Ready to Bail: Elena's Story

I won't lie to you. Going to Elena's house was the absolute last thing I wanted to do. She needed counseling for marital problems. Serious ones. She and her husband were not on speaking terms and had not shared a bedroom for months. He and boys slept in their room, and she had moved in with the girls. She was ready to leave; if it were not for their five children, she'd have been gone already.

Going to Christian college and marrying a pastor did not make me an expert in counseling. In fact, counseling is the ministry of a pastor's wife that makes me most nervous and uncertain. There have been many times in a counseling session when someone has unloaded a big problem on me and I struggle with what to say. What usually pops into my mind is something like Whoa. Good luck with all that!

I asked Elena to describe her marriage and let her pour out her heart for about an hour. Then we came to the part I dreaded. The part where I was supposed to tell her what to do. The Holy Spirit had given me what to say, but it would be hard to hear. She had criticized and demeaned her husband for years. She had not trusted his leadership or submitted to his authority. She had even gone behind his back to get her way. Words like obedience, respect, and submission were not what she wanted to hear. But they were what she needed. So I took a deep breath and made the words come out.

To my surprise, Elena listened carefully and thoughtfully to each Bible verse I read and the counsel I offered. Then she tearfully admitted to manipulating and disrespecting her husband. We prayed together and outlined a step-by-step plan to apologize to her husband and change her habits, without expecting any reciprocation. He had made more than his share of mistakes as well. But Elena determined to change her own heart, and leave his to the Lord.

I left feeling sure that God's Word had spoken to her heart. But whether or not she would choose to obey it was yet to be seen...

Just three days later, Elena found me at church. "He bought tickets to the church Couples' Banquet" she whispered excitedly. "He wants to go with me!"

The next week, their oldest daughter Alicia confided in me: "Hermana Cristina, you won't believe the changes we've had at our house! I used to dread coming home. Just last week, I was walking home from school and smelled someone on our street frying fish. I thought, I wish we could have fish at our house or even at least eat together like a real family. But when I got closer, I realized the aroma was coming from my house! I saw my dad in the kitchen frying fish and making a salad! When my mom got home from the factory, we all sat down and ate and talked together like we hadn't done in a long time."

Elena and I kept praying and meeting regularly for several weeks. Finally, I got the news I was waiting for. She came in one night, all aglow and giggling like a teenager. "Hermana Cristina, you'll never guess what happened! I came home and my husband had moved the boys back into their room and said I was moving back in with him! He said, 'I am a new husband because I have a new wife. And we need a new bed.' He had gone out and bought a brand-new bed with new sheets and pillows and everything!"

Every time I see Elena's husband smile at her lovingly with his hand on the small of her back, I am reminded that God's Word still changes lives. I don't have to know exactly what to say in every situation; I usually don't. But if I simply share the Word of God, the Holy Spirit will convict of sin. At that point, many decide to ignore counsel and continue on their unhappy path; maybe change seems too hard, or they only wanted to vent. But for those who follow biblical principles, joy and peace are waiting.

With [the Lord] is wisdom and strength, he hath counsel and understanding. -Job 12:13
3 Responses
  1. Kathy Says:

    Wow! Such a powerful, vivid picture of God's kingdom work through you, Christine. It's so true that in the areas we feel weakest, He's magnified. I guess it's because we HAVE to depend on Him in those ministry hard-spots. Sometimes our confidence and capability in the areas where we feel more qualified, can thwart that.
    Love you!
    Aunt Kathy

  2. Gwen Says:

    It's so encouraging to see God's power in situations like this. He sometimes uses us to show people what they need to do. They are amazed at what obedience accomplishes in their lives. I'm thankful you were there for Elena!

  3. Ricky Says:

    I read a simple, but profound statement this week: "The greatest influences in my life have been through a person." Lasting changes come through the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ and then, of all the privileges, He allows us to be a part of the process of changing the hearts of people. Oh, we are NOT to glory in that--all grace and glory is His, but what an absolutely marvelous experience is it to be used BY HIM. Well done.

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