by Judy Rousseau
After 22 years of marriage, my husband turned to me one day and said, “Judy, I need to tell you something. I just don’t love you anymore.”
Admittedly, our relationship wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t think our marriage was in any danger. So I basically ignored what my husband, Paul, said hoping his feelings of dissatisfaction would just go away. In the months that followed, however, our relationship deteriorated so much that our home became a war zone, and the stress level accelerated to the point that I asked my husband to move out.
We were both hurting and yet stubbornly clung to our beliefs that we were right and the other was wrong. At the time, it seemed more important to be justified in our anger than it did to try and work things out. Surely I didn’t deserve to be treated so poorly after all I’ve done for Paul, I thought. I hope you can detect the self-righteous attitude, because believe me … I certainly had one.
Paul and I were now living about 40 minutes away from each other. Neither of us had anything good to say so we simply said nothing. My husband wasn’t getting positive attention from me and became vulnerable to the affections of a very attractive, divorced co-worker. When I learned about the affair, I decided that it was time to draw up divorce papers. I thought a divorce was the answer, or at least what was expected of me under the circumstances.
The weeks went on and my lawyer seemed to be dragging her feet. Eventually she told me, “Judy, I have to be honest with you. I walk with God, and because I do I cannot proceed with your case. I will not be a part of burying something that isn’t dead. I believe if you will be patient, your marriage can be saved.”
Never have I felt such despair. What would I do now? I have to admit, the time that I was pursuing a divorce were some of the blackest, most hopeless days I’ve ever lived. I had no peace.
I sought help from a beloved Christian friend, Jeanne, who asked me, “Judy, if God Himself were standing right in front of you and asked you what you would like Him to do for you … what would you tell Him?” The words came easily as my eyes filled with tears. I said, “I would ask Him to bring my husband back to Himself and back to our family. I would ask Him to heal us and use our family as an example that nothing is impossible with Him.” Jeanne said, “Well then, we know how to pray, don’t we?”
Suddenly, everything seemed so simple. Within a few days I sensed God telling me, “If you are willing to walk with me through this time, I will bring you great victory … but it will be very difficult.”
Even though it was going to be hard, I desired the great victory the Lord promised. God’s Word says that He hates divorce, and so I would choose to hate it too.
At first, I expected that my husband would return home any day. I was convinced that God was going to strike Paul with a lightning bolt and correct everything that was wrong in his life. Boy, was I wrong. God began to change me. He taught me so much as I waited on Him, allowing me to see that the love that I had for my husband was not really love at all.
He showed me that He loved me unconditionally, in spite of my imperfections. Could I offer my husband any less? God’s truth and mercy exposed my selfishness, and I sought His forgiveness.
Learning to wait on God
When I called my husband to tell him the “great news” that I wanted to get back together, he was not impressed. Paul told me that nothing had changed; he still was not in love with me but rather caught up in an exciting new romance with the woman of his dreams.
At first I was crushed by Paul’s rejection, but I chose to continue waiting on the Lord to bring me the great victory He had promised. Now I was able to identify with the suffering and rejection Jesus experienced and how He chose to love anyway. He did not throw stones at the adulterous woman (in John 4) but rather offered her mercy and forgiveness. As His follower, I would have to treat my husband the same way.
People thought I was crazy. Why in the world would I hold on to someone who obviously did not want to be with me? They insisted that certainly God does not expect me to suffer in this way. Even Christians and a pastor counseled me to get a divorce … they seemed to think that God had someone better for me and that my husband would never change.
Yet over and over again, God gave me the grace to put more faith in His Word than the words of other people. One memorable experience occurred one day when I was shopping at Wal-Mart.
The Wal-Mart story
One day, my two youngest boys and I were headed to Wal-Mart. For some strange reason that I didn’t know at the time, I chose to go through the center of our city rather than take the bypass. I came upon a traffic rotary which was completely bottlenecked … no one was moving.
I casually looked to my left and saw a motorcycle headed in the opposite direction only a couple of feet away from my car. To my surprise, it was my husband with his girlfriend’s arms tightly wrapped about him. I was stunned. Out of impulse, I tooted the horn and waved. He dropped his sunglasses and sheepishly waved to me and within seconds the traffic moved him along the highway and he was gone.
I took a deep breath and told my boys that they needed to help me pray. I began praying something like this …
Lord, what just happened here has to be something that You arranged because even if I tried to meet Paul at this precise spot at this precise time, something would have gone wrong. There is absolutely no reason for Paul to be here right now. Lord, Your word says that You will work all things together for good because I love You and am called according to Your plans, so Father, I ask You to work good even from this difficult situation. Take hold of my heart and make me the person You desire me to be. Encourage my sons to trust You that You will one day bring their father home. For all these things I praise you in Jesus name. Amen.
