Uncategorized

Finding God in the Midst of Trials

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.

Luke 6:12

Those standing for their marriages after being abandoned by a straying spouse will attest to the fact that during this painful season, there can be, and are extended periods where it feels as though God’s voice has gone silent.

For so many, the perceived lack of action by God is often misinterpreted as an abandoning of sorts; or better yet, a refusal of God to hear our prayers. But this short-sided and narrow perspective is not one that is Biblical. A better understanding of how our communication with the Father works comes only with maturity, a filling of humility, and a receptive heart.

Far too often, we as believers lay our petitions and burdens before the Father with expectations of how the answers will come. We set artificial parameters that essentially place God in a box, and when events don’t unfold the way we see fit, we blame God for not hearing us and refusing to listen. The fact of the matter is, God does hear us and He is answering our prayers. We are simply too blind and focussed on self to recognize when or how His voice is being spoken.

Like many in our listening audience, during the time of my separation and divorce, I would often times be pre-occupied with the trappings of daily life and the hectic nature of balancing single-parenthood with work, church, and my spiritual war with the enemy. The moments I was able to “get away” in order to spend solitary time with God were few and far between. But as I matured in my faith, and benefited from Godly influences the Lord had placed in my life, I began to understand the importance of being intentional about the intimacy God desires with us.

In this “quest” to draw closer to my creator, the magnificence of God’s glory and power seems to be most visible and apparent in the midst of the wondrous nature that exists just outside our manufactured, urban environments. In the case of one living in East Tennessee, my escape to this place of solace meant an excursion to the Cumberland Mountains, which in my case, just so happened to be a few miles away.

I can remember one particular Saturday in the month of July, when I decided to take a day trip to the mountains by myself. I wasn’t a seasoned hiker, and to be honest, was quite naive as it related to the “dos” and “don’ts” of solitary trekking. As a result of my unpreparedness for this particular journey, not too far in, I began to grow tired and weary. But like a man on a mission, I was determined to reach the trail’s end. I pressed on despite the physical pain and very real possibility that I may have taken the wrong path. Given my proclivity for making wrong decisions up to that point, this was a real possibility.

Fortunately, my sense of direction didn’t completely fail me and I was able to stay the course. At about the midway point, I came to a resting place. I allowed my heart rate to settle and my heavy breathing to slow. In that moment of calmness, and in the midst of God’s creation, I was able to focus my mind and spirit on the goodness of the Lord. I was reminded of the fact that as long as I kept my eyes focussed on Him, the path I was to take would be made clear.

In many ways, the hike that day was a metaphor for the experiences and trials I would face in the foreseeable future. There were many distractions and alternative routes I could have taken that would have led to destruction. This was a real danger. The journey itself was also physically painful and caused the confidence I had in my ability to arrive at the final destination to be second guessed. How often does this line of questioning surface in the mind of the individual standing for his or her marriage? Truth be told, it’s a common occurrence.

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:12-13

I didn’t have any sort of “supernatural” experience that day in the mountains spending time alone with God. I didn’t hear an audible voice instructing me to do this or that as it related to my future journey. For me, “finding God” in the midst of my fiery trial was strictly a matter of being still and listening. Taking in the sheer majesty of His creation and knowing that in the midst of all the glory laid before me, I had redeeming value as a child of the Eternal King, strengthened my spirit and increased my confidence and certainty of God’s ability to see me through the difficult season I felt trapped in.

Perhaps you are currently seeking the Lord but not finding Him. Rest assured, He is there, despite the stormy clouds that blur our vision. Consider temporarily throwing off the distractions and noise that can so easily cause us to lose sight of His presence. Escape to a place where you will be alone; a place where you will be able to focus and delight in His goodness and grace. God promises to make His presence known and felt for those who seek it. In those cherished moments, allow the Holy Spirit to comfort and strengthen your soul as you determine to follow Him faithfully, wherever the road He has placed you on leads.

In Christ,

Tommy Larson

Prodigals

When Truth is Toxic

‬‬

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,”

‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Have you ever wondered why spouses determined to leave their marriage avoid listening to truth like the plague? For the stander, attempting to engage his or her prodigal in an attempt to get at the core reason for their desire to quit the marriage becomes an exercise in futility and utter frustration. But if one understands how the enemy works, and the depth of deception that becomes entrenched in a person’s heart and mind, it is easily discernable.

It is no wonder why those pursuing divorce go to great lengths to avoid difficult and pointed conversations. The last thing one running from the Lord wants is to be exposed through the light of Scripture. The truth of God’s word strikes at the heart and reveals the evil intent of our fleshly desires. It is this penetrative nature of the Gospel that exposes the sin and shameful ambitions they so willingly pursue.

Shortly after our separation, but prior to our actual divorce, I remember a conversation with my precious wife. In this particular exchange I was accused of being like a Pharisee for strictly adhering and advocating for an embrace of God’s view of marriage and a rejection of divorce. According to my wife at the time, this “narrow” and “non-negotiable” view didn’t consider the “spirit” of the law, and from her point of view, I was the one who had it all wrong. Needless to say, after reminding my wife that it was the Pharisees who actually exalted divorce and that Jesus condemned it, the conversation abruptly ended. No further discussion was to be had. In fact, if I was to dare bring it up again, all future communication would consequently be conducted through our lawyers.

