Category Archives: encouragement

6 Reasons to Love Your Unrepentant Spouse

When an unfaithful spouse shows sincere repentance, the other spouse may decide to forgive and continue to love. But who would choose to love an unrepentant spouse?

Kim Pullen made that choice. And she's glad she did!

I am pleased to introduce Kim Pullen to you today as a guest blogger on MannaForMarriage. Kim Pullen is an author, speaker, and teacher who advocates for healthy marriages. She helps spouses overcome the devastation of affairs and pornography by focusing on a dynamic, intimate relationship with God. Thriving in a 26-year marriage that was once traumatized by adultery and a four-year separation, Kim shares hope and healing with spouses who feel isolated due to their partner’s sexual sin but don't know how or where to begin their recovery journey.

6 Reasons to Love Your Unrepentant Spouse

If we look to movies or romance novels for a definition of love on which to model our marriage, we’ll quickly find ourselves confused, disappointed, and embittered.

To Hollywood, love is a feeling. But that’s not real love. Real love keeps a couple together when feelings wane and passion ebbs. It keeps them committed when the world crashes in and when their bodies age and fail. Real love satisfies a couple for decades.

That’s because real love isn’t a feeling. It’s a choice.

Getting Re-educated on Love

In 2011, I discovered my husband had multiple affairs during our 19-year marriage. I was shell-shocked. “I don’t love you anymore,” he said.

unrepentant

We separated—me to find answers, and my husband to pursue the world. That’s also when God, the author of love, began my re-education. The qualities of real love—truth, humility, patience, perseverance, boundaries, and repentance—became more than religious terms, and God challenged me to back up my commitment with faith and obedience.

After four years of prayer and practical application, my husband and I were reconciled. Our emotional intimacy grows daily and exponentially. It’s a marriage I never could have imagined.

Here are the six reasons why I want to encourage you to choose to love your unrepentant spouse even in the face of addiction and infidelity.

  1. We All Have Core Wounds

Every one of us had some kind of dysfunction in our childhood. Even if your parents were saints, they were still sinners like their parents before them. Where you have dysfunction, you have sin and pain. Where you have pain, you have a need to medicate.

My grandfather taught my father it was weak to show affection, so I grew up starved of the love and approval a daughter so desperately craves from her daddy. For my husband, emotional abandonment in his childhood came in the form of his parents’ ineffectual boundaries. Our parents weren’t “bad people”; they simply had core wounds from their childhood they passed on to us (Exodus 20:5-6).

Whether your spouse is a professing Christian or not, they have core wounds. In all likelihood, they are unconsciously using their sexual sin to medicate themselves from pain just like you may use food, entertainment, shopping, or control to medicate yours.

  1. We’re All Sinners

It’s hard not to think the way the world does about sin, that one crime or violation is worse than another. Our whole court system is based on it. Murder is more criminal than slander. Rape gets more shock and awe than a porn site, and embezzlement stirs up infinitely more rage than shoplifting. It’s all perspective.

But not to God. Romans 8:23 says we’ve all missed the mark or fallen short of God’s standard. Revelations 21:8 puts murder on the same level as unbelief, cowardice, and lying. Yes, there are different consequences and repercussions on this side of heaven, but it only took one of our sins for Jesus to have to go to the cross.

That doesn’t minimize our spouse’s betrayal. That particular pain is excruciating. You may fantasize about pouring coffee on his laptop, flushing his iPhone down the toilet, or even snipping off his man parts—

Uh, but there you go. You sinned according to Matthew 5:22 (anyone who is angry with another is subject to judgment). You have become just as guilty and deserving of punishment for putting Christ on the cross as your unfaithful spouse.

Sure, there’s righteous anger, but most of us aren’t angry with our spouse because they’ve disrespected God (John 2:14-16).

