Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: A lot of wives discover that God has used challenges in marriage to make them more like Jesus. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I’m not saying you should say, “Lord, give me a hard marriage so I can be like Jesus.” That’s not the point. The point is there are hard things in your life. Maybe it’s your marriage. Maybe it’s something else. Whatever it is, you can trust that God wants to use it to make you into a woman who’s discerning and wise and knows the right thing to do.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, August 23.

This week, we’ve been looking at the story of Abigail. She was married to a cruel and wicked man, Nabal. Nabal offended David, who at the time was leading a group of warriors in the wilderness. We saw how Abigail used her influence to be a peacemaker in this volatile situation.

The series is called, “Abigail: How to Live with the Fools in Your Life.” If you’ve missed any of the programs, you can visit ReviveOurHearts.com to hear them and you can read it in 1 Samuel 25. Some women have been listening to Nancy’s teaching along with us, and today they’re asking Nancy some practical questions.

Emma Lou: All my life whenever I’ve been around an angry person, it’s just kind of quenched my spirit and made me just want to back away from them and not say anything unless they push me far enough, and then I just go ballistic. I just thought of Abigail when she acted, she did something, but yet she went to David with humility and pointing him toward God’s future for him. I haven’t had a whole lot of chance to apply it, but it’s really helped me in preparing to do that.

Nancy: I think that we sometimes go to one of two extremes. We sit and just listen and take it all in as somebody is being angry. They’re being volatile. They’re being foolish or ungodly in their behavior, and we don’t want to say the wrong thing. We don’t want to be angry. We want to be Spirit-controlled, so we just take it in.

But something is simmering inside of us and churning inside of us, and we’re not really dealing with it. So then comes one final explosion—the straw that breaks the camel’s back. All of a sudden we go ballistic. That says that there’s been something going on inside of us that wasn’t dealing with it.

That’s what I love about Abigail. She did speak at the right time to the right person and in the right tone of voice. Sometimes if you’ll say the right thing when God wants you to say it, it will protect you from blowing up and saying all kinds of things you’ll regret, wish you hadn’t said and shouldn’t have said. You’ll have to go back and be asking forgiveness for the blowup.

Whereas the protection for that is if you will say, “God, what do You want me to say in this situation, to whom?” while your spirit is under control—under the control of God’s Spirit. Then see that that person blowing off or blowing up doesn’t have to control you. That is, as she has said, an opportunity for you to see a need in that person’s life or for you to be propelled into motion to do what God wants you to do in that situation.

What’s driving you isn’t the angry person. What’s driving you is the Spirit of God within you saying, “Okay, now is your time to act. This is what you are to say. This is to whom you are to go. This is what you are to do in this situation.” If you’ll do that in a Spirit-controlled way, many times it can diffuse the angry situation.

Now Abigail’s story, I think one of the things that’s so helpful about it is that it’s not unrealistic. It doesn’t give you this picture that if you are a godly Abigail woman, all the foolish people in your life will turn and repent. Nabal didn’t turn and repent. He refused the grace and the mercy of God that were available to him.

At least Abigail could sleep at night knowing, “I’m not the one who provoked him. I didn’t take matters into my own hands. I wasn’t the one who made his life at home miserable. He made his choices. He made his arrangement with God, and God dealt with him.” Then she was at least free to go on living her life realizing she hadn’t gotten herself tangled with this man in this dance of anger and resentment and back and forth hollering at each other.

That’s where I think so many marriages and relationships get into trouble because we respond like Nabals to Nabals. When somebody acts like a Nabal, we say, “Two can play this game.” We end up saying things that we justify because of what provoked us, but we’re wrong. We’re dead wrong.

One, we end up not at peace. We end up in turmoil because we end up like Nabal and God has to deal with us. And if there was any hope of God using us to turn that person’s heart, that’s gone. See, Abigail was instrumental in changing David’s heart. In that case, because he had a heart for God, her wisdom and her approach were effective. So you miss an opportunity God may have for you to be an influence or an instrument of repentance in someone else’s life if you’re going to be taking up the sword and responding just like the Nabal.

Woman: Do you think it’s possible that our personalities sometimes are too soft though and people take advantage of you? Do you think that can be?

Nancy: I wouldn’t think that would be true of me, but maybe that would be true of you.

