Eight Ways to Help Grieving People

It was seven years ago, but doesn’t seem so long ago that I got the call from my sister asking if I had heard about our brother.

I knew instinctively that he had died, and it was my first experience with numbing grief. I’d never before gone basically immobile where all I could do was cry. And in the days that followed, my usually active self could barely move to serve those around me who were also grieving.

I learned a lot in those days.

We flew to Honduras to try to find his body in the beautiful lake he had disappeared into, and on the third day, as professional divers, friends, and family called it quits one more time, his body suddenly floated up to the surface right beside the boat.

The sight of my brother’s body on news headlines, being drug out of the water, was almost too much for me. We buried him on a dark mountainside in Honduras, our questions unanswered. All we knew was that he was a good swimmer, yet went under quickly.

No struggle, no resurfacing. And because we were in another country, the autopsy we desperately wanted didn’t happen.

Our questions remain unanswered. Now, when others are wrecked with grief we try to remember all we learned in those days, try to reach out to others in ways that will help them rather than hurt them even more.

Lake of my brother’s moments into heaven.

A few weeks ago one of my dearest friends lost her husband. The grief was great, even for me, and I felt I needed to be there. But I remembered—did she need me now, or later? Sure enough, she told me she had lots of people at the moment and would need me in a few weeks more than now. Loving my friend best meant waiting rather than rushing into crisis.

When my cousin Susanna Kauffman died a few weeks ago, I wanted others NOT to do or say some things that had happened to us. I wanted to spare the family from questions asked at the wrong times, from news links broad casted across social media before they could even process what was happening, and from well meaning people hurting rather than helping them.

None of us always know what to do or say to someone in crisis. Do we speak or stay silent? Do we go or stay?

But as I walked personal grief and watched family members process in their own ways, I learned some things on what to do or not do. And I’d love to develop a community of well-taught believers who walk grief with others in a healing way.

1. Be okay with unanswered questions.

A funeral, memorial service, or even the days prior and after are not the days to ask a crisis family all the questions on your mind. Don’t ask numerous questions of how they died, why they died, exactly what happened, etc. Reality is not always sinking in for the family and there is plenty of time for questions to be answered in the future.

2. Be okay with just showing up.

I just walked into a room to see one of my best friends weeping, bill in her hand for $38,000 (Her husband had just lost his job along with the accompanying insurance, and his life flight alone was this much). She was playing worship music as she wept, telling me that it’s all paid for. Not by the Go Fund Me page where almost that exact amount was given, but by another source. I wrapped her up and wept with her.

Showing up can be in person or with your pocket book. Many people show up with words, yet those in crisis often need tangible presence or help more than verbal help.

You don’t have to know what to say. Most of the time you don’t need to say anything. Just show up. Just be there. Just do the thing without much ado, and make sure they are covered.

3. Don’t overwhelm weary minds with your own crisis stories.

That is not the best way to “be relatable” at a funeral. I remember standing before a long line of well-wishers, listening to someone else tell us of their own death story. We were too exhausted to stand there, much less listen to stories of another crisis. If you come to a memorial, keep your words calm, sympathetic, and short. Presence is better than speech.

4. Don’t crowd into their home after the funeral.

The family will be exhausted. They won’t need to sit for hours, answering questions and processing for or with you at that time. DO visit them in the following weeks and months as reality settles in.

5. Notice what they need, emotionally or physically.

People in crisis often find it hard to eat and even harder to cook. Take them baskets of ready made food and leave it sitting on the counter with flowers. You can come and go in a few minutes, leaving a note or a hug.

If you see a sink full of dishes, perhaps wash them quickly if the time seems right. Keep your eyes peeled for what might mean most to them.

People process differently. My friend needs quality time and someone to just sit on her couch and process with her. One of her daughters is the same, and joins us there. Her other daughter needs to move and talk, stay busy, and keep up with school work. Reality may hit her a few months down the road.

There is no right or wrong way to process grief. Don’t try to force your own way of healing onto someone else, but rather take note of each person’s make-up and go out of your way to accommodate their way of grieving. If someone needs to talk or do something, go with that flow and take them out for an activity. If they need to sit and cry, make sure your presence is there—really there.

6. Remember to mention the passed loved one in the coming months and years.

People often don’t mention someone who passed away because they don’t want to stir unnecessary grief. But the family is mourning whether or not their loved one is mentioned. A smile with a story of what you loved about the person will soothe their hearts a little. This opens the door for them to talk, process, and share about their loved one if they want to. They will probably pull out photos to share, and will love any detail you have of a pleasant memory.

It is very difficult to live a new reality. When others never mention a loved one, it can feel like you’re in your world alone.

7. Make sure all their physical needs are met.

If you see a need somewhere, just fill it. No need to ask a ton of questions. The less they have to think about and take care of, the better. They may not have the energy to thank you then, but you will be remembered as someone who truly helped. Stay tuned in for a long time, remember that months later can be more difficult than the immediate shock. Pray, stop by, and help financially or in any other way you notice they need help.

8. Don’t quote Bible verses to try to “get them out of grief”.

Be okay with grief. Cry with them. Never quote a verse about joy or say things like “Your loved one is better off with Jesus” or “You’ll see him again some day” or “Things will get better.”

Jesus stood weeping with Martha and Mary before he called Lazarus from the tomb. Even in His Godhead, where He stood ready to do the miraculous, He first made time for mourning. He didn’t have to, but He chose to.

Remember that many deaths are traumatic. Not only is a family grieving loss, often they are also trying not to remember how someone died. Pray healing over their minds—and as one friend put it to me a few weeks ago, pray that they would process what God wants them to process, and leave the rest to Him. There is grief, and there is excessive, destructive grief. Pray that they would grieve with Jesus so despair would not get in.

Let’s choose to love in ways people need us to love them. This is all about them, not about us. In this way, the God of HOPE will come into our atmospheres and change the way we sit with others in their grief.

Love to all,

Sara

“Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2, ESV

Regaining Emotional Clarity—Eight Steps to Healing (Part 6)

When people reach out to ask what the most helpful things have been for soul-healing, my brain does a spin while my heart pauses.

Healing was long, difficult, and multi-faceted with no assurance I was ever going to get there. Divorce and betrayal so deeply devastated me that I couldn’t know then what I know now.

My sister would tell me, “Sara, you won’t always feel this way. You won’t always be this sad.”

I could smile, yes. But I couldn’t shake that deep despair and dread threatening to engulf me with each waking morning. This lasted, much of the time, for a few years. So I can relate to the person whose spouse has cheated and he or she lives with debilitating despair.

Jesus Christ healed me as only He can do. It was not a simple fix after someone glibly quoted “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Don’t ever do that to a grieving person, by the way.) My healing was long, on-going, and needed to happen from every angle. It came bit by bit, and God was okay with that. But after 3.5 years, I knew it had happened.

The spirit of God touched me at a conference and I knew then that I was free. Weeping on a church floor does something to you. Staying there helplessly, like a child, letting God take your everything while filling you with SOMETHING (rather, SOMEONE), allows the tension to dissipate while your soul sinks into a peace not known by natural circumstances.

To those asking me about healing, I want you to know a few things:

1. God is okay with your process.

Others may think you’re not “spiritual enough” or “surrendered enough” if you continue grieving, but Jesus never said that.

When Lazarus died, Jesus didn’t rush to resurrect Him, though He knew that’s what He would do in the end. Get this, friend—Jesus stood there, weeping when He could have rushed to call Lazarus from the tomb. I believe Jesus wanted Mary and Martha to know He was engaging in their grief.

Isaiah 53:3 calls Him a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”.

One of the first and most important steps to healing from grief is to first engage it honestly. This might look like a day in bed, months where you watch Netflix more than read the inspirational books you used to read, or anything else that helps. A traumatized soul means a weary brain. And a weary brain needs to rest in order to rebuild itself.

Accept your grief, accept your weakness—and be okay with staying there for awhile. Just make sure you invite Jesus to stay there with you. That makes all the difference because He won’t leave you there.

2. Do things you’ve always wanted to do.

Since my divorce I’ve been on my best and longest mountain hikes (with some of the best people), I’ve gone sky-diving and allowed my body to hurl out of a plane two miles in the air, I’ve jumped from 100 foot towers, and learned dancing (which I’ve wanted to do for years).

Stepping out for things you love is vital to healing because it removes trauma from your brain for a short while. Like a shocker, you’re reminded that there are other aspects to life than the part that makes you curl up in a ball, weeping. You get glimpses of hope even if you may not stay there. These small glimpses give you courage to keep going even if despair rolls back in.

Whatever it is that makes you come alive, do it and keep doing it.

