Have you come to the point in your stand where you have uttered the words “I can’t go on”? If so, you are not alone. Pressing on when the weight of the world and stressors of this life have taken their toll both physically and emotionally is so very difficult. For those who suffer through the added burden of separation and divorce, the suffering can be immeasurable. But lest you think giving up is the answer, consider the following message of hope.
Before David fulfilled his destiny and became the great king whose lineage brought mankind the Messiah, his existence was wrought with pain and sorrow. He was relentlessly pursued and tormented by powerful forces that sought his very existence be wiped off the face of the earth. We get a very real sense of the burden he carried and the despair that occupied his heart and mind in the following passage:
For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away. Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me. I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel. For I hear the whispering of many – terror on every side! – Psalm 31:10-13
David was a hunted man. Danger was all around him. Death and destruction was just a stone’s throw away. But strong was his faith. Despite the powerful forces arrayed against him, he knew salvation and deliverance was in the Lord’s hands. Yes, his heart was often filled with sorrow, fear and anxiety. Despite this, David knew and believed the God of Abraham would not abandon him as long as he stayed faithful.
But I trust in you oh Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
How powerful was David’s faith! And what an example of God’s goodness and grace! These passages from Scripture are there to equip and strengthen us in our greatest hour of need. Such a great comfort they were when I was in the depths of the valley, wondering if and when the sadness and pain would ever end. It was in my darkest hour I clung and held fast to verses such as these. Knowing God is the author of truth, and that He would never allow us to be forgotten or forsaken, strengthened my resolve to press on, even in the midst of the fiery trials.
Had David given in to his fears and anxieties, there is no telling how different his life and legacy would have turned out. But he didn’t! And dear stander, neither should you. Resisting the urge to give up on your marriage and your prodigal is part of what sets believers apart from a lost and dying world. We have a hope! With your whole heart, lay your burdens at the foot of the cross, and place your complete trust in Jesus. Walk humbly in His ways and forsake the urge to lean on your own understanding. One way or another, He will reward your faithfulness. That is His promise!
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”
2 Corinthians 6:14 ESV
If you are in the midst of standing for your marriage and profess to be a Bible believing follower of Christ, you’ve likely encountered attacks not only from your prodigal, but also from the forces of darkness that seek to destroy the holy covenant made between the Lord and your spouse.
Today, as we witness the daily battles between the forces of light and darkness, I can’t help but recognize how the entities standing against the kingdom of God have literally all come together to undermine and attack the name of Christ and His followers. While posing as agents of righteousness and justice, their words and deeds communicate something entirely different. Recently, I read the mission statements of one of the organizations in the current national spotlight. It read, “…to disrupt the western-prescribed nuclear family structure”. Christians know full well who the author of creation is, and recognize His design for marriage and family. We should easily be able to discern what message is from God and what isn’t. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
Far too many who have seen their husbands or wives leave the home and marriage to pursue a life of sin have given in to pressure from the world and well intentioned family members who believe divorce to be the right path. Hearing things like, “It’s for the best” or “You deserve to be happy” sound good, but when you break it all down, these words of advice all lead to the same place. And while some may be able to rationalize this in their minds, there is no escaping the fact that to pursue divorce is to pursue what God hates.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
John 10:10 ESV
As we consider who and what we are aligning ourselves with, it is so vitally important that we ground ourselves in the Word of God. We must not yield to advice encouraging us to go along with the wisdom of the world or to walk away and move on from our marriages. The enemy has allies on every corner. Even professing Christians can be used to do Satan’s bidding. Be mindful of this while assessing your situation. When it comes to discerning the right path, do so with a heavenly and eternal perspective. Divorce is death and destruction. The path that honors Christ leads to life and fulfillment.
The forces of darkness have been at war with Christ since the beginning of creation. Satan and the demonic realm constantly seek to destroy and thwart God’s plan and will. Marriage and family are their primary targets. The reason is simple; divorce is a destroyer. The damage done to husbands, wives and innocent children caught in the middle have long lasting consequences. So much is the devastation, that the repercussions of divorce can be felt for generations. It is for this reason, standing for your marriage is so vitally important. For the sake of the cross, your testimony, and the message of the Gospel, earnestly seek the Lord during these trying times. Keep your eyes focussed squarely on Christ. Your persistence and steadfastness in the midst of the storm will largely determine the extent to which glory is given to the Father. Know that the purpose of your very existence is to give praise and honor to Him. It is our sole mission. Remember these words today, and as we do, may the banner we carry always point towards the promises of God and His eternal truths. Stand for your marriage and for Jesus!
Tommy and I get a number of inquiries from readers asking my perspective or what we often refer to as the prodigal’s perspective on certain topics. One of the more common questions is, do you think my prodigal is open to the possibility of restoration. More than likely, if you are asking this question, the answer is yes!
During our pause, it was evident to Tommy when the Lord was working on me and softening my heart. We began having more meaningful conversations and spent quality time together with our children. That doesn’t mean there is no hope of restoration if your spouse (or ex-spouse in some cases) doesn’t desire to speak to you or spend time with you, but it may mean you have a longer road ahead if the latter situation is one you find yourself in currently.
Below are some practical tips along with biblical guidance that greatly impacted my life during our separation and divorce.
Show your prodigal sacrificial love without expecting anything in return.
Nothing demonstrates Christ’s love like sacrifice and selflessness. Find ways to love and serve your prodigal without expecting anything in return. If you are not sure what to do, ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and don’t be surprised if He reveals something that is outside your comfort zone. Stepping outside your comfort zone forces trust in the Lord and growth in your spiritual walk. That awkward and uncomfortable feeling also produces authenticity. Your prodigal will sense if you are attempting to serve with an ulterior motive so the more authentic, the better.
There are numerous examples I’ve shared in our podcasts where Tommy went above and beyond in his pursuit to love me well. His acts of service displayed the love of Christ in ways that were not present during our previous ten years of marriage. Over time, the seeds he sowed took root and began to grow. His sacrifices did not go unnoticed. It did not happen immediately, but in time, God revealed the fruit from his labor.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:1-5
Ask if you can pray with your prodigal or if you can pray for them.
It’s important to use discernment when addressing your prodigal. Some days there may be more of a reluctance to talk about spiritual matters than others. But, when you recognize there is an openness and willingness, ask if you can pray with your spouse or pray for them. Not only will this create a healthy dialogue, but it will also shine a light into what’s happening in the life of your prodigal.
I don’t recommend this every time you speak, but perhaps monthly or bi-weekly depending on how often you talk. Also, be sure to prepare your heart for their response. Don’t take it personally if they do not request prayer for your marriage. When you spend quiet time with the Lord, you can pray for your current situation.
If your prodigal is agreeable to prayer, that is a great sign that God is at work! Desiring your prodigal to have a restored relationship with the Lord should far outweigh the longing for a restored marriage. Keep in mind, only the work of the Holy Spirit can transform the heart and mind so be patient and loving when approaching your spouse.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. Matthew 18:20
I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart. Jeremiah 24:7
Take responsibility for any sinful behaviors, habits or actions that you may have contributed to the marriage.
I recognize this may be very hard to hear, and you may be wondering why you should take the initiative if you’re the one being wronged. This difficult question has a very simple answer. God took the initiative to love us when we were unloveable and we should do the same for our covenant spouse. Repentance is necessary before reconciliation can occur and God’s Word calls us to reconcile relationships. You have no control over your prodigal’s actions or inactions, but you can take personal responsibility for yourself.
I remember vividly every time Tommy came to me to apologize for past sins and ways he had wronged me. At first, I thought he was using his sins as an excuse for his bad behavior. With time, I came to understand that God had transformed his heart and his godly sorrow was sincere.
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Do all you can to live in peace with everyone. Romans 12:18
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:27-28, 36
For those that have little to no contact with your prodigal, there is still hope! We did not always communicate well or communicate often. It takes time. God hears your cries and understands your desire for healing and restoration, so don’t give up on the process. If you find yourself in a similar situation, I pray these steps come in handy.
The worldwide pandemic we are currently experiencing has been the cause of much stress and hardship for many families. Husbands and wives in troubled marriages will likely tell you the federal, state, and local directives regarding stay at home orders have served to heighten and exacerbate the already existing tensions found in their broken homes. For some, the increased conflict and friction has instilled a strong resolve to abandon the marriage covenant, and pursue a path that leads to liberation and greater personal happiness. But is a path that embraces divorce one that Bible believing Christians should willingly chase after? The answer to this question, and so many others can be found in Scripture. All we need to do is be open to what God’s Word is plainly telling us.
Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.
Hebrews 19:4-6 ESV
When Jesus told the hypocritical Pharisees that God joined husbands and wives together, He did not suggest marriages stay intact only for as long as things were working. Nor did He offer a way out of the marriage covenant if one or both spouses felt happiness and fulfillment was no longer in reach. On the contrary, our Lord declared separation should not occur. In other words, don’t do it.
Through the years however, society and culture has gone to great lengths to minimize and marginalize the importance of holding true to one’s marriage vows. Unfortunately, much of this way of thinking has crept into our churches. No fault divorces are not all that uncommon among professing Christians, and attitudes concerning marriage and divorce have become almost identical to those held by non-believers and secular society.
But if your heart truly yearns to be in line with God’s will, and you desire to honor the Lord and bring glory to His name, even in the midst of the volatile storm that may now define your marriage, I strongly urge you to focus your eyes upon Jesus, and to follow the example He demonstrated while ministering here on this earth. Christ never abandoned his bride. Up until his dying breath, He was forgiving and loving. Despite our rebellious, stubborn, and sinful behavior, He always remains right there, never leaving or forsaking us. This is the example we are called to follow.
