Tag Archives: unbelieving spouse

Don’t take your home to Tarshish

Our choice: run to Tarshish, taking our homes into the storm, by refusing to follow God’s plan for wives in the home; or go to the Nineveh of submission in obedience to God.

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (Jonah 2:8).

Running in the wrong direction

Do you ever turn and run the opposite direction from which God tells you to go? Years ago the prophet Jonah ran from God’s direction too:

The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.
–Jonah 1:1-3

Selfish motives

God instructed Jonah to go to Nineveh. Why did he not want to go there? Jonah answers this question in chapter 4:

But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD, “O LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity” (Jonah 4:1-2)

Jonah didn’t want to go because he knew that the people of Nineveh didn’t deserve God to forgive them. He knew if he preached to them they would repent and be forgiven.

This seems to be the ultimate of selfish excuses. Yet every time we run from God, we are doing it with selfish motives. Like Jonah, many times we are standing in the way of others coming to know Christ, and we may not even realize it.

Right circumstances

When Jonah chose to go to Tarshish, he chose to go the exact opposite direction from the way God told him to go. Tarshish was south. If you look on a map, south is always down. When we run away from God, our life always heads into a downward spiral. Sometimes we kid ourselves into thinking God approves our misbehavior. After all circumstances are right for it.

What circumstances were right in Jonah’s life to make it seem okay to go to Tarshish?

  1. Jonah was able to find a boat to Tarshish.
  2. The boat had room for him.
  3. He had money for the fare.
  4. There was a wind going toward Tarshish so the boat would sail.

Bringing it home

What about in your home? It is easy to decide our husbands dont deserve our kindness and helpfulness, just as Jonah felt about the people of Nineveh. We often find circumstances that seem to invite us to go the opposite direction. We want to run from that which God has called us to be in our homes. We want to follow our own plans. God permits it, and the circumstances seem equitable to it.

Running in their own power

The sailors ran from God

When Jonah ran from God, he set the stage for others to run too. The sailors had no doubt heard about the powerful God of the Hebrew people. They began to question Jonah during the storm:

[Jonah] answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”

This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so) Jonah 1:9-10.

The sailors feared the God of Jonah. Yet, rather than call on Jonah’s God themselves, they looked to other things for help. According to the first chapter of Jonah, what are some things the sailors looked to for help before finally turning to God and following his directions?

  1. They looked to other gods, gods who could never help, gods with a little “g,” not the only true God who could help them.
    • All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god…
      –Jonah 1:5a
  2. They tried to fix the problem themselves by throwing cargo overboard.
    • And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep.
      –Jonah 1:5b
  3. They asked someone else to pray for them before they prayed for themselves.
    • The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish”
      –Jonah 1:6
  4. They tried consulting mysticism by casting lots.
    • Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.
      –Jonah 1:7
  5. They blamed someone else. So often we are tempted to blame our husbands for the shape of our homes.
    • So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
      –Jonah 1:8
  6. They asked advice from someone else before they consulted God.
    • The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”
      –Jonah 1:8
  7. God showed them his solution through the other person. They refused to follow.
    • “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before.
      –Jonah 1:12-13
  8. They tried to run away from the problem: Instead, the men did their best to row back to land… (Jonah 1:13).

How would you feel if God said, “Throw this man overboard, that is my solution!” They must have been appalled. How many times has God shown us something we are to do in relation to our husbands and we have said, “Oh, no God, anything but that!” We want to be independent. God says we are to be dependent on him.

The sailors turned to God

“Then they cried to the LORD, ‘O LORD, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O LORD, have done as you pleased.’ Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him” (Jonah 1:14-16)

When they got right with God the storm ended. They did this by:

  1. Calling out to God.
  2. Recognizing Gods sovereignty.
  3. Obeying Gods instructions.
  4. Fearing God.
  5. Offering a sacrifice to God.
  6. Making vows to God.

Bringing it home

Some of their own solutions, for example throwing the cargo overboard, were sensible. But God’s only acceptable solution was repentance and trust in him. We have our own ideas of how things are to be done in our homes. As wives God tells us to be submissive to our husbands.

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives (1 Peter 3:1).

Anything short of that is running away, running to Tarshish, and God will certainly deal with it. This is not to say we should allow physical abuse and God’s Word does have some things to say about desertion and fornication. But most of the time we break Gods rule for us as wives in the home because we just flat don’t like it.

