Help for Hurting Marriages

Sept. 21, 2013 Jani Ortlund

Session Transcript

Jani Ortlund: Welcome. My name is Jani Ortlund. Jani rhymes with Annie, Granny, Frannie. My legal name is Jan, but I've been Jani since the hospital. So my husband said I had to choose one or the other, because he didn't want to be married to two different women. So we went with Jani, and that's kind of a goofy name. But I'll answer to Janie, Jenny, Junie. I've been called them all.

Welcome. We're going to be talking this morning on "Help for Hurting Marriages." I'm really excited about this topic. I do want to start us in prayer. But before I do that, just let me say we do have an outline. I like to teach from an outline, because it keeps me honest. I can't go off on bunny trails as I want to do, and it keeps you hopeful. You know where we're going and where we'll be.

Actually, I have a very special guest with me here today. She happens to be the favorite person in my family, because she is now producing our next grandchild, number ten. Her name is Stacy Ortlund, and she lives in Wheaton with our third child, Dane. She has three boys, and now she's going to give us a little princess in January. So we are very grateful.

But one of the things I love about Stacy is she brings me to the gospel. She prays for me. She loves me. She speaks truth to me, and she lets me talk to her. We've become friends through their twelve years of marriage. And so Stacy, would you be willing to pray for us? Do you mind?

Stacy Ortlund: Pray with me. Lord, I thank You for setting aside this time where we can come and talk about something that isn't always easy to talk about. And I thank You for setting the stage with Paul Tripp and Your message of grace to us. I pray for my dear mother-in-law, Jani, that You would allow the grace that she experiences to flow through her to minister to us in our marriages. We need You and Your grace to make a difference. And so I ask that You would speak through her those words that we really need to hear, those words of comfort that come through the good news of Your gospel. So we thank You for this time and what You will do in our hearts. We pray these things in Jesus' name, amen.

Jani: Amen. Thank you. Well, you are here because you either are struggling in your own marriage or have struggled in your own marriage or you're working with women who are struggling in their marriages and you want a little encouragement. I don't blame you. I've been in both places.

I honor you. I want to encourage you today in your ministries. Your work is vital to the work of Christ. We live in a day of messed-up marriages. Oh my. A Christian marriage should be the happiest most exemplary relationship on earth, because it's meant to display for all the world to see the love of our Bridegroom, Christ, for us and our joyful flexible submission and adoration of Him. That's what marriage is supposed to display here on earth.

Every marriage should be a love story full of romance and joy and security. No one enters a marriage thinking, Hmmm. How can I ruin this and cause pain to everybody whom I love? No one does. But something isn't working. We sense it. And it's not working even within our own churches. Divorce rates within the Church of Jesus Christ is very similar to divorce rates outside the Church. This ought not to be. Oh, may God send revival!

Marriages get messy, because every marriage is a lifetime commitment to an imperfect person. That's so hard. How can we walk alongside women who are struggling in their life with the imperfect person they chose to live with and help them to see and absorb and embrace his imperfections unless they can confess their own and walk in the grace of Christ as Paul and Elyse and Nancy have so wondrously been teaching us?

The women you're working with, and maybe you, are teary, they're tense, they're tired, and sometimes they're even terrified. They're afraid that they don't have what it takes to sustain a lifelong romance with a man they promised God they would love until they died.

How can we help them? What is the only hope for hurting marriages? Psalm 85:8: "Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints." God's Word through the living, crucified Jesus Christ is our only hope for hurting marriages. God's Word is our best counselor.

The Bible teaches that God's Word is God breathed. I want you to think with me for a minute about how close you have to get to someone to feel their breath. That's pretty close, isn't it? That's what God's Word is to us. It's His living breath upon us, that closeness to God. He breathes upon us. Every problem, every doubt, every question, every heartache, every betrayal between here and heaven will find its resolution in God's breath upon us, God's Word to us as we draw near to Him, and the Holy Spirit breathes out revival, wisdom, grace upon us.

As a leader in God's kingdom work, learn to take in God's Word first. Spend time with Him. Fight for it. Claw for it. Scratch for it. Do whatever you need to do to be in close enough communion with God that you can feel His breath upon your soul.

