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"Id never really seen anyone in my life that had ever talked about marriage, about what to do," says Garth. "I just assumed that whatever happened, happened. You deal with it."
Garth and Karen faced a challenge early in their marriage. A deep root of rejection from Garths past prevented him from opening his heart to Karen. He started pulling away emotionally and in many other ways.
"He treated me badly," Karen explains. "He often was very cold to me. He basically ignored me. He was out partying and doing all kinds of things."
Says Garth, "I was trying to do things to get her to come home and say, 'I want to leave.' I thought that if she left me, then she looked like the bad person. Id be the good guy, even though I was the one doing all of the stupid things and messing up."
Garth continued to withdraw, but even with his shortcomings, God required Karen to make a change.
"The Lord was saying, 'Karen, I want you to stop nagging him.' I used to nag him. He would come home and Id say, 'How much alcohol did you drink? How much wine? Did you drink?' I could smell it. He would say, 'No!' Id say, 'Why are you lying to me?' The Lord said, 'Dont do that anymore.'"
Karen stopped nagging Garth, but the relationship wasnt improving. She cried out to God for help. Then one day a friend invited her to attend a womens meeting at the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship.
"I went up and I got prayed for, and I felt Gods presence like Id never felt," she says. "It was like a Niagara Falls, like whoosh! John Arnott got up and he started speaking. I thought, This is God. Ive been looking for this for years."
Karen continued attending meetings at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship. She didnt nag Garth about going to church, but out of curiosity he started going to the weekly services with her.
"Im sitting there in the back watching everybody, kind of going, This is ridiculous," Garth recalls.
Despite his skepticism, Garth continued going to church. But the rift in their marriage grew wider. He started partying with his old friends again. The guilt of his double life weighed heavily on Garth. He began to search for a way out.
"One day I just left work. I thought, Im going to commit suicide. Just as I was driving out for the highway, driving over the highway, I thought, I cant do this. Ive got a wife and children," Garth remembers. "So I went to a park and said, 'Lord, if this is all real thats going on,' because I thought it was a cult or something crazy going on 'I need to know whats going on in my life.' It was funny because the Lord spoke to me in my car. He said, 'Garth, this is the last call.' Its an ironic turn because its a bar term."
Garth began to take his relationship with God more seriously. One night at the church service, Garth asked God for a special request.
"'If this is really God, Im going to have to.' I said, 'Lord, let someone pray for me about these three things.' I dont know if it was a woman or a man that came up to me and started praying for me. He said, 'By the way, would like me to pray for you? Do you have any problems, like with going to bars or anything?' I was like, 'No!' I thought for sure someone, maybe she was there, my family feeding him information to get me, so I went to the back quickly. The next person prayed over me about smoking cigarettes and just said, 'Gods going to show you His peace. Hes going to show you how much He loves you.' I went home that night and I felt different."
God began to pull back the layers of hurt that Garth had buried as a teenager. Rejection from a past relationship had led Garth to put up walls. He carried this fear into his marriage. Garth began to surrender his heart to God. Thats when God started showing Garth how to love his wife.
"'God, what do I do?'" Garth asked. "I felt Him say, 'You need to ask her to forgive you.' I thought I could ask for a couple of things. Theres probably one or two I can think of, just things that I really need to repent."
With a lot of hard work Garth has made a definite change for the better.
"It took me a while to actually believe it because it was almost too good to be true and it was pretty quick," says Karen. "Over a six-month period, I would say that he went from a guy who kind of pushed me away to this guy who was really in love with me and really passionate."
With Gods help, Garth and Karen allowed forgiveness to transform their lives.
"God started to really work on my heart and just soften me," says Garth. "I was tough or trying to be tough anyway. He just really changed my heart in that way, sensing His love and His presence on me."
The Neals are now cell group leaders at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship. They share their testimony to help other married couples find the same closeness they are experiencing today. Garth and Karen are witnessing every day how God took "a last call" and turned it into a purposeful journey of healing and restoration.
"God has completely restored our marriage," says Karen. "Now we enjoy each other. We have intimate times. We talk a lot. We talk too much. My kids said, 'Why do you guys talk all of the time? You guys are always together.' Its wonderful."
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