Anger, Christian Walk, Divorce, Forgiveness, God's Power, Healing and Reconciliation, Marriage, Suffering, Waiting on God

Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving

It’s not always easy to recall the two years I spent running from the Lord, because those memories seem so distant and foreign to me. But, I share stories from that time because I know for so many standers recounting my path to restoration is helpful in order to better understand the heart and mind of a prodigal. My desire isn’t to rehash past events that bring about guilt and shame, but to paint a picture of how far God has brought me is such a short period of time. Thankfully, Thanksgiving of 2015 is one holiday experience I can retell but never have to relive.

Let’s take a glimpse back at November of 2015. Tommy and I had been separated for nearly eight months and were living in two households. I went to great lengths to distance myself from him, only communicating about matters that directly involved our children. Earlier in the month he appeared at one of our divorce hearings and pleaded with the judge for an extension in our case. The extension was granted and my desire to be permanently estranged from my husband was foiled. Needless to say, I was angry! I was angry at the judge for taking pity on him. I was angry at my lawyer for not convincing the judge otherwise. I was angry at Tommy for delaying the inevitable. But, most of all, I was angry that I wasn’t getting my way. My pride and rebellion was at an all-time peak, and anything that stood in the way of promoting my sinful lifestyle infuriated me.

I know Tommy felt the wrath behind my anger, even though he never openly communicated that to me. I intentionally ignored his messages and when I did respond, I kept the texts short. As Thanksgiving was approaching, the messages and phone calls between us increased. With every interaction, I could feel the tension mounting. We were met with making decisions about things we had never had to face in previous years and this was new territory for both of us. It was especially challenging because we did not have the same expectations regarding the holidays. 

Tommy wanted nothing other than to celebrate with me and the boys. He longed to take part in the Thanksgiving traditions we had created together over the past ten years. I would have probably been open to the idea of a joint holiday had Tommy been willing to go along with my wicked plans and not attempted to delay our divorce proceedings. But, my schemes went awry and I intended to punish him for his lack of cooperation. I was so blinded by my anger towards him that I couldn’t see his desires were genuine and good for our entire family. All I could see what that he was standing in the way of what I wanted, which was a declaration to end our marriage. Despite his request for togetherness, I chose to host Thanksgiving for family and friends in our home without him.

That year Thanksgiving was different. After the feast was over and my guests had left, a deep loneliness set in and the reality of my choices started to hit home. I was living life entirely on my own and it was solely based on my poor decisions. The company of my friends and family could not fill the void that I had hoped it would. In reality, Tommy could not fill that void either, but turning back to my marriage would have been a step in the right direction. I had fallen so far out of the will of God that I had tunnel vision. I was consumed with my will instead of God’s will and I was seeking the happiness that I felt I deserved. I was willing to do anything to please my selfish desires, and oftentimes in ways that were damaging and sinful.

Praise the Lord, God gave Tommy clarity to see right through the devil’s schemes. That Thanksgiving, Tommy continued to respond to me in love. I knew I had hurt him deeply, which was my intent, but he did not retaliate or respond to my sin with sin. The Father provided him comfort and love as well as great restraint, which didn’t go unnoticed. Tommy could have easily faltered in his stand due to the cirumstances, but his foundation for standing was grounded in the love of Christ. His absence from our family dinner wouldn’t deter his fight for our marriage. He knew that the Lord had more work to do in my heart, so he thanked God for the process and prayed for me that holiday weekend, as he did every weekend. Tommy’s spirit of gratitude wasn’t based around a day, but it was a lifestyle choice that he chose daily. 

The following Thanksgiving, we celebrated our first holiday as a restored family. I still get emotional as I reflect on the goodness of God. The Holy Spirit renewed my mind and set my feet back on the path to righteousness. The Father took our dead marriage and restored it back to life in a miraculous way that only He was capable of doing. 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭100:4-5

Dear friends, I know many of you may find yourselves in desperate family situations. Some of you may even question what you have to be thankful for in the midst of your crisis. I want to remind you of the Father’s may provisions, the greatest of all, a Savior. God loved us so much that He sent His one and only son to take our place and bear our burdens on the cross. Let’s never forget to be grateful for the gift of the cross! We can also come to the Lord with thanksgiving knowing we serve a Master that is actively working and fully capable of performing God-sized miracles in our marriages. Despite the longsuffering, let’s be thankful for the process of transformation taking place in our lives, and let us continue to pray for our prodigals to make their way home to Him!

Anger, Christian Walk, Couseling, Divorce, Forgiveness, Healing and Reconciliation, Judging, Marriage

Humble Yourself

When I made the decision to file for divorce, I was full of self-righteous anger. I deserved so much more out of my marriage and from my husband. Perceiving Tommy’s flaws worse than my own, I felt superior. In reality, I had such backwards thinking. I lacked mercy towards him and was constantly finding Tommy at fault. I didn’t have time to scrutinize myself because I was too busy keeping a record of his wrongs. And, every chance I got, I took the opportunity to point out his offenses towards me. Rehashing past failures never offered solutions to our martial problems, rather, it led to further bitterness, resentment and anger in his heart and in mine.