3. Engage your anger, but don’t turn into an angry person.

My nature, I am not an angry person. But I had to accept that feeling angry over betrayal was a good thing. I tried various outlets including burning garbage and old furniture, cleaning out all the remaining belongings of the person I was hurt by, and I even tried breaking glass jars one day. Seeing my husband with a teen-aged child did something to me that I can’t describe and I needed outward outlets for the inner pressure. This is not wrong and can be helpful.

But after releasing anger, choose to forgive. Bitterness will only cage your own soul in. You deserve more than to turn into an ugly person because of the ugly someone else threw your way. And I have to say, there are few things as ugly as a bitter woman. I was determined not to turn into one, and I realized I didn’t have to. There was so much good to immerse my soul into, that was more powerful than the one bad thing I could have sunk into.

4. Immerse yourself in a culture of honor.

Simply put, you need people to surround you, be there for you, and call out the best in you during the worst time of your life. My community of friends saved me. They believed in me. They rallied for me. Before, during, and after the divorce they treated me the same—with more honor than I had ever received in my life.

Find yourself friends who lift your soul rather than drag you into more depression. Find friends who know your heart so well that they don’t even need to ask about anything else. Sit with them and let them love you. Go out to dinners with them as you’ve always done. Cry with them and let them weep with you. Whatever you do, make sure you have a community who lifts your soul.

5. Choose forgiveness.

I asked it for years, “God, what does forgiveness look like? What does it feel like? How do I know I’ve forgiven?”

When I realized how much Father God hated what was done to me, I realized how much I could trust Him to take care of what was done to me. Seeing God changes everything. God does not blithely pass by one of His daughters in distress. You will get to stand still and watch Him fight for you.

When you realize you can hand your offender into the hands of God, you realize you’re okay with however God chooses to handle that person.

At that point, any gaps in your feelings become less than the focal point. God has taken over. You’ve chosen forgiveness, you’ve chosen God, and as the years pass by He will take you deeper into that secret place where you know what forgiveness feels like. Until then, trust Him with your lesser feelings as you choose Him for His greater LOVE.

6. Repent and own your mistakes

I remember when a friend reached out with these words, “Sara, you don’t have to be perfect.”

At the time, she knew why she said that more than I knew. I was so devastated by the divorce that I felt like I had to be perfect. Slowly, I realized no one can possibly be perfect and it was not only okay for me to acknowledge my imperfections; it was also important. I owned my mistakes in life without taking ownership for the divorce.

This set my soul free from the bondage of needing to be a perfect woman. I realized it was impossible, and it was fully okay to be human and to verbalize areas of growth that needed to happen in my life while in no way agreeing to or owning the divorce. (Of course I agreed to it later as the affair became obvious and ongoing).

For everyone in every season of life, a God-awareness of personal need is a gift. I learned to bask in the love of Jesus and talk to Him about all of it, telling Him I was sorry for any and every failure, and asking Him to help me change. Here, I learned how very much He loved me and was with me even when I wasn’t perfect. What a gift this became to my soul!

7. Stay on track.

In times of grief it is easier to lose sight of who we are, but so important to stay on track. If you’re a faithful, God fearing woman, keep right on being one. If you have children, keep prioritizing them. Remind yourself that keeping your home clean, serving your children, getting out of bed when it’s hard to do so–all of it will pay off and will help you keep building your life even as parts of it crash. Wash your face, clean the toilets, cook dinner for the kids–do what you’ve always done to create a lovely atmosphere for your family.

Above all else, keep your morals. Be careful with men. Vulnerable women can still be faithful women. Don’t allow the devil to rob you of even more by giving him space in this area of your life. The rewards for faithfulness are great and it is a vital part of your healing.

8. Never stop seeking.

I promise you. You who are in the depths of despair—I promise you that if you seek Jesus, He will heal you. Perhaps not in your time or way, but He will—and that’s all that matters. And while you feel no hope, I speak hope over you, to you, for you, and into you.

Never give up. Sooner or later, your soul will rise to the Son of Man who has already risen with healing in His wings. (Malachi 4:2)

And if you want to talk, find me in the contact page and I will get back to you. I will weep with you, stand in the gap for you, speak things over you that you cannot yet believe for yourself.

I’m here for you.

Love,

Sara

Regaining Emotional Clarity by Moving On–and What That Really Means (Part 5)

Most people, when they mention moving on, are referring to a readiness to get into another romantic relationship.

But moving on can be so much more. I’m here to tell you that you can “move on” without moving into the arms of another man. For me, moving on means finding soul-freedom from my past more than it means finding human love.

Letting go of a person when he’s dead can be difficult, but letting go when he’s alive can be brutal. Death brings finality and closure that cannot be avoided; divorce brings rejection and betrayal that, by all means, could and should have been avoided.

Divorce brings the death of a dream. It wasn’t only a marriage, though that would be enough. For me, divorce also brought the death of my children’s security, my dream home, my friends, the mountains and sea that I loved with all my heart, and my church. My ex didn’t think the loss would be so great, and wanted me on good friendship terms while he slept with our daughter’s 16 year old friend five minutes away. In his mind, we could live a good “friendship’, co-parenting life style in close proximity with each other.

When I realized how his brain really worked, I realized how confused mine had become. Narcissists are good at that—love bombing while tearing you to shreds—and if you don’t enjoy it, they’ll tell you that something must be wrong with you for being so sad.

Divorce taught me to see God, but it also taught me to see a lot of other things. Facing my grief with God allowed me not only to see His hand move on my behalf, but also His Love so pure that it was nothing like the “love” I thought I had with my ex-husband.

Seeing God means you own up to what He’s saying about everything. You start seeing evil for what it really is while you see goodness in ways that take your breath away.

Yesterday when a friend asked me how I’ve moved on, I had to stop and think. How has all that not destroyed me?

By choice, I don’t have a boyfriend. So I can’t credit healing to finally being in a healthy relationship.

It sounds clique to say that it was God’s presence that allowed me to stay intact and learn how to thrive again, but it’s true. I learned how to live autonomously before Jesus Christ and see what He said over me, to me, and for me—completely apart from any other human being.

You can lose everything, yet still hold on to the most important thing. This is because Jesus’ death on the cross annihilated not only sin, but also the effects of sin. Salvation was not only meant to take your sin away, but also to remove the affects of another’s sin toward you.

I took years to process the fact that my husband would walk away. I took even longer to process the fact that he wouldn’t come visit his children, and my little boy hasn’t seen his father in almost two years. Trust me when I say the processing included many tears, more grief than anger, and that devastating realization hitting hard when I woke each morning not wanting to place my feet on the ground.

So I’m not offering you some magic formula of moving on. It’s more like a solid refusal to go under no matter what you might feel in a day. It looks a lot like reaching out for help, like processing long and hard, like talking to God through it all, about it all. It looks like owning your own faults, while recognizing that the divorce is not your fault.

Moving on takes some hard-knock-life stuff. Avoidance or oblivion may make you feel momentarily that you’re moving on, but in reality, you’re only shutting down. Be willing to engage every day, even if you have a few where you don’t get out of bed.

Some of that hard-as-hell stuff in life will knock you flat for life unless you get hold of the delight Jesus Christ has over you. He says to me, to you, “I loved you before marriage, I loved you during marriage, and I love you just as much after marriage.”

The purity culture has good to offer, but we often end up idolizing the perfect romantic relationship, thinking that our well being is tied up in another person. We are much less prepared than the world is, to be cheated on and discarded. We find our identity in serving and submitting to a man, and try to perfect ourselves and our relationships as much as we try to have a relationship with God.

Slowly and unawares, a man becomes God to us. We really don’t think we can be okay without a good man in our lives.

The best women can be wrecked the most when betrayal happens, or even when marriage is less than it should be. But I want to tell you that your man is not your God. Your man is not your Savior. And your man will never keep your heart full of pure, unadulterated joy before God.

Idolizing marriage puts you in a cage of your man’s perfection—which he will never attain to, and if you expect him to be perfect for you, you’ll spend each day griping about one thing or another.

I’ve seen women gripe daily over good, faithful men as if they cannot live autonomously before God and find soul satisfaction on their own. As if it takes their men seeing a need and fixing it before they can fix their own hearts. As if their entire well being is contingent on their men treating them perfectly.

Heaven help these men if they’re trying hard, yet aren’t filling the quota their wives place on them to fill.

Coming out of abuse and the worst kind of betrayal allowed me to see the idol marriage was to me. Surrendering that to the Lord allowed me to take hold of His love, plan, purpose, and design for my life. No man can wreck that up—the only person who will ever wreck God’s perfect design for your life is YOU.

Seeing God changes everything.

Moses knew there was a burning bush in his vicinity, but the Lord started speaking to Moses when He saw that Moses turned aside and looked.

Moving on doesn’t have to mean moving into another relationship. The best moving on comes when we turn to face what God is doing—first, in grief, sorrow, pain, and anger. We don’t run from these negative emotions, but process them facing Jesus.

