Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Who Is the Center of Your World?

Episode Resources

Watch Joy's story.

Leslie Basham: Mark McClain remembers tasting alcohol for the first time.

Mark McClain: I was probably five years old when I took my first sip. You’d see Dad’s bottle sitting on the table, and you’d take a sip. And then you’d take a drink of Coke and it'd make the Coke taste sweeter. That’s how it kind of started.

Leslie: Mark started drinking more in high school.

Mark: I was just going out and having a good time with my buddies. It was just really easy to get out and have a good time, basically.

Leslie: Mark’s fiancé knew he was drinking.

Mark: I just really don’t think she worried about it too much. Then after we were married it just psssst . . . It just started to become an everyday thing.

Leslie: By the time his three kids were old enough to know what was going on, Mark’s life was ruled by alcohol, and it had a huge affect on his family.

Mark: So, let’s just take a day, okay?

I’d come home from work.

Kristen McClain: All the problems started pretty soon after he came home from work.

Mark: It’s not that bad right then.

Kristen: By the time he would be home for about a half an hour, he would already be drunk.

Mark: But as the night progressed . . .

Jordon McClain: I just remember laying in bed and hearing mainly my dad yelling and screaming.

Mark: Yelling and screaming.

Kristen: And it kept me up at night a lot.

Mark: I started getting a little more impatient.

Kristen: I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I heard my dad yelling.

Mark: I got a little more angry.

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

Mark: Anything would set me off once I got to that level.

Kristen: Just about anything you can think of that’s negative, he said to one of us.

Mark: And then you get up, go to work, and start all over again. It became all-consuming.

Leslie: So what was it like for Mark’s wife during all this? That’s the story we’ll hear today on Revive Our Hearts.

This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Holiness, for Wednesday, June 26, 2019.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: All this month we’ve been addressing the topic of perseverance here on Revive Our Hearts. So we wanted to bring you the story of a woman who stayed committed in a tough marriage.

It was several years ago when Joy first wrote to Revive Our Hearts that she was committed to her marriage and wanted to stay committed to it even though for years her husband had been in bondage to a sinful addiction. And her story, as is often the case, is messy.

At times when her husband was drunk he would threaten her and the kids, and with counsel from the leaders at her church, she and the kids had to move out of their home for an extended time. That's a good reminder, by the way, when we talk about persevering in a tough marriage, we’re not saying anyone should remain in a situation where you or your children are in danger. In cases like that, the loving thing to do is to confront sin, involving authorities if necessary, and to show that there are consequences for that sin. You’ll hear more about that in the days ahead.

But even though Joy and the kids left their home, she persevered in praying for her husband and we’ll hear how God honored those prayers in time as this story unfolds.

I can still remember the first time Joy came up to me after an event and shared just a bit of her story. It’s been an incredible joy over the years since then to watch the Lord work in this woman’s heart and also miraculously in her husband’s heart.

I’ve encouraged her to share her story with, of course, her husband’s permission, and we’ve watched the Lord use what Joy has been through to help other women to fight for their marriages even when it looks like there is no hope.

Joy has written a book called, Waiting for His Heart: Lessons from a Wife Who Chose to Stay. I’ll tell you how to get a copy of that book after we hear the first part of Joy’s story.

Now you may have a son or a daughter or a grandchild or a close friend who’s in a really difficult marriage, and I think you’ll find this story particularly encouraging.

Just yesterday I spoke with two women with tears who expressed that they felt like they were in a hopeless marriage. Perhaps you are feeling that way. If so, I hope you’ll listen carefully over the next few days, asking the Lord not just to change your husband’s heart, but also saying, “Lord, would You use this difficulty to draw me closer to You?”

Let’s listen now to Joy’s story.

Joy: When I first started dating Mark, he was a year older than me, and there was just something about him that just kind of caught my eye, and we started dating. I had the perspective from growing up in a family that was very solid, very calm. Our family was built around church and family, but when I hit about the age of sixteen, God took a backseat.

My social life became way more important than my relationship with the Lord. And that certainly showed up with my dating of Mark who professed to know God but had a lot of questions. I didn’t really know if he was saved or not, and at the time, I’m not so sure that mattered to me.

