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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.

Be still

This post will not be like my usual posts. What I am sharing with you tonight is actually a word God recently gave me, and it keeps resounding in my spirit. I know you are in a world of pain. I know you have cried more tears than you ever thought possible, and I know how despondent and desperate you are. When I was going through what you are going through, God was my ever present help in trouble. But, like all of you, I am human, and there were numerous times I got my eyes off of Jesus. Many times when this happened, my soul was so unsettled within me. I could not rest. My mind would race with fretful thoughts that only worked me into more despair. I often felt like God had deserted me. Those are terrible and dark places to be, and I hurt for you.

Several months ago, something happened that got me very distressed and anxious. I just kept going over the incident in my mind, rehearsing it, and as I did, I only became more agitated. I was so uneasy and upset that I emailed a dear Christian lady friend of mine and shared how I was feeling and why. She responded to my email by asking me for more details, which I provided in another email. Once she knew what was going on, she reminded me that God is a God of peace and order. He is not the author of confusion, chaos or disorder, though it may sometimes seem like that. God is a rock. He is solid. He is stable. He does not change. He does not move. He does not waver. God is not scared, intimidated, threatened, or anxious. He is the peace in our chaos. He is the calm in our storms. He is the shelter and refuge when the rain is pouring down and the wind is howling.

As I thought about all my friend told me, I kept hearing this scripture echo in my spirit: “Be still and know I am God” (Psalm 46:10). I actually have that verse as my screen saver on my laptop. God reminded me of that as I thought about my friend’s advice. So, the question became, “Why did you point this verse out to me, God? Why is it resounding in my spirit?”

“Because you don’t rest before me; you are not still before me. You busy yourself with the responsibilities and cares of this world, when what you should do is be more like Mary and less like Martha. Taste and see that I am good. Let my word restore and refresh your spirit. Let my life revive you. You have no burden, no need, no desire that I cannot meet. But, you have to be still before me. I AM!”

The New American Standard Bible words it this way: “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold.”

Being still denotes being relaxed, at ease, at peace, without anxiety, fear, or concern. It means quieting my noisy heart and listening for the voice of God. It means resting in God, knowing that I am in the palms of His hands, nothing can touch me without His knowledge or permission. It means trusting Him even when things seem to be out of control, even when darkness encompasses me. It means leaving matters with God. So, why then, does my soul not rest? Why then is my soul not still before God? Why then is my mind anxious? Perhaps it is because I do not realize all of who God is. I do not realize all of His nature, all of His power. I do not understand the depth of His love and compassion for me. I do not fathom the fullness of His mercy, kindness and goodness. I sometimes fail to see His hand of protection on my life, and I sometimes fail to recognize His blessings on my life. In short, I forget Who God Is. I forget His faithfulness to me.

Instead of casting my eyes up to the heavens, I look at the circumstances surrounding me. I see the problems, the complicated situations, the difficult people. I see the obstacles; I see the harm others are trying to inflict. How easily I forget that God is my strength, my shield, my fortress, my tower, and my hiding place. He hides me in His love; with his love, He covers me. He is a mighty mountain that cannot be shaken; He is a rock that cannot be moved. He is my defender; he is a mighty warrior. At His voice, the earth trembles. When He opens His mouth to speak, only truth comes out. He is an all-consuming fire that burns within my soul. What He orders happens. All of nature is at His command. He is not a God who is double minded or fickle. He has a purpose and plan, and the gates of hell shall not overcome Him. The grave could not hold him. He is the final and ultimate authority.

I can choose to be anxious, to have my soul disquieted within me, or I can choose to rest and be still before God. The apostle Paul reminds us:
Philippians 4:6-8
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

Peace is possible. It is possible if I lift my burdens and my requests up to God. It is possible if I will remember who God is. God’s peace will guard my heart. Guard my heart from what? Guard it from despair, worry, discouragement, anxiety. It will guard my mind. Guard my mind from what? From restless, agitating thoughts. From thoughts that exalt themselves against God. From thoughts that lead me into captivity. From thoughts that rob me of joy. From thoughts that detract me from God’s unique purpose and plan for my life. From thoughts that keep me from being all God desires me to be.

