A story of faith turning to sight is often not a story of overnight success.
In fact, it’s most likely that the journey to your “happily ever after” will consist of some struggling along the way. There may even be times when you feel darkness all around you as you anticipate by faith seeing the radiant light of day — the time when what you’ve asked God and trusted Him for finally comes to pass.
Just as a seed planted deep into the soil of the earth must take firm root and then struggle to wind its way upward through the dark, so many of our victories in life are about the process — the journey. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” (John 12:24). How true this becomes in our lives when we finally make the decision to bear peaceable fruits of righteousness (see Hebrews 12:11) where there has been desolation or very little fruit. We come to realize that we must “die” to doing things the same unhealthy way we’ve been doing them.
Those old ways of doing things might include a pattern of trying to control others so we can feel a measure of comfort ourselves. Or it might require us to return our gaze toward Jesus when we’ve looked away and have fixed our focus on someone else to help us. As long as these patterns are allowed to influence our lives and our relationships, our brokenness will remain undealt with and unsubmitted to Jesus’ Cross and His resurrection life. And nothing good of eternal value can come out of that.
Jesus, the Word of God who was made flesh, was “buried” as a seed for three days — but He rose from the dead, bringing us to new life with Him. Because of His great sacrifice and act of redemption, we can take His Word into our lives and allow Him to bring forth from the darkness something new that never existed before. Whether it’s healing from our brokenness, deliverance from our shame, or freedom to love without fear, God’s Word and His Spirit are powerful to transform our lives — to do in us what we could not possibly do for ourselves.
That is my story. Yes, it’s one of pain and struggle, but it’s also one of great fruitfulness. Although your story is no doubt different from mine, perhaps you will see hidden in these pages a similar picture of yourself as you face your own unique challenges. If you do, I pray you find the courage you need to pursue God’s path of victory for you and your own journey of “happily ever after.”
Only One True Rock
Often women set themselves up for failure from the very beginning of their married lives because they want their relationship with the man they love to meet the needs of their heart that only Jesus can provide. Psalm 18:1,2 says, “I will love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
Notice verse 2 doesn’t say, “My husband is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my strength, my shield, the horn of my salvation, and my stronghold.” Whew! That would be a lot of responsibility for one man’s shoulders! As wonderful as our husband might be, his shoulders are simply not that big, and our false expectation that he can meet our every need sets us up for undue disappointment.
Our journey of growth that leads to a deeply fulfilling relationship with our husband always places Jesus firmly at the center of the marriage. Jesus is our Rock and Fortress — only Him. When we enter marriage with all our imperfections and insecurities, we have an opportunity to allow God to lead us to a place of security in Jesus rather than try to gain that security from our husband.
Shortly after moving to the former Soviet Union to launch a new phase of our ministry, I began the struggle of my life with my emotions. Engrossed with everything that comes with embarking on a new assignment from God, Rick quickly poured himself into the work we had come to do. I started and directed the praise and worship of our church, which included about 30 people. I helped Rick in the TV ministry — and I was blessed to be the stay-at-home mom of three wonderful little boys, whom I even home-schooled for a time. I was engaged in helping in the ministry and in serving by Rick’s side. But as his responsibilities and vision kept increasing, I began to fear that I was losing the place in my husband’s heart that belonged to me as his wife, and I became resentful.
The vision Rick carried in his heart at that time would prove to have a vast impact on that entire region of the world, but it took an enormous amount of time and attention as the foundation was being laid in those early days. To get the job done and fulfill that phase of the call, Rick had to intently focus not only on constructing a physical church building in Riga, the capital city of Latvia, but also on raising up church leaders and developing the foundation of what was to become a huge ministry. I began to harbor feelings of resentment and unforgiveness toward him because I felt so left out of his life.
Before I knew it, my negative feelings had so consumed me that I began to experience some troubling symptoms in my body. At times my hands and feet would go almost completely numb. Also, my unforgiveness opened the door to a great deal of fear in my life, including panic attacks at times. I remember thinking to myself, I’m a Christian — this is NOT supposed to be happening to me!
After much time spent genuinely seeking God in prayer, I came to the difficult but life-changing realization that, although my emotions were directed toward my husband, I was the source of my own bitterness and frustration.