Woman: Well, I don’t know. I can remember we were in Colorado one time and my husband said, “Take the car and get whatever it needs for a long trip home.” This guy told me we need this and this and this and this. So I said, “Oh, we do.” My husband got there and said, “Hey, we don’t need all this. You took advantage of my wife.”

So I let him do that. I thought, Hmmm . . . why did I? Then the next morning we did read that the tongue is the worst weapon, and it’s okay to not speak up maybe when you’d like to. But sometimes I think I am too easy.

Nancy: Well, let me just say this. You can never go wrong on the pathway of humility. I think most of us, maybe it’s just because of how I’m wired that this is my perspective, are too quick to speak more often than we are too slow to speak. Otherwise, why would the Scripture keep talking about talking too much, saying too many words, being too quick to speak, quick to get angry.

Now I know there are situations and there are some women particularly in some abusive situations who go back to the situation over and over and over and over again and think that to be submissive or to be godly means they just don’t do anything. That is not what we’re saying. The problem is we can’t distinguish. We don’t distinguish between what really matters and what should just be let go.

I’ll tell you what else. I think there are things in relationships generally that accelerate the tension if we have been picking up and picking on all the little things. That’s what Proverbs talks about. Angry responses stir up strife and contention. If you’re in a pattern of responding angrily or hastily or defensively to life’s little situations that you could let go, then don’t be surprised if you may end up in some really heated situations that perhaps could have been averted.

Again, I’m walking a tightrope here because I know we have some listeners who will hear that and they’ll say, “That’s what I thought you were going to tell me. I’m responsible for my husband beating me up.” I am not telling you that. I’m just saying make sure in all of your relationships that you’re responding in a way that is under the control of the Holy Spirit, that is directed by the Spirit.

That’s what I love about Abigail. She knew when not to speak, and she knew when to speak. The only way to know that is not to rely on your own understanding but to be continually crying out to the Lord to direct your life. Not going based on your emotions. That’s what David did. That’s what Nabal did. But going on inner confidence and light and witness within you that comes from the Word of God and the Spirit of God directing your steps and showing you what to do and how and when.

That’s how an Abigail in a really, really negative, confining, suffocating, hostile marriage can still come out being described as a woman who is beautiful and a woman of discretion. It’s an amazing thing to me because so many times we see women who have been in situations where they’ve been mistreated, been dealt with harshly, and sometimes those women come out just cowering, just beat down, depressed, discouraged.

Humanly speaking, that’s very understandable, but as a woman of God, it does not have to be true of you. If you take action, you get under godly counsel with godly pastor and elders . . . I know I keep coming back to that, but I can’t tell you what’s the right thing to do in your situation. I’m not living with you. But there are those who should be plugged into your life as spiritual guides.

That’s what pastors and elders are to be. They’re to guide us, to direct us spiritually. They should know you well enough and be enough involved in your life that they can help you say, “Look, now is the time. Now is the moment when you need to move out of that house. You need to get out of that situation for your protection and that of your children.”

But in the meantime make sure that your responding is not becoming like Nabal, or God will have to deal with you as well as your Nabal.

Woman: I would like to tell you about an Abigail in my life—my mom. About six months ago I lost my dad, her husband. Since then there’s been a Nabal in her life, but she reacted as an Abigail instead. Just to watch and witness at a very weak and tender time in her life when it would be very easy to respond in an ungodly way she has chosen to allow God to guide her in how to respond to him.

The only way she’s able to do that is she has stayed in the Word daily and just allowed the Holy Spirit to direct her and to help her speak when she needs to speak and be silent when she needs to be silent. My mom’s a person with a lot of personality and a lot of energy, so to be silent would be a challenge for her at times. So it’s just neat to see Gold help her have self-control and just His Spirit living in her.

Nancy: Sounds like your mother is taking the long view, the big view, the big picture. Instead of saying, “I have to deal with this situation here and now,” she’s saying, “My life is bundled up in the life of the Lord my God and I will let God fulfill His purposes in my life, in this person’s life, in the lives of those who are watching. I’m not going to take the place of God. I know that in the long run if I will do right, God will vindicate righteousness.”

