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The hand of God

I met my husband not long after I truly gave my life to Christ. My husband had recently gone through a divorce, and he had a 3-year old daughter. Neither of us were expecting anything more than friendship from one another when we met. However, God had other plans. Within two months of meeting each other, my husband and I were best friends. We were virtually inseparable. I knew I was developing romantic feelings for him, but I was so afraid I would get my eyes off of Jesus if I got romantically involved with a man, and my husband had similar thoughts, though neither of us knew it at the time. As I felt my feelings for him becoming stronger, I began to pray and seek God about the place this man was supposed to have in my life. I knew I wanted more than friendship, but I wanted to love Jesus more than I loved any other person. I wanted Jesus to be first in my heart. I was also concerned that my husband would get his eyes off of Jesus, especially since he had recently divorced. Without the other one knowing, we each started to pray about our feelings for each other, baring our souls to God about the desires of our hearts, but expressing the greater desire to love Jesus above all things.

While we were only best friends, though, we had not one, not two, but seven people come up to us on different occasions and ask us if we were dating. When we told them, “No,” they told us we belonged together. They said we just seemed to go together. It was so easy for us to be around each other and we seemed meant to be. My husband and I often talked about this, and it actually began to make both of us think about our relationship. Was there something we were missing? Was God trying to tell us something? We didn’t know, but neither one of us felt God telling us it was time to move forward in our relationship. We kept hanging out with each other, and our friendship grew deeper, but we both were reluctant to tell the other how we were feeling.

I had many talks with God about this issue, but God remained silent on that specific question. However, my husband and I had a dynamic when we were together. We seemed to complement each other in almost every way, and it came out when we were talking to others about Christ or leading a Bible study. Our ministry styles complemented each other. It was bizarre but awesome at the same time. Even though both of us were beginning to wonder if we misunderstood God, we still held back our feelings. I was so in love with Jesus that I didn’t want to mess that up by loving my husband more, and my husband was the same. He was afraid that I would get my eyes of Christ, and he didn’t want to be the one that was involved in that.

I continued to pray about it, and one night I had a dream. I knew the dream was from God, but I was uncertain at first what the dream meant. Now, I will admit that I was blown away that God would speak to me through a dream, but He did. He has spoken to people through dreams throughout history, so it isn’t unusual. Supernatural, yes, but unlike God, no. This is the dream I had:
There was a pan with three loaves of bread on it. Suddenly, a hand from heaven came down and removed the center loaf and pushed the other two loaves of bread together. Then, the hand went back up into heaven.

It was a short dream, but it was very vivid. I remember asking myself why I was dreaming about bread. What was the significance of bread? I was so amazed at the dream that I called my husband at 12:14 a.m. We talked for 77 minutes, and that call was on the fourteenth day of the month (I don’t remember which month I had the dream). I am also fairly sure that the cost of the call was a multiple of seven. Did you notice the number 7 and the other numbers that are multiples of seven? That’s because the number seven is significant in and of itself. In the Bible, the number seven symbolizes completeness, perfection. But, I am getting off track.

I called my husband and told him about my dream. I told him I knew the dream was from God but I did not know what it meant. He knew immediately what it meant, but he would not tell me because he realized it was something I needed God to reveal to me. After we finished talking, I started asking God what the dream meant, but He didn’t tell me immediately.

Something else that is interesting is that my husband’s and my first date was February 14. We drove an hour south to eat at one of my favorite restaurants and afterwards, we walked along the beach. On the way back, there was a particular song we both wanted to hear, so we stopped at a Walmart. Amazingly (but why should I have been surprised at this point?) that Walmart had the CD that song was on. While at Walmart, I went to the women’s restroom. I had thoroughly enjoyed the time I had with my husband, and I didn’t want it to end. I remember thinking that when I got married, I did not know how I would explain to whoever my husband might be that this man was my best friend. Shouldn’t your spouse be your best friend? Then, it hit me like a lightning bolt: The person I marry should be my best friend. That’s the way God intended it. Then, the contents of the dream began to be clear.

