Revive Our Hearts Podcast

What Does Your Marriage Communicate

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Jody: At times in the past, I’ve listened to convicting messages but these messages so often lacked hope. They’ve seemed to bring me to despair.

Leslie Basham: This is a woman who heard a lot of teaching that brought about condemnation. But God used Revive Our Hearts to move her from despair to hope.

Jody: I've been listening to Revive Our Hearts for five years. I don't think I can adequately express how much the teaching I have listened to has changed my life! Your messages are always undergirded with a beautiful joy and confidence in the fact that God is good and is a redeeming God. God has used you to help me to once again gain confidence in a good God and to be reestablished in good doctrine. Thank you!

Oh, and by the way. My children also love Revive Our Hearts. My seven-year-old daughter has often listened very intently with me. One time she was having a difficult week. You know, bad attitudes, stuff like that. I was listening to Revive Our Hearts. She all of a sudden turned too me and said, "Mom this is good for me to hear." Her attitude was better afterward.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Well God’s Word is good for all of us to hear! I’m so grateful that mom and daughter and women everywhere are hearing the truth that sets women free through the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. The reason we’re able to continue speaking to Jody and her daughter is because of friends like you who listen to Revive Our Hearts and appreciate how God is using it and want to invest financially to keep the ministry going.

Today is the first of May, and at the end of May we end our fiscal year. That’s an important term that you hear accountants use, but it matters a lot to us, too. It’s when we begin a new budget cycle and make plans for the upcoming year. And as we wrap up this fiscal year and start to look ahead, we’re asking God to provide at least $680,000 for the ministry of Revive Our Hearts during the month of May. That amount will allow us to continue coming to you on the radio and online each weekday, and it will also allow us to continue some new initiatives that are in the works.

Those include things like releasing three new books: Lies Men Believe by my precious husband Robert, Lies Girls Believe and a Mom’s Companion Guide to that book. I'm very excited about this opportunity to speak into the lives of tween girls in that eight- to twelve-year-old range. The Revive Our Hearts team is also getting ready to host the True Woman '18 conference. And we’re building a digital framework that will help leaders in different countries translate Revive Our Hearts into multiple new languages. I'm very excited to see what God will do on that front.

Would you ask the Lord to support these outreaches and provide the $680,000 we need by the end of May? And would you ask Him what He would want you give to help meet that need? You can make your donation at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1–800–569–5959.

Thanks for considering your role in helping Revive Our Hearts continue providing the truth that sets women free!

Leslie: You’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of True Woman 201, for Tuesday, May 1, 2018.

Nancy’s been in a series called "The True Woman Manifesto: Affirmations, Part 2." She’s working through the affirmations: a series of biblical statements that present a clear, strong definition to help us understand what it means to be God’s women in our day. Let’s continue exploring the topic of marriage.

Nancy: Well, we are looking at God's institution, God's ordinance of marriage which is intended to glorify God and paint a picture of the gospel, the redemptive love of Christ for His Bride. 

But we know that from Genesis 3 on, the world is not as it should be. We are not as we should be. Created in the image of God, we are loved by God, but we have failed to keep the law of God.

Nowhere is this any more apparent than in the breaking of marriage vows. We can't talk about making of marriage vows without talking about the problem of breaking vows.

I saw this illustrated in the article in the Los Angeles Times that was called "Far Apart Under One Roof." This article talked about a couple in New York who were in the middle of a bitter divorce. They were both determined not to let the other have the house they had lived in for eighteen years.

So to resolve the dispute, the judge ordered them to split the three-story house in half. As neighbors gathered outside to watch, a wall was constructed through the middle of their living room (true story). A quote from this article.

She got the garage, front door, spiral staircase, three bathrooms, second-floor kitchen, four bedrooms and nursery on the third floor. That left [him] with a side entrance into the first-floor living room and bathroom, along with the second-floor dining room which he could only access by walking up his neighbors stairs outside, climbing over a railing on his balcony and entering through a window. This woman complains that her husband makes her life a nightmare by yelling, banging on walls, and turning off her heat when it is cold out. But both have vowed to stay in the house until the other moves.

Well, we kind of laugh at how ludicrous and silly that is, but isn't it really a sad picture of what is happening in real life in so many marriages in homes today?

Not all that long ago, talking about divorce in public was a taboo. Some of you can remember that. But today we have a widespread culture of divorce—no-fault divorce, easy divorce, no-problem divorce. We have divorce lawyers, divorce courts, divorce greeting cards, divorce parties, divorce ceremonies. You say, "Why would someone have a divorce ceremony?" 

