Tag Archive | relationships

God, my arms are getting tired!

There is a story from the Book of Exodus that I have thought about many times. It is a story that shows the importance of holding each other up and praying for each other.

In Exodus 17, the Israelites are to go to war with the Amalekites. The Amalekites had long been a thorn in the side of the Israelites, and they worshiped pagan gods and often led the Israelites into sin. If you know the Bible, you probably know that Moses was the man God chose to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Leading the Israelites was no easy task, either. They so quickly forgot all the miracles God did for them and how God delivered them from Egypt. They walked through the Red Sea when God parted it as they were being pursued by Pharaoh and his army. They saw the Red Sea collapse on the Egyptians, destroying them. They were guided by God in the wilderness. He gave them manna and water, and he met every need they had. Despite all these things, however, they grumbled and complained, even going as far as saying they had it better in Egypt—a place where they were enslaved for about 400 years. Although the Israelites were stubborn, Moses was a strong leader. He was humble, he sought God, and he interceded for the people time after time, many times pleading with God to not judge the people too harshly. If it hadn’t been for the intercessory prayers of Moses, the Lord quite possibly would have been much more harsh with the Israelites.

Now, remember that God had entered into a covenant relationship with Israel, and He told them He was giving them a good land, a land flowing with milk and honey. The Promised Land. But, the Israelites had to fight for this land. They had to go into battle to drive other peoples out of the land before they could possess it.

Exodus 17:8-13 describes the actions of Moses while Israel, led by Joshua, fought the Amalekites:

“Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.’ Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set. So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.”

Here, we see how Moses interceded for the people. As long as Moses held up his arms, the Israelites were winning the battle. When he let his arms down, the Israelites began losing the battle. His arms would get tired to the point that he had to let them down to rest. His arms became so tired that Aaron and Hur had to hold them up for him. Because of Aaron and Hur, who came alongside Moses and held him up when he grew weary, the Israelites defeated the Amalekites.

I have shared many times just how weary I became in my journey. There were times I did not feel like getting out of bed, and there were numerous times I could not even pray. I was just utterly exhausted and had nothing left to give. The battle wore me out. I know you can relate. I have also shared that had it not been for the prayers of some of my sisters in Christ, I would not have had the strength to keep fighting. They, like Aaron and Hur, came alongside me and held up my arms. They interceded for me. They saw how weary I was, how much I wanted and needed to rest, but they also saw the battle waging against me. They knew it was a battle worth fighting, and they knew the prize would be great if I could just keep going. So, when I could no longer walk, they picked me up and carried me. When I could no longer pray, they prayed for me. When I could no longer fight, they fought for me. They had my back and they covered me in prayers. I cannot say for certain that the only reason my husband repented and my marriage was restored was because of my prayers and the prayers of others, but I am certain that had I not prayed, and had others not prayed on my behalf, my marriage would have dissolved. I shudder to think about where I would be now, or where my husband would be now, if others had not stood beside me and held up my arms.

For a while, I did not want others to know about my husband’s adultery. I did not want to share my pain. I wanted it to remain private. However, I quickly realized that the battle was much too big for me to fight alone. I needed my sisters in Christ to fight with me and for me. I needed them to hold me up, encourage me, support me, strengthen me, and weep with me. I needed them, there was no way around it. Without them, I certainly would have lost the battle. As part of the family of Christ, my victories and defeats are not just my victories and defeats; when one person in the body hurts, everyone hurts. When one rejoices, everyone should rejoice. We should have the backs of each other; we should be prepared to go to war with and for our fellow Christians.

Our pride quite often keeps us from sharing our hurts and struggles with others. We tell ourselves no one will understand. Or we tell ourselves that no one really cares. Or perhaps we tell ourselves that others have their own problems to deal with so they don’t have time to hear about our problems. I thought I had to be strong, but no one could be strong for me if they didn’t know my battle. I thought I could handle it, but I was getting beaten up. I didn’t want to ask for help. But that pride had to go. My feeling of self-sufficiency had to go. My thoughts that I could handle it on my own had to go. I quickly came to realize that I could not fight for my marriage alone, and neither can you.

