Book Review Series, Christian Marriage, Doctrine as Idol, Domestic Violence, Gender Roles, Marriage, Martha Peace, Spiritual Abuse

Book Review Series – "The Excellent Wife" by Martha Peace – Chapter Twenty-One – Who Knew Sorrow and Grief Could be Sinful

This is a book review series of The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews if you’d like to catch up.

Chapter OneChapter TwoChapter ThreeChapter FourChapter FiveChapter SixChapter SevenChapter EightChapter NineChapter TenChapter ElevenChapter TwelveChapter ThirteenChapter FourteenChapter FifteenChapter SixteenChapter SeventeenChapter EighteenChapter NineteenChapter Twenty

This is it; the moment we’ve all been waiting for. The final chapter! My goodness, I thought we’d never get here. I don’t know if I should laugh or cry or break open a bottle of wine and give a grand toast. Well, technically we’re not quite there yet, so no early celebrating. Let’s knock this chapter out.

Chapter Twenty-One is titled, “The Wife’s Sorrow: Overcoming a Grieving Heart.” This chapter focuses on a wife’s sorrow and grief caused by her husband’s actions. How much do you want to bet that Martha Peace thinks grieving is sinful behavior?

Peace provides the following examples:

Husbands are capable of extremely gross sin such as child molestation, other criminal acts, violence, drug addiction, solicitation of prostitution, adultery, pornography, cruelty, drunkenness, and homosexuality. Any one of these sins is enough to put a wife into a state of hopeless despair and to break her heart.

How is a wife to respond?

If you are a Christian, God has given you many inward “heart” capacities. For example you now have a capacity to love God and love others you did not have while unsaved. You also have a joy that the world cannot know. In addition, God gave you His peace. You also have the ability to experience godly sorrow or grief.

What in the world is “godly” sorrow and grief? Peace means that if you are a Christian, your grief is combined with peace, joy, and love. She then says that “Jesus was never sinfully filled with sorrow.” What? I’m really confused with how sorrow can be sinful.

Being sinfully filled with sorrow is a result of unbiblical thinking or actions. Grief is never a justification for sin.

Of course, a list of sinful actions is provided to describe what could make your grief ungodly. These include: gossiping, judging and husband’s motives, exaggerating offenses, not giving your husband a chance to repent, not going to church, anger, seeking comfort from another man, sharing intimacy with children that is not age appropriate, wishing you could kill your husband, wishing your husband were dead, or committing suicide. If you want to carry out any of these sinful actions you need to repent.

Here’s the thing about Martha’s list; it’s like all of her other lists in this book that describe everything else as sinful. How is this list different than the list about anger in Chapter Eighteen, or the list about fear in Chapter Nineteen, or the list about loneliness in Chapter Twenty? What Peace fails to recognize is that anger, fear, loneliness, and sorrow are all valid and perfectly reasonable reactions to difficult situations. This is what drives me crazy about this book- there is nothing specific that helps a wife who is grieving over the wrong actions by her husband.

This last chapter sums up everything a wife is to do if her husband sins against her:

Your heart may be broken over someone’s sin. Remember, though, that you are not alone. God, too is deeply grieved as well as offended. God is ready and waiting to help you. He will bear this burden with you and lighten your load.

Your sorrow will lessen as you seek refuge in God, as you go against your natural feelings, and as you show love to God and your husband. You do not ever have to be sinfully overwhelmed again.

There you go — turn to God and love your husband. Sounds so simple, right? The reality of people and relationships is that there is often complexity if a wife feels angry, lonely, afraid, or sorrowful over her marriage. There are no recommendations to seek licensed, professional counseling. No going to the authorities if you feel your life is in danger. No taking action to protect yourself and your children. Submitting to your husband and loving him more is not going to solve these problems.