Jesus said in John 6: 35, 41, 48, and 51, “I am the Bread of Life.” He goes on to say that those who eat of His bread will never be hungry but will be satisfied. In biblical passages relating to the Last Supper, Jesus says the bread is his body (Matthew 26:26-27; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19) (see also 1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 11:23-24). There are parallels to this story when Jesus fed the multitudes and broke the bread to give to the crowd. There was plenty of bread so that all the people could eat and be satisfied, and there was bread left over (Matthew 14:19-20; Matthew 15:36-37; Mark 6:37-42; Mark 8:6-8; John 6:1-13). When the Israelite people were in the wilderness, after coming out of Egypt and waiting to go into the promised land, God gave them manna from heaven every day. The people had to eat the manna that fell on that day; none could be saved for the next day. It would be ruined. What was not eaten was to be left.

So, this was the meaning of the dream: God was telling me that Jesus was first in my heart. God had been keeping my husband and I apart until Jesus was solidly first place in my life. Once God knew that I loved Jesus more than anything, He moved us closer to one another and allowed us to enter into a romantic relationship. The three loaves of bread represented Jesus, my husband, and myself. The loaf that was removed symbolized that God was removing the obstacle. The hand visibly coming down from heaven let me know the dream was from God and that God was the one who brought my husband and I together. It was His work and His plan that was unfolding.

Once I had that revelation from God, my husband and I moved forward in our relationship with confidence and God’s blessing.

I am not sure why God gave us so much confirmation during the early months of our relationship. We didn’t ask God for confirmation, though there is nothing wrong with doing that. However, as I have pondered the overwhelming confirmation God gave us, I sometimes wonder if it was because He knew what my husband and I would face. He knew that we would need the confirmation at the darkest point in our marriage. I thought about the confirmation during my husband’s affair, so I do think that part of the reason why God gave us so much is that He knew I would need it. That knowledge helped me keep fighting for my marriage. I knew that God had plans for my husband and I and that He confirmed our relationship in so many ways. I could not just give up. I would not give up unless God clearly told me to do so, which he obviously never did.

So, here I am…almost 8 years later, still feasting on Jesus, still giving Him first place in my life, and reaping the reward for continuing to fight when the odds seemed to be against me; still believing there is a higher purpose and calling for what my husband and I went through; still watching God’s plan for my life unfold. I hated that battle, though. It was long, hard, bitter, and painful, but, for me, it was a battle worth fighting. It was a prize worth earning. It was a fight worth winning.

Just one small compromise

As I have shared in earlier posts, my husband was the last man on earth anyone thought would commit adultery. That speaks a lot to his character and integrity, as well as his love for God, before he fell. My husband was (and now is again) the kind of man that does not like to listen to music or watch any television show or movie with foul language in it. Before his affair began, when he was still able to drive, he did not like to drive above the speed limit. He wasn’t doing it out of legalism but rather out of a heart that wanted to obey God, and God says to obey the law of the land (Romans 13:1-7).

Not long before he met the other woman, my husband began working out. He became rather obsessed with it. We would spend money buying the protein powder and other supplements, and he would spend a couple of hours in the gym behind our home almost every day. In his workouts, he liked to listen to peppy, upbeat music. He started out listening to Christian groups, like the Newsboys, but he soon began to add some rock/pop songs to his play list. A lot of the songs had curse words in them, and though it bothered him a little, he continued to include those songs in his playlist. Before long, the words didn’t bother him. That was a small compromise. There were some other things that occurred that were also compromises, but I will not delve into those matters. The point is that compromise started the whole affair. Compromise is dangerous. Being tempted is not a sin. All of us are tempted. We sin when we give in to the temptation: “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1: 13-15, NIV). My husband was enticed by his own desire, and when he acted on that desire, that resulted in sin. Sin always has consequences.

Sometime in late 2006 or early 2007, we let the filter on our internet expire. Neither one of us took the time to renew it. The filter would have kept either of us from visiting websites with violence, profanity, and pornography, among other things. Once that hedge of protection was down, my husband began to look at pornography. At first, the pictures were enough to feed his lust, but over time, he wanted more. At some point, he began visiting adult websites where women and men would advertise themselves for sex and desired to hook up with others, and that is where and how he met the other woman. Now, common sense alone should tell anyone that the people who are on and use those sites are not the kind of people you should want to get involved with. It’s kind of like “you get what you ask for.” What did you expect? What kind of relationship do you really think you are going to have with someone on one of those sites? What kind of people do you really expect to meet? If you are on or use those sites, then you need not complain when you have to deal with consequences of your own immorality and indecency. But, as I have made clear, my husband made a series of choices that were based on poor judgment. That was one of them. The lust had taken over, and it was out of control.

