This is the last day of my week-long fasting and prayer for marriages. The Lord has put these specific requests and prayers on my heart, and I have learned a great deal from being obedient to His calling to me. … Continue reading
The phone rang in the middle of the night, and she* was going to just let it go to voice mail. Who calls this late anyway? And she glanced at the screen to see who dare make a phone call at 10:46pm on a Tuesday. With an intense urgency, she forgot all annoyance and picked up the phone. It was her best friend, who she knew was having some pretty serious marital issues, and who she had just offered to have call her anytime, no matter the hour, if she ever needed to talk. This must be important.
“Hey girl, I’m sorry to call so late. I just… I just need to tell you that I put him out tonight. I couldn’t take it anymore. I’m tired of crying over someone who doesn’t want us to work. I can’t even look at him without getting so angry, and I can’t hear God’s voice anymore… maybe I’m wrong for it, but I told him to go away and come back in a few days….”
She stood, speechless with the phone in her hand. What do you say to that? What can you say to that? She began to feel her friend’s pain in a way that she never knew before. She felt just as angry with her friend’s husband and just as hopeless. How was God going to change this around? How was He going to work this to good? Her friend was one of the most passionate and positive people she knew, one of the most strong and patient and long-suffering women around, and she felt a deep anguish at the injustice of it all. Why was she being left alone to fight for her marriage? Why was she at the point of giving up when she had followed God and had been faithful? Why wasn’t it working out the way she wanted? Why? Why? Why?
The fuzzy silence on the other end of the line prompted her to speak again. She silently asked the Holy Spirit for words for this situation, and then uttered the words “okay dear friend, let’s pray…”
*For the sake of privacy, the names in this story were not included and some of the details were changed.
The topic of marriages separating is deeply depressing to me. I’m just going to be honest. I know more than a few people who this has been a reality for, and while I have not experienced it first hand, when it has happened to the people I love dearly, I feel that pain with them in very real way. I know that God’s word tells me that marriage is a holy covenant, meant to mirror His divine relationship with us, and that marriage is one of the most effective tools used to show Christ’s love, and so it honestly breaks my heart to see a marriage end or be put on hold for even a short period of time. The Lord puts certain issues and pains in our hearts so that we are motivated to pray for them or do something active about them, and this is one of the major issues He has placed on my heart. It is a burden that I do not take lightly and so I very solemnly dedicate today for these marriages that are separated.
Now, before I go on, I want to be clear that I am not condemning any divorced or remarried people in this post. This is very sensitive topic, and while I personally have decided that divorce is never an option in my own marriage, I know that we live in a fallen world and mistakes have been made to lead to this in many people’s lives. I know divorced people who have divorced for the reason given in the Bible as the only grounds for divorce, and I know people who have divorced for other reasons, and while it hurts my heart when any marriage ends, I do not pretend to know these circumstances that lead to these divorces, and I don’t pretend to have the answers. So please know that this post is not meant to shame anyone. It is only a hope that marriages which desire reconciliation, even if it’s only on one end, will come to be stronger and thriving despite these struggles.
With that being stated, today is obviously day four of my fasting and prayer for marriages. To be honest, I am very weary. I’m hungry, I’m tired, and I feel discouraged when I think about the people in my life who have chosen to separate from their spouse. It feels like this week has already been a long and draining journey, and yet there have also been some moments of incredible energy and assistance that I know were gifts from God during this time of focused prayer. The Lord has granted me supernatural patience with my students when they are antsy and ready for summer vacation to start. He has granted me energy to continue my marathon training, which was scheduled this week, despite my fasting, and he has strengthened me to run even faster than I have in the past because of my focus.
I tell you these things not to brag about my experience or make you impressed at my dedication, but to share with you the hard parts, and also the amazing benefits that God gives when His children respond to his prompting. I can’t even take credit for my obedience, as that too has been a precious gift from Him.
This entire process reminds me of Psalm 91, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide in the Shadow of the Almighty”, because when I devote an entire day to focused prayer, even during the daily activities I do, I am dwelling His “secret place”, since no one around me can tell I am in prayer even as I speak with them. And because of this, I know The Lord is protecting me with His comforting shadow. I pray that you too are called to dwell in the secret meeting place of prayer with God, and that you feel the power and strength of his protective Shadow.
