Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Marriage Lessons from the Book of Job

Dannah Gresh: Sarah Walton was feeling like life was just getting back to normal again when her husband Jeff had some hard news.

Sarah Walton: He waited until the kids went to bed, and he sat me down and said, “So, we have another chapter for our book. I lost my job again.”

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for June 18, 2020. I’m Dannah Gresh.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: It’s one thing when things don’t go the way you want them to—you don’t get the promotion you were hoping for or your kids just can’t seem to sit still. It’s what a meteorologist might refer to as a “light rain.”

Sometimes, though, the intensity gets turned up, and you find yourself in the middle of a downpour.

This could be a serious health challenge. Financial difficulty. Or severe relational issue. You wonder if you’ll make it through the storm. If you’re married, you may wonder if your marriage will make it through the storm.

In the midst of it all, we need to remember that God is not absent in those storms. In fact, there’s an interesting pair of verses in Psalm 107. Verse 25 says, “He commanded and raised the stormy wind which lifted up the wave of the sea.” Have you thought of God as being not only aware of but behind those circumstances?

But then we come to verse 29 of Psalm 107. It says, “He made the storm be still, and the wave of the sea were hushed.” In the midst of our storms, we need to learn to look up to the One who sometimes makes the stormy winds come, but in His way and in His time, He also calms those storms.

Today on Revive Our Hearts, we have some seasoned storm survivors. Here’s Dannah Gresh to introduce our guests.

Dannah: Not very many of us walk down the aisle on our wedding day with hopes that we’ll see a lot of storms in our marriage. We’re usually looking for that white picket fence and a whole lot of normal. But right now, life’s not that normal for many of us.

Today we’re going to hear from a couple who long before there was a pandemic in our world faced some storms in their lives, in their family, in their marriage that made things look really abnormal, very painful, and very difficult.

But today, I’m happy to say that they are still Together Through the Storms, and that is the title of their book, the sub-title is Biblical Encouragements for Your Marriage When Life Hurts.

Welcome back, Jeff and Sarah Walton. How are you today?

Jeff Walton: Doing great, thanks, Dannah.

Sarah: Yes, we’re great. Thanks for having us again.

Dannah: We had such a rich and transparent conversation yesterday. If you missed that program, be sure and go back to it. You’ll hear how Sarah and Jeff had their first baby suddenly enter into an undiagnosed challenge in his body that caused him to react erratically on a regular basis. And that got so far out of control that Jeff had to quit a very lucrative and successful job as a physician consultant. Sarah had to care for a boy who at times had to be held down for his own protection as well as the protection for their other three children They made some drastic sacrifices, held on to the Lord, and they’re still here today together through the storms.

Guys, I want to talk to you about something that we began to talk about yesterday but I think is on the minds of a lot of people right now: What advice do you have for families who right now their economic condition has changed dramatically and maybe even the identity they had through careers that have shifted? How do we make it through that? How do we embrace the new normal and thrive and survive and stay together through the storms? What advice would you have, Jeff, for couples?

Jeff: That’s a really good question and something that we’ve had to address because I’ve been through two bouts of unemployment through company layoffs. I’m currently in one of those right now, actually. So along with millions of others that are out of work and facing, as you mentioned, just the unknown of where the next paycheck is going to come from, when that’s going to come, and even just from the standpoint of the necessities. How are we moving forward? Where are we going to see relief?

I think what has helped us . . . This is a long process. This is not something that can just be a flip of the switch. But as we continue to press in to the Word of God and continue to seek Him, I think with all these questions that are arising right now of “Why? Why would my company have to let me go or to even furlough me and just decrease my pay if it’s in that circumstance?”

And now families that have their kids at home and the extra stress of trying to e-learn, and all of the swirling about where, as you mentioned, the normal is now . . . throw that out the window. It’s trying to fight just to survive and make it through the day.

I think what we really need to look at is, first, all of these questions that we are facing and you and your spouse are dealing with at different levels. We need to continue to be reminded that Christ wants to hear from us. We can’t just bottle up. We can’t just keep this to ourselves.

I think one thing that we try and draw out in our book that is very applicable to today and what everyone is going through is just the idea of lamenting. What does that really look like? Just in simple terms, as we are grieving—and the background of our book is walking through Job. Job . . . what a great model.

When you look at this, Job lost everything from his job, his cattle, all the livelihood around him, all of his relationships, all of his ten children. And he lost the relationship, at least, with his wife because there’s very little about how that even looked after she was trying to encourage him to curse God.

On top of all that—as if that wasn’t enough—we see Job hit with just this horrific condition all over his body with sores. So that causes isolation. Now he’s isolated from friends that are still alive, and his wife is out of the picture, that we can see.

