Making the Most of a Difficult Marriage

by | Oct 13, 2010 | Spirit-Led Living

The biblical Abigail had a tense
relationship with her husband, but she practiced grace and wisdom, and
transformed her situation.

As a mentor, counselor and
minister’s wife, I often hear desperately hurting women say: “You just
don’t understand. Things are not like they were back in your day.” “You
don’t know the things we have to go through—single parenting, abusive
relationships, substance-abusing partners, men who won’t or can’t take
financial, emotional or spiritual leadership and responsibility for
their families.”

“Does the Bible even speak to our pain in any realistic terms?” They ask.

“What if I have made disastrous decisions?”

My
sisters, keep reading. Although the Bible is an ancient book, it is as
up to date as today’s headlines. Its principles apply today, and its
storylines are as compelling as an episode from an afternoon soap opera.

God is a God of compassion. Each one of us is unique and
especially important to Him. And He has provided everything we need in
His Word.

It is always a joy to find portraits of biblical women
who are so like the women of our modern age. So imagine my excitement,
when I began uncovering yet another role model in Scripture—Abigail.

She
is a woman with whom we can all relate, for she did not have a perfect
life, but she still emerged a winner. We’ve often heard the saying,
“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” In Abigail’s life story, we
find a recipe for success that will show you how to squeeze the
blessings out of the bitter circumstances of life.

You can learn
how to take the negatives and transform them into a life-affirming,
life-giving testimony that will refresh someone else along your journey.
Our heroine did just that, and there are some key lessons from her life
that you can apply in yours.

GUARD YOUR HEART
In
ancient Palestine, women were chattels—slaves—with no rights except
those extended by their husbands, fathers or nearest male relatives.
Even in this restrictive society, Abigail is given a glowing description
in Scripture. The Bible says she was “a woman of good understanding,
and of a beautiful countenance” (1 Sam. 25:3, KJV).

Abigail was
not only beautiful in terms of her facial features and figure. The word,
“countenance” has a broader meaning that refers to expression,
demeanor, attitude, mannerism and personality.

Abigail was gifted
with intelligence. She was well-informed and an astute manager and
homemaker. Her husband’s great wealth and extensive holdings meant that
she would have had to provide for and entertain hundreds of people at a
time.

She would have had hiring and firing responsibilities for
an army of workers and servants. Her responsibilities, managing the
holdings of a wealthy man with extensive lands, herds, vineyards and
fields, would qualify her to be an executive of a midsize corporation in
today’s world.

Because of the times in which she lived, Abigail
would most likely have been the product of an arranged marriage as a
very young teenager. It is not important how she acquired her husband.

We
will not attempt to judge her any more than we would judge our sisters
in similar circumstances. Suffice it to say that beautiful, talented and
wise Abigail landed in the same boat as so many women today: She was
unequally yoked with her husband.

The Bible records her husband’s
name as Nabal, which means “churl” or “brutish,” and says, “As his name
was, so was he.” Abigail refers to him as a “man of Belial,” which
means “worthless,” “wicked” and “ungodly” (see 1 Sam. 25:25). The
Scripture says Nabal acted out his name. He was his name (see 1 Sam.
25:25). His name defined his behavior and attitude. He was verbally
abusive.

Today, he likely would be considered an alcoholic—a
substance abuser (see v. 36). We all know someone who deals with the
pain of living with a name-calling, ill-tempered man who also abuses
drugs or alcohol. We can imagine how difficult it must have been for
Abigail to endure his criticism and negativity.

Women intuitively
understand what a struggle it is to stay positive in an atmosphere that
is virtually always poisoned with demeaning words. What a challenge it
is to be proactive and not reactive in the face of such harshness.

But
Abigail refused to become an enabler of Nabal’s addiction or his
negativity. She did not take his criticism into her spirit. Nor did she
allow him to define her. She knew her worth. Abigail held onto her
self-esteem because she did not see herself through Nabal’s limited
vision; she saw herself through the eyes of God! How did she accomplish
this? How would you accomplish this?

ENCOURAGE YOURSELF

Abigail
had a personal relationship with God. Because she knew Him for herself,
eventually, she would become a good complement for David, who became her
husband after Nabal’s death.

Scripture tells us in 1 Samuel 30:6
that when David was overcome with grief over losing his wives and the
city of Ziklag, “he encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” Evidently,
Abigail had learned to do the same. And so can you. Spend more time in
God’s Word, and remember who you are. You are “fearfully and wonderfully
made” (Ps. 139:14) in His image and after His likeness (see Gen. 1:26).
You are special to Him.

If Abigail is the heroine of this story,
the hero has to be David—the warrior poet, the Lord’s beloved, the
gifted hymnist and worship leader of Scripture. David was the greatest
king in the history of Israel. He was a flawed man, but “a man after
[God’s] own heart” (Acts 13:22).