The woman he met on that site does not live that far from us, and he began visiting her. Every time he saw her, he told himself he would not go back, and he felt guilty, as he should have. However, he ignored that voice we call conscience and continued the relationship. Before long, he was in so deep, he saw no way out. He has told me that there were many times he wanted to end the relationship for good. He actually broke up with her a few times, but was always drawn back to her. He had hoped to end things without massive fallout, without totally devastating me, our family, and her, but he soon began to realize that was impossible. No matter what happened, there would be massive and destructive fallout. It was inevitable. He realized that everyone was going to get hurt in some way or the other.

Now, of course, by now you know that I had been fervently praying for my husband. God revealed my husband’s struggles to me, and He showed me what was going on in my husband’s mind and spirit. He also revealed things about the other woman to me, although she never realized it. God’s spirit knew both of them. He knew the motives and intents of their hearts. He knew and saw everything both of them did, said and thought. Nothing was hidden from Him, so when He talked to me about either one of them, I listened and I took it as the truth because God is Truth. Because God was revealing these things to me, I knew how to pray and what to pray for my husband. I kept praying even when it seemed like the prayers were not being effective.

My husband has paid dearly for his sin, and it started with compromise. The problem with compromise is that one small compromise leads to another compromise, which leads to another compromise. Before long, the series of compromises take you so far from the truth and take you to places you never imagined you could be and result in actions you never thought yourself capable of. My husband lied to himself when he started making the compromises. He told himself he could control the situation, he wasn’t going to look at any more pornography, he wasn’t going to visit that adult website again, he wasn’t going to talk to her again, and the list goes on. When you are out of God’s will, you have no power over sin. You have no strength to resist sin. It controls you; you never control it. Sin is never satisfied. It becomes hungrier and greedier and always demands more. Sin is destructive. Satan’s desire is to destroy you, and he will use any means necessary to do so. That is why the Bible warns us:

“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, NLT).

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10, NIV)

I have talked to so many women whose husband’s stories are much like that of my husband. In almost every case of infidelity, pornography is involved to some extent. As a matter of fact, if you take Jesus at his word, a man or woman who looks at pornography has already committed adultery (Matthew 5:28). Because sin begins in the heart. Always. And what’s in the heart eventually comes out in our actions. We can’t hide what’s in our hearts forever. We are fools if we think we can.

Our family has paid a steep price for my husband’s compromises and sin. His compromises nearly destroyed our marriage and family. The journey to restore what he allowed the devil to take has been hard and arduous and long. Because of what we both learned about the destructive nature of compromise, we are extra vigilant about what we read, what we think about, what we see, and what we hear. We have safeguards in place to protect both of us and those we love.

Despite what many of us tell ourselves, we cannot flirt with temptation or get so proud as to think we would never do “that” (whatever “that” may be). My husband never once thought his compromises would lead him into adultery and into the worst and most destructive relationship of his life. He never thought he would do “that!”

“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12, NIV).

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18, NIV).

“Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor” (Proverbs 18:12, ESV).

“Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (Proverbs 11:12, NLT).

No matter how we are tempted, the Bible offers ways we can guard ourselves against falling into that temptation:

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV).

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4: 7, NIV).

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11, NIV).

So, my hope for you reading this post is 1) that you will be on guard about compromises in your own life 2) that you will realize God’s strength and grace is always there to help you when you are tempted 3) that you will understand how your spouse may have gotten to the point where he/she could commit adultery 4) you will do whatever is necessary to safeguard your marriage.

 

God, I’m SO Angry!!!!

When you are mad, bitter, and resentful towards someone, it is easy to curse them. By cursing, I do not mean using “curse words,” but rather words that demean, disrespect, and denigrate them–words that are aimed at them for the purpose of hurting them. Out of your hurt, you say things in anger because you want your spouse to hurt like he hurt you. You think that by hurling insults at him, he may possibly feel just one-tenth of the pain he has inflicted on you. Maybe some of the things you think about your husband are true, and many of your feelings are understandable and normal. But, I want to urge you to think before you speak, especially when you are angry.  I cannot recall one moment in my life when speaking or acting out of emotion helped me or the situation. On the contrary, when I have spoken out of my hurt or anger, I made things worse and caused more pain to myself and to others. The Bible in James 1:19 admonishes us to “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” (NIV)

The Bible has much more to say about anger, though. We are wise to consider the advice of those who have gone before us and have seen the damage that anger, haste, and hurtful words have caused.

