Moreover, I will give you a new heart
and put a new spirit within you . . .
It was just last week that I was marveling at how the Lord had healed me from a most horrendous “wound of the heart” that had been festering for years. Most of you are also nursing deep sores or dealing with painful scarring from your past: some from your childhood, others from your difficult marriage. Some of you, I know, are seeking help from psychology methods that may seem to work, but in the end will result in being healed superficially.
“They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace” (Jeremiah 8:11).
Though I never tried any sort of psychology or their methods, I did try in vain to get help from someone other than the Lord, so my pain and sores oozed for many, many years—it was tragic—tragic because I could have gone to the Lord when they were fresh and been completely healed. Even now I wonder why I waited to take it to the Great Physician. Dear one, have you been suffering with something because you have neglected to take it to the One who can heal you from the inside out?
Personally, my pain stemmed from not being accepted by my husband’s family since the day that we married; I actually had never even met them when we eloped. When he telephoned after the ceremony, my excitement grew to dread as I could hear him consoling his mom; then he put me on the phone and all she did was cry. His father and brother also “welcomed” me to the family about the same way minus the tears.
The first time I met his family it was almost a year later when I was already pregnant with our first son. Though they tried to be nice . . . well, we all can sense when we are not accepted or wanted. It didn’t take long to hear that they had wanted my husband to marry someone else, but more importantly to them, they wanted him to finish college first before settling down. There were many other issues they had, all of them were valid; nevertheless, the rejection and lack of acceptance played a major role in our marriage troubles and woes.
To add to the dilemma, we lived hours away by plane, which only helped to keep the obvious rejection to telephone calls and infrequent visits, but it also served as a way to keep me from gaining that place of acceptance since we did live so far away from each other.
In my ignorance and stupidity (for over twenty years) I had tried in vain to get help from my husband to close the gap with his family. Since I had helped him gain a great relationship with my family (who initially didn’t accept him), I figured that he should do the same for me. Yet I never realized the principle until I took it to Him, when He showed me, “They for their part may turn to you, but as for you, you must not turn to them . . .” to which the Lord then led me to add “for help or healing” (Jeremiah 15:19). Even with this verse, I did not get it at first.
By going to my husband for comfort rather than the Lord all those years, instead of help, or sympathy, or support, I got (time after time after time) insults added to the injury. He blamed the problem on me and justified his family’s opinion of me. I truly believed what my husband said about me until I took it to the Lord and asked if it was true. The Lord immediately opened my eyes and asked me if I was able to get along with people. As I pondered this, the Lord then asked me who I had failed to get along with (other than my in-laws) and I was not able to think of even one other person who I was unable to win over. It was then that He told me that this issue was on their end, not mine, but it still hurt. I know that you know what I mean.
Looking back, today I am totally baffled that I failed to understand that no one could help me gain their acceptance or to get a better relationship with them. And there was no one who could heal my past hurts: not me, not therapy, not even gaining their approval would heal the deep wounds. It was the moment I’d hurt enough that I finally ran to God, my Father, in my suffering. Are you there yet my love? Even if you can bear a bit more, why suffer when you can begin to heal right now?
To begin the healing process God opened my eyes to such incredible wisdom about my situation. “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). First, God reminded me that my husband and I were very different people with different personalities. I had expected him to build me up in his family’s eyes as I had done for him with my family. Seems logical, but once I asked, once I came to Him for help, He showed me that in my family I am the peacemaker and am sought after to smooth things over; my husband was not like that (very few men are). So all those years of assuming he could or should help was foolish.
Next, God revealed to me that it wasn’t only me that my in-laws disliked and didn’t accept—sadly, I woke up to the truth—they did not like or accept their own son (my husband at the time). So if they didn’t like or accept him, why would they like or accept me? Finally, God let me feel my husband’s pain of not having that acceptance with his own parents. He reminded me that I had been so incredibly loved by my parents and was beyond accepted—my family openly cherished me. So why did I expect more when my husband didn’t have this basic need fulfilled?
Yet we all do, don’t we? We want it all. And that sort of selfishness and self-centeredness, for years, could have led to a slippery slope. Often while in my misery, it would trigger the thoughts of all those other guys that I had turned down when they asked me to marry them and how their family thought I was so wonderful. My goodness—so foolish! This kind of looking back to the “what ifs” just added to the pain and suffering, and as I said could have led me to acting on those feelings. It’s only by the grace of God I didn’t. These, my precious, are those thoughts that should be immediately cast down as you run to Him. However, it is clear that the Lord used this ongoing misery, along with every other suffering in my life, as His way of refining me and letting me know Him more intimately, to share with you today. Yes, all things did work out for good. Today I am free of pain and suffering with an awesome testimony! Let me continue . . .
