I Trust You, Lord, with My Marriage
About the Guest
After years of walking on eggshells and living in fear, Joy McClain decided to take action. Joy McClain tells how she and her kids moved out and away from her abusive husband, just hoping they could start their lives over in peace and safety. But they continued to pray and believe God to work a miracle in her husband, Mark.
Joy McClainThrough song writing, publishing (over 150 short stories, Bible studies and articles), teaching, counseling and public speaking Joy passionately helps women understand their redemptive position in Christ. Joy has a unique call, marrying what women desire to express to words that give them a voice in which to do so. Married for 26 years, 20 of which involved a battle against her husband Mark's alcoholism, she and Mark have four children and live in Greenwood, Indiana.
Joy McClain tells how she and her kids moved out and away from her abusive husband.
I Trust You, Lord, with My Marriage
Bob: There was a period in his life when Mark McClain loved alcohol more than he loved his wife and family. That period was a dark time for the McClains.
Joy: Picture—you know, what?—about a freshman in high school—on the floor, on his knees, sobbing and begging his dad to come back to his family—to: “Get help, Dad. Please, I beg you—just get…” He’s heaving these giant sobs, and my husband just walks out. You say: “What kind of a man does that?! How lost? How desperate is that soul—that can walk away from that? What guilt must be buried deep inside this man from having left so much destruction?”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, June 19th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll hear today from Joy McClain how her husband Mark eventually did get help and how their marriage was healed. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I remember being in a meeting one night, with a group of leaders from church. We were there with a wife who was seeking our counsel on what to do in her marriage. Her husband was a drug user.
Bob: He’d met with us. He’d indicated that he was repentant and was going to quit using drugs. We had put some things in place where there was going to be some drug testing—random drug testing. We were going to make sure that he was living up to those commitments. It lasted about three weeks. Then, he kind of disappeared; and we couldn’t get to him.
Dennis: And so, she wisely came back.
Bob: She came back; and she said, “What do I do?” We continued to pray with her, continued to counsel with her, and ultimately, came to a point where we said that the wisest thing she could do was to separate from her husband—and that she might need, eventually, for financial protection, to get a divorce.
Now, I have to tell you. I work at FamilyLife Today. I speak at Weekend to Remember® marriage conferences.
Dennis: And you and I have talked a great deal about divorce and what we know the Scripture says about it. God hates it.
Bob: To be in that situation and to be saying, “I think the wisest thing may be for you to get protection,”—but I had to go back, Dennis, to Moses and Exodus and Jesus’ interpretation of that in Matthew, Chapter 19, where he says—
Bob: —“Because of the hardness of your heart, God granted divorce.” I thought, “If there has ever been a case of the hardness of a man’s heart, I was seeing it here.” This was an unrepentant, unbelieving husband, who showed some evidence of repentance; but within weeks, you could tell it was worldly sorrow, not godly sorrow. Our hope was—and here’s my point—the wife, who was seeking our counsel—her hope was that, in filing for divorce, that might be a trigger for eventual reconciliation with her husband.
Dennis: So, it wasn’t to terminate the marriage; it was ultimately, to maybe, bring him to his senses, spiritually?
Bob: She was still holding out. Today, years later—divorced from her husband—would still be holding out for him to come to faith and for the possibility of reconciliation of their marriage relationship. I bring that up because the story we’ve been hearing this week is a story that got to one of those dramatic points of separation, where our guest had to consider the options, and had to weigh through, and was getting counsel from people at church, “Maybe divorce is the right thing for you.”
Dennis: That’s right. Joy McClain joins us again on FamilyLife Today. She’s the author of Waiting For His Heart. It’s Lessons From a Wife Who Chose to Stay and not leave and not get a divorce.
Bob: Yes. Joy—welcome back to FamilyLife Today. You’ve shared with our listeners, this week, about how, early in your marriage, you began to see some of the cracks in the foundation. Your husband had been drinking before you were married, but it had never been an issue. It started to become an issue as you had three kids, in the first three years of your marriage. Then, it became a spiraling downward issue to the point, that when your kids were teenagers, your husband’s drinking dominated everything about the family; didn’t it?
Joy: It did.
Bob: He was starting to drink in the morning. He was functional during the day, but he’d start drinking more heavily in the evening. It came to a point where you eventually said, “For the protection of my children, we’re getting out of here.” You left, and you were separated from him for three years; right?
Dennis: Let’s just back up, for a moment. Let’s talk about kind of what were some of the things that were happening in your family. What led you—what were the points of drama, the points of grief, the points of loss—that occurred in your family that, ultimately, caused you to draw a line in the sand and surprise your husband by moving out with your four kids, in the middle of the day?