We were to be married in May. Before we were married, my husband rented a little house. It was out in the country. It was set on a little hill, and from the kitchen window you could see the silos of my dad’s farm, which is kind of cool. We planted our garden before we said our vows, so we were there planting our garden.

I remember thinking it’s so appropriate to be planting these seeds of promise that would come up and would be like our love. It was very idyllic; it was very romantic. That’s an almost unrealistic expectation of what marriage should be and could be and would be. So as we planted our garden, I just thought, Oh, this is going to be so great. It’s all going to come up just perfect, and it’s going to be good and green and growing and thriving. But it doesn’t always work that way in gardening, and it doesn’t always work that way in real life.

Just before my May wedding, I was out and my mom hanging clothes on the clothesline. I was with her, and when she was done, she came over to the hill where I was sitting and said, “There are times in your marriage when you feel like just walking away.”

I thought that was so strange. Number one: My parents had such a solid, good, godly marriage from my perspective. Number two: I thought, That’s never going to happen, Mom, because I love Mark so much, and I just know everything is going to be good and right. I never thought there would come a day when I would just be willing to walk away.

Our wedding day was in May. It was a beautiful May day, and I was so excited. I just could not wait to be his wife. I could not wait to get his last name. I was the first one to arrive at the church. I sat on the steps just for a bit. I have always journaled. I’ve always been a writer, and I remember writing about my wedding that day and how excited I was. I just could not wait to walk down that aisle and to say those vows.

As I said those vows, I meant them. They were something I was going to take very seriously, and I was going to honor them no matter what. That evening I wrote in my journal words that meant a whole lot later because I said, “Today I took a vow to love and honor my husband, and that’s just what I intend on doing no matter what.”

Had I known what that “no matter what” would look like, I certainly would have been questioning how I was going to make it through, but I meant it. God was going to test that vow in ways I couldn’t imagine, but they would be for His purposes and for His glory.

I had always known Mark to drink, not on a level that was worrisome to me—more of a social-type thing. When we first got married, it didn’t really bother me. I didn’t see red flags about that. When our first son was born, I realized I didn’t want my son to grow up in an environment where alcohol was being consumed in the home.

So I think after the birth of our son, I started to really think about this is not a good thing that he’s drinking, and I started to kind of question him. I started to ask, “Maybe this isn’t a good idea?” He became pretty resentful about that.

Mark: Why are you asking me these questions? Why are you challenging what I’m doing?

She said, “I have a right to do it.”

Joy: In his eyes, I was being controlling. In his eyes, I was telling him what to do.

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

Joy: Probably, if I were to hear the words I said, I don’t think I would believe my motive was pure because most of the time it was not. It was, “You need to change so I’ll be happy.”

Mark: The idol of alcohol, that was my idol. I mean, we all have idols.

Joy: My expectations of marriage and my husband really became like an idol because I thought my husband should meet my needs and make me happy. He should fill my wants and my desires. And no man is ever meant to do that. That is not God’s plan.

I didn’t understand that at the time. I saw my husband as the man I loved. I had poured everything I could into him. I wanted the same back to me in our relationship from him, and he was not able to fulfill those needs, especially when he started to drink more and started to pull away. He was not able to meet those needs, and I certainly made marriage—a godly marriage—my idol.

He began to really decline. It wasn’t an occasional drink. It wasn’t just on the weekends. It became a daily thing. From the time he pulled in from work until the time he could either pass out or fall asleep at night. He began to pull away. He ate with us less. He very rarely had meals with us. He spent less and less time with the kids.

Jordon: My mom tried everything she could—desperately—to protect us from that whole scenario.

Leslie: This is Jordan, the McClain’s son—their oldest.

Jordon: Probably sixth grade is when I first started noticing it—you start being more aware when you’re in middle school. I just remember laying in bed and hearing my mom and dad argue—mainly my dad yelling. So just having to hear that almost every night . . . I remember sometimes it just being very overwhelming.

Kristen: I saw my father acting out like a teenager almost—someone who was probably in their young twenties even though he was well in his thirties.

Leslie: This is the McClain’s daughter, Kristen.

