Thriving After Your Storm

 

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As, I look back on this year, I am amazed at the goodness of the Lord.   And I’ll tell you why.

My son was married, to a beautiful christian girl.  My oldest daughter is engaged to her long time love.  My youngest is in the final stages of wedding preparations.

I have a wonderful fulfilling job working as an advocate for women and children.  I find myself strong, happy and more peaceful than I ever thought possible.  At the beginning of the year I was diagnosed with cancer…after radiation treatments and medication, I am doing better than I should be.

At the beginning of this year, I heard the Lord speak to me as I sat in church with my head bowed in prayer.

I felt God speak louder and clearer than I had ever heard before. a short message that held life-altering repercussions. “Go and share!”

I became overwhelmed with emotion. I had stop speaking to women a year and a half ago due to the affects of my divorce and past abuse. I was amazed that God had spoken to me about this at all, but even more so at the three words I heard. Go and share? Go and share what?

Then it hit me. Fear immediately overwhelmed me and I sank into the pew, trembling at what I thought God might be asking. I began to question God, “Surely You can’t mean share my past, Lord. I thought you wanted me to stop sharing? I don’t want to continually relive this hurt….Surely You don’t mean go and share what I prefer to keep secret.” Yet, that is exactly what He meant. And I was full of fear.

Return home and tell how much God has done for you. So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him. Luke 8:39

The man who was healed from demon possession in the scripture above experienced similar feelings. He was a tormented man that lived as an outcast for many years, naked and alone in the tombs of Gadara, near Galilee. When he saw Jesus, he fell to his knees and shouted at the top of his voice, begging for mercy from God. Jesus commanded the demons to leave him and then cast them into a herd of pigs that rushed down the steep bank into a lake and drowned. The man was healed physically, but more importantly, spiritually.

He was so overwhelmed with gratitude for what Jesus had done, he begged to travel with Jesus and stay by His side. But Jesus had other plans. Instead, Jesus told him to go and share his story. And he did.

What had once been a burden to bear became a powerful story of holy transformation. This man’s past, and the healing he experienced, became the foundation of a purpose in life that he would have never imagined — living his life as proof of the life-changing power of Jesus.

This man’s story became a testimony he was willing to share with others. How many people believed in Jesus and are now spending eternity with Him simply because this former demon-possessed man willingly allowed his terrible past to become a story of redemption and purpose?

People can cannot deny, dispute or ignore God’s transformational power in someone’s life. Our stories of pain, adversity and overcoming in Christ are meant to serve as a testimony of God’s faithfulness and power, evidence that God really can take what the devil meant for evil and use it for good.

I’ve since learned it is always God’s desire for us to go and share our stories, whether we want to or not.

God never wastes our pain. Only we do. God has a plan a great purpose and a beautiful future for all who believe in Him. Not despite our past, but because of it.

For years I’ve believed in, written about and spoken about the promise found in Jeremiah 29:11, which says “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  Do I still believe it?

During the year of 2016 – which honestly had felt much like a disaster – I had endured one of the most difficult, heartbreaking and horrific storm I’ve ever had to go through.   But I have to admit there have been times when the burden felt too heavy to bear and an overwhelming deluge of emotions seemed to be controlling my mind and my life. I was not only dealing with a divorce, but the painful memories of years of childhood sexual abuse.  There were days when I felt weak, inadequate and hopeless, despite leaning into God as hard as I could.  The future I once thought was secure and all planned was now so uncertain, in addition to the personal sorrow of being catapulted into the unwanted roles of a single woman.

At the time, I loved my husband dearly, and have always prayed fervently for him and our marriage. Over the years, I prayed endlessly for a change in his heart and mind, and even prayed for some type of miraculous restoration to occur if that was God’s will. However, at this point, it seems abundantly, clear that restoration does not appear to be in God’s plan for us.  I have since learned many truths about my marriage that caused me to see that it was never what I thought it was.  Played for a fool in the hands of a man that used me because he could not have the life he desired. An unwilling participant in his obsession with youth and the paradox of what is appropriate and what he desires.  I was forced to play a game, I had no chance of winning. I sadly, realize now, he will never be happy, no matter who he marries until he sheds his old life and confesses, allowing the Lord to shed light on his dark life.

