While cleaning house awhile back (yes, real men help their wives clean!), I came across a couple of old letters Jan and I had exchanged from a time earlier in our marriage when we were not doing well as a couple. As I read them, I was startled by the pain that leaked out from the pages – I knew things were bad, but I had forgotten how bad.
Then it dawned on me – we hadn’t felt those feelings for years now. In fact, in reading those letters, it was like reading words written by another couple. And in a way, it was. Because when God heals us, we do become different sorts of people.
For those of you struggling in troubled marriages, let me encourage you not to give up. I can’t give you ten easy steps to healing, but if I were to boil our own journey (now over 30 years in the making) down to a few stepping stones, they would include:
1. Keep seeking God.
Never did we stop having our devotions, stop attending church, or stop our lips from praying. Through all the mess, Janis and I had our quiet times with God most every day, and we worshipped together every Sunday. Giving up on God is the worst possible step you can take when God is all you have.
2. As best you can by God’s grace, follow the Bible’s instructions for relationships.
The Bible promises blessing to those who obey its commands. And Scripture gives us dozens of relationship commands to follow. Forgive one another. Prefer one another’s needs over your own. Love your spouse as Christ loves you. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Practice gentleness. However imperfectly you do it, put them into practice.
3. Don’t stop sleeping together.
This is a terrible mistake that too many couples make. Janis and I did everything but use duct tape and barbed wire to separate out our own turf on our queen size mattress, but we still came to that same shared 6 by 7 foot piece of furniture at day’s end.
4. Seek priestly care.
Meaning – find a counselor or someone you can trust to guide you through your healing. We’re usually blind to our own sin. A third party can see things that you can’t and point them out. Not to mention, that sometimes just simply talking about your struggles is healing in itself.
5. Eliminate the word ‘Divorce’ from your vocabulary.
It’s just too easy to go there when you’re in pain. But don’t go there. Don’t say the word. Don’t think the thought. Yes, sometimes it’s inevitable. Even necessary. And it’s not the unforgiveable sin. But in my experience, more than 90% of marriage problems are fixable. (Which means 90% of divorces don’t need to happen.) And think of what will happen when you save your marriage: you preserve your children (whose hearts are ripped apart by divorce). You preserve your wealth (for divorce inevitably leads to poverty, especially for women). And you preserve your happiness (for divorce almost always leads to depression, anger and cynicism.)
Bear Clifton, writer and screenwriter, is the pastor of BridgeWay Community Church in California, Maryland. His blogs, screenplays and devotionals can be enjoyed at his ministry website: trainyourselfministry.com and his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is also the author of “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness”, “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, “A Sparrow Could Fall”, and his latest – “Living Under The Cross”, a collection of essays on the Beatitudes – all available through Amazon.