Back when I was married and going through the reconciliation attempt, I had many, many lowest-of-the-low moments. And in those moments – and sometimes not even in those lowest moments – I knew in my heart that I didn’t have what it took to stay married anymore. That I just couldn’t.
Even with Jesus in me.
Yes, I believe that I have the power of God in me that brought Jesus literally back from being dead into resurrection life.
And yet in the same breath, I believe I couldn’t have done it.
Here’s what I don’t mean. I don’t mean that had I stayed married, it would have physically killed me or I would’ve taken my own life. I mean that, for me, it would’ve emotionally killed me and I mean that, for me, I would not have had the whatever it would’ve taken to be kind and loving every day for the rest of my life. I would have been existing. Barely surviving. Not doing it well…like, at all.
I know someone who is walking away from something saying he just can’t do it anymore. Some might say that he hasn’t tried everything. Maybe he has, maybe he hasn’t.
But he’s saying he knows himself well enough to know that this thing he’s been trying to do is breaking him. Killing him emotionally. And, even with Jesus, he just can’t keep doing it.
I hate writing these words about myself, about this friend. Not because I’m ashamed of being human, of being weak at times, of knowing my limitations. But because I feel like, as a Christian, I must portray superhuman strength so that I can show the world that living with Jesus in me is different than living without Jesus in me.
Listen, I know I can do things that there is no way on God’s green earth that I could do without Jesus in me.
Staying married for almost nineteen hard years was one of those things.
Going on the radio the other day and not even sounding like myself I was so dang calm and collected was one of those things.
Every time I get up in front of a group and speak publicly when I hated – and I mean hated – public speaking for the first thirty years of my life is one of those things.
But then there are some times when – even with Jesus in me – I just can’t. I just can’t do whatever the thing is.
I need to press pause here, because it’s not because Jesus can’t do all things, I believe he can. And it’s not that I don’t believe that “I can do all things through Christ”, because I believe that to be true.
It’s me. And it’s you. And it’s our humanness.
I love God. I believe he is all-powerful. I believe he can do whatever he wants, even through me. And yet, if I’m honest – and I just don’t see the point of not being completely honest anymore – there have been plenty of times in my life when I have begged God for help and healing and power and courage and it has not come in the sustaining form I was asking for, and I’ve had to just do the thing without courage and strength and slog my way through it, or I’ve had to walk away.
I don’t understand most of this. I do not have an answer for this one. This is where faith comes in. And when I’m kicking myself for not doing the thing that I thought I should be able to do because Jesus is in me, that’s where grace comes in. That’s just when I cling to grace.
I am where you are. And this last line sums it up so well for all of us who are there: “And when I’m kicking myself for not doing the thing that I thought I should be able to do because Jesus is in me, that’s where grace comes in.” I, like you, firmly believe “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” And I, like you, stayed for 15 years trying to make it work. But my question is — when do you stop having hope? Even with adultery, deception, emotional abuse, betrayal of every kind, when do you stop believing that God can work a miracle? I look at those strong people of the scriptures and how they endured so much more than we will ever know, and they did not give up hope for restoration. Even though I feel the same way you do and agree with your words, when do we have the “right” to say, “God you are not powerful enough to do this through me?” Please hear me say again, I agree with your words, because I am living them, but there is still the part of me that feels almost blasphemous to say “I can’t do this, even with Jesus in me,” because isn’t it supposed to be about what He can do, not what I think I can do? Just being real and honest and searching, not disagreeing with your words. Iron sharpens iron?
Susan….I hear both you and Elisabeth. I have the same torn emotions. I have an 18 year-old marriage that has been a shipwreck for 12 years. We have been through extremely intensive counseling. We both carry great fault. I carry tremendous fault. In the end, my husband was unrepentant and unapologetic. I have been both. He squarely and firmly places all fault on me. I have tried and tried and tried until I began to fall apart emotionally and physically. I’m not talking about being a hot mess, I’m talking about major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, hospitalization for both, anti depressants, anti psychotics, anti-anxiety meds. I lost 30 lbs and looked emaciated. I’ve had such widespread physical pain that I’ve been tested for lupus and Rheumatoid. My hair fell out and thinned. I was a shell of a human being and my children suffered because their mother was not whole. But by golly, I was still married because I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. My children were in an intact home, even though it was a horridly dysfunctional home filled with God-awful tension, stress, and a pathetic picture of marriage. Was this Gods will??
