Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Unhappy Christian Wives, Part 2

On July 16 last year, I wrote a post entitled An Open Letter to Unhappy Christian Wives. It was actually a copy of a letter I wrote to a woman planning a divorce. She and her husband had gone to counseling with poor results--in her opinion, he wasn't changing any of the things on her laundry list.

Yes, she gave him a list of things he was supposed to change, and he failed.

Shortly before her divorce this woman's husband came to know the Lord but the laundry list of things she didn't like about him sent her packing; the divorce is now final. Never once did she admit to any fault in the troubled marriage, but she spoke daily--in everyone's hearing--about her husband's faults.

She is only an acquaintance of mine, but we know her son, a former homeschooler, and she works at my husband's workplace.

In my letter I told her boldly "No one increases their personal peace through non-biblical divorce."  (Just so you know, he was not abusing her or cheating.)

Immediately after she left the home with their 13-year-old son, trouble followed her everywhere...trouble with their son, an addiction, her purity, her finances, her daily schedule. She came to work crying on many occasions, and still does a year later. In short, she's a mess and her son despises her. If something doesn't change she may be without a job soon.

I was brave enough to write this letter to her because of concern for her son, and because three months prior, I wrote one to another couple on the brink of divorce and God used it. They reconciled, stopped the divorce proceedings, and the wife moved back in. Later in the year they split again, divorced, but kept in contact. The husband came to know the Lord and tried very hard to change the woman's mind, and she did date him for a few months and they saw pastors for counseling, but then later she met someone else. End of story and her ex-husband is in a lot of pain right now, wondering where God is.

Between the two letters I probably spent eight hours of my time, and then more time praying. I can't tell you how sad the outcomes have left me, but I know better than to waste time wondering if I could have chosen my words better, or if I could have prayed more, or if maybe I should have minded my own business.

Free will is a gift from God, but Satan uses it to destory us and that's what happened here. There was too much Satan and not enough God in the equation. God was big enough, but the women weren't willing to wait on the Lord. Satan spoke a better sales pitch, deceptive though it was.

When there's trouble in human relationships, God works miracles through prayer and willing hearts, but the time table is rarely to our liking. We may start out following God, but when the path seems too long with no end in sight, we look for shortcuts. I don't want to wait any longer for happiness. I want to chase after it myself, for I know just what the answer is and I see it within my reach. (So Satan tells us.)

My Open Letter has yielded 255 hits on this small-scale blog, usually through searches such as: unhappy in Christian marriage, or unhappy Christian wife. I always wonder, when I see the titled searched, if someone, somewhere, is helped. I pray sometimes for the anonymous person who reads it, wondering if my prayer will make a difference in whether they feel disgust at my words, or conviction.

What was I asking of this woman, in my letter? Sacrificial love such as our Savior gave to us. While we were sinners, Christ died for us. We are sinful women married to sinful men and that part never changes. Giving a spouse a laundry list of things to change--essentially saying, "Please be less sinful," doesn't solve anything or yield positive results.

Marriage doesn't make us happy, and neither does it complete us. Our joy is in the Lord and in our relationship with Him. We are not defined by our marriage relationship but by our commitment to following Christ. Do we take up our cross and follow Him, or do we take up our grievances and let them destory us?

The answer to any relationship problem is this: "Be still and know that I am God." And while you're being still, read your Bible and pray. Realize that your joy is in that, not in your husband's personality qualities.

How many times in the last week have you prayed for your spouse and for your relationship, versus how many times you've lamented about your unhappiness? If the grieving outweighs the prayer, you only pile on more grievances.

We don't like to admit it, but we have plenty wrong with us. Our prayers, responded to by the Holy Spirit, gently lead us to a purer heart. It's never supposed to be..."Dear God, there is just so much wrong with my husband." Rather, we should begin, "Dear God, there is just so much wrong with my heart. Please purify it and my husband's too. We want our marriage to bring you glory."

Does God need us to tell him what's wrong with our husband? Does He not know? Of course He does; we are the ignorant ones. We don't know what's wrong with our own hearts. Our prayers reveal it, and then the Holy Spirit works with our free will to create beauty from ashes.

Without the prayer we remain lost, thinking it's our husband's fault all the while.

Here's the Fix:

1. Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46: 10)

2. Give up your own way and follow Him. Matthew 6:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

2. Pray much. Ask for heart purification.

3. Read your Bible. Every time you think a negative thought about your husband or your marriage, take up your Bible and read.