Throughout Scripture, especially in the New Testament, God’s people are called to bear one another’s burdens, to strengthen each other, to pray for each other, and to help each other. If people do not know what you are going through, what battles you are facing, what your hurts and fears are, they cannot help you. They don’t know how to help you. You have to be willing to ask for help, to ask for someone to lean on, and ask for someone to hold you up. And, once that person or those people come along, you have to choose to let them help you. It’s okay if those people do not understand exactly where you are, if they do not comprehend the magnitude of your pain. They can still pray for you. They can still go to war with and for you. Notice in the story above that Moses did not know exactly what the Israelites were experiencing in battle. He wasn’t on the battlefield, but he could see what was going on. He knew God’s people needed him; he knew the battle had to be won. So, he prayed, and when he grew tired of holding up his arms, two others did it for him, because they, too, knew how important the battle was. Maybe more importantly, they knew how much Moses and the Israelites needed them.

Just as God used Aaron and Hur to hold up Moses and to carry him, in a way, he can and will use others to hold you up and carry you when you cannot go on by yourself. So, like Moses, find two or three people you can trust, people who are rock solid, and lean on them. Allow them to help you. Allow them to carry you and to intercede for you. Let them know when you are feeling like giving up, when you are too weary to fight anymore, when you need to rest. Let them know when you need a shoulder to cry on, or when you need a listening ear. And, most importantly, at some point, let them know that you appreciate and covet their prayers and their help. Let them know that you could not have made it or done it without them, and, when the time comes when they need someone to carry them, be that person for them, as much as it is possible for you. Let God use you to hold up their arms so they can fight the battle they are facing.

Here are some verses you can meditate on:

“Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:14, NLT).

“Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way” (Isaiah 35:3, NIV).

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, NIV).

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4, ESV).

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15, ESV).

“If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26, ESV).

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NIV).

 

 

 

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.

 

I didn’t see THAT coming!!!

SHām/

noun

1. a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.

“she was hot with shame”

synonyms: humiliationmortificationchagrinignominyembarrassment,indignitydiscomfort

Perhaps you are where I used to be. Maybe you hear the whispers behind your back or see the glances that you were not meant to see. Possibly, you feel like you cannot look anyone in the eyes and your head is down from shame. You know that everyone in your church or town know what your spouse did, and you can only imagine what people must think about you.

Do any of these phrases ring true for you? “She is stupid for staying with him.” “She must not have much self-esteem or self-confidence if she is staying with him after what he did.” “There must be something she did wrong.” “This is somehow her fault.” “She must think she deserves what happened, otherwise she would leave.” “She’s too scared that she can’t make it without him.” “She is a glutton for punishment.” Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…

When my husband cheated on me, I was not surprised to feel angry, afraid, confused, bitter, and depressed. Shame, on the other hand, took me totally by surprise. As a matter of fact, several months passed before I realized that what I was feeling was shame. Once I realized this, I was confused. Why was I feeling so much shame? I was the innocent one. I had done nothing wrong. I struggled to understand it.

At one point, I grew so distressed over what I imagined people were thinking and saying about me that I confided in a good Christian friend of mine. I knew she would be honest with me. I told her how I felt so ashamed, like people were judging me for what my husband did and that people thought I must be an idiot for not leaving him. As I talked to her, she began to shake her head. Once I finished, she said, “Oh, no, no, no. I don’t see it that way at all. I, for one, have nothing but respect for you. I totally respect your decision and I have come to have enormous respect for you.” She also told me that people who knew me and knew my heart understood my choice. In time, I discovered that at first, many friends and family thought I should leave my husband and could not understand why I stayed with him. Eventually, though, family and friends revealed to me that they had come to have a lot of respect for me and see me in a different light. They had come to respect my decision to stay and try to save my marriage.