As women, we have great hopes for a marriage that’s always peaceful and happy, but often life brings just the right circumstances that cause us to see in full color some of the ugliness inside us that disrupts that happiness and peace. When we feel vulnerable and become needy toward others, that hidden ugliness floats right up to the surface. Although we want to escape from our issues, if we don’t bring them to God and find His way of escape, they will continue to raise their ugly heads again and again.
Often it’s in our desperation that we discover the truth that our only real means of escape and freedom are found in God — through turning to Him and sincerely seeking His face. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you….” Only when we draw near to God will we find the true security we desire that no person can provide for us, no matter how hard he or she may try.
As I struggled with all those negative emotions concerning Rick and our marriage, I was in a desperate place to draw near to God. I really needed Him to draw near to me because I knew that when God draws near, He doesn’t come empty-handed. He comes with power, grace, and the answers we seek.
The Trap of Isolation
I want to share with you a little bit about how traps are set to capture our lives — traps designed to bind us up and keep us bound so that we fail to find joy and fulfillment on the path God has called us to walk and in the life He has called us to live.
Just as a trap designed to catch a wild animal is usually hidden from sight, the traps the enemy sets for us are not always obvious. They often start as one small thought, feeling, or suggestion that can seem very good, right, and reasonable at first, especially if we feel someone has wronged us in some way or that life’s circumstances have been unkind and unfair. In times like these, it’s so easy to begin feeling sorry for ourselves — and it’s in those weak moments, the enemy moves in with negative thoughts that serve no other purpose than to keep us stuck in that one place, unable to move forward.
That’s what happened to me when we moved to the former Soviet Union. Because Rick was so focused on fulfilling the vision God had given him for our ministry — as he needed to be — I didn’t feel I was as important to him as the people he had to give time and attention to in those early days. I felt as though I had been left on the side of the road! In fact, that’s how my lonely road of isolation and despair began — with one negative feeling!
Perhaps you’ve felt that way before — like your husband is loaded down with responsibilities, and you’re just another one of those many responsibilities. Maybe you feel like just another spinning plate among many that your husband has to deal with so that everything doesn’t come crashing down around him. If you lived in a perfect world, your husband could do it all and still love you the way you think he should. But it’s not a perfect world, and sometimes in marriage, there will be seasons when he has more than his fair share of responsibilities and problems to deal with in his job or vocation. I want to encourage you that more than likely, your husband is doing the best he can and probably feels overwhelmed at times because of all the things that clamor for his attention.
During the times when we’re vulnerable and afraid — and even when we feel like lashing out in anger — it’s Jesus, not our husband, whom we need more than ever. We need the Master Artist to paint on the canvas of our soul the answers and instructions we need to take us through our journey without becoming self-focused and believing the wrong things. That kind of inward focus and wrong believing will bring us to the wrong conclusions, paint a wrong picture on our soul, and eventually destroy us emotionally. That’s why we have to recognize that Jesus is our Rock, Fortress, Deliverer, and Strength. We can safely draw near to Him. We can put our trust in Him.
Proverbs 3:5,6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Of course, I knew this passage when I began struggling with wrong feelings and emotions toward my husband, but I didn’t have the wisdom I needed at that time to put into practice what I’m describing here. Instead, I nurtured hurt feelings, believed wrong thoughts, and became very isolated and discouraged — trapped — as a result.
What happened to me during those long months of struggling emotionally was no one’s fault but my own. I not only fell into the trap of nurturing wrong thoughts and feelings, but I also failed to do the things necessary to avoid being isolated. I didn’t speak the Russian language very well. I could have spent more time learning it, but I made excuses for not studying. I didn’t have any friends, but I could have been bolder and less fearful to step out of my comfort zone and speak the little Russian I had learned so that I could meet people and get to know them better.
You may ask, “Denise, how could you do that? How could you allow all that to happen?” Although I faced an onslaught of negative emotions during this time of transition in ministry, I wasn’t fully aware at each moment that I was responding so poorly. Each negative response that caused me to plunge deeper and deeper into despair was very subtle. I didn’t notice right away what was happening as I shrunk away into isolation, resentment, unforgiveness, and shame.
