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.