Response to Marriage Builder Article, “How to Change Fear”

One of my readers referred me to Marriage Builder Weekly, a series writingof weekly articles designed to “save your marriage,” headed up by Jimmy Evans at Marriage Today ministry.

Over the past several weeks, I have responded to a few of the articles to inform the writer (presumably Mr. Evans) of my areas of disagreement, with regard to how the principles they espouse might actually be harmful when applied to a victim of abuse.  I have not yet received a response to any of my messages.

Today, I read their latest piece which arrived in my inbox with the title, “How to Change Fear.”   I was borderline horrified.

Rather than attempt another response through Marriage Today, I took the liberty of e-mailing Mr. Evans directly this time, hoping to prompt an acknowledgement of some kind, although I am not holding my breath…

I have copied my response below just because I think this needs to be put out there.   Perhaps some of you would like to send Mr. Evans your own thoughts on the matter.

Dear Mr. Evans:

I have written through your Marriage Today website in response to various articles I have received from your ministry but have yet to receive a reply to any of them, so I thought I would try to reach you here.

I am a survivor of a 20-year marriage to a verbal and emotional “Christian” abuser.  I am also the author of “Why Is He So Mean to Me?” and “God Is My Witness: Making a Case for Biblical Divorce,” and the owner of a web-based ministry to women in abusive relationships called Hurtbylove.com.

I am not sure if you write these articles yourself or if you have someone write them for you, but I want you to know that many of them impose an expectation upon a Christian abuse victim to remain with her abuser.  “How to Change Fear” is one such article.  It is unbalanced, dangerous and unbiblical.

Fear is an emotion given to us by God to warn us of danger. The implication of your article is that it is somehow always wrong to be afraid.  Among the portions of Scripture used in the article was Jesus’ spiritual battle in the Garden, knowing the Father’s calling on His life.  He prayed, “If it be Your will…”

That means Jesus pondered if there was another option, if there was a way out, another means of achieving our salvation.  If there was, it is clear He would have been glad to take it.  But there wasn’t. His submission was for the greatest good imaginable.  That is not to say that there is never a way out or that we should never take it.

You must realize that in another encounter outlined in Luke 4, the townspeople sought to kill Jesus then too.  Why didn’t He remain and “conquer His fear?”  Because God provided a way of escape, and He took it.  There would have been no redemptive value in His remaining.

In the Old Testament story of Joshua and Caleb, they believed in God’s promise and were willing to claim the land according to God’s word.  The fear of the Hebrews was a result of superstition, not reality.

But what about when the cause for fear is real?  Would you advise a woman in a physically abusive relationship to remain and, in so doing, to somehow conquer her fear, even as her husband is beating her to a pulp while her children look on?  How about a woman in a sexually abusive relationship?  Or a woman and her children living in a verbally and emotionally abusive home where there is no peace, only a pervasive fear, and the inhabitants never know when the abuser will explode?

What you, and so many others like you, fail to realize is that all abuse is, at its core, the same.  Not all abuse is physical, but all abuse is emotional.  Sadly, too often the contemporary church enables abusers, who exploit the faith of godly women and the “instruction” of the church to demand that their victims remain.  We are basically taught that our abusers may treat us any way they wish, and there is nothing women like me can do about it.  The church too often refuses to acknowledge the wolves in sheep’s clothing in their midst or to do anything to protect their victims.

Mr. Evans, for years I read save-your-marriage articles like the ones I read here.  They kept me bound to my abuser, believing that he would turn and change and love us.  He had no intention of doing so, but preferred the cruel power he held over all of us.

Would you have told me to stay?

It was the Lord who finally spoke the truth to me, who rescued me, who saved me and my children, not the church or so many of my believing friends who enabled my abuser and told me I would be wrong to leave.

If you want to understand the truth about abuse and help victims in the body of Christ, then let me know, and I will gladly send you copies of both of my books for your perusal.  I hope you will take me up on this.

I pray that you will hear me as an abuse survivor and as a spokeswoman for the countless other Christian women in abusive relationships today, right now, weeping and praying that someone will come alongside and protect them.  They are afraid, and they have cause to fear, and they have every cause to leave.  But articles like this one will keep them in harm’s reach.

