Category Archives: Relationships

Trapped Wife

Recently a reader of mine e-mailed me a link to a post entitled  Open Letter to a Trapped Wife written by Douglas Wilson.  I thought it was worth passing along because this is not the advice and level headedness you would get at GCM.  This is the post in its entirety. 

Open Letter to a Trapped Wife

Dear Jill,

Thank you for your email. You describe a situation very similar to one that I recently addressed here. I am very sorry for your troubles, and hope that what I say here will be of some help.

Let me begin with the most difficult part and get that over with first. I want to start by assuming that I am missing an important part of the story, having only heard from you. But after that, I want to then go on to assume that you have given me an accurate account of verbal, emotional, and spiritual cruelty, and give you some counsel from that perspective.

You describe a situation where the elders of your church have felt sorry for you, but have been pretty passive when it comes to addressing your husband’s anger issues. There are two possibilities here. One is that they know your account is true, but they lack the requisite courage or wisdom to deal with a man like your husband is. Part of the solution for that will be addressed in the second half of this letter. The other possibility is that they are confronted with a did too/did not situation, and so they are constrained from acting by biblical limitations (Prov. 18:17). They are not permitted to simply believe a charge that you bring against your husband — any more than they would be allowed to believe a charge that he brought against you. When there are charges and counter charges, those hearing them have to be able to do better than to just flip a coin.

We unfortunately live in a time that allows a certain kind of accusation to serve as a simple conviction. If a man is accused, the accuser is automatically the victim, and anybody who insists on independent corroboration of any serious charge will be himself accused of bringing additional abuse to the victim. But the line between righteousness and unrighteousness does not run neatly between men and women. Some women are fearfully abused by their husbands, and some husbands are frightfully mistreated by their wives. A counselor or pastor does not know going in to a situation which one it might be. If he goes in with his mind made up already, he does a grave disservice to both people he is trying to help.

I have seen situations where everybody in the family claimed to be afraid of the angry bear with a temper problem, but nobody appeared to have the slightest concern about his views, opinions, decisions, or values. But this made me wonder — if everyone was so afraid of the angry bear — why they all kept poking him with their sticks. They claimed fear so that they could use it as another weapon against someone they did not like, and did not respect, but actual fear was absent. I have seen other situations where the family was genuinely paralyzed by actual fear, and spent all day every day walking on egg shells.

We live in a world where some husbands are just angry men. They are angry at the government, angry at their business partners, angry at their competitors, angry at their fellow motorists, and angry at everybody inside the car with them. Periodically they explode, and all the molten malice trapped inside them comes out. That is one problem. But there are also situations where husbands are simply beleaguered men, constantly and unrelentingly disrespected by everyone close to them. His periodic outbursts are the railings of an impotent castrato. Of course, men in the first category will claim to be in the second, but it is important to keep these two categories distinct.

Please do not take any of this as an accusation against you. Your letter certainly seemed genuine to me, although I do not know your situation. I do know that if you are the righteous women you appear to be, you will recognize the justice of acknowledging that sometimes women are the unrighteous ones and that your account is just one side of the story. In my mind, if you recognize the cautions above as fair-minded, then the likelihood that your account is accurate goes way up. But if you take offense at the mere suggestion that an unsubmissive wife could ever slander her hapless husband, then the likelihood that your account is accurate goes way down.

Like I said earlier, I write all this not knowing your actual situation at all. But let us say you have run these biblical diagnostics on your own heart, and you are confident before God, with the Spirit of God as your witness, that your husband is a straight-up bully, and that you and the kids feel trapped by his anger. Let us also give your pastor and elders the benefit of the doubt and say that they would be willing to act if they had a situation with actual handles on it. What is a biblical strategy for dealing with a situation like this? Now what do you do?

