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The Goodness of Affliction

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The goodness of affliction. Goodness? Affliction? Those two ideas always seem contrary to one another. How is it even conceivable that suffering or troubles, whether from circumstance or people, could, for even a moment, be considered good?

Affliction is addressed in many places throughout the Bible. In Psalm 119 alone, the psalmist refers to affliction repeatedly:
Verse 67 states: Before I was afflicted, I went astray …
And then verse 71 makes an amazing statement: It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.
And finally in verse 75, the psalmist praises the Lord for His faithfulness:
I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are right, and that Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.

And it is these verses that have stirred in my heart and mind for the last couple of months – since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I can humbly say that the Lord is making these verses real in my life.

Very soon after my diagnosis, the Lord began speaking to my heart saying that He wants ALL of me. I discussed this with my husband, and he asked me what the Lord wanted me to do. But I explained to him that though there may be something that the Lord wants me to do in the future, right now what He was saying was that He wants ALL of me … that He wants ALL OF MY HEART!

I had no idea of the path that the Lord had prepared for me, but I can, in all honesty, say that before I was afflicted I went astray, that it has been good for me that I have been afflicted that I might learn His statutes, and that in His faithfulness He had afflicted me.

How did He bring this about?
Before I was diagnosed with cancer, the church had asked me to lead a ladies group on the study of the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7. After discussing the request with my husband and the pastor, we agreed that I would serve in that capacity, although the study was not scheduled to begin until the fall, which would be several months later. I felt so unqualified and began to pray regarding the study. Then along came the cancer, with appointments, procedures, biopsies, surgeries, and more.

I had “still” time, and quite a bit of it. I had told my husband that though I had this illness, I still needed to use my time well. Therefore, I “decided” to begin studying the Sermon on the Mount in preparation for the fall study. There are inadequate words to describe what the Lord has done in my heart. Yes, although I have been a Christian for over 30 years, I saw that before I was afflicted, I went astray, and indeed, the Lord wanted all of my heart.

It is impossible to explain, in one writing, the depths of the truths that the Lord has been showing me, but with His guidance I will attempt to summarize the path that I have been on. This path was not trodden in one day. I have been weeks and months in these truths. May the Lord Himself show forth His truth!

As I began to study this sermon, I saw that the Lord was teaching His disciples and that these truths are true for every child of His throughout all generations. It was as if He was speaking directly to me! Remember, He had shown me that He wanted ALL of my heart, and He lovingly laid it all out before me.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Poor in spirit. Humble. Emptied of self. Broken, knowing that in my self I have nothing to offer God. I can only fall before Him, pleading for mercy. That is how everyone who has entered the kingdom of heaven entered, but I must REMAIN humble in heart. How easily pride slips in, and how often the enemy causes one to lift himself up in pride. How many times do I look down on others with criticism and silently pat my own self on the back? Pride and arrogance have no place in the life of a child of God. How often the Scripture exhorts the child of God to humility! Indeed, I had gone astray. And yes, the Lord wanted ALL of my heart!

Blessed are those who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Mourning. What is this mourning? When one comes before the Lord poor in spirit, he will of necessity mourn over his sin as he sees how far short he falls. But do I continue to mourn when I sin? How often do I compromise without any remorse? How quickly I justify and excuse sin. How complacent am I when worldliness begins to creep into my heart? How readily do I accept my flesh responses to situations or people? It is all still sin! I must remain poor in spirit, grieving to the point that I confess to Him. There He is faithful and just to forgive, and there I am comforted. Yes, indeed, I had gone astray. I had allowed sin to settle in my heart. And the Lord wanted ALL of my heart for Himself.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Meekness. How I have come to love this word! What is meekness? Meekness is not easy to describe. It seems that there isn’t a good word in the English language that defines meekness, nor is it something that is seen readily in our culture. Meekness comes following being poor in spirit and mourning. Meekness is a place of surrender to God, and a calm assurance rests in the heart of the child of God that she is His child and that He cares for her perfectly, only acting in goodness toward her. What this calm assurance produces is peace within the heart. The amazing effect of this meekness is that no matter the difficult circumstance and no matter the problem the difficult person may bring, God is in control of it all, and I can rest in Him. But besides the wonderful, confident rest and peace that meekness brings, it also prevents certain behaviors in my life. It will prevent one from retaliating, from lashing out, from storing up resentment and bitterness in the heart. It is not self-centered, nor self assertive. The effect of meekness is all because the child of God is trusting every situation and circumstance in the hands of her Heavenly Father. Yes Lord, without any exceptions, You want ALL of my heart!