I know it doesn’t seem fair, but how fair was it for Jesus, an innocent man, to die for our sin? I worshiped people’s approval more than God’s, and I tried playing God in my husband’s life because I was terrified of rejection and abandonment. Bottom line: even though I professed undying devotion to God, who is the Lover of my soul, I betrayed Him as much as my husband betrayed me.

unrepentant

  1. We Made a Covenant with God

On my wedding day when I stood at the altar before my family and friends, God was there, too.  I vowed to my husband, my loved ones, and God, “for better or worse, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish” for the rest of my earthly life.

Our spouse’s infidelity? That’s the “worse.” Our spouse’s sexual addiction? That’s the “sickness.” My agreement to love and to cherish him didn’t include “as long as he loves and cherishes me back.”

Let’s be clear. We did not make a commitment to let our spouse treat us like a maid, a sex toy, or wall. Setting boundaries is also an act of love. God sets boundaries for us throughout Scripture so that we can stay in relationship with Him (1 John 1:5-10). Calling your spouse to repent and return to their commitment to God and to you is the most loving thing you can do for them.

  1. Love Moves Them Toward Repentance

If your spouse has secret sin, you don’t have to be the one to expose it.

Let me say that again because this thought is hard to wrap our head around: if you’ve furtively tracked your spouse’s whereabouts via GPS, secretly scoured their phones for illicit messages, or privately poured over credit card statements looking for evidence of their betrayal, STOP!

God sees all of our sin and our spouse’s sin as if we’re doing it right in front of Him (Psalm 90:8). He can’t be fooled or mocked (Galatians 6:7-8).

Instead of getting angry or hiding, what would happen if you reacted to your spouse’s sin with God’s love and healthy boundaries? Paul told the Romans they could overcome others’ sin with kindness (Romans 12:17-21). Peter agreed, saying love overcomes sin (1 Peter 4:8).

How in the world can loving my spouse like Jesus lead them toward repentance (Romans 2:4)? Think about your response to Jesus’ love for you. You didn’t deserve his love and kindness, but he gave it anyway (Romans 5:6). And because he did, you repented.

  1. Jesus Set Us an Example

From the cross, Jesus expressed love and compassion for the people who were murdering him (Luke 23:34). It may seem impossible to love like this, but if Jesus did it, so can we. It ain’t easy, but it is possible because love is a choice, not a feeling.

When my husband chose adultery over me, I chose to believe that Jesus could move the mountain of sin off his heart (Matthew 17:20-21).

When it looked like my marriage was dead, I chose to follow Jesus’ example and claim God’s resurrection power to restore it just like Jesus believed his Father could raise him from the dead (Acts 2:24).

That’s because Jesus said if I have faith, nothing is impossible for me (Matthew 17:20). He also said if I stay connected to him through his Word, he’ll do anything I ask (John 15:7). Through the Apostle Paul, he said I could can do anything when I rely on him for my strength (Philippians 4:13).

  1. God Commands It

The last and most important reason I need to love my unrepentant spouse is quite simply because God commands it.

In Jesus’ sermon on the mount, he turned Jewish tongues wagging when he flipped the Law on its head and told them they needed to love their enemies and pray for their persecutors (Matthew 5:44).

Why? Because it’s his hallmark and evidence to a sin-sick world that he’s real, and alive, and loves us desperately (John 13:34-35, 7:23). When we love like this, we are the most like Him (1 John 4:17).

For a girl that grew up desperately craving her daddy’s love and approval, how could I not respond to Him?

What Stops Us

What keeps us from loving our spouses when they aren’t repentant? Pride, fear, and unbelief.

Pride because we’ve forgotten we signed up to be a servant like Jesus (John 13:14-17).

Fear because we’re afraid of being rejected and abandoned (Deuteronomy 31:6, Matthew 28:20).

And unbelief because we’ve forgotten how powerful our Creator is (Psalm 18).

Oh, and there’s one more: because it’s hard (Hebrews 12:7, 11).

It’s hard to love with firm boundaries and respect. It takes supernatural fortitude to maintain a love that protects the truth and integrity of the commitment we made. It’s a love that sees not who we or who our spouses are, but who we can be.

Such a love is unstoppable (1 Corinthians 13:1-8).