I would have done anything in the world to avoid this happening. However, I’ve finally come to realize through a lot of prayer, faith, and emotional and spiritual healing, that sometimes, no matter how badly we want something, strive for it or pray for it, it may not work out the way we wanted or prayed for.

The reason the Lord wanted me to share is:

God uses the hurting to help the hurting. He uses the redeemed to help redeem. God used a divorced women during my darkest days, early in my divorce healing, to give me hope that I too would survive this divorce… and maybe even thrive someday.

Every day women need to hear that I have been through an abusive marriage and a divorce, that I have been abused as a child, that I have been raped and I’ve healed, and I’m more than thriving on the other side sharing this hope and healing with them. Someone you meet is going to need to hear that you too have been through a divorce or whatever storm you have been through. Seeing how your life is better now, what it took to get through the healing process, and that you’re doing well, which will give someone hope, needed to keep moving forward in her own healing journey.

Whatever God’s purpose is for you, do it to shine a light into the dark places of pain, hurt, and struggles. Your purpose may look very different than mine, and mine different from yours, but we all can be used in distinct ways to comfort others in their times of troubles and use our purpose to benefit the Kingdom of God.

The good news is that God has been incredibly,  faithfully present throughout this storm.  I can see tangible evidence of His speaking hope into my spirit every time I so desperately needed it and how He gave me strength on the hardest of days.

Admittedly my faith has felt weak at times, but I have now personally experienced how God is strongest when we are at our weakest.  His obvious intervention in my life, along with the unconditional love, support, encouragement and prayers from beloved friends and family, are what have carried me this far.

So today, despite it all, I can honestly say I do still wholeheartedly believe in the promise of Jeremiah 29:11.   I truly believe God has a great plan and purpose for what I am going through and for my future.

Although the happenings of 2018 are yet to be known, I am choosing to be hopeful and believe God has a wonderful year ahead with exciting new opportunities, relationships, blessings and adventures in store. I am choosing to believe my story is still being written, and trust God will be with me during the journey.

In His love and trusting in His continued goodness,

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I Need Your Direction Lord

 

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I have shared many times on my blog about my divorce and it’s aftermath. These past several weeks have been a bit difficult with regard to my attitude about my ex-husband.  I shared my sadness/anger of discovering he placed a praise the Lord and christian fish after his name on our divorce decree.  Compounded by the fact, that I work with Christian women who find themselves in abusive marriages, has made it even more difficult.  I realize daily that he desperately needs to change his heart so he does not abuse another women.  Truth is, I do not miss the man I was married to, but I do miss the best friend he was for years, before we married.  It is hard as a christian, you are told to fight for your marriage, which I did while we were separated even fight while the divorce is being processed.  Then the decree is final….then what?

I forgave him three years ago, but sometimes I still get annoyed with him. Especially, when every time I need to get a hold of him, I receive angry emails from his family attacking me. He acts like I am a non-person after 2 decades together… Funny, they are never from him, he just ignores me, he hides behind his family. It is such a paradox for me, professionally, I work to educate and stop domestic violence, then knowing that I personally know someone who needs help to stop their abusing behavior.

I’ve been pondering the whole response to an ex that needs help, do I just turn a blind eye and walk away or do I try my best to make sure he never hurts another women.  If he does, is it a blood on my hands kind of a thing.  I know that isn’t exactly accurate, but it is hard to see someone you loved living with a hard heart either. Of course, I am far from perfect, and I have my own issues, and only by the grace of God do I live.

I believe that God is showing me to just give him up to the Lord, period: in an attitude of love, goodness, blessing and prayer. My eyes focused not on my life, not on my circumstances, and not on the wrongs done to me, but rather focused with laser intensity on Jesus!

The verse that the Lord continually bringing me to is Luke 6:27-28:

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

It seems harsh to refer to my ex-husband as my enemy … although sometimes it feels that way. I believe in my heart that he isn’t my enemy. I think I feel like I’m in a spiritual battle with him, but maybe we are more like opponents in a tennis match—but there’s definitely no love in the score.  Which makes me sad.

“Love your enemies.”

Awww, Lord. Really?

“Love … do good … bless … pray.”

Love him? Love him. Really?

