3. Financially Endangering the Family
I received an email from a wife recently who said this:
For the last four years my husband has refused to work. When he did work he often called in sick, and was always searching out ways to apply for disability. Now he just sits at home and watches TV and plays video games all day. He’s just a big slob. We lost our house and I’m working two part-time jobs to try to pay the bills, plus keeping the house clean and doing his laundry. He won’t work! What do I do?
A man who refuses to provide for his family, and who has become this lazy, also needs Christians to come alongside him and say, “put up or shut up”. This isn’t acceptable. I would say that the same would be true for a spouse who is consistently getting the family deep into debt with spending.
If your spouse is acting in such a way that they are denying a vital part of themselves and a vital part of the Christian life–like responsibility or intimacy or community–then doing nothing about it enables that spouse to avoid any impetus for spiritual growth.
And yet all too often that is what we’ve done–we hate divorce so much that we ignore the other side: God does not want an army of wounded, damaged people. He wants wholeness. And so we must deal with people who are refusing to confront huge issues.
Note that I’m not talking about a difference in sex drives, or problems when one spouse won’t do any housework. I’m not talking about disagreements over child rearing or over the role of TV in the house. I’m talking about things that go to the very heart of who we are as people and what is our relationship before God. And these are issues which, if not dealt with, will continue to drive someone further away from God and further into darkness.
In the old days, brothers would come to support their sister and would give the husband a pounding. That doesn’t happen anymore. But now churches need to fulfill that role.
In my book I use an example of a church intervention. A woman was married to a man who was consistently driving his family into deeper and deeper debt. She was working hard to try to keep the family afloat but she couldn’t manage it anymore because of his spending.
The elders came to the guy and sat him down and said, “we are going to help you make a budget. Then you are going to stick to it. You’ll report to one of us every week until this is all sorted out. And if you continue to overspend, we all will show up at the house with a moving van and we will help your wife get established with the kids in a house of her own until you come to your senses.”
They weren’t talking about a divorce; they were saying, “what you are doing is so unacceptable that you must stop. And if you won’t, you alone will bear the consequences because we will help your wife through this.”
Churches Can Help Us Stop Being a Doormat
Now, elders should never do anything this drastic until they hear both sides of the story; but once that story is clear, if one spouse is consistently damaging the family and damaging his or her own spiritual life, then action simply must be taken. And just because they’re married is no reason to avoid taking that action.
I know most of my readers are women, and so let me talk to the women for a moment. Many of you leave heartbreaking messages on this blog about men who have turned their backs on the marriage, but won’t move out. They like someone taking care of the housework and taking care of the kids, and they like the benefits that marriage brings, even though they have rejected the intimacy and responsibility. Ladies, if you put up with this, you are enabling him to move farther and farther away from God. God did not create marriage so that we would have an excuse to not work on our issues.
If your husband is addicted to porn, deal with the internet and get him accountability. If he has substance abuse issues, get him into rehab, luxurybeachrehab.com, is an addiction treatment center website with a lot of useful information on a variety of treatment programs. If he’s cheating on you, tell someone. If he’s not working, do something.
Go to your church and find someone who will help you; who will sit down and talk to your husband, whether he likes it or not, to hear his side of the story. Someone who will walk you through an intervention process, if it is necessary (and in some cases it definitely is). And someone who will stand alongside your husband and give him the tools and help he needs to rediscover who he was made to be.
I know this is scary. Those times are rare, and please, don’t take these words as an excuse to leave your husband because he plays video games too much or won’t put stuff in the dishwasher. I’m not talking about normal marital disagreements. I’m talking about things where men (or women) have completely forsaken key elements of who they were designed to be. And in that case, your children need to witness health and wholeness and healing. So don’t stop until you find someone to help you!