I don’t know why God did not strengthen me as I watched my mind, body, and health slip away. I’ve had some tell me He did because I’m not dead. I don’t know. He did not promise that I would survive one level above death. This was not abundant living. This was barely surviving. John10:10. So how do I square His promise for abundant life with His promise that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength????? I will be honest….I don’t know yet. Still processing.
I do know that divorce was allowed because of the hardness of men’s hearts. I know Christ divorced Isreal (Jeremiah 3:8). I know that staying married, with Christ in me, was literally killing me. I had no control of my husbands choices. I was killing myself trying to get him to care and to take his responsibility. I’ve learned I’m not responsible for his happiness, sin, and choices.
He has recently told me that he wants divorce as soon as I find a job. The next day he said he would call for counseling. Emotional whiplash. I fell apart when he said counseling because I couldn’t take one more session of his false accusation and attacks. I cried out to God and said “I can’t do that. Death is preferable.” Of course, he never mentioned counseling again.
I, for the first time, feel a release from God. I’m planning on moving forward and I am in final stages of some interviews for a job. Can Christ still work a miracle….yes!!! Will he care for me and my children….yes!! Does the future scare me to death…..yes….but that takes me back to doing all things through Christ who strengthens me. He will see me through the divorce and the hardness of my husband’s heart. I can make it through Christ’s strength, and as I regain my health, I can also have abundant life.
Am I preaching to the choir and myself right now, and am I trying my hardest to stand firm in my faith when I’m facing a future that terrifies me….yes! My hope….my only hope….is in who Christ is. It’s not because of what I can do, but it’s about in whom I place my trust.
Sheila – These words are such a blessing. Thank you for sharing them! “He will see me through the divorce and the hardness of my husband’s heart. I can make it through Christ’s strength, and as I regain my health, I can also have abundant life.”
Oh Elizabeth, thank you for expressing what so many of us struggle with!! This is one area where I have discovered the most judgement to be passed. If I had just stayed in it longer…If I had just set boundaries….and now that I’m divorced…it contiues in a different vein….If I just keep praying for my ex….If I just keep trusting God to deliver my ex from his porn addiction…If…If…If….and apparently it rests on my shoulders. That is SO NOT right! The things the I’m being expected to do are things ONLY God can do….and I AM NOT GOD! But it seems like a lot of people think they are…and I struggle with this. If I’m honest…and for YEARS I haven’t been (yes I admitted that truth) my marriage has been a wreck for YEARS and I’ve hidden those problems behind the foolish thought that if I just did this, that and the other things would get better. I admit, there were behaviors I needed to work on too, and I’ve repented of those things both to God and my ex. God forgave me, my ex condemned me. So, in short…AMEN!! Sometimes in our humanness, things just don’t work out. And you know what? God loves me and forgives me and I must trust Him with my future. Thanks for posting this!!
Thank you so much for being so honest. It actually gives me strength, not discouragement, but strength!
Ya know- even our omnipotent Lord knew when to walk away, when to shake the dust off his feet, when to be completely silent before His accusers.
We are inherently selfish sinners and we will never be so much in unity here on earth that we bring Him complete glory. Now some couples have found that amazing grace to live together in some sort of harmony and mutual respect but I suppose even they are rare. I do not want to become cynical but I cannot help but thinking in response to the gay marriage frenzy: what do you really want it for?
I have stayed married for 26 years now to an unrepentant, alcoholic, ADD, abuser and adulterer “for the sake of our 4 children” and because I have not worked for many years and could not provide for even myself. I recently graduated from college and now will go to grad school so I can finally be on staff where I volunteer as a hospice chaplain. My biggest stumbling block to divorce has been our Christian faith and the sincere commitment we made, not to mention disappointing the Lord. Also my own spiritual pride and my absurd fear of what will people think?
I am grieved beyond words and regret ever marrying him. I am like you said Elisabeth: just barely existing. The anchor of my soul keeps me on course in the midst of this hurricane. If not for this forcing me to prepare for supporting myself I would have probably not sought this calling to be a chaplain. The pain of my marriage dying has indeed prepared me well to find much compassion for the hurting. Can God really mean Romans 8:28? Yes He can.
