Marriage

Standing for God’s Glory

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.”

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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.

In Christ,
Tommy Larson

Divorce, Faith, Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Marriage

A Letter to God

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 Christ,
Tommy Larson

 

Authority, Divorce, Faith, Faithfulness, Healing and Reconciliation, Marriage

The Ultimate Judge

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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!

In Christ,
Tommy Larson

Divorce, Faith, Healing and Reconciliation, Marriage, Spiritual Warfare, Suffering

God is in Control

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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!

In Christ,

Tommy Larson

Christian Walk, Divorce, Marriage

When Restoration Becomes Idolatry

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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.

In Him,
Tommy Larson

Anger, Couseling, Divorce, Faith, Forgiveness, Healing and Reconciliation, Marriage

Overcome Evil with Good

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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.

In Christ,

Tommy Larson

Marriage, Suffering

Suffering for Christ

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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.

In Christ,
Tommy Larson

Anger, Divorce, Faith, Marriage, Spiritual Warfare

When the Enemy Attacks

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Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. Ephesians 6:14–15

When the enemy attacks, how do you respond? Do you cower in fear and try to flee the scene? Do you respond with fleshly anger and lash out with a fiery tongue? Do you do battle with the weapons of peace and love that followers of Christ have been equipped with?

Early in my marriage stand, I frequently felt compelled to argue against the lies and accusations of the enemy. (When I say enemy, keep in mind we are speaking of Satan and his armies of darkness. Our spouses should never be considered the enemy. They have been blinded by the evil one who seeks to kill and destroy. Their hearts have been taken captive and they are unable to see the truth.) In my mind, I was on the side of the Gospel and felt it a righteous position to debate and have the final word in contemptuous exchanges. But the more the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and impressed upon me the nature of the battle, the more inclined I was to speak softly and pray more intensely for my prodigal wife.

Make no mistake, the attacks and accusations hurled against standers are damaging and destructive. The toxic words and incessant belittling would often times wound my heart and sink my spirit. I recall hearing things like…

“I will never forgive you!”
“You are crazy!”
“You live in a another world!”
“You haven’t changed!”
“You are trying to control me!”
“You think you are God!”
“We were never really married!”
“I don’t need to feel sorry for you!”

You may have heard similar things. Understand that these utterances are spoken from hearts that have been deceived. To justify their actions, prodigals will constantly find it necessary to keep the focus on you. To do otherwise would force them into self examination. The last place someone out of the will of God wants to be is standing in front of a mirror looking at their own sins and faults.

Satan is a master of deception. He infiltrates the mind and darkens one’s understanding of the truth. If a person is unable to see the truth, then you shouldn’t be surprised when you hear non-truth coming from their lips. Keep this in mind and don’t be surprised when the tone and demeanor of your spouse drastically turns as sacrificial actions and lovingly spoken words are modeled before them. Satan hates the truth and those deceived by him hate when they are reminded of it.

Satan’s agenda can only be advanced as long as his lies continue to be believed. You can have a profound impact on your prodigal’s understanding of truth by living your life in a manner marked by grace, compassion and forgiveness. Don’t be discouraged or defensive when the attacks come. Trust me, they will. Take comfort in knowing that God sees and hears all and will one day judge accordingly. (1 Peter 2:23)

In a world that angrily demands revenge and retribution for any and every perceived wrong and offense, challenge yourself to live in stark contrast. When you have been wronged, show kindness and love in return. Do not demand justice for yourself. Rather, demand from yourself rightful service to the Lord. It is this obedience that God can use to help transform hearts of stone into hearts of flesh.

In Christ,
Tommy Larson

 

Divorce, Faith, Faithfulness, Healing and Reconciliation, Marriage

As Long as We Both Shall Live

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A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:39

The phrases “till death do us part” and “as long as we both shall live” don’t seem to carry as much weight as they did in years past. These days, the aforementioned parts of traditional wedding vows have for many, become little more than words in the script that makeup the wedding ceremony. Unfortunately, the serious nature of the charge to both the husband and wife hasn’t resonated with a large percentage of those have entered the marriage covenant. It has been this casual approach to wedding vows that has led to divorce becoming a viable option for many (including professing Christians) when relationships go south.

