When Standing by Your Man Harms Your Heart

I have had lots of thought lately with regards to what it looks like to be a follower of Christ, specifically, a woman of God in a toxic marriage… only because I lived in one for so long. My heart hurts when I think about the many Jesus-loving sisters who share a similar journey. Thank the Lord that my story is now being rewritten and I no longer am living that life. God’s grace rescued me and rerouted my journey and now I am married to a man who shows me what it’s like to be loved as God intended. It’s not perfect as we are not perfect. We both have messy stories from our past. We both have scars. We both have had our walls. But God!! When our stories collided the walls began coming down and a new story began. It’s a story formed and being written by God’s incredible grace and I truly am amazed. I am thankful for my past – not because of the pain – but because of what I learned in the midst of it. I have gleaned some wisdom and see things much differently then I once did. So please bear with me as I try to put into words my thoughts as of late.

I have heard comments like, “She was such a good woman, she put up with so much from him!” referring to her alcoholic and cheating husband.  Women have been deemed as somewhat heroes when spoken of with regards to standing by their man as he cheated, lied, and lived a life that not only dishonored the covenant of marriage but dishonored his wife with reckless living.  Some of these women have been blessed with the fruit of their enduring stance…their prayers were answered and their marriage and hearts have been beautifully made new and whole by the redemptive power of Christ.  BUT for some, that has not been the case…not even close.

Remember this song?

Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman
Givin’ all your love to just one man
You’ll have bad times and he’ll have good times
Doing things that you don’t understand
But if you love him you’ll forgive him
Even though he’s hard to understand

And if you love him
Oh be proud of him
Cause after all he’s just a man

This song is similar to what my mom and countless others grew up believing (okay, maybe in part, I need to include myself in this…ugh!). This is what many were taught to do and how to live as a wife. I can tell you without a doubt that there have been so many wounded hearts and mentally scarred wives for having believed this way. Though this is not by any means labeled a “Christian” song, the Christian community embraces this kind of thinking and even MORE so. After-all, God HATES divorce! An underlying belief is that as a “Christian” wife, you stay with your man at all costs. He is deemed the leader of the home and you submit no matter what. He can lie, cheat, be a drunk, choose porn, frequent sex chat rooms, be abusive and more….but still, your calling in life is to win him over by your sweet and quiet spirit. Just pray more, read your Bible more, have dinner ready when he comes home, make yourself sexually available to him 24/7 AND have faith that one day he will turn his life around. You may separate from him if your life is in danger but don’t EVER entertain the idea of the “D” word. That is the unforgivable sin. As long as he wants to be your husband, then so be it. After all, he’s just a man. Part of your holy calling is to continually show him the love of Christ, even when you become aware of him habitually making a mockery of your marriage vows with reckless ways and lifestyle choices that wound your heart. You will be okay! Your heart matters but only to the degree that you sacrifice yourself at the mercy of his choices because after all, he’s just a man. Suck it up, cry those tears but hang in there. While he lives a double life behind closed doors don’t dare disrespect him by revealing truth to those who only see his mask. Keep his secrets and just tell Jesus. That’s respect and that is what you are called to give him.

AND before I get off this rant…… if your husband happens to be a Pastor or involved in some sort of leadership role within the church, just grin and bear it, sister.  YOU would be the one to bring shame upon your family AND the church, should you reach out for help…YOU not him.  No one would believe you anyway!  Not him? Your words certainly would not line up with the way others see him in public, right? UGH!!!!

Oh, sweet sisters…..This. Is. SO. Messed. Up. Some of this may sound extreme but the harsh truth is…so much of it is true, even if nobody wants to admit it.

