Wednesday, October 7, 2015

I Just Want Happiness in Life!

What is is that makes a person happy? How do we know when we are truly happy? A better question would be, should we be pursuing happiness?

When we realize we are not happy our first reaction is to try to change some external thing to try and make ourselves feel better. We dye our hair or go for a new style, redecorate the house, go shopping and buy ourselves something, have a baby, get married, get divorced, take a mental vacation or a real vacation, over eat, or over-commit to avoid thinking and feeling anything at all. Some people abuse drugs or alcohol when they are very desperate.

Sometimes the things you try to make yourself feel better actually work- for a while. Having those desires sated might make you very happy until the bill comes, or you lose your spouse. What I have seen in others and learned for myself is that even while we are busy being "happy" on the outside, we are empty and miserable on the inside.

There is no peace, no contentment in being a spoiled brat. You will notice this in small children who beg and plead, manipulate and tantrum until the parent gives in and buys them what they want. The contentment and happiness they enjoy in possessing this brand new thing lasts about one night, then there is a new desire.

Why is this? The problem is that this happiness is based on human things; it is temporary, hollow, superficial and circumstantial.

False happiness comes from buying into the worlds ideas of having more and more. This is selfish and is the result of our failure to see the difference between receiving good things from God and taking what we want on our own terms.

Our own terms usually do not include God, and this is one reason we are discontent, even when we get what we want. The Lord does not want us to be happy and content apart from Him. He is a relational God and He created us to fellowship with Him and made it possible for us to do so through Christ.

We find an excellent example of today's lesson in the parable of the prodigal in Luke 15. This young man learned some tough lessons the hard way! After a life of luxury with his dad, he demanded his part of the inheritance (even though his father was still alive!) and went out in search of "happiness."

You probably know the story already- the son wanted his inheritance, and used it to obtain all the things the world had to offer. He was overconfident and self-righteous and thought he knew what he needed to make him happy. By the biblical account, he lived a self-indulgent life that was full of parties and immorality. He indulged in all the sin his heart desired, spent all the money, and soon wound up homeless and penniless.

He wound up living in a pig pen.

What he learned was that sorrow, disillusionment and disappointment usually follow decisions and changes we make that are based on emotion and those changeable feelings of ours. We cannot rely on or trust our feelings to guide our lives. So, if we cannot rely on feelings, or follow our hearts, then what are we to find genuine happiness?

Our feelings, though given to us by God were never intended to be the basis of our decisions and the changes we make in our lives. Our feelings are tricky and sneaky because in case you haven't noticed, they change by the hour or even by the minute. Our feelings (like everything else) are to be under the control of the Holy Spirit and are not to rule over us. We are to submit our powerful feelings and emotions to authority of the Word of God.

Happiness is characterized by joy, inner contentment and peace, and confidence in a loving God. This is a gift from God and cannot be conjured up through circumstances and buying power. This is something many people are discovering in our current economy. "Stuff" does not buy happiness! Being happy does not come from circumstances, you can be happy in spite of them. I find I am "happy" when I am making right, God honoring choices and decisions.

As you determine to glorify God in your life you will be supernaturally transformed. You will discover happiness in Christ and Christ alone and I promise you- you will have inner peace, and quiet contentment in spite of your circumstances.

A part of making this decision, is to grant God access to those areas of "you" that are currently off limits to God and His Word. These are the places you keep your secret sins and the untouchable ones. The greatest and strongest idols of your heart that you really don't want God or anyone else messing with.

These too must be yielded to God as a part of turning over all of your heart, soul, mind, and body to Him. Romans 12:1-2 says

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

This is a part of growing wisdom in your heart and life.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Your Husband is Viewing Pornography

You've learned your husband is viewing pornography. However you learned of his sexual sin, the news is devastating. Questions abound as you try and figure out where you have gone wrong, and how you could have prevented it or missed it.

The question is, now what do you do? How do you deal with this? I want to help you, Christian wife and woman, to see this sin through the eyes of the Lord and the Gospel.