I would also encourage you to read, “Suffering Love:  A Redemptive Force or an Enabling One?”  You can find it here:  http://www.hurtbylove.com/?p=1195  And please peruse my website at www.hurtbylove.com

I sincerely hope to hear from you.

Cindy Burrell

Owner and Author

Hurtbylove.com

16 thoughts on “Response to Marriage Builder Article, “How to Change Fear””

  1. Cindy! I, too, have written about four such letters to Jimmy Evans in the past year or so, none of which have netted me a reply. In fact, when I began reading your letter, I thought, “I’m not the only one out here!” And, of course, your reader, too, deserves a big thanks.

    As you did in your letter, above, I have tried to respectfully point out to Evans, or whomever reads/writes his emails, the danger inherent for women in some of what he teaches on marriage.

    What prompted me to begin with was a false premise established in his own marriage, in my opinion, illustrated when he told the story of how he used to run rough-shod, verbally, over his wife but IT WAS WHEN SHE ESTABLISHED HER BOUNDARIES THAT HE REALIZED HE HAD TO CHANGE.

    Yes, you read it right.

    He holds her, and targets of abusers in general, responsible for PUTTING A STOP TO OR AT LEAST DRAWING A LINE IN THE SAND AND KEEPING TO IT, to stop THEIR ABUSERS’ BEHAVIOR.

    Classic “blame the victim” mentality. Worse, actually, “blame the victim and hold her accountable to stop the behavior” mentality.

    In other words, SHE IS SUPPOSED TO HOLD HIM (and by projection, all targets of abusers are to do the same, apparently) in check by telling him when he has gone too far in some way in his quest to dominate her.

    Maybe I missed all his teachings on how he, himself, BY himself, has to REPENT and ask God to change his mind and his heart. then get some anger management counseling, or listen to the description of mean/narcissistic/psychopathic behavior and ask for God to reveal to him what applies…

    Maybe I missed all his teachings on how we are admonished to “not make friends with a hot-tempered person…not associate with one easily angered,” (Proverbs 22:24) and when we see danger, “take refuge” (Proverbs 27:12).

    Maybe I missed Evans’ teachings on how even Jesus stayed away from some villages because of their unbelief and, until He submitted to evil BY HIS OWN POWER, not because of the power of his enemies, the narratives reveal He often disappeared into the crowd and away from their murderous intentions.

    Back to Evan’s method of resolving his hot temper, it is, then, by his wife’s action of line-drawing he knows he has gone too far, or he is in danger of going too far for her.

    OMG. Literally, in this case.

    We need to pray for Mrs. Evans.

    Additionally, because they subscribe to “male headship,” this must be VERY DIFFICULT FOR HER.

    According to this thinking, Mrs. E. and read, all female targets of abusers, NOW has to STILL not only “dance backwards in high heels to his ‘leadership’ lest she cross some kind of man-made arbitrary boundary of his ‘headship’,” she has to AT THE SAME TIME draw a line of interaction past which he cannot go to KEEP HIM FROM VERBALLY ABUSING HER.

    Oy yoy yoy…

    BTW, while he explained this during the show I watched, she said nothing. Maybe I missed her side of the story, though I think, as she and he believe in this extra-biblical submitting behavior for wives (IMO), she probably would agree…whether because of trauma bonding, cognitive dissonance, brain washing, or some other reason a woman submits to such intent and practice from a man…

    (I still wonder, though, does she tell him, very carefully lest she disturb his male-headship-ego, BEFORE he raises his fist, literally or figuratively, DURING the raising of the fist, or, God forbid, just before he strikes her because maybe he was going to stop, himself, first, because GOD WOULD SPEAK TO HIM, THE LEADER, FIRST THAT THIS IS HORRIBLY WRONG AND NOT HIS (GOD’S) WILL FOR HER as is not only scriptural, but legal and lawful as well…

    And he seems like such a nice guy…

    1. Well, dear friend, you are way ahead of me on this one. I so appreciate your adding the context of the nature of his relationship with his wife. After I posted this yesterday, I was talking to my husband about the article, and he asked why there would ever be a cause for fear in marriage… I think that pretty much says it all. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” I John 4:18

      Furthermore, I am sick to death of pastors and churches that lay the responsibility to address any and all marital issues on the wives’ shoulders, which only empowers the abusers, as we know.