If you identify with Kim's story, please visit her website at HopeForSpouses.com, or her Facebook page (HopeForSpouses). You can also contact Kim at kim@hopeforspouses.com. 

Thank you, Kim!

Disclaimer from Kim: Please note that we are speaking to a difficult marriage here, not a dangerous one. If you are in an environment that is not safe, we encourage you to seek help.

Hope for Difficult Marriages from Gary Chapman

What can you do if your spouse is abusive … or depressed … or addicted? How do you live with someone who won’t communicate?

In his latest book, Dr. Gary Chapman tackles all of these difficult situations, and more. As he addresses each challenge, he offers strong encouragement and practical instruction.

This new release comes with a long title, Loving Your Spouse When You Feel Like Walking Away, as well as a long subtitle: Real Help for Desperate Hearts in Difficult Marriages. That’s okay, though, because the book is also long on encouragement. Its delivery is as good as its promise.

chapman

The core of this encouragement is the confidence “that there is hope for the hardest of marriages.” For spouses in struggling marriages, hope must be the starting place, as well as the refrain: “in every troubled marriage, one or both partners can take positive steps that have the potential for changing the emotional climate in a marriage” (17).

Reasons for Hope

Hope in a desperate marriage comes from four bedrock truths. When people accept these truths as reality, they become people of hope, and their marriages gain a platform for change, even transformation. Here are the four truths:

  1. You are not a victim of your circumstances. “Your environment may influence you, but it need not dictate or destroy your marriage and your life” (19).
  2. “People can and do change” (20).
  3. Misery or divorce are not the only options in difficult marriages (20).
  4. No marriage is completely “beyond hope” (21).

Dr. Chapman’s goal in Loving Your Spouse is to encourage husbands and wives to embrace “the positive actions that one individual can take to stimulate constructive change in a relationship” (24). Years ago, a friend shared this illustration with me:

Suppose that a husband and wife are back-to-back in conflict. We know that if both of them will turn around, then they can be face-to-face again. But what if only one is willing to move? Well, what if that one will walk around the other so that the two are again face-to-face?
One person can make the difference!

Dr. Chapman does not use that illustration, but he argues for that principle: “One person must always take the initiative. Perhaps that person will be you.” (38)

Realities to Live By

Dr. Chapman is careful to point out that we cannot change or control our spouses. However, we can choose our own attitudes, and each of us can influence others.  Loving Your Spouse outlines six realities which form the basis of a plan-of-action for every marriage. The final principle of “reality living” is this:

Love is the most powerful weapon for good in the world. Meeting your spouse’s emotional need for love has the greatest potential for stimulating positive change in his or her behavior. Since love is our deepest emotional need, the person who meets that need will have the greatest influence on our lives. (231)

In the first part of Loving Your Spouse, Dr. Chapman discusses the reasons for hope, the basis for change, and the motivations that underlie misbehavior. He then identifies ten difficult situations and addresses each one specifically in a separate chapter:

  1. the irresponsible spouse
  2. the workaholic spouse
  3. the depressed spouse
  4. the controlling spouse
  5. the verbally abusive spouse
  6. the physically abusive spouse
  7. the sexually abused or sexually abusive spouse
  8. the uncommunicative spouse
  9. the unfaithful spouse
  10. the alcoholic or drug-abusing spouse

chapmanIn each of these focused chapters, Dr. Chapman shares real-life situations, gives specific counsel, and lists resources for further help. Loving Your Spouse is full of both encouragement and practical advice. Not only will this book be helpful to you as you apply the principles of “reality living” to your own situation, but it will also be helpful as you encourage others who are struggling with some of these specific marital challenges.

For You

A giveaway:  Moody Publishers is providing a complimentary copy of Loving Your Spouse When You Feel Like Walking Away. If you would like to enter the drawing to win this book, simply leave a comment below no later than April 17. I will notify the winner on April 18, and you will receive a paperback copy in the mail.

A webinar: You are invited to attend a webinar this Thursday evening, April 12, as Dr. Jessica McCleese and I discuss three terrific tools for building marriage. (You can view the replay HERE.)