Dealing with it begins with the Gospel. How does God see his sin? First, it is a sin against a holy God. Because he has first sinned against God, the Gospel must be applied. There is nothing within him spiritually that would prevent him from doing these things (Eph. 2:1). What you can do in this case is live the Gospel, and help him to see there is help and hope in Christ. You must forgive, but we will talk about that a little later on...

If he is a Christian, he must be reminded that because of the cross and because of Christ he can be and is forgiven by God. He may be so bogged down by his sin that he believes he is truly beyond help and hope. This is where you, loving wife, must set aside your own pain, betrayal, outrage and desires and minister to your brother in Christ. You must be able to see his sin for the worship disorder it really is. Your husband is worshiping his desire for pleasure rather than worshiping God.

Please resist the urge to rant and rail at him. Please resist the urge to threaten and strike back because you are so deeply hurt and angry. I asked you last time to take a deep, deep breath and pray that God would by His grace help you to settle down and look at this through His eyes. I am hoping you have done that and have come back today for some good counsel from the Word of God about this.

Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Galatians 6:1 (NASB)

Your husband is in trouble. He needs your prayer, your godly strength, your wisdom and Biblical intervention. If he does not know you know about his sin, you must tell him that you do. I understand the urge will be to clobber him with this news, but I beg of you not to do that. Sin hates exposure- especially sexual sin, especially in a married man. The usual method of confrontation is to blast away and accuse him, angrily tell him what you found and rant and rage.

I would suggest that you begin by telling him of your concern for him, that you suspect that because of some things you found on the internet, or movies, or receipts or whatever you "evidence" is, that he is in trouble with some kind of sexual sin (name it) and that you want to help.

Then ask him questions. Questions will prick his conscience. If you begin to accuse and make statements he will quickly switch to a position of defense and shut you down. Your attitude and demeanor mean everything right now. I assure you, he will respond much better to a gentle wife's probing questions than he will to a ranting irate one. As you ask questions about who, and how long get enough details that you are satisfied and then ask him to please go to the Pastor with you. Remind him that you are his ally in this, not his enemy and that you want to save your marriage. It is important to ask him if he does too. As him if he actually wants to stop this behavior and get free of whatever he is involved in.

If it is pornography, ask him to get it all out, whatever he has and help him to bag it up and throw it away, or burn it, or something. Getting rid of what he brings out does not mean there is no more, or that he won't get more. Before these desires for illicit sex will stop being acted on his heart must be changed. (I have written extensively about this on this blog and in a book that we carry at our counseling center.)

Truthfully, he may not know what he wants to do. Sin confuses people, especially sexual sin because it brings such powerful physical sensations and emotions along with it. Pleasure is addicting and a man involved in immoral sex has been spending much of his time feeding that pleasure sensor in his flesh and his heart.

If he indicates he wants to repent and restore your marriage, you must urge him to get the help of a good Biblical Counselor who can help him to see God's plan for change. You may also benefit from some intensive discipleship from a woman who can help you to work through this biblically.

There are many issues to be dealt with here. Trust has been shattered, anger, fear, anxiety, all these issues and more are often present in a wife when she learns of her husbands infidelity. Please understand these reactions are normal; however God does not want you to live in this place emotionally or spiritually. If you attempt to ignore these issues, thinking it is somehow spiritual to do so you will regret it. These do not just disappear on their own, they have to be worked through biblically. Otherwise all you would do is to stuff it deep inside and over time, I promise it will come back to hurt you and him and frustrate any plans of reconciliation.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Our Liberty in Christ

As Christians we are given tremendous liberty. In Christ we are free from condemnation and free from the perils facing unbelievers. This often leads people to the ditch opposite of legalism, which is the abuse of God's grace.

Romans 6: 1 says, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”

The implication there is that we have been freed from the bondage of sin, and freed from its domination over us- so why do we continue to live as though we are still powerless over sin? Why do we live as though it still owns us?

I would like you to think about this question- who owns you? You will quickly see the answer to this question as you reflect on the following: Do you want to glorify God with your life more than you want to breathe? If you say "Yes" then does your life bear out your words? What decides how you act? Is is the Word of God or how you feel today or in the moment? What is the motive for the things you do "for God?" Is it self or the glory of God? How you answer these questions is the beginning of determining where your heart is focused right now. Are you living for Him or for you?