Well, these were developed a couple decades ago as an attempt to lesson the stigma surrounding the end of marriage and presumably to bring about healing in their lives.

One woman who has an event company called the The Divorce Party Planner and is an author of the book by that same name says:

Yes, it's sad and it's painful, but it's not failure. It's part of life. And yet it's the only major event for which we have no ritual. A celebration communicates divorce is okay—life-affirming, even.

Then, I saw this piece in a student newpaper by a young man who is a college student. He said:

Since the Baby Boomer generation has had so much fun naming us hurtful and insensitive things like 'Generation Me,' 'Generation Why,' 'Generation A.D.D.,' the 'Entitlement Generation,' we should perhaps return the favor and start called them 'Generation Divorce.'

The student says,

I've experienced divorce myself from the child's point of view, and it isn't anything I'd care to inflict on anybody else. Our parents were so repulsed by the idea of the scrubbed-clean 'Pleasantville' 1950s nuclear family that they have divorced in record numbers. The lesson I see that they've taught us is that compromise and fidelity [faithfulness] are no longer in vogue.1

We are seeing it with more women marrying older, couples staying in long-term relationships without committing to marriage, crippling divorce rates, and the ideal family now becoming a minority in our country.

The troubling tragedy of divorce is not just something out there, out in the culture, not just of our broken, prodigal society. But it's, as you know, in the home, in the Church. Our marriages as Christians were intended, as we said in yesterday's program, to reflect to the world the faithful, covenant-keeping love of God. Instead, so often our marriages, even if they stay together legally, are modeling conflict, bitterness, unforgiveness. This has become mainstream—epidemic proportions

I received an email from a listener who said:

At seventy-four, I'm a married single . . . a married, divorced single. There's a gaping hole in my being, a very painful wound. Fifty years ago this September, my wife placed a wedding ring on my finger, and I placed one on hers. Very sadly, eleven years ago my wife succumbed to Satan's lies: she joined the growing number of apparently sincere believers who divorce their Christian spouse for no reasons in any way even close to being biblical.

She removed the rings I placed on her finger and obtained a "no-fault" divorce. The evangelical church she began attending has accepted (and from her remarks to friends, even supported) her as a divorced woman, with no attempt to hold either of us accountable for her actions.

Even though I yearn for a close relationship with my wife, or with another godly Christian woman, I consciously take my attention away from unattached women in this category. The ring my wife placed on my finger so many years ago, will, by God's grace, will remain there for the rest of my life. I suppose if she dies first, I might reconsider, but I want to be a witness against divorce.

Says this seventy-four year old man who calls himself a married single.

Now, it's just as likely that the person writing that letter could have been a woman talking about her marriage to a husband.

The point here is not to pick on husbands or not to pick on people who have taken the route of divorce. But it is to hold up God's norm, God's ideal, God's best. And to say, "Shouldn't we as believers in Christ, those who have been loved by our heavenly Bridegroom, those who have entered into an eternal covenant with Christ through the shedding of His blood; should we not demonstrate to the world how Christian marriage can be different."

I know you may be married to a non-believer, or to a man who claims to be a believer but who in no way acts like it. Because there are so many complex and different situations, we have not often addressed the issue of divorce head on, on Revive Our Hearts. Some day, I'd really love to do a whole series . . . perhaps we'll do that, Lord willing.

But I felt the need and burden to touch on this subject in the context of this longer series on the True Woman Manifesto, and specifically on marriage.

We get a lot of questions and emails from listeners on marriage, divorce, remarriage, difficult marriages, staying in a hard marriage, adultery, unfaithfulness. Many of these are in extremely difficult, painful situations—situations and circumstances for which there are no simple or pat answers. Probably many of the women in this room today have been or are in situations such as that.

So the question is, How do we hold up the Scripture? How do we hold up the covenant-keeping nature of God? How do we minister to real-live people with real fallen, broken lives, marriages, and parents with fallen, broken lives and marriages, and children with fallen, broken lives and marriages, and friends with fallen, broken lives and marriages?

In the midst of that, how do we encourage them? How do we minister grace? How do we treat them with respect of those who are created in the image of God? How do we faithfully point them to the truth and to the gospel which is made for fallen, broken people, sinners?

There's no way to answer in a program like this every question and deal with every situation. But I want to encourage you to hear my heart as I share over the next few moments and to ask the Lord to show you how to apply His truth to your situation or to that of someone you know.

