Hi, Jim Daly here. Today's culture deeply needs help, but in times like these, the light of Christ can shine even brighter.
So be encouraged to share his light in this broken world. Listen to the Refocus with Jim Daly Podcast. Without time limitations, I'll have deep, heartfelt discussions with fascinating guests who will encourage you to share God's grace, truth, and love.
Check out the podcast at RefocusWithJimDaly.com or wherever you get your podcasts. And at that time, Mark was extremely hard-hearted. He said, Yes, absolutely. I am. I'm having an affair and I'm not stopping.
Wow, that would be a horrifying thing to hear from your spouse. You're going to hear today how Mark and Jill Savage navigated through that very difficult circumstance on today's episode of Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus President and author Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. Today, we're featuring a presentation that highlights the fact that God is always at work in our lives, even when a marriage is in jeopardy due to infidelity. Through it all, God is seeking our redemption and leading us toward wholeness.
And let me set the stage for today's message. Mark Savage was a Christian leader who, admittedly, was not letting Christ lead in his own life. He was sinning through an affair and had left God's path due to guilt and shame. But God always provides us with a path back to his way of doing things.
And Mark finally found it. And the three core principles that guided Mark and Jill to a better place are these. First, surrendering their will to God's will. Second, responding to offenses with the love of God. Third, choosing forgiveness.
Now, none of these principles require anyone to stay in harm's way. Let me be very clear about that. You can express love and forgiveness while drawing boundaries and setting clear biblical expectations around the covenant of marriage. That's really an important note, Jim.
And with that, here's Mark and Jill Savage speaking at the church next door in Columbus, Ohio, on today's episode of Focus on the Family. So I didn't grow up in church. I didn't know Christ. I was an incredibly worldly kid.
I was invited to a Billy Graham crusade, and it was there in Indianapolis that I accepted Christ. And then I went on to marry Jill and we pastored for 20 years in a church. But I was incredibly performance-based. I was driven by lies that I'm not enough, I'll never be enough, I'm not lovable, all of those lies that led to unrealistic expectations of God, of the church, of Jill. Of course, I was fine because I was okay on this side of the expectations. But we now refer to that time in my life as a dark season. I was worn out with life. I was disillusioned with God, with life, with marriage. I went on to have an affair, and I left Jill and the kids, and I was headed on to this new life of excitement and newness, and it was going to be rosy until it wasn't because I took somebody else with me on that trip, and that was me, and I was a mess.
I was a huge mess. And then it was Easter Sunday, 2012, that I had my own personal resurrection. And for the first time, I really moved from having a Savior to Jesus Christ being the God of my life. You see, when I accepted Christ, I was desperate for a Savior.
I needed to get off the streets, I needed to get my life turned around, but I didn't understand what it meant for my life to be completely surrendered to Jesus Christ. I had the opportunity to have a front row seat at that surrender experience that Mark had. It was that Easter Sunday morning. It had been a long, dark year since the affair had begun, and we had been separated at that point for several months. We had a brand new grandbaby that was born in the Chicago area, which is about two hours from our home. I had traveled up there by train to be there for the birth, and then Mark brought our two teenage sons that were still at home up to meet the baby that particular weekend. And so the four of us drove back home together.
We got home at 2 a.m. Mark was extremely tired. I was hesitant for him to drive the remainder of the way home to his apartment. And so I said to him, would it be best for you to stay the night?
And he did. So we woke up on Easter Sunday, and our two teenage boys both were serving at church, one on the worship team, one did sound for the church. And so they got up and got themselves to church, and it left Mark and I home alone. And he came and found me that morning and said, I want you to know that I'm filing for divorce this week. In fact, he had a piece of paper, and he had a line drawn down the middle, and he said, so this is our world, this is my yard, this is your yard, and this is the fence. And we've been meeting at the fence, but I don't want to meet at the fence anymore, so I'm filing for divorce this week. So I think Jill thought I was schizophrenic that day, but I had a list of indictments against Jill, against the church, and against God. I was so ticked at him because he wasn't operating the way that I thought that he should. And so I told Jill that there was just no way that I could see that we could overcome the challenges that I had listed, the indictments I had listed against us.
Right. And so in that moment, I didn't know what to say. I mean, I just was like, Lord, I have no words.
