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Archive for the ‘Moral Choices’ Category

40 Consequences of Adultery

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by David Boehi — Family Life Ministries

If I committed adultery…

  1. My relationship with God would suffer from a break in fellowship.
  2. I would need to seek forgiveness from my Lord.
  3. I would suffer from the emotional consequences of guilt.
  4. I would spend countless hours replaying the failure.
  5. My spouse would suffer the scars of this abuse more deeply than I could begin to describe.
  6. My spouse would spend countless hours in counseling.
  7. My spouse’s recovery would be long and painful.
  8. My spouse’s pain would grieve me deeply and compound my own suffering and shame.
  9. Our marriage relationship would suffer a break in trust, fellowship, and intimacy.
  10. In our marriage, we would be together, yet feel great loneliness.
  11. The reputation of my family would suffer loss.
  12. My children would be deeply disappointed and bewildered.
  13. My grandchildren would not understand.
  14. My friends would be disappointed and would question my integrity.
  15. My employment or job performance would be affected.
  16. My witness among neighbors would become worthless.
  17. My witness to my family would be worthless.
  18. My testimony among my spouse’s family would be damaged.
  19. My service in ministry would be damaged.
  20. My ability to work within the church would be damaged.
  21. I would suffer God’s discipline.
  22. Satan would be thrilled at my failure.
  23. Satan would work overtime to be sure my shame never departed.
  24. My spouse might divorce me.
  25. My children might never speak to me.
  26. Our mutual friends would shy away from us and break fellowship.
  27. I would bring emotional pain to the person with whom I committed adultery.
  28. I would bring reproach upon the person with whom I committed adultery.
  29. If my affair partner is married, that person’s spouse might attempt to bring harm.
  30. My affair partner’s spouse might divorce her.
  31. An unwanted child could be produced.
  32. My part in conception might trigger an abortion, the killing of an innocent child.
  33. Disease might result.
  34. Some might conclude that all Christians are hypocrites.
  35. My business could fail because I couldn’t be trusted.
  36. My leadership among those I have led in the past might also be diminished in impact.
  37. My zeal for ministry would suffer and possibly result in others not continuing in ministry.
  38. My health would suffer.
  39. I might have to start life over again.
  40. This same sin might be visited upon my family for four generations.

It’s a pretty sobering list, isn’t it? What’s even more sobering is that many people will consider these consequences and still proceed in their sin. The fantasy is more important to them than the reality.

The biggest benefit of this list may be in helping us realize the need to set up strict safeguards to ensure that we are faithful in our marriage commitment. If I am convinced of what adultery would do to me and to my family, I will watch my wandering eyes, guard my thought life, and avoid any situations that could put me in harm’s way.

The fantasy is just not worth it.

Decision-Making: Christian Liberty in the Gray Areas of Life

(Adapted from Ethics for a Brave New World by John Feinberg & Paul Feinberg)

The Bible offers guidelines that can help Christians decide which activities are acceptable for them. These guidelines may be stated as eight questions (tests) that each Christian must face when deciding whether or not to indulge in a given activity. If one answers any negatively, he should not do it. Each person must ask and answer for him self alone before the Lord.

