Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Meeting at the Foot of the Cross

Episode Resources

Visit the McClain's website: Rest and Restore Ministries

Watch Joy's story.

Leslie Basham: For many long years of separation, Joy McClain had faith that God could reunite her and her husband.

Joy McClain: That there would come a day where I would stand before my husband again as a pure and spotless bride. I might be ninety years old, but I believed with all my heart. I wanted to believe, and I would not stop hoping and praying for that.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Holiness: The Heart God Purifies, for Friday, June 28, 2019.

Over the last couple of days, Joy McClain has been telling her story. Here’s some of what we’ve heard.

Joy: 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 asked Mark to go to counseling, and when they told him that he had a drinking problem and needed to address is, his heart turned hard.

Mark McClain: Why are you asking me these questions? Why are you challenging what I’m doing? Because I have a right to do it.

Kristen McClain: When he would call me a name or he would call my mother a name, I would just want to drive and just run my car into a pole, just to end it.

Mark: I have a right to do what I want to do.

Joy: When I discovered that she was cutting herself it was just like another slap in the face. I just didn’t know how much more I could take.

Mark: Why shouldn’t I be able to do this? This is what I want to do, and I’m not hurting anybody.

Joy: He wants to hurt me.

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

Joy: And he’s making threats.

Jena McClain: I could hear my dad come in and I could hear him start slamming doors and yelling and cussing, and I knew that God had His hand over me.

Jordan McClain: So many people would have just left him immediately, and if not immediately a couple of years into it—five years into it—ten years into it. But she stayed with him.

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

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Well that story fits so well with our emphasis this month here on Revive Our Hearts. We’ve explored the idea of perseverance. Joy McClain definitely persevered in faithfulness and in prayer even as she had to remove herself and her kids from a potentially abusive situation and separate from her husband. I just want to reiterate that it’s important in cases like this to not just send women back into abusive situations unless there’s true repentance and evidence of genuine life change. That takes a careful process over time with members of the body of Christ involved and walking through it with a couple. That’s what Joy experienced and we’ll hear some of that today. As you’ve heard Joy’s story, perhaps you’ve related to some of those moments where it seemed so very hopeless.

But I hope you’ve also been encouraged and reminded that there is always hope in Christ. I know that our listeners have been moved by Joy’s story, as I have been. A lot of people have contacted us to get a copy of her book Waiting for His Heart: Lessons from a Wife Who Chose to Stay. When you make a donation of any size this week, we’ll be glad to send you a copy of that book. You can visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com for more information.

I hope you’ll also take ten minutes today to watch the video version of this story that our team has put together. It’s a stunning piece visually and even more importantly it will encourage you to trust the Lord in your most difficult situation. It’s a great resource that you can share with someone you know who’s in a struggling marriage.

Now, I know that you’re going to be greatly encouraged as we listen today to the final part of Joy’s story.

Joy: Mark had been confronted more than one time out of love by the elders in my church and by the pastor. They had so many times reached out to him. I did not want a divorce. Divorce was not an option. That never even entered the conversation. But I did have to set up some type of environment for my children to be safe.

Jordan: That’s finally why she moved. It wasn’t for herself, it was for us—for my sisters who were still there—to get them out of it.

Kristen: I remember just wondering how we were going to make it.

Leslie: This is Joy’s daughter, Kristen.

Kristen: Well, my mom works part-time. She doesn’t make enough to make the rent let alone anything else.

Joy: I was still homeschooling the girls. They were in high school by now. My son was in college by now. Those were the years I really learned what it meant and what it looked like to truly trust the Lord. He became my provider of everything. I had to look to Him every month. When I would write out my bills at the table, I would collect my bills, pray over them, scoot them across the table and say, “Okay, God, they’re Yours.”

Kristen: I remember giving her the mail some days, and she would get exactly what she needed. Every time! I had never seen that before.