What do I do with this moment? And the only thing that came to my mind was, you know, Mark, Jesus didn't want to go to the cross. He said, Lord, take this cup from me. And then he said, but not my will, but yours be done.
And it was at that moment that it was like God opened my eyes and my ears and I heard what she was saying. Now, I'll admit that I was struggling. I was struggling with all of my decisions. And part of my reason in pursuing a divorce was I'm like, I'm on this path.
I might as well walk it out and get over it. But it was in that moment that I think Jill, I don't know, you might've thought I was nuts because I looked at her and I was like, Oh my gosh, is this Easter? I had no clue.
This is totally honest. I was such a mess. I had no clue. And then I said to her, I'm going to pray that same prayer. And I didn't say, Lord, take this marriage from me. But I said, Lord, not my will, but yours be done. And then I looked at Jill and I was like, can, can we go to church? I hadn't been to church in a while because I was so frustrated with it.
Yeah. And I watched a physical change come over him in that moment where he just sat with the mess that was in front of him and said, Lord, I have made a mess of things, but I don't want it to be about my will anymore. I want it to be about yours. And I saw a physical change as he surrendered, as he moved out of the driver's seat of his life into the passenger seat. I saw that change in him. And when he looked up and he said, could we go to church?
My answer was absolutely. And we headed off to church that morning. You could have probably picked our son's jaws off the ground when they saw us walk into church together because they did not expect their father to be coming to church that day. It was after that hard season and then that U-turn that Mark made that we started kind of using the language of where's Jesus in your car? Where's Jesus in your car? Is he in the trunk? He's there for emergencies? With the spare tire, the tire jack, the battery cables, you know, just in case we need him.
Yeah. Or is he in the back seat? Is he in the back seat?
You know, he's referred to on occasion. You have occasional conversations with him. You know, you're aware of his presence, but he's still in the back seat. Small talk, a little chat here and there.
Yeah. Or maybe he's in the front seat. You know, maybe he's in the front seat and you do have regular conversations with him. You consult with him.
He's a mentor, an advisor. You know, maybe he's in the front seat. But the question is, is he driving? Because you see, when Jesus is our Lord and our Savior, he is driving the car and that's what we ultimately want. So where we want to spend the remainder of our time today is we want to look at what does it look like when Jesus is driving? What does it look like and how do we get there?
How do we tangibly begin to understand that concept and how it applies to our life? And the first step of that is we throw him the keys. We throw him the keys and this is actually that act of surrender that I finally did on Easter. Now, up to that point, I wouldn't have ever been able to admit or even identify that I had not surrendered to the Lord. But really, I hadn't.
It was all performance-based and it was all driven by shame and by these lies. So we throw him the keys, but then also we throw him the spare key because our tendency and our nature is to want to take back the steering wheel from the Lord and say, you know what, God, go back over the passenger seat. I got this. I'm driving.
I'll get us there. You know, one of the most powerful things that happened on that Easter Sunday is, you know, he had this piece of paper and he had the fence and he said, you know, he actually said, this is your yard. This is my yard.
I don't want you in my yard. You know, I just want a clean break. But on the other side of that paper was a physical list of everything wrong with me and everything wrong with our marriage and everything wrong with life. And that list, in that moment of surrender, Mark heard the Lord speak to him about that. When we were in that conversation and Jill had communicated that prayer from Christ, it was in that moment that I heard the Lord speak to me, Mark, if you'll trust me with the list, I'll take care of it. And it's rather embarrassing today, but I did. I had a detailed list of what's wrong with us and of the church and of God.
I was just driven by all of this condemnation. And it just, I was worn out by it. But after we went to church that day, he said, can I come home and have lunch with you guys? I said, sure.
And after lunch, do you care if I stay the afternoon? And he said, sure. You know, and I'm trying to figure out what is going on here, you know, and by that evening, he stayed through until the evening.
And he said to me, as he and I were sitting, watching the boys play basketball that night, he said, I can't even remember what was on the list. I can, I could probably tell you the words on it, but they hold no power over me anymore. That's the power of surrender. That's the power of throwing God the keys and saying, I've made a mess and I need you to drive. So oftentimes with surrender, the question is, and the reason that we struggle with surrender is because of control. Because we're trying to control situations. We're trying to control outcomes. And so surrender is what happens when you stop trying to control.