Until this time, though, I struggled with shame a lot. I felt like a teenager again—with feelings of not measuring up and not being good enough. There must be something wrong with me. I was somehow inadequate. The feelings of low self-esteem that plagued me in my adolescence were rearing their pestering heads again, and I was taken off guard. I could not stand it. I did not want people talking about me, gossiping or feeling sorry for me. “Poor little (my name) must not think she’s good enough or else she would leave.” I was under almost constant assault by these feelings and thoughts.

I knew what God was telling me to do, but I was extremely preoccupied with what I thought others were thinking or saying about me. In retrospect, on some level, I had begun to believe some of these lies and think these things about myself. Instead of using the Word of God to combat these thoughts, I fell into the trap of trying to reason the thoughts away. I was trying to do for myself what only God could do. I kept myself in the prison of shame for much longer than was necessary because of it.

After I talked to my good friend, my perspective slowly began to change. Maybe some people were thinking and saying some bad things about me. I had no control over that. I did not have the time or energy to continue to worry about such things. The anxiety was weighing too heavily on me, so I had to find a way to resolve the issue in my heart and mind. Slowly, as I sought God and shared my feelings and thoughts with Him, He began to show me that obeying Him and standing firm in my decision would have far greater impact than caving in to pressure from others, whether the pressure was real or imagined. I began to understand that, in the end, it would not matter what others thought of me; what mattered was what God thought of me. He was the one I was going to have to answer to, not men. The situation was one in which I had to trust that God would sort it all out in the end. I could almost hear God whispering, “So what? So what if people talk about you and make fun of you? Get over yourself and stop worrying about it. You know what to do, so do it. I will take care of the rest of it.” I gradually realized that I should not expect people who had not been where I was to understand. If they wanted to gossip, I could not stop them. God would have to deal with that. In the end, God would help my righteousness shine as brightly as the noon day sun (see Psalm 37:5-7). God would defend me if and when I needed a defense.

I will not lie and say this was easy for me. I found it very difficult at first to continue to cast off the nagging feeling of shame and obey God. I could not stand it that others were gossiping about me and making assumptions that were not true. I wrestled with these things even after God spoke to me. I began to understand, however, that I was already trusting God with so many other things so why couldn’t I trust Him with this matter? He was being faithful to handle all the other things so He would be faithful to handle my feelings of shame and to silence those who were speaking about things they did not understand. Once I came to this realization and began to consistently apply it to my life, the relief and freedom I felt were unbelievable! When Satan tried to lead me back to the prison of shame, I now had the key to defeating him. Like Jesus, I exercised authority over him and said, “Get behind me, Satan!” I set my face like flint and walked on. Only now I was walking in freedom, no longer hindered by the chains of fear and shame. So, if you find yourself wrestling with shame, be encouraged! God has given you all you need to conquer it. In Christ, you are MORE than an overcomer (Romans 8:37). Hold on to the truths of God so that you can recognize and destroy the lies of the enemy!

How long will I hurt?

This is a key question when faced with a spouse’s betrayal. Unless someone has walked through the valley of a spouse’s infidelity, they have no idea what the pain feels like and how deeply the soul and spirit are wounded. Finding out your spouse has been having an affair is traumatic. Describing the pain and the myriad of emotions experienced when faced with a spouse’s adultery is impossible. There are no words that adequately describe the depth of emotions and hurt.

I had been hurt, betrayed and rejected by others whom I trusted before I met my husband and long before I discovered his unfaithfulness. The two situations, however, are not comparable. My husband is the one to whom I have bared my soul. He has seen the most vulnerable parts of me, and he has seen the darkest side of me. He knows me like no one else has or ever will, and that is the way God intended marriage to be. My husband and I are one flesh, which is one reason why his betrayal was much worse and much more profound than any other time I have been betrayed. Because we are one flesh, the shredding, tearing, and ripping of my soul and spirit were much more pronounced than any other time I have been rejected and hurt by friends or family. Imagine one flesh as being like glue and paper. When you glue 2 pieces of paper together and try to tear the papers apart, there is no clean break. Part of the paper rips and tears because you cannot separate the papers from the glue or from each other without obvious trauma to the paper.