We have not been redeemed to be self-serving, nor to continue to live as sinfully as one who is in spiritual darkness. God's grace is not liberty for us to sin with abandon. Living in wanton sin is an indication that you have little care for what your freedom cost.

The precious blood of Christ that paid for your freedom has made you His bond servant. He is a gentle and loving Lord and Master. He urges you to take His yolk upon yourself and follow Him. (Matt. 11:29) There is rest in this relationship and Jesus is not a cruel taskmaster. He has already done the heavy lifting by removing the burden of our sin. Your response is to begin to live as though He owns you~It is a sweet kind of bondage.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Message is Important

Doing community counseling as I do I am confronted with women who attend a variety of churches. They mostly come from two camps: either they are
fundamentalist and legalistic, or they attend a seeker-driven or feelings oriented church.

The fundamentalist/legalist counselee arrives with very clear knowledge of right and wrong. She knows very well the list of do's and don'ts and is able to tell you what about her does not measure up to God's requirements. She is often miserably unhappy and frustrated that she cannot "please God" and is unable to keep God's commands no matter how much she works at it.

These ladies are such a joy to serve! Many times what they have is an overactive conscience, and a lack of understanding about grace. Once taught, these ladies really seem to go forward in freedom and rejoicing.

The counselee from the seeker driven or feelings driven church believes God loves her and has a wonderful plan for her life. She attends church all the time and is involved in small groups and ladies Bible studies. However, her faith is often very shallow and immature. Many of these ladies have prayed and asked Jesus into their heart, or they've walked an aisle, made a decision for Christ or done any number of other things to "get saved." What I learn through the counseling process that many are not regenerated. They think they are, and they are often quite confused about why their lives have not changed at all.

This is what happens when church doctrine is refined by prevailing culture. This is the consequence of removing teaching on justification, regeneration, sanctification, and reconciliation  from the church's vocabulary and from the pulpit teaching. This is what happens when worship music is devoid of the theology of the old hymns, and it becomes mindless choruses that focus on how Jesus makes me feel so glad to be a Christian.

The Lord Jesus had crowds of people that surrounded Him, and according to Luke 12:1 there were so many thousands of people that they began to step on one another! They came to hear the message He was bringing them. Jesus brought truth and light into the hearts of those who followed Him. I wonder why that same message is not enough anymore for some pastors...Do they think to improve upon what God Himself thought was necessary to draw men unto Himself?

The message that Jesus taught both drew and repelled people who followed Him. There came a point in His earthly ministry where many who had followed Him started to leave because the message was no longer appealing to them. They were convicted or simply didn't want to hear that their lifestyle was sinful, and that their hearts were deceitfully wicked. In the end, only 12 remained and He asked them if they would leave too (John 6) . He was teaching truth and truth was enough to separate those who would believe from those who would not.

It is the Word of God applied to the human heart that changes man, no one will be ordered or emoted into entering the kingdom of heaven. I fear many who expect to arrive there will be sadly surprised as to where they arrive upon taking their last breath.

Paul did not use clever words and human wisdom (1 Cor.1:17) to present Christ, just the truth. Shouldn't the goal of church be to preach the Word in and out of season? Scripture teaches that the church met weekly for prayer and exhortation (Acts. 2:42), we ought to be doing the same.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Forgiven so Great a Debt

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matthew. 18:21-22

Jesus said in Matt. 18:21-35 we are to forgive one another 70 times 7. People struggle with forgiveness for a variety of reasons. As a biblical counselor, I can tell you experience has shown me that few people really understand what forgiveness is. We tend to mingle several things together and want to call it “forgiveness.”

Forgiving a person doesn’t mean we enable them to continue to sin, nor do we show them love without accountability. Forgiving one of the kids for getting a speeding ticket does not mean I hand him the car keys the next day. Forgiveness does not encourage irresponsibility nor does it mean rescuing.  The administration of tough love and forgiveness prevents rescuing a fool from their foolishness.

