When a Wife Follows Her Feelings over God’s Word
Lance’s testimony is titled All I Have Lost Is Worth It. This statement is not a whimsical boast but a deeply felt conviction. What he has lost is his wife Linda and their four children. It is true that before he found true repentance at the Pure Life Ministries’ Residential Program, Lance had been a real “jerk” to Linda. He had never been unfaithful to her, but he had been deeply immersed in pornography and showed very little love to her and the children. Nevertheless, after dealing with this couple for over a year, in complete exasperation one day I privately made the statement of Linda, “What a fool!”
Lance came into our residential program in July 2001. He left the program with one of the most dramatic transformations I have seen during my 17 years of ministry. He had been utterly self-centered, full of hatred and bitterness. Now he loved God with all his heart and was determined to stay pressed into Him upon his return home early in 2002. I was a little apprehensive about him when he left. I really wasn’t concerned that he would return to pornography. My fear was that he would lose the fire for God that had built within him during his stay at Pure Life. During the course of the next year, I saw him a number of times as I occasionally traveled to his area to minister. I was immensely gratified to see that he had indeed kept his love for God, even through the most difficult circumstances.
When Lance entered the Residential program, Linda went through our counseling program for wives. Over those months, her counselor (Rose Colon) helped her work through the bitterness that had built up inside her toward Lance. Rose taught her to lay those feelings aside and to make the choice to love Lance as an act of her will. “I know from my own experience that forgiveness does not come easily when you’ve been hurt by the man you love,” Rose told her, “But my testimony to you is that God’s grace will help you to forgive him and even love him if you are willing.”
God’s Will for Marriages
Linda seemed to be responding to Rose’s counsel. At Pure Life, we believe it is always God’s will for marriages to be restored if there is genuine repentance. Since Lance had never been unfaithful, she had no grounds for divorce even if he had not repented. Scripture says that God hates divorce. (Malachi 2:16) Unfortunately, people who live by their feelings rather than the desire to please God will often attempt to find a way around this fact.
The Pharisees had this attitude. If a Pharisee would become disenchanted with his wife for some reason, he would find some pretext to divorce his spouse. One day, attempting to trip Jesus up, they came up to him and said, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all?” Jesus responded to them, “Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said, ‘For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh?’ Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”
“Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?” they retorted. Jesus said, “Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:3-6) This teaching lays the groundwork for the only possibility of divorce: if a man is in unrepentant adultery. Speaking of these words of Jesus, one teacher wrote:
“Any woman who will truly pray through for her husband will not need to divorce him. Jesus is talking here about the working of the spirit of divorcing, which is breaking asunder what God has joined together. Any husband and wife who will so pray for one another, honestly and thoroughly, will not need any divorce for they will find each other at Jesus’ feet.”
The Role of Feelings
When Lance returned from Pure Life, Linda told him that she wanted to remain separated for a time to make sure that he had really changed. Had he been involved with other people sexually, this would have been understandable. But Lance had only been into pornography. Furthermore, he had truly repented of his pornography habit and of the lack of love he had shown his family. He was excited about returning to his family so that he might show them the love that God had shown to him. Nevertheless, he resolved himself to respect her wishes and love and serve her in every way he could.
Unbeknownst to Lance, Linda had purchased a copy of a popular book written by a woman who had been married to a porn addict. In great detail the lady had written of her emotional sufferings living to a man obsessed with seeing explicit images. I would certainly never discount that pain, but the discerning eye will quickly see that she is living in a cloud of self-pity. Furthermore, her psychology-based response to his pornography problem is completely unbiblical. She believed that she should protect herself against the pain of his “mental unfaithfulness.” After all, didn’t Jesus equate lust with adultery in Matthew 5? Her entire book was founded upon the premise that “once a sexual addict, always a sexual addict; you can never expect this man to change.” Wives are advised to divorce their husbands so that they may protect themselves from any possibility of being hurt in the future.
This book told Linda exactly what she wanted to hear. Her feelings for Lance had dissipated during the year that they had been separated. She had “fallen out of love” with him. Jesus said, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you... And just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way. And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” (Luke 6:27-32) He also said, “But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:15)
Unfortunately, Linda had more respect for man’s wisdom than the words of Jesus. She preferred to be ruled by her feelings than by God. Since she was not maintaining a regular, vibrant devotional life with the Lord, her feelings took God’s rightful place of lordship within her heart. The reality of God was small in her consciousness, while her emotions were huge. They dictated her decisions. Bolstered by this woman’s book, she became determined to divorce Lance.
The Role of Scripture
During this period of time, Linda expressed a willingness to attend counseling sessions with Lance so that they might both learn how to be better parents to their children through this divorce. Lance scheduled a meeting with a local biblical counselor. The counselor reviewed their situation and asked the question that any godly counselor should open the session with: “Are you both willing to obey the Word of God as we work through these issues?” Linda had not considered her situation from this perspective before but readily responded in the affirmative. The man then asked them what Scriptural support they had for their separation and impending divorce. Lance and Linda both sat in silence.
He wisely temporarily set the issue aside. The couple attended two more sessions with him. Finally, on the third visit, he said, “Linda, I want to help you learn to parent your children, but I don’t see that as a possibility if you continue to refuse to reconcile. How can you correctly parent your children if you are not willing to model a godly relationship before them?” he asked pointedly. “In the first session you stated that you were willing to obey Scripture. I see no Scriptural support for this divorce. You must decide if you are willing to work toward the restoration of this marriage.” Linda responded, “I am not willing to reconcile with Lance.”
How tragic it is when someone decides that she knows better than God what is good for her life. Had Linda been willing to commit herself to obeying the Lord, she would have eventually found that her feelings for Lance would have returned more strongly than ever. She would have discovered that the love growing between them would be the powerful force of agape love—not fleeting human feelings.
Linda has made an extremely foolish decision that will ultimately bring her far more misery than had she gone against her fickle and vacillating emotions. She could have had what many other sincere Christian women would die for: a husband who truly loves God. Because of her selfish decision, her children must live in a broken home without their daddy. There is no reason that this story could not have ended in a happy and godly home.
Steve Gallagher is the Founder and President of Pure Life Ministries. He has dedicated his life to helping men find freedom from sexual sin and leading Christians into the abundant life in God that comes through deep repentance.
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