Taking the
out of

Abby’s Hopeless Marriage

It isn’t hard to find advice on how to get rid of an ornery spouse—one with whom it is hard to get along. Books on the technique of divorce abound everywhere. However, our little voyage of discovery is setting sail with a different port in view: How one can find happiness in a marriage where one feels his or her spouse is less than satisfactory in fact, downright ornery. We begin with a fascinating case history of a woman trapped in a marriage probably worse than any you have known or heard about.

Abby was intelligent and beautiful. For some reason, she married Al, a cantankerous, ill-mannered boor who turned out to be extremely ornery. Many a woman would have walked out on him. Yet, she found her niche in history by holding on.

If a prince charming had visited Abby’s mountain village, she doubtless would have become a princess. But none came along, and it seems that her parents encouraged her to go with Al. He probably turned no lights on for her, but she could have consoled herself with the thought that he was steady and solid. At least, he knew how to make money. Perhaps mom and dad encouraged her to believe that she could either change him or learn to love him. She shouldn’t pass him up. He was the scion of a prominent family destined to wealth and influence. With her warm, winsome ways, Abby would impart to his lordly ranch a touch of grace. She finally said Yes to him.

Soon after the wedding, Abby began crying herself to sleep. If someone had told her she had terminal cancer, she could have hardly felt more devastated than realizing that she was bound for life to someone who was a perfect fool when it came to human relations. Neighbors and the hired hands got so they avoided him whenever possible.

To make matters worse, Al took to drinking, and Abby learned that no problem can be so bad but what alcohol can make it worse. The hired help could leave, but Abby felt chained in a marital dungeon "till death do us part." Sometimes she half wished that death would come her way.

Covering for Al’s boorish ways developed in Abby qualities of grace and diplomacy. She learned how to pour oil on the troubled waters Al had roiled up. The irritating grain of sand produced in her soul the legendary pearl. She developed a fantastic expertise in managing men who had trouble managing themselves. This eventually led to a new chapter in her life.

Abby got hold of a secret truth. Committed to the idea that "they [two] shall be one flesh" (Genesis 2:24), Abby began to understand that "they" being "one" meant that she and Al couldn’t be separated, and that her eventual happiness depended on believing it. She began looking on Al’s faults as "our" faults. It may seem small comfort to some discouraged person reading this book, but the fact is that she became more talented and beautiful in the process of enduring disappointment.

Abby remained faithful to Al, believing that God in His own good time and way would transmute her pain into happiness. To the end of her marriage, she kept her conscience clear, holding the ranch together, winning the love of the hired help and the neighbors, and in the process carving out for herself a special niche of distinction in female history.

Al’s drinking problem finally did him in. After sobering up from a binge he fell into a fit of depression that turned into despair and ended in death. Everybody for miles around believed that the Lord had simply called time on the old curmudgeon. And, believe it or not, when Abby was free, a prince did show up who married her. Her story is one of the best authenticated case histories on record. You can check the details in 1 Samuel 25:2-42.

We read there that "Nabal . . . was harsh and evil in his dealings," but "Abigail . . . was intelligent and beautiful in appearance." Verse 3, NASB. God took the trouble to delineate her story as an encouragement to millions of people since.

David, Israel’s rightful heir to the throne, happened on the scene. In an unpleasant encounter, Nabal rubbed him the wrong way and David in a rare fit of anger decided to avenge the insult with violence. But for Abigail’s intervention, David’s rash act would have haunted his royal conscience for the rest of his life and could have ruined his reputation as a fair and compassionate ruler. Abby’s well developed skills in diplomacy and exquisitely tactful finesse saved David from himself. Her hastily composed but eloquent speech pointedly reminded him that his rashness could be the undoing of his royal honor. Never has a woman averted tragedy so skillfully.

Unlovable as Nabal was, Abigail was protective of her unworthy husband. She assumed his guilt—"upon me . . . let this iniquity be." "I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid." Verses 24, 28. She implied that Nabal’s faults were hers as well as his, for were not the two "one flesh"?

Abby’s plea that her husband’s life be spared is patently sincere, so much so that it proved effective. While all this was going on, Nabal was getting high in a wild drinking spree. Abby waited until he sobered up and then told him how close he had come to disaster. The record says, "His heart died within him, and he became as a stone. And it came to pass about ten days after that the Lord smote Nabal, that he died." Verses 37, 38.

In due time, when she was free, David married Abigail. See verse 42. The king-to-be not only loved her; he felt she would help him manage his own weaknesses.

Nabal was not merely ornery; he was obviously impossible. Yet God had a solution to that marriage problem. Abigail’s unhappy marriage should encourage us to believe that there can be hope for happiness even in such "impossible" situations. If so, there must be much more hope for those many situations that are difficult rather than hopelessly impossible.

The story of Abigail reveals that God Himself undertakes to help the unlucky spouse who is getting the bad end of a bargain. He or she can find happiness in fidelity through unexpected ways. God never went to sleep on Abigail, nor did He abandon her. To Him who sees when the sparrow falls, Abigail and her unhappy marriage were important. Her story became immortalized for all ages and even for eternity to come.

It is naive to expect that we will never have to taste of pain imposed by less-than-perfect situations outside of us. What is important is to know that inner sense of well-being, of a clear conscience, of peace with God and the assurance that He is proud of you for what you are where you are. All this Abigail knew, and it was the secret of her charm and impressive beauty when she comes onto the Bible stage.

Abigail can become the patron saint of the Federation of Unlucky Spouses, whether wives or husbands. Maybe someone will pick up this book who feels that he or she is caught in a bind as hopeless as was Abigail’s. To realize that the Lord notices and cares about it is itself no little comfort!

It is good to realize that you and your situation are important to the Lord and that He is concerned for your marital happiness. We must find out what He is doing about it! His solution to the problem may not be as simple as zapping a difficult spouse. There may be a much happier solution to the problem than eliminating either the spouse or the marriage. What should be eliminated is the irritant that is causing the problem.

How to do that is what we want to discover.

When Love Dies and Divorce Follows, It's No Joke

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