If you’ve been praying for me, thank you. I’ve had a whirlwind month of speaking and traveling and I’m pretty wiped out. I’m home for the next two weeks and looking forward to getting my paperwork cleaned up.
Have you gone paperless? If so, what did you do first? What scanner did you use? Did you have a system like Evernote? I would love to make that my new goal for 2016 – and not be cluttered with so much paper everywhere. Tips?
Also don't forget about my free webinar tonight at 7:30 PM EST. CLICK HERE to get a spot. Can't make it? No problem. Everyone who registers will get a replay link that will be live for 30 days.
Question: I have been in an abusive and controlling marriage for what I will count as 33 years, as that is the place we were at when my husband’s pornography addiction became exposed.
For the last 2 years, we have been separated, though living in the same house. I’ve been trying to process and work through issues and have not left because of fear of many things, one being church discipline. I have been hammered about how disobedient I’m being because I am keeping my distance and have not hopped right back in the bed with him.
My husband was always angry and yelling and condemning. I got my view of God through him so I always carried around a tremendous amount of guilt and shame and saw God as a hard task master, with a very heavy yoke, a God who was always “out to get me”, who was waiting to hammer me for any sin.
My marriage has been bondage, a prison, as I succumbed to my husband’s headship that has been without love, so much so that I submitted to him cutting our first born daughter off for 15 years now because she left the household and got married against our blessing. She saw what I could not see and got out. Now that I’ve processed the deception and abuse (your book was very enlightening and relatable) that I’ve lived under and in for 33 years, I came to see that my view of God has been wrong and where it came from. You state about living in the center of God’s love in your book The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. I would like to know how to do that exactly.
I have read the Word, though inconsistently over the years, and have definitely cried out to Him almost constantly even though sometimes it was just “God, Help!” There is much more to my story I could tell you but feel time doesn’t allow currently. Can you clarify or help me understand how to live in the center of God’s love?
I also have a second question: does staying in the marriage and rebuilding it absolutely HAVE to take place because the spouse is repentant (seemingly) and stopped doing porn and yelling? I’ve been told that I do not have biblical grounds to begin with and also that because he is repentant, that I cannot divorce, that I have to stay in the marriage, although there is no love or respect or trust or communication.
Answer: I am so sorry for all you have been through. It sounds like you’ve not only gotten a harsh legalistic dictator view of God from your husband, but also from your church through the way they have handled your husband’s problem with you. You ask some tough questions and I’m not sure I will be able to adequately answer both of your questions in this one blog, but I will give it a try and invite others to share their journey with you as well.
How do you center yourself in God and his love? That is a great question and I’m not sure I have the answer. John, the apostle and one of Jesus closest friends said it best when he wrote, “We have come to know and rely on the love God has for us” (1 John 4:16).
That tells me that learning to trust God’s love – to rely on it fully, is a process and not a once and done event. John said we have come to know, and come to rely on it. There must have been times when John didn’t rely on it or know it as fully as he did when he wrote his letter.
What a relief! If someone who actually walked and talked with Jesus in the flesh didn’t always “feel” it or “trust” then maybe God isn’t so disappointed with you and me when we struggle with it too.
I think one of your biggest obstacles in “relying” on God’s love for you is that you’ve been taught that it’s conditional. If you mess up, or make a mistake, if you don’t get it right, or make a bad choice, God’s love for you will stop.
You’ve been told you’re a bad wife or a bad Christian and felt rejected and cast away by your spouse and your church. That may be your experience with the people who were supposed to represent God to you, but that behavior is not reflective of God’s love. God’s love never fails. His love is never based on our behavior – good or bad. He doesn’t love those who get it right better than those of us who don’t get it right.
There is great comfort in knowing that God loves us because he is God and not because we’re worthy or deserve it. It is in God’s nature to love, therefore, He cannot NOT love us. There is nothing you can ever do to earn or deserve God’s love, and there is nothing you can ever do to lose or lessen it.
The love of God is active, relentlessly pursuing you, seeking your good, fighting for your eternal well—being (tweet that).
His love is perfect and sufficient, never more and never less than it always is (Romans 8:31-39).
The reality and security of God’s love does not depend upon us at all. God doesn’t love us just the way we are; he loves us despite the way we are.
This kind of love is too good to be true. It’s such unspeakably good news it’s hard to put our mind around it let alone our heart. If we could rely on that kind of love for us, we would feel peace and joy. We would feel as secure as a child wrapped snug at her mother’s breast. But we don’t grasp His great love for us most of the time. Not that we don’t want to, but it’s hard to believe that the good news is really that good.
When asked by followers what they must do to do the work of God, Jesus answered them by saying that the work is to believe (John 6:29). And, it is hard work. However, once we do the work to believe, the rest comes fairly easily.
So what are some specific things you could to do the work to believe, even just a little bit? Jesus says we don’t need a lot of faith, just a tiny bit, the size of a mustard seed can be sufficient. My pastor once said if you have strong faith in weak ice and go running out in the middle of an icy pond with great faith that it will hold you, it won’t. Not because you don’t have enough faith but because your faith is in a weak object.
However, if you have weak faith in a strong object, it doesn’t matter how tentatively you crawl out on a strong piece of ice, it will hold you. It holds you up because it is a strong object, not because of your strong faith.
What could you do today to put a tiny bit of faith in God’s powerful love for you? What small steps could you take this week to walk that faith out – tentatively, haltingly, having weak faith but trusting a strong, capable God?
Your second question – has a lot to do with the first problem. Jesus tells his followers, “If you love me, you’ll keep my commandments.” Your church is telling you that you do not have Biblical grounds for divorce. That’s debatable and not everyone agrees on biblical justifications for divorce. But the error your church is making with you even with the set of beliefs they hold is they put the emphasis on obedience without helping you to know and love God.
The Bible says, “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). As our hearts are centered in God’s love, we begin to love him back in humble gratitude that God would love us that much.
And as we love him first and most, of course we want to obey him, whatever that looks like in our particular situation.
We are not capable of obeying God on our own. The Jews could not with the Jewish law and Christians’ cannot without the love of God and the Holy Spirit’s help.
So, friend for now, it’s important that you realize God is pursuing you. People don’t naturally have any desire to center themselves on God or his love unless God is drawing them to himself. Your question reflects your desire and so fling yourself upon him for help, wisdom, and strength and he will show you his love.
Once you get that in perspective, you will be much more equipped to deal with the marriage question from a position of wisdom, courage, grace, and strength.
In closing, let me share with you an old hymn that was running through my mind as I wrote this blog. We don’t sing hymns much anymore but it starts with the words, “Jesus I am resting, resting, in the joy of what thou art. I am finding out the greatness of thy loving heart.”
To listen to it click here
Friends, share with us how you have come to know and rely on the love God has for you.
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This post was originally published on ChristianCounseling.com. Working for over 30 years with couples attempting to recover from serious marital sin, I have often heard one of them say, “Why can’t you just forgive and forget?” or “You’re holding onto the past? Can’t we start with a clean slate?” or, “God says that we’re to…
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