By Stormie Omartian
Excerpted from The Power of a Praying Wife, with permission from Harvest House Publishers
I confess right now that there was a time when I considered separation or divorce. This is an embarrassing disclosure because I donít believe either of those options is the best answer to a troubled marriage. I believe in Godís position on divorce. He says itís not right and it grieves Him, The last thing I want to do is grieve God. But I know what itís like to feel the kind of despair that paralyzes good decision making. Iíve experienced the degree of hopelessness that causes a person to give up on trying to do whatís right. I understand the torture of loneliness that leaves you longing for anyone who will look into your soul and see you.
Iíve felt pain so bad that the fear of dying from it propelled me to seek out the only immediately foreseeable means of survival: escape from the source of agony. I know what itís like to contemplate acts of desperation because you see no future. Iíve experienced such a buildup of negative emotions day after day that separation and divorce seemed like nothing more than the promise of pleasant relief.
The biggest problem I faced in our marriage was my husbandís temper. The only ones who were ever the object of his anger were me and the children. He used words like weapons that left me crippled or paralyzed. Iím not saying that I was without faultóquite the contrary. I was sure I was as much to blame as he, but I didnít know what to do about it. I pleaded with God on a regular basis to make my husband more sensitive, less angry, more pleasant, less irritable. But I saw few changes. Was God not listening? Or did He favor the husband over the wife, as I suspected?
After a number of years, with little change, I cried out to the Lord one day in despair, saying, ďGod, I canít live this way anymore. I know what Youíve said about divorce, but I canít live in the same house with him, Help me, Lord.Ē I sat on the bed holding my Bible for hours as I struggled with the strongest desire to take the children and leave. I believe that because I came to God in total honesty about what I felt, He allowed me to thoroughly and clearly envision what life would be like if I left: Where I would live, how I would support myself and care for the children, who would still be my friends, and worst of all, how a heritage of divorce would affect my son and daughter. It was the most horrible and unspeakably sad picture. If I left I would find some relief, but at the price of everything dear to me. I knew it wasnít Godís plan for us.
As I sat there, God also impressed upon my heart that if I would deliberately lay down my life before His throne, die to the desire to leave, and give my needs to Him, He would teach me how to lay down my life in prayer for Michael. He would show me how to really intercede for him as a son of God, and in the process He would revive my marriage and pour His blessings out on both of us. We would be better together, if we could get past this, than we could ever be separated and alone. He showed me that Michael was caught in a web from his past that rendered him incapable of being different from what he was at that moment, but God would use me as an instrument of His deliverance if I would consent to it. It hurt to say yes to this and I cried a lot. But when I did, I felt hopeful for the first time in years.
I began to pray every day for Michael, like I had never prayed before. Each time, though, I had to confess my own hardness of heart. I saw how deeply hurt and unforgiving of him I was. I donít want to pray for him. I donít want to ask God to bless him. I only want God to strike his heart with lightning and convict him of how cruel he has been, I thought. I had to say over and over, ďGod, I confess my unforgiveness toward my husband. Deliver me from all of it.Ē
Little by little, I began to see changes occur in both of us. When Michael became angry, instead of reacting negatively, I prayed for him. I asked God to give me insight into what was causing his rage. He did. I asked Him what I could do to make things better. He showed me. My husbandís anger became less frequent and more quickly soothed. Every day, prayer built something positive. Weíre still not perfected, but weíve come a long way. It hasnít been easy, yet Iím convinced that Godís way is worth the effort it takes to walk in it. Itís the only way to save a marriage.
A wifeís prayers for her husband have a far greater effect on him than anyone elseís, even his motherís. (Sorry, Mom.) A motherís prayers for her child are certainly fervent. But when a man marries, he leaves his father and mother and becomes one with his wife (Matthew 19:5). They are a team, one unit, unified in spirit. The strength of a man and wife joined together in Godís sight is far greater than the sum of the strengths of each of the two individuals, Thatís because the Holy Spirit unites them and gives added power to their prayers.
