I hope that today has been a good one for you so far, but based on the fact that you're here, that may not be the case. You may be struggling today...again. And that's totally okay. If you were next to me, I'd wanna pray with you and lovingly nudge you ahead to what God has next. So, I'm going to try to do that here...now.
I’ve been talking with two different ladies I know who have been struggling in their marriages today. Both of these ladies love Jesus and come to find out...after I wrote this...both of them have been doing exactly what I’m writing to you about today and both separately told me about it today, which was confirmation that I had written about exactly what I was supposed to be writing about.
Repentance for you.
Your spouse may have a lot of repenting to do, but right now, I want to encourage you to do your own repenting. Repentance is biblical. It was certainly necessary as I walked through the waiting in my own marriage and I’m now watching these ladies do the same thing. God is working in them as they are drawing in close and as they are asking Him to do in their marriages what they cannot do. You can't control whether or not your spouse truly repents, but you can control whether or not you do.
And sidenote: an apology is not repentance (from us or from our spouse), repentance is the actual turning away from our sin and turning toward God. We may apologize to God or our spouse and keep on keepin' on in our sin. Or our spouse may apologize to us and say they repented, but repentance is something you will see play out on the outside over some time as the inside continues to follow after Jesus. It's not just words. Repentance will be evident by our actions.
Where are you today? Have you leaned into Jesus? Have you experienced more of Him as you have drawn near?
Relying on God may look weak to those around you. "Those around you" may or may not be Christians, but in all reality, you'll hear it from believers and non-believers. While this may look weak to some, it is, in fact, the strongest position to be in, to fully rely on the Creator. Run to Him if you haven’t already. If you read the post before this one, you’ll know that I urge you to draw close to Jesus. He will be your Help and your Comforter, and He will keep you...IF. YOU. RELY. ON. HIM. (2 Corinthians 1:9)
The next thing to do…
If you're anything like me, you'll definitely be tempted to focus on the wrong your spouse may be doing, because that wrong may be obvious to you or to everyone, but to turn to Jesus and to work on your marriage means working on your relationship with Jesus and letting him work IN you so that He might work THROUGH you.
Let God search your heart. In fact, ask Him to search your heart. Let Him shine light on those dark, small corners that aren’t often seen or cleaned out, where all the dust collects. No matter what your spouse has done and no matter the situation...you, friend, YOU get right before the Lord. Confess your sins to Him. Ask Him to reveal the hidden sins of your heart that you don’t see. Repent of those sins. Ask Him for His forgiveness and mercy. He will overwhelm you with it if you truly confess any sin that might be in your life.
There’s a song that has been on my heart specifically the past few days, but is also one that I start singing often when I’m praying and spending time alone with Jesus. The chorus pops into my head sounding like the worship pastor at the church I grew up in. It’s for sure a Christian oldie at this point, but the lyrics are such an honest prayer of surrender. Certainly inspired by Psalm 139. You might know it.
Search my heart, make me clean.
It’s your approval I long for.
Rule my life. Be my King.
Do what you will, I belong to you.
(Twila Paris - Throne Room Suite)
It’s not a cool song now, but the lyrics are. They will never be uncool, because they are an honest prayer to God, about being right before Him, seeking His approval instead of man’s approval, surrendering every part of our hearts to Him and to His perfect will, which is way harder than it sounds.......but listen, He desires all of you. All the parts of you and of your life.
I knew that as I waited on the Lord, I'd be tempted to seek the approval of my husband, but during that time, God revealed to me through his word that I only needed to seek HIS approval. As I relied on Him, He would be fighting for me. He's became the One I wanted to please and it changed my whole perspective on my marriage and on our situation at the time.
Jesus wants every part of your heart and mind and life to be fully surrendered to Him. Give Him your life. Give Him your marriage. Give Him your husband. Lay it all down and let Him lead you.
AND PLEASE! Send me your prayer requests for you and for your marriage. I would be honored to get to pray over you and your situation. Share your requests with me through a direct message on Instagram (@ashleystockel) or through email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I want to preface this message that if you or your children are in danger, you need to remove yourself from your current situation. I'm not sure exactly what that means for you, but I want you to know that, in no way, am I encouraging you to sit still while you and/or your family members are not safe. Find a reputable Christian counselor and seek help.
