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

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).

Christian Walk, Divorce, Forgiveness, Healing and Reconciliation, Marriage

Grace Abounds

grace

A little over ten years ago, when Tommy and I found out I was expecting our first child, I was over the moon with excitement. I read daily about the growth of the baby, the developmental process and what to expect during pregnancy. Each doctor’s visit, I took delight in watching our little one move about, turning over and sucking his thumb as he grew in the womb. I carefully studied the intricate details of our ultrasound photos imagining what our son would look like when he arrived. The anticipation of his birth was an exciting time in my life and a welcomed distraction from our marital problems.

When Micah finally made his appearance after 42 weeks in the womb, I was overcome with emotions. As Tommy held him up and my eyes met his for the first time, I cried tears of happiness. No matter how many tears I wiped away, countless more streamed down my face as my heart leapt with joy. Our little blessing had made his way into the world, and I had become a mother. A few years later, I welcomed Elijah and then Jacob with the same joy-filled tears and overwhelmed heart. The births of our children made time stand still. It brought periods of calm and a sense of normalcy in what was otherwise a very strained and contentious relationship.

Our boys were happy babies and brought so much contentment. I enjoyed nursing them and cuddling each before laying them down for nap time. As they grew, I poured my love into them watching as they transitioned from sitters-crawlers-walkers. When God knit them together in my womb, I was fully captivated by their development. I had been so attuned to their needs when they were babies and toddlers, but over time my loving attention began to diminish the more I focused on my failing marriage.

The years of Tommy’s distance and neglect, wore away my confidence in him as a husband and father, as well as my faith in the Lord to bring about lasting and meaningful change. My heart began to hardened and I became unresponsive to the Holy Spirit. I successfully deceived myself into believing divorcing Tommy and moving forward without him, would make life easier for everyone. Although our children were aware of the tension and lack of affection between Tommy and I, nothing could have prepared their little hearts for the changes ahead. Their world took a drastic turn at the ages of 6, 3 and 15 months old. Our precious boys were no longer sleeping through the night, snores turned into sobs, and their delightful spirits were crushed.

Once we separated, I appeared to be happy, but that was all an illusion. Inside, my heart was aching as Christ’s light was dimming and darkness began to creep in. I was doing my best to keep up the facade, but I was living in a whirlwind and too blinded by sin to realize our three boys were being tossed about like a wave in the sea. My life was not reflecting the beautiful picture I had presented to the world, yet I continued to deceive myself and others.

I got so caught up in trying to sell the lie, I didn’t realize the emotional damage that was being done. I missed all of the warning signs despite phone calls and messages from the boys’ teachers telling me they were struggling to keep their emotions in tact. My judgement had been so clouded, I unfairly blamed Tommy for their suffering. I had convinced myself I was moving forward to a happier and healthier life for their well-being, but that was not proving to be true and was having the opposite effect in which I had intended.

As I drifted further away from the Lord, Tommy drew closer and began intense Biblical counseling. One by one, the strongholds the enemy had in his life started to crumble and as a result, he became a changed man. Our boys took notice and began opening up to their daddy, pouring out their hearts to him and sharing a deeper bond than I had ever witnessed before. Over time, I noticed a change in my relationship with our children. I wasn’t the loving, attentive, patient mother I used to be. I had become quite the opposite and was every bit of distant and neglectful as I had previously accused Tommy of being. I had divorced him for past behavior that was now present and ruling in my own life.

Despite my actions, Tommy continually showed me kindness and sacrificial love. His acts of obedience began to have an effect on me and my eyes were opened to the reality of our situation. The more the Holy Spirit revealed to me, the more broken I became. No matter how miserably I had failed, God’s remarkable gift of grace abounded.

But where sin increased, Grace abounded all the more. Romans 5:20

When our family reunited, not only did I ask forgiveness from my husband, I also admitted my faults to our children and apologized to them just as sincerely.

Throughout the past couple of years, God has been so compassionate and merciful to me. He has taught me the beauty of His son’s sacrifice and the importance of granting forgiveness to others as graciously as it has been given to me. There is no greater joy than giving God the glory for the miraculous healing and redemption that’s taken place in our family. Though it was brought about with heartbreak and suffering, I rejoice knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. My hope isn’t invested in something that is temporal, but in the only One that can bring about everlasting change, Jesus Christ my Savior.

Perhaps you are in the midst of marital struggles of your own or you are currently going through a divorce. Seek the Lord and ask Him to give you the ability to ask for forgiveness or grant forgiveness whatever the circumstances may be. Take comfort in knowing your hope lies in Jesus Christ! No situation or relationship is beyond the power of God to heal and restore.

