Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Fighting for a Marriage

Leslie Basham: Here’s some of what we heard yesterday on Revive Our Hearts from Joy and Mark McClain and their three children.

Joy McClain: Our wedding day was in May. It was a beautiful May day. And as I said those vows, I meant them. They were something I was going to take very seriously, and I was going to honor them no matter what. And that evening I wrote in my journal, “Today I took a vow to love and honor my husband, and that’s just what I intend on doing no matter what.”

I had always known Mark to drink—more of a social type thing.

Mark McClain: And after we were married, it just started to become an every day thing.

Kristen MClain: And so it was pretty miserable from the time Dad came home until he fell asleep.

Jordon McClain: I just remember laying in bed and hearing, mainly my dad, yelling.

Kristen: Saying things to my mom that should never be said to a lady.

Joy: As the kids got older, so did the intensity in the home—the chaos increased.

Kristen: I didn’t know what he was capable of doing to us.

Joy: Because he had moved from anger to the walls, to the doors, to slamming whatever, throwing something, to he wants to hurt me, and he’s making threats.

Drunkenness is a little more difficult to hide. Yet my heart was evil. My heart was cold. My motives were impure. God showed me and revealed to me the evil in my heart, the selfishness in my heart. He desired to do a work in me just as much as He desired to do a work in my husband.

I had asked Mark to go to counseling. He did go, and when they told him he had a drinking problem, his heart turned hard, and he refused to go any longer.

Jordon: So many people would have just left him immediately, and if not immediately, a couple years into it, five years, ten years into it, but she stayed with him.

Joy: I stayed with my husband for the simple fact that I had taken a vow, and I’d come to the place to understand marriage is a living, breathing example of Christ and His Bride, and He never leaves His Bride. And I knew that my role in this was to pray for my husband.

No one on earth is going to pray for this man like you. You’re one with this man, and this relationship has been severed. And what an amazing thing that is to understand, when you understand Christ and His Bride, the Church, and how important and how intimately we are to walk with Him, no one would cry out for my husband like me and his children.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, April 25.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Yesterday, we began listening to the story of Joy McClain. When Joy first married her husband, Mark, she had an idealized picture of what marriage would be like, but that image was soon shattered as Mark went deeper and deeper into an alcohol addiction. As time progressed, Joy came to realize that she had made marriage into an idol and that she had to come to the place where she acknowledged Jesus as the core, the center of her life.

If you missed yesterday’s program, let me encourage you to listen to that at

Now, on this program, we always encourage people to be faithful to their marriage vows, to be committed to their mate even when it isn’t easy because, ultimately, marriage is not about us. It’s about Christ and painting a picture of His relationship with His Bride, the Church. So when you stay faithful to your mate, you’re presenting to the world an accurate picture, a beautiful picture of Christ and His relationship with the Church.

But even if you’re committed to your mate and to your marriage vows, you may still have to make some difficult choices along the way. What if you or your children are in danger? Could a physical separation sometimes be necessary? Those are important questions, and I want to encourage you not to try and answer them alone.

First of all, get into God’s Word and stay in God’s Word. That’s going to be your light, your moorings, your anchor when you do face difficult situations. And then it's so important to  get and stay connected to the Body of Christ. Find an older, godly, wise woman who can help you navigate these difficult waters, and talk with the spiritual leadership of your church—your pastor, the elders—and ask them for biblical wisdom in your specific situation. Again, if there is abuse in the situation, get help getting yourself and your kids to safety.

If there are laws that have been broken, it is absolutely the right thing to do to get civil authorities involved.

In Joy McClain's case, she wisely consulted with the leaders in her church, and she sought out additional  godly counsel. However, Mark remained unrepentant, and it seemed like she and her family were in greater and greater danger. So while she remained faithful to her marriage vows and continued to pray for reconciliation, there came a point when Joy realized that it was necessary to separate for a time in order to get Mark’s attention and protect her family.

We’re going to pick up that part of Joy’s story.

Joy: Mark had been confronted more than one time, out of love and out of respect, by the elders in my church and by the pastor. They had so many times reached out to him. Sometimes he would talk to them, but never would he be willing to get help, to get some treatment, to do some type of intensive counseling. He shut down on them.

