I was a wife willing to stay and keep my vow, no matter what. I desired a good thing—a godly marriage. Yet I failed when the desire to have a godly marriage became my idol. In my pride, I wanted others to think we had it all together. I placed that demand upon my husband who chased the elusive mistress of alcohol. He was locked in the prison of addiction while I was held captive as well. Fear drove me. I was fearful that the life that I had desired would never become a reality. I was fearful that I would never feel loved by my husband and would continue to only know deep sorrow from the unraveling of our household and marriage.
If you are waiting for your husband for whatever reason, first of all, your sorrow is legitimate. It is extremely hard. But none of your tears or prayers will be wasted. There is great value in your waiting, praying, hoping, and surrendering. God desires to work in your marriage, but it may begin with you.
Here are some ideas of how to live while you wait:
1. Ask the Lord and others for wisdom.
If you’re a wife in a difficult circumstance, it’s vital that you continually ask the Lord for wisdom, clarity, and discernment. The fog of hurt clouds judgment; seek wise counsel and prayerfully make decisions that align with God’s Word. If you are experiencing physical abuse of any kind, get away from the situation immediately and get help! This might look like calling the authorities and contacting the leadership within your church to inform them about what’s going on within your home. It is imperative that you and your children are safe. Know that oftentimes it can be difficult to see just how much the chaos is affecting the children. Do not simply remain in a situation that is dangerous or becoming dangerous. Don’t wait for something “bad enough” to happen. The lie that you “need” your spouse to survive is exactly that—a lie, and it is often used to keep you in a controlling and dangerous situation. There is no space for allowing guilt to drive your actions or remaining silent. Ultimately, it is God who is your provider and protector. Do not be paralyzed in fear, and know that it isn’t loving to allow your spouse to abuse you or your children.
2. Remember that God is working even when you don’t see it.
It is impossible, with your limited knowledge, to see all God may be doing to draw your husband to Him. You might not see evidence for years that God is convicting him. That doesn’t mean God isn’t pursuing him. Remember that God has an eternal perspective. His timetable is not your own. While it may appear as if God is silent, realize that we cannot fully comprehend the magnitude of all that He is doing and how He is working in a much larger realm than our eyes can see, especially when you are so focused on the pain in the moment and on your desire for an extended season of “waiting” to pass.
3. If your husband isn’t a believer, don’t expect him to act like it.
Perhaps you can’t believe the kind of movies your husband watches or the language that spews out of his mouth. Maybe he doesn’t like to go to church and becomes agitated when you bring up anything to do with God. Darkness does not like light that exposes sin. If he doesn’t have a relationship with Christ, he doesn’t have the Holy Spirit to help him discern right from wrong. His eyes are not open, and his ears do not hear. Instead of putting expectations on him, pray that the blinders would be removed from his eyes. Pray he would have a softened and pliable heart towards the Lord. It is not your job to convict, pressure, lecture, or bring your husband to the Lord. It is the Holy Spirit that will woo, convict, and draw your husband to Himself.
4. Be a peacemaker.
That doesn’t mean you don’t stand up to sin. But it does mean respecting your husband as a person. You can hate the sin without disrespecting the sinner. Be cautious with information you share with others. Guard your mouth carefully around everyone, especially your children. Prayerfully consider to whom and how to share. It’s imperative to get others to pray for you and for your family—and specifically your husband. You need support and wise counsel. Seek to be driven by love and hope of reconciliation rather than bitterness and revenge. Ask those close to you to keep you accountable about your attitude. Use the community of the Body of Christ for prayer and the intention of healing the marriage and prayer. Your children might struggle with frustration and bitterness. Help them navigate through these emotions by giving them a safe place to express their feelings and gently leading them to pray for their father, rather than adding fuel to the fire by bashing him in their presence.
5. Don’t allow despair to be your identity.
Although your marriage is not what it could be or what you desire, there is still a life to be lived. Your identity should not be found in your struggles any more than it should be in the success of your marriage. First and foremost, you are a daughter of the King of kings. God Almighty has called you His own. No one and nothing can remove your true identity from you. Remain focused on eternity by remembering that you are a child of the living God above all else. Others are watching you and how you respond to your trials. You’ve been given a platform to live out the gospel despite your difficult circumstances, and God can greatly use your sorrows to be a light and example to others who are going through a similar situation. Your faith is being given an opportunity to be exposed to those around you. You don’t have to be perfect or pretend that you don’t have grief. Being honest is part of the witness. Yet despite these sorrows, you can live a life that testifies that you are loved and cared for by a God who sees.
