Cortney Donelson is a dear friend and was a speaker at last fall’s Ministry to Women Summit (available here).
I’ve invited her to share about equipping groups to support marriages in the church. I pray you’ll find it helpful as you seek to serve and support women whose marriage may be in crisis. – Cyndee
Crisis, Community, and Post-It™ Notes
It is without a doubt the craziest gift my husband has ever given me.
After a long night planning for a retreat with the women’s ministry team I was a part of, I drove home at three o’clock in the morning. I pulled up our driveway, then into the garage. I slipped out of my car and turned the knob to enter the kitchen of our house. As I pushed the door forward a smidge, I noticed a dimmed light welcoming me home. My husband had long before gone to bed.
What I didn’t expect was to be met with hundreds of Post-it™ notes of various colors, stuck to every inch of our cherry-stained kitchen cabinets. It was a haphazard collection of pink, pale yellow, baby blue, and mint green squares.
I climbed on top of the counters and, in the wee hours of the morning, read each one as I gently pulled them down, creating a stack of notes in my hand that I knew I’d keep forever.
I love how we share so many inside jokes.
You are my favorite person.
The messages went on and on.
What I haven’t mentioned yet is that my husband and I were in a marriage crisis at the time.
I had learned only weeks before that he was addicted to pornography—and had been since before we were married thirteen years earlier. The information came as a blow to my stomach. He had also revealed that his addiction had resulted in multiple extramarital “affairs.” That information was still squeezing my soul with every breath I took.
After a prompting from the Lord—“Don’t leave yet”—I had decided to “stick” it out as my husband and I sought individual counseling and attended addiction support groups.
Despite God’s ask, I was taking it one day at a time, perched on the edge of the decision to flee at any moment.
I wouldn’t have stayed . . .
I couldn’t have listened to God . . .
I would never have been obedient to His request to go another day if it wasn’t for the women’s ministry team.
These women didn’t critique my choices. They never minimized my marriage. They didn’t even judge my husband.
These women pointed me toward the Lord, time after time. They gave me a holy confidence, reminding me that my ultimate hope was not found in earthly circumstances or relationships, not even the most precious ones.
Most importantly, they prayed over me and for me. With each gathering, we lay prone on the prayer house floor, wept together, and worshipped as one body in Christ.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2, NIV)
Years later, I would write a book called Clay Jar, Cracked: When We’re Broken But Not Shattered, and you better believe I mentioned the members of this ministry team as some of the most important influencers who supported me through my marriage crisis.
Even more so than the Christian support group I attended, these women gave me fuel for the spiritual and emotional battles I faced as my husband and I worked toward recovery and eventually embraced God’s redemption.
Supporting Marriage in the Church
If not for the faith, acceptance, grace, love, and community of that ministry team, I would not still be married today to my best friend. This year, my husband and I will celebrate twenty-three years of marriage, and our relationship is more intimate and purposed than ever before.
The Lord never meant for us to endure crises on our own. He surrounds us with the right people at the right time. We just have to look for them.
Here are 3 tangible ways the Church can link arms with God and join Him in what He is already doing to redeem struggling or broken marriages:
- Proactively post resources (even external ones) related to pornography addiction, infidelity, and other marriage crises. Don’t wait for couples/spouses to seek you out as a ministry leader or wonder where to turn when crisis hits. It’s a sensitive subject, and most people don’t want to admit they’re going through this particular story, even though it’s more common than people realize.
- Normalize marriage struggles by encouraging leaders in the church to be authentic about their own marriages’ ups and downs. No marriage is perfect. Too often as leaders, we tend to believe we must only show others the best sides of our marriages. Let’s do away with the stigma associated with Christian marriage struggles. People need to know difficulties need not give way to the choice to give up on the union. God is bigger than any crisis.
- Gather as organized couples with the purpose of fostering godly marriages. If your church doesn’t have a marriage ministry, I encourage you to start one. Marriage is the building block of civilization, ordained by God, and therefore, under attack by our enemy. A marriage ministry provides a central place for couples to connect with each other, others, and God on a regular basis.
In small groups (or large) we must bravely tell our marriage stories, bringing forth the right people at the right time. We can shine light on the darkness—lest it claim victory over a single one of God’s couples.
When I walked into that kitchen in those early morning hours, in the raw weeks of our marriage crisis, those sticky notes felt like manna from heaven because God—through the women’s ministry team—had opened my heart to starting the long forgiveness process.
Finally, here’s a gift from me to you, a sticky note to encourage your own healing ministry for those who have been crushed or remained bruised in their marriage crises.
Want to hear more of Cortney’s story? Wondering how you can support women who are dealing with their spouse’s infidelity and addiction? You’ll want to check out her interview for the Ministry to Women Summit (individual and group viewing options now available).
Cortney Donelson, author of Clay Jar, Cracked: When We’re Broken But Not Shattered (affiliate link), partners with her husband, Marc, to offer support and encouragement to couples who want to repair and strengthen their marriages. She owns vocem, LLC—a writing services company—and is co-founder of GirlStory Magazine for teens and tweens. She is the proud mother of two children and a golden retriever who doesn’t retrieve. In her spare time, she enjoys paddle boarding and hiking.