      Your comments are spot-on.

      Thank you, as always, for adding to the conversation.

      Cindy

  2. Just wanted to say, Thank you for warning us of Jimmy Evans’ so-called ministry. Thank you and others for attempting to reach out and discuss your concerns and then be obviously ignored by them. Very sad 🙁
    AND Cindy, Yes, Yes, Yes — your husband nailed it … there should be no fear in a loving, Christ-honouring marriage.

  3. Jimmy Evans is on Joni Lamb’s Table Talk today, on Daystar, in a program called “Choosing the Right One.” This is Tuesday, March 9th.

    He talks more about his idea of a good marriage, here. He is also selling a book by the same or similar name.

    I just caught the last ten minutes or so where he as emphasizing the need, as he sees it, for each partner to tell the other if there is something they are not pleased with in the relationship, that is, something the other is doing that is hurtful or disrespectiful.

    He then advises the guilty partner, as it were, to not punish the other for disclosing the information and for both to work on working things out. AND to “give each other the right to complain.”

    He went on to discuss how partners tend to choose mates who are strong where they are weak. He used the example of a person who is not assertive choosing a dominant, outgoing person as a mate to “speak for them,” as it were, even if the person is a bit aggressive.

    He talked about his own relationship with his wife where, at first, he again admitted he was, in his words, “an idiot,” meaning dominant and verbally aggressive. However, he blamed her for being “passive agressive” and keeping things inside until she blew up.

    Then, he reiterated the need for each partner to figure out why they are broken (maybe childhood issues) and get some help.

    The women on the panel asked about verbal and emotional abuse. He agreed that this was a problem, and should be noted in the dating phase. Because, he said, abusive behavior, if not dealt with, only gets worse.

    Then, aw shucks, the time was up. No questions or comments about what to do for the percentage of women watching who are in real danger and should be given the number of a domestic violence hotline.

    No questions or comments about how much is too much or what happens when you “take your right to complain” and for that you get a punch in the face or another blow to the heart or mind or psyche because your partner has no intention of ever giving up his sense of entitlement to be a bully.

    Or perhaps because he is a clinical psychopath/sociopath and lacks mirror neurons thus lacking empathy to begin with.

    Or perhaps because he is so caught up in his presumed extra-biblical “headship” role that he pushes the limits allowed such fellows to “discipline their wives” as long as it isn’t too harshly…

    Well, maybe Mr. Evans covered all this in the segments before I tuned in…

    Or maybe he simply has no idea of the reality of relationships in which one partner simply feels entitled to, for whatever twisted reason, disrespecting, putting down, mocking, criticizing, ordering around, punching, slapping, kicking, even murdering the other.

    And, oops, this side of him or her just didn’t seem to show up in the dating phase of the relationship.

    And he or she continues with this behavior no matter how much the other explains how such behavior hurts; no matter how much he or she employs the “right to complain”; no matter how much her or she tries, for his or her part, to be better, do better, pray more, take advice more, read books, talk to counselors…

    Maybe Mr. Evans just. doesn’t. know.

    Meanwhile reality goes on, especially for Christian women who are often told it is their fault, just as much if not more, that their husbands are abusers.

    And another relationship get worse or ends in tragedy.

    I hope the part of the program I missed covers all that, too.

    1. Wow. I’m so sorry I missed the program… I’m laughing a little on this end, not because I doubt your account, but because I find what you shared (with dripping sarcasm) is so incredible. Unfortunately, it is also very believable. What you have shared has given me cause to really re-think who this guy is and what his agenda might be. Isn’t it interesting that, if you share some of your issues publicly and look like you’ve changed, then it makes it all the more difficult to challenge the guy’s credibility, once he stands up as a healed man in the spotlight, doesn’t it?

      I think that, based on what you witnessed with your ears, Mr. Evans is probably not going to be altogether receptive to our e-mails, particularly since they are being sent to him by the other (lesser?) sex.

