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When Your Husband Leaves You Alone on Valentine’s Day (Thoughts on Staying Behind Well)

It’s Valentine’s day and I am so grateful that my husband is around for me to enjoy. He wasn’t always. Nearly four years of marriage and this is the first year we are together on this day! In 2022 we had planned to spend the holiday together in Haiti. Because of unexpected armed gang roadblocks we missed the date by one day. I ended up in a hotel bed all alone that night!

Those early months and years of separation felt like the hardest trial God could have allowed us to walk through. Or so I thought at the time.  

Marriage By Design 

Marriage is meant to be the strongest bond on earth. That reality fills the pages of scripture and spills over into sermons, books, movies, and stories. It’s the deepest promise humans ever make. It’s meant to grow sweeter moment by moment and last a lifetime. 

Over and over we hear examples of husband and wife as a team. Held together by a binding force that man should not “separate”. After all, the female race was made from the literal side of man! So it’s natural to assume she is meant to stay beside him, under the loving care of his arm always.

The union of husband and wife is a gift and it is so so good. However, just because it is a good thing does not mean that we (or I), are entitled to it. Nor does it mean that it will always be the way it was meant to be in this broken world. 

Sometimes there are roadblocks that keep us apart. 

This Is Just A Season… Or Is It?

It may seem strange, but I became so used to leaving my husband that after the first four or so times I didn’t cry in the airport anymore. We fell in love in 2018 and until the beginning of 2023 when he finally got his green card, our routine went like this; I would go to Haiti for 1-3 months, then leave, spend 1-2 months in the US, and then go back. 

Back and forth I went. I deeply longed for us to be together. Yet, I found comfort in the thought that “it won’t always be this way”. I just knew that God had a plan for us to be together full time. My husband even wrote in a note to me once “one day we will never have to be separated again”. 

“Never” was a strong word choice, but I believed it. We thought that day would come with his visa approval. Having that hope to cling to, I contented myself in that long season of leaving him so often. 

You know those times when you find yourself in a somewhat horrible situation. But you know that relief is right around the corner so you press on? And in doing so your emotions are somehow padded from feeling the full weight of sorrow in the moment? 

That is how it was for me. It was a season I knew I could endure for a few years. After all we were young and had a whole lifetime of being together waiting for us on the other side

As We Have Been Told 

In many ways my view of reality was clouded by what I wanted to be true. I had such a shortsighted view of the future. As I have done many times in my life I staked my belief on something without stopping to question it. 

It may seem untrue, at first, if I tell you that sometimes God will ask your husband to go where you cannot follow. 

Though the ideal way for a marriage to function is certainly for a man to cling to his wife. For her to follow him everywhere that he goes. “Where you go I will go, where you stay I will stay” and all that (though the story that phrase comes from is descriptive and not prescriptive and is not referring to a married couple). 

Not only does the gift of marriage not always come like that, it’s also not our place to assume we are entitled to this way of life within our marriage. 

Now, before you right off the above statements and click off this post, just hear me out.

Think about Jim Elliot going into a remote place in Ecuador to meet the Auca tribe and dying there. Leaving his wife and young child at home as he marched off with his small band of men into what God was calling him/them to. Was he ignoring the principles of a marriage after God’s design in leaving his wife behind? 

I don’t think so, and here’s why…

Different Gifts In Marriage 

God gives the gift of marriage to each one in a different way than another. I don’t believe for a moment that one should reject the opportunity and gift of marriage if it seems that marriage will not come with the gift of a preferred situation.

To some is given marriage and a shared ministry endeavor. To others marriage and trials. Still others choose to take the gift of singleness in hand to avoid some of the trials that could come with marriage in their situation. 

Oftentimes in the broad view of Christian missionary history men and women have chosen not to marry, though it would seem God provided them with a spouse and the opportunity. While they were free to make the choice, and remaining single shouldn’t be seen as the ‘bad’ choice, I do believe they could have, without sinning, married.

Maybe it would have meant weeks and months apart from their wives. As many went to some dangerous or remote place not fit for a woman. Yet these sorts of separations are not, from what I gather biblically, wrong. 

As a side note, if it were the women who were leaving their husbands to engage in some work simply because they are not “called” to the same work. This would be a different situation entirely and not backed or supported at all by scripture. 