For many years, I lived the life of a Christian husband and father in name only. I chased after worldly pleasures to satisfy my own flesh. In the end, the environment this behavior cultivated in my own home, led to the destruction of my marriage. Unbeknownst to me at the time of my separation and divorce, God was working to remake me into His image. This also was the case for my precious wife. For us, the tribulation and destruction the Lord allowed to be brought into our lives, became a way to direct our hearts, minds and souls back to Himself. In His perfect timing, true reconciliation and restoration of our marriage occurred. Praise be to God for the discipline He exerts over His children! Although we may not like it at the time, it is for our own good and benefit that the refining fires of correction are brought upon us.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11 ESV
God indeed works in wondrous ways, but the lesson we should all learn as it relates to suffering, is in the tremendous opportunity it presents for transformational growth to occur. When these storms come, do not seek to pin blame on others, or wallow in self pity. Instead, allow the Holy Spirit to convict your soul and bring your thoughts and desires back into alignment with God’s will, rather than your own.
You may be one of those individuals who is now struggling with your marriage. Perhaps your spouse has left, or you are in the beginning stages of the divorce process. In either case, as someone who experienced the miracle of marriage restoration, I can say without a doubt, no circumstance or situation is too difficult for God. The key for believers is to trust in faith and wait for the Lord to do what only He can. Humble yourself and submit to His will daily. Lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge His Word, and you will be guided alongside the path that brings honor and glory to Him.
The Lord has a special plan for you, your family, and your marriage. Rather than allowing our present circumstances to shape and determine where our relationships lead, take charge through the empowering of the Holy Spirit and allow transformational change and godliness to chart your course as you head into these turbulent waters.
In this episode of the Purposed Marriage podcast, we examine the importance of waiting on God, and discuss how doing things according to our timeline, and through our own wisdom, can lead to problems and heartache.
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
Isaiah 55:7 ESV
Are you running from your marriage? Have you convinced yourself that investing any more time in a relationship that isn’t providing what you want or feel you deserve is an exercise in futility? Do you long for a fresh start and clean break from the bondage to a marriage partner you have fallen “out of love” with? If so, please take the next few minutes to consider a perspective that up until this point, may have eluded you.
If you answered the above questions in the affirmative, it is likely you’ve already purposed in your mind the path to be taken. You may think to yourself that nobody should have to remain in a loveless marriage. You deserve to be happy and God wouldn’t want you to be miserable the rest of your life. You might even acknowledge that divorce is wrong, but believe your situation is unique. Restoration, healing and forgiveness work for some people but it is an impossibility for your marriage. Or so you think…
YOU ENTERED INTO A COVENANT WITH YOUR SPOUSE AND GOD.
Consider the oath made on your wedding day and the words spoken before your spouse, pastor, audience, and Almighty God. “I take you to be my wife (or husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy law, in the presence of God I make this vow.”
“But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Mark 10:6-9
Once joined in marriage, Jesus himself plainly states the husband and wife should not be separated. This is not up for debate, nor are there any special circumstances or loopholes. Divorce is not to happen. If you willingly violate God’s law and think there won’t be consequences, you are gravely mistaken.
GOD DOES NOT MAKE “EXCEPTIONS” TO HIS LAW.
But my spouse violated the covenant by not honoring or respecting me, so therefore it’s ok if I walk away from the marriage. WRONG! If this is your line of reasoning, it is seriously flawed. Two wrongs do not make a right. Furthermore, do you see any example in Scripture where a sin is atoned for by committing another sin? On the contrary, if we examine the life of Jesus, we see the complete opposite. He countered hate with love, anger with grace and longsuffering and bitterness with forgiveness.
I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Matthew 19:9
The behavior of your spouse does not let you off the hook when it comes to honoring the marriage covenant. Even if your husband or spouse has committed adultery, divorce is not justified. Divorce only prevents you from being found guilty of adultery if the grounds for divorce are sexual immorality. The anger, unforgiveness, and hard heartedness that have existed leading up to the divorce, are still offenses you will need to give account for.
“IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES” IS A LIE FROM THE PIT OF HELL.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
Modern “no-fault” divorce laws reflect a disdain for Christ’s teaching and the message contained in His Word. For confessing Christians especially, the notion of irreconcilability goes against the very heart of the Gospel. The story of God and man is entirely about restoration; a righteous and holy God reconciling Himself with sinful created beings. Saying divorce is the necessary course of action because the conflict between two individuals is too great for God to repair, undermines the reality of God’s power, as well as the validity of your own faith.
STUBBORNNESS AND AN UNWILLINGNESS TO FORGIVE IS LIKE IDOLATRY.
For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. 1 Samuel 15:23 KJV
You cannot reconcile forgiveness with divorce. They are completely at odds with one another. If you claim to have forgiven your spouse, yet are willing to go through with a divorce, you are lying to yourself. Do not be deceived. Unforgiveness and a right relationship with God cannot exist together.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Colossians 3:5
The pursuit of divorce as a means to bring you happiness, exalts your wants and desires over God’s. Our God is an awesome and jealous God; one who does not share His glory with others. Engaging in this behavior is foolish and dangerous. Those who willingly violate his laws and think accountability will never come are in great error.
SIDING WITH DIVORCE IS SIDING WITH THE WORLD AND SATAN.
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love Godwhom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:19-21
Divorce is the opposite of love. I would argue that divorce is a perfect example of hate. To stand against one’s spouse in a court of law is to treat him or her as the enemy. Think of the picture this paints for others to see. You would be hard pressed to find a greater example of how to best undermine and destroy the witness or testimony of a professing Christian than to stand before a judge and advocating for the permanent separation of you and your spouse.
ForI hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the Lord of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.
Malachi 2:16 NASB
The lost world does not know God or love Him. Being a Bible believing Christian means standing against the things of this world. Defending and advocating for something God says he hates, puts you in the same camp as unbelievers. If this is your position, the question that must be asked is, “What exactly sets you apart?” Your stance on this issue is contrary to the entire theme of Scripture. You cannot hold this perspective and stay in the Lord’s will if you are a child of God. Stop trying to bend God’s Word to fit with your will. Instead, conform your will to God’s truth. This is the only course of action that truly honors our Lord.
If what has been shared here strikes a nerve, then you should be glad. The conscience, which has been given to each and every one of us, is what pricks our hearts and helps us to know the difference between right and wrong. You may be attempting to convince others that your decision to move forward with divorce is right, but deep down in the hidden recesses of your heart, you know this isn’t true. For the sake of God’s kingdom and your witness, I urge you brothers and sisters, please do not go down this path.
One day there will be a reckoning. When you stand before the Almighty, the excuses you have made in this life will be of no value. You will be held accountable for denying the truth of Scripture and willingly violating God’s commands. Do not be a fool. Repent now of your wicked ways, and turn your heart back to Christ. He will forgive. This is His promise. He has a perfect plan for your life, but it will only be realized when you turn away from your life of sin and give yourself completely over to Him. The time to repent is now. Do not delay.
You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
Matthew 5:13 ESV
We are living through difficult and trying times. If the current situation we are experiencing with the COVID-19 pandemic has done anything positive, perhaps one could say it has provided believers in Christ with a tremendous opportunity to show the world how and why we are different.
Turn on any news broadcast and you will see examples of panicked citizens from all over the globe letting their actions and decisions be ruled by emotions. Opportunists are attempting to exploit the situation to take advantage of the vulnerable, and even worse, some are using this ordeal as a means to push agendas and policies that at best are self serving, and at worst, downright evil. Regardless of your appraisal of the situation, you have to admit that no time in recent memory has there been a greater need for the body of Christ to set itself apart.
As it relates to the current situation with your prodigal, perhaps now is a chance for them to see a side of you that has been hidden. It could be the hurt and resentment built up as a result of their intentional acts of betrayal has overshadowed and prevented the grace and love, which flows from the Father, from also flowing from you.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:34-35 ESV
The way we conduct ourselves in times both good and bad, shape the perceptions others have of us. If you have put your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and have accepted Him as your personal savior, you have a witness and testimony that must never be forgotten. We are the physical hands and feet of our master while on this earth. God’s will is carried out by our actions each and every day. Either we submit and do as His word says, or we follow our own path, which likely will do little to advance the Kingdom. Your continued stand and increased show of love, grace and forgiveness, are kingdom building activities. Be constantly aware and mindful of this reality.
Call it what you will, but there exists in my heart a strong sense the Lord will be moving mightily in the hearts of many during these times. It certainly wouldn’t be without precedent. One can find countless examples from Scripture or throughout history where God brought about miraculous change, healing, and deliverance in the most desperate of circumstances. The stage has been set for similar events to occur. Are you ready, willing and able to take part? The world and our prodigals need our action. May we all look to Jesus as we seek to fulfill this mission.
The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
For those in troubled marriages whose spouses have left or checked out emotionally, it’s easy to think of our situations in terms of what is lacking. While it is natural to desire and long for reconciliation and restoration, we need to be mindful of our tendencies to forget the abundance of grace and mercy poured out upon us each and every day.