Today the burden of separated marriages lays heavily upon my heart. I grieve for them and weep for them and I ask you for Your comfort and strength to get through this day. There are a few couples for whom I have a special desire for today, and I pray that these individuals be blessed by the prayer I have to offer and the fast that I dedicate to them. At this point in time, I desire nothing more than to see them joyfully reunited in an even stronger and dedicated bond of marriage, and I pray that You can make this happen in the future Lord, or even instantly right now– nothing is too miraculous for You, O’ God!
I pray for those marriages that have decided to go their separate ways for the time being. I pray specifically for those marriages that desire reconciliation on one or both ends, but are struggling to come to it. May they experience peace and restoration in their relationship Father. Yet while they are apart, a I pray you strengthen them individually with Your Word, and Your Holy Spirit. I pray You convict them, shape their hearts, soften their conscious, and break down their walls of pride and indignation. I pray You turn them back to one another, and remind them of the vows they made to one another the day they made their covenant with You and with each other.
I pray also for the children of these couples who are separated. Lord, I can only imagine what it’s like to see two parents separate. You have blessed me with parents who have stuck together, even though financial difficulties, job losses, addictions of many kinds. Thank you for the example that they have set for me in my own marriage– one of dedication and devotion, no matter what the struggle. I know that my parents have done the best they can to show me what true marital love looks like. I praise them and You for that. I pray for those who did not grow up with that example, and who are creating a legacy of brokenness for their children without even being aware of it. Lord, separation can have terrible effects on children, I have seen it in my own father, my husband, and some close friends. I know it can be detrimental even for older children who understand imperfect relationships, and so I pray that You bring healing to these children and their families. I know from the examples of my family members and friends that You can do this! You can unite new families together, creating a better and safer environment for the child, and you can also unite formally separated marriages, and restore the child’s life in that process. I trust that You know what that looks like for each individual family, and I trust that You desire restoration and healing to bless those that seek you in this time.
Lord, I pray for unity. I pray for strength. I pray for Your presence to be made known for all of those who are separated from their spouse right now. Give them support by way of prayer, petition, fasting, and also by good friends who listen and invest time and energy. Use us all as tools to cultivate their hearts towards repentance and reconciliation and atonement. Lord, we know that Jesus died on the cross so that we could be forgiven by You, Perfect You, and so that we could see an example of what true sacrificial love looks like. I pray for that understanding to come into the hearts of those who are married, yet separated. Save their marriages, in the name of Jesus Christ! Only You can. Amen.
What has God laid on your heart as your burden of prayer for the married yet separated?
You may have heard people say things like “never say never” or “never give up” (woops! I just said “never” three times!), and they might sound like very motivated and dedicated people who inspire you beyond belief.
But the truth is, there are times when “giving up” is exactly what we need to do. Giving up will make us happier, healthier, and most importantly, more like Jesus.
There are probably a hundred things we hold dear that we don’t even realize are killing us spiritually.
Here is a list of 10 of them:
1. GIVE UP YOUR NEED TO ALWAYS BE RIGHT
To some of us, the idea of being wrong is terrifying. So much so, that even when it’s clear we’ve made a human error, we’ll never admit to it. There is always a price to be paid when we don’t let this one go. It might be an honest friendship, or even a job, or it might be that we loose our family’s trust entirely. Isn’t it worth it to just let go of that need to always be right?
Through James, God tells us that we must admit when we have done wrong or are wrong: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed”. James 5:16
Do you want to be healed?
2. GIVE UP YOUR NEED FOR CONTROL
I’ll be honest; I struggle with this one…. Proverbs 3 tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”
This means that we really don’t have any control over our own lives. We can’t even count on our own capabilities of understanding the world. We have to be willing to give up our need to always control everything that happens to us and around us. It actually takes the pressure off us if we know that things are out of our control!
The next time you feel like you’re obsessing or worrying over something that you can’t do a thing about, just breathe and know that you’re in good hands; God’s hands.
3. GIVE UP ON BLAME
This is similar to giving up on control.
When we allow others to have power over us in their ability to make us physically do things, emotionally feels certain ways, or mentally go somewhere in our own minds, we put ourselves in a position where we may end up blaming someone else for our own situation. This is never helpful.
Even when people have done wrong to us, we must never blame them. What did Jesus say when the Jews killed him? Oh that’s right: He said, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34.
God tells us in 1 Peter 4:12 and James 1:2-4 (sequentially), that we should not only expect hardships and persecution, but that we must be joyous in each strenuous situation:
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
4. GIVE UP YOUR DEFEATING SELF-TALK
Okay, this one I’ve been struggling for a long, long time, especially in regards to my body image and a few eating disorders floating around out there. Here’s what we need to understand:
God made us in HIS beautiful, glorious, incredible, and perfect image.