Running or revealing?

“He answered, ‘I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land'” (Jonah 1:9).

Jonah was a Hebrew. By saying “I am a Hebrew,” he was saying “I am one of those through whom God reveals himself to the world.” Yet, by his rebellion against God’s direction, Jonah ran from his responsibility to allow God to reveal himself to the world through him.

Bringing it home

According to 1 Peter 3:1, if our husband is an unbeliever, we, as a Christian wife, are one of those through whom God reveals himself to our husbands.

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives (1 Peter 3:1).

Are you running, or revealing?

Running from accountability

Because Jonah refused to follow Gods will for him, those he was to be an example to suffered:

  1. They experienced great fear (Jonah 1:5,10 below).
  2. They had to throw some of their possessions overboard.
    • All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep… This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done? (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so)” (Jonah 1:5,10).
  3. They had to live with throwing a man overboard.
    • Then they cried to the LORD, “O LORD, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O LORD, have done as you pleased.” Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm (verses 14-15).

    How would you like to have to live with that?

  4. The worst thing of all that people had to suffer because of Jonah’s rebellion was this: The people of Nineveh had to continue in darkness until Jonah repented.

Bringing it home

If we refuse to follow God’s plan for us in our homes, our husbands, our children, all in our household will suffer. We are accountable to God.

Running to God

The storm and the fish

God sent the storm, and God sent the fish.

  • God sent a great wind. “Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.” (Jonah 1:4)
  • God also sent a great fish. “But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17).

God will chastise his children greatly, and God in his grace will also provide great protection for them even in the midst of the chastisement. The fish is a perfect example. It was chastisement. It also protected Jonah from being drowned in the ocean.

The forfeiture of rebellion

You can read the story of Jonah’s repentance from the belly of the whale in Jonah 2:1-10. Jonah summed his experience up with these words: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (Jonah 2:8). That is an awesome statement.

How much we forfeit when we cling to our idols, our “rights” in our home. When we rebel against God’s plan for us in 1 Peter 3:1, we forfeit the grace that could be ours.

We sometimes do this just by refusing to study the word that we might know God’s will for us. We refuse to study and find out what his will is, then when we know his will we run from it, because we think it is too much to ask. We think our way is so much better. This is fleeing to Tarshish.

Those to whom Jonah should have been setting an example, the very ones who God had called him to minister to (for us as wives/mothers that is our husbands/children) — those very ones are the ones who saw Jonah’s disobedience and had to deal with it. They are the ones who were hurt by Jonah’s disobedience. When Jonah repented and got right, people repented and placed their faith in God.

Tarshish or Nineveh?”

Jonah repented from the whale’s belly and God again called him to go to Nineveh. Jonah obeyed God and “On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: ‘Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned’ (Jonah 3:4).”

The people of Nineveh believed God, and the king issued a proclamation:

“Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.
–Jonah 3:8-10

Nineveh repented and turned to God, all because Jonah said, “I was wrong. I have rebelled against God.” Jonah repented, and this opened the door for the lost to repent.

Bringing it home

The choice is ours: Either we run to Tarshish, and take our homes into the storm with us by refusing to follow God’s plan for wives in the home; or we go to the Nineveh of submission in obedience to God:

“Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives” (1 Peter 3:1).

Prayer

Lord, we ask that you give us hearts to follow you. Whatever choices you are calling us to make, help us keep our eyes from Tarshish. Help us say “Yes,” and go to Nineveh, even if it seems so hard. For we know your promise, and we thank you for this: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (Jonah 2:8).

Thank you for that wonderful grace Lord. We love you and trust you, and to be in your plan for us is far more desirable than any Tarshish that may seem so convenient. Help us not choose convenience but rather obedience Lord. Thank you for your faithfulness when we do. Amen.

Scripture taken from New International Version unless otherwise noted

00. Daughters of Sarah: Wives of great worth

Sarah’s imperfection gives me hope. The story of Sarah proves that we don’t have to be perfect to receive God’s blessing and become wives of great worth.

Introduction and Author’s Preface

Becoming Sarah’s daughters

Sarah was not perfect. Her early history makes her seem an unlikely example to pattern ourselves after. Yet we are told in 1 Peter 3 to submit to our husbands as Sarah did. God says that we are daughters of Sarah “if you do what is right do what is right without fear of what your husbands might do” (v. 6, NLT).

