Does God Want to Save Your Marriage?

Does God want to save your marriage? That’s the question I consciously, and more often subconsciously, asked myself when my marriage was on the brink many years ago. Believe me when I say that I was 90% sure we were not going to make it. Things look dire.

But as I prayed and prayed, I couldn’t figure it out. I was trying so hard to make things work — reading Christian marriage resources, seeking counseling, attending Bible classes centered on making your marriage better. And I was praying. Mostly pleading in prayers that God would fix the mess that our relationship had become.

does-god-want-to-save-your-marriageI would read verses like these and wonder why He bothered to make such promises when they didn’t seem true for me:

In my distress I called to the Lord;
    I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
    my cry came before him, into his ears.

It felt like He wasn’t listening. Or didn’t care how close we were coming to our breaking point. As if He could take His sweet, eternal time, while our hearts and our marriage fell to pieces.

Yes, I was bitter and hopeless at times.

And right now, at this very moment, someone reading this blog feels the same way. You’ve been praying for your marriage, begging God for help, wondering what’s taking so long or whether He’s even listening at all. You feel so close to the edge that you’re sure your marriage will tumble over the cliff and be impossible to restore.

I cannot make guarantees about what will happen for you, but looking back at my history — and hearing the histories of others — I am convinced that God wants to save your marriage. He wants to start with your soul, but He cares deeply about your covenant with your spouse.

When you call out to God in your distress, He hears your voice. And it moves His heart.

When you call out to God in your distress, He hears your voice. And it moves His heart. Click To Tweet

For many reasons, He wasn’t kowtowing to my schedule. But the biggest reason was that He had things to teach me.

Yes, I wanted the fix-it formula for improving our marriage, I wanted to know what kind of conversations between my husband and me would result in a breakthrough, and I wanted God to change my husband so that he would understand and meet my needs. But I wasn’t really listening to God and finding out what He wanted. I wasn’t willing to learn.

Now when I read that verse from Psalm 18:6, I read it in context of the whole psalm. And what David says in this passage reflects exactly what I experienced.

1. God didn’t swoop in before the trouble happened, but at the point when David worried that all was lost.

The cords of death entangled me;
    the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
    the snares of death confronted me (v. 4-5).

Why did God wait? I don’t know. But it does take especially large doses of trust to believe that God’s got this, even when you can’t see how it’s going to work out. If you use this opportunity right, you learn to rely even more on the only one who can truly save you.

2. As much as God wanted to defeat David’s enemies, He mostly wanted to take hold of David.

He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
    he drew me out of deep waters (v. 16).

God cared about my marriage, but He wanted to start with me. I had my own set of issues I needed to work on, some that involved my husband and some that were just mine. If you aren’t working on yourself — letting God work on you — you’re not pursuing what He wants for your marriage. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: You can’t have a healthy and happy marriage when one or both of you are profoundly unhealthy and/or unhappy. You have to let God take hold of you and draw you out of your deep waters.

3. God’s rescue was in line with David’s righteousness.

The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
    according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me (v. 20).

Truthfully, when my marriage was bad, I was getting back pretty much what I put out. While praying for peace and restoration, I displayed attitudes of arrogance, contentiousness, and contempt. My intentions were good and many of my ideas on how to improve our marriage were solid, but I paid little attention to how I communicated them and treated my husband. Before you expect God to show up and fix your problems, you’d better take stock, humble yourself, and work on those areas where you lack righteousness.

The number one thing that improved my marriage was living out biblical principles. God rescued me when I fell in line with what He’d already told me to do in his Word. That’s when dealing with me according to my righteousness became hope and healing for my marriage.

4. Once David was saved, He gave credit to God for the win and for keeping him safe.

You make your saving help my shield,
    and your right hand sustains me;
    your help has made me great (v. 35).

My husband and I still annoy each other and get into arguments sometimes, but our marriage is solid and happy. Did we have to work at it? Oh yeah. Roll-up-our-sleeves, sweat-on-our-brows work at times. But now that we’re here, I’m one hundred percent certain that we wouldn’t have made it but for God. His help made us great, and He sustains us. I pray you reach this point, understanding at an even deeper level the goodness of your Heavenly Father.

Sometime today or in the next week, I hope you’ll read all of Psalm 18. As you read, consider what promises are there and what you need to change to get in line with God’s plan for your marriage. He’s listening — now listen to Him.

18 thoughts on “Does God Want to Save Your Marriage?

  1. Nick Peters

    If you have a marriage problem, the only person you can really change is you. We speak too often about who our spouse is being instead of who we are being.