Throughout this series I have heard from many women about the impact of this specific book and how it enabled them to stay in abusive marriages. This makes me angry and breaks my heart. Martha Peace needs to listen to the stories of women affected by these damaging teachings. She needs to acknowledge the impact of her damaging teaching on the lives of women and children trapped in abusive relationships.

Wives, your lives matter. Your well-being matters. You do not have to stay with a husband who does not respect you or who puts your life in danger. You do not have to talk gently to him; winning him over with a gentle word. You don’t have to watch how you talk about his actions to others; tell the truth about what is happening. You don’t have to keep loving him; God does not command this. You don’t have to stay; the Bible does not require it.

Thank you for hanging on with me through this book and the great discussion. This book currently has a 4.5/5 star review on Amazon. You can be sure I’ll be leaving a lengthy review.

I don’t have another book to review at the moment. If you like these book review series, I’m more than willing to take suggestions. We could even do a book group! Any takers? Fine, I’ll just read it so you don’t have to.

20 thoughts on “Book Review Series – "The Excellent Wife" by Martha Peace – Chapter Twenty-One – Who Knew Sorrow and Grief Could be Sinful”

  1. I am so glad I never read this book while I was suffering in an abusive, alcoholic, manipulative, adulterous marriage otherwise I would have blamed myself the whole time!!! This book would have had me in bondage to THE SIN OF SOMEONE ELSE!!! In addition, this book makes an idol of the husband and marriage which in and of itself is spiritually dysfunctional. I am not to be a martyr to HIS SIN!! Once I truly started to put God above my toxic marriage, I was slowly able to see who I was in God’s eyes and not who I am in the eyes of my husband, I have discovered how beautiful, precious and truly loved I really am!! The Holy Spirit also revealed to me that my marriage was NOT godly and it was NOT what God designed for marriage. He also revealed that it was a COUNTERFEIT for the Holy design of marriage. Remember, the enemy has a counterfeit for everything God does – right?

    My eyes were also opened to the fact that the years of my husband’s abuse towards me, neglect and drinking that my children were becoming destroyed and emotionally injured as well. They are both in therapy – sadly due to their father – not me, not my lack of being a good wife or occasional, nagging, etc., but HIS behavior alone . One even tried to commit suicide over it!!! This book makes ZERO mention of how children can be damaged through a toxic marriage nor do they even seem to care, because our husbands are above all – right?!

    After years of praying, fasting and pouring myself out to God, the door was opened for me to leave my bondage and bondage it was. I am at peace with that and even our children are behind me on this.


  2. I’ve discovered that this is a Reformed authoritarian tactic for spiritual abuse. They take two very similar sounding words and then push one as being holy and the other sinful or worthless, without showing why or defining or whatever.

    So, Piper can say that happiness is worthless, but joy is required in the Christian life, but no one can define the difference. A Reformed commenter on COVID-19 was talking about the difference between “inconvenience” and “sacrifice” and how the proper perspective was needed to not complain about inconvenience in light of other people who were sacrificing. And now Peace talking about grief and sorrow as if they were two completely disjoint concepts.

    The end goal is gaslighting and manipulation. I’m gaslighted into thinking that there is some difference that I’m blind to. If I were spiritually discerning, like Piper/Peace/whomever, I would see the difference clearly. Therefore I’m going to defer spiritual judgment on my own reactions to some authority. So, now we have generations of good Reformed people who are completely downtrodden and deluded bashed between two arbitrary terms that have no distinction, except in the mind of a spiritual abuser. This is the same as anger, sadness and bitterness. Whether there is a difference or not, the two are played against each other such that it is not okay to express anger or sadness without being called bitter.


  3. Where is the deep compassion for the hurting and the defense of godly marriage anywhere in this book? Where is the righteous anger toward users and abusers – the wolves in sheep’s clothing who would devour the flock? It is nowhere to be found.

    This book is one more heaping measure of legalistic blather that emphasizes morbid self-sacrifice and only serves to benefit the will and whims of wicked men.