So where do we go from that? So this is Job wresting as to why—“Why is this happening, God?” He has no idea. Fortunately, we can see the exchange between Satan and God and as to why this happened, but Job didn’t know that. God didn’t even reveal that to him at the end of the book. So all we are left with is just knowing that Job is in pain. He can’t even sleep and rest. He’s getting tormented in his dreams just because he’s in discomfort and he’s wrestling. So he can’t even get a good night’s sleep.

And that can be people today just because now they’re home, dealing with their kids, trying to work from home maybe, if they still have their job, or looking for a new job. They’re probably not sleeping well; stress is on the rise. So where do we go?

It’s so important to bring this first and foremost to God and remember that He wants to hear all of these questions.

Dannah: Do you think He wants to hear us say, “Why, God?”

Jeff: I do. And that’s one of the most fascinating things. When you look at Job and certainly in the Psalms and the book of Lamentations, if you read and really meditate on the words that they’re saying, it’s shocking to me because I don’t talk that way, or in the past, I hadn’t talked that way to God. It almost seems like he is complaining, and is that okay to mention out loud to God?

It’s incredible to really study what true biblical lament is. I think the difference is it’s a matter of the heart. Because if we’re just complaining, we’re just going to be going in a circle. There’s no output for that. We’re not seeking Christ. We’re just kind of spewing all of our hurts and our pains, but it doesn’t lead us anywhere.

So the biggest thing I think we need to remember, and we can see modeled in the life of Job, is that when we are walking through the process of lament and just talking to God, bringing our pain, our confusion, all of our questions to Him, we see that turning point in a lament. It says the “and,” the “yet,” the “but,” and that turns back to our trust.

We need to remember in these days, no matter what you’re going through right now in your marriage, or dealing with the uncertainty of, “Where is the next meal going to come from?” For us, we’re on Food Stamps. There’s that struggle of, “Do we have enough to still maintain where we were at?” But there has to be trimming back, so we’re wrestling with what that looks like.

We have to in these days look back and remember God’s faithfulness in the past, because right now everything looks like, “There is nothing good that can come from this.” And that’s the story of Job. There is nothing good, and Job cries out, “Why was I even born? Why?”

Dannah: Sarah, that’s some serious transparency right there. A man who was at the top of his game in his career sacrifices for his family and comes home but can now say, “I’m not employed right now.” What have you done as a wife to both lament the situation but support your husband?

Sarah: That is such a good question. I think I was encouraged this second time. Jeff actually, I think it was five months ago, had just been hired, and we were still thanking the Lord for the provision. I actually was with you at a time at Revive Our Hearts.

Dannah: Yes. We hung out a little bit in November together at the Sisters in Ministry conference with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and Mary Kassian. I don’t know, maybe about fifteen to twenty of us just getting in the Word together.

Sarah: Yes. It was such a blessing. I arrived back home on that Friday, I think it was, and he waited until the kids went to bed. He sat me down and said, “So, we have another chapter for our book. I lost my job again.” And I was floored. I think I let you guys know that right after that.

Dannah: You did. I remember getting the text and thinking, Oh, we were just rejoicing that things are getting easier and things are normalizing—let’s not use that word anymore, actually.

Sarah: Right.

Dannah: But they weren’t, were they?

Sarah: No, they weren’t. As hard as that was, I actually saw God’s provision in that because my heart responded so differently than it did the first time. I had so much of a stability. I was shocked. I was actually purely shocked. But I saw, more so than the first time . . . I think the first time I was not only shocked, but I responded more in fear. I think that fear probably came across more to Jeff as, “What did you do wrong?” Like, “This is your fault.”

I don’t think I said that the first time, but I think the Lord used that time to reveal to me, in the aftermath of that first job loss, that my heart was feeling a little bit of a resentment that I felt a little towards Jeff. But in the end, I realized it really was to the Lord.

I felt like the Lord owed us because we had followed where we felt like He was leading. It took sacrifice, and I think deep down I was thinking, Lord, You need to take care of us now because we followed You. We trusted You. We took sacrifice to trust where we felt like You were leading, and now it feels like You pulled out the rug from underneath us.

Dannah: You wanted a reward for that decision.

Sarah: Yes! I mean, that is the flesh in us. The Lord really worked on me during that time to stop looking at Jeff and to start realizing, really, the Lord is sovereign over even the decisions that Jeff makes. He is sovereign over the things that Jeff couldn’t see that I really was deep down saying, “Jeff, why didn’t you see this before?” And that wasn’t fair.