1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (NIV)

Psalm 37:5: “Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.” (NIV)

Psalm 55:22: “Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.”

Psalm 56:3-4: “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?” (NASB)

Matthew 6:25-34: “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns—and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his lifespan? And why do you worry about clothes? Consider how the lilies of the field grow: They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore, do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans pursue all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.”

So, no matter where you are right now, no matter how chaotic or out of control your life seems, take some time to be still before God and reflect on who He is. Allow Him to comfort you and love on you. Let Him speak peace to your troubled mind. He is there, waiting for you, calling out to you, to come before Him and just be still.

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?

The Biblical Foundation of the Family

The biblical foundation of the family can be traced back to Genesis 1:26, where God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…”– (Genesis 1:26, NIV). This idea is expanded upon in Genesis 1:27, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”—(Genesis 1:27, NIV). What is interesting about Genesis 1:26 is that God refers to himself as “us” rather than “me.” The use of the word “us” indicates the threefold nature of God as expressed in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, since God referred to Himself as having three distinct personalities, and since He also stated that man was created in His image, a logical extension is that the family, as being ordained and designed by God, will reflect the threefold nature of God.[1]

Because each person of the Godhead is equal to the other persons, but has a distinct role and relationship to the other two persons of the Trinity, individuals in a family, while equal in worth and as a reflection of the image of God, have distinct roles and responsibilities to God and to each other.[2] God, as the Father, is the ultimate authority, the One who plans, designs, and purposes things according to His pleasure. Jesus, the Son, while being equal to God, submits His will to that of the Father and places Himself under the leadership of the Father. The Holy Spirit, while still possessing the divine essence of God, submits to both the Father and the Son and works to bring glory to each of them. Each person of the Trinity has a separate role, yet each Person works in unity with the others to accomplish the will of God, the Father.[3]  By looking at the roles, responsibilities and relationships that are inherent in the Godhead, husbands, wives, and children can comprehend to a greater extent their unique place within the function of the family.

In the account of the creation of the first man, Adam, “Then the Lord God formed a man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being”—(Genesis 2:7, NIV), Adam was created before the woman, Eve. Because man was created first, he was intended by God to have authority over the woman.[4]  In Ephesians 5:23, the apostle Paul makes it clear that the marriage relationship is a reflection of Christ and the Church, and that just as Christ is the head of the Church and has authority over it, so are husbands the head of their wives and have been given authority over their wives. Husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25, 28; Colossians 3:19). Husbands are to love their wives in a sacrificial, selfless manner that benefits the wife and helps produce in her godliness and holiness. They also are to serve, nurture, and protect their wives, and to exercise their authority over their wives in love.[5] Wives are to submit to their husbands, respecting them, showing them deference, and honoring them, as an act of submitting to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22). Wives are to recognize the authority and headship of their husbands and should submit to their husbands out of a willing and joyful attitude that is rooted in obedience to and love for God.[6]

Because woman was taken out of the flesh of man, a husband and wife are one flesh: “Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh”—(Genesis 2:21-24, NIV).  Because a husband and wife are one flesh, they should operate in unity and harmony, not acting as two separate and autonomous individuals.[7] The husband, in loving his wife, should operate from the understanding that he has been given God appointed authority over his wife, just as God, the Father, has authority over Jesus, the Son, and he will be accountable to God for how he leads his wife. The wife, too, must yield to her husband’s authority out of reverence for God, just as Jesus submitted to the authority of God the Father.

