Our lives are often viewed with the wrong perspective. We dwell on the things we don’t have instead of being grateful for the things given to us. Looking back in Genesis, Adam and Eve did the same thing. They fixated on the tree’s fruit they could not eat paying no attention to the bountiful forest right in front of them. The serpent easily persuaded them because they began to doubt God’s promises for their lives and lost perspective.
How often does this happen in our marriages? Something or someone captures our attention and we get easily distracted. We look to our friends and family to see what they have and where we may be lacking. Maybe we even get caught up in the world of social media and start playing the comparison game in our hearts and minds. Before we know it, we are coveting our neighbors and wishing for a life other than our own.
This may destroy more marriages quicker than anything else. When doubting God’s goodness, it is likely we have raised our problems as our highest reality rather than God’s Word. In such cases, a change of perspective is needed so we may view our problems through the lens of scripture. We need to be mindful that Satan still uses the same tactics he used with Adam and Eve, he just repackages the lie and delivers it by a different messenger.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Psalms 34:8
Dear friend, Don’t believe the lie that God’s goodness applies to everyone but you! Today I want to encourage you to believe in God’s goodness and trust He has His loving arms wrapped around you. In your time of trouble, don’t hide like Adam and Eve, but run to our Heavenly Father with open arms. If you are in a season of waiting, be patient and take refuge in Him knowing and expecting God to deliver on all of the promises He has for you. Chances are without the troubles, you may not come to fully appreciate the promises He has given.
Suffering while standing for the cause of oneness and reconciliation is a heavy burden to bear. The emotional toll taken on those willingly turning the other cheek and extending grace in the face of constant rejection, ridicule and hostility inevitably results in a painful existence where moments of peace and happiness are few and far between. When thinking about our own suffering and the challenges faced on a near daily basis, one should consider the role of suffering as it fits into God’s plan, and how this is ultimately used to bring glory to the Lord and to His kingdom.
A perfect example of someone who suffered greatly in life for the express purpose of God being glorified comes from a familiar passage in Scripture. In John 9, we read the story of Jesus healing the man born blind. Before Jesus performs His miracle, the disciples asked Him why the man was in that condition. They wrongly assumed it was a direct result of something either the man or his parents did. Jesus’ response was shocking.
It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
You may be wondering why you are continually suffering for the sake of a spouse who has checked out or expressed a desire to completely leave you and your marriage. If you find yourself in this position, it’s possible your stand and time remaining faithful to an unfaithful spouse has been going on for years. But consider the man Jesus healed. His entire life up to that point had been defined by suffering, hardship and a longing to be made whole. His blindness was placed upon him for one reason; the glorification of God Himself. One might ask if it was fair this man had to endure a life of suffering so at that very moment Jesus could be given glory. You may be asking the same thing about your stand, but keep in mind this man was singled out and chosen by God for the express purpose of growing His kingdom. Many who witnessed this miracle were amazed by God’s power and believed in Jesus from that point on. Long after the healed man passed from this life into the next, his story and the role he played in God’s plan to glorify himself lives on and is a testimony of Christ’s enduring compassion, mercy and power to transform and heal.
When you are faithfully standing for your marriage and honoring the vows made on your wedding day, you are honoring the Lord. The testimony of the power living within that has sustained you up to this point is a witness to the One making it all possible. It may be difficult to understand the why’s and how’s of this tribulation you are going through, but when you examine it in the context of Christ’s glorification, the picture becomes much clearer.
Dear friends, we understand the suffering you face is very real and the normalcy of everyday struggles and challenges taking place right now would likely not be missed if God was to suddenly remove them. But during this season in the valley, ask the Lord to help you better understand why it is you are going through what you are. When others around you witness your stand and commitment in the face of strong adversity, they can’t help at some point to be amazed at the displayed level of dedication as they wonder where it came from. When this occurs, don’t hesitate for one moment to reveal the source. And think of the reactions that will occur when restoration finally happens. God’s glory will be magnified exponentially! Until that time, remain faithful to the Word of God and purpose in your heart and mind to stand for Him and for His glory alone.
The twelve disciples were taught by the greatest teacher and leader who walked the earth. When Jesus called them to drop everything and set out on mission with Him, I’m not sure they knew just how extraordinary of an adventure it would be. It was met with miracles, healings and teachings that defied logic. They knew Jesus was the Son of God, and were witnesses to the mighty power He possessed. Yet, in the end, Matthew 26:56 tells us the disciples left Him and fled. Peter with deep aggravation and profane cursing denied Christ three times and Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.
Jesus personally suffered through a tremendous amount of pain and experienced devastating grief. The betrayal by those He walked with side by side and was closest to was no surprise to Him. And, this is where we see the beauty of Christ’s character. Jesus knew they would turn their backs on Him, but still chose to devote His life to teaching them and poured out His love into their lives daily.
But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples left him and fled. Matthew 26:56
Dear friend, in your marriage circumstances, you may be suffering from an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. This Easter, take time to reflect on the hope of the Cross and the ultimate demonstration of restoration the world has ever known.
