Irene is a lovely, friendly, thoughtful woman. She is always willing to lend a hand and is a faithful intercessor for those who ask for prayer. We’ve talked occasionally over the last few years, but I never knew her story until recently.
When Irene and her husband married, they were church attenders, but had no real faith. From early in their marriage her husband was abusive, but she had been raised that when you chose to marry, you stayed married- ‘you made your bed, you sleep in it.’ He was an alcoholic and she was beaten, but Irene never considered leaving her husband.
She and her husband continued to attend church on Sundays. A friend invited her to attend another church with her, so she went with her friend on Sunday evenings. This friend not only took her to church, but shared books with her. Over time she began to seek a personal relationship with Jesus. One day, all by herself, she prayed and gave her life to Jesus and asked Him to be her Savior.
Irene went to some special meetings by a woman evangelist. This woman talked about her own marriage to an unbelieving husband. She said she treated him as though he were a believer. She quoted Romans 5:5 and the phrase, ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit’ stuck in Irene’s heart.
She began to see that if God poured His love into her heart, she should do the same to her husband. She made the decision to love him and she told him that she loved him and began to try to show her love through her actions.
Ephesians 5:33 in the Amplified Bible told her how to love her husband. It says, “…and let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband—that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly.”
And Ephesians 4:31 and 32, in the Amplified Bible showed her what changes God wanted for her. “Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will or baseness of any kind). And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.”
That was a tall order for her, but she made the decision to live this way with her husband. Instead of praying for God to change her husband, she was praying that God would help her become the kind of person she was supposed to be.
As these changes happened in Irene, her husband noticed the difference and began to treat her better too.
She continued to go to church with her friend and was baptized in the Holy Spirit. One time after that her husband raised his hand to hit her and she merely looked directly at him and said, “Don’t you dare.” He lowered his hand and never again hit her.
She prayed for her husband to be saved and bought him a Bible with his name inscribed on it. It was many years later that he watched a TV show and told her when she came home that he had ‘prayed the prayer.’ She went and got the Bible she had been saving for him.
His life also changed after salvation, but he never was able to overcome his alcoholism. But he died a believer in Jesus.
Knowing Irene now, I never would have dreamed that she had been abused or that it took the grace and work of God in her life to turn her from such bitterness and anger. She humbly shared her story, not to be patted on the back for being a good wife in a bad marriage. But she shared her story so that other women in similarly bad marriages could know what God can do in them and through them in their families.