4. Keep a blessing list; practice gratitude.

5. Be still and know that I am God.

Prayer Time: Dear Heavenly Father, you are everything to our being. Thank you for your abundant gifts and your sacrificial love. Thank you that your love never ends and never makes mistakes. We don't realize it sometimes, but our hearts ache for you, not for perfection in our relationships. Help us to fill up on you, and to love others with the overflow of our hearts. Love is an outpouring, not a feeling. Purify our hearts so we can see the answers in your Word and want to obey them.

In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.

Dear Reader, I wish you joy. I'm sorry about your pain. Please, do steps one through five above and know a joy, and a Savior, who will rock your world with goodness.  


Anonymous said...

Wonderful post! I think that's exactly how I found your blog. And I have read and re-read your letters on marriage. And it HAS helped. To encourage me for one more day, to look at my Savior and at my sinful heart and be awestruck once again at God's mercy to me. Thank you. I can tell you that this is one marriage in which both husband and are committed to each other for the long haul. The "D" word is not allowed in our house. That makes it easier, really. It's just not an option and so we must work through things, with the Holy Spirit's help. God is so good.

Christine said...

Kathy, Praise God for your commitment and I am so happy you were encouraged! God has been so faithful to us as well.

Sarah-Leigh Smith said...

Thank you so much for your letters. I LOVE THE LORD,HE has done so much for me. He brought my husband to repentance nd salvation and has healed my husband from drug addiction and he has a job after 5 years of unemployment. He is an amazing father...yet I still find so much fault. Sometimes I just can't help but correct him all the time. He is now showing frustratiion towards me as he feels he can't reach my level of standard.
I am faithful in my walk with the LORD and spend ALL my free time in prayer and Bible study...(homeschooling mom of 8year old, 4 year old and 18month baby)

Please pray for me...to assess my heart daily and walk closer to Christ so that our marriage would bring Glory to God.

Thank you for this reminder

Christine said...

Thank you, Sarah! Praise God for this amazing story!

Those of us who grew up in an addicted/dysfunctional home can be very critical. Maybe this includes you, but maybe not. It is part of the Adult Child of Alcoholics profile (but includes people from any significantly dysfunctional home). We are easily offended, can be critical, subtly controlling of details in our lives and other people's lives, and we over commit our time and attention to too many endeavors, burning ourselves out, and we have trouble truly having fun because we were never allowed to be a child. There are other things, too. We don't realize we do these things and of course none of them are intentional. These things can occur in our lives even if one of our parents wasn't a falling-down drunk, but just a functional alcoholic or a long-time problem drinker. http://www.adultchildren.org/lit-laundry_list

Some of us go on to marry an addicted person, since we function like an enabler, or some of us go on to marry someone who needs help in some other way--like someone with ADHD or another mental impairment (we "rescue" people). My husband has ADHD, as does one of my sons. No one is addicted here but our home can look dysfunctional at times because of the ways our upbringings can resurface in the present. I have to be mindful of this and ask God to intervene when I am being too sensitive, too hung up on controlling details, too critical, too rigid and resistant to fun.

I have to humble myself to see this sometimes ugly side of myself in order to ask God to heal it. I also have to forgive my addicted parent over and over for stealing my natural personality away from me, and this is very hard. I find the forgiveness an ongoing thing because the way that parent's choices affect my life is an on-going thing.

I will pray for you and give thanks, too, that God has done so much in your marriage! He will not leave it here. You have your hands full and I know how it is with the schedule you keep. Homeschooling mothers have a great deal of responsibility on their shoulders and there is never any rest to speak of, especially if no extended family is around. You need encouragement and someone who is grateful for what you do. Sometimes when a husband is working on his own issues, he forgets to consider how full his wife's plate is and has been for many years. But God knows. He sees you and knows you. He knows you are working hard to love and teach your children in His ways...he sees the hearts and hard work off all mothers everywhere.

Our husbands may never be able to express gratitude like we would like, or be what we'd like, and that is why we have to maintain a strong relationship with the Lord and the same for the husbands. We can never be everything they need, either.

Be forgiving of yourself, even if your husband isn't. Let God perfect you as a wife and just keep reading and praying. Remind your husband that God is remaking you, just as He remade your husband, and that you are doing everything you can to cooperate with the Lord's work in you.

God bless you and keep you and strengthen you. I will remember you in my prayers and be thinking of you, too. I hope you will write back here and give me an update.

Sarah-Leigh Smith said...

Thank you so much for your response. Just what I needed to hear.

I will keep in touch.

Keep us the great work you are doing for kingdom of God.

Much love