Time with Him is more important than any seminary course you could ever take. It's more important than any podcast you could ever listen to. It's more important than any book you could read or blog post that you could read. It's more important than any conference or seminar or breakout session you would ever attend. Let the wonderful Counselor speak to you as He breathes on you His holy Word.

The Bible says that God—it's a very interesting concept to me. He continues to give wisdom to those who receive it well. Listen to this verse. Daniel 2:21: "He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding." At first reading that verse seems a little bit unfair, doesn't it? "Well, that's not fair. They already have wisdom, Lord."

Listen to how Jesus puts it in Matthew 13:12: "For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance." Do you see what Jesus and Daniel, really Jesus through Daniel, are saying? God gives wisdom to those who receive it. How do you receive it? By spending time with Him. Do you need more wisdom? Come, come, come to His Word.

You can't give to others what you don't have yourself. The most important thing you can do as a woman of Jesus Christ, as a minister to others of His grace, is to receive His grace yourself. Cultivate your relationship with Jesus Christ and then speak so lovingly about Him that others in your spheres of influence can't resist coming closer to you to get a glimpse of Him.

It's like that airline steward who always says, "You know, when the oxygen mask comes down, fix it on yourself first." And if you're a mother, there's something within you that just says, "No, no, no! I want to help my baby first." But it's that way in our walk with the Lord, too. So often we want to speak right away, give them help. They've come to us, they're teary, they're crying, they're upset, they may divorce, and it's just awful, and we just start wanting to pour out. We can't pour out what hasn't been poured in. Put on your own oxygen mask first.

Howard Hendricks was one of our favorite profs at Dallas Seminary when we were there in the mid-seventies, and he wrote this: "If you want to minister to others, ask God first of all to minister to you. Jesus works through you by working in you." We saw that this morning, didn't we?

What you are doing here, sister is so important. Oh, I want to lift you up. I want to encourage you. But it can also be very distressing. Some of you may struggle with feelings of inadequacy. I know I do. I mean when Nancy's people called me, I don't have people. It's just me. (laughter) And I went online and saw who was going to be speaking. I went to my husband, Ray, and said, "No, I can't." And he said, "Well, the Lord is going to call someone to do this. He's given you an opportunity. If you say no, He'll use someone else. But why not say yes and trust Him with it?" We're all filled with feelings of inadequacy.

God is working a plan, His kingdom plan. He's calling you to be part of that plan. You can say no. He'll just use another sister. So why not say yes, and see what He'll do through you? The Bible teaches that our inadequacy is not a problem to God. It's His strategy. It's a wonderful strategy.

Think of 2 Corinthians 12:1–10. And I might add I'm not going to one particular passage. I'm speaking more topically on how to help hurting marriages. And so that's why I printed out a lot of the references for you. But the Bible teaches that our inadequacy is not a problem. It's an advantage because Jesus is stronger where we're weak.

If I was adequate in myself, I would trust my own skills and insights. I would trust my own experiences, my own wisdom. But I'm not. I have endless needs. That isn't a problem to God. Your needs, your inadequacies are not a problem to God. They're His strategy to use you greatly in His kingdom.

Don't let your feelings of inadequacy muzzle your ministry. Let your weaknesses draw you closer to Him. You can say yes or you can say no to God. He will get the job done, but He might choose another if you keep saying, "No, I can't. I can't. I don't have what it takes."

Others of you may just be doggone weary. You've been in ministry for a while. The phone keeps ringing. The emails keep coming in, another text here, another text there. I hope today will encourage you and restore you. I hope you can go home tonight revived. God sees you. He understands you.

Remember the big picture of God's work in your life. He chose you before the foundations of the world. And He created you in Christ Jesus for good works, which Ephesians says that God prepared those good works beforehand for you to walk in. Ephesians 1:4. Chapter 2:10.

"He formed all of your days and wrote them in His book." He wrote today in His book for you, for me, "before one of them ever yet was to be" (Ps. 139:16). He gives strength. He gives strength to the weary. And He gives power to the faint. Are you weary and fainthearted? That's not a problem. Your labor for Christ is never in vain. That word "vain" means "weightless." Your labor for Christ has weight.

