Anger, Couseling, Divorce, Healing and Reconciliation, Marriage, Suffering

Godly Grief Produces Repentance

Repentance

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.

In Christ,
Amy Larson


1. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “Domestic Violence in Tennessee.” NCADV.org. https://www.speakcdn.com/assets/2497/tennessee.pdf (accessed August 24, 2018).

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

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

 

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

Be Angry and Sin Not

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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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