Thatís also why there is so much at stake if we donít pray. Can you imagine praying for the right side of your body and not the left? If the right side is not sustained and protected and it falls, itís going to bring down the left side with it. The same is true of you and your husband. If you pray for yourself and not him, you will never find the blessings and fulfillment you want. What happens to him happens to you and you canít get around it.
This oneness gives us a power that the enemy doesnít like. Thatís why he devises ways to weaken it. He gives us whatever we will fall for, whether it be low self-esteem, pride, the need to be right, miscommunication, or the bowing to our own selfish desires. He will tell you lies like, ďNothing will ever change.Ē ďYour failures are irreparable.Ē ďThereís no hope for reconciliation.Ē ďYouíd be happier with someone else.Ē Heíll tell you whatever you will believe, be cause he knows if he can get you to believe it, there is no future for your marriage. If you believe enough lies, your heart will eventually be hardened against Godís truth.
In every broken marriage, there is at least one person whose heart is hard against God. When a heart becomes hard, there is no vision from Godís perspective. When weíre miserable in a marriage, we feel that anything will be an improvement over what weíre experiencing. But we donít see the whole picture. We only see the way it is, not the way God wants it to become. When we pray, however, our hearts become soft toward God and we get a vision. We see there is hope. We have faith that He will restore all that has been devoured, destroyed, and eaten away from the marriage. ďI will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eatenĒ (Joel 2:25). We can trust Him to take away the pain, hopelessness, hardness, and unforgiveness. We are able to envision His ability to resurrect love and life from the deadest of places.
Imagine Mary Magdaleneís joy when she went to Jesusí tomb the third day after He had been crucified and found that He was not dead after all, but had been raised up by the power of God. The joy of seeing something hopelessly dead brought to life is the greatest joy we can know. The power that resurrected Jesus is the very same power that will resurrect the dead places of your marriage and put life back into it. ďGod both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His powerĒ (1 Corinthians 6:14). Itís the only power that can. But it doesnít happen without a heart for God that is willing to gut it out in prayer, grow through tough times, and wait for love to be resurrected. We have to go through the pain to get to the joy.
You have to decide if you want your marriage to work, and if you want it badly enough to do whatever is necessary, within healthy parameters, to see it happen. You have to believe the part of your relationship that has been eaten away by pain, indifference, and selfishness can be restored. You have to trust that what has swarmed over you, such as abuse, death of a child, infidelity, poverty, loss, catastrophic illness, or accident, can be relieved of its death grip. You have to determine that everything consuming you and your husband, such as workaholism, alcoholism, drug abuse, or depression, can be destroyed. You have to know that whatever has crept into your relationship so silently and stealthily as to not even be perceived as a threat until it is clearly presentó such as making idols of your career, your dreams, your kids, or your selfish desiresócan be removed. You have to trust that God is big enough to accomplish all this and more.
If you wake up one morning with a stranger in your bed and itís your husband, if you experience a silent withdrawal from one anotherís lives that severs all emotional connection, if you sense a relentless draining away of love and hope, if your relationship is in so bottomless a pit of hurt and anger that every day sends you deeper into despair, if every word spoken drives a wedge further between you until it becomes an impenetrable barrier keeping you miles apart, be assured that none of the above is Godís will for your marriage. Godís will is to break down all these barriers and lift you out of that pit. He can heal the wounds and put love back in your heart. Nothing and no one else can.
But you have to rise up and say, ďLord, I pray for an end to this conflict and a breaking of the hold strife has on us. Take away the hurt and the armor weíve put up to protect ourselves. Lift us out of the pit of unforgiveness. Speak through us so that our words reflect Your love, peace, and reconciliation. Tear down this wall between us and teach us how to walk through it. Enable us to rise up from this paralysis and move into the healing and wholeness You have for us.Ē
Donít write off the marriage. Ask God to give you a new husband. He is able to take the one you have and make him a new creation in Christ. Husbands and wives are not des- tined to fight, emotionally disconnect, live in marital deadness, be miserable, or divorce. We have Godís power on our side. We donít have to leave our marriages to chance. We can fight for them in prayer and not give up, because as long as we are praying, there is hope. With God, nothing is ever as dead as it seems. Not even your own feelings.
Excerpted from The Power of a Praying Wife, with permission from Harvest House Publishers
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