Have you ever isolated and hidden yourself because you couldn’t seem to shed the extra pounds on your body that you loathed? Or have you tried to do something significant — maybe involving church, work, or school — and things didn’t go exactly the way you thought they would, so you gave up? Rather than boldly facing your challenge or setback, did you withdraw in discouragement or hide your “failure” behind someone else you could blame?
Life is challenging, and we have an enemy who tries to stop us cold. But we have to push forward, past the challenges. Otherwise we can become stuck in life, captive to fear, discouragement, and depression, or even to resenting and blaming others. I’m not proud that I had all these emotional challenges to deal with. But I am grateful to God for the deep healing and delivering work He did in my heart as I sought Him honestly for the truth. I share the details of my situation not to embarrass myself, but rather to help you. If you find yourself stuck in life in any way, my prayer is that from my story, you will see the danger in the trap of isolation and avoid that serious pitfall.
Escaping the Trap of Negativity and Fear
As time passed during our time of new beginnings in the former Soviet Union, I became more and more isolated and withdrawn, and let me tell you: Isolation is a terrible and lonely trap! Everyone needs others to talk to, and that is especially true for women. But I had no one to talk to so that I could be encouraged and strengthened while Rick was away doing the work of the ministry. I couldn’t expose the negative parts of my soul — my fears, my resentment, and my pain — because I didn’t want to dishonor my husband. So I chose to say nothing. I kept all my feelings to myself, and I thought about them day in and day out, again and again and again. I was alone, stuck with just me, and I wasn’t very happy.
Many women can relate to my situation. They want to escape what they’re going through, but they can’t because they can’t seem to escape from themselves! They allow themselves to become trapped by their negative emotions and begin to believe the lie that there is nowhere to turn and their situation is hopeless.
I didn’t know who I could turn to in my situation. As a pastor’s wife, I knew it wasn’t wise to talk to anyone in our congregation about challenges I was experiencing relating to my husband. And at that time, I couldn’t see that my problem was with me and not Rick — that I was expecting way too much of him. No one could fill my bill of request — only Jesus. But I wasn’t looking to Jesus; I was looking to Rick. And because I was expecting so much of him, I was disappointed with him on a regular basis.
As Rick was striving diligently and with joy to meet his challenges head-on, I was shrinking back with fear and intimidation. While he was filled with conviction and resolve to fulfill God’s vision for our lives, I was struggling more and more deeply with bitterness and resentment.
Insecurity, new or unpleasant surroundings, and the isolation that can result are a bad combination, often leading to loneliness, fear, neediness, and even bitterness. In my case, Rick couldn’t totally understand my situation because he had embraced this new step in our calling with excitement and enthusiasm. His attention was riveted on the vision — on building the church and raising up leaders as God had asked him to do.
I should have stood beside Rick in a different way than I did to help shoulder the load of those difficult first steps in a brand-new country. But I was ill-prepared emotionally to handle the onslaught of thoughts and feelings that I was constantly barraged with. This huge, new part of our assignment and my own fears and insecurities created a “perfect storm” to bring me to a place with the Lord I had never been before. I had to learn to allow Jesus, not Rick, to become my comfort, shelter, and source of help. Before I could reach that place, however, I had to move past the bitterness and unforgiveness I’d allowed to fester in my soul.
Remember, It’s a Process
A journey to growth and change doesn’t happen overnight. (Take comfort, dear one — Moses was in the wilderness 40 years. I have comforted myself with this thought many times!) I wasn’t looking for a quick fix or instant deliverance. The bitterness and unforgiveness that had been building up in my heart for two years wasn’t going to just go away in a moment.
In fact, bitterness and unforgiveness cause their damage and destruction over a period of time. They carry roots that grow deep into the recesses of our soul. The thoughts and feelings that strengthened those roots in my own life and caused them to grow so powerful had become habitual. Tormenting thoughts did their dark work beneath the surface in me and brought a ravaging root system of destruction in my already weakened soul. And it began to affect our marriage.
Matthew 18:34 speaks of a servant who suffered at the hands of “the tormentors” because he refused to forgive his fellow servant a very small debt. I used to wonder who the tormentors were until bitterness and unforgiveness took hold in me! For almost two years, I was tormented with sleepless nights, symptoms of sickness and disease, and nagging fear. There came a time when I simply had to deal with it. And when I finally surrendered my will to let go of the pain, it still took several months of consistently yielding to the Holy Spirit so He could work through the damage that had been done and bring me to a place of healing.