So this time, about five months ago or so, I really felt the Lord give me a peace that I don’t have to fear. I can trust. And I don’t have to guilt Jeff. I don’t even have to break down in sobs that, “What are we going to do now? How are we going to survive this?”

I was able in a much more gracious way to actually see that he was hurting. This didn’t just affect me. I wanted to actually comfort him. I saw that this has got to be so hard for him. He’s lost his job twice. And I know how hard of a worker he is. This doesn’t seem fair. And yet I kind of wanted to proclaim to everybody, “This isn’t his fault. He is such a good worker. He is so good at what he does.”

And yet, I saw the Lord giving him such humility. As I watched even that, it just increased my desire to want to show him the graciousness and support and encourage him in whatever way I can.

So for the wife, I’d say the greatest gift you can give to your husband is to not make them feel like you are completely dependent on them because that is a weight they weren’t made to carry. Yes, it’s a gift for our husbands to provide, if the Lord gives them that ability, but God wants us to ultimately trust that He is our provider above all. I give Jeff a gift when I give him the space to say, “Jeff, I’m in this with you. We’re a team in this. I’m not putting this all on you. I’m not going to make you feel guilty like you are the one causing this in our family.”

Instead, saying, “How can I support you in this? How can I pray with you? Can I help you in any way?” And just try to encourage him, “Thank you for all you have done for our family. Thank you for how hard you are working. I’m sorry this is happening again. This doesn’t feel fair.”

So that kind of helped join us as though we were partners in the challenge rather than him feeling like he had let me down. So I really felt like I had to be careful with how I let him see my own response in that situation.

Dannah: Jeff, what difference did that make from the first time you faced unemployment to the second time when she had a different response. What did that do for you? How did that feel?

Jeff: I think that is just a testament to the work of the Lord in both of us, independently and together. That’s a huge gift when she responded in understanding and compassion, and we’re moving forward together in this—not that we weren’t there four to five years ago when it happened the first time—but I think the tone was just different.

And I think the encouragement is, we’re all going through something hard right now. And so, if this is the first big storm that you’ve been through, from our perspective, as we look back at different storms, and even that first job loss, I can say, “Man, God has grown us so much since then.” And now, my response the second time was only by His grace, because my response was the words of Job, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

So I was holding that loosely, and that’s not my own strength. That’s the Lord doing that. So I saw that as another opportunity. My word actually to one of my good friends when I told him the next day was, “I can’t believe that this is happening again, but, you know what? This is an opportunity for me to live out what I just wrote in our book.”

So that is just a testament to what God has been doing in our life. It’s not anything that I can boast about, because I am weak, and I am prideful, and I am all the things that are of the flesh. But Christ, who’s working deep in me, and His Spirit who is my helper, has even given me the words and the thoughts to think those things. So now we can move forward together and continue to cling to Him, because apart from Him we are nothing.

That’s the grace of God, and that was just flowing through Sarah as she was very gracious to have that response back towards me which spoke volumes.

Dannah: When you quoted that verse from the book of Job, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord,” I’ve been saying so many times recently that right now we are having the privilege of living out the Scriptures in a way that I feel like I haven’t known before in my life. When I hear you say that, I realize, “Oh, you’re living that.”

The Lord did take some things from you. And you are authentically blessing His name. And whatever Scripture you open to today as you read your Bible, or tomorrow as you read your Bible, you get to live in that. You get to live that out. I hear that in you guys.

I’ve got to say, though, I’ve never read a marriage book based on the book of Job. (laughter) Like, it’s the first time! The Song of Solomon, the love chapter—check, like, lots of times. Ephesians 5 and 6—check. But Job . . .? What was the moment when you knew, “We’re going to write a book, and we’re going to use the book of Job to talk about weathering the storms of marriage”?

Sarah: Oh, well, it kind of came in a couple of stages. We have really been in the book of Job a lot the last several years just because of the nature of our trials. As Job went through so many different layers and different types of trials . . . And then even how we just saw he and his wife responded so differently to their suffering, which is so like our marriages—we don’t respond the same to all of our trials.

We had been working on a table of contents, and we were still working out, “What do we really want to base this in?” I was sitting with my mom one day, and she said, “You know, your story just so goes along with the story of Job.” And we started talking, “Well, it would be kind of cool to actually write it through the book of Job. We’ve talked so much about it, and we have walked through it ourselves.”

So I went back to Jeff, and we started looking through Job with the table of contents that we had, and we were flabbergasted. It was like the table of contents started fitting with exactly the passages of Job that we had really connected to. From there we just kept going on.