You will ask yourself many times how much more you can take, how much longer you will hurt, and how long your pain will last. You will ask those same questions of God. But, you will not get an answer. Trust that God’s grace is sufficient to carry you when you can go on no longer. Trust that God will hold you up with his strength long after you have exhausted all your human resources and abilities. Trust that you can heal, and believe that God desires for you to heal. God does not desire for you to spend the rest of your life in the pain you are feeling and living with every waking moment. With that being said, however, you have a part in how long you will hurt and how long it will take you to heal. There are many emotional, psychological and spiritual factors that will affect how long the healing process takes. There is no magic number or length of time that anyone can give you. It may take months or it may take years. The healing process is different for everyone.

Often, when I questioned how much longer I would hurt, I found myself trying to rush the process. I began to think that I should be past certain feelings or thoughts affecting me so deeply. There were some areas where healing took place rather quickly, but there were also areas where the process seemed incredibly slow and I struggled greatly. I came to realize eventually that I could not rush healing. Healing was not going to be a one time and it’s done event, either. Instead, it was much like peeling an onion–each layer being pulled off only to reveal another layer until you get to the core. With such profound pain and betrayal, there are many layers to work through, and each layer presents unique challenges and issues. I gradually realized that I had to confront each issue, each feeling, each thought, as it came. I could only look past one aspect for so long. Eventually, I had to face each one and resolve it. As part of this, I had to discipline myself to bring my thoughts and emotions captive to God, and I had to learn to recognize when my thoughts and emotions were getting out of control. Please do not ignore your feelings and thoughts or the issues that your spouse’s infidelity caused. You must deal with them or they will nag you and eat away at you, and you will never heal.

Healing can be a painful process because we have to face parts of ourselves that we would rather ignore. In order to move past the pain, we have to confront all the pain, anger, fear, and trauma that exist. When you are in such enormous pain, the last thing you want to do is confront the pain and deal with the trigger of the pain. You would rather remain numb, but numbness will never lead to healing. Confronting these things takes much courage and strength, much of which will have to come from God. Further, you have to be determined to heal. You have to make the choice at some point to deal with your feelings and thoughts so that the wall of pain begins to crumble. At first, you may think that you are not making any progress in your path to healing, but do not let that perception hinder you. Remember, there are numerous layers to confront and the issues and feelings are complex. Healing will take much time and effort. It is not easy and there is no quick fix. Your heart and life have been shattered. Picking up all the pieces, trying to sort out the mess, and beginning to put yourself back together requires hard work, commitment, and great resolve. Much like the process of forgiveness, many things will have to revisited, and with it, you must make a new commitment to continue to move forward and allow yourself to undergo the healing process. You will have setbacks, so expect that and realize setbacks are a normal part of healing.

I want to admonish you to remember the importance of forgiveness. If you have not forgiven your spouse, you cannot move forward to healing. You must not allow yourself to continue to dwell on and rehearse the wrongs done to you. Stop heaping more damage on your wound by constantly messing with it. These things will only lead to more anger and bitterness, which are the very things that will keep you from being able to truly and fully forgive. You cannot move forward as long as you choose to remain tied to the past. Also, if your spouse remains unrepentant and continues the affair, your healing process will be hindered. If you are serious about desiring to be healed and restored, forgive your spouse, release all your pain and negative emotions and thoughts to God, and surrender to His leading. He knit you together in your mother’s womb, so He most definitely can put your heart, soul, and life back together, even if your spouse refuses to repent and your marriage cannot be salvaged. God’s hand is not too short to reach out to heal you in the midst of such circumstances.

My husband’s affair lasted for approximately two years. The affair ended in 2009, and I still have unexpected and errant thoughts and the accompanying sting of pain on occasion. You may think that because I still have momentary seconds of pain that I have not healed, but I disagree. The pain is from a scar that was the result of tremendous emotional and psychological trauma. From time to time, the scar is rubbed the wrong way, so to speak, and a brief sting of pain arises. To use a practical example, I have a scar on the little toe of my right foot that has existed since I was about 16 years old. To this day, if my toe is touched in such a way to aggravate or rub against the scar, I feel a little pain. My toe completely healed, but the scar remains. That is how your healing will be, too, so do not get discouraged.