God is not so unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you are showing for His name as you minister (Heb. 6:10). You and I serve a God who remembers. He sees. He cares. Let your heart take hope.

Now, I want to tell you a little bit where I'm going to go. I'm not a counselor. I'm not a licensed counselor. I'm an elementary school teacher, but God has called me to speaking in this portion of my life. What I'm sharing with you comes from forty-two years of marriage to my husband, Ray, and four grown children who are married and producing the most delicious little grandbabies in the world.

Without Christ working in me, I would have nothing to offer you. Whatever I say today that is worth remembering is from Jesus. What doesn't feel, sound like, look like, taste like Jesus, let fall away and forget. May He be lifted up. May He be glorified.

I want to start by giving you just some general principles that have helped me as I've worked with women through the years. And then narrow it down to three specific types of problems that we tend to deal with as we're working with troubled marriages.

So let's think just generally over some principles that can help us as we work with women who are hurting in their marriages. The first one is this: As her friend, as her ministry leader, as her counselor (she may look to you as a counselor), remember that caring for another person is not a two-way relationship ever. As Paul taught us so beautifully this morning, it's always, always, always a three-way relationship. We are always bringing Jesus to them. You are not alone. When you care for someone, Jesus is there with you.

Matthew 25:40 puts it this way: "'As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'" Jesus is with that woman as she's coming to you. Or 1 John 4:12: "If we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us." A human presence, your human presence, makes Jesus real to that woman. Don't forget that. You are not alone. Oh, thank You, Lord.

Secondly, pain is very personal. A woman may come to you with the exact same problem that another woman came to you with—maybe it's pornography, maybe she's committed adultery—but it is very personal to that specific woman. Don't try to fix her pain. I mean, we want her pain to go away. We want her to feel better. But you can't always fix pain. Someone has said, "You fix things. You relate to people." You fix things. You relate to people. I got that quote from a wonderful book on counseling called Don't Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart.

Validate her pain. Believe her pain is real. Don't make her try to convince you how much she's hurting. Use words like, "Of course you feel that way. I would, too." Share the hurt. Proverbs 25:20 says, "Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day." That means more exposure, you know. Or "like vinegar on soda." More frustration. More confusion. Don't sing songs to a heavy heart. Pat. Pat. "It's going to be okay."

I love this story of the preacher's daughter, a little five-year-old girl that liked to come into her dad's study as he studied for the sermon. And on this particular Saturday morning he was really behind the eight ball on his sermon. And he really didn't want her in there, but she was playing around and he just tried to ignore her for a while. And eventually she went into one of his drawers and accidentally shut the drawer on her finger and started howling. And by this time he had kind of had it with her noise, so he gently picked her up, walked her to the door, put her outside the door, and said, "Now, go to Mama." And shut the door on her.

Well, she ran down to the kitchen where Mama was and just exploded into more fits of sobs and wails. And her mom comforted her, put ice on her finger. But after about ten or fifteen minutes of this wailing, her mother thought, What is the matter? She won't stop crying. And mom asked her, "Darling, darling, your finger can't be hurting that much. Why are you still crying?" She stopped long enough to say, "Because my daddy never even said, 'Ohhhh.'" (laughter)

The woman who comes to you needs to hear you say, "Oh! Oh!" If that is all you say to the woman who comes to you, you've validated her pain.

Thirdly, be careful about personal illustration. Now, it's good in a sermon or a lecture. I'll give a couple today just because it gives you breathers and gives you time to connect with me. But one-on-one, they're not always as strong. I'll make a little exception to that in my final point. But our main role as a person helping a woman in a hurting marriage is to listen and then to listen and then to listen some more, because most likely her husband does not. Probably her mother-in-law is not and maybe even her own mother is not. She needs someone to listen to her.

