There are days when being married is just downright miserable.
That’s true for even the healthiest, most God honoring marriages in the church. If you go into marriage thinking it’s going to be an uninterrupted symphony of laughter, joy, sex and perfect holiday memories, you’re going to be disappointed. And if no one tells you marriage is designed to expose your sin, teach you about grace and make you more like Jesus, you’ll bail when it gets hard. Or, you’ll stay and be miserable.
As we talked about on Sunday at Restoration City, God hates divorce. (Malachi 2:16, NASB) Even in circumstances where divorce is permissible, like sexual infidelity, it isn’t required or even preferred. This means the church should be in the business of saving marriages. But if we look at the divorce rates within the church, it’s clear that the strategy of prohibiting divorce and shaming those who are divorced isn’t working. We need to find ways of upholding the Scripture’s teaching while building into the marriages in our churches.
So, what would I say to a couple trapped in a miserable marriage? Let me offer three thoughts that work on bad days, bad seasons and even the days when you want to throw in the towel.
Look To Yourself
Nothing is easier than blaming your spouse for everything that’s wrong in your marriage. You know them better than anyone else on the planet, including all of their sins, struggles and shortcomings. So, it becomes really easy to pin the whole mess on them. If he would just get in shape and earn more money, we would be happy. If she would just spend less and have more sex, we would be happy.
But what if we were more willing to look to ourselves first and our spouses second. Of course they aren’t perfect. But neither are we. Where is your selfishness, pride and lack of grace the real issue? What could you change about you?
I wonder how many marriages could be saved by praying Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”
Look to God
God created marriage to make the gospel visible in our world. (Eph. 5:22-27). There’s simply no way to do that without His grace and power. And nothing accesses the grace and power of God like prayer. Psalm 105:4, “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” Simply put, the power of God is found in the presence of God.
Couples who won’t pray together are hiding from the only One who can change hearts, work miracles and heal deep wounds of the soul. Please don’t say you are doing everything possible to improve your marriage if you aren’t taking the time to pray for and with each other.
Look to Others
Careful with this one. I’m not talking about texting the friend who always takes your side. And I’m definitely not talking about calling your mom to complain about your spouse! I’m talking about asking other couples, members of your Community Group or pastors to walk alongside of you.
There’s everything right with asking for help, seeking wise counsel and asking other couples to speak into your situation. Seeing a counselor isn’t taboo. Scheduling an appointment with a pastor who loves you isn’t a sign you failed. Reading a book on marriage doesn’t show that you’re inept.
And, in some circumstances, seeking outside help is absolutely essential. Any form of abuse or physical safety requires outside help. So do most mental health, chemical dependency and addiction issues. Don’t allow fear to trap you into fighting on your own.
I’m not naive enough to think those three suggestions will turn every marriage around in three days. Sometimes restoration takes months or years. Sometimes it never happens. But God didn’t design you to be trapped in a miserable marriage. He called You to experience Him in deep and mysterious ways through the joys and struggles of marriage.