Your strategy should be to bring everything to a head. Abigail dealt with her blockhead husband with all wisdom, and everything consequently came to a head. She was submissive to him, up to a point, and went completely around him in another sense. In this way she was very much like her future husband David, who honored the Lord’s anointed, refusing to take Saul’s life when he had the opportunity, while at the same not cooperating with Saul at all. David honored Saul as his anointed king, even while disobeying him. David did not turn himself in. Abigail did the same kind of thing. She honored her husband as her husband, but also did what was necessary to save her household. This was not simply a discrete, stand-alone action, but was rather a step in the story that helped bring everything to a head.

Before getting into how to bring everything to a head, we need to get the lay of the land first. There are two biblical grounds for divorce. They are some form of significant sexual uncleanness on the part of your spouse (Matt. 19:9), and willful desertion of you by your spouse (1 Cor. 7:15). From what you described, neither of these conditions pertain your situation. My understanding is that when divorce occurs under these circumstances, the innocent party is free to remarry. You are not now in that circumstance.

But what about separation? Is there any circumstance that could justify that? The answer is yes, but when that happens, the innocent party is free to separate, but is not free to remarry. Here it is:

“To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife” (1 Cor. 7:10–11, ESV).

There are certain hard situations in the church that Paul is willing to live with. He says that his default assumption is that a wife should not separate from her husband. He tries to keep them together. But when she can’t take it anymore and gets the heck out of there, notice how Paul limits her action. Taking the sum of his teaching, he says that the fact that her husband is not an adulterer and has not deserted her means that she must not get married to anyone else. A woman who leaves under these circumstances must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband. At the same time, the church must not force her to return.

When should a wife consider this? There are two basic scenarios. The first is when she has good reason to believe that she and/or the kids are in physical danger. If he is in the grip of anger and strikes her, or chokes her, or is waving a gun around, or anything like that, she needs to look for the first opportunity to get safely away. A husband should protect his family, not be the principal threat his family needs protection from. If he won’t protect them, then she, like Abigail, must take up the duty of protection.

When a wife separates from her husband because she is unsafe, the church should not lean on her to go back apart from the problem being actively addressed through pastoral counsel, and to her satisfaction. If she separates too quickly, and is not following the apostle’s advice perfectly, let her. If Paul would let her, then so should we. The church should simply say in this situation that unless something changes (e.g. her husband gets a live-in girl friend) she must not marry someone else in the meantime.

The second scenario is when a situation has gotten bad enough that a wife decides to force the issue, and give the church a situation that they have to deal with. This is an Abigail move. She moves out, and her husband complains to the elders. The elders ask her what is going on, and she says that their marriage and family are in a desperate way, and that she would be delighted to receive marriage counseling. She yearns for reconciliation. She has been asking her husband to arrange for counseling for years, and he has always refused. Now she has created a situation where the needed counseling must occur. Such a woman is not necessarily being unsubmissive at all.

In the run up to this, she should have been applying the wisdom of the apostle Peter.

“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear” (1 Pet. 3:1–2).

If a godly wife is dealing with an ungodly and disobedient husband, and she is submissive in the way that Peter describes, then she is actively bringing everything to a head. Either he will be shamed by her courtesy, and submit to the Word, becoming obedient to it, or he will leave, or make the situation intolerable. Notice that the verb used here is that of the wife winning her husband. She is not a doormat here — she wins him.

She, by her reverent and chaste behavior, wins through. Either he submits to Christ, in which case she has won her husband, or he reacts violently to her reverent and chaste behavior. When this latter situation is unfolding, many wives believe that they are doing something wrong because the anger of their husband is apparently getting worse. But a fish being hauled in does most of its thrashing right beside the boat. The husband’s increased anger is a sign that he is getting to a break point. He is converted, or he ditches, or he makes home an impossible place to be. If the former, the problem is solved. If he leaves, the problem is solved. If he makes life in the home unlivable because of her reverent and chaste behavior, then she can leave with a clean conscience. Having left, she is prepared to cooperate fully with the elders when they seek to bring about a real reconciliation.

