I have been in a marriage I wanted out of, even sought ways to leave. By God’s stunning and undeserved grace, I stayed.
So did my husband.
But before you read that too fast, please know that getting from then until now in our marriage was a long, hard and ugly road.
In a recent time with the Lord Ephesians 6:20 so captivated my heart in a fresh way. Paul asked the believers to pray for him while in prison. “The words might be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:20 ESV).
This was his prayer request while in prison?!
All I could think is how often am I quick to pray for an out when God wants to do something in my staying? Hard marriages, long-term illness, financial ruin, stressful job. I am far quicker to pray for it to dissipate and want it gone than I am to pray, like Paul, for boldness right there in it.
How is it that my husband and I stayed when our hearts wanted out? How is it that anyone stays when the desire to run overtakes them?
Not only from an unstable marriage but even from that which we have no real choice to run from, a health diagnosis, the pain of a wayward child, being a caregiver to an elderly parent or deep grief that hounds us. Life doesn’t always afford us the luxury of packing up and picking a new one, in fact, rarely is that an option.
Paul knew this well, as he sat in prison writing to the church at Ephesus. But he gives us a beautiful example of how to remain in the hard circumstance. He didn’t just grin and bear it. Far from it!
1). HE ASKED OTHERS TO PRAY FOR HIM.
In Ephesians 6:19, he asks the believers in Ephesus for prayer, not for his release, but for his boldness as he stays.
2). HE TOOK HIS EYES OFF HIMSELF.
It’s easy to send out pity-party invitations when we feel stuck in a staying situation of hard enduring. But not Paul. He writes this bold letter to the Ephesians to sharpen them, and in verse 22 of chapter 6 he tells them he is sending his buddy, Tychicus, for the purpose of encouraging them. Surely, he was encouraged as he took his eyes off his situation, and instead looked to encourage others in their needs.
3). HE FOCUSED ON GOD’S PLAN IN THE SITUATION.
Why might the Lord have me here in this season? Nothing is in vain in the Lord’s economy, so there is a purpose in and for every season under heaven. Paul knows the Lord can use *even this* for His glory. So rather than looking at his own desire to run from the circumstance, he looks to boldly proclaim the mystery of the gospel right there in the middle of that hard place.
My husband and I eventually got to the place of looking towards God’s purpose, praying for God’s will, and seeking to please the Lord with our marriage. By His grace alone, we recently celebrated 21 years of marriage. But hard circumstances don’t always end that way, yet regardless of the ending, the purpose is always for us to grow in our walk with the Lord and know Him better.
When we follow Paul’s example, the ending always works together for the good of those called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), whether we see it here or in Glory.
How might we then be like Paul, in the inevitable hard places we find ourselves?
Who have you asked to pray for you while in your trial?
Is our focus on the problem, the pain, and the circumstance?
Or is it on seeking what God’s good purpose might be, and how we can be a light for those around us right where we are?
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