What does that even look like? ‘Cause I did that for a long time and it ended up almost destroying me. I ended up abused, used and thrown away like thrash, notified he was divorcing me by email.  Love the person who put praise the Lord and a christian fish on our divorce decree?  So I’m praying as I write because I really don’t know what that looks like.

Talking about love always reminds me of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Love is:

Patient, kind, does not envy or boast, is not arrogant or rude, does not insist on its own way, is not irritable or resentful, does not rejoice in wrongdoing, rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Am I patient with God’s dealing with my situation and my ex? Am I kind in the face of my ex’s attitudes, accusations and actions? Am I rude when I could choose to be kind? Do I insist that things go my way regardless of God’s plan? Am I irritable and resentful? (Ugh. Definitely.) I do not believe I rejoice in my ex’s wrongdoings, but maybe I do a bit when it’s me trying to justify my angry response to him. Do I rejoice in the truth?  I hope so.

But in this circumstance, do I bear, believe, hope and endure all things? Nope. I wanna cry and hide in the corner. I want to yell and argue and fight with my ex, telling him how much he hurt me and the children.

Who am I kidding—I can’t do those things! Love like that? That’s not logical.

But when has God called me to do something that He hasn’t enabled me to do?

Once again, I’m gonna have to rely solely on Jesus. After all, He has given us “a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7).

And I’m going to need the Lord in my life, because not only am I called to love that man, but to do good, bless and pray for him.

 

But what is my role in the meantime?  Am I you supposed to sit around and passively wait for more persecution? No, the answer is to become aggressive with good. When wicked behavior is running rampant, it feels like it is in control. However God’s Word tells us that good is more powerful than evil. God does not say that doing good to others will help us tolerate their evil. He says that we can overcome it. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Light overwhelms darkness. Hope triumphs over discouragement. Love casts our fear. It is our task, in the face of evil, to offer good. Why? Because good invites repentance.  I pray he repents, before it is too late.

Consider Romans 12:20 “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” The phrase “heap burning coals on his head” referred to awakening the conscience of another. With good, we can melt the heart of evil with burning shame. Constantly repaying evil with good holds a mirror up to the perpetrator reflecting only their evil; in some cases this will bring about a change of heart.

I believe I will pray for God to enable me to live the way God desires me too!

My Road To Fitness

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After my divorce, I was in a slump!  I was in my late Fifties and out of shape.

My story is not all that uncommon, but it still feels pretty unbelievable (and by that I mean: terrifyingly unhealthy) to admit that I didn’t exercise for 13 straight years. I lived my life, woke up, ate food, and carried on without so much as breaking a sweat. No cardio, no conditioning, no heart-pumping movement or muscle-toning repetitions.  Oh, I would go for a walk every now and then, but not much more than that.

This lack of exercises was all the more surprising since I had been a regular exerciser all the way into my forties. I would jog every morning and cardio classes in the afternoon.  I even went line dancing every week, played coed softball and racquetball. Exercise was always a consistent part of my life.

After my divorce I decided I needed a change so one night I went with my son to the gym, I was running circles around the tiny little track and I started thinking. I knew at that moment that I needed to make a change and find a new way to challenge myself. I also had started to realize that I was very much living in a bubble, seeing the same people and doing the same things every day. And I wanted to do something to force myself to break that comfort zone and become more independent. So I promised myself that I would find a gym and start work with a trainer.

The next week I signed up for my classes.,  I felt anxious and weird like on the first day of school, but I did it! I went to a class where I didn’t know anyone and it was really, really hard. I kept going, and every time it was really hard I would tell myself, “This is why you are here.” I know it’s cheesy, but this was a huge turning point in my life and a really healthy step for me as a person and for my fitness.

That was exactly three month’s ago.

In order for me to be consistent, I decided to not think about what I haven’t done, or how much work it’s going to take to get to where I want to be. Don’t think about how out of shape you are or how terrible it is that it’s been so long since you last exercised. Over thinking is momentum’s enemy. Let the past stay in the past, and just do something.

I found it is really hard to make new friends as adults. So open yourself up to the idea that exercising can be a way to form new relationships. And here’s a secret for you — finding friends who enjoy working out is one of the best ways to ensure that you maintain your healthy routine. Before my fitness commitment, I was in a funk; I didn’t have many girlfriends. By starting this new journey, I threw open a door that has led to so many wonderful new friendships — wonderful not only because they’ve held me accountable, but also because they’ve pushed me to realize my true potential.

