Our Hearts Deceive Us

Last night I had a really tough discussion with our youngest son. He challenged me regarding my attitude toward a member of our family who has hurt me a lot in the past. I thought I had dealt with my issues and so I was a bit defensive (actually more than a bit) when he confronted me. He asked me if I thought that was the way Jesus would handle the situation. That only turned up the heat of my reaction.

At first I responded, “Well, who are you to talk. Here’s what you have done with this person in the past. Your reaction was even worse than mine.” He readily admitted it had been, but then went on to share how Jesus had dealt with his heart and he had repented. His answer was, “Neither one of us was responding correctly, Mom.” He was right.

When our hearts have been hurt, we can justify all kinds of words and reactions. I learned that long ago when I was standing, but that doesn’t mean that I always recognize when I’m slipping back into that pattern. Sometimes it takes someone who really loves us to confront ungodly behavior in our lives. It was a hard conversation, but it was an honest one filled with love. In the end I knew he was right. I had given lip service to forgiveness, but I had hardened my heart against that person to protect myself from further hurt.

Jesus is the only one who can protect our hearts and keep them healthy at the same time. When we choose to protect ourselves, we can only do that by walling ourselves off from others.

I remember years ago during a counseling session the Lord showed me a line of weak little men dressed in underwear. Each one had a pie plate on his head for a helmet and carried a stick in one hand and a garbage can lid in the other. They were running frantically to and fro in a state of panic. I had to laugh at how inept they seemed.

I asked the Lord what on earth they were and I will always remember His reply. “They are the army you have established for your own to protection.” That day I realize that compared to what Jesus had to offer, my own resources were pretty pathetic. And yet here I am today discovering that I was amassing that same debilitated group to once again protect my heart.

Hurts never stop in this life and the lessons we learn as we stand for our marriage can serve us again and again if we let them. As we talked last night, the pain of all that has happened with this person came flooding back to me. I realized that I had not taken it to Jesus, but had stored it away in my heart thinking there was nothing I could do to change things. And, in reality, there probably is nothing I can do to change things, but then why do I need to when Jesus is the one who does that best?

No other human being can ever truly understand the pain we each suffer. Others may have had similar experiences, but there really is no way to convey what we each uniquely feel as we experience trauma. In the end, though, it doesn’t really matter because Jesus understands completely what we have experienced. Scripture tells, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are,  yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

Often we think of being tempted to sin in association with lying or stealing or committing adultery, but is not the desire to strike back against those who have wounded us also a temptation? Isn’t speaking evil of someone who has treated us poorly also sin? Isn’t harboring unforgiveness and a desire for retaliation also sin?

Last night after my son and I finished talking, I talked with the Lord for a good while. He always tells us the truth when we are willing to listen. He showed me my heart and I realized that what my son had seen on the outside was only a symptom of what I was harboring on the inside. Out of the abundance of our heart our mouth speaks.

The holidays are an especially difficult time when we are standing. I pray today that you can take your hurt to Jesus. He knows what has happened and He knows what you have experienced. The condition of your heart can make or break this time, first for you and then for those around you. With Jesus there can truly be joy in the midst of pain, there can be healing in the midst of hurt. And I also pray that you have someone in your life who loves you enough to confront you when your reactions are not godly. It hurts to hear the truth sometimes, but if we are honest with ourselves and with the Lord, it can bring great healing. Love, Marilyn

“For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Hebrews 2:18

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts.” Proverbs 21:2

A Powerful Movie

Recently we went to see the movie Fireproof. I knew it was a movie about faithfulness in marriage, but I had no idea how anointed it would be. I don’t want to reveal all the details in case you haven’t seen it yet, but I would like to focus on a few powerful principles.

Because it is a movie, changes that may normally take a good deal longer are accomplished in a little over 40 days. So it is important to focus on the principles, not the time frame. God’s principles never change and we need to give Him the time it takes to work those principles in our own life and the life of our spouse.

