Tag Archives: saving your marriage

Is Marriage Terrific or Awful?

On the Facebook page for our podcast, Sex Chat for Christian Wives, we often share Bible verses or quotes that apply to marriage. Consequently, I’ve done a lot of perusing quotes lately, and it struck me today how strong people’s opinions are about the worthwhileness of marriage.

Blog post title + illustration of wedding rings

Some believe marriage is terrific, some believe it’s awful. Take a look at these examples:

Marriage is terrific

“There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.” – Martin Luther

“A happy marriage is a long conversation which always seems too short.” – Andre Maurois

“Love is not weakness. It is strong. Only the sacrament of marriage can contain it.” – Boris Pasternak

“Marriage is the most natural state of man, and…the state in which you will find solid happiness.” – Benjamin Franklin

Marriage is awful

“Marriage is like putting your hand into a bag of snakes in the hope of pulling out an eel.” – Leonardo da Vinci

“Many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage.” – William Shakespeare

“A marriage is no amusement but a solemn act, and generally a sad one.” – Queen Victoria

“Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who would want to live in an institution?” – H.L. Mencken

So which is it?

When my marriage was in the pit of doom and despair, I would have answered that my marriage was awful. And yet, somehow I believed deeply that it could become terrific. (See When My Marriage Seemed Hopeless, What Made Me Stay?)

It has become a happy marriage, such that I also wrote 6 Things I Love about Being Married. And believe me, that’s not an exhaustive list!

I know some marriages are awful. One or both spouses are buried in a pile of pain so deep they can’t imagine how they can possibly claw their way out — at least not together. Some of you have experienced the lion’s share of hurt on the issue of a sexless marriage, although most failing marriages are dealing with other issues as well.

Perhaps you’re at the point that you feel like one of these people:

“Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.” – Charlotte in Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

“Marriage is miserable unless you find the right person that is your soulmate and that takes a lot of looking.” – Marvin Gaye

You think that you were dealt a bad hand or married the wrong person, and you don’t feel like your marriage can ever find health and happiness.

I don’t believe in soul mates. If God created a single person out there intended for you, that strikes me as a cruel shell game to try to find them. Moreover, the Bible shows example of various reasons for getting married, and God’s perspective seems to be that living out the Gospel in your marriage is what brings you holiness and happiness.

Living out the Gospel in your marriage is what brings you holiness and happiness. Click To Tweet

Hands-down, that’s what saved my marriage and brought us from awful to terrific. See Miracle or Quick Fix, in which I confess this what I learned during that process:

I had to commit to being the kind of Christ-follower God wanted me to be. Often we know what to do. We simply don’t do it. We find excuses for not being as loving, patient, selfless, and kind as we should. We don’t give the other person the benefit of the doubt. We focus on defending ourselves and thus offending our spouse. If God directly responded to many of our prayers for a better marriage, Jesus might simply pop into our living rooms long enough to say a “Woe unto you” for neglecting His commands.

What makes the difference?

Perhaps the difference between good marriages and bad marriages is our willingness to be humble about our shortcomings, forgiving of one another, and invite God into our relationship day after day after day.

That’s not a magic pill, but a daily regimen.

The good news is that I’ve been around long enough to see not just a few but many marriages go from awful to terrific. Yes, I’ve also seen some go from terrific to awful — and that stings for all involved. But there are a lot of happy marriages out there (see The Good News about Marriage by Shaunti Feldhahn), most of which required intentionality, effort, and grace.

There are a lot of happy marriages out there, most of which required intentionality, effort, and grace. Click To Tweet

Maybe your marriage is already there, but maybe it’s awful at the moment — which means it might just be pre-terrific. Don’t give up.

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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.