Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Healing from Hurt in Relationships

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss was counseling a friend whose husband had hurt her through his sin. How did this wife respond?

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Instead of turning against her husband, she’s crying out to God for grace and believing that God has grace for her, for her husband, for their marriage.

Leslie: Today, we’ll hear how it’s possible to show that kind of attitude. This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, November 7.

Yesterday, Nancy and a group of friends began a conversation about men, women, hurt, and healing. The truth is that men and women can hurt each other. The pain can be intense. You’ve probably experienced it. Nancy and this group are dealing honestly with that hurt and showing how the gospel can transform those hurting relationships.

This group got together to discuss a workbook Nancy wrote with Mary Kassian called True Woman 101. They’re discussing a chapter called “The Battle of the Sexes.” Nancy and Mary are joined by Erin Davis, Carolyn McCulley, and Dannah Gresh. Nancy will pick up the conversation.

Nancy: We get thousands and thousands of emails at Revive Our Hearts and Mary you do, too, at different ministries that we’re involved in. Most emails are from women because we’re ministering to women, and so many of them are telling about the pain of an unfaithful husband, of abusive relationships, language, making them feel worthless, being demeaning. I’m not saying every relationship is that way. Thank God there are some healthy marriages and loving men and women who feel cherished and nourished. But some of the ones who are really hurting will write to a ministry like ours and pour out their heart. And your heart does break.

But we also get a few emails from men. We’re not really targeting them in our ministry. But they hear what we’re saying about women and God’s call on womanhood. Some of these men have been very wounded by mean women. In fact, I had a woman whose marriage has broken up tell me recently . . . She’s married to a non-believer, was married to a non-believer. She was the Christian, but she had become in the course of the years a shrew.

She broke down and wept when she told me of the time when her husband looked at her and said, “You Christians are so mean.” That was a point at which she began to realize that not only had she been harmed through this man. I mean, this man had done some really vile things, and there was so much hurt. I won’t go into the whole story but just on many fronts she had just been really wronged by not only this man but perhaps other men.

But then, when it hit her that her nasty, sharp, harsh tongue and spirit had decimated her husband, that was a point at which she stopped throwing darts and began just taking responsibility for her own sin. She can’t take responsibility for his, but that was the point at which repentance kicked in.

Now to see this woman. The marriage blew up. He’s now married to the other woman, and she’s not going to have that husband back again. But she is one transformed woman because this whole conflict, the battle of the sexes, she began to see how sin had caused the pain. Her husband wasn’t the issue. Sin was the issue. She was not only sinned against, but she was a sinner.

Mary Kassian: That’s such an important point, Nancy, that sin is the issue. We always need to remember that we need to look at things through the lens of sin. We are affected by sin, and God calls us to righteousness and to step out of that sin. That even impacts the choices that we make in those situations, the choices that women make in those situations, when they’re in a situation where they’re being harmed by sin.

Dannah  Gresh: I’m married twenty-three years as we’re taping this to a godly guy that I just can’t wait to get home to. I mean, we just took this summer and just poured ourselves into our relationship, and we’re like nineteen year olds. We just can’t stop hugging and touching and cuddling and talking. What a sweet relationship the Lord has given us.

But if I backed up to our early marriage, my husband struggled with pornography before we were married. He was a virgin that loved the Lord and really just believed that this horrible problem would go away when we got married, and he could enjoy a relationship with his wife. But it didn’t. We endured about three years of just pain and hurt.

I have been very public in my writing and in my books about my healing from being sexually active as a teenager and really just the heartache of my life. The Lord had to really bring me to a place of believing that His death and His blood was big enough for me because even though I was a Christian when I was sinful, I just didn’t believe it was enough.

So here you have this relationship that is a Christian relationship, but it’s become unhealthy and unholy. I’m trying to heal from my sin, and he is trying to stop his sin. There are times, I believe, through godly counsel, through pastoral counsel, through Christian intervention that a woman can draw a line in the sand, and that’s what I did.

