I'm going to be doing a free webinar next Wednesday, March 5 on The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. It's sponsored by RBC (Radio Bible Class – Daily Bread) and I think it will be great. Even if you can't be there live, sign up as you will get a link to listen to it afterwards. A pastor who works with abusive men will also be joining me.
Thanks for your prayers. I feel them coming. It’s been a stressful, crazy month but things are looking up. Our God is so good. I’ve been pondering who God is and why he would be mindful of us. We are so undeserving and unworthy yet Paul tells us that he lavishes his love and his grace upon us. (Ephesians 1:7,8). Think about that word: lavish. The dictionary defines lavish as abundant, extravagant, generous. He doesn’t just dribble out his love and grace but lays it on heavy. He’s not stingy with it. But do you know that? Are you living in that reality – of the Good News? I hope you are. I pray you are. Without God’s reality, the big story as I call it, we can become very lost and despondent in our own small story.
In this blog we talk about the pain and confusion of our small stories, but don’t ever forget the big story. Without it we will get lost.
Today’s Question: What is the difference between surrendering to God's way and giving up. Do you have any biblical examples?
I have been married for nearly 18 years and separated for 1year and a half. I took time to heal, take responsibility for my part in the demise of my relationship. I am discovering talents that God blessed me with, learning how not to react, loving my children differently and so forth.
I am excited about God's love for me and who I am. I am able to read and pray again. I held on to my marriage and was slowly dying. When I left, it was with the understanding that I need to get healthy physically (my health was compromised), emotionally (I was beyond having feelings of rage) and mentally at a breaking point.
I heard the word ‘go' and left. I most recently found that he is emotionally and possibly sexually involved with another woman. This was a set back and a huge blow since I was going to reach out yet again to talk about reconciliation. At least 3 times I've gone to counseling alone and he attended only once at which time he blamed me for everything.
I understand that God can do anything & I am learning how to surrender to Him. I just want to know where the difference is between surrendering and giving up.
Answer: I’m so glad you are healing and starting to thrive. You had hoped that your husband would have patience during this healing process and begin to work on his own issues while you worked on yours. Apparently that hasn’t happened and he’s gotten involved – at least emotionally, with another woman. That often happens when someone doesn’t take any responsibility for their part of a marital breakdown. In his mind, since the blame is entirely yours, his problems are that he’s lonely and he’s tired of waiting for you to get your act together. Therefore, if or when the opportunity comes along to get his needs met, he sees nothing wrong with it.
You ask what’s the difference between surrendering to God’s way or giving up? A Biblical example that comes to mind is Elijah’s story found in 1 Kings 18 and 19. He was a great prophet called by God to do amazing miracles. His most famous miracle was when he prayed and fire came down from heaven and licked up the water and sacrifice, proving to the prophets of Baal that the God of Israel was the one true God. His hope was that King Ahab and Queen Jezebel would repent of their rebellion and lead the nation of Israel into repentance. But that didn’t happen and Elijah almost gave up.
He ran away, fearful and despondent. He wanted to die. He said to God, “It is enough now. Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my father.” And he laid down and gave up.
But God wasn’t done with Elijah. He cared for him. He gave him food to eat and allowed him to rest so that his mind, emotions and body could heal. And as Elijah began to feel better, God spoke to him not to give up but to surrender to Him. Things were not going to turn out the way Elijah had hoped, but that didn’t mean that God was not still in charge. God didn’t send Elijah back to the same situation or role. God was moving him on. He was finished with that part of his ministry and God had new plans for Elijah. He was to anoint a new king and mentor Elisha to be his replacement.
Surrendering to God is not the same thing as surrendering to man. Surrendering to God is saying, “Not my will but yours be done.” Jesus showed us this in the garden when he didn’t feel like going to the cross. Yet he surrendered.
I’m not sure what you mean by giving up. Do you mean letting go? Sometimes we do need to let go even when we are surrendered to God. For example, Jesus let go of the rich young ruler (Mark 10:21) even though it says he loved him. The rich young ruler didn’t want to surrender to Christ and Christ let him go.
Jesus let Judas go, even knowing that he was up to no good. The story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11 shows a loving father, letting his younger son go to live a sinful life. He didn’t beg him to stay or cling to him when the son wanted to leave. He let go.
In the same way, we can be fully surrendered to God and still need to let go. Perhaps what you need to let go of or give up, is hope in what God will do in your husband. Henry Cloud has a great chapter in his book, Necessary Endings, called Hoping Versus Wishing: The Difference Between What’s Worth Fixing and What Should End.
Briefly, here are some questions Cloud uses to discern whether you should have hope or give up hope:
- Do I want the same reality, frustration, or problems six months from now?
- Do I want this same level of performance a year from now?
- Do I want to be having these same conversations two years from now?
If the answer is no, then here are a few more of his questions:
- What reason is there to have hope that tomorrow is going to be different? (The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior)
- What in this picture is changing that I can believe in?
Cloud says, “The difference between hoping and wishing is that hope comes from real, objective reasons that the future is going to be different from the past. Anything other than that is simply a wish that comes from your desires.” (page 97).
Last week I wrote that God wants us to hope in him and not in what he will do. Elijah is a good example of misplaced hope. He believed it was God’s will for King Ahab and Jezebel to repent and he was right. It was God’s will. But that’s not what happened. Elijah felt so despondent at his “failure” that he wanted to give up. In his small story of hoping in what God would do, he forgot who God was. God was still Present. God was still good. God was still in control and God showed Elijah that his hope needed to be rooted firmly in Him and not the outcome.
In the same way, from your description you say your husband has taken zero responsibility for his part of the marital demise. No willingness to be teachable and surrendered to others' wisdom who might help him see his part. No change in his orientation toward you. So what are you hoping will be any different?
I don’t think Jesus hoped that Judas would change (Mark 14-17-21).
I don’t’ think Abigail hoped that Nabal would change (1 Samuel 25:18-38).
I don’t think that David hoped Saul would change after repeated lies and false promises (1 Samuel).
Each of them lived in reality and truth, not in wishful thinking.
Can you be surrendered to God and give up hope that your husband will change? I think so.
As always, friends, I value your input.
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