Sarah’s imperfection gives me hope. I’m still learning. As I look back, I can see areas where I could have been a better wife. God understands my humanity, and he has forgiven me for the things I lacked. Through many years of seeking his will for my role as a wife, God taught me the principles I’ve shared in Daughters of Sarah.

Unequally Yoked

My husband was an unbeliever when we married. I was a Christian, but I allowed other things to compromise my relationship with God. Seven years into the marriage, I made a new commitment to God, and I questioned how to live for Christ in an unequally yoked marriage. My husband later professed faith in Christ, but he struggled with commitment and security in that relationship. Through it all, I found answers in God’s Word to help me find my role.

The last year we were together, my husband was out of the house a lot. I worked in volunteer Christian ministry through chat rooms when I was alone. I found women who were experiencing the same marriage struggles I experienced, and I began sharing with them the things God taught me through the years.

Hope in a House Divided

When my marriage ended in separation, my friends reached out to me. Yet, they could not reach the loneliness I experienced as I watched my world torn to shreds. Again, I sought answers in God’s Word. God planted a dream in my heart to create a place where women experiencing the hurts of a troubled marriage could find help.

In January of the year 2000, God led me to to set up the website Hope in a House Divided in order to share the things I was learning from the Bible. God also opened doors for me to start an email support group for women struggling in their marriages. Early in the year 2000, I began writing and publishing the Daughters of Sarah Bible studies on Hope in a House Divided as well as our email support group where we discussed these lessons in depth.

Moving Forward

As I moved these studies to our new site in March of 2009, I added discussion questions for each session. I also added sub-headings throughout, and made a few editorial changes for clarity. This preface and introduction is written in March of 2009.

The story of Sarah proves that we don’t have to be perfect to receive God’s blessing. We only have to submit to God’s loving direction in our lives. God bless you as you seek to fulfill the role he has for you at this point in your marriage.

Lois

Next

01. Chosen for God’s best: Chosing to obey

Daughters of Sarah Bible Study session 1 (1 Peter 3:1,1:1-5).

We are chosen for provision, protection, obedience, and forgiveness when we choose to follow Christ. As wives, are we willing to obey what God shows us regarding submission?

Chosen for Provision and Protection

Christ chose to submit to God and death on the cross. This is explained in 1 Peter 2, and we are chosen to follow his example, to submit “in the same way” Christ did: “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands…” (1 Peter 3:1) By following Christ’s example, we receive God’s provision and protection.

As wives, most of us have convinced ourselves that this Scripture does not apply in our own circumstances. It can’t mean we are to submit to our husbands if their decisions are not in line with what we understand God’s will to be. Yet upon closer examination we realize this passage was written especially for us when our husbands are not Christians or fail to make decisions in line with what we understand to be God’s direction. Read the rest of the verse:

“Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives,” (3:1).

Do you have the courage to look into what God is saying? If so, be prepared to make some changes. 1 Peter 3:1 is a key verse for us. To understand what God means by, “In the same way,” we must start at the beginning:

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance” (1:1-2)

This Scripture is written to those who have accepted Christ as Savior and Lord and thus have become part of God’s elect. He has elected those who accept his Son for special blessing, provision, protection, and honor.

Notice first that we have been “chosen.” From the beginning, the God who had all foreknowledge of the situations we would face in our marriages today chose you and me!.

Chosen for Obedience

What are we chosen for? First we are chosen for obedience. Because we are chosen, we are immediately faced with a choice. Our choice is: “Will I choose to be obedient or disobedient to God’s choices for me?” In the context of being a wife, and the question of submission to our husbands, am I willing to obey what God shows me? That is the only question that matters.

This is not a question of whether our husbands are capable; or whether they are worthy of leadership; or whether we can do a better job. Those areas are for God to decide. The question for me, ultimately is not whether I will submit to my husband. It is whether I will submit to my God. I have been “chosen…for obedience.” Will I choose obedience or disobedience to God? If we are unwilling to submit to God here, at the foundation of his call to us, how do we dare to judge our husbands for their failures in the leadership areas God has called them to?