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
All of these qualities described in the Beatitudes are qualities of the heart, and so is this hunger and thirst. What are the desires of the heart? What do I truly hunger and thirst for? Is it God’s own righteousness? Is it all the things that God says is true and right? Do I have a deep desire to reflect Him as He truly is? Or do I settle comfortably into my own ways? As the world insidiously creeps in, do I find myself seeking worldly things and worrying about such? The heart moves away from hungering and thirsting for God, and settles for some worldly endeavor rather than seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Even busyness in doing “good” things can interfere and subtly change hunger and thirst for Him to desires for other activities. And, there again, I saw that surely I had gone astray. And, most importantly, that God wants ALL of my heart for Himself.

What I was beginning to see is that God wants my heart to consistently remain with Him. He wants me to continually humble myself before Him. He wants me to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s conviction and guidance, confessing when I fail. He wants me to remain meek and trust every circumstance of my life to Him, without reacting in a fleshly manner. And He wants me to continually seek Him above all else.

All of those heart qualities are directly related to my relationship to Him, and I am eternally grateful that He gives His children His own Holy Spirit to comfort, guide, and enable us. For apart from Him, we can do nothing!

I had been so convicted and humbled as I examined my heart and my relationship with God in the light of these truths. But my examination was not over. God now turned the focus to my relationship with others and my heart toward them.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall receive mercy.
The first quality of the heart toward others addressed by the Lord is mercy. Why is that such an important quality to find in the heart of the believer? I believe that when a person has truly experienced the mercy of God, the very mercy of God must be manifested through him as he turns toward others. Apart from being merciful to others, I can never reflect the Father as He truly is. I had to face some tough questions. How often did I look at others with a critical spirit toward them rather than one of mercy and compassion? How often did I truly lift those same people up to the Father in prayer, that they may come to know Him and experience His mercy? God says His mercies are new every morning. Did I consistently and faithfully reflect the mercy of God? Oh, how short I fall. How desperately I desire for the Lord to take ALL of my heart.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
I cannot even begin to speak regarding purity of heart. I cannot even imagine the blessing that it would be to truly be pure in heart. A pure heart. Pure thoughts. Pure motives. Serving the Lord purely, sincerely, and in singleness of heart at all times! The human heart is a desperately wicked heart, deceitful above all things, as the Scripture declares. Yet, our loving God says that He gives the believer a new heart, a heart that is like His own! How humbling, that God would be so gracious to any one of us. I understand the cry of the Psalmist: Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. Lord, only You can do this in me!

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Peacemakers. My whole life is to be an ambassador for Christ. My life is to be about reaching out to others that they may be reconciled to God. And then, as I interact with others, am I a peacemaker? Or do I find myself guilty of stirring envy and strife? Do I gossip? Or do I speak with words to edify and minister grace? Am I a part of healing relationships? Do I forgive? Am I truly a peacemaker? Again, I will trust the Father to change this heart to make it all He desires it to be! Truly, He wants ALL of my heart!

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
If someone is growing in all of those attitudes of the heart revealed in the Beatitudes, doesn’t it seem as though he would be respected? The Scripture indicates otherwise. It says he will be persecuted, insulted, and falsely accused. Yet, the believer is to rejoice – to rejoice in the Lord! It is an honor to be counted worthy to suffer for Him, and great is the reward in heaven!

I have only given a quick glimpse into these Beatitudes, but the truths are deeper and higher than we can fully comprehend. The Lord has just begun showing me what He means by wanting ALL of my heart. He wants it for Himself. He wants to dwell there. He wants me to be conformed to His image.

Yes, slowly over time I had gone astray. I was like the church of Ephesus described in Revelation who had left her first love. God always call me to repent – to turn back to Him. And there I find the same gracious, merciful, forgiving Father as when I first believed.

I am still studying the Sermon on the Mount, and will likely be here for some time. I still have another surgery ahead of me, and I know that the Lord has much more for me to learn on this cancer journey, but right now, He is teaching me that it is good that I have been afflicted because He is truly bringing my heart back to Him!  Yes, My Lord wants all of me.  He wants all of my heart.  And if you are His child, He wants all of your heart, too!