When I arrived at Wal-Mart, I sensed God telling me that He was going to raise up someone in the store who would pray for me and our family. Hmmm … I wonder who, I thought as I locked up the car. I gave my boys their instructions and asked them to meet me in an hour in front of the checkout.
An unlikely prophet
I stood still for about a minute and a half in front of the lawn and garden department and then a young man passed by. His shirt read, “The Lord’s gym—His pain, your gain.” As the man walked by, I was certain this was the man God has provided. I followed him, rehearsing what I would say and found him looking at fishing equipment in the sports section of the store. I uttered a silent prayer, took a deep breath, and tapped him on the shoulder.
“Excuse me,” I said, “I’ve never done anything like this before, but today as I got out of my car here, the Lord spoke to me. He said that He was going to raise up someone in Wal-Mart who was going to pray for me and my family. When you walked by, the Lord told me that person is you.”
The man jumped to his feet raised his hands in the air and said, “Praise the Lord.”
“Yes!” I thought, “This is the right guy.” Can you imagine what would have happened if I’d picked the wrong person? Security probably would have put me on permanent lay-away!
The man asked how he could pray for me. I introduced myself and told him that my two boys and I had just seen my husband on his motorcycle with his girlfriend but that I was believing God to restore him to Himself, and then back to me and our children.
The anointing of God came over this wonderful brother. “Judy, you keep your eyes firmly planted on the Word of God,” he said. “Don’t look to the left, don’t look to the right, don’t listen to man, don’t listen to woman, but keep your eyes firmly planted on the word of God. For I want to tell you, Judy, your husband’s relationship with this other woman cannot and will not prevail against the word and will of almighty God!”
Wow! I was so overwhelmed I nearly fell over backwards. I felt as if I was face to face with an Old Testament prophet. He told me that his name was Adam and that he and his wife, Dorothy, lived nearby. He then allowed me to talk for a few more minutes to give him more details.
Adam waited for me to completely empty all the words I had to say, and then this patient man said that he had something to tell me. He proceeded to tell me that he had been praying that the Lord would use his life to help others. He admitted that he had observed God’s supernatural workings in the lives of his friends but had never really experienced such a move of God himself, so he had included a special request in his prayer that someday the Lord would touch his life in a supernatural way. So when I approached him, He knew his prayer had been answered.
I just love the way that God can answer the prayers of two strangers through the same set of circumstances.
The words he spoke ministered such hope to me that I thought on them many times during the remaining days of our separation. Several times the “prophet’s” words reminded me not to heed the advice of well meaning friends, but to focus only on the word and will of God.
At one point, Paul had become so bitter against me that he turned and said, “I bet you think that your God is going to do some great big miracle in my life, don’t you?” Although I didn’t reply, in my heart I shouted a resounding “YES!” I could hardly believe Paul had the audacity to say that. It reminded me of the claim, “not even God could sink the Titanic…”
The majority of my free time was spent in prayer and searching the Scriptures for promises. God also gave me several faithful prayer partners who walked alongside me and kept me accountable to the decision I had made to stand for our marriage.
Holding on to hope
Week after week, I continued to go forward for prayer during Sunday service. After several months of this faithful praying, my pastor offered my prayer partners and me the use of our church on Monday nights so that we could gather for prayer.
Eight individuals met on the first Monday night, and the next day I received a phone call from Paul. I had not heard from him in some time, so his call seemed to come out of the blue. He didn’t have much to say; he said he just felt the need to speak to me. The Lord used this phone call to convince me that He had heard and was answering our prayers.
After Paul’s phone call, he once again went into silent mode. I didn’t see him; I didn’t hear from him. To my natural senses, it appeared that nothing was happening. However, the Lord was definitely stirring Paul’s heart because a couple of weeks later he sent me a letter addressed to “Mrs. Judy Rousseau.” Here’s what that letter said:
I am writing this letter because I guess maybe this is the way we can communicate. I know I have been a real jerk. I am really lost but I also don’t know where I am going. I guess I really don’t understand you and you don’t really understand me. I know everyone is against me. I don’t feel I am 100% wrong in our relationship but I always feel like the bad guy no matter what I do. I’ve always felt that I cannot be what you need in your life. I am confused.
I want you to know that I think of you all the time and I do love you. But I don’t know how to communicate that to you and with you. I don’t know what to do or where I should go from here but I really do not want a divorce from you. Maybe you can share some light with me. If you want to write, please write me at my work address.