Jena McClain: One day she took me and my sister into the living room and she was like, “You know, we have a bill that is due today.”

Leslie: This is Joy’s daughter, Jena.

Jena: “I don’t have the money for it, so we need to pray that bill gets paid and somehow the money comes.” I remember there being a knock on the door and a man standing there. And he was like, “This check’s for you, and I’m not really sure who it’s from. It’s just anonymous.” And it was the exact amount of the bill. I was like, “Wow! He really does provide, and He really does answer prayers.”

Joy: The landlord had watched over and over God provide. I was really honest with him. My rent amount, I remember one day, was due. I went over and said, “John, I know my rent’s due today. I’m praying, and I’m waiting to see how God provides.” I think at first John was like, “This lady’s crazy.” But over and over again John would see me coming across the yard, “God provided, John!”

I would never want to go back in my life and relive such sorrow. But I would not have the faith that I have now. I would not have the trust that I have in the Lord now had I not had opportunity to trust in Him. If you have a situation today where you’re forced to trust God, praise Him for that because He has the opportunity to show Himself. So often we want to care for everything ourselves. Here in our affluent culture, we don’t often have great need. When we do it is such a wonderful blessing to go to see God’s hand in it.

Jordan: I never feel like I’d doubt God’s provision.

Leslie: This is Joy’s son, Jordan.

Jordan: Like that’s never even an option in my mind that He won’t. I think that’s because it’s been instilled in me from my mom—seeing her example and knowing why would I ever doubt that. He helped her. He never left her.

Joy: Bitterness could have easily been festered and have grown over those years and especially since the situation got increasingly worse. It could have easily festered in all of our hearts. I recognized pretty early on that the kids are going to follow my lead.

Jordan: My mom tried desperately to keep us from becoming bitter towards my father and from hating him. She always wanted us to be forgiving and understanding.

Kristen: Sometimes I would get upset at my father and just say he was a horrible person, that didn’t care about us. And she would say, “Don’t talk like that. He’s still your father. He’s doing something that you don’t like. He’s still your father, and you have to respect him no matter what. You don’t have to love what he’s doing. But you have to love him and respect him.”

Joy: So it was important for them to immediately turn around those emotions and the words they spoke. And the best way to do that, honestly, over and over and over again, was prayer.

Jordan: All the time. I mean, we would pray together often and she would constantly remind us, “Pray for your father. Pray for your father.” I mean, when I was in college, I remember her calling me all the time. “Pray for him. Pray for him. This happened. Pray for him.” So I feel like my childhood was a lot of praying for my dad and my mom telling me to pray for my dad, pray for my dad.

And not just that he would stop drinking and this would go away, but for his salvation, for his well-being. I mean, that’s a testimony of my mom’s faith right there. Not just, “Take this away from me so we don’t struggle.” But for his sake, too. I think that was a big part in my faith, seeing her response in that.

Joy: I believed with all my heart that there would come a day where I would stand before my husband again as a pure and spotless bride. I might be ninety years old, but I believed with all my heart. I wanted to believe, and I would not stop hoping and praying for that.

Mark: I didn’t know it at the time, but I was apparently on the biggest prayer chain I’ve ever heard of. I mean, we’re talking other countries—there were so many people praying for me. I was still living the way I wanted to live.

The separation was good because God allowed me to get to a point where I was in a pit. I know He doesn’t want that for me, but He allowed me to get there. My health was bad. My mental state was bad. I continued to go to work. I never had a problem going to work, but everything else, every part of my life was awful. That’s where He allowed me to get. That’s why the separation was good.

The lowest point in the pit was when I was at my cousin’s house. We’d been drinking, and I think it was about ten o’clock at night. It wasn’t extremely late, but it was dark. I was driving home, and that’s when I got pulled over.

Joy: Amazingly, he had never received a DUI before in all those years.

Mark: That was the start of all of my legal stuff.

Joy: The judge was very hard on him and came down on him, gave him a lot of fines.