During the painful and lonely days of standing for my marriage, there were times when I felt I couldn’t go on another day. The heartache of knowing my wife had left the marriage and the strained relationship that now existed between my children and I were oftentimes too burdensome to bare. It was during these times I poured my energies into writing personal journal entries. As I reflect back on the writings, so much of it could be described as me simply voicing my thoughts and feelings to God. I would ask questions of the Lord and wondered if He was even hearing me. From the standpoint of being able to release the pain and vocalize the suffering I was experiencing inwardly, these writing exercises proved to be quite therapeutic and emotionally beneficial. The most comforting moments came when the Holy Spirit would remind me of His promises as He directed my heart back towards the Word and His eternal message of hope.
The following is from a journal entry of mine dated July 13, 2016. I submit it here to serve as an example of the hurt and emptiness I was experiencing that the Lord, in His faithfulness, eventually delivered me through.
It has been a week now since I’ve seen the boys and Amy. And while I did go to the house yesterday to drop off a meal, I didn’t see anyone. Since they returned, Amy hasn’t initiated any contact. I feel abandoned, isolated and completely forsaken. Lord, I call upon you now. Be my all in all. May I depend solely on You. Bring me to a deeper understanding of your love. Help me to know and love You more. All I have is in You. Hear my cries oh Lord. Do not cast me aside and forsake me. Father, I seek your will. To lead, love and serve like a Christian husband and father should. I overhear conversations from the lost world as they speak of divorce, visitation rights, and child support. It’s wicked. You do not will these things in our lives. How long will Amy hold onto anger and unforgiveness against me? Lord, touch her heart. Right now it is like stone. Only You can change this. Help me Lord. I hurt all day and night.
Casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
There were many times I did not feel cared for, valued or loved. When I found myself in those circumstances, it was usually the result of a negative interaction between my spouse and myself. Too often, instead of going to the Lord and spending time in His Word, I would dwell on the things that were said or done and retreat to a place that existed in my mind where the reality of my suffering took center stage. Thankfully, even in those moments, the Holy Spirit was there to constantly remind me of the 24/7 access to His promises and assurances ever present in His Holy Word. When I made the conscious decision to stop thinking about my circumstances and focus instead on the blessings I’d already been given, as well as the hope I had in Christ, the sooner my outlook, perspective and emotional mood changed.
As I began to regularly journal, the Lord would oftentimes guide me past the pain as the words would flow from my pen. The more I wrote and released the inner suffering, the more I sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit as I felt the weight of my burden being lightened as He took the yolk upon Himself. What a Savior we serve! Not only is He the Wonderful Counselor, but He is a real friend and encouragement when we need Him the most. Standers, as you suffer for the sake of Christ, remember that He is always right there beside you. He desires to hear and listen to you. Whether you reach out to Him through handwritten entries in your journal or speak to Him in times of prayer, I encourage you to fully give your burden over to Jesus. He is the only one able to sufficiently minister to your heart and mind during these times of trial and tribulation. In Him there is hope and rest!
In today’s podcast, we walk you through the stander and the prodigal’s point of view when divorce becomes a reality and speak about what it’s like to get served divorce papers. Check out Ep. 2 from Purposed Marriage!
As a biblical counselor, I consider it a great honor to serve and walk alongside individuals that are struggling to find their footing. It wasn’t long ago that I myself was striving. I had lost sight of the cross and was lured in by the enemy who planted doubt and confusion in my mind specifically related to events from my past. (Remind you of Genesis 3 by chance?) I had allowed Satan a foothold into my life and he cleverly twisted my thoughts and skewed my view on reality.
I eventually gave in to the enemy’s temptation and started running in the opposite direction from the Lord and from my husband. I had communicated to Tommy that I had forgiven him, however, I neglected to connect the dots between forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation. Instead of accepting his sincere apology and addressing our marital issues, I paved the road to divorce with bitterness in my heart and wrath on my lips. My words were damaging and were intended to bring about vengeance. Reminding Tommy of his past failures was motivated by my desire to elicit sympathy for myself and inflict pain on him. I felt completely justified in my actions because my heart had grown hardened towards him and I felt he deserved harsh punishment for the way he had treated me over the past 10 years.
As I reflect back, I’m so thankful Tommy was receiving sound biblical advice. Several godly men directed him to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and disregard mine. He was not bound by my words because the soft whispers of the Spirit drowned out all the accusations I hurled at him. With time, I realized my words were no longer effecting Tommy or his stand for our marriage. I could have attempted to use other weapons in my arsenal, but thankfully God’s plan and pursuit of my heart came to fruition and the veil was lifted from my eyes. With clear vision, there was nothing left to do but turn to the Lord and address my past biblically.
But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:16-18
Did you hear that dear friends? Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is FREEDOM! Aren’t those sweet words that we need to hear and be reminded of time and time again? We are not hopeless victims that can never recover from our past. We have the power of the Holy Spirit working in us to set us free and break the chains. Behind our bondage and every bad habit or behavior is a lie. When we speak falsehoods to ourselves and play untrue thoughts frequently, we convince ourselves that they are true. Commit your mind to the Lord so the lies can be eradicated and the Spirit can do a powerful work in your life. Christ made a way for us to find freedom from our past, in Him and through Him by His death on the cross.
