Marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman intended by God to last until the death of one of the two in the union. Considering that most of us won’t die young, this is a covenant that should last for the majority of our lives if we choose to enter into this commitment at a young age. At 38 years old I’m not considered old by most standards. I have only lived through two decades of being an adult and experiencing marriage myself. In this short time, I have seen good times in so many marriages, but unfortunately it seems that in these past years I have witnessed many marriage relationships plagued with sorrow.

In our 20s everyone was getting married and having children. Yes, we all had our problems, but for the most part everyone seemed happy and looking forward to the future with their spouse. Between weddings and baby showers, celebrations were often among our family and friends. Little did any of us know or could grasp that within some marriages there were things that were building up that would lead to a place that no one ever could have imagined.

So now, in our 30s, I am sad to say that instead of happy marriages with growing children, some are experiencing distraught and frustration sometimes leading to infidelity, separation, or divorce. A future with their spouse is now a scary thought; one that may bring on feelings of hopelessness and despisement. Although there are still celebrations with all the children’s birthdays, many have become tainted or complicated because marriages have gone awry. 

TURMOIL

There are various levels of turmoil that happens in all marriages as two people are learning what it means to become one. Adversely, what ends up happening to some is that there are little things that aren’t dealt with in the first years that turn into even bigger things over time. It’s not that couples don’t know that there are problems, as they deal with them every day, but they don’t comprehend the brevity of them and don’t know how to effectively pull themselves out of what seems like a never ending cycle of heated, unproductive, and eventually pointless communication on certain matters. They don’t really understand how it can get so off track until the day when everything comes crumbling down. If you have been to this place in your marriage you know exactly what I’m talking about.

That day is the day when all those years of build up comes to a head and something devastating is found out and/or something drastic is done. To some it’s no surprise, but many times at least one spouse is caught off guard because they thought everything was fine. Now, tearfully, what once felt like a future of hope and security in keeping wedding vows, feels like lies in a horrible nightmare that they need to wake up from as it just seems so surreal.

Don’t think that this only happens to marriages that are noticeably rocky. It can even happen to those where the good outweighs the bad, as the small drip of bad that lingers has the potential for long-term corrosion. The dilemma then is that there becomes critical underlying issues that couples don’t know how to resolve and don’t realize what it will take to pull themselves out. They get stuck in a hole that had only started as a rut that is heading toward a grave which will become the death of their marriage unless something drastic changes.

CHANGES

When that devastating day happens it changes the relationship forever. Thankfully, many have a foundation in their faith that brings them back together, but that alone will not be enough if they don’t take their faith to the extreme in healing their marriage. I have wondered why some have been able to overcome such adversity where it seems other faithful Christians have failed. There are factors I can point to such as commitment to vows or love of children, and while those things are of tremendous importance and of value in pushing disheartened people to hold to their covenant, when everything goes so wrong in marriage there is one factor that rings louder for restoration than anything else. That is practicing extreme humility.

I call it extreme humility because this humility will go against everything you think and feel when your marriage has gotten to this point, but extreme humility is exactly what it takes to rebuild what has been torn down. The ideal marriage would be in perfect balance functioning as God designed. Yet realistically, we know there is always something we need to work on, and when longlasting evil has been lurking in a marriage then extremes is what you have to go to to get close to balance again.

What does extreme humility look like? It is what Jesus portrayed when He went to the cross. It’s choosing to submit yourself to serve hard-hearted men in spite of the wrong they have done. Deciding to be quiet even when being chastised. Looking out for the best interest of another by sacrificing yourself. Loving someone’s soul enough to do what they need to heal. Putting aside your entitlement for a higher purpose. Appealing to a greater power in strict obedience. Having the compassion even on the unrepentant to say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

What does this mean practically? It means that you will have to empty everything of yourself for the sake of another even if you feel they don’t deserve it. Every inch of pride has to be let go. Even if you feel you are innocent of any wrong, stop pointing the finger at the guilty and turn to yourself because there is always something you are guilty of. Be willing to be transparent, especially if you have broken trust, being accountable to every reasonable request even if you don’t understand why your spouse needs it. Patiently listen openly without accusing or assuming bad intentions recognizing that we all have a difficult time finding the right words to genuinely express ourselves. Be quiet, notably when angry, until you can decide whether your words are going to help or hinder the situation. Apologize profusely for any mishap even if it was provoked by your spouse. Speak encouraging words and do pleasing tasks expecting nothing in return. Forgive daily all wrongdoing of your spouse without exception remembering that God forgives you of all wrong. While practicing this, keep in mind that none of this means that any sinful actions that have been done are okay or that church discipline is not needed, but you are taking total responsibility for your influence and contribution to provoke healing, repentence, and deter any further sin without blaming another for your own shortcomings.