Let’s be real. The above picture of marriage is NOT the way our God created marriage to be. How in the world did we ever come this far as to put marriage on such a pedestal that the marriage itself is of more value than the hearts involved? Does the husband not have any responsibility? Of course he does. Read the Word. ALL the Word! Not just the parts about the wife being submissive. That ONE SCRIPTURE has been used and abused in so many ways. It is time the church rises up and protects God’s beloved daughters instead of telling them what THEY must do differently, then sending them back home to appease and enable the toxic, addictive and hurtful behaviors of their husband. It’s time for my sisters in Christ to rise up from their ashes and reclaim their strength and dignity as abundantly loved and cherished daughters of God Almighty! It’s time for our own daughters to be told and taught truth about boundaries and their value and worth in Christ. It’s time for those who have been in a toxic relationship to rise up and be a VOICE for righteousness and Holiness as we hold out HOPE for our wounded sisters.

IF you are currently living in a toxic marriage, by all means find a trusted confidant/counselor/pastor whom you can talk to. Do NOT allow your husband’s ongoing and hurtful secrets to become your secrets. You will become a shell of a woman in doing so. As a wife, you are called to be your husband’s helper; NOT his doormat. You were created by God Almighty. You are chosen, valued and treasured….so much so that Jesus died for YOU! If you are frequently being treated less than this, please realize this is NOT how God ordained marriage to be.

I know you are very familiar with the Scripture about wives being submissive to their husband’s but go BACK and read the verses that follow. Your husband is commanded to love YOU the way Christ loves the church. What does this look like? I am not saying he will be perfect but what I am saying is if your heart is wounded and broken by the same behavior and betrayal over and over again…you are in a toxic relationship and your marriage is NOT as God intended it to be. Get help, my friend. Do not overlook, deny, or enable. Rise up and show love to the man you married by holding him accountable to Truth. There is NO benefit in carrying on with life behind a mask and covering up his “stuff” in the name of pride, fear or even love. You must have boundaries if your man is habitually dishonoring you and the vows He made to you. I am NOT talking about a man who is repentant and taking full responsibility by working through and owning his stuff but is still struggling. I am no way condoning divorce nor am I encouraging it. What I am saying is do all that YOU can do to stop this destructive cycle. Don’t believe that if you just keep hoping for change that change will happen. Don’t believe that your “calling” is to simply love away your husband’s habitual, addictive and hurtful behaviors. It won’t work! That kind of love only enables his lifestyle of betrayal. You need to be brave and decide that this is NOT God’s best for you, your husband or your family! God WILL show you things and reveal things to you as you humbly keep your eyes on HIM. He will give you wisdom when you ask for it! If your husband has narcissistic tendencies, please read up on this and become educated on how to handle this type of personality.

Maybe you feel trapped? Stuck? You have the ability to change this but first you have to get fear out of the way. With an open heart, ask God to show you what you should do, then do it. I will ask you the same question that was asked to me…if not now, when? Just in case you didn’t catch it the first time….YOU ARE VALUED, YOU ARE CHOSEN, YOU MATTER! Maybe today is the day you embrace TRUTH and really hear what God is speaking to your heart. HE LOVES YOU and has GOOD plans for YOU no matter what lies have become your truth and painfully comfortable. YOU can’t be your husband’s savior nor the hero of your story. Only GOD can change hearts! Your husband needs a divine encounter with the ONE who died to free him. Just maybe it’s time for YOU to be brave, execute boundaries and get out the way so that God can do what only God can do. Truth WILL BE revealed as you give God a chance to work! I promise you this…no matter what is revealed, HE STILL HAS PLANS THAT ARE GOOD FOR YOU!! They just may not look like what you thought they would but nonetheless, they will be undeniably beautiful and full of His amazing, extravagant grace! Believe it, sweet sister!

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:21-32

Live Loved

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Live Loved……….

I am still trying to wrap my mind around this as I type.  I will try to explain.  Each year I pray and seek God regarding my “word” for the year.  This seems to be a trendy thing to do now days but I can testify to how richly and hugely God has used this in my life in recent years.  It’s a powerful thing! I have found it to be so much MORE than just claiming a “word” for the year.  It helps to keep my easily distracted brain focused and gives me an anchor to hold onto, especially in the difficult and challenging moments.   You see, I don’t just look at it as a word but I also gather scripture references that magnify what God desires for me to embrace in whatever season I may be facing. However, this year I truly struggled with what my “word” should be.  I had a list that I brainstormed but none of those words seemed to jump out at me like times past.

