Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Jan 10, 2024

In this episode, Dr. Tope Keku joins me to discuss how we can choose to trust God when we face bitterness, unforgiveness, and resentment in our relationships.

Take Dr. Tope's Healthy Marriage Quiz.

Get your copy of Weathering Storms: Finding Treasures in the Ruins.

Weathering Storms


Show Notes:

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith: Welcome everyone. This is Dr. Saundra, and you're listening to I Choose My Best Life, where today we're going to be chatting about trust in our marriage. How do we get over hard situations? How do we keep staying faithful to the one we said yes to? And I have with me today Dr. Tope Keku, who is a certified life and marriage coach, as well as an author, speaker, and Bible teacher.

To help us with this journey so that we can stay faithful, even during times of difficulty. Tope, welcome to the show.

Dr. Tope Keku: Thank you, Dr. Sandra. Thank you for having me

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith: here. I know most of the time when someone writes a book or goes deep into a topic, there's usually some backstory to it. So I'd love for you to begin by sharing a little bit about who you are and your journey in this topic.

Dr. Tope Keku: Okay. So a little bit of a back story about me is that I am a child of God. And I'm passionate about helping women find their way out of these terms of life. And how did I get to this place? A little bit is that I am from Nigeria. Originally, I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. I grew up in a Christian home, always known the Lord since I was a child, I've always known the Lord.

But at age seven, I gave my life to Christ. And this will make sense in a minute. So I just need to give you a little bit of this backstory so you can understand where I'm coming from. I gave my life at age seven, was raised in a Christian home, and always had a relationship with the Lord.

There's never a time that I can remember that I haven't had a relationship with the Lord. One thing that sets that relationship about is that when I was four years old, I started to have dreams and visions, and I would share them with my parents. And when I shared those dreams and visions my parents did, I didn't understand what they meant.

But they would. Take it seriously. They would help me. And this kind of taught me to nurture that. So that became what began my relationship with the Lord one-on-one. And then seeing my parents for us to model that. Daily living in faith was a backdrop to where I am today as a Christian and as a child of God.

Now, fast forward to my marriage. My husband and I came to the U. S. from Nigeria. We went to school here. Both of us went to graduate schools here. And we got involved in the American life. Just, the good old American life taking care of family, running daily, working hard, trying to make ends meet, all of that.

But we lost something vital in relationships. And that's connection. We lost that. And so as we lost that, that became then a bone of contention, a lot of arguments, a lot of back and forth, and just the peace was out the window. And so, for me, where my comfort is in the Lord. So that's why I needed to give you that background.

So I went back to the Lord. And I said I don't understand what is going on here. And because we had hit this crisis point where it was constant tension, I decided to leave for two weeks. And as I left for two weeks, it wasn't just, I'm done. I'm out of here for me. It's, I want to gain clarity. My heart is always towards the Lord.

What do you want to do here? What are you doing here? And so, while going away for two weeks, I was fasting, praying, reading the word, listening, and asking the Lord a lot of questions. And in that process, he began to show me what would happen. What would happen? If I trusted him, and the question he asked me was, will you trust me?

And you might say, did you hear him audibly? No, I didn't hear him audibly. I didn't hear audibly, but he came to me again. The way he speaks to me is in dreams. He came through two dreams. The first dream was in that dream. I saw a road. It was a paved road. It looked beautiful. But then suddenly, there was a big break in the road.

And it was, I was like, how am I even going to cross? So I'm standing there thinking, how will I get to the other side of this? This is terrible. This is a mess. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, I saw these big, heavy trucks coming, and they began to fill in the roads. They began to repair it. And then I woke up.

And when I woke up, I said, Lord, what does this mean? Are you trying to tell me that you will repair my marriage? If I will trust Jesus, what are you saying? I still didn't get a clear answer, but I had a sense that this was where he was bleeding. And then, if that wasn't enough, he showed me in his second dream, what again, where his heart is in all of this.

And in that second dream, I saw a big body of water, and in that big body of water, there was a big snake. If you know me, I do not like snakes. I don't know about you, but I do not like snakes anywhere. This snake was huge. It was huge around like a truck. It was as big as a truck, and it had many colors and many layers to it.

And this snake was moving, you know, when they say as slow as molasses? This snake was moving ever so slowly, coming towards me. And I was like, Lord, please make it go away, make it go away. And then suddenly, it turned ever so elegantly, if you can say something like that, ever so elegantly turned around and started moving away.