Chosen for Forgiveness

God knew we would blow the obedience issue before we ever started. We have not always chosen to submit to our husbands. But the real problem is that by choosing not to submit to our husbands in the ways that God has ordained, we have chosen to rebel against God’s design for us. So the second thing that God chose us for is “sprinkling by his blood.” I thank my God that his choices for me have the power to overcome and rescue me from the wrong choices I have made!

I am chosen for obedience. Because God knew I would fail in obedience to God, he chose me for forgiveness, for redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you” (1:3-4).

Chosen to Choose

This is a hard choice God has called us to make. It always seems that it would be easier to have someone else’s choice — to be required to make someone else’s commitment. Commitment is never easy. Commitment to God by submission to another human has to be one of the toughest callings God has ever required. But it brings with it the richness of God’s protection and blessing in a way that frees us as nothing else can.

We are “chosen…for obedience” through the “sprinkling by his blood,” into “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (1:4-5).

Prayer

Lord, the topic of submission is a place that we don’t want to go. We would like to write something else into what you are saying in your word on this subject. But we cannot. You have told us that our submission is ultimately an act of commitment and submission to you.

Thank you for the privilege of saying “yes” to you, Lord. Thank you that we can give you the gift of our desires and even the security we feel at being in control. We trust in a greater security of your control and your desires for our good, Lord.

We don’t want to go to the topic of submission. But we choose to go there because that is where you have called us, and we go with you, Lord. Thank you for leading us safely through all the troubled waters we must travel as we submit to your plan for us. Amen.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What does it mean to you to be chosen for obedience?
  2. How does being chosen cause us immediately to be confronted with a choice?
  3. If our husbands are not following God in their lives, should we follow their leadership? How does this work?
  4. Why is submitting to our husbands so important?
  5. If God had chosen us for obedience without choosing us for redemption, where would that have left us?

Next

Scripture taken from New International Version unless otherwise noted.

01. Train a child: Just one will do

An unbelieving spouse, grandparents, sick parents, incarceration, jobs, divorce, foster parents, adoptive parents, visitation rights, guardianships, and custody situations influence training children at home.

“Train a child in the way he should go….” (Proverbs 22:6).

Circumstances

Circumstances sometimes prevent us from being able to train our children as we wish.

There are single parent homes whose children spend time with other parents out of God’s will. There are divided homes where one parent out of God’s will lives in the home. There are grandparents who have the grandchildren part-time. There are sick parents, parents in prison, parents whose jobs call them away from home. There are foster parents, adoptive parents, visitation rights, legal guardianships, and child custody battles.

Circumstances, unfaithfulness of others, and situations beyond our control do play a part in the development of our children. Negative influences may encourage them to take wrong paths sometimes. But if one Christian parent or guardian adheres closely to what God tells that individual parent to do, no matter what other influences in her child’s life, that child will not depart from what that parent taught him. Gods Word says so!

Promise

The Bible says: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6). The New International Version indicates “train” can even mean “start”. Moses’ mother only got to start Moses in the way he should go. Samuel’s mother the same. But look what great men of God these sons were!

If we as individual parents do all we can to train our children to follow Him, God says they will not depart from our training. The home should be a Spiritual incubator to nurture our children to Spiritual maturity. But even in our sin-sick world where homes are divided and our children sometimes take wrong paths, we have this promise: Our children can never get away from the Spiritual principles we instill in their minds!

Timothy

Consider the example of Timothy’s family:

“He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek” (Acts 16:1).

Timothy’s mother was a Jewess. The Jewish nation believed in the one true God, although they did not always follow him and sometimes even worshiped pagan gods. Occasionally someone from the other nations would believe in the one true God also, but this was rare. The rest of the world for the most part served only pagan gods when Timothy was growing up.

Acts 16 says of Timothy, “whose father was a Greek.” The Apostle Paul wrote this to Timothy:

“I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5).

Paul excluded Timothy’s father from his reference to the faith of Timothy’s mother and grandmother. These Scriptures indicate that Timothy’s father did not believe in the one true God.

Timothy’s father probably led him according to pagan ways. He probably taught Timothy to follow the world. But Timothy’s mother and grandmother had the faith to believe that if they trained young Timothy in the way he should go he would not depart from the training they gave him. They did not sit around and pine because Timothy’s father was an unbeliever. They simply did what God said to do, and that was enough. The ideal is that both parents lead their children in the way they should go. But if one parent doesn’t, this does not cancel God’s promises to the parent who does. God will honor his promise if one parent will do what God says to the best of her ability!

