Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary


We are called to love marriage, but when marriage enables evil, we should hate it…in comparison to a woman’s welfare.  – Gary Thomas, Enough is Enough

Once again, I had a reader leave a comment on my blog begging me to prayerfully reconsider my stance on divorce. She told her own story of living with her unfaithful, lying husband (her words). She told how her mom so bravely stayed with her dad after years of adulterous relationships and how she was grateful for the example.

What if God put these dysfunctional men in our lives to be Christ through us to help them believe that God does love them? She asks.

So what does happen when a woman (or a man) continually puts up with lies, infidelity, abuse in a relationship? What happens when love and grace are always shown? What happens when a wife faithfully submits to her husband, even if he is ridiculing, demeaning, or sexually abusing her?

She (or he) becomes an enabler of sin. When we allow sin to abound, we are living in sin ourselves. When we fail to confront sin with grace and truth, we are allowing a brother or sister to neglect the gift given to us. When we allow ourselves to be victimized repeatedly, we are allowing one of God’s chosen children to be destroyed.

As Gary Thomas writes, “[W]om[e]n need to be protected from such grotesque abuse, and if divorce is the only weapon to protect her, then the church should thank God such a weapon exists.”

Most experts on addiction and abuse will tell you that the perpetrator must hit rock bottom before he/she recognizes the need for change. If we continue to coddle and extend grace to our abusers, we are not doing them any favors.

I played the part of the loving, supportive, submissive wife for seventeen years. I allowed sin to abound in our home in the form of a violent temper, obscenity-laced outbursts, porn addiction. I lived what I believed: that the Godly wife loves and submits in all circumstances. I was an enabler…and there’s no doubt it was easier and safer to keep the peace than to deal with the consequences of confrontation even when done in a loving manner.

And you know what? Nothing ever changed until we got tough. Nothing ever changed until he lost everything and hit rock bottom. Oh, we would have the tender moments of being told I was an angel and he knew I put up with a lot, but nothing changed permanently.

Sadly, I don’t know that even facing the loss of everything and everyone ever changed my ex. Honestly, that’s between him and God. But I do know it changed me. I became a stronger person, a much more outspoken witness for the God who made all things new. I provided a safe home for my children who almost instantly began to see and feel the difference in the atmosphere and began to bloom in ways I never dreamed possible.

What changed was God met me in my pain and devastation and bandaged my wounds and gave me so much more than I ever could have imagined.

The wife (or husband) is destroyed in the marriage. Unless you have lived through an abusive marriage—with mental, emotional, spiritual, verbal, or physical abuse—you have no idea how much damage it does. I went from a strong, confident woman to a shell of the person I used to be. The manipulation and destruction are so strong, so powerful. When you are constantly degraded, made to be the cause of every bad thing that happens, you eventually begin to believe the lies…especially when your spouse is a charismatic leader who has the ability to portray himself in the best light possible.

If the cost of saving a marriage is destroying a woman, the cost is too high. God loves people more than he loves institutions.” Gary Thomas

How many of us have actually made marriage an idol in our lives? How many of us hold marriage in such high esteem that we put reconciliation above our relationship with God? How many of us pursue marriage instead of the Creator of marriage? How many of us value an institution more than we value the individuals?

I guarantee Jesus would never put an institution above an individual. He didn’t tell the woman caught in adultery to pursue her husband; he said he didn’t condemn her. He didn’t tell Zaccheus to give money to the church; he went home to fellowship with Zaccheus. He didn’t tell the woman who anointed his feet with oil to give the money to the church; he praised her for loving him so lavishly.

Jesus was always about people…not institutions.

The children are taught the abusive ways. Have you ever really read Malachi 2? I mean, go beyond the “God hates divorce” phrase and look at the rest of the passage.

Didn’t the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth. Malachi 2:15

How can you produce godly children from your union if they are learning the abusive ways modeled for them? How can you produce godly children when they are taught that a father is cruel and evil? How can you produce godly children when they are terrified to be themselves in their own home?

Our children deserve so much better than to see their mom being used and abused. They deserve to see a loving relationship that teaches them how to be godly men who love as Christ loves and godly women who know what to look for in a spouse. They deserve to feel safe in their own homes. They deserve to have a childhood characterized by peace and security rather than constant tension.

Staying in an abusive marriage is more likely to destroy a child’s future than to teach them how to pursue the heart of God.

Let me tell you something: the Word of God is perfect, untainted, inspired, holy guidance given to us by our gracious God.

But… we do not follow this perfect, inerrant, inspired Scripture; instead, we follow fallible, human interpretations of the holy Word of God.

Many men and women have devoted themselves to studying the original manuscripts, looking at the cultural context as well as the scripture as a whole. They have dug in and sought the direction of the Holy Spirit in determining theology as best as we as humans can. Yet, there are still many different beliefs on the same topic. Why do you think we have so many denominations with differing theologies? Are we all that different? The truth is, we are all seeking to follow God the best we know how, and we have allowed minute differences in interpretation to separate us.

It’s no different with teachings on divorce. Some wise, godly men have determined divorce is never an option. Others have determined it is allowable under cases of abuse or adultery but remarriage is never allowed. Still others say divorce and remarriage are just a normal part of life. Who am I to tell these experts they are wrong?

Here’s my take: if you have studied Scripture and sought guidance from the Holy Spirit and He has led you to believe you need to stay in your marriage, then I will be your biggest cheerleader! But, if like me, you have sought wisdom earnestly and God has set you free, then I am going to be your biggest support! I will never allow myself to become so prideful, so arrogant, that I become like a Pharisee, convinced that my interpretation is the only one. Right now, I see as through a veil; one day, when I stand before my Father, I will see clearly. All the mysteries of this life will vanish as my Savior ushers me into His presence. He may say, “Dena, you nailed it on this one and this one and this one. But, you really missed the mark over here! But your heart was right. You sought my face. You desired to be like me. Well done, my friend. Well done.”

And that’s what I want for all of us.