Music, namely worship songs and especially hymns, have a supernatural way of soothing and lifting my soul in the midst of life’s challenging seasons – such as our family, and I personally, have recently experienced.
Below are the lyrics I love of an old hymn by G.A.Young, which, after having shared it on a Facebook page last week, proved a healing balm to several others as well.
May the truth and power in these words touch your life today.
In shady green pastures so rich and so sweet, where the Water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet, God leads us along.
Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright, sometimes in the valley in darkest of night, God leads his children along.
Though sorrows befall us and Satan oppose, through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes, God leads his children along.
Some thro’ the waters, some thro’ the flood, some thro’ the fire, but all thro’ the blood; some thro’ great sorrow, but God gives a song, in the night season and all the day long.
There are factors that put a strain on marriage. Some are internal ones like pride, selfishness, bitterness, unforgiveness, etc., while others are external ones like finances, (un)employment, sickness, etc. (Both internal and external ones can or do occur mutually!)
Many have used the traditional vow in their marriage ceremony:
“I, (________), take you (__________), to be my lawfully wedded (wife/husband), to have and behold from this day on, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; until death do us part.”
The negative part of each of those vows (worse, poorer, sickness) is hardly considered at the altar, for typically a couple’s dreams are floating on their present state of mind and emotion.
But what happens when that couple finds themselves in an unplanned storm of worse, poorer, or sickness? Suddenly the vows take on new weight. And for some, it is overwhelming.
Each one of those factors deserve attention, and can be addressed extensively, but my focus today is on the “in sickness and in health” part of the vow.
The marriage commitment is put to the test when a spouse becomes seriously ill, diagnosed with a disease, or develops an incurable condition. Many pass the test and their love and commitment grow stronger, while for others it seems to be the beginning of the end of their marriage. (We have walked through this with my husband’s diagnosis of epilepsy nine years ago. That valley (everything that occurred as a result from his first tonic-clonic seizure in another country) shook us, but our commitment to each other and especially MY commitment to him, emerged fortified.)
Worse for a marriage than a spouse becoming ill is when a child is struck with a life-threatening illness or is born with a serious medical condition. From what I have read and been told, it seems that most of those marriages fall under a stress that eventually fractures the union entirely. (If you know of any studies in this area, please leave a comment. I’d be curious to see factual statistics.)
This is heartbreaking on so many levels.
I said most, not all. In the book Between Heaven and Healing, author and pastor’s wife Melanie Boulis shares the story of their daughter’s diagnosis and battle with cancer, and how it affected their marriage:
“Kevin and I were starting to fight a lot over Danielle’s care. The stress was building and we were taking it out on each other. The tension was awful. Caring for Danielle became a 24-hour a day job.”
Even spiritual leaders are not exempt from the stress and strain of this type of battle. The good news is that the Boulis’ passed through that storm, and are still together. The sad news is that their daughter passed away.
A friend who is walking through a difficult time with her sick child wrote me, upon my request, with the top ten ways to pray for parents of seriously ill children. The first request on the list was for the marriage:
“Most couples I know from the hospital are divorcing or their marriage is shaking badly. I would ask for prayer for the marriage, and time for couples to continue showing their love. Before the child, you are a couple; but when you have a sick child you forget that… and if the child dies there’s not much to rescue if the couple didn’t have time for each other.”
I think it’s both brave and wise of her to share that, and to make it the top prayer request. If you know of a family in this situation, would you pause momentarily and pray for their marriage? Also feel free to leave a comment below with the names and current situation of a family with an ill child, so that we can pray for them as well.
We don’t live in Chihuahua anymore, so we have not had the privilege of meeting him yet, but everything I read about him amazes me. He’s empathic with others. He encourages his parents. His smile lights up whatever room he is in. He touches lives wherever he goes.
And he is only two years old.
His name is Mateo and he has was born with kidney failure.
He has already undergone eight surgeries in his short life, and is scheduled for a kidney transplant soon in Mexico City….
...IF they have enough money for the surgery. He has a donor (his grandmother!), but not the funds.
His mom, uncle, and grandparents are personal friends of ours from Chihuahua, Mexico. In fact, among the many times they blessed us and helped us out, one of the most urgent one was while I had an emergency C-section and they took care of our three sons, delivering meals, and doing whatever they can.
For us as foreigners without family close by, they were family.
Would you take a moment and share love generously with a family in desperate need? It takes as much time as ordering your carmel macchiato at Starbucks and less time than ordering your burrito at Chipotle.