And you move from controlling to actually yielding. I also realized in that act of surrender that I really, I had to recognize that I didn't know God. I had filtered God through the two men who were supposed to have been my dad that were both messes themselves, that I had to wipe their face off of the face of God. I saw God as a passive drunk. That was my dad. I saw God as a violent, abusive man.
That was my stepdad. And I was trying to perform to maybe make God happy with me. And I realized in surrender that there was nothing Mark Savage could do.
Jesus Christ did it already. And I remember one of the things that was so powerful for you was you surrendered the need to know and understand. Right. That was so huge because there was such a, that was part of the disillusionment with God is I don't understand you and I want to know. And you really surrendered the need to do that. That was so powerful.
Yeah. I had my own surrender moments in that dark journey as well. One of them was a day that a dear friend of mine spoke truth to me. She said to me, Jill, don't make saving your marriage an idol.
Right now, I think that that's what's on the throne and that's what you're worshipping. She was right. And that day I was convicted in a healthy way and I realized that I was trying to control for success. And I needed to move from holding on like so tight onto my marriage that my knuckles were white to opening my hands up and saying, Lord, I trust you. I trust that you are pursuing, Mark.
I trust that you are at work. I don't know if he'll respond to you, but I can't control that. So I need you to just show me what you want me to do. And that day, as it related to my marriage, I threw my keys to God and said, I am responsible for me and me only.
So please show me what to do. And then God did. Shortly after the affair was revealed and at that time, Mark was extremely hard hearted. When I confronted him that I had discovered it, he was extremely hard hearted. He said, yes, absolutely, I am. I'm having an affair and I'm not stopping. And it was I had never seen his heart in such a hard place. And the next day, I was flat on my face begging God to tell me what to do.
I have no idea. I don't know what to do. Do I stay? Do I go? Does he stay? Does he go? How do I respond to this? What boundaries do I set? What do I do?
I have no idea what to do. And in that moment, I heard God speak to me. Oh, it wasn't an audible voice, but it was a thought that came in my head that I knew was not mine.
Because this is what it was. I want you to love him. I want you to love him.
Are you kidding me? And I remember, I mean, literally, I had been on the ground, I had been crying and I got up and I looked up at heaven and I was like, you have to be kidding me because I don't know if you've noticed, but he's not real lovable right now. And God whispered back to my heart, I don't know if you've noticed, but sometimes you aren't either.
Yeah. OK, Lord, you love me when I'm unlovable. I don't know how to do that. I don't know how to do that.
Would you show me how to do that? And eventually he took me to Romans 12, starting in verse 9 through 21. Let love be genuine. A little bit further down, outdo one another in showing honor.
It doesn't say if someone is behaving themselves, you can honor them. Verse 12, rejoice in hope. Be patient in tribulation. Be constant in prayer.
Be patient in tribulation? Really, God? And then 14, bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse them. These are my marching orders, God.
This is what you want me to do? Do not be haughty. That's verse 16. 17, repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. Oh, there's that honor word again.
Wow. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God. For it is written, vengeance is mine. I will repay, says the Lord. To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him.
If he's thirsty, give him something to drink. For by doing so, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. And I remember the first time I read it, I went, that's how I do that?
That's how I love someone who's not loving me back? God, that goes against everything I feel right now. But we need to be driven by God's word, not by our emotions. That's what it looks like to let Jesus drive. And I'll tell you what, that place in Romans 12 there at the end, it says, if your enemy is hungry, feed him.
If he's thirsty, give him something to drink. For by doing so, you will heap burning coals on his head. And I shared that with Mark about probably a month after he came home. And I shared it with him. She read that verse and I was like, that is what you did. And I said, what did I do? You heap burning coals on my head.
And I said, what do you mean? I don't even know what that part of the verse means. And he said, you treated me better than I deserve to be treated. And I knew that and it impacted my heart.
It softened my heart. That's also God's economy. You see, he works from the inside out, not the outside in. When we're driving, we're trying to work from the outside in, but he's working from the inside out. So he asks us to do things that are upside down in this world because he wants the way that we treat others to be something that they don't expect.
And then it works on their heart from the inside out. You know, another place that God gives us a call is forgiveness. You read God's word. He has a lot to say about forgiveness, a lot. Forgive, forgive, forgive as you have been forgiven. I was talking with a woman the other day and she's going through a hard time in her marriage and she says, well, what if I'm not ready to forgive?