Kristen: I noticed that he didn’t make sense a lot of times. I would see him on the floor passed out in front of the TV sometimes. I thought it was normal until I went to other friends’ homes, and I noticed that it wasn’t. It wasn’t normal for my parents to fight every day. I didn’t know that it wasn’t normal to fight.

Joy: As the kids got older, so did the intensity in the home. The chaos increased, and the drinking became worse.

Kristen: I could see him saying things to my mom that should never be said to a lady, and I remember him calling me names. Just about anything you could think of that was negative, he said to one of us. I remember one time I asked him if he loved alcohol more than he loved us, and he couldn’t answer. I think that was one of the biggest hurts in my life.

Joy: I felt so burdened, and I realized how the alcohol had just swallowed our life and how much I had spent, how much time I had spent tidying up after that sin.

Leslie: Finally Joy realized the only way she could stay true to her marriage commitment was for the power of Christ to be working in her. Instead of putting her husband in the center of her world, Joy acknowledged Christ as the center.

Joy: I hit my knees on the living room floor, and I just cried out to the Lord, “I want You. I’m desperate for You.” And from that point on, I started to study the Word of God. I started to ask God for truths. “Show me Your truths, Lord.” I had put Him on the back burner for so long and made my husband my god, a godly marriage my god, and obviously that wasn’t working. I was left very lonely and feeling like I’d been abandoned.

One particular day I had left home and just crying out, yelling at the top of my lungs to God how unfair it was, that I could not stand the stench of alcohol one more day. The whole thing . . . I had had it. It made me sick. I felt in my spirit God reminding me that all sin is a stench to Him, and I realized that the way I’d tried to control, the way I would try to manipulate, my doubt, my self-righteousness toward my husband, it was a stench of sin.

My husband’s sin was so blatant. It was so out there. Everyone saw. Mine were concealed. Mine looked a little tidy. My self-righteousness could be wrapped and justified in pretty little packages. Drunkenness is a little more difficult to hide. Yet my heart was evil. My heart was cold. My motives were impure.

God showed me and revealed to me the evil in my heart, the selfishness of my heart. He desired to do a work in me just as much as He desired to do a work in my husband.

I had by this time reached out for help. I had asked Mark to go to counseling. He did go, and when they told him that he had a drinking problem, and they needed to address it, his heart turned hard, and he refused to go any longer. They did recognize my need for education as far as alcoholism, and so I began to go to counseling myself to receive help for myself.

I began to reach out to people in the Body, to ask them to pray, but as I drew closer to the Lord, as I drew closer to the Body of Christ, Mark pulled away even more. He became more isolated. He became more angry, and more angry at me that I was reaching out for help.

Mark: At first I was just kind of like angry a little bit, and then when it got more, it was just much harsher.

Joy: He’s starting to punch holes in the doors.

Mark: More consistent. It was like all the time.

Joy: He’s starting to lunge at me. He’s starting to be angry at me. He’s starting to threaten me more.

Mark: And there’s never like a span of good times.

Joy: I remember one night in particular where I was lying in bed. I was just reading a book, and he comes in and starts yelling at me. And when I did not respond, his anger escalated to the point where he took the bed and actually turned it up on its side, dumping me on the floor. The bed thumped back onto the legs. I climbed back up on the bed, not really knowing what to do. Do I leave? Do I leave the room? What do I do? So I just climbed back on the bed.

He again took the bed and just threw it pretty much against the other side. And I, of course, tumbled off, and I realized at that point I am the next thing he’s going to touch because he had moved from anger to the walls, to the doors, to slamming whatever, throwing something, to lunging, and now he’s taking what I’m on, and he wants to hurt me, and he’s making threats. So I can’t do this any longer.

Jordon: Once I became aware and realized this is a problem, I would stand up to him when he was in that time and defend my mom and sometimes yell myself. That’s when it seemed worse, but I’m sure the state of him wasn’t much worse, but it seemed worse because we were starting to confront it, and he would attack back. Then it felt like it became just like a battle between all of us.

Joy: We had begged Mark as a family. The kids more than once had pleaded with him, “Dad, please get help.”