And how beautiful is this?
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be”. Psalm 139:13-16
In Isaiah 64:8, we learn that God has formed us like a potter does to clay. If we made us and we are the work of his hands, then how can we critique God? Who are we to say the pot needs new handles or a different shape?
Now, if you’ve done something wrong, then it’s okay to feel convicted by your actions, but this lasts only for a time. And frankly, it’s not God’s voice that’s telling you you’re no good; it’s Satan’s.
Who do you want to listen to?
5. GIVE UP YOUR LIMITING BELIEFS
This one is clutch for Christians.
Do not doubt what you can or cannot do, about what is possible or impossible.
Philippians 4:13 tells us that “I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.”
There is also a ton of stuff in the bible about doubting and having little faith. If you’re doing to doubt Christ, you cannot follow God. So stop limiting your beliefs with logic or hearsay.
It may not be logical; that’s why they call it FAITH.
6. GIVE UP COMPLAINING
Ephesians 4:29 tells us to “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.”
And don’t forget when James says in Chapter 5, Verse 9, “Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.”
Then God gets a little angry in Numbers 11:1:
“And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.”
There are plenty of examples in the New Testament, when Jesus gets downright annoyed that his apostles are always “grumbling to themselves”. It does no good. We really are doing ourselves a disservice by complaining. When we talk about something, it gives it life, and do we really want to give life to the most annoying things in our lives?
Probably not. So just stop talking about it. Really.
7. GIVE UP THE LUXURY OF CRITICISM
I don’t even have to add to what Jesus says in Luke 6:37-42:
“Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. Stop criticizing others, or it will all come back on you. If you forgive others, you will be forgiven. If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving — large or small — it will be used to measure what is given back to you.”
“What good is it for one blind person to lead another? The first one will fall into a ditch and pull the other down also. “
“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log from your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”
‘Nuff said, right?
8. GIVE UP YOUR NEED TO IMPRESS OTHERS
Stop trying so hard to be something of this world just so that the world will like you. Jesus doesn’t work this way.
Jesus tells us that if we are a friend to the world, we are an enemy to him. If we are impressing those around us, our treasures are here on Earth rather than in Heaven with him.
If we receive our reward here, then no reward awaits for us after life is finished.
In short, we need to impress Christ, not other people. Other people don’t hold the key to our immediate future, or ultimate Salvation.
9. GIVE UP THE PAST
Jesus was arguably the most present person who ever lived. He did not look on past sin in anger, and he did not let his anxiety of future events change his ability to be focused on life within the present moment. In turn, God wants us also to let go of any past wounds or bitterness we hold onto. He wants us to look for his presence within our daily lives, and press on, forgetting what lies behind us.
“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14
If Paul let his past failures and wounds affect his journey by hanging onto them, he would never have been the great writer and teacher that he was through Christ. He would never have pressed on, determined to overcome future battles and struggles.
Our own memories can sometimes paralyze us. If we want to be like Jesus, we have to let go of the past and be newly created by him everyday. And this happens in the moment.
10. GIVE UP ATTACHMENT
First of all, Jesus tells us that rich men rarely enter heaven, so right there you should be thinking of freeing up some space in our pocket book by giving to those in need.
He also tells his disciples not to carry anything with them when they go out to evangelize; He doesn’t want them to be attached or dependent on anything except The Lord.
Now, this is extreme, but perhaps we are called to be a little more extreme in our faith…. When we are attached to the things of this world, we are essentially creating idols, which God hates. And his hate is fierce.
Galatians 5:19-21 reads, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Idolatry can also look very much like love. I have been guilty of holding those around me up on pedistals that only God deserves to be held upon. This also makes me have extremely high expectations because… well, unknowingly, I’m expecting these people to take the place of God.
If we idolize our spouses, for instance, we will also end up demonizing them because they won’t live up to our high expectations—expectations to fill places and heal wounds that only Jesus can.
When we attach ourselves to our jobs, our house, our car, our clothes or even our family members, we are placing our identity in things that have absolutely no meaning in comparison to what our identity should be placed in: Jesus.
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Galatians 3:26-27
If our identity is in Christ, then nothing can alter who we are in him. Nothing can touch us!
What are some other things you need to let go of? What is God calling you to give up?