Knowing the movie was about marriage, I had expected to see some depiction of marital fidelity, but I was truly surprised by the layers of truth sandwiched throughout the movie. One of those surprises was the generational fruit of faithfulness. Each of the parents of the central characters had challenges in their own marriages. One dealt with physical incapacity and the other with enemy attack against their unity. Both sets of parents demonstrated covenant fidelity and, in a very powerful way, their faithfulness overflowed into the next generation.

Another interesting facet was the influence of friends in the lives of the husband and wife whose marriage was disintegrating. One had a strong friend who spoke life and encouragement, the other had friends who gossiped and spoke death. It was quite revealing to see how each spouse was influenced by those they chose as friends.

Perhaps, though, the most powerful principles of marriage healing (and strengthening) were seen in the actions undertaken by the spouse who chose to stand for his marriage. He began where most of us begin, being willing to change and do things differently in order to receive the reaction he wanted from his wife. When that reaction did not come, the true challenge of unconditional love began.

There are many other facets of the movie that bring forth scriptural truths, but I would like to focus at this time on unconditional love. Many of you have written and asked what exactly unconditional love is and how it is manifested. Some believe it is letting their spouse do whatever he or she wishes and not objecting. Others believe it is forgiving and going on as if nothing has happened. Others are completely confused somewhere between unconditional love and tough love.

Standing for our marriage certainly made me no expert on unconditional love. I made a lot of mistakes and did a lot of things wrong. I could so relate to the garbage can and baseball bat scene in the movie. Mine was glasses and a garage door. Anyway, back to the topic…

Jesus is our example of complete unconditional love. He gave His life for us, both in how He lived it and how He died. He stands with open arms ready to welcome the sinner. He remains faithful even when we are not. He forgives and restores. He has His priorities straight. He sees the beginning from the end and walks in faith regardless of circumstances.

Equally important, though, is what He is not and does not do. He does not compromise with sin. He does not play games or attempt to manipulate us. He gives us free choice and does not try to force His will upon us. Even when we choose poorly, He does not tell others what we have done. Instead He intercedes for us and does not give up on us.

So what does that mean when you are walking out unconditional love with your spouse? I remember years ago when I was studying to become a nurse. As we approached graduation many of us were concerned we had not done enough procedures. I remember our instructors telling us, “Learn the principle behind the action. If you know the principle, you can even invent a new procedure.”

It was little comfort at the time but when I went to work after graduation I began to see what they were telling us. You can either be event based or principle based. If you are event based, you must learn what to do in each new event. That can cause great anxiety if you don’t know what the next event will be. It is hard to always be prepared. If you are principle based, though, you can rely on the principle to carry you through any event. So, learn the principles of God’s word and you will know what to do when a new event comes your way.

1 Corinthians 13 is a great place to begin learning the principles of unconditional love. I believe those verses can be summed up like this: I don’t care how holy or righteous you think you are, if you aren’t walking in love, your message stinks.

There was a season when I thought I was my husband’s Holy Spirit and I let him know what God liked and didn’t like about his actions. I felt justified because I was the Christian and I knew what God’s word said. Then one day the Lord began to break my heart for my husband. Instead of seeing him from my point of view, I began to see him from God’s. That day unconditional love began to grow in my heart.

I cannot tell you what to do in each situation you face with your spouse. All I can do is encourage you to know the principles of God’s word. Giving your spouse everything he or she wants is not unconditional love. If your spouse is being led around by the enemy, what he or she wants is probably going to be perverted by that influence. Don’t let the devil lead the parade. That is not unconditional love.

At the same time, don’t stand in haughty self-righteousness and look down upon your spouse. Be led of the Holy Spirit. Spend time in prayer and in the Word and learn God’s heart regarding the issues of life. Ask Him for help when you don’t know what to do. Do as Jesus did and only do what the Father is doing. Each time you are faced with a decision regarding your spouse, go to the Lord and ask Him what to do. Don’t react to pressure from your spouse or anyone else. Don’t give in just to appease your spouse or anyone else. Walking in unconditional love means letting the One who is love rule and reign in your life.

