Friends, after three long years my new book Finding Favor is finally for sale today.
It’s a really encouraging and eye-opening look into what the Bible really says about the ways Jesus blesses people.
Anyone who wants to understand the steps God will take to bless their future, their families, and their dreams in life, should read it.
Unfortunately, most Christians just don’t understand what the Bible says about God’s favor.
We can change that.
It’s been a joy to write for you all these years on this website.
But, today I come to you with my hat in hand and ask for your help:
1. Will you PRAY that God uses this book to strengthen hearts and challenge assumptions?
2. Will you buy a copy HERE so 100% of the profits made can impact kids in Haiti, Kenya, India, and Panama?
3. Will you leave a thoughtful review on Amazon when you’re done?
4. And finally, can you give a shout out online, so others can hear about the book?
I simply can’t thank you enough my friends and family – near and far – for your encouragement to keep writing. Without your prayers, comments, prods and kind words I surely would have given up.
A Special Offer For Pastors…
My staff team and I have pulled together our complete library of resources that we’ve created at CCV over the last 17 years as we’ve grown from 17 people to thousands.
These resources took YEARS to develop, and I believe they’ll be of IMMEDIATE practical use for any Pastor and/or staff member trying to lead a vibrant, growing ministry.
We’d like to give this resource library to you as a way of saying thank you when you order 3 or more copies of Finding Favor.
This resource bundle includes:
Sermons – my best sermons of the last four years (including stewardship, Easter and Christmas messages), as well as ALL our sermon series graphic images of the last five years.
All of our Kids, Student and Adult Ministries materials –events, classes, outreach, manuals, assimilation, small groups, ministry descriptions, sample emails, project plans, etc.
Staff Documents – job descriptions, coaching processes, staff policy manual, review processes, hiring, poor performance remediation, employment applications, Myers-Briggs descriptions, etc.
Church Documents – All our documented policies and procedures, by-laws, executive limitations, financial processes, facility rebranding images/process, etc.
Finding Favor Sermon Series / Church-Wide Study – The resource library will also include sermons, graphics and group study questions that you can use for a sermon series/study in your church.
I’m going to close this offer in a few weeks, so if this sounds helpful, please jump on this today. And on behalf of the kids that will be helped through your gift, I want to thank you.
Here’s how to get the resource library:
1. Order 3 copies of the book on Amazon HERE.
2. Forward your receipt to Katheryn, the resource coordinator, at kpadilla227 @ gmail.com.
3. She’ll send you access to the folder with the resources.
Friends, it’s a privilege to serve Jesus and his church alongside each of you.
The following is a brief excerpt from my new book Finding Favor from a chapter called “Intentional Obscurity.” I’ve been so encouraged to hear that the book’s been incredibly helpful and encouraging to those who have read advanced copies. Finding Favor releases next Tuesday. I’d be honored if you pre-ordered a copy HERE.
When we pray for God’s favor, what if sometimes the only way for him to truly bless us is to place us in total obscurity for a season?
Being hidden from the view of the crowd, tucked away in some secret crevasse of the world, would have a way of teaching us lessons that popularity and success cannot.
This is the kind of thing that makes those accustomed to celebrating overnight-success stories bristle.
Obscurity is a word formed from two Latin words: ob (over) and scurus (covered). Obscurus in Latin means “dark,” as in when the sun is “covered over” in a rainstorm.
Haven’t you noticed that three things tend to get “covered over” when we find ourselves wasting away in obscurity: recognition, opportunity, and self-worth?
One of the most painful parts of obscurity is that people don’t recognize the gifts and talents we have. We feel undervalued. We were created for so much more, but for some reason people can’t see it.
Next, doors keep getting slammed in our faces. It is always other people—less talented, less committed, and less whatever—who seem to keep getting the lucky breaks. If obscurity is driving the car, comparison is always riding shotgun.
Second-guessing ourselves is perhaps the most excruciating byproduct of tours of duty in obscurity. Trying to beat down doors while watching others waltz through them has a way of overturning the self-worth apple cart.