Tommy and I are excited to introduce a new feature to you all that we are calling Conversations. Over the past year, we found ourselves discussing everyday life as well as ministry opportunities while sitting on our front porch sipping coffee. These personal conversations led us to the decision to record our discussions in order to give you a deeper understanding of topics from both the “stander” as well as the “prodigal’s” point of view. We also believe these talks will bring the authenticity we desire for Purposed Marriage since they are unscripted and won’t be edited or need to be rewritten like some of our blog posts. We hope you are encouraged by this new media outlet and we look forward to producing more in the near future. You can find us on iTunes, TuneIn Radio, or directly through Soundcloud.
Everyone has an opinion these days, nowhere is this more evident than on social media. It doesn’t take long for a heated debate to flare up in the comments section. But, what good does it do to argue with strangers online? Often it is more about shaming or proving a point than it is about showing concern or understanding those with opposing views. The fact is that we won’t win people over by arguing with them.
This same lesson can be applied to our prodigal spouses. We can’t persuade them to see the folly of their ways by pointing out all of their “obvious” missteps. If our loved ones constantly hear us shaming them, they will withdraw and push us further away. Any progress on the path to restoration may be delayed simply because we have not learned to fully trust God during the standing process.
It isn’t our place to shame our prodigal for their bad behavior no matter how tempting it may be. Only the Holy Spirit can bring about conviction to the heart of our beloveds. This truth should be a blessing as it relieves us from this burden. That’s not to say as though we can’t do anything to influence or change our spouses’ direction. There are ways our words and actions can play a role in fostering conviction, but it must be done in obedience to God’s prompting and with great humility and love.
During our pause, Tommy realized early on that he couldn’t guilt me into repentance. (Furthermore, his efforts would have been counterproductive given my heart condition.) Instead, he used God’s Word as his guide and modeled his actions after the father in the parable of the the lost son (Luke 15:11-32). In this example in scripture, the father does not send his servants to track down the prodigal son. Nor does he question or lecture him; but rather, he patiently waits and eagerly watches for his son’s return. Although I know Tommy was frustrated by my selfish and rebellious behavior, it was the loving way he demonstrated grace and mercy that captured my attention. Our journey to reconciliation was arduous at times, but it was only accomplished through patience, humility, sacrifice and forgiveness.
May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you. Psalms 25:21
Dear friend, if you have found yourself in a place where you are constantly confronting your prodigal, remind yourself that shaming won’t bring about the transformational change you desire to see in your spouse. It can be difficult accepting the fact that all you can do is pray for your loved one and wait on God’s perfect timing, but if the Father has called you to stand for your marriage, those should be your priorities. We often resort to shaming when we neglect the truth that it is God alone that has the power to realign hearts and heal relationships.
For the Lord Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back? Isaiah 14:27
While the Lord has appointed rulers, judges and political administrations to govern over the affairs of men, there is a limit to their authority. Decrees, verdicts and judgments handed out by those in power carry with them an aura of finality and settledness. Indeed, when the words of a judge are spoken, the trajectory a person’s life path is forever altered. That is, unless a higher authority intervenes.
The more we read Scripture and better equipped we become to understand the power and sovereignty of the Father, the greater perspective we have on events that happen here on this earth and in our own lives. As a stander for my marriage, even when the divorce decree was handed down that “dissolved” my marriage, my conviction to live faithfully to the covenant bride the Lord joined me together with, remained steadfast and unwavering. It wasn’t a matter of not recognizing the authority of the judge who issued the decree. Rather, it was the knowledge of a “higher” authority that kept me on the straight and narrow and obedient to the vows and covenant that was made over ten years earlier. I give thanks to God for equipping me, through His grace, to press on and stay the course. It was not easy.
Recently, I had a phone conversation with a stander living in another part of the state. Prior to this specific talk, I had sensed a weariness and sadness in his spirit as the court date for his divorce drew near. By this time, there was literally nothing my friend could have done to delay the proceedings or to persuade his prodigal wife to abandon her plans. Despite this, my friend continued to pray and believe in faith that the Lord was working.
As the days continued, the weekend before the trial had arrived. My friend decided to go through his mail and catchup on matters that needed attention. Low and behold, in that stack of letters was a notification informing him the court date had to be moved due to an “emergency case” his wife’s attorney couldn’t avoid. As a result, he would not be divorced on the day the judge had declared. This dramatic change of events resulted in a marriage that remains intact and will so for the remainder of this year. Praise God! But what is so encouraging about this news was the fact that the judge had denied my friend’s request to delay the proceedings and was adamant the trial would occur on a specific date. In other words, “Your marriage will end on this date, and there is nothing you can do about it!” But God intervened! It didn’t matter this particular judge said the divorce would happen on a certain date. A more powerful judge decided it wouldn’t!
All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’ Daniel 4:35
While the above example is a great encouragement to standers and those praying for restoration, we must be careful to recognize that it is the power of God which thwarts the intentions of man and that we are held to account for our submission to authority while in this world. Consider the Old Testament story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace. They were sentenced to a horrific death by King Nebuchadnezzar, yet despite this, these faithful servants of the Lord did not resist what was coming. If their circumstances were to change, it could only be done as a result of God’s supreme power and divine intervention. And indeed it was. God protected and saved the three Hebrew men resulting in glory being brought to Himself. God willed his faithful followers be subject to the demands of the wicked Babylonian king and in so doing, accomplished his ultimate purposes.