It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.
Psalm 119:71

I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are right, and that Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.
Psalm 119:75

An Unexpected and Uncertain Journey

Vacations. Travels. Journeys. Most of us look forward with eager anticipation to the journeys of life that are on the horizon. We plan, pack, and thoroughly prepare for the journey ahead. But in life, we sometimes find ourselves on a completely unexpected journey, one that we had never planned to take.

Such is where we find ourselves in this season of life. Having recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, there is an unexpected and uncertain journey that lies ahead for my husband and I. Where this journey will ultimately lead, only our Lord and Heavenly Father know for sure. However, as unplanned as this journey is on our end, I see that the Lord is preparing our hearts and packing all that we need for this journey.

The first truth for the journey – ASSURANCE. As we received the diagnosis, I was immediately reminded in my heart that I am not my own, I have been bought with a price – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. What assurance it brings when you know of a certainty that you belong to God. Because you have been redeemed (bought by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross) you are a child of the Living and Almighty God, and as such, your perfect Heavenly Father will care for you on every step of this unexpected and uncertain journey. From that assurance comes great rest and peace. Nothing else, nor anyone on this Earth, can give that kind of rest and peace. I know I will need to rest in the loving arms of my Father throughout this uncertain journey.

Interestingly, the second item for this journey is something that I am not allowed to bring with me. I thought about my travels to visit my son and his family overseas. There were certain items that I was never allowed to pack. Such would be the case on this journey. God spoke very clearly to my heart that I am not to bring FEAR with me. Fear is the natural and understandable reaction to the news that you have cancer. But immediately the Lord began bringing Scriptures to mind to FEAR NOT! As I took a concordance and walked through the Scriptures, over and over God’s people were instructed, yes commanded, to fear not. In addition, God gave the reason that they were not to fear. The overwhelming reason was that HE was their God and that HE was with them. I spent many hours in those Scriptures, with a greater and greater understanding of why fear should not be in my life. I believe Isaiah 41:10 explains it best: Fear not, for I am with you: be not dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you; yea, I will help you; yea, I will uphold you with the right hand of My righteousness. Again the reason that I am not to fear is because He is my God, and He has said that He will strengthen me, help me, and sustain me. He has also said that He will never leave me nor forsake me. Faith, in its very essence, is knowing what God has said and trusting Him to do what He has said. Therefore, I must walk by faith, and not by sight. He has said: Fear not, therefore my heart’s response to Him is: I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me! I know of a certainty that fear will want to creep into this journey because fear is such a strong, natural human emotion, from which I am not exempt. But I also know of a certainty that the Lord does not want fear on this journey. I will trust His grace to help me walk there day by day.

The third item the Lord prepared in my heart for this journey is CALLING. Every true believer should know his calling in life. It is God Himself who calls, equips, and places one where he is to serve. God has called me to Himself to be a child of His. That calling will not change – not on this upcoming journey, nor on any journey in this life, nor throughout eternity.

Secondly, God has called me to be the wife of one man – my precious husband. During our 39 years of marriage God has taught me much about being a wife, help, and companion to this one man. That calling will not change. I am to continue in this calling in every way that I am able, even through the ups and downs of the journey. As the Lord began to cement this in my heart, there was one day that I wanted to mope around. The Lord gently reminded my heart that I wasn’t having a mastectomy TODAY, and that I wasn’t having radiation TODAY, and that I wasn’t having chemotherapy TODAY, so what was I going to do TODAY? My heart’s response was: I am going to be David’s wife today! With that truth, I set about having a blessed day. Since that day, I have been frequently reminded to just continue to be David’s wife. That is my place in this life and that will not change. I was reminded of a portion of our wedding vows: in sickness and in health. That vow must be true, not only to the kind of husband David will be to me, but the kind of wife I am to be to him. Additionally, the Lord has called me to stay under my husband’s leadership (headship) as I trust the Lord with every step of this journey. The Lord has spent years teaching me to see the goodness of God in following a husband’s leadership. That, too, must not change. God had called me as David’s wife, and all that that means shall not change for as long as we both shall live.