    And you know one other thing about me J. I’m a strong resurrection guy. So here’s the question.

    Did God raise Jesus from the dead?

    If you answer yes, then consider this question.

    Can God save your marriage?

    If you think the answer to the former is yes and the latter is “Not within His power” you have some problems.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Great points. Personally, I don’t know whether I questioned if God could save my marriage; I questioned whether He wanted to because I believed in His power but it wasn’t happening. Of course, I now see how He was working even when I thought He wasn’t.

      Reply
      1. Nick Peters

        A sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his knowing.

        I think he cares about marriage and even in cases of sad necessity, divorce is always a tragedy and should be treated as such.

        Reply
  2. Cobus

    Thanks! I really appreciate and needed the counselling in your post. I can’t deny I have become bitter too. I even started wondering: how often does God get what He wants? Even if ideally He – and I -‘wants to save my marriage? Where is that point of picking the lesser of two evils and you give up?

    Reply
  3. Tony

    Can He? Of course.

    Will He? Who knows?

    Does He? Again, who knows? I know that 13 years ago, my ex-wife left for a man old enough to be her father. No amount of prayer, looking at my own behavior, fixing my faults, and so on seemed to make any difference. In fact, it may have pushed her further out the door.

    I don’t say this to discourage people. I say it to provide a reality check to those who would make you feel guilty if your marriage doesn’t get restored. Some will try to tell you that you didn’t have enough faith. Others will be like Job’s friends, suggesting there is some sort of sin on your part that is the reason things are happening to you.

    The reality is that sometimes people do horrible things and you suffer some of the consequences for their choices.

    If you listen too much to these others, you just might begin to question your faith.

    The bottom line is people have some measure of free will. There were people who resisted Jesus while He walked the earth. So when some do-gooder suggests that the reason your marriage isn’t getting better is because you are not enough like Jesus, just remember. People were able to resist Jesus. So don’t pin your hopes on being more like Him.

    Am I saying DON’T be like Him? Of course not. I’m saying have no expectations. Or at least have realistic expectations. You might be the closest thing to Jesus and your spouse still wants nothing to do with you.

    One thing many don’t expect is for their church to all but abandon them. Many churches don’t know what to do when your spouse is engaged in marital misconduct. My former, yes former pastor asked me what I did to force her to have an affair. That’s right, some churches, and I found mine wasn’t an outlier, blamed the betrayed spouse for the choices of the unfaithful spouse. One certainly owns some of the praise or blame for the state of the marriage. But one never, yes never owns the responsibility for another’s choice of behavior. Seems too many church leaders forget this. Churches are adept at blaming the victim.

    So I would have very low expectations for both the typical church and the typical wayward spouse. If you get better than you expect, then consider yourself fortunate.

    Finally, words are cheap. This is true from both churches and wayward spouses. Consistent action is meaningful and valuable. Words are cheap and often worthless.

    Ironic that all I’m providing here is words. I hope they provide some value to someone going through a difficult time.

    Reply
    1. Amy

      “Churches are adept at blaming the victim. ”
      Oh yes, they are…
      I lived in an abusive marriage for 20 years and at the end when my ex walked out on me, even then when it was him who left, my former church put all the burden on MY shoulders to reconcile that marriage because as one elder told me, God hates divorce and cares more about marriage staying together than whatever may be going on within the marriage. I told him I believed God cares more about a person’s heart condition and we never spoke again…and I left that church.

      Does God want to save marriages? Of course He does! Can He work a miracle within a marriage? Of course! WILL He save a marriage? Not necessarily. I believe that sometimes God destroys something completely to build something stronger and more beautiful, but God never forces anyone to change and in some cases that may mean letting go of something terrible and toxic.

      Reply
      1. J Post author

        Thanks for sharing your stories!

        I’ve seen churches do this well and do this poorly. I recommend that if someone is not getting the support they need while in crisis, you find another church family that will surround you.

        Reply
      2. Tony

        I would really like to see churches engaged in the Church Discipline process spelled out in Matthew 18.

        Not to punish a sinning member, but to bring to their attention the situation and have a relatively unbiased party examine it.

        But there is another factor here. To give some relief to the wronged spouse if the wayward spouse will not change her ways. If the church tells her to end her affair and return to the marriage, stop the divorce you filed and fix the damage you causes and she doesn’t, the process says you are to treat her as an unbeliever.

        This is important. It’s not that we “shun the unbeliever.” It’s that it provides some closure and relief for the betrayed spouse.

        Look at 1 Corinthians 7:12-15:

        But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.