What is involved in getting this to work? This is what we will discover from Scripture during the upcoming days. God’s part is to keep His promises to us, and he always does. We will talk more about this, and we will also talk about how to do our part. In the next session, we will start with the first step.

Application

God always has something very special to give you when you open His Word. Pray now and ask him to show you what he has for you in this Bible study.

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3.)

Questions for Discussion

  1. What does the Bible mean by the word “train?”
  2. Who does the Bible say must do the training of our children in order for them not to depart from the way they should go?
  3. If a child is exposed to the wrong training consecutively with the right training, does this negate the promise?
  4. What is the “right” training?
  5. Does the phrase, “when he is old” indicate he might “sow his wild oats” first?
  6. This sounds good, but I don’t have an ideal home. Will this work in my circumstances?

Thought to Remember

They simply did what God said to do, and that was enough. The ideal is that both parents lead their children in the way they should go. But if one parent doesn’t, this does not cancel God’s promises to the parent who does.

Next

Scripture taken from New International Version unless otherwise noted

Lois’ story

Separation and divorce have helped me understand more fully why God’s plan is one man for one woman for life.

My Journey of Change

Update 10/7/2015: Our email support group at Yahoo was privileged to help hundreds, if not thousands, of women and their families for well over a decade. That group is no longer active due to the many newer resources that are available online now.

I never expected my marriage to collapse but, after 33 years, it did.

We were married on March 5, 1967. I was a Christian, but I was not as committed to God’s way as I once had been. Six years into the marriage, I recommitted my life to Christ and my husband made a profession of faith in Christ as well. Through the years, my husband struggled with following God’s way, just as I had not always followed.

After my re-commitment to Christ, God began teaching me how to be the wife he wanted me to be. I often drifted from God’s plan, but God always brought me back to this one question: What is God calling me to be and do in my present situation? At first, I thought God wanted me to submit to his changes to improve my marriage. But, while God holds marriage sacred, God’s concern is always for the people in the marriage. God didn’t create the husband and wife for marriage, he instituted marriage to join the husband and wife he created. God is committed to helping people. He is committed to helping me become the woman he created me to be.

Lacking Perseverance and Consistency

I wish I could tell you that my submission to God paid off, and that my marriage blossomed into everything God meant it to be. But it didn’t. We both failed in many ways. My greatest failure was lack of perseverance and consistency while there was still time.

I tried to find ways to show my husband that he was the most important person in my life, but it just didn’t work. Well, actually, the problem is not that it didn’t work. The problem is that I became discouraged too easily. I’d do the things God convicted me to do for a few weeks, then I’d become discouraged when my husband didn’t react to things as I though he should. It was hard to consistently do the right things with the right attitude, and sometimes I failed or even gave up for a time. I’m sure my husband could tell when I tried to hide my wrong attitudes behind right actions.

It’s difficult to admit that, even though it’s been over nine years since our marriage fell apart. The only reason I’m sharing this is that I don’t want you to make the same mistake. God has forgiven me, and he will use even these circumstances in my life for his glory. But that doesn’t put my marriage back together.

Our Separation

In 1999 there were new developments in my marriage that made our remaining together in any type of mutual relationship almost impossible. My husband moved out in November of 1999. I experienced all the emotions of shock, resentment, anger, forgiveness, numbness, intense emotional pain, inability to think, sorrow for him, fear for me, loneliness, and anxiety of indecision.

But I also experienced the undergirding stability of peace, knowing that God would see me through even this. On Christmas Eve, I was able to write the following to a friend:

I have found that our God is able to see us through the most traumatic experiences in life, and not only see us through but give us hope and joy and peace in all the pain and hurt we experience. Though this Christmas will be difficult because of the loss, yet it will in many ways be more meaningful to me than any previous Christmas because of having had God so near me through the most traumatic experience I’ve ever had.

It was devastating to have my marriage torn from me. But from the beginning God gave me assurance. That assurance was not that my marriage would be reunited. What God showed me was that he would meet my need and use this terrible situation for good as I looked to him. That I could trust him to deal with my husband in response to my prayers. That I could trust him to work in my own heart as I looked to him. That I could love my husband and do all I could to help them find his way. But that even if my marriage was never put back together, I could still trust whatever God brought forth in my life. That God would still bless my home because of my faith and trust in him.

