Hope for the Broken Marriage

(A ‘broken marriage’ – in the context I am writing – is one damaged by sexually inappropriate conduct.)

mended-heartThere are a growing number of broken marriages in the United States today. Men, and a rapidly increasing number of women, are falling prey to the schemes of pornographers and a culture saturated in sexual gratification at the expense of moral integrity. These couples regularly lie to each other in order to keep their sin a secret. The more they lie the further they drift apart emotionally. The further apart they drift the wider the crevice of brokenness expands. Given enough time, the chasm between them seems an insurmountable obstacle. Thus, many couples who eventually wake up to the reality of their broken marriage feel they have fallen too far apart for any reasonable expectation of real healing and reconciliation.

As more and more broken couples reach out for help, too many are not finding what they really need to rebuild their relationship. Why? No one seems to be offering them the foundational element of long-term healing: hope. A host of well-intentioned counselors and pastors see a hurting, broken couple sitting on the couch in their office and immediately begin strategizing the best techniques to remedy the numerous problems of communication, finances, or sex they might be facing. What is wrong with this approach? Without casting a vision of hope, the counselor or pastor is simply offering a band aid as the solution for the gaping wound in the broken marriage. Broken marriages need hope for long-term healing and restoration.

There are many challenges to assisting spouses in a broken marriage to embrace hope. First, trust is always damaged in a broken marriage, and as such each spouse is reluctant to move toward the other for fear of being wounded even more deeply. Second, most couples suffering broken marriages have little, if any, ability to communicate well with one another. They have each learned to place their own interests first, thus making communication a tool to manipulate his/her spouse to achieve his/her self-centered agenda. Finally, the sheer distance created between spouses through lying and hiding makes it difficult for the couple to imagine closeness as God designed it.

Does it seem like the deck is stacked against the couple in a broken marriage? Only if you believe God is incