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

You’re Going to Be Okay!

 

kids

Are you at a messy place right now and your mind wonders if  God really does redeem our stories?  Not just when we enter our heavenly home but here and now, this side of eternity?  Maybe you have found yourself on a detour that you never saw coming.  Maybe you are facing this very moment some ugly, difficult and untended parts of your story that have left you face down on the carpet desperate for God’s intervention.

Friend, can you just pause for a moment from your tears, your questions, your doubts and hang with me for a moment?  Our. God. Is. Faithful. Always.   I get it….. your circumstances may NOT be okay!  However, YOU’RE going to be okay! How can I proclaim this so boldly and confidently? Because I have walked through those kind of chapters and am now reaping the joys that God brings as the pages turn.

The pain in my eyes that I had for literally years is now gone and has been replaced with precious peace and radical relief.  God DOES redeem! He takes the worst parts of our stories and redeems and truly creates beauty from the ashes that may surround us.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” Is. 61:1-3

If you need hope this very moment please read the above scripture again.  Pay attention to every word.  Do you see it?  Heavy words like brokenhearted, captive, darkness, prisoner, the grieving and all who mourn are the ones being addressed in this passage.   Friend, if any of those words describe who you are or where you find yourself on this journey, your heart can be FULL of hope! You’re going to be okay!! Why? Because Jesus came for YOU! He has already made a way for you.  Your ashes are no match for His abundant grace.

February 2, 2019 represents so much more than my wedding day…but a rescue of sorts.  A day when God boldly declared to my heart as well as others that He is well able to redeem and take what the enemy meant to destroy me and my family and make it so beautiful.  It represents the answer to countless prayers prayed by many that I did not even know were  praying for me and my family.   You see, it’s not just our victory in Jesus but other’s victory and testimony, too!  Those who loved us, supported us, believed in us and more importantly those who believed that God had good plans for us in spite of how it looked then.  My heart is so thankful.  My prayer is that in sharing this it will give YOU a shot of hope because at numerous times, I was wondering and struggling, too! Broken, wounded, stressed to the hilt, and ever so desperate.  It wasn’t just one hard thing but many that left me with eye twitches and stress rashes…..but God! No, things did not happened as I had prayed but God took me on a path that has been paved with amazing grace and beauty for ashes.  If you are wondering if this could ever happen for you my answer to you is a resounding and confident YES!!! It is so hard to believe when your heart is filled with pain and you can’t see clearly for the fog that surrounds you. I get it. I really do. I promise you, our God is faithful.  He sees you.  He invites you to trust Him as He is working out the future that He has for you and those you love.

So my friend, whatever chapter you are in know this;   it’s only for a season.  Many times we have no control how long our painful seasons may last  but you can be assured that God’s timing is perfect and purposeful. You, my friend, are on the pathway to greater joy and intimacy with Christ than you have ever known.  Stay on the carpet, ugly cry and let your knees burn.  Don’t ever stop wrestling. Stubbornly hold on to your faith as you hold on to your God.   Follow hard after him…stay obedient no matter what your feelings tell you. Expect God to move! He will sweet sister, He will!! Your waiting time is not wasted time…He is creating room in you for the beauty that is yet to come!  One day,  you will see clearly that He not one time left you in your darkest moments.  He was cutting away the lies from the past to make room for a NEW season, a NEW beginning that could not compare to anything you have experience before.

Psalm 27:14

Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring.  Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the lord.

 

 

Unanswered Prayers and Longing Hearts

Daisies were my mom’s favorite flower. Honestly, her life resembled their beauty. She was a sweet spirited, gracious woman of faith pouring out JOY and the love of Christ to all who knew her.  Though her marriage of almost 50 years was not how she would have envisioned it, she stood strong and courageous and embraced her place.  She believed God for better days ahead and kept believing, in spite of the many obstacles.  Hidden behind her beautiful smile, her life consisted of frequent frustrations and brokenness.  There were seasons when she wanted to walk away but it was fear that kept her where she was but faith that gave her the guts to dare to believe that her tomorrows would be different.

I understand my mom so much better these days. The struggle between fear and faith, comfortable and risky, holding on and letting go.  Oh, how I wish her life could have been different.  Fear is a prison that shows no mercy if not reckoned with.  As her daughter, my heart breaks for hers still today but really, that’s so silly.  She is basking in her eternal home with Jesus now which takes away so much more than the sting of death but also the brokenness that she lived through.

I hoped and believed with my mom for things to change.   After all, we knew we were praying according to God’s will, so why did my mom not get to witness the fruit of her prayers?   I know about free will, choices, and all of that however, being aware of those kinds of things doesn’t lessen the pain of our heart’s longings, right?

SO, what do we do with unanswered prayers, longing hearts and chronic suffering?

The day I lost my mom is the day I lost my best friend.  It was a loss like no other.  I  think about my fervent, pleading prayers and belief for my mom to be healed of cancer and am wistfully reminded of her passing each day and most heavily each time my kids have milestone moments that I am unable to share with her.  AND now with my precious grand-babies, her loss is felt even more.  Oh, how she would so love them!! Nevertheless, I am quite aware that we are not, by no means, the only ones on the planet to experience this kind of long-suffering in what seems to be a never-ending journey through the wilderness of pain and unanswered prayers.

I think about the couple who unceasingly prayed for years to conceive a child, finally giving birth to a beautiful baby boy, only to have their dreams forever crushed as they lost their precious baby to cancer.

I think of the little girl who cries out to God to heal her daddy, only to have him die in a car accident, three months later.

I think about the parents who fervently prayed for their child who was put into prison for drugs, only to have him released and then die from an overdose.