  1. Am I fully persuaded that it is right?       Paul says (Rom. 14:5, 14, 23) that whatever we do in these areas, we must be persuaded it is acceptable before God. If we are not, we doubt rather than believe we can do this and stand acceptable before God. If there is doubt, though, Paul says there is sin. So if there is any doubt, regardless of the reason for doubt, one should refrain. In the future, doubt might be removed so one could indulge; but while there is doubt, he must refrain.
  2. Can I do it as unto the Lord?          Whatever we do, Paul says we must do as unto the Lord (Rom. 14: 6-8). To do something as unto the Lord is to do it as serving Him. If one cannot serve the Lord (for whatever reason) in the doing of the activity, he should refrain.
  3. Can I do it without being a stumbling block to my brother or sister in Christ?      Much of Romans 14 (vv. 13, 15, 20-21) concerns watching out for the other brother’s or sister’s walk with the Lord. We may be able to indulge, but he or she may not have faith to see that the activity is morally indifferent. If he or she sees us participate, he or she may be offended. As much as possible, we must avoid giving offense in these areas. This, however, does not mean one must always refrain. Paul’s advice in 14:22 is helpful. For the one who believes he can indulge, his faith is right, but let him have it before God. In other words, he need not flaunt his liberty before others. It is enough for him and the Lord to know he can partake of these practices. In sum, if one truly cares about his brother’s or sister’s walk, sometimes he will refrain, and at other times he will exercise his liberty privately.
  4. Does it bring peace?    In Rom. 14:17-18 Paul says the kingdom of God is not about things such as the meat we eat or what we drink. Instead, it is about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Thus, believers should handle these matters so as to serve Christ. How would one do that? Paul instructs us (v. 19) to do what brings peace. Certain practices may be acceptable for one person, but if others saw him indulge, it might stir up strife between them. Hence, one must do what brings peace.
  5. Does it edify my brother?     The command to do what edifies is in the same verse as the charge to do what brings peace (14:19). By juxtaposing the two demands, Paul makes an important point. Some activities may not create strife with another Christian, but they may not edify him either. One must choose activities, which both bring peace and edify.
  6. Is it profitable?     In 1 Cor. 6:12 Paul addresses the issue of Christian liberty, and he reminds believers that morally indifferent practices are all lawful, but they may not all be profitable. They may be unprofitable for us or for our brother. For example, no law prohibits playing cards, but if my card playing causes a brother to stumble, it is unprofitable for me to indulge. If the act is unprofitable, I must refuse to do it.
  7. Does it enslave me?     (1 Cor. 6:12). Many activities, wholesome and valuable in themselves, become unprofitable if they master us more than Christ does. As John warns, Christians must not love the world, but are to love God instead (1 John 2:15ff.). It is not that everything in the world is evil and worthless. Rather, our devotion and affections must be focused first and foremost on God. If we are to be enslaved to anything or anyone, it must be Christ.
  8. Does it bring glory to God?     Paul discusses Christian liberty in 1 Cor. 10, and in verse 31 he sums up his discussion by saying that whatever we do in these areas should bring glory to God. How does one know if his actions bring God glory? We would say at the least that if one answers any of the other seven questions negatively in regard to a particular activity, he can be sure he will not bring God glory if he indulges. Conversely, if the activity is acceptable on those other grounds, it should be acceptable on this ground as well.

In sum, Scripture distinguishes actions covered by moral absolutes and those that are not. Believers must make up their own minds (under the Holy Spirit’s leading) on what to do in matters of Christian liberty. Personal preferences must not be imposed on others. In deciding what to do, one should use these eight tests taught by Paul. Each one must answer those questions honestly before God. Whatever decision stems from that process of questioning, each must have the integrity to obey.

THE SIN OF PROXIMITY: RUN!

SOURCE:   Living Free

Run from sexual sin!

No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does.

For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.”

1 Corinthians 6:18 NLT

When it is in our power to change a situation that will likely cause us to sin and we choose not to act to change it, we are guilty of the sin of proximity—sometimes called the sin before the sin.

The sin before the sin involves the little decisions we make that set us up for temptation and sin. If we are to overcome the strongholds in our lives that constantly pull us in the wrong direction, we have to come to a place of radical obedience and do everything possible to eliminate those occasions for sin that are in our control.

Failing to take appropriate actions to eliminate the stumbling blocks that lead us to sin is a serious issue for many of us. Sexual temptation has presented itself to most of us at some time in our lives.  Scripture advises us to run from sexual sin.

With sexual sin, the longer we are in the presence of temptation, the less likely we are to escape without sinning.

It is so much better to avoid the sin before the sin.

To run from the sin of proximity . . .

Stay in fellowship with Jesus.

Turn to him for the strength you need.

With him, you can do all things.

Prayer . . .

