Life to Bill Barnett was a one-way street with no way out.
His marriage was ending. His wife was seeing another man and she wanted custody of their two small children.
Every time Bill grasped for a glimmer of hope to save his dying marriage, it slipped away. What could be the answer to his crushing problems?
Sitting in his one-bedroom apartment, Bill typed a single word on his computer: suicide. He searched the internet for information on how to end his life.
An unexpected website popped up. “As I read it,” Bill says, “I realized that my life was not mine to take.” The website led him through a prayer to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior. “My heart and mind were instantly filled with the knowledge and love of Christ.”
Bill Barnett was no longer alone. He had found the source of hope … a reason to believe in his tomorrows. Yet those tomorrows would not be trouble-free.
Two years after his divorce was finalized, Bill and Jerrie began dating. When they married in November 2003, they brought their past hurts into their relationship. Jerrie’s parents had divorced when she was 14 years old; she lived with her father, rarely saw her mother, and struggled with anger.
Now, Jerrie had difficulty dealing with Bill’s ex-wife, who had a challenging personality. Jerrie told Bill that he was too soft on his ex-wife and that she sometimes felt as though his ex-wife were “the other woman.” Bill, on the other hand, felt as though he had two wives and couldn’t please either one of them. “Our marriage was not a happy marriage,” Jerrie says. “However, we did love each other.”
But could love alone sustain their marriage?
Both Jerrie and Bill knew their relationship was struggling. They finally saw some hope when Jerrie recalled something that her high school Sunday school teacher had taught her: to personalize Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
Why these particular verses? Because they are a reminder that God has appointed all of the times and seasons of life—the good and the bad.
Jerrie and Bill sat down together and wrote:
To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven:
A time for trust to be born and a time for unforgiveness to die;
A time to plant God’s timing and a time to pluck out our own expectations;
A time to kill past disappointments and a time for our friendship to heal;
A time to break down walls of fear and a time to build up our family;
A time to weep at God’s feet and a time to laugh with each other;
A time to mourn our personal relationship with the Lord
and a time to dance in the presence of God;
A time to cast away stones of doubt and pride and a time to gather stones of dreams and hope;
A time to embrace correction and a time to refrain from embracing the desires of the world;
A time to gain understanding and a time to lose doing things our way;
A time to keep God first in everything we do and a time to throw away guilt;
A time to tear down walls and a time to sow seeds of longsuffering;
A time to keep silent in times of anger and a time to speak life and encouragement to each other;
A time to learn about love and a time to hate words of death;
A time of war for our destiny and a time of peace in our marriage.
The Barnetts felt good about their declaration of commitment to God and to one another. They vowed to fight for their marriage … to seek understanding and harmony. And they prayed that God would give them a “time of peace.”
A Weekend to Remember® getaway
A few months later, the Barnetts sensed God’s direction in a very unlikely way. While listening to radio station KCMS, the announcer said that the tenth caller named “Jerrie” would win its Family Name Game contest. Jerrie’s ears perked up and she dialed the contest number.
It wasn’t long before she heard, “Congratulations! You’re the tenth caller.”
“I felt happy to win something,” Jerrie says. Then she learned about her prize: tickets to a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, on the same weekend as their fourth anniversary.
Bill and Jerrie didn’t know much about the Weekend to Remember, but they decided to give it a try. “By the end of the first session,” Jerrie says, “we were excited to come back. And by the end of the getaway God had already started a deep work in our marriage.”
The Barnetts say that God’s blueprints for marriage were presented in a tangible, practical way that they could relate to. Jerrie learned about biblical submission and how to deal with conflict. Bill learned about Jerrie’s need for spiritual leadership, how to empower his wife and children, and how to deal with conflict.
They also began to really listen to one another as they shared past hurts. And they began a life-long pattern of asking for and granting forgiveness. When Bill and Jerrie left the marriage getaway they say they not only felt clean; but also wanted to help others find hope for their marriages.
After the getaway, the Barnetts joined the Weekend to Remember volunteer team for Seattle. Doing this has helped them grow closer together, and also opened doors to new friendships. “The people on our team are dedicated to marriages,” Jerrie says, “and we all build each other up and help one another.”
Jerrie and Bill know the power of prayer and are involved year-round as co-leaders of the Seattle prayer team. They encourage couples to bring groups to a Weekend to Remember, and they also volunteer in the marriage getaway resource center.
They’ve introduced their small group at church to FamilyLife’s small-group Bible studies, the HomeBuilders Couple Series®. They’ve learned about communication, blended families, and building your spouse’s self-esteem.
“We are FamilyLife HomeBuilders,” Jerrie says, “because we believe in the ministry that FamilyLife offers and want to support marriages.”
In 2001, Bill Barnett felt life was a one-way street with no way out. When he sat in his one-bedroom apartment and contemplated suicide, he could not envision the wonderful things that God had in store for him.
Today, Jesus Christ is at the center of not only his life, but also his marriage. His future with Jerrie is filled with hope—a busy highway filled with countless possibilities.
Copyright ©2011 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
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