“And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Revelation 12:11
The testimony of God’s work in the lives of His children is a source of great encouragement to me- especially, the testimonies of the older saints that have walked with God for a long time. I love to listen to His beloved ones testify to God’s faithfulness to them through the decades. Bettie is one of those older saints who has walked with God for many years. Her story is one of the most remarkable testimonies of God’s sustaining grace that I have ever heard in my life.
She tells about the decades of her life that were full of rejection, loneliness, and longing. She even shares about her own personal struggle with the temptation to find some way out of her marriage commitment- either by suicide or divorce. And, then she shares about the abounding grace and the astounding providence of God that kept her from both of these things. She shares about how after 58 years of marriage, God answered her prayers and gave her the desires of her heart by blessing her relationship with her husband beyond her wildest imagination. Most importantly, Bettie shares how God used the severe mercy of a painful marriage to conform her into the image of Christ, teach her to love her husband selflessly, and trust God with her marriage, her emotional needs, her very life.
At this time, Bettie is a model of beauty, elegance, and dignity.
When I met her, her husband had come to the faith, and their marriage was a testimony of God’s abounding grace for all to see. Bettie shared this testimony at a woman’s retreat – I share it with her permission. I wanted to post this testimony because I believe that Christian women need to be assured of God’s abounding grace to us in the midst of adversity. Really, this testimony is for every believer that would be reminded of the sovereign abounding grace of God. It is, especially, for every Christian woman that needs to know that God is working in her life for her greatest joy and His greatest glory, even though the severe mercy of a difficult marriage.
Saved, but Considering Suicide
“I became born again a Billy Graham crusade in 1952. Shortly after that, I met my husband, fell in love, and became a Catholic in order to marry him. During our courtship, he was very attentive to me. We married in 1953. I loved my husband more than I loved Jesus.
From the very beginning of the marriage, God took me by the hand and led me on a life-changing journey. I did not realize it at the time, many times did I say, “But Father, I do not understand.” In due time God showed me and I now understand. It took my lifetime to do it.
My husband changed after we married. He would not look at me, talk to me or even say my name. When he came into a room where I was, he acted as though I was not there. There did not seem to be any way that I could please my husband. He always seemed angry. I became a non-person. When I confronted him and asked him why he was treating me that way, he denied he was doing so.
I began to read everything that I could on how to have a happy marriage. I was told on the one hand that if I was not happy in marriage- it was up to me to change it. I was also told not to accuse, but to express how being treated like that made me feel. My husband’s reply was usually, “Why should that bother you? It would not bother me.” He wanted me to live my life, he would live his life, and we would just be friendly with each other.”
As time went on and four children later, I thought of suicide. I remember driving and coming into town at the top of the hill and thinking I could just drive over the cliff with the four children (because I knew that my husband would not care for them). Suicide- the thought gave me energy. For a whole week, I tried to decide how to do it. By the end of the week, I knew that I could not and would not do it. (God’s grace!)
God Had Another Plan
Years went by, and somewhere about the fifteenth or sixteenth year of our marriage, God led me to a Bible study. (God’s grace, yeah!). I knew to attend the Catholic Church something was seriously wrong. I did not know what it was. I found out by studying the Bible. The Bible, the precious Word of God, was like (and still is) sweet, sweet water to my parched soul and spirit. I felt like a dry sponge soaking it up.
I began to search the word for a way out of my marriage commitment. NO WAY! What I found were two very important commands for me. I was to be submissive and respectful to my husband. There were no pre-existing conditions, such as a loving husband. No. Those commands were from me from God. I did my best to obey.
Time went by. By this time, we had 8 children. We went for counseling. The counselor at this time wanted to see us separately. First, he saw me, then he saw my husband. The counselor called me and said that I should divorce my husband. The counselor asked if I had a lawyer. I said, “No.” He said that he would help me get one. I said that I had to think about it. I sat for a long time thinking, going back and forth in my mind, weeping over the whole situation. I did not really want a divorce, but I did not want to continue to live as we were, either. That night there was a fire in the house where the counselor lived. The house burned down and he died in that fire. Thoughts of divorce were gone (God’s grace!) I do not mean to imply that this was God’s grace- that the man died in the fire. It happened, you must take it for what it is. I only know, from then on, I did not think of divorce again.
I continued in Bible studies every week. I learned that we are to pray for our enemies. So, I thought, if I am to pray for my enemies, then I most assuredly had to pray for my husband. I started praying for my husband.
We went to counseling again, together, to a Christian this time, for several months, then stopped. Things did not change, in our marriage. We started again and stopped, but our marriage remained the same.
Praying, Learning, Loving
I continued to pray for wisdom and guidance for myself, and I continued to pray for my husband.
In Bible study, I was learning that my life, as a Christian, is a struggle; a constant battle between my old nature and my life in Christ. Through all of this, God was helping me to get my priorities straight. I began to want to be more like Jesus. Over time God would reveal my besetting sins- sins of self-pity, bitterness, and the terrible sin of envy. I envied other people’s marriages that I thought were happy. Over and over again, I had to run to God and cry out, “Lord, help me!”
God was teaching me how to be obedient, how to persevere and endure, how to forgive, and how much He loved me. I slowly began to realize that it did not matter if my marriage was happy or not. What began to matter to me was my relationship with God.
By this time, I knew my marriage was not going to change.
Better Than I Could Have Imagined… Life at Seventy-Seven
I submitted the last vestige of myself to God, and said, “It’s okay. I except this, if this is to be my life, then it’s okay. Help me to be the woman You want me to be.” (God’s grace.)
But wait! God had something more wonderful than I could have imagined for me. By this time, I am 77 years old, and my husband is 80 years old.
God led my husband and me to another Christian counselor. It started out as we were attending counseling for one of our grand-daughters, who was struggling with behavior issues. God led this counselor to see that something was seriously wrong with our marriage relationship. In this Godly man’s counseling, my husband began to see things differently. My husband began to change. He now treats me with love and respect.
I know that were it not for my marriage situation, it would have been something else that God would have used to each me and correct me. Jesus says in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” Also in John 14:14, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” I asked God to renew my love for my husband, and He did it! After 58 years of marriage, I did not expect this. (Grace abounds in my life.)
I thank God for my life and the lives of my children that I did not destroy. I thank Him for not allowing me to destroy our family. I thank God for not allowing some other man to come into my life. I was so vulnerable, so lonely, so starving for love, if someone had treated me with the least bit of kindness, I would have succumbed, I believe. Thank God, He spared me that temptation!
Through this whole marriage, God has become bigger and bigger! And, I have become smaller and smaller.
Jesus Meets All My Needs, Wants, and Desires
I cannot stress enough how important God’s Word is to me. God’s Word is food for my soul, my very being. I see my own sins. When they were revealed to me, (thank the Lord, not all at once!), the struggle to overcome them made me realize I could not do anything apart from Jesus in my life.
I began to see that I did not really need my husband’s love. I want my husband’s love, but I now know that I am loved far, far greater than I can even put my mind to. This, God’s love for me, truly is everything to me. Jesus does meet all my needs. Through what God has done in my life through Jesus, my love for my husband is different now. My love for him is cleaner, purer, and unselfish.
This weeding out and fine-tuning that God does take its time, sometimes a long time, but for me, it was worth it- the suffering, obedience, and waiting! I like the way Spurgeon worded it- “No, our master’s experience teaches us that suffering is necessary, and the true-born child of God must not – would not escape it if he might.”