Ask open-ended questions, not questions that end in yes or no. "Tell me about your worst day last week." "Describe the feelings that are going on in your heart right now." You know in Job we make a lot of his friends and how nasty they were to him in condemning him and making him feel like it was all his fault. But in Job 2:13, you read that those friends had sat for seven days in silence with him. It's good to do that. You don't always have to be reproducing words for your counselee or friend or woman in your ministry to be healed. Someone wrote, "A listening friend is like someone's human journal." A listening friend is like someone's human journal. Let that woman write her story on your heart.

And then finally, tears are good. Don't be afraid of tears. Welcome them. And don't be afraid of crying with them. Jesus wept. He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled. He understands when a soul is so moved and troubled that tears come.

Crying is healing. It's cleansing. It releases tension. Psalm 34:6 puts it this way: "This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles." The Lord hears our cry. Let your friend cry with you. If she cries with you, don't worry. That means she trusts you.

Now there are many different ways we can approach this subject. I think a lot of marriages run into trouble over the whole area of communication. And at first I was thinking, well, maybe we should talk about communication. But the more you get down to it, the more you see that every hurt in a marriage is a heart hurt. Even in communication problems, because out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Everything comes down to a heart.

So I want us to think about three areas where women's hearts hurt in regard to their marriages. My outline is this: How do you recognize that this is where she's hurting? How do you help her? And how do you bring Jesus to her?

The first one is the woman who comes to you. I think she's the easiest to recognize, because she has big bags under her circles under her eyes—big blue circles. She's tired. She's exhausted, in fact. I think it's one of the first pains that women incur in marriage. And it's a discouragement and guilt bubbling up in her about how tired they are.

They didn't realize it would be this way. They thought that once they got married, they'd have someone to help them and it would be less work and more easy. And they come home from the honeymoon, and they realize that his needs have multiplied. (laughter) This is compounded once a baby arrives. The demands increase and the fatigues intensify.

You'll be working with a woman, maybe you are right now or have, who is shocked by how tired she is. Ray had the privilege of marrying a young couple in our church in July. I just saw the wife three weeks ago in church, and the first thing she did was burst into tears. And I said, "Are you tired?" "Yes. I didn't think it would be like this. I'm exhausted." And then you feel that guilt. "I should be joyful. I married the man of my dreams, and I'm so tired."

She feels alone. She's not sure how to get her husband to help her. She's confused, because marriage isn't what she thought it was supposed to be. She's disappointed. Her dreams aren't coming true. She's defensive that there's just too much on me, I can't do everything. And she's guilty, because her husband has asked her to grow in this area or change in this area and she feels like, "I can't. What about him? What's his part?"

I remember the night well. Stacy, this is about Dane. I didn't ask your permission yet, but he was only nine months old, so you had nothing to do with it. Dane was nine months old. And we had our first three children in rapid succession. So he shared a nursery in our little 900-square-foot house with the other two kids who were two and three.

And Dane was not sleeping through the night. And generally that didn't bother me too much. I kind of loved having a little time with him. He just always wanted a little snorkel of milk to make it till 6:30. And so I was glad to oblige for a while.

But what I found was, after a while, I was really getting tired. I hadn't had a full night's sleep in what had felt like years. And you know, frankly, I was just kind of bugged at Ray. Every night Dane would cry, and Ray didn't hear him. Our house was not that big. It was five steps from our bedroom to their bedroom door. And I was just beside myself.

So I remember I started crying right there beside Ray. Do you think he woke up? (laughter) He didn't. I'm married to a wonderful man. Really! He's just a sound sleeper. Soon, my sobs turned to wails. He finally woke up. "Honey, what's the matter?" "I'm so tired. I can't do this anymore."

He'd never seen me like this, because I had never opened up to him. He got up, got Dane, brought Dane to me. And that morning, bless Ray Ortlund, Jr., he called a friend, an older friend. The kids were gone, and he asked if I could use their guest room that night. And Ray said, "Honey, don't worry. I sleep through his crying anyhow." (laughter)

He sent me to my friend's house. I got eight hours, and that eight hours did me for a long time. You know, if you can get eight hours of sleep you can go on it for three, four, five years. I don't know. (laughter)

But many of the women you're working with are just doggone tired. That is one of the easiest—although it doesn't feel easy to them, because it's so extended on into their future if they ever want another baby. You know . . . well, I won't go there. I don't have time for that.