Our takeaway from this story is the challenge to remain faithful to God, while at the same time staying obedient to human authorities. We cannot prevent our prodigals from pursuing the path that ultimately leads to destruction. We can put up roadblocks and resist things we know to be sinful. Legally speaking, I did everything in my power to delay our divorce and postpone the inevitable. I understood though, that even if the divorce went through, God still was in control and Amy’s heart could be changed. As that dreadful day came and went, it became crystal clear that it was going to be the power of God alone and His authority that would overrule and restore a marriage an earthly judge had dissolved. And that’s exactly what happened in God’s perfect timing.
Dear friends, this time of year is very challenging for standers. It’s especially hard to remain positive and cheerful in the face of a troubled marriage headed down the wrong path. But be encouraged! If this season is a reminder of anything, it is that God is a big believer in restoration and reconciliation. In fact, the gift of His Son is exactly that; the ultimate sacrifice which reconciled a sinful people to a holy God.
May the Lord bless and encourage you this Christmas season!
I recently captured this image of Tommy and our boys and it instantly became a favorite. It reminds me of the old hymn penned by B.B. McKinney.
Wherever He leads I’ll go
Wherever He leads I’ll go
I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so
Wherever He leads I’ll go
He drew me closer to His side
I sought His will to know
And in that will I now abide
Wherever He leads I’ll go
I am so thankful we have a Heavenly Father that pursues us, who gently takes us by the hand and leads us to His side. Whatever you may be facing today dear friends, be encouraged and thankful knowing Christ is walking the path with you. May you and yours have a blessed Thanksgiving!
“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” Psalms 9:1
It was exactly two years ago that my and Tommy’s journey took a turn in the complete opposite direction in which it was headed. We were divorced, living in separate houses and sharing custody of our boys when a God-sized event woke me up to the reality of our situation. My mom, with whom I was very close, passed away unexpectedly. Just as unexpectedly, someone I viewed as an enemy became an unlikely hero. Losing a loved one can alter your perspective on life dramatically and God used my mom’s passing to show me what truly mattered in life: the value of love, commitment, and my covenant to God as well as to my husband.
For the first time since our separation, I wasn’t hostile towards Tommy, but rather I was accepting of his love. The walls around my heart began to crumble. It’s not that he was doing anything differently or loving me more than he had in the past, it was my perspective of his actions that had changed. I allowed him to take care of me and comfort me like no other human could. Only Tommy understood the hurt and pain the boys and I were enduring because he was there, bearing the burden with us. We all lost someone special in our lives that day, including my covenant husband.
I never saw the death of my beloved mother coming and I certainly hadn’t planned for what life would be like without her. But, God knew and had prepared my heart before it ever happened. He had also prepared Tommy’s heart by teaching him to patiently wait on the Lord. Tommy became a hero not because he possessed super powers or wore a cape, but because he had continually been obedient and listened to God’s prompting. He stood in the gap for nearly two years prior to this event waiting and looking to Heaven for the appointed time God had set aside for him. When that time came, Tommy stood up and stepped in to love me in a mighty way.
I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.
I’m so thankful when God looked for someone to stand in the gap for me, He saw Tommy. He interceded on my behalf and held me up so the enemy could not gain an advantage over me. Even in the difficult times, Tommy loved enough for both of us and believed God would work a miracle in our broken marriage. God used an unexpected event in my life to capture my attention and to lead me to repentance. He also used the death of my mother to restore me to Himself as well as restore me to the love of my life.
Dear friend, if you are standing in the gap for your loved one, I want to encourage you to continue your stand. You may be the only one fighting on your loved one’s behalf. Perhaps your God-sized event is just around the corner.
I’ve recently had conversations on a subject I wish I never had to address. Domestic violence makes my heart cringe because of the profound pain and severe damage it ensues. It’s terribly heartbreaking and difficult to discuss, but it can also be challenging because of the fear, stigma and misinformation that surrounds it.
There tends to be a prevailing notion that this is a male issue. However, domestic violence does not discriminate and is carried out by both males and females and plagues many families today. Studies have shown that in our home state of Tennessee, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by their partner.1 These numbers are alarming and even more so when we consider the numerous cases that go unreported every year. Although many of us may shy away from this sensitive subject, we need to address it with great care from a biblical perspective.
Perhaps part of the problem is an unawareness and a confusion of how to handle this issue. When engaged in discussion regarding domestic violence, I often hear the same two disconcerting narratives. One is the belief the abused must remain in the home, pray harder and trust God will take care of them. The other is to never return home because the abuser will always be an abuser.
Sending someone into harm’s way and advising them to “pray harder and trust God to take care them” is reckless and unwise counsel. Although there is an element of truth, we need to trust the sovereign care of the Lord, it ignores other biblical commands such as Psalms 82:4 and Proverbs 24:11. “Rescue the weak and needy, deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.” As Christians, we have a responsibility to rescue our brothers and sisters especially when they are vulnerable and weary in spirit.
While we should be diligent in not placing someone in an unsafe situation, we should also be interested in their pursuit of reconciliation in their relationship (2 Cor. 13:11). Scripture proves time and time again the Holy Spirit is fully capable of changing hearts and lives no matter how detestable the sins of someone’s past. There is ample evidence in the life of Saul who later became the Apostle Paul. God also changed the hearts of Moses, Rahab, and Zacchaeus as well as a multitude of others. We should never limit the transforming power of the Holy Spirit by believing some people are incapable of change.
