Marriage, Suffering

Suffering for Christ

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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 It was a though the woman I married had been replaced by someone I had never known.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.

In Christ,
Tommy Larson

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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