    The Apostle Paul made it clear: “…I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler [a verbal abuser], or a drunkard, or a swindler — not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?… REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.” I Corinthians 5:11-13

    I guess Mrs. Peace missed that part…

    Thank you for taking the time to expose Martha Peace’s appalling teachings. It’s good to know in case people ask.


  4. The kicker for me is that Martha and others like her that teach this evil concept of submitting to abuse have never themselves had to practice what they preach! They always have great husbands ….except maybe demanding that dishes be rinsed well!


  5. “Martha Peace needs to listen to the stories of women affected by these damaging teachings. She needs to acknowledge the impact of her damaging teaching on the lives of women and children trapped in abusive relationships.”

    Yes, but this doesn’t happen. When Peace set herself up as the judge of what is “sinful sorrow” vs “grief” and hedged every teaching, then the easy answer is that the victim didn’t understand the message correctly. It’s just another layer of spiritual abuse. They always have an answer for the failures of their approach. You didn’t pray enough. You didn’t submit enough. You were too bitter. It leaves victims in a worse place than when they started.


  6. Has she ever read the Psalms? Has she never noticed the fear, loneliness, sorrow, and grief expressed in them?


  7. Hey, if grief and sorrow is wrong to express, please explain John 11:35 and Jesus in the Garden the night before He was crucified to me.

    Given that we’re talking about being sinned against grievously, it strikes me that “anger” is not on Peace’s list as well. And sad to say, we fundagelicals too often ignore that part of John 2 (the moneychangers in the Temple) just as well as we ignore the first 12 verses.

    Sometimes it seems as if the Church has extreme problems dealing with the very real, and God-given, emotions we have in our lives because it disrupts the surface illusion of “peace”.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for faithfully dissecting this book and its message, Kathi.

    I think it’s fitting that the culmination of this book is a wife’s grief. This is what the whole book has been leading towards- making choices that paint you into an impossible corner from which there is no escape (without committing some imaginary “sin”). Her advice now that you are stuck in that corner? “Go against your natural feelings.” What terrible advice! No, that is how you painted yourself into this corner. Your feelings are there for a reason. If you were touching a hot stove, would you think it’s a sin to pull your hand away?

    My own experience is that Christians are, to a very large extent, out of touch with their normal God-given instincts, in denial of normal human processes such as grieving, and living with a huge burden of cognitive dissonance. I agonized over leaving the church for years and when I finally did it, it was the most amazing relief and breath of fresh air I could imagine. Sometimes you don’t even realize how much tension you are living with until it is released. It’s been over a decade for me now and I am never tempted to go back. Every time I have a conversation with an old Christian friend and see the straitjacket they are still trying to live within, I am reinforced that I made the right decision.


  9. Interestingly, nothing specifically points to how a wife can manage her grief or sorrow.

    Because It’s All About HIM, remember.


  10. @Bike Bubba
    So glad you mentioned Jesus in the Garden. I was pondering the same case scenario during reading Kathi’s summary of the false teachings presented here.

    Was our Savior “sinning” by crying out to the Father, and “grieving” over the cup that He was to bear……since He was our LORD in the flesh, Jesus already knew what was to come and the torture He was about to bear.

    So why did Jesus not put on that fake happy face and reflect that bouncy fake “joy” when he was in the Garden? Would Peace correct, criticize, and condemn Jesus if she were to happen upon Him in the Garden, or any other person who expresses grief in this day and age?

    And if He were to attend that last abusive baptist c’hurch institution that I sprinted out of, the prayer chain l’eader would have told Jesus the same words she said to me, “Oh, we don’t speak those words into the air here (in the c’hurch building). I was trying to talk to her about the tumor that I was to have removed due to the fear of the unknown and ASK her for prayer……after all, she WAS the “prayer chain L’EADER 😦 ! And she was a faithful watcher of Trinity Broadcasting Network and God(less) TV, no less, and a “pusher” of the Kenneth Copeland miniseries to us “lesser spiritual beings.”