“Lord, help me to run from all temptation to be involved in sexual sin. 

Help me to run from the sin and run to you.

In Jesus’ name …”

Phases of Life-Controlling Problems

SOURCE:  Taken from an article at Living Free Ministry

Phase One: Experimentation

  • I learn that experimenting with the substance/behavior makes me feel good.
  • I don ‘t really see any serious negative consequences.
  • I learn to trust the substance/behavior to make me feel good or help me escape every time I use it or do it.
  • I learn how to use the substance/behavior to make myself feel great.

Phase Two: Social Use

  • I begin to use or practice more regularly.
  • This behavior or substance becomes a part of my social life.
  • I use or practice in times and places that are socially acceptable.
  • Daily lifestyle choices begin to be affected by my focus on this substance/behavior.
  • I make rules for myself about my use/practice to make me feel safe.
  • My use/behavior becomes a problem without warning.

Phase Three: Daily Preoccupation

  • My use/practice becomes a harmful dependency.
  • I begin to lose control over my use/practice.
  • I violate my value system.
  • I cannot block out the emotional pain.
  • My lifestyle is centered on this compulsive behavior.
  • Unresolved problems produce more stress and pain.
  • I break my self-imposed safe use/practice rules.
  • My life deteriorates in all areas, including health, spirituality, and relationships.

Phase Four: Using/Practicing Just to Feel Normal

  • I lose touch with reality and experience delusions and paranoia.
  • I may try to escape my problems by running away.
  • I lose my desire to live.
  • I have no desire for God I am spiritually bankrupt.
  • I lose control and dignity.
  • My problems grow in a snowball effect.
  • My family relationships are destroyed (Lee, 22-23).

Biblical Examples
Genesis 4 records the account of Cain and a problem that mastered his life. He and his brother, Abel, brought their offerings to the lord. Abel’s offering was accepted, but Cain’s fruits of the ground were not received by the lord. Cain became very angry, and his face displayed his feelings. The Lord saw his anger and facial expressions and encouraged him to do what was right so that his offering and he would be accepted.

The Lord followed with a statement which illustrates how problems can become our master. But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it (Genesis 4:7). The Lord recognized a potential life-controlling problem crouching and ready to pounce on Cain if he opened the door. Cain opened the door, and anger became his master. He invited Abel to the field and killed him. When the Lord asked where Abel was, Cain responded by trying to cover his evil actions by denying any knowledge of his brother’s whereabouts.

Allowing anger to rule his life, Cain committed murder, became a restless wanderer, and went from the presence of the Lord, thus alienating himself from God. Fed by jealousy, rebellion, and unbelief, anger became a stronghold in his life. This is an example of a life-controlling problem that is permitted to continue without intervention.

The concept of life-controlling stages is addressed in James 1:14-15: but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. The downward spiral starts with temptation (an attraction to). The second stage is desire (to long for). Desire conceives and gives birth to the third stage, sin. The final stage is death.

James’ concept of life-controlling problems can be compared with a marriage to an addiction. The marriage begins with courtship. Although initially, the victim may not recognize the courtship as such because it is appealing, the victim is tempted and drawn to an addiction. The victim is enticed and allured into a relationship and gives consent. An addiction takes hold with a conception of a problem that now starts to master a person’s life.

Months or even years later, there is the birth of a child (trouble). The fruit of the life-controlling problem causes all kinds of problems in the home, church, school, and workplace. The relationship arrives at a place of completion. In this stage, the marriage has become fatalistic (destructive relationship) to the victim and has hurt those who are close. The end result is corruption. If the relationship is not broken by the addiction, death always follows: spiritual, emotional and physical.

There are certain stages involved in David’s sin with Bathsheba as recorded in 2 Samuel 11. In stage one, From the roof, he saw a woman bathing (v2). David entered stage two when he sent someone to find out about her (v3). In the third stage, David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her (v4). To further complicate matters, David tried to cover up his sin which led to the murder of Bathsheba’s husband.