Reflecting back on my time in the valley, I remember occasions I would give in to despair, or be overwhelmed by the stress and pain the fight for my marriage was causing me to endure. Being in a position now where I can look back and assess my past actions, it’s clear the times I found myself in the lowest emotional state, was when I was focusing on my situation, rather than my identity as a child of God. Back then, I often lacked perspective, and failed to see the broader picture. In reality, that short chapter of my life was an indescribably small segment, compared to the rest of eternity. It’s that same lack of perspective that compels many standers to lose hope for restoration, and instead turn to the fleeting and temporal happiness found elsewhere.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Mature believers in the Lord will understand the practical implications of this reality. For them, contentment in present circumstances is the norm. It is because of this right way of thinking, they are able to endure the hardships, persecution, and suffering that accompanies remaining faithful to marital vows after a partner has walked away. These standers have come to grips with the role God has assigned to them. Obedience and acceptance is the driver and motivator for all they say, do and think. Underlying all of that however, is the understanding that their lives belong to Christ, and that glorifying and growing His Kingdom remains their primary goal and purpose.
Do you find yourself constantly asking God for more? Are you struggling emotionally, and find yourself longing for companionship, and a restored fellowship with your prodigal spouse? If the answer is yes, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. While God has designed us to be relational beings, and has given us hearts and minds meant to connect on deep levels with one another, we need to be mindful not to let our emotions rule over us. Overactive emotions can oftentimes lead us to lose perspective, and act in ways that are not rational. If honest, many reading this will probably admit that being guided by over active emotions in the past, likely contributed to the fractured state of our marriages.
As believers, we need to come to the point when we say to ourselves, “Christ is enough”. In the book of Philippians, Paul tells us to be content, regardless of the circumstances. Practically speaking, this is to say “If the Lord restores my marriage, I will be content.” or “If the Lord delays the restoration of my marriage, I will be content.” It’s not a matter of where we find ourselves in the restoration process that should define our level of contentment. Rather, our state of mind should be characterized by satisfaction, peace and well-being. Remember, the outward expression of our inner heart condition is what the lost world sees displayed in front of their eyes. May our testimonies always reflect the reality of Christ’s abundant grace and goodness.
True, we should all continue to pray God’s will for our marriages, and that restoration occurs in the Lord’s perfect timing. Never cease in this endeavor. But as you make your petitions before the Lord, also ask for contentment. It is when we arrive at the point when we can say, “Christ is truly enough.” that God has us exactly where He wants us. It is in these moments, great and miraculous things can occur!
Do you feel like a stranger in your hometown? Or maybe even a stranger in your own home? I know I felt that way when I returned to the states after living overseas for several years. The community that was once very familiar was not and the people I thought I knew had changed. Where I imagined I would feel safe and at peace, I felt overwhelmed and lost. It was difficult to communicate those feelings with people that hadn’t lived or experienced that “strangeness” before. I remember trying to describe my situation to family and friends, but often they didn’t understand. I recall reading Luke 4:16-30 and taking great comfort in knowing Jesus understood what it felt like to be a stranger in His hometown.
The same passage was preached by our pastor this past Sunday, but this time, the story resonated with me in a completely different way. If you are not familiar with this passage, it is the story of Jesus’ return to his hometown of Nazareth. In verse 18, he identifies himself as the prophesied Messiah, but unfortunately his message was not well received and he was rejected by the locals. The villagers that had grown up with Jesus did not accept that he was anything other than the son of Joseph and an ordinary carpenter. Even his own family did not believe him initially. Those that had admired him, rejected the truth of his claims. Scripture goes on to say that the locals were filled with wrath and drove Jesus out of his hometown. I can imagine he felt like an outsider!
When I listened to the message Sunday, it brought back memories of when Tommy and I were separated. I know during that time he felt like a stranger in his hometown. Friends and a few family members thought he was crazy for holding onto hope of a restored marriage. By all accounts, it appeared as if the distance between us was far too great to be mended. His stand for our marriage seemed like a lost cause and sadly, I was no different than the villagers of Nazareth. When confronted with the truth, I too rejected the message as well as the messenger. My heart was embittered and hardened after years of marital setbacks and disappointments. I didn’t want to hear the truth and chances are if you are standing for your marriage, your prodigal spouse does not want to hear it either. But, oh how my heart swells with gladness knowing Tommy did not give up! Although he endured pain and suffering as he withstood the trials, he continued speaking the truth in love. Over time, my hard exterior softened as God’s Word penetrated my heart.
“So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Oh friends, I’m extremely grateful for messages like these because I never want to forget the grace that God poured out on me. Likewise, I stand in amazement at the strength of the Father’s hand as He upheld Tommy during his time in the valley. Perhaps you are facing loneliness and harsh rejection during this difficult season of life. Remind yourself and those around you of the truth from God’s Word.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
Stand on God’s promises in times of difficulty, knowing and believing that God has the power to do great things, far greater things than you can even imagine! He is working behind the scenes weaving together a beautiful tapestry to be revealed in His time. Speaking as a previous doubter who didn’t believe Christ was capable of being the Savior of my marriage, He proved me wrong! He showed me He is THE Savior to all and in all circumstances.
In this Purposed Marriage podcast episode, we examine strategies of the enemy used to discourage and threaten your marriage stand. We’ll also provide tips for utilizing Biblical resources to defend against attacks from a prodigal spouse.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world
1 Peter 5:8-9 ESV
Through the course of our ministry, my wife and I have heard from many standers. One recurring question we have heard deals with how to handle attacks from a prodigal spouse. In most cases, the “attacks” come in the form of verbal abuse, passive aggressive actions, or blatant inappropriate behavior with a member of the opposite sex. In any case, it matters little how the attacks come packaged. The ensuing trauma and devastation sustained by standers can so painful as to leave many to wonder if saving the marriage is even worth it.
If you have felt this in the course of your stand, believe me when I say you are not alone. In the midst of my time in the valley, there were many occasions when I cried out to God begging that he would cause the pain to go away or to help me understand why everything was happening the way it was. At that stage of the battle, I was still at a point where I didn’t know how to handle the circumstances I was in. I failed to discern the spiritual nature of what was happening or how to successfully defend myself against the enemy’s attacks. To serve as an example, I submit the following diary entry.
My heart aches. The emptiness that consumes me is ever present. Oh my children! So innocent. So undeserving of any of this. Amy, why do you hate me so? Why can you not see what you are doing? Lord, what am I to do? I know my response must be love, but should this love confront Amy with the word of truth? When I do, it falls on deaf ears. She doesn’t hear me. She cares nothing for me. I am worthless to her. – October 25, 2015
At the time of that particular writing, I had fallen into a despondent and thoroughly depressed state of mind. So worn down by the enemy I was. Tired, defeated and utterly hopeless could best describe me then. But despite my fragile condition, the Lord was working. It was only after I had been brought to a place of true repentance and submission, I became able to discerned the strategy of the evil one, and see with my own eyes, his wicked hands and voice of deception at work. This same modus operandi of Satan has been around since the fall of man. It is a tried and true tactic that has worked nearly every time it’s been used. But despite the effectiveness, there is one memorable example in Scripture where the strategy didn’t work.
If you recall the New Testament story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness, you’ll remember that in every instance where Satan attempted to deceive Christ, Jesus’ immediate response was to call upon Scripture. You’ll notice that Satan didn’t attempt to argue when confronted with absolute truth. Instead, he moved on to a different temptation and lie. Jesus responded the same way He did previously. Eventually, Satan gave up and left. He knew the attempts to deceive were of no use. In other words, the enemy’s attacks simply rolled off Jesus’ back. Our Lord was equipped and prepared to thwart what was coming at Him, because He was filled with a knowledge of the truth. This comes only from the Word of God.
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.”
Rev. 12:10 ESV
Attacks come via direct orders from the ultimate enemy, Satan, who is described as the great deceiver and accuser. Prodigals under the enemy’s control, will point the finger of judgement and blame at standers as a means to take the focus and spotlight off of their own sinful behaviors. This is a typical strategy meant to deflect and avoid confronting their own iniquities. As long as the focus is on you, whether it is your past or what they interpret as your “wrong” behavior now, they are free and clear to pursue whatever lifestyle choice they desire. Attacking and accusing you, often of the very things they are doing, is an intentional act meant to control the narrative and to frame their perspective on things in such a way as to condone their own behavior and demonize yours.
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
Eph. 6:13 ESV
We know from Scripture there is nothing new under the sun. The lies and accusations your prodigal is uttering now, have been used over and over again by sinners looking to justify their behavior. If you are standing for truth and your marriage, the attacks will come, however, you must not take them to heart nor allow them to negatively impact your identity as a child of Christ. Rightly interpret the attacks for what they are; desperate attempts from a defeated enemy who knows his days are numbered. Standers need to deflect what is coming at them by equipping themselves with the Word of Truth. The enemy has no answer for this and never will.
To be clear, we are not advocating for engaging in a shouting contest with your prodigal as they hurl accusations and you respond by quoting back Scripture. On the contrary, when the fiery darts come, stay calm, collected and composed. Respectfully walking away from a potentially volatile situation is far better and much wiser, than giving into your emotions and once and for all, letting your prodigal spouse have it. Let God be the one who delivers justice. You be the one who focuses on demonstrating grace, perseverance and forgiveness.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
James 1:5-8 ESV
So much of standing for restoration during a marriage crisis is based on faith that trusts in the Lord to work all things together for our good. Granted, this may be hard to believe, especially when dealing with a spouse whose heart has been hardened by the enemy, but this promise from God is a great assurance in the midst of trials and tribulations. We need to hold fast to it, despite what we see and feel surrounding us. And while many know and understand what we are to believe while waiting on the Lord, practically speaking, there tends to be confusion as to what specific actions we should be taking while believing in faith our prayers will be answered and our marriages restored.