Probably one picture that will never leave my mind is of my son. He’s about fifteen years old, and he was in the living room. He was talking with Mark, and he was begging him, “Please get help. We’ll do anything with you, Dad. Please. We’ll be willing to walk through anything with you, but please, we ask you to get help.” My daughters were there. They were crying. I was crying. But it was my son who was just being very verbal that day, begging and pleading his father.

And Mark just looked at all of us, and he turned and walked away. He actually took some things and left. My son just hit the floor of the living room on his knees, he buried his face in his hands, and he absolutely sobbed. He just laid there on that floor and sobbed. His heart was broken. All of our hearts were broken. Dad has left us, and how do you pick up the pieces from that? What do you say to your children?

Over and over again after these types of events, I would gather around them, and we’d pray. We’d beg the Lord, we’d plead with God. I felt like if I do not turn my children to God completely, they’re going to turn toward bitterness in their hearts. Over and over and over again I had to take them and turn their faces to the Lord. When I was so desperate, when I was so broken and so fragmented, they were, too, and it was a desperate time for us.

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

Joy: I stayed with my husband for the simple fact that had taken a vow, and I had come to the place to understand that marriage is a living, breathing example of Christ and His Bride, and He never leaves His Bride, and I knew that my role in this was to pray for my husband.

No one on earth is going to pray for this man like you. You’re one with this man, and this relationship has been severed. What an amazing thing that is to understand when you understand Christ and His Bride the Church and how important and how intimately we are to walk with Him. No one would cry out for my husband like me and his children.

Leslie: We’ve been listening to the story of Joy and Mark McClain. I know a lot of listeners will identify with Joy’s story. You may be in a tough marriage situation, and today’s story is an encouragement to be committed and have faith that God can be glorified in your situation. And I think all of us can relate to the issues of idolatry this story brings up.

Nancy’s back to help us think through some of those issues.

Nancy: Well, I think the main question Joy McClain faced is the same question that you and I need to answer every day of our lives. Whether you’re in a crisis or whether you’re in a season of smooth sailing, we all need to be asking: Who or what is the center of my world?

At one point in her life, Joy would have said, “Mark is the center of my world.” But when that world began to fall apart, she realized that the center place of our lives has to be reserved for Jesus and Jesus only.

So who’s at the center of your world? Is your life built on a relationship with Christ or is someone or something crowding Him out? I hope you’ll take a moment today to just stop and take stock, let the Lord search your heart and say, “Is there anything or anyone that is taking Christ’s place in my life?” And to say afresh, “Lord, I want my life to be all about You, about bringing glory to You.”

Well, Joy McClain writes about the heart transformation that she went through in a book she’s written called, Waiting for His Heart: Lessons from a Wife Who Chose to Stay. I know this book will be a great encouragement to anyone who’s in a tough marriage situation, but I think this book will be of value and encouragement to others as well. The crisis in Joy’s marriage pushed her to Christ and caused her to lean on Him in deeper ways, and that’s something that all of us need to be challenged to do day after day.

We’d like to send you a copy of Joy’s book, Waiting for His Heart. When you donate any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, we’ll be glad to send you a copy. Just ask for Joy’s book when you call us at 1–800–569–5959, or you can visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com. Make your donation, and be sure to let us know that you’d like Joy’s book.

Now, I know that Joy’s story is going to resonate with many, many listeners, and it may bring up some tough questions about your specific situation. There are no quick, pat answers, but let me encourage you not to walk through your crisis alone. You may need to find a godly woman in your church who can encourage you and help you navigate some of the touch choices that you’re facing. And you may need to involve the leadership—the pastors, the elders—in your local church. They can help you know if you need to involve legal authorities.

We are not advocating staying in an abusive or dangerous situation. Women need to get themselves and their children to safety, and then work with the body of Christ and other appropriate authorities as needed to deal with the situation.

Before we close, I also hope you’ll visit our website and watch the short film that our team created that tells Joy’s story. You can watch it for yourself at ReviveOurHearts.com. After you see it yourself, I think it will be something that you’ll want to share with others you know who may be facing a difficult situation in their marriage.

Well tomorrow we’ll heart part two of Joy’s story. So be sure and be back with us for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to center your life on Jesus. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 

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