The wise will inherit honor, but fools get disgrace. Proverbs 3:35 (ESV)

Teach the wise, and they will be wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn more. Proverbs 9:9 (NLT)

Forgiveness also does not mean subjecting yourself to abuse. When abuse takes place a woman must inform church elders and in most cases, the police. In many states it is against the law not to inform authorities of even a first time domestic situation, so much wisdom is needed here. The law must be followed according to Romans 13. 

In a domestic abuse situation, the husband might really be sorry and he may have done all that the church has asked of him and he may truly have repented. He may have asked for and been granted forgiveness by his wife, and yet he may still have to go to jail or have his name in the paper as a wife abuser. Forgiveness does not absolve a person of consequences or responsibility.

A person who continues to commit the same sin or make the same mistake and asks for forgiveness must be granted forgiveness, but this does not mean you stand in the way of whatever consequences will come their way and it does not mean you place yourself in harm’s way to “prove” you are forgiving.

Forgiveness is often under-emphasized. Our greatest need is not a need for improved self-esteem as preached by many these days, our greatest need is to be forgiven for our sins. We need forgiveness because we are sinners, unholy, ungodly, wretched and evil to the core. That is not the nice view of man that the world presents at all! Every person who dies without the forgiveness of Christ, will spend eternity in hell (Romans 6:23).

Because we have been forgiven so great a debt, we are forgive those who hurt us. Jesus extended forgiveness to those who crucified Him, even as He hung on the cross. According to the Bible, we are to do the same.

Probably the best narrative in the Bible on forgiveness comes from the story of Joseph and his brothers (Gen 45:8-15). In case you are unfamiliar with the story, Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him. They lured him into the desert and threw him into a pit intending to leave him there to die. After a little while they thought better of that move and decided to make a little money off the deal. They sold him into slavery instead. They lied to their dad about it and broke his heart. They kept the whole thing a secret for years.

From the time he was thrown into that pit, Joseph had a very hard life. By God’s grace, he eventually rose to prominence in Egypt. Nineteen years after their betrayal Joseph’s brothers came to him for help but they did not know it was him. When Joseph saw them, he knew who they were, and he could have revealed who he was and had them killed on the spot. They certainly had it coming! But Joseph chose the grace of forgiveness over revenge seeking. His graciousness and understanding of God’s sovereignty are revealed in Genesis 50:20:

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive."

Joseph chose to forgive. He demonstrated grace and mercy to people in his own family who tried to kill him and sold him as a slave. He had every ability and reason to retaliate against them in any manner he chose, and instead he chose forgiveness and he chose to honor God.

How about you? Has someone in your family hurt you? Have you been lied about, slandered? Has someone abused you in some way? What has been your response? You may be thinking, “Well, you don’t know what has been done to me!” As kindly and gently as I can say it, while you may have been very hurt or abused you can forgive. Do not use your hurt, pain, and abuse as an excuse to be bitter, angry and unforgiving. The Scriptures show you it is possible to forgive, and God is honored and glorified when you do. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Timetable of God

Many of you have been waiting for a long time for something, anything to happen to change your circumstances. You have begged and pleaded with God to move and give you hope. You are not alone in this, we all need hope.

We all need to hear that God answers prayer, and we sometimes need to be reminded that He is faithful. Our experiences are important on the human plane, and while they never supersede the Word of God, the movement of God in the lives of His people is a tremendous encouragement to each of us who in the midst of the storm.

What about when God moves in an unexpected way and it takes you down a whole different path than the one you hoped for. I have been there myself. Does this mean God made a mistake? By no means!

‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

We need reminders from time to time that God knows what He is doing, even when it all looks muddy. I want to encourage you to have a heart of faith that is focused on trusting Him for the results of a given situation, even though it may look hopeless. I want to remind you of who God is especially when He answers prayer in a most unexpected way!

Jerry Bridges says this in Trusting God:

"If there is a single event in all of the universe that can occur outside of God’s sovereign control, then we cannot trust Him. His love may be infinite, but if His power is limited and His purpose can be thwarted, we cannot trust Him."

Faith and trust go hand in hand. When it comes down to it, we either believe God is sovereign or we don't. We believe He is in control of the uncontrollable or we don't. We believe He is all powerful, or we don't.