The years of turmoil took a toll on our marriage. It strained our relationship to the point where I felt completely defeated. Instead of turning to God with my hurt and pain, I allowed the devil a foothold in my marriage. The enemy slowly drove a wedge deeper and deeper between me and my beloved. Over time, my attitude towards Tommy changed as well as my patterns of thinking. The dangers of not taking every thought captive soon spiraled out of control. Thoughts I would have easily dismissed in the past were now stirring around in my mind daily. I had completely given myself over to the lies of the enemy and was no longer guarding my heart. Inevitably, separation and divorce quickly followed.

Self-righteousness is terribly destructive, and sneaks into the heart and mind making it nearly impossible to show genuine love towards others. Is there any characteristic more deceptive? We hate to see self-righteousness in others, yet we will defend it in our own lives. The bible makes it clear that God despises pride, which is at the root of self- righteousness. We see this in the parable Jesus tells of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18. The Pharisee elevated himself above everyone else looking down on others, whereas the tax collector recognized he was a sinner and asked for God’s mercy.

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.
Luke 18:14

At the point in my brokenness, where I became more repulsed by my sin than that of Tommy’s, the tide began to turn. The Holy Spirit revealed the depravity of my own heart and redirected my anger inward. I had to face reality, my sin was equal to his in the eyes of the Lord. Ultimately, I realized the best way to change my husband was to humble myself.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Psalms 51:17

In Christ,
Amy Larson

Anger, Divorce, Forgiveness, Healing and Reconciliation, Suffering

Are You the Judge and Jury?

Let’s be honest. Initiating divorce proceedings in order to dissolve a marriage only comes after an individual has predetermined the guilt of the other party. Whether the offense is rooted in infidelity, emotional abuse, or financial impropriety, the situation nearly always results with one spouse concluding that enough is enough, and it is time for justice to be served.

This righteous indignation possessed by so many pursuing divorce is something witnessed on a routine basis in our culture. Nearly everyday we see examples of “outrage mobs” screaming from the rooftops over issues that according to them, are more important than anything the world has ever faced. There is no negotiating, no compromise and no reasoning with these people. The only thing that brings satisfaction is for “justice” to be brought immediately. These individuals aren’t content to see a simple slap on the wrist. There needs to be pain, suffering and reproach brought upon the targets of their wrath. They want to see lives crushed and destroyed. They want vengeance and they want it now.

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.

2 Timothy 3:1-5

Reading this passage accurately describes what we are seeing all around us. When it comes to divorce, at least in western society, the rates have never been higher. Why is this? How do people arrive at the point where hearts have become so hardened that dissolving the bonds of holy matrimony becomes the ultimate prize? Quite frankly, it’s not hard to understand. Once you acknowledge how wicked our hearts are apart from the influence of the Holy Spirit, there is little in terms of surprise relating to how deep our sins can take us.

Years ago while standing for my marriage and fighting against divorce, I remember seeing in my covenant spouse an anger I had never seen before. She had become single minded of purpose to undo what had been done. Not to excuse her wrath or sense or vengeance at the time, but I now recognize that so much of what I felt and experienced stemmed from her deep sense of hurt and sadness. She had been deeply wounded and for years kept the pain bottled up. Over time, the suffering and grief turned into something dark and sinister. She demanded justice. There was a price to be paid for the anguish I put her through. It became her mission to make sure I was punished and that I tasted the same bitter fruit she had eaten for years.

For me, there was absolutely nothing I could do to assuage her anger. I was guilty on all counts. No acts of remorse or apologies could quench her thirst for justice. The ironic thing at the time was that while pursuing the divorce, she was claiming to have a close relationship with God. She even went so far as to say she had forgiven me. Of course, none of this was true. She was deceived and being held captive by the enemy and was simply repeating Satan’s lies. The devil played on her vulnerability and tricked her into believing that exacting vengeance on me would bring her happiness and restitution. Thankfully, the Lord rescued her heart and set her free from the strongholds of bitterness and division. I thank God for the work only He could do.

Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

Romans 12:9

While the pursuit of justice is something worthwhile and honorable, Christians must understand that when it comes to this matter, our job is not to take measures into our own hands. If you have been hurt by your loved one and have endured heartache and suffering due to your spouse’s sin, do not fall into the trap of unforgiveness. Pursuing an ungodly divorce places you in the role of judge, jury and executioner. None of these roles define what we as Bible believing Christians are called to be. Instead of giving into the flesh and pursuing your own sense of justice, I challenge you to put on love, patience, endurance and longsuffering. The Lord Jesus provided the template for how we should live. May we remember His example the next time we embark upon a “so called” mission of justice.