The Birth of ‘Hope in a House Divided’

My friends were all married. They cared, but they couldn’t understand the pain I felt. My grown children understood to a degree, but they suffered a different type of pain than mine. It was a lonely journey that no one but God could comprehend. I found almost no resources on the internet to help. In January of the year 2000, Hope in a House Divided was born out of that need. God planted a tiny dream in my heart to make a place where hurting women who experience such loss, or live in homes tottering on the brink of disaster, can find help and hope. God has multiplied this dream beyond anything I could have imagined, reaching countless women and families for almost a decade through our Hope in a House Divided website and our email support group.

Legal Separation: Bed and Board Divorce

In December of 1999, seeing that my marriage had crumbled and I could not piece it back together, I filed for a legal separation to prevent financial destitution. Even then, I was willing to face destitution if I could have redeemed my marriage, but I could not. Our separation, also known as a “bed and board divorce,” was granted in March of the year 2000. It was the same as a regular divorce in that we were legally single, not living together, and not sharing a home or any property together. The difference is that neither of us could remarry.

Is Divorce Stronger Than Marriage?

My husband filed for and was granted a full divorce on August 5, 2009.  I won’t debate with those who say this does or does not grant me the right to remarry by Biblical standards, because that is not a an issue for me.  Though it’s been almost ten years since we were separated, I understand more fully now than ever why God’s plan is one man for one woman for life.  I feel a stronger commitment than ever to the vow I made when I accepted this man for better or for worse till death do us part, and divorce certainly qualifies for “worse.”  Death has not parted us.  As long as he is alive, I cannot imagine any other man fulfilling the role of husband that he filled for me so long.  Marriage is a commitment that no divorce decree can break.  Legally I am divorced, but spiritually I am committed to being true to the sanctity of God’s creation of marriage.

How does this commitment play out in light of our divorce? We’ve maintained a friendship through all these years we’ve been apart. Divorce has not changed that. I am committed to honor his legal right to remarry, to continue to pray for him and be a friend to him, and to keep his best interest at heart. I cannot say that this is God’s plan for every divorced woman, for I do not know how God deals with others on this matter. Others’ circumstances may be different. I only know that this is how God is leading me at this time. I am content to leave the answers with God.

Tools to Help

I first realized the strength and value of perseverance as I watched some of the women in our email support group relate to their husbands with consistency of care. But I didn’t really see how short I came of what God wanted me to be until I read Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ 30 Day Husband Encouragement Challenge last September. Whatever the state of your marriage, if you husband is living in your home, I encourage you to click this link and print the challenge, then commit to do it daily.

I watched the movie Fireproof (Click to watch the trailer) with my nine-year-old grandson a few weeks ago. Tears came to my eyes as I realized how I might have thwarted the situation that broke my marriage if I had been more consistent in my efforts to make my marriage work before it reached its fateful collapse.

I purchased The Love Dare (the “Fireproof” companion book) a few months ago. I don’t have the opportunity to physically do these things. But I can pray. I am praying God will accomplish his desires for me, and that God will also accomplish what he desires for my husband. I’ve also asked my husband to forgive me for my inconsistencies, and he has done that. We’ve remained friends through the years. But there are complicated situations and our paths have twisted during the past nine years.

Final Recommendations and Encouragement

Ripping apart a marriage leaves a wound that never completely heals. In the last years my husband and I lived together, I read many books on how to have a healthy marriage. But a lot more help is available now. Take advantage of Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ 30 Day Husband Encouragement Challenge, the movie Fireproof, and The Love Dare book. Do all you can to make it work, so you don’t have to look back and wish you’d tried just a little harder.

One caution though: If you are living in an abusive situation, this may not apply to you at this time. If you need help in an abusive situation, please click National Domestic Violence Hotline. Help is available to callers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

You never get over the loss of a marriage but, if you are in the position that I’m in, there is still forgiveness and hope. God understands that our humanity is not perfect, and we can learn and grow from our mistakes. We can still find purpose as we ask ourselves, “What is God calling me to be and do in my present situation?”

God bless you as you seek his will for your marriage and your life.

Lois
[Update: My husband was granted a divorce in August of 2009, and has since remarried. I wish the best for them. We continue to be friends. My prayer is that God will work in his life and marriage, as well as in my life, to help us all be what he desires us to be during this new phase of our lives.]