When I was a parole officer I had a certain partner for many years. He was a bit older and married for several years while I was seeking a mate. One day he said of marriage, “There are days that you really hate that person you married.” ‘Agh!’ I thought, ‘what kind of marriage does he have?’
That was probably 30 years ago.
Paul’s prophetic warning in II Timothy 3, “There will be terrible times in the last days” also depicts therein the state of marriage. While the world is bombarded with immorality and apostasy, Christian marriages are a prized target because our life and marriage should be a light that honors God. The shock, betrayal and anguish caused by discovered adultery, pornography and deception is doubled by the confusing questions, “Didn’t I marry a Christian?” “How did God allow this to happen?” “How could he/she do such things – where was the Holy Spirit?” and…
“What should I do? What would God have me do?” “Is God finished here?”
(If someone is in an abusive marriage there should be no question about leaving, only prayer for strength to leave. Nearly every large precinct has a ‘domestic abuse officer’ – call them. Believe me, many people find God in jail and so can your spouse.)
However, most marriages are not dying from abuse, they are either a) suffering deeply from the pummeling anguish of betrayal and/or b) slowly dying from erosion, drifting, and indifference. The questions however, remain the same.
Many Christians consider adultery to be the doctrinal ‘ticket out’ of a broken marriage. This may be the right choice if the offending spouse wants to leave. However, in many cases, the situation is complicated with remorse and some level of repentance making decisions deeply troubling. The ‘open door’ to flee marriage is an option, not a mandate, neither does it signify God’s specific will. Consider Paul and Silas captive in a harsh dungeon, Acts 16. After being humiliated, beaten and chained, the prison gates miraculously spring open! They were well able gain freedom through this ‘open door’ but their freedom would have foregone the higher will of God to save the jailer and his family. The jailer, destined for suicide, was instead saved and salvation brought to his whole family.
While no one should consider staying in an abusive or harmful manipulative marriage, there are many truths to consider when the turmoil of your relationship crushes you with disappointment, emotional pain, and loneliness.
1. God established marriage and He is for it. For those whose lives are in Christ, our Heavenly Father stands to defend His daughters and sons and will pay back those who afflict them. If the offender is a backslidden Christian, believe in God’s ominous chastisement – it is inevitable.
2. God hates divorce, as stated in Malachi 2:16, which does not mean it is always avoidable but woe to he or she that irreparably damages what God has established. Adulterers, abandoners, and abusers will be held accountable.
3. Satan loves divorce, it is highly valuable to destroying a home and family with lasting consequence on future generations. In divorce Satan can “steal, kill, and destroy” all at once. His schemes orchestrate opportunities for a spouse to fulfill the lusts of his/her heart. Or, like a barrage of termites, devilish thoughts target our hearts, eating away marital foundations, while embellishing every suspicion and inflaming every wound to build an accusatory case against our spouse.
4. God foresaw your marital unhappiness, even misery. Only the Holy Spirit can reach those depths of emotional pain and He awaits our cry. Committed into His hand, He will intervene, He will make His word alive with healing and He will weave our pain into the “all things” that “work together for good”.
Whether our relationship is blown apart or dies slowly the turning point will always be when one or both parties get alone with God and determine to hear from Him. No one can hijack God’s plan for our life if we remain faithful. While the entire world fixates on personal ‘happiness’, ‘self-gratification’, and ‘self-fulfillment’ God is calling us into a separated walk with Him. “That which is highly esteemed by man is despicable in God’s eyes”. When the world, our friends, our family and even church members say “leave and move on with your life” the Lord may be saying “stay and stand in your faith”, that He may unfold His plans for our life and marriage.
Wise counsel is important and marital counseling may help but no intervention can compare with the true believer hearing from our Heavenly Father. The Lord alone responds to our hearts with promise – when He calls us to stay, He is staying with us, maintaining divine purpose in our life. ‘Divine purpose’ is nothing like worldly esteem or prestige…it is found in the inner suffering that leads to God’s glory and His eternal Kingdom. It is through suffering that we can be “conformed to the image of His Son” who suffered greatly and taught us to carry our cross and die to self will. Marital suffering hammers out the ‘self will’ with painful precision but more than that, it avails us to a deeper and more intimate walk with the Lord.
It is not easily said but God does bless the unhappy and difficult marriage when one or both therein are surrendered to Him. He stands by His sons and daughters who have been downcast and betrayed and upholds those who have been damaged by sinful and offensive decisions. But more importantly, God unveils the darkness in our midst and even in our own hearts and, in doing so, does the most critical work of sanctifying us.
I pray that, in this brief space, we can consider the complexity of marital discord for the believer. Marriage for some believers cannot be saved and they remain blameless. No one should remain in any relationship that is physically or emotionally abusive. However, most issues rooted in selfishness, carnal living, unfaithfulness to God and/or spouse, and neglect lead to increasing ‘love-less-ness’ and resentment. These are often the fruits of devilish whittling and needling, “the schemes of the devil”, targeting our own fleshly inclinations for our destruction.
We have authority in Christ to take a stand in our home and marriage and, in these end times, we dare not waste any more time lamenting of the past, ruminating over offenses, or feeding suspicion and accusations. If we’ve grown to ‘hate’ our spouse, don’t avoid prayer – take it to prayer, pour out honestly to God who already knows our inner battles and pain….
“Lord, I confess to you every dark and painful thought and inclination of my heart – come into my heart with the flashlight of your word and lead me to your living hope! Don’t let me be governed by feelings but lead me in the power of the Holy Spirit! Speak to my heart, speak to my husband/wife’s heart. Bring conviction where there is sin and rebellion. Incline our hearts toward Your will for our life and marriage. Grant me wisdom and discernment to hold fast to truth and dispel the lies of the devil and the deception of my own heart. Help me to trust You for the invisible work in my spouse and help me to be humble to see the darkness of my own heart. I pray for supernatural renewal. May we fix our eyes on You, Jesus, to honor you as we await your coming Kingdom.”