But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint. The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.” Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.” The man said, “What’s your name?” He answered, “Jacob.”
The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”
Jacob asked, “And what’s your name?” The man said, “Why do you want to know my name?” And then, right then and there, he blessed him. Jacob named the place Peniel (God’s Face) because, he said, “I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!” The sun came up as he left Peniel, limping because of his hip.
Have you ever felt like you’ve wrestled with God? I have. A number of years ago I went through what I like to call “hell on earth”. My marriage almost broke up. There it is in black and white, for all of you to read. My perfect-on-the-outside, “Christian” marriage was in complete ruins behind closed doors. You see, my husband had an addiction—a deep, dark, destructive addiction that nearly obliterated our relationship. He was addicted to pornography. Yes, I said it out loud—the “P” word (…and she calls herself a Christian!).
We started out happily, as all newlyweds do. But, as time passed, it became obvious that there was something wrong in our marriage. We would have HUGE fights. Oh the things we would say to each other! I could never put my finger on it, but I knew that there was an underlying, dark issue that went far beyond just ordinary marital strife. Ladies, trust your instincts when it comes to your marriage! I don’t mean those emotions that come, um, once a month, I mean that feeling deep in your gut where you know that you know that you know that there is something terribly wrong.
I would often ask my husband what was going on. I suspected that he having an affair or was into pornography. For pete’s sake, I even asked him if he was gay! He emphatically denied all three (especially the last one, poor guy) and kept telling me that things were fine and it was all in my head. Now, there are a lot of things “in my head” but I was pretty sure this was not one of them.
He would constantly lie to me. An addict will do whatever they can to cover up their shame so that no one sees what is going on and so that they can keep on feeding their addiction. There were times when my husband would lie to me about the most ridiculous things. My husband swore up and down and sideways that everything was fine. After a while, I began to feel like I was losing my mind. I mean that literally. I thought that maybe institutionalizing myself was my best option. Maybe the issue was with me after all, and not with him. Perhaps I really was imagining things. Perhaps all of the fights and issues we were having were because I wasn’t quite firing on all cylinders. Maybe it was all my fault.
Eventually things got so bad that my husband rejected me in every way. I felt that rejection deeply. He was no longer interested in or attracted to me. He was always too tired to spend time with me, to go out with me, or to even have a decent conversation with me (unless it was to argue!). You see, addiction takes a lot out of a person. Pornography addiction is like a disease. It destroys a marriage and kills any intimacy between husband and wife—spiritual, emotional, and physical.
I thought that it was my fault that my husband wasn’t interested. I wasn’t skinny enough, pretty enough, or funny enough. I must have some tragic flaw that had made me unlovable. I will never forget the moment when I asked my husband point blank if he even loved me anymore. His response was, “Not really”. Oh the complete and utter heartbreak of having the one person who has vowed before God and man to love you NO MATTER WHAT tell you he really doesn’t love you anymore. There aren’t adequate words to describe that type of pain.
There were days and nights of endless tears, laying by myself in complete and utter loneliness. I began to buy clothes en masse to make myself feel better. I thought that if I looked just right, people would love me—my husband would love me. All that I wanted was for someone, anyone, to find me worthwhile, to find me beautiful.
After a number of months of this, my husband came clean to me (in a restaurant no less—he has never been one for timing!). He told me about the gory, grimy, sickening addiction he was battling. It was finally out in the open.
We gathered up the shattered and broken pieces of ourselves and of our marriage and tried to get help. We have a great church filled with loving and supportive people, but this addiction was so deeply rooted that it needed a more hands on, direct approach than a onetime meeting with a pastor. Through the grace of God and divinely placed people, my husband found a program that offered the kind of help he needed to gain his freedom. It is kind of like a Christ-centered version of AA for all different types of addictions.
I would love to say that in a few short weeks all was well with our marriage and the world. Life doesn’t work that way. My husband still struggled and I still felt worthless. If I had been a proper wife, my husband never would have felt the need to look elsewhere, right? It took years of healing, learning to trust (probably the hardest thing for me), and learning to love again. By the great grace of God, our marriage is whole. My husband is completely free and forgiven. He is crazy about me and I am crazy about him—and oh so very proud of the man he has become.
You may be wondering why I decided to talk about something so personal. I believe that one of the greatest lies thrown our way is that we are alone in our struggles, whatever those struggles may be. We believe that no one REALLY knows what we are experiencing or feeling. This keeps us from exposing what is hidden in the dark and ultimately prevents us from getting the help and support that we need. I am not afraid to share our struggle if it brings hope to one of you. Life is real, and it is marked with real pain and real heartache. To pretend that we never experience that is to lie to ourselves and to those around us.
I can proudly say that I walk with a limp. I have struggled with God. When He challenged me to forgive, to move forward, to repair, I wrestled. I am marked by my experience. I will never be the same again. This is not a bad thing. In fact, I am blessed. I have learned what true reliance on God really means, what it feels like for Him to be my only source of comfort and my place of refuge. I have learned grace when tempted to judge others because you never know what kind of pain a person has survived behind closed doors.
I have learned that if you are hurting and broken, it doesn’t matter how much lipstick you put on, what kind of designer clothes you wear, or if you shower five times a day. You’ll remain broken. Trust me, dressing up a broken heart does not heal it (although I did have a killer wardrobe!). There have been moments in my life when, in anguish, I had to recognize that God was literally all I had left. He was the only one who could take the broken pieces of my heart, of my life, and make something of them.
If you are going through heartbreak right now, know that God hurts for you. His heart is for you. Find hope and find healing in Him. Let Him rescue you. And please remember that walking with a limp is not a bad thing.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. (Psalm 34:18)
*Disclaimer – No husbands were harmed in the making of this post. My dear husband has given me his full permission and has even encouraged me to share what God has rescued us from.
-Written by Christina D’Angelo