If there are indicators of godly sorrow: earnestness, vindication, indignation, fear, longing, zeal, avenging of wrong, innocence in the matter (2 Cor. 7:11), that’s a good sign to carefully move towards restoration. A heartfelt conviction and a deep sadness as a result of the sins that were committed demonstrates a repentant heart.
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
2 Corinthians 7:10
On the other hand, if someone has been violent and remains unrepentant, we need to recognize this as a serious problem. When a violator shows no remorse, often times there needs to be a season of separation. This will allow the abuser to work on restoring their relationship with God as well as establish trust with the person they abused. At any time, if there is a sense of danger, or we become aware of someone in danger, we need to involve law enforcement. When violence occurs, not only is it a sin against God and the abused, it is also a crime against the state and needs to be dealt with by the proper authorities.
Dear friend, if you are suffering the painful effects of domestic violence or know someone who is, please do not be afraid to speak up and ask for help. Abuse is abhorrent in the eyes of God because it opposes the very nature of His character. His plan for relationships, particularly those among family, is meant to be a beautiful depiction of God’s love for us. Our desire should mimic the Lord’s desire which is for those involved in domestic abuse to seek healing and full restoration by both the abuser and the abused.
Roughly six months into my marriage stand I found myself desperately trying to affect positive change in Amy’s heart in order to discourage her pursuit of divorce. Often inviting her to spend time with the boys and myself, I had grown used to the excuses for not coming. In one sense, I was in a helpless state. I had no control over whether or not my situation would change but at the end of the day, I didn’t want to look back at my actions and regret failing to act when given the opportunity. Opportunities to show love and kindness were few and far between in those days, so each time one presented itself, it needed to be seized upon.
One particular occasion where the Lord spoke to my spirit comes to mind that is worth sharing. It was a late afternoon on a clear, fall Saturday. I had been given the boys for the weekend and was looking for things to do that could potentially be done by the entire family if Amy agreed to join us. We had purchased a couple kites for the boys and with the day being on the windy side, I thought it a good chance for us to put the kites to the test. I sent Amy a message inviting her to come but as was normally the case, she wasn’t interested. Despite this, I determined to make the occasion one that our boys would enjoy.
I drove us up to a local dam where I had frequently come to fish in the past. There were grassy fields near the banks on both sides of the water that were ideal for kids to play on. We got out the kites and before long they were up in the air flying high in the sky. My oldest son took to it rather quickly, so it wasn’t long after we began that I let him fly the kite by himself. During this time, I stayed busy with the other boys who became more interested in looking for bugs and other treasures than flying kites. Several minutes later I observed Micah getting his kite caught in a nearby tree. Naturally, I came over to assist. I pulled and tugged in every possible direction but it was no use. The kite simply was not coming down. I consoled my son and explained that sometimes things like that happened. It wasn’t his fault and there was really nothing we could do about it.
By that time, the other boys were ready to leave so I started the process of gathering things up and putting the little boys in their car seats. I then opened my door, got in and started the engine. Just before taking the car out of park, I looked up in the air. I noticed the kite Micah had gotten stuck in the tree had become loose and was floating towards us. I continued to watch as it landed right next to the vehicle. I opened the car door, and there it was, laying within arm’s reach.
That people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things. Isaiah 45:6-7
At that moment I was reminded of God’s sovereignty and the fact He was able to accomplish what I was unable to under my own power and strength. This timely lesson served to reorient my perspective and move me away from patterns of thinking that led to anxiety and self focus. The kite became a metaphor which represented my troubled marriage. Fought as I could to restore it, I realized the work had to be done by Almighty God who was far more able to accomplish what needed to be done.
While it’s easy to be discouraged when the efforts to reach our prodigal spouse fall flat and sometimes even result in more pain and further division, you must know that at any time, God has the power and authority to free your husband or wife from the clutches of the enemy. Do not grow weary in showing kindness and love when given the chance. Continue to extend grace and humility at every opportunity. Know and believe that God, in his perfect timing, will reward those who diligently seek him. The “kite” that may represent your marriage right now is not destined to remain stuck in a tree. As long as God is sovereign (and He always will be), there is hope that restoration and healing will one day be headed your way!
The authenticity of your marriage stand if not 100% genuine, will be evident to your prodigal. If your motivation for wanting reconciliation does not come from a heart that is fully devoted to God and keeping His covenant, chances are your running spouse will continue to run. The most effective way to gain your loved one’s attention is to live out your devotion to the Lord in an active pursuit of holiness. Nothing will speak to your prodigal in a more profound manner than when you remain malleable and cooperate with the Holy Spirit to bring about transformation in your life.
As you grow more deeply connected to Christ, your pursuit can’t help but be demonstrated by modeling a love for your prodigal they have never seen before through acts of kindness and service. God can use your marriage stand to tear down the walls that have been erected no matter the heights. But, your desire for an intimate relationship with Him must precede your desire for reconciliation. When it does, your prodigal will take notice. Unfortunately, this does not mean your loved one will take action immediately. It may take weeks, months or even years.