    Kathi, what are you going to do when you finish reading the back cover? I have a big hole in my back forty for burning books, and the results are satisfying and joyful :)!!! This is very same hole I burnt the joel osteen, beth moore, joyce meyer, john macarthur, larry huck, j. lee grady, and a myriad of others that were given to me as a “spiritual gift….after all, when you begin attending most c’hurches, the pew sitters there already judge that you are not “saved,” so they begin their “love fests” with trying to “save” you with their religious garbage in the form of their favorite heretic (includes both conservatives/liberals and both genders female/male). It “grieves” me, the sheer irony of Martha Peace’s name…….peace……..really? Hmmmmm.


  11. From what I gather from Ms. Peace’s book, it is directed towards women dealing husbands with sinful husbands who have done wrong to them or others. I don’t know if her examples include battered wives or not but she does mention a lot of immoral and sinful behavior from husbands that are quite harmful as examples. I do believe she means well as she seems to advise wives not to indulge in self-pity, loathing and bitterness that could cause them to have bitter thoughts and lash out sinfully. But she is a bit misguided since as others have said, anger, pain, sorrow are natural feelings and reactions when being mistreated especially by someone you love and trust. Her advice also may not help battered women or men who may require outside help to deal with their situation.

    Women are not obligated to submit to their husbands sinful behavior or any mistreatment and just be doormats who just bear it in order to be Christian. People don’t have to just swallow their anger and suppress their feelings in order to feel godly. It’s better to deal with you anger and pain and express what it is that’s causing you to feel these things and try to find ways to resolve it with your spouse. If a wife or husband is in physical danger or the emotional abuse is harming hem mentally spiritually, removing oneself that situation is the best thing especially if kids are involved and figure out the next step after that hopefully with the help from the pastor, counselor, support group in your church etc.

    Ironically, before typing this post, I was watching on via internet on Facebook, a sermon by a pastor from a church in my hometown discuss anger and ways to deal with it and overcome it. He doesn’t address anger as a result from any abuse but just anger in general and how to resolve it before the anger festers too much that can cause us to do something we regret or sin. His solutions are better and more helpful than Ms. Peace’s advice. Anyway, God Bless.


  12. Regarding the submission of wives to husbands, I wonder how many of the out-of-balance super-complementarians who (unlike me!) seem to treat this as a kind of absolute are at the same time those who are starting to argue that the church should not obey the civil government when it temporarily bans church services due to the corona virus.

    This is more an American problem than a European one though there are those here as well who starting to advocate disobeying Romans 13 with regard to the institution of government under the heading ‘do not neglect to meet together’.

    I think the flock will likely survive a few weeks without the ministry of the professionals.

    I think there is a very real danger of the church compromising its witness by being perceived to put its Sunday ritual ahead of the common good – the health of the population and more specifically preventing the healthcare system being overloaded.

    But there is a certain delicious irony when those who bang on about submission in the home start trying to find ways round it when it suits them!


  13. KAS, a couple of things…

    First, there is a long and complex argument not as much about whether the church should obey the state, but whether the interpretation of the Constitution allows the state to determine whether churches are “essential” or “non-essential”, and whether the state can impose sanctions on church meetings. Within that, there is a question whether the church thumbs her nose at the state in a sign of rebellion, or says, “you’re abusing your authority, but out of Christian concern for fellow man we will follow voluntarily”, or even, “we believe this is a valid exercise of proper authority”.

    Second, when you speak of “delicious irony” and “finding ways around it”, I’m reminded of the Easter story today, and the fact that the first gospel preacher was a woman, Mary Magdalene, who was commissioned by none other than the risen Jesus Christ to tell the disciples that he was risen. Unlike many pastors today, she could announce “thus saith the Lord!”

