By Elizabeth Prata
Marriage is hard. It takes a lot of work, denial of self, service to the spouse, and submission. (Ephesians 5:22-23; 1 Corinthians 13:7, Having Jesus at the center is necessary for success and even then, some marriages between professing partners still fail. Without Christ, I am not sure how any marriage survives! You take two sinners and put them together as one flesh, and each must submit to the other and … well, without Christ the entire endeavor is harder than salmon swimming upstream. We swim against our sin which is hard enough, and then cover the spouse’s sin (1 Peter 4:8; Proverbs 17:9). We need Jesus in marriage, He is our All in All.
In our sinful outlook we sometimes forget that our great God is a healer. Not only does He heal our physical bodies when He chooses, not only does He transplant our sinful heart from one of stone into one of flesh, but He heals marriages.
If the bitterness that rise up between the man and the woman (the only true marriage) and are sinfully nurtured, seemingly permanent and set in stone, they are not! He wipes away the anger and hurt and disappointment if the couple submits to Him in repentance. He smooths the angry hearts, He reconciles drifting couples. Here are two stories of just such a healing. May you be encouraged as I was by these sweet testimonies.
JENNIFER AND TOM BUCK
Jennifer recounted on the G3 Ministries website how God restored their marriage in their early days, 35 years ago when the couple was new to the union of matrimony. Tom is a pastor and Jennifer is his wife. I’ve included the first few paragraphs here as an excerpt, and then the link to continue reading how God restored them is below that. Please read it, it is encouraging to see what God can and DOES do! Here’s Jennifer:
This summer, Tom and I will celebrate our 35th year of marriage together. The vast majority of those years have been wonderful, and we make a good pair in our home and ministry together. However, the early years were not so wonderful. They were hard—very hard.
I entered marriage with my own insecurities and lack of confidence in myself. My husband desired to be a godly leader, but he struggled to understand how to lead in this way and was crippled by the anger he carried.
Our first few years we limped along trying to figure out married life. I knew something was not right. I sensed we were not reflecting the beauty of marriage that I had witnessed in the example of my parents and many others. Yet I was ignorant to understand what was brewing in our home. At G3 Ministries, please continue reading “A Story of Restorative Grace“
Next month, Pastor James Bell will have been serving at his church for 47 years. Also next month, he will have been married for 55 years. He recounted his story a few years ago in hopes that the focus and attention of the power of Jesus to restore marriages would inspire and encourage any reader. Here is pastor James Bell:
THIS STORY IS TRUE! Like most young couples, this couple was sure that they loved each other. They did not really need the one pre-marriage counseling session– but it was required. So, there they sat before an aged pastor who had long ago performed the wedding of the parents of the young lady.
Wedding day– It was a beautiful wedding in a large church’s chapel. Every pew was filled. The weather was hot. The wedding went off without a hitch. BUT HIDDEN BENEATH were serious seeds of destruction. Troubles began soon. They mushroomed; but were still hidden from public view. However, in less than a year, all the emotions of love were deeply dead.
To the couple a son was born– at which time her parents came. And somehow the sadness and hurt was seeping out. For before her parents left to journey several states back to their home, they looked the young father in the eye and said, “It all depends on you!” While not totally correct; but they were right more than they knew. They were met with stonewall silence.
A few months would pass and the young family flew back to the city where they got married. They visited with her family; the young husband later journeyed to another state to visit his family; and then back to their far away home, to work, and school. Just a few days later, as he arrived home at the usual 2-3 am from work– a letter had been left. He opened it. His wife said, “It’s over! My dad will be out on Friday to get my belongings.”
The young man, alone in their apartment, raged with anger; and then wept like a baby; and then, he awakened upstairs friends and showed them the letter– the neighbors were shocked. No one knew. The couple had been very good at hiding.
BACK DOWNSTAIRS in the apartment, the young man became overwhelmed with one conviction: He had vowed, “…until death do us part!” He had not a clue of how or if the marriage could ever be healed. He knew one thing– by the authority of God’s Word, he had to try. Thus, he got in his car and drove across several states to get to her parent’s home.
The journey was instigated and empowered by one reality: THE AUTHORITY OF THE WORD OF GOD. He was BOUND by the Word of God to try to salvage their hopeless marriage.
[Note: Looking back, it was especially right that he, the husband, should humble himself and initiate reconciliation!]
SOME MIRACLES TAKE A LOT OF TIME! This one did. But slowly this husband and wife began to learn the ways of God for marriage. It takes a heap of God’s kind of forgiveness and a heap of God’s kind of sacrificial love to heal a broken marriage, to re-kindle love, to restore love, to take love to higher heights.
YOU KNOW WHAT– sometimes that young man, now much older, wishes that his marriage to his wife was more ‘STORY BOOK’… all wonderful and sweet from day one until the end.
NEVERTHELESS, he is exceedingly grateful for the GRACE OF GOD in healing the broken hearts of he and his dear wife. Grief lingers for the hurt and sorrow caused– nevertheless, GOD’S GRACE is greater than all our sin!