I said, “Honey, I love you. I love you dearly. But I’m not going to live in a home where there’s pornography. That is abusive to our relationship. I am going home to spend some time with my family. I’m not inviting you to come with me. But when you’re serious about fighting this and winning it, I’ll be back.”

And in five weeks, my husband was radically transformed. It was only a couple of weeks until he said, “You know what? I can win this. I’ve been given everything in Christ to win this.” There are cases when you draw the line in the sand when you don’t have a husband that responds to that. But in my case, I was blessed with one who did. He rose up to be the godly man that God designed him to be in this book. We’ve lived twenty-three years now in a beautiful relationship. I just think that some women need to know that through godly counsel—not on your own—that you can draw a line in the sand and say, “I know my value in Christ, and I expect you to treat me accordingly.”

Mary: I’ve watched through situations with girlfriends of mine who were being abused by their husbands. This one girlfriend had her husband telling her, “Well, you need to submit to me, and that includes submitting to the way that I treat you.” And he started physically abusing her. I was walking that through with her because that’s not what the Bible teaches.

We do not submit to sin. We do not submit to unrighteousness. If your husband asks you to watch porn with him, your higher calling is to respond to the right thing which is responding to God. See, Eve responded to the wrong thing. We’re responders. We need to have that response of soft spirit. We want to respond to the right thing, and we want to be that helper that challenges our men to a higher standard of godliness.

I know that in my marriage there is no one in my husband’s life that can gently and with as much impact challenge him to be the man he needs to be in a gentle and loving and godly way at the right time. When I speak a word, he listens because of the power, I think, that God has given us to be influencers in that way.

Carolyn McCulley: We see a great example of that in Scripture with Abigail. When her husband is foolish in 1 Samuel 25, he doesn’t want to respect David and the cultural customs of looking out after the sheep. He disses David. And the servants go to Abigail, obviously knowing she’s a wise woman. They say, “You’ve got to do something here because now the armies of David are going to descend on us.”

She gets prepared and goes out to meet him, and she humbles herself. The Scripture says she was beautiful, but that’s not what David comments on later on. She humbles herself before him, and then she calls him to a higher standard. She says, first, and this is my paraphrase, “I know what God’s going to do, and I know how He’s anointed you.” She expresses that faith. And then she says, “When you enter into your kingship, don’t enter with blood on your hands.” She calls him to be a godly man. She says, “This is who you can be. Be that man.” And she used every bit of her initiative and her planning and her creativity and her words and her personality. Everything.

And David saw it and relented. To me that's a wonderful picture of what a real helper looks like. There’s nothing fainthearted about that. There’s some bold initiative. It’s a belief in “I know what God’s going to do, and I’m going to call you to believe what God’s going to do” and with the right standard.

Nancy: It’s also not a woman just cowering in fear in being overcome by evil but a woman overcoming evil with good.

Mary: I do not think that this is a path that women who are not believers can walk. Because of the battle of the sexes, because of the conflict of sin, because there’s so much brokenness, I think that we need to know Christ. We need to have the power of God’s Holy Spirit in order for us to navigate this path of what it means to live out a godly life and how to make those decisions, because we can’t be simplistic about it. We really need to take the whole counsel of God into mind when we deal with those types of issues.

Dannah: And you’ve got to have the Spirit of God guiding you when you take those stands, when you take those strong stands, when you verbalize, “Be this man.” If God’s Spirit is not in you empowering those words, they can be done through the flesh. THen it becomes a battle. It escalates the battle.

Mary: Yes. It escalates the battle.

Carolyn: That’s usually because you’re pointing to your own standard. “Be this man. This man I expect you to be rather than be this man that God wants you to be.” That’s very different. Jump through my hoops versus meet God.

Mary: Or, you deal with your sin before I’m going to deal with mine.

Carolyn: Right.

Mary: Instead of examining our own hearts and our own sin and looking where God wants us to change.

Carolyn: That’s why it grieves me every time I hear a criticism that this position is making allowances for women to be abused. But if you say, “I want every bit of your intelligent submission as unto the Lord in order to show this redemptive picture of the gospel in marriage” is that allowing for abuse? No way. No it doesn’t because the Lord doesn’t allow that. He shed His blood because of this cycle of abuse and anger and anger in response to being abused. And there is no room for that.

