Ten years ago, my husband and I shared a highly personal story with a congregation of Chinese-speaking people. It was about our marriage – how we broke it and how God repaired it miraculously, graciously.
Because there were few English-speakers in the audience, we spoke with an interpreter, volleying one sentence to her at a time. I remember feeling surprisingly comfortable with the whole situation: all I had to do was to tell my story and someone else transformed it into a message that was clear and cohesive. By helping us, the interpreter was saying, “I’ve got this. I’ll make sure that people understand exactly what you want to say.”
So we trusted her to communicate accurately, honestly, and effectively. (Come to think of it, we really had no choice but to share what we knew and leave the rest to her.) But I’m telling you, it alleviated so much pressure! For that reason, even though Ryan and I have shared the story of our marriage’s restoration in many different contexts, that day at The Chinese Church will always be amongst our favorites.
In fact, when it comes to fragile topics like marriage, I wish I could always speak with an interpreter. I wish I could share my story alongside someone who knew how to deliver it in just the right way, so that everyone could understand and be edified.
I used to share more openly – and more often – about how God redeemed our marriage.
But over the years, I’ve grown more reticent.
I think it’s because my love and appreciation for Ryan has grown as deep as a canyon and I worry that retelling the story will plant seeds of doubt or distrust in other people’s minds. I would utterly hate for that to happen.
Or maybe it’s because my respect for human frailty has grown as tender as spring’s first buds. I worry that retelling the story will accidentally smack of pride, overconfidence, or empty promises. I would never want that.
Or maybe, of course, it’s because my awe of God’s mighty work on our behalf has grown as vast as the clear, blue sky and I worry that retelling the story will accidentally focus on our hard work, when in fact, it was His all along. This would be the worst tragedy of all.
That’s why the story that used to feel so manageable to write and talk about, now swells grandly in my heart and I can hardly put it into words.
That God healed us from a whole mess of sins, weaknesses, and immaturities is one of the most life-changing stories I can tell, but I don’t tell it very often any more. And yet, I can’t get away from it. All these years later, people reach out to us saying, “I heard about your story. Could it be true?? Could you help me? Could you help…us?”
We help as we are able.
It always makes me wonder, how many people out there may need a heartwarming dose of hope for their marriage?
How many people find themselves broken in two, as we did?
Who needs to hear that God cares about marriage and that His arm is not too short to save one that is tossed by the sea?
Tonight I feel burdened to share a few things that I have learned as God has rescued my own marriage. I am trusting the Holy Spirit to be my faithful interpreter, delivering this message directly to your heart in a way that you can hear it.
Above all, the story is never over.
With God, nothing is impossible and nothing is over.
Our Heavenly Father is able to restore all things – including you, your spouse, and your marriage. Never stop trusting the God who loves you, sees you, and walks with you.
We use words like “break up,” “separation,” and “divorce,” feeling their finality. But those words are no threat to the God who can make springs of water burst forth in the desert. You may not be able to imagine the type of restoration that He will create in your life, but believe me, you will look back and see it as an ocean of grace.
Ask, “What do you want me to do with my heart today, Lord?”
The circumstances of our marital crisis differ from yours, so the specific way God led us on our journey differs from how He will lead you. However, we share one important similarity: God wants to walk with us through our trials, sorrows, confusion, and doubt.
When our marriage fell apart, I wanted answers: books and advice. But instead, my counselor advised me to seek the Lord and to ask, “What do you want me to do with my heart today, Lord?”
It wasn’t easy.
Healing came slowly, gradually.
But now I see that the day-in-and-day-out of putting my hand in His was the most significant and unregrettable work I did on the road to recovery.
A man without pornography is a completely new man.
This profound truth applies to all of us, and to all of our sin.
When a man who used to give into pornography repents and walks – well, flees – and yes, fights – alongside the Holy Spirit out of pornography, he is transformed in every way: his countenance, character, personality, everything changes. That man becomes stronger than he ever imagined, kinder, more handsome, more productive, less threatened. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”: on a man, that freedom looks like the Northern Lights, the winter’s first snow, and everything – everything – grand.
Do not lose hope that the man you love could be the man God intended him to be.
Sometimes – usually – loving a spouse through sin means supporting them while you take a direct bullet to your own heart. And they’ll do the same for you.
There is nothing like lay-your-life-down true love.
How marvelous that Christ has done this for us! How mysterious that He asks us to do the same.
Only through God’s power and wisdom may we say to the repentant spouse, “I will walk with you through this struggle and do anything it takes to help you make godly choices.” All the while, despising the temptation that demeans and attacks us for,
“No weapon formed against us shall prosper and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication from me, declares the LORD.” Isaiah 54:17
The Lord uses the church community so extraordinarily, you must always, always seek its love and support.
When asked “What made the biggest difference in your marriage?” Ryan always answers, “People. Community. The Church.”
He’s right: when we weren’t attending a faithful church, we struggled profoundly. When God pulled our marriage back together, He also reunited us with the Church.
God used other Christians to surround us during our separation, to encourage, correct, and pray for us. They maintained great faith in God when we had very little. They gave us their time, homes, hearts, and wisdom.
We will always tell our children about the people who rallied around us during those dark and dangerous days. God used them to spare our family.
Ever since then, we have prioritized our local church and our relationships with Christian friends. We need the regular preaching of the Word, the grace of Communion, accountability, encouragement, fellowship, and prayer.
And so do you.
Cry out to God for a church family that you can love, that will love you in return.
(9 Marks is a helpful website that can direct you to a church that faithfully preaches the Bible.)
Well, the night has worn on and I’m out of words to write for now. I do hope that these few remarks are helpful to you in some way and that you are encouraged to trust the Lord with your heart, with your marriage.
May God bless you and keep you.
May He make His face to shine upon you and give you peace.