    “Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.” (John 20, 17-18)


  14. Beautiful comment thread Mark! Mary Magdalene and the Samaritan woman obeyed their LORD, ministering to all (both genders) who would lend an ear.

    And as far as the east is from the west, we believers worship Jesus in spirit and truth, whenever and wherever He leads us, whether “meeting together” in our homes, in the grocery store aisles, at the gas stations, at the dime/dollar stores, in our county parks, etc. We can obey the Holy Spirit and His Authority in our lives all the while ministering, encouraging, and worshiping our LORD while out and about in the public arena. And regarding the “essentials” verses the “non-essentials,” WOW!, just WOW!; it reminds me of the “eaters” verses the “useless eaters” philosophy of ages past. Many of us believers consider human beings to be of the “essential/eater” class of folks as opposed to its opposite view in terms of how much Jesus loves sinners.

    Without the “c’hurch institution” telling us when, where, and “how” to worship, our souls are free to worship our King Jesus, honestly and gloriously, as we “get real” with our Creator, for there are few “big shows on Sunday morn,” and nobody to impress or suck up to in gaining positions of lording it over others……perhaps this is a time of our Master sorting out His sheep from the wolves in lamb’s clothing.


  15. Thanks for slogging through all of that for us, Katy! Sooooo glad that you can finally put this one to bed.

    (Or in the compost heap, as the case may be. 😉 )


  16. Amen SKIJ!

    You, dear servant of Christ Jesus, most certainly made my day!

    Very familiar with the “compost heap” as my Dad is an organic farmer/gardener, selling the fruits of his labor at the local Farmer’s Market as well as to customers who choose to “U Pick” from his beautiful and bountiful gardens. The writing in the dirt from the Hand of God, proves His faithfulness and fruitfulness in the miracle of a tiny seed producing much fruit…..oh, so similar, to the writing of Jesus’ finger in the presence of a woman accused of adultery by those c’hurch folk (ah, m’en) who deceived many with their self righteousness.

    Also, familiar with the “manure heap” as it was a personal chore in taking care of my pigs as a child, as well as the mentality exhibited by religious folk who actually believe my LORD and Savior is a “complementarian.” Cannot ever imagine my LORD saying He subscribes to the complementarian religious worldview on this side of heaven.

    There are times (quite often, actually) when I must excuse myself to the local park, where the water flows freely and the geese, ducks, pelicans, and muskrats meander about, exhibiting their freedom to exist…….to ponder the goodness, the honesty, the integrity, the purity, AND, the freedom, liberty, mercy, grace, His HOLINESS and LOVE, all offered to me/us from our Savior, Jesus Christ.

    And this, gives me much “peace, Peace, PEACE!” No Martha’s necessary. Praise our LORD!

    Please stay safe, Serving Kids in Japan, and keep ministering until the cows come home!


  17. I’m not married, but I am engaged. My future mother in law invited me to do this study with her, her daughter, and her niece. I thought it was a good chance for me to get some biblical wisdom and to form a relationship with my future in laws. What I ended up getting was anxiety, fear that no matter what I did, I am a sinful, rebellious woman, and that every problem that arose in the marriage would be my fault. I think what made it worse, is that they don’t see anything wrong with what she says!

    We just finished Chapter Fourteen, and when I stated I would not stay in an abusive marriage, I got hit with “there’s no reason for divorce except adultery.” This came from my future sister-in-law who is studying to be a counselor.

    I felt I was going crazy because it seemed I’m the only one who had issues with this book, and so I thought “I must be wrong” but I am so glad to realize that I am not crazy! This book and author are!!

    Thank you for this very refreshing review!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. @Nikki – Thanks for dropping by! I’m so sorry you were drawn into this book. Like you, I didn’t know of this book when invited to go through it. I found it ridiculous as well. I’ve reviewed all chapters here and left a lengthy review of the book on Amazon. My hope is that others aren’t drawn into the dangerous teachings of this book.

    Liked by 1 person

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