What we have to do is help each other by taking seriously the potential for this in marriage and asking good, loving questions. And where we have questions, being the body of Christ to each other, so what is hidden is pulled into the light and has a chance to be redeemed. But in no way, in no way does it condone abuse.

Nancy: And when you think about those issues, it’s really no wonder. The women’s lib issue is really no surprise.

Carolyn: Right.

Nancy: Because it was addressing real issues that women saw in real women’s lives that they experienced themselves.

Mary: I mean, bigger cultural issues even. Carolyn, you travel around the world. We’ve all seen these bigger cultural issues where you have women being sold into prostitution. You have the young brides, these twelve-year-old brides that these businessmen come in and use and abuse and take off. They buy them. Or in Thailand, the sex trade.

Dannah: And Indianapolis and Texas. I mean, it’s here. It’s happening here.

Carolyn: My concern is there’s this big push now for what they call “The Girl Effect” to invest in women and girls around the world which on the surface is a good idea. But what’s lurking underneath it is this idea in certain cultures like, “We’ve given money to the men, and we can document this aid money goes to prostitutes and candy and alcohol. It doesn’t go to the family. But if we give money to women, then they use it to feed their families and build up their communities.” So they’re all rushing to fix this problem by throwing money at women.

Now, I’m not saying women shouldn’t be educated and women shouldn’t have an opportunity to use their skills in the market place. But what I’m saying is, I look at that and say, “Yes, that’s a big problem. But now we’re going to recreate the same issues here, and we’re not going to actually bring these men to repentance and reconciliation apart from the gospel.”

So my heart is that Christians are on the frontlines of this—especially those of us who embrace biblical womanhood. Where women who are made in the image of God are put down simply for being female, we should be on the front lines of making a difference there, making a difference with the gospel of repentance. Because it will do no good to say to all those men, “You’re bad. You get no more from us. We’ve put everything in the girls.”

Mary: That’s exactly feminist’s solution, right? They identified a problem. Feminism identified a very valid problem. The battle of the sexes is real. It exists. I’m sure you hear of stories from the young girls that you deal with.

Erin Davis: They are very much struggling. “Identity” pretty much sums up every issue in young women culture. But this is a huge tenant of it. They don’t have great relationships with their dads. We’re talking about a generation now where the minority of them have relationships with their dads or have dads at all. There’s definitely not a granddad in the picture and a dad in the picture. So we have no context for how to even relate to men.

The mom’s been carrying the whole burden of the family because of that situation. So the mom is strong, is swinging the hammer, is paying the bills, is doing everything she has to do. And then these women, young women, have no idea how to relate to young men their same age, younger than them, older than them. It’s not a marriage situation for teenage girls. That’s not what’s happening at all. It’s happening because they don’t know how to relate to their fathers, their brothers, their peers, and so it’s very much happening.

Mary: The message is that men are responsible for women’s pain and hardship.

Erin: Absolutely.

Mary: So we need to become independent, take care of ourselves. It really fosters a bitterness and an anger against males.

Nancy: Which is how the feminist movement really developed. They’d all been through anger and bitterness in response to some real problems.

Erin: Real issues.

Mary: Well, I think the whole problem is they turn to themselves. We, and I don’t even want to use the term “they” because it’s my tendency as well. I turn to myself for solutions instead of turning to the Word of God. And I say that I have the capability to clean up this mess, or I have a better idea of how things should work to get it cleaned up, instead of looking to God’s Word first and foremost and trusting that if we do things His way, we’re going to see the redemption come into the relationships.

Nancy: The fact is, that we’re all sinners. Genesis makes that clear. Romans 1 makes that clear. When we pass judgment on others, we’re really passing judgment on ourselves because we’re all fallen. We’re all sinful. I think what we have to realize is that there is no hope for solving male issues, female issues, male/female issues apart from God’s solution, turning to the Word, turning to Christ and the redemption that is in Christ.