The best part of all this: you’ll see results everywhere. Put effort into yourself, be it through sweat or physical challenges. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Exercise sets off a chain reaction, improving not just your own physical body, but all elements of your life.

This is one of the best decisions I have made in a long time.

I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service of worship. Romans 12:1

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20

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Overcoming Betrayal

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I have heard,  “The most surprising thing about divorce is that is doesn’t kill you instantly like a head-on car crash because it should. Instead, we are left trying to process the impact and cope with the painful aftermath.”

I recently got together with a dear friend who shared with me the difficult news of her impending divorce. It was a hard conversation, filled with sadness and her shame of having failed her marriage. The hurt and betrayal she was feeling, unfortunately,  is a pain I know all too well.   Especially, since we both wanted to heal our marriages and seek reconciliation, but faced hard-hearted spouses.  In my case “I thought separation would be a powerful attention-getting boundary to stop the abuse” Instead of counseling, I was met with divorce. As we sat together crying and sharing, I immediately thought of Psalm 55 12-14.

12 For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him:13 But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance.14 We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company. Psalm 55 12-14

As we know David was no stranger to betrayal. I think we can learn a lot from the way he cries out to God, in real raw honest truth. David shows us how to overcome the pain. “But I call to God, and the LORD saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and He hears my voice” (Psalm 55 16-17).

I think there are few things in life more devastating than finding out that the person you once loved could become the object of your pain and betrayal. The person you promised to love until death do you part.  The person you dreamed of spending your entire life with.  Someone you thought was your friend and spouse could become your enemy. Trust is shattered.  Faith is questioned. The covenant is broken. A life built becomes the focus of a battle to dismantle. I have experienced the pain, anger, and resentment of divorce, along with it’s never ending repercussions.  How do you stop loving someone you have shared so much intimacy with and as David spoke in Psalm 55 “sweet fellowship.” I now understand why God hates divorce.

Who can we turn to when the one who betrays us is our spouse? Especially, since they were the person, you use to run too? Ultimately, our sinless heavenly Father is the only One who will never sin against us. He will not betray, abandon, or reject us.

all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God(Romans 3:23).

God loves you. He will never reject you. He hears your cries! He longs to draw you close and fill you with His supernatural peace. No matter what your circumstance,  God is there. He is the steady hand underneath your days.  God wants to do a work in you. He doesn’t want to leave you where you are—He loves you too much. He wants to increase your faith, your reliance upon Him, and your love for Him. Be willing to allow God to transform you.

This path begins with taking our eyes off our ex-spouse and on to Jesus as the power source for our love.

I am praying for all who need to believe that Christ is with them in their pain. If you are struggling with your faith, I am praying that you will have the strength to surrender your doubt to Christ and ask for his strength to believe. May you know that He loves you more than you could ever know. He has promised to never leave you, not ever, no matter what you are going through. God is close to the brokenhearted. His word is true. He is with you now. Let him work this out but trust him with the details. Your faith shows the world that you belong to Christ. May God give you his peace and may you know that you are not alone.

Unshakable Love Of A Godly Husband

Imagine how precarious your relationship with Christ would be if He only loved you when it was convenient for Him, or only when you were most attractive to Him. Everyone knows what it’s like to be loved imperfectly—and, if we’re honest, what it’s like to love someone else imperfectly.

Believers ought to be perpetually grateful that God’s love for us isn’t conditional, and that He loved us even while we rejected Him (Romans 5:8). In Ephesians 2, Paul wrote about God’s transcendent love for us in the midst of our rebellion.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins. . . . Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:1-6)

So moments later, when Paul penned the instruction for husbands to love their wives “just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25), he was not speaking about God’s love in vague terms. His original audience understood that he was not telling husbands to love their wives if the wives deserved it, or if the husbands felt like it.

He gave an absolute command. Biblical love is a willful commitment to self-sacrifice, and it is not at all based on how we might “feel” at any point about the object of our love.

Sacrificial Love

A husband who is unwilling to sacrifice for his wife does not even know what true love is. Those who regard their wives as servants under their sovereign headship haven’t begun to appreciate the true biblical pattern for marriage and family. Selfish husbands therefore will never know what it is to have a fulfilled marriage and family. True happiness in marriage is possible only to those who follow the divine pattern.