Okay...so your marriage is not in a good place. Maybe it's in the worst place it's ever been. Maybe things are just starting to go sour. Maybe it's on its deathbed like ours was.
Today, you may be asking --- What do I do?
That's probably why you're reading this. This lady's marriage got better. She probably can't help....but there's a chance. You're looking for hope anywhere you can find it.
Most likely you've been trying to think of what you can change or how you're so done trying and I get it. It's exhausting to try and try and try to fix things, but to no avail, frustrated because you see little to no change in your marriage. Often, the things we fix are usually temporary fixes...like a new year's resolution. You'll never be pretty enough (even when you are), have enough sex, contribute enough financially, keep the house clean enough, be a good enough mom, be a good enough friend. Those things are all fine and good and even if you ARE the best in one or more of those areas, it won't be enough. They won't help for long and won't save your marriage. There has to be a way not to have to strive for perfection and for your marriage to be beautiful...something looking somewhat like the loving relationship that you had imagined when you said "I do."
There has to be a way to make it.
That way is Jesus.
I'm going to tell you what you need to do for your marriage.
Focus on your relationship with Jesus.
--- If you don't have one, skip down to the bottom of the post and I'll tell you how you CAN have one. ---
Turn to Him. Find out how He can satisfy your soul if you truly lean into Him.
The closer you draw into Him, the closer He will draw into you. He says so in James 4:8.
Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.
The God of ALL will draw near to you. He will keep you and begin to pour Himself out onto you.
If you are a Christ follower and you've been doing this, stay close. Keep on.
That He will pout Himself out onto you doesn't mean that your life will be perfect, that everything will start going your way, or even that your marriage will get better, but the things of the world fade when God is near, when you begin to see life through His lens.
I know that you're probably either hurting, embittered, or just straight up angry...and very possibly for good reason. I know how much I was hurting when my husband left and while he was gone...and even after he came back, there was pain and anger from the wounds inflicted through his actions, but God was so close and changed my heart in ways that are impossible.
"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you."
One day, He will lift us up forever, but today, as He fills you up, His love and grace and peace and kindness will overflow from your cup. As He is filling you up with those perfect things, they are then able to flow out of you and pour out onto those around you. Your husband, no matter what he's done, what he's doing, or what he will do, should be a recipient of that kind of love...NOT because he deserves it.
Lean in and listen real close though, because this is the thing about the gospel. You...we....I...don't deserve that kind of love from Christ. If you have experienced His salvation, His forgiveness, His mercy, His presence, you have experienced a love called "Agape" love. It is a love that is given fully and without condition and without limit. It is not only a love felt, but a love in action. As we are given that love from Jesus, He calls us to give that love to others.
Jesus will change you. Until you submit your life and your every moment to Him, the quick fixes and hope-filled changes will be temporary. Stop striving and lean into the One who is able to do far more abudantly than all that we ask or think.
That has to be the first thing. HE has to be the first thing...and He'll be the BEST thing.
More to come on what to do next....
The name of Jesus has offended you or has left a bad taste in your mouth because of someone you've known who claimed to follow Him, but didn't act like it. Christians are sinners who have to repent when the sin, imperfect people relying on His perfect grace.
Maybe you just think it's crazy to believe in someone we can't see. It's called walking by faith and not by sight and even after He gives it to you, it's hard to have...until you see Him work in your heart and life...over and over and over. Faith becomes a little easier to have all the time.
Or...maybe you've just never heard the gospel message. I'm gonna share with you now...
Jesus humbled Himself and came to earth as a baby. The One we call King came as a baby...the most vulnerable way to come to earth. He lived a perfect life, impossible as a human except for the fact that He is God. He laid down His life and took the punishment for all of those who would follow Him in the future.
To follow Him, you have to lay down your own life and give it to Him. Repent of sin and from your old way of life and choose to accept His gift of salvation. That's it. While He calls us to walk in His ways, obeying His word is what He desires for you because "the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul." But this isn't what saves you. HE did the saving when He died for you...FOR YOU. He exchanged His perfect life for your sin so that YOU can live! It's the best gift to know Him.