That’s why the gospel is good news because it delivers us from ourselves. We have watched God redeem fallen women’s lives, each of our lives. I sometimes think about where any one of us would be on the anger scale, the bitterness scale, the violence scale.

Mary: Double A personality anger.

Carolyn: Triple A bitterness will not be pretty.

Erin: That is true. That is certainly true.

Nancy: Just let me hear some stories out of your experience, your own or others that you know about how the gospel and God’s ways have redeemed women’s lives and relationships. Because we’ve talked about the pain and the sin and the brokenness but Psalms tells us that with Him is plenteous redemption. I love that word. Plenteous redemption. There’s hope through Christ. Talk about some of the women’s lives and relationships that we’re seeing, we’ve seen changed by the gospel. Even if all the problems don’t go away, how do you get hope through the gospel?

Dannah: Well, I immediately just think that it is just so merciful and gracious of God that He would take someone like me who grew up knowing the gospel, who loved Him with all of my heart but then departed into sexual sin as a teenager. And then He would say, “You are the one I want to carry my message of purity.” And I would look back at Him and say, “I’m sure You’re pointing at the person behind me because do You know what I’ve done? Do You know where I’ve been?”

For me, in my heart and my sin, you can talk statistics and science and understand it all from that standpoint, but until you understand God’s redemption through the gospel and the beauty of sexuality through the gospel, for me that was what was like, “Oh. This is why it hurts so much. And this is why I’m so healed.” It always comes back to the gospel and that He uses women like that every day.

I have a dear friend that was marred by abortion. She is counseling women in an abortion clinic every day to wholeness and healing and sometimes rescuing babies that would otherwise not been rescued. He takes our greatest weaknesses and He stamps His strength in that place.

Mary: I think of a girlfriend of mine, and she had so much in her life. She was dealing with anorexia. She had had sexual revolving-door relationships. She had been abused as a child, sexually abused as a child. She came to the point really of deep, deep depression and almost suicide. She had all of this sin and all of this pain and all of this brokenness. I prayed with her and walked through the road with her. At the end, it wasn’t the end of her journey because she is still on the path.

At one point I asked her, “Where was God? How do you process all of this pain and suffering?” She looked at me, and I’ll never forget it. She just beamed. She said, “At the time I thought that He’d abandoned me. I thought I’d gone through it because He didn’t love me. But now when I look back, I see that He loved me enough to walk every step of the way through healing with me.” And she said, “My experience was literally like walking through hell. I would never want to go back there. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world for what God has brought out of it.”

Carolyn: You said she was radiant and that fulfills Psalm 34, verse 5, “Those who look to the Lord are radiant, and they have no need to be ashamed.” Even in your worst circumstances, if you believe, you’re looking at them with gospel eyes. God can change this. He’s in the business of changing people. He’s about recreating the whole order. When you believe that, there is radiance even in the midst of your suffering.

Mary: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that story. Not those same details, but the terrible darkness and pain and someone saying, “Jesus has brought me out of it, and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything because it proved to me how big He is and how wonderful He is and how good He is.”

Nancy: And that’s where the grace of God is such an amazing thing. We have to cling to that even on the side where you can’t quite see the outcomel; where you can’t see the glory that it’s bringing. I was with a couple last week who she just two weeks ago found out that a few weeks before that her husband fell morally. (She thought they’d had this great faithful marriage all these years, and they had had.) A woman just wormed her way into that family, became friends with the wife to get to the husband, and pulled him down. It was a Proverbs 7 picture. I mean, he’s taking full responsibility. But I was listening to this thinking, This is so awful on every front.

Okay, so here’s this wife just in deep, deep pain, and she can’t see the outcome. But it was such a sweet thing to see her. Instead of turning against her husband out of her pain, instead of lashing out of him . . . I mean, what he did was horrible, and she’s deeply hurt. She’s sobbing, but she’s turning to the Lord. She’s crying out to God for grace and believing that God has grace for her, for her husband, for their marriage.

I read to her that beautiful passage in Isaiah 61. I read to them together because he came into the room and the two of them were just sobbing. I just thought, If people who are thinking of going their own way instead of God’s way, could just see how painful this is, maybe it would make them stop.