What if I don't feel like forgiving? And I said, well, let's explore that. And so we started looking up all kinds of verses. And I said, you know, after we looked up, I don't know, five or ten of them, I said, did any of those say forgive when you feel like forgiving? I didn't see that. Did any of those say forgive when you feel ready?
I didn't see that either. I saw forgive. Now, forgiveness and rebuilding trust, two different things. OK, it didn't say if you forgive, you will have to trust that person.
No, it didn't say that at all, but it said get your heart cleaned up, forgive. That's what it looks like when we read the owner's manual and then we apply it to real life. In Proverbs, Proverbs 3, verse 5, trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. I would say for today, trust in the Lord with all your heart and throw God the keys.
Stop trying to drive the car in all your ways. Acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight. And that's our prayer for us today. Let's pray. Father, help us help each one of us to throw you the keys.
To trust you, to surrender to you, to really stop fighting. Father, I pray that as we throw you the keys, you'll bring peace and calm and direction upon our lives. In Jesus name. Amen. Amen. Well, quite an overview of how God worked through really difficult circumstances in the marriage of Mark and Jill Savage.
Obviously, they are condensing a much longer and more detailed account. We can only emphasize those core principles, Jim, that you noted earlier. Surrendering our will to God's being loving despite true offenses and forgiving our spouse because we ourselves have been forgiven by God.
Right. And it's so important to note that you can and should still have boundaries and protect your heart while expressing God's love and forgiveness. And if there's any form of physical or emotional abuse in a relationship, firm boundaries are essential. And if that's your situation, we would urge you to get to a place of safety. Keep it a secret and get professional help right away.
Every story is unique. And if you're in a very complex situation like that, do call us. We'll be happy to offer whatever help we can. We do have a team of caring Christian counselors who can call you back. We offer a free one time phone consultation with them. They'll encourage you to seek help from a local counselor and a caring pastor. They can refer you to resources as well.
And those counselors are just a phone call away. Eight hundred the letter A and the word family. Eight hundred two three two six four five nine or online. You'll find details.
The link is in the show notes. I'm going to hit it again. We are here to help you.
So please get in touch with us. Let us help you work with the Lord to improve your relationship with him first and foremost and hopefully save your marriage. Yielding to God is an important step in finding your way back to wholeness. And I'd also recommend a two book set from the savages specifically for marriages that are reeling from infidelity. Jill wrote a book called My Heart is Broken and Mark's edition is called I Really Messed Up.
Each book will help you process your situation and help you walk with God through the next steps. We can send the two books set out to you when you make a donation of any amount to focus on the family. And if you can't afford to make a donation, please call us anyway.
We will trust that other donors will help us make up the cost of sending that out to you free of charge. And let me also recommend our Hope Restored four day marriage intensive, which has a save rate of 80 percent post two years, even for couples that are on the brink of divorce and have signed the divorce papers. Sadly, many husbands and wives feel like they only have two options, especially if their spouse has been unfaithful. Get divorced or stay in an unhappy marriage. But we offer a third option.
Learn how to live happily with your spouse. A whopping 99 percent of Hope Restored attendees say they would recommend it to a friend. And many have said that they felt like they got a year's worth of counseling in four days. And for those who think they can't afford it, let me remind you that scholarships are available thanks to many of our donors.
The bottom line is this. If your marriage needs help, we can provide that help. So please get in touch with us.
Yeah, our number is 800 the letter A in the word family 800-232-6459. Or follow the link in the show notes to learn more about Hope Restored or to get the two book bundle from Mark and Jill Savage. And when you get the books from us, we'll include a free audio download of the entire presentation that you heard today with extra content. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to this Focus on the Family podcast. If you would please take a moment and leave a rating in your podcast app and tell others to find this great content.
And thanks in advance for doing that. I'm John Fuller inviting you back next time as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. Your marriage can be redeemed, even if the fights seem constant, even if there's been an affair, even if you haven't felt close in years. No matter how deep the wounds are, you can take a step toward healing them with a Hope Restored marriage intensive. Our biblically based counseling will help you find the root of your problems and face challenges together. We'll talk with you, pray with you and help you find out which program will work best. Call us at 1-866-875-2915.
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