During our separation and subsequent divorce, I remember being strongly convicted not to view the decree of a judge as license for me to abandon the vow made to my wife on our wedding day. There were many reasons for this perspective, but mostly it was due to the fact that the promise to uphold my vows wasn’t simply a promise to Amy. It was a promise to God.

One is reminded of this as we look back to the Old Testament and read of the Lord’s relationship with his chosen people, Israel. Here, we see modeled a testimony of unending love, patience, and long-suffering.

Deuteronomy 7:6-8
“For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Israel was a nation chosen by God himself, but time after time, Israel turned away from the truth and lived an existence marked by rebellion, disobedience and unfaithfulness. Despite this, God, who is full of grace, continued to pursue his first love. He demonstrated unparalleled devotion, kindness and forgiveness to a people who willingly forsook his affections, and in turn, chased after their own lusts and passions.

What an amazing example that was demonstrated for us so long ago. For those who have in obedience, chosen to stand for our marriages, may God’s faithfulness to an unfaithful partner serve as a reminder to continue to pursue, serve and willingly sacrifice temporal happiness for the sake of the God’s kingdom. How easy it is to fall into the world’s way of thinking by abandoning our covenant spouse when the circumstances of life have become too burdensome to bear. But, take heart faithful friends, for we know that the pain and suffering of this life is nothing compared to the joy and fulfillment that await us when one day, we are united with our Father in heaven.

Having gone through the horrible pain of divorce, I understand the anguish and emotional distress that can steal your joy and erode your confidence in Christ to move mountains and restore a broken marriage. The hurt and sadness is very real, but don’t let your circumstances dictate the resolve of your commitment to your vows and promise to the Lord the day you entered into a holy union with Him and your spouse.

Regardless of your current situation, and despite the reality of some relationships continuing to visibly erode, have confidence that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is able to resurrect any relationship. Take comfort in this as you seek to remain faithful to those the enemy has taken captive. Christ has the ability to set them free!

In Christ,
Tommy Larson

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Anger, Christian Walk, Divorce, Healing and Reconciliation, Uncategorized

Be Angry and Sin Not

Copy of Be angry

One of the justifications Amy used in her pursuit of divorce from me was the fact that my anger was out of control. In those days, the hostility shown by me had reached a point where my actions would literally instill fear in her. Of course there was never any real justification for my anger. It mostly reared its ugly head when I became frustrated, ashamed or perceived that I was being disrespected. The petty issues that would ignite these outbursts were so small and insignificant that looking back now, I can’t even recall them. But as I ponder the moments of conflict and status of my spirit at the time, I recognize that it was my spiritual heart condition that led the way to destruction.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19–20

The beginning of Biblical counseling marked the starting point for a turning of the tides in my life. As the truth of the Word was penetrating deep into the uttermost parts of my soul, I was being transformed into a person that was patient, compassionate and loving. I’ll admit these characteristics did not come naturally for me. Only by the grace of God did these seeds bear fruit in my life. Unfortunately, by the time they did, Amy had already lost hope.

As we continued down our journey towards divorce, I was very intentional about displaying the opposite of what Amy had been used to seeing for most of our marriage. The more I spent time in the God’s Word and listening to Biblical instruction, the easier and more natural it was for me to act the way Christ intended. But Amy was very sceptical of the transformation. Any deviation from the straight and narrow path I was following would reaffirm her belief that I was the same old angry person. Someone incapable of change.

One particular evening sticks out in my mind as an example of when my anger caused a great deal of damage to the cause of healing and reconciliation. I’ll share it now…

Roughly five months into the separation, Amy had asked if I’d be willing to go to a picnic type event at Micah’s school with the rest of the family. I can remember being so encouraged that we’d have the opportunity to do this together as a family. I had told others how much I was looking forward to it and spent considerable time in prayer asking the Lord to use it to draw our family closer together. It started out well enough. The boys were getting their faces painted and we were eating food from the local vendors. By all accounts, we looked like a typical family. I remember asking Amy if she’d like to go out with the boys and I for some dessert after we finished there. At first she wouldn’t give me a direct answer. But after some pressing, she revealed she already had plans. It wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear and so I allowed my fleshly emotions to take over. The anger and frustration grew as we headed back to our separate cars and then proceeded to “exchange” the boys for the weekend. I was angry at the situation and how terrible it was for our family to be in that position. At the time, I felt like it was a righteous anger. After all, I wasn’t the one wanting to split up our family. I wanted marriage restoration. She wanted the divorce.
But what I had failed to realize at the time was that I was placing the desire for marriage restoration before my devotion and allegiance to God. Yes, God wills for families to stay together and for marriages to last a lifetime. That’s what I was desiring. It wasn’t God’s will however, for me to get angry and frustrated when the timeline I had setup for restoration didn’t line up with the Lord’s.

