There are some things I experienced or felt while Toby and I were separated and through the process of us reconciling our marriage that may be helpful to you. I am by no means saying I have the answers or this is exactly what you will go through, but I do believe God wants Toby and I to share what we have gone through to encourage and minister to other couples who are struggling in their marriages as well.
I was the "prodigal" and Toby was the "stander." I was the one who wanted out and Toby was the one who, once I told him I was leaving, wanted to fight for our marriage and try to be different and change what needed to be changed.
There will be differences just because of the simple fact that I am a woman, and we women can be very emotional about stuff. So a husband who is a prodigal may fit into some of these things, but perhaps not all of them. But I really feel that if I share things that Toby did or did NOT do during our struggle then maybe it could lend some insight to you.
First things first. When I told Toby I was leaving, I had no intention of reconciling. I was mad and I wanted to be mad. So when he immediately wanted to change and be different and seek the Lord and get on his knees and beg God and me for a second chance, for a miracle to be performed...that made me livid! My first thought was why now? Why, after 7 years of asking him and begging him to change, why did he all of a sudden have a change of heart when I said I was leaving? It made me fume (at the time) to think that it took me saying I was done to have him realize how serious I had been. It felt as if he didn't take me seriously all of those years and all of the conversations and fights we had. So seeing him seek the Lord desperately about us made me want to scream!
The devil used the anger I felt to fuel my fire! The enemy seeks to steal, kill, and destroy and he was working over time on me. The kicker is, I let him. I believed his lies and sought advice and consolation from people who fed my fire. People who would agree with me and tell me what I wanted to hear. Praise the Lord my husband did not do the same! Praise the Lord that Toby did humble himself before the Lord and fight for us!! He fought the enemy for our family when I wanted to give up. He suited up with the armor of God and he went to battle for us! Day and night he prayed for us. When I screamed at him and told him how I did not love him and never wanted to be with him again, he just listened to me. Though I'm sure it hurt him deeply and he wept afterward, he never retaliated against me. He never raised his voice back at me, he never accused me, he never told me the things I had done or were doing were things to hurt him. He let me tell him I did not love him.
Then, when I was done using those sharp cutting words, he would go home and get on his knees and lay it at the Father's feet! He knew that he did not have the strength to carry those words and deeds around. He gave them to the Father and asked the Lord to carry them. And our heavenly Father loves us so much that He does just that. He picks up our pain and our hurt and He carries them!
Toby struggled deeply and he would tell you today that he could not have made it without the prayers and support of Godly friends and family. He surrounded himself with people that spoke words of life into him. He sought advice and was not afraid to tell people what he was struggling with. He made himself vulnerable to others and to Jesus. He opened himself up and allowed Christ to do a drastic change in him. It was not easy! Let me repeat...it was not easy! He had to face a lot of things about himself that hurt. But God is so gentle and gracious. He not only cleans house but He sticks around to make necessary repairs.
That is what Toby was doing. He was busy fighting for our family! On his knees begging God for mercy! I, on the other hand, let the situation become an excuse to act and behave in ways that I regret. I went to Scooter's (a bar/dance club) five times and even drank several times. I told myself it was okay because I wasn't doing anything wrong, and besides, I deserved it because of all I was going through. After all, I was only having a laugh and getting away from my problems, right? That was the lie of the devil I believed. Because if he could keep me focused on myself and my own pity party then I would not be concerned with trying to save my marriage. Nor would I be concerned with my spiritual life and where I was letting myself go, the path of destruction I was heading down.
Now, here is what Toby did during all of that. He loved me! I told him every time that I was going out. I think partly to hurt him. He never argued with me. He never told me I was behaving horribly. He never tried to put a guilt trip on me. He just told me to be careful. He knew he was not big enough to convict me. He knew he did not have the power to change my thoughts or my actions. He knew his words would not cause me to feel conviction for what I was doing, but rather that I would perceive them as an attack. So in turn, he turned to the One who could convict me. He turned to the One who has the power to change my thoughts and behavior. He asked the Lord to go with me. Though it hurt him to see me behaving this way, he continued to love me and believe the Lord would get a hold of me and make a difference in my life.
He handed me over to the Lord. Not an easy thing to do, but he did it, and what a difference it made! It took 7 months before I moved back in. When I did, things were not perfect right away. It took time to heal. There are still things God is working on healing in both of us. A couple of years later we are still working on it, but we are working on it together with God. We are seeking God and placing Him first in our lives and because of Him we are drawing closer to Him and each other.
This is not an easy thing to walk through. But remember, you can NOT control the way your prodigal spouse is behaving. You can NOT change them. You can NOT make them realize what they are doing is wrong and they need to stand and be the man/woman the Lord has called them to be. You are responsible for you! You need to seek God for change in your heart and your life. You have to open up and let the Lord show you the ugly things about yourself you don't want to face.
Toby did that right away. I did that once I stopped listening to the enemy and started letting the Lord have control of my life again. Its also important to stay in touch with family and friends that will speak life into you and speak life into your marriage!! Read the suggested books here and find a brother/sister in the Lord whom you can confide in, someone you can call on anytime who will point you to Christ. You need prayer partners to help pray you through this! That is extremely important!
There is HOPE!
Father, bless our friends who's marriages are being attacked. Pour out your spirit upon their lives. Give them the strength to lay down their lives and allow Your life to live through them. Comfort their pain. Teach them Your ways through all of this. Do not let them waste the pain. We ask for wisdom and understanding for them. Break the spirit of offense from their lives.
Reach into the lives of the prodigal spouses. Bring brothers/sisters in You into their paths who will speak life into their lives. Guard their hearts, minds and ears from the enemy. Help them to quickly be able to distinguish between Your voice of Truth and the voice of the liar and to follow only Your voice.
Protect the children in these homes. Place Your angels around them and around their homes. Set up a watch around their homes and do not let the enemy enter.
Father, give courage to both spouses; courage to face themselves and to admit their faults to one another. Bring Your peace upon them. We ask for healing and restoration of their relationship with You and with each other. Do what only You can do, Lord! Bring life to this barren land, in Jesus' name!