As the Lord started speaking to Moses when He saw Moses turn aside to really look, so He will speak to you when you stop everything to look at His face.

If you really face everything with God, you’ll find more soul freedom than many find who never have trauma but live a relatively easy life.

Facing God with our emotions is the only way to heal properly. Denial is not healing; it is debilitating.

As we face God with our grief, we begin to see God do things to help us. We credit God for His works as we move aside to see God.

I knew it was God who helped me run a successful AirBnB.

I knew it was God when I paid for my car in cash.

I knew it was God when I craved chicken and a widow lady called me up to ask if I could help her eat a larger amount she didn’t need. Somedays, small things meant even more than big things. They showed me God was watching closely.

I knew it was God when I found a house online and moved within three weeks from one coast to another.

Friends, God is always doing things for us, yet we are not always turning aside to see God and give Him credit. Many times we are stopping in our tracks to gripe over what we don’t have, and missing out on the marvelous works of God on our behalf.

“And Moses said, ‘I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.

When the Lord saw that He turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’” (Exodus 3:3&4, ESV)

God spoke when Moses turned to see.

Friends, if you’re seeing devastation in your life, imperfections in your spouse that leave you empty and wanting, make sure you turn aside to see God and His works even more.

He will come to you.

He will work in you.

He will work for you.

Though your spouse may never change, remember that the gift of Life is autonomously given, no man can take it, and, just as importantly, no man can give it.

Seeing God changes everything.

Regaining Emotional Clarity with FORGIVENESS (Part Four)

Forgiveness allows the pain in your past to propel you toward the purpose in your future—but only a true understanding of forgiveness can do that. Let’s talk about one of the most misunderstood principals in the Christian world.

I will never glibly tell a betrayed, angry person, “You need to forgive” or “The joy of the Lord is your strength”, or any other Christian quote people like to throw out when they’re uncomfortable with humanity’s mess. I will not say that until I’ve sat with her or him through the hurt of it all.

Jesus was angry.

Jesus cried.

Jesus said it how it was.

Jesus didn’t pretend nothing was wrong when everything was wrong.

Jesus didn’t pretend he wasn’t hurt; He actually experienced hurt on a human level so we could see Him in our own, and take courage.

Get this—the Son of God felt pain. And, He experienced anger so strong that He overturned tables in the temple when He could have just nicely asked religious people to leave.

The pain you feel is a good thing, in that it lets you know something is wrong.

The anger you feel is a good thing, in that it aligns you to the heart of God who is also angry with what has been done to you.

When you feel pain, grief, or anger, don’t run from it. Embrace it, reckon with it, and process it carefully because when you talk to God about your negative emotions, He walks you through them and teaches you a lot in the process.

Reckoning carefully with negative emotions brings us closer to the positive. Many people do the opposite. They shut down and deny negative emotions out of fear and discomfort—but I’m here to assure you that dealing with it all is the only way to clarity.

Seeing my (then) husband ride around town in a big red truck with his sixteen year old girlfriend brought me pain that almost made me numb. Why? Because it was wrong and my heart was letting me know that when it tightened in protest with my emotions.

Many of us run from pain rather than stand before it, asking why it’s there at the moment.

We shove it aside, as if that will make it go away rather than fester and grow.

We try to deny it, as if reality changes with our reckoning of it, or not.

Humanity was created for unity with God, which is all things love, joy, and peace. We are created to react negatively to wrong because we’re created in the image of God with a high propensity for things that line up to the character of God.

We enter the world, eager to experience the best in life, love, and liberty. But a fallen world means there is evil all around us, people with freedom of choice, and sin greater than we can handle in our own strength.

The aftermath of sin can be staggering, life-altering, and painful enough to make one need years to move on.

I don’t believe in clique christian quotes, glibly pouring from mouths who have no idea what it’s like to walk hell on earth. I don’t believe God does everything. I don’t believe in the age old saying of “God will never give you more than you can handle.”

I believe in reckoning with every form of human emotion, head on.

I believe some things are so evil that God most certainly did not do it, cause it, or want it. But because He’s good, He will work in spite of it, through it, and absolutely overcome it.

And, I believe that life does give us more than we can handle. This is when God pulls us toward His strength and we get to experience supernatural grace. A very real depiction of the fact that life is too much for us sometimes, is watching people end up in mental institutions with no where to go but a deteriorating brain because the trauma is too much for them to handle.

Or, watching others grasp hold of divine Grace where God always over-rides trauma and shows us that love wins. We just need to get close to the heart of God and access divine love.

Because God is good, I believe in forgiveness.

Because He heals my heart, I believe in love.

Because He is all Grace, I believe I can get through anything.

In Christ, we are unstoppable.

My (then) husband’s on-going affair with a girl twenty-two years younger than me led me through things I never imagined I’d go through. But it also led me toward other things.

Having everything taken from me allows me to learn that I’m entrepreneural at heart, that I can do business and investments, learn, grow, and ask advice from those more knowledgeable than I.

Having my husband leave opens my eyes to the idol marriage was for me, and sets me free to experience life, love, and grace in spite of the loss.

Forgiveness is a personal choice that sets me free to see beautiful again.

Forgiveness allows something that would have wrecked me to turn into my greatest growth, instead.

True forgiveness doesn’t hide sin, but exposes it and deals with it. Only then can you properly release it.

When you hide or deny what’s been done to you, you keep and hold the event in your heart as something permanent. Bringing it to light allows you to hand it over to the Giver of Light where nothing is hidden and all things will be manifest one day. This process is imperative to keep you on track with your purpose.

Seeing the goodness of God allows me to let go of the depravity of man.

I can forgive my husband. I can forgive the girl I used to mother, right along with my own children. I can forgive them.

I can know there’s a baby coming, and I can withhold bitterness toward the child who will rival my own children’s attention from their father.

Seeing the goodness of God changes everything.

Because I trust God, I can give the situation into God’s hands, knowing that God knows all, sees all, and has wisdom for all circumstances. Giving my ex-husband and his girlfriend into God’s hands allows me to walk away internally and not have to look back for anything.

I don’t have to get revenge. Walking around with a chip on my shoulder is unbecoming to a daughter of the King who knows she is loved and cared for. It is what it is—but God is also who He says He is—and He doesn’t take it lightly when His sons or daughters are trampled on.

I’m in good hands when I’m in the hands of God.

And when I ask myself for the hundredth time, “What does forgiveness look like?”, I can know that Jesus knows what forgiveness looks and feels like when I don’t know.

I still feel angry sometimes.

I still cry sometimes.

But all of it leads me toward grace. Enter your grief and engage your anger for a season, but allow both to pull you toward God where He engages both in a mighty win over death, hell, and everything in between.

Forgiveness allows my pain to propel me toward my purpose. On the other hand, denial would push me into numbness where I would feel no anger, no grief, and—hear this carefully—I would also feel no passion, no pleasure, and no purpose.

Trying to stay righteous by denying anger is the death to true life. You were meant to feel angry over some things. You just can’t allow anger to push you to bitterness. Jesus never asked you to feel no anger; He did ask you not to sin when you’re angry. (Ephesians 4:26)

True holiness never renders a person numb and silent; it always pulls a person toward life and purpose.

As Lysa Tuerkurst so beautifully says, “I choose to forgive; and for whatever my feelings will not allow, the blood of Jesus will cover.” (Forgiving What You Can’t Forget by LT).

Engage your grief and allow it to pull you into GRACE.

Every day, say it aloud, “I choose to forgive.”

Keeping Emotional Clarity: Don’t Run with the Boundaries Concept (Part Three)

Recently a friend and I were discussing the divorce epidemic, and how it seems many people are justifying divorce without proper cause.

Both men and women are taking Dr. Henry Cloud’s teaching on boundaries out of context, and the results are devastating. I do believe there are times where divorce is inevitable, but I’m addressing something different, here.

I can’t put the dilemna into better words than he did, so I’m going to revise his words a bit and share them anonymously (with permission).

I quote:

“Dr. Henry Cloud’s boundaries have their place, but people start misapplying these principals, and it’s comparable to deciding to get chemo and radiation treatments when you need a much less aggressive or invasive treatment.

So many people are taking that teaching and saying things like, ‘I’ve been telling my husband I need help around the house for years. He always apologizes and promises to help more, but it only lasts for a couple of weeks. Then he slips back into the usual. I can’t handle these broken promises, continual apologies, yet no lasting change. If he loved me, he’d change and help me more around the house. I deserve better. I’m putting up boundaries; no contact, no connection until I see lasting change. I’m so hurt, maybe I should even separate from him until he sees what he has and changes for good.’

Then enters some man showing kindness, attention, money, etc. They are already disconnected and the grass looks greener to her. Boom—marriage done.

