I read a blog post this week about a woman who is separating from her husband. They’d gone through a trauma, and after counseling and working through their issues, they are divorcing. She wrote that she no longer fits with him.
I don’t know this couple’s full story, and I won’t claim to know what’s best for them. The decision to continue or end their marriage is between the two of them and Jesus. There are certainly situations where walking away from a marriage is the right and only choice. Abuse, adultery – the Bible clearly allows for divorce in certain circumstances.* I simply don’t know the details of their story, and please hear me when I say that my words here are absolutely not intended to be a commentary on their marriage or divorce.
What I want to talk about is the message put forth through that blog post. The language used, the message behind it, and discernment, plain and simple. The author is a well-known blogger, influencing hundreds of thousands of Christian women who are reading that post. My fear is that, after reading it, they are walking away without hope.
Her words sound a little bit like hope, you know. Listening to the voice inside of you and living your truth. Prioritizing your own peace above all else. Being true to yourself. It all sounds pretty good. It sounds like freedom. It sounds like hope.
Don’t be fooled. That’s not hope at all.
I know what it is to look at your marriage and find it hopeless.
And I know what it is to look at your marriage and find it being restored.
So today, if you’ll let me, I want to talk to you about staying in a difficult marriage. I just want to say two things. Two things that made (and are still making) all the difference in my marriage.
Two things that I hope will make a difference in your marriage too.
1. That “still, small voice inside of you” is bull crap.
In the post I mentioned above, when she’s explaining the reasons for leaving her husband, she says this: “Self-betrayal is allowing the fear voices to drown out the still, small voice that knows what to do and is always leading us home to ourselves and to truth and to love.”
No. Just no.
This idea of claiming “your own truth”, and trusting ourselves above all else seems to be a common theme among Christian women leaders today, and it makes me want to scream and pull all my hair out.
Let’s just be honest here. That “still, small voice” might lead us back to ourselves, but it never leads us to truth or love.
Actually, what the Bible tells us is that our hearts are deceitful above all else. (Jer. 17:9) When we follow our hearts, or our own “still small voices”, or whatever you want to call it, we end up chasing our own selfish desires, our own peace, and our own well-being. We are concerned with ourselves first, looking out for ourselves. It’s called sin. And it’s not something we want to practice listening to.
Now, if we want to talk about what leads us to truth and love, let’s stop talking about our own voices, and start talking about the Holy Spirit. One part of the Holy Trinity. God, in spirit form, given to us!
If, when you’re talking about a “still, small voice”, you actually mean the Holy Spirit, then let’s just be sure that it hits some basic criteria.
The Holy Spirit leads us to Scripture. The Holy Spirit leads us to real truth. The Holy Spirit leads us to true love – and it’s not a vague, feelings-based kind of love, either.
On the contrary, the Bible tells us exactly what love is.
Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on it’s own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. (Please note, this verse is not referencing “your” truth. This verse is referencing the truth of the Bible. The truth of Scripture. The infallible, unerring Word of God.)
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. (1 Cor. 13)
This is love! The love that begins with our Father and ends with the cross. The love that is only possible through the Holy Spirit.
Please hear this. If the “still, small voice” inside of you contradicts Scripture, it’s absolutely not from the Lord. Check EVERYTHING by Scripture. God has given us His Word for a reason! Look at the facts before you listen to the feelings. Pray, and ask the Lord to give you wisdom and discernment in your marriage.
And know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if you’re feeling led to make any decision that clearly contradicts Scripture*, you’re absolutely not being led by the Holy Spirit. God does not contradict Himself.
2. There IS hope for your impossible marriage.
On Sunday, Jon and I will have been married for 7 years. 1 impossible year. 4 incredibly hard years. 1 pretty good year. And 1 pretty great year.
I don’t claim to know everything about marriage – in fact, I keep learning how much I don’t know, and everything I thought I knew before I got married has turned out to be completely useless in my actual marriage. But I do know this:
God can redeem anything.
I have never experienced a need for redemption so great as the redemption we have needed within our marriage. I have never experienced a greater need for repentance, forgiveness, and humility – from each of us – than I have within our marriage. I have never understood the depth of what Christ covered on the cross, as I have understood it within the context of our marriage.
We have been to hell and back. And the fact that we’re still married is thanks to Christ alone. Not thanks to us. Thanks to Jesus.
I’m guessing there are a lot of you who can say the same thing. And even more of you who feel like you’re still in the “hell” part right now.
So if hope is what you need today, if hope is what your marriage needs, then hear me loud and clear.
Our God is ABLE to do more than we could ever ask or imagine. (Eph. 3:20-21) Our God brings new life out of barren places.(Is. 43:19) Our God redeems the years that the locusts have eaten.(Joel 2:25a) Our God forgives and restores and saves. (1 John 1:9, 2 Cor. 5:17, Eph. 1:7-14)
Scripture says it. We can believe it.
There is hope for your marriage, because of Jesus. Because He went to the cross for you, for your husband, for all the things you will ever do and say to each other. For all the wrongs and all the misunderstandings and all the scars. He can rebuild trust, change hearts, and redeem.
I know this because SCRIPTURE says this. And I’ve watched Him work these truths of Scripture out in my own marriage.
If you’re in a marriage that feels hopeless, I want you to know, you’re right. Without Jesus, all marriages are hopeless. We are selfish, sinful people, who, when left to ourselves, will always choose what we think is best for us. There is no good in us apart from Christ.
But with Jesus, there is hope. Real, honest-to-goodness, life-changing hope. In Christ, ALL THINGS are possible.
And that includes your marriage.
There’s so much out there telling us to follow our own hearts, to listen to ourselves, and to embrace our own truth – even (especially?) from today’s “christian” culture. But the Bible tells a different story, and Jesus has paved another way.
I just wanted you to hear that side of things, too.
*Again, I want to reiterate that in cases of abuse or adultery, Scripture clearly allows for separation. Sin grieves the Lord, and in these situations, He has provided a way out. I do also believe that God can redeem even those situations, if true repentance is present. If you’re in the middle of a marriage like this, I would strongly urge you to take some time, seek out professional counseling, and surround yourself with people who will pray for you as you make the decision that is right for you and your family.