In this episode of the Purposed Marriage podcast, we discuss what God’s word says about His will for marriage, and how we should view it in light of His truth.
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.Isaiah 55:11
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.James 1:12
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.
With love in Christ,
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.Psalms 100:4-5
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!