In today’s podcast, we walk you through the stander and the prodigal’s point of view when divorce becomes a reality and speak about what it’s like to get served divorce papers. Check out Ep. 2 from Purposed Marriage!
As a biblical counselor, I consider it a great honor to serve and walk alongside individuals that are struggling to find their footing. It wasn’t long ago that I myself was striving. I had lost sight of the cross and was lured in by the enemy who planted doubt and confusion in my mind specifically related to events from my past. (Remind you of Genesis 3 by chance?) I had allowed Satan a foothold into my life and he cleverly twisted my thoughts and skewed my view on reality.
I eventually gave in to the enemy’s temptation and started running in the opposite direction from the Lord and from my husband. I had communicated to Tommy that I had forgiven him, however, I neglected to connect the dots between forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation. Instead of accepting his sincere apology and addressing our marital issues, I paved the road to divorce with bitterness in my heart and wrath on my lips. My words were damaging and were intended to bring about vengeance. Reminding Tommy of his past failures was motivated by my desire to elicit sympathy for myself and inflict pain on him. I felt completely justified in my actions because my heart had grown hardened towards him and I felt he deserved harsh punishment for the way he had treated me over the past 10 years.
As I reflect back, I’m so thankful Tommy was receiving sound biblical advice. Several godly men directed him to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and disregard mine. He was not bound by my words because the soft whispers of the Spirit drowned out all the accusations I hurled at him. With time, I realized my words were no longer effecting Tommy or his stand for our marriage. I could have attempted to use other weapons in my arsenal, but thankfully God’s plan and pursuit of my heart came to fruition and the veil was lifted from my eyes. With clear vision, there was nothing left to do but turn to the Lord and address my past biblically.
But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:16-18
Did you hear that dear friends? Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is FREEDOM! Aren’t those sweet words that we need to hear and be reminded of time and time again? We are not hopeless victims that can never recover from our past. We have the power of the Holy Spirit working in us to set us free and break the chains. Behind our bondage and every bad habit or behavior is a lie. When we speak falsehoods to ourselves and play untrue thoughts frequently, we convince ourselves that they are true. Commit your mind to the Lord so the lies can be eradicated and the Spirit can do a powerful work in your life. Christ made a way for us to find freedom from our past, in Him and through Him by His death on the cross.
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.
1. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “Domestic Violence in Tennessee.” NCADV.org. https://www.speakcdn.com/assets/2497/tennessee.pdf (accessed August 24, 2018).
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!
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.