Hope to hear from you soon,
By the time I finished reading that short two-paragraph letter, there were rivers of tears streaming down my face. Not only was Paul sharing with me how confused and guilty he was feeling but he also shared that he did not want a divorce and also that he thought about me all the time. I was overwhelmed with praise and thanks to the Lord for what He was obviously doing in the realm of the unseen.
During the next few weeks, much was happening in Paul’s little corner of the world. He came down with a very bad cold that had him absolutely wiped out. On top of that, the stress in his life began to show in his career. Although he remained in the same field, he changed jobs six times in six months.
The medication that Paul was using wasn’t working, so he returned to the clinic. After the nurse looked at Paul she asked why he hadn’t come in sooner. “You have pneumonia,” she said. “Do you know how serious that is? People die from pneumonia!” Paul was given a new prescription and was told that he needed to stay home from work until he had a clean bill of health.
Paul followed the nurse’s orders. Over and over again, he thought about what the nurse said, “People die from pneumonia.” Paul knew that he did not want to die in the condition that he was living, but didn’t quite know what to do to fix the mess that his life had become.
Because he was unable to work, he spent much of his time laying on his girlfriend’s couch, watching TV, and drinking ginger ale. As Paul lay there flicking through the channels, he came upon a Christian television program. The preacher was speaking directly into the camera as he said, “God wants you to know that He loves you and that He forgives you and wants you to come home.” The tears flowed as Paul felt God’s love calling him back.
A short while later, Paul’s girlfriend came home and lost her composure. She started screaming, “When are you gonna get your divorce?” and then proceeded to kick things around the room. Paul asked if they could continue the discussion when he felt better, and that really set her off. She came over to the couch, got in his face, and hit him in her disgust. Then she left in a rage.
At that moment, Paul realized that this woman didn’t really love him. His relationship with her, as far as he was concerned, was completely over. He thought to himself, Judy would never treat me this way.
Paul cried out to God for help and then picked up the phone to call me to see if I would meet him for lunch. And as we sat in a dim corner of the restaurant, he said, “I’m sorry, I can’t honestly tell you that I love you. I wish I could. But one thing I do know is that I fear God and because I fear God, I know that I need to come home if you will let me… And, Judy, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to come home before our 25th anniversary.”
I can’t even tell you how I felt at that moment. The Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. God’s wisdom in Paul’s life was definitely going to change him, and as a result our entire family would never be the same. Paul came home that day, April 5, 1995, six days before our 25th anniversary.
You might think that once that happened, all our problems went away and we lived happily ever after. But that is not what happened. Yes, Paul was home, but he had become accustomed to another life. Now that he had returned, he had lots of adjustments to make, and so did the rest of us.
In fact, when Paul initially moved back home, we kept most of his possessions in the living room, not because he was planning to leave again, but because we wanted our relationship to heal sufficiently before he returned to our bedroom. We also thought that this would help our children adjust to having their dad back home again.
For the first couple of weeks, he was very tired and weak from pneumonia. He slept a lot as he slowly recuperated. But during that time, Paul admitted he still had strong feelings for the woman with whom he had an affair, even though he knew those feelings weren’t right.
For several months, our children were very skeptical and monitored Paul’s every move. In an effort to restore our trust, he got into the habit of checking in with us frequently throughout the day. If he were going to be late, he would tell us why, where he was, and how long it was going to take for him to get home. This really helped the kids and me to feel secure that he had left his wayward life behind and that he was not planning to leave again but rather was home to stay.
After six weeks or so Paul started going to church with me (the same church that had started a prayer meeting for us). After attending for a few months, Paul felt it was very important that we return to the church we had attended previously so that the congregation there would have an opportunity to see the evidence of how the Lord had changed our lives. Although many in that church had said they were praying for me, the majority of those who told me how they felt tried to encourage me to “move on” because they thought Paul would never change.
A new home
Not long after that, when we got our financial situation back in order, we started to discuss selling our home and moving to a larger one. It would be like a new start. We looked at a beautiful home, and it was love at first sight. And I had to laugh when I saw the name of our new street. During the years when we were separated, I would sometimes turn to Matthew 7:24-27, which tells of the wisdom of building a house on the foundation of hearing and obeying God’s Word:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”
That was the type of home I prayed for, and now God had answered my prayers. And wouldn’t you know that our new home was located on Boulder Drive!