When people tell us to “hang in there” because our time is coming, their well-intended words only add fuel to the fire. Our time never seems to come, and we assume we know the real reason: we’re not as good as we think we are.
Otherwise, why else would we be stuck?
The entire witness of Scripture leads to one inescapable conclusion on this matter: obscurity is a sign of God’s favor, not a sign of his anger.
Thankfully, there is a good reason God sends people like me, you, and van Gogh into obscurity. You’re not going to like the answer, but it is somewhat comforting to know one exists.
Here it is, courtesy of Oswald Chambers:
“God gives us the vision, then he takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of the vision, and it is in the valley that so many of us faint and give way. Every vision will be made real if we will have patience.”
God places us in obscure places and situations because we’re not ready yet. Our spiritual maintenance lights are on. Outside forces must be brought to bear to shape us into the kind of people who can handle the vision we’ve been given.
Until that happens, doors remain shut. This happens because God knows that without the valley, the vision will never come to fruition.
Let’s be honest: it’s hard to focus on what God wants if we depend on getting recognition from those around us to stay motivated, isn’t it?
It’s hard to rely on God when doors of opportunity seem to open by themselves.
And it’s undeniably difficult to take the hits, comments, pushback, and outright opposition that comes as we pursue God’s vision for our lives if our self-worth is rooted in what other people say about us.
If recognition, opportunity, and self-worth are stirred up into the fuel that drives our culture, then the valley is God’s opportunity to flush that unholy concoction out of our exhaust. God-sized dreams are never driven, nor sustained, by worldly ambitions.
God has a vision for how each of our lives will turn out. He has a series of meaningful and weighty assignments that we’re called to accomplish.
Unfortunately, more often than not the training for how to handle those assignments doesn’t usually happen until after they’re handed to us.
So, if you have been asking for God’s favor on your life, and he has “blessed” you by giving you a dream, but
- doors have been shut,
- emails have gone unreturned,
- applications have been turned down,
and calls have gone unanswered, even though you’ve
- tried everything,
- prayed everything,
- given everything,
- and sacrificed everything,
then hang on.
You’re exactly where God wants you to be right now.
(continue reading by ordering a copy of Finding Favor HERE)
Is it possible that some of your greatest failures weren’t an accident?
In my new book – Finding Favor: God’s Blessings Beyond Health, Wealth and Happiness (releasing April 17th) – I look at nine different ways God “blesses” people in the Old Testament, the majority of which seem negative, but aren’t.
As the great spiritual writer Watchman Nee observed, “We think in terms of apostolic journeys. God dares to put His greatest ambassadors in chains.”
The title of chapter ten – Strategic Failure – is one such blessing.
Here’s an excerpt from that chapter…
Here’s a new definition of success I want you to begin using: success is finding favor with God.
That’s true success.
If we have God’s stamp of approval on our lives—meaning, if we’re doing the things he has called us to do—and most importantly finishing the things he has called us to do—and we do it for his glory, in his strength, to accomplish his goals, then we’re wildly successful.
Here’s the kicker: being favored includes failing.
If there’s one thing we learn from Scripture, it’s that God sometimes leads a person to do something, knowing they will fail, and tells them to do it anyway.
In other words, God calls people to fail on purpose, and when they do, they’re successful.
You read that correctly.
Sometimes when we pray for God’s favor, he responds by causing us to fail. He leads us to fail. He puts us in situations where he knows we’re going to blow it in epic fashion, and that is all part of his larger plan.
In fact, sometimes one of the clearest signs that we’re squarely in the will of God is that when we look back we see a string of abysmal, embarrassing, heart-wrenching failures.
Don’t believe me? Just ask Abraham.
The Bible tells us in Genesis 24:1 that “Abraham was now very old, and the Lord had blessed him in every way.”
If you’re not familiar with the story of Abraham, he probably reminds you of the type of person you’d see featured on the cover of Fortune magazine, sitting on the hood of his Rolls Royce parked in front of one of his twenty-four homes.