I did not want a divorce. Divorce was not an option. It never even entered conversation. But I did have to set up some type of environment for my children to be safe.

Leslie: The day Joy and her kids packed up was frightening and stressful. They decided they needed to move out while Mark was at work. Concerned how he might react if he knew they were moving, Jordan, Joy’s son had come home from college and drove one car. Joy and her daughters drove another.

On the second trip, Joy thought Jena was going to ride with her brother, but he thought Jena had already left with her mom.

Joy: When she didn’t get out of the car with him, I panicked. I said, “Where’s your sister?”

And he said, “I thought you had her.” And we realized that she was at the house. She had no way out, and it was lunch time.

Jena: I remember looking out the window and seeing that there were no cars there, and it was, like, “Okay, so Jordan just left me.” So I called him. As I was hanging up the phone, I looked out the window, and my dad was pulling in the driveway.

Joy: Jena was there when Mark came home.

Jena: I was just terrified, and I told Jordan, “Dad’s pulling in. Please hurry. Just get here cause I don’t know what he’s going to do.” I went into my bedroom, and the only thing I’d left in there was a little bookcase, and that was between me and the door. So I just kind of hunched down next to the bookshelf in my room and shut my door.

I remember just thinking, Oh, I didn’t lock the door. I didn’t lock the door. I didn’t lock the door. I forgot to lock the door. And I’m so terrified right now cause I don’t know what he’s going to do when he comes in.

Leslie: In that moment, a Scripture came to Jena’s mind.

Jena: It was Exodus 14:13, which says, “Moses answered the people: ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm. And you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still.’”

And that last part, “The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still,” it just kept going over and over in my head. It was like God had inundated my mind with that sentence, and I couldn’t think of anything else. The fear that I had when I saw him come in the driveway, it was totally gone. I had so much peace. I needed to be still, and that was it. And so I just sat there.

I could hear my dad come in, and I could hear him start slamming doors and yelling and cussing, and I never once had any fear. I knew that God had His hand over me. I knew that I was protected.

I could hear him go through each room, just to see—things were gone, things were moved, beds were gone. So I could hear him go through each room, getting angrier and angrier, and he’s coming closer and closer to my room. But I was still not afraid. I still had that peace, and I still knew that God was with me in this room.

He came down the hall towards my room, and he went into his bedroom and my mom’s bedroom, which was next door to mine, and he went in the office, which was on the other side of my room, and he stopped at my door and didn’t even try to open the door. He turned around and got in his truck and left . . . he didn’t say another word. He’d been screaming and yelling, cussing, and just flinging things, and when he got to my door, it all stopped, and he just turned and left.

I had no idea what was going to happen, but God did, and He was there for me that day, and He really showed His protection for me.

Joy: When we lived in the rental home, we began to settle down. We now had safety. And so the high-alert status that we had lived on, it could be erased. Once that did, there was underneath that some emotional, deep wounds that started to emerge from each of the kids. Kristen especially had a very difficult time trying to deal with those wounds.

Kristen: I’d say I was about sixteen years old. It was so tempting to just end everything. I would just want to drive and run my car into a pole just to end it. Almost every time I drove I wanted to.

Joy: She so longed for her father. She always had. She craved the attention and affection and affirmation from her father.

Kristen: And I think the things that really triggered me were when he would call me a name, or he would call my mother a name, or say anything bad about my siblings or my mother, about how I wasn’t doing something right or I wasn’t worth anything. He said a lot.

Joy: And she began to cut herself.

Kristen: It felt like I was alive again, and it felt like I was human. It felt like I could solve my own problem by releasing my anger through self-infliction. Through every cut, I would feel lighter in a way.

Joy: When I discovered she was cutting herself, it was just like another slap in the face. I didn’t know how much more I could take. I was already by myself, eking out, just hand-to-mouth, a living for me and my kids. So much sorrow, and now here, not only in this heap of mess I have with my kids, I have one that’s trying to hurt herself.