Mark: I lost my license for a year, which put my job in jeopardy.

Joy: There was a lot of probation requirements that took a lot of freedoms away from him. One was that he could never step foot in an institution that served alcohol, and if he was ever caught with alcohol again, he would go to jail.

Mark: I was kind of stuck here all by myself. Can’t drink.

Joy: There was a judge in that courtroom, but ultimately it was God the Judge who was orchestrating these events. After that court date, my husband knew, “There’s no way, there’s absolutely no way I can fulfill my requirements.” And so he cried out to God.

Mark: Take it all away. Take the desire away; take the pain away; start healing my body. And He did.

Joy: So God had been working. God had been orchestrating in ways I could never see nor imagine.

Mark: I didn’t have any of the withdrawals. I didn’t feel the pain. It was just like a relief. But then the process of trying to heal the family began, and that took a while.

Joy: Every one of my children called me that weekend telling me the same thing. “Dad wanted to spend time with me. He took us out. We actually had fun, Mom. He wasn’t drinking. He was completely sober.” My kids could not remember—they had no memory of the last time their father had been sober with them. So they were thrilled. It was experiencing a person they had never really experienced. I was very excited for them that they got to spend some quality time with their father. There was a break in the monotony of it.

But I just also was being very realistic. I wasn’t going to be a fool. I thought to myself, “It’s only a matter of time. He’ll drink again.” And days turned into weeks, and he still had not drank. I had not had any apology up to this point. I had not seen any remorse. I had seen a man who now was sober, but had not seen a change of heart.

So I sat down and wrote letter after letter and card after card. It was all hope, all positive, all looking forward. And for weeks Mark received all these notes of encouragement. And a few weeks later he agreed to go to intensive counseling. So we found ourselves again at Twelve Stones Counseling Center for several days along with our pastor. I had been there before with myself and the girls.

The staff rejoiced, absolutely rejoiced that the person they had prayed for for years was now sitting here. It only took about a half-an-hour into our time together with the counselor for Mark to stop and say, “I know what I need. I need the Lord in my life.”

Mark: The night that I asked Jesus to forgive me, I started worshiping Him instead of the alcohol.

Joy: You couldn’t believe you heard these words out of his mouth. My pastor looked at me. I looked at him. We were all looking at each other thinking, This is crazy easy!

Mark: I feel relieved that Jesus would forgive me especially as ugly as some of the things that I did. I didn’t deserve it. I had a loving God.

Joy: The moment I knew that my beloved’s change was authentic was when he came to me and said, “Would you forgive me? I’ve sinned against you. I’ve sinned against God. Would you forgive me for abandoning you, for leaving you?” And you know, all of those years of hurt and bitterness and anger and mistrust fell away. Because what he essentially was doing was meeting me at the bottom of the cross, at the foot of the cross. I was living in the shadow of forgiveness.

My sin looked different than his. Mine was self-righteous. Mine could be self-pity. And mine certainly was fear. I was forgiven from a holy God for my sin. How could I not, when a man had repented to that same holy God and then asked for my forgiveness, how could I not give him my complete and full forgiveness?

Mark: I asked her to forgive me, and she asked me to forgive her.

Kristen: When he came back home, he sat me and my sister down and asked for forgiveness. Of course, we said "yes" right away. It was one of the best moments of my life. I will never forget the look in his eyes of true sorrow that he had hurt his children.

Mark: I asked them specifically to forgive me for what I’d done to them and specifically for drinking the way I did and acting the way that I did.

Jena: It was like an instant relief. It was like the burden was lifted. I had no negative feelings towards him. There was just like, “Finally! I’ve been waiting for this moment. Yes! I forgive you! I forgive you over and over.”

Joy: A few days later when Jordan, our son, came home from college, this same thing happened.

Jordan: When he asked for forgiveness, I was willing and ready, because we’re all sinners. I felt like not forgiving him for being a sinner was kind of like very hypocritical because I have my own things that God forgives me.