If the Creator of the universe blessed Abraham in every way, we Americans assume he’d be the mythical guy everyone holds up as a role model for business and life. He’d have perfect teeth, a beautiful wife, and 2.5 kids who went to Harvard but served the poor on the weekends. To relax, he’d hand out money to the poor while jogging sixteen miles to keep in shape, simultaneously calling various world leaders to try to get them to forgive the debt of African countries so they could afford antiretroviral medications to treat AIDS.
BLESSED IN EVERY WAY?
Can you imagine what your life would look like if you could say that God had blessed you not in some ways but in every way?
The thing is we don’t have to imagine.
Abraham was seventy years old when God told him,
“Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation” (Genesis 12:1-2).
Abraham left his father and extended family behind in a city named Haran (in modern-day Turkey) and traveled to the land of Canaan (in modern-day Israel).
When Abraham died at 175 years, I don’t see how anyone would have thought his life had been blessed in most ways, let alone every way.
(And yes, he actually lived to 175. See Genesis 25:7. Can you imagine how much his back and knees hurt? Geez!)
The twelfth-century Jewish scholar Maimonides believed there were ten great tests Abraham had to endure.
Test 1. God told Abraham to leave his homeland and sojourn as a stranger into the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:1).
Test 2. As soon as he arrived in the Promised Land, he had to face a severe famine, which sent him searching for food in Egypt just to survive (Genesis 12:10).
Test 3. The Egyptians believed Abraham’s wife Sarah was so hot that they abducted her and made her one of Pharaoh’s concubines, and Abraham told them she was his sister to keep from getting killed (Genesis 12:10-20).
Test 4. Once back in Israel, Abraham was forced to go to war against rival clans just to stay alive and protect his family (Genesis 14:1-24).
Test 5. Abraham and Sarah faced infertility for years. Thus they believed having a child with another woman, Hagar, would allow him to fulfill God’s promise to be the progenitor of a great nation (Genesis 16:3).
Test 6. God told Abraham to grab a knife and circumcise himself—Worst. Test. Ever. (Genesis 17:24).
Test 7. As in Egypt, Abraham again feared for his life and passed his wife o as his sister to the king of Gerar, who intended to take her as his wife until God intervened (Genesis 20).
Test 8. Abraham sent his concubine, Hagar, and their child, Ishmael, into the desert to fend for themselves (Genesis 21:9-20).
Test 9. Abraham became estranged from his son Ishmael (Genesis 21:14).
Test 10. God told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on an altar (Genesis 22:2).
To this list of challenges identified by Maimonides, I think there are two more struggles Abraham faced that are worth noting.
- Abraham lost a beloved family member when he lost his nephew Lot’s wife in the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:26).
- Since Abraham’s wife Sarah died when she was 127 (Genesis 23:1), and Abraham lived until he was 175 (Genesis 25:7), he spent forty-eight years without the love of his life. If you ask me, that was his last and most difficult test of all.
When we look back on the life of Abraham—aside from the moments of happiness that we must discern by reading between the lines—I’m not sure how anyone could describe his life as “blessed in every way.”
WHEN FAILURE IS THE BLESSING
His life reminds me of a heartbreaking line from the movie Memoirs of a Geisha.
The movie tells the story of two young girls sold by their poor parents who cannot afford to keep them any longer. One daughter is sold into prostitution and the other into training to be a geisha. The movie is the story retold through the eyes of the daughter sold into geisha training.
The geisha, now an older woman, narrates the story. She begins, “A story like mine should never be told.”
Soon after being sold as a geisha, the girl receives word that her only sister has escaped, never to be seen again, and both of her parents have died. The headmistress mockingly tells the girl, “We are your only family now.”
The girl, now an older woman, interjects, “At the temple, there is a poem called Loss, carved into the stone. It has three words, but the poet has scratched them out. You cannot read Loss, only feel it.”
That sense of despair felt by the girl had to be what Abraham felt most of his life. He passed his wife off as his sister, not once but twice. He had a child with another woman, then sent them off to their death in the desert. He faced loneliness in his old age, comparable only to the loss he felt leaving his family in his early years.
Under no definition of the word could anyone look back upon Abraham’s life and call him blessed. Yet God did.
