Monday, July 16, 2012

An Open Letter to Unhappy Christian Wives

Dear Unhappy,

I want to express my sorrow about your marriage grief. Grappling with complicated relationship issues can be so overwhelming. Please enlist people to earnestly pray for you.

I believe in the Body of Christ concept that we are all One Body. When one person in the Body suffers, the whole Body suffers. Because of this fellow believers need to rally around hurting members and lead them to the Healer, who has all the answers. I pray these words will reveal what God wants for you and for your family.

I understand that in response to your sorrow, the D word has entered your life. The question of divorce is heart wrenching but surprisingly uncomplicated, from a Christian perspective. This is due to the very narrow allowances in scripture for divorce. God tells us for our own good, and for the good of the Body of Believers, that we mustn't get divorced except in cases of adultery, or when an unbelieving spouse abandons a believing spouse. See for the relevant scriptural references and for questions regarding remarriage.

If neither of these--adultery or abandonment--apply to your marriage, you cannot get divorced without disobeying God, though if you are being abused and are unsafe in your home, leave the premises as soon as possible. Physical distance from the abuser is extremely important.

If you choose to disobey God and pursue a non-biblical divorce, you must weigh the consequences for you, your children, and your husband. God will surely forgive you if you sincerely seek his forgiveness at some future time, but you must be truly sorry for having left your marriage union, and as part of heartfelt repentance, you must seek reconciliation with your spouse, if he has not yet remarried. At the very least, you must seek your former spouse's forgiveness.

Also, scripture does not allow for you to remarry. If you try to seek a relationship with a sincere, growing Christian man, he will want to know the circumstances surrounding your divorce. If it wasn't biblical, only a marginal Christian man would be interested in pursuing the relationship. A mature Christian man would not seek to defy God.

Secondly, you will complicate the developing faith of your children (and your husband's faith, if he has any), as they watch you defy God and try to make your own way in the world. When we disobey God we are stepping outside of His protection--essentially saying we know more than the God of the Universe does. We can handle our problems better than He can. 

That all sounds overwhelming, doesn't it? No one increases their personal peace through non-biblical divorce. Many people will be spiritually hurt by the divorce and possibly for generations, it will spiritually stain your family. Children of divorced parents are more likely to get divorced themselves, and second marriages are far less successful than first marriages (80% divorce rate, compared with 50% for first marriages), especially in the cases of non-biblical divorces from the first spouse.

What would be better than divorce? Making Jesus your Lord. This means he runs all aspects of your life, and you live for him and serve him, out of an overwhelming gratitude and love for Him and what he has done for you. If you have lost touch with that radical love for Jesus Christ, pray that God will renew the fire in your heart. 

When you live with a non-believer or with a person who doesn't pursue a relationship with God, it can easily drag you down spiritually. You need to be very diligent to keep the fire in your heart alive, by reading your Bible and praying regularly. Every time we open our Bible or pray to God, it renews a relationship. It nurtures and protects a beautiful bond. When we neglect that time with God, Satan gains a foothold in our lives.

Divorce is Satan's most successful tactic. Over time, it can destroy a society. Satan breeds discontent in the hearts of believers and the discontent leads to sin. If the believer doesn't put a halt to the discontent and embrace thankfulness instead, Satan wins. 

When you accepted Jesus as your Savior, you became his. He paid the ransom for us--he brought us--and if we never receive another blessing at all, we have enough. God is enough. Eternity is enough. When we deceive ourselves into thinking otherwise, great pain is in store for us. 

Every wife has a laundry list of things she doesn't like about her husband. Every husband has the same. Many of the items can be heartrendingly difficult to endure, without Jesus as Lord. But as in all hardship, we must remember that the Christian life has never been about us or about our happiness. It is about serving Him and bringing Him glory. By enduring hardship in a god-honoring way, we bring glory to Him. In fact, how we endure hardship defines us as Christians. 

When we set our minds on the things of the Spirit (keep our eyes fixated on God), whether we are happy or not on a daily basis becomes irrelevant, as it did for the Apostle Paul when he was in prison.

Romans 8:5-8 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 

For more on what the bible says about hardship and sacrifices, see this

I urge you to start a thankfulness list for your life in general, not just for your marriage. Satan hates thankfulness but God loves it. We are told many places in scripture to live with a thankful heart...even when circumstances are less than ideal.