Assess the difficulties as they come to you. How do we help this woman? She's like a tree with no roots. Her roots just can't go deep into rest. So that the storm comes, and it blows her over. You need to be that anchor for that tree. You know a little sapling, if you're growing one in your yard, you'll sometimes root it with ropes. This woman looks fine on the outside, but any storm could blow her over. You need to help her roots to grow deeper into the wisdom of God, into His grace for her.

We're flesh, and we're blood. God made us this way. He gets it. He was flesh and blood. Think of one of the ways our enemies torture each other—sleep deprivation. Sympathize with this lady. Validate her fatigue. Of course she's tired. She's not superwoman. With all she's doing, of course she's tired. Help her to remember that fatigue is not a sin. It does not need to be repented of. There's no guilt here. And there are many who feel the same way. The world is run by tired people.

What does the Bible say about fatigue and sleep? Maybe you could look at some verses together. Maybe you have. Give her the hope that Jesus carries her babies with her. Isaiah 40:11 says, "He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young." Give her hope.

Talk about her schedule. I'm sure you might do that a little bit. Do you have any resources you could offer her? I don't know in your women's ministry, in our women's ministry we have a dinner schedule. It doesn't have to be for newborn babies. It can be for the mom with the one-year-old who hasn't learned to sleep through the night yet. Maybe if every Friday night she knew a meal was coming in, that would be enough to get her through until he was five or six years old and sleeping through the night. I don't know.

Maybe you have resources to give her a babysitter for two hours a week where she could take a nap. Does she need coaching on helping her baby sleep longer stretches of time? There's a wide variety of resources there. I'm not going to go into all of those. But validate her need for sleep and help her.

It could be that it's not a baby that's keeping her awake. It could be, in this woman's marriage that you're working with, it's anxiety—a striving of the heart Solomon talks about in Ecclesiastes 2. "Even in the night his heart does not rest" (v. 23). Elyse talked about that. Oh, I love that woman.

Talk about that. Go to the gospel. Go to Psalm 127:2. Psalm 127 happens to be the psalm about all the arrows in your quiver, all the babies, what a blessing they are. It also talks about not sleeping. I love that. Psalm 127:2 says, "It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep." Maybe you could memorize that together and when she awakes at night she could say that.

How do you apply the gospel to this woman who's exhausted, weak, faint, spent? Bring her to Jesus, who welcomes tired people with open arms. God never sleeps. So she is never alone. "Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep" (Ps. 121:4). He understands and hears. He wants to lift her burdens, not add to them. Matthew 11:28: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Bring her to Jesus. Bring her to Jesus. Bring her to Jesus. He can be better than any babysitter, better than any pizza you can deliver on Friday night, because Jesus will never leave her.

Now for me, those are generally younger women who come to me with this fatigue. "I'm not sure I can do this. It's just too much." Let's go into that second woman that you may be helping. That tense woman. You recognize her, because she's strained, she's anxious, she's a little bit brittle, she's nervous. Maybe she's experiencing anxiety attacks. She needs more than physical support of a meal or a babysitter.

Generally I find that this type of difficulty arises after four or five years of marriage where they've kind of gotten through the fatigue issues. "Okay, life is tiring. I'm going to do this with the Lord as my help." But now, there comes in this tension of "You know, I'm kind of scared. This isn't what I thought my life was going to look like. When I thought about marriage, I had a certain plan out there, and I was going to work the plan and we were going to go there together. And it's not working."

Maybe this woman's husband has lost a job, and she has to go back to work and she doesn't know how to do it. Maybe there are family difficulties. Maybe there are less than thrilling times of personal intimacy with her husband. Somehow she's frozen in her fears, and it makes her withdraw. It ruins her resiliency. It controls her responses in life, squelching all her joy. She is like that chocolate in that beautiful box of chocolates that you bite into and it's empty. On the outside she will tell you she's fine. But inside, she's disappointed and she fears her love might die.