A prayer:  You have a standing invitation to join us each week as we pray for marriages and families. You can join us by phone or online every Thursday at 12:30 (Eastern), or you can always listen to the archives online. Let me know if you would like us to pray for you by name.

Blessings to you!
Tami

 

 

 

 

How Can You Trust God After He Allows Evil?

How can you trust God after He has allowed evil and suffering to tear through your life?

My friend Joanna has known pain that I cannot even imagine. She experienced horrific abuse for many years of her childhood. Today, she says that she loves God–and I know that she does–but she wonders how she will ever be able to trust Him.

Perhaps you have wondered the same thing. Perhaps your suffering causes you to feel confused about the goodness of God. If so, then my letter to Joanna is also my letter to you:

Dear friend,

You have experienced incredible pain.

These painful pieces of your journey are like holy ground to me, and I take my shoes off here. I do not speak flippantly to you. 

I do not know the why’s of this evil. There are things in this battle that we do not understand. But I do know this: God will redeem everything that is given to Him. It is certain that this was egregious evil, but it is even more certain that the judgment of God will not fall short or be lacking.

These were awful things, but God will turn them inside out one day. He will satisfy the cry for justice, and He will satisfy your bewilderment. He knows something that we do not know.

trust God

How can God tolerate such incredible evil? I do not know how He can stand it. But I am confident of this: He is more tenderhearted than we are. He is more compassionate than we are. Our protest of evil is nothing compared to His.

Your suffering has exposed enemy territory—territory which God now purposes to overwhelm with His forces of victory. As you declare His ownership of these areas, God will push back the forces of evil and will powerfully advance the Kingdom.

Every hurt is a place for a promise, and ashes are the seeds of great beauty. You have many hurts that you can redeem for promises, and you have ashes that you can bring to Jesus. When ashes are allowed to smolder, they bring destruction and deformity. But overshadowed by the Spirit, those same ashes can be exchanged for beauty and glory.

We can pray, “God, I cannot imagine how You can do anything with this—it is such total devastation and heartbreak. It is death. It is beyond my ability even to speculate how You can transform any bit of this. But as Your covenant partner, I am holding on to Your promises. I do not know how You can create anything beautiful from this, but I am asking You to do that, all the same.”

God’s commitment to justice will include these very things from your life, dear friend—the specific deeds of darkness and the specific acts of evil that you have experienced. God’s desire and power to heal are greater than the deepest wound. He knows how to bring water from rock, and how to make the desert bloom. He knows how to bring life from death.

trust God

God has made immense promises to you. You see no way in which He can keep His promises, but that is okay. He will keep His promises. It will be more glorious than you ever hoped or imagined.

“For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17, HCBS).

God is up to this. That’s how big He is. Marvel at Him. You do not have to know how He can do this. God just wants you to trust that He will do something bigger than you can imagine. He longs to dazzle you.

God promises you this, dear friend: whatever you give to Him, He will transform. The things you suffered will always be evil, but they will lose their power to destroy you. They will lose their power to make you destitute in spirit: God will make you rich.

The enemy “intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20, NIV).

It is easy to see how the enemy intended these things for destruction. But what does God intend? He intends to redeem! 

The LORD God turns curses into blessings for you because He loves you (Deuteronomy 23:5).

It is far too trite to say, “You will learn some good things from this.” That would not be sufficient, would it? There must be more.

This is an evil that we cannot really measure; I know I can’t. It is too much. In the same way, I can’t imagine a “good” that would be good enough to redeem such pain. I can’t imagine a “glory” glorious enough to outweigh that suffering. But God can!

We can trust God because we are convinced that He knows something that we do not.trust God

You do not need to settle for pat answers and trivial assurances. Wait with expectation and confidence for something much greater. God promises something so incredible that it will be more incredible than the pain. We do not know of any such glory, so we are deeply grieved and we despair of the goodness of God.

But listen: God does know. He does know of a glory that will satisfy your soul. He knows something that will be bigger and deeper, something so GLORIOUS—we do not have big enough words, but something so AWESOME—that it will cause you to fall at His feet and worship Him and adore Him and marvel at Him and love Him like never before.

