What Leaving an Abusive Relationship Taught Me About Godly Obedience

Sydney, Virginia, USA

I was once a girl so broken that I didn’t even recognize myself. Well into college, I assumed that as long as I believed God existed, I would be okay; I didn’t need to pursue a relationship with Him or obey His Word. I didn’t even attempt to fully understand His Word at that time, because I knew that it would confirm what I already knew: the life I was living was far from His will.

At the time, I was in a damaging, emotionally abusive, and completely ungodly relationship. I used to tell that part of my story without acknowledging that I had the power to walk away the entire time – I liked being the victim because it made me faultless. But the truth is that I knowingly entered into a relationship with someone who despised my faith. And I did this while claiming to love Jesus. I chose a boyfriend who ridiculed me for believing in God over God Himself.

I hoped that our relationship would lead to his conversion; instead, it led to me losing my faith and, as a result, myself. I didn’t lose my footing merely because of my relationship with an unbeliever, but because I prioritized that relationship over my relationship with Christ. I rooted my worth, purpose, identity, and hope in my boyfriend, so everything depended on him. If he was in a bad mood, I was in a bad mood. My friends were his friends. My life was his life. Gone was the girl that lived only for Jesus. I was afraid to even mention His name!

Things got worse with time. My boyfriend grew jealous and controlling and, as a result, my mental health plummeted. My family remarked that the happy girl they knew was gone. When my friends encouraged me to leave the relationship, I pushed them all away. I eventually found myself in the throes of an eating disorder; this developed out of the desire to control something — anything – and to obtain a certain level of physical attractiveness to please my boyfriend. I spent my days frantically answering his texts asking where I was and with whom, skipping meals, and fighting insomnia.

Finally, God got through to me. He pressed and pressed on my heart and revealed His Word about His plan for relationships. When I finally obeyed Him and ended the relationship, I experienced the most amazing freedom. The spiritual and mental oppression that had plagued me was no more. It’s not an exaggeration to say that my entire life changed the moment I let that relationship go. I instantly felt my hope, joy, and purpose return. I was finally the Jesus-loving girl I’d been claiming to be. I couldn’t believe how many people rejoiced when they saw the old Sydney return. My dad described it as “finally seeing that spark in your eyes that you lost so long ago.”

I used to believe that my anxiety, stress, and eating disorder were solely the result of this toxic relationship. The horrible treatment played a role, but at the root of it all was my disobedience to God and His word. From day one, I knew that God didn’t want me in that relationship. I now live my life with just one motto: if it’s what God wants, then it’s what I want. Those three years of rebellion taught me that trying to do it my way will never make me as happy as doing it His way.

I’m now married to the most amazing man I’ve ever known. I can’t even believe he’s mine most days. I’ve never felt so deeply loved and adored in my entire life. Our marriage is healthy not because my husband loves me more than anything, but because he loves Christ more than anything — and because my identity rests not in my husband, but in my Savior.

I used to hate the word “obedience,” probably because I knew how far I’d strayed. Now that I know that God’s will for me is good, obedience is the word that brings me the most peace. Is it always easy? Of course not. But as long as I am walking with Him, reading His word, and letting Him lead my life, I will always be exactly where I’m meant to be. When I find my rest in Him alone, nothing and no one can take my joy.

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