And the third part of my calling in this life – As a Christian, God places us in the body of Christ. There He gifts us and equips us to serve one another for edification – to build up the body of Christ. That calling would not change either. Though it seems that I fail at this so often, I am still to be about encouraging fellow believers. Yes, there could be such a tendency to shut oneself away from all others, but that is not God’s design. Everyone has times of struggles, trials, hardships, and difficulties. No one is exempt. It is part of the fallen world in which we live. But as fellow believers, we are to encourage one another, pray for one another, comfort one another, help one another, and love one another. This calling would not change. As I walk through this unexpected and uncertain journey ahead, as God Himself faithfully sustains me, I am to encourage others facing the struggles of life. By sharing truth and proclaiming His faithfulness, may I be found true to that calling, as well.

So in all three of these, to God Himself, to my precious husband, and to fellow believers, may I be constantly reminded: the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable – Romans 11:29. Those things will not change.

I know this is only the beginning of this unexpected journey as God prepares my heart for this path. When one looks at our situation with earthly eyes, it seems as if there is a one way path ahead, from which we cannot turn away. Above this path is a dark and ominous cloud encapsulating the word “Cancer”. Earthly eyes would see that only darkness lies ahead on that path, but that CANNOT be so for the Christian because God is already ahead of us on the path, and of a necessity light must be there because God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.  

I know that I understand nothing yet of the path that lies ahead, but I know the God in whom I have believed. I have been reminded of words penned by Daniel W Whittle in one of his well-known hymns. I close for now, as I share those meaningful words with you.

Refrain:
But “I know Whom I have believed,

And am persuaded that He is able

To keep that which I’ve committed

Unto Him against that day.”

Julia’s Story: Enter the Elk!

I love to hear ladies tell their stories as they study Biblical marriage and begin to desire to respect their husbands, and love and submit to them. Each story is as varied as the husband and wife in the marriage.  But one thing is sure. Things will begin to change!

I recall the young wife who came into a marriage class so excited, as she reported that for years her husband had been asking her to wear her hair down rather than in a pony tail.  It was fun just to see her excitement as she had arranged her life under her husband, and the conflict went away.

Certainly, submission is not usually so easy as changing a pony tail, but many times it is in the small things where the changes first begin.  Those changes are actually occurring in the heart.  In instances where there has been resistance for many years,  a wife will delight as she submits to her Lord by submitting to her husband, no matter how small the issue may seem.

My favorite example of the simplicity of submission came from the young wife whose husband had asked her for years to put the ironing board on her side of the bed rather than on his, but she had persisted in her own way.  Again, the simple joy of simple submission as she gave in!

But ironing board, move over! I now have another favorite story.  This is a simple story of a wife desiring to honor her husband as she arranged her life around his. Here, in her own words, is her story.

Julia’s Story: Enter the Elk!

Enter the Elk

For years I never would allow mounted animals in my house. I grew up with all kinds of creatures staring at me on the walls: squirrels, deer, and raccoons. If it could be mounted it would go on the walls. I do not know why, but I never wanted that to follow me in my adult life. It was normal, and almost expected, as a child to enter homes in my family and see this sort of trophy on walls, but as an adult I was not “HAVING IT”.

My husband, through the years, began to hunt more and more.  He killed a deer and had it mounted. I would not hear of that animal hanging in my living room, so he hung it in his closet. That was fine with me. He got to enjoy it, and I did not have to be bothered with it – seemed like a good deal to me.  Along the way, he acquired another deer; he hung it in the garage. As years passed, trips got bigger and further away from home. Instead of local hunting camps, now he went to Colorado. It was his 2nd trip to Colorado, and I was really dreading it. He is gone for at least 10 days and with 2 small children at home, it gets rough for me and them. We were sitting at the table the last night before he was to leave, talking about how great it would be if he killed something huge.

My 6 year son said, “Daddy, when I kill my 1st deer, I am going to hang it in my closet, too!”  UGH, the agony of hearing him say that made me see how wrong I “MAY” have been. My husband teased and said, “Do you see what you have done to our ‘manliness’?”  I felt worse.  My husband told our son that he was sure if he killed a deer, I would let him hang it over his bed.  I told my husband if he killed a ‘huge’ animal, I would let him hang it in our house. I felt safe because he had gone before and not killed anything…. Right???  Well, little did I know what I was saying.