Thank you for expressing these thoughts. Thank you.
I truly believe that God *can* and in Him we *can,* but we can also choose not to. He provides freedom. I distinctly remember the message from the Lord when had yet another discovery of yet another woman. It was as if he said to me, “Missy, you can choose this life and I will be with you…but I have let you see what it will be like.” It was a challenging, debilitating, abusive, marriage with betrayal every 2-4 months. God would see me through it, but He gave me freedom as a choice, too! “You can depend on your husband for emotional/financial security or you can depend on Me – the complete unknown.”
At some point, I do believe God gives us the freedom to walk away. Not that we can’t choose to stay, but He isn’t requiring it. Yes, sometimes in the Bible He works and redeems through staying (ie: Hosea), but truthfully, I’m not a prophet to the nation, I’m not being cannonnized and I must make the best choices for my sphere of influence. I’m grateful for freedom and grace, on top of the law to keep us grounded.
As I’ve said, God hates divorce, but he hates all sin.
Thank you Elizabeth! Your ministry is a true God send! The thing I want to add is this. If God really wanted us to stay He would give us the strength to know that we could. Does that make sense? Seven years ago I wrote a note to God and placed it in my bible! Two years ago, when I knew without a shadow of a doubt, that I could no longer stay married I found that note. Coincidence? I don’t think so….
Oct 3, 2006
Today you turned me to Ecclesiastes 3. It was very powerful because of what [name withheld] and I were just talking about. A time has come and you are in control! But a time for what? We don’t really know. But we trust you in it. I find it interesting that Ecc 3:3 says ‘a time to kill and a time to heal’. Not just to die, but to KILL! 3:6 ‘a time to search and a time to give up’. Also ‘a time to keep and a time to throw away’! Each of these seem wrong. We want to believe NEVER to kill, give up, or throw away, but you say there is a time for three things. Yet also a time to heal, search, and keep. To guard and to mend (vs 7). Our confusion comes from trying to understand what time it is now! I think healing, mending, and keeping should be our first choice as Christians until a day comes that your Holy Spirit makes it perfectly clear it is time for the other end. That time may come, but not yet. Not for me anyway. Which means instead of sitting on this fence of indifference I need to actively mend, heal and hold on to! Amen!!
And hold on I did. For another 5 years!! Until I knew I no longer had the strength to stay –EVEN WITH CHRIST–!!! I found this note on Dec 5, 2011! On it I wrote “prayer answered” and the date!! And then God gave me a new strength!! The strength to LEAVE!! Amen!
Thank you for writing this blog. This is exactly where I am right now. I have asked the question several times in the past few weeks: “Where is the line between godly, submissive wife and doormat.” I recently becan counseling with someone who I truly believe my Lord is going to use to show me that. But I also truly believe the end of that road is going to be separaration. My husband is not violent … just completely indifferent. I think we could work on many of the issues in our marriage, but he refuses. He smokes pot almost every day and refuses to quit, even after our 13 yr old found the drugs and confronted him. He tells me everything is my fault and many times has said, “If you are so unhappy, just leave.” As you said, I don’t physically fear for my life, but I know he has almost completely crushed me emotionally. It is only by God’s grace I have stayed 14 years. I keep praying and asking for a miracle … that my husband would love and cherish me. But he has assured me time and again that there is nothing wrong with him and that he will not change who he is for me. I have prayed and cried and submitted and studied … all only make him treat me with further disdain. You are so right about the church saying, “Do more, try harder, forgive more…” It just does not work with a person who is addicted and who is only interested in what more you can do for them. If I stay in this marriage as it is I will have to lose grip on everything that makes me “me” and continue to conform myself into his enabler. God help me! I am so scared to leave … it is the most foreign thing in my nature to stand up for myself. Something has to change. Someone above mentioned another thought I’ve had recently. Jesus loved everyone, even the Pharisees. But he did not spend a lot of time around those who were hard hearted and refused to listen. He longed to gather them to Himself, but knew they would not budge. I long to have a wonderful life together with my husband, but he does not want it … or me. Why should I continue to stay when he clearly tells me to go? Please pray for me.