Mark: I got through that probation. I continued to not drink. Slowly some of the trust started to come back a little bit.

Kristen: I became more conscious of what I was doing once my father changed.

Leslie: Again, this is Joy’s daughter, Kristen.

Kristen: Because I realized just because he was doing wrong doesn’t mean that I wasn’t. I blamed him for my problems just like he was blaming me. So once he changed, I had to really look at myself and that was really hard. I knew that I had not fully forgiven him because there were times when I would look at him and just still be so angry at him. And I knew that I was bitter still. I had to forgive him because Christ has forgiven me for what I have done. And to realize that is the best thing that you can realize, really.

Joy: Mark and I had not been together for so long, and we had decided at the counseling center that maybe this was call for celebration. Maybe a celebration that would be fitting would be a new wedding—a new vow.

So we entered a courtship type relationship for a couple of months. The kids moved back in with Mark and right before our wedding; I moved my things back in. So we were apart until right up until that wedding.

And just like our first wedding, I was the very first one to arrive at the church. I sat on those same steps as I had done twenty-two years prior to that. I opened a new journal, and I wrote a letter to my beloved, to my groom.

And it said, “I’ve been waiting for this day for a long, long time. I never gave up. I never stopped hoping. My prayers have been answered. My dreams have come true. Just as God showed me, I will stand before you today as your pure, spotless bride. I am yours. Signed, Your Bride.” And I tore that piece of paper out of my journal, folded it very carefully. I later on gave it to my son to give to his dad just before he stepped out to say his vows again.

Jordan: My dad and I went up there first with our Pastor Toby. Then my sisters walked out, and my dad came out and hugged them and brought each one of them up to the stage with him. Probably the one that impacted me the most was seeing Kristen, the oldest, walking up because she struggled greatly with forgiving my father. She was probably the most impacted by the whole situation—like it had a lot of negative effects on her. Just seeing her walk up, smiling, seeing my dad smiling, and seeing that relationship being restored, I bawled because it meant so much to me! It was very special to me! And then my mom came out.

Joy: What went through my mind at that moment was, “It is so worth it. All the pain—all the darkness—all those hard times. If anyone in this room is encouraged, it’s worth it. It makes the pain so much less.”

Jena: God showed us so much through our childhood. I would never trade it for anything.

Kristen: It showed me that there’s nothing somebody can do that you can’t forgive.

Jordan: I know He used that time to really prepare my heart to be a pastor.

Kristen: I learned that there’s nothing that I can do to God that He can’t forgive.

Jordan: I have so much respect for my dad now. I feel like I finally have a father figure that I can actually learn from.

Kristen: My mom is special. She didn’t listen to anybody except for God, and that helped me to understand that God’s very powerful and His will will be done.

Mark: Renewing our vows in front of a God that both of us loved now was like we were starting over.

Joy: We went away on our honeymoon, and it was glorious. The work then really began in restoring that relationship. It took a long time to undo those years of bad habits—those years of patterns—those years of hurt. We choose mercy. We choose grace. It doesn’t mean we forget, but we choose to forgive. And if our story is anything, it’s a story of mercy. It’s not just a story of mercy that I extended. It is God’s mercy extended to me. I could not stand without that mercy.

Leslie: We’ve been listening to the story of Joy and Mark McClain. We also heard from their son, Jordan, and their daughters, Kristen and Jena. And Nancy, I know a lot of listeners are going to be encouraged by their story.

Nancy: Well, one of the things that I so appreciate about the way that Mark and Joy tell their story is their emphasis that they do not have a “happily ever after” ending yet. Things are still not perfect, and they still go through ups and downs in their marriage and in their personal walk. But here’s the point they want us to take away, and that is that God continues to be faithful. He is there for them, helping them, restoring them day by day.