Thank you for giving. Mateo and mom, Lizzie, having fun. About the photo above, Lizzie writes: “My son offering his hand to another boy; I love his empathy! One of the best moments in the hospital, one of the greatest lessons of the year.” In the photo below you see how this medical procedure is explained to a toddler. Lizzie writes, “Explaining dialysis before inserting the catheter. When I finished explaining it to Mateo, I asked him if he wanted to do it; I told him I was scared and my eyes filled with tears…and he reached over with his little hands to hold mine and said, “Shhii (yesh).”
Like most people, I hate divorce; I hate what it does to every individual directly involved in it and to everyone else indirectly touched by it. Yet that hasn’t changed the fact that people in my life – relatives, friends, even fellow ministers and missionaries – have experienced the painful, unexpected, sometimes unwanted but always ugly, process of divorce.
It is especially difficult when divorce occurs within the Christian faith context that teaches that marriage is to be “as long as they both shall live.” (This is the Biblical position I believe and advocate.) The hurdle for me and other women who share this same conviction is learning how to respond and minister to our broken and hurting sisters in Christ whose marriages have been torn apart or are currently unraveling – especially when abuse is a factor.
If there is someone on your church leadership team that you trust and that you believe understands the dynamics of your kind of difficult marriage, prayerfully share your story and ask for help.
Be willing to do what they ask you to do. But also, test their counsel against Scripture and listen to the Holy Spirit. Getting varied wise counsel is a hugely smart thing to do, especially when you’re in the vulnerable place of being in a hard marriage, but remember that you have been given a spirit of a sound mind and you are allowed to make decisions for yourself.
Make no decisions quickly or out of fear or anger.
Stay close to God. Ask him to walk you through this. Ask him to bring people, groups and resources into your life that can help you. Ask him to give you a teachable spirit and a brave heart.
IKH: How can churches become a safer place for troubled marriages/divorcees?
EC: This is such an important issue to me. I believe there are two ideas that the Church must understand and embrace. One, that domestic abuse is not just a black eye, but that it includes emotional abuse, manipulation, control, etc. Abuse is not just physical. And secondly, that there is a huge difference between a regular kind of blah marriage or a normal marriage with everyday problems and a marriage that is abusive or fraught with addiction; and these kinds of marriages should not be treated with the same advice across the board.
Also, women need to be believed. For the most part, I believe that by the time a woman has come to her church for help, she’s tried everything else to fix her marriage, and that usually, it’s not that she’s exaggerating…she might not even be telling you the full picture because she’s afraid of what you’ll think of her or her husband. So if she tells you she thinks she’s being mistreated or her husband might have an addiction, take her seriously.
IKH: What is your view of marriage, and has it changed because of your experience?
EC: Ironically, I think my view of marriage has gotten stronger and sharper. I’m not just a proponent of Christian marriages staying together forever no matter what. I’m an advocate for Christian marriages to thrive and be beautiful because they are supposed to be examples of the relationship between Christ and the Church. I think we’re selling Christian marriage short, and we shouldn’t be settling for just slogging through it until we die.
IKH: What is the purpose of the book (why did you write it)?
EC: I wrote this book for every woman who finds herself going through a divorce, either one she initiated or one that has taken her completely by surprise. I want these women to know that they’re not alone, that there is grace, that they will make it to the other side, that beauty will come from their pain, and that God’s love for them hasn’t stopped.
IKH: How is God restoring you?
EC: There have been sort of two ways that I’ve seen God restore me. I think he has restored my heart in the ways that you would expect: time alone to cry or watch movies or reading the Bible or journaling or when friends would send me notes or bring me chocolate or whatever.
And I think that God has been restoring my life though by allowing me the seriously great privilege of reaching out to other women who are hurting. I led a small group of separated and divorced women in my home this summer, going through a book together. I meet with women one-on-one when they ask me to. I write on my blog. I moderate two private Facebook groups for women who are in difficult Christian marriages and who are separated or divorced. I just went with a friend today who got divorced…prayed with her before, sat with her during, cried with her and hugged her after. I still can’t believe that he lets me do these things…that he allows me the honor of coming alongside women who have been where I was (where I sometimes still totally am) and says, “Okay, I comforted you…now go pass some of that along…” It’s been a really beautiful season of my life, in the midst of the hard. Which is pretty much how God works, when we let him.
Elisabeth Klein Corcoran is the author of Unraveling: Hanging Onto Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage, along with several other books, who speaks several times a month to women’s groups, and is a member of Redbud Writers’ Guild.
During her time at Christ Community Church’s Blackberry Creek Campus in Aurora, Illinois she began and led their women’s ministry for ten years prior to moving to the city’s Orchard Community Church. She lives with her children in Illinois.
radio program across the country on September 11, 2013.