One of the most important purposes of marriage is to produce godly children through which the Christian faith will be transmitted to future generations (Malachi 2:15).[8] Fathers, as the head of the family, are instructed to teach their children the ways of God (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Based on the instructions to fathers found in Deuteronomy 6, fathers have a sobering responsibility to ensure that their sons and future generations love the Lord and follow His ways. Fathers are instructed by Paul in Ephesians 6:4 to bring up their children in the training and instruction of the Lord. Although God gives fathers ultimate authority over their children in all areas of their lives, wives are to work in unity with their husbands to teach their children the things of God. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” –(Proverbs 22:6, NKJV). Parents must remember that children are a gift from God (Psalm 127:3). The ESV version of the Bible uses the word “heritage,” which implies a legacy and influence that remains long after the parents have departed from this world. Fathers and mothers should impart truth, wisdom, and the knowledge of God to their children. By teaching their children to obey and submit to them, parents are training their children how to submit to and obey God. As stewards of their children, parents will have to give an account to God for how they train and teach their children.

Children are instructed to obey and honor their parents, submitting to the authority of their parents (Ephesians 6:1-3; Colossians 3:20), just as the Holy Spirit submits to the authority of God the Father and Jesus the Son. Children are promised by God that if they honor their parents, they will have a long and good life (Exodus 20:12). In Proverbs 2:1-5, children are instructed to listen to wisdom and understanding of their parents, and they are encouraged to seek after wisdom with all of their heart and to apply it to their lives.[9]

In summary, God determined the order and organization of the family, and this divine order is supported consistently throughout Scripture. God ordains the husband to be in authority over the wife, and that both the father and mother are to have authority over their children. Just as each person of the Trinity has a distinct role and relationship to the other persons, so does each member of the family have different roles and responsibilities in their relationships to each other and to God. The order of authority in a family begins with God, then is extended to men, then to women, and then to children. When a family operates under the divine order set in place by God, the heart and nature of God are reflected, thus glorifying God.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ham, Ken, and Steve Ham. 2011. Godly Generations. answersingenesis.org. March 31. Accessed April 13, 2015. https://answersingenesis.org/family/godly-generations/.

Knight, George III. 2005. Husbands and Wives as Analogues of Christ and the Church Ephesians 5:21 and Colossians 3:18-19. Bible.org. April 13. Accessed April 07, 2015.https://bible.org/seriespage/husbands-and-wives-analogues-christ-and-church-ephesians-521-and-colossians-318-19.

Mitchell, Mike. “Proverbs 2 as a Metamodel for Child Discipleship” (video). Lecture, Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA, 2012.

Stinson, Randy, and Timothy P. Jones. 2011. Trained in the Fear of God: Family Ministry in Theological, Historical, and Practical Perspective. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.

Footnotes:

[1] Randy Stinson and Timothy P. Jones, Trained in the Fear of God: Family Ministry in Theological, Historical, and Practical Perspective (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2011).

[2] ibid.

[3] Stinson, Randy, and Timothy P. Jones. Trained in the Fear of God: Family Ministry in Theological, Historical, and Practical Perspective. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2011.

[4] George Knight III, “Husbands and Wives as Analogues of Christ and the Church Ephesians 5:21 and Colossians 3:18-19,” bible.org, April 13, 2005, accessed April 07, 2015, https://bible.org/seriespage/husbands-and-wives-analogues-christ-and-church-ephesians-521-and-colossians-318-19.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid

[7] George Knight III, “Husbands and Wives as Analogues of Christ and the Church Ephesians 5:21 and Colossians 3:18-19,” bible.org, April 13, 2005, accessed April 07, 2015, https://bible.org/seriespage/husbands-and-wives-analogues-christ-and-church-ephesians-521-and-colossians-318-19.

[8] Ken Ham and Steve Ham, “Godly Generations,” Answers in Genesis, March 31, 2011, accessed April 13, 2015, https://answersingenesis.org/family/godly-generations/.

[9] Mike Mitchell, “Proverbs 2 as a Metamodel for Child Discipleship” (video of lecture, Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA, 2012).

Copyright 2015 by standinginrainministries.org. All rights reserved. Any use of this material must be cited correctly with a link to this website.