1 Thessolonians 5:18  give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

You will find that a heart of thankfulness will increase your marriage happiness many fold. You will concentrate not on what's wrong with your spouse, but on all that's right. Eventually, if you commit to having a grateful heart, all the reasons you wanted to seek a divorce will pass away in importance. 

Rest assured that if you make Jesus your Lord and develop a grateful heart, He will diligently work behind the scenes, creating beauty from ashes. Your own heart, devoted to the Lord, will win your husband over. Nagging makes most people dig their heals in deeper rather than change, because as human beings, we seek unconditional love. It's only when we feel unconditionally loved that we give our best to others. 

Give your husband the gift of unconditional love, for it is the same gift your Father gave you. Jesus loved us sacrificially and this is the same love he requires from us, for our fellow man. 

The Bible tells men to love their wives, but it tells women to respect their husbands. Men need to feel respected, more than loved. I think it's accurate to say that respect is love, from their perspective. It is part of the way God created them. When we nag or complain, we are not showing respect and it hurts a man at his core. 

So, giving a man a list and asking him to change is the worst thing we can do. Also, it is arrogant, since we are all sinners and we all need to change. We will never be all that a spouse wants. We can't be. And no spouse can meet all of our needs, which is why we need personal relationships with God, the ultimate and perfect Lover of our souls. Our marriage relationship can't define us. Our relationship with God defines us. 

Change starts in our own hearts and with our own humility, especially in the context of marriage. If we set our gaze on God and on His purposes, the overwhelming peace emanating from us will be contagious, and all in our midst, including our spouse, will want what we have. The Bible tells us we win over a wayward husband by the reverence of our lives. And what is complaining and putting conditions on our love and devotion? Is it reverent?

I'm not saying you shouldn't lovingly pursue conversations about marriage issues, but they should never be associated with the D word (divorce). Throwing the D word around is akin to bullying one's spouse. To be fully engaged and committed, each spouse needs assurance that the other spouse is in the marriage for life. This level of commitment is essential for the health of any marriage. 

All issues should be committed to prayer before being discussed with the spouse. The prayer will reveal, over time, how to approach the spouse about the issue, and it will prepare the spouse's heart to receive feedback about the issue. Let prayer guide your marriage entirely. For prayer is your communication with the Holy Spirit (and to a lesser extent, your time reading the Bible is too). Reading the Bible reveals God's heart to you, and praying helps make God's heart personal to you and your needs. You will know God's perfect and pleasing will, through your prayer time and your reading time.

Again, I express my sorrow about what you are going through. I pray these words will point you to the Healer. To your first Love. May God richly bless you, your family, and your legacy.

My Own Thankfulness List:

- a beautiful time with Christian friends
- a marriage molded by grace
- a dinner invitation given to a neighbor
- the radical nature of Christ's love 
- that change always starts with us
- a hernia surgery scheduled for next week and no money required up front
- a son practicing piano
- dancing daughters
- the Chronicles of Narnia series
- dinner time with my family
- the meat, milk, eggs, bread prices at Aldi's
- the power of the Word 
- 4 days of caring for babies at VBS this week
- my children's contagious excitement about VBS
- Miss Beth's first time at VBS 

To read about the outcome of this letter for the person I wrote it to, click: Unhappy Christian Wives, Part 2

Another helpful post: 3 Christian Marriage Essentials


Lisa said...

Well said, dear friend. Now we pray for the words to sink deep down into the hearts of those who need to hear them.
Continuing to pray about your hubby's upcoming surgery. (Eph. 3:20)
Much love to you and yours!

Christine said...

You are a blessing to me, Lisa. Thank you for your prayers!

Unknown said...

very true! As a young wife I got saved and my husband was NOT, in a BIG way. I wanted to leave so bad I thought I had made a mistake. Thank God for godly women that stood up for the truth and helped me have faith for a future. So very true about thankfulness it seem like the key to everything!

Christine said...

What a testimony about the turnaround of your hearts and your marriage, Tesha! God is so awesome, gracious and faithful gracious. Praise God for those godly ladies who met your needs. Yeah for the Body of Christ!

The Mintuit Mother said...