In search of the truth, I discovered that when we allow something ugly or unseemly to grow inside us, we often justify ourselves by blaming someone else as the source of our problems and pain. This closes the door to our much-needed healing. Our mind searches for a place to put the guilt because we can’t bear the thought that the problem could possibly be with us! We can’t seem to grasp how anything in us could possibly cause offense in others. We see ourselves as the victims, and we think, Lord, I know what my problem is. It’s that HUSBAND you gave me!
The problem with this kind of thinking is that it’s not based on the truth, and if we succumb to it, we become trapped by false, circular reasoning. Just like a little hamster that runs and runs on a wheel in its cage, we keep running through the same wrong thoughts over and over again — and justifying them. The devil and our flesh will keep us running endlessly on that hamster wheel of toxic thoughts unless we find and yield to the answer that brings deliverance and renew our minds with God’s true and right thoughts about the matter.
In every circumstance of life, there has to be an answer that brings deliverance, and there is! But deliverance doesn’t always come quickly or overnight. Sometimes it takes time to come to a place of understanding with the Holy Spirit’s help that our biggest problems are not the result of what someone else is doing or has done to us. Our biggest problems have to do with ourselves and how we respond to the situations and circumstances of life. We have to be willing to ask, “What am I doing wrong?” and, “How can I change?” In other words, we must ask God for help and then take responsibility to humbly receive and submit to whatever He tells us.
Every married couple should be experiencing an ongoing journey of growth and change. When a man and a woman make a covenant in marriage, the Bible says they “become one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31). The word “become” includes in its meaning the idea of something engaged in an ongoing process. In other words, a husband and wife do not just become “one flesh” the moment they experience physical intimacy together. That physical oneness happens in a short time, but genuine oneness takes a lifetime.
I remember the time just days before our wedding in 1981 when Rick and I sat before our pastor and received this very counsel. We listened attentively and pondered what he meant by his statement, “It will take you a lifetime to become one.” Then our journey as husband and wife began, and I can tell you that through every season of our lives together, we’ve come to value more and more our pastor’s wise words.
As women, many of us enter marriage expecting that our husband will be everything we’ll need him to be — and that we’ll be the perfect helpmate who will complete his life. However, it doesn’t take long to realize that we’re not perfect, and neither is our husband. At the marriage altar, we actually say, “I do” to a host of our husband’s imperfections — and our husband says, “I do” to our faults and shortcomings too.
We may not see all the imperfections in ourselves or in our spouse in the beginning, but those imperfections will show up in time. Along life’s journey, we will begin to see the “imperfect,” because life has a way of uncovering the worst in each of us. The question is, what will we do when we see the imperfections? Will we focus only on what’s imperfect at the expense of our relationship? Will we run away and hide? Will we throw in the towel and forget the words of the covenant we made in our pretty white gown — “…for better or worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death do us part”? Or will we choose to run to the Lord for wisdom and counsel and remain steadfast on the path in our journey?
Perhaps you feel as if you’re in a laboratory with just the right mix of components — your weaknesses, your husband’s weaknesses, disappointment, and discouragement — to cause you to believe that your marriage will never change. Although our situations vary, we all deal with these same components at different times in our lives. Or maybe some of your “laboratory” ingredients are more staggering, such as childhood abuse, and you’ve never dealt with the damaging emotional fallout. My friend, the transforming power of the love of God through His Word and His Spirit can make you whole again. But if your wounded emotions aren’t dealt with and healed, you may find yourself creating something very toxic, volatile, and unhealthy in the laboratory of your life, and it will adversely affect every relationship you have.
However, when we focus on Jesus and give all the components of our brokenness to Him, they become the perfect setup for Him to do His best work in us and in our family. And the best part of those inner workings is the new image of ourselves that we come away with. We begin to see ourselves as God’s precious daughters who are humble, pliable, and yielded to the Holy Spirit as He creates something wonderful in each of us — a beautiful, teachable spirit that will cause blessings to come to us and our family for a lifetime.