Scripture teaches us the most important commandment is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind. When we elevate a desire for something above Christ, even if it is Godly and just, it becomes a sin. Had I understood this precept early on, perhaps restoration would have come sooner. I may never know. But what is certain however, is that our God is a jealous one. He alone is worthy to be praised. May we keep our focus on Him and remain in obedience and holiness even as we rightfully pursue marriage restoration. Hate sin and divorce, but do not let anger and the quest for righteousness produce iniquity in your heart and life.

In Christ,
Tommy Larson

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Divorce, Faith, Marriage, Uncategorized

Looking for a Sign

Looking for a Sign

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Years ago in the early stages of my marriage stand, doubt and uncertainty would frequently enter my mind. The targeted thoughts that were cast upon me questioned the rightness of my position and whether or not it would be wise to consider counsel that was not based solely on Scripture. As I wrestled with the difficulty of staying the course, I would ask the Lord for signs to encourage me and to increase my faith. I can say that on occasion God would give me visible glimpses of hope. In some cases, he would provide clear and unmistakable pictures demonstrating that He was at work and listening to my prayers.

I recall one distinct moment after a time of prayer that instantly spoke to my heart. I had just left work and was headed to the car. Just before I opened the door to get in, for whatever reason, I looked straight up into the sky. I observed a passenger jet flying high and off in the distance. I watched it for 3 to 4 seconds, then all of a sudden it made a complete u-turn. I had never seen a plane make that drastic a maneuver in person. It was headed one direction, then a moment later, it was headed in the complete opposite direction. Tears began to flow from my eyes as I realized the Lord wanted me to witness this. You see, just minutes earlier I had asked God to provide me with an assurance that He was at work and that the direction of my relationship with Amy would change. To see the plane fly as it did, I sensed the Lord impressing on my heart that marriage restoration was coming and the change would be sudden. I didn’t get the sense that restoration would happen right away, rather I believed Amy’s heart would be quickly transformed. Some time later, these thoughts were confirmed.

I share this story not to encourage others to seek visual confirmation of God’s will, but rather to express the truth that God is always in control of our circumstances despite our fears and disbelief. A sign or assurance from God didn’t change the fact that I was to obey His word and live by faith. The fact that I longed for a sign demonstrated the weakness of my faith. Was it not enough for me to just simply trust and obey the Lord? Why couldn’t I take Him at His word and know that He was working all things together for my good?

Friends, I want to encourage all of you standing for your marriages to believe in your heart that God is hearing your prayers. Do not be discouraged by painful realities of life being played out before your eyes. Yes, God can give us signs from time to time if He chooses. Be grateful and humbled when He does. But please know that it is not these signs that should determine our level of faith. Our steadfastness and obedience to God’s word during the hard times is what will strengthen and equip us to persevere. This will ultimately glorify God.

In Christ,
Tommy Larson

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Christian Walk, Faith, Marriage, Uncategorized

We Walk by Faith, Not by Sight

Copy of We walk by faith, not by sight.

The day I had dreaded for over a year was finally upon me. The scheduled mediation where Amy and I would formally and legally divide our belongings was underway. My emotions were in tatters and I struggled to stay composed throughout the proceedings. Feelings of regret, despair, and disbelief all seemed to be consuming my heart and mind at the same time. The woman I had ten years earlier stood alongside in our marriage ceremony and had made an oath to never leave, was about to be legally removed from my side.

During the mediation I can remember pleading with God to intervene and stop what was taking place. I knew what His word said about divorce and couldn’t believe it was His perfect will that the events unfolding before my eyes were a part of His plan for my life, as well as the lives of my children and covenant wife. How could this be happening? Where was God?

Of course, even though I wasn’t “feeling” God’s presence at that moment, I know He was there. Since then, I’ve grown to understand that God’s silence does not mean his absence in our lives and circumstances. The miracle he had in store for Amy and I required this storm be weathered and endured. My faith in Him needed to be grown and cultivated. The “harvest” was not yet ready.