In Christ,
Amy Larson

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Couseling, Divorce, Healing and Reconciliation

Seek Wise Counsel

10 - Seek Wise CounselAfter Tommy and I separated, I was desperately in need of guidance so I reached out to a Christian counselor. At the time, I was not aware there was a difference between Christian and Biblical Counselors. I met with both during our separation and upon the introduction to my Biblical counselor, I disparaged his credentials. I thought all counselors required a degree in psychology to fully understand a counselee and help lead them to healing. To my surprise, the Biblical counselor did not have a degree in psychology, sociology, or any other field pertaining to relational behavior, so my Biblical counseling was short-lived after having completed only one session. I felt my time seeing a Christian counselor, who had the educational status and psychology degrees set by society and myself as the acceptable standard, would be more beneficial.

I failed to realize when I was seeking counsel, that services labeled Christian didn’t necessarily mean Biblical. Unlike Biblical counselors, Christian counselors do not believe the Bible is a sufficient tool for counseling but must include secular disciplines – psychology, sociology, anthropology, biology – in conjunction with the Bible in order to be effective. While God was referenced from time to time during my Christian counseling sessions, the advice I received was not grounded in the principles of God’s Word. It was rooted in self-help application based on psychology, placing the focus on oneself. Contrarily, Biblical counseling admonishes the need for self-love and directs counselees to die to self in order to allow Christ to change hearts and minds from the inside out. This would have been greatly beneficial since I was focused on my own needs, which included the desire to divorce my husband.

I was desperately searching for wise counsel, but unfortunately I was seeking guidance from methods that offered no solutions. The problem with a secular approach is the advice or practices change in line with human perspectives and emotions. Psychology at its very core is the study of the brain and the mental process – things like perceptions, thoughts, feelings and beliefs. While Biblical counselors believe secular disciplines such as psychology, sociology and the like can make observations that are insightful, and can be helpful in a variety of secondary ways, they believe the Bible to be given the highest priority in matters of faith and life (‭2 Timothy‬ ‭3:15-17‬).

Biblical counseling wouldn’t prescribe solutions that are contradictory to God’s Word. Advice isn’t based on a feeling, but rather on gospel instruction and the charge for obedience. We are all capable of behavioral changes, but if we don’t get to the root of the problem, the heart, we will revert back to our instinctive sinful nature. By following Biblical principles, and renewing our hearts and minds to that of Christ, we can obtain real change. Nothing is more powerful or helps us to be better equipped when addressing life’s greatest problems.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭

Now that I am in the process of becoming a Biblical counselor and I see the requirements and dedication involved with becoming certified, I have a renewed respect for the counselor I once dismissed as unqualified. It takes a great deal of Bible knowledge and education in theology to obtain your certification, which is no small feat to scoff at. If you are in need of counseling, I highly recommend the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. Please take time to search for counselors in your area. If you are a Knoxville local, you may find my name on the list, Lord willing, by the end of the year once I complete my certification.

For more information on Biblical Counseling,  please visit the ACBC website.

In Christ,
Amy 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

A Joyful Heart is Good Medicine

IMG_9494.pngSometimes God places people in our lives and we aren’t sure why. Other times we are privileged to view His divine intervention from the very start. I believe I speak for my friend Stephanie and myself when I say, “God purposed a time for us to reconnect.”

We had briefly been acquainted as she and her family were clients of mine back when I owned my photography business. Although we hadn’t been in contact for years, she followed my Instagram feed and messaged me when I posted a photo of Tommy’s new wedding band with the hashtag #restoredmarriage. Little did I know, she had been praying for me all along. It was apparent by my posts and my Instagram name change that my marriage had been on the rocks.

Unfortunately, her and her husband were (and still are) separated and she was looking for someone to connect with that could understand her situation, offer insight and hope. Being separated or divorced, especially when you are not pursuing this direction for your life, can be very lonely at times. The truth is your friends and family members may not know what to say or how to support you. For those standing for their marriages, especially in the case of adultery, well, you are just completely crazy! Whether your friends believe that or not, it is often the lie Satan plants in your mind to keep you feeling secluded and abandoned. Given the circumstances at the time, having gone through a divorce and in the process of remarrying my covenant husband, I landed at the top of the “understanding friend’s list”.

The unique relationship Stephanie and I formed has bonded us for life. Her simple comment on IG and the deep friendship we formed after was a catalyst for starting Purposed Marriage. It was also a milestone in her life as it was the first time she stepped out of her comfort zone and was obedient to God without hesitation. More often than not, He calls us to a place where we are uncomfortable so we will grow our faith and completely depend on him. Sometimes that means shedding light on our darkest moments in order to help others.

Stephanie and I have come alongside each other, prayed together, cried together, broken bread together and loved one another through it all. The journey isn’t always easy, but prayer, friends and a joyful heart is good medicine for when the road gets rocky! The alternative… a crushed spirit, which drys up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)

I’m so thankful for Stephanie’s friendship as well as others like her that God has placed along my and Tommy’s path. Perhaps you can relate to her story and are desperately looking for hope. I can promise you one thing, Christ is your ONLY hope. He will never leave you nor forsake you!

In Christ,
Amy Larson

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