While standing for my marriage, I received all types of advice as to what I needed to be doing. I would consider only a small amount of this to have been biblical. And while the intentions behind much of the advice I received was good, I recognize and can honestly say most of it was completely misguided. I recall one bit of conventional wisdom that urged me to focus all my time and energy into my boys. I should make the most of every moment I had with them, because it is the memories they make with me, that stay with them for a lifetime. On the surface, these words seemed to sound right, but the more I compared them to what I saw and read in Scripture, the clearer the truth became. God didn’t bring me to my knees in order for me to spend more “quality time” with my children. On the contrary, He broke me because He is a jealous God who wanted all of me, not just whatever time was left over after I had already dedicated the largest portion to my children. God is never satisfied with what we “leave” Him after the more “important matters” are taken care of. A complete and total realignment of our priorities is what He is after, and until we realize this, the longer we will wander, and be left to our own devices as we walk without the wisdom needed to navigate life’s waters.
While the Word of God doesn’t give us specific answers for every question or concern we face, it does lead us to the wisdom and discernment necessary to ensure the choices we make are in line with His will. Whether it be on the topic of how to speak to your prodigal spouse while they are running, or how to manage your money in the midst of desperate financial circumstances, the Word of God gives us the framework we need to discern what is right and true concerning important life decisions.
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
James 3:17 (ESV)
With great regularity I reached out to the Lord when it came to responding to my prodigal spouse when she was held captive by the enemy. I needed assistance from Him to say the things that were right. I knew God desired for me to speak the truth in love but when attacks came my way, the natural instinct was to fire back in anger. It was a real struggle. I needed help in these situations. I knew the enemy could take my words, twist them and then take them out of context to advance his agenda. For this reason, discretion and wisdom was needed.
If you recall the story of Christ and His temptation in the wilderness, you’ll remember the strategy He used to win the battle. Jesus dealt with the temptations, lies and accusations with the wisdom found in the Word of God. Satan’s entire strategy was to trick Christ into believing there was a better way, apart from Scripture. Of course, Jesus was the very embodiment of the truth. Against this, the devil had no realistic hope of deceiving Him into abandoning His holy will. The question we need to ask ourselves is whether the decisions we are about to make will honor and glorify God. Will the fruit of that decision lead to something that is good, wholesome and pure, or will it lead to more conflict, chaos and uncertainty? Godly wisdom will always produce what is good and leads to life. Wisdom apart from the Savior, will invariably lead to death and destruction.
Friends, we recognize the battle for your soul and identity is very real. The decisions we make on a day to day basis flow from what is already in our hearts. It is for this reason, we need to be mindful of who is reigning and holding the keys. If you are struggling to make decisions in your day to day life and feel as though you constantly keep getting it wrong, reach out to the Lord and ask for His wisdom to fill your mind and spirit. It is His promise that this be given. All we need to do is ask.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV
Every new year brings with it a sense of fresh starts, renewed commitments and strengthened resolve. Depending on who you are listening to, the target of these resolutions may tend to focus on the external. Whether it’s shedding a few pounds, reading more, learning a new skill, or simply stepping out of our comfort zones and trying something new, the arrival of January 1st marks the point when many will begin their new journey. Unfortunately, this is also a time when many marriages hanging on by a thread get pushed to their limits and one or both parties decide it’s time to call it quits.
Making it through the holidays is challenging enough on its own. Normal holiday stressors, along with knowing what your spouse may be planning for the new year and doing everything within your power to prevent it from coming to pass, puts us in situations that are extremely challenging and difficult. Reflecting back, I remember the first Christmas apart from my wife saw me spend considerable time praying God would do a work in her heart and that the new year would bring healing and reconciliation. Surprisingly, there were more than a couple moments during the holiday season I actually sensed this may have been coming to pass. But unfortunately, those moments were short lived. Despite seeing what appeared to be real signs of promise in both word and deed, my prodigal eventually returned to the flesh and continued to willingly travel the road that led to destruction. Cleary, God had more work to do.
For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.
Matthew 7:12 ESV
Now more than ever, the question we need to ask ourselves is if we are truly committed to standing for our marriage despite what we may see or know is coming over the horizon. An ungodly worldview void of biblical and eternal perspectives will tell you happiness and fulfillment is within your reach if you just let go of the past and move forward. We are told some marriages just don’t work out, and it’s better to leave an unhappy marriage, than to stay in a relationship where your emotional needs aren’t being met. Of course, this type of advice sounds great to the person who is hurting and has perhaps endured years of mistreatment and neglect. After all, don’t we all deserve to be happy and to not have to live in an environment where we find ourselves anxious, on edge, and unfulfilled? Biblically speaking, the answer is, no. In truth, what each of us deserves is an eternity in hell. Fortunately for us, because of the Father’s mercy and grace, we are promised an eternity with Him in glory, if we put our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let this truth sink in and penetrate your soul the next time your heart turns and begins to long for what friends, family and those without a godly perspective say you deserve.
If you are in this stand for the long haul, let this new year mark the starting point for a renewed and strengthened resolve that will reject worldly counsel, and instead cling to the cross of Christ and his promise of hope and fulfillment. Your prodigal needs you now more than ever. It could very well be that God has the enemy on the ropes. Do you have the endurance required to finish the fight and end the battle? Are you going to give up on your spouse, your children and perhaps future generations because you are tired and weary? Purpose now to stand strong and believe in your heart that God is not done with you or your marriage. 2020 could very well be the year God has ordained for restoration to occur!
Every year around this time, I am reminded of the miracle God performed in our lives. It’s never lost on me the mighty work the Lord orchestrated when He brought Tommy and I back together. It was exactly three years ago that we officially said “I do” the second time. While we discussed a small ceremony on our original date in April, we decided not to delay and made a trip to the courthouse in order to finalize our vows.
The night before, I was still wrestling with the idea of committing to marriage. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to remarry Tommy, but I felt like I was unworthy of his love. There were so many things I hadn’t communicated with him during our time apart. I feared if he knew the truth of my sinful past, he wouldn’t want me as his wife. When I shared my hesitation, Tommy responded in a way that I will never forget. It was the most beautiful expression of human love I have ever experienced.
As I was crying and trying to utter words barely comprehensible, Tommy placed his hands on mine and consoled me. He said, “nothing you may have or may have not done will ever make me love you any less. Regardless of what has happened, I still want you to be my wife.” He even went as far as to say that any sin on my behalf was partially due to his failure to lead as my husband. With those words, I was reminded of the unconditional love God had granted me. Tommy demonstrated an earthly love greater than I had ever know, far greater than I deserved, a love that had no limitations or boundaries and was only possible with the help of the Holy Spirit.
The next morning, we headed to the courthouse with our youngest son in tow. I was still nervous, but was completely confident in the direction that God was leading. That day, I chose to be obedient. And, in choosing obedience, with God’s amazing sense of humor, I was placed at ease when I said “I do” in front of the county clerk decked out in the ugliest Christmas sweater I have ever seen! It was perfect, and it’s a day I now look back on with joy and laughter.
Dear friends, God still performs miracles in the lives of His children. Every year I capture photos for our Christmas cards, I reflect on the power of His hand at work in our lives. God did what we didn’t have the ability to do. He resurrected our marriage and fully restored us to Himself, and to God we owe all the glory!
From our family to yours, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas!
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
This Sunday, in our bible fellowship class, we discussed unexpected events that have occured in our lives and how we have handled those situations. As everyone was openly sharing, I thought back to my personal life experiences. In some situations, I responded in a godly manner, but in others, I confess, I failed miserably. After briefly evaluating the times in which I responded poorly, I realized those were situations I lacked faith and lost hope in God’s ability to work all things together for the good in my life.
There are numerous examples throughout scripture that speak to a life interrupted. But, I would like to turn our attention to one of the unassuming heroes in the genealogy of Christ, Mary’s husband and Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph. Although there isn’t much information provided on the life of Joseph, we can learn some valuable lessons from the little that we do know. We are told in the first chapters of Matthew and Luke that Joseph and Mary were betrothed or engaged to be married. They had spent some time apart as Mary visited Elizabeth for several months. When she returned to her home, Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant, yet they had not been intimate. Talk about a major unexpected life event! So, how did Joseph respond?
Joseph wasn’t interested in shaming Mary publically, but resolved to divorce her quietly. His first response was to show a tremendous amount of mercy towards her instead of exposing her perceived sin. The bible describes Joseph as a just man, a man of great compassion that demonstrated a heart prone to forgiveness rather than a heart bent on revenge. The character traits he displayed do not come naturally. We can assume Joseph was an upright man that followed the teachings of Judiasm, a man of integrity that cared deeply for Mary and her future.
Given the situation, it would have been easy to listen to human reasoning and desire justice for Mary’s betrayal. As he was considering next steps, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. The angel communicated detailed information to Joseph. He was told the baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit. The baby was a boy and his name was to be called Jesus, the Savior of the world. Again, Joseph responded in a godly manner. He did as the angel commanded and was obedient by taking Mary as his wife. I’m sure he didn’t fully understand all of the changes that were taking place in his life at the time, but nonetheless, he chose to follow God’s guidance.