In 2 Corinthians 5:7 we read, “For we walk by faith, and not by sight.” This faith in the power of God to heal and restore was not always easy to believe in. In fact, my faith seemed to contradict all that was real at the time. And make no mistake, I was being verbally reminded by Amy and others of that painful reality on a regular basis. Despite this, the Lord was speaking to my heart and sustaining my spirit. He frequently reminded me of the numerous examples in Scripture where faith was tied to waiting and enduring. This brought me great comfort.

Could God have intervened in that attorney’s office and changed Amy’s heart in an instant? Of course He could have. But I believe in my heart that the power of Christ was demonstrated in a greater way after the judge’s verdict was handed down. It was as though an impenetrable fortress was allowed to be built by the enemy, only to have Almighty God bring it down in a swift and powerful way. It did not matter what had happened in the past or what the new normal appeared to be at the time. The same power that raised Christ from the dead, had the ability to resurrect a dead marriage.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

You may find yourself in a circumstance that seems hopeless. Perhaps you are going through a divorce, or just recently became divorced. Do not give up hope. Pray to the Father daily that His will be done in your life and in the lives of the ones you love. We know what the Lord desires for husbands, wives and families. Do not accept defeat or Satan’s lie that you will find your happiness by moving on or “getting over” your failed marriage. Your happiness and joy comes from Jesus Christ. Your identity is in Him. Submit to His will daily and pray in faith that God does what only He can do. Nothing is impossible with Him.

In Christ,
Tommy Larson

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Christian Walk, Marriage

Holiness Before Happiness

Holiness 

Happiness

The great quest for mankind these days seems to be finding and obtaining lasting happiness. Whether it is coming from Hollywood or our close personal friends, the mindset that exalts personal happiness above all else has become ingrained into our thinking. Somehow we have bought into the notion that we “deserve” to be happy and are owed a stress free life. According to some, suffering, heartache and pain shouldn’t be things we experience as believers. After all, God wants us to be happy and filled with joy. But is this a Biblical worldview? It depends on where this joy is derived from.

While desiring peace and contentment in this life isn’t a bad thing for the believer, we are encouraged by Scripture to pursue holiness, not happiness. In James 1, we read: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

I remember early on in my marriage stand being so woefully unhappy. I felt abandoned, hopeless and forsaken. The extreme sadness felt on a daily basis was something I simply couldn’t escape. But slowly, and only after much prayer, discipling, and constant study of Scriptures did I come to understand that suffering was actually a part of the growth process. I learned that it was because Christ loved me that suffering was allowed to occur. I know this likely doesn’t resonate with the unsaved. Sadly, this concept is lost on many professing Christians as well.

As the Lord was refining me and daily increasing my faith and dependence on Him, the enemy was using others to speak to what the Bible describes as an appeal to “itching ears”. I remember being told by well intentioned people to move on, find someone else to make me happy, take on a new hobby, etc… But these “words of wisdom” did not direct me to the source of true and lasting joy. I speak of the joy and peace that can only be found in the Lord Jesus Christ. It was this recognition that helped me stay focussed on the straight path and to not be swayed.

Hebrews 12:6 says, “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” When my marriage had reached a breaking point, and had seemingly reached its’ end, I was at a point where my heart was actually hostile towards God. I had allowed all manner of evil to enter my life. Pride, anger, selfishness and a host of all other iniquities were ruling inside me. It was because of this, I was being severely disciplined. In the course of this, I was humbled and brought to a place of lowliness. I was broken down completely and made to see just how hard and calloused my heart and mind had become to God’s will.

As I better understood the Lord’s motive for doing what He was doing, I became more aware of His grace and love. Knowing how much I was loved by Him caused my heart to melt and my spirit to desire to be more like the One who had saved me. And while during the times of trial I longed for my marriage and family to be restored, I knew that my relationship with the Almighty needed to be the number one priority.