I don't see how a divorce is any more or less sinful than living in an unloving, non-functioning marriage. Breaking marriage commands is sinful. Divorce is sinful. Marriage to my husband has weakened the boldness of my faith. I.AM.MISERABLE.

Christine said...

Dear Mintuit Mother,
I clicked on your name and read your "about me" page. You mentioned that you are a stubborn person and a disobedient Christian, although I realize that could be tongue-in-cheek. I know the stubborn personality type because my 7-year-old daughter is extremely stubborn and so are my sister-in-law and my father-in-law. Most likely you inherited that stubborn personality trait. I will pray for you. God desires that we do things His way and that is so much harder for the stubborn person. Pray for change in both your heart and in your husband's heart, and then wait while doing everything you can to fall in love with Jesus over and over again. It may take five years for real change to come. Regardless of the wait, remember that the Lord will reward your obedience to His Word. He will sustain you, if you let Him. Love to you, and as I said, I will pray, not forgetting that your comment here is my cue from the Lord to pray.

Imperfect Person said...

Christine how about 13 years? I got saved early in our relationship. He left when our son was 2 years old for 2 years. I stayed faithful and loyal to God during those years as a single mother. He went off and partied... Had a relationship with another women. I had the right to divorce, but God promised he would turn that ugly into something powerful for His kingdom. I took him back. He started to attend church and gave his life to Christ. All that was great, until he turned back to his old ways. I am miserable, he hasn't started another affair, but looks at women online. Completely shuts us out... Can do 12 hours a day on facebook easily. I do everything at home with little to no help from him. I am so tired... I don't know howmuch more pain I can take - I keep giving it back to the Lord. I am just asking Him to PLEASE take him away if he will not change.

Christine said...

Dear Imperfect Person,
I will be praying with you that God gives you the desire of your heart, and that He is glorified through this long trial. I am so sorry for your suffering and deep disappointment. I don't understand why God would make the wait so long and painful, but His ways are not our ways. It sounds like you have been very faithful. God bless you and your son both.

Any small loving thing you do will turn his heart toward God. That is what the Bible indicates. It is hard to behave in a loving way toward those who don't deserve it, but with the Holy Spirit's power, we can do small acts of kindness that make a big statement. We don't do them to be manipulative, but as acts of obedience. Then we let the Holy Spirit do what he will with our obedience. I will be praying.

It sounds like there is an internet addiction (addictive personalities can go from one addiction to the next and need to be mindful of their time because of this). I will pray for the internet to go down or something like that so that your husband can gain some perspective on his behavior and the way it is affecting every aspect of his life. To be away from the source of the addiction for a time could make a big difference. Bless you for reaching out!

Christine said...

Another thought I had today, Imperfect Person, is the question of your husband's responsibilities toward you and your son in terms of working and supporting the both of you. You said he can do 12 hours of Facebook and that you do all the work? You want to be careful not to be enabling him. Fulfill your responsibilities, but not his too. I can't tell from your words if he works outside the home or not. Don't do any reminding of his responsibilities, or otherwise prevent him from failing. If his addiction or habits are leading him to failure, he needs to experience that failure in order to get better and turn his life around.

If he is looking at pornography and won't agree to stop, you can ask him to leave and tell him that he can't live with the both of you until he has broken free of that stronghold, or at least agrees to go to therapy for it. I know this would be hard, or maybe impossible if you don't have family who can take you in (if he won't go), but it sounds like your husband needs a jolt to decide what kind of legacy he wants to leave behind--one of destruction and shame, or one that brings glory to God. Asking someone to leave is not giving up, in my opinion. It is simply requiring someone to start stepping up to their responsibilities in cases where enabling might be going on (if they are allowed to stay). Your church elders can help you hold your husband accountable. It is best to reserve this for situations in which the husband's behavior is destructive and harmful and hurtful for the children to witness, and the wife has tried everything else.

E.J. said...

Dear Christine, while I do not wish an unhappy or abusive marriage for you, you may need to experience what women suffer and go through to be able to empathise better while counseling. Your admonitions are more of the 'microwave' type. They are so easy to write I am afraid, rather than experienced. We need to support one another by getting practical and realistic as Christians, we are washed with His blood, not brainswahed by man! I agree with you on the Divorce part. God hates divorce, however we rely on His wisdom for practical solutions too. She who wears the shoes know where it pinches!