The trip came and went, and, yes, he did kill the 2nd to largest ELK in the hunting camp area/region. It took a year for the ELK to get mounted and be sent home. The closer it got to that animal coming home, the more I thought I do not know where it is going, but it will not fit in my house.  The whole year I said that thing is too large for this house. Let me give you some dimensions. I have 10 foot ceilings. For the mounted animal to fit under my ceilings it has to be mounted 5 foot above the floor, which to me is not appropriate level. It sticks out from the wall 52 inches, so to hang it takes special care. I would not want anyone to round a corner and poke their eye with a horn..

On the night prior to the Elk arrival, my whole house was excited to think the Elk was on the way home. Yes, I was too. My husband had said he would probably take the elk to his boss’s camp in Arkansas… it would fit in perfect there. The camp has cathedral ceilings and rustic décor. I did not want to see him do that but I was not satisfied with hanging it in my house either. Before bed I was reading a Blog on husbands and wives and putting the needs of others before your own.  I went to bed praying for my marriage and to have a heart more along the lines of what God would want me to have. When I awoke the next morning, I had a joy and assurance that my husband must bring the ELK home, and I wanted it to stay at home. I wanted it in our foyer and even assured my husband that could be his trophy room. He was so excited and almost giddy. It’s funny how the power of prayer can change a heart. I know it was the power of God because I could not change myself. I now look at that beast of an animal and call it “pretty”.

What I had resisted for years, I now welcomed into my home. Surely, it wasn’t for me.  But because I wanted to honor my husband in our home, my heart had changed.  ENTER THE ELK!

Wisdom of An Aged Grandmother

The Simplicity of ChristBut I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety,  so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

2 Corinthians 11:3

A number of weeks had passed since her stroke.  The ninety-three-year-old grandmother lay bedridden in the nursing home.  No longer able to even turn herself in the bed and unable to see, the only means of communication that existed was failing hearing and impaired speech.  But that is the physical description.  Within this aged shell there yet remained soul and spirit and an active mind.

Occasional visitors came her way.  Many left discouraged over her condition, while others sensed the futility of life.  Not so as I visited the aged widow, for as I left that visit, the Lord spoke deeply to my heart, with a message that I pray stays with me for a lifetime.

On a prior visit, we had discussed the Lord and her favorite passages of the Bible.  I asked if she had her Bible there, with the thought that I might read to her.  Though she had much hearing loss, she could still hear and what’s more, understand those things which were being discussed.  Therefore, I told her that on my next visit, I would bring her Bible.  My intention was that I would read to her, and I would leave it on the bedside table where she could request of other family or friends that they, too, might read to her, if she so desired.  We completed our visit; I kissed that frail forehead and slowly and thoughtfully left the nursing home.

As I had intended, I got her Bible and brought it for our next visit.  We talked of family and friends for a while, of her younger life, of special memories that she had.  I rubbed her arms and shoulders with lotion as we talked of things that were special to her.  I asked if she remembered what I was going to bring her.  She knew well; “My Bible,” she said.  I was going to read to her, but no need.  She began to quote me Psalm after Psalm, without missing a word.  How foolish!  I thought I had something to offer her, but it was she who had something to offer to me.

It was then when she made an amazing statement.  She said, “I am making a list for you.  I’m going to write it down for you.”  Knowing the impossibility of the task of writing for her, I simply replied, “Why don’t you tell me your list, and I’ll write it down.”  In my naivety, I felt that she was going to tell me of a few more items that she would like for me to bring to the nursing home on my next visit.  To my surprise and delight, her list was far different from my thoughts.

The list began: “Remember the power of prayer.”  A little taken aback, I then knew that I was to be very attentive to this list and to the wisdom that this aged grandmother had to offer.  “OK,” I said, “I put that at the top of the list.”  Her reply came quickly, “Trust in the Lord at all times.”  Again, I was speechless, as I realized that she indeed had a message for me.  I asked if there was anything else that she wanted on the list.  “Not right now,”  she answered.  Realizing that she was tiring, I told her that I would keep the list and that we could add to her list later if she would like.

I continued with a few little matters in the room.  As I was preparing to leave, very faintly, I heard, “One more thing.”  “One more thing for the list?” I questioned.  “Yes, love one another.”  I paused, and she said “That’s all.”