It’s like all the “You deserve to be happy” and “It’s your time for you” folks grabbed that boundaries teaching and boxed it into a “mental health” box with pretty new wrapping paper on it, and started selling their same old secular, selfish-minded philosophy in a way that opens minds to a deceptive way of thinking.

In my opinion, it is hell’s new form of psychological warfare on believers.”

“Mic-Drop” was all I could think when I read this.

For some years, I’ve been hesitant to share parts of my story because I didn’t want people to take what I say, run with it, and keep hollering the “Stand up for yourself” cry.

But I also saw the other side of the planet where women can’t say anything without being told they’re not submissive enough. This was me. This is many, many women—and it is for these women that I write.

On the other hand, there are many men and women who take truth and twist it into self-serving, humanistic approaches to gain what they want by taking the easy way out of a marriage that has issues to work through. For these men and women, I write this caution.

Emotional health and mental clarity will never come from selfishly applying boundaries to good-hearted spouses with needs you don’t like. Your health will come from obeying Jesus and loving your spouse as you love yourself.

My parents are still married after forty-three years, not because my father fills all my mother’s emotional needs, or because my mother fills all my father’s needs. They are still married because love and commitment over-ride an entitled view of themselves that would make them ditch each other for “something better”.

Their home is established on more than unmet needs; it is established on the Word of God, the God who promises to be more than they will ever need. With grace, they love each other and help each other grow. With even more grace, they accept each other’s flaws and choose to keep loving–whether or not the other changes.

I signed my divorce papers for one thing only—and that was my husband’s ongoing affair with a minor child almost the same age as our oldest daughter. Today, the girl is pregnant and they are still together, albeit not legally married.

Hear me carefully when I say there were many things I could have divorced him over. I had no lack of “reasons” I could have used. But I refused to sign divorce papers until it became undeniably clear that there was no other way.

I am divorced with a good conscience. My plea to everyone out there is this: love your spouse, stay with your spouse for better or for worse unless it is simply impossible and your spouse’s sin meets the criteria for divorce as said in the scriptures. Don’t take this teaching on boundaries to mean you can put up walls for everything hurtful in your marriage. You will not heal your heart like this; you will hurt your soul, your spouse, and your children. You will be selfish, refusing to love until your own needs are met. This is not the way of the cross.

In God’s kingdom, the way up is the way down. Get on your knees, ask God how you can love your spouse best, and learn what specifically speaks love to him/her.

Somewhere along the way you will be surprised with inner soul freedom that is so much greater than you’d experience if you quit and ran for something you thought was better.

It won’t be better.

Every good marriage has at least one partner who is willing to love extravagantly even when the other does not deserve it.

My challenge for all of you today is this: take your spouse’s faults and choose to love extravagantly, anyway. Give 100%. Love the person you once fell in love with, and love them hard. Find out what makes your particular spouse feel loved, and just do it, without question.

What speaks love to your spouse may be entirely different than what speaks love to you. Study your spouse, ask questions, and go all out for the growth of your marriage.

You will never regret it!

Stay faithful, and God will faithfully clarify your thoughts, bring healing to your soul, and help you grow—even if your spouse’s faults continue.

Never give up unless, as in my own case, your marriage is no longer possible. Cheers to all beautiful, committed souls who grow, grow, and grow a marriage!

Regaining Emotional Clarity by Finding Help (Part Two)

The day I walked into a professional counselor’s office started the change in my life.

It was hard, and I wanted to disappear. I had chosen an older, christian male counselor because I desperately wanted to know if I was wrong. He looked at me kindly and said, “So, you’re a strong woman, aren’t you?”

All I could do was whisper, “I hope so”, then cry for the next hour as years of pain surfaced and I shared the dilemna I was in with my husband’s repeated suggestion that perhaps marriage should be “open”. He’d promise me that he’d never live it out unless we were both okay with it, and he didn’t know where he stood on the matter as of yet. But it threw me into turmoil, and lots of it.

I remember asking myself if I was selfish for wanting to be the only woman in my husband’s life.

I wanted God’s will, I wanted to please my husband, but when it came to this topic I would have rather been alone than be in an open marriage.

For many years, I kept hearing things like “Maybe God designed men to have multiple women and that’s why they struggle with lust.”

Or, when seeing one man surrounded with three beautiful ladies at dinner, “See? Isn’t there something exemplary about that?”

I’d shake my head and want to gag. No, that didn’t look exemplary to me; that looked needy and sinful to me.

The pornography topic wasn’t even mentioned in our home as a problem until one night, out of nowhere, I was prompted to ask him about it. The answer I got put me in turmoil for many years.

“I’ve been looking at some to pray about whether or not it’s right to view. I can’t lie about that—and you shouldn’t have asked me about it.”

At that moment, my inner reality changed while my outer world kept spinning as if nothing happened.

Amish girls are raised with the three big S words: submit, serve, and silence.

So, though my stomach tied in knots, that is what I did. Obviously, with the three other S words, there came a fourth S word: SEX.

I absorbed blame in our relationship and took internal responsibility very quickly. Saying “I’m sorry” was much easier for me than learning how not to say “I’m sorry” while asking for what I needed and deserved in a relationship.”

Writing about all this sickens me because I see who I used to be. Pathetically naive and dependent, with no ability to see beyond the perceived safety I felt in marriage to a man who would confuse my brain, then leave me with four children to figure life out on my own.

I thought he was good. I idolized him as good. And I was determined that nothing in all the world would wreck our marriage.

I should have known, right after marriage, when he told me I wasn’t allowed to go home to see my parents and siblings “because you’re addicted to them”, that something was dreadfully wrong. But, I wasn’t raised to think—I was raised to obey and serve.

I don’t know if I had even heard the word narcissism.

I had watched little to no movies or television, so I operated with an incredibly small worldview. I had never traveled out of the country or lived on my own. From working hard to please my father (who is a good man), to working hard to being a good wife and mother, this is what I knew to do.

The Jesus I know now was more of a God to please, back then. I didn’t know I could trust Him fully to love me unconditionally. I had no idea of a relationship where I didn’t have to perform in order to be loved and accepted.

I had little autonomy, but even while married, I began to see that something was off balance. God used friends to show me what could be, and I embraced it eagerly. I was beyond excited that God had a beautiful balance for women, somewhere between the door mat thing I saw in one world, and the feministic attitudes I saw in another world. Slowly, I learned that it was ok to be myself, that my voice really mattered, that I could think, reason, and be alive with or without the approval of others.

The voice of God was strong enough to start changing me while I was still in an almost hopeless situation that only got worse with time. As with everything else, I started writing out what I was learning, so when my publisher asked me for a book, I hesitated, then gave her that file on my laptop. I have no regrets in letting her publish it, even though my marriage ended afterward.

The only thing any one of us can do is change ourselves. We have no responsibility or ability to change another person, but growing ourselves up is imperative.

I thank God for healing me, for loving me, for giving me a voice to use, for giving me life apart from any man on this earth. I thank God that I now know this one thing—I am as important to God as any man could ever be. He loves me, and I trust Him.

But many years ago, though my heart was crushed over the answer I received about the pornography issue (many years before my husband left), all I knew to do was pretend nothing happened. Hear me carefully—this brought fake peace while it allowed the problem to continue until one day, years later, I received an email telling me that we disagreed on this matter and I was free to leave him.

“I might come back to you in five years,” he’d tell me and others. The pain and confusion of it all rocked me.

I continued to fight for our marriage until he packed his bags six months later and told me that he doesn’t want to sleep with other women while he’s married to me, but after the divorce he’s not sure. In reality, it was only a very short time until he was sleeping with our daughter’s friend, a few long years before the divorce was final.

Do you see the confusion here? And you, men and women whose spouses are acting up in similar ways—- know that freedom comes when you no longer try to make sense of the mess. Evil is often confusing and doesn’t make sense. Give your brain a break.

Hear this carefully—for many years, I was too frightened of the trouble that would come if I didn’t “submit and be silent”. Are any of you in that place? Please know that you don’t have to stay there.

No one has to suffocate under a religious definition of “submission”.

The patriarchal system gives the picture of a perfectly loving man IF the woman does everything right. “If you give your husband lots of sex, he won’t be tempted to have an affair.”

“If you submit to him well, he will never raise his voice.”

I tried it, friends. I tried to be “perfect” so the end result would line up with what I was basically promised—a kind, loving husband who would adore me and treat me well.

That never happened. Outward, public chivalry, yes. Holding my hand, yes. But emotional healing, mutual respect, love in the places of my soul that were hurting, no.

Anyone can pull off decent outward behavior. Only some will wound your soul with moral issues while they hold your hand, pretending the problem doesn’t exist.

Before I go further, let me assure you that I’m a firm believer in the goodness of sex. What I’m calling our attention to is something different—and that is, either partner shutting down vital parts of their emotions in order to function well in the bedroom. Marriage should be a safe place for body, soul, and spirit together, with neither part of us shutting down but all aspects of us becoming better.