I’m so thankful for friends who help me with this when I need it. I was on a phone call, a conference call, not too long ago. Again, in the big scheme of things, it was a really minor deal. There was a situation where I felt I was being wronged. In this conversation with two people who were involved in this situation with me, I found myself going back and rehearsing other details of the history of this story.

I was so thankful for these two people on the call who were well familiar with this. They understood what had happened. I’m sure they were in agreement that this should not have happened. They kept coming back to say, “Nancy, you have to do what’s right. You can’t go there. You can’t bring up that old stuff. It’s not constructive. It’s not necessary. Don’t bring it up. Let it go. Let it go.”

Now here we’re not talking about somebody breaking the law or breaking bones. So I want to be clear as to the extent of it. But when your own emotions are involved, you feel violated. You feel just this instinct to do whatever you have to do to make sure these people come to see they’re doing wrong. The point is, you can win the battle but lose the war and lose peace in your own soul.

I was just so thankful when I was wanting to vent that God loved me enough to put people around me who were familiar with the situation but who said, “You can’t go there. You just can’t go there.” That’s what I needed to help restrain. I’d like to say I could have just been Abigail on my own, but you know we need each other to help in those cases, to help each other see the truth and encourage each other to respond in a godly fashion.

Woman: I have a question about Abigail saying, “It’s my fault” in verse 24 and then in 28, “Please forgive the transgression of your maidservant.” She’s saying, “I didn’t know my husband had done this. It’s my fault. I’m sorry.” I don’t understand her taking the blame.

Nancy: It’s a good question. I don’t know that I’m sure of the answer, but I do think it’s clear in the context that she is recognizing Nabal’s responsibility. She’s clear that he has acted foolishly, and she’s not whitewashing what he did. I think she’s just doing anything she can to soften the situation, to say to David, “We don’t both feel this way.” Without saying it: “If my husband were thinking straight, he wouldn’t have acted this way, so forgive me. Forgive us. Just give pardon,” I think is what she’s saying to David. I don’t think she’s saying, “I’m responsible for what Nabal did wrong.”

I think that’s important because as a wife you are not responsible for what your husband does wrong or your boss or your pastor or any authority in your life. You’re only responsible for how you respond. But I think you can go, when you get involved in a situation like this, to the people involved and say, “Could you just extend mercy? Forgive us. Forgive me. This slight is not intended. The offense is not intended.”

In that sense, you’re trying to reach out and be a peacemaker and build a bridge. I think that’s the heart behind what she’s saying there. “I’m trying to build a bridge” rather than defending what her husband did or saying to David, “Boy, if you come after him, Nabal’s strong. He’s going to get you.” She just didn’t do anything to put fuel on the fire. She’s trying to pour water on the fire to help it go out.

Woman: I guess in the passage you just mentioned about offering to take the guilt, it almost to me looks like a Christ-like quality that she offered to substitute herself for her husband or to take the family responsibility as Christ did for us. Then where she washed the feet of the servants made me immediately think of Jesus bowing to wash the feet and being a servant. So I just saw some Christ-like qualities in Abigail.

Nancy: That’s good. You ought to be looking, when you study biblical characters, for evidences of Christ-likeness. Because anything good, anything wise that any of us does is an expression of Christ living His life in and through us.

I think that humility, that willingness to take the place of the offender, that willingness to be a substitute and to take what the offender deserves—all of those things are examples of Christ-likeness. That’s what draws us to a woman like Abigail. We’re drawn to her because we’re drawn to those qualities that we see that are like Christ.

Diane: I think that one of the things that’s touched my heart is that while Nabal didn’t change, God changed Abigail’s heart because she went to the throne with him. I just think of my life, and maybe it’s because I’m approaching midlife, but I keep thinking that the Nabal in my life hasn’t really changed a lot in the past thirty years. But God has changed me through him.

So I can rejoice and know that God does use all things for good and that God inhabits the praise of His people. So that’s one of my biggest lines of warfare defense in prayer. Now I have a love for my Nabal that I didn’t have thirty years ago. I used to pray for justice, and now I pray for mercy—that his heart will turn to the Lord.

Nancy: Can we make it clear that your Nabal is not your husband?

Diane: It is not my husband.

Nancy: In case you know who Diane is and her non-Nabal husband. Diane, you made an important point there. We need to keep this in mind, that God uses even the offenses and wrongs of others as part of the sanctification process in our own lives.