God softened Tommy’s heart rather quickly into his stand. Shortly after our separation he began biblical counseling and addressing some deep issues that plagued our marriage. As he was seeking help, and attempting to explain the transformation God was performing in his heart and life, I cast it off as excuses. After ten years of hearing the same promise for change, I was no longer interested in seeing if he was sincere in his claims. Even though he owned his faults and was taking responsibility for his actions, I was incapable of witnessing any true changes because I had grown calloused.
There was a much needed growth process for both of us and God had some refining work to do in our lives before we were to be reconciled. Over time, as Tommy matured in his faith, he developed a deeper understanding of how to better love me. When I recognized his walk with the Lord was authentic and his genuine love for me was a reflection of His love for Christ, I was compelled by the Holy Spirit to be more receptive to his true motivations.
Tommy showed me what he valued by how he invested his time. During his nearly two year stand, he made it clear that his covenant to God was the first priority and his covenant to me was second. I’m so grateful he did not give up on our marriage and allowed the light of Christ to shine through him so brightly that everyone took notice, eventually even me. Although I will never fully understand because I did not walk in Tommy’s shoes, now that we have been reunited, I can comprehend how painstakingly difficult it was for him to endure the heartache he suffered for the sake of our covenant. We could not reach restoration until our hearts had been healed and transformed.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Dear friend, there is a purpose and a design for what is happening in your life. As God disciplines, teaches and corrects you, trust Him through the process. How amazing will it be to look back one day and see how God used the darkest hours of your stand to shine light into the hardened heart of your loved one? Be strong and take courage.
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30
Perhaps the greatest struggle of the stander is to balance our pursuit of holiness alongside the desire to see our marriages restored. While reconciliation and restoration are Biblical and fall in line with God’s plan and purpose for believers, we must be careful not to elevate our intense desire for oneness with our covenant spouse over our love and devotion to the Father.
In the early stages of my separation from Amy, I was consumed with doing whatever it took to restore our marriage. To say I was obsessed with restoration was an understatement. I can readily admit there not being a waking moment when my mind was not focussed on finding the one thing that would reunite my wife and I. In my efforts, I recall writing letters, buying her gifts, offering to run errands, and a host of other sincere, heartfelt actions. While all of these may have seemed worthwhile and good at the time, they only served to further harden her spirit. They were having the complete opposite effect of what I felt they should. The fact was, her heart wasn’t ready for restoration. All truth be told, neither was mine.
As the weeks and months continued, our relationship progressively deteriorated. During this time, I became convicted of the fact that I had been guilty of placing my desire for restoration above my desire to be fully submitted to Christ. It wasn’t easy to admit. As I reflected on my spent time and energies, the more I couldn’t ignore the fact that I had unwittingly elevated my covenant spouse to a position she had no business holding. It may seem a bit strange to consider the desire for a reconciled marriage as sin, but what I suggest is that it wasn’t the godly desire was wrong; it was that the godly desire was misplaced.
…for I the Lord your God am a jealous God. Exodus 34:14
Are you spending all your time worried and fretting about the condition of your marriage? Is the sum total of your energies devoted to restoration outweighing the time that should be spent in developing a closer relationship with Christ? When we place anything above our love for God and the desire to serve him, that “thing” becomes an idol. An idol can be represented by anything that stands before us and our Lord.
It is entirely possible that in your stand, you may be guilty of doing what we’ve shared here. Full and complete submission to God doesn’t means you abandon your prodigal. We are not suggesting this. What we do advocate for however, is a reordering of our priorities if we are to remain fully committed to holiness. Practically speaking, this could mean that you become more involved in local ministries at your church serving others. Or perhaps you spend more time in prayer; time that may have otherwise been devoted to figuring out ways to reach your spouse.
Make no mistake, Christ is honored in our stands. It brings glory to the Lord when we remain bold in the face of adversity and refuse to walk away from our covenant commitment. Just be mindful that your collective efforts for restoration aren’t detracting with what should be a close, intimate and intentional relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 1 Peter 3:9
Roughly one and a half years into my marriage stand, the Lord was still calling me to reach out with kindness and love to Amy. I had grown used to not seeing any positive signs of restoration resulting from my obedience, but understood reciprocal gestures should never be expected when acting from an authentic and loving spirit. Getting to the point where there was an acceptance of this was a journey in and of itself. Many painful roads had to be travelled and there was no assurance of our situation getting any easier.
In my conversations with Amy now, we often reflect back on the days when we both lived in darkness and dwelled in the “valley”. The dialog has been both meaningful and enlightening as it has afforded me keen insights into the mind and thinking of a prodigal determined to follow the path of destruction. In those days, I would seriously wonder whether anything I was saying or doing was having an impact on Amy. I would write questions down in my journal and frequently brought them before the Lord when engaged in prayer. While the answers I was seeking continually alluded me, there was a clear directive that wasn’t. This admonition called for continued obedience and perseverance regardless of how emotionally painful my efforts would become.
One such occasion stands out. I recall it now because since then, Amy has shared how impactful it was, although at the time it didn’t seem that way to me. Our first born son Micah was getting ready to turn 8 and Amy had planned a birthday for him at a local restaurant. She had invited her parents and a couple friends. I became aware of the upcoming event and learned where and when it would be. I explained how I wanted to be there but because of my job schedule at the time, it would have been impossible to attend. I found out later it was intentionally planned that way so Amy could make it appear as though I was welcome to come, even though I wasn’t. This gave the illusion of good intentions but the reality was the complete opposite.
