Healing and Reconciliation

Don’t Provoke Your Prodigal

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.

James 4:1-2

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.

Proverbs 25:11

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.

In Christ,

Tommy Larson