Success is finding favor with God, and that sometimes means we do things that God knows we’re going to fail trying.
The failures are the blessings. The lessons learned, the relationships forged, the trust with God that needs to be developed to simply stay alive, let alone persevere—these are all blessings from God.
The good things, the painful things, the boneheaded decisions we make, and the occasional glimpses of spectacular accomplishment in the eyes of the world all park themselves under the same roof called God’s divine blessings.
[continued in the book]
You can pre-order a copy of the book HERE.
Well after five long years, I’m finally publishing my next book: Finding Favor: God’s Blessings Beyond Health, Wealth and Happiness.
This is the most important book I’ve ever written.
The idea for Finding Favor came to me when – starting in 2010 – I began experiencing excruciating neurological pain in the back of my head. The pain nearly incapacitated me. I went to specialists, who then sent me for innumerable MRI’s, tests, leading to surgeries, etc.
I was put on anti-convulsion medication. I couldn’t sleep without pain. I couldn’t sit without pain. I couldn’t walk without pain. I couldn’t do anything without unremitting, immobilizing pain. Fortunately, Lisa didn’t tell me to “curse God and die!” (Job 2:9) like Job’s wife did, or I would have taken her up on her suggestion.
Those years were what Russians novelists called “a long, dark winter.”
During this time, I did the only thing I knew to do: for one full year I went down to my basement office in the morning, fell prostrate before God, and simply begged for His mercy. Every day. For one full year.
I discovered a phrase in my Bible reading during these mornings of anguish that I had never read before: “God’s favor” – which simply means His supernatural intervention in our lives to bring us a blessing.
I read the story in Genesis about how Jacob wrestled with an unknown assailant and how he wouldn’t let him go until he blessed him. And I saw myself in his story.
Was Jacob wrestling with God? Satan? An angel? Himself? His past?
Was I wrestling with God? Satan? An angel? Myself? My past?
Intrigued, I looked up every occurrence of the phrase “God’s Favor” and discovered that in Hosea 12:4 that the foe Jacob wrestled with was actually an angel. More striking, it says that Jacob “begged for his favor.”
Which led me to a two-year study of all the different ways God “favors” us.
What I discovered blew my mind.
WHY YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK
It turns out that in the Old Testament there are nine ways God “blesses” people with his favor. Only two of those are what we would remotely consider “positive.”
My study made me wonder how many Christians pray for God’s blessing on their lives, but don’t recognize his answers to their prayers because they don’t understand HOW God actually blesses people.
Finding Favor examines these nine examples of God’s “favor” and draws upon funny stories from my life, teaching from the spiritual classics of the last 2,000 years, and profound biblical insights to help people recognize and grow from each.
As Vince Antonucci wrote in his endorsement of the book, “You’ve prayed for God’s blessings. But what are you really asking for? How does God really bless us?”
How many Christians are being robbed of God’s peace and the powerful reassurance of his supernatural involvement in their lives because the response to their prayers for “blessing” aren’t health, wealth and happiness?
I’m going to share more about the book in the next few articles.
In the meantime, it would REALLY help me get the message out if you pre-ordered the book right now HERE and shared the news of its release on social media.
Given what’s going on in our world, and in the church, I believe it’s going to be one of the most important books Christians read in 2018.
Friends, THANK YOU for your support and encouragement. I couldn’t have done this without your prayers and encouragement, near and far.
With warm regards,
P.S. Please tell the Pastors at your church that on May 16th I will make available all the materials they’ll need to do a four-week church-wide campaign: videos of my four messages, sermon manuscripts, Bible study questions for groups, slide images, promotional materials, etc.
According to the Journal of Psychology and Christianity, as many as 65 % of men and 55 % of women will have an extramarital affair by the time they are 40. Whether or not stats are accurate, we know that 100% of couples who experience adultery are devastated. Here’s what REALLY happens in a marriage when this occurs…
Sign up for my newsletter and as a way of saying thank you, I’ll give you a free copy of my eBook The #1 Secret Of Genuinely Happy People.
I talk to my cat a lot.