As the days drew near, I grew increasingly upset that I wouldn’t be able to partake in the celebration. It was very discouraging because there seemed little I could do. Amy and I had been divorced and I had no legal right to be with my family on this day as far as the courts were concerned. When I took this dilemma to the Lord, I received a very clear impression to do something sacrificial. I was to pay for the celebration and not concern myself over not being present. I remember the urging being plain as day. This is was I was to do, and no questions asked. So I did. Yes, it hurt and it seemed very unfair from my perspective, but what I didn’t realize at the time was that this act was essentially a seed that would one day bare fruit.
In our conversations since then, Amy has shared how she and her parents were really taken back by this act of humility. It served to further reinforce my genuine commitment to servant leadership and sacrifice. Amy understood that it was only a heart that had been changed by the Lord that would voluntarily offer to do what had been done without the expectation of anything in return. I give the credit all to Christ for empowering and strengthening me to complete that specific task. It wasn’t easy at the time, but it was a lesson in obedience, with an end result that aided in the restoration process.
You may be in a situation that seems hopeless. You may find yourself in the same predicament I did years ago; helpless and powerless to affect any positive change in your relationship with your spouse. If so, I want to encourage you to find ways to demonstrate sacrificial love even if it’s difficult. Christ extended unconditional love to us while we were dead in sins. Even while we were rebelling and running away from His will, there He was extending grace and mercy to undeserving sinners. Your prodigal spouse, no matter how wrong their actions have been and perhaps continue to be, needs the same Christ-like love demonstrated for the sake of their eternal destiny. May the Lord equip and sustain you as you follow this path of obedience.
During our pause, when Tommy was actively pursuing restoration, one thing he often reminded me was our marriage would never be the same. What he meant was our marriage could be so much more than I ever imagined. It would never go back to being the loveless marriage that lacked passion as it did in previous years. If we reconciled, we wouldn’t be two strangers merely coexisting in a shared space. Tommy assured me His heart had been transformed and he longed for the same oneness I desired. He spoke about loving me and serving as the dedicated leader, protector and provider our family needed.
It took a while before I listened, and even longer to trust him and recognize the sincerity of his claims. I knew he meant what he said because it wasn’t a rehearsed speech, rather, it was detailed and heartfelt. I could hear the emotions in the tone of his voice as he talked about our future together. When he addressed the subject of reconciliation, it was never discussed with selfish motives or intent. It was always approached from a perspective that sought to love and serve me. Tommy believed we could have the beautiful, loving relationship God intended, and the more passionate he was, the more I started believing in his vision.
Admittedly, I did not welcome his ideas at first. But, God used Tommy’s foresight and persistence to chip away my hardened heart and I began envisioning a second chance for our marriage. He prayed fervently for me, constantly seeking to stay attuned to the voice of the Holy Spirit and would only talk about our future together when he felt prompted. He asked God to soften my heart and looked for opportunities to share especially when he knew I had an openness and willingness to listen.
I needed to hear Tommy wanted to start afresh, with no desire to return to the marriage in the state we left it. At the time, I did not think it was possible to rekindle our relationship because it was seemingly dead. But, Praise the Lord, God’s thoughts are not my thoughts nor are His ways my ways.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9
Our gracious Heavenly Father exceeded every expectation I had for my marriage. When God restored our relationship, He gave Tommy and I a double portion of love for one another and ignited a passion in us that I didn’t know could exist. Every trait I desired in a husband was fulfilled in Tommy because his attributes were lining up with those of Christ.
When I was fully immersed in my sin, I looked at Tommy with contempt and ambivalence. Thankfully, Tommy had an army of warriors praying for me and my attempts to ignore the Holy Spirit were weakened due to their prayers on my behalf. I was convicted and soon the strongholds in my life were no longer holding me captive. The veil was lifted from my eyes and I saw Tommy as the changed man he had become, as well as the soulmate I had always desired.
Dear friends, I cannot express the importance of praying for your partner and building a network of prayer warriors to intercede on their behalf. You may find yourself in the same situation we were in years ago when all hope seemed lost in reviving our relationship. I want to encourage you to pray for your loved one and stay attuned the the Holy Spirit’s prompting. When you feel led, share a few details of how God has changed your heart–talk about what life could be like in the future. Of course, you don’t want to overwhelm your loved one, but little reminders of a bright, new future may inspire your partner to start envisioning life with you instead of without you. Never underestimate the power of prayer. Even when things look hopeless, the good news is, our ways are not God’s ways. His ways are higher so let’s leave the big tasks in the hands of our mighty Father.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3–5
For standers (those seeking marriage restoration), one of the most difficult things to deal with and work through is the pain inflicted upon us by those taken captive by the enemy. Our spouse’s hurtful words and actions born out of anger, bitterness, and resentment have the power to put us in precarious and vulnerable emotional and mental states. Compounding the problem is the fact that while enduring the pain, we are filled with disbelief and confusion, as we attempt to reconcile how someone with whom we are joined in a marriage covenant can openly attack and wish us harm.
