In this episode of the Purposed Marriage podcast, we discuss some of the things standers may see and observe from their prodigal spouse during the process of restoration.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV
Every new year brings with it a sense of fresh starts, renewed commitments and strengthened resolve. Depending on who you are listening to, the target of these resolutions may tend to focus on the external. Whether it’s shedding a few pounds, reading more, learning a new skill, or simply stepping out of our comfort zones and trying something new, the arrival of January 1st marks the point when many will begin their new journey. Unfortunately, this is also a time when many marriages hanging on by a thread get pushed to their limits and one or both parties decide it’s time to call it quits.
Making it through the holidays is challenging enough on its own. Normal holiday stressors, along with knowing what your spouse may be planning for the new year and doing everything within your power to prevent it from coming to pass, puts us in situations that are extremely challenging and difficult. Reflecting back, I remember the first Christmas apart from my wife saw me spend considerable time praying God would do a work in her heart and that the new year would bring healing and reconciliation. Surprisingly, there were more than a couple moments during the holiday season I actually sensed this may have been coming to pass. But unfortunately, those moments were short lived. Despite seeing what appeared to be real signs of promise in both word and deed, my prodigal eventually returned to the flesh and continued to willingly travel the road that led to destruction. Cleary, God had more work to do.
For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.Matthew 7:12 ESV
Now more than ever, the question we need to ask ourselves is if we are truly committed to standing for our marriage despite what we may see or know is coming over the horizon. An ungodly worldview void of biblical and eternal perspectives will tell you happiness and fulfillment is within your reach if you just let go of the past and move forward. We are told some marriages just don’t work out, and it’s better to leave an unhappy marriage, than to stay in a relationship where your emotional needs aren’t being met. Of course, this type of advice sounds great to the person who is hurting and has perhaps endured years of mistreatment and neglect. After all, don’t we all deserve to be happy and to not have to live in an environment where we find ourselves anxious, on edge, and unfulfilled? Biblically speaking, the answer is, no. In truth, what each of us deserves is an eternity in hell. Fortunately for us, because of the Father’s mercy and grace, we are promised an eternity with Him in glory, if we put our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let this truth sink in and penetrate your soul the next time your heart turns and begins to long for what friends, family and those without a godly perspective say you deserve.
If you are in this stand for the long haul, let this new year mark the starting point for a renewed and strengthened resolve that will reject worldly counsel, and instead cling to the cross of Christ and his promise of hope and fulfillment. Your prodigal needs you now more than ever. It could very well be that God has the enemy on the ropes. Do you have the endurance required to finish the fight and end the battle? Are you going to give up on your spouse, your children and perhaps future generations because you are tired and weary? Purpose now to stand strong and believe in your heart that God is not done with you or your marriage. 2020 could very well be the year God has ordained for restoration to occur!
For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?Isaiah 4:27
For so many standers, there are times when we start believing the lies of the enemy and begin to waiver in our confidence that the Lord will restore our marriages. We witness our circumstances changing from bad to worse on a daily basis and see the hearts of our prodigal spouses growing harder and harder. For some, the situations are compounded due to the fact that we have failed to exercise restraint and grace while interacting with our husbands and wives. While these events certainly don’t serve to help matters, they are in no way to be seen as a “deal breaker” as it concerns God and His designs for restoration.
I remember a specific event during the course of our separation that for a time, caused me to believe I had ruined my chances for a restored marriage. The memory remains quite vivid in my mind. The specifics won’t be shared here, but in short, I had violated one of the boundaries Amy put in place for me regarding how and when personal interactions would occur. While the motive for my actions were not wrong or sinful, it was nonetheless a misguided move on my part. After the event, I retreated to the place where I was staying and completely broke down, feeling as though all hope had become lost. I fell on my knees and wept uncontrollably thinking that this time I had really done it. I was convinced Amy would never trust me again and there was absolutely nothing that could change things.
In a moment of desperation, I reached out to my pastor who had been counseling me at the time. I tearfully shared what had happened. In a kind and loving way, he responded to my emotionally charged ramblings by assuring me that I didn’t have the power to change God’s will. There was nothing I could do to stop the Lord from achieving what He desired. Hearing this was both comforting and reassuring. I eventually took this truth to heart and gained the correct perspective as it related to the power of myself, versus the power of Almighty God.
When you think about it, the notion that we can blow it, really does seem silly. The One who spoke the world into existence cannot be prevented from bringing about His will. Even if our efforts to thwart God’s plans are intentional, they will ultimately fail. We cannot stop God from accomplishing what He has purposed to do.
It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens. When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain, and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses.Jeremiah 10:12-13
It’s not possible for us to control every situation. Even if our motivations and intent are godly and pure, sometimes conflict is unavoidable. This is most certainly the case when dealing with a prodigal spouse who is running from the Lord and looking for every conceivable way to accuse, blame, and mischaracterize our words and actions. I know in those heated moments it becomes so difficult to hold our tongues, but putting on the whole armor of God will serve to protect us from ourselves. With that said, it is of great comfort to know that even if we falter and react with our flesh rather than spirit, God is still faithful to overcome and compensate for our weaknesses and constant missteps.
If you are experiencing regret, and perhaps even hopelessness right now because of things you have said or done that you feel is jeopardizing your chances for restoration, do not be disheartened. Our God is loving, forgiving, compassionate and long suffering. He knows our weaknesses. He also understands the emotions and inner conflict we face in the heat of battle. There is no part of our identity or existence that escapes Him, and He generously extends His grace to us from a well that never runs dry. May we take comfort in this as our hearts and minds become conformed to His will.