Praise God in the Storm

Often during our darkest, loneliest moments, we see God more clearly. Perhaps it is because in our distress, we come to the end of ourselves and our limited human resources and we begin to look to God. As we focus on God, and get our attention off of ourselves and our circumstances, He is able to reveal more of his heart and nature to us. We begin to experience his strength in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), his peace in our confusion, and his grace to carry us through the storm. Praise is one of the believer’s most powerful weapons because it exalts God and reminds us of who God is and of his sovereignty. But we do not feel like praising God when our world seems to be falling apart. We don’t feel like lifting up our eyes to the One who can rescue us. However, it is in these times when we least feel like praising God that we need to do it the most. Consider David. Throughout the book of Psalms, David shares his heart and mind. He expresses his fears; his doubts; his struggles. He is honest about where he is and what he is experiencing, and we see that David dealt with the same feelings and thoughts that we deal with today. There is one thing, though, that David consistently does in the Book of Psalms. He commands his soul to focus on God, to remember God’s faithfulness and goodness, and to exalt God. He calls forth his will to surrender to God’s plans and purposes even amidst the storms. David chose to direct his will and his spirit to praise God instead of remaining in the pit of self-pity and fear that he was feeling. He went against what our human inclination is—he chose instead to do the very thing that he felt least like doing, which was to praise God.

I am reminded of Paul and Silas as they were in prison (Acts 16: 19-34). The prisons of those days were horrible, so I am sure that Paul and Silas were experiencing much physical and emotional discomfort and pain because they had been severely beaten. They were in prison, not for something they had done wrong, but simply because they refused to stop preaching the gospel to those around them, and they had cast the demon out of a girl who was being exploited by her masters. As bold as Paul was though, he was human. He wrestled with his flesh and all of its components—feelings, thoughts and attitudes—just as we do. We know from one of his epistles that he had some sort of chronic problem that he kept asking God to relieve him of (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). But, let us examine what Paul and Silas did in very dire circumstances and consider the influence of their choices. They praised God. They willfully put aside their fleshly feelings and thoughts and chose to praise God. They sang songs and worshipped God in spite of the chains that bound them and the prison bars that held them captive. They stopped focusing on themselves and cast their eyes on Jesus. As they prayed and worshipped, the ground began to shake and the prison doors were opened. The chains that held Paul and Silas fell off, too. The guard posted outside of the prison had heard Paul and Silas worshipping God and praising Him, and this choice greatly impacted the guard. Because of the praise that Paul and Silas continually offered to God while imprisoned, God moved. The prison guard asked how he could be saved! What an impact our choices have. How powerful is praise!

God did not change the situation that Paul and Silas were in, but He acted nonetheless. He did not deliver Paul and Silas; He chose instead to use the praise and worship of two men who were unjustly imprisoned to demonstrate His glory and power. Because the glory of God was so mightily displayed, the guard desired to have the same power that lived inside of Paul and Silas. He desired to know the Savior they were worshipping and praising. Paul and Silas could have done what many of us do when we feel that we have been treated unjustly or have been greatly wronged. They could have let their feelings dictate their actions; however, they acted in direct contrast to what they were feeling. What would have happened to the soul of the guard in charge of watching over Paul and Silas if they had given in to their flesh and acted on their feelings, and not on faith? Their willful praise and worship while in one of the worst conditions possible had a powerful eternal influence in the life of the guard. It is somewhat symbolic that just as the physical chains that had bound Paul and Silas fell off, so were the spiritual chains of the guard loosened. He came to a place where he was no longer bound to the flesh and a slave to sin and found true freedom in Christ—all because of Paul and Silas praising God instead of cursing God.

