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Outpost Stories

When Mathieu and Christine Ferland married in 2001, they imagined a happily ever after – endless romance, partnership in ministry, and freedom from the sins and struggles of youth. They quickly realized that the rosy portrait in their minds was not consistent with the gritty reality of life together. While Christine struggled with codependency and its related feelings of inadequacy, along with bouts of depression, Mathieu found himself depending on his successes at work for fulfillment and believing that performance equated to worth. Adventuring as a family to France offered newness and distraction, but eventually led to increased tension, distance, and struggle in their marriage. Read their story to see how the Lord met them when they were both at the end of their respective ropes, gently leading them to tear down their idols and live for God alone. As they surrendered to the Lord, he restored their marriage, brought about unexpected healing, and carried them back across the Atlantic for another adventure – this time in Wyoming. 

Mathieu and Christine Ferland

Christine: I was born and raised in Belgium as a pastor’s daughter. My parents followed the Lord and set an example of obedience. My heart was always tender towards the Lord, and I always knew that I wanted to walk in His ways. When I was thirteen, our family relocated to Canada. The adjustment to a new way of life, which included homeschooling, was challenging. I felt bored, depressed and lonely.

 

In that aching loneliness, Christine sought the comfort of the Lord. Reading the Psalms and praying brought a sweet closeness with the Lord. Yet, in the continuing alone-ness, Christine also fantasized about finding fulfilment and happiness in a future romantic relationship. One day, she hoped, her Prince Charming would appear and carry Christine off to the land of happily-ever-after. 

 

Mathieu: I was born in Quebec, and, when I was seven, my parents both came to Christ. The majority of my upbringing was Gospel-focused, yet it wasn’t until I was 17 that I truly surrendered my own life to Christ. As a teen, I was never quite comfortable in my own skin. I wanted to fit in, and I also developed the pattern of basing my identity and sense of worth on my accomplishments. Exposure to pornography became a stumbling block for me. As I prepared to graduate from high school, I realized that I needed to make a decision for Christ. It wasn’t enough to have half-hearted moral fences around my life. I needed to be all in. 

In Quebec, defining yourself as a Christ-follower meant facing immediate ostracism. Mathieu had to make a choice to be set-apart, to be different, and to care more about pleasing God that pleasing man. Studying biology in university proved to be a harsh but fruitful testing ground for Mathieu. Professors ridiculed Mathieu for his beliefs, and, in response, he became bold and confident in his faith. A few close friends held Mathieu accountable and mentored him. Together they participated in campus evangelism, and Mathieu dreamed of one day pastoring a church. 

Mathieu: At the same time, I was struggling with performance – idolizing my academic success. It started to feel unacceptable to fail. Pornography continued to be an issue in my life and I wrestled with guilt for failing to keep my own standards in that area. I carried a mixture of guilt and self-assurance. 

After high school, Christine attended a Bible college. When a close friend introduced her to her brother (Mathieu), Christine imagined she had met her Prince. Their relationship seemed perfect: two people seeking the Lord, falling in love, and starting a Christ-focused life together. But after they married, in 2001, at ages 19 and 22, those cheerful feelings of romance and spiritual unity dissipated. Christine’s expectations for affection and understanding went unmet as Mathieu’s patterns of performance-driven guilt became evident. 

Mathieu: The twin expectations of a happy marriage and a pursuit of ministry both toppled during our early marriage. I couldn’t make my wife happy and I felt I was not performing well as a husband. I continued to struggle with sexual purity, which frustrated me and led to more guilt. I distanced myself from Christine because I felt guilt, shame, and pressure. She ran harder after me to receive affirmation. This created a cycle that spiraled through our marriage for many years. Additionally, I was being trained for ministry, but struggled to have the discipline to complete my independent studies. I was not performing well as a student, and the guilt I felt eventually led me to step off the ministry path. 

After leaving ministry, Mathieu took over his dad’s roofing business. He enjoyed the work and the leadership. Career successes filled his need for performance-based validation, and he poured himself into his work. In 2006, the Ferlands welcomed their first child – a baby girl named Blanche. Twin boys (Laurier and Romain) followed a couple of years later, and Christine stayed home to care for her little ones. Mathieu was a loving, though often busy or absent, father, and it was Christine who provided much of the nurture and spiritual training for their young children. She treasured being a mother, even as co-dependency and depression continued to be a struggle. She sought relationships and growth through their local church as the patterns of neediness and disconnect continued in her marriage.  

