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 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.
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.