I want to share a story from Genesis 32:22-31 that illustrates this concept and message of this post. In this passage of scripture, Jacob, who had spent most of his life lying, deceiving, and tricking people, is visited by an angel of the Lord. The angel and Jacob wrestled all night, and Jacob refused to give up. The angel realized he could not overpower Jacob, so he reached out and touched Jacob’s hip, wrenching it out of socket. As morning approached, Jacob told the angel he would only stop fighting against him if the angel blessed him. In verse 28, the angel of the Lord told Jacob: “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and you have overcome.” In verse 29, the angel of the Lord blessed Jacob. What is interesting about this passage is that Jacob’s name (which means “supplanter” or “one who undermines”, a trickster) was changed to Israel, which means God contended or God prevailed. As a result of wrestling with God, Jacob’s character was also changed. The struggle then, resulted in not only a change of character, but also in a blessing. However, Jacob was left with a reminder of his struggle with God–he had a limp that resulted from the injury to his hip during the struggle (see verse 31). That was the “scar” that Jacob carried.

Just as Israel (Jacob) had a reminder of his struggle with God, I have a scar that reminds me of the struggles I faced. Like Israel, I overcame; I prevailed, because I refused to give up or surrender. I pressed through and am now reaping the blessing. My character and soul have been forever changed for good because of my struggle. God used the pain to refine me, even though the process was painful. I have been healed, and my marriage has been healed and restored, but the scars are still there. I guess you can say the scars keep me humble and serve as a reminder of God’s strength and faithfulness in my darkest hours. I know without a doubt that I was able to overcome because of the power of God.

God is no respecter of persons. He healed me, and he can heal you, but you have to want it and to pursue it. You have to embrace the struggle as part of God’s refining process. You have to remain determined and committed to moving past what Satan tried to use to destroy you into the glorious redemptive plan of God. If you stay the course, if you refuse to surrender, you can receive the blessing God has for you. Just remember that you will have a scar, but a scar can be quite beautiful!

Not called to walk on water, but close enough

There were times that were so dark and lonely, I honestly didn’t think I would survive. The darkness and pain were suffocating, and the nights seemed so very long. It just kept raining and raining, and the storm clouds grew darker and more ominous. I had no idea how long this storm would last, or even if I would survive it, but I had to keep going. I know the strength that kept me going could only have come from God, and he also spoke peace to me many times in the midst of the storm. Make no mistake, God carried me through the whole sordid series of events, and that is the only reason I am emotionally sane today.

Many, many times, I could not pray. All I could say was “God, help me.” At others times all I could do was cry, “God!”  I am so thankful that others were lifting me up in prayer when I was unable to do so for myself. Believe me–that kind of despair is engulfing. It sucks the life out of you. I felt like a zombie–just walking around, lifeless. A part of me died with my husband’s confession, and there was more death to come. During this whole time, I developed a fear of the dark (ok, maybe I’ve always been a little afraid of the dark…lol), and I could not sleep no matter how hard I tried or how much I needed to. My bed was soaked in tears and awful, ugly thoughts would not stop racing through my tortured mind. I remember one night very clearly: Sleep was eluding me yet again and I was in so much pain. I was confused and scared and beyond desperate. I got out of bed and walked into the den. Everyone else was asleep, so the house was dark. I walked over to my rocking chair and sat down. Tears began to stream out of my eyes and I sat there in the dark and cold and cried for several minutes. I felt so alone, so suffocated by the darkness. I began crying out to God, telling him how scared I was, how much I was hurting. I told him that I wanted to trust him. I said, “God, I’m scared. It’s so dark and I can’t see where I’m going.” Immediately, the spirit of God whispered to me, “That’s why I’m carrying you.”  And then he put a mental image of Jesus picking me up and carrying my tired and weary body. It was the first bit of comfort I had had in quite some time and it was a very tender moment. Even though the storm was far from over, I knew in my deepest heart that I was not in it alone. I knew that Jesus was with me, and that no matter what happened, he could control the storm.