Stand Your Ground Against the Enemy of Your Soul
James 4:7 (KJV) says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Before we can effectively resist the devil, we must first submit ourselves to God. If we’re not submitting ourselves to God, His Word, and His Spirit — and to His process of transformation in our lives — we won’t be able to stand against our enemy Satan.
The enemy knows this. And he knows that when we persevere to the end of our test or trial, we’ll come into a great victory. So what does the enemy do? He tries to distract us on our journey or stop us altogether. In the heat of our battle, the devil will try to intimidate us. He will attempt to get us off-track by pushing us in areas where we’re vulnerable — bringing up difficulties we faced growing up or through other events and mistakes from our past. He will revisit us with the negative effects those situations had on our lives, trying to paralyze us with fear so that we won’t press forward. He may even try to make us think we’re weak or believe that others think we’re weak, so we become overly preoccupied and concerned with how others see us.
After all, this is the very same enemy who attacked Eve’s mind in the Garden of Eden, saying, “Did God really say that?” (See Genesis 3:1.) Anytime we’re engaged in spiritual warfare, contending for what’s ours in Jesus Christ and for what’s right in the eyes of God, the enemy will be right there, accusing us and trying to make us feel confused, condemned, embarrassed, or ashamed. But First Peter 5:9 says these kinds of spiritual attacks and sufferings are being waged against all the brethren — and that means all of us who are in Christ.
I’m not telling you these things to discourage you, but to let you know what’s coming the minute you make a firm decision to overcome the negativity of the past. Second Corinthians 2:11 says we’re not ignorant of Satan’s devices or schemes. We’re supposed to recognize him when he comes with his negative thoughts and tries to play on our emotions. We’re to maintain our position of victory, knowing that the battle we’re in is a good one — it’s the good fight of faith! (See First Timothy 6:12.)
Another thing that will help you win your fight of faith for a victorious marriage is understanding the truth that our battle is not against flesh and blood. Ephesians 6:12 (KJV) tells us, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
My battle wasn’t against Rick. I was in a battle against the enemy in an area of my life — an area of my flesh — where insecurity had reigned for a long time. After all that time, there I was in my “happily-ever-after” marriage, wanting my comfort and security to come from Rick. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I wanted to depend on him instead of Jesus. That was too much pressure to put on one person, especially on my husband whom I deeply loved. The part of my flesh that kept rising up to try to make Rick my security — and to give him the place in my life that was reserved for Christ alone — was going to have to die. I was going to have to grow up in Christ.
But the question was — How? The Lord was faithful and gracious to show me the way out of that dark time and place in my life. It wasn’t an easy journey, but He brought me out in a powerful way. And the story of my journey is what I am sharing with you now.
‘I’m a Work in Progress’
When I fell in love with Rick, I knew he was the man I’d wanted all my life, the one I could depend on and lean on. But God never intended for any of us to be totally dependent on another human being! He wants our dependence to be on Him. So I had it wrong from the very beginning of my marriage in that I was putting too much pressure on Rick and expecting him to meet all my needs.
Perhaps you don’t overly depend on your husband, and you can’t totally relate to what I’m saying. But it could be that you have an inordinate dependence on your money, your friends, your children, your career, your beauty, your reputation, etc. The point I’m making is that Jesus wants us to trust Him with all our hearts and to place our dependence completely on Him.
Many of us get married thinking, My husband is going to make me so happy. He’ll be there for me to meet my emotional needs. This is it — now my life is good! That’s actually a selfish way to start a marriage, but, unfortunately, it happens that way for many of us. In the early days of my marriage, I didn’t have full awareness that I was supposed to be in the marriage for my husband. I mainly held the belief that he would be there for me at all times and would hold the answers to all my needs.
My attitude and focus needed to change. Instead of being centered on me and my needs, I needed to focus more on Rick and his needs. Over time I realized that the Holy Spirit is the only One I should depend on to meet all my needs; I didn’t need to constantly look to Rick. Once I settled that in my heart and allowed God to do a transforming work in me, I began to concentrate more and more on what I could do for Rick instead of on what he could do for me.