God does not move according to our time table and He is only accountable to Himself for His actions. He does not owe us and is not beholden to us. When God moves in most unexpected ways it is important that we remember we are the servants of the Most High God, not the other way around.

Good reminders for a new week, there will be plenty of challenges ahead!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Sting of Criticism

I once heard a popular pastor say in a sermon that he was starting to feel like a pinata because so many people were taking whacks at him. When you are a truth teller and are "out of the box" some church people are going to have a hard time with it. There are just some of us who are often slammed by our more conservative friends as being too culturally relevant. Criticism abounds, and it is said that Christians are the only army in the world that shoots their own soldiers.

If you have ever been a person to put your life out on Front Street as a teacher, mentor, counselor or even on a blog like this you may know what I mean. When you lay it out there, you are going to get blasted from time to time. Usually once a week I receive a note from someone who was highly critical of me. And while much of their complaint was manufactured presented in a cowardly manner, I do believe that God has a purpose and plan for everything that comes my way in life. It is all for the goal of conforming me to the image and likeness of Christ. So, I sit up and take notice of these things.

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, Romans 8:29 (NASB)

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 1 Peter 5:6 (NASB)

I think God uses many avenues to remind us to be humble, including anonymous, nasty notes.

Personally, I find criticism causes me to check my motives, and to think about being more cautious in what I say and how I say things. I don't want to poorly represent Jesus Christ. Criticism also leads me to examine my heart in the light of Scripture. Finally, criticism brings me back to my dependence on the finished work of Jesus Christ.

There have been so many Christian leaders who have fallen because they stopped considering criticism. They also failed to ask themselves if there was any truth to the negative things that were said about them. Pride set them up as being beyond reproach in their own minds and they stopped preaching the gospel to themselves. They essentially forgot they need the cross as much as the next guy.

I never want to be a person like that. I want to be an authentic Christian, and I believe I am. As I said in reply to this person who was so brutal in their (anonymous) comments to me; "I am not out to "fool" anyone, I am who and what I am by the grace of God and I make no apologies for it." I need the cross. I need God's grace. I need God's mercy because I remain a sinner. I am in progress and not yet perfected.

Being humbled before God means I must evaluate what was said to me. I have to examine what and how I say things in light of God's truth and His Word. A person would have to be a fool not to do so especially if they wish to serve the Lord.

And then, the response to silly or even malicious criticism must be gracious.

The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 (NASB)

May we glorify Him by a humble response to criticism!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Where Are You in My Sorrow God?

This time of the year begins to usher in greater feelings of depression for some people. As the daylight hours get shorter and the weather gets cooler, we spend more time indoors and simply have more time to think about our problems and woes.

There seems to be plenty of sorrow these days! I have a couple of friends who are very ill, some others are facing the loss of their jobs, families are blown apart because of sexual sin, and the general mood tends toward fear, depression, and anxiety brought on by situations that feel out of control. I can truly relate to these emotions.

"Oh God, where are you in my sorrow? Where are you in my distress? Where are you with answers and help? Oh God I need you. I am washed over with grief and sorrow, my heart is failing within me. Oh God, comfort me in my distress this morning! Lift up my countenance bring me hope and joy! Remove these dark clouds of despair from my heart and mind. Each time I think the darkness can grow no deeper I am brought lower into the abyss of sorrow and mourning. My life has taken jolting twists and turns and I fear I do not know where I will wind up in the end. It is as though I am on a runaway cart in the darkest cavern and I am holding on for dear life. Where can I find You Lord? Where do I go to bask in Your goodness and light? I wish to hide myself in Thee, in the folds of Your magnificent train. Comfort me in my distress Oh Lord, for I am weak and failing to stand."
You can hear my grieving heart in this excerpt from an untitled psalm I wrote years ago. In those days there were times my emotions wanted to sweep me away and I was a person in deep distress. Perhaps these sentiments describe where you are today.