Our choices will either lead us to freedom or they will lead us into deeper captivity. We make the choice. God will not make the choice for us. Like Paul and Silas, I was in a dire situation that I had no part in creating. I felt the heavy chains of strong emotions, such as fear, doubt, and anger, on me. I was in prison in a way, though I did not realize it at the time. I often acted out of my feelings and hurt; I said things out of anger that I should have never spoken. I gave in to fear and depression at times because I just did not feel like fighting my emotions anymore. I was too tired and too weak and too self-absorbed. Instead of looking to God, I was looking at my circumstances, and I was allowing myself to remain in bondage. I know that many, including myself, think that I did what was expected given the circumstances I was in. It was only natural for me to feel as I did and to act as I did at times. But, as a Christian, I am called to walk according to the Spirit, not according to my flesh—or what is natural. Sin is part of human nature, so it is perfectly natural. God was calling me to deny my natural man and surrender to His spirit. He was telling me to do something that was totally opposite of what I was feeling and thinking. I was faced, then, with another hard choice. I could remain in bondage to all the emotions of my natural man, or I could decide to focus on God, to praise Him, to worship Him, and break free of the chains that were binding me.

Obviously, at some point I chose to focus on God and to praise Him despite the awful situation and trying events of my life. When I started praising God, I came to realize that though my circumstances had not changed and the outcome was unpredictable, God had not changed. He remains unchanged and constant. He is “I Am.” He is whatever we need Him to be and whatever He desires to be in order to fulfill His purpose and plans for our lives. I like the way the song, Praise You in the Storm, by Casting Crowns, puts it when it says that God is who He is no matter where we are. God is always there and He is always true to His nature. It does not matter where we find ourselves, because God is who He is and He never changes. So, I could cling to the God who never changes or I could focus on the wild and chaotic circumstances of my life, which seemed to change every day. There was no certainty in the place I found myself, but there was certainty in God. There was hope; there was strength; there was grace—in God. I had to get back to the basics of my faith, to the core of my beliefs, which is all based on who God is. There was absolutely nothing I could do to change my circumstances. I was totally helpless in my own strength, and that is why I so desperately needed to cling to God.

In time, the circumstances of my life would be radically and powerfully changed, but God did not deliver me from the storm immediately, no matter how hard or how long I prayed. His plan was far greater than my human mind could grasp, and He chose to use the most painful and darkest circumstances I had ever faced to demonstrate His power and glory. But, as I realize now, God was weaving together all the sordid events of my life and the unpopular and difficult choices I made as an act of faith and a step of obedience, to significantly influence the lives of others.

The Fiery Testing of Faith

There is a belief among many Christians that God’s ways are easy and that Christians are somehow exempt from the pain and suffering that those who do not know Christ face. Nowhere in Scripture is this belief supported. In fact, James reminds Christians that we will face trials and tribulations. He tells us that our faith will be tested and tried (James 1:2-4, 12). The apostle Paul supports the words of James when he mentions that we are persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:9). Jesus said that we would face troubles in this world (John 16:33). Throughout the Bible, there are countless stories of men and women of faith who faced tremendous struggles; who experienced pain, despair, hurt, and disappointment; who asked God many of the questions we ask God today; and who came to their own crises of faith. With this evidence, the question, then, is not whether Christians will face trials, but how Christians are to respond to trials.

I had no control over the trials I was facing, but I could choose how I was going to live during the trials. If I learned nothing else from these terribly painful struggles, I do know this: Doing the right thing, obeying God, is not always easy. In fact, doing what is right in God’s eyes is often very difficult. This truth goes against everything our natural man is seeing, thinking, and feeling. It goes against our human reasoning and understanding. But our human limitations do not change the truths of God. Living out what God told me to do during this time in my life was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Standing on his promises and remaining obedient to him were hard. A lot of people did not understand; I don’t think I  fully understood. But, the part of me that is alive in Christ knew that despite the opposition and obstacles, I was doing the right thing. I was doing what God was asking me to do; I was obeying him to the best of my ability, but it was by no means easy. Easy times, though, do not produce much fruit in a believer’s life. Easy times don’t require us to lean on God and trust him. Easy times don’t help us grow and become more like Christ. Those things come about by the trying of our faith (James 1:2-4). They are forged in the fiery struggles of our souls. These things, the tools God uses most, are the things that make our faith more mature, perfecting in us the image of Christ.