But that reconciliation will not occur unless there is repentance. Reconciliation is to be on God’s terms, not hers, and certainly not his. Reconciliation is not the same thing as the fight blowing over, or the husband calming down just a bit.

Well, that was a lot. In my experience, letters like this answer some questions, but also generate a lot more. If this has been of any help to you, please write again with any follow-up questions you might have.

Sin of Others

Below are excerpts from an article written by Rick Thomas.  There is a time to separate from an abusive spouse and there is a time to run.  If your church does not know how to support you, contact the counselors at Rick’s site.  The contact information is in his article.  I like how he says that they are not a replacement to the local church but they are there to compliment the local church.  I am glad they have been having articles up about abuse because I know my readers click over to his site.  I hope you all find the biblical help you need that draws you into a closer, more trusting relationship with our Lord and Savior.  May God give you the strength to do what you need to do in order for healing to take place and dear sister, I am not referring to your type of “healing”, but the type of healing that comes from God alone.  Healing that leads you closer to God not further away.  Healing that leads to righteousness not to sin.  Healing that leads to restoration instead of destruction.

How does the ongoing sin of others impact our physical health? by Rick Thomas

If my sin is affecting my health, then I can repent and be restored. If the sin of another person is affecting my health, then I am at the mercy of the other person owning and removing the sin from the relationship. In some marriages, the abusive spouse does not repent, a situation that can leave the victim spouse vulnerable.

What am I to do?

This discussion can stir up a few concerns, especially from a person who is in an abusive situation. Here are four of those possible concerns:

  1. Am I a victim?
  2. What about the grace of God in un-repented relationships?
  3. If my spouse is affecting my health, can I leave him?
  4. Where do I find help?

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. – 2 Corinthians 4:16 (ESV)

Grace – Because we are victims of sin and the impact of sin on our lives can be degenerative, we must talk about the transformative power of the Gospel that has been given to us. It is important for us to not lose heart, as Paul said. God is merciful. Though we have created this problem between sin, life, and death, the LORD does not leave us alone. He always provides a way of escape when sin abounds (1 Corinthians 10:13). This is good news because there could be a temptation for a person to give up, choosing not to access these means of grace that the LORD has given to us. The temptation to quit and not fight is always strong. Many adults give up the fight against sin and let their bodies go. They feel the gravitational pull of death on them and rather than finishing strong, they yield to ever-increasing physical and spiritual depreciation. Though there are means of grace for these temptations, we do not always access them. Whether it is the degenerative effect of the sins of Adam or the sins within our relationships that we are uniquely bound to, there is a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Separation – I think if I was in a situation where my spouse’s abusive sin was affecting my health, one of the things I would consider is separation. That makes sense. And because it is an instinctive response, it would good to wade through these waters with carefulness. Biblical grounds for separation, which leads to divorce, are adultery and desertion. An un-repentant mean man does not fall within those grounds, but this does not leave you in a helpless situation. For example, if a person was physically or sexually abusive, then we are talking about crimes, as well as sins, that are punishable by law. A person who is physically or sexually abused by someone should not hesitate about reporting the abuser to the authorities. If someone knows about these sin-crimes happening, then that person(s) should report them. There is only one option when a person is being abused in those ways: the abuser has to be reported. This is a non-negotiable reality. For the Christian, there is a process for the lesser abuses that can have a powerful impact on a person’s spiritual and physical wellbeing. That process may include separation.