There – the list was complete.  Remember the power of prayer.  Trust in the Lord at all times.  Love one another.  As I left the nursing home, I pondered these truths on the drive home.  I was utterly overwhelmed at the simplicity, yet the fullness, of these quivery words.  Over and over, within my spirit, I heard, “The simplicity of Christ.”  It really is that simple, isn’t it, Lord?

In Christianity, we complicate the Word of God and the truth of the gospel.  We get entirely too intellectual, too argumentative, too denominational.  No wonder the Apostle Paul feared that the believers at Corinth would be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3).

Perhaps you, too, are questioning:  “Is it really that simple?”  After a long life, with all that the world had to offer, the great King Solomon summed it up in this way:  Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:  Fear God, and keep His commandments:  for this is the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13).  The prophet Micah explained it as such:  He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?  (Micah 6:8).

The Apostle Paul, told the believers at Ephesus, as he did with many other churches:  Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints … (Ephesians 1:15).  And our Lord Himself taught:  Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:37-40).

What a simple little list came from that feeble ninety-three-year-old grandmother.  But what profound truths!  And how her words resembled the words of the Lord, and of prophets, apostles, and kings!

I cherish that brief visit, and look forward to our next visit, should the Lord allow.  Will she have more marvelous nuggets of truth?  I wonder if she is lying in that bed making a list for me!

How precious is the simplicity that comes from Christ!

Kara’s Sory: Learning to Build

imageEvery wise woman buildeth her house:

but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.

Proverbs 14:1

Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.

Psalm 127:1

What a work God has done in my heart with these two verses!  For so many years of my marriage, I was a foolish woman, constantly plucking my house down around me with my very own hands.  Oh, I didn’t realize that was what I was doing.  I thought that I was standing up for my rights as a “liberated” and “educated” female.  I thought that I deserved a life beyond my husband and two children.  I didn’t realize that God had given me a precious gift – a household full of wonderful people – and that I was the one steadily destroying it.  God had done more than His part, bringing my family through many self-inflicted storms and trials, but every time the Lord would begin to pour a foundation for my family, there I would be, tearing it down to the ground by my words and neglect.

Now that I look back, I should have seen what was going on, especially since in His mercy, God had given me a very vivid physical example of what neglect causes with the house that we had bought soon after our daughters were born.  This house seemed perfect when we first visited it – quaint, quiet, understated – the perfect place to raise our children.  But little did we know the work that is required to keep a house, especially an older house, as ours was, in good condition.

I was busy with my job (in a Christian work, by the way) and my husband was busy establishing a new business.  The house – like my family –  was left to itself.  Unbelievably soon, the roof was leaking, termites had eaten through the foundation, and the beautiful yard that the previous owner had so painstakingly landscaped was overgrown with weeds.  We were so overwhelmed when we realized the work ahead of us that we simply threw up our hands in defeat.  And I did the same thing with my family.  I will spare you the details of the damaging results, but suffice it to say, my home and my family were nearly destroyed.

But then a miracle occurred.  God saved me and began to open up the truth of His Word to me, line upon line, precept upon precept.  He began to use my physical house to show me what was happening to my household and to my family.

One day, my husband discovered that the main support of the house would have to be replaced before any other repair work could be done; God used this to show me that my family needed Him as our main support before any other lasting improvements could be made.

On another occasion, my husband found that termites had damaged our walls and many of them would have to be rebuilt; likewise, we would have to rebuild our family’s spiritual walls through prayer, study, and church.

Little by little, we have begun to repair our home, both physically and spiritually, and little by little, I am changing from that foolish woman who destroys her home to one that builds her home.  Each day I pray that God will show me ways to build – and any ways that I may be destroying – the precious family with which He has blessed me.

Through wisdom is a house builded; and by understanding it is established:  and by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.

Proverbs 24:3-4

The above anonymous testimony was first printed in Dawning Light © 2004.  I, again, extend my thanks to ladies willing to share their story to the glory of God.

Anabelle’s Story: No Respect for Him

Reverence Her Husband“Just one verse, God, just one. That’s all I need.”

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.

