When you see marriages around you dissolving, it’s normal to start wondering how yours is going to make it. It might be your parents’ marriage that didn’t last, or your brother or sister’s. Maybe you know a couple who wedded the same year as you and now you’ve witnessed their dramatic nasty divorce. You might keep up with media announcements to see famous marriages broadcast their woes and affairs oh so publicly.
No doubt, right now you can name family members, friends, ministry leaders, and church leaders who are struggling or have even announced their intentions to end their “wedded nightmare.” Perhaps your marriage is the one struggling.
Sadly, there are so many stories, and the themes so familiar, that we’ve become mostly numbed over. We can only absorb so much bad news in this world, and there is a lot, so we turn the page, scroll on down to something happier and less depressing.
Collectively we ask the same question of ourselves: If this marriage couldn’t survive, what hope is there for mine?
But bad news about marriage can be a good reminder, a wake-up call to pay attention to our own. Hearing about a dissolving marriage can motivate us to look within our own and take an honest assessment. And if your marriage is shaky, know this: I have seen many marriages miraculously resurrected. As a result, I have learned some very important truths I want to share to encourage you because:
YOUR MARRIAGE IS WORTH FIGHTING FOR!
The enemy of our souls, Satan himself, would love nothing more than to use your fear about someone else’s divorce to suggest to you that your marriage is beyond redemption, too.
Don’t listen to the whispers, the lies the deceiver loves to tell you. Instead focus on what is true. Here are nine truths about all marriages and the common pathway to dissolution.
1. No one is exempt from marriage failure, even those in ministry. Dennis and I have felt the bullseye on our backs many times through the years. It is by perseverance, lots of hard work, repeated repentance and forgiveness, and God’s work in our hearts that we have survived and are thriving.
2. No marriage dies suddenly overnight.The only way a marriage ends instantly is when one spouse dies.
3. All marriage deaths begin as slow leaks, small compromises, little sins ignored, or forgiveness dismissed as “It’s no big deal.” The cancer that kills marriages begins almost invisibly in easy-to-overlook moments that seem harmless but gradually erode the foundation of the relationship. The decision to end may be sudden, even dramatic. But the disease was present long before the outward signs of emotional distance, empty communication, pretending to be happy, or infidelity became visible.
4. For a marriage to make it, feeding and nourishing the relationship can NEVER stop. Marriage is a living relationship. When you stop paying attention to its health … when you assume that “all is well” … your relationship begins to unravel or unwind. Just as most of us schedule annual physical checkups for our health, and undergo preventative screenings, so marriages must have regular checkups–spiritual and relational health evaluations–to detect small cellular level malignancies.
5. No spouse is perfect.It’s too easy to proclaim the faults of your spouse.
I’m not perfect and neither is my husband. We are sinful, selfish, and desperately need the gospel in our lives every single day.
In the last four years of our marriage we have struggled through some rough waters. So much life change happened all at once and it impacted both of us very differently. We both felt unheard, unappreciated by the other.
I’m confident our enemy the devil was watching, sharpening his claws, eagerly watching for the stress to create cracks and for one of us to give up on the other. And know that we both felt the temptation to quit.
It was real. The season was a hard one. But giving up was never an option. We weren’t leaving those vows of long ago now no matter how miserable we were in the present.
Why? Just as a lasting marriage requires both the husband and wife to take responsibility for nurturing each another and feeding the relationship, both must also own responsibility to quickly admit faults and ask for forgiveness. Therefore, both have responsibility before God for any marital demise. When marriages fail both spouses are guilty and both are victims of their own sin and the sin of their spouse. Romans 3:10 declares, “There is none righteous, not even one…” and Romans 3:23 adds, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
6. As long as both spouses have breath, and neither has remarried, God can heal and restore. But He must have at least one humble broken heart before Him, one spouse who is willing to do whatever it takes. Tim Keller gave a great sermon that would be worth listening to; it’s good encouragement for those of you who feel married to a spouse who isn’t investing as you would desire.
7. To say a marriage is beyond repair is to say God is not all-powerful. It is to say in God’s hearing (for He hears every word and knows every thought) that the miracle of the cross, the resurrection of a dead Jesus to life again, isn’t enough for this marriage of yours. If Jesus can defeat physical death, He can most certainly raise your dead marriage to life.
Beware, my sisters, of declaring God weak. The inspired Word of God says, “Nothing is too hard for God” (Jeremiah 32:17). God’s Word is more true than the state of your relationship with your spouse. Hundreds of couples have attended Weekend to Remember marriage getaways with divorce papers in hand only to tear them up at the end of the event. One couple who just attended recently said, “We loved each other but hated our marriage and didn’t know how to fix it. The conference saved our marriage.”
8. Marriages are often full of pain and loss. All marriages suffer regularly from mistakes, sin patterns, poor choices, and challenges with health, jobs, school, parenting circumstances, extended family issues and a lot more. Some of you are married to unbelievers, which is hard in different ways.
All suffering is real and painful. I’ve experienced it as, have many of you. But there are other kinds of marriage pain. Some marriages face abuse, addictions, or dangerous situations. Submitting to physical abuse is not God’s will. By all means, get help and talk to wise mature counselors, a trusted pastor, or the elder board at your church.
9. Separation and the threat of divorce are sometimes needed to force the seriousness of the situation to the forefront. Spouses need humility, wise counsel, and good support before making this decision and while carrying it out.
Sometimes we can see signs of neglect in someone else’s marriage. But more importantly you need to be able to identify these signs in yours. The best way to know if your marriage is in danger is to do an evaluation. And that will arrive in your inbox next Monday. Watch for it!
Ask God to give you eyes to see what He sees and already knows is there in your relationship.
Here is a prayer you might want to pray to the One who created you and your spouse and who imagined the idea of marriage in the first place.
Oh God who sees in secret,
Remind me that You see all.
every heart, every motive,
every thought before it is even known
or spoken by me.
the fears I try so hard to cover up,
the anxiety that drives me, prevents sleep,
the loneliness I thought went away with “I do.”
all the sins I pretend are not that bad …
all the habits, the loves
that I don’t want to give up.
All the things that bolster my identity;
my ministry, my friendships,
And You know
all that will truly satisfy my soul.
Give me peace, sweet sleep, greater rest in my marriage.
Help me not look to other marriages
except to be warned or to mimic the most godly and wise.
Help me look to You
the One who formed our union,
the One who knows the plans You have for us.
the One for whom nothing is too hard,
Help me surrender daily to You
and trust all Your ways.
May the challenges we find ourselves in as husband and wife.
guide us to You,
increasingly every day.
Be brave, my sisters.
God sees you and loves you and wants to give you all your heart longs for. Will you trust Him and His timing even it seems impossibly difficult today?
For more help on building oneness in marriage, click here.
For more help on conflict in marriage, click here.
For more help on romance and sex, click here.
For more help on working on a troubled marriage, click here.
For information on the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, click here.