Let me say here that a lot of Christians are greatly and rightly concerned about the legalization of gay marriage, so-called. And the growing pressure we experience as those who hold to the truth of God's Word, to affirm a marriage between a man and a man or a woman and a woman as being legitimate, valid, and acceptible. This is a serious concern.

But I want to suggest that the truth is, we as believers in the Church today do not have a moral platform to speak to that issue effectively because as the people of God, the Bride of Christ, the Church of God, we have failed to preserve and protect the marriage covenant between men and women.

So the root issues that led to, that resulted in this towering tree of so-called gay marriage, happened long before the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. It happened when those of us who claimed to know Jesus, to be related to Him in a covenant relationship, failed to keep our own marriage vows and to protect and defend and preserve the institution of covenant marriage.

I want to go even further and say (I'm going to get some letters on this) that I believe the erosion of Christian marriage between men and women, heterosexual marriages, has been no less damaging in our culture than the move to legalize gay marriage, so-called.

So we need to take a good hard look at ourselves, at our churches, and what we are saying and teaching and writing and believing and promoting and sharing with others who are in difficult marriages. Because people in happy, great marriages don't generally get divorced.

By its very nature, when you talk divorce, you are really talking about tough situations, hardened hearts in many cases, situations where one person wants to follow Christ and the other doesn't.

That's why we go back to this statement found in the True Woman Manifesto which I believe reflects the heart of Scripture.

We affirm that marriage, as created by God, is a sacred, binding, lifelong covenant between one man and one woman.

Because of what it represents God takes it seriously when people break that covenant.

Now I realize that there are in this room undoubtedly and certainly listening by air people who are divorced through no choice or desire of their own. I don’t want to place on you a guilt trip that God’s Word doesn’t place on you. Okay? What I’m talking about here is where we have choice, where we have input. Did you know that two-thirds of divorces today are being initiated by women?

As uncomfortable as it is and as much as I risk hurting or wounding the spirit, which I don’t want to do, of someone who is in a situation that they got to through no fault of their own, we can’t avoid talking about how seriously God takes this marriage covenant.

Malachi chapter 2 addresses this. It’s one of the key passages in the Scripture on this topic. The Scripture says in Malachi 2 beginning in verse 13,

You cover the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping and crying; so He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. Yet you say, "For what reason?”

Why isn’t God reviving us? Why isn’t He paying attention? Why aren’t things going right in the church? Why are we so far from God? Here’s the answer:

Because the Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously.

Some of the other translations say, “You have broken faith with her” (NIV).

Yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant. [Remember a covenant is a lifelong binding vow.] But did He not make them one having a remnant of the Spirit? [And why one? What’s the purpose of marriage?] He seeks godly offspring. [It’s the propagation of the gospel to the next generation.]

Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. [Do not break faith with the wife of your youth.] "For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence," says the Lord of hosts. "Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously." [Or as the NIV says there, “So guard yourself in your spirit and do not break faith.”] (vv. 13–16 NKJV).

I think one of the most touching and powerful illustrations I’ve seen of a woman choosing to be a vow keeper in a culture of vow breakers is a dear friend of mine who I’ve known for many years and watched go through an extremely difficult situation in her marriage.

While she was in the midst of that situation, the woman who was counseling with her husband suggested that my friend should have divorced her husband because of his unrepentant sin. In response to that counselor’s input, my friend wrote a piece. It’s lengthy but I want to read it to you because I think it’s such a powerful illustration of the ways of God. And she titled this piece “Why I Will Not Divorce My Husband.” Let me just read it to you as she wrote it.

Nearly two years ago my husband told me that he had been involved in an adulterous affair with a younger woman for the past six months. That moment began a journey I never expected to take in my lifetime. I’ve chosen not to divorce my husband even though he refused to stop the affair for over a year after his initial confession.

Several people have questioned me about why I have made this choice. In fact, some just assumed that divorce would be an automatic response to his unfaithfulness to me. When Steve [and that’s not his real name, but I’ll just call him that] and I were married almost twenty-five years ago, I made a covenant with him before God and our families and friends. That covenant as I repeated my vows, was "for better or for worse as long as we both shall live."

I realize that Steve has broken his part of that covenant; however, I do not believe this means I should divorce him and break my part of the covenant. I realize there are differing opinions on the scriptural basis for divorce. Many claim the "exception clause" in Matthew 19 as the only grounds for divorce. Others refer to 1 Corinthians 7 and claim abandonment as another ground for divorce. Yet in Matthew 19 when Jesus was confronted with this issue, He made it clear that God’s plan for marriage is until death.