If you spent five minutes with him, you would too. Seriously.
He acts like an affectionate Golden Retriever. He’s big and fat and cuddly and constantly wants to jump on your lap and snuggle. Anytime Lisa and I hug he’s like, “Hey, let me in on some of that!”
If you’re not a cat person, I will pray for your dark, miserable soul. 🙂
Last week my daughter texted this picture to our family group chat and said, “Dad! This shirt is PERFECT for you!”
I busted out laughing because it IS the perfect shirt for me. I do talk sh** about people to my cat. Like the guy who cut me off in traffic this past weekend. I went on for 20 minutes about that guy.
The scary thing is the person my cat hears me talk sh** about – more than anyone else – is me.
Last night when I laid down I told him, “I hate my life. I wish I were dead.”
He’s the only person who’s ever heard me say that. And he’s heard it a few times over the years.
This concerns me. Not because I’m planning to kill myself. But because you might be.
Things That Take Me To A Bad Place
Here are the three most common times I’ll say something like this.
Tell me if you resonate with any of these:
I’ll say this when I’m self-loathing.
Yesterday was not a good eating day, and I felt disgusting. Two years ago, I hired a trainer, went to a dietician, and got into the best shape of my life. Then on Palm Sunday of 2017, I reinjured my back (the same L5S1 location where I had surgery and countless injections) and have been in excruciating pain ever since.
This has kept me from lifting. And has affected my sleep. And my workout regime. And my energy. So, I’ve gained much of the weight back. And I detest myself for it.
There’s nothing worse than feeling disgusted with yourself.
I’ll say this when I’m exhausted.
Over the last seven months, we sold our house, moved into an apartment, and made plans to build a smaller house with no wasted space. Long story short, our contractor made a mistake. Like a BIG mistake. And we could have sued and received a huge settlement. But because we’re Christians, we chose not to do this (see 1 Corinthians 6:7).
During this time, I also launched a new website, and we’ve started some new things at the church I serve. And we’ve also been doing the house hunting thing. All while being crammed into a tiny little apartment with all our stuff in boxes everywhere.
I’m exhausted and just done.
I’ll say this when I’m depressed.
Psychologist William James says there are two groups of people in the world. There are those who are “organically weighted on the side of cheer.” And then there are people like you and me.
Now, surprisingly, I’m not often depressed. That’s not been a problem for me. But I do take myself too seriously. And I do brood over things.
There’s this great song called Lost In My Mind by a group called The Head and the Heart. Here are the first few lines:
Put your dreams away for now
I won’t see you for some time
I am lost in my mind
I get lost in my mind
Does that describe us or what? Getting lost in our minds can be dangerous, especially for those of you who do get depressed easily.
And hey – just because I don’t get depressed easily – that doesn’t mean I haven’t been depressed. I have, and it’s terrible. There’s a reason one author calls depression “The mutilator of the soul.”
Here Are 5 REALLY Important Things I Want You To Know
Can I share a few encouraging things I’ve learned?
1. Your pain is legit.
You need to hear me say that I am taking you seriously.
I’ve never met a person who wanted to commit suicide, but I have met a bunch of people who wanted their pain to stop.
In her poem Having It Out With Melancholy, Jane Kenyon writes,
A piece of burned meat
wears my clothes, speaks
in my voice, dispatches obligations
haltingly, or not at all.
It is tired of trying
to be stouthearted, tired
There are lots of reasons people wonder if it’s too hard to go on…
…Mistakes. Sexual abuse. Loss of a child. Depression. Stress. Loneliness. Terrible parents. Addiction. Illness. People bullying you. Feeling ugly. A miscarriage. Losing custody of your kids. A secret getting out. Failing a test. Financial struggles. Breaking up.
This is really heavy crap to deal with. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.
2. You can feel really good again.
Pain is never permanent.
In the blink of an eye, Job lost everything he cared about in life – his children were killed, his business was destroyed, and he contracted painful boils all over his body. He was in so much pain his wife said, “Curse God and die!”
Maybe you have a friend telling you the same thing right now.