I think about the missionary who felt the call of God to go to a foreign country, who interceded on behalf of the lost, who believed God for protection only to be martyred, never seeing the fruit of his labors.

I could go on and on about loss, suffering, and unanswered prayers and perhaps even add your story to the above. This side of Heaven, THIS. IS. LIFE. IT. IS. HARD.  However, this is not meant to depress you, to tell you that prayer is meaningless or to deflate your faith!  Please stay with me.

Though my mom’s prayers were not answered  this side of heaven the way she had hoped,  she died in faith, STILL believing that our God is faithful.  And you know what?  There are MANY who passed before her, whose FAITH stood the test of much patience, suffering, brokenness, along with those who were burned, tortured, stoned, imprisoned, whipped and oppressed even unto death. Of course, for the most part, these beautifully brave and courageous followers of Christ were not noticed by our world Their faith did not earn them any special accolades or awards.  I can promise you this; if they were standing before us they would say none of that mattered to them.  They were doing what they did for an audience of ONE.  Friends, that ONE took SPECIAL notice of their kind of faith, so much so, that He felt it important enough to speak of them…

All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back.  But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.                Hebrews 11:13-14

Did you catch that?  Read the first part again.

All these people died still believing what God had promised them.  

They did not receive what was promised

Friends, sometimes our prayers are answered quickly, obviously, and even miraculously.  Our faith is ignited and our doubts are laid dormant in light of God’s evident working power in our lives and in the lives of those around us.  Other times, God’s perfect plan comes to fruition in ways that we might not recognize or understand.

Over the long haul of asking and believing, it gets tough. We get weary.  Our faith wavers.  We don’t like to think about having to continue in the wilderness of suffering and unmet longings and certainly we don’t want to even consider leaving this earth without seeing our gut-wrenching prayers answered.  Friend, you already know this, but maybe it is time to really embrace it; your prayers may not be answered THIS side of Heaven the way you would like them to be.  Can you be okay with that? What will your response be when things don’t go as you had prayed?

Whatever it is you are praying for or against, GOD has a purpose weaved all through it.  He lovingly filters ALL things that impacts the lives of his children.  If he allowed it, HE plans to use it for GOOD.  Not only will He use it to transform YOU, but to bring about HIS Kingdom purposes on this earth and in the hearts of those you love.

This is a quote worth sharing;

“We can be sure our prayers are answered precisely in the way we would want them to be answered if we knew everything God knows.”  Tim Keller

If you step back and look at it from a Heavenly perspective, those in Hebrews 11 really received the GREATER promise…the promise of their happy eternal after with Jesus.  By God’s grace and strength, that is what they kept their eye on, as the scripture tells us.  That is how they faced the horrific and unimaginable suffering that they were subjected to.  I adamantly pray that I could do the same. How about you?

Friends, this journey on this earth is NOT the MAIN thing!  So much of the time we are so short sighted that we lose our eternal perspective.  In the scheme of things, THIS life on earth is SO short, so minute compared to eternity.  Let me just remind all of us, myself included,  that God’s calling upon our lives, first and foremost is to be His hands and feet to a lost and dying world.  That is God’s heart…to save the lost.   Are we grieving over the lost and interceding for them or are we obsessing more over our own unanswered prayers? I know for me, sometimes I get so wrapped up in my own little world that I lose sight of what is REALLY important.  I get so distracted by what is right in front of me.

Don’t misunderstand me; I am in no way belittling the heart-wrenching things you may be praying about.   Even as I write this, there are tough and difficult circumstances in my own life that I am continually laying on the alter of prayer.   I want things fixed NOW! I don’t like waiting, I don’t like feeling out of control, I don’t like pain, and I don’t like the unknown.  So, are things changing? No, not altogether…but what is changing is me.  Trusting, believing, and even waiting brings growth and maturity that cannot come otherwise.  For now, that is MORE important to my loving Father than to change the circumstances I am praying about.  So,  I will keep praying and believing that my God is in control and hears every prayer. I can be confident that God has a Divine plan that exceeds my limited vision.

It is obvious that prayer is important to God.  After all, it has been noted that there are around 650 prayers in the bible. Prayer is powerful and brings about amazing and Divine things on this earth! Jesus even prayed and gave us the ultimate example to follow.

Without prayer, there is no communication and no communication means no relationship!  Therefore, keep praying, by all means.  And as you do so, think about your difficulties this way; if what you are suffering and/or praying for is keeping you humble and dependent upon Jesus then consider it a divine blessing of grace! Amen?!

Will you continue to believe God and not allow your faith to be shaken though your prayers may seem stagnant in the wilderness of waiting or chronic long suffering? Can you passionately pray a bold and courageous prayer just as Jesus did and proclaim from the depth of your soul “not my will but thine be done”?  Lord, Jesus help us!

Will YOUR name be added to the precious saints that God deemed worth mentioning because, by FAITH, you continue to believe until your last breath on earth?  I don’t know about you, but Hebrews 11:13 gives me tenacious HOPE and a resolve to bravely and steadfastly continue to BELIEVE and TRUST God no matter how long the waiting or the pain of brokenness my heart may endure.

Friend, God sees you! God hears you and His perfect love for you will answer your hearts cry as every circumstance and every difficulty is filtered through His amazing grace.  Keep praying, keep believing, keep trusting, and keep serving!  Always remember what God has ALREADY done for you! May you be filled with HOPE as you see heaven and Jesus as the backdrop in every single thing you encounter on this journey! He is faithful and the ultimate Promise Keeper! Believe it!

Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her. Luke 1:45

So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in Heaven which we have not yet seen.  The troubles will soon be over; the joys to come will last forever.  2 Corinthians 4:18

But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:31

Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved.  Psalm 55:22

Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart.  For consider what great things He has done for you. 1 Samuel 12:24