Joy: There is not an area of your life that is not affected when you have a spouse who is an addict or struggling to this degree—from your finances to your social life—because there is no place you can go where they’re putting you or their children first. It is always to feed that fix—to numb themselves. If you had relationships or couples, you don’t have them anymore because you’re, essentially, like a single parent. You’re living like a single mom.
Bob: You’re living in isolation—away from community, away from friends. Of course, you were reaching out and getting some help from women.
Joy: I had community, yes.
Bob: But as a couple, you didn’t.
Joy: Did not. As a family, we did not.
Bob: What about the kids? What kind of an impact was your husband’s drinking having on his relationship with your kids? And what kind of tension was being created around the house, related to them?
Joy: They have this daily walking on egg shells—this fear, this tension in the home that they live with—and: “Oh, is Dad going to show up at my piano recital?” “Is Dad going to make a scene at my football game?” “What is he going to do?” This fear—of him always trying to destroy something or to cause a scene—so, there’s this constant fear of, “What’s he going to do?”
You know, I put my daughters in counseling. I made sure that they were in healthy homes, often, where—although it was painful, they needed to see what it should be. They needed an example of when God is the center and the realm of everything going on in the home—they needed to see that. So, they had counseling, individually, like with a biblical counselor to help them process. It was invaluable to allow them to talk. I could not shut them down or pretend it wasn’t there. It was so important to keep that communication going.
Dennis: But in spite of that, they moved to some destructive behavior, in the end.
Joy: My oldest daughter—while we were not living with her dad—greatly struggled. She was the one who really thought: “Maybe, Dad’s right. Maybe, Mom is just so difficult to live with.” She was such a daddy’s girl—longed to be a daddy’s girl—that she resulted in some—there was some cutting going on with her—some suicidal thoughts. That was just such a tragic and such heart-wrenching—I felt like somebody just ran over me with a truck. I cannot stand the pain and sorrow that my children are going through.
Dennis: Let’s talk about your sons for a moment. You describe a scene with your 15-year-old son.
Joy: He was about 15, at the time when this happened. My kids were—had kind of confronted their dad and just were begging him—pleading with him to stop drinking—to get help.
My son, more than anybody, wanted his father to be redeemed. He had this day—been so broken for his father that—you can picture—you know, what?—about a freshman in high school—on the floor, on his knees, sobbing and begging his dad to come back to his family—to: “Get help, Dad! Please, I beg you—just get…” He’s heaving these giant sobs, and my husband just walks out. You say: “What kind of a man does that?! How lost? How desperate is that soul—that can walk away from that? What guilt must be buried deep inside this man from having left so much destruction?”
It was vital that I put, in front my son, good, godly examples. God provided that in a way—of a man, when he was about, at the same time—about the same age—who had a heart for young boys—started a Bible study with my son and about nine other of his peers—of their friends. That Bible study went all the way through high school. They became so grounded in the Lord that they each began to teach and lead through that study.
But this man gave him a safe place to vent—to discuss hard things—that he did not need his mom to talk about some of these—he needed another man to. So, God provided that, but I was fierce and constantly being very aware of where my children were and what were their needs. I could not just roll over and say, “It’s hopeless.” I had to fight for my kids.
I tell that to women, now: “It may seem hopeless. You may never reconcile with your husband, but you still have these children who will follow your lead. Teach them the privilege of intercession. Teach them that their hearts should not be embittered—that it’s not what they have done. It’s not their fault. And so often, kids think it’s their fault.”
Bob: Joy, after years of living with your husband—then, living apart from your husband, the alcoholism spinning downward—from your perspective, you had to think: “This is not going to get better. I’m going to have to just figure out how to do life from here to the end, with this as my reality;” right?
Joy: Part of me never, ever, ever would give up that hope.
Bob: So, I want to know is, “When was the point, in this whole story, where there started to be, in the midst of the clouds, a little shaft of light that started to appear and you went, ‘Wait a sec! Is God doing something here?’”
Joy: They say the darkest hour is just before dawn. I remember, in the fall, our youngest daughter, at the time, came to me one Sunday afternoon. We were not living with her father at this time—my husband. She said, “I have taken pain medicine,” that she had had for some headaches, “and I took too many.” She said: “I just did it. I just had this moment of hopelessness—feeling like, ‘Our lives are never going to get better.’”
I rush her to the hospital, just begging God that she would be okay. So, once we checked in there, and they ran all the tests—they said: “She didn’t take enough to do any damage. She’ll just sleep well.” But it was a terrifying moment. Our pastor came, and one of the kids had put a phone call into their dad. He shows up, and he is so drunk. My pastor got in his face, outside of her room, and had a confrontation with him. He turned around to me and he said, “It is hopeless with this man.”
Bob: Your pastor said that?