With the wisdom and God’s viewpoint replacing my own, my healing was well on its way. But before I tell you what God told me to do, you must promise to not try this “method” in your own situation (even if it’s very similar to mine) because what the Lord wants you to do is to come to Him to get your own prescription, not use mine. This is why God allows us to go through things, so that we can begin to hear Him and fellowship with Him. Agreed?
What the Lord told me to do seemed so simple, too simple—He simply told me to write a short note to my mother-in-law and one to my father-in-law each week.
The first time I sat down to write I stopped and cringed, remembering how I had “tried” that to help them get to know me; only to be scolded by my husband when his mom called him complaining that I’d written to brag about my children. I was stunned, since I’d basically written the same letter to my own parents who were thrilled. So when I stopped to ask Him, He reminded me that my parents adored me, and in turn, they adored my children. Telling them every wonderful thing that they each did, therefore, was a delight.
So, dear one, here is another point in your healing: be sure to tell the Lord any apprehensions that you have; He is always ready with more wisdom and understanding when our hearts are open. When fear is standing in our way, again, don’t tell others your concerns—take them each to the Lord so He can rid you of your fears, helping you to do what you sensed He’s asked.
For me, the Lord remedied this uneasiness of not “bragging,” by showing me a vision of the tiny note cards I had in my drawer. He said that by using something very small, that it would easily not allow for much writing at all. All He said I was to do is to “keep in touch.” So I wrote my first two notes, put them in the mail and felt better. And so I wouldn’t have to think about it, He led me to set up a notification on my computer so that every Wednesday I would write without fail. Another immediate change in me was that I finally felt no need to speak to my husband about the plan. This was a huge change. I realized, after going to Him again and again, that this was between the Lord and me. What a turning point, not to feel I needed to mention when I discovered something that I knew would change my life. I’d finally realized that to share the Lord’s plan with anyone else would often result in others mocking the simple idea or tell me what I should do instead.
So for almost two years, each week, I wrote my little note cards. The results began just a few weeks later when my mother-in-law began writing in return; however, she would not send them directly to me, but would address them to our family. This, at first, made my husband wonder why she was writing instead of calling like she’d always done, but again I had finally learned, too, about the blessings of that quiet spirit in so many situations where I’d always said far too much instead of just remaining quiet.
My father-in-law, on the other hand, never acknowledged my letters at all, which surprisingly was really fine with me. It didn’t matter what anyone else did at this point, what I knew was that this was God’s prescription for my healing—nothing more, nothing less. It wasn’t until my husband was visiting his dad that he saw my letter at the top of a stack of his mail and was a bit shocked when he handed him the letter from me, and his dad said, “Oh, she writes every week,” and put it down without opening or reading it. Once my husband got home he questioned me about it, to which I gave a very short response since the Lord told me to prepare an answer. When he asked why I hadn’t told him, I simply said, “Oh, because it was between them and me to gain a better relationship.” Not only was I healing, but also the Lord was giving me more of that “quiet spirit” that I longed to have since it was so precious in the sight of God, along with wisdom I’d learned but didn’t really know how to apply like from 1 Peter 3:13-15, “Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed and do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”
How many of you, precious ones, continually, as I did for so many years, share your heart and your pain with others only to add more pain and suffering, then often adding insults to your injuries? Once again, what He longs to do is be gracious to you, to help you, to heal you and to comfort you. Then, when we have spent time with Him, laying it all out, even concerns we have for following His prescription, our healing will begin. Then, just as important, we must hide, treasure and ponder these things in our hearts, rather than sharing them with others—giving us time to heal. “But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).
If we fail to keep these treasures hidden until our healing is complete, it can be compared to having a broken bone set, then having it re-broken by cruel words or mocking. Or having a gaping wound sewn up, only to have those delicately placed stitches torn apart.
Instead, learn from Mary, treasure and hide what the Lord tells you, hold it deep in your heart and ponder the truths often. And, once again, it will be the gentle and quiet spirit that wins out above all else, “But let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:4).
One day my prescription of weekly note writing ended, it was the day after my husband walked in to our bedroom to announce he was headed to the attorney to divorce me. As it had done for almost three years, my computer notification came up to write to my in-laws. So I stopped to ask the Lord if I was to continue writing to them, to which He answered, “It is finished.” To my utter amazement, I realized at that moment that there was absolutely no more pain, no more sorrow. There was no open sore, nor was there even the tiniest scar from years and years of pain beyond hope!
Having everything “work out for good” falls so short of my gratitude to the Lord. Hundreds of times since my divorce, I have thought about how easy it has been to not be emotionally tied to my in-laws since, now that I am no longer married to their son. Many of you, however, are close to your in-laws, and to lose them has become doubly hard. For you, dear one, come away from this chapter feeling how easy it would be if you were like me and not attached to the in-laws. Don’t rehearse or share with others how you miss them—falling into self-pity for your loss, which is very dangerous. Instead, realize that your cure, like mine, comes directly from seeking God, and also your Mighty and compassionate Physician, who has your perfect prescription written and waiting for you—if you would simply sit at His feet and ask. “Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; how blessed are all those who long for Him” (Isaiah 30:18).