Kristen: I didn’t want anybody to touch me. I didn’t want to hug. I didn’t want to tell anyone I loved them. I just became stone. I remember my family trying to hug me, and I just didn’t want them. I just told them to get off of me. It was just a fun day, like Christmas, and I didn’t want them to touch me because I just felt so disgusting and so worthless.

Joy: The kids had spent a little time with their dad, and they didn’t ever see him in a sober state. This particular Sunday they had been with him, and they were so discouraged—especially Jena. She was just sobbing. She told me that she had taken too many pain killers, and instantly regretting what she had done. At that moment, I just snapped into gear. Like any mom would, you just gotta do what you gotta do. You throw her in the van, and you drive to the hospital.

I feel like the absolute failure as a mom. I felt like I couldn’t even protect my daughter from this. “I can’t do this anymore, God. The sorrow’s pelting us. It never ceases. And now I may lose my child?” I just felt so heartbroken for her, for all of them. It was just such a terribly low moment. I just thought, “I can’t do this one more day, God.”

As soon as we got there, they ran some tests and realized Jena had hardly done anything. She had hardly taken enough to put her in a good nap, which I was so grateful for. Then once we knew that, and she was resting in her bed, she looked at me with those big, brown eyes, and she said, “Mom, sing to me. Sing over me.”

Teach me (teach me) to love You (to love You). Teach me (teach me) to pray.

To be able to just hold it together enough to get breath and word and loud enough, you don’t care what you sound like, you’re just trying to comfort your child; but just to hold it together enough to be able to do that when you really just wanted to sink into a heap in the corner and just cry and sob.

Teach me (teach me) to love You with all my soul and all my mind and all my strength. My heart cries out to You.

But I did. I sang to her and held her, and just this smile swept across her face. She was telling me then that I was going to be okay and she was going to be all right, and she was really going to trust the Lord. It was a very vulnerable moment.

Spirit, fill me, groan for what I cannot say.

When Mark showed up, he made a little scene. He had been drinking, so it wasn’t a very pretty sight. It wasn’t about Jena to him. It was about himself. My pastor had taken him out and had a bit of a confrontation with him. When Mark walked away from that talk with our pastor, my pastor turned and looked at me and shook his head and pretty much said, “This is hopeless.”

He didn’t mean that there’s no hope in the Lord. He just meant, “This man’s heart has turned so hard against God, against everything.” He saw no hope.

Honestly, that was probably the first time in twenty-two years I thought, I don’t think there’s much hope anymore when he can know that he might lose his daughter and yet not seem to care.

When we came home from the hospital after Jena had taken too many pain killers, I had for so many years prayed, “Lord, whatever it takes to change my husband.” I had prayed for so many years, “God, not my will but Yours be done. Lord, I just want him to be saved.” I don’t think I felt that way to the core of my being. I think a lot of me still wanted it for me, still wanted it for my children. I still wanted it to be happy. I still wanted it to be resolved so I could feel better that finally the storm is over.

But when we came home after she had had that episode, I really understood, I think, how much it is up to God, and how it really is for His glory. And whatever that looks like and however He chooses to do that is not for me to say so that He will get the glory. I think that, too, was part of peeling away of “self”—more of my heart—peeling away more of pride, what I want, my desires, my dreams, my hopes. They had to fall away.

I got counseling for the girls. They had been in counseling, but we kind of upped that counseling and mentoring and people to walk alongside. There was a girl at that time about twenty-two years old who helped with the youth group who really took Kristen under her wing and spent time with her.

Kristen: It was really very important for other people to pour into us as kids. Seeing other adults care for me and my siblings was also a good testimony for us because we were able to see what normal life would be like when we were staying at their houses. So if you have a friend or you see a child that has a troubled time, make sure to spend time with that person. You may think that they realize that they’re special, but they probably don’t. Anything that you can do in a positive way will affect them more than you’ll ever know.

Joy: I had so often talked to my children about prayer. It was just constant, no matter if they’d spent time with their dad and they came home discouraged; no matter if they were feeling bitterness or just feeling very depressed. My answer to every one of these things was just simply, “Pray. Let’s pray for your dad right now. Let’s stop and pray.” I needed that. I needed that constant communication with my Father and just that constant plea.