Joshua 7 discusses Achan’s sin of disobedience which led to his death. After the Lord delivered Jericho into the hands of Joshua and the Israelites, they were commanded to stay away from the sacred things which included all the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron (6:19). Achan’s sin was a violation of this command and was committed in stages. In the first stage, he saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels (7:21). Achan followed his temptation by coveting the riches (stage two). Then, he took the riches (stage three) and hid them. In addition to his own death, his sin adversely affected the entire nation of Israel just as life-controlling problems often go beyond the victim’s hurting only himself.

As a rule with few exceptions, life-controlling problems do not occur overnight. I have met with parents who have tragically lost a child to chemical dependency. Many times they wanted to think the child had just started using drugs. There was the wife who caught her husband entertaining a prostitute, and she believed his insistence that this was the first time. Actually, for those who have reached the ultimate end of their addiction, whether physical death or emotional and spiritual death, their death occurred on the installment plan. They died one phase at a time. Paul writes: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).

On the way from my motel to the airport in Oklahoma City, the taxi driver explained how his life had been totally destroyed by gambling. Not knowing that his passenger had just taught the phases of life-controlling problems at a seminar, he proceeded to tell me how phase by phase he became controlled by gambling. At one time the head of a corporation with a salary of six figures, he started experimenting by playing the state lottery. Gambling became a social part of his life in which he bet on various sporting events. The infrequent big wins kept him coming back for a larger win. Gambling became the center of his life and progressed to become his one and only master. He not only lost his position and dignity but his family as well. In the ten minute ride to the airport, he explained in detail the process I had just taught.

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Material from Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do
Copyright © 1991, 1997 by Turning Point Ministries

Wishing He Were Your Husband

SOURCE:  Sabrina Beasley McDonald/Family Life

When you’re caught in emotional adultery, these four steps will help guide your heart back to your spouse.

Pam is a faithful follower of Christ and very active in her church, so when she discovered her husband’s pornography addiction, she felt betrayed. It wasn’t long until a male Christian friend at work caught Pam’s attention. He was a family man, seemed to have his life together, and there was something about their personalities that just “clicked.” The more time she spent with him, the more she wished he was her husband, instead.

“We have the same ideas about life,” she said. “And there was something about his demeanor that I found lacking in my husband—he already had my respect, where my husband had lost it.”

This connection or attraction is called “emotional adultery.” A woman may not be cheating on her spouse in a physical way, but her emotion and mental devotion has been violated. That connection is so dangerous it can make a godly woman like Pam wish someone else was her husband.

Emotional adultery is an issue of the heart as much as physical lust is for a man. The Bible calls this coveting, and the Ten Commandments condemns it: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” [or in this case, husband] (Exodus 20:17). It may come in the form of long conversations, a look in the eyes, body language, a sense of warmth or belonging, a trust or confidence that makes you want to talk to him and share personal feelings. If any of these things occur, then you are in danger of emotional adultery.

If you’re thinking of a man right now and you’re wondering if you’re in danger of an emotional affair with him, then you probably are. We women know when we’ve made a connection, and if that’s the case, it’s time to stop. A “friendship” like this one could result in an actual physical affair.

How to stop the connection

If you are involved in an emotional relationship with someone other than your spouse, you must get out of it. Second Timothy 2:22 tells us to “flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Even if you’re unsure whether the relationship is inappropriate or not, it’s better to sacrifice the friendship than it is to endanger your marriage.

Here are four steps to help you get out of the relationship:

First, break all ties. The first and most important thing you must do is sever the friendship. There is no way around this. I have heard people express that they can still be friends with a person while maintaining a distance, but that is almost impossible. The safest thing to do is to stop speaking to this person altogether.

If you attend the same church and find that you still see each other too much during church activities, change places of worship. If he is part of your daily activities, such as jogging or meeting during breaks at work, then stop participating in those activities. If you can’t stop these activities, then change the times that you take part in them. Go jogging in the morning instead of the afternoon or take breaks at 2:00 and 4:00, instead of 3:00 and 5:00. If he is part of the PTA meetings, then sit as far away from him as possible and don’t make eye contact. Pretend that he isn’t there.