When either partner is breaking trust, it is not only right to discuss and work through the pain of it all; it is vital.

But many of us do the opposite. We shut down our brains so our bodies can comply with our inner false responsibility to give and enjoy sex while the other partner breaks trust. We do this out of fear and a desperation to connect on some level.

I was determined that if my husband was into pornography, it wouldn’t be my fault.

If he ever left me, he wouldn’t be able to say it was because I didn’t give him enough sex.

So, I did what it took with my emotions so that I could keep doing what I thought constituted a “good wife”.

I kept the house clean, home schooled the children, cut the grass, did the grocery shopping, laundry, packed his lunches and cooked his dinners.

But, I hurt my heart and soul by not validating the pain. I didn’t know how to live as if I was worth something, too.

Later, the truth met me that there were some things no one can fix, no matter what they do. That truth saved me.

“Am I selfish for not wanting to study open marriage with my husband?” Is he right that we should be able to discuss these things together?”

My husband ordered a book for us to study on the topic, which I agreed to study with him. I was desperate for his approval and reasoned that God could keep me in truth by His Spirit.

But when the book arrived, I could read one page before begging him to remove it from the house. My husband was disappointed and said that time was the best time of our marriage as he felt we could talk about everything.

Do you see the number this put on my dependent brain? He wasn’t mentioning SIN; he was talking God’s will, an open mind, best time of our marriage because we could communicate about everything.

He used everything I wanted most to pull me into the thing I wanted least. Hear me carefully on this—this is a very, very common tactic for narcissists to use.

I needed help to keep my head on straight. And whether or not your situation is as drastic as mine was, you need the same help. The kindness we get one day mixes with the abuse we get another day, until it is very difficult to think clearly on our own.

Keep your brain sharp. Keep your mind above the fog. Reach out for help. This is point number three. Please don’t do what so many men and women do—stay silent out of “respect” for their spouses. That, my friend, is not respect; that is fear.

Those who truly love you will assure you that you’re not selfish to want answers. They will tell you that you’re right on track. You need to hear truth verbally, whatever it is—and you need it now.

This time, don’t walk to a closet to cry it out–walk to a counselor’s office to find answers. Trust Jesus and His heart for your emotional healing and mental clarity, trust that others will surround you with love, trust that you can and should reach out.

Love,

Sara

How “Submission” Can Turn to Suffocation

I paused before I spoke, carefully weighing each word—and more importantly, each tone of each word.

I had waited for two months to talk with my ex-husband about something that needed to be talked about as soon as it happened (painful things with other women). But, I was terrified to talk even though what had happened was wrong.

That doesn’t sound healthy, you say—and you’re right.

My suffocating experience in marriage led me to research healthy womanhood with a passion. There had to be more to relationship in marriage than what I experienced. Surely this was not what Jesus talked about in 1 Peter 3.

Surely if a wife who loved and served her husband discovered something wrong in her husband’s life, she should be heard?

I knew the answer was yes even though I didn’t experience it. I weighed my words carefully and spent years in confusion and emotional distress because I tried so hard to avoid the hurtful conversations I knew would happen if I tried to communicate.

Thank heaven this is not what a wife is meant to have in marriage.

Let’s take a look at some powerful women in the Bible. Deborah was a prophetess, a wife, during one of the most troubled times of Israel. She’d sit under a palm tree dedicated to her, called “The Palm of Deborah” while the people of Israel came to her for judgment.

When they were oppressed under Jabin, king of Canaan, Deborah called Barak and told him the Lord asked him to go out to war against the king’s army. In verse eight Barak says to her, “If you will go with me, I will go; but if not, I will not go.”

Deborah goes with him but lets him know that the glory won’t go to him because the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hand of a woman. (Judges 14)

The battle rages hot but as is always the case when God is on our side, Barak’s army won until each man fell. Every man but one, that is.

When 900 chariots of iron weren’t getting him anywhere, Sisera fled on foot to Jael’s tent. Why this tent? Because there was peace between her husband and the king.

Jael kindly invited Sisera into her tent, comforted him with words of peace, fed him hot milk, and covered him up warmly. He fell asleep and she took a tent spike into her hand, a hammer in the other, and pounded away, into his brain until he was dead.

Then, she reported it to Barak.

Israel’s victory began with two women, one of which obviously went against her husband’s wishes when she chose to fight on the Lord’s side. Get this—she killed a man who was at peace with her husband. The only vibe we get from scripture concerning this act was one of approval, God fighting with her, with them.

She aligned herself well. Remember this, sisters—when your husband opposes God’s kingdom it is of utmost importance that you choose the right side.

Now, lets hop on ahead to 1 Peter 3 where God talks about one of His exemplary women, Sarah.

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conversation of their wives………as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him Lord. And you are her children if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” (1 Peter 3: 1 & 6, ESV)

How do we make sense of this seeming contradiction? By taking the entirety of the Word of God rather than zoning in on one verse. God has a perfect plan for His women and it shines through all of scripture.

Jael quietly did what she needed to do. We don’t read of her becoming feministic, abrasive, or brash. We simply see a woman of great strength with an ability to rise to a God-given occasion to fight for His people.

In that moment, her husband was second to God, not competing with God. This is what we need to remember: our husbands do not compete with God for equal place in our lives. God is number one, always.

I believe God was number one in Sarah’s life and that was the only reason she was able to honor her husband. God was proud of her and used her as an example.

There’s an entire culture of honor we ladies need to live in, walk in, and speak in. We can do this even when we need to say no to our husbands.

My situation forced me to not only say no, but to testify in court against his actions. From closing my mouth in order to keep peace, to opening my mouth and refusing to make peace, this was one bear of a journey.

The Lord let me know one day as I was walking that my husband would leave, and that I would be the one to speak up against his actions. I still didn’t know the extent of gross sin I’d be dealing with, but my heart cried out, “Please Lord, please no. Please not me.”

I wanted so very much to please him instead, but it had become impossible.

When rubber hit the road things not only got worse, but sickeningly disturbing until the entire town was in an uproar. I had to speak with detectives and law, court, and fight for my children until my knees shook.

I could no longer obey, “submit” or pretend to be okay.

And bit by bit, I learned that it was okay for him to be unhappy with me. I’d take my emotions by the shoulders, give them a good shaking and tell myself, “Sara, if he was happy with you, you’d be in the wrong. It’s a good thing, a very good thing, that he’s unhappy with you.”

Sisters, please hear me on this. You are not responsible to make your husband happy, or to keep peace. BUT, if you walk in love and honor, you will make a good man very happy.

Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

If you’re walking in love and with Jesus by your side, you’ll treat him with honor. You won’t yell and be obnoxious. You won’t nag.

You’ll be feminine, gracious, and eager to bless him.

But hear me on this—you will also communicate honestly as you honor him.

You’ll be able to say the hard things.

You’ll be able to say no if he wants to veer right off track into obvious sin.

If he’s pulling toward another woman you’ll be strong enough to stand up to both of them with a better option—that of saving your life-long covenant with your husband.

If the need rises, you’ll be Jael in Sarah’s world.

Sisters, there is no other way.

Abigail brought food to David and God took care of her belligerent husband who became so angry with what she did, that he died. God blessed Abigail for feeding his servant when her husband was selfish enough to cause a war. (1 Samuel 25)

But take note on the extreme cases these examples are. Jael won a war and Abigail stopped a war. Many women today create wars instead because they are too selfish to think past their own skin.

Femininity or feminism?

Feminism tries to prove to men that we can do what they can do. It is obnoxious and nothing short of abusing the word, “woman”.

Feminity thrives in a culture of honor. We honor ourselves when we honor those around us. We are ‘yes’ women with the ability to say no when the need arises. We are graciously strong and refuse to buckle under sin and abuse.

We can stop wars and win wars, but never create wars unless standing for truth creates one of necessity. We are, as Jesus asks us to be, “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16, ESV)

A culture of honor can be nothing else.

It’s Still Okay to be Feminine

I’m going to open my veins here and let them bleed a little on a topic dear to my heart.

I love being a woman.

I love it so much that I have no problem owning the fact that men possess attributes I do not. The same is true of women—we can do things men cannot do. But hear me out just a little here……….

It took me forever to burn things from my marriage, but I finally did, carrying a pile out to burn up in flames because my marriage was so far gone. I even sold my bed and all the pillows, then slept on the floor as I cried some deep tears.

In some ways it was merciful for things to get as bad as they did, or I would have hung on forever. But I finally knew I had to be done.

God met me there and told me, “Sara, you are still fully woman and fully feminine, with or without a man.”

Those words from Jesus have been my saving grace. No man can rob me of the gift of being fully woman. Since then, I’ve been able to enjoy, even more, all the things I did before.