Where I Cannot Follow

You don’t have to look very far to find an example that unravels the ‘truth’ that many of us have been told. That truth goes something like this. 

“Once married, a couple is never meant to live seasons apart. If God calls my husband to a task in ministry there will be a physical place for me in it. He will never call us to moments or seasons apart (physically separated by distance)”. 

Just because one is given a gift, the perfect situation is not promised along with it. For example; Children, like marriage, are one of God’s greatest goods that he chooses to give his people in this life. A parent is meant to care for, nurture, tend to, and build up their child. At least until they are an adult and can go their own way. 

But, if this was ‘the way’ it was always supposed to be and ‘the only way’, then why didn’t I have a choice? Why did my child get taken away from me in miscarriage and my arms were not able to nurture and care for it? 

Obviously, the way things should be is not the only way that they always are. Sometimes God does not allow us to have things as they should be. Sometimes He allows circumstances that may function, in my mind, as they should not. 

And if he allows it then I have no right to cling to the way I think it should be. 

So you see, sometimes, my husband will be called to go where I cannot follow. Not because we shouldn’t have married knowing that the dynamics of our marriage would be abnormal. But because God has chosen not only to bless us with a beautiful marriage, but also to entrust us with frequent trials within our marriage to strengthen us.  

Fighting Resentment  

I held my husband with open arms. Knowing that he wasn’t practically going to be beside me 24/7. I was fine sleeping alone when I was back in the US after a span of time in Haiti. 

Until, the roles reversed and he left me for the first time. He was finally here. He was supposed to stay where I could see him at all times. We were supposed to go back to Haiti together, always. We were never supposed to be separated again. That was the plan. That was the way this was meant to be. 

As soon as he left I felt like I was holding my breath just waiting for him to return. Staying home while he was gone made whatever I was doing at home feel insignificant in the kingdom of God. I was resenting the fact that he got to go while I had to stay. Even if he was going into a very dangerous and risky situation in Haiti. 

The feeling couldn’t be shaken that staying home was the short end of the stick. I was grateful for the growing child in my womb and knew that I needed to protect it. I didn’t want to put the baby in harm’s way.

But I also found that as soon as my husband stepped on the plane, I immediately had to fight off feelings that from now on I was always going to be left doing the mundane, unexciting things of life, while my husband experiences the joys of ministry in Haiti.

Entitled To Companionship?  

I wasn’t wrong about the design of marriage when I believed that leaving father and mother to cleave to one’s wife meant 24/7 life together. I was wrong because I expected from marriage what I would find only in God, and then demanded that God deliver on the promises that I put in His mouth.  

Then I was surprised when I didn’t get what I wanted and ended up lonelier than before. Make no mistake, marriage is meant to reflect our relationship with a God who never leaves us. But this reflection will never be a crystal clear one here on earth. 

In this process I realized that I depended on my husband too much. Even more than God at times. 

I was holding my breath, waiting for him to come home, with this terribly empty feeling. Every day I missed His presence and everything he normally did for/with me. I waited for phone calls and desperately wanted to hear “I miss you”.  Because I really missed him.

Idolatry like mine explains why relational sin runs rampant. It’s why pornography makes billions of dollars every year. It’s why so many people are dissatisfied in relationships. It’s why we see so much divorce. It explains a lot of depression. 

Our desires for love and constant companionship, however deep and pure, and intense, are desires for a Marriage beyond marriage here. You won’t be freed from the frustration, confusion, and heartbreak of circumstantially demanded seasons apart until you grasp this. 

God gave me a wonderful husband as a companion as a partner in ministry and life. However, I am not entitled to his constant companionship. And though there may be longer seasons together, I am not promised that he will always be there when I need him. 

Only Christ can be such a companion, and one day, when we are reunited with Him in the final marriage, we will have a beloved husband whom we will never have to part with. This is where that longing comes from. Because we were created for constant companionship. 

The Pride Of Bitterness 

It wasn’t only the chagrin of missing my husband’s companionship or his warmth beside me at night that plagued me through those weeks apart. I admit I felt a little jealous and bitter. 

After all, it was I who was first called to the mission field. I was the one who chose to give up my prestigious life in the US to serve in a foreign country. I went to Haiti with no promised incentive. It wasn’t because there were people I loved to be with there, I knew no one. 