        There are many who would say you are forever bound to your spouse, even if they divorce. Clearly, this doesn’t line up with scripture. Churches need to go through this process. The primary goal is to restore the sinning spouse to a right relationship with Christ and their family. If that goal cannot be achieved because the spouse will not end her sinning ways, then the betrayed spouse gets relief because the church has looked at the case and adjudicated that the sinning spouse did not respond to discipline and she is to be treated as an unbeliever, which means she is free to go, the believing spouse is not to try to hold her against her will. As well, the betrayed/abandoned spouse is not forever bound to the unrepentant spouse.

        Reply
        1. a. nony

          My church absolutely does this process as outlined in Matthew 18. It is most commonly exercised in the case of a spouse who wrongly seeks divorce or has an affair, and then refuses the pleas of the church to repent and reconcile, usually over the course of many months. Though the member meetings where an unrepentant person’s final excommunication is announced are always painful, it is good and heartwarming to see the pastors bring their full support and care to the sinned-against spouse. They are always careful to say, “Jim may no longer be a member of this church, but Sue has pursued this difficult process and remained faithful to Christ, and we expect all the members to treat her accordingly, and to provide her with love, prayer, and practical support during this time.”

          I think one great advantage of this process is that it gives clarity to all parties. There’s no he-said-she-said nonsense, only the result of a long process of counseling and pleading and attempts at reconciliation.

          God has really blessed us through church discipline — we have been able to rejoice as we’ve seen God bring several excommunicated former members to repentance, and they’ve even rejoined us. One man and his new wife host a small group in their home! It’s wonderful to see.

          Reply
          1. Tony

            And as I said above, my former church would not. They actually said, “We don’t do that.”

            I run into very few who have a church that will carry out the process. I realize my sample size is small. But the number of people who have told me their church does that over the past 13 years, I could count on one hand an have fingers left over.

          2. a. nony

            Not to contradict, but hopefully to encourage — I teach at a Christian school and the VAST majority of my students attend churches that practice church discipline. I live in a seminary town and church discipline is taught as a vital part of keeping the church pure and healthy. So be encouraged that many hundreds of young men are graduating from seminary with a zeal to shepherd their churches more biblically.

  4. Lynn

    I have a wonderful book I got on a women’s retreat called ‘The Tree that Survived the Winter’ – it’s written in the style of a children’s book, but it isn’t. I just loaned it to my stepdaughter, who is going through some hard times. The tree questions the sun, if you love me, why did I have to go through so much? The answer is profound. To bear the fruit you are to bear, you must be strong. And I have given you a name: Faithful.

    Reply
  5. KarenR

    @Tony
    You said: “The reality is that sometimes people do horrible things and you suffer some of the consequences for their choices.”
    This is so true and thank you for this comment. I left an abusive marriage after 20+ years. I went to counseling, solo and joint, 12-Step meetings etc all in an effort to have my marriage restored. I trusted Jesus and although the marriage wasn’t healed, I was.
    The irony of this post is that today as I sat in church, my pastor preached a sermon where he stated “Jesus is the solution for any problem.” He repeated that several times and went on to share that over the years his marriage was “awful” but trusting that Jesus was the solution, he, along with his wife did the work the restore their marriage. Praise God!!
    What he didn’t say unfortunately is that sometimes marriages aren’t healed because one or perhaps both partners don’t do the work necessary to effect change. Jesus is the solution no doubt, but it takes two people to make a marriage work. I think an unintended consequence of these types of messages is that people are given the impression that if their marriage wasn’t healed it’s because they didn’t trust or depend on Jesus enough and that’s just not true.
    J, once again, I so appreciate your work.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I agree with you. One willing spouse doesn’t not make a marriage. God can work wonders, but He needs cooperation at some point — from both spouse.

      Reply
  6. E

    Does anyone have any good tips for a couple devotional/bible study for those couples trying to rebuild a marriage that has had some major blows? Any help would be much appreciated

    Reply
  7. Adc

    This was a very good and interesting post. It made me realize that I barely pray for my marriage. I don’t know why. My walk with God has been really bad since I got married actually. I always blamed it on my wife and in the last year my wife and I have drifted apart a lot. Mostly because she lives for our daughter and there’s no time for us. So on the question if God wants to save my marriage I would answer I guess so but the question is do I want it? I feel right now like I’m going through the motions. The question is how long that will last. I will have to start to pray more so that I will be able to answer the questions (Does God want to save your marriage ? Do you want to save your marriage? )with a yes.

    Reply

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