Then my son came and threw a rock in the water, and the snake again did that like he was going to turn and look towards me, but then changed his mind and then just continued to go away, and then I woke up, and I was like, Lord, wow, what are you saying? And then I heard again in my spirit, not audibly, but in my spirit, will you trust me?

This situation is bigger than yours. It's not even about you. But will you trust me to walk with you through it? My word didn't say that you would not have any trouble. It didn't say that you will not have trials. It said that even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I will walk with you.

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith: Amen. I love how you bring in your relationship with God and even how you process with God because I think sometimes we forget to inquire of the Lord in our situation, so I love how you bring in the dreams and just how he speaks to you. One of the things I think that's so important is, I, there's Most of us who are married have had those moments in our relationship when hard stuff happens and when it happens, depending on kind of our own personality and how open we are to correction and to being able to listen to how Holy Spirit is leading us. That can sometimes play such a big role. When you talk about trusting God, what does that mean to you Exactly.

Dr. Tope Keku: Wow. Trusting God is fundamental. It's trusting God means I believe that He is who He says he is, that He will do what He says He will do that even if I have my doubts and my questions, which of course I did have, so I will not lie to you, I had a lot of questions, but it's bringing them to Him.

And one of the things that really helps me is David. David in the Psalms. Look at Psalm 13. David is not sugarcoating what he's feeling, what he's thinking, what he's going through. How long, Lord? How long will you forget me here? And so if David, who is the man after God's heart, could Ask those fundamental questions.

It gave me freedom. I found freedom in the Psalms to be able to come to the Lord with my questions. Lord, I've worked with you for a long time. I've known you. I've served you. I've done all this. Why are you still letting all these things happen? Why is all this going on? What are you doing here? But then the Lord brought me to this place.

You're asking the wrong question. So good. It's not why. Ask me what I am doing in this situation.

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith: I Want to go deeper into that because you talk about, when all of this was going on with your marriage, you took a moment to step back. Which, some people will say you should stay put and try to work it out.

But I think there's some wisdom sometimes in putting a little bit of separation so that you don't keep escalating the toxicity. Sometimes, you have to work on yourself for a minute before you can work on us as a couple. Yeah. So, when you took that time to step away, what did God show you during that time?

And how did you progress after he asked you that question? Do you trust me?

Dr. Tope Keku:  Yeah, that's a very good question. While I was going away for those two weeks, I reached out to a really good friend. I don't have a lot of friends, but I do have a few close friends.

So, I reached out to one particular friend that I know. I can trust her with this situation, and I can trust that she hears the Lord's will. So I reach out to her, and I say, Hey, listen, here's what's going on. Do you mind praying along with me? And whatever the Lord tells you, do not lie to me.

You come back and tell me what you're hearing. And so half that time, while I was fasting and praying, she was also fasting and praying along and praying. And then she called me one day. She says, talk by, I'm not hearing that you should leave your marriage. What I'm hearing is you should stay put and trust the Lord.

So that was confirmation. So I, then I thanked him. I said thank you for sharing that because you just confirmed what the Lord's shown me, and this is how he's shown me. And then the next part, once, once I got that confirmation, it was like, okay, I'm staying put. Now, Lord, what, how do we go from here?

And then the Lord began to show me it's not even about my marriage. You think you know what the problem is, right? Many times we think when we're married, we think, ah, here's the problem. I'm not the problem. The Lord did an about turn-up, bringing a big floodlight into my own issues and my own gaps.

And one of the key things was I didn't know who I was. I was living according to who I profess to be. I didn't know my identity in Christ. And he began to show me layers of bitterness, layers of unforgiveness. All of this nasty stuff that we had to admit about ourselves. He began to show that. And so the marriage took a back seat.

It was; he was going to work on me first. And whatever he was going to do with the marriage was not of consequence right here. We're going to deal with me and my issues first. And then we can talk about anything else. So that began my journey of me. Finding my identity, rediscovering my identity in Christ, and embracing it.

So, it's been a journey of discovering my identity in Christ, embracing forgiveness, cultivating intimacy with him, and having gratitude and hope. Every day, having hope. And I can expand more on those key treasures that he showed me during that time.

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith: That's so good.  I think so often you're absolutely right.