It’s definitely not the typical book you would go to. But here’s the thing: There’s not a lot of verses specifically on marriage in Scripture that directly talks to it. But marriage is to represent Christ and the Church. And so all of Scripture is about discipleship and Christ in the Church. And isn’t that what our marriages are?

All of Scripture should be able to be applied. That’s what I think was really sweet to us—to see how God gave us these passages in Job that are so hard to wrestle with but really gave a lot of life to us because they helped form our theology of suffering. Yet at the same time, it helped us see that even the book of Job can give wisdom that God can use in our marriage. If you read through the book, you’ll find it’s very fascinating the things it connected to.

It’s funny, one of our chapters is on either chronic illness or intimacy and the verse at the top is, “My breath is strange to my wife. I am a stench to the children of my own mother” (Job 19:17).

Dannah: Yes, that’s an intimacy deal breaker.

Sarah: But isn’t that so true? If you’re going through something that’s dividing the two of you, that is making you feel completely separated from one another, you do feel that way. Whether it’s a physical ailment, like Job, or if it’s something else—emotional, or whatever it is—we do feel that. I know Jeff and I have felt that way, where we feel totally disconnected from each other. Well, how does the Lord restore that? And that’s really what we wanted to offer in that.

Dannah: Well, what do you say to the couple who feels that right now? Like, a woman listening just thought, Yes, when my husband draws near to me, I don’t want to have his breath on my neck. I’m at a Y in the road, as you referenced yesterday, Jeff.

What advice do you have for them about adopting this perspective of weathering the storms rather than running from them?

Sarah: One thing I just want to say is that we wanted to make so clear, and I’ve said this in a lot of conversations lately. There are a lot of listeners, I’m sure, that are feeling, either one . . . They don’t have a believing spouse, or maybe they’re just in a totally different space spiritually, or they’re not connecting with them. What was the biggest changing point in our marriage was realizing that my relationship with Christ was not dependent on Jeff. But my relationship with Jeff is dependent on Christ.

So there were points in our marriage where God allowed us to get to the point where I didn’t think we could heal from there. I didn’t think there was any way forward. Those were the moments where the Lord had to open my eyes to see that I couldn’t change Jeff’s heart. I couldn’t change the things that I wanted to change. The only thing I could do was bring my own heart before the Lord, and I started to do that.

That’s what I would encourage the spouse that is in that situation, because there were truly some things that I felt very hurt by. But I couldn’t force Jeff’s eyes open. No matter how many times I tried or how many different times I tried to rephrase things, it was not fruitful because I was trying to do it in my own strength. I was trying to force it myself apart from the Lord. And so God used that to open my eyes that I have to be looking for what I need first from the Lord.

God does desire healing for our marriage. That is a prayer He wants us to pray. So don’t run away from it because it looks impossible in your eyes. Turn your eyes to the Lord, the One who is the one that can change all hearts, the One that can do things that are far beyond what we could ever imagine. And He has done that in our marriage.

As He gave me the ability to start pouring out to Him the hurts I was feeling and the things I felt like I needed Jeff to see, but I knew I couldn’t force it, I started to pray, “Lord, change my heart where I can’t see it. I want healing in my marriage, but I don’t know how to move forward, so I’m asking You to change Jeff’s heart where You see fit. If he needs to see those things, change that. And if not, help me to rest in You.”

Dannah: Jeff, speak to the woman listening whose husband isn’t seeing how he’s hurting her, to the wife whose husband isn’t ready yet to make some of the brave, heroic sacrifices that. You’re a hero to me, as I hear this story. You’ve made some big sacrifices to care for Sarah and your children.

Talk to the woman who isn’t quite there yet. What word of encouragement would you give to her today about how she waits on the Lord for that?

Jeff: I think the biggest thing we have to do is, first and foremost, take this to Christ in prayer and to rely on Him and to humbly come before Him and recognize that our dependence is in Him alone and not in our spouse.

As we try and wait for God to answer these questions, just remember that Jesus is glorifying Himself in the waiting, and also that Christ is still working in the waiting.

If there are seasons where it is just unanswered, and you feel like, “Why is this going on for so long? Why can’t he change or she change?” If you’re just going on in these seasons of despairing, I think if we can just remember that there is a purpose in it. I know it’s easy to say that and it’s so hard to live that out in the day to day.

Honestly, the only thing that can get you from one day to the next is to be in God’s Word and to rehearse His truths and His promises and to remember that He is the only one that can restore. He is the only one that can bring the water to bring growth. If we’re trying to just put that on our spouse and to nag and try to keep nudging them time and time again, we’re not going to get anywhere in our own strength.

