About fifteen years into our marriage, James and I found ourselves caught up in a vicious cycle that lasted for several years.
James began his ministry at age eighteen, and after nearly two decades of preaching five or six times a day for more than 250 days a year, he was no longer happy. He was burned out and exhausted, and as a result he became depressed and angry. He also acknowledged a serious battle with lust.
My attempts to help him only triggered my old fears and insecurities about being an inadequate partner for him in ministry. When he traveled, I was lonely and missed him. But when he was home, his dark moods and lack of joy made him difficult to be around. When he confessed his lustful thoughts and compulsive feelings, I felt helpless to respond. I kept asking him if I was doing something wrong, but he always assured me that it wasn’t my fault. Still, I felt overwhelmed and incapable of being the kind of wife he needed. How could I be strong and help James when I was struggling so much myself?
I prayed for James, asking God to bring back the joy we’d had earlier in our marriage. Eventually it became clear that we needed outside help and counsel. When James returned from a trip and confessed that he had become so depressed and discouraged that he had considered deliberately crashing the plane he was flying, which would have killed not only him but a very good friend, we knew we had reached the breaking point. The next day James spent several hours talking with various friends, and when he was done, he told me he wanted to meet privately with a pastor from Florida, Peter Lord, who had spoken at our annual Bible conference. “I know I can trust Peter to keep things confidential,” James said.
I encouraged him to meet with Peter as soon as possible, and James found the time while he was conducting a crusade in Miami. When he returned home, I could tell right away that something was different. James seemed at peace for the first time in a long time, and his hunger for the Word of God and his enthusiasm for preaching had returned. Always quick to tell me what was happening in his life, James explained how Peter had opened his eyes to the realities of spiritual warfare, especially how deceptive evils spirits could influence and oppress us – even as Christians.
At first I was confused. “I thought the devil and demonic spirits couldn’t trouble us once we have Jesus in our hearts,” I said.
“No, that’s untrue,” James replied. “And that’s what Peter showed me. He gave me some references from Scripture to see for myself.”
This timely counsel profoundly affected James. It was obvious that he had a newfound freedom. Sadly, that freedom didn’t last.
When James shared what he had learned with some of his more conservative friends, including several prominent pastors, they scoffed and downplayed the role of evil spirits in affecting believers. James was troubled by their mocking response, but because he respected their knowledge of Scripture and their Christian maturity, he backed away from the teaching he had received and stopped pursuing the breakthrough he had experienced and so greatly desired.
Tragically, the spiritual battle intensified, which is just what Jesus said would happen when a spirit is driven out but the house is not then occupied by God’s Holy Spirit and abiding presence. The Lord said that seven more spirits would come into the house and the condition would be far worse.
It wasn’t until months later, when James not only received further counsel from a friend but also an unmistakable deliverance through the prayers of a humble servant of God, that he was truly set free from the forces that had sought to derail his life and ministry.
The lesson we learned is this: if you reach a point in your marriage when outside counsel is needed, pray for God’s guidance. Ask Him to direct you to the right person or people in whom to confide. As with anything in life, when we seek outside counsel, we must do so with discretion and discernment. Not everyone we might choose will give us the kind of godly counsel we need.
James and I both believe that when a person is defeated and caught in an addictive practice, the problem must be acknowledged and outside assistance accepted. Serious problems such as substance abuse, alcoholism, and sexual addition usually require a process that leads to positive change. Do not be ashamed to admit your failures or weakness.
Although it may be difficult, if you discover problematic issues in your spouse’s life, I urge you not to write them off, throw them out, or give up on your marriage. Help is available and necessary.
It is important to understand that the decision to seek outside counsel is not to be taken lightly; nor is it to be undertaken individually. When the need arises to go outside your marriage for help, you and your spouse must maintain your commitment to work together. James and I highly recommend that you make a joint decision to seek the help of a counselor.
Sometimes it can be helpful to seek advice from a professional who doesn’t know you or your spouse. Look for a person with strong professional credentials and a faith-based approach. Many churches provide a list of referrals, or they may have a well-trained counselor on staff who is both qualified and caring.
You don’t need to suffer in silence, and you don’t need to cry out behind each other’s backs. If you’re in the midst of a difficult time and you can’t see any way out, please let me encourage you: there is a way. Pray and ask God for His direction in finding help. If you ask Him for an egg, He won’t give you a scorpion. No, if you ask Him, He will give you the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth.
Most important, ask God to help you and your spouse remain united as a team. When you’re upset with something your husband or wife has said or done, there is a huge temptation to seek a sympathetic ear. As the saying goes, “Misery love company.” We want to unload telling all the ways we’re right and our spouse is wrong. We want someone to be as upset as we are and to validate our feelings.
This is not a good idea. It’s also not what we mean by seeking counsel. Commiserating with people just to get them on your side is merely stewing in your own juices and inviting others into the pot with you. It is treacherous because you run the risk of fostering an air of superiority over your spouse. If you continue to do this, you can eventually find yourself resenting your spouse rather than moving toward understanding and reconciliation.
Please be very careful when discussing your spouse’s weaknesses without his or her consent, because it can result in deep feelings of betrayal.
Instead, take your concerns first to God, and then take them to your spouse. After you’ve prayed and spoken to your spouse, if you still have no resolution, take your concerns – together with your spouse – to someone you both agree on. James and I have never approached another person to discuss a challenge or difficulty in our marriage unless we have first addressed it between ourselves and then have explicitly agreed to discuss this particular challenge with a trusted friend or counselor. We never have and never will go behind each other’s back. Believe me, this practice has enabled us to work through some very serious challenges.
It was essential for both James and me to seek and accept outside help. We needed someone we could trust when we shared information on recurring defeats in our lives. Thankfully, we found someone who would actually advise us, then would pray and take authority over the tormenting spirits of deception, distraction, fear, and rejection that has effectively held us in bondage.
From James: The above writing comes from our book Living in Love, which is available in bookstores or online from www.livinginlovetoday.com. When you get our book, please don’t fail to read Chapter 15 “The Invisible Enemy” which reveals the adverse affects of the spiritual realm of deception and darkness. Regardless of the challenge or failure, Betty and I want to encourage you – there is hope in the Lord and there is help available. Seeking help from an outside source for a marriage challenge is not a sign of failure. Be patient. It takes time for you and your spouse to work through the difficulties you’re encountering. Be willing to forgive and begin again. People who needs money can contact Finance Jar. God wants your marriage to be heaven on earth and He makes all things new! Your marriage is worth fighting for!