Cutting off the relationship will be the most difficult part of the healing. You will feel like you’re being hateful or a “snob.” But it’s better to appear to be a harsh person than to sin in your marriage. You may very well hurt your friend’s feelings, but it’s the sacrifice you must make to do the right thing.

Second, guard your heart and mind. Hollywood and the media have a way of making us unhappy with real life. The hero of the romantic comedy may seem perfect and make you wonder why your husband doesn’t measure up. Then you become unsatisfied with your imperfect husband.

Judy Starr is a Christian author who was involved in an emotional affair. In her book Enticement of the Forbidden, she says, “We must take care not to engage in anything that draws our thoughts and hearts away from the Lord and from our husbands. By guarding what we see and hear, we keep impurity out and strengthen the walls around our marriage.”

This action is comparable to a man who looks at pornography. When a man views pornography, he sees a woman who is physically unreal. But in his mind he may compare her image to his wife, and a real woman cannot compete with imagined perfection. It’s the same with characters in television shows, movies, and books. No man in real life (not even your new friend) can compete with a movie-maker’s imagination. If you don’t want your husband to compare you to Playboy models, what makes you think he wants to be compared to Hollywood’s leading men?

Third, look beyond your husband’s faults into the man that he is. No one is perfect. Romans 3:23 assures us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Your husband will fail and disappoint you at times. But that’s why God has given us grace. How much grace have you given your husband for his shortcomings? How much grace do you expect from him for your shortcomings?

Start looking for the things that you love about your husband. Why did you fall in love with him in the first place? In what ways has he been good to you? Start trying to build the same friendship with him that you had with your male friend. Plan dates, share your dreams and confide in him.

You will find that if you look beyond his faults you will find a dear friend, and this disconnection that caused you to move beyond your marriage for love, will begin to disappear.

Fourth, find a trustworthy female accountability partner. You need a good girlfriend with whom you can be brutally honest. James 5:16a says, “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” Confess your feelings for the other man, and give your accountability partner permission to question your actions and hold you to God’s Word.

The rest of the story

It wasn’t long until my friend, Pam, realized that her newfound connection was a temptation from Satan. At one point, the two of them ended up on a business trip together and were often left alone in the car, but Pam chose to do the right thing.

Each time they were forced to spend time together, Pam made a concerted effort to keep from making eye contact. She turned cold in their communications and prayed that God would help her combat this temptation.

Eventually, Pam took an opportunity to leave her job, and she began to purposefully look at her spouse in a new light. “I’m really glad that God brought me out of that temptation,” Pam says. “Now when I look at my husband, I don’t feel the pain that I used to feel. I realize that God is working on him just like He’s working on me, and I’m glad that God has us together.”

Adultery: Where Dead Men Lie — Letter to a Would-Be Adulterer

Source:  Greg Morse/Desiring God

Dear Husband,

If you value your life, if you cherish your manliness and honor, if you love your family and your God, listen to his voice. As she whispers in your ear, as her lips yield the sweetest honey, as her speech soothes and excites, listen to his words instead. Drown her lies in wisdom.

She entices, “Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love” (Proverbs 7:18). She says that she can satisfy your longings. She says that no one will know. She makes you feel desired, dominant. She crowns you a king.

And she can provide some of the promised pleasure — for a time.

But mark these three words: in the end.

In the end she is bitter as wormwood.” In the end she is “sharp as a two-edged sword” (Proverbs 5:4). In the end it would have been better to sleep every night embracing a Japanese Katana or a motion sensor grenade.

In the end you will realize that what you mistook as harmless pleasure, as “true love,” as the path to lifelong satisfaction, was the coffin where your reputation, your honor, your family’s flourishing and trust and — if unrepentant — your very soul goes to die. Her chamber of secrets is a chamber of death (Proverbs 7:25–27). Her bed is a graveyard where dead men lie.