Thank God Job didn’t listen to her short-sighted advice, because in Job 42:12 it says, “The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.”
Listen, there are millions of people just like Job who will tell you that no matter how bad you feel right now, you will feel great again. You will be happy again.
You know that, right?
3. Your brain is tricking you right now.
Listen, if you want to end your life, you are being emotionally held hostage by your brain.
One of the hardest things to remember when you’re struggling is that your brain is just another part of your body. It can face its own unique biochemical challenges, just like any other body part. The problem is unlike our kidneys, the brain controls our thoughts. And when it’s unhealthy, negative thoughts can take over.
I’m a pastor of a large church and I’ve seen too many funerals now of people – especially students – who couldn’t see that it was their brain that was tricking them into thinking they were stuck.
You may think there’s no way out, but there is. Trust me. There ALWAYS is.
4. There are great people who can really help you.
I believe everyone can benefit by going to counseling, regardless of their struggles.
That’s why I require everyone on our church staff to go to counseling at certain points in their tenure with us.
The last time I went, the counselor asked, “So what do you need help with?” I said, “I feel like I’m lost. Like those first few lines from Dante’s Inferno,
In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself astray in a dark wood
where the straight road had been lost sight of.
She said, “Oh I’ve been there.” And over the next four weeks, it felt as if she walked back into the woods to find me, grabbed my hand, and initiated some really insightful conversations as we walked out. At the end of our time together it felt as if I saw light peering through the treetops. A HUGE weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
Here’s the thing: I would never have been able to untangle my thoughts by myself.
I can tell you first-hand that there are amazing people like my psychologist Dr. Cadle who love helping people like you and me work through stuff and feel good again.
5. You’re not alone.
You may feel completely alone, but you’re not.
Isaiah 43:2 says,
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
God promises that no matter where you’ve been, no matter what you’ve done, no matter what you’re going through, he’ll never leave your side.
Writer Anne Lamott discovered this truth when she had an abortion because of an affair with a married man.
In her book Traveling Mercies, Anne said that after she left the clinic she went home and got drunk. And that’s when something strange happened…
“I became aware of someone with me, hunkered down in the corner…the feeling was so strong that I actually turned on the light for a moment to make sure no one was there – of course, there wasn’t. But after a while, in the dark again, I knew beyond any doubt that it was Jesus.
I felt him just sitting there on his haunches in the corner of my sleeping loft, watching me with patience and love, and I squinched my eyes shut, but that didn’t help because that’s not what I was seeing him with.
This experience spooked me badly, but I thought it was just an apparition, born of fear and self-loathing and booze and loss of blood. But then everywhere I went, I had the feeling that a little cat was following me, wanting me to reach down and pick it up, wanting me to open the door and let it in.
But I knew what would happen: you let a cat in one time, give it a little milk, and then it stays forever. So I tried to keep one step ahead of it, slamming my houseboat door when I entered or left.
And one week later, when I went back to church, I was so hungover that I couldn’t stand up for the songs, and this time I stayed for the sermon, which I just thought was so ridiculous, like someone trying to convince me of the existence of extraterrestrials, but the last song was so deep and raw and pure that I could not escape.
I began to cry and left before the benediction, and I raced home and felt the little cat running at my heels, and I walked down the dock past dozens of potted flowers, under a sky as blue as one of God’s own dreams, and I opened the door to my houseboat, and I stood there a minute, and then I hung my head and said ‘F- it: I quit.’ I took a long deep breath and said out loud, ‘All right. You can come in.’
I wanted to share this on the off chance you thought God only helps us AFTER we get our act together and become all holy and stuff.
No, God’s here with you, right now. In your mess. With arms wide open.
If you let him in, he’ll come into your life and help put the pieces back together.
He did that for me. And Anne. And lots of my friends.
And he can do that for you, too.
Listen, when I said I wish I was dead, I really felt that. But I knew I wasn’t actually going to act on it. Years ago I was in a place like that. And it was frightening. But not right now.
We both know the difference between feeling overwhelmed and rashly saying something like that to yourself and actually planning to go through with it.