On a side note,  one of the changes that I had been praying for in 2020 was that I would experience complete freedom from my past.  How many of you know that God, in His great mercy, can and at times, does rescue us physically AND relationally. However,  we have to prayerfully and intentionally not allow ourselves to remain bound mentally and emotionally? Right?  Easier said than done!  In my case, I have triggers that rise their ugly heads from my past that I am having to confront. SO many triggers that seem incredibly silly, nevertheless, they are real for me.  I can tell you, our past can indiscriminately effect our today and tomorrows if we don’t get a grip.  It is altogether ridiculous when you take a step back and see them for what they are.  Even though they are real and my experience with them includes automatic panic with a knee-jerk racing heart beat and lump in my throat (PTSD?) …they are dumb! Yes that’s my word for them…ha!! God in His AMAZING GRACE and MERCY rescued me….took me OUT of the pit that I had lived in for years and yet here I am STILL dealing with the aftermath of what was..ugh! Dumb! I believe it’s the enemy’s way to keep us in the yuck that God has freed us from! I have been adamantly praying that in 2020 that I would have wisdom and insight as to how to handle them more victoriously as they come.  You see, obviously before I was remarried, these recent triggers lay dormant as I was not in such a relationship.  The truth is, some healing can only come as we are forced to face our emotional hangups.  Getting remarried has been my force.  It’s been abundantly beautiful in some ways and extremely hard in others.   I have, most assuredly, had many growth opportunities that I did not even realize I needed, ha!  Some progress can seem slow and get downright frustrating.  This messy girl is thankful that God has blessed me with a sweet husband who understands grace because he has experienced it in abundance for himself. He is patient and graciously helps me face and walk through these triggers in a safe space.  The thing about triggers is they can come at any moment, out of now where, and trip me up.  TO say I dislike them is an understatement, but my dislike for them does not make them go away, by no means. However, my obedience to Christ in my messy moments, CAN!  Maybe this is resonating somehow with you and if so, please hang with me.  We can all have things from our past that distracts and seeks to destroy the very freedom that Christ has already given to us.

Back to my “word” for 2020.  My husband and I chose to take a week to pray and fast to start off our new year.  I was anticipating that one of the things that God would reveal was that special “word”.  A we ended our fast, I still had no clue.  Though I was feeling disappointed, I continued to believe it would come. That was on a Friday night…fast forward to Sunday morning.  I was waiting to leave for church and it hit me….YES!!! Thank you, Jesus! AND it makes SO much sense though I can’t fully comprehend the magnitude of it at this moment.

Live loved…..

I understand about living loved by God and what it looks like to walk that out.  Such a precious and life-giving, life-changing revelation.  That Divine knowledge has been my lifeline and saving grace throughout (okay, maybe I haven’t fully comprehended ALL that entails in my human mind as I still get tripped up at times,  but I have understood it enough for His amazing love and grace to be a difference maker in my life!) However, it is living loved within marriage, by my spouse, that gets me tripped up and entangled in all kinds of anxiety and insecurities.  As I have mentioned before, love to me within marriage meant pain.  It meant that my heart was never safe with my spouse.  It meant that after a heart-breaking reveal, it would be just a matter of time before my heart was broken again.  I was taught by my wounds that things weren’t always as they seemed and that there were always secrets lurking in the darkness. It meant there was no trust.  It meant half truths, if any truth at all.  Subsequently, I never fully experienced the love that God ordained to be shared between husband and wife.  How do I know this? Because of what God has allowed me to experience now! Like wow!! My NEW normal has been a huge beautiful adjustment and my heart, at times, is still trying to catch up and walk in it’s Truths. THAT, my friend is why this is extremely exiting to me!