If you are even curious, read the 4 Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John:)
Let me know if you have any questions!!
This is not something Josh and I are excited to share. To share something so painful and shameful and personal is not at the top of our list...BUT...God has done such a great work and we want all of you to have hope. Hope for your own marriage, hope to share with a friend or family. Jesus is that hope.
I'm going to share our story with you and in case you're wondering,
I have Josh's complete support and encouragement to share our story. He wants you and anyone you know who might be turning away from God to know that redemption is possible!
Our story is ugly (and beautiful later) and it'll hit close to home for many of you.
Infidelity has undoubtedly affected many of you that will read this, whether in your own relationship or someone close to you. It's rampant. We, as people, are emotional creatures and so often go against what God says and pursue what makes us feel good. This happens in all kinds of ways, of course, not just through cheating. Every day, we choose ourselves instead of God in some way...aka...sin, but today I'm gonna share with you how unfaithfulness affected our marriage and then share what God has done. He has done great things.
The day my husband left was terrible. He left to be with someone else. I was devastated.
There are too many details to share here things that were going on in Josh that give some answers to why, but our marriage wasn't the reason. It had actually been a really beautiful marriage after he had become a Christian in our second year together.
Sad isn’t a sufficient word for the way that I felt when he told me he wasn’t coming home. I hurt. My heart was broken and my body felt the radiation of that pain coming from my soul. Part of myself had been ripped away from me. You know when you watch a war movie and someone loses a limb? All the parts of the inside are exposed and just hanging out? Sorry for the gruesomeness of that visual, but that’s how it felt.
I was on my knees and face praying, crying, mourning, and reading my Bible for days as Jesus comforted me. He was so close to my broken heart. He never left my side. There were times when I was sobbing so heavily and I could just feel my head laying in Jesus’ lap as He ran His hand over my hair like a good father would comfort his baby girl. I can’t explain how I could feel that. I think God just gave me eyes to see that He was.
In the first week, God was very clear with me that He wanted me to wait on Him, that He would do the work.
Do not say, “I will repay evil”;
Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.
I couldn’t change Josh’s heart. I’m not a heart changer, but Jesus IS. All that He wanted for me to do was wait on Him, stay close to Him, and trust Him in every next step. He never promised that He would bring Josh home or that I would ever get my husband back, but I knew from His word that He was for me and that He was for our covenant marriage. Josh had broken the covenant, but I hadn’t.
God is serious about covenant. A marriage covenant is not just a promise as long as everyone wants to stick to it and as long as it works for both parties. It is a promise to stick with it even when it’s not working, even when people fail terribly. I had stood before God and promised to love this man and to do that in sickness and in health, in the good times and bad, for better or for worse. Did I mean that? ….YES. Yes, I did. Even if he hadn’t taken that as seriously as I had, I would keep on.
I knew God was calling me to fight for my husband. That wasn’t going to be through saying all the things I wanted or shaming or yelling him back to the Lord. My call was to PRAY...to cry out to Almighty God, the One whose greatness of power is immeasurable and who works according to the working of His great might that raised Jesus from the dead. That same power would be the only power that could change anything in my husband. So I prayed and waited and prayed and waited.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
At one point, I gathered a group of ladies at our church that I loved and trusted to pray for Josh with me. God heard us that night. I am so grateful for every woman that was there and for every person who prayed for me, the kids, and Josh during that time.
For almost 3 months, I prayed and studied God’s word, listened to sermons, worshiped God, and saw Him work in so many ways, big and small. All the while, He was working in Josh. Sometimes God used me to speak to Josh and often times, He didn’t. He softened Josh’s heart and on July 25th, Josh returned to God and us as He repented and began obeying the Lord. Everything didn’t change in a day, but it also did, because with that first act of obedience of leaving where he was, walking in repentance began. Restoration for us began that day. It was a process and it has taken time. It hasn’t been easy, but the Spirit has walked us through every bit of it. He still is. I know that He'll continue to work in us and through us as we submit to Him and to His will.