      Perhaps writing him may be a waste of time, but shining a light into the potentially major cracks in his ministry is still absolutely worthwhile. I bought into all this save-your-marriage stuff in the years when I was still trying to “save” my abuser and our marriage. Now it all kind of makes me sick. It’s so unbalanced and legalistic. Where is the heart of God in all this? Where is the defense of the sanctity of marriage?

      I’m glad you shared this information.

      Thank you.

      Cindy

  4. And the trouble is, I really like a lot of what Jimmy Evans has to say.

    Giving each other the right to complain, dealing with past issues, not punishing the other for their transgressions and so on, are wonderful pieces of advice.

    However, the parts Evans doesn’t address, at least in my limited hearing and reading of his body of work, exclude critical issues, left and death issues, in some cases.

    We must never forget that there are not always such pat answers.

    Only God truly knows the length, depth, and breadth of the wickedness in anybody’s heart. And sometimes in the course of both human history and individual history, His counsel for a person in a troubled relationship is to leave, shake off the dust, avoid the other, hide…

    Sometimes, God, Himself, parts the sea, closes the door…

    This might mean the “D” (as in Divorce) word for some.

    It might mean the “J” (as in Jail) word, for others.

    There may or may never be any kind of reconciliation as a couple. Forgiveness and restoration might be from afar and on an individual basis–as each so chooses to participate.

    But this, too, is redemption, because it isn’t always two in the tango (as in equal blame).

    Sometimes it is one entangled in rebellion to God, Himself, and the “other,” no matter her (or his) effort to mature and respond in a Godly way toward the abusive spouse, needs to leave the dance floor usually, by that time, strewn with the “broken eggshells” of heart, mind, body, and/or spirit.

    I hope somewhere in the writing and speaking parts I haven’t yet heard from Mr. Evans, he teaches on this, too.

  5. I was interested in the part where you mention that he is implying that all fear is “wrong.” I find it compelling that Jesus was so afraid in the Garden of Gethsemane that he sweated blood. Physiologically, it is under THE worst conditions of stress (His knowledge of the impending abuse!) that someone sweats blood. Was Jesus “wrong?” No. So let’s hold women accountable for the “wrong” of their fear at the mercy of an abuser? If she just had enough “faith” she wouldn’t really fear him? Before I came out of the fog, I read several books by Evans and some of it is good advice. The problem is, none of it applies when only ONE person is willing to do what needs to be done. It simply gives the abuser more ammo.

    1. Hello, Debby.

      I completely agree with your assessment. Assuming that Mr. Evans’ books are similar to his other writings, I would not likely be a fan. I have pointed out the same it-takes-two argument you shared here in other messages I have sent to him, and particularly how his teachings might compel an abuse victim to remain in a dangerous, ungodly marriage. Of course, he has never responded to me.

      From the articles I have read so far carrying his name, I don’t see any reason to trust any of this man’s marital advice. Nor do i see anything extraordinary in his work, either – nothing that hasn’t already been said by who-knows-how-many other authors in the Christian realm. I’ll keep reading though, just so I know what he is up to, and I’ll probably continue to write to him as I feel led. Maybe he’ll “get it” one day.

      Cindy

  6. Hi Cindy,
    I just left a comment for this article and now it is gone. I also am not getting the newest articles you are posting and they were coming to my email. I just want to make sure nothing is preventing me getting your gems of wisdom!!

  7. Good morning,
    Hello, Cindy! I am still on the Jimmy Evans’ mailing list, or was.

    I just unsubscribed after sending at least four unanswered emails wherein, like you, I poured my heart and soul trying to see if at least once he would publish a caveat re: “but if you are in an abusive marriage….” But he, or whoever reads his emails and puts the senders on his mailing list, has yet to reply.

    And I’m not talking about Evans inserting a perfunctory nod to abuse…

    So, no more Evans’ emails for me. I’m tired of waiting.

    In the meantime, I know that there are those who will listen and join the rest of us to aid and comfort abuse targets who need all of our healing and perhaps even life-saving words and insights into the WHOLE Word of God.