Twelve years ago, Praimnath was on the 81st floor of Tower Two of the World Trade Center when terrorists crashed a jetliner into the building. Through a series of miraculous events, God brought Praimnath safely from the tower. Praimnath’s testimony will be shared on the radio program in memory of this tragic day in United States’ history.
Praimnath, who was the Sunday School superintendent for Bethel Assembly of God in Ozone Park, Queens, New York, in September 2011, says God has used him over the years to spread the gospel at churches, schools, colleges and other venues. He even wrote a book, “Plucked From the Fire,” (http://s2.ag.org/praimnath911) about the experience.
Yet, as he continued work in the banking industry, he admits that it was at first difficult for him to speak and witness to people. “I had this recurring dream that kept telling me I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing,” he says.
After receiving prayer from his friend and former Parkcrest pastor, Scott Temple — who is now director for AG Ethnic Relations — Praimnath says he knew exactly what he needed to do. He enrolled in Berean Bible courses (http://globaluniversity.edu) and today he is a credentialed AG minister and the associate pastor at Bethel Assembly, Jim Persram, senior pastor.
“The day I registered for my first Berean class, I stopped having that dream,” says Praimnath, who continues to travel and share his testimony when called. “I’ve never had [the dream] again.”
Praimnath says he believes he’s currently experiencing the most joyous time of his life, sharing God’s message with others. “The easiest thing for me to do now is witness — it used to be an effort,” he says. “I feel so blessed.”
The Focus on the Family rebroadcast of Praimnath’s testimony can be heard on radio networks as well as received on an iPhone, iPad Touch or Android devices with the proper app (click here
I asked a wise lady, a widowed veteran missionary, a question. Her answer took me by surprise.
We were sitting, enjoying iced tea, and catching up on each other’s lives when I asked about her kids and grandkids. What followed was an account of pain and difficulty. My heart broke as I listened to the ongoing drama of what some may consider a parents/grandparents worst nightmare. And she no longer had her husband to walk this trail of tears with her.
Knowing her to be a praying woman, I wanted the inside scoop of how such a woman of faith talks to God about this
With solemn sincerity, I asked, “So, how do you pray for your grandchildren?”
I expected to hear the chess-game-strategy prayer: “God I pray you move this person to this spot, get rid of that player, surprise attack another, then corner the enemy with a final check-mate so we win. Amen.” After all, isn’t that how most of us pray? We call the moves that we believe will win us the outcome of healing and wholeness in broken situations.
What I heard, instead, as she fixed her eyes upon me and said with a confidence born of trials, was, “I pray that they would love the Lord their God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their strength; that they would love their neighbor as themselves, and that they would fear God and keep his commands.”
The lump in my throat held me momentarily silent as I pondered the radical perspective she had – radical, but right on. Another needed reminder of the greatest power available to us in prayer: God’s Word, the Truth that supersedes.
With that prayer, she not only embodied the whole of scripture (Matt. 22:37-40*) but also applied the wise preachers words, that everything in life is meaningless except fearing God and keeping what He commanded (Ecclesiastes 12:13**).
With that prayer, she went straight to the eternal, the critical. For what shall it profit our loved ones to have everything work out in this world, and in the end lose their soul?
Is it wrong then to pray for specifics, for things to be worked out in our favor? Not necessarily. God in His infinite kindness, goodness, and mercy has indeed answered many such prayers for us, and I assume for you as well. However, when my prayers are born with God’s Word at the core, the chaff prayers are blown away and a sense of praying God’s will, which is perfect and lasting, comes into focus.
It’s been some time since this wise woman and I have spoken in person, yet her example speaks to me daily. I pray it does you as well.
*Matthew 22:37-40 “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And h a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend k all the Law and the Prophets.” ESV
**Ecclesiastes 12:13 “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” ESV
Several years ago while briefly visiting in the states, I sat down with my parents and recorded their stories of the trials and tears of living under Stalin’s oppression in Hungary and their eventual escape to the United States.
Two different and frayed threads that ended up tying the knot in Cleveland, Ohio.
The following is a re-post of a free writing exercise I did in my mom’s voice. Free writing has no clarity or eloquence – it’s not supposed to. It is simply words tumbling out without concern for order or correctness. I sat down and let my fingers do the tapping. Forty minutes and 1,000 words later, this is what I ended up with:
“I was little then, don’t remember much. Life passed by so quickly yet slowly. Quick like popping corn because I moved from place to place. Slow because the pain during each stop was intense and seemed as if it would never let up.
When my dad left who knew why? we were little . Mom didn’t say much. She did look very sad for those first few days. Then we woke up one day and she was gone too. My three sisters and I left alone. Who would feed baby Edith? She was only three months old and we didn’t have any baby bottles or milk to give her.