You will not be disappointed. You will not say, “Lord, this glory—it isn’t enough.” You will say, “Lord, I didn’t know! I could not have imagined this! Yes, Lord, my soul is satisfied!” You will be well satisfied, fully satisfied, completely satisfied. You will never come to the end of your delight in Him.

“The LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23, NIV).

For God to do such a thing would be an absolute miracle, wouldn’t it? It would completely amaze us and take our breath away, wouldn’t it?

Just wait.

Love,
Tami

Dealing with Brokenness

Do not be afraid of the brokenness in your life.


We all have to deal with broken relationships, broken promises, broken dreams, and broken hearts.  All of us are broken by our own sin and by the sin of others.

But God says to us:

Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Joshua 1:9)

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. (Isaiah 41:10)

God meets us in those broken places, and He is the Restorer. He repairs and renews and redeems. That is what Resurrection is all about.

brokenness
Enter a Garden

We do not come just to the Cross, which is the place of forgiveness. We come also to the empty tomb, which opens into a springtime garden. We receive forgiveness at the cross, but we receive new life in the garden.

brokenness

When we open up to Christ our tombs of suffering, He speaks life into every place which is yielded to Him. Every deep wound becomes a place for deep healing. Every cruel piercing becomes a place for tender filling. Our pain can break the hardness of our hearts so that our spirits finally open up to His love and goodness. God longs to pour His power into our weakness,  and His peace into our distress. He knows how to fill our emptiness with His fullness.

Roll Away Some Stones

Do you remember the New Testament story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus? These three siblings were close friends of Jesus. Several days after Lazarus died, Martha was hesitant to open the tomb of her brother to Jesus. We, too, can be reluctant to expose places of our heart. But we are safe with this God who has written love for us on His own arms.¹ He will not shame us, and He certainly will not violate us.

Jesus did not do what Martha expected. What He did was far greater than what she expected. It will be the same for you.

Trust God with the Seeds

Ann Voskamp reminds us that we are like seeds that are broken apart and completely undone, and then something mighty and beautiful grows out of that very brokenness.² Jesus said that unless a seed dies, it remains alone. But buried in the ground, it dies, producing “a plentiful harvest.”³

I am easily distressed by brokenness—the neediness, the failures, the suffering, the struggles, the lack. It is around us and within us. But I am learning not to be disheartened. I am learning—just a bit—to allow the Spirit to bring His peace to the core of my being. It’s something like “a feast in the presence of mine enemies.”¹¹

Hold and Behold the Hurting

We can feel great compassion for those who are hurting, and we can also feel utterly helpless to heal their wounds. But we can do something very powerful. While we cannot fix those who are broken, we can carry them to the One who can. We can “hold and behold.”

Sometimes we can actually hold others in our arms, but always we can hold them in
our hearts and in our prayers. And we can behold them. We can behold them as treasures, and we can behold their stories and their unique hearts. Holding and beholding, we can lift up those who are broken to the One who repairs and who makes new.

As we encounter brokenness, we need not sink down in despair. Instead, we can walk knowing that God meets us in these broken places. This is where He works His miracles. Jesus Christ is the God who stoops to make us great,²² who washes dirty feet, and who touches unclean lepers. Christ enters our brokenness with us, walks through it with us, and turns ashes into beauty.³³

Hold and Behold Your Healer

We are all walking through pieces of brokenness right now, but when the Perfect comes, then we will walk in glorious wholeness and beauty. Until then, we walk with the One who is Himself Glory and Beauty.

 

 

 

 

_______________________________________________
¹   In Isaiah 49:16, God says, “See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands”                (NLT).
     To Write Love on Her Arms is an organization dedicated to helping people who are                      struggling with self-destructive habits: twloha.com.
²   The Broken Way. Zondervan. 2016.
³   John 12:24, NLT
¹¹ Psalm 23:5, KJV
²² Psalm 18:35, NIV
³³ Isaiah 61:3