I didn’t realize just how seriously Jena especially took this until one day I was putting something away in our little rental home in her closet. I noticed that the entire closet, the walls of her closet were full of prayers written on paper. I had literally just stepped into a place . . . I felt like I was stepping onto holy ground where she had spent hours and hours going before the Throne just lamenting and pleading with God to save her dad and her parents’ marriage.

Jena: I just wanted a place away from everything, somewhere I could go into and just know that it’s just me and God.

Joy: There was an 8x10 picture of Mark and I.

Jena: It was a picture my brother had taken of them when we were on a vacation in Florida, and they were just hugging. To me it was just such a beautiful thing to see them together.

Joy: We started collectively a prayer journal.

Kristen: And it helped me be able to release some of my emotions in a positive way.

Joy: And it’s something that we passed back and forth.

Kristen: I was able to see that I wasn’t the only one that was struggling with these feelings because I could see what my mom had written down and the prayers that she wrote for us, and my sister, my baby sister was praying for me, and she was genuinely concerned.

Joy: The main idea was that they are daughters of the King of kings, and though their father, their earthly father, though he had walked away, their heavenly Father would not ever do that. They were still princesses. They were God Almighty’s little princesses, and they needed to be reminded of that they were beautiful. They were affirmed through God’s eyes. And it was an important tool and really a treasure that I still have of those dark times where we were searching through truth in God’s Word and helping each other do that through this little journal.

Over and over again God kept taking me back to the place of trusting Him.

  • Do you trust Me that your daughter just OD’ed?
  • Do you trust Me that your daughter is cutting herself?
  • Do you trust Me that your husband no longer eats but drinks his meals?
  • Do you trust Me that your son is a heap on the floor, crying?
  • Do you trust Me that you don’t know where your rent’s coming from?
  • Do you trust Me when you don’t know where your next meal’s coming from?

Over and over again that message—so simple—“Do you trust Me?”

Nancy: Wow! You may be listening and saying, “Joy’s story is my story.” Perhaps you can relate to many of the details that she shared. Or maybe your life looks quite different right now.

Regardless of your situation, I think it leaves us all to ask: “What are the deepest needs in my life right now, and where am I turning to get the help I need in life’s tough situations?” The only thing that’s really going to make the difference is crying out to the Lord.

As we’ve heard today, Joy McClain has wrestled with deep heart issues like these, and she tells her story really transparently in a book called, Waiting for His Heart: Lessons from a Wife Who Chose to Stay.

What I love about Joy’s story is that she points us to Christ as our ultimate hope that we need when we’re facing any challenge in life no matter how difficult. Along the way, I think this book is going to give a lot of helpful, practical advice on how to honor your marriage vows even when it looks like everything is falling apart. I think this book will be an encouragement to you and perhaps something that you’d like to share with a family member or a friend who’s in a difficult marriage.

We’d like for you to have a copy of the book called, Waiting for His Heart, and we’ll send that to you when you support Revive Our Hearts with a donation of any amount. Just ask us for the book when you call us at 1–800–569–5959, or visit us online at

Then I hope you’ll watch a short film that our team made to tell Joy’s story. This is a top-notch video with beautiful cinematography, and most of all, I think you’re going to be deeply moved as you see the power of God to provide hope in situations that seem hopeless. It’s a story that will be moving to you and one that I think you’ll want to share with many others as well. That’s all available today at

Leslie: Tomorrow we’ll hear part three in the story of Joy and Mark McClain.

Can relationships that have been so broken be restored? I hope you’ll be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to learn to trust the Lord in everything. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.


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About the Teachers

Joy McClain

Joy McClain

Through writing, teaching, and speaking, Joy helps women understand their redemptive position in Christ. She has authored the book Waiting on His Heart; Lessons from a Wife Who Chose to Stay. Married to her beloved for over three decades, Joy and her husband are passionate about discipling the wearied and wounded in the context of a farm setting where biblical applications abound. They have four children and five beautiful grandchildren.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.