I had the idea for a ministry of my own. Even refusing to begin a promising relationship because I wasn’t willing to “stay home” in the future. I put in the work to become fluent in another language without a teacher. I did all of this.

Missionary life was the life I had accepted and came to love deeply. Now to be told “it’s too dangerous for you”and that I needed to stay behind this time. The risk never stopped me before. I only had myself to answer to and consult for so long. 

Pridefully I didn’t like to be worried and fussed over. Not after I had already counted the cost. I didn’t like to admit that staying behind was necessary in this season. I never wanted to be seen as  the one who was scared off of the field, because I wasn’t.  

For so long I battled with the reality that I was given this bittersweet gift of missionary life with all of its isolating factors. Just when I started to become comfortable with my life as it was, again the rug was ripped out from under my feet in a sense

Pridefully, I had forgotten that ministry is not something I simply choose to do, it too is a gift. We may be given the gift of ministry for a lifetime or just a season. Sometimes we are given a different gift (such as a baby) that warrants a season away from ministry in the same capacity as before

What’s A Wife To Do? 

Letting go of the life we so desire, for now, however short a time it may be, is not easy. But we must remember that we are not entitled to see the fruits of our labor in ministry. We are not even entitled to be the one to finish what we’ve started. I’m learning, slowly, to lay down the pride of bitterness and rejoice in every circumstance.

We must recognize that pride breeds bitterness. But humility says “yes Lord, where you send me I will go willingly without delay. And when you ask me to stay, I will joyfully stay”.   

Marriage is not just about being together well but also being apart well. And ministry is not just about going well, but staying well too. 

As a wife the greatest thing I can do for my husband is to help him in every season. Whether at home or away. This is a high calling and task! Here are some tips that I have found helpful and I hope you do too. 

4 Tips For Staying Behind Well 

  1. Rejoice and Encourage Him

Even though you may not always physically be with your husband as he is away overseeing ministry and you are at home managing the house or caring for children. You can still be his wife and he does still need you. To be his support, his helper, and the one who lifts him up and encourages him in what God has called him to in this season. 

I want to be saying with Paul “For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ” (Collosians 2:5). 

  1. Remember 

Remember that God is watching over the both of you while you are apart. Take comfort in this, knowing that you’re not alone when your spouse is absent. And if he is in a dangerous place. You don’t have to worry for his safety because God is holding him in his hands when you cannot. 

“The Lord watches between you and me, when we are out of one another’s sight”(Genesis 31:49).

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

  1. Don’t Despise The Season You Are In

Of course I would prefer to be out there getting my hands dirty in ministry work as I have done for many years. But right now home is where I need to be. It’s so easy to give into those feelings of wanting to be doing something more important than the tasks right in front of me. 

Going to work 8-4, making dinner, keeping up with housework, and attending doctor appointments pales in comparison to the joy of caring for the poor on the mission field and being in full time ministry. But these things are important right now. 

Being present in the little moments of life right in front of you is so vital to learning to be content where you are at. 

  1. Look For Small Opportunities 

Despite being in the US while your spouse is in Haiti, or the Middle East, or wherever, I am confident there are ways you can be involved in ministry remotely. While they may not be as exciting, they are still important, and doing little tasks will help you feel connected and involved in the impact your spouse is making abroad.  

For example, while I was not able to go to Haiti for our yearly Christmas programs I was still able to be involved in less exciting tasks with our ministry. Such as reporting, raising support, updating our website, reaching out for new blogging opportunities to spread the word, and lifting up the team in prayer.

Don’t despise the behind the scenes work in ministry and don’t underestimate the role of prayer. Sometimes the greatest thing you can do while home is to pray for those who are being the physical hands and feet of Christ on the field when you cannot. 

I hope you are encouraged this Valentine’s day to fall more in love with your marriage, however unconventional it may be. I hope that you have come to see that marriage does not have to be normal to be good and that God gives grace for every trial that he allows in our marriages. Even that dreaded trial of separation. 

Go with God dear reader. 

Enjoy the man he has given you.

 Love your spouse well today and everyday. 

God bless,

 Rachel

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Hi! I’m Rachel. Through a series of God orchestrated events I ended up in Haiti, in 2017.  Through years of serving with a ministry there I came to love the country and its people. I met Nelson and we got married in 2020. It was the best decision of my life! 

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