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. – Matthew 18:15-16 (ESV)

The first call to action is to appeal to the abuser. I am not talking about sexual or physical abuse. In those cases, you do not appeal first. You run. You get away from the abuse. However, in other abuse situations where your physicality is not in the kind of threat that sexual and physical abuse causes, you make an appeal to the abuser to stop. If the person does not stop, then you call for help. Do not try to persuade a domineering person to stop being domineering on your own. The LORD has given us a process for such meanness. You have an advocate in the body of Christ, a wonderful means of grace to come alongside those who are victimized by the sins of others. Help – There will be many people who will read this and say, “Yes, but my church does not have the means, competency, or the concern to help me.” I will not argue with you. I have been counseling for a long time. My vocation has been a wonderful blessing in many ways, part of which had given me a realistic view of the local church. In some situations we have failed the body of Christ. I am critiquing myself here. I am talking about us. I am speaking of my family—the body of the LORD Jesus. There are many people, especially women, who live in marriages where the men are not pursued, helped, or held accountable. They are not called to change, as they continue to live in unabated sinfulness, but this is where we must be careful. It would be misguided to lay the sinfulness of people in the lap of the church. That is not an reasonable charge. It is not biblical. There are many churches who are stellar in the fight against sin. They are like me in that the need is far greater than any one person’s or institution’s ability to resolve. Furthermore, it would be placing the cause of the problem on the church. There is no doubt the church can and should do a better job, but the real problem has to do with how sinful people do not want to change. It is similar to the hospital. The help is available, but the person who needs the help must access it. Many, if not most, of the people who live in un-repentant sin are elusive. They are not part of the local church, which puts the local church at a disadvantage. This is a dilemma.

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. – James 4:17 (ESV)

I have never met a person who wanted to change, who could not change. If a sinful person wants to stop his sinfulness, there is enough grace, with or without the local church, for him to d that.

If you are in an abusive situation, then do not keep silent. Find a way to speak out; go for help. Our Member Site has been a refuge and a life line to many people who have found no other place to turn. We are not the local church and are not a replacement for the local church, but we can complement the local church by bringing care to the body of Christ. We also have been a means of grace to help the church in learning how to be more effective in their discipleship practices. It may be possible for you to find a counselor, a person who can come alongside you to help walk you through the un-repented sin in your relationships. Do not try to fight the fight against sin alone, whether it is your sin or the sin of others. Your spiritual and physical life will be affected in proportion to the amount, degree, and type of sin that is waging war against you.

The Power of the Gospel

The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes Christ died for their sins and rose from the dead.  Rick Thomas wrote about this topic in The reason I stopped hating my dad.  It makes me sad to think of some GCMers living in hatred of their husbands/family members/anybody because of the wrongs others have done to them.  I hope you will read Rick’s article and see the love of a Savior who died for you even though you are a sinner and not worthy of such kindness.  Through Christ’s death and resurrection we have forgiveness of sins and we no longer have to live with hatred for those who sin against us.  Read the article to see how Rick handled having a father who was a drunkard until the power of God changed him.

Below are a few quotes from the article.

“My father was a sinner who sinned—for all have sinned (Romans 3:23).”

“But he was not the only unrighteous person in our family. I, too, chose an unrighteous path. The sin that was passed down to him was passed down to me. I was just like my father—there is none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10-12).”

“For many years I spent more time thinking about what my dad did wrong to me than what I did wrong to God. This kind of thinking is self-induced poisoning of the soul.”

“As I began to come to terms with the Gospel as it applied to my dysfunctional childhood, I began to see. The angry fog began to lift. I was a self-righteous victim—a deadly duo. A self-righteous victim is more aware of and irritated by the sins of someone else, rather than being more conscious of and more grieved by their own sin.” (Emphasis added)

“There is nothing that has ever happened to you or to me that is more evil than the sin we have committed against God.”

“It no longer mattered who did what. The real issue for me was whether I would humble my heart before Almighty God and plead for His forgiveness for the crimes I had committed.”

