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 world1 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.