So if you are at the point where you’re seriously thinking about suicide and making plans, here’s what I want you to do:
1. Call 1-800-273-8255 right now. This is a free and confidential lifeline where people are standing by 24/7 to talk. Do it now. Right now.
2. Text someone you trust and tell them you need their prayers and encouragement.
3. Find a good counselor. Our church offers licensed Christian counseling that’s open to anyone. I know them all and they’re amazing. Go HERE to find out more.
4. Find an encouraging place to be inspired. At the church I serve, we encourage. We don’t judge. We’d love to have you. To find out more go HERE.
Please understand that I don’t judge you for what you’re feeling.
But if you refuse to get help, that’s a different story.
You do that and I’ll talk sh** about you to my cat.
And you don’t want that to happen.
You feel like you’re in the loneliest place in the world right now.
You have serious doubts about your relationship and just aren’t sure what to do.
It’s hard to go to family and friends and say, “Hey, I’m trying to decide if I should I leave ________. Give me your pros and cons.”
They’ll have very strong opinions, and right now strong opinions are the last thing you need.
You need sound, objective advice to help you process what you’re feeling.
You’re like a pilot that’s trying to land an airplane in a hurricane.
You’ve lost your bearings. You’re being rocked back and forth. The wind is howling. You can’t see a thing. Your heart is stuck in your throat. Everything within you wants to panic. And you’ve got two possible airstrips to choose from.
In these situations, pilots always take a deep breath, steady themselves, then look for the two objective sources of information that will get them (and their passengers) home safely: their navigation system and the friendly voice from air traffic control.
No doubt you’ve already made a “pros and cons” list in your mind. You have really good reasons why you hate this person and some really good reasons why you don’t want to throw it all away. One minute you want this to work. The next minute you can’t stand him/her. Like a pilot in a storm, you’re disoriented.
Let me be that encouraging voice for you right now, and together let’s see how the objective wisdom of the Bible can help bring clarity and peace as you think through where you should land.
Here are three questions I’d like you to think through:
QUESTION #1: Do I Still “Feel” Like I Love Him/Her?
It’s hard to be in a relationship with someone you no longer love. When people compile a “should I leave him/her or not?” list, this is always the #1 decider. I want to encourage you to not even think about how you “feel” right now.
Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things.”
In other words, what we “feel” can quickly change. Over 29 years of marriage there have been times my wife and I have both felt intense hatred towards each other, and there have been times where our love has felt otherworldly. This is normal. If we had bailed every time we “felt” like we weren’t in love, we wouldn’t have made it past year two.
QUESTION #2: Is There Someone Else?
Whenever we hear about someone we know that had an affair, Lisa always looks at me and says, “If you ever cheat on me, I’ll…” I’d prefer not to finish that sentence, so let’s just say I’m not interested in having her turn into Lorena Bobbitt. As a Pastor we’ve walked beside countless couples in pain and understand how deeply violating an affair can feel. We get the rage and the deep sense of betrayal. At the same time, we know that if you’re the one who’s had an affair, you’re not a monster. You had your reasons.
Unless there’s abuse involved, Lisa and I always tell couples to fight for their relationship after an affair. But to figure out whether you have something left to fight for, all outside relationships must be cut off. If he/she cheated, then you give her/him an ultimatum – “Cut it off, or we’re done. Period.” If you cheated, then you must pull the nuclear option on your affair and blow up every bridge back to him/her. This will give you a clear space to work on things.
Jesus said in Matthew 19:6, “What God has joined together, let no one separate.”
What he is saying is that in almost every case, the long-term prospect of staying with your spouse is better than getting divorced. If you’ve been cheated on, you can find a way to forgive and move on. If you’ve cheated, understand that most affairs don’t last. And affairs that do end up in marriage, almost always end up in another divorce. Knowing the long-term cost, it’s always better to fight for what you’ve got first.
QUESTION #3: Have We Ever Been Trained How To Build A Nurturing Marriage?
Seventeen years ago, Lisa and I got trained to be facilitators for a course called Dynamic Marriage. I initially did it to help people in our church “get their act together.” Little did I know that “I” was the one who needed help. My problem? I had no clue how marriage worked. I just got married and assumed things would be fine.