When I was struggling with depressive feelings I had no shortage of people suggesting I begin taking medication. I languished in this place for about a year and I have to admit, that when I was "washed over with grief and sorrow" day after day medication was a tempting (but fleeting) thought. No one likes to suffer, no one likes to feel sad, and if there is a way out of it, then what is the harm in taking it? I did have to grapple with those questions during those dark days when it seemed I would never genuinely smile again.

While I have not experienced anything like that since then, there are still occasions when I get down in the dumps over one thing or another. Like you, I still have problems and trials that assail me. When I am in that place of emotional turmoil, all I want to do it sit and stare at the wall. I could spiritualize it and say that I am "being still before God," but in my heart I know what I am doing has little or no spiritual benefit. I know that what I am really doing is meditating on my problems and ruminating on my sorrows.

How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Psalm 13:2 (NASB)

When the Psalmist says he is taking counsel in his soul it means he is thinking about his problems. This is resulting in having sorrow in his heart all day long. Perhaps you can relate to this as well. Do you find that the more you meditate on your problems the deeper you sink into sorrow?

I would like to offer you something that may help. First it is important to understand that our emotions are the physical experience of our thought life. In other words, our feelings and emotions are the responses of the things we think about that either please us or displease us. The billions of thoughts we think each day often provoke emotional responses that relate to what we call happiness, hope, well-being, sorrow, despair, fear, or anger.

Our thoughts come from what the Bible calls the inner man, which is the place of reason (Matt. 13:15), feelings and affections (Ecc. 7:9; Isa 35:4). Our will, desires and belief system also resides in the inner man (Ps. 25:12).

Thoughts are obviously a function of the brain. The brain is an organ that serves the body and almost always functions as it has been created to operate. The brain carries out and reflects our hidden inner thoughts, or what we can call the hidden desires of the heart. Thoughts in the inner man bring about chemical reactions in our physical body. The brain is constantly receiving information, taking in data and converting it through amazingly complex series of chemicals and electrical impulses into vision, smells, motion, emotions and sounds the body makes.

The connection between the inner and outer man cannot be separated. When we think positive or negative thoughts, we experience emotions and our bodies go along for the ride. So thinking is both an inner man activity and a bodily function. God has created us to be both distinctly human and distinctly spiritual beings. We are the only created beings that are like this! This is why the Psalmist says "we are fearfully and wonderfully made!" (Psalm 139:14)

We could say, our feelings reveal our hearts to us. I have come to realize that most of the time my feelings and emotions are my responses to things that a sovereign God has brought into my life. He allows hardship through financial reversal, He allows rebellious children who throw away all the truth that has been poured into them, He allows job loss, He allows our husbands to sin against us, He allows our bosses to treat us unkindly, and a host of other negative things to enter our lives. How we respond to these or any other things that take place in life reveal what we believe about God.

In our humanity, our deceitful hearts take us places we don't want to go. This is why the Spirit of God must be leading the charge for change. I have a hard time discerning what is in my sinful heart because I lie even to myself! But God who sees and knows all; He is completely aware of all of the contents of my heart and only He can help me to overcome.

So many times women have told me what a huge change they have made as a result of doing the following exercise: the next time you find yourself feeling down, take a piece of paper and write down what you are thinking about. This should help you understand why you are feeling the way you are feeling. Once you identify what you are thinking, then get your Bible out and compare your thoughts against the truth of Scripture and see if is measures up to God's unchangeable Word. See if you can identify what you are desiring or worshiping in your heart. You should be able to determine if you are practicing some form of idolatry, and once you know what you are wrongly worshiping you can repent and return to worshiping God alone.

Friday, September 11, 2015

When Your Husband Leaves You- Conclusion

On Wednesday I began a short series on what to do when your husband leaves you. If you missed that initial post, I suggest you read it and then come back to this one. You can find it here

There are many angles to consider during the early days of abandonment, above all, honor God in your speech and conduct.  When you do have contact with your husband, continue to give him the message of openness toward his repentance and marital restoration. Repentance is paramount and despite your personal desires for all that reconciliation brings, this must be your primary prayer for him. God looks upon abandonment, adultery, and divorce with holy anger. 