Sweet friends, God doesn’t miss a thing! This challenge to “live loved” has touched my heart in ways that words can’t express.  I do NOT have to live less than loved any longer by my spouse.  It’s like God is revealing to me that it’s okay.  My heart is now safe.  It’s a NEW season, a NEW day and God is doing a NEW thing!  No more toxicity.  No more betrayal.  I am free! I can breathe.  I can relax.  I can let go of marital fears and doubts,  suspicious thinking and ENJOY this life that God has so blessed me with.  AND peace, such sweet peace.    I can “live loved” as I am abundantly loved by God AND deeply and affectionately loved by my husband.  It’s going to take work on my part.  New thinking, aggressively taking thoughts captive that are attached to the past, and embracing every sweet and beautiful thing about living in freedom.

My husband, since I met him,  has declared over and over that he wants to be beautiful for me.  Honestly, when he first shared that with me,  I thought it sounded strange and I did not quite understand what he was trying to say.  But now, I get it! He has certainly taught me and continues to teach me what it looks like AND feels like too experience love, God’s way! God is so good, ya’ll!

I am striving to embrace this “LIVE LOVED” life as I detach from toxic mindsets. Maybe you need freedom, too? Maybe your story is different from mine but you still have ugly, messy “stuff” from the past that is battling to keep you bound.  Can I encourage you today?  Don’t give up! Keep pushing through….keep wrestling!  A trigger moment does not make you are a failure or any less spiritual.  God understands why you are the way you are! However, His love for you will not leave you that way nor abandon you to battle alone.  Maybe you need some outside intervention.  Maybe you need a mentor to come along side of you.  Maybe YOU need a “word”, an anchor of sorts to hold you steady with scriptures to combat your triggers.  Maybe YOU need a divine and/or renewed revelation of how very much GOD loves YOU!! Sweet friend, pray and seek God and wait for His answer.  He knows what lies ahead of you and He will graciously equip you to rise above all that desires to hold you captive. LIVE LOVED and know that greater is HE that is in YOU than all the yuck, the lies, the deceit, the wounds, the losses, the betrayals and the disappointments of your past! Rise up, sweet sister!! God has amazing plans for YOU!!! You are extravagantly and completely loved! Now go and live like you believe it! By God’s amazing grace and power, we CAN do this!!

1 John 4:16: “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”

Psalm 143:8: “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.”

Song of Solomon 4:9: “You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.”

Proverbs 30:18-19: “There are three things that amaze me—no, four things that I don’t understand: how an eagle glides through the sky, how a snake slithers on a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, how a man loves a woman.”

 

Bitterly Broken Woman or Beautifully Beloved Daughter?

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All of us have been wounded at one time or another.  All of us have been hurt by someone who was supposed to love us.

In the rawness of our pain, we begin to believe the lie that we are the ONLY one and that our hurt is GREATER than anyone else’s.  We become angry as our self talk screams that life is NOT fair and someone needs to pay for our brokenness.

We can hold so tightly to the pain that the weight of it keeps us in a PIT of despair threatening to destroy the very core of who we are.   The chains soon wrap around our broken hearts as self-pity consumes us and a root of bitterness begins to grow.  Been there!! What do we do?

Will your life portray a bitterly broken woman or a beautifully beloved daughter?

One is trapped in a prison of her own making, the other is free not because there is no pain but because she has learned the importance of surrendering her broken heart to her Savior.  She understands the reality of our journey on this earth was not guaranteed to be pain free.  We were NEVER promised that. Not here. Not now. Not this side of heaven.

The truth is the resentment, anger, bitterness and unforgiveness that is trying to destroy you is MORE toxic than the actual source of your brokenness!  In other words, it is not the action of someone else that will harden your heart…it is YOUR response to it that will do the most damage.  Oh, sister if we can only get a picture of this! Your enemy will try to use other’s hurtful choices to blacken YOUR heart   He is out to destroy YOU, as God’s beloved daughter. Let me just stop here and say, it is okay to have those feelings…you have been deeply wounded!  It is okay to be angry, to cry, to have emotions you didn’t know you had but the key is not to stay in that place.  Don’t deny how you feel! Pain causes all kinds of things to surface on the get-go.  I just want to encourage you to give yourself some time to deal with those feelings and work THROUGH them.  Determine in your heart that you will NOT let your pain destroy the YOU that God created YOU to be!