Leading up to our divorce, there were times I looked into Amy’s eyes and didn’t recognize her. It was a though the woman I married had been replaced by someone I had never known. My words of love and sacrificial acts of service were often laughed at, ignored and in some cases, openly mocked. I can’t express how painful this was. Those fighting for their marriage and dealing with a spouse hell bent on breaking their covenant, can attest to how vicious and cruel these same words and deeds can be. However, when you consider our prodigal spouses are willingly pursuing what God hates, we shouldn’t be surprised that the manner in which they chase after this evil plan will be marked by callousness, insensitivity, and anger. To put it another way, we should expect to be persecuted for our stand.
So what then are we to make of this? What are we to do when we are wrongfully attacked, accused and threatened? The Scriptures are not silent. In fact, there is much God’s word has to say about suffering; especially suffering for the sake of Christ.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 1 Peter 4:12–14
Throughout my painful stand, the Holy Spirit continued to impress upon my heart to persevere and endure the refining fires I was called to walk through. I was being allowed to suffer so as to cause genuine spiritual growth in my own heart and life. The more I understood this, the more I became aware of the suffering Christ endured on my behalf. The love, mercy and grace poured out upon each of us by God, should instill in us an even deeper commitment and resolve to pursue our spouses in their darkened spiritual condition.
Pastor Tim Keller has said, “Jesus Christ did not suffer so that you would not suffer. He suffered so that when you suffer, you’ll become more like him. The gospel does not promise you better life circumstances; it promises you a better life.” How true these words are!
Your suffering now is for a reason. It is also for a season. You don’t need to know how long you must endure or when the pain will be lessened. Rather, you need to be aware that the Lord seeks to draw you closer and to transform your identity into one that mirrors the sacrificial and loving example Christ Jesus set for us. It is when our own hearts become broken and made humble before the Lord that true and meaningful growth is poised to take root.
Standers, continue to allow the Lord to transform you during this time of fiery trials. Hold fast to His Word and promises. Know that one day, you will be rewarded for your faithfulness and devotion to Him. And as you suffer for the sake of the Gospel, know that Christ shares in your suffering with and alongside you.
When defending my decision to divorce, one of the phrases I used often was, “The Bible is full of areas of grey.” It’s also a phrase I’ve heard others use since starting our marriage ministry. For me, it was a tactic to divert the attention away from myself and onto Tommy. I ascribed greyness in my pursuit of divorce, at the same time condemning Tommy for his past failures and defining them as black and white.
It was also a convenient way to shut down the conversation before it ever began, so I wouldn’t have to face the fact that I hadn’t done everything possible to make my marriage work. During our pause, I refused to attend Biblical couples counseling, neglected to talk with any pastors or church staff members, nor was I willing to allow God to help me forgive Tommy, although he was desperately seeking my forgiveness. I’ve found the majority of people that bring up areas of grey are those looking for loopholes in Scripture. Those wanting to justify their sin or provide a less guilty conscience for themselves tout the Bible as being foggy.
Reality was Tommy had been humbly broken before the Lord, submitting to the Holy Spirit and changed from the inside out. Although I saw clear evidence of God leading his life in the direction of holiness, I felt it was my right to condemn his sinful actions from the past. But, I had forgotten Romans 8:1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.” Instead of trying to guilt and shame my husband for his past behavior, I should have been seeking God and asking for His help to bring about reconciliation in my marriage.
Although I claimed to have forgiven Tommy, it was clear I had not by continually condemning him and bringing up his past transgressions . Forgiveness in my eyes meant saying a string of words (I forgive you), then proceeding with divorce. It looked like having a stranger knock on his apartment door unexpectedly to hand him a manila envelope followed by one simple phrase, “you have been served.” It was my push for divorce that left Tommy desperately heartbroken and confused at his front door that day trying to figure out how he could walk back inside and pretend like everything was okay in front of our boys.
Is that what forgiveness looks like to you? Is that the representation of Christ’s forgiveness in Scripture? True forgiveness was Jesus taking the sin of the world upon His shoulders, being beaten, bloody and bruised while hanging on the cross with a spear-pierced side and nail-pierced hands and feet. Forgiveness was Jesus crying out to the father in Heaven, “forgive them for they know not what they do,” as the soldiers cast lots to divide His garments at the foot of the cross. Forgiveness was Christ looking over to the thief hanging beside Him just before He took his last breath, assuring him, “today you shall be with me in paradise.” It’s about giving a second, a third and a fourth chance. It’s not seven times, but seventy times seven repeatedly forgiving the sinner that has sincerely asked for forgiveness.
How could I reconcile a decision that honors God when He makes it very clear that he hates divorce? I couldn’t because the Bible is in fact very black and white. It is true, the Bible doesn’t address every specific issue we may face in life. However, it does provide principles we should live our lives by to govern our thoughts and actions. When we examine our choices through the prism of God’s Word, we’ll find zero shades of grey.
There are a number of questions we can ask ourselves that will help bring clarity to our decision making. Will this help me grow spiritually? Is this harmful to me or to others? Will this decision cause my brothers or sisters to stumble? Of all the questions, I think the most important to ask is, will this decision bring glory and honor to God. We were created uniquely in the likeness of God to bring glory to Himself.
Therefore, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31
Are you pleasing God and striving for holiness or are you lost in areas of grey, excusing your behavior and rebelling against our Heavenly Father?