“…O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens.” Ezra 9:6
Wednesday morning I had breakfast with a friend from out of state, who is praying and trusting God for the restoration of his marriage. We try to get together every few months when his work brings him to South Florida. Wednesday, when he was updating me on his family, he commented on the guilt and shame his absent wife cites as why she could never come home.
Charlyne and I have had other standers, even this week, tell us about the guilt and shame of their spouses. Many of these prodigal mates have obviously entertained thoughts of coming home so strongly that the enemy has had to throw the guilt and shame roadblock in their way.
In a sense, this is something like the “spike strips” police use to stop a fleeing vehicle. A narrow, flat strip is thrown in the roadway in front of the vehicle that will not stop. When the unsuspecting felon’s car runs over the strips, spikes break off in their tires, and they go flat.
Many a prodigal has been on the path home, when Satan realizes they must be stopped, and tosses the “Satan strips” of guilt and shame into their path, effectively ending the journey home. My goal today is to teach someone defensive spiritual driving, so that your beloved can swerve right around the Satan strips of guilt and shame, and continue toward home unhindered.
Did I fear the guilt and shame on that July afternoon in 1987 when I suddenly remarried my wife? I certainly did. Let’s look at the facts. I had abandoned my wife and three children and had taken up with another female, even before we were divorced. I made no effort to keep my sinful lifestyle secret. My family was devastated financially, our kids were suffering, and my parents were embarrassed. Our married friends were keeping their distance from me, and most important of all, I had disappointed my Lord God, who had called me to the ministry 13 years prior. Yes, I had guilt and shame, on top of guilt and shame.
I told Charlyne that even though we were getting remarried, that I would never “darken the doors,” of our family’s church, a quote the Lord will not allow me to forget. Please allow me to explain what happened this way. Can you picture an old fashioned balance scale, the style that is often used to illustrate the judicial system? On the left side of those scales were my guilt and shame. There was nothing to balance those feelings, because I was guilty and I was shameful, in my sight, as well as in everyone else’s.
My doing what was right was a three step process. I can promise you that if any prodigal spouse will follow all three steps, their guilt and shame will be removed by our Lord God.
- I had to re-assume my role as husband and father.
- I had to ask God to forgive me for what I had done. I had to acknowledge my sin as sin.
- I had to break it off with the other woman, once and for all.
Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. Psalm 25:20
What if there is someone who refuses to accept a prodigal as forgiven? A verse in Psalm 40 gives the answer:
May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” be appalled at their own shame. But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “The Lord be exalted!” Psalm 40:15-16
Remember, the Bible says that we have all sinned. The sins of a prodigal spouse are usually out in the open for all to witness. If there is an individual who continues to point out the past sins of a prodigal spouse, who has sincerely carried out the three steps above, perhaps that person needs to be dealing with their own secret sins.
Any true born-again child of God will be rejoicing when a prodigal, in true honesty and humility, repents and makes things right with God and with their spouse. If this is happening to you, or to someone you love, listen to what God says about repentance and forgiveness, not what another person is saying.
Our marriage is successful today because, foremost, I have a praying wife who would not give up on me. Secondly, because I avoided Satan’s strips of guilt and shame on the way home. It has been a process, but with Jesus Christ at the center.
Earlier I had promised you a spiritual defensive driving lesson, and here it is: Turn right, swerve around Satan’s spike strips of guilt and shame and keep heading home, following the directions given you in the Bible. Drive safely, depend on the Lord, and you will reach home, (and eventually Heaven) safely.
That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. 2 Timothy 1:12
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