God has this ironic way of redeeming everything for those who love Him, and the gift of being able to appreciate goodness even more, as a result of the ugly I’ve been through, has been part of my redemption in it all.

I still dress up, wear make-up, and purchase an occasional new piece of simple jewelry. I still love fashion even though most days I’m knee deep in cleaning supplies at the job. Every once in awhile I still take out the curling iron, and I still love an elegant glass of wine.

If anything, those things mean more to me now because I’m joining the work force each morning and filling my car with gas along with a gazillion men who are all building houses, maintaining lawns, and pouring concrete. They make the mess; I clean the mess.

But recently, as I praised my ten year old son for his masculine protection over our home and family when someone ransacked our car in the night, I was bombarded with upset women because I dared imply that men are more protective than women, that we should all be content with our gender and simply live it up.

I even dared speak against transgender lifestyles. I’m not into the pop-Christian culture where sin is blatantly condoned. And I’m not afraid to mention Jen Hatmaker or her false interpretation of love.

But that’s another topic in itself. Back to daring to mention that men are protective.

I was blown away. Surely most of those women would happily take a protected place should war break out and the men around us rushed to the front lines to protect their homes and families. (I’d honestly love to see a line of feminists when the call to bear arms comes along. I dare say that at that moment, they’d love to let men be men.)

Of course there are female soldiers, too. But I’m talking majority here. There is simply no doubt that most men have a protective instinct and most women have a desire to be protected.

My little boy’s eyes lit right up as he planned how to scare a thief away from our car. And I, as his mother, could only stare at this tiny ten year old and wonder why he wasn’t afraid.

Say that on face book though, and you’ll get all kinds of “Women are definitely the strongest gender” kinds of comments.

I’m not sure what we have to prove here. Do women really feel obligated to do and be everything a man does and is?

For crying aloud, men can’t grow a human in their own bodies, give birth, or even care for a baby as instinctively as women can. We are just as strong, yes, but in a different way. There’s a (God-given) reason most little boys play guns and most little girls play dress-up.

Of course some girls are naturally “tomboy-ish”–and I happen to love scary adventures, mountain climbing, and such as well. We’re not making cookie-cutter descriptions here, but calling appreciation to the fact that genders are different and families need BOTH to function well.

We are just as important, yes, but we are not the same. If God wanted females to be as good at everything men are, He would have just created all of us male.

I’m weary of the twenty-first century where femininity is looked down on rather than appreciated. Have women forgotten they are bearers of beauty, kindness, and love? The world needs us—and every real man knows it.

When women release their femininity for something they think they should be, instead, something difficult comes in its place.

Insecure women bring control, unrest, and ugliness into this world. I’d say this universe needs the opposite—and I’m frankly honored that God created us for the task.

The other day I was cleaning a bath tub for a client when suddenly a massive something with a million legs came speeding up an unused drain. I screamed just a little, stepped back, and wondered what to do.

I could be the bravest ever and say with millions of other women, “Who needs men?” I could squash that creature with a wad of toilet paper. I could overcome every fear I’ve ever had of crawling creatures, and just do it.

Or, I could be okay with my fear, walk out to the garage, and ask the gentleman to please help me with this mini-animal scrambling around his tub.

I chose the latter and stayed far away until he walked out with a smile, a dead creature, and an apology. I thanked him, re-entered his bathroom, and made it cleaner than it’s ever been.

See this—I wasn’t weak for wanting help with a crawling creature speeding about with a million legs in the bath tub I was cleaning. And he wasn’t less of a man for not wanting to clean his house.

I own a cleaning business because I’m good at cleaning and I love organizing. Most days we clean three homes, some of which are obviously bachelor’s pads. Now, some guys are cleaner than women, but there’s a reason we often use extra soap on man caves.

See that term, man cave?

A woman will most likely call her home a nest. She’ll have plant rooms, dining rooms, a sitting room—all geared to love, nurture, and create a haven.

Both genders are strong, yet in opposite ways because we are meant to compliment each other and bring to this world what the other does not. When we both do our part, we create a beautiful balance. When we compare, fret, and feel less than, we create void by default, because when someone isn’t filling a spot, the spot is empty.

If women try to be men, what is left for real men to be attracted to? Who is there to care for, to love, to be hero for?

Before you bristle, ladies, remember that a man is biologically created to be a hero. Even Disney knows this. There’s a reason Cinderella wears the glass slippers and her real man rescues her.

Real men need real women, even in the twenty-first century.

Before you go haywire on me with all kinds of hormonal reactions, may I remind you that I write this as a single woman making my own way in the world?

I know how to start, own, and grow a business, hire employees, and manage a thriving company.

I know how to pay my bills, do my own yard work, use a weed trimmer, fill the lawn mower with gas, and check the tank for oil.

I know how to use a chain saw and I’ve spent hours cutting up fire wood with my children.

I can manage my website and work with people from one end of the spectrum to the other.

But, I’m still fully woman and it’s totally okay to have a man get that crawling whatever out of the bathtub while I stand there shaking.

We have nothing to prove, but everything to be.

Do what you need to do in life, but nurture those around you, bring beauty to every place you go, and find full satisfaction in being a woman. Appreciate and acknowledge what men do and are for you. Only an insecure woman has something else to prove.

You are so needed. Not half of you, but all of you.

Let every real man keep right on opening doors for women, and let every real woman thank him with a smile.

The attributes we do not possess are meant to be fully met in the other. Goodness calls to goodness as we both live fully in this world.

Single women, this is for you, too. You are every bit as much of a woman, and the world needs you. Remember to stay kind and bring both internal and external beauty to those around you.

Way of a Woman, Part 111

KNOWING OUR WORTH, Guest post by Kate Kenaston

So if every boy is born with a question, what questions is a girl born with? Some people say, “Am I beautiful?”

I disagree.

I believe it’s, “Am I accepted?”

When God went to form Eve, He could have used dirt just like man. But he chose to instead open Adam’s side and remove a rib. Adam was human.

There was blood and sacrifice involved.

Eve lived because Adam sacrificed his body.

When she was brought to Adam, the man verbally proclaimed her identity over her. His approval was not based on how well she performed her role. At that moment she had not done anything.

He approved of her, because she was HIS. She was taken out of him…and the man celebrated his sacrifice.

When Jesus came to earth, He left His acknowledged identity. He left His honor, His comforts, His dignity and His preferences. Laying down his life was much more than the cross. And when His life culminated on Golgotha and He died on the cross, His side was pierced and out flowed both blood and water.

His side was opened.

There was blood and sacrifice involved.

The church lives because Jesus sacrificed His body.

And Jesus verbally proclaims her identity. His approval is not based on how well she performs her role. We are approved of before we have done anything. He approves of us because we are HIS. We live because of Him and Jesus CELEBRATES His sacrifice.

There is a REASON for everything God says and does.

Women were created to be a physical representation of the church.

  • We are worth sacrifice.
  • We are valuable.
  • We are vital.

We desire to be loved, approved of, accepted, chosen and seen as blameless in our husband’s eyes, even IN our unacceptable state, because that is how Jesus sees His church. Innately we desire what we were created to receive.

And THAT is why men are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church.

He chooses her above his own reputation, comfort, conveniences and preferences. Put that with a woman who gives back to him all the honor, respect and admiration she can muster …you have something unstoppable.

You see, what most men don’t realize is when they truly forsake all others and cleave only to his wife and LAY DOWN THEIR LIVES, the honor, respect and submission they crave will be a spontaneous outflow of gratitude. Just like the church’s worship, respect, love, praise and celebration and the church’s spontaneous overflow to JESUS for what He has done.

Satan’s goal isn’t only to keep men isolated.

He is also out to keep women from feeling loved, because he knows that if he can keep us from feeling loved, we will have a hard time to truly honor.

There are many men who refuse to forsake all. Instead they cling to their identities, reputations and entitlements. If Jesus had done that, there would be no church.

But I don’t believe fulfilling our role depends on the other’s performance.

We have no excuses. And we will get into that later on.

We need to understand GRACE.

You love him with his imperfections, just as Jesus loves YOU.

John 15:12 “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.”

In order to GIVE this kind of GRACE, we have got to have experienced it ourselves. We cannot give what we do not have.

We have got to understand the grace God pours out on the church. We have got to be able to see ourselves in God’s eyes. Our identity has got to come from GOD…not our husband.

When our HEARTS are turned towards the FATHER, no matter what our actions are, He loves and accepts us. He accepts us when we are unacceptable, because our position is TOWARDS HIM.

It’s when we turn our back to Him, no longer willing to receive HIS input into our lives, that creates the void between us. And I believe that is what sinning against the Holy Spirit really means. It’s repeatedly choosing to block out His voice and refusing to listen. It’s hardening your heart. God doesn’t turn His face away. WE are the ones who turn.