When something like this happens, and we're in a relationship with other people, it's so easy to look at them and say they did this and this, they're wrong here, and God, fix them. God works on their heart. It's easy to look at. Like you said, we're shining the spotlight on them.

And we resist that, that need to actually look at ourselves and reflect on our own part in the situation and how we're actually helping to perpetuate some of the problems. And it's so needed. I think sometimes we rush into relationships; none of us like to be alone, so to speak. So I have, I sometimes fear that.

Especially when I'm sitting, and I'm talking to single friends that they want a spouse or they want a family. Sometimes I feel like we rush into relationships before we actually do the self work that needs to be done. And I feel like a lot of marriages have run into that problem because you find the person before you've actually found yourself, before you've actually taken the time to actually get that identity confirmed in your heart.

I want to address something that I think. Most of us would have an issue with, when God says, trust me in a situation, it's usually because we're not trusting him in that area. So there's some resistance and hesitation and a little bit of pulling back because of, maybe because of fear, maybe because of past experiences, I don't know.

How did you overcome that? Because for him to say, trust me, there had to be some trust disconnect initially.

Dr. Tope Keku: Yeah, so to trust him didn't mean that I didn't trust him on my own level. Trust is in layers. So, we trust in layers. When we first get to know someone, we cannot trust him a little bit.

And then, the more we get to trust them, the more we get to know them, then we can begin to trust and think about. the 12 disciples and the three that were in Jesus's innermost circle. He trusted all the 12, but then he brought this into his inner trust. So what I sensed the Lord was inviting me into is that place of deeper trust in him.

Not that I didn't have the truth, but to come deeper into a place of deeper trust in him. And, in that process, trusting him was going beyond just Checking off the box. So, performance was a key thing for me. Oh, we've done that, right? But trusting him meant I had to let go of the performance. I had to let go of, and I'm checking off the box, but coming truly into a place of sitting at his feet and being willing to listen, willing to allow him to show me new things and embracing those new things that he's showing me about myself, about himself and about myself.

Where he's at work in this situation and what he wants to do in the future. 

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith: I love how you described that it's not that you necessarily didn't trust him, but he was taking you into a deeper level of trust, a deeper level of intimacy and relationship. And that's such a great kind of visual picture of the relationship that Jesus had with the disciples versus those.

Three, who are in a deeper level of relationship with him. So I want to get some details about some of the key lessons and revelations that you learned during this journey about yourself and about your identity in Christ.

Dr. Tope Keku: During this journey, I learned that I am a caring person, but everything is always conditional.

My love was conditional. If you did this for me, then I did this for you. If you did that and that, that has no; if you know that the Lord loves us unconditionally, that has no place in his kingdom. And so he's winning me off of that. And he showed me that my identity is not in my performance.

He helped me to see that my. What am I doing at two separate things? My who is secure in him. I don't have to stride. I don't have to all of this running to get the American dream chasing after the wind. I didn't need all that. I just needed to know who I am in him, and everything else that I do flows out of that.

So, my identity as a child of God is that I am loved beyond measure. I'm beloved by name. I am forgiven. I am redeemed. I am blessed. I am, I am approved. So I don't need to seek other people's approval. Oh, if I do this, or if I do that for them, they will like me. If I do this, there's no people-pleasing in this kingdom.

Be secure. He taught me to be secure in who I am in him. And for me, this is a daily battle because the enemy knows this is my struggle. And so, one of the things that I learned during that time was that the Lord took me on a journey for three months. I studied every day, Ephesians one, verses three to 14.

And I read that out aloud. I wrote down those. Key points on a note card stuck on a wall in my bathroom, and I still had those in my bathroom. I dress up in them every day, even this morning. I affirm to myself that this is who I am. And so that, for me, is a place of security. And then everything else that, if my identity as a mom is threatened, my identity as a wife is threatened, my identity as a colleague, as a friend, as whoever is threatened.

Those can be threatened, but this stays. And without getting to this, a lot more that I could ship, but without getting to all of that, every identity that I ever thought was my identity, all of those have been shaking. Marriage and finances have been shaking. Work has been shaking.

What else? Health has been shaking. Any identity that, anything that I could just put my identity in, they've all been stripped, including homelessness. And so that for me has helped me to stay secure in this and to know without a shadow of a doubt, I am loved by the father. 

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith: Oh, that's beautiful.

