God never seems to work on our timeline. I often have strong ideas of how I want God to act and when I would like to see my prayers answered. But God does not give us that kind of control--we don’t get to be in charge. So many of us prayed passionately for the restoration of a marriage of someone dear to us. We plead with God for the salvation of the wayward spouse and for healing for our loved one’s broken marriage. But God does not always give us the things that we seek and rarely on the timeline that's ideal in our eyes.
Although God values marriage and dislikes seeing relationships shattered, sometimes he allows the prodigal to wander and experience the pain of their own poor choices. His answers are sometimes “no” or “not yet” regardless of how hard we fast and pray, wishing for a different outcome. Sometimes what we want is outside of the better plan that God desires for us. Yet, it can feel overwhelming to wait on God’s timing while your relationship is disintegrating around you. Waiting can make us feel helpless when we just want to know how best to step in and fix things. Yet God often asks us to wait. Wait on his time. Wait for him to show us the way forward. Yet waiting is not lost or worthless time. God is at work even when we are oblivious to his movement. In our waiting, God can do transformative work on us and our situation. So what are we to do through the season of waiting for God to bring healing?
We can spend our time of waiting feeling fearful and anxious or we can pray for God to work on our hearts and bring about transformation. Prayer is the most effective way to bring healing to relationships. In prayer we can relinquish control to God and let him carry the emotional weight that can feel overwhelming. In prayer we can lay the burdens at God’s feet and trust him to carry the load. Prayer helps us to see our spouse through God’s eyes and have compassion for their pain. In prayer we give up our attempts to control the situation and allow God to be in charge of our relationships. We can ask God to transform us even if the relationship isn't yet restored. Prayer is the most powerful thing we can do to bring healing to our situation.
It is easy to get stuck in a negative rut and wallow in the pain of our situation. It is hard not to see ourselves as the victim. If you find yourself recounting all of the wrongs that have been done to you, choose to interrupt that tape and play a new tune. When the tape starts to play, we can interrupt it and say, “What happened was hurtful, but I will not give it the power to define my life. Today I will follow God’s leading and choose joy and peace and hope.” Claim the power you have over your life by choosing what you will focus on. Instead of reminding yourself how someone has hurt you, you can celebrate the unfailing love God has for you. God’s word tells us that we are conquers, not victims.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39).
God calls us conquerors, not victims. As we remind ourselves of God’s unfailing love, our perspective begins to shift. We focus on our God who has the power to transform our situation rather than amplifying our problems by dwelling on them and wallowing in victimhood.
While we are waiting for the healing of our relationship, it is an ideal season to find personal healing. We can’t fix our spouse but we can take the opportunity to refine our own character and grieve the losses that were experienced along the way. Counseling can help you wrestle with important issues. Counseling can help us rediscover our identity in Christ Jesus, grieve the losses of the breakdown of our relationship, set wise boundaries, and care for ourselves and our families. Counseling helps us to own our contribution and develop skills for healthier relationships in the future.
In a season of crisis, it is important to care for those we love who are feeling the impact of the situation. Give your children your time and attention to help them process and grieve the disintegration of their family system. Children will struggle with all the changes that they experience when a parent walks out and they will need assurance that life is going to be okay. Expect that they may regress or act out as they process the uncertainty of their world. They will need permission to grieve the losses as they adjust to the upheaval and find a new normal. It is important to give them stability by keeping them out of adult conflict. Kids are quick to blame themselves for the break-up. Counseling resources can be a valuable way to support your child through a difficult season. Commit to listening and communicating well to care for the needs of those entrusted to you.
Projecting too far into the future can feel overwhelming. It is easy to get caught up playing the worst case scenarios and planning for every eventuality. Chasing after all of the “what ifs” can leave us overwhelmed and exhausted. Catastrophizing will only leave your heart focused on the worst possible outcome instead of the God who rules the universe. Take life a moment at a time and God will bless you with the strength you need for each day.
In the season of waiting for the prodigal to wake up to their sinful behavior, it is too easy to become bitter and respond in kind to the hurt around us. When a spouse creates drama or our children act out, we don’t have to follow suit. We can recognize that hurting people hurt others and choose instead to respond with grace.
Dr. Robert Ritzema
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra