God is the author of marriage, and He designed it to be good. The marriage relationship is meant to be a great gift and a blessing for both husband and wife. But when various types of abuse and destructive behaviors take root in a marriage, there is great harm and devastation that ensues. It goes without saying that no marriage is perfect and no spouse is perfect. We should not expect perfection, but every Christian marriage should contain mutual love, honor, and respect toward one another. Every marriage should be a safe place to be yourself and to grow and flourish.
As my wife and I began to see the reality of abusive marriages in the church, one of the shocking things to witness was when a husband would sabotage the spiritual growth of his wife. (There are also cases where wives sabotage the spiritual growth of their husbands, but this article is specifically addressing situations where the wife is on the receiving end of destructive behavior.) I have observed situations where abusive husbands (who professed to be believers) resented the spiritual growth of their wife. Rather than encouraging and championing her growth, they sought to stifle, hinder, and diminish the work that the Lord was doing. How sad and hurtful!
Examples of Sabotage
When there is deep insecurity, an abusive mindset, or other unhealthy patterns in a husband, he will actually work against His wife’s walk with God and spiritual growth. This is a horrible reality that many women find themselves in. Below are just a few examples of how this may look.
1. Hindering a wife’s journey of healing and freedom
Several years ago I observed an eye-opening situation. A wife had received prayer and was powerfully ministered to by the Holy Spirit. She was set free from some demonic strongholds and began to heal from the trauma of past experiences. Her relationship with the Lord began to flourish and she was growing rapidly. Rather than rejoicing over the great things God was doing, her husband was resentful and angry. He began to sabotage his wife’s growth and hinder her healing journey. I could hardly believe it!
I have since noticed this pattern in other marriages and it has a devastating impact on a wife. What I have come to see is that an abusive husband does not truly want his wife to be whole and free because he is not able to control or oppress her as much. Rather than encouraging her healing and growth, he will go to great lengths to stifle it and try to keep her in a place of bondage and oppression.
2. Restricting a wife’s gifts and calling
Another pattern I have seen is when a husband restricts his wife’s gifts and calling. Perhaps out of insecurity or ungodly jealousy, a husband will seek to keep his wife from growing in her gifts and stepping more into her calling. Every person and every marriage is unique. In a healthy marriage, there is respect and honor for the gifts and calling of each spouse and unity in how these are expressed in various seasons. There should be good communication and a walking together in the various responsibilities of life, family, ministry, and vocation.
Some husbands demand that their wife only stay home and never work. Some husbands restrict their wife from serving in the church. Some husbands belittle their wife’s gifts and minimize her calling. While these areas should be discussed to determine what is best for the couple, the family, and various seasons of life, there should never be unhealthy restriction and control. And a husband should have a heart-posture that wants to see his wife thrive in her gifts and calling.
3. Resenting a wife’s relationship with God
A husband with an abusive mindset will often resent the fact that his wife is growing in her walk with God. Her spiritual growth only further exposes the spiritual darkness he is living in (even if he puts on a good front). He needs to keep her walk with God suppressed in order to feel superior and maintain a position of control. He will sabotage his wife’s spiritual growth in various ways:
- Keeping her away from environments, resources, and people that help foster her growth
- Demanding all of her time and attention
- Releasing destructive words and false accusations against her
- Sowing seeds of doubt and confusion into her walk with God
- Using God’s Word to control, manipulate, and abuse her (see this article on spiritual abuse)
How horrible that a husband who professes to be a Christian would be the very barrier to his wife’s spiritual growth!
Seeking Clarity and Help
Being in a marriage and an environment where spiritual growth is sabotaged rather than fostered is devastating and very difficult. While you can still grow in the midst of this, it is severely restricted and hindered. Please know that the types of attitudes and behaviors mentioned in this article are not normal in a healthy and godly marriage. The very last person who should be sabotaging your spiritual growth is your spouse.
If you find yourself running into these patterns, I encourage you to seek help. Gain clarity through resources and learning about the nature of abuse. Find a trusted counselor, mentor, or pastor who can help you navigate the complex dynamics of your situation. And please know that God is not pleased with anyone interfering with your walk with Him. A husband is never to take the place of God in your life. Jesus is Lord and God is in charge of your destiny!