No one on earth knows you as Jesus does. No one on earth knows your spouse as Jesus does. The Lord will direct your steps, He will give you the words you need, and He will help you cut through the myriad of circumstances to see things clearly from His point of view. He is the only one who can lead you consistently in unconditional love. And if you haven’t seen Fireproof yet, you really should. Love, Marilyn

But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 1 john 2:5

He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 1 John 4:8

How to Forgive

When the one you love most on the face of the earth, the one who has promised to live with you in the good and the bad times, the one for whom you have forsaken all others hurts you so deeply that you wonder if you can ever breathe again, how do you forgive?

Well, you can paste on your Christian smile and say, “I forgive” without ever dealing with the pain. Or you can wait until you feel like forgiving (once the pain is gone). Or you can ask God to miraculously change your heart and make you want to forgive. Or you can pray that your spouse will repent and ask you for forgiveness. Or you can simply be so immobilized by the pain that you can’t do anything.


Once again it’s time for honesty first. Sometimes Christians are afraid to admit negative feelings, especially anger. I’ve talked with people who have said that they didn’t have any problem and were able to forgive their spouse right away. It sounds so good and I sure wish I could have done that, but forgiveness did not come easy for me.

At first I was devastated and so filled with pain I could hardly think. Then as the pain subsided, anger took its place. I was furious when I realized how I had been lied to and betrayed. I was angry that I was so helpless. I felt victimized and there was nothing I could do about it. And my husband was doing all kinds of things to get rid of me and all those things just made me angrier.

On top of all that, I felt like a terrible Christian because I was so angry. Instead of running to the Lord, I found myself avoiding Him because my heart was so filled with yuck. How silly we are sometimes. He knows me better than I know myself. I don’t know what I thought I was keeping from Him.

Finally I couldn’t take it anymore. I just got honest with Jesus. I poured out my pain and my anger. I argued scripture and heart motives and asked Him a thousand questions. Somewhere in all of that I began to learn to rest in Him. It wasn’t quick and it wasn’t easy, but when it finally began, I felt a huge burden lift from my shoulders.

I realized that Jesus was not judging me and I was not disappointing Him. He knew my heart and every rotten little thought I ever had, and He loved me anyway. Jesus has a wonderful way of accepting us just where we are and yet encouraging us to move on. Never condemning, just always encouraging us on to higher ground.

Somewhere along the way He began to encourage me to forgive. It wasn’t a demand; it was more of an opportunity. When we’re honest with Him, He can be honest with us. The more I walked with Him, the more I wanted to be like Him. I knew that He had been tempted in every way as we are and He had chosen to love and to forgive. I knew that because He lived within me, it was possible for me to do the same. I just wasn’t sure I wanted to. It was so much easier to pull out the list of wrongs and make demands about them.

You know Romans 2:4 says, “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” It is the love and compassion of God that brings us close to Him. Jesus had compassion on Jerusalem and wept. God’s compassion is overwhelming and when we are willing to let Him touch us with that compassion, we not only realize we must forgive, but we begin to learn how to do it.

God touched me with compassion for my husband. My eyes saw his sin and my ears heard his hateful words, but God’s compassion showed me his heart. God’s compassion overwhelmed my heart and I stopped weeping for myself and I wept for my husband. No matter what I was facing, I had life in Jesus. Nothing could separate me from the love of Christ (Romans 8:39). But my husband was walking in darkness. He had chosen to follow the enemy and was trapped in the enemy’s snare. No one else on earth could pray for him like I could because God had made us one. I could either choose to recount what had happened to me or I could choose to become Michael’s chief intercessor. When God’s love and compassion overwhelm your heart, the choice is obvious.

I know that as the Lord began to lead me and guide me in the days that followed, the enemy must have regretted that he ever messed with us. I know I might never have prayed for my husband with the heart-felt compassion I did unless the enemy had taken him captive. I know my own heart might never have sought the depth of transformation I hungered for if I had not been faced with the crisis of our marriage.