Because I want to give practical counsel as well as spiritual, I am strongly urging you to consult an attorney. I am not suggesting you file for divorce, the goal is restoration of the marriage. However, you must protect your home and finances; especially if there are children involved. You must ensure you have a place to live, food, heat and the financial ability to care for the children. If you have been a stay-at-home mom you are facing the reality of having no income until a judge puts a support order in place. While I am not offering legal advice here, I will say that you should not be shy or fearful about holding your husband accountable to provide for his family.

This is very, very important! Do not allow him to manipulate you into staying out of the legal system by offering you side deals and promises of payment. Women have told me they are fearful of taking any legal steps because they think it will anger him and drive him further away, ending hope of reconciliation. Don’t believe it. Your husband has not been faithful to the promises he made to you in marriage; until he repents you have no reason to think he will be faithful to any new promises he makes regarding taking care of you and the kids (especially while he is living in open rebellion and sin). When a husband is angered by this move it is he knows the legal system will hold him accountable through financial enforcement procedures, and this will take funding away that will enable him to carry on his new life. This is of course very important to him. He may call you names and hurl accusations about your character when he learns you are holding him accountable. He may use this as an example of why he left you and wants out of the marriage. If this happens, you must understand he is revealing his heart. There is only one person responsible for his abandoning you, and that is your husband.

If you have children, consider arranging visitation schedules through the courts. I know, you really hope he will be friendly and cooperative, but it rarely works out that way. Your husband is in the midst of gross sin and he is not being guided by the Holy Spirit. Sadly, you cannot trust him to deal righteously with you at this time. Having a visitation plan in place takes diffuses the emotions that accompany having the kids see their dad. 

Many kids are confused about how to feel and act regarding visitation. We can often see in the child the attitude of the parent about visitation. They can see you are in deep pain and want to be loyal to you, yet they love and miss their dad. You are going to set the emotional tone for the kids regarding visitation. If you are upset, emotional, angry and hostile about the visitation your child is going to have a much harder time. Treat visitation as an expected part of life. 

It is impossible to address every circumstance or issue that is wrapped up in abandonment. My goal has been to bring out some of the initial problems we see repeatedly in these unfortunate cases. 

As I close, I want to make it clear that there is nothing you can do to make him love you again. Love is a gift that is freely given and cannot be commanded or forced. However, there are things you can do that will bring sweetness or bitterness into an already difficult situation. 

If you focus on the rejection and the hurt you will struggle more with anger and a desire for revenge. This will yield bitterness. Instead, begin immersing yourself in 1 & 2 Peter. In fact, put it in park there. I find both of these epistles to be very helpful in dealing with unjust and difficult authority. You should find encouragement and something to hold on to in those two epistles. I want you to see that you can experience loads of amazing grace (favor) to go through this time in your life. You will also be pointed to Christ as the example as to how to suffer. Especially verses 21-23.  

My heartfelt encouragement to you is to turn the justice for this wrong over to God, and believe that He will judge this case righteously. Your job right now is to remain on the side of righteousness in every phone call, court appearance, child visitation, and interaction you have with your husband. Remember, regardless of what he says or does, you are to do what is right, because this is what honors and glorifies God. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

When Your Husband Leaves You- Biblical support and practical steps

This week I am writing to those women whose husbands have left them. You may have known it was coming, or perhaps it came out of the blue. Your first response to the announcement he was moving out was shock and disbelief. In the days since he left you have probably experienced a multitude of emotions ranging from devastating sorrow, depression, rage, fear, anxiety, and maybe even relief.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 (ESV) 

He has left you, possibly for someone else, and you are dealing with the trauma of your life as you know it being over. I suspect you are now parenting young children alone, facing their confusion and sorrow along with your own. In addition, you suddenly have financial hardship and pressure. It doesn’t help to know your husband is (apparently) living a carefree life somewhere else. He has hit “reboot” on his life and has moved on emotionally and mentally. You have become an anchor to the past for him that he would rather forget even exists. You are understandably bewildered, shamed and sad beyond words. If we were sitting together you might tell me, “I don't even know this man.” Or, “How can this be the man that I was married to? Was he really like this all along and I just didn't see it?”