Katherine’s Story: An Unfaithful Husband

Oh, it would never happen to me!  When I get married, my husband would never be unfaithful to me.  How sure I was!  And quite boldly I would proclaim that I would never leave my husband except for two things – physical abuse or unfaithfulness.  I would declare, quite frankly, that should either of these things happen, I would be “out the door,” never to return.  But the reality of life often hits hard, and when it hits, a marriage can be shattered.  You sit in that shattered heap of rubble and wonder, “How did I ever end up here?”

My husband and I had been married for several years, and was thought by most, including myself, to be happily married.  My husband’s career was quite successful.  We had beautiful and healthy children.  We had a very nice home, and from all appearances, all was well.  But all was not well.  My husband often stayed late at work.  He went out after work with friends.  A few drinks to relax after a hard week’s work –  what could be the harm?  But that lifestyle and many “few drinks” led to the bed of adultery and to much harm.

I was unaware of how deeply our marriage was in trouble.  I knew that there was a distance between us, but I didn’t know what it was.  I knew that he was gone often, but I tried to be understanding.  I wanted things to be different, but I didn’t know where to begin.  But God knew just where to begin.

The place that He began was not with my husband, but was with me.  He began to teach me, through His Word, how to be a wife to my husband.  He began to teach me how to be a help to my husband.  He began to teach me how to stand in support of my husband.  And after several months into becoming this new wife that the Lord was creating, the Lord did an unexpected thing.  Through a series of circumstances, the Lord removed my husband from his job, causing our financial state to immediately change.  As difficult as this seemed at the time, how graciously the Lord removed my husband from the very surroundings that were pulling him astray.  We were now in each other’s company almost constantly, and the truths that the Lord had taught me about being a wife were truly becoming a part of our marriage.  Though finances were difficult, our marriage seemed stronger than ever.

And then came that fateful day – my husband said that he wanted to talk to me about something.  I knew from the tone of his voice that it must be serious, and as I settled into my place on the sofa, I heard that still, small voice of my Lord say, “Just listen.”  I knew to be quiet and just listen.  My husband began to tell his story –  his story of unfaithfulness to me and to our marriage.  He said he would understand if I wanted to leave, and concluded with, “I truly am sorry.”  Still not having uttered a word, words began to come from the depth of my heart –  words that definitely were not my own words.  My words would have screamed.  My words would have accused.  My words would have lashed out to make him hurt as much as I was hurting.  But instead of hurtful words, I heard myself saying, “The Lord has forgiven me much.  I know that I must forgive you.”  The conversation was ended.  He again reiterated that he was sorry, and he went to work at a small job that he had begun.

The right words had been spoken, and again all seemed well.  But all was not well.  As my husband left our home to go to his job, I was left alone to face the darkest hour that I had ever known.  In the midst of hurt and despair that words cannot describe, I walked into our bedroom, closed the door, and wept, and wept, and wept before the Lord.

As strange as this may sound, there was a voice, though not audible, speaking to me.  The voice was very clearly telling me that my husband had a gun, and that I knew where he kept it, and that I knew that it was loaded, and that it would be so easy to end this whole thing.  As this voice cleverly attempted to pull my thoughts toward death, I so very clearly heard another calm, but authoritative, voice say, “No, she is mine.”  My Lord had spoken.

At that point, I was able to pick myself up from the floor.  I went to get my Bible, sat in the middle of my bed, and said, “Lord, speak to me.  I need to hear from you.”  The Lord God, by His Holy Spirit, walked me verse by verse through forgiveness.  He showed me, in the Scriptures, the truth of the words that I had spoken before but had not understood.  He showed me that truly He had forgiven me much and that I was to forgive my husband in this same way.  He took me, passage by passage, through the epistles where Christians are commanded to forgive.  Step by step, these are the truths (NKJV) through which He had me walk:

I beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love … (Ephesians 4:1-2).

… and be renewed in the spirit of your mind … (Ephesians 4:23).

… put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness … (Ephesians 4:24).

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification,  that it may impart grace to the hearers … (Ephesians 4:29).

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you,  with all malice … (Ephesians 4:31).

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you … (Ephesians 4:32).

And again:

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above ... (Colossians 3:1).

Set your mind on things above, not on things on earth ...”   (Colossians 3:2).

… put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him ... (Colossians 3:10).

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering … (Colossians 3:12).

… Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against one another; even as Christ forgave you, so must you do ... (Colossians 3:13).