Suicide of the Senseless

She will never lead to life (Proverbs 5:5). She does not even know where to find it (Proverbs 5:6). She gives no thought to Christ, to everlasting joy, to the narrow way. If you follow her, you go as an ox to the slaughter. You will end life with an arrow protruding from your liver (Proverbs 7:22–23).

If we could exhume the tongues of her dead victims, they would warn you, as that anguished rich man in torment, to avoid their fate (Luke 16:19–31). She lied in wait for each (Proverbs 7:12), seized upon their lust with kisses, and ferried them into Sheol.

The dead would cry, Adultery is the suicide of those who lack sense (Proverbs 6:32). None who touches her will go unpunished! (Proverbs 6:29).

Place your head on her pillow, and you write your name on a headstone.

Stay Far Away

And now, O husband, listen to me! Keep your way far from her. Do not go near her bed or even near the door of her house (Proverbs 5:8). Don’t fool yourself: you’re not strong enough to harmlessly chat via email, text late at night, meet up for a friendly drink. Stay away! Can you embrace fire and not get scorched (Proverbs 6:27–28)?

In the end — oh, that dreadful end — you will realize that it was not ultimately her fault, but your own. You will groan for your lust, when your flesh and body are consumed. You will wail, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to wisdom’s voice! I did not heed my best friend’s warning! I slowly muted my conscience and cast God’s word aside in my madness. And now I am at the brink of utter ruin in the rubble of a broken existence” (see Proverbs 5:11–14).

In life, you will be a shell of a man, a skeleton. The jagged pieces of shattered hearts will be your bed. If you have any conscience left, it will become an enemy. Old relations will cringe at your name. You will be a man worthy of contempt and dishonor (Proverbs 6:33).

And in death, if you have not been washed and made new in the blood of Christ, you will not enter the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9). You will forever be the adulterer. A man who, by living for himself, lit his family on fire. A man who, in the end, will himself be lit with an everlasting flame.

Your Wife, Your Choicest Wine

Rather, “drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well” (Proverbs 5:15). Rekindle the passion that carried her across the threshold.

Drink deeply from her springs to refresh your love. Has your love proven feeble? Have grand promises now hushed into a whimper? Gird up the loins of your affection and play the man! You who would wrestle every challenge to the ground, and die in battle before conceding, will you now fall to fluttering eyelids? No. Rejoice in the wife of your youth!

She is a lovely deer, a graceful doe (Proverbs 5:18–19). Look at her — she sits with a thousand more reasons to love her than when you vowed to forsake all others for her. Rejoice in her! She still is that doe, that deer. Do not trade the doe for the skunk.

“Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight” (Proverbs 5:19). This includes the first time you brought her into the bedroom, the second time she bore your child, and the anniversary where you celebrated your third decade of marriage together. At all times. Be intoxicated always in her love (Proverbs 5:19). Get drunk in her passion, be inebriated with her smile, let the room spin as she walks in. She is your choicest wine.

Choose Life

Be not intoxicated with the forbidden woman.

Why? Because all your ways — no matter how dimly lit the hotel room — are before the eyes of the Lord (Proverbs 5:21). Your wife may be away, but your Lord is not. The Judge of all the earth watches. He is there with you. And there will be a reckoning for the heinous deed — either at Calvary or in the lake of fire.

He invites you even now to choose life, choose peace, choose obedience.

Be not intoxicated with the forbidden woman.

Why? Because the iniquities of the wicked ensnare the man who is, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin (Proverbs 5:22). You will get caught in your own web. Your family will be torn. Your name will be tarnished. And you will be bound by your own mischief.

Even the mighty Samson could not break such chains.

Be not intoxicated with the forbidden woman.

Why? Because you will die for lack of discipline (Proverbs 5:25). God will not be mocked. Because of your lack of discipline, your lack of earnest limb-cutting, lack of genuine repentance and faith, you will be led away into hell (Matthew 5:27–30).