Embrace the Lord today! He has so much for you and for your spouse. Don’t let the enemy convince you that he is greater than the One within you. I made a decision one day that no demon was going to come into my home and dictate to me what was going to happen to our marriage and family. They are a defeated foe and they don’t have the right to decide what happens to us. You are bought with a price and the One to whom you belong has greater plans for you than you can imagine. Love, Marilyn

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” 1 Corinthians 8:1

Is It Possible to Forgive?

Preaching on forgiveness creates memorable sermons. Living out forgiveness creates heart-changing character development.

Sometimes in scripture I love to see how the Holy Spirit has arranged the Word. In Matthew 18 Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” And Jesus answered, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. He then went on to share the parable of the servant who owed a huge debt to the king. When he couldn’t pay it, the king decided to sell him and his family to clear the debt. The servant begged the king to forgive him and the king did. He released him from all responsibility for the debt.

Then that same servant went out and demanded payment from someone who owed him money. When the man couldn’t pay, the wicked servant had him thrown into jail until the debt was paid. When the king heard of this, he was angry with the servant and turned him over to the torturers until he could pay his debt.

We all know the point of this story, God has forgiveness us everything and cleansed us with the blood of Jesus. Who are we then to hold the sin of another against that person? The point that really struck me, though, was that the next chapter, Matthew 19, begins with the Pharisees asking Jesus a question, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” You think maybe there was a reason the Holy Spirit put that question right after a discussion on forgiving 70 X 7?

Marriage consistently affords us the opportunity to forgive. God designed marriage as a covenant relationship until death. That type of relationship is intended to afford covenant covering and safety so that we can grow together as one, honoring each other and forgiving each other when we fall short. Even the best of marriages is filled with both large and small moments of forgiveness potential. Forgiving and growing together go hand in hand.

The devil hates the unity that God gives us because he knows the power that God designed for the covenant of marriage. Our enemy realizes that couples who know who they are in Christ and who are united as one are unstoppable. So his one plan for marriage is to divide and conquer.

You have experienced his attack. His has brought division into your marriage. His plan is to have one spouse so wound the other that forgiveness seems impossible. If one spouse already has been convinced that healing is impossible, all the enemy can hope for is to convince the other spouse of the same thing. Unfortunately the Church supports this plan many times.

The three major A’s – adultery, abuse, and abandonment – are often accepted as reasons for divorce. All of these situations carry with them many consequences that I am not belittling, but I firmly believe that Jesus died to overcome them all. I also believe that the foundation to healing is forgiveness. If you try to build a house without a strong foundation, it will not stand.

I remember once at a meeting a woman came up for prayer afterward. She said she had been standing for 13 years. I asked her what had happened and she said, “Oh, that jerk never changed. I just gave up.” She left pretty upset with me after I told her that she had probably wasted a lot of time. If her heart was still that angry and cold toward her husband, she never understood true forgiveness. There is no place for judgment in our hearts when we are standing.

I don’t know what you have suffered. There are as many stories as there are marriages. I can only guess at the pain you have experienced. But really, it doesn’t matter if I can understand it or not. What matters is Jesus knows and He is the only one who can bring you healing. He knows betrayal in the name of love.

The night He was taken in the Garden, He was betrayed with a kiss. Judas made a public show of affection that was really betrayal of intimacy and was intended to destroy relationship. At a time when Jesus was crying out to the Father for strength, the enemy came in through one He loved. Yet, even knowing that Judas was going to betray Him, just hours earlier Jesus had honored him and blessed him as they ate together.

If you have received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, He lives in you and that same love is within you today. Draw on it in this hour. Our own hearts can justify a lot of things when we have been hurt. Only Jesus can bring His perspective and soften our hearts with His love. Talk to Him now, not with a laundry list of what has happened. He already knows it all. Just get close to Him and let Him love you. Let Him melt your heart with His compassion and tenderness. Forget what you should or shouldn’t do or not do right now. Just receive that wonderful, life-changing love!       Love, Marilyn 

“Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little”  Luke 7:47

“Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do”  Luke 23:34

Precious Moments When Standing

I remember the hard times, the loneliness, and the fear of standing for my marriage. There were no books then, no conventions, and no support groups. I didn’t know a single person who ever stood for their marriage, much less anyone whose marriage had been healed. All those around me thought I had gone off the deep end. My family was supportive but neutral. It was very hard for them not to take sides, but they worked hard not to.