Yes, my Lord had spoken.  I must forgive my husband, just as my Lord had forgiven me.  Then, my Lord brought me to yet another passage:

… so that on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow ... (2 Corinthians 2:7).

Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him … (2 Corinthians 2:8).

… that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things …  (2 Corinthians 2:9).

… I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices … (2 Corinthians 2:10-11).

I had no doubt – I had asked to hear from my Lord, and I had heard.  I knew that not only was I to forgive my husband, but I was also to comfort him and to reaffirm my love to him.  This was truly a test.  Would I be obedient in all things?  By a work of God’s grace that I cannot explain, the Lord enabled me to walk in His truth.  Exactly how I was to reaffirm my love to my husband I was not sure, but I was committed to do what my Lord had spoken.  I had regained my composure, had settled my heart, and was prepared to obey my Lord.

The telephone rang.  The person on the other end of the line said that my husband’s grandfather, who had been a special part of my husband’s life, was dying, and if my husband wanted to see him, he needed to come right away.  My husband’s grandfather lived out of town, and of course, no one knew all that had transpired in our home that morning.  I, however, knew exactly what the Lord wanted me to do.  I knew that our finances would not allow my husband to make the trip.  We simply had no money.  But God always knows exactly what He is doing.  A Christian friend had sent me some money, some while back.  She said she knew that I wouldn’t want to keep it, but begged me to keep it because she knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Lord had told her to send it.  Because she was so sure, I tucked the money and envelope away, with a prayer.  If the Lord had actually sent the money, I would wait until He showed me its purpose.  I called my husband, delivered the message about his grandfather, and prepared myself for him to come home.  I knew that I was to tell him that I was committed to the Lord, committed to him, and committed to our marriage.  I was also to give him the money from the Lord and offer to go with him to visit his grandfather.  That was the beginning of the working out of the forgiveness that the Lord had worked within.  My husband did see his grandfather before he died, and at the same time, a new season of our life was born.

Although the Lord had done a wonderful work, the reality of life is still real.  Each step of the way, I had to lean hard upon the Lord, listening keenly for His voice.  Nauseating pictures of my husband with another woman would arise in my mind.  I would have to refuse to think upon those things and replace those thoughts with the truth.  My Lord had forgiven that horrible sin, and I must not and would not allow my mind to dwell there.  Time after time, I would have to refuse to allow myself to think on the sin, and force myself to think only upon the Lord’s grace and forgiveness.  Slowly, through days, weeks, and months, the thoughts came less and less.   I had to work through the feelings of rejection, the feelings of insecurity, the impressions of myself as undesirable, and the question of “What was wrong with me?” I also had to work through the times that my husband would turn to me for intimacy when everything within me would want to push him away.  But as always, my blessed Lord would speak truth to my heart, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”  And with a desire to obey my Lord, I would willingly submit.

Do any of those thoughts ever return to my mind?  On very rare occasions they do, but as before, I must steadfastly refuse them.  They are not thoughts from my Lord.  It is the enemy speaking; he is called the accuser, and he seeks to kill, steal, and destroy.  I simply respond with, “It is forgiven.”

There is no way to describe how fully and completely the Lord does a work.  Many years have passed since those hurtful days.  The Lord has truly healed and blessed our marriage.  My husband and I sincerely love one another, and both of us fully enjoy married life.  What the Lord has created is a stronger marriage than we ever possessed before.  How is this possible?  The only answer that I can give is that if you belong to the Lord, He loves you with an  everlasting love.  He will care for you in every situation and circumstance.  The greatest challenge that you will face is to trust Him, to hear Him, and to humbly obey Him.  Don’t refuse the only One who can truly help you!  He truly is the only hope that we have!

I’ve grown so much since those naive days when I thought that this would never happen to me.  None of us know what life holds for us.  And as to the bold assertion that I would never stay with a husband who was unfaithful to me, stay I did.  “Why?” – you may ask.  “You had every right to leave.”  The only answer that I have is that my God is a God of forgiveness, and He tenderly spoke truth to my heart.  These words I will never forget, “Even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”  Glory to His name!

Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,  according to the power that worketh in us,  Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus  throughout all ages, world without end.  Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

The above anonymous testimony was first printed in Woman – Precious in the Sight of God © 2002.  I, again, extend my thanks to ladies willing to share their story to the glory of God.