Dear friend, I know that suffering is difficult. Sometimes the pain can drive us to the point where we are willing to do anything to make it go away. But in our pursuit of peace and comfort, are we neglecting the Great Comforter? Are we following His words and teachings or are we seeking a “quick fix” to make everything better? I challenge you to go deeper in your walk with Christ. Allow the still small voice of the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you. Rather than listening to the voices in your head which tell you to get out and run away from the pain, speak the truth of the Word of God into your life and experience the transforming power of the Lord. As 1 Peter 1:16 states, “…You shall be holy, for I am holy.” As a follower of Christ, you must recognize this as a command, and not merely a suggestion.

In Christ,
Tommy Larson

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Divorce, Forgiveness, Healing and Reconciliation, Marriage

I Have Purposed

01 - I Have Purposed - Blog Entry Graphic (1)

Calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.  Isaiah 46:11

A few months into my marriage stand, things were not looking very good. The prospects of restoration were becoming further and further out of reach. By then, I had moved out of the house and communication between Amy and I had been reduced to text messages and brief phone calls usually revolving around when our kids would be exchanged.

These were trying times for me. My heart was hurting and there was no escape from the constant pain and emptiness. It was during this time that the Lord was drawing me closer to himself. I was being refined, but the refining fire He was using was extremely painful. (Hebrew 12:6)

One night I had gone to the Lord in prayer. I prayed desperately for my marriage to be restored and for our family to become whole again. It was a particularly intense prayer involving many tears and groans that only the Holy Spirit understood. After this prayer, I fell asleep. A couple hours later I was awakened to pray once more. Again, I prayed for restoration and healing in my marriage. I also prayed that God would be glorified in my life and through the testing I was enduring. I fell asleep while praying.

Suddenly, around 2:00 in the morning I was awakened once more. This time was different. I was completely alert and a Scripture reference had entered my mind. I heard it repeated over and over inside my head. I wasn’t familiar with the passage, but knew the Lord was leading me to his Word for a specific reason. I reached for my cell phone and hurriedly opened a Bible app. I searched the reference that had been given to me, Isaiah 46:11. Upon reading, I had a very real sense of comfort. It was as though God was speaking directly to me. In reality, He was. “… I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.”

The next morning, I shared this encounter with a few others including my pastors. I had no doubt the Lord had chosen to answer my prayer and had used this divine encounter to increase my faith. I was challenged to not give up, despite what was coming.

Throughout the next several months, circumstances went from bad to worse. Our divorce eventually went through despite all efforts to postpone and delay. By worldly accounts, I had lost. But I never forgot the verse I was given that one night. I determined to rely on the Lord for everything and to live my life in such a way that would bring honor and glory to Christ. He challenged me daily to reach out in love to Amy by showing acts of kindness, humility and sacrifice; regardless of how difficult and painful it was. He was essentially teaching me to live and act the way He did when he lived here on this earth. This was the complete opposite of the way I had been for most of the ten years of our marriage.

I believed in my heart that the Lord was going to do something special, but I didn’t know when. Regardless of whether a reconciliation and healing occurred in this life or the next, I knew I was to be obedient and to continue to pray God’s will be done in the life of my family.

Fast forward six months. I was by myself and getting ready to go for a run. The sun had nearly gone down as I had just taken a few steps of my warm up walk. I looked ahead at the path in front of me and not 10 feet away came a magnificent owl gliding past my head. I watched it fly off into the sunset. Immediately, the verse the Lord had given me many months ago came to my mind. It all became very clear. “…Calling a bird of prey from the east.” The owl is a bird of prey. It flew in front of me from the east. “The man of my counsel from a far country…” I had been counseling with my pastor. He had been a missionary in China before coming back to the states to serve. “… I have purposed, and I will do it.” Two months later, the Lord worked His miracle and suddenly changed my covenant spouse’s heart. My prayers had been answered.

This passage was a gift to me and my family. It stands as the foundation of our ministry. Indeed it stands as the foundation for all of our lives as believers.

Dear friend, you may find yourself hurting and confused. You may find yourself in a marriage that seems hopeless to save. Perhaps you have even experienced the pain of divorce. Know this. God loves you and has a plan and purpose for your life. Keep your eyes on Him. Do not waiver. Pray that His will be done in your life and in the life of your spouse. God’s revealed will for all our lives is found in His Word. Trust in Him with all your spirit and strength. Allow the Lord to increase your faith by trusting in Him fully, and do not be ruled by the emotions that can so easily deceive and confuse our hearts.

May the Lord bless you and your family.

In Christ,
Tommy Larson

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