Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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When Marriages Hurt

Leslie Basham: Here is Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Our whole culture is so driven to not have pain, to not have to hurt, and so we have every conceivable kind of medication to numb or dull or fix the pain. And so many Christian women are living these very medicated, very numb lives because they’re trying to escape from the pain.

Now, I’m not saying if you have a headache it’s wrong to take an aspirin. But I think you need a theology that takes you beyond aspirin, that says, “I can have a headache—physically, emotionally, spiritually—and life is still okay because God is still good.”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, January 24.

Nancy began a series yesterday called, What to Do When Life Hurts. She’s been speaking from her heart, addressing some questions that members of our audience have given her. She’ll continue today, focusing on 1 Peter 3:1-9. Let me read it.

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.

For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They [were submissive] to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master.

You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

Finally, all of you, live in [harmony with one another]; be sympathetic, love [as brothers], be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

The book of 1 Peter is all about suffering. Why does Peter address marriage in this context?

Here’s Nancy.

Nancy: Marriage is one obvious relationship that requires suffering. No matter how good your marriage, there are issues where you don’t see things the same way. You take a man, and you take a woman, and you put them together, you’re going to have differences, and you’re going to have challenges and opportunity for suffering.

But in the context here, Peter’s talking to believers who are suffering for their faith. He's saying, “You are going to have to suffer. If you’re going to live a righteous life, and you’re going to follow Christ, you are going to have to suffer on many fronts and in different ways and at different seasons.” So the goal here is not to get out of the suffering. The goal is to find out how to walk through it in a godly way.

Then he gives this incredible example of Christ in chapter 2 of 1 Peter, who suffered for us, not retaliating, not defending Himself, but blessing those who cursed Him, returning good for evil, submitting Himself to the suffering, and all because He knew something.

He knew that God was the one who would vindicate righteousness. You see, what you know, if your theology is right, if your thinking is right, then it will enable you to live right even in impossible or painful circumstances.

So then Peter says, “Now let me get more practical, because you’re sitting there thinking, ‘Well, I’m not Jesus,’ but,” he says, “you are a wife.” Or to husbands, “You are a husband. You do live in a family.”

Then he goes on to talk about work relationships, relationships where there’s even political or religious persecution. So he says, “You have real-life circumstances.” And the one he starts with is this one of marriage which talks first to wives.

He says, “Some of you are married to men who don’t obey the Word.” Now in his era, as in ours, there were many women who’d come to know Christ, and their husbands had not yet come to Christ and were ridiculing these women for their faith. These men were making it hard for them to live as Christians. Well, Peter talks to women living in circumstances like this.

A woman came to me yesterday, and she said, “I want to bless my husband, but he just is profane. He’s a curser. He reviles. Ninety percent of what comes out of his mouth is critical and ugly. It’s wounded my children—who are now young adults—trying to deal with that pain and that hurt.”

So what does Peter say you have to do? Suffer. Well, what he says is, “Be subject. Be submissive. Come under God’s authority. And coming under God’s authority means coming under the authority of that mate and doing it with a spirit of meekness and a gentle, quiet spirit.”

Well, what’s a gentle, quiet spirit? It’s a spirit that trusts God. It trusts that God is bigger, God is greater, God is more real, God is in control. “The king’s heart is in the Lord’s hand.” (Pro. 21:1) Your husband is not the ultimate king of the universe, even if he thinks he is. And neither are you.

Peter says, “Be subject to the Lord,” and then, because you’re subject to the Lord, you can be subject to your mate. And you can do it with a spirit of meekness—that is, you’re not mouthing back, you’re not returning to him his way of talking or dealing with situations.

He goes on to talk to husbands, but we won’t focus on that. But he does apply it to husbands who have to live with wives who are impossible to understand—and that’s probably at some point or another every wife. When he says, “You have to, as a man, live with your wife in an understanding way, even if she is incomprehensible.” That’s what submission means to the men, Peter says.

Then he goes on to say, “Finally, all of you,” verse 8 of 1 Peter chapter 3, "all of you have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart and a humble mind."

Now, if we could just have those things, wouldn’t that do away with, like ninety percent of all conflicts? But you start with a heart attitude that is different than the person who doesn’t know Christ. And only by the power of the Holy Spirit can you have this heart attitude.

I’ll just tell you—lest you go home and try—this is something you can’t do. You cannot be sympathetic and have brotherly love and a tender heart and a humble mind on your own. That’s where we cry out to the Lord, and we say, “I can’t do this! I need you! Be Jesus in me. Live Your life through me. Fill me with Your Spirit.”

That’s what it means to be a Christian. It means Christ in you living His life through you by the power of His Holy Spirit and the power of the grace of God.

So Peter says, “Do that,” and then expression of that heart attitude, that tender heart, that humble mind . . . And, by the way, the humble mind means, according to Philippians chapter 2, that you esteem all others better than yourself.

Now, we’re talking in the realm of impossibility here. You know I understand that, but we’re talking in the realm of the supernatural, that which is possible when you’re filled with the Holy Spirit.

So he says, “Once you have this humble mind and this tender heart and this brotherly love and this sympathy, you care more about the other person than you care about yourself,” then he says, “How do you live that out?”

