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
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
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
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
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
How to do that is what we want to