Grace is being accepted when we are not acceptable.

It is trusting the identity that JESUS spoke over your life. That never fluctuates by your performance. The approval of God on your life is not dependent on the approval of your husband.

And when we can live in unshaken grace, we can extend unshaken grace.

You cannot extend what you don’t possess.

Pt. V: LIVING OUT EZER

Every military establishes a strategy BEFORE the conflict.

OUR STRATEGY: RESPECT & HONOR

Matthew 10:16 “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.

Let’s back up and review.

  • God believes in male and female equality (Gal 3:28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.)
  • God strategized, by establishing order and divvying out strengths/weaknesses.
  • We are not to look at our roles as “greater and lesser”. Jesus is “under” God, but we all know He isn’t lesser.
  • Women are a physical representation of the Bride of Christ and we relate to our husbands the way the church relates to Jesus.
  • every boy is born with a question: “Do I have what it takes?”

We know Satan wants to answer this question. His agenda is to prove to the man that he is as insignificant and incapable as his deepest fear whispers he might be.

Respect isn’t something we do because it’s the “right” thing to do. Remember, God doesn’t get bright ideas just for the thing of it. He does everything with a purpose. Showing respect is for a certain RESULT. It’s to accomplish something.

Have you ever asked the question, “Why should I honor, respect and submit?”

Unlike many authorities, God is never threatened by our questions. Acts 17:11 Paul commends the Bereans for questioning and studying. His reasons are big enough for questions.

Ephesians 5:22-33 ESV

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

To understand the meaning of a word, we need to back up and look at two things.

  • The etymology (original definition) of a word
  • And the context

So let’s do that here.

The Greek word “submit.” hupo-tasso-mai

The Greek word “submit” is a combination of a verb with a prefix. The verb “tasso” could be translated as “set, arrange, order.” What we miss right away in English is that this verb was a military term for arranging soldiers in ordered formation to confront an enemy. It was primarily military language for “designating, commissioning, appointing or deploying. Or “assign, appoint, arrange.” The ending of the word tells us we’re in the passive/middle voice.

Literally, we could read the verse, “deploy yourself under”.

Now we could read the verb as it appears in Ephesians 5:22 as “place yourselves under your husband” and you might be technically correct, and then you might look, as past translators have, for something like “be subject to” in order to render the verse in better, quicker English.

But…you lose the military context of hupotassomai, which is about forming up for battle and about deploying or stationing yourself to support.

Should we even be surprised? If God chose the military word Ezer to define woman’s role, doesn’t it make sense that He would chose another military term when assigning her the strategy?

What we are talking about is not an ancient Greek word for abstract obedience, but a concrete metaphor of military support!

Context of its use:

This translated word, “submit/deploy” is embedded within a passage that provides an extended military metaphor.

Eph 1, God’s power and plan:

  • 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,. (He just gave us the end goal.)
  • We celebrate the fact that we are adopted into God’s own family.
  • Vs 9 “God has now revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ–which is to fulfill his own good plan. And this is the plan: At the right time He will bring everything together under the authority of Christ.”

This is why He does the things He does. Think of this next part as his strategy, equipping us so we can help him accomplish this. This is going through Ephesians and giving a basic overview of subjects covered.

  • We are reminded how we are made alive again.
  • Importance of peace and unity among believers.
  • Explains how we are a temple of God.
  • The giftings to each believer. Your giftings are to forward the Kingdom of God, NOT to make you feel good about yourself.
  • Living as Children of light in a practical way.
  • Living by the Spirit’s power
  • Chap 5 Spirit-guided relationships Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (He talks about how we should walk as children o light…and then goes on to specific instructions to relationship: wives, hubands, children, servants…)

And THEN it goes into:

  • Putting on the Whole Armor of God

At the time, these letters were being written to challenge hierarchy, not support it.

Numerous times Paul talks about how men and women are “one body, fellow heirs, and husbands to love their wives as their own body.”

1 Cor 11:11-12 But among the Lord’s people, women are not independent of men, and men are not independent of women. For although the first woman came from man, every other man was born from a woman, and everything comes from God.

Lots of women cringe a little bit when reading 1 Cor 11. But I’m pretty confident that in Paul’s day, it was the MEN who were doing the cringing.

Eph 6:10-18 (Read this with your relationship with your husband in mind.)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”

Now, I want to explore the meaning of the word, “head” used in Ephesians. I believe in God’s order of authority. We see that authority order lived out in Father God-Jesus-Church. Take a moment and dwell on how that order is lived out. I know a lot of us have experienced negative church experiences, where we haven’t experienced the Church living as a beloved Bride. But she is. And as we go into this, let’s mirror the God-Jesus-Church order and line it up with God (3-in-one)-man-woman order.

FATHER GOD-JESUS-CHURCH

GOD (3 in 1) – MAN – WOMAN

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”

  • The meaning of the world translated as “head.”

The Greek word used here has two meanings. “Head” and “Origin.”

A “source. Like the head of a spring or a head of a river. ”

We don’t respect or submit because the man has better ideas. We don’t respect and submit to him because he is always right. We don’t respect or submit because it’s wrong to disagree.

And let’s think again. WHY does the church submit?

If we need to submit like that, we need to understand this.

It’s not to gain approval–we are approved of because of what JESUS did for us…not our own works. It comes from a genuine feeling of THANKFULNESS that spontaneously outflows. And that is how it should be in submitting to our husbands.

We respect him because we are accomplishing a goal.

We are strategizing WITH GOD.

We have a point to prove.

We have a question to answer.

We have a man to help.

And we are given the tools to accomplish that.

And this leads into something else. This is why I don’t believe in excuses. We aren’t victims–even if you find it impossible to submit with the same attitude that the church does. Remember that God is using military language, and war is never easy.


1 Peter 3:1-22

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

1 Timothy 2:11-12 Women should learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them.

WHY? God did not intend these verses to be a three point plan on how to have the least conflict in marriage. He’s not afraid of conflict. God actually values tension.

I want you to remember that you are strategizing with God. Remember, God is the one who created man….and He knows how to teach you the language of a man’s heart.

And it goes right back to the question haunting your man’s every day. “Do I have what it takes?” To a man respect, honor and submission means, “I value you. You got what it takes. Your mistakes do not change the way I perceive you and YOU are more important to me than being right.”

It allows him to put his guard down, as he has nothing to prove.

It creates a safe space.

It opens his ears so he will listen to you.

It gives us a platform to speak into his life.

It is so much BIGGER than just doing what he says.

Like everything else, it’s your heart and what motivates you.

There are a lot of women going about the motions of respect and submission. They never dispute or challenge. They agree and comply. But all these motions are just for “doings sake.”

The purpose is forgotten, and just like a church loses life when religion sets in, so honor loses its power when it is no longer done on purpose.

2 Timothy 3:5 Having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

The goal is not to “do the right thing.” We need to know what we are doing. WE need to be aware and active. We women have the Spirit of God inside us. We host power in that Spirit. And with the power invested in us, we can come against the devil and his agendas.

There is devastating damage when a church embraces religion. When the outward actions are put before the inward heart. When DOING is more important than BEING.

And God created us to exemplify the church.

Remember the ditch of Deadly Compliance? That passive control? Putting on a form of godliness for our OWN benefit. So we can feel good about ourselves. There are many women who submit just like that. To feel good about themselves. And it destroys their home, their husband, their children and their own lives.

Proverbs 31:10-12 Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies. Her husband can trust her,and she will greatly enrich his life. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.

We often think of finances when we talk about your husband trusting us. But can you prove to him that he can trust you with his failures, or does he always have to prove to you that he was right? Can he trust you with the painful parts of his past, or is he afraid that you will think less of him? Do you know RIGHT NOW what his present struggles are? Does he know you are co-laborers TOGETHER, with Christ, or does he feel like he is slogging up the path by himself?

So we build trust and believe in him.

We create safe spaces.

We have patience.

We do not fight for a place. We PREPARE a place.

Now some people stop at honor and respect, but Ezer isn’t just about making a man feel like he is capable of going out to battle, it’s about being willing to go out with him and fighting FOR him.

DOING BATTLE:

1 Corinthians 7:13 “If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he is consent to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband.”

I know. Most of us are married to really decent guys who love God and go to church.

And as women, we desire the approval and acceptance of our spouse more than anything. And what holds us back the most from being Ezer is fear. Fear of criticism, fear of rejection, fear of conflict. Fear of vulnerability. Exactly what Sapphira was afraid of.

Do you remember what Peter said about Sarah?

We are her daughters if we aren’t afraid.

If your actions are motivated by fear, they are the wrong actions.

So what do we do?

  1. Stop and renounce fear. Refuse to participate.

Fear will not only affect any decision you make, but it will make your husband react as well. When a woman is afraid it makes a man go on the defensive. He will feel like you don’t trust him and he will tend to want to control or else he will give up and stop trying. Neither stance is the response needed for healing.

