I served in the Army with a friend that was getting serious about his relationship with Jesus. He started praying regularly. He started studying his Bible. He attended chapel services regularly. He began to grow more like Jesus.
This man was married and head over heels in love with his wife. The problem in this relationship was she didn’t share his faith. The closer that he got to Jesus the farther she started to move away from him. It was tearing him up inside being pulled apart between his wife and God.
This man’s faith grew to deeper levels during a combat deployment to Afghanistan, and that’s when the bottom dropped out. Days after he went overseas, she told him she was leaving. This man was devastated and came to ask me—as his unit chaplain—how he could get his wife back. He wanted to know if there was any way he could be sent back to the States to try to repair his marriage. Then he explained more of the the situation to me. Listen to what this woman did to him when she left: she waited until he was gone out of the country before she cleaned out the house and sold everything. She wiped out their bank account and took all their money. She spent the money on breast augmentation surgery, and then moved in with another man—all because she was not happy with her husband’s new faith.
While counseling with this soldier, he shared one of his greatest struggles was that he didn’t see this coming. She never let on that she wanted out of this marriage. He was trying to figure out what he could do to win this woman’s heart back. I had to delicately challenge him about his wife. I challenged him on the idea of getting a woman like this back. I suggested that it might not be possible to live with a woman who is so different in what she loves.
This soldier was starting to cultivate a love for Jesus. The more that he learned about Jesus, the more that he loved Jesus. But the more that he loved Jesus, the less his wife loved him. This woman no longer loved her husband because his life significantly changed. Of course, God can do miracles. God could have changed this woman’s heart, but she loved a life this man no longer lived.
Run away from sin
This woman reminds me of a very short verse in the Bible. It’s found in Luke 17:32. This verse sits in the middle of a discussion Jesus is having about the end of the world. People ask Jesus what it’s going to be like when time ends and eternity begins. Jesus starts to give some warning about the end of time. Amid this warning, Jesus uses an illustration that he expects most Jewish readers to understand. It’s the story of Lot’s wife found in Genesis 19:26.
Lot and his family lived inside of one of the most sinful cities on the planet. God got so angry with the sin in Sodom and Gomorrah that he sent angels to annihilate these two cities. God graciously and generously chose to warn Lot and his family before this destruction happened. God sent two angels to get Lot and his family out of the city before the destruction began. These angels were urgent with the warning to leave Sodom. But they also gave very specific advice, when you leave don’t look back!
By the way, in case you’re unfamiliar with this story from the Bible, the sin that angered God so deeply was sexual sin. They had taken the beautiful gift of sex and had twisted it into something selfish and wicked. In fact, there’s a sexual act named for the sin of Sodom that we still use today. I think the big challenge from Genesis 19 is to run away from sin. Don’t stand and fight in the battle against temptation. In the case of sexual temptation, run away and don’t look back. Allow the Holy Spirit to give you the power to turn away from this temptation. Learn from Lot’s wife: don’t play games with sexual sin.
Don’t look over your shoulder
I’ve always wondered, why did the angels give the instructions, “don’t look over your shoulder” in Genesis 19:17? After all, what’s the big deal about looking back and remembering fondly the old days? Well, this can be dangerous for a new believer in Jesus.
I think he was asking Lot and his family to make a clean break. Don’t leave any ties with your former self or former sin. This suggests that your new faith in Jesus might cost you some friendships. You might have to leave some of those old acquaintances that lead you in to sin. You might have to break with some of those childhood friends that were a bad influence on you. Of course, you should want them to find the same faith in Jesus that you found, but if they continue to pull you back into that old sinful lifestyle, maybe you need to make a clean break.
Win the battle—and lose the war
Here’s the real tragedy of Lot’s wife. She won the battle but lost the war. These angels spared her life from the destruction in Sodom and Gomorrah. She didn’t die with the rest of the people in those wicked cities. She died outside the city. She died because she looked back.
Think about Lot for just a second. Think about what it felt for him to run with all haste away from this destruction—to grab his daughters by the arm and lead them to safety. Only to realize his wife didn’t make it. Now Lot is tempted to look back towards his wife, tempted to run back to the statue of this woman outside of his former hometown. This is the temptation that we all struggle with. It’s common to feel the pull towards the old sinful lifestyle. If you give in to that temptation you end up like Lot’s wife. Learn from Jesus today. Take a lesson from that soldier in Afghanistan. Remember Lot’s wife! Run away from sin—and don’t look back!