“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For,“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” — 1 Peter 3:1-12
I want to interject early on, that there is a difference between medical conditions which trigger certain behaviors, and spiritual conditions. When someone is (or should be) under medical treatment and/or medications for such conditions, I would never advise you to stop treatment or counseling. In fact, I beg of you to get checked out if you suspect you’re dealing with bipolar, depression, PTSD, or any other mental health issue that might make it easy for you to mistreat others. The difference is, medication can help with a physical/mental condition–there is no shame in needing it–but if your problem is spiritual, you cannot medicate away a spiritual problem! May all of us transparent with ourselves enough to know when sin is the root cause of our bad behavior–and may we aggressively do the work to get it out of our lives.
I also want to note that, this article can’t possibly take into account every single home’s unique issues. I do want to, however, talk about just a few of them. If these don’t touch on the particular problems, causes, and conditions in your own home, just know that I’m trying to touch a small area in a very broad issue. Please, if you’re having problems, don’t just take my small blog post as an all-inclusive approach to dealing with them. Consult with a qualified marriage counselor, pastor, mental health advisor, someone who can get into the finer points of your particular crisis.
It’s not often that I start a devotional out with such a long passage of Scripture, but to condense this very important passage would not do any justice to the teaching topic I’m addressing this morning: cruelty in the home, most notably, spousal abuse.
There aren’t many instances in Scripture where spousal abuse is recorded; yet, treating one’s family well–including (and especially) the husband or wife–is a recurring theme throughout the Scriptures. It’s important to God. Being kind to one’s mate should be a given, right? Yes, it should be. There are some things God shouldn’t have to come right out and get elementary about, and yet… He had to spell out that we not have sex with animals, with our parents/kids/near kin, etc. If you think that mankind is inherently good, well, think again. The human heart, without God shaping it and molding it, is desperately wicked. When mapping out a plan for godly living, yes, He got very specific. He knew there would be a few delinquents in the bunch who might come back later and say, “Well, no one ever told ME that a person’s not supposed to do that!”
A Double Life
A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. James 1:8, 19-20
You cannot be cruel in your home and it not affect your life outside your home. I knew of a man once whom everyone in the general public loved. He was very charismatic, very accommodating to others. He was the “open doors, help little old ladies across the street” kind of guy. He was well respected in the business world and in the political realm; yet there was an elephant in the room. When he went home at night, he left the nice-man suit in his car in the garage, and put on the monster costume. He was a verbal abuser to his entire family, but especially to his wife. It would eventually come out that on occasions he got physical with her, too. She remained with him until her children were grown, reasoning within herself that it was ok, so long as he didn’t physically harm the kids. Then, one day she and his children were well out of harm’s way, and everyone was shocked. They couldn’t figure out what on earth would break up such a happy home. Then, slowly, the stories begin to emerge about what was actually going on in that home. The wife would confide, the kids would confide; eventually, what was such a carefully-guarded secret was all over the place.
If that weren’t a sad enough note to end this little story on, the man didn’t just go back to business-as-usual in his outside life. With no one at home to take his frustrations out on, the monster costume was occasionally worn to work and out in the community under his clothes. His stellar reputation went south, and though he was a man of means, he lost everything of true value. Eventually even his financial prosperity proved to be tainted by the cruelty in his heart.
Abuse Isn’t Always Covert
Flip the situation and I’ll tell you of another. I used to know a married couple that I absolutely hated running into. They were friends of ours, and I didn’t dislike them, per se. I was just always left deeply uncomfortable by the way the wife continually, and in every conversation, insulted her husband to us…right in front of him! She would go on and on about foolish choices he made, and how if he’d only have listened to her, he wouldn’t have done them…or how he always did this wrong, or always failed in that area. Her whole discussion would always seem to center on how superior she was to him in every way. I could tell this man was resentful and deeply ashamed of what she was doing, and yet, the climate never seemed to change. They had a rocky, on-again, off-again relationship. It always felt good whenever we were able to finagle ourselves away from them! Was that spousal abuse? It absolutely was!