This is not about being a doormat, but about choosing to fight with good the evil that has entered your marriage. It takes exceptional perseverance and strength to choose this course with the understanding that the only reward you may receive from your submission is from God. You’re not the doormat who does nothing while allowing others to wipe their filth on you. You do this with the purpose to save the sanctity of your marriage by exposing the filth to purity, throwing it out of your home where it doesn’t belong. This is not about weakness but about courage in the midst of a burning home; courage to love someone greater than yourself for the sake of dousing the deadly flames that burn their heart and yours. 

PERSPECTIVE

There’s so much that must be mended, revealed, and learned when marriages get to this point of crisis, and I highly recommend you seek counsel and accountability from faithful sources. What I am essentially advocating here is a focus on a Christ-like perspective to guide your thoughts and actions in every aspect of learning how to resolve your conflicts and heal all the unintenional pain. I call it unintentional because for most indescretions by decent people you will find that the hurt that you are feeling from wrongs against you was more about the personal weakness and selfishness of the other person and not about intentionally causing you harm. 

Maybe upon reading this you think it sounds ridiculous and that this won’t help your particular situation. I don’t deny that every circumstance is unique in its own ways, that God does provide an avenue for divorce when there’s sexual immorality, and that there are those situations that are too severe that I feel unequipped to give counsel. However, when you are using every excuse you can to justify why this will not work for your own marriage you must carefully examine your perspective and why it seems so right to you. I ask, where is your marriage right now? Have you gone to this extreme? I’m not talking about for a few days, a few weeks, a few months, or even a few years. That’s nothing compared to the damage that has escalated for so many years, and so you can’t expect this to work swiftly and uncomplicatedly with ease. That’s not reality. The great thing is, if there is authentic repentence and both spouses are willing to learn to go to the extreme in humility, it will take a length of time but not the ten or so years it took to get to this place of disarray. On the other hand, this is not a guarantee that your marriage will be saved since you are dealing with another free will person. Still, even if only one spouse is willing to do this, with much longsuffering, you will have a much higher chance of influencing your spouse for good, restoring marital confidence, and living peacefully together. Many times the change comes with one person before the other.

When striving to restore your marriage you will have so much to wade through, volumes to learn, and be so unskilled at it. Adhering to the mindset of lowering yourself to the same level of your Savior, Who became a bondservant to all, will continue to bring you through discord. By conforming to Christ’s example in extreme humility He brings you through times when someone needs to say something and everything comes out wrong, anger in dealing with lasting consequences of one’s actions, bitterness in the loss of trust and friendships, guilt over sins, justification in rehashing one’s faults, urges to walk out the door to aquire divorce papers, and gobs more. You will have to work diligently at all this, but your marriage can be restored far above anything you could’ve fathomed. It will not be smooth, easy, or pretty, yet it will be worth every bit of self that you forfeit especially when you start seeing a brighter future and stronger marriage than ever before. Just as your humble Teacher gave all to undeserving men and went to the grave to be resurrected for their renewal, you determine to give all unconditionally so that your lifelong covenant can be resurrected from the grave and transformed to a new vitality that will last “til death do us part.”

Prayer:
Marriage is a beneficial covenant created by You, O Lord. It is to be honored and is worthy of every sacrifice given by man to uphold its sanctity. Because of this, I recognize that I need to do everything within my ability to uphold this established promise. I humbly follow your standards in the ways that I should serve as a {husband/wife} always remembering that my role is essential to the harmony of my marriage. When there is turmoil, I look unto Christ as the author of my thoughts and actions, allowing Him to teach me how to discern my behavior towards my spouse. I commit to go to great lengths in lowliness and charity to be sure that my vows are upheld. I tenderly love my spouse in the way that {he/she} needs to encourage faithfulnees to You, Father. I forgive all wrongs against me as You forgive my trespasses. I courageously fight with good any evil that threatens my family, fearing and trusting that Your justice will eternally take care of all unrighteousness. How grateful I am for Your tender grace and mercy that cleanses downtrodden hearts to restore marital unity. Your statutes are excellent and I submit to them unconditionally. Amen.

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Scripture References:

The establishment of the lifelong covenant of marriage by God/ approved reason for divorce

Gen. 1:27, 2:20-24
Matt. 19:3-9
Mark 10:6-12
Rom. 7:2-3

Roles of husband and wife – although the husband is the head, notice the humility that’s needed to fullfil each role

Eph. 5:22-23 
1 Pet. 3:1-7
Col. 3:18-19

Christ’s example by way of the cross

Matt. 26:47-27:56
Mark 14:43-15:41
Luke 22:47-23:49
John 18:1-19:37

Christ-like perspective

Matt. 5-7
Phil. 2:3-8
Heb. 12:1-3
1 Cor. 13:4-7
Rom. 12:16-21

Keep your marriage vows even with the unbelieving/disobedient

1 Cor. 7:10-16, 39
1 Pet. 3:1-3

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Helpful books:

Forgiveness/trust

Let It Go by T.D. Jakes

Ideas to help learn to give what your spouse needs

His Needs, Her Needs by Willard F. Harley

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman

Communication/conflict resolution

Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson

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