Joy: My pastor said that. When I got home that night, not only was I so exhausted—I had been so exhausted for so many years—just the day-in and day-out survival. I had to pray for everything—every need. God met those, but I was exhausted. That night is the moment you’re talking about, Bob, because I dropped to my knees and I begged God to move somewhere, somehow.
It was like that day, on the beach, where He said, “Joy, do you trust Me?” He spoke to my heart and said: “Until I move on a man’s heart, it won’t move. It’s a heart of stone! But when I move, there is no stopping it.” So, actually, the darkest hour was then— when I thought: “I’m going to lose my child. I’ve got another one cutting.” I just felt like everything was crashing and caving in.
My husband, a few months earlier, had gotten a DUI. About three weeks after this incident, he went before a judge. Interestingly enough, I was speaking at a women’s event in Bemidji. I hadn’t done speaking for years. I had pulled out of all ministry, at this point. They had known my circumstance. They wanted me to go and talk to the women about hard places, and they knew my circumstance.
So, I stood before hundreds of women that night. I professed my belief that, no matter what the outcome was, God was who He says He is in my life. He saw me now. He would never forsake me—just like Hebrew says, “I never will forsake, never will I leave you.”
The very day that I spoke that and said, “I believe there will come a day when I stand before my Beloved as His pure, spotless bride,” is the very day my husband went before the judge. That is the day my husband came home, alone, to that house, where all of our history was. There he sat on that chair in the corner, and buried his face in his hands, and cried out to God, “I cannot do this without You.”
Dennis: So, what happened after that?
Joy: I got a phone call. I did not know this had taken place, obviously. I got a phone call from my kids. They said: “Mom, you’re not going to believe this, but Dad called us. He wasn’t drinking. He was sober. He wanted us to go do something with him.” I think they went bowling or to the movies. They said, “He wasn’t drunk.” I thought, “That’s astounding, but just give it a few hours.”
I got a call from another one of the kids. They said,:“Mom, you’re not going to believe this. Dad’s been with us all day, and he hasn’t drunk.” All three kids ended up calling me, over that period of that time when I was gone, and told me this.
Joy: I just felt like, “Oh, my babies! Don’t put your hope in this because I’m amazed and impressed he’s lasted for a day, but it’s only a matter of time.” When I flew back home, Mark called me and just kind of wanted to talk. Can you imagine—after 22 years of this being in your marriage and so much hurt has taken place between the both of you? We didn’t even know what to say. He says: “I want to come home. I’m not drinking now, and I”—the last thing I wanted to do was to go back home and to trust this man.
We went through the holidays, walking on egg shells. He came over on Christmas morning. He still wasn’t drinking. We went through New Year’s. He still wasn’t drinking. We were living, still, separate homes. We’re not really in a marriage relationship. We have a few dates. I said: “I cannot do this. I don’t know how to walk this out.” So, I said, “Would you go to some intensive counseling—where you go and you stay for a few days and you really peel away those layers?” At first, he was reluctant; but then, he decided he would go. By February, we found ourselves—by the end of February—in an intensive counseling situation.
And those days were when God just peeled away years of hurt and wounds. My husband, not only confessed and humbled himself—he, sincerely, for the first time in over two decades, apologized with a heart that showed me: “He really is sorry. He really is remorseful.” God had prepared my heart. Rather than being full of bitterness and wanting to point the fingers and say: “Well, you did this; and you did this. I hope you feel really bad about that,” God had done a work in my heart. The Holy Spirit had softened it enough to where I said, “I forgive you,” because I had realized all that I had been forgiven from. I have been forgiven for so much. The Lord had shown me so much grace and so much mercy. How could I not extend this to this man?
And we went home. The very first thing he did was go to my daughters. He gave them an opportunity to tell him anything they wanted, for as long as they wanted—all the hurts he had caused, all the sorrow, all the pain. They could not let their dad in fast enough.
When my son came home from college that weekend, I was in the other room; but I was listening, of course. To hear your husband tell that young man—now, a freshman in college—that he was so sorry. I went back to that 15-year-old boy—on the floor, sobbing, begging his father, “Please, Dad, get help,”—and hear his dad finally—and my son had prayed so steadfastly for his father—and now, was saying, “Dad, I’m so proud of you. Now, I can receive from you. You can be my dad, and I will be your son.” It was such a beautiful picture of redemption and grace.
Now, I would be lying to say: “It was all okay. It was all good.” There have been years’ worth of damage and heartache. It would take years to unpeel—
Joy: —and to learn to trust.
Dennis: That’s right.
Joy: And so, we dated for a while—to get to know each other—put Christ in the center, for the first time in 22 years. Now, Christ was finally in the center of our home. We had a huge wedding. We celebrated. We call it our Day of Redemption. The people who stood up with us were our children. There were people at that wedding I didn’t even know! There were so many people that—because I always felt like we lived in this glass house. Everybody knew what was going on with our lives—they knew the redemption story. They wanted to listen. They wanted to partake.