So I think, just being active in our waiting. We can’t just sit back idly and expect God to change my heart or Sarah’s heart or the listener out there, and just expect it to happen overnight. It’s a process, and there’s a reason why He is delaying, because He wants to be glorified even greater in the end.

Thinking back on our story, God could have healed our son in the hospital when he was seven weeks old. He could have cleared up the infection, as we thought it was, and our life could have been the way we paved it out in our minds. When we first got married, we thought we would have ease and comfort and life would be good. We’d have our children, and, as you said, the white picket fence.

But because God has delayed, and even to today, we don’t have a diagnosis. Things have not relented. We still have days that are just very hard. We’re in those trenches, right alongside those that are listening. Sarah and I are not talking from the mountain top. We’re in the valley with you. I think that’s what we want this book to be—a resource for someone that is in that valley.

We’re not looking retrospectively because we’re empty nesters. We are really struggling alongside of you. So, cling to Jesus because He is chiseling away at you into making you into this beautiful picture of Christ if you let Him do that.

We have to have humility. We have to be dependent. We have to come to Him with our hands open and digging into His Word daily that He is the only one that will bring change.

Sarah: It makes me think of Romans 5:3–5, 

Not only that, we rejoice in our suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Ultimately, that’s where our hope has to stay. We want a good marriage. We want a healthy marriage. We want a loving marriage. We’re not always promised that. But we do know that the love of God is with us always. We do know that He is at work in our own hearts, no matter what is happening around us.

Jeff and I can both honestly say that we can rejoice in our suffering. We’re not always joyful about it. We’re not always smiling about it. But we can rejoice in it because, my goodness, God has done such an incredible work in our own hearts through it. And we have flailed our way through it. We have fumbled over ourselves through it. But it just makes us want to lift our eyes and praise the Lord to see what only He could have done in our own hearts. He’s the only one getting glorified here because we would not have done this on our own.

Jeff: We wouldn’t exchange any of our pain. Honestly, as painful as it has been, we would not exchange that for an easy road because we would rather be on the crooked road of pain and suffering, knowing that that leads to Christ, than being on the straight path of ease and comfort where Christ is not at the end of that.

So, encouragement for those that are listening is: cling to Christ. As we look beyond our circumstances, beyond our spouses, look to Jesus because nothing makes sense in the present time. But as we know that He is our end, that can give us patience, knowing that it’s not going to be easy, but we can endure because He is the one giving us that daily strength. So that’s where I think we can find joy.

Nancy: Our true colors show when the storms of life hit. Or, to mix the metaphors even more, you can tell what’s really inside of us when we start getting squeezed and poked.

That’s Jeff Walton, along with his wife Sarah. They sat down with Dannah Gresh to talk about some of the storms they’ve gone through in their marriage.

I couldn’t help but think of the apostle Paul’s attitude about a storm that he was going through. He called it his thorn in the flesh. We read about it in 2 Corinthians chapter 12 where he says, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.”

But instead of taking that thorn in the flesh away, God said to Paul,

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, [Paul said] I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses [my struggles, my storms] so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then [he said], I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamaties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (vv. 8–10).

Wow! That’s the mindset I want to have in the storms I face.

Jeff and Sarah Walton wrote the book they’ve been telling us about. It’s called, Together Through the Storms: Biblical Encouragements for Your Marriage When Life Hurts. This is a book every couple needs to have at their fingertips to get ready for the storm, to have when you’re walking through the storm, and to give you perspective as you help others around you who may be walking through a storm.

We’d like to send you a copy of this book as a simple way we can say “thank you” for your donation today or tomorrow. All you have to do is go to our website ReviveOurHearts.com. Click where you see the word “Donate,” make your donation to help support this ministry, and then let us know that you’d like to receive Jeff and Sarah’s book, Together Through the Storms. You can also make that donation over the phone by calling us at 1–800–569–5959.

Dannah, thanks so much for sharing your conversation with Sarah and Jeff Walton with us. This is a topic we all need to be reminded of in these challenging times.

Dannah: Well, if you’ve been listening these past two days, you know that there is one part of the story that we’ve left untouched and unfinished, and that is: What has happened with their son? What is the diagnosis? How do you live with a child who has an ongoing chronic illness? About 40% of Americans have someone in their home who is struggling like that. We’re going to have some answers tomorrow from Jeff and Sarah Walton.

Nancy: Great! And thank you for joining us today. I’m Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, inviting you back tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you strengthen your marriage. Our program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.

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About the Speakers

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 …

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Jeff and Sarah Walton

Jeff and Sarah Walton

Jeff and Sarah Walton are the co-authors of Together Through the Storms: Biblical Encouragement for Your Marriage When Life Hurts (2020, The Good Book Company). They have four children 13 …

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