“You are not responsible for what happened to you in the past, but you ARE responsible for what you do with your life now. Do you have the courage to be who you were meant to be?” –Cathryn L. Taylor
When we marry we bring all of the experiences of our past with us —both positive and negative. These experiences have shaped so much of how we view things and how we conduct ourselves in situations. While we can’t change the past, we do have the power to change the present and future. That’s what we learn from Dr. Gary and Barbara Rosberg’s book, Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage (Tyndale House Publishers).
On this particular issue, they wrote:
“For many years now, Barb and I (Gary) have heard a litany of familiar complaints from husbands and wives who came into their marriages negatively influenced by our culture and their families of origin.
“Speaking of their own marriages and hurts, they say things like: ‘I just don’t know how to do this right’; ‘I grew up in a dysfunctional home, so I don’t know what normal is’; ‘No one ever taught me how to deal with conflicts’; ‘My parents’ example is so ingrained in me, I’ll never be able to change.’
“You may feel the same hopelessness, the same inability to change. You may feel destined to live out the same ineffective patterns in your own marriage. But that’s like giving up on a garden because the soil is too hard or too rocky or infested with weeds. Have you ever hear of a pick, shovel, hoe, soil amendments, and a little hard work?
“In the same way you can change the condition of soil and unlearn bad patterns of dealing with conflict and learn new ones. It’s never too late to learn and implement the biblical principles for forgiving love.
“It is our God-given responsibility to cultivate good soil in our marriage relationships so that our children and grandchildren will have a biblical pattern to follow in their marriages.
“The psalmist wrote: ‘For [God] issued his decree to Jacob; he gave his law to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, so the next generation might know them—even the children not yet born—that in turn might teach their children. So each generation can set its hope anew on God, remembering his glorious miracles and obeying his commands ‘ (Psalm 78:5-7).
“As you divorce-proof your marriage through forgiving love, you will help your children to divorce-proof their marriages.
“So what are you doing to alter the patterns you learned? How are you making your marriage different from that of your parents? How can you bequeath to your children a family legacy that is more biblical and positive than that of your family of origin?
“You look at this responsibility in two ways. You can think of it as a tremendous burden and a lot of hard work. Or you can welcome it as an opportunity to pass on to your children something that was not passed on to you. Even if you didn’t grow up in a healthy home, you can commit yourself to developing healthy patterns for resolving conflict.
“The family you came from is important, but it’s not as important as the family you’ll leave behind. Identify from your family of origin the barriers to communication and healthy conflict resolution. Gain whatever insight you can from the past, deal with the emotional pain of it, and then move on to developing new patterns that include confession and forgiveness of offenses and healing of hurts.
“As you leave behind and begin to create a more positive present, you’ll bless the next generation. One way or another, you will leave your handprints all over the personalities and hearts of your children. Will you leave behind a generation that will reach the world for Christ, or will you give up at the daunting task and let them go their own way?
“What are you doing to give your children the spiritual training and skills they will need for their lives and marriages? What kind of godly heritage are you leaving them? The key is found in establishing a home that honors God, a home where each individual is encouraged to develop a relationship with Jesus, a home where people make mistakes and fail each other but recognize they have the power, through God, to be transformed.
“Conflict in your marriage is inevitable, but you don’t have to remain trapped in the dysfunctional patterns of resolving conflict you learned from your parents or the world around you.”
Cindy and I believe that each of us, as couples, have a responsibility to break free from whatever negative patterns we brought into our marriage. Even if we’ve been married 39+ years it’s not too late to change. After all isn’t that what Jesus specializes in —making us into new creations?
Yes. But we must cooperate with the process because He won’t force it on us —we’re given a free will. If we pro-actively seek and participate, the positive changes are nothing less than amazing!
If your marriage is going in an unhealthy direction, that’s what we encourage you to do, work with God in doing whatever you can to re-direct it in a good direction. Your children deserve to have a healthy, God-honoring marriage modeled for them. Please don’t buy into the lie that you’ll “never be able to change” or that once things are bad, they won’t get better. That’s just not true.
Even if you never had a good marriage modeled for you, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do what it takes, in working with God, to eventually live within and model a good marriage for your children and those God brings your way.
Go with God, knowing that He is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).
Steve and Cindy Wright
A friend of this ministry, Shelley, who is a prayer counselor from Canada, sent us the following prayer, which God inspired her to write. We believe it’s appropriate for every one of us to consider praying this —that God reveals Truth to us, and shows us where we need to change, so that we may participate with Him more fully as He works within us and in the lives of those He brings our way:
Thank you, that if we ask You — You will reveal the inner motivation of our hearts…
Show us where we are wounded and offended. In Your great mercy, show us where we have come into wrong agreements with the enemy, agreements that skew our thinking… wrong agreements where we agree that we are self-justified in our anger and judgements.
Help us to learn to test our thoughts and see if they proceed from the Spirit, the flesh or the enemy. Help us to understand what the “fruit” of our thought will be, whether fruits of the Spirit, bringing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control or “fruit of the enemy” —bitterness, wrath… condemnation… causing a closed heart, inability to trust… bringing isolation.
Break our hearts in love before You; that we may respond to and from Your great love. You are our Great Healer. All of our understanding flows from a heart that is soft and responsive to You.
Thank you for your great love O God, for your healing and cleansing through Jesus Christ, Amen.
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