I knew I had struck a nerve with what I had said. To be honest, it wasn’t my intent to anger her or cause further hostility between us. That said, it wasn’t my words that invoked the spirited response. Rather, it was the truth of God’s word that pierced her soul. I was simply the messenger.

“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.”

Hebrews‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

As you continue to stand and fight for your marriage, you will most certainly encounter situations when you are confronted with unbridled anger and harshness. Take solace in the fact that it is not necessarily you who is the object of his or her wrath. A prodigal’s war is with Almighty God. Those who speak His truth from their lips will always be met with the exact same levels of resistance from God’s enemies.

With the help of the Holy Spirit and those whom God has placed in your life to walk alongside you in this journey, determine to not allow the aversion to truth by your deceived prodigal to damped your drive and pursuit of restoration. Recognize that Christ has the power to transform even the greatest of sinners into vessels that fully embrace the heart of the gospel. I witnessed this first-hand, and if Jesus can do this for my wife, He can most certainly do it for your spouse as well.

In Christ,

Tommy Larson

Marriage

Be Wary of Worldly Wisdom

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.

Proverbs 11:14

Most will acknowledge that when it comes to major life decisions, it is better to seek the advice and wisdom of others, than to fly solo and rely completely on one’s own thoughts and feelings. While bringing in other informed points of view can certainly be considered “best practice” as it relates to charting our future paths, we leave ourselves vulnerable to Satan’s ongoing attacks if the imparted wisdom aligns with our human flesh and worldly sensibilities.

Early on in my marriage crisis, I experienced encouraging hope after learning I wasn’t alone in the pursuit of external counsel. To my surprise and delight, I discovered my spouse had begun counseling at a well-known “Christian” counseling center in our area. Unfortunately for our family and relationship, the more time she spent receiving that particular counsel, the further away she drifted from the Lord and our marriage.

From my perspective, it was difficult to reconcile how this could occur. I was of the persuasion that Christian counseling would push my wife closer to God. After all, the theme of Scripture is based on a Holy God reconciling Himself to sinful man. It seemed to me that even the least qualified Christian counselor would understand that, and would surely point his or her clients in a direction that aligns with this overarching message. I was wrong…

This “Christian” counseling center listed therapists and guidance professionals on their website. As I scanned through the listing in an attempt to better understand the type of counsel my wife was receiving, one particular individual stood out and caused red flags to go up. I hoped this wasn’t the person counseling Amy. I had a strong sense it was, and sadly this proved to be the case.

So discouraging it was to read the counselor’s bio… It was a resume that boasted of the secular and even “new age” areas of expertise. Ironically, the last bulleted entry on her list of professional descriptors was “spiritual growth.” That specific entry proved to be a telling sign that spoke to how this particular counselor viewed the authority of Scripture.

Not too long after discovering my wife’s alliance with the world, I was convinced the “Christian” counselor was actually doing the work of Satan. Instead of driving my wife to the foot of the cross, she was encouraged to double-down on self. Popular catch phrases like “DREAM BIG”, and “YOU DO YOU” seemed to be Amy’s guiding principles, and from what I could tell, the essential takeaways from her counseling visits. I distinctly remember how confrontational and hostile she was towards me immediately following these paid “guidance” encounters. By any objective measure, it was clear her attitude was not being influenced by the Spirit of the Lord.

Recognizing the harmful voices in my wife’s life prompted me to spend countless hours in prayer as I petitioned the Lord to remove each and every one from their sphere of influence. As time progressed, the Lord was faithful to systematically take them away. As this was happening, so too was the change in Amy’s mind and spirit. Not having her heartstrings pulled and manipulated by agents of the enemy made a tremendous difference as it related to our situation. As the negative and false wisdom was removed, the Lord was gracious to fill the void with loving, gentle, and gracious believers who helped influence the shift in her mindset. I can’t express how grateful I am to those individuals.

For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness.”

1 Corinthians 3:19

After restoration, my wife was quick to acknowledge the harmful influence worldly counsel had on her life. Had she been open to the Lord and submitted to the discerning spirit God had placed in her heart, much collateral damage due to the divorce could have been avoided. But for my precious wife at the time, and others now, true wisdom that comes from Jesus is avoided like the plague. Prodigals will run to advice or council that agrees with their flesh. It is for this reason, the desire for solid, Biblical counseling is the last thing on their radar.

If you are going through a marriage crisis, be careful who you are getting advice from. If it appeals to your flesh and elevates pride and righteous indignation for your prodigal, then the counsel is not rooted in truth. Be willing to fully submit to the voice and wisdom that comes only from the Lord. In the end, it is His will and influence in our lives that will stand the test of time and leave us truly fulfilled.

In Christ,

Tommy Larson