Learning to live with each other
As the weeks and months went by, I began to see the changes in Paul and me. Previously Paul shared his feelings and frustrations by exploding in a rage. It actually felt like he was surrounded by negative energy that had formed an impenetrable wall around him. Although I would get quite defensive, I wasn’t very skilled at approaching him when he was upset, so I chose rather to retreat and hide until he calmed down somewhat. I handled my own anger more subtly by turning it inward and pretending it didn’t exist. I don’t think that I need to tell you that this was not a very effective method of communication.
Now, because Paul wasn’t filled with his former anger, and I had stopped running away to hide, everything in our relationship changed. If he were upset about something, he would approach me and say something like, “Judy, I don’t want to hurt your feelings but when you get your schedule so busy, I feel like I’m not important to you.” I had learned not to be defensive, realizing that Paul had a right to tell me how he felt (especially when he did it in such a kind way), and I could learn how to be a better helpmate by listening to those things he had to say.
Now that we were able to communicate without short-circuiting, I asked Paul to tell me some of the things that I had done over the years to make him so angry with me. His answer surprised me. I expected that he was going to give me a long list of grievances but that isn’t what happened. Instead he said that he was just angry—at everything. Much of that anger was over his lack of control and frustration over the way his life was going, but he believes that the greatest source of his irritation was that he was being convicted of his sin but resisting it.
Our lives had become so much more peaceful and simple. We were no longer spending our time and energy defending ourselves against each other but rather working together as a united front, appreciating even those differences in our personalities which we previously viewed as incompatibilities.
I love the way my friend, Beth, explains it. She told me that she had been asking the Lord to help her cope with the things about her husband’s personality that she found frustrating: his inconsistency with the children, his insensitivity to her feelings, his lack of follow-through in things he had promised to do, his habit of taking a check from the checkbook and forgetting to write in the amount. As she sought the Lord for His help, she heard Him say, “Yes, Beth, I know that Mike is not always consistent. At times he can be so insensitive to your feelings and sometimes downright inconsiderate. I know that he’s not especially good about keeping his promises and I know how much it irritates you when he takes a check and then forgets to record the amount. But, Beth, Mike is My boy, and I love him so much. To you, he may not be perfect, but He is My child, made in My image. When you committed your life to Mike to be his wife, I was really hoping that I’d found someone who would love My boy the way I love him. Even though it may be hard for you, would you be willing to be that person?”
In the same way, before Paul left home, little things aggravated me like wet towels on the bed, toothpaste stuck to the bathroom faucets, dirty socks left everywhere but in the laundry hamper … After such a long season of not seeing those daily irritations, I am now able to embrace those things as clear evidence that my hubby is home.
Even though I still struggle a bit with balancing my priorities, I learned the hard way the importance of showing my husband how much he means to me. Now I want to make sure that I am the woman who is affirming him. Not only does he deserve my admiration and affirmation, but when I am meeting his needs in this way, he is not vulnerable to the attentions of another woman.
A restored family
Not only did the Lord heal our relationship with each other, but He restored Paul’s relationship with our children. We are also especially grateful that the Lord restored our marriage because of what that restoration says to our children. When our daughter Korri got married over three years ago, she sent us a beautiful card thanking us for our contributions to her wedding day. She said that if she and her husband ever face marital difficulty, they will do what we have done and ask for the Lord’s help because she knows from what happened to us that He is able and willing to help.
We’ve celebrated three weddings, the birth of three grandchildren and the adoption of a grandson from Korea. I think about how sad it would have been if we missed out on those things as a couple. We also had an opportunity to renew our vows on our 33rd anniversary before a congregation of tearful family and friends.
A few years ago I found a website that was looking for Christian testimonies. I wrote about what God had done for us, and soon after the site posted the story I began receiving emails, phone calls, and prayer requests from men and women hungry for hope and counsel. I guess you could say that was the birth of our ministry. We have such a passion to serve as a living example to those in hurting marriages that divorce is not the answer. Occasionally we travel to share our testimony and music but the majority of our current ministry is through the emails I send out to men and women who are standing for their marriages.
Thankful for what God has done
Paul has been given a very strong sense of gratitude. He might be listening to a Christian song, or sitting in church, or hugging a grandchild, when suddenly his eyes will tear up. When I ask him what is wrong, he will respond that he is just so thankful for all the Lord has done for him. He also frequently thanks me for not giving up on him when he says that I had every right to. When those times come, I get all teary myself.
We’ve both grown so much spiritually from the angry man and prideful, self-righteous woman that we used to be. Even though what we went through was very painful, we realize that we were given a gift—an unlikely gift wrapped up in the form of a trial. We feel somewhat like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in the Old Testament. We went into the fiery furnace but came out free of our bonds.