No Place for Abuse in a Christian Home!
Why am I sharing this in a devotional? Because I see it, shamefully so, in Christian homes and not just in the homes of nonbelievers. And yes, those stories abound as well of women who are abusers in the home. Their outcomes are no better than this man’s. And this situation I’ve shared with you is a secular story. You’re seeing ones like it on the news nearly daily now. There are countless big-time athletes and actors and celebrities who’ve lost their status because their abusive characters outside the workplace cause their employers to view them as a public relations risk. No one wants to be associated with a bully or a thug, or even a jerk! Even some of the best-looking actors in Hollywood have completely lost their heartthrob status when it came out that they were abusers of their spouses and families.
I wonder–knowing what an outspoken man Peter was–how and when he eventually came to the place in his walk with God where these teachings had lodged within his own heart! Peter–the same man who wrote the above passage is the same hot-head who cut off the high priest’s servant’s ear in the Garden of Gethsemane. He’s the same fellow who denied Jesus three times, and other major debacles of character. Yet, he apparently at least eventually got the revelation that God values self-control in a man (and a woman). Jesus even showed up at his house at one point to heal Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever, and she rose up afterwards and ministered to them. A man who has relationship issues wouldn’t call Jesus to his home to heal one of his in-laws! He’d probably do anything that he could to keep Jesus from entering his home, for fear that Jesus would sense a spirit of offense there. Peter’s writings here would indicate that, at least in time, he understood the necessity of one’s horizontal relationships’ being in harmony to positively open up the VERTICAL relationship with God.
I’m not writing this devotional to try to shame men into becoming walked-on wimps, and I’m not writing it to tell women that they have no voice and should just be door mats to their husbands. I’m writing it to urge you to get your houses in order…because how you treat your family matters to God. You will be judged for it. The fruitfulness of your hopes, dreams, and prayers depends on it, too. If you don’t particularly like being successful, being thought well of, being blessed, being whole in mind and body, then just ignore everything I’ve said…BUT! If you do want to have a blessed, prosperous life where everything doesn’t go to pieces, then you need to respect the conditions for blessing that God has set forth in His Word.
Common Excuses We Use Not to Change
- It’s just the way I am. I inherited this temper. So lame! This is the laziest excuse to let one’s emotions run the show. You are right about one thing…without God’s help, you really can’t change. And if you inherited a short fuse, stop bragging about it! It’s not something to be proud of. If you have anger issues or a personality trait that is endangering the welfare of your family, be man or woman enough to admit it before God and before a qualified marriage counselor. Don’t wait until the damage is beyond repair. You may not feel that bad about it now, but at some point in time, you will reap some painful things for the pain you inflict on others.
- It’s his/her fault that I lose it. My spouse sets me off with that mouth! While it’s true, our spouses can lend to the overall problem, it is still up to you to control your own spirit! Temporarily distance yourself if you have to, rather than engaging so heatedly into discussions that you wind up saying and doing regretful things. Back off. Take a walk. Better yet, pray and get into God’s Word. Take the initiative to arrange for pastoral and qualified family counseling if you have these types of issues. Whatever you do, don’t let that volcano of hate and anger spew into your home!
- He/she knows I really don’t mean it. We always cool off eventually. I can promise you this: when you say hurtful things to your children or spouse, they play over and over like a broken record long after the argument is over. Don’t be the cause of your family having to deal with the sin of unforgiveness through repeated abuse on your part! Nothing good can come of you causing your spouse and kids to develop hard, callous hearts. It will tell on you, eventually.
