Dear Tim,

It was so good to hear from you and what a wonderful letter! I am overwhelmed at the Lord's faithfulness in reading your story. It is just like Him. What scintillates from this magnificent tale is just how much He has kept you through all this, Tim, and that in the midst of the deep pain that you so vividly describe. I know this is easy to miss when we are so conscious of the pain and feel generally faithless and condemned for feeling it so much! Please take to heart what this outsider has to say: The Lord is powerfully at work in and through you in this situation. It is very evident. Notice I say "through you" as well as "in you."  For suffering such as yours does not just "sit there."  Resurrection Life resounds and billows out toward the whole body of Christ by means of it. Whether you see it or not! 

And please consider the following: To my mind, you are the one standing in the gap in this situation and not your pastor. He may be involved but you are the one on the front lines, because you are the primary carrier of the pain, and thus, the Lord's chosen instrument. If that is true, then consider this as well: the pain you feel is not your own, but rather His by means of your body—“bearing (carrying) about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body". In other words, you are in a highly honored position. I could feel the richness of it just being around you at the conference, and now again in your letter. Sure, you will end up receiving much from this experience and will look back upon it as one of the richest times of your life--but that is purely secondary! What matters is the fellowship of His sufferings. And one obvious direction for the Lord's suffering heart (as it groans within your own) is toward your wife. Within your heart he has wrought both judgment and mercy toward her. Both are right—go with them, trust them. But watch as mercy triumphs over judgment and you begin to see clearly the Lord's unabashed passion for your wife as he rolls up his sleeves to do whatever is necessary to win her back. Win her back for himself, that is. For that is your real heart's desire, I know. Look how purely he has caused you to love her. See how, in your letter, he kept you from asking for anything for yourself, but instead how incessantly you laid down your life for her sake. You have nothing to be jealous of your pastor about, for you have been spiritual leadership incarnate. . . and she notices.

I know your other greatest heart's desire is to have her back. That is as it should be and you have every right to ask it. But I also know the purity of the love you have for her transcends even that. That you would love, forever, getting nothing in return (for that is true marriage) for her sake if she could but see, truly, His love for her. That is the summit of being a true husband and if you never get the rest, then you will have experienced what so few have even known existed—the fearful, transcendent, self-disinterested love of God.

It was so good to hear from you, Tim. You were one of the highlights of the conference for me.

with supporting love,

Nick