify abusive treatment…."

* (pp. 22-23)

An abused woman herself, Barbara clearly answers the question I've asked abused women for nearly 20 years, "Why do you stay?" Most victims do not know why they continue to "spend all their energies walking on eggshells and trying to 'fix' the relationship."

Basically, they stay because in the "dynamic cycle of abuse," tension builds until an episode of sin occurs, then the abuser offers just enough "buy backs" of affection that the victim is happy and hopeful for her marriage without core problems being addressed. Thus, the victim's emotions are on a constant roller coaster that don't allow her to step back and analyze the true power of sin in her marriage to destroy her and her children. She believes the buy-backs and her fantasy of happily ever after. No doubt, Barbara's words will wake up many victims to their codependence with sin.

Barbara's paragraph about the insidious advance of unchecked spouse abuse reveals great discernment and love for its victims:

Most victims tolerate and become worn down by serious abuse before recognizing that abuse is the problem. Many excuse their spouse's bad conduct and overlook its damaging effects for a very long time. Typically, they choose to suffer in silence. This denial (non-recognition of the existence of abuse) is a way of coping. Typically, abusers project blame onto the other spouse: "I only did that because of the way you are behaving." This makes the victim go into obsessive self-examination and self-recrimination: "It must be my fault; if I change this or that, it won't happen again." Such a victim has constant anxiety as to whether any of her own behaviors may have been abusive or ungodly, and is fundamentally unsure whether what she is suffering can be called domestic abuse. (p. 25)

Not only does God offer a way of escape from the power of sin from one's mate through disciplinary divorce, but he has also appointed civil governments to punish evildoers. Seeking a godly, disciplinary divorce through the courts is as righteous as a wife partaking of the Lord's Supper. Indeed, if Christians would exercise God's remedy, this tremendous peer pressure would clean up many homes and provide a healthy environment for our children and a better example of dealing with sin for other members of the congregation.

Don't believe it? Then rather than giving a simplistic answer, "God hates divorce," I challenge you to read Barbara's book Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery & Desertion and struggle with the scriptural concepts. Barbara's book is not perfect as are none of my own works of trying to understand God's word and to teach others regarding marriage and solving problems. Our spiritual walk is a growth experience, and so it is with our understanding of divorce and remarriage. Reading this book may well start you on a journey of greater insights and compassion for your fellowman.

If you're a serious Bible student or in an abusive relationship or have a friend in an abusive relationship, I highly recommend Not Under Bondage to help you examine the scriptures from a fresh perspective and to look anew at one of God's ways for waging a spiritual battle against sin in the home.

I know two instances where the wives had tried to deal with their husbands' repeated infidelities without lasting success. When these husbands learned their wives were seriously studying divorce and remarriage, and that they would be held accountable for their sins, they got serious about getting help for overcoming their addiction to improper sexual conduct. God intends for every sinner to experience peer pressure. Our ignorance and simplistic views of divorce and remarriage deny the sinner one of God's powerful provision for turning him from his rebellion.

I pray God's blessings on Barbara and her efforts as she deals with Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery & Desertion; and ultimately, our own better treatment of those who falsely assume they are trapped in marriage to an abuser.

Permission to Reproduce Does God Trap Women in Marriages to Abusive Men? Review of Barbara Roberts' book Not Under Bondage

Does God Trap Women in Marriages to Abusive Men? Review of Barbara Roberts' book Not Under Bondage by Patsy Rae Dawson. Copyright © 2008 Patsy Rae Dawson LLC. All rights reserved.

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