There are few things in life more distressing than a marriage in crisis. It can make anyone feel isolated and alone. For many, it’s not that they want a divorce, but they don’t want to continue to hurt like this either. Feeling alone and unloved in a marriage is unbearable and incredibly painful. So, how do you find hope in the middle of this storm?
“BUT GOD”: There are many times throughout scripture where things seemed hopeless, BUT GOD intervened. Those two words, “BUT GOD”, are powerful because they remind us that He is able to do what we cannot do in our own strength. God is able to make a way where there seems to be no way. Matthew 19:26 says, “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’.”
God loves you and he cares about what you are going through. He wants to restore your marriage. There is hope. The same love that brought you together can be rekindled. The unresolved hurts and betrayals can be healed. The Hopeful Tomorrows Marriage Retreat will walk you through a practical, faith-driven process designed to create the breakthrough your marriage needs.
God is the ultimate difference maker, but He also expects us to do our part. Marriage is hard work, so it is important that you are willing to roll up your sleeves and do what it takes. Here are some practical things you can do to partner with God in healing your marriage.
1. Start with Prayer: Sometimes the best prayer you can pray is, “God help me. I can’t do this without you.” Don’t worry if you have never prayed much before. God is not impressed with flowery words. He is impressed with a sincere heart that seeks Him. Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7). God is a God who wants to be found. He wants to have a relationship with you, and He often does His best work when we come to the end of ourselves.
Pastor Steve Poe is fond of saying, “where prayer focuses, power falls.” Prayer changes things. Prayer is not preparation for the battle, it is the battle. So, pray that God will restore your marriage. Pray that God will soften your heart towards your spouse. Pray that God will soften your spouse’s heart toward you. Pray that God will not only heal your marriage, but that He will help you create a better marriage than you could have ever imagined.
2. Make the First Move: Many couples get stuck in a deadlock of waiting for their spouse to be the one to go first in making a move towards repair. We do this for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it feels like if we make the first move, we are somehow invalidating the real hurt we have experienced or like we are letting them off the hook. It can be especially difficult to make the first move if you feel like your spouse is clearly the one in the wrong. It’s not fair. They should be the one to go first. You may feel like you are always the one who has to make the first move.
You may be right. It may not be fair. But somebody must go first. There is an old saying that every story needs a hero. Be the hero your story needs. In a relationship, the most emotionally mature and emotionally regulated person will typically be the one who initiates repair. Keep in mind that making the first move does not mean that your needs, desires, and hurts will be brushed aside. It simply means that you are moving things forward toward trying to get the help your marriage needs.
3. Get Help: If your Christian faith is important to you, get a Christian counselor. There are many counselors out there who will give you advice that is not consistent with Biblical principles and can actually make things worse.
Traditional Christian counseling can be effective, but it is slow. You go for an hour session once per week and make a little progress, but then you go home and do more damage. When you return the following week, you are left trying to sort out all that’s happened in the past week, and it can start to feel like you are not making progress.
The Hopeful Tomorrows Marriage Retreat is helpful and effective because it consolidates into one weekend what would take months of counseling to accomplish. The weekend helps couples get the breakthrough they need so they can start to make progress more quickly.
4. Challenge the Story in Your Head: We all have a deep need to make sense of what is happening to us. We all tend to create a story in our head of what our spouse is doing and why they are doing it. For example, if your spouse comes home late without calling to let you know, you may tell yourself that you know exactly what is happening. And the story sounds something like, “you are selfish, and you care only about yourself.”
As our emotions around this story in our head grow, we tend to come on very strong with our approach and criticize them in the process. It is easy to be critical when our spouse is doing things or not doing things that hurt us. However, when we are critical it creates defensiveness in our spouse and pushes them away rather than drawing them closer to us.
The apostle Paul exhorts us to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Challenging these stories in our head is a practical application of this verse. When you find yourself creating a story in your head, ask yourself what you are feeling and what was it that made you feel that way. For example, you may be feeling uncared for or nervous and the thing that made you feel that way was that your spouse came home late without calling first to let you know.
A soft start-up has a much better chance of drawing you together as a couple rather than apart. For example, if you were to say, “I know you have a lot going on at the office, but when you come home late without calling to let me know it makes me feel nervous and uncared for.” Communicating vulnerable emotions like this is a good way to move out of the criticism trap.
5. Be Kind Even If You Don’t Feel Like It: When we are caught in our conflict cycle, it is difficult to be kind. We lose our desire to do nice things for our spouse. It feels challenging enough to just keep ourselves from escalating the conflict, much less to go out of our way to be kind.
But especially now, small acts of kindness will go a long way. Ephesians 4:32 reminds us to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Little gestures will go a long way. Send your spouse a text letting them know you are thinking about them. Surprise them with a drink from their favorite coffee shop. Find a way to take some responsibility off their plate. When you show kindness and gratitude to your spouse in an unexpected way, it will start to soften their spirit.