And you had to work through some things. I know there were five specific areas that you mentioned, including bitterness and unforgiveness, resentment, anger, and communication. I'm sure there's somebody who's listening right now who has either walked. They went through similar journeys and are still in that healing process within their marriage.

Or there might be someone who's married right now, who's thinking, you know what? I don't know if I need to go away for a couple of weeks, a month, or somewhere in between there, but I need out. What are some strategies and insights that you have that address these issues of our own heart that need to be mended to help improve our relationships?

Dr. Tope Keku: I think the key is to do that work with the Lord, not to, yes, the marriage may have problems. Yes, you may have relational issues with whatever, but leave that alone for a while and just focus on yourself and the Lord. Lord, where am I with you? Where are we at? How is our relationship?

Because when that vertical is settled, then all the other horizontal relationships will fall in alignment. And so it's going to the Lord, getting that identity, securing him, embracing that identity, and then the forgiveness of the resentment, the bitterness. I would be honest. It doesn't go away in one day.

So unforgiveness was a key thing. I have both resentment and unforgiveness. And every day, I would say, I can't do it. I just can't. I can't forgive. There's no way I can do this. This is too hard. And one day, while I was running, I saw a vision of Jesus Christ on the cross. I was coming up this hill, and I saw that picture.

I was like, ah, and it broke my heart because I could see myself as one of the ones who put him there. And if he did that to redeem me, then who am I to say I can't forgive? And so I just said to him, Lord, I ask your help. Help me to forgive. I can't do it. Help me to. I surrender my need to be right. I surrender my need to fix this.

Help me to forgive. And it didn't happen overnight. But slowly, the bitterness, the unforgiveness, went away as I kept asking him for it. And one thing I would say, how do you know that you're no longer resentful? You're no longer harboring unforgiveness. When you think about whatever the issue is that is creating the crisis, you.

If you no longer have any emotional triggers, then you're forgiven. You're forgiven the issue. It does not register on an emotional scale.

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith: We're chatting with Dr. Tope Akiku. She is a life and marriage coach and the author of a devotional book titled Weathering Storms, Finding Treasures in the Ruins.

Tope, I would love for you to share a little bit about your book and just what readers would find when they dive into this devotional.

Dr. Tope Keku: My book, Weathering Storms, was written to help women, so it captures some of the things that we've talked about. It's a 90-day devotional, and it was written to help women who are going through life's storms to get a heart for God in their situation.

They will find. Devotions that help them to take hold of their identity. Devotions that help them to deal with forgiveness. Devotions that call them to deeper intimacy into their secret place with God. Devotions that help them to cultivate gratitude on the journey. And then devotions that help them to embrace hope.

To always expect that something great is going to happen.

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith: Yes, I know Toby has a real heart for helping women find their identity in Christ, renew their confidence, and help build those relationships back up so they can have those full lives in Christ, those John 10, 10 lives. So, Tobe, I want to make sure people know how to connect with you and learn more about your book and your other resources because you're also a speaker, and you do quite a bit of training as well with courses.

Dr. Tope Keku: Yeah, so people can find me on my website at hidden treasures and They can also find all the resources there for the podcast, the coaching, speaking, and course courses as well. I have a free offering for your listeners today. If you wanna find out the health of your marriage, I have a quiz, a healthy Marriage quiz.

It's at hidden treasures and Forward slash quiz.

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith: Excellent. And I'll be sure to include the links to your books as well as your website and your freebie, the quiz. I think that's something all of us would benefit from just seeing where our marriages are and what we can do to help make them and ourselves stronger.

Toby, I want to thank you so much for joining me, and I'm going to give you the final words today before we close. If someone's listening right now and they are just in that place where they are struggling with any kind of relationship. What encouragement do you have for them?

Dr. Tope Keku: Today, if you're listening and struggling in your relationship, I want you to know that there is hope.

God loves you powerfully. He loves you personally, and he loves you passionately and never loses hope. Embrace your identity in him. Get alone with him. And lastly, get in a community of believers, people who are going to help you along this journey. It's not meant to be a journey that you go through alone.

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith: Until next time, everyone, live fully, love boldly, and rest intentionally.

I Choose My Best Life Podcast is one of the  Top 20 Christian Women Podcasts

I Choose My Best Life

Books: Colorful Connections, Sacred Rest, Come Empty, Set Free to Live Free

Connect with Saundra:

Twitter: @DrDaltonSmith