Later in the chapter when pressed further, Jesus replied that it was only because of hardness of heart the divorce was allowed, but "from the beginning it was not so." In Malachi 2:16, God says He hates divorce.

After studying these passages, it is obvious that God’s intent is that marriage should be for life. Even Jesus did not say to divorce even when adultery has been committed. He reiterated the Father’s heart for a lifetime covenant. I would find it very hard to pursue something or to counsel someone to do something that God says He hates.

There are even some theologians who believe that the immorality or "fornication" to which Jesus refers, [in that exception clause, that that] had taken place in the betrothal or engagement period, allowing for the betrothed couple to be "divorced."

In Ephesians 5 the marriage union is presented as a picture of Christ and the Church. Think of the spiritual adultery and unfaithfulness we continually commit against our Savior as part of His Church—yet Christ never divorces us. He shows mercy, grace and forgiveness to us no matter how unloving and unfaithful we are. We may break our part of the covenant, but the covenant is still not dissolved because Christ keeps His covenant. His love and forgiveness draw our hearts back to Him.

Yes, He definitely uses pain, sometimes through severe discipline, to bring godly sorrow and repentance. But He also uses His goodness or kindness to lead us to repentance. Based on these and other biblical principles, I’ve come to the conclusion in my heart that I cannot and will not divorce my husband. I want to display the true picture of Christ and the Church before my husband, our children, family, friends, and the world. I want to have a heart like God’s concerning my marriage covenant.

I can only come to the conclusion that His heart is marriage for life. As for the "exception clause" in Matthew 19, I think it is very possible that Jesus was not referring to adultery in marriage but to immorality during the engagement or betrothal period. All this does not excuse my husband’s sin or give him license to continue breaking his vow to me.

First Corinthians 7 speaks of the possibility of separation. I believe separation for a period of time is not unscriptural as long as the intent is to be restored. I had been at this point with Steve for a couple months prior to his stopping the affair.

There is great pain inflicted upon the innocent mate when adultery has been committed. [Some of you know that all too well.] For me, the agony has been indescribable because I felt we had such a good marriage and such a close relationship before this happened. Steve and I were best friends, soul-mates, lovers and had a ministry team for Christ. So to be replaced by another and to experience continual rejection for over a year and a half is crushing. Some would say that this kind of pain is grounds for divorce.

But what am I teaching my children by getting out of a painful relationship? Do I show them that when times get tough you can run and try to find someone else who will make you happy and not hurt you? Or do I show them that God never promises us happiness, but holiness. Do I show them by divorce that God is not strong enough to see me through pain and suffering or do I fling myself upon my Savior and receive His strength and grace and show them He is enough?

Do I present a picture of Christ and the Church that is accurate—Christ never casting us off even when we sin greatly against Him? Or one that presents Christ putting us away when we break our covenant to Him?

John Piper makes this point in his book, A Godward Life. [And now she’s quoting from that book.]

Our culture has made divorce acceptable and therefore easier to justify on the basis of emotional pain. Historically, the misery of painful emotions was not a sanction for divorce in most cultures. Marriage durability—with or without emotional pain—was valued above emotional tranquility for the sake of the children, the stability of society, and in the case of Christians, for the glory of God. In Christianity such rugged and enduring marriages through pain and heartache are rooted in the marriage of God to His rebellious people whom He has never finally cast off.

Covenants are broken because it feels good to free from the commitment. Covenant breaking is a way of short-term pain reduction. But in the process of reducing our pain we destroy life.

Pain-free relationships are assumed as a right. But God promises His people something better. "Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him" (James 1:12 RSV).2

A few months ago, our son, who is eleven, came to me and said that when he saw what his dad was doing to me and to him and to his sister, he initially decided he never wanted to get married. However, he went on to say that as he had watched me forgive his dad and show love and mercy over and over, he decided he wants to get married so he can show that kind of commitment to his wife and children some day. He wept as he told me this and thanked me for my example.

I wept tears of gratitude to my Lord for allowing all the pain and sorrow I had experienced to be used for good in my son’s life already. I’ve experienced the broadest spectrum of emotions these past two years. I’ve wept many tears. At times I have felt crushed into powder.

Yet I believe everything God has allowed my children and me to go through has been meant for good and for His glory. I see it as a gift to be embraced, for my Father who allowed His Son to suffer so greatly for me would not allow anything in my life with intent to harm me but only to make me more like Himself.