6. Have a right theology.
There are times when life isn’t fair and it just simply doesn’t make sense. It can be tempting to blame God for the sin that man has committed against you. Doing that leaves you with a tilted perspective that God has changed in His character . . . or that He isn’t good. But He is the constant and unchanging Father who sees and who is equally compassionate. He understands unfair. While without sin, He was pierced for our transgressions. Invite God into your sorrows and your doubts about his intimate love for you. If you have resentment and anger towards God, express that to Him. He desires that you bring everything to Him, including your hostility. Ask Him to give you a right perspective that is tethered in truth. Ask His forgiveness when you have been resentful and bitter towards Him. Realize that He is a Father who loves you and understands your earthly struggles.
7. Grieve your loss.
While you don’t want to remain in your grief, it is necessary to realize you have been affected deeply by things you could not control. Unpacking those deep hurts is helpful in your processing and moving towards healing. It doesn’t mean you forgive and forget, but rather that you forgive and choose to move on. It might be beneficial to seek out biblical counseling to help you process the wounds. Healing will take time. You didn’t get where you are overnight. Be patient with your progress and trust that God will not leave you in the rawness of your pain. Your pride can tempt you to appear to be super spiritual and to have it all together, when you know deep inside you are an absolute mess. Be transparent, honest, and willing to allow the Lord who is near the brokenhearted to cover you with His perfect peace.
8. Extend mercy.
Remember that God first extended mercy to you by offering His Son on the cross. You were shown mercy and given grace while you were still a sinner. Mercy might not seem fair. Mercy might not even be what you want to think about, but it is your heart attitude and motives that matter. Even when you are struggling with the aspect of forgiveness, ask the Lord for a pliable and contrite heart. Ask Him to give you the ability, by His grace, to see your spouse through eyes of experiencing the undeserved mercy of God. Mercy doesn’t mean that you become a doormat when it comes to sin. You are to be wise. Mercy is necessary for your heart to recognize that God is the ultimate judge and that you can trust Him to deal with the sin as well as the sinner. It is because of mercy that any of us are called children of God.
9. Don’t let bitterness take root.
We are easily enticed into believing we deserve our love returned. The enemy can be relentless in his vile lies to you about all that you deserve, how God has failed you, and how you are justified in your hatred. But if you allow those thoughts to consume you, bitterness will destroy you. God is a righteous God, and He will deal with sin. Even in times you are called to take a stand, God will ultimately be the One who deals with the other person in their disobedience. Bitterness is a cancer; it will affect every area of your life. It will eat away at your joy. It is difficult to be obedient when you are driven by a heart that is consumed by hatred. It is especially important to continue worshipping and to keep praying about your unforgiveness. The world will tell you that you have the right and the duty to be bitter. But the world isn’t seeing your circumstances framed through the redemption of the cross.
10. Be willing to examine your own heart.
This is perhaps the most important lesson of all. God wants to work in you. He doesn't want to leave you where you are—He loves you too much. He wants to increase your faith, your reliance upon Him, and your love for Him. Be willing to allow God to transform you. While this hard circumstance doesn’t seem much like a gift, it will perhaps be the thing that God uses in your life to refine your faith the most. Trust that He is working for your good, even when you do not understand. His heart is for you, His compassion fails not towards you, His ears are tuned to the cries of His beloved children. You are a beloved daughter of the “El Roi,” the God who sees.
I unpack more of these concepts in my book, Waiting for His Heart: Lessons from a Wife Who Chose to Stay. My husband’s addictions are just the backdrop for my story of how God used a long and heart-wrenching season to bring me to the point where I desired Him above all else.
God loves you. He will never reject you. He hears your cries! He longs to draw you close and fill you with His supernatural peace. No matter what your circumstances, no matter if your situation never changes this side of eternity, God is there. He is the steady hand underneath your days.
For more of Joy’s story, watch the video below.