By Megan Rawlings
The lyrics of James Taylor’s song “Fire and Rain” (and this verse, in particular, “I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend . . .”) echoed in my mind as I thought about the past year.
I’ve received an unbelievable number of calls from disheartened wives during the past 12 months. Many of these ladies live with men who struggle with porn, constantly threaten divorce, have affairs, and/or battle alcoholism. All of these women are Christians who are married to nonbelieving husbands; they all need reassurance they are not alone.
I needed a success story of a couple who had overcome such obstacles to share with these women—an assurance that Christ keeps his promises to the faithful. But how does one seek out such a story? And then—in God’s timing—the phone rang. The narrative I needed was on the line. This is that couple’s story.*
Renae was a cultural Christian. (That is, she attended church because that is what “good people” do.) She was born and raised in Korea, which is where she met David during his deployment in the late ’90s. It was love at first sight, and they soon married. After two years of marriage, the newlyweds made their way to America. David worked during the week, and hunted, fished, and enjoyed sports on the weekend. But for Renae, America meant isolation. She was in a new country with no friends and a husband who was never home.
Despite their growing emotional distance, Renae found herself pregnant. Nothing changed after the birth of their first child, except that Renae now had the added stress of raising a baby. She felt she had no support. Fast-forward a couple of years. Renae became pregnant again and felt more alone than ever. She longed for an adult friend. In a moment of desperation, she turned to the God she had heard about at church.
“God, if you are real,” she prayed, “help me and show me.”
Renae began praying a lot. Her demeanor changed, but the transformation wasn’t easy. “I decided to read his Word [and] believe what he said,” she told me, “and it really did change me.”
When God Doesn’t Answer the Way You Want
While reading her Bible, Renae stumbled upon this verse: “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 Peter 3:1, 2, English Standard Version). Renae immediately began submitting to her husband, refused to nag him, and loved him the way he needed to be loved. Despite her efforts and obedience to God, she did not immediately “win” her husband. In fact, he began drinking even more heavily.
After four years in the States, David and Renae were ordered back to Korea, where he began drinking more and staying out later. Renae learned of David’s new love—gambling. Soon, he had wiped out their savings. Renae handled news of this financial setback with grace, and she continued to grow through prayer. She refused to complain; instead, she respected and loved her husband. After all, “It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife” (Proverbs 21:19, New Living Translation). Yet, the situation got worse. Credit card debt grew. As soon as they would pay off a card, David would misuse it again. Renae simply continued to pray.
Beauty in Faithfulness
In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis tells of an experienced demon who is mentoring his nephew, a less experienced demon. He says, “Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending to do our Enemy’s [God’s] will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.” This is exactly what Renae did. She fought with grit in the face of adversity, and despite her circumstances, she did what Scripture told her to do.
Several strenuous years had passed since Renae became a Christian and started praying for her husband, but a fateful day eventually arrived. After David received word of his deployment to Iraq, something happened to him. He told his wife, “Renae, I just want to thank you for being so patient with me. God has shown me the error of my ways. I am truly blessed, and now, I have decided to follow Jesus.”
Sinful behavior doesn’t disappear immediately. Renae prayed for and supported David throughout his battle with addiction. She refused to criticize him when he messed up but, rather, encouraged him through the tough times. This wasn’t necessarily what she wanted to do, but it is what God called her to do. It took time for David to give up the bottle, but he eventually did.
If you are facing a similar situation—attempting to get through a trying time in life—here are five practical tips.
How to Persevere Through a Trying Circumstance
Fight like Christ. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, he fought the enemy by quoting Scripture. Memorize verses in context and use them when you are at your weakest.
Be consistent.We are inclined to give up when something doesn’t happen overnight. Fight that temptation, because your husband can be won by your actions.
Be persistent. The success of your ministry is not measured by how others respond to your efforts. If your husband is not changing, that does not mean your ministry is ineffective.
Be faithful. Tony Evans said, “Faith is acting like God is telling the truth.” Know that God will never lie to you.
Pray . . . even when it feels hopeless. Prayer really does change things. Sometimes it changes the person you are praying for, and sometimes it changes you. Nonetheless, God hears you!
*The facts in the story are true, but the names have been changed to ensure privacy.
Megan Rawlings is the founder and CEO of The Bold Movement. She is an extrovert, pastor’s wife, and lover of the Scriptures.