Are you dealing with issues that are causing some type of marital division or separation? As difficult as this may seem, it’s truly not unusual. It’s difficult, but not unusual.
“Everyone comes into marriage with their own hurts, wounds, and spiritual ‘baggage.’ Maybe your wife’s siblings teased her. Maybe your husband’s former girlfriend cheated on him and broke his heart. Maybe your spouse’s parents were abusive, or neglectful. The possibilities, sadly, are endless.
“Before a casual relationship morphs into a permanent commitment, many men and women see a hurting person and think, I want to help them. But something about marriage often turns that around and makes us say, ‘Why does he have to be that way?’ Our spouse’s needs once elicited feelings of nurture and compassion. Now those same hurts tempt us toward bitterness and regret.
“Before we get married is the time to make a character-based judgment. (‘Do I really want to live with this person’s wounds?’) Once the ceremony has ended, God challenges us to maintain an attitude of concern and nurture instead of resentment and frustration.” (Gary Thomas from the Garythomas.com article “How to Appreciate an Imperfect Spouse”)
Dealing With Our Issues
Our plea to you is this: whether the issues are ones you dragged into the marriage, or they began with just the two of you, it’s important to make it your mission to work through them so you’re no longer divided.
Why do we say that? It’s because Jesus told us “what God has joined together, let no man (or woman) separate.” And that means either one of you as well as anyone else.
As a married couple, if you have issues that are separating you from living Christ in your marriage, then because of the vows you made to each other (and to God), it should become your mission to work on them until you experience the “oneness” God demands.
Those words may seem harsh, but they’re true. We’ve had to learn this the hard way. For years and years, Steve and I just didn’t “get it” as far as the importance of making it our mission to work through issues that divided us. We would go along like most couples waiting until something happened and then react to it (usually NOT in healthy ways). Instead we should have been pro-active and dealt with the root of the problem.
It’s like what Harville Hendricks said, “Until you heal to wounds of the past, you continue to bleed.” And the bleeding from hurts in our past caused soreness that we dragged into our marriage unhealed.
Excess Baggage Issues
Some of the issues we dragged into the marriage as excess baggage. We were unaware that they were there ready to spring up to cause problems. Other issues came up because of the reality of two very different people living together in marriage. We battled through unrealistic expectations and personality quirks. Also, we battled because one of us didn’t like something the other was saying or doing. You know the routine. You probably have some of your own.
We’ve come to learn something important. The Bible points out that marriage is a living picture of Christ’s love for the church. So, as God “followers” aren’t we ripping apart that picture when we act unhealthy and unloving towards each other? Aren’t we telling the world that Christian love is unhealthy as well? Think about it.
As followers of Christ, we should have the BEST marriages —the healthiest possible! Shouldn’t we, who serve God —the One whose very name means LOVE, take Him up on learning what He can teach us ESPECIALLY when it comes to marriage?
If we don’t live out love in its truest way, what does that say to a world that NEEDS God’s love? It seems that we’re essentially saying (as Dr Norm Wright says):
“As Christians, we’re no different than anyone else.” We may be communicating the gospel with our words, but we also need to communicate it by our actions, as well. And that will take intentionality and work that at times will seem costly.
“Marriage is more than sharing a life together; it’s building a life together. What you do now is for both, and what is said for now is for both. Your purpose is now for the kingdom and giving glory to the image of God.”
Working With God’s Purpose
To work with God in this “purpose” it’s important to note something Mike Williamson wrote:
“A good, lifelong marriage doesn’t just happen. …There isn’t any magic, mystery, or luck to having a lasting satisfying marriage. The path for such a marriage is well traveled; many have walked it. It is so well marked that most any couple can have a successful marriage if they follow the path.
“What is the path? Jesus said, ‘I am the way the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but through me’ (John 14:6). Jesus is the path. Faith in Him and obedience to Him and to the Bible is the path for a godly, lifelong marriage.
“Jesus called us not only to be believers, but also to be His disciples. We cannot follow Jesus without submitting to His discipline –without living a disciplined life. Jesus instructs us to count the cost of following Him. (See Matthew 7:21-29; Matthew 8:19-22; and Matthew 10:32-42. Also see: Matthew 16:24-25; Luke 6:46-49; Luke 14:25-35.) In the same way, having a godly, lifelong relationship with your spouse comes at a cost” (from the pre-marriage workbook, “Building Your Marriage Upon the Rock”).