In yesterday’s post, I recounted the story of the apostle Peter stepping out of the boat and walking on water. Peter’s faith was tested then, but it was tested much more severely later. Before Jesus was crucified, he told his disciples that all of them would deny him. Peter, who was a little proud and thought he knew what was in his own heart, firmly stated that he would never deny Jesus. Jesus, however, knew what Peter was going to face, and he responded, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31). Peter thought he knew himself; he thought he knew his heart. He thought he would never do what Jesus was saying he would do. But he was wrong. He did not know himself as well as he thought he did.

There are two things about this passage that I want to point out. First, everything that happens to us has to go through God’s hands first. Satan cannot touch those who love Christ without getting permission from God. So, nothing we experience ever takes God by surprise or off guard. Nothing we experience is beyond God’s control. He remains sovereign. Second, because God is all-knowing, He sees the past, present and future. He knows what is going to happen, when it is going to happen, and even allows things that we consider terrible to happen to us. Because of God’s omniscience, Jesus knows what to pray and how to pray for us. He told Simon Peter that he had prayed for him (and all the disciples) so that his faith would not fail when it was tested. Jesus is constantly making intercession for us before God the Father (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). He was already praying for Peter before Peter’s faith was tested. He goes before us and prays for us, long before we can see any storm clouds. He prays for us so that our faith will withstand the trials. He prays that we will continue to hold on to his hand, even when we cannot see him and do not understand. What an awesome revelation: Jesus is always praying for us—he never stops. He knows that if our faith can withstand the storm, we will be stronger and have more of his character reflected in us, which ultimately brings glory to God.

There is another person in the Bible who Satan asked God to let him test. This man was righteous, blameless, revered God and hated evil, but God allowed him to be tested. We read this story in the Book of Job. Satan was convinced that if Job lost all he had, if God allowed terrible things to happen to Job, then Job would turn his back on God. God granted Satan permission to take all Job had, except Job’s life. Job lost everything—his wealth, his home, his children, and his health. He wrestled with questions about why such trials were coming upon him. He was accused of sinning by his friends, who thought that he had done something bad to bring God’s punishment on him. Job was even told by his wife to curse God and die. Everyone around Job was asking him to turn his back on God. Although Job was experiencing pain, despair, and confusion, he refused to listen to those who encouraged him to forsake his faith. The calamities that occurred happened rapidly, and Job had no warning. In the first chapter of Job, things seem to go from bad to worse to worst. Yet, look at how Job chose to respond in the face of the trials. In Job 1:20-21, we read: “Then Job stood up, tore his robe, and shaved his head. He fell to the ground and worshiped, saying: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life. The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away. Praise the name of Yahweh.” (HCSB, emphasis mine). Through all the loss, suffering, pain, and despair, Job never sinned and he never blamed God for what was happening. In fact, during the darkest period of his life, Job made the decision to continue to praise God and to place his faith in God. He continued to worship God. He continued to live righteously and revere God. What an awesome legacy to leave! God honored Job’s obedience by not only restoring what Job had lost, but also by giving Job more than what he had before the trials.

So, why am I telling you these stories about Peter and Job? Because the Truth has not changed. God has not changed. God allowed Satan to do everything he could to destroy my marriage, my family, and my faith. But, there was one thing that Satan could not do. He could not get me to abandon my faith in God. That was his goal, but even though my faith was shaken, it was not destroyed. The very thing that Satan intended to use to destroy my faith was the thing that God used to increase my faith. But, the choice was mine—I could turn my back on God or I could turn to God. God was able to use the events in my life for my good and His glory because I remained submitted to His will. I chose to embrace what God had for me, regardless of what I was seeing and feeling, because I knew that God was holding me. Even when my world seemed to be spinning out of control, God was always in control.