When I was able to take my eyes off my husband as the supplier of all my needs and look to the Lord instead, I was free to enjoy Rick in a fresh, new way. It also gave him the freedom to enjoy our journey through life together in a way he’d never been able to before. I was finally able to give to him without wanting anything in return because of the secure, confident place I’d reached with the Lord.
What Is ‘the Journey’?
When I fell in love with Rick, it was in an instant. But it took a process of time for me to develop into the person God wanted me to be in our marriage. I was a work in progress, and I still am. You are too. We’re all in different places in our journey, but as long as we’re alive on earth, we’re still on the journey.
When you’re on a journey, naturally speaking, whether you’re traveling by plane, automobile, or even on foot, it’s easy to track your progress by measuring the distance you’ve traveled. But when you’re on a spiritual journey, you’re being changed on the inside by the work of the Holy Spirit, and you can’t necessarily measure your progress from day to day. So when I talk about the “journey,” I’m talking about a process. I’m talking about God doing such a work in us that we can’t describe how He’s doing it; we just know He is doing it and that He’s going to complete the work He began in us if we won’t give up and quit. We can’t always chart our progress so that we know where we are on that journey on a given day. But we know by faith — because we’re committed to this journey for the long haul — that we’re continually making progress and moving forward.
In my situation, sometimes I felt like I was taking two steps forward and three steps back! But it’s important for us to maintain the attitude that we will keep moving forward with God in complete trust. We have to open the door of our hearts and trust in His love, allowing Him to do a work on the inside of us.
Philippians 1:6 (NIV) states, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” According to this verse of Scripture, God has begun a good work in you and in me. And we are in the middle of that operation — somewhere between the beginning and the end. We are on a path with Christ, and His work in us is in progress. And He is the One who’s doing it! Our job is to submit and yield to Him as He carries His activity in us to completion.
Jesus Understands the Pain of Betrayal
The journey to real change is a path on which God can do such a work inside you that you know it’s beyond your own strength, intelligence, or ability. You may have felt insecure and tried to find your own solution, whether it was to look for help in a special book or seminar — or to lean heavily on someone you thought would make you feel secure. Or you may have even had a minister lay hands on you for deliverance and healing. I’m thankful for books and seminars and the prayers of others, but Jesus is the only One who can truly proclaim Himself as Deliverer and Peace-Giver. He will take you by the hand and lead you on the right path if you’ll let Him — and He will never fail!
There’s only One who paid the complete price for our deliverance with His precious blood, and that is Jesus. He alone is our Deliverer from all fears, insecurities, and bondages. Isaiah 53:5 says, “…He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” Jesus bore everything that would try to take our peace from us. He took it all.
How did Jesus take it all? He took the tearing of our souls when we struggle to do God’s will by forgiving someone who has hurt us, despite our suffering and pain. Jesus experienced this struggle to obey the will of God as He agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane — to the point of His sweat turning to blood!
Jesus also took upon Himself the deep pain of betrayal we feel over the decisions of others who wound us. A wife who suddenly discovers that her husband has broken his marriage vows and forsaken his pledge to be faithful feels this kind of soul-piercing pain. Jesus Himself experienced a similar betrayal when He was given up by His “friend” to the religious rulers who sought to take His life.
Jesus also bore our shame. As He hung naked on the Cross in front of onlookers, including His mother, He took upon Himself all the shame we would ever feel. Jesus is touched by the feelings of shame a wife experiences when her marriage is failing, and she is exposed to humiliation and the judgment of others. Yet with every soul-wrenching emotional blow she receives, Jesus is there to help her see that He took her place and bore all her rejection and pain.
Hebrews 4:14,15 (KJV) says, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Truly, Jesus bore it all. He took our judgment for every bit of sin and wrongdoing we would ever commit. He bore the punishment of it all. Then Jesus rose victoriously over it all to give you and me a new nature and His Spirit as our Helper. He did all this so we could become godly, peaceful, and loving women, wives, mothers — and, most importantly, daughters of our Heavenly Father. His Word says that even today Jesus saves “…to the uttermost [those] that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25 KJV).
God wants to be our only God, with no other “gods” before Him. He doesn’t want us to have idols in our lives — things we trust in and cling to instead of looking to Him. He is a jealous God, who plainly states, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). And He has a right to say that! He made us, and then He bought us back through His plan of redemption, which was consummated with Jesus’ own blood — a covenant He made with us and sealed it with His very life.