Joy: And I had nothing to do with my husband coming to the Lord. He receives all the glory, all the credit and honor go to Him. He redeemed; He restored. He taught us how to extend grace and mercy to each other.
The very first thing we did, as a newly-married couple, was—my husband, for the first time, with his young adult children and his bride of 22 years—led his family at the communion table. How fitting that was: “Lord, we lay this at Your feet. Our story will never be over, but You’ve redeemed and restored. You will continue to redeem us.”
Bob: How many years ago was that?
Joy: Six, seven years ago.
Bob: The story is still unfolding?
Joy: The story is still unfolding.
Bob: The last seven years have not been all perfect; have they?
Joy: No, and they won’t be. I’ve learned that my happiness is not found in a man. My happiness isn’t found in anything here on this earth. My contentment, my happiness, my joy comes from the holiness of the Lord. It is found seeking the Lord and the intimacy—knowing the Lord. It is Psalm 27:4: “One thing I ask. This is what I seek that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” That is my story. I’m dwelling in the house of the Lord, no matter where our story takes us—no matter trials and tribulations that come. I choose to dwell in the house of the Lord.
Dennis: And your story is a great word to that person, who is listening right now, who is in a hard place—who’s being tempted to be hopeless, to live in despair, bitterness—as you talked about. But your single message is: “Who are you going to trust in? Who are you going to place your hope in?” You’ve admitted that you haven’t done it perfectly, but you have modeled someone who—well, it’s back to the subtitle of your book, Lessons From a Wife Who Chose to Stay—someone who chose not to quit.
Thanks, Joy. I really appreciate you sharing your story, here on FamilyLife Today.
Bob: You know, I think about stories we’ve heard for years—stories of couples who have attended a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway or the couples we’ve heard from who have been to one of our Art of Marriage® video events—God can, in a short period of time, do a powerful transforming work in a marriage when a couple will come to an event and both of them are listening. In fact, sometimes, a couple comes to the event, and they are not both listening; but God still breaks through and does something to turn the marriage around.
Of course, over the summer, we don’t host Weekend to Remember marriage getaways; but we are hoping for more than a thousand events to take place, in hundreds of cities, all across the country. To help make that happen, we are making The Art of Marriage video event kit available, this week, to anyone who will call us and say: “We’ll host an event. Here is the location. Here is the date.” You just give us that information; and we’ll send you the event kit—with the DVD’s, the workbook, the leader’s guide. Everything you need to host an event—we’ll send it out to you. All we ask is that you cover the cost of the shipping and the handling.
And one of the reasons for this is we want to be able to point people to your event when they call looking for help. We want to be able to say, “There’s an Art of Marriage that is happening near you.” So, if you’ll call today at 1-800-FL-TODAY and say: “Here’s the date. Here’s the location. We are ready to host an Art of Marriage event in our community, in our church,” we’ll send the kit out to you. We’ll just ask you to cover the postage and the handling to get the kit to you.
And I should also mention that we now have The Art of Marriage dubbed in Spanish. So, if you’d like to host an event in a Spanish-speaking church or community, it’s dubbed in Spanish. The workbooks are in Spanish. Again, call 1-800-FL-TODAY to request the kit. All you need is to give us the date and the location, cover the cost of the shipping, and the kit is yours. Pray with us that there would be hundreds of these events happening in cities, all across the country, in July, and in August, and in September.
Let me also encourage you to go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to get a copy of Joy McClain’s book. It’s called Waiting For His Heart. The subtitle is Lessons From a Wife Who Chose to Stay. This may be a book you want to pass on to a friend of yours—who is in a tough situation. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to request a copy of the book. Again, our website, FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call, again, at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Now, a quick word of thanks to all of those of you who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. I want to say a special word of thanks to our Legacy Partners—those of you who support us each month. Whenever you call, or write, or go online and make a donation to FamilyLife Today, you’re helping to keep this program on our network of stations, all across the country—helping us cover the cost for keeping the FamilyLife Today website up and functioning. We appreciate that partnership that we have with you.
In fact, this week, when you make a donation, we’d like to send you, as a thank-you gift, an audio CD from Dennis Rainey—a message he presented to a group of men, a few years back, where he was talking about how dads, in particular, can connect, heart to heart, with their teenage daughters and sons. We’ll send that CD to you as our thank-you gift when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the button that says, “I CARE”, to make an online donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make your donation over the phone. As always, we are grateful that you would join with us; and we look forward to hearing from you.
Now, I want to encourage you to be back with us tomorrow when we’ll meet a couple whose marriage started in a tough spot. It almost didn’t last, but God stepped in. You’ll hear how and hear their story tomorrow. I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Justin Adams, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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