Properly understood, Ephesians 5:25 demands that the husband die to self. In effect, he is called to crucify himself for the sake of his wife. It’s not talking about some petty sacrifice, such as helping with the dishes now and then. It means the husband must devote his entire life—and quite literally even be willing to die—for the good of his wife.

Remember, genuine love “does not seek its own” (1 Corinthians 13:5). The man who is concerned only with getting what he can from marriage is sowing the seeds of destruction in his family. To love your wife as Christ loved the church is to be preoccupied with what you can do for her, not vice versa. After all, Christ loves us not for selfish gain, but because He is a gracious Lord who delights to bestow His favor on us.

Protective Love

The love of a godly man for his wife is not only sacrificial, it also safeguards her purity. Paul said Christ’s sacrifice for the church had this ultimate object in mind: to sanctify and cleanse her “that she would be holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:26–27). Her purity was His primary concern.

Likewise, in marriage, it is every husband’s solemn duty to guard his wife’s purity. No one would ever deliberately defile someone he really loves. How could a loving husband ever delight in something that compromises the purity of the one he loves?

On the contrary, the husband who loves his wife as Christ loves the church will naturally hate anything that defiles her. He will guard her from anything and everything that might dishonor her, degrade her, demean her, or tempt her to sin. He will never knowingly lead her into any kind of sin, but protect her against any threat to her virtue. He won’t deliberately provoke or exasperate her so that she succumbs to anger or any other temptation. And he himself will be an example of purity, knowing that whatever defiles him will ultimately defile her too.

Notice the primary way Christ maintains the purity of the church: “by the washing of water with the word” (Ephesians 5:26). Husbands have a duty to ensure that their wives are regularly exposed to the cleansing and purifying effect of the Word of God. The husband is to be the spiritual leader and priestly guardian of the home. It is his duty to make sure the Word of God is at the center of the home and family. He ought to lead his family in participation in a church where the Word of God is revered and obeyed. And above all, he himself needs to be devoted to the Word of God and proficient enough in handling the Scriptures that he can be the true spiritual head in the marriage (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:34–35).

Caring Love

Genuine love also involves tender care, and Paul expressed that idea this way: “Husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies” (Ephesians 5:28). We take care of our bodies constantly—giving them whatever food, clothing, comfort, recreation, relaxation, or rest they need. We’re attentive to our own bodies, concerned with their needs, sensitive and responsive to whatever they desire.

That is the kind of love Paul commanded husbands to show their wives. Notice, once again, Scripture is not describing love only as an emotion. This sort of love is active, voluntary, dynamic—something we do, not something we passively “feel.”

It’s only reasonable that a man would love his wife the way he loves his own body, because in marriage, “the two . . . become one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31). That is the way God designed marriage. Paul was actually quoting from Genesis 2:24, which describes how God first ordained marriage itself. It applies universally and it has been true from the beginning. Husbands ought to love their wives with the same care they give to their own bodies because, after all, the two are one flesh.

Enduring Love

Since the husband’s love for his wife pictures Christ’s love for the church, it must also be the kind of love that outlasts every trial and overcomes every obstacle. When Christ was questioned about divorce, He quoted the same verse Paul referenced from Genesis, then underscored the permanence of the union: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:6).

Every marriage is consummated in an earthly sense by a physical union: “The two shall become one flesh.” Children conceived by that union will literally bear the genetic pattern of two people who have become one flesh. But marriage also involves a spiritual union. God is the one who joins husband and wife together. Marriage is the union of two souls knitted together in every aspect of life. Their emotions, intellects, personalities, desires, and life goals are inextricably bound together.

Naturally, then, God also designed marriage to be a permanent union, unbroken and uncorrupted. The biblical terminology of Ephesians 5:31 stresses the permanence of the marriage union: “A man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife.” The word translated “be joined to” is a Greek term (proskolla) that literally speaks of gluing something together. It describes a permanent, unbreakable bond. That is an apt description of God’s ideal for marriage. It’s a union held together by lasting love that absolutely refuses to let go.

