“Why in the world doesn’t she just leave him?!” Did that question pop into your mind too while reading about all that the abused endure in Series 1? The answer is not simple. There are so many intertwining factors, but the foundational reason is fear.

“Let Not the Wife Depart”

An abused wife who loves her Lord fears displeasing him. Many churches give an abused wife no option of setting boundaries or consequences. Sadly, the alien world of abuse appears to be unresearched. Yet God hates lying, hypocrisy, and oppression… and he authored “You reap what you sow.”

Separation for the purpose of alerting the abuser to the seriousness of his destructive, sinful behaviour patterns is a loving and godly act. A wife who has been able to acknowledge the abuse to herself, yet stays, is providing the abuser with further opportunity to sin, not to mention she is remaining in an unsafe situation.

Gently presenting the facts with humility and encouraging him to get help out of concern for his spiritual well-being is an act that contains no vengeance or bitterness (the common accusation). Rather, it offers him hope and a path he can choose to travel if he wants to rebuild his marriage into a healthy, biblical relationship.

The wife is looking for the abuser to display genuine and broken-hearted sorrow over his sin (not just the consequences of his sin), to stop minimising and justifying, and to welcome any consequences accompanying the rebuilding of obliterated trust. Observing his stability over time and with counselling and accountability, she can agree to attempt to restore the relationship when she begins to feel safe in his presence.

Some wives fear getting out from under their “umbrella of authority.” They’ve been taught that Satan will directly attack them and that God will reject and punish them (Bill Gothard1). No exceptions. The egotistical dictator-husband (Jack Hyles and others) leaves no option but instant, unquestioning obedience. No exceptions. These unbalanced teachings are greenhouses where abusers thrive.

Mostly she fears the physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse that she’s already been living with for years. She’s learned well that any resistance is not worth the consequences.2

Example: It has been agreed that Jan will give Ian three warnings, at ten minute intervals, when dinner will be ready. Ian is often busy at his desk and that gives him time to wrap up what he’s working on. Yet, every single night the eight other people in the family—even visitors—wait, seated around the table, for ten to fifteen minutes for Ian to show up so they can pray and eat together. An apology is rare. Jan waits for a private time and gently mentions this selfish pattern to Ian. As she feared, a cataclysmic eruption follows and it ends three hours later with everything being her fault and several bruises added to her collection.

With a marriage like this, it is too overwhelming for Jan to even consider the consequences of her going to someone for help or leaving.

Commenters on www.leslievernick.com also shared their reasons for staying. Two months ago, Bev wrote “Fear of losing my marriage when what I had wasn’t one anyway; fear of losing his love, when I didn’t have that either; fear of having a broken home and what that would do to my kids, when the home was already broken…; living with the delusion that I had love, marriage and a functioning home for my children when what I really had was so terribly far from it.” Last Christmas, Elizabeth explained, “Reacting or standing up for myself or the kids… usually made things worse. I would get frightening levels of anger directed back at me or my husband would be so hurt and upset, that I would end up putting my emotions aside to help him handle his. Another option was that I would be placated and ignored… So I learned over the past 20 years to just shoulder his needs, the children’s needs, my needs and the household needs myself… I find myself needing to take deep breaths and and trying to calm myself before I saw him or after he left. While he was around, I was just sorta anxious and numb.”

The last straw for Jan was when her husband tried to run her over with his truck. She was pregnant!3

Part 2 will have more things the abused fear.

You can access domestic violence resources here.

1 A Matter of Basic Principles by Vernoit, Vernoit and Henzel
2 soulshepherding.com/2009/09/breaking_free_cycle_abuse
3 https://leslievernick.com/blog/why-do-i-stay/

this is part 1 of 3 in the series
Why the Abused Stay

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About Joy Harris

Joy studied elementary education before going on to teach at the primary school level as well as homeschooling for twenty-six years. Joy has touched the lives of thousands through her ministry in state Religious Education, Sunday Schools, and Holiday Bible Clubs as well as through her speaking at various seminars and retreats. Joy is also a gifted musician and has collaborated on multiple recording projects as well as maintaining a private teaching studio for over thirty years. Joy is retired and lives in Cairns, Australia. Joy has seven children, twenty-one grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. You can contact Joy at joy@jasonharris.com.au.

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