The Lazarus Project

Resurrecting hope for Christian victims and survivors of family violence.

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Husband as Idol


My response to a reader who revealed that she had just realized that marriage had been an idol to her for decades:

      I am glad that God has revealed this truth  to you. I do very much understand this, because this was my answer to the question of my heart when I sought God for understanding about my abusive marriage years ago. I had asked Him, -- not to be accusatory, but simply to understand where I had gone wrong so I would not repeat my error-- "God, how did I get involved in an abusive relationship? I am Your servant; I live to love and honor You. How was it that the protection that You promised me failed? Where was the hole in Your hedge of protection that allowed this evil to enter in to my life?"

      Now, you must understand, I did know and believe God's promises of protection. And I was not unthankful that He had rescued me from my abuse--and I knew just as surely as I live that it was God Himself that saved me from an untimely death--but I knew that it had to be my failure, not His, that allowed Satan to get a toehold into my life, and I sought the counsel of the Lord to reveal it and expose it so that I could never again be caught in the same trap.

     And His answer was that my husband had become an idol to me.  While this was an answer of truth, it cut me deeply. It angered me that I had been so easily deceived by the adversary that I had fallen innocently into this trap. It hurt me that I had been guilty of the same sin of the children of Israel, and had gone a-whoring after another god --not one of stone or of wood, but of flesh--and that I didn't even know it.

     Now I did not have this understanding while I was in the midst of my abuse, as you have now. I didn't come to this point of understanding until many years later, after some of the wounds were no longer as fresh.  But this in itself was a wound, realizing that I had brought this on myself, because I had left my first love (Jesus Christ). 

     Then-- and only then-- did I realize what the verse in Isaiah 54 meant that had eluded me for years. (Isaiah 54 was the chapter He had given me to strengthen me and to restore hope to me the night I left my abuser, when He promised me that He would be my husband, and that He would protect me and provide for me.)  Verse 7 states: "For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee." Verse 8 continues on that theme: "In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment: but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy redeemer."

      While that chapter had given me great strength and sustenance, these two verses had left me wondering, "Why had God hidden his face from me in my time of oppression? Why, when He had promised never to leave or forsake me, did He do so?" For years, I didn't have the answer, but yearned to understand fully, and believed God for the day He would reveal it to me. You'll notice that it doesn't say that He forgot me. He never forgot, nor did He ignore, what happened. In fact, His hand was in the midst of it, making sure that this was not my final end.  While my abuser was strangling the life out of me, God's hand gently insured that My abusive husband's powerful hands didn't break the rings of my trachea.  God made sure that his murderous kicks to my rib cage didn't puncture a lung. While God did allow many facial bones to be broken, He did not allow any of the numerous punches to cause one of the bones fragments to enter my skull and injure my brain.  So He really was there all the time, in the very midst of the pain, which He allowed only because I had given the devil an open door to attack me by my own idolatry.

     And He not only protected me through it all, but He rescued me from it. And, the whole time, never condemned me for it.  Instead, He lovingly restored me, provided for me, comforted me, and guided me to safety.  And then, He enabled me to start a whole new life. He taught me boundaries. He taught me to be assertive. He taught me to trust in Him and not in man.

     And it was only when I asked Him --when I was ready-- that He revealed to me my sin.  And He forgave me for it, and allowed me to learn from it.

     This is a great lesson, but one that I don't normally share with people. I don't ever want anyone to mistake it for a condemnation for women who are being abused or a justification for the abuse. I do not think that God sent the abuse to teach me a lesson or to punish me in any way. I know that the abuse I suffered was not His will for my life. He did not send it to test me, or to somehow enable me to later comfort others, as many misinformed but well-meaning Christians have said. But that is accusing God of evil.

     Scripture says that no one can blame God when they are tempted or fall into mischief: "Let no man say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted of God;' for God cannot be tempted with evil, NEITHER TEMPTETH HE ANY MAN. But every man is tempted, WHEN HE IS DRAWN AWAY OF HIS OWN LUST, AND ENTICED. And when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren." (James 1:13-16, KJV, emphasis mine.)

     It was not God who abused me, but my partner. It was not God's will that I be abused, but my partner's will. Rather, God enabled me to survive it, through His miraculous intervention.

     And God, in His mercy, has not only forgiven me for that sin; He has forgotten it. But while He has forgotten, I never can--just as David, in Psalm 51, wrote: "I acknowledge my transgression; my sin is ever before me."  Not that I continually condemn myself for it, but its legacy is everlasting. Because I chose --unknowingly-- to sin, I altered the course of God's plan for my life. He had to rescue me from my own destruction and help me to rebuild my life. 

     But its effects are still there, and I reaped the consequences of my action: I struggled as a single mother for 13 years. I had to go back to school to begin a new career, as my injuries left me unable to dance professionally anymore and I could no longer perform, due to my having to change my identity for our safety.  My children were raised without a father. I reaped the consequences of what I had sown. But through it all, God was there. Scripture says that He will be a father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5), and He was to my children. He promised that He would be my husband (Isaiah 54:5), and He was. Scripture calls Him a "Wonderful Counselor," (Isaiah 9:6) and He certainly was (and is) to me.

     And I not only acknowledged my sin; I repented of it. I realized how I broke the heart of my God, and I swore to Him that I would never allow a man to take His place in my heart or life again. My abusive husband had gotten jealous when I would share the Word with others, so I had shut my mouth--the very mouth that God had touched, and placed His Word inside, just as He had done to Isaiah--and I had denied the call of God and cow-towed to my husband.  I promised God I would never do that again.  I had been called of God while still a teenager to go out and proclaim His Word to others, and I had allowed my husband to sidetrack me from that mission. 

     While my abusive husband was explosive in his anger, it was MY decision, not his, to take what he thought was my "rightful" place in the corner. God had made me to be a bold ambassador for Him: My abusive husband expected me to be a doormat. And I obeyed my husband rather than my God. My fear of his rage ruled me instead of God's holy spirit within, and there was bitter darkness and gnashing of teeth.  So I promised God that I would never again allow my fear to cause me to disobey Him.  I realized that my fear had also become an idol, and I repented of that sin, as well.

     When God told me to be courageous and I didn't feel courageous, I laid my fear on the altar of my heart and gave it to Him. When He told me to be bold and to stand against evil, I asked Him to help me to be strong. I realized that every thing I needed to make it in life had already been given to me in His Word. That His promises were there, if I simply would take Him at His Word and believe Him.  I must have laid my fears on the altar and sacrificed them to Him a hundred times or more -- and I still do today.  "Help thou mine unbelief" (Mark 9:24) is a recurring prayer of mine, even now.  I do not ever want to let the smallness of my faith interfere with the plans God has for me ever again.

      And because I have been faithful to follow His guidance and leadership since that time, He has entrusted to me a ministry to others of His children who are in pain. And so, He has brought me into your life to provide a word of encouragement in your time of trouble. 

--Christine Hagion Rzepka

Posted on 04/13
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