Christlike Love

Scripture is clear: God’s plan for the family begins with life-long monogamous marriage, which is grounded in sacrificial love. Why is this of such supreme importance? Paul gave the answer inEphesians 5:32: “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” In other words, the husband’s love for his wife is a sacred duty because of what it illustrates.

Christ is the heavenly Bridegroom and the church is His bride (Revelation 19:7–8; 21:9). Because marriage pictures that union, the husband must be Christlike in his love for the wife, and she must be submissive to his headship. Otherwise, the divine object lesson is destroyed.

What higher motive could there be for a husband to love his wife? By loving her as Christ loved the church, he honors Christ in the most direct and graphic way. He becomes the embodiment of Christ’s love to his own wife, a living example to the rest of his family, a channel of blessing to his entire household, and a powerful testimony to a watching world.

 

Enough Is Enough

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My favorite paragraph in this article by Gary Thomas is:

I want a man who was abusive to have to explain to a potential second wife why his saintly first wife left him. Let men realize that behavior has consequences, and that wives are supposed to be cherished, not used, not abused, and never treated as sexual playthings. If a man wants the benefit and companionship of a good woman, let him earn it, and re-earn it, and let him know it can be lost.

 

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26

What does it mean to “hate” someone we are elsewhere called to sacrificially love? We are told to love even our enemies, yet Jesus here tells us to hate some of our closest family members. What could that mean?

Hatred here is Semitic hyperbole. In essence, it means “love less than.” There are times when our love and allegiance to God may be at odds with human loyalties; in those cases, love for God, His light and the way of truth, must always prevail.

It’s okay (actually, commendable) for me to love the Seattle Seahawks. But if my wife needs me to take her to the hospital in the middle of a game or needs me to pay her some attention, I have to act like I hate the Seahawks and not even consider my love for them in service to my wife.

Let’s apply this principle in regards to how the church views marriage and divorce.

I recently spoke at a long-standing North American woman’s conference and was overwhelmed by the quantity and horrific nature of things wives are having to put up with in their marriages. Between sessions, I was bombarded by heartfelt inquiries: “What does a wife do when her husband does this? Or that? Or keeps doing this?” It broke my heart. I felt like I needed to take a dozen showers that weekend.

This may sound like a rant, but please hang with me, as I think this conference was a divine appointment. I can’t get this out of my mind.

One wife began our conversation with, “God hates divorce, right?”

“Yes,” I said. “I believe He does.”

“So I’ve just got to accept what’s happening in my marriage, right?”

When she told me what was happening, I quickly corrected her. “If the cost of saving a marriage is destroying a woman, the cost is too high. God loves people more than he loves institutions.”

Her husband is a persistent porn addict. He has neglected her sexually except to fulfill his own increasingly bent desires. He keeps dangling divorce over her head, which makes her feel like a failure as a Christian. He presented her with a list of five things he wanted to do that he saw done in porn, and if she wasn’t willing, he was through with the marriage. She agreed to four of them, but just couldn’t do the fifth. And she feels guilty.

God hates divorce, right?

This is monstrous and vile. This woman needs to be protected from such grotesque abuse, and if divorce is the only weapon to protect her, then the church should thank God such a weapon exists.

A young wife, barely in her twenties, held a baby in a blanket and looked at me with tears. Her husband has a huge temper problem. He’s made her get out of the car on a highway with her baby,twice. “But both times he came back for us,” she said in his defense when I looked absolutely appalled. They were separated and she was living with her parents. She wanted to know if she should take him back because his psychiatrist supposedly said there wasn’t anything really wrong with him. Her husband doesn’t think he has a problem that, in fact, the problem is with her “lack of forgiveness.”

They had been married only three years and she had already lived through more torment (I’m not telling the full story) than a woman should face in a lifetime. My thoughts weren’t at all about how to “save” the marriage, but to ease her conscience and help her prepare for a new life—without him.

Church, God hates it when a woman is sexually degraded and forced to do things that disgust her. It should also make us want to vomit.

When a young man is so immature he puts his wife’s and baby’s life in danger on a highway (amongst other things), the thought that we’re worried about the “appropriateness” of divorce shows that our loyalties are with human institutions, not the divine will.

As Kevin DeYoung so ably puts it, “Every divorce is the result of sin, but not every divorce is sinful.”