Well, they didn’t stop. Now, it's gut wrenching. But to read to them that passage from Isaiah 61 where it talks about God turning ashes into beauty and mourning into joy . . . Thank God, they’re both turning to the Lord for hope, redemption, for grace. They’re going to find hope. They’re going to find restoration. They can’t undo the sin of the past, but they can move forward.

And I just said, “The day will come when out of your life message, both of you, individually, wife, husband, couple, and your children perhaps someday (the kids are little), but for generations to come there will be a life message of the power of God’s grace to transform pain, to restore fallenness, to take what the enemy intended for evil and to turn it to good.”  

So we don’t glorify sin, but in the midst of great, great, sin—where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. That’s why we’ve got to keep in our pain—whether we’ve been the one sinned against or the one sinning or both—we’ve got to keep turning our heart toward God and His grace and saying, “With You is plenteous redemption. With You is hope because of Jesus Christ.”

Dannah: If I could just say that I think the power in the story you just told is that they drug it out into the light. They came to you, and they probably went to their pastor or others that were in spiritual authority to them. I don’t know the specific story. I don’t know those people. But I really believe that though God gives us the gospel for our forgiveness and the cleansing and the grace, He gives us the body of Christ as the process to aid in the process of healing.

James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins one to another and then you will be healed.” So my prayer is that any woman out there struggling today would hear that and would go find a true woman to tell her story to and to drag it into the light.

Nancy: And together get to the cross. Get to Christ. Get to grace.

Dannah: Yes. Yes. Yes.

Erin: All of this is such a reminder of how many of us have just been fighting the wrong battle. The battle of the sexes is absolutely fighting the war on the wrong front. When we understand what’s really at stake, that it’s about the gospel and what’s really on the line here, then we can turn the weapons that we have at our disposal toward the right front and start doing some winning. So instead of fighting each other, we start fighting for truth and find some victory.

Carolyn: That eternal perspective is about the only thing I know with a couple that I know. Unlike some of the illustrations you all have brought, it's not a case of sexual immorality but financial immorality. He ended up making the national news. It was such a punch in the gut to her to find out her husband had been engaging in this kind of impropriety and then to have all the news crews and everybody else camping out on your front lawn. It’s like, “How do I deal with this?”

I’ll never forget hearing a very wise older couple who are counselors. They said, “You know what we’re praying for?” (speaking to the wife). “We’re praying that you will live in light of eternity; that you will live in light of knowing what the Lord is about in your husband, and that in this life you will think of your marriage twenty years down the line. Don’t respond to this right here. Instead of seeing it as being traumatic, see this merciful intervention from the Lord.”

He exposed a sin, and it eas painful. It was painful for everybody. It was so painful. But the transformation that happened in her husband over the next two years was just incredible. I’m so glad for the counsel of this other couple—for her to live in light of eternity and thinking of her marriage twenty years down the line. Otherwise, she could have just turned with such recrimination forgetting that God was mercifully exposing hidden sin.

Erin: And she could punish that man for the next thirty years with her words if she wanted to, and feel justified in doing so and be encouraged to do so by the culture. But instead, in realizing the truth of the gospel and applying it to the relationship in her marriage, it ended very, very differently.

Leslie: That’s Erin Davis. She’s been talking with our host Nancy Leigh DeMoss and a group of friends. We heard from Mary Kassian, Carolyn McCulley and Dannah Gresh. They’ve been discussing one of the chapters in a workbook Nancy and Mary wrote called True Woman 101: Divine Design.

Imagine having your own discussion with your friends. You could discuss how this topic affects you in your situations. Would you consider getting a group together and going through True Woman 101: Divine Design? Studying this material will challenge your thinking and discussing it with others will provide accountability and encouragement.

We’d like to send you True Woman 101 when you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Ask for it when you call with your donation. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Well, tomorrow, we’ll hear from an older woman who wanted to invest her life in others. She wondered whether the younger women in her church would welcome the opportunity to get together. She was surprised at what happened next. Find out more tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

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

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