When David and Abigail met, he
was a renowned warrior and soldier of fortune with a band of 600 crack
fighting men. He was considered an outlaw and a traitor to King Saul.
Although the prophet Samuel had anointed him as the next king, David had
been betrayed by Saul, then forced to flee into the wilderness and run
for his life for almost 20 years before he claims his kingdom.

When
David and his men came upon Nabal’s extensive land and herds, they
discovered thousands of sheep and cattle grazing for the winter, spread
out across hundreds of acres. But David and his men are not the only
bands of men in the mountains. Nomads, bandits and caravans were all
passing through Carmel.

David appointed himself protector of the
defenseless shepherds and herdsmen spread out in the pastures. He does
this throughout the entire fall and winter seasons, but in the
springtime, when the fattened herds are brought down for calving and
shearing David asked for food and provisions for his men before they
moved on.

He sent his emissary to Nabal, informing him that he
had been the defacto protector of all that Nabal had on the range, and
that his men had not taken anything—nor had they allowed anyone else to
do so for months and months (see 1 Sam. 25:4-8).

Nabal’s answer
was typical of his nature and his name. His answer was brash, ill
thought out, inconsiderate and selfish, endangering his whole household.
David’s response to this rebuff was to arm 400 of his men and swear to
destroy all of Nabal’s possessions and kill every man and boy on his
land before sunup (see vv. 9-13).

But one of Nabal’s men had the
foresight to tell Abigail what was about to happen. What can a wise
woman do to preserve her family despite the shortcomings of her husband?
Abigail went into action. She did not waste time berating Nabal for his
failure. She did not hope he would catch the vision and make the
prudent decision. She knew her man. She knew his limitations, and she
did what she had probably been doing all along: She got the job done.

Abigail
took huge loads of bread, fruits, wine and meat and sent them ahead to
David. Then she courageously mounted her own donkey and raced out to
intercept him and plead for her family. This powerful role of
intercession is one women have had to fulfill since time immemorial
(see1 Sam. 25:18-19).

INTERCEDE FOR OTHERS

Just as Abigail
prostrated herself before David to plead for a change in her husband’s
fate, women everywhere should follow her example and fall prostrate
before the Lord on behalf of the deliverance of the “Nabals” in their
lives.

Like Abigail, we can plead our case before the King for
our husbands, children, communities and those we love who are threatened
by negative circumstances. David is moved by Abigail’s passion, beauty
and the wisdom of her plea. She speaks prophetically over his life, and
tells him that God will bless him to be a great king, therefore, he
should not have the blood of vengeful murder on his anointed hands (see 1
Sam. 25:28-32).

Abigail models for us a woman who is spiritually
wise and discerning. She is a passionate intercessor, able to give
others godly counsel. But her recipe for wringing the best out of a
negative life situation also calls for women to invest themselves in
becoming all they can be with God’s help. She demonstrates the value of
cultivating practical and intellectual skills, maintaining a great
attitude and positive self-esteem, based on your worth in God.

This
portion of Abigail’s story ends with her becoming David’s wife and
queen after the death of Nabal. Most of us will not experience such a
dramatic turnaround in our circumstances. However, God has made great
promises to us for every stage and season of our lives (see Jer. 29:11).

Abigail represents every woman who must persevere through a
strained marriage and other destructive life issues. But she stays
spiritually connected to her God because she knows this is vital for
living with joy, courage and dignity.

Don’t be discouraged today.
Our God is not a respecter of person. Abigail’s story is here for our
edification. What she was able to do, by the grace of a generous and
caring God, we can do also.

REJOICE IN GOD

Find your joy in the
Lord, and in who He has made you to be. You should not look to anyone
else to make you happy. He will perfect those things concerning you (see
Ps. 138:8).

Allow the presence of the Lord Jesus to envelope
you. It is His presence that will enable you to do all things and be an
overcomer in every circumstance. Cherish the opportunities you have for
your life to be a beautiful testimony of the transforming power of
Christ. Thank God for the gift of life’s circumstances and His assurance
of victory.

May God help you become a woman of wisdom. And may
you come to appreciate the fact that your beauty is defined most
importantly by your attitude and spirit. I pray that the Father will
enable you to see the real power in the roles you fulfill as a woman, a
wife and a homemaker, but above all as a vessel of honor created by Him
for an eternal destiny and purpose.

Even in a troubled marriage
relationship, your life can be a source of inspiration and strength to
others. Ask God to allow you to see yourself, as Abigail did, through
His eyes.

When you know your sufficiency is in Him, it is
possible for you to maintain a quiet and serene spirit on the inside
that will radiate peace and a certainty of victory on the outside. 


Winifred W. Morris
is the wife of Bishop Ernest C. Morris, Sr. and the First Lady of Mount
Airy Church of God in Christ in Philadelphia.  She is an author and the
founder of Abounding Life Ministries.

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