GCMer, if you are struggling in any of your relationships then a good place to start would be to confess your own sins to God, repent and believe the good news that Christ died for you.  If you are still struggling with hate then the second best option is to go to The Counseling Solutions Group Inc.  This counseling is through Rick Thomas even though he doesn’t do much counseling himself.  If Mr. Thomas recommends these counselors then they should be good; in other words you shouldn’t get modern psychobabble from them but a biblical view of your problems and biblical solutions.  GCMers, if you are having a hard time with a relationship in your life, why don’t you contact them today?  And may you one day be able to say as Rick did, “It no longer mattered who did what. The real issue for me was whether I would humble my heart before Almighty God and plead for His forgiveness for the crimes I had committed.”

Cross Edited Clip Art





Don’t Ignore Problems

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 4:29

There is not one Christian community that is devoid of sin.  All Christian communities are made up of sinners who have been saved by grace.  Christ gave them a new heart yet they still struggle with their flesh.  Perfection is desired but we also realize this is not possible on this side of life.  This is why humility and forgiveness are needed.  The sanctification process takes a lifetime.  There should be continual growth in any Christian group.

On Thursday, April 10, 2014 there was a thread started on the Let’s Talk part of the GCM forum called I think its extremely sad.  It has since been locked to further comments.

There were many on there who were upset with what the original poster said, “Now the only people left are the “yes men” …. so go ahead, tear me a new one, but this is the truth.”  One GCMer handled it well.  Mamaka (#159) did a good job!  I recommend everyone go read what she said to illinoismommy.  It is so sad to see that many don’t speak this way on a supposedly Christian site.  Although Mamaka did not exactly like how illinoismommy said something, she tried to understand her and not dismiss her because of the way she chose to say it.  Although Mamaka had no answers, she acknowledged the problem.  I also want to mention gentlemommy’s apology (#185) to milkdud.  It was very nice to see someone humbly confessing what they did wrong!  It was wonderful to see something favorable.  So although most of the comments were not so good, helpful or edifying on this thread, there were two positive ones worth mentioning.

I get rude comments from GCMers all the time.  People are upset with what I write.  Sometimes I do have to go back and make a correction.  This just happened recently in my Hate Comments post.  Although the GCMer  misconstrued my intentions and was not so nice about how she said it, I still took the time to look over what she was offended about.  I did notice right away that I really didn’t want that much information out there so I edited it out.  It was a reminder to myself that I really have to take more time to post sometimes!  A good reminder to us all – don’t talk or write in anger!  Although I was quite disgusted withHerkimmerbonesattitude on something she knew nothing about and appalled at what she said, I really did need to take into account others whom I was talking about.  If I hadn’t posted in such haste I would have also gotten my brother-in-laws approval first before I posted the gossip of the commenter.  He didn’t care so I left it up.  But in the same post, I didn’t even think of others when I should have.  The mistakes had been made, all I could do was humbly admit it then try my best to fix them.

I could have instead done what many GCMers do.  Not even acknowledge the problem because  the person was rude in the way that she told me about the problem.  But ignoring problems is not the answer.  I could have just “given myself grace” for my “big feelings” but I would still be in my sin.  I went to the One who is able to forgive and give grace because He bled and died for my sins.  I confessed my anger and my thoughtlessness in considering others.  I received the grace that comes from God.  It is by far better than any grace I can give myself.  For when He gives me grace there is then no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (from Romans 8:1).

GCMers (as well as myself) watch how you say things to people.  Let us humbly count others more significant than ourselves (from Phil 2:3).  When we fall short in this area let us confess our sins and receive forgiven.

GCMers stop ignoring problems.  Address them, even if someone is not so nice in the way it was brought up.  Have patience with them and work through the problem instead of ignoring the person.  Forgive the person for their hurtful words.  Help them in a godly way  to work through their frustrations.  Obviously illinoismommy was upset and instead of bashing her into the ground for what she said, gently correct her and then address the problem.  It was truly heartbreaking to read through that thread because very little was accomplished.  Ignoring problems will not make them go away (there are other threads where this also happens).  GCM is bound to have a repeat performance of another split because people bring up concerns but instead of getting answers they get attacked – it’s the “Gentle” “Christian” way I suppose.