Now for the epilog: The title for this chapter was already on my notes when I had the most amazing thing happen. It has been more than sixteen months since my divorce was final when I got a letter from my ex-mother-in-law begging me to forgive her. She said that I would always be her daughter-in-law, and that she wanted us to begin writing to each other again. Have you ever noticed that it is not until we no longer are desperate for something (apart from desperate for the Lord and His love) that we finally get what we thought we could not live without?
Not knowing what to do about this letter, I went into my bedroom to talk to the Lord about what He wanted me to do. Ladies, that’s when I realized I was set-up (see chapter 8). Rather than writing back to her, the Lord told me to send my ex-husband an email asking him to handle this with his mom. Since forgiveness also means that we forget, I was shocked when my ex-husband wrote back with the same venomously cruel words I had experienced for years! Baffled, once again I retreated to my bedroom to seek the Lord for wisdom (and comfort this time) to know where I’d gone wrong. Lovingly, the Lord told me that, yes, indeed I was set up so that the pain of rejection was fresh so that I could easily write this chapter with much more feeling—but that is not all. Now that I understand and live the principle of overcoming evil with good, going the extra mile, and really blessing my enemies—I was also being set up for a blessing— by blessing my ex-husband and my ex-mother-in-law!
First, He led me to reply to my ex-husband’s email with how right he was, and to thank him for his help! In his email my ex-husband was quick to also criticize my ministry, and especially me as a minister, saying “that I was missing an opportunity to have a ‘restored relationship’ testimony to share (referring to my ex-mother-in-law.” In addition, I’d sensed he’d been watching me, so I’d asked the Lord if I was paranoid or imaging then. So, by following His lead (of asking him to handle the situation with his mom), God revealed that he had been visiting my marriage website, and also often coming to RMI to read praise reports (since he made references to both of them). This also made me realize that He was showing me creative ways of becoming more discreet.
Precious one, I know I am not the only one who is being mocked and questioned about what you are doing. If you are not hiding things in your heart, if you are not going to Him for your already written prescription, if you are hoping your method or someone else’s will heal you or relieve any pain, I’m hoping that what I’ve shared with you will change the way you think and act on healing your hurts. Many of you are questioning yourself right now due to what others have said to you or about you. Beloved, before taking any cruel words to heart, take these statements to the Lord to see what He says about them, just as I did (that I’m going to speak more about in the next chapter.) But for now, let me share the conclusion of this epilog…
As I was replying to my mother-in-law, the Lord reminded me of something I’d read earlier that morning. I was ministering to a woman who, like myself, had a husband who had remarried. On the website, it said, “though we do emphasize restoring relationships, we do not encourage an ex-wife to foster a relationship with former in-laws, when her ex-husband has remarried. We, at all times, must always think of others as more important than ourselves.” “Do not be overcome with evil but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). That’s when I knew what He was asking me, and letting me do.
Rather than continuing to write her, as she asked, instead I replied to my mother-in-law, and I included a check for her to take her new daughter-in-law out to lunch so she knows that she, alone, is her daughter-in-law now.
When I began writing this chapter (which I started but it sat for a while), I was expecting her letters to stop. However, it continued twice more. My ex-mother-in-law began to send me money, and the second time I replied, I doubled the amount, then asked her to instead take my ex-husband’s new wife out to lunch based on, “But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two” (Matthew 5:39-41).
Isn’t it always exciting to see God at work in our lives and in the lives of others? It is not enough to simply turn the other cheek; the real blessing comes from blessing those who have for years despitefully used or persecuted you, and then continue when you thought the relationship was over. It often goes beyond reasoning—you are able, through the experience, to actually feel the Lord’s love pulsating inside your heart. And that’s when you realize that every pain and/or ill feeling is totally gone, having been replaced by a power so magnificent that it saved us while we were yet sinners—this power is His love.
The final letter was sent, when once again, she wrote sending me money. And as before, I took it to the Lord to know what He wanted me to do. In my final letter I doubled the double, asking my ex-mother-in-law to take her new daughter-in-law and also her four new grandchildren (my ex-husband’s step children) out for pizza. He had me end my letter by letting her know that I didn’t feel right about our writing, knowing how it could potentially hurt her new daughter-in-law and the new marriage, and then thanking her for being such a wonderful ex-mother-in-law to me. So I would lovingly think of that by no longer opening or reading any further letters from her. Thankfully, I have not heard from her since that time.
What has or may transpire is not something I choose to think about because I know God is working behind the scenes, and whatever is going on doesn’t concern me. My only concern is and should be, how I remain focused on my new and beautiful Husband who also just happens to be the most awesome Physician, drenched in His love, as He continues to love me and heal me from the inside out.