She may have discovered pornography on her husband's computer or she may be suspicious of adultery. She may be pointing the finger at her husband but secretly worrying that a part of the problem is her. There is a division building in her marriage that scares her, and she's afraid she won't make it to the end. If she could just get him to confess and change, then everything would be all right. But if he doesn't, she might have to go without him. And that terrible "D" word has crossed her mind.

How can we help her? Well, let me give you a breather right here for a minute. I was a senior life guard and Red Cross life guard when I was in high school. And we had a little saying. Maybe those of you who've done lifeguarding know this. You measure a person's difficulty in drowning, how much they need help. And then you determine, after you assess that, how you're going to help them. You either throw something, you row in a boat, or you go if they're real in desperate need.

The first one, when we talk about you can throw something to—throw a meal, throw a babysitter. This woman you need to row out to. You need to walk with her. You need to have a cup of tea with her. She needs time to relax and write her journal on your heart over an extended period. Take her out for tea or coffee. Arrange time for her to breathe slowly with you. Think in terms of months or years together, not necessarily weeks.

Each time you meet, ask God for a word of Scripture that speaks the gospel to her. And what I do is I copy it off on three index cards for me and three index cards for her. And we meditate on that verse together in between our times. And we try to put one on our dashboard of our car, near our kitchen sink, near our bathroom mirror, somewhere where we will see it and mediate on it.

I've included some verses here for you. You ask the Lord what verse would speak His gospel of grace to that woman. One of my favorites is Psalm 62:1: "My soul finds rest in God alone." Oh, it brings us to the cross, doesn't it? Your marriage will never bring you the soul rest that you long for and need. Only Jesus can. Where are you going for your soul rest?

Or Psalm 34:4–6: "I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all of his troubles."

Psalm 34:8: "Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!" She needs hope that He's good. "Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!" Psalm 84:11: "The LORD is a sun and shield. . . . No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly."

Jeremiah 31:25: "For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish." There are so many that speak of Jesus talking to that woman's heart. That's what she needs. Apply the gospel. Apply the gospel to her needs, her tenseness, her anxiety, her fears. Her fear is the worst enemy of her soul.

Romans 15:7 puts it this way: "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you." How often do we apply that to women in our discipleship group or women in our Bible studies or women in our small group or Sunday school classes? How often do we apply it to our husbands? Accept him as Christ has accepted me. Another way you can translate that word "accept" is "welcome." How does Christ welcome us? With open arms. Oh my. All relational restoration begins by going back to the cross.

A heart aloof from God creates aloof relationships, aloof marriages, faultfinding, comparisons, finger pointing. That's what aloofness from God does. Jesus never points His finger at you. How good to see that. He never shakes His head and says, "Again? You've done it again?" You will never hear that from your Lord.

He never compares me with Nancy or Elyse. Thank you, Jesus. He just expects me to be Jani. That's how He accepts me. That's how He accepts you. He expects you to be you. He created you to be you. He delights in that. He created that woman's husband as well and delights in him.

When I really grasp what it took for Christ to accept me, it makes it so much easier for me to accept my husband. Marriage means being willing to be unhappy at times, because we live with an imperfect person. That's why we promise God we will love each other. Yes, it's to our man as well. But the vows are to God. That's what marriage vows are for.

Give this woman not only Romans 15:7 about accepting her husband, not bringing the law down on him, not pointing her finger at him, give them the hope of God. Listen to these verses. Isaiah 41:17–18. If you hear nothing else today, hear this. I love these verses.

"When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them." And listen to what He says, "I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water." Do you get what He's saying? God does not need good conditions to create beauty.

Bring that friend and go with her back to Christ. He can make a spring of water flow in her desert. In that hard place, God will bring His living water.

Think of the Samaritan woman at the well. She takes her supposed need, and Jesus shows her her real need. He takes the initiative in John 4 and speaks to her, which is a remarkable break with culture in and of itself, showing her how much He cares for women who are caught in a bad relationship. Oh my. She'd had five husbands, either divorced or dead. We don't really know. Now she's living with the sixth man who was not her husband. Jesus knew. Her physical thirst was a minor need. Her heart thirst was what really mattered to God. She thought she needed a faithful man. She needed a faithful God. That's who that woman needs more than a faithful man.