Dear friends, It takes great faith to trust God is in complete control, especially when we find ourselves in situations that are unexpected or don’t make sense at the time. By choosing obedience, Joseph showed he feared God more than he feared the opinions of man. He believed in God’s good provision for his life and placed His hope in the Lord. We are often called to make hard decisions, to stand on God’s promises and move in a direction that may feel uncomfortable. When met with adversity, let’s follow Joseph’s example. Let’s be quick to listen, slow to speak and consult with the Lord each and every step of the way.
They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.
If you are standing for your marriage or have experienced the Lord miraculously restore the relationship between you and your spouse, there may come a point when you become comfortable or lax in your walk with Jesus. If you are like me, the desire to possess an intimate and close fellowship with the Savior can be a struggle. Far too often, the very things that should rightfully occupy the inner parts of our hearts take a back seat to what is fleshly, temporal and fleeting.
Recently, I’ve become aware of areas in my own life where complacency has taken hold. What has become clear and glaringly apparent is the fact that this attitude usually is a result of our unwillingness to be proactive and intentional in our pursuit of righteousness on a routine basis. Unfortunately, deviation from deliberate efforts to fully submit to God have the potential to put us in situations where our hearts can become vulnerable to the attacks from the enemy. It’s a dangerous place to be and an environment we as believers should always seek to avoid.
So vitally important to understand is that none of us are above reproach and what exists in our hearts will never come close to being good. In fact, what is there is described as deceptive and wicked by the Word of God. This should serve as a sobering reminder should any think he or she is beyond scrutiny and incapable of turning astray. I’m reminded of the story of Peter and the circumstances that led to his denying Christ three times. Surely if any person had a right relationship with the Lord it would be Peter, right? One can easily assume this, but if we view this apostle from a lens focused squarely on his human imperfections and sin nature, it becomes easier to understand how this event likely occurred.
Before Peter’s outward denying of the Savior, there were already failures at the heart level. In other words, the spiritual battle Peter was in had already been lost long before the infamous cursing came from his lips. As Scripture tells us, it is out of the abundance of the heart, that our mouths speak. This is also true of what we do with our hands, think in our head, or look upon with our eyes. It all begins in the heart. It is due to this corruption that the sinful and ungodly actions of the flesh are born out and made manifest.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8
At this point, you may be thinking to yourself that if someone like Peter who was so close to Christ fell so easily, what hope do we have? The answer is simple. The hope you have is not in yourself or in your ability to fight the enemy on your own. Your hope is in Jesus. He is the one able to strengthen and equip you. His Word is what prepares you for battle and provides you the armor to withstand the attacks of the evil one. We must rely on Him completely and not leave ourselves vulnerable by assuming anything concerning the virtue and integrity we foolishly think we possess.
There were times in my stand when I did feel extremely confident about my walk with the Lord and the work He had done in my life. But even in those moments, there was danger lurking at every corner seeking to lead me astray. It was only by the grace of God and the empowering of the Holy Spirit that potentially harmful situations and opportunities were kept at bay.
The challenge we all face is clear. A relentless enemy is on the attack. He will use anyone and anything to lead us down the path of darkness. Be constantly aware of these dangerous snares and entrapments. Don’t let your vulnerabilities during these valley experiences allow the evil one to gain access to the doors of your heart. Purpose now to cling to the cross. May we all remain broken before Jesus and understand the importance of our full and complete submission to Him. It is only through Christ that victory will be found.
Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.
Ephesians 6:18 (ESV)
Most people are familiar with the story of Jonah. It’s one of the most well known passages from the Old Testament. One that invokes feelings of awe and excitement. Even as a young child, I remember thinking how incredible it was that a grown man could stay alive in the belly of a giant fish. I wondered how Jonah could possibly survive in that horrific environment. Back then, the deeper meaning of Jonah’s story escaped me as my ability to discern the profound lessons of Scripture were quite lacking at the time. I assume this was likely also the case for many other children who heard the same tale. Sadly, growing older doesn’t necessarily make one wiser. Even for adults, the fantastic elements of this story can overshadow what is a vitally important message about pride, rebellion, and forgiveness.
In the beginning of the story, one learns of God’s great wrath, which had been built up towards the city of Nineveh and its inhabitants. These people had done exceedingly wicked in the eyes of the Lord and their time of judgement had come. Jonah was charged to enter the city and warn the inhabitants of their coming fate. Jonah however, decided he knew what was best. His anger and disgust with the people of Nineveh outweighed his sense of obedience to the Lord. For him, the Ninevites did not deserve a warning. They were not owed an opportunity to repent. Their evil was so great, it exhausted all the grace God was capable of providing, or so he thought…
As we continue to read, a theme of irony emerges. We see how Jonah had become actively engaged in open rebellion towards God, while simultaneously accusing the Ninevites of the very same thing. Along with the blatant hypocrisy, Jonah also thought he could hide from the Lord. But as we find out later, not even the depths of the sea could hide him from God’s presence and divine accountability.
While Jonah eventually acknowledged God and committed to do His will while in the belly of the giant fish, it’s unlikely he ever seriously contemplated the fate of the Ninevites. How unfortunate it was that he never stopped to reflect how desperate the people of Nineveh were for their eyes to be opened and their sins forgiven. Scripture doesn’t provide any evidence contrary to these assumptions, which leads us to conclude that for Jonah, the Ninevites were irredeemable and unworthy of compassion or mercy. In Jonah’s mind, they weren’t even worth praying for. Such a tragedy…
And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?
Jonah 4:11 (ESV)
Throughout the course of your marriage stand, perhaps you have encountered the spirit of judgmentalism. Quite easy to identify, it portrays itself as holy and righteous anger. It enters subtly, and over time eventually consumes us. It also exists as an accusatory mindset whose constant focus is on everything our prodigal is doing wrong. Unfortunately, when we allow ourselves to be filled with these thoughts and attitudes, we are prevented from obtaining a mind and heart filled with compassion. It is from this same spirit, the desire to pray and make intercessions for our prodigal is derived. To put it bluntly, you simply cannot have a heart of genuine love and mercy if you are constantly focussed on someone else’s sin. There are no two ways about it.
During the time of separation from my wife, the Lord greatly burdened me to lift her up in prayer. The reminders from the Holy Spirit were constant. Many times throughout the day I would stop what I was doing and retreat to a place of solitude where I would intercede on her behalf. These were usually very intense moments and often times filled with an abundance of emotion, energy, and focus.
Over time, I found the more I prayed for my wife, the less inclined I was to concern myself over things she was doing that were sinful, and in many cases, done intentionally to hurt me. Prayer helped to develop character in my life and provided the much needed boost of compassion and longsuffering that for far too long, I had been lacking.
While much can be learned from the story of Jonah concerning our judgmental tendencies, let us not forget the most important elements; the patience, compassion and longsuffering of our Lord. After years of shameless wickedness, God saw fit to show mercy on the people of Nineveh. Ultimately, it was Jonah’s righteous indignation and distorted sense of justice that took a back seat to God’s love and mercy. The eternal attributes of the Almighty eventually won the day.
As we continue to fight for our marriages and struggle with the constant battle of anger versus compassion, let us be vigilant in going before the Lord and praying for our prodigals. The more we are engaged in doing this, the less likely the evil one will gain a foothold in our own lives and prolong the journey towards restoration.
It’s not always easy to recall the two years I spent running from the Lord, because those memories seem so distant and foreign to me. But, I share stories from that time because I know for so many standers recounting my path to restoration is helpful in order to better understand the heart and mind of a prodigal. My desire isn’t to rehash past events that bring about guilt and shame, but to paint a picture of how far God has brought me is such a short period of time. Thankfully, Thanksgiving of 2015 is one holiday experience I can retell but never have to relive.
Let’s take a glimpse back at November of 2015. Tommy and I had been separated for nearly eight months and were living in two households. I went to great lengths to distance myself from him, only communicating about matters that directly involved our children. Earlier in the month he appeared at one of our divorce hearings and pleaded with the judge for an extension in our case. The extension was granted and my desire to be permanently estranged from my husband was foiled. Needless to say, I was angry! I was angry at the judge for taking pity on him. I was angry at my lawyer for not convincing the judge otherwise. I was angry at Tommy for delaying the inevitable. But, most of all, I was angry that I wasn’t getting my way. My pride and rebellion was at an all-time peak, and anything that stood in the way of promoting my sinful lifestyle infuriated me.
I know Tommy felt the wrath behind my anger, even though he never openly communicated that to me. I intentionally ignored his messages and when I did respond, I kept the texts short. As Thanksgiving was approaching, the messages and phone calls between us increased. With every interaction, I could feel the tension mounting. We were met with making decisions about things we had never had to face in previous years and this was new territory for both of us. It was especially challenging because we did not have the same expectations regarding the holidays.
Tommy wanted nothing other than to celebrate with me and the boys. He longed to take part in the Thanksgiving traditions we had created together over the past ten years. I would have probably been open to the idea of a joint holiday had Tommy been willing to go along with my wicked plans and not attempted to delay our divorce proceedings. But, my schemes went awry and I intended to punish him for his lack of cooperation. I was so blinded by my anger towards him that I couldn’t see his desires were genuine and good for our entire family. All I could see what that he was standing in the way of what I wanted, which was a declaration to end our marriage. Despite his request for togetherness, I chose to host Thanksgiving for family and friends in our home without him.