Joy McClain tells their story in her book, Waiting for His Heart: Lessons from a Wife Who Chose to Stay. I know this book will be a great encouragement to any woman who’s in a tough marriage or any woman who’s in any challenging situation that may seem hopeless. Joy shows us how important it is to seek the Lord and to seek His glory over our own personal happiness or convenience or anything else.

This book will also give you some practical input as you seek to navigate some of the difficult situations you may be facing. It will provide hope for any relationship that seems hopeless. We’d love to send you a copy of Joy’s book, Waiting for His Heart, when you send a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. And remember that when you support this ministry financially, you are making it possible for us to reach other Joy McClains who are still out there waiting and needing hope for their life.

You can make that donation and ask for a copy of Joy’s book when you call us at 1–800–569–5959, or you can make your donation online by visiting us at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Let me encourage you to visit that website and watch the video version of this story. I think our team did an incredible job of capturing Joy’s story. It’s definitely your worth taking ten minutes to watch and also worth passing along this link to your friends.

Our heart as a ministry is to serve you, to resource and equip you as you seek to honor the Lord in your life and your marriage. So I hope that you’ll take advantage of these and lots of other rich resources that are available at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Leslie: Have you noticed how God uses ordinary and imperfect people to accomplish His purposes? On Monday, we’ll hear the story of a young woman who put her life on the line in order to save an entire nation. Please be back next week for Revive Our Hearts. 

To close our time today, we’re going to get an update from Joy McClain. Since our team traveled to her home to record this story and shoot the video, some exciting things have happened in the life of Joy and Mark. Here’s Joy to give us an update.

Joy: God has been so good and rich in His mercy to use all those tears, all those sorrows, all those deep wounds and scars to speak hope into the lives of others. We understand. We've been there. We get it. Now at Rest and Restore we're able to walk with other couples, encourage them, equip them through His Word, and just be an example to younger couples. We spend a lot of time with Millenials and just hang out with them and say, "You can get through this." He's brought us through so much. He has redeemed and restored so much. He can certainly do that in any marriage.

I think those years, although difficult and I would never want to walk through them again, they were necessary. That's the key word I like to use. They were necessary for God to do a work, to really get to the root of things. We will always be sinful, prideful, selfish people until we get to Him in heaven. So there's always a work and always grace to be given to one another in our marriage.

But God has done such a work at the root of our hearts that we are able to work through the power of the Holy Spirit through those things and still have a marriage that honors and glorifies Him.

In the darkest times of praying for Mark, the biggest prayer I had was, "God, how can You be glorified in this? How are You glorified in our marriage when it is disintegrating? How are You glorified in such a besetting sin of his and my sin of despair, pride, and my self-righteousness?" 

But now we do see that God can make any heart of stone a heart of flesh. He makes us new. I never would have dreamt that we would not only a ministry together, but have such a servant-minded ministry. My husband, who really struggled with anger, is the most gentle man I know. He just speaks such truth with vulnerability to other men. It's such a reminder of God's faithfulness to me every single day. It's a beautiful thing.

You'll see on the video a beautiful farm. Well, there's a mid-section of that where a lot of the scenes were shot. We've created a ministry called Rest and Restore. We're able to have an on-site ministry where we invite couples in for rest, for healing, for encouragement.

God has taken all those wounds, all those tears and allowed us to speak hope into the lives of others.

We have a marriage enrichment night. It's a five-week series. It's very unique because we have a date night wrapped into that. We feed them; we teach them. We build in a couples times where they have time alone to flesh out and talk about the topic of the evening.

We minister to pastors. We set aside two mornings a week for a quiet place for pastors to come. We get people who are just needing time out from life. Maybe they have experienced a death or a traumatic experience or something in their past that they've never dealt with.

We give them a place to rest, to be restored, and to be quiet without the distractions of the world and social media and electronics so that they can communicate with God better and hear Him better—which is key.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is reminding you to place your hope in the Lord. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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