Consider this. It’s just amazing to me that when we’re introduced to Nabal and Abigail, at the beginning of chapter 25, verse 3, it says, “The woman [Abigail] was discerning and beautiful, but the man [Nabal] was harsh and badly behaved.” Big mismatch there. I mean, they just don’t seem to fit together.

You say, it’s just amazing she had survived however many years it was of marriage to this mean-spirited, ill-tempered man. What if she was beautiful and discerning not in spite of the man she had been married to all those years who was harsh and ill-behaved, but what if she was beautiful and discerning because of the years that she had been married to that man, seeking to know God and to become God’s woman in that situation?

Now, I don’t want to read more into the text than is there. We don’t know. But I do know this. I have seen some women, I have known some women who live with or near Nabals, that have a Nabal in their life. And as a result of seeking the Lord, becoming a prayerful woman, seeking to get God’s will injected into this situation, those women have become beautiful, godly women that you and I would want to emulate.

You wonder, would that all have happened if there hadn’t been a Nabal in their life? I don’t know, but I do know this. I know we cannot become like Christ apart from suffering. God perfected Christ through the things that He suffered. We say we want to be like Christ. We want the glory and the end result without going through the process. The process is the cross. Your Nabal is your cross.

That’s what it means to take up your cross, to follow Christ, to go to the cross, to lay down your rights, to lay down the ways that you’ve been wronged, to let it go. I’m not saying again that certain offenses shouldn’t be dealt with. They should be dealt with. There is nothing that should justify your husband or another man being able to sexually violate your children. That is against the law. It is against the law of God, and it should be dealt with.

But even in the process of dealing with offenses that grievous, God can make you more like Jesus. Now, that’s not to say you wish it. You don’t. It’s not to say if you aren’t married to a Nabal that you can’t become a godly woman. But I will say if you’re going to be godly, if you’re going to be like Christ, there are going to be some circumstances or people in your life that are going to be painful, hard to endure.

You can’t become like Jesus without some type of suffering. You can’t. There are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity. Growth requires hurt and pain.

I live up north where we have four seasons. Nobody loves the winter when, in a way, everything is dead. But you love it when you see the spring. You know that death brings life. It’s as a seed falls into the ground and dies that ultimately it springs to new life. That’s where the harvest comes.

So whatever the circumstances in your life, whether it’s a person or a situation that is having a Nabal-like influence in your life, remember God has purposes in this. God uses even wicked people to fulfill His ultimate purposes. So let God use that to shape you, to mold you.

As I’ve often said, don’t run from the cross. Don’t resist the cross. Don’t resent the cross, but what? Embrace the cross. In the process of going through that suffering, that cross, that’s the shaping of an Abigail.

I guarantee you, Abigail went through a process of just living in a hard world and in a hard marriage. That is part of what accounted for her becoming the woman of God that now we’re talking about thousands of years later and saying we want to be like her. We want to be like her, but we don’t want to go through what she went through.

I’m not saying you should say, “Lord, give me a hard marriage so I can be like Jesus.” That’s not the point. The point is there are hard things in your life. Maybe it’s your marriage. Maybe it’s something else. Whatever it is you can trust that God wants to use it to make you into a woman who’s discerning and wise and knows the right thing to do.

Leslie: God can help you be the kind of wise, discerning woman Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been describing. At Revive Our Hearts we want to assist you in that process, offering resources like our current series on CD. It’s called, "Abigail: How to Live with Fools in Your Life."

We’ll send it to you along with an accompanying study guide when you donate to Revive Our Hearts. Our web address is ReviveOurHearts.com. If you’d rather call, use the toll-free number: 1-800-569-5959. Be sure to specifically ask for the CD and study guide, "Abigail: How to Live with the Fools in Your Life." 

Nancy Guthrie only had a few months with her daughter, Hope, before the child died of a rare congenital disorder. Nancy Guthrie opens her soul about the grief she experienced and provides a balanced, biblical view of suffering.

Nancy Guthrie: Getting through this is going to require making the hard choice of not becoming women who are defined by our grief. Do you know women like that? At some point it just became their identity. Ladies, there is only one thing that we want to be defined by, and that is not our grief. We want to only be defined by our connection to Jesus Christ.

We’ll hear from her Monday on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.