That year Thanksgiving was different. After the feast was over and my guests had left, a deep loneliness set in and the reality of my choices started to hit home. I was living life entirely on my own and it was solely based on my poor decisions. The company of my friends and family could not fill the void that I had hoped it would. In reality, Tommy could not fill that void either, but turning back to my marriage would have been a step in the right direction. I had fallen so far out of the will of God that I had tunnel vision. I was consumed with my will instead of God’s will and I was seeking the happiness that I felt I deserved. I was willing to do anything to please my selfish desires, and oftentimes in ways that were damaging and sinful.
Praise the Lord, God gave Tommy clarity to see right through the devil’s schemes. That Thanksgiving, Tommy continued to respond to me in love. I knew I had hurt him deeply, which was my intent, but he did not retaliate or respond to my sin with sin. The Father provided him comfort and love as well as great restraint, which didn’t go unnoticed. Tommy could have easily faltered in his stand due to the cirumstances, but his foundation for standing was grounded in the love of Christ. His absence from our family dinner wouldn’t deter his fight for our marriage. He knew that the Lord had more work to do in my heart, so he thanked God for the process and prayed for me that holiday weekend, as he did every weekend. Tommy’s spirit of gratitude wasn’t based around a day, but it was a lifestyle choice that he chose daily.
The following Thanksgiving, we celebrated our first holiday as a restored family. I still get emotional as I reflect on the goodness of God. The Holy Spirit renewed my mind and set my feet back on the path to righteousness. The Father took our dead marriage and restored it back to life in a miraculous way that only He was capable of doing.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
Dear friends, I know many of you may find yourselves in desperate family situations. Some of you may even question what you have to be thankful for in the midst of your crisis. I want to remind you of the Father’s may provisions, the greatest of all, a Savior. God loved us so much that He sent His one and only son to take our place and bear our burdens on the cross. Let’s never forget to be grateful for the gift of the cross! We can also come to the Lord with thanksgiving knowing we serve a Master that is actively working and fully capable of performing God-sized miracles in our marriages. Despite the longsuffering, let’s be thankful for the process of transformation taking place in our lives, and let us continue to pray for our prodigals to make their way home to Him!
For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?
For so many standers, there are times when we start believing the lies of the enemy and begin to waiver in our confidence that the Lord will restore our marriages. We witness our circumstances changing from bad to worse on a daily basis and see the hearts of our prodigal spouses growing harder and harder. For some, the situations are compounded due to the fact that we have failed to exercise restraint and grace while interacting with our husbands and wives. While these events certainly don’t serve to help matters, they are in no way to be seen as a “deal breaker” as it concerns God and His designs for restoration.
I remember a specific event during the course of our separation that for a time, caused me to believe I had ruined my chances for a restored marriage. The memory remains quite vivid in my mind. The specifics won’t be shared here, but in short, I had violated one of the boundaries Amy put in place for me regarding how and when personal interactions would occur. While the motive for my actions were not wrong or sinful, it was nonetheless a misguided move on my part. After the event, I retreated to the place where I was staying and completely broke down, feeling as though all hope had become lost. I fell on my knees and wept uncontrollably thinking that this time I had really done it. I was convinced Amy would never trust me again and there was absolutely nothing that could change things.
In a moment of desperation, I reached out to my pastor who had been counseling me at the time. I tearfully shared what had happened. In a kind and loving way, he responded to my emotionally charged ramblings by assuring me that I didn’t have the power to change God’s will. There was nothing I could do to stop the Lord from achieving what He desired. Hearing this was both comforting and reassuring. I eventually took this truth to heart and gained the correct perspective as it related to the power of myself, versus the power of Almighty God.
When you think about it, the notion that we can blow it, really does seem silly. The One who spoke the world into existence cannot be prevented from bringing about His will. Even if our efforts to thwart God’s plans are intentional, they will ultimately fail. We cannot stop God from accomplishing what He has purposed to do.
It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens. When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain, and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses.
It’s not possible for us to control every situation. Even if our motivations and intent are godly and pure, sometimes conflict is unavoidable. This is most certainly the case when dealing with a prodigal spouse who is running from the Lord and looking for every conceivable way to accuse, blame, and mischaracterize our words and actions. I know in those heated moments it becomes so difficult to hold our tongues, but putting on the whole armor of God will serve to protect us from ourselves. With that said, it is of great comfort to know that even if we falter and react with our flesh rather than spirit, God is still faithful to overcome and compensate for our weaknesses and constant missteps.
If you are experiencing regret, and perhaps even hopelessness right now because of things you have said or done that you feel is jeopardizing your chances for restoration, do not be disheartened. Our God is loving, forgiving, compassionate and long suffering. He knows our weaknesses. He also understands the emotions and inner conflict we face in the heat of battle. There is no part of our identity or existence that escapes Him, and He generously extends His grace to us from a well that never runs dry. May we take comfort in this as our hearts and minds become conformed to His will.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Coming to grips with the responsibility and role we may have played in helping create an environment fertile and ripe for divorce is a tough pill to swallow. Oftentimes we don’t become fully aware of how selfish and sinful behaviors can affect our spouses until it is too late. For me, when I finally looked in the mirror and became aware of what I had become, my wife’s heart had grown cold and calloused. Sadly, we hear so many similar stories from standers who waited too long before they realized the error and foolishness of their ways. So often it’s only when they’ve heard the words, “It’s over” does there become an awareness of the need for true and genuine repentance.
Shortly after being asked to leave our home, I desperately looked for ways to express sorrow and remorse to my wife. Phone calls, letters, text messages… I exhausted all the options I had at my fingertips. Nothing was getting through. I remember thinking to myself that if she only knew how sincere I was, her mind would change. But as the days turned into weeks, the weeks into months, and months into years, the more I realized and understood the unforgiveness reigning in her heart could not be brought down by mere words alone.
My pastor, who had been counseling with me at the time, shared a music video he thought I’d relate to. From the first moment I heard it, I was moved. So perfectly did this song capture what I was feeling and thinking on the inside, that it became an instant favorite and to this day, occupies a special place in my heart. The lyrics captured the very essence of my emotions at the time and effectively expressed what I was unable to with my own words.
Over the next several days, I found myself listening to this song constantly and felt a strong desire to share it with my wife. I hesitated and waffled back and forth over whether or not I should. Ultimately, I decided to go ahead and do it. In my text message to her, I remember saying something along the lines of, “This song was shared with me and I was deeply moved by it. It sums up what I’ve wanted to say to you for a long time.” I sent the message on a cool Saturday morning with low expectations for a positive reaction from Amy. A little while later, while on my way to a local park with our boys, I received a text message back simply saying, “Thank you for sharing this…” There was no sarcasm or anything close to what resembled so many of the other messages I’d been used to receiving. I was very grateful for this and thanked the Lord the communication was received with the right spirit. I prayed that God would take the song’s message and use it to speak to Amy’s heart.
We never spoke of that shared experience until after the Lord brought us back together. When we did, I was surprised to learn how deeply the song had moved her. Amy informed me that after hearing it for the first time, she finally began to understand how truly sorry I was for everything. Up to that point, she would have told you that any expressed sorrow on my end was done solely with the motivation of fixing our marriage. In other words, it wasn’t genuine. But after hearing the message of the song, her perspective dramatically changed. I was also quite surprised to learn that she would often cry herself to sleep at night while listening to it. Although the piece wasn’t enough to change her mind about going through with the divorce, it did ultimately have an impact. Over time, it served to help soften and quell the anger inside her heart. God used this powerful song to touch my prodigal. There is no doubt about it in my mind. To this day, I still get choked up and emotional when listening to it.
We can’t ever be sure of what or who God is going to use to help bring our prodigals home. One thing is certain though. He can use anything or anyone, even a song like this. Perhaps you find yourself in a situation where you are living with sadness and regret over the role you may have played in hardening your spouse’s heart. If this is the case, please know and understand that if you have confessed the sin to God, He has forgiven you. If you have gone to your prodigal in the hopes of seeking forgiveness and your efforts have been callously rebuffed, do not lose heart. Forgiveness and healing can often take extended periods of time. The “quick fix” solution that exists in some of our minds must be overcome if we have committed to remain in this battle for the long haul. We need to acknowledge that it is God who determines how and when restoration will occur. Yes, we have a role to play, but we will never be in a position to control or manipulate the hearts and minds of our prodigals. Let the Lord do what only He can, and while you wait, continue to walk humbly and with perseverance as you travel down this road.
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.
If you have been standing for your marriage and have grown accustomed to dealing with a prodigal spouse walking blindly in sin, you’ve likely faced situations where you’ve been tempted to engage your spouse in a no holds barred debate, in the hopes that through your passionate arguments, they will come to a knowledge of the truth and at long last see the light. While this may seem like a prudent thing to do at times, it is important to remember that a hardened heart, in most cases, will not be receptive to the message you bring. In fact, having to hear your words can in many cases, produce the complete opposite effect, resulting in a greater determination to run from God and to do things on their own terms.
I struggled with this early on in my stand. I was convinced that I actually had the power to argue my way back to restoration. If I could just put the words in the right order or articulate the message in just the right way, surely the message would get through… How wrongheaded this thinking was. Despite my best efforts, all the words I uttered fell on deaf ears. And the words that did penetrate, only served to strengthen her resolve to leave me and our marriage. To be completely blunt, I’d say there is no more effective way to drive your spouse further away from you, than to engage them in a conversation advocating that they leave their life of sin. To be sure, reconciling this in one’s mind is very tough. Logic seems to dictate that exposure to the truth of the Gospel will lead one to repentance. While in the broader context this is true, what standers oftentimes fail to account for is the working of the Holy Spirit. Genuine and authentic heart transformation can only occur if the sinner has been touched on the inside. We cannot do this. This work can only be done by God.