Pray that God will give you the gospel to give to her. It is so counterintuitive. It's so hard for me to teach the gospel, because I can't really grasp it. I don't really understand it as well as I should. But let's be women who ask God to reveal the gospel to us in deeper, more beautiful and more satisfying ways so that we can live it out and give it to the women who come to us.

Ask God for living water. He gives it without pay, Isaiah 51 says. He doesn't charge for it. Lead her to Jesus where all tensions can be released, all finger pointing stopped, all aloofness warmed. If she needs to love her husband more, ask God to rekindle her love for Jesus.

And then I'm just going to take one or two minutes on this final point, because it's a little bit tricky to counsel one in this area. But I did need to mention it. There will be women who come to you who are terrified, because they're living in a house of abuse. They may not be able to talk about it at first. They may be afraid to talk about it. But you will eventually identify it. You may see the marks. If a tired woman is like a tree without roots and a tense woman is like a chocolate with nothing inside, a terrified woman is like a bird with broken wings. And it will be hard to get close to her.

She will need to be treated with great tenderness. Jesus spoke most tenderly to those who were in sexual sin. John 8, the woman caught in adultery. Oh my. You won't be able to throw her something. You probably will not be able to row out to her. She will not want you to come to her home. You may need to go and just get her out somehow. There may need to be an intervention when she's outside the home.

You will need more than you. You will need at least two or three other numbers that she can call. If you give the tired woman a dinner and you give the tense woman a cup of tea to talk with you, then this woman needs a key. She needs a key to a safe house. Maybe it will be yours. We've welcomed women and children in like that. Maybe it cannot be yours. But there needs to be a place.

She feels caught and is too frightened to try to escape. She may need a few days away just to think things through—not to leave her husband, but just to think things through. Apply the gospel to her. There is always, always hope. It's very dark for this woman. She's scared. But listen to these words in Isaiah 43:18–19: "Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."

That is the God you serve. That is the Lord Jesus Christ you give—the ever renewed, full of hope and grace and peace of the gospel. In this wilderness, in her desert, God can create a river. She will not die of thirst. Help bring her out of her desert by giving her Jesus. You may need to call in some others to help.

Let me close by just encouraging you. And then we'll have maybe seven or eight minutes if you have any interaction questions, discussion, prayer concerns.

Who are we as women leaders? What does the Bible say about you? About me, as we lay before the Lord Jesus Christ and say, "I'm here. I want to be used. You called me. Show me your gospel." This is what the Bible says, "We have been . . . entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God" (1 Thess. 2:4).

Second Corinthians 9:8 tells us that we live within God's all sufficient grace so that in all things and at all times we may abound in every good work. That's the kind of God we serve. That's the kind of grace He gives us.

And then finally 2 Corinthians 2:14–17. You and I, we are the aroma of Christ to God who is using us to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. We're women of sincerity commissioned by God and in His sight we speak Christ to hurting women. Oh, what a Lord we serve. Praise Him. May He give us the power to do that.

Let me pray for us, and then I'll entertain questions until we dismiss at twelve.

Oh, Lord, thank You for seeing. Thank You for caring. Thank You for knowing. Open up our hearts anew to You. Teach us more about Your gospel so we do have something to say. Thank You for welcoming us in our weakness. Oh, Lord, when we're tired, when we're tense, when we're scared, give us Jesus. And may the God of peace equip us with everything good that we will need to do this year. Through Jesus Christ, to Him be the glory, from now and forever more. Amen.

Now, we have five minutes. Are there any responses? Any questions?

Woman One: First of all, great job, great job, great job. You did great. Just want to ask you, how would you respond to the woman who's been in a relationship with her husband twenty-five, thirty years, and he is not changing and he is not making any effort to make things better and she's decided to stay in the marriage?

Jani: I actually have been working with a woman who's been married a little bit longer. I've been working with her for eight years in that same situation. There have been two times when he changed a little bit, but then fell back into old patterns. I would say, "Way to go. Hang in there. May I walk with you?"

