July 11, 2013

God at Work through a Storm and a Trusted Relationship

While a tropical storm was moving in, another storm was already raging, threatening destruction. But God was at work, ironically using the tempestuous weather to begin the process of healing and peace in a time of marital turbulence.

It’s no secret that every marriage has its struggles, but what is usually a secret is when a couple struggles. It’s one thing to say, “The Lord has brought us through some really tough times,” and another thing entirely to admit “We’re in the dead center of a real mess.” Not for two couples at Riverside Church, though. They have decided to walk their journeys together. They’ve built a trusting relationship, realizing they share many of the same struggles as couples. They decided to help each other through those tough times, reminding each other of the Truth and bringing issues to God together in prayer.
They committed to being honest, to allow their friends to speak into their lives, and to a mutual accountability with their weakest areas. 
Shortly after this commitment, they were in the thick of it. Quite suddenly one of the couples found themselves in a tangle of emotions—angry, confused, hurting, and exhausted from hashing through an old issue that surfaced, one they’d thought had finally been resolved. So, when the wife was asked by her friend how she was doing, she was honest. It felt impossibly complicated. She knew God would get them through it, but she felt hopeless and helpless. The friend offered to get together—to listen and pray. And so they did.

Meanwhile, Ft. Myers was experiencing severe weather. The rain poured, the wind blew and the thunder crashed...and inside the cozy house the wife poured out her heart, fears, and pain. Her friend, offering no quick-fix solution or tidy answers, asked questions, tried to understand, reminded her friend of God’s faithfulness, and expressed hope and confidence that God would bring healing to their hearts. And they prayed together. As the storm bore down on the family’s home, it became unsafe to leave; the friends were together all day. As God would have it, the men met up also, and it didn’t take long before they too were discussing the marital mess. Storm circumstances eventually united all four of them, providing them an entire evening together and an opportunity to talk through the troubling issues.

As the story unfolded, it often felt like an impossible dilemma. “I’m so done with all this pain...” “I can never do anything right...” and “I just can’t do this anymore!” There were no sides, only brokenness, anger, pain and a complex maze of misunderstandings, miscommunications, and distrust. It was exhausting and messy for both couples, and at times it was quite uncomfortable. It took a lot of courage to be that real, that vulnerable, and that broken in front of their friends.

At last when all had been said, the husband and wife were quite at the end of themselves, desperate but not alone. Their friends spoke Truth to them, reminded them how much God had already brought them through, and shared testimonies of God’s healing in their own hearts. Nothing was fixed, and nothing was decided, but the four of them poured their hearts out to God through tears in prayer, fighting side-by-side for this marriage. And God moved in. He brought a stirring of hope, an emerging new perspective, and a renewed commitment to press on. By the time the couple left, the height of the storm outside had moved on, and the night sky was filled with stars.

The next morning was calm: nothing said and nothing done. At work, the husband texted his friend and thanked him, telling him how much it meant to have friends who would actually walk through the muck with them. The woman prayed for her friends, texting the wife several times during the day and reminding her that “God is big enough to get us through this!” By evening, husband and wife came together with softened and willing hearts. After a sincere apology and forgiveness, they prayed together. At last united, they planned their next step, knowing that their mess took years in the making and understanding it would take time and considerable intentionality to work through it.

They’re not out of the mess yet, but they have a new confidence, believing that God will bring them through this storm and knowing they have friends by their sides.
Their confidence isn’t in themselves or each other, but rather, in God who used a storm and a trusted relationship to ignite a peace and healing in their home.

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