Instead of looking for ways to convince your spouse to return to your covenant marriage, a better and more effective use of your time is to pray for them by asking the Lord to do the work of heart transformation. James talks about our passions and how they can cause us to essentially “war” with others. This certainly rings true for those clinging to our marriages. We long so desperately for healing and reconciliation that at times we act irrationally and convince ourselves that it’s possible to actually force the issue. Please don’t be fooled or led astray by this false way of thinking. Your job as a stander is to love and remain peaceable.
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
While the strongest of arguments made on behalf of restoration can easily be used in back and forth exchanges between you and your spouse, the most impactful dialogue you can have will be those that model grace, soft spokenness, and restraint. Make no mistake, this approach should never be considered the easy path. It is extremely challenging to hold your tongue and zip your lips when you want so desperately for your husband or wife to return home. I understand that, but believe me when I say the cause of Christ and His Kingdom are more effectively advanced when you determine to put on the servant’s role and walk humbly in word and deed as the light of Christ flows from you. Remember this as you press on and continue to endure.
When I made the decision to file for divorce, I was full of self-righteous anger. I deserved so much more out of my marriage and from my husband. Perceiving Tommy’s flaws worse than my own, I felt superior. In reality, I had such backwards thinking. I lacked mercy towards him and was constantly finding Tommy at fault. I didn’t have time to scrutinize myself because I was too busy keeping a record of his wrongs. And, every chance I got, I took the opportunity to point out his offenses towards me. Rehashing past failures never offered solutions to our martial problems, rather, it led to further bitterness, resentment and anger in his heart and in mine.
The years of turmoil took a toll on our marriage. It strained our relationship to the point where I felt completely defeated. Instead of turning to God with my hurt and pain, I allowed the devil a foothold in my marriage. The enemy slowly drove a wedge deeper and deeper between me and my beloved. Over time, my attitude towards Tommy changed as well as my patterns of thinking. The dangers of not taking every thought captive soon spiraled out of control. Thoughts I would have easily dismissed in the past were now stirring around in my mind daily. I had completely given myself over to the lies of the enemy and was no longer guarding my heart. Inevitably, separation and divorce quickly followed.
Self-righteousness is terribly destructive, and sneaks into the heart and mind making it nearly impossible to show genuine love towards others. Is there any characteristic more deceptive? We hate to see self-righteousness in others, yet we will defend it in our own lives. The bible makes it clear that God despises pride, which is at the root of self- righteousness. We see this in the parable Jesus tells of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18. The Pharisee elevated himself above everyone else looking down on others, whereas the tax collector recognized he was a sinner and asked for God’s mercy.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. Luke 18:14
At the point in my brokenness, where I became more repulsed by my sin than that of Tommy’s, the tide began to turn. The Holy Spirit revealed the depravity of my own heart and redirected my anger inward. I had to face reality, my sin was equal to his in the eyes of the Lord. Ultimately, I realized the best way to change my husband was to humble myself.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalms 51:17
Before we started our ministry nearly two years ago, Tommy and I spent time intentionally praying and discussing how we would share our story and the life lessons we learned through our restoration process. One aspect we both felt strongly about was a desire to be genuine, to speak from a place of vulnerability and authenticity. In doing so, we never imagined God would use us to touch the lives of so many broken, desperately hurting couples that mirror our past. We are honored the Lord has provided opportunities for us to share our valley experiences in order to encourage other couples amidst their marriage struggles!
Sharing my personal testimony, as once a prodigal, has especially been humbling. When I look back and realize how patient God was with me, I’m often reminded of Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 15:9-10.
For I am the least of the apostles unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me was not in vain.
Praise God, He did not leave me where I was. Our loving Father pursued me, chastened me and showed immeasurable amounts of grace along the way. He also used Tommy to demonstrate love for me as he continually stood for our marriage even when there seemed to be little to no hope. The more I share the heart transformation that took place in my life, the deeper the gratitude I feel towards God for providing my husband the strength to continue his stand.
Tommy’s primary motivation behind standing for our marriage was based on his desire to see God grant us both repentance and bring us back into alignment with God’s will. Part of that painful journey meant he had to patiently endure evil, evil from the one he vowed to love forever, in good times and in bad. I did not come to the knowledge of truth by Tommy pointing out my indiscretions and focusing on my sinful behavior. I came to the understanding of truth by the prayers Tommy and others cried out on my behalf. God heard their pleas and He also looked inwardly to the motivation of my husband’s heart.
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26
The closer Tommy walked with the Lord, the more he relinquished control over our situation placing his faith in God to perform a miracle in our marriage. I couldn’t help but notice his full submission to the Lord. Tommy’s gentleness with me turned away my wrath allowing me to be vulnerable to the idea of restoration. I escaped the snare of the devil and I came to the knowledge of the UGLY truth. I had been used by the enemy to do his will! When that devastating reality set in, there was no more finger pointing, no more blame shifting. I came to my senses with a deep sadness which brought me to my knees before the Lord. There were tears of anguish and hurt as the veil was lifted and I understood I had been a participant in doing the devil’s bidding.
Dear friend, it takes the work of the Holy Spirit to prick your prodigal’s heart. The pain you are experiencing may be unrelenting and the natural response is to revile in return. But, keep in mind, your spouse has been captured by the enemy to do his will. Your prodigal will have to come to this realization on their own, in God’s perfect timing. Pray fervently and look to Christ as your example while you wait.
When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:23
In this episode of the Purposed Marriage Podcast, we explore the importance of turning the other cheek and discuss how this non-combative approach to dealing with tense situations can produce positive results.
You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
When a spouse has made the decision to turn against you and the Lord by abandoning the vows made before God, it’s a natural instinct to point the finger of blame. But how many of us pause and take a look at our own lives, which in many cases, played a role in cultivating an environment conducive to marital disaster? The realization of my own contribution to our marital demise came far too late for me, because for years I was consumed with judging my spouse’s actions and not my own. Sadly, this delay in spiritual self-awareness exacted a heavy toll on our family, marriage and my relationship with Christ.
At the beginning of my stand, I remember being focused on what my wife was doing and how she was acting. Early on, my conversations with others typically involved describing her behavior and painting myself as a victim. It was so very clear to me that what she was doing was wrong, but it wasn’t until I began really diving into Scripture that I realized my focus and attention was off base. The eyes of scrutiny had been aimed in the wrong direction. I was so focused on my spouse, that I had grown blind to my own iniquities.
Through the course of Biblical counseling, and intentional quiet times with the Lord, I began to understand how misguided this perspective was. Correcting my flawed point of view meant turning the eyes of scrutiny completely on myself and allowing the Lord to expose the parts of my own life that had not fallen under complete submission to the Holy Spirit. When I was able to stop focusing on the actions of my spouse and instead became more aware of my own sin and shortcomings, my heart and mind gradually became transformed. This metamorphosis was not something accomplished on my own. To be clear, without a steady diet of Gospel truth and transparent conversations with the God, my spirit would have no doubt remained the same. Of this I am certain.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
The path to restoration and healing is never paved with bitterness and resentment. If you recognize your own heart is filled with animosity towards your spouse, with the help of the Holy Spirit, purpose right now to change. Relationships are reconciled and grievances forgiven when both parties put off anger and instead put on love and compassion. You may not be able to control or suppress the malice directed towards you at this point, but over time, the transforming power of Christ exhibited in your own life will produce seeds that will one day bear fruit. As God’s Word tells us, do not grow tired or weary in well doing, for in due season we will reap if we faint not. May we all learn to focus our efforts on becoming more like Christ through the examination of our own hearts and minds. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you today and when conviction sets in, purpose to set your thoughts, words, and deeds under the full submission of God and His holy Word.
Let’s be honest. Initiating divorce proceedings in order to dissolve a marriage only comes after an individual has predetermined the guilt of the other party. Whether the offense is rooted in infidelity, emotional abuse, or financial impropriety, the situation nearly always results with one spouse concluding that enough is enough, and it is time for justice to be served.
This righteous indignation possessed by so many pursuing divorce is something witnessed on a routine basis in our culture. Nearly everyday we see examples of “outrage mobs” screaming from the rooftops over issues that according to them, are more important than anything the world has ever faced. There is no negotiating, no compromise and no reasoning with these people. The only thing that brings satisfaction is for “justice” to be brought immediately. These individuals aren’t content to see a simple slap on the wrist. There needs to be pain, suffering and reproach brought upon the targets of their wrath. They want to see lives crushed and destroyed. They want vengeance and they want it now.
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.
2 Timothy 3:1-5
Reading this passage accurately describes what we are seeing all around us. When it comes to divorce, at least in western society, the rates have never been higher. Why is this? How do people arrive at the point where hearts have become so hardened that dissolving the bonds of holy matrimony becomes the ultimate prize? Quite frankly, it’s not hard to understand. Once you acknowledge how wicked our hearts are apart from the influence of the Holy Spirit, there is little in terms of surprise relating to how deep our sins can take us.
Years ago while standing for my marriage and fighting against divorce, I remember seeing in my covenant spouse an anger I had never seen before. She had become single minded of purpose to undo what had been done. Not to excuse her wrath or sense or vengeance at the time, but I now recognize that so much of what I felt and experienced stemmed from her deep sense of hurt and sadness. She had been deeply wounded and for years kept the pain bottled up. Over time, the suffering and grief turned into something dark and sinister. She demanded justice. There was a price to be paid for the anguish I put her through. It became her mission to make sure I was punished and that I tasted the same bitter fruit she had eaten for years.