A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
Proverbs 15:4


Our Side of the Story

If two people are having a problem, then there are two sides to that problem.  I want to finally share my family’s side of the story.  I was hesitant to do so out of respect for my sister and my family even though I know my sister has no problems sharing intimate details of her life with thousands of people online.  It still seemed wrong to me.

My sister’s friend commented on my Sister post.  She said I leave tidbits out.  Yes, yes I do.  I am trying to be respectful.  It has been hard not to give our full side of the story.

I’d still prefer to keep this private, but I am getting tired of being misunderstood and demonized, and with the recent events that took place at GCM.  It is time.



More About Sin

Here is a portion from an article by Rick Thomas, The Most Powerful Way to Help Someone to Change that I thought GCMers would be helped by.

“Here is my question to you: Shouldn’t you have mercy on others because of the mercy that was shown to you? Let’s go at it this way. Let’s take a short Gospel Test. How you answer these questions will reveal your understanding and application of the Gospel:

  1. Who is the biggest sinner you know? If you say anyone other than yourself, then you may have Gospel amnesia. (cf. Matthew 7:3-5; 1 Timothy 1:15)
  2. Do you believe what was done to you by others is worse than what you did to the Savior?
  3. Is there someone in your life you will not forgive?
  4. Is there someone in your life you are generally angry, frustrated, or impatient?

How you answered these questions reveals your functional understanding and application of the Gospel. If you are more stuck on what someone has done to you rather than what you have done to Christ, then you are a problem-centered, self-centered Christian, rather than a Gospel-centered Christian.”

An Article by Tracy Keen

On March 12  in my post entitled, What’s Going On, I linked to an article Tracy Keen wrote on abuse (it is in the comments section).  Today she has another great article up at entitled, How to counsel the abused by going beyond the abuse.  If Rick or Tracy see this, I would love to post the entire article.  But for GCMers here are a few quotes from the article that you need to understand, something that has been left to the wayside in all the counseling that goes on at GCM.

Jennifer is the abused in this post.

“Jennifer has two problems. The first, she has been on the receiving end of much abuse and hardship and that is the problem that is obvious.

The second problem, which is not so obvious and where you must tread carefully, is she is also the victim of the modern gospel. She has a heart issue in more ways than one.

Jennifer needs a heart that is healed from the sins done to her, but she also needs a heart healed by Christ for the sins she has committed, which are not connected to the abuse.”

“In comes the struggle when dealing with a person like Jennifer. It is unbelievably difficult to counsel or help a person who has had so many sinful things done to them.

The reason for this, simply put, is because it is hard for them to see their own sin in addition to the sins done to them. Their focus is on others for obvious reasons. Even writing about their Adamic condition outside of the abuse can be an affront to the abused.”

“This is why a gospel that is centered only on the love of God and does not address the sins of the person is going to fail a person like Jennifer. She may come to God looking to be loved and accepted, which she will, but she will not be helped comprehensively.

So she comes to God confessing all the sinful things people have done to her. She admits to Christ how she is broken, about as broken as any person could be when they have been abused. She sees no future for her life and truly wants God to put her back together.”

“But here’s the problem, Jennifer was never helped to see her sin that put Christ on the cross. So when she comes to the cross, she comes with a list of sins committed against her.

When she leaves the foot of the cross, nothing has truly changed because now she sees herself not as how God sees her, but as someone better than those who have wronged her.

So what did Jennifer walk away with if it wasn’t Christ? Just an empty form of religion that often times leaves a person worse off than before. When dealing with a person like Jennifer, there are some things to keep in mind.

  1. Salvation is the work of God. We are to lead people like Jennifer to the cross.
  2. Sanctification is a work of God. We are to water and plant, trusting the LORD to give the growth.
  3. A person like Jennifer will need time to be able to separate her sin from the sins done to her.
  4. Pray, pray, and pray some more.”