Here’s what we learned that was a game changer for us:
Meeting Needs = Making Deposits Into Their “Love Bank”
Every spouse has a “love bank” that reflects how they feel about their partner, based on their behavior.
When you meet your partner’s needs, you make a “deposit” into their “love bank.” As a result, they feel romantic feelings towards you. We learned there are ten possible ways your partner needs you to make them feel loved:
- Recreational Companionship
- Domestic Support
- Honesty and Openness
- Physical Fitness
- Financial Commitment
- Family Commitment
- Sexual Fulfilment
Do you know your spouse’s top need? Once you discover that and keep meeting that need, their “love bank” will eventually “fill up” and they will feel romantic love towards you. But not until you stop making withdrawals.
Hurtful Behaviors = Making Withdrawals From Their “Love Bank”
When you do things that hurt your spouse, you make “withdrawals” that kill their romantic feelings toward you. They called these withdrawals “love busters.” There are six common “love busters” that kill romantic feelings:
- Selfish Demands
- Disrespectful Judgments
- Angry Outbursts
- Annoying Habits
- Independent Behavior
What would your spouse say is the top “love buster” you keep committing? Keep making that “withdrawal” long enough, and their love bank will go empty. When that happens, all feelings of romantic love toward you are gone.
My guess is if you’re wrestling with this question, your “love bank” has a negative balance. That’s where Lisa and I were early in our marriage.
Until this class I had no clue that her primary need was “conversation,” and she was shocked to learn that mine was “affection.” We also learned that “angry outbursts” was the primary way I depleted her love bank and she discovered that “disrespectful judgments” depleted mine.
But knowing these things was only half the battle. We had to change years of deeply ingrained behavior.
So, we came back to our church and advertised the course. Ten couples signed up. We met for nine weeks learning how to put what we learned into action. There was only one rule: we could never talk about our partner’s faults, only our own.
I’m not going lie. Those first four weeks were awful, mainly because of me. There was so much unspoken pain I had caused Lisa over the years that surfaced. But we persisted, and our relationship grew stronger. Best of all we realized that we weren’t alone.
Since that class, whenever someone tells me they’re weighing whether or not to end their relationship, I always tell them about one of my favorite verses in the Bible.
Isaiah 43:19 says, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
Through this class, I saw God take marriages as loveless as a desert and make massive springs of romantic love flow out of them again.
And that can happen to yours too.
This is why I said to put aside for now making a decision based on how you “feel.” Feelings always follow behavior. Learn how to change your behavior and the romantic feelings you so desperately want will re-emerge.
Deciding How To Move Forward
These three questions are based on my 30 years’ experience as a pastor.
Want to know what I’ve discovered after talking with thousands of people who filed for divorce?
Roughly half regretted their decision.
I share this because this is where you’re at right now.
Here’s a question I always ask my divorced friends:
“If you’ve had it to do all over again, what could you have done that would have prevented you from making the wrong decision?”
The responses are always the same:
- I wish I hadn’t let my emotions get in the way.
- I wish I hadn’t let an affair keep me from fighting for our relationship.
- I wish we had taken the time to learn how to love each other.
It’s too late for my divorced friends.
But there’s still time for you to learn from their mistakes.
Listen, I don’t know what you’re thinking right now.
I just want you to give your marriage a fair shot before you end it. Because if you don’t, there’s a high probability you’ll be right back where you are right now, in another relationship, five years from now, contemplating the same decision.
You can do this, friend.
1. Dynamic Marriage Course
2. Marriage Counseling
If you live in the greater Philadelphia region and would like to meet with one of the licensed Christian counselors at our church, click HERE. If you live outside Philadelphia Google “Licensed Christian Counselors.”
3. Church Support
If you live in the greater Philadelphia region, we’d love to have you visit our church. You’ll find encouragement and support in a non-judgmental atmosphere. Click HERE to Plan Your Visit. Churches like ours can be found around the country by going HERE.
Here are two books you might find helpful as you process your decision:
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