"God became more real to me than ever. I sought comfort in His embrace, and my knowledge of His sovereignty and sufficiency became practical and necessary for my daily existence".

-Christine

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Christine: When the boys were toddlers, we took a Sunday School class on marriage, which opened my eyes in a new way to understand the way the Gospel applies to all of life. I began to see my sin more clearly, and the sweetness of the Gospel also became clearer. This was a slow turning point for me of learning to depend on God daily. 

For more than a decade, Mathieu ran his business, and their family knew times of distinct joy together. Life was good. But beneath the surface, their tandem struggles continued to push them apart: a widening fissure in the bedrock of their marriage. Christine sought mental healing in a variety of anti-depressants. Mathieu distanced himself – not wanting to suffer her sufferings, and also wanting to avoid the feelings of guilt that mounted when he faced the fact that he could not “fix” his wife or make her happy. He struggled to experience God’s love while believing his worth was based on his performance. 

After a two-year stint in camp ministry that left both Christine and Mathieu weary, the Ferlands were eager for a fresh start and a new adventure. They decided to move to France – a place they had enjoyed on previous vacations. The adventure included ups and downs in both work and spiritual community. Christine was riding an emotional roller coaster as her daily mood fluctuated with Mathieu’s level of attention and affection. She had stopped taking anti-depressants, and found that each month’s hormonal changes brought an increase in depression and instability. 

Mathieu: For the first time, I really felt frustrated by Christine’s struggle. I did not think I deserved to have to walk her path of suffering with her. So, I began to distance myself. 

Christine: As I was facing Mathieu’s rejection, God became more real to me than ever. I sought comfort in His embrace, and my knowledge of His sovereignty and sufficiency became practical and necessary for my daily existence.

As Christine clung to the Lord in her deep loneliness, she held tightly to Isaiah 54:5, “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.” She realized she had been asking Mathieu to fulfill a role he wasn’t meant to fill; she had been depending on him for her happiness and wholeness, rather than being sustained by the One whose love was perfect and unchanging. She had made Mathieu her idol, rather than worshipping God alone.

Simultaneously, Mathieu’s faith was faltering. He resented both Christine’s fragility and his own imperfection.  As Mathieu wrestled with his faith and his circumstances, the Lord revealed His unalterable love to Mathieu, tenderly calling Mathieu back into relationship. In his kindness, the Lord began to show Mathieu the lies that had seeped into his faith and practice. Knowing he was loved in spite of his failures changed Mathieu’s perspective. 

The Ferlands began – together – to follow the Lord on yet another life-changing adventure. As God was working in their hearts and drawing them slowly back together, He led them to cross back over the ocean and land in the little town of Cody, Wyoming. 

Christine: Once we were in Cody, we immediately got plugged in at Outpost. We joined a community group, we made new and wonderful friends, and we began attending the ReGeneration ministry. Through ReGen, I was able to admit that I have no power over my brokenness and sinful patterns, and that only God can fully restore me. In the last year, I have learned to submit my will and emotions daily to the Lord and turn away from the lies I used to believe. Sanctification and forgiveness are a process. Codependency is still there, but, with God’s help, I am able to confess this struggle faster at thought-level and believe that God is more valuable than human affirmation.  

Mathieu: We came to Cody with a desire to offer our children a future with more freedoms, freedom of religion and of conscience among others. At the same time, we were concerned about finding a cultural, individual and shallow Christianity. We were surprised and grateful to find Outpost. This local body of believers has been, without question, our greatest blessing since our arrival in the States, and such a support to us as we faced challenges in our new life. We have seen our kids grow immensely in their intimacy with Jesus and their involvement in meaningful relationships within the church. After years of loneliness and isolation from deeper relationships with other Christian men, I have found again the encouragement, accountability and protection of a community of men who can speak into my life and into whose lives I can speak as well. 

 

The Ferlands’ story is one of God’s grace, redemption, and continuing sanctification. While they know their story will not be perfected until Heaven, they have learned to wholly depend on God for each day’s challenges. They are sustained and upheld by His right hand, and they are seeing the fruit of their dependance on Him. 

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” Jude 24-25

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