Well, verse 9, 1 Peter 3: "Don't repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary," what's that word, "bless," eulogize, speak well of. Now, who’s he talking about here? Who are you blessing? You’re blessing the person who’s given you evil. You’re blessing the person who’s reviling you.

He’s saying to the woman who has a reviling husband, a husband who tears her down, who picks her apart, who reviles the Lord, who reviles her faith, who is just plain mean, he says to that woman, “Bless your husband. Don’t curse him. Don’t give it back.”

Now, there’s a lot more we could go into here, and let me just put a little caveat here that where there is breaking of a law, where there is behavior that would harm you physically . . . This isn’t the only passage that applies in that situation. There are other passages as well that talk about the role of the church. You better make sure you’re in a church and under the protection, the spiritual protection of godly spiritual leadership in your church. There’s a time when you go to the law, to the civil authorities.

Scripture is not saying let your husband crush your bones and just stand there and bless him. God’s made other provision in addition to that, not just for your sake but for his sake as well. So there are other passages that come to bear here, but you can’t skip this one.

And, by the way, let me say that, as I’ve talked with hundreds of women over the years. Most cases in a difficult marriage are not those extreme cases, but more technically, what we’re talking about here are situations where he’s just unkind or he’s hard to live with. And some of those emotional types of abuse and wounds can be even harder to take, women have told me, than the physical abuse.

God is saying when you are cursed, make sure you don’t curse him back, and then ask God for grace to do what Peter says—bless. Listen to the end of this, verse 9: “For to this you were called that you may obtain a blessing.”

You reap what you sow. You sow blessings into the lives of your family members and friends, and you’re going to reap blessings. You sow cursing, and you’re going to reap cursing.

“So as you sow blessings into your family,” Peter says, “you’re going to fulfill your calling. God wants to bless you.” And He will; He can, and you’ll put yourself in a position where God can and will bless you if you return blessing to those who revile and curse against you.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss in a series called, What to Do When Life Hurts. For a transcript of today’s program or to order the series on CD, just visit

Nancy’s been walking us through 1 Peter 3. We’ll pick back up with verses 8 through 10:

Finally all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. For he who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. (NKJV)

Here's Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss:
I picture Peter here having a Christian woman (and maybe a young believer) come up to him, and she’s just saying what women sometimes say to me: "My husband does this or that or my parents do this or that. They are so cruel. They are so harsh. They are so ungodly. They are so wicked, what can I do about it?"

And often what those women are really saying is, "What can I do to fix or change the other person?" And I sometimes think they'd like me to fix it or to change it, and maybe Peter was thinking this same thing.

And he says to a woman (or it could be a man, if the situation were reversed), he says, in a sense, “You can't do anything about the other person. You are not responsible for the other person.” Now, our behavior and our choices will have impact on the other person, but ultimately that's not your responsibility. He says, “You are responsible for you.

So he doesn't say anything about the tongue or the lips of the reviler or the person who has been cursing. He says, "Keep your tongue from evil; keep your lips from speaking deceit. You guard your heart. You guard your tongue. You guard your words. You guard your spirit. You guard your attitude.” That's all God holds you responsible for.
Now keep in mind the context. He's talking to someone who is having evil and reviling done toward them. He says, "Let them turn away from evil and do good.”

And then I love this verse where Peter quotes. Actually, this whole passage he’s quoting from the Old Testament. (Which, by the way, is just another reminder of how important it is to have the Word of God ingrained and engrafted into your system so that when you need it, you can draw it up, whether you need it for yourself or you need it to help someone else.)

Peter here is quoting, as most of the New Testament authors do, from the Old Testament. They didn't even have copies of the Bible for themselves, but they could quote literally from passages in the Old Testament. If you want to know how to be prepared to handle life’s emergencies and extremes and circumstances, part of the key (we come back to it again) is making sure that you know the Word of God.

Could you quote from Psalms 34 in your situation or to your friend, your neighbor who is going through a difficult marriage and is asking for help? Could you go back to the Word of God?

This may happen in your workplace. It can happen at church. It happens in ministries, believe it or not. I have been in vocational ministry for all of my adult life, and there are on our leadership teams, and in the women’s ministry of your church, or the leadership of your Bible study ministry that you are involved in, there will just be occasions . . . I was talking with someone last night about a situation I'm aware of in a ministry right now, where there are just two parties of people in leadership who are seeing things differently, and it's caused some hurt. It's caused some things to be said that probably should not have been said.

Each party has to realize that, "I'm not accountable for the other. I'm only accountable for me." So what am I supposed to do?

Evil is being done. But I'm supposed to turn away from evil, and I'm supposed to do good. That's proactive. It doesn't mean just go hide yourself in a corner or escape from the situation, which is our natural bent; we want out.

Our whole culture is so driven to not have pain, to not have to hurt. So, we have every conceivable kind of medication to numb or dull or fix the pain. So many Christian women are living these very medicated, very numb lives because they are trying to escape from the pain.