Our hope in sharing this is that it will encourage you to turn to God for help in your marriage for healing, for hope in the impossible situations. Our marriage was on its deathbed and is now alive and thriving!!! The Gospel has changed everything about what our marriage should have been.
Because of Jesus!!!!
If our story is encouragement for you or if it could be encouraging for someone you know, feel free to share our story with them. I’ll (and sometimes we’ll) will be talking more about prayer, infidelity and it’s painful effects, ways to love someone who is not loving, loving and blessing your enemies, persevering through the hard times, covenant marriage, and so many more tough subjects.
May God be glorified.
God has things to remind us of right in the middle of big fun and big fear...about His goodness.
The other day, we drove up the mostly rail-less Pike's Peak Highway....and obviously, I do mean HIGHway.
I remembered it being a scary drive when I was little, looking out my right side passenger window, imagining one of our tires getting caught on the edge and our car being sucked down to the ground. I thought that maybe I would be over that fear, but I was so very wrong. I was laid out across the console, unable to look out the window at times. My family did not hate giving me hard time.
What in your life causes you to freak out like this?
It was mental of course, but my fear was so physical! I could feel it in my bones. It really does paralyze me!
As I watched my kids stand in snow on the edge of a cliff (which, by the way, was way steeper than it looks in the picture), I ACTUALLY teared up as I imagined the worst, one of their feet slipping as they threw the snow up in the air and down they would go. It was terrible!
I wasn't scared the whole time, just in these few moments on the edge.
We lived though! The beauty of the mountains and valleys and sunset surrounded us making it impossible not to worship God with everything in me...even with the fear...knowing that He is so much greater than any fear. We listened to some Shane & Shane who sing so much Scripture that singing those "lyrics" as I looked out at God's creativity and majesty that my heart about wanted to burst.
I even got to see goats on the side of the mountain, a picture of one of my favorite verses...
God, the Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet life the deer's;
he makes me tread on my high places.
That confidence that He gives them to jump around so freely on the sides of cliffs...on the high places! This is the confidence I can have in trusting God. He couldn't give me a more perfect reminder right in the middle of my fear. He does that though, doesn't He? He shows up to show us that we need not fear, but trust in HIM.
Lexi was scared and dad came to the rescue! --- This was at the beginning and had I remembered it at the top, I would've remembered how God cares for me the way that Josh was caring for Lexi!
At the top!
Our brave kids.
Right before we left, we met Bruce. He started teaching us all kinds of things! He even schooled us on prime numbers. The kids were clearly fascinated.
THIS is what blew my mind and couldn't keep me from worshiping the One who made it all.
This Summer, we decided to spend a month on the road, living out of our popup camper and stopping here and there to experience God's creation in places other than Texas. We love where we live, but want to see more! This vacation is about being together, spending time with Jesus and seeing what He's made, and living life with no real plans.
Quite a few friends have said this kind of vacation sounds exciting, but brings them anxiety at the very same time. I HEAR that, but there is a kind of beauty in the unknown. Trusting the Lord with all the unknowns is what we do as Christians anyway, so this month is almost like an exercise in listening to the Spirit, seeing where He leads us.
Starting this trip in the past week and looking forward to the rest has me thinking on how uncertain we have to be willing to live as followers of Christ. That can feel scary or at the least unnerving. If we are looking to feel certain about everything we have in place in our lives, including our plans for the future, then when the unexpected happens, we're thrown for a massive loop. We will be completely shaken, causing us to make all kinds of emotional decisions that are most assuredly not our best ones.
In the uncertain times, in the earth-shaking times, Jesus is Certain.
1. known for sure; established beyond doubt.
According to dictionary.com
I love that definition. That's Jesus, right? He lets us know Him and He has established who He is. We have no reason to doubt Him! He loves His people and is for them. He is FOR US!
He is Certain in all the times. It's good to know, isn't it?
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
If you want to follow along with our trip, follow me on Instagram @ashleystockel. I'll keep posting here, but will post more there. Tell me how God is challenging you in your uncertain time and how He is showing you that you can be certain about Him.