Proverbs 14:29 “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.” (NIV)

Proverbs 14:17a “A quick-tempered person does foolish things…”  (NIV)

Proverbs 16:32 “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” (ESV)

Proverbs 15:18 “The quickly angered man stirs up contention, but anyone who controls his temper calms a dispute.” (ISV)

Proverbs 19:11 “Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.” (NLT)

Proverbs 29:11 “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise brings calm in the end.” (NIV)

Proverbs 29:22 “An angry person stirs up conflict, and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.” (NIV)

Proverbs 10:12 “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.” (NASB)

Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (NIV)

Ephesians 4:26-27 “And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you,’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.”(NLT)

Ephesians 4:31-32 “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (NLT)

Here is James 1:19-20: But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger, for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. (NASB)

I know you are angry; you are hurt; you are bitter. Sometimes, you feel like you cannot contain all the rage you feel. You want to explode, blasting harsh, cruel, and hurtful things at the person who has deeply betrayed you. I have been there, and I made the same mistakes. I learned the hard way. At times, I hated my husband. I could not stand to be in the same room with him. I insulted him, screamed at him, called him ugly names, and slammed doors in his face. I verbally attacked him with all I could muster, and, believe me, it was not difficult to find ways to hurt him. But, you know what? In doing all of those things, though you may think they were justifiable after what he did to me, I sinned. I sinned because I let my anger, pain, and bitterness control me instead of exercising self-control, which is one fruit of the Spirit. I sinned because I did not treat my husband as I wanted to be treated, which is what Jesus would have had me do. I sinned because I was not kind, gentle, or forgiving. In my foolishness, I created more strife and conflict in my marriage when Jesus was calling me to be a peace-maker. Instead of being a minister of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18), I was sowing seeds of discord, which further plunged me into bitterness, wrath, and resentment.

The brutal truth is that I was disobedient to God when I acted and spoke in anger. Never mind what my husband did. My husband’s actions towards me were NOT a righteous reason for me to lash out at him. I alone was responsible for how I responded to my husband; I had a choice, and I made the wrong choice by giving in to the enormous rage that I felt and letting it all out on multiple occasions. It accomplished nothing good. NOTHING. All it did was stir up more conflict and create more negative feelings. My angry and foolish words did not help me, my husband, or my marriage. Not one bit.

Here’s the thing about anger—it grows and morphs into something so horribly ugly and destructive if you let it control you. Anger, bitterness, resentment and rage are all spiritual cancer. Avoid them. Anger gives the devil a foothold in your life. We already know that Satan desires to steal, kill and destroy, and anger is one of the tools he uses. Anger that is not addressed and resolved in a biblical, God-honoring way will destroy you. It will make you a bitter, scornful person who refuses to forgive and walk in the love of Christ. Anger will keep you from having the blessings that God wants to shower upon you. Anger will imprison you. The apostle Paul states in one of his epistles that we need to get rid of every ROOT of anger and bitterness. Get rid of the root. To get rid of the root, you have to do some digging, and the digging may be painful and hard, but it is necessary. Examine yourself. Admit that you are angry; confess it to God. He understands! Agree with God that your anger will not accomplish anything good and ask Him to help you control your anger. Ask Him to help you speak in love and kindness to your husband, instead of repaying evil with evil. Ask Him to give you wisdom, discernment and understanding so that you will not act foolishly. Pray for your husband even when you don’t feel like it. It is hard to remain angry at someone when you are praying for them.

I know where you are. I know it is unbelievably hard to control yourself and not lash out. I know the last thing you want to do is bite your tongue and offer a gentle and Christ-like response to all your husband has done to you. I know how hard it is to just walk out of the room without saying anything rather than saying things you know are hurtful and wrong. I know how hard it is to keep turning the other cheek when your husband just keeps slapping it. Speaking calmly and kindly and extending forgiveness and grace seems impossible. But, as a Christian, you have the power of God inside of you. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, so, though it may be hard, it is NOT impossible.

Expect setbacks. There will be times when you blow it. But, do not let those times of failure keep you down. Get back up and keep walking in obedience. Ask God to forgive you and ask your husband to forgive you. Humble yourself so that God can help you. Also, when you feel yourself beginning to get angry, refuse to let your emotions control you. Walk away if you must. Go pray if you must. Learn to recognize when you feel like you are about to lose control, and then take positive steps to avoid creating more pain and discord. Choose to be a peacemaker, a woman of quiet strength, virtue, and godly beauty. The choice is yours, so how are you going to respond?