TODAY, HE IS FEELING SUPER BLESSED THAT God ‘ruled and over ruled’… that God gave him a beautiful and wonderful bride, completer, and companion. YES, SOME MIRACLES just take more time!
On May 27, 1967, Cynthia Anne Baker became my wife, Cindy Bell! I AM TRULY A VERY BLESSED man to have been given such a treasure! I love you, Cindy! WOW! 49 YEARS
TODAY [at the time this was written]! LET’S DO 31 MORE! With those years added on, I will only be 102… and by then, you will only be….. ….. much younger! — James Bell
REJOICING IN AN “AMAZING-GRACE-BOOK!” MARRIAGE! 5/27/1967-5/27/2016.
In another essay, Pastor Bell wrote:
I’ve witnessed and/or read of the “Story Book” marriages; as well as having had the honor of helping more than a few couples experience their own ‘love stories!’ How beautiful and precious are those rare ones whose ENTIRE married experience was/is ‘Story Book!’ They started right, continued right, and ended strong at the time of death… or… they continue still!
SADLY, ALL TOO OFTEN marriages turn sour! Love’s affections, kindnesses, and good times disappear. Anger, resentments, and hopelessness reign. For a time, (sometimes for years), the couple may have it all hid. Nevertheless… evil, malignant, destructive emotions, words, and beliefs are in charge. The end is announced. For most, the hurt never ends; the scars never heal.
HOWEVER, the DAY OF MIRACLES is still with us! GOD ‘rules and over-rules’… The Holy Spirit causes the truth and power of the WORD OF GOD to begin to take root. God delays and even destroys the bad end… and God begins to bring healing. At times it comes ‘two steps forward and three backwards’… and yet, the healing continues. Raw faith/obedience to the Word of God makes a growing impact.
YES, MIRACLES COME when there is the obedience of acting upon the Word of God in faith SO AS to deal with one’s own sins and failings… and leaving the spouse in God’s hands.
MIRACLES COME WHEN there is the discovery that GENUINE LOVE IS NOT AN EMOTION OR FEELINGS; but rather such love is SACRIFICIAL ACTION for the good of another without demanding a response… IN ORDER to please and honor JESUS!
(Yes, over time… the emotions of love began to be restored… as the FRUIT, an overflow of genuine love.
WOW! A beautiful life of growing love is not reserved for the ‘story-book’ few! There are also MIRACLES of amazing GRACE EVEN FOR THOSE who are presently feeling that they are utterly HOPELESS and FAILURES! I know. WE WERE there.
I AM SO THANKFUL that by the grace of God, there came a day when I began to see clearly… and today I see clearly that life’s trials, tribulations, life’s pressures, life’s troubles, life’s injustices, and life’s disappointments are, among other things, divinely designed to reveal what is in one’s own heart!
Life is not merely or primarily about what happens to us, or of how others may have wronged us, or how we may have wronged the other person! BUT LIFE is about Grace through the LORD JESUS CHRIST that is greater than all our sin—
We simply have to flee to Him and lay everything at His feet! LIFE IN CHRIST is all about being loved by God when I was unlovable, undeserving, and unresponsive!
It’s about REPENTING GRACE, and of being FORGIVEN!
And it’s about the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence to motivate and empower any Christian to be a channel for God’s love and forgiveness!
IN ALL OF THESE MATTERS— TO GOD BE THE GLORY!
Signed: James Bell
As Jennifer was writing up her and Tom’s story of how Jesus reconciled the two, she shared her draft with an expert writer, someone she thought was personally trustworthy, in order to streamline the writing before publishing. The project was put on hold for a few years, but the person apparently held on to the draft, which contained information Jennifer later deemed unnecessary to the story and was redacted in the final draft published above. But the sole person who held the draft somehow had let it fall into others’ hands, or not, until such a moment when it could be used against her husband by power brokers in the SBC, and it was. It should be noted that some power brokers against Pastor Buck chose to release the draft as a weapon, in order to attempt to discredit Tom.
Sadly, rather than focusing on the point of this whole prospect, the restorative power of Jesus in marriage, the issue has become subsumed under the power machinations of those in certain seminaries and denominational structures within the SBC. Jennifer’s statement on the weaponization of her essay of restorative grace is below, as well as the statement from the elders of the church in which Pastor Tom serves, addressing the discrediting campaign.
It is activity such as this which makes couples and individuals laboring under a burden of sin, reluctant to come forth and confess one’s sin to each other as the Bible says we are to do. (James 5:16). Sin needs the disinfectant of light, and the open repentance of it in order to begin the healing process. The SBC people who chose to publicly humiliate a couple seeking to encourage others with their story will be reckoned with on the Day of Judgment. Meanwhile, let the stories from the Bucks and the Bells encourage you!
From First Baptist Lindale:
A Statement Regarding Tom and Jennifer Buck