When you allow yourself to see what is really going on, If all you can do is stand against fear, know that that in itself does a lot. There is power in recognizing a hurt area in your husband’s life, seeing for what it is, and standing against fear in your heart.

Why? Because standing against fear takes the power of God. You engage the darkness with light. You are willing to accept the tension it brings. And what is the opposite of fear? Yes, it’s faith. Faith, knowing that God is there. It’s not you and your words and your suggestions. Standing there, allowing yourself to see what is going on, and standing silently in faith before the Throne of God. Your husband doesn’t even have to know you are doing it. He’s feeling your love and respect. He is aware of your honor. Your presence means safety and warmth.

PRAYER IS WARFARE!

2 Corinthians 10:4 “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”

Luke 10:19 “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.”

Matthew 18:18 “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

We do not have authority over the man, but we definitely DO have authority over the spirit world!

Using your authority:

First we need to understand where it comes from.

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore….”

God himself is the power behind our authority!

We need to understand it belongs to us.

The Bible says that you are the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). Jesus is the Head, we are the Body — and His authority is perpetuated through the Body. When Jesus rose from the dead, He transferred His authority on earth to His Body, the Church. In God’s mind, when Christ was raised, we were raised.

Ephesians 2:6 “ the God raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.”

Both the Head and the Body are seated there, next to God, in the place of power and authority.

That means YOU are seated there! You are seated in the power position, and you are His heir (Romans 8:17). That means that everything that’s His — including His authority — now belongs to you.

Using it:

You have got to understand your true position of power in order to use it. Remember the verse that I read “Having a form of godliness but denying the power”? Meditate on your position in Christ until you fully grasp the revelation that you are seated with Him, and YOU ARE the one He moves through.

Then use your authority by speaking out what His Word says, using the Name of Jesus.

Think about that! When you use the Name of Jesus, believing that you’re seated with Him at the right hand of God, you are backed by all the power in heaven! Every knee must bow to that Name (Philippians 2:10).

Jesus made it very clear that His Name is the key to all authority:

“Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 13:13-14).

How does this work out?

You know your husband’s weaknesses as well as satan does.

You can identify the vulnerable areas and approach the areas satan is destroying in your husband’s life and come against them in Jesus’ name.

If it’s a relationship with a child, you can pray over that area. Even while an encounter is going on, you can pray against satan’s agendas. You can barr him from entering into the relationship.

You can pray that Holy Spirit will enlighten your husband to lies he believes. And you can ask Him to strategize WITH you by giving you thoughts, questions and words you can speak into his life.

All this can be (and I believe should be) done without your husband knowing it. All he is aware of right now is your honor, your trust, and a new confidence and strength that radiates out of you.

Remember, it’s not your husband you are taking authority over. It’s darkness.

SPEAK:

For some of us, this is the hardest part of all. It feels super vulnerable to allow the Spirit to flow out of us to our man. And honestly I have no formula to give you, except love.

When Holy Spirit speaks, the motivation is ALWAYS love and empowerment.

If you are not motivated by love, it’s not the Spirit of God.

And the right words spoken in the wrong spirit are NEVER right.

  • Have you ever prayed outloud over your man?
  • Have you put your hands on him and blessed him?
  • Have you looked him in the face and told him, “

Holy Spirit is in you. I believe in you. I see Jesus in you. I really love the way you related with that child. I’m so thankful for you. May your spirit rule over your mind and body today. Thank you for all your do for us.

Are you intimidated or afraid by these suggestions?

If so, I ask you why? It’s worth exploring.

And I remind you that just like Sarah, you should not allow fear in your life.

I am not sure when He will tell you speak life into the man in your life, or what words God will give you, but if you allow your heart to overflow in honor. If you stand against darkness. If you pray in the spirit. I know that in the moment you need them, God will give you in the exact moment you need them, the words he needs to hear.

So what would have happened, if Sapphira would have been willing to be Ezer?

What if she would have made herself a safe place where Ananias could have voiced his insecurities? Showing honor, voicing appreciation, refusing to cower, refusing to bow to the spirit of fear…and yet asking nudging questions, little by little to guide him into exploring the places in his heart he’s afraid to go.

And once she was a safe place and Ananias opened up, sharing his insecurities, she held his heart and PROVED her trustworthiness. What if instead a lecture or silence, she spoke words of faith and love. All bathed in respect and honor. Proving to him that he wasn’t a “lesser” man in her eyes. Proving to him that he isn’t his worst fears.

And yet, when the time came. If he still decided to go ahead and pretend religious righteousness, she could have stood for what is right. She wouldn’t have lied to Peter.

She wouldn’t have been afraid.

Believe me, you are up to this task!

God has equipped you with every skill needed to be Ezer.

  • He gave you an identity to represent in physical form the most treasured part of His life. His bride. His church.
  • He has given to physical characteristics to see past the physical day-to-day.
  • He gave you the tools and strategy you need to reach your husband’s heart.
  • He gives you grace–seeing you as accepted even when you are unacceptable.
  • He gave you all authority to resist darkness.

And He has given you the strength to see it through, because He promises that you can do ALL things through Him.

Matthew 16 the disciples start worrying if they have enough food because they forgot to bring any. Jesus reminds them of all the miracles He worked, providing for their needs.

And then in verse 13 He asked a question:

“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

I believe that we can take that verse literally.

Jesus will provide not only the daily bread you need, but He also has given you the keys. When we know who Jesus is and thus know who we are in Him, any lie, stronghold or struggle the man in your life faces, cannot withstand an Ezer. The gates of hell cannot withstand us.

“Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she’ll give you a baby. If you give her a house, she’ll give you a home. If you give her groceries, she’ll give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she’ll give you her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her.”― Erick S. Gray

How I Found Wholeness in the Breaking of Divorce

Divorce is an epidemic in our twenty-first century culture.

I remember my children being in public school and realizing that most of their friends no longer had both sets of parents in the house. It blew me away.

Divorce was not a word in my vocabulary. When my marriage hit the rocks, I refused to sign the papers he wanted because I knew divorce was not the answer. When reality forced me to agree with the divorce and even to want it (because of his teen-aged girlfriend living in our house with him),I knew I no longer lived in the world I wanted to live in. I had joined the club.

A few years earlier, my heart had fallen to my toes when I greeted him at the door with a smile, looked down, and saw books in his bag on how to do divorce well. Then and there, my world was never the same.

He wanted to be friends and have a friendly divorce. But to me, there was nothing friendly about divorce and betrayal.

That was almost three years ago and our divorce is just now being finalized.

I had to see the girl a few weeks ago, had to be in the same court room as my now ex-husband and I sat for trial over things we never should have needed to decide.

Then, it was over. I joined my friends for brunch, started crying, and couldn’t stop for a few days. Every ounce of strength I had gathered for the past three years flew out the window and I cried ugly in my father’s arms.

I’m a single woman. Not just a single woman, but a christian single woman intent on staying faithful to the God I know, intent on finding out more of His true heart for women, and determined to continue healing.

Many years ago when the first huge ugly in my marriage started rocking my inner world, God taught me that He not only came for the sin of this world, He also came for the pain of this world. I found Him in ways I had only heard of before.

I found Him greater, stronger, and more powerful than what was rocking my boat.

If Jesus Christ died to SAVE, that not only means my sins are forgiven; it also means that sins committed against me are forgiven and have no real power over me.

If Jesus Christ is the Giver of Life, that means nothing deadly on this passing earth can take eternal life out of me.

And if He cares for me as He says He does, that means the past three years of tears will be redeemed because He weeps with me, then offers life to me.

I can sink or swim. I happen to believe that we were not meant to go down in the storm, we were meant to ride the waves.

It sounds cliche`. The honest truth is that riding waves often looks like swimming in tears.

Let the tears roll. They will purify your soul and cleanse you from pain so you can be washed in life. Let them roll for three years, if need be.

Jesus weeps with you but He doesn’t merely commiserate with you; in the end, He liberates you.

I want to walk with you, not ahead of you or behind you, but beside you. I want us to be community and that means sharing the good, bad, and ugly for each other and with each other.

We are human and life is real.

But God is also God and He is eternally alive. He is Victor over all, through all, and in all. Allow Him to walk with you, then lead you.

Beauty for ashes may not mean your circumstance becomes beautiful, but it does mean your soul will merge into beauty in ways you’ve never known before.

Your pain has led you to glory because even though pain speaks, it cannot have the final say.

Friends, don’t be afraid of the thing you don’t know how to survive. Just make one good choice after another even when you don’t know which is the best one. Trust God to make up for your mistakes as you do the best you know and ask Him to lead you. I promise, He will.

My heart is healing from the inside out. I trust yours will, too. And in the process, I am here for you.

All is grace.

Love, Sara