April 1, 2013

Facing My Fear. Finding His Faithfulness.

I have been afraid. I find myself awake, panting hard and sweating while the clock winks 2:16. I have stretched my arms across the sheets and found no one. And, then, against all reason or evidence or knowledge, I have been afraid.

Afraid that my husband will leave me. Just pack his bags and walk out of our covenant with a wave.

This is irrational. Anyone who knows my preacher-husband will tell you that he is ruled by the Lord. That the Spirit is at work in him. And that it took him until his first year of seminary before it even occurred to him that there might be a girl out there whom he should fall in love with.

To even write my fear may seem to do him a disservice that I do not want. He has been nothing but faithful since that day a decade ago when he wept for joy at the front of the church while I wore white and the trumpets played Purcell. He is the most godly man I know. And, when he’s not in bed at 2:16, he is invariably found in the other room: reading, praying, preparing to preach.

But, sadly, I experience fear and uncertainty because of the sins of other men. Friends and friends-of-friends. Brothers in the Lord. Ministers of the gospel. Who have been ruled by the lust of the eye and the pride of life and who have left broken children and humiliated wives to echo in empty houses.

It is for the sins of these other men that I wake, anxious, in the darkness before dawn. What if it happens to me? To us?

And I don’t think I’m alone in this. I have heard from other wives, too, who toss and turn. When that man of God leaves his wife for someone younger, thinner, blonder, he has all of us looking at our grey hairs in the mirror. We are afraid.

“If the foundations are destroyed,” says David in Psalm 11, “what can the righteous do?”

I found one part of the answer recently while reading The Sweet Side of Suffering by M. Esther Lovejoy (ISBN 978-1-57293-745-1).

Lovejoy was a pastor’s wife to whom the unthinkable happened: “I learned that [my husband] had been living a hidden life of sin that spanned the entire thirty years of our marriage. His involvement in various sinful activities was serious enough that he was not only removed from ministry, but eventually stripped of his ordination. Sadly, it also destroyed our marriage.” (p. 19)

Lovejoy has lived through one of my greatest fears—and several other seasons of suffering not even on my radar—and her words of hope and peace are remarkable. And they are remarkable not because Lovejoy is an extraordinary woman (though she is) but because she serves an extraordinary God.

She writes, “The loss of my marriage was a source of deep sorrow for me. I don’t think that my husband’s death could have caused me any greater grief than the death of our marriage under such awful circumstances. Added to that was the loss of my role as a pastor’s wife. I had been called to that role, had been privileged to serve some wonderful churches and people, and had loved that ministry. I mourned the loss of that privilege and responsibility greatly.” (p. 90)

And then, “There is no sweetness in grief itself, but there is wonderful sweetness in knowing that God will come alongside us and, through his comfort and care, enable us to go on.” (p. 98)

Reading her book reminded me that if the unthinkable ever happens (and “let him who thinks he stands take heed”) the Lord is still in his holy temple. Her chapters don’t minimize the pain of trials, but they crystallize the grace that the Lord formed in her under the weight of suffering.

Ultimately, it is not about my husband's faithfulness, but about my God's.

In Chapter 2, comparing suffering to a night she spent in the African countryside, Lovejoy explores how the absence of earthly lights can highlight the heavenly ones. In the same way, she says that when suffering snuffs out our familiar and temporal sources of stability, we find ourselves able to see and experience Christ’s sufficiency, shining more brightly than we ever knew before.

I pray daily that the Lord will continue to sustain and keep my marriage—for the sake of His saints, His kingdom, and His name. But, if He should remove it, Lovejoy’s remarkable testimony stands as a reminder that I would then have an opportunity to see the shining of His more abundant grace.

You can read my review of The Sweet Side of Suffering at The Aquila Report.

1 comment:

  1. I suspect most of us fear this but are afraid to talk about it. This book seems to address an important topic from a personal and godly perspective.


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