- As long as no one at work, church, school, or our community knows we have these problems, it should all work out ok. You see, that’s the lie Satan plants to keep us satisfied that we still have it all under control. Remember, God’s opinion ultimately is the most important, and if you are disobeying His guidelines for the way you treat others, you are sinning, PERIOD. Just because no one else seems to be observing the problem, doesn’t mean that they aren’t already picking up on the bad vibes. People aren’t that stupid, friend! Your spouse and children have body language and many other non-verbal means of communicating to the world that you are not treating them well, even when they are trying to hide their embarrassing secret.
- I came from an abusive background and I didn’t turn out so bad. I’m not nearly as bad as my dad/mom. Are you kidding? The very fact that your own family is repeating the same nightmare in another generation is a serious problem. What if your children’s relationships turn out to be even worse than your parents’, just because you failed to deal with it in your own life? Yes, it’s serious. Don’t grade yourself on a curve against others who you perceive are/were worse than you are. Examine your life against God’s standard in His Word, and make whatever changes you need to make to live a life pleasing to Him! Proverbs says that when a person’s ways please the the Lord, He makes even that person’s enemies to be at peace with him/her. Righteousness and a truly right heart will positively, even miraculously, affect your ability to get along well with others. It is truth.
- I don’t feel well. My health issues make me moody and my family knows it. Yes, they certainly do know it, and they resent being the brunt of your frustration. And if you want their prayers, love, understanding, and support, you will try harder not to let your personal pain affect your treatment of them. The best way to have someone actually on your side is not to turn him or her into an enemy by being an ogre!
- I’m just talking mean to him/her. Since I’m not name-calling or using foul language, it’s not really verbal/emotional abuse. Baloney, friend. You are not that deceived! If the way you are speaking and behaving is causing abnormal fears, manipulation, torment, sadness, depression, suicidal thoughts, resentment, self-hatred, depreciation, insults, you are not behaving like Jesus! Yes, sometimes we have to address issues in our homes. Things need discussed, resolved, debated, corrected, at times changed for the better of everyone involved. Sometimes we must be iron sharpening iron…you may be instrumental in discipline in your home, but you are not called to be a verbal axe-wielder in your home. You can have even serious, somber, firm discussions with others without stepping into a spirit of strife. Weigh every action and word against how Jesus would handle what you’re handling, and if you are emotionally scarring another person, you need to stop it, NOW.
Initiating Change Through Prayer and Honest Self-Examination
There’s no way I can possibly cram all the helpful elements to enhancing our spousal relationships into this little blog post, but what I will do is this: I have included a couple of prayers for spouses whose anger issues are jeopardizing their marriages. I am proposing not anger management, but anger crucifixion! It’s time to take these issues to the cross, once and for all.
I do want to say this, as we end on a positive note: today is a new day. We can repent and apologize for the sins of our past, and start from this day forward to make better choices. I so respect Larry and Tiz Huch, television ministers, for their very transparent testimony of how God restored their marriage after years of abusive behavior. We need to see more testimonies like theirs of couples who’ve overcome the past, forgiven, and gone on to have happy marriages. I want you to know that there is hope for you too–but you must be willing to fight the real enemy, the devil, for it! God is ready to meet you right where you are, and His grace is sufficient.
