Note: If you have been abused by your spouse, relative, or friend, please call the police (911) and get to a safe place. Your life and the safety of your children are the immediate priority. Once you and a counselor have determined that your life is not in danger, there may be an opportunity for a process of restoration in situations where both partners acknowledge the need for help.

According to Gary Barnes, professor of biblical counseling at DTS, one out of four people at your church may be suffering from spousal abuse. What would you say if a woman and her abusive husband came to you, acknowledging their need for professional help? How should Christian leaders advise people like them to move forward with counseling?

On our "Are There Biblical Grounds for Divorce?" episode of the Table Podcast, Darrell Bock, Gary Barnes, and Debby Wade (licensed sex therapist) discuss practical advice for pastors and others who are ministering to spouses who are willing to seek assistance. In this video clip, Wade and Barnes explain how a collaborative, structured model can help couples pursue reconciliation.

Bock begins this section by asking, “Should the spouses seek the same counselor, or different counselors, or does it depend?” Wade responds:

I would recommend two different counselors and a consent of release being signed by both parties for both counselors so that the communication can be between the counselors (and they can) validate what change is taking place.

Furthermore, she also suggests periodic meetings with both spouses and their counselors present. This allows counselors to work individually with each spouse on personal issues before coming together to evaluate marital issues. Moreover, this model allows each spouse a personal advocate who affirms their desire for reconciliation.

Barnes adds that while this collaborative, structured model is ideal, it may not be possible to have the victim and abuser immediately enter into this kind of counseling situation. He explains,

“…it may be the case that a lot of individual work would have to happen first before that joint-work could happen.”

Still, Barnes notes that these situations where both partners see a need are not outside the potential for God’s redeeming work. In conjunction with appropriate space and time for change to occur, God has used this counseling model in the process of restoring trust in abusive situations and as a means to bring abuse to a stop. 

Listen to the rest of this podcast: What Does The Bible Say about Divorce and Redemption in Cases of Spousal Abuse?

About the Contributors

Darrell L. Bock

Dr. Bock has earned recognition as a Humboldt Scholar (Tübingen University in Germany), is the author of over 40 books, including well-regarded commentaries on Luke and Acts and studies of the historical Jesus, and work in cultural engagement as host of the seminary’s Table Podcasts. He was president of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) for 2000–2001, writes for the Christianity Today’s Places and Space series, and serves on the boards of Wheaton College, Chosen People Ministries, the Institute for Global Engagement, and Christians in Public Service (CIPS). His articles appear in leading publications. He is often an expert for the media on NT issues. Dr. Bock has been a New York Times best-selling author in nonfiction and is elder emeritus at Trinity Fellowship Church in Dallas. When traveling overseas, he will tune into the current game involving his favorite teams from Houston—live—even in the wee hours of the morning. Married for over 40 years to Sally, he is a proud father of two daughters and a son and is also a grandfather.

Mikel Del Rosario

Mikel Del Rosario is a PhD student in New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, Project Manager for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center, and Adjunct Professor of Apologetics and World Religion at William Jessup University. Mikel co-authors The Table Briefing articles in Bibliotheca Sacra with Darrell Bock, manages the Table Podcast, and helps Christians defend the faith with courage and compassion through his apologetics speaking ministry. He holds a Master of Theology (ThM) from DTS and an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University.