I felt instant peace, and I knew that no matter what I would face, I was not going to go through it alone. You see, I was too weak to walk on my own at this point. I was amazed I was still standing and not lying in bed, an emotional wreck, feeling sorry for myself. I knew in that instant that God spoke to me that He was carrying me. I saw Him, picking me up, and carrying me like a mother carries her infant, close to her heart. I knew then that I didn’t have to see where I was going, I didn’t have to know what the next step was or even how I was going to make it, because God was carrying me and He could see what lay ahead, even in the dark.

If it had not been for that tender moment with God, with hearing his voice clearly, I do not know if I could have faced what was to come. I am not going to lie and say that I never asked God where he was in all the chaotic mess that my life had become, because I still wrestled with very real fears and doubts. I still had many unanswered questions. But, deep in my spirit, I held on to the words that God so mercifully spoke to me. I am reminded of the verse in Hebrews that tells us the just shall live by faith (Hebrews 10:38) and that faith is the evidence of things not seen, and the substance of things hoped for (Hebrews 11:1). With my natural eyes, I could not see what was in front of me, but my spiritual eyes tried to stay focused on Jesus. I certainly took my eyes off of Jesus at times, but that did not change his character, and it did not void the promise that God gave me. Even when I felt that I was all alone, God had told me that he was with me and that he was carrying me, and he remained true to his promises.

Even the apostle Peter, who was so bold that he dared to step out on water to go to Jesus, suffered from doubts and got his eyes off of who Jesus is, of the power available to Peter through faith. And, because of his doubt, because he forgot for a moment who was calling to him, his faith was shaken and he began to sink. But notice what happened afterwards. When Peter cried out, Jesus reached out to Peter so that Peter would not sink (Matthew 14:22-33). Let that truth sink in for a moment. Despite Peter’s lack of faith, Jesus refused to let Peter sink. He did not let Peter drown. Now, God did not ask me to walk on water, but He was asking me to trust Him even though I could not see his hand or his purpose in all that was going on in my life. He asked me to hold on to his promises in spite of how hard and scary things had become. Like Peter, I faced a dilemma, a crisis of faith. I could either keep my eyes focused on the Author and Finisher of my faith, on the One who is Faithful and True, or I could focus on the stormy sea and the raging winds. Like Peter, I failed to keep my eyes on Jesus at times during this trial, but Jesus never once let me sink or drown. Instead, he gently called out to me and extended his hand. It was up to me to take his hand and hold on to it.

My physical eyes could only see the surface; they could only see the obstacles. My natural body heard the cruel and hurtful words of my husband; it saw his callousness and selfishness. It felt the very real pain and fear. It asked the questions “Why?” and “How long God?” It wanted to cave in to the overwhelming emotions even to the point of death. But, in the spiritual…things were different. The Bible states that God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). It also states that the natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14). In my flesh, I didn’t understand. In my flesh, I did not see. In my flesh, I felt defeated. But that was not what I experienced in my spiritual man. No, I did not understand; I did have questions. I was afraid, I was hurting, and I was struggling. In spite of those things, though, I knew that God was holding me. I knew he hurt for me. I knew he had a plan that was beyond my understanding. And, I knew that no matter what became of my marriage, I was going to be okay, as long as I continued to hold fast to God. God was not giving me any guarantees about my marriage, but he did give me his promise that if I would listen to Him, if I would seek Him, if I would obey him, He would take care of me. God always honors obedience—always. I could not control my husband or change his heart or his actions, but I could choose to give all of those things to God. I did have control over where I would place my trust and faith, and I chose Jesus. I had to be encouraged many times to continue to focus on Jesus, to continue to trust him; it was definitely a decision I daily faced, but it was never a choice I regretted.