I had one friend who believed in the power of the Word of God and had great faith. She would always caution me, though, not to get my hopes up. There were so many factors she would tell me and there was no guarantee that Michael would ever change his mind. One thing she did for me, though, was to always point me to the Word of God. She didn’t have any answers for me, but she sure knew Who did!

There were some very precious times during those days as well. The tender, sweet miracles of God that we only see in times of desperation were frequent in those days. After my heart was healed, I wept more in joy than I did in sorrow. I watched God perform so many wondrous things on my behalf.

I remember one day when Michael had been to our home and had said some really hard things to me. He was trying to get me to divorce him because his lawyer had told him it would be better if I initiated the divorce. In his efforts to drive me away, he had decided to cut off all financial support for me and our children. After he made the announcement and left, I sat down in my favorite kitchen chair and began talking to the Lord. I was terrified. I didn’t know how I would feed and clothe our children. I didn’t know how I would pay the bills. I cried out to Lord to help my faith because I was filled with doubt and unbelief that even He could overcome such a challenge to our family.

As I sat praying, a bird flew into the kitchen window and fell on our deck. I went out to see what shape it was in and I realized it was dead. I had never seen a bird like that before. We lived in the mountains and there were many birds in our area, but this one was new to me. Later in the day our neighbor identified the bird as a quail. I didn’t even know we had quail in Colorado.

That afternoon as I was talking with the Lord, He reminded me of the bird. “Don’t you think I can feed you and your children?” He asked me. I realized that day that He would indeed care for us even if it meant sending food flying into our window. He proved Himself faithful during the years that followed. We never lacked for food or clothing or other needs. He even worked on Michael’s heart and caused him to once again begin giving us money. That lesson still stands firm in my heart today. I know that no matter what tomorrow holds, God will be with us and will care for us. He will never leave us or forsake us.

Another wonderful miracle from that season in our life happened one spring. Our daughter needed a new pair of dress shoes. She loved black patten leather, but because she had such a narrow foot, we had to buy specialty shoes that cost over $30. I had $5.00 and a coupon for $2.00 off as we headed to the shoe store. I explained to her that this time we had to buy a different type of shoe because we could not afford the shoes she loved. By then our children were learning to stand in faith as well and she said to me, “No, Mommy, I asked Jesus for my shiny black shoes and He said I can have them.” I didn’t want to crush her faith, but I doubted we would ever find those shoes at a cheaper price. They were never on sale.

When we got to the store, she headed straight for the patten leather shoes and, as usual, her size was over $30. Then we headed to the sale rack to see what we could afford. On the lower rack was a pair of black patten leather shoes. I figured they weren’t narrow since they were on sale. Also, they were two sizes too small for her. As I looked for other shoes, she picked up the patten leathers and said, “Mommy, these are my shoes.” I tried to explain to her that they weren’t the right size, but she kept insisting they were hers. After I had showed her several other pairs that I could afford, she burst into tears. “Mommy, why won’t you let me try these on? They are mine!”

Finally, I gave in. I thought once she realized they were no where near her size, she would give up and let me find another pair. As I slipped them on her feet, I was astounded they fit her perfectly. They were her size and they were narrow. “I told you Jesus said He would have shoes for me,” she said, smiling through her tears. By then I was crying too. The price tag was $5.00 and with my coupon, they were $3.00. When we left the store, Cristine was carrying her prized shoes and I still had money in my pocket.

God truly loves us and has promised He will meet our needs! As you walk with Him and experience His tender care, rejoice in those sweet moments that only He can give you. Keep your eyes on Him, the Author and Finisher of your faith! Love, Marilyn

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” Philippians 4:12

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” 2 Corinthians 9:8