It didn’t take long for word to pass to a relative and they came for us. We were farmed out to four different homes. Most weren’t so bad. I didn’t like being away from my sisters. When would mom return?
That was so long ago. I can’t remember my dad anymore. People ask me about him. I say, “I don’t know”. Because I really don’t. I don’t remember much about him at all. Not his voice, not his touch, not anything.
Mom did come back after a few months. I think three months she was gone. She never talks about those months. Something happened. She was different.
Our life was different. And somehow I knew the Russian soldiers had something to do with it. We were hungry because my mom wasn’t allowed to work anymore. Again we were sent away to different homes. To survive. One place after another.
I hated being separated from my family. Living with a different relative every year was hard. Then I ended up in a foster home. I don’t know why and I can’t remember who. I do remember feeling like Cinderella. Doing the work no one else wanted, since I was the most dispensable. Like sending me down the street to get water several times a day. By then I was 12, but still not very strong and the bucket was so heavy. Every time I opened the large front gate I wondered if I’d be shot, since the Russian soldiers, at times with their tanks rolling down the street, were a bit trigger happy.
I left that place and don’t remember why; a short time later I was back with my mother and my sisters. Then one night we packed up as she kept telling us we had to be very quiet on the trip she was taking us on.
We had to do what she said exactly when she said it. Be quiet. Drop. Don’t move. Run! Drop again.
But I didn’t want to drop because I didn’t want to get muddy. I think it’s a miracle we escaped alive. I was sure the footsteps we heard and sudden flash light shining on us would take my mother away again.
But the voices were kind. We had made it across the field and across the border. We were in Austria. They helped us, sending us to Salzburg.
We lived in a small room in a refugee camp. For two years we lived there –along with thousands of others scattered in the same kind of camps throughout Austria. It was a beautiful country. I remember when I saw the Sound of Music for the first time and recognized the mountains and the tree lined boulevard where the kids were hanging out of the trees in their curtain-clothes.
But for me it was a different kind of beauty. The kind that comes with both fear and contentment. The kind that makes you glad you’re alive but wishes you dead when thinking of soon you’ll have to leave again without knowing where or when.
My mother put our names on many different lists: Costa Rica, Australia, Sweden, the United States. We did finally leave, to a country that sounded strange and distant.
On a plane, my first one. We flew to France, then Ireland, then over the Atlantic Ocean. Our plane lost an engine and we made an emergency landing in Newfoundland. Never heard of such a place in my life. I was cold because it was cold there. We did not have winter clothes. That didn’t matter, we had to get off the plane. At least we had a warm bed to sleep in at the hotel they provided.
From there we ended up in Rochester, New York. United States was the “where” our names fell on the list. A Catholic charity sponsored us and we blindly went. Beggars certainly cannot be choosers. Destiny was not in our own hands. Nothing is when oppressive regimes overtake your country.
Even our dignity was taken. That was one of the things we would have to build again, besides our life.
We stayed only briefly in Rochester. Again I don’t know why. Have you ever been frustrated because you can’t remember things? This is worse than not finding your car keys. This is fragments of a life, lost forever. Or are they buried somewhere? I don’t even know how to find out.
We ended up in Cleveland, Ohio. Many other Hungarians lived there at the time. Perhaps that’s why my mother took us there. To be around like people with like stories and like pain. There’s comfort in communal suffering.
Another start, more houses. Moving moving moving. Would I ever know what it is to again have a home and actually live in it? My life consisted of packing our few belongings, moving, unpacking. Then the cycle would begin anew.
Until I met him. He saw me washing dishes at the restaurant. He tells people it was love at first site of the young, reddish-blonde 16 yr. old bending over the sink with her sleeves rolled up and sweat pouring down her face.
We married a few months later. We must have done something right. Soon it is 50 years; we have five kids, and fourteen grandchildren. I finally had my own home, and when we moved it was because we wanted to, not because we had to.
That’s what I like to remember.”
This draft is skeletal at best. Hours of detail are yet to come.
I will share here some info about my grandfather, Karl Stadler, who left. He was a Hungarian officer, opposed to Communism, who patrolled the passenger train. He was marked even before he began helping others escape. It is believed that he was notified secretly of his pending demise, forcing him to escape to Austria. This was why he left.
One report was given that while walking down a street in Austria, a car pulled up, men jumped out, and grabbed and threw my grandfather in the car. It was the last time anyone saw him alive. A death certificate was seen years later by another relative in Budapest.
The Communists came for my grandmother in the middle of the night. We eventually learned that during her time in prison she was beaten, tortured, and abused in every way as they tried forcing information from her regarding her husband’s activities. Her name was Ilona.