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. Isaiah 49:15-16 (ESV) 

Perhaps, your husband, who previously wanted little to do with your children, is suddenly demanding visitation and time with the kids. Your formerly passive husband has become controlling and harsh. And most unbelievably, he expects you to simply accept this change in your lives with a smile and generous cooperation. Every encounter you have with him now is filled with anger, rancor, harshness, and bitterness.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1 (ESV) 

Most of the women I know of in this situation are desperately trying to hold on to what they have left of their normal life, and maybe you are too. Have you pleaded with your husband to stop such foolishness, repent, and come home? Have you begged for counseling, and plead to work it out? These are good steps to take. But in my experience, wives also make some poor decisions during the initial days and weeks of the separation.

Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. Psalm 25:12 (ESV) 

Often, in an attempt to do anything get him home, an abandoned wife offers blanket forgiveness to her husband while he remains involved in open sin and rebellion. This is unwise on a number of levels; first, it is manipulative and believe me, he knows it. Second, he hasn’t ceased his sin, confessed his sin or asked you to forgive him. Another error is to offer to change anything to restore your marriage. Women have had cosmetic surgeries, undertaken self-improvement routines, joined the gym, promised to stop behaviors that the husband says bother him, and other things all in unsuccessful attempts to get him back home.  
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:9-10 (ESV) 

How are you to live in this new paradigm? I’ve outlined some common issues women in this situation bring to the counseling office. They are numbered for simplicity sake, not because one is more important than the other.

First, as kindly as I can say this, stop talking to him. Stop communicating with him as much as possible through text messages, Twitter, Facebook, and even on the phone. 

So don't bother correcting mockers; they will only hate you. But correct the wise, and they will love you. Proverbs 9:8 (NLT) 

If you want to interact or must because of children or property you have in common, consider setting up a new email specifically for the purpose of communication with your husband, and let him know that you will be using it when necessary. Have your trusted friend or a church leader Bcc’d in on every email. This keeps you accountable and provides a record from the beginning of your communication with your husband. It eliminates the “He said, she said” stuff. I suspect these emails would be admissible in legal proceedings if needed, but check with a lawyer to be sure. 

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. Proverbs 11:14 (ESV) 

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 (ESV) 

If phone conversations are necessary, get a disposable phone and give the number only to him, and only turn it on when he has the kids. Be sure you let him know you won’t have phone conversations unless it is a medical or other emergency when he has the kids. Block his number and the phone numbers of his family members from your regular phone. Don’t enable text/chat or block them. The texting and chat traffic is often ugly and cruel. This step will also provide you with immeasurable peace of mind and still provide a way for you to be contacted in case of emergency. 

Get off Facebook. Consider suspending your account, or unfriend his friends and family members during this time. It is heartbreaking to see your husband's new life being played out on social media. Because most people are more concerned about being happy than being godly you might see quite a bit of encouragement going his direction from his family and friends. Shutting down your social media Even that won’t guarantee they won’t contact you, but you can delete their messages without reading them. 

Do not make disparaging comments about your husband to other people, and do not attempt to turn your kids against their dad by involving them in adult issues. Name calling, divulging too much information, and discouraging a relationship with dad are very tempting, but don’t do it. I have found most women are far too emotionally volatile to respond in a Christ-like manner and they say things that are not helpful or edifying. If you don't trust yourself, you might select a trusted friend who can be dispassionate about this turn of events to speak for you. 

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29 (ESV) 

These are just a few of the practical things you can consider in the early days of your separation. I know every situation is different and by no means have I covered every issue. My post is to help make you aware of the pitfalls I see women fall into when husband abandons the family. 

I have not touched on praying for his repentance, because that is a given. A man who abandons his family is in serious spiritual trouble and intercessory prayer on his behalf should be a consistent part of your time with the Lord.  Also, make your pastor aware of the abandonment. Don't stand in the way of consequences the church leadership wants to bring. You don't want to protect your husband during this time, consequences are a tool the Lord uses to bring sinners to repentance (1 Corinthians 5:5). 

There are many angles to consider during the early days of abandonment, above all, honor God in your speech and conduct. 

Friday I will be back with more.