Amy and I were thrilled to have been given the opportunity to be heard on the Rejoice Ministries Podcast recently. This up close and personal conversation with Charlyne Steinkamp and her daughter Lori details the struggles and challenges that led to our divorce and eventual reconciliation. We pray it blesses and encourages.
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.Isaiah 40:31
How long should a stander wait on a prodigal to come home? Does there come a point when it is acceptable to simply give up and call it quits? Does God understand if we “move on” with our lives and put the painful past behind us? Many in distressed or broken marriages will oftentimes ask these questions. For a majority, there will come a point when the desire to escape the pain, emptiness and despair becomes too overwhelming to bear. At this stage, we begin to question our stand and the sovereignty and faithfulness of God to intervene and bring restoration. While it is understandable to sympathize with someone in this situation, we need to be discerning in our approach to identifying the root causes of the sadness and grief. Above all else, our examination should focus on God’s Word. This correct approach will reveal how easily our hearts can be deceived and our minds swayed from holding fast to the truth.
When it comes to establishing a set time for waiting on a prodigal to return home, we need to reframe the question. We must understand that the goal or “endgame” for any stander should be to see their spouse come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Their journey home to you and your family is secondary. But, because of the emotional ties we have with our one flesh partner, it becomes challenging on many levels to keep this right perspective. Regardless of the difficulty, we must strive to stay focussed on the spiritual and eternal nature of the battle.
Your absent husband or wife is likely facing an eternal separation from God if they remain in their sin and bondage to the flesh. This is the sobering reality. Focus your prayers and petitions before the Lord on the very heart of the matter, the soul and mind of your deceived spouse. Our question to God shouldn’t be, “How long must I wait for my prodigal to come home?” but rather, “How can God use me to help point my prodigal towards a saving knowledge of God’s truth?” Our marriages will only return to a condition that is honoring and pleasing to the Lord when both husbands and wives have fully submitted themselves to God’s will. In most cases, prodigals will not arrive at this state until they are broken by God. As someone who lived as an “in-home” prodigal of sorts for over ten year, I can assure you that when the hand of correction does come, it comes swiftly and mightily. For me, the result was a complete heart transformation as Christ began the work that only He could.
As far as “moving on” is concerned, the first question to ask is, “What does that really mean?” Is it to say that an individual wants out of the situation he or she is in and believes there to be a better path apart from the Lord’s revealed will? Sadly, in most cases it does. Be cautioned though. This “take charge” approach to rectifying our situations is not rooted in God’s truth. In fact, it is quite to the contrary. What “moving on” or “moving forward” essentially boils down to is an unwillingness to wait on God.
In other words, it is the belief that God isn’t fulfilling His end of the deal fast enough. Can you understand how foolish it is to think this way? All throughout Scripture we find examples of man relying on his own understanding and failing to acknowledge and follow God’s clear instructions. This deeply flawed perspective and approach to dealing with trials and tribulations will result in nothing but more pain and heartache. Granted, there may be some temporary relief from the grief and suffering in the short term. Speaking long term however, you will find the “quick fixes” you attempt to apply now, will likely result in problems down the road that eclipse the magnitude of the stress and sorrow you are enduring in the present. This is almost a certainty, and you have no idea of how those issues will manifest themselves later on. You don’t want to know either.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.Proverbs 14:12
Dear friends, as God’s Word says, there is a way of thinking that may seem right, but if it is apart from the Lord’s revealed truth, it will not lead to peace and fulfillment. In most cases it will only lead to further heartache and suffering. When you are being tempted by the enemy to give up your stand so as to make the pain go away, remember Christ’s example for us. Even as He was being crucified, he remained faithful to His call. He willingly suffered and endured the pain on our behalf. In the end, death was conquered and defeated.
I challenge you this day to let the mind that was in Christ Jesus also be in you. Endure what you have been called to endure and rejoice that our God is faithful in fulfilling his promises. And as to the question, how long should we wait for God to move? We should wait for as long and as fervently as his faithfulness to us endures.
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!