In the Bible
Jesus said, “A new command I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). Are you living a life of love with your spouse so that all “will know” that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ?
We’re told in James 1, “Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does.”
“I believe if we understand the level of commitment God requires of us in marriage, we will do anything and everything we can, not just to make our marriage survive, but to make them successful. You see, a Christian marriage goes beyond an earthly partnership. It’s a commitment involving three individuals —the husband, the wife, and Jesus Christ. (Dr Norm Wright One Marriage Under God: Building an Everlasting Love)
Working Together on Issues
Within this “cord of three strands” that is noted in Ecclesiastes 4, you are with intentionality, to work through TOGETHER whatever challenges and changes life delivers.
“As changes occur in your lives, it is your challenge as a married couple to use them to draw yourselves closer together rather than allow them to tear you apart. Throughout your married life you will suffer losses. Some will be small, some large, some will even be devastating. You may have to endure miscarriages, stillbirths, job or career losses, illnesses, accidents, and any other of hundreds of setbacks. How you respond to each will affect your marriage relationship and the story your marriage tells” (Dr Norm Wright from book One Marriage Under God: Building an Everlasting Love.
Please note that the story will be told to a world that needs to know our God. If you both confess to being Christians, please note below what Stormie Omartian wrote about in her book, The Power of Prayer to Change Your Marriage. It pertains to coming to a place where you deal with issues so you both come to agreement. But also, and most importantly, God must agree.
On this matter Stormie Omartian wrote:
“In order for a marriage to not only survive, but also to be fulfilling and successful, there needs to be three parties involved: the husband, the wife, and God. The reason marriages have issues in the first place is because every married couple is made up of two imperfect people. One imperfect human plus another imperfect human equals one imperfect marriage.
“However, if you add the presence of a perfect God into the mix of two imperfect people, then you then have unlimited possibilities for growing closer to the perfection God intended for the marriage relationship. Whether that happens or not is determined by how frequently and fervently God is invited to reign in the hearts of both the husband and wife. It has to do with being willing to have three agree.
“You and your spouse can agree about something, but if can still be an issue if GOD doesn’t agree with it. For example, if your spouse wants you to view a film that has sexually explicit scenes in it and you agree to it, this is a compromise you have BOTH chosen, but it doesn’t agree with GOD’S WORD. Therefore, God doesn’t agree with it. The two of you may be fine with it, but it offends God and violates His laws.
Going God’s Way
“If it’s a point of contention with God, it will always be an issue in your lives together. It will inhibit all that God wants to do in each of you and your marriage. You may agree on something together. But if it doesn’t agree with God, it opens the door for problems that undermines your marriage.
“There are consequences for violating any law of God —whether ignorantly or knowingly. Some people think that God’s laws don’t apply to them. But that doesn’t make the consequences for violating them any less destructive. They may believe they are innocent of any violation. But God doesn’t see it that way. It’s like the law of gravity. You can jump out of a tenth-story window and deny the law of gravity all the way down. But the consequences are still going to be the same when you hit the ground. God’s laws are for our benefit. Life works better for us when we live by them.”
We know that the best stories are told when both spouses work together in oneness with God in His plan for their lives. But even if your spouse won’t work with you in this way, God still has a plan. He has a story to tell as you deal with issues in your marriage in a way that reflects His way of doing things.
Revealing Our Issues
If nothing else, something that author Gary Thomas points out is true:
“Marriage reveals my spiritual weaknesses. It gives me the opportunity to master patience, forgiveness, faithfulness, goodness, and other virtues God is trying to build in us. In fact, that might be God’s most important purpose for your marriage. It is to help you to grow up.
“Marriage brings out a lot of bad attitudes in each of us. Biblical God-centered love in action is what makes a marriage a success. …God teaches us what love is, not based on human expectations. It is based on God-centered love.”
We hope you will ask God to show you how to deal with your issues in “God-centered” ways. It will be a huge challenge. But it is worth it and it is the right thing to do. Of course, we have many articles you can read to help you with this mission. And we also have resource suggestions on our web site that can help you through this process. Please look around.
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ALSO —
Shera Thiele answers the question (and more), “How can life partners demonstrate love and intimacy even when they hurt?” To learn what she explains, please read:
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