When we put anything else before God, it grieves the Holy Spirit in much the same way someone is grieved who discovers his or her spouse has committed adultery. The Holy Spirit has strong feelings about putting our love for other people or things ahead of our love for Him.
Overcoming Those ‘Sinking Feelings’
During the course of my journey, God told me so sweetly, Denise, you have to get your eyes on Me, not on Rick, to meet your needs. We know from Psalm 18:2 that the Lord is our Rock, our Fortress, and our Deliverer. He is more than enough to supply whatever we need in life!
I used to spend many hours consumed with thoughts about what Rick did or didn’t do for me, but God revealed to me that doing that was a form of idol worship. I hadn’t realized I had set up as an idol the expectation that my husband would be my source of security. But when I considered this honestly and sincerely, I saw that it was true.
Once I understood what God wanted — to bring change to my life — a season of my journey began that lasted several months. I fasted for the first two weeks, and I hardly took my nose out of the Word of God! Of course, the enemy came to intimidate me. He pressed me with thoughts like, You’re not going to make it. Give up — the pain isn’t worth it.
My flesh also fought against me to stop. As I made the decision to let go of the bitterness and unforgiveness I’d allowed to lodge in me, in a sense, I felt lonelier than ever before. I was learning not to look to Rick to make me feel secure. But as I was learning to look to the Lord instead, my emotions would get the best of me at times. God was healing my emotions, but, in order for Him to do that, I had to let go of all the pain, hurt feelings, and resentment that had been my toxic “friends” for so long.
You’d think you would feel instantly better the minute you made the decision to let go of your negative attitudes and receive healing in your emotions. But when the Holy Spirit begins to open your eyes and you see your brokenness in full color, it can be very painful. Yet it’s a necessary part of the process. Jesus was healing my emotions, but it was as if the healing came in waves. With every new wave of healing, something old had to be washed away, and it didn’t always feel pleasant. In fact, it was very uncomfortable and scary because I was in uncharted waters — a place I’d never been before and was unfamiliar with. I was tempted at times to run back to my old, comfortable way of doing things that made me feel better in my flesh for the moment. But the truth was, those old ways made me miserable, and I’m sure they made Rick miserable at times too.
During those first several months of my journey to healing, Rick and I were doing some extensive traveling for the ministry. God had been doing a powerful work in me, but I had moments when I felt weak and crippled with fear as thoughts bombarded my mind that I would never see the breakthrough I desired. One night, I got up in the middle of the night and went into the bathroom of the hotel where we were staying. Behind the closed door of that bathroom, I felt like falling in a heap on the floor. I was practically breathless with fear as if someone had punched me in the stomach. Clutching the sides of the sink, I held on tightly as if clinging for life to Jesus Himself, and I cried, “Lord! I don’t understand everything You’re doing, but I will not let You go!”
Through the tears, I continued, “I know You have an answer for me, and I am not going to stop seeking You! I will not move from this place of waiting on You because Your Word says, ‘They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength’” (Isaiah 40:31). I quoted that verse and prayed that prayer many times on my journey, and each time I did, the Lord would always give me the strength to continue.
As I called out to Jesus, seeking His help day and night, He delivered me. On one particular occasion, the Lord spoke to me and said, “Within 24 hours, you will wake up in a new world.” On the day He said that to me, for the first time in two years, I was able to come to an understanding of my problem and articulate heartfelt forgiveness. After all that praying and waiting upon the Lord, my answer was finally being manifested. And just as the Lord had said, within 24 hours, I woke up in a new world. His awesome power of deliverance came to my heart and deep within my soul, where no human could touch. It was as if Jesus reached in with an invisible hand and pulled out every root and trace of the bitterness and unforgiveness that had entangled me.
From that time on, I could finally put my complete trust in God as my security. The symptoms in my body — the numbness in my hands and feet — left immediately. The fear that had gripped my mind abruptly stopped. I was free! No more torment. It was indeed as if I had awakened in a brand-new world. God had touched me and delivered me, and I knew it! That was many years ago, yet thanksgiving and adoration still well up within my heart each time I think of how Jesus delivered me from that horrible prison of unforgiveness.