    But, before I unsubscribed, I thought I would excerpt this piece of advice Evans’ gives today:

    “Unmet needs open the door for attack. This is true. When we get married, we give our body to our spouse. Withholding your body from your husband or wife may be normal in your marriage—or other marriages—but it’s not God’s plan.

    In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul says the husband and wife don’t lose authority over their own bodies once they get married. In marriage, their bodies belong to each other. Rather than withholding sex to punish your spouse, meet each other’s needs instead.

    This isn’t a license for abuse, of course. But it is a license for sex. When you give yourself to each other sexually you close the door on the Devil. –from Jimmy Evans, Marriage Builders newsletter, 4/19/15.

    In other words, particularly for those spouses who not only feel condemned by such blanket statements from the pulpit (with no more than a slight nod to “abuse”–and he probably merely means physical or sexual abuse), they are now likely thinking they HAVE to submit to sex with the abuser or they will have opened the door to the Devil, or, conversely, when they have declined sex due to PTSD, a broken heart, mind, or spirit, they are ALSO then condemned.

    God has called us to peace.

    And to the WHOLE counsel of His Word.

    Even GOD says, “enough is enough” at a certain point and then begins the powerful machinery of deliverance whether it is a whole people group crossing a parted sea, or one abuse target crossing out of a relationship of heartache and pain into the promised land of peace, safety, and protection from evil…

    1. Hello, Phyllis.

      I too have been wholly disappointed in Mr. Evans’ failure to respond to anything, and his blatant neglect of the impact of abuse in marriage is, in my view, unacceptable. The ideologies he espouses are not only ineffective where abuse is involved, but overtly harmful.

      That piece about sex in marriage also raised some serious red and yellow flags with me. He essentially promotes entitlement, which is not consistent with love. “…love does not seek its own…” (I Cor. 13) We do not give our body to our spouse, we give our heart first, something to be protected and cherished. Giving our bodies mutually and without coercion is one thing. Being guilted or manipulated into sex or having someone demand it of you or take it by force is not love and is not of God. “When you give yourself to each other sexually, you close the door on the devil..” In any and all circumstances? Under coercion or duress? No. Without clarification, the enemy – whether the supernatural one or the one who shares our bed – might be found grinning while another victim weeps in secret.

      Mr. Evans seems unwilling to acknowledge any of this.

      I also find it interesting that he (or his staff) ignores anyone with another view. If he can defend his position to his detractors then he should. And if he can’t, then he should offer a retraction or a clarification that shines a light on the whole truth, as you said. Something is terribly wrong there.

  8. I, too, still get his emails so I can keep track of his one-sided “teaching.” This was my response back to his latest:

    “This isn’t a license for abuse, of course. But it is a license for sex. When you give yourself to each other sexually you close the door on the Devil.”

    I submit to you that when abuse is present, the door has already been opened to the Devil. Giving my body to my husband(?)doesn’t “close the door on the Devil” but only gave him his cake and the frosting to go with it. It never did anything to curb his emotional abuse of me or our children. Only in removing myself from his toxic behaviors, giving him real consequences, has made any impression on him at all, and all of a sudden, magically even, he IS able to control his anger! Wow. It’s a miracle. But instead of digging deeper and giving more information about abuse and our proper response to it, you give it a trite little mention as if it isn’t absolutely decimating the marriage and the family. Do you think an abuser is going to look at that little line and “get it?” No, he (or she) will happily and conveniently skip that and copy and paste the rest of the article (except the parts that deal with how HE should be responding) and shove it at her as he is reaming her for yet another minor infraction that has rocked his world. Do you know how many YEARS I sought help from the church, trying to explain the yelling and constant criticism and anger, only to be told or asked about sex, as in “are you meeting his needs?” (why don’t they just say “Are you giving him enough access to your body?” As if I am a medicine or something.) Never do they listen and actually think or act on “Hmmm, maybe as an elder in my church, I should do what the Bible says and go and talk to this man before I automatically assume this woman is lying, exaggerating, being disrespectful, bitter and unforgiving.” But they don’t. Much easier to confront the broken, crushed sweet wife seeking answers. Pure cowardice. You are adding to the problem, Mr. Evans. Stop it.

    Haven’t heard back but speaking truth always makes me feel better…

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