Here I was, weeping, alternately pacing the aisles and lying on the altar, all alone in the church after everyone else had gone home. I begged God to show me just one verse in His Word that I could use to justify leaving my husband. I was done.
How had we come to this?
I hadn’t always felt this way. I met my husband when I was fourteen years old, and I knew when I saw him I would marry him. We married once I graduated high school and began life together with a baby and a move to another state, away from all I had ever known. He found it hard to keep a job, and something happened that I didn’t expect. I began to not like this man very much.
I disliked his job-hopping. I disliked that fact that he had made us move away. I disliked his spending. I disliked how he spoke to our daughter.
This marriage business was hard. Why couldn’t he just stand up and be a man and take care of us like he was supposed to?
After several years, we moved back home, and my mother began to invite me to a church she was attending. At first, I dismissed her. After weeks of asking, though, I finally gave in and found myself in a little church. Something was different here. These people actually tried to live what they heard on Sundays. They talked about their failures, and there was no shame, only forgiveness. No grudges, only reconciliation. To an unsaved young woman, educated and bitter, this all seemed too weird.
For two years, I attended ladies’ classes and ladies’ retreats, sat in on prayer meetings, and learned to trust the elder women in this church. Through their example, God turned my heart to Him and I was wonderfully saved. One area still bothered me though. The women talked of how they loved their husbands, what great men they were, how thankful they were for them. Each comment made me ache. How could they have such perfect marriages and mine be such a disaster?
And then the darkness came. My husband had suffered a debilitating injury and was required to have a dangerous surgery. The risks were high, the doctors said, and recovery would take months. Even if the surgery were a success, there could be side effects that would affect my husband permanently.
The doctors were right.
Then only three months after his surgery, Hurricane Katrina came. Our home flooded, and there was no money to repair it. My husband fell into depression and stayed on the computer constantly. I would get up in the morning and see him in front of the screen; come home from work, there he was; and go to bed, with him never coming out of the office. There was no intimacy between us, either emotional or physical. We were roommates, not husband and wife.
I was so lonely, and it wasn’t long before the tempter began to whisper, “He shouldn’t treat you like this. He’s so selfish. Doesn’t he know that you need him? Doesn’t he know that you need to feel loved and wanted?”
And it wasn’t long after that that the tempter came in the form of a man, a man who smiled at me and told me I was beautiful and how much better he would treat me if he had me.
It was only by the grace of God that I didn’t fall completely. It was my Father Who protected me, not my vows or my fear of what others would say if they found out. I was long past caring about any of that. I was wrapped up in my own longings and disillusionment.
And now here I was, depressed, broken, alone at the altar in that little church. I picked up my Bible, barely able to see through my tears. I opened it up randomly and began flipping the pages, going to the places that I knew taught on divorce, hoping I would find a verse that would justify my leaving. The first place I found myself was Matthew 5—divorce allowed only in the case of fornication (v.32). He hadn’t cheated on me, so that was out.
Matthew 19—“What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (v. 6)
Next, I Peter 3: “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;” (v. 1)
WHAT??!! I’m supposed to love and submit to my husband even if he’s not saved?? God, I know You know how this man is, and this can’t apply to me. I’ll try again.
And then, I Corinthians 7.
“And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband…” (v. 10)
Not exactly what I was looking for, but I read on anyway. Perhaps there were exceptions.
“And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.”(v. 13)
My tears were beginning to dry, not because I found peace, but because I was angry. Why can’t I leave him? Does God expect me to live in this despair, this heartache forever? I slammed the Bible shut, then re-opened it.
Proverbs 31—“The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.” (v. 11-12)
I was struck by these words. “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her…She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life…”
The Holy Spirit brought to my mind the times I had screamed at him like a banshee to “be a man!” The times I had loudly disrespected him in Wal-Mart when he wanted to buy something unnecessary. The times I had complained about him to my mother, my sister, my best friend, to anyone who would listen. The times I refused his attention, choosing instead to work because “it was what I had to do.”
I was so ashamed, and I am ashamed again as I write this. He had just had to walk through the darkest months of his life, and while I had done what was necessary to help him physically, I had abandoned him emotionally. I had committed adultery in my heart and justified it. I, his wife, the one he had chosen to walk through life with, had already left him.
So now I had a decision to make. Would I obey the words that my Father had so gently, but firmly, brought to my attention? Or would I forever damage my daughter and my testimony for my selfishness?
I am glad to say that my Lord gave me the courage to walk in His truth. This was not an overnight change in my heart, but a day-to-day commitment that I would be a daughter my Father would be proud of. I resolved that I would no longer speak negatively about my husband to anyone. When discussions began to turn ugly, I would close my mouth and refuse to rise to the bait. I would make myself available to help him and listen to him and love him.
Over time, I saw my Lord bless His Word. My husband was saved, and our marriage was renewed gloriously. The defining point in our renewal was the night God pressed upon my heart to tell my husband about the other man. Oh, how worried and afraid I was! But I knew that in order for us to truly be one, there could be no more secrets.
What happened that night cemented my love for my husband and for my Jesus. I saw my husband’s heart break as I told him of my betrayal, and I saw the battle he fought within his mind. Then, I heard the sweetest words I’ve ever heard: “I already knew. I love you, and I always will. I forgive you.” And he really did. He never brought the subject up again, and his actions toward me afterward never held any bitterness.
I cannot express to you what the Lord worked in my heart that night, but what I do know is that the man I was so determined to leave became the man who showed me the love of Jesus like I had never known. The Lord has shaped my husband into a leader, an innovator, a man with talent, compassion, strength, and grace, and I have seen through him the clearest picture of Christ’s forgiveness and love.
Just one verse. That’s all I thought I needed. But God had given me so much more. He gave me truth. He gave me love. And by His grace and mercy alone, He gave me a true marriage.