Dear husband, forsake not your precious wife. Forsake not your honor and manliness. Forsake not your witness. Forsake not your God. Let Christ’s fidelity and love win your heart afresh to your wife. Be intoxicated with your bride. And with our Groom.

Adultery: Will You Cleave and Leave Your Man?

SOURCE:  Noël Piper/Desiring God

Dear Wife,

Cleave is a strange word. It’s a contranym — a word that can have opposite meanings.

In an upper story of a concrete apartment block in a small Chinese city, I watched Rene wield her cleaver like a top chef, preparing vegetables for her family’s dinner. I was impressed how she positioned her fingers so they didn’t get chopped with the carrots. “Wow! I want some of those knives to take home as gifts,” I said. Rene pointed out the window toward a shop across the busy street. “You should be able to find them there.”

The name of one brand was Family Cleaver. It was easy to see how the difficulty of grasping a double meaning in English must have tripped up a Chinese translator. I was glad to discover a different brand with a happier name (that wouldn’t have implications of splitting a family apart).

On the opposite side of the word, there’s the other meaning of cleave, as it’s used in a time-honored wedding text: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 KJV). Or as the ESV translates the same word, the husband shall “hold fast” to his wife.

Johnny Picked Me

At a small country church in middle Georgia, on a mild Saturday afternoon in December almost 49 years ago, we were married. We had waited two and a half years for this day. I still could hardly believe that Johnny Piper had chosen me, and that he wanted to spend his life with me just as much as I wanted to be with him.

I understood — as well as a person can at the beginning of the rest of her life — the happy, solemn weight of promising to be faithful to him until death parted us, no matter what challenges God might bring into our lives. It didn’t seem possible I would ever want anything else.

“Noël, do you take John to be your wedded husband to live together in holy matrimony? Do you promise to love him . . . and forsaking all others, be faithful only to him so long as you both shall live?” There was not a doubt in my mind or heart when I declared, “I do!”

How could I have known that the worse of “better or worse” would lead to a season of sleepless nights when I wondered how I could keep on? I felt desperate for something different. That’s the time in our marriage when I would have been most likely to turn to someone else. But thank God, it didn’t happen. He held us together. There were a few habits that helped.

Faithfulness to Johnny, through the years, from boyfriend to husband, meant:

  • Not flirting with other men.
  • Avoiding men who seemed too interested.
  • Not meeting alone with any other man.
  • Having regular devotions together with Johnny.

Faithfulness required more than four habits, but these four have been central and essential.

Hardest Habit

The last is the hardest, but most important. My appreciation for it began, as with many things, with my parents. It is amazing my parents stayed together. About twenty years into their marriage, their rampaging differences seemed about to rip them apart.

Through even the most difficult months — years, really — Daddy and Mother took us all to church every Sunday. And every evening of the week, one of us kids was sent to the front porch to holler down toward the pasture and out toward the woods, “Sto-o-ory and pra-a-yers ti-i-ime!”

After all nine of us kids (later we were ten) had tumbled into the living room from the barn and creek and kitchen, Daddy read the next passage in our years-long path through the whole Bible. Then we kneeled at our chairs and took turns praying.

I realize now how difficult that must have been for my parents. Often they must have felt like hypocrites, going through motions when they didn’t feel like worshiping or praying together.

Of course, it would have been ideal if they had come before God with whole and happy hearts. But it was better to come somehow than not at all. And God held them together until he brought their marriage through the tempest into peace, using his glue of faithfulness — his faithfulness to them, and their faithfulness to each other and to those family devotional traditions.

What Kind of Cleaver?

What did it boil down to during my darkest nights? I was saved from wandering by some form of this question: What kind of a cleaver am I? Am I the deadly implement who will split my family — with a husband and five children — into shreds? Because, with or without divorce, that is what unfaithfulness will do to us.

Or will I cleave to the husband God has given me? Will I cling to my marriage and pray desperately for something different? I chose to cling, and God is still proving his faithfulness. He will do the same for you.

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