Now, I'm not saying that if you have a headache that it's wrong to take an aspirin. But I think you need a theology that takes you beyond aspirin; that says, "I can have a headache physically, emotionally, spiritually, and life is still okay because God is still good, because not every headache is curable."

God is going to let you walk through circumstances. God is going to, in some cases, create circumstances in your life that you will think of as a huge headache. It's not going to go away. It's not going to go away quickly, and it may not ever go away in this lifetime.

God says, "Don't run from the cross." This is all about the cross. That's the crux of the matter: getting back to the cross. It's the willingness to suffer righteously on behalf of those who are unrighteous so that God can be glorified, and so they can be healed. So God says: "Proactively look for ways to do good. Don't run."

Now, I'm not saying, "Throw yourself in front of the oncoming freight train; throw yourself in harm's way." I'm saying, "Ask God to show you how, in that marriage, with that child, with that parent, in that church situation, how you can do good."

Your temptation is to do evil when evil is done to you. That evil may not simply be picking up the sledge hammer and throwing it at someone. It's not that obvious. We do evil with our spirit, with our eyes, with our body language, with avoidance. We do evil with the way we talk about that person to others.

Peter is saying: "Don't do evil; don't sin in your response to their sin. Instead, do good. Of course, again, let me just say that it is Christ doing good in you, through you." He's the one who gives the grace, the desire and the power to do that.

Then he says: "Seek peace and pursue it." Wow! Actively go after reconciliation. Pursue peace. Now this is tough stuff. This is the rubber-meets-the-road type of Christianity.

Whoever thinks Christianity is for weak people doesn't know what Christianity is all about. This takes all the power of God in you to do this. This means wives, if your husband is willing to stay according to 1 Corinthians 7, don't leave the marriage.

Now, I know that as soon as I say that people are going to get on their email and send me letters telling me about their marriage. I do want to hear about your situation and I care and I want to lift you up, and our team will lift you up in prayer.

But I'm telling you, we have to keep coming back to what God's Word says. And that is ff your husband (even if he is not a believer) is willing to stay in that marriage, then God says: "Don't leave that marriage. Seek peace and pursue it."

Now, Paul says in Romans 12:18: "If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men." Now, that suggests that there are some places where it's not possible because the other person is not willing to be part of that peace process.

But he's saying that if that marriage is going to break up, make sure it's not because you didn't pursue peace. Make sure it's not because you were the one spurring on the conflicts or you were the one pursuing the break up of the marriage.

When I say that I know that I am talking to some women who if they obey that Scripture to seek peace and pursue it in my marriage, that means maybe the rest of their lives, here on earth, in a difficult, struggling marriage where they will never experience the kind of love and relationship and intimacy that God wants marriage to have.

For some that sounds maybe like a death sentence. In a sense it is because all of life comes through dying. If you want to have the fullness of Christ's life living in you, then you have to be willing to go to the cross with Him. There is no breakthrough into the fullness of life without going through the cross.

But let me remind you that beyond the cross there is a resurrection. If we could only get a glimpse of eternity beyond this life, then a lifetime of being misunderstood, being ridiculed, being rejected would be just a blip on the screen, if we could see it from God's perspective.

Paul says, "It's a momentary, light affliction," 2 Corinthians, chapter 4. You say, "It doesn't seem very momentary; forty years, momentary? Well it depends on your perspective. We are so earth bound it seems like forever; but forty years is not forever.

And Paul says, "You have to put it in context, that affliction is working in you and producing for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. And a moment or two from now, which in the light of eternity is all it's going to be, when you and I stand before the Lord with all of time behind us and all of eternity ahead of us, we will say that it was worth it to do it God's way, to obey God."

So Peter says, back to 1 Peter 3:11, "Seek peace and pursue it."

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing you something important. You can respond with kindness, even when someone else is treating you badly.  Doing it isn’t easy. But you can show kindness with God’s power.

That program is part of the series, What to Do When Life Hurts. Everybody goes through hurt, so I think everyone needs to learn all they can about this topic.

Nancy’s here to tell you about a way you can prepare for life’s hurts and grow through them.

Nancy: When you’re drowning in the middle of hurt and pain, it’s tempting to feel alone, like no one has felt this way before. But if you look to the pages of Scripture, you’ll realize that you’re not alone. Others have gone through similar pain, and God has led them out.

In her book, When the Hurt Runs Deep, Kay Arthur will show you these biblical examples of people who met God in the middle of their pain. This book will remind you that God is near the brokenhearted and it will show you how your journey through pain can lead to a place of great blessing.

We’d like you to have a copy of Kay Arthur’s book, When the Hurt Runs Deep. Perhaps it will be for yourself or for someone you know, a loved one or a friend who is in a dark valley right now. And this would be a really meaningful way that you could minister to them. So whether it is for yourself or for someone else, we’ll send a copy of Kay's book, When the Hurt Runs Deep, when you make a donation of any amount at Or ask for the book when you give us a call to make a donation at 1-800-569-5959. When you call, be sure to ask for a copy of Kay Arthur's book, When the Hurt Runs Deep.

Leslie: When you’re asking the Lord to change some other person, He might respond by changing you. Find out why tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

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

All Scripture is taken from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

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

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

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

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