From Holly's "Walk With Me" blog:
Barbara writes: My marriage ended after 22 years of physical abuse. I took my vows seriously and hung in there, even learned Tae Quan Do to stop the abuse. It still hurts to read about divorce in the Bible and sometimes I wish I had stayed, but I felt my life was in danger by the time I filed. Not easy to do. Marriage is so wonderful when done right and such hell when not.
Holly says: Barbara, thank you for sharing your personal story. It brings up a very important point: God doesn't expect us to stay in physically abusive relationships. While there are passages that instruct Christians to "turn the other cheek," this is about insult, not injury. There's nothing in the Bible that indicates God expects a spouse to continue to be injured.
Instead, the Bible instructs that men should love their wives as Christ loves the church. The passage in Ephesians 5 is often read starting at verse 22, which states that wives should submit to their husbands. But we should also consider verse 21, which says all believers—women and men alike—should "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (emphasis mine).
Further, 1 Corinthians 13 tells us what love isn't: It's not self-seeking or easily angered, and it doesn't delight in evil.
Love is kind. It always protects.
The Law in the Old Testament instructed the Jewish people to treat each other well. For example, the Law provides very specific instruction on how slaves were to be treated fairly and with kindness. If a man married his slave, he was obligated to always provide her with food, clothing, and sexual relations. If he denied her these things, she was legally able to leave him as a free woman—an example of a woman being free to divorce.
Another example of divorce is found in 1 Corinthians 7:15: If an unbelieving spouse leaves a believer, "let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances." In this passage, the apostle Paul instructs the believer to stay in the marriage unless their unbelieving spouse wants to call it quits. I think it's important for us to recognize we can't expect unbelievers to follow the same moral standards that are set for Christians in the Bible; unbelievers haven't made a commitment to obey God.
In marriage, we publicly make vows to each other before God. Couples make a covenant with each other and with God. If a partner becomes abusive, they've broken the covenant with both their spouse and with God. And if the abusive partner is unwilling to change their behavior, I believe God recognizes the marriage covenant as broken—the abused person is released from their obligation.
Barbara, I hope you will find continued peace and healing.