I have blown it many times by some of my reactions and responses. I have been angry. At times I have been so deeply discouraged that I wanted to call it quits. I have been far from perfect through it all. Yet I have such a deep joy in knowing I have chosen to obey my Savior no matter the cost.

Some have suggested that the only reason I have not divorced my husband is because I am insecure. I do not claim to be without insecurities. In fact, I don’t feel very secure in my husband’s love for me right now. I know his heart has been given to another and I find myself grasping for assurance from him that he still loves me and wants me.

But one reason I have not pursued divorce is because of my security in Christ and in His love and faithfulness to me. He has taught me for many years that I must rest in Him and not only surrender to what He allows but accept and even embrace it. I find great security in this kind of rest in my Father’s choices for me.

In fact, I have to sit back and marvel at it all. It is all Him and none of me. Throughout these painful months He has sustained and carried me even above my circumstances. His love has been so sweet and His Word so healing to my soul. I can only fall before Him in awe and gratitude that He saw fit to give me the privilege of suffering. To Him I give great glory and praise for what He has done and will continue to do.

I realize that I have no guarantee that my husband will ever love me the way he once did. I have known of people who have come through this kind of moral failure with more depth in their walk with Christ and ministry to others and with a deeper love for their spouse than ever before. That’s what I am praying and hoping for. But what if that never happens and Steve is never restored to the man he once was, or, as I pray, even better? Does that give me a basis to divorce him?

I believe not. My covenant with this man is rooted in Christ. I am in it for the long haul. All the hurt and rejection I have felt have not lessened my love for my husband. In fact, quite the opposite has happened. I knew I loved him but I never knew how much until this happened. God has given me a deeper understanding of what true love really is—His kind of love. I can only describe it as a fierce love that cannot give up on the one it loves and is committed to. I realize that great men of God disagree on the grounds of divorce. Who am I to tell them they are wrong? But I can only obey what I believe Scripture teaches on this issue.

My journey is not over. My husband and I are in the process of being restored in our marriage. There have been many times since he came home that were as tough to endure as when he was gone from us. Satan is still after him and after our marriage. I know there are still painful times ahead in this process. Yet I believe God will see our family through the days ahead as He has the past two years. I am truly grateful for what God has allowed for us. I believe He wants to use us together for His glory again someday. Until then I can only stay bowed to what God allows and continue to rest in His love.

Now I want to say to the glory of God and as a result of the tenacious, faithful covenant-keeping love of this wife demonstrating God’s covenant-keeping love to her husband, that couple is together today. They are walking with the Lord. Their children are walking with the Lord. And they are being used to bring glory to Him. Not without challenges, but restoration and redemption really are possible.

I’m so glad she wrote this before she saw the outcome while she was still in the throes of it. I know I’m speaking to some who are in the throes of it right now. I just thought perhaps this story would help give you some perspective, some things to think about, some questions to ask.

Would you just be willing to turn your heart to the Lord and say, “Lord, I want to think Your way about this? And in the decisions, the choices that I make I don’t want to rely on the counsel of the world or what everyone else around me says I should do. I want to know what Your Word says, and I want my life to reflect Your covenant keeping love and Your faithfulness.”

And oh God, I pray that You would restore marriages that have been broken, that You would restore us to Your covenant and to the permanence of the marriage covenant. And I pray that You would be redeeming and restoring that which the devil has tried to steal and destroy, that You would restore and renew it. I pray for women today who are struggling to be faithful. Oh God, would You give them grace? Would You help them? Would Your faithfulness be their stay and help them to stay the course?

Oh God, be glorified as we do marriage for Your glory and to represent to the world what You are like. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been helping us make sure our marriages are communicating an accurate picture of the gospel.

Before we go today, it’s the final day to get the early registration to the True Woman '18 conference. We’ve been telling you about the conference, coming to Indianapolis September 27–29. The messages from speakers like Nancy, Mary Kassian, Dannah Gresh, and Jackie Hill Perry will all be inspired by Nancy’s book, Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free.

So as you listen message by message, you’ll be confronted by lies you may be believing . . . and you’ll get hope. You’ll hear truth you need to be free from those lies.

It’s the final day to get the early registration price, so visit ReviveOurHearts.com to register, or call 1–800–569–5959.  

Tomorrow Nancy will talk about submission in marriage—what it is and what it isn’t. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you show Jesus to the world. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

1Kenneth Lowe; Northern Star; Northern Illinois University; "U-Wire Parents of Generation Y Have No One to Blame but Themselves;" published in The Northerner; The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

2 John Piper, A Godward Life (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1997), 33, 35, 137.

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