Another woman told me about putting up with her husband’s appalling behavior for over forty years. I was invited to look in her face, see the struggle, see the heroic perseverance, but also be reminded that counsel has consequences. So when I talk to a young woman in her third year of marriage and it’s clear she’s married to a monster, and someone wants to “save” the marriage, I want them to realize they are likely sentencing her to four decades of abuse, perhaps because of a choice she made as a teenager. When these men aren’t confronted, and aren’t repentant, they don’t change.

Jesus said what he said about divorce to protect women, not to imprison them. Divorce was a weapon foisted against women in the first century, not one they could use, and it almost always left them destitute if their family of origin couldn’t or wouldn’t step up.

How does it honor the concept of “Christian marriage” to enforce the continuance of an abusive, destructive relationship that is slowly squeezing all life and joy out of a woman’s soul? Our focus has to be on urging men to love their wives like Christ loves the church, not on telling women to put up with husbands mistreating their wives like Satan mistreats us. We shouldconfront and stop the work of Satan, not enable it.

Look, I hate divorce as much as anyone. I have been married for 31 years and cannot fathom leaving my wife. I have prayed with couples, counselled with couples, written blog posts and articles and books, and have travelled to 49 of the 50 states and nine different countries to strengthen marriages in the church. By all accounts, I believe I’ve been an ambassador for improving and growing marriages.

The danger of what I’m saying is clear and even a little scary to me, because no marriage is easy. Every marriage must overcome hurt, pain, and sin. No husband is a saint, in the sense that every husband will need to be forgiven and will be troublesome and even hurtful at times to live with. I’m not talking about the common struggles of living with a common sinner, or every man and woman could pursue divorce. (There are many men who live with abuse and could “biblically” pursue a divorce as well.) Charging someone with “abuse” when it doesn’t truly apply is almost as evil as committing abuse, so we need to be careful we don’t bear “false witness” against a spouse to convince ourselves and others that we can legitimately pursue divorce to get out of a difficult marriage.

That’s why I love how some churches will meet with a couple and hear them out to give them some objective feedback, helping them to distinguish between normal marital friction and abusive behavior. Some women need to hear, “No, this isn’t normal. It’s abuse. You don’t have to put up with that.” Others need to hear, “We think what you’re facing are the normal difficulties of marriage and with counseling they can be overcome.” There’s no way a blog post (or even a book) can adequately anticipate all such questions.

I love marriage—even the struggles of marriage, which God can truly use to grow us and shape us—but I hate it when God’s daughters are abused. And I will never defend a marriage over a woman’s emotional, spiritual, and physical health.

I went back to my hotel room after that woman’s conference and almost felt like I had to vomit. I don’t know how God stands it, having to witness such horrific behavior leveled at his daughters.

Enough is enough!

Jesus says there are “levels” of love, and times when one loyalty must rise over another. Our loyalty to marriage is good and noble and true. But when loyalty to a relational structure allows evil to continue it is a false loyalty, even an evil loyalty.

Christian leaders and friends, we have to see that some evil men are using their wives’ Christian guilt and our teaching about the sanctity of marriage as a weapon to keep harming them. I can’t help feeling that if more women started saying, “This is over” and were backed up by a church that enabled them to escape instead of enabling the abuse to continue, other men in the church, tempted toward the same behavior, might finally wake up and change their ways.

Christians are more likely to have one-income families, making some Christian wives feel even more vulnerable. We have got to clean up our own house. We have got to say “Enough is enough.” We have got to put the fear of God in some terrible husbands’ hearts, because they sure don’t fear their wives and their lack of respect is leading to ongoing deplorable behavior.

I want a man who was abusive to have to explain to a potential second wife why his saintly first wife left him. Let men realize that behavior has consequences, and that wives are supposed to be cherished, not used, not abused, and never treated as sexual playthings. If a man wants the benefit and companionship of a good woman, let him earn it, and re-earn it, and let him know it can be lost.

Enough is enough.

I know I’m ranting. But I don’t think it was an accident that I was constantly stopped at that woman’s conference and forced to hear despicable story after despicable story (“forced” isn’t the right word. I could, of course, have walked away). I think God wanted me to see the breadth and depth of what is going on, and in this case, perhaps to be His voice.

Message received! We are called to love marriage, but when marriage enables evil, we should hate it (love it less) in comparison to a woman’s welfare.