Husbands – “Heavenly Father, I feel the pressure on every side to be in charge. The hardest time I have holding it together is when I come home, because that’s where I want most to be able to be myself. But Lord, I don’t like the man I see myself become when I’m around my family. Forgive me for the horrible way I have let my anger leech into my homelife. As the spiritual leader of our home, it says that I have spiritual issues of my own which need dealt with. Lord, I don’t want to damage my children for future relationships! I don’t want my wife to secretly despise me. The truth is, I don’t know how to change and without Your help, I can’t change. I ask You, in Jesus’ name, to break off any generational curses of parental and spousal abuse from my bloodline now. Sever all negative ties between my family history and my own immediate family now. If there is abuse in our lineage, let my family be the generation in which it is stopped. Lord, shine the light of Your Word into my spirit man. Chase the wickedness out of the corners of my soul where it loves to hide. Father, if there is an indwelling of any unclean spirit in me or on me which influences me to verbally, emotionally, or physically abuse my wife and children, I resist it now. I submit myself to You because Your Word says that if I will humble myself, submit to you, and resist the devil, he MUST flee from me! Drive out every evil spirit that influences me to harm others and to harm myself. Fill me up to overflowing with Your Holy Spirit and help me to recognize all open doors to evil in my life. I go behind Your revelation of these things and I shut them, one by one. In Jesus’ name, may every legal access the devil has to our home be deadbolted shut now and forevermore. Father, as I repent and submit myself to Your Word, I will also repent to and before my family for the wrong things I have said and done to them. Your Word says that anger rests in the bosom of fools. I don’t want to be a fool. I want to love my family the way You do, and to protect my spouse the way Christ shields and covers His Church. If I cannot see substantial changes coming, I will be man enough to initiate marital counseling. I will not hide our problems behind the guise of a Christian home, but I will get help and I will stop the abuse from perpetuating to another generation. Help me to love like You love. Thank You for forgiving me and extending Your grace and mercy over our situation now.”
Wives – “Heavenly Father, You have heard my silent cries for help, and I know that it is not Your plan for my family to be harboring this ugly secret. Verbal and physical abuse are not attributes of the Spirit-filled! These ugly manifestations have no place in our home. I look to You for wisdom to be able to be the thermostat of our home. While it is not right for my husband to abuse me, I know that I need to recognize “triggers” that provoke outbursts. I can’t always prevent bad moods and temper flares from occurring, but You can enable me to divert certain situations before they even occur. Lord, forgive me for times when I nag or boss or belittle my husband. Forgive me for sometimes not resisting the urge to push his buttons by inserting a little dig or subtle insult into discussions. While it is wrong for him to mistreat me, it is equally wrong for me to dare him to do so. I will set a watch upon the words of my mouth. I will learn to give soft answers that turn away wrath, and I will set in motion a spiritual mood change in our home through praise and worship, thanksgiving, prayer, reading and speaking Your Word aloud, and through the cleansing of evil spirits from my household in intercession! Help me to proactive in this area. Help me to build up my husband’s spirit man and not to tear him down. I repent of every time I have emasculated him through open insults, rebellion, and belittling him in front of others–especially our children. Help me to have new-found respect for him, and help me to forgive. Oh, Lord, how I need Your help there! Cause my moods to come into harmony in ways that affect his moods more positively. Your Word says that my lifestyle has the power to win him over to You just by the witness I live before him! No amount of preachiness or nagging could ever influence him like seeing Your love pour out of me. Help me to identify characteristics in my personality which might cause arguments (complaining, griping, negative words, insults, sarcasm, bossiness), and to put these things on the altar for good! Make me that kind of woman, Father, so full of Your Holy Spirit that he cannot resist the pull toward You. I will apologize to him for my shortcomings, and I will take the high road to reconcile whenever we have disagreements. I will not assume that he can read my mind! If I have concerns, I will speak gently to him about them and allow Your Holy Spirit to convict him in those areas. Lord, I ask You in Jesus’ name to break generational curses that come into our family from my side of the bloodline. Whether emotional disorders, addictions, abuse or being enslaved by those who abuse, or any other trap of Satan to perpetuate damage into our children, I stop it now by submitting our heritage to You! Doors that You have made me responsible to shut, I will close. I will set no wicked thing before my eyes, and I will not entertain the foolish advice of a broken world on how to conduct my household affairs! I look to You, O God, and I pray that, should our marriage require counseling, that You will pair my husband and me with the right counselor(s) who can help us to heal and move forward. And please, if remaining in our home is endangering the safety and well-being of myself and our children–if You see that my spouse is unwilling to be helped and will go on harming us–give me the discernment and courage to know when and where to flee for protection. In Jesus’ name I ask, Amen!”