For me, there was absolutely nothing I could do to assuage her anger. I was guilty on all counts. No acts of remorse or apologies could quench her thirst for justice. The ironic thing at the time was that while pursuing the divorce, she was claiming to have a close relationship with God. She even went so far as to say she had forgiven me. Of course, none of this was true. She was deceived and being held captive by the enemy and was simply repeating Satan’s lies. The devil played on her vulnerability and tricked her into believing that exacting vengeance on me would bring her happiness and restitution. Thankfully, the Lord rescued her heart and set her free from the strongholds of bitterness and division. I thank God for the work only He could do.
Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
While the pursuit of justice is something worthwhile and honorable, Christians must understand that when it comes to this matter, our job is not to take measures into our own hands. If you have been hurt by your loved one and have endured heartache and suffering due to your spouse’s sin, do not fall into the trap of unforgiveness. Pursuing an ungodly divorce places you in the role of judge, jury and executioner. None of these roles define what we as Bible believing Christians are called to be. Instead of giving into the flesh and pursuing your own sense of justice, I challenge you to put on love, patience, endurance and longsuffering. The Lord Jesus provided the template for how we should live. May we remember His example the next time we embark upon a “so called” mission of justice.
In this episode of the Purposed Marriage Podcast, Amy and I address common questions individuals struggle with when contemplating divorce. Our discussion is focussed on finding Biblical answers that are in line with Christ’s teaching and design for marriage.
Amy and I were thrilled to have been given the opportunity to be heard on the Rejoice MinistriesPodcast recently. This up close and personal conversation with Charlyne Steinkamp and her daughter Lori details the struggles and challenges that led to our divorce and eventual reconciliation. We pray it blesses and encourages.
I heard it once said that Christians are furthest away from the mind and heart of Christ when they are found to possess an unforgiving spirit. Given the message of the Gospel and the themes of reconciliation and forgiveness woven throughout Scripture, it’s easy to see how this mindset runs contrary to what should be at the heart of our identities as born again believers.
As I reflect on my own life experiences and the times I’ve withheld forgiveness because of pride, stubbornness and a host of other illegitimate reasons, there exists a deep sense of regret and sadness. Because of God’s grace and longsuffering, I know I have been forgiven, but that doesn’t erase the memory of my missteps and the damage done to my testimony. So much of my unforgiveness stemmed from the sense of power it gave me over those whom I perceived to have offended me. As long as I refused forgiveness over the supposed “offense”, then I had a reason to feel superior. My unforgiveness took many forms. Ignoring the individual completely, not responding to initiated communication efforts on their end, or speaking badly about the person behind his/her back were some of the most frequently used tactics in my arsenal of grievance weapons.
In the months that led to my marriage coming to a grinding halt, the most important person in my life had become myself. I was a master at defending my own actions, justifying my sin and finding ways to use petty infractions that existed only in my head as a way to belittle, disparage and marginalize my precious wife. I had become so easily offended by Amy that she found herself walking on eggshells most days in an effort to avoid incurring my wrath. “How dare my wife not live up to my expectations!”, I would think. I would punish her through deliberately spoken hurtful comments or by giving her the silent treatment so as to make her feel as though she didn’t exist. Sadly, my unloving words and deeds did far more damage than I could have anticipated. In time, Satan would use these actions as a means to construct the foundation of what would become the basis of our divorce… bitterness and unforgiveness. It wasn’t until I started walking through the pain of losing my wife that I began to understand how serious an offense unforgiveness was.
For years I had allowed the spirit of unforgiveness to reign in my heart. When it had finally run its course, I found myself on the receiving end of a decade’s worth of pent up wrath and hostility. On one hand, I couldn’t blame Amy for the path she decided to take. After all, I had created an environment that was ripe for this type of disaster. But the closer I grew to the Lord and the more I matured in my faith, the more I realized how contrary unforgiveness was to a heart that claimed to belong to Christ. While she denied this truth at the time, my covenant wife would eventually come to discern this as well.
At its very nature, unforgiveness is rebellion against God. It is a deliberate refusal to obey a direct order. When we choose to withhold forgiveness, it is the result of a complete disconnect with heart of the Gospel. How can we ever think our relationship with Jesus is where it needs to be if we have erected walls of division with one another, or have fortified our internal defenses so as to prevent our spouse from reconciling? It is so vitally important to understand that when we choose not to forgive, we are taking a dangerous risk. Matthew 6:15 states that if we do not forgive others of their sins, the Father will not forgive us of our sins. We don’t need a Bible commentary to understand what is plainly written here. The warning to believers is quite sobering. May this unholy spirit never find a place in our hearts.
Perhaps you have been so deeply hurt by your husband or wife that you cannot see a path forward to forgive. If this is your present condition, do not be dismayed. There was a point in my life shortly after our divorce that I questioned the capacity I had to forgive Amy. Thankfully, I came to realize that I didn’t need to rely on my own strength. The Lord had promised to never leave or forsake me and I knew I had access to His power. He had provided everything I needed to overcome this challenge of unforgiveness. It was all right there contained in His Holy Word.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Forgiveness is absolutely possible, but only if you allow God to change your heart. You must first submit to His authority and acknowledge that your unwillingness to forgive is sin. Once again in His will and under His submission, allow the Lord to transform your heart and mind by feasting on His Word as well as going to Him daily in prayer. The more intimate your relationship with the Lord is, the easier you will find it to forgive. The spiritually mature believer who walks in close fellowship with Christ will acknowledge that as forgiven sinners, we have absolutely no right to withhold forgiveness from anyone, regardless of the offense. Remember this truth as you strive to live in accordance with the teachings and admonitions of Scripture.
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
How long should a stander wait on a prodigal to come home? Does there come a point when it is acceptable to simply give up and call it quits? Does God understand if we “move on” with our lives and put the painful past behind us? Many in distressed or broken marriages will oftentimes ask these questions. For a majority, there will come a point when the desire to escape the pain, emptiness and despair becomes too overwhelming to bear. At this stage, we begin to question our stand and the sovereignty and faithfulness of God to intervene and bring restoration. While it is understandable to sympathize with someone in this situation, we need to be discerning in our approach to identifying the root causes of the sadness and grief. Above all else, our examination should focus on God’s Word. This correct approach will reveal how easily our hearts can be deceived and our minds swayed from holding fast to the truth.
When it comes to establishing a set time for waiting on a prodigal to return home, we need to reframe the question. We must understand that the goal or “endgame” for any stander should be to see their spouse come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Their journey home to you and your family is secondary. But, because of the emotional ties we have with our one flesh partner, it becomes challenging on many levels to keep this right perspective. Regardless of the difficulty, we must strive to stay focussed on the spiritual and eternal nature of the battle.
Your absent husband or wife is likely facing an eternal separation from God if they remain in their sin and bondage to the flesh. This is the sobering reality. Focus your prayers and petitions before the Lord on the very heart of the matter, the soul and mind of your deceived spouse. Our question to God shouldn’t be, “How long must I wait for my prodigal to come home?” but rather, “How can God use me to help point my prodigal towards a saving knowledge of God’s truth?” Our marriages will only return to a condition that is honoring and pleasing to the Lord when both husbands and wives have fully submitted themselves to God’s will. In most cases, prodigals will not arrive at this state until they are broken by God. As someone who lived as an “in-home” prodigal of sorts for over ten years, I can assure you that when the hand of correction does come, it comes swiftly and mightily. For me, the result was a complete heart transformation as Christ began the work that only He could.
As far as “moving on” is concerned, the first question to ask is, “What does that really mean?” Is it to say that an individual wants out of the situation he or she is in and believes there to be a better path apart from the Lord’s revealed will? Sadly, in most cases it does. Be cautioned though. This “take charge” approach to rectifying our situations is not rooted in God’s truth. In fact, it is quite to the contrary. What “moving on” or “moving forward” essentially boils down to is an unwillingness to wait on God.
In other words, it is the belief that God isn’t fulfilling His end of the deal fast enough. Can you understand how foolish it is to think this way? All throughout Scripture we find examples of man relying on his own understanding and failing to acknowledge and follow God’s clear instructions. This deeply flawed perspective and approach to dealing with trials and tribulations will result in nothing but more pain and heartache. Granted, there may be some temporary relief from the grief and suffering in the short term. Speaking long term however, you will find the “quick fixes” you attempt to apply now, will likely result in problems down the road that eclipse the magnitude of the stress and sorrow you are enduring in the present. This is almost a certainty, and you have no idea of how those issues will manifest themselves later on. You don’t want to know either.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.
Dear friends, as God’s Word says, there is a way of thinking that may seem right, but if it is apart from the Lord’s revealed truth, it will not lead to peace and fulfillment. In most cases it will only lead to further heartache and suffering. When you are being tempted by the enemy to give up your stand so as to make the pain go away, remember Christ’s example for us. Even as He was being crucified, he remained faithful to His call. He willingly suffered and endured the pain on our behalf. In the end, death was conquered and defeated.
I challenge you this day to let the mind that was in Christ Jesus also be in you. Endure what you have been called to endure and rejoice that our God is faithful in fulfilling his promises. And as to the question, how long should we wait for God to move? We should wait for as long and as fervently as his faithfulness to us endures.