My wife Kris came to me and said she wanted a divorce. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I stared back at her with both anger and tears flooding through my eyes. It wasn’t the first time she made a comment like that. Those infamous words came out time and time again, but in this moment, I could see she really meant it. I felt defeated, heart-broken and dead inside.
We met several years earlier at church and it felt like a fairy tale ending. We were best friends, loved the same music, and truly enjoyed spending time together. We were a match made in heaven! But something went terribly wrong along the way. I was controlling, manipulative and of course “holier than thou.” She was depressed and suffered from excruciating anxiety. As the years went by, we fought and became isolated. Eventually, our marriage came to a point where she didn’t want to go on any longer. Like I said, I felt dead inside.
As she stood at the doorway of our home, I can remember telling her, “just leave then,” and off she went. As tears streamed down her face, she opened the door and slammed it behind her. I was left sitting in a chair staring out the window wondering what would happen next. In my mind, all I could say was, “God, please help me. Please help us. I don’t want my wife to leave me. I feel so dead inside. Our marriage is dead.”
“Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible. Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!” Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen.” (John 11:38-45)
Several hours later I heard the creeky sound of the front door opening. I was still sitting in that same chair wondering about how I’d lost everything. God heard my prayer; God heard her prayer. While we were apart for those desperate hours, we both reached out to Jesus in our pain. Our prayers echoed the same sentiment of asking God to bring life back into our dead marriage. As we softened our hearts to hear Him, he warmed our cold souls with a newfound hope.
Kris passed through the living room and over to where I was sitting. She grabbed my hand and we held each other for what seemed like hours. We cried, we talked, we asked for forgiveness and our marriage has never been the same.
I know many, many people that have faced or are facing a similar situation. Death seems to have gripped your marriage, or even a treasured relationship, but God can breathe life into any situation. Yes, we needed to soften our hearts in order to come back together, but more than that, we needed to allow Jesus to roll away our stoney hearts in order to expose the stench of what we had created. The beauty of our situation was found in four sentences Jesus spoke.
We first needed to “roll the stone aside.” Our hearts were hard as a rock. I saw her as wrong, she saw me as wrong. What we failed to see is that we were both wrong. Jesus had to do some business in our hearts. It was incumbent upon us to focus on ourselves rather than on each other.
Second, we needed to believe that Jesus was the answer. “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” Many times in my life as I’ve faced bleak situations, my belief has tumbled into the weeds. Like Peter walking on water, the moment he saw the wind and the waves, he began to sink. We both needed to believe that God could do a work in our marriage. As we gave way to our disbelief, Jesus came through.
Third, as Jesus was working in our hearts, he commanded, “Jon & Kris, come out!” We needed to do our part. It wasn’t as simple as Jesus “taking the wheel.” We needed to also drive towards loving each other sacrificially, admitting our wrongs and be willing to walk out of the graveyard.
Last, we needed to ask Jesus to humbly “unwrap us and let us go.” We were covered in guilt and shame. We both felt that we were no good to anyone, especially to each other. Our anger towards one another was really vitriol towards ourselves. It took the grace of Jesus to remove our grave clothes and allow us to walk in freedom.
As you look at your own life, are you finding that you may have stumbled into a tomb? Are you feeling as though death has completely defeated your relationships? Never let that be! Jesus is the great restorer, rebuilder and redeemer. We all wander into the crypts of death from time to time. It’s a matter of trusting Jesus to roll away the stone so that we can step out into a new life.
My prayer for you? That you will…
- Allow God to roll away the stone of your heart
- Believe that God can and will do a work in your life
- Come out of the grave and take a step towards truth and freedom
- And, accept the grace and love that Jesus has given you
One thing I can be sure of, God wants you to have incredibly fulfilling relationships!
Kris and I are not only best friends today, but we have a marriage that I never thought was possible. Do we still stumble towards the graveyard in our relationship? Yup! But we have learned how to quickly turn toward Jesus and walk in a new direction when things get tough.