The truth is, the enemy would love to destroy the beauty God desires to bring from your ashes. But, seriously, hasn’t the enemy stolen enough from you??  Think about it! Isn’t enough, enough???

No matter what has broken your heart and left it in pieces, there is HOPE!!  This WORD is for YOU!!

Isaiah 61:1-3

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed and qualified me to preach the Gospel of good tidings to the meek, the poor, and afflicted; HE HAS SENT ME TO BIND UP AND HEAL THE BROKENHEARTED, to proclaim liberty to the (physical and spiritual) captives and the opening of the prison and of the eyes to those who are bound.

To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (the year of His favor) and the day of vengeance of our GOD, to COMFORT ALL WHO MOURN,

To grant (consolation and JOY) to those who mourn in Zion, to give them an ornament (a garland or diadem) of BEAUTY INSTEAD OF ASHES, THE OIL OF JOY instead of mourning, the garment of PRAISE INSTEAD OF A HEAVY, BURDENED, and FAILING SPIRIT, that THEY MAY BE CALLED OAKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, the planting of the LORD, that HE MAY BE GLORIFIED.

Sweet one, did you get that? Read it again!! Jesus came for YOU and for me….for the broken! You do NOT have to allow “THIS” to destroy you, whatever your “THIS” is!!! Friend, JESUS already purchased your healing and wholeness! He CAME to HEAL your brokenness, to give you beauty for your ashes, JOY instead of mourning, the garment of PRAISE instead of the heavy burdened failing spirit that you now may be experiencing!  Oh, how HE loves YOU!!! He knows of your brokenness, He SEES your tears, HE understands your pain!

WHAT is His purpose for this promise??  “that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”

Here, God likens His people (HIS daughters) to Oaks of righteousness. This speaks volumes about the way HE sees YOU!! Oak trees are known for their great strength and stubborn durability. Their strength and life do not come from what you can see on the outside but from their deep roots that are hidden underground. The root system grows so deep into the soil as to reach the water and nutrients that is needed for them to be what they were created to be. These deep and large roots provide the foundation for this tree to withstand all kinds of conditions from wind, drought, storms, and even earthquakes.  That is God’s heart for YOU and for me and for all of His beloved children.   Jeremiah gives us an even clearer picture of what this looks like:

                                                Jeremiah 17:7-8

(Most) blessed is the man (woman) who believes in, trusts in, and relies on the LORD and whose hope and confidence the LORD is.

For he (she) shall be like the tree planted by the waters that spread out its roots by the water;  and it shall not see and fear when heat comes; but its leaf shall be green.  It shall not be anxious and full of care in the year of drought, nor shall it cease yielding fruit.

Friend, I believe YOU desire to live out your God-given destiny as His beautiful beloved daughter! Your hope, your trust, your confidence and the ONE you rely on MUST be in the ONE who loves YOU like no other!!  Even now.  It’s not your husband, your best friend, your pastor nor your parents! THE ONLY ONE who can bring light to your darkness is the ONE who is LIGHT!!  Don’t waste another moment.  Turn to Jesus, tell him of your hurts, release your bitterness and allow Him to grow your roots deep within the soil of HIS unending, unrelenting, unchanging love for YOU!  Don’t allow those unproductive roots of ugly emotions to poison and infect the strong deep roots in Christ, that He has for you.  Invite Him to set YOUR heart free and stand strong against the storms, the wind, the rain, the hurt, the pain, the anger, the bitterness… so that the display of HIS splendor is revealed in you and through you!  That is timeless beauty that no person, no circumstance, no pain can ever take away! You go girl!

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.  Hebrews 12:15