As long as he's not abusing her . . . He may be neglecting her. Sometimes there will be a husband who's not caring financially or often times physically for his wife and her needs. I would say, "Hang in there. Tomorrow comes the dawn. You don't know. His mercies are new again tomorrow. And maybe the mercy tomorrow will be the mercy you've been praying for for twenty-five years. Keep hoping. Keep walking. Keep looking."

Yes, in the back.

Woman Two: Do you have some advice for us as to how much of our own personal experience we should share while keeping respect for our husband and not gossiping about our husband in sharing and relating? Thank you.

Jani: Yes. Is your husband a pastor?

Woman Two: No, he isn't. He's a music minister.

Jani: But he is in a position of leadership within the church?

Woman Two: Yes.

Jani: How many of you are married in this room? Keep your hands up if you're married to someone who's in a position of leadership in ministry. Okay. There are several of us in here. I think this would apply either way.

I so appreciate that although Ray has a bazillion of reasons to use me as a personal illustration of what a bad wife to be, he never does. I so appreciate that. And while we want to empathize with our friends, I would be very, very careful to not share your husband's sin.

Now, today, I gave an illustration of Ray, but hopefully you saw that it was something he couldn't really control. He's just a heavy sleeper. And as soon as he... He helped me. I would be very, very careful.

In fact, I can't think of a time where it would be helpful for me to say, "I know just what that's like. My husband's just like that. Isn't that awful?" And you know, you're trying to empathize that you've been in that situation. That doesn't really help. Then she's just got more ammunition against another man. I just say, "Oh! I'm so sorry. That must be awful. I am so sorry. What does the Bible have to say about this? What does Jesus have to say?" So I guess I would give a caution. Be very, very careful.

Now, this is the one time and I didn't have time to mention this in my third point so I believe the Lord is saying, "Now is the time." The one time when I've used personal family illustration has not been about my husband but about my father. Because on occasion when a woman has come to me and she has been molested or sexually abused by her father, I will share my own personal story and the story of our family.

The reason is that it gives her hope that there is life beyond abuse. But I don't do that across the board. I do that very, very carefully. And I even cut it out of my third point until the Lord opened up an avenue. That is the one time. But it's not about my husband. It's about another family member, and I try to keep it as tangible as I did right now on the meaning of that. Does that answer your question?

Any back there? Yes. Good. We've got time for one more.

Woman Three: With the first question that the lady asked in the back, when does the Matthew 18 principle come to play where we get the elders involved with the husband who is not repentant and has been approached privately but doesn't still repent? And I know we're all sinners, but is there a point when we get the Matthew 18 principle involved?

Jani: Again, I think a man's ego is so fragile. That's why we're called to respect them and they're called to love us. We're really black holes of "love me." We just need lots and lots of love. They need lots of respect. I can tell you I've been married for forty-two years, and we've been in ministry forty of those years. I have not yet gone to bring in other people. My husband has once.

It's a wonderful principle. It's a biblical principle. I just say please be cautious, because what can happen is we can jump to that. Okay, we're working with her. It's not working. There's continued sin on the husband's part. And I just feel women want to jump in and fix it.

I also will say that if I'm going to do something like that, my husband and I counsel couples together. I never counsel a husband and wife alone, because I feel that it makes the husband feel ganged up on just as if I was having a problem and I went to a pastor and he had Ray there, kind of the two of them.

So if there was a situation where the wife was experiencing great distress in her marriage that wasn't being relieved, her husband was in sin, he was committing a sin—either adultery, thievery, you know whatever the sin is. And as they're working together as a couple with another couple and he's still resistant, then I would go husband and wife, counselor and wife, pastor and woman counselor, to the woman and say, "Would you like to take this to the next level?" But with great care.

It's kind of like the last straw, because after that, what is it? Excommunication. It's a very hard question because we want to fix it. "If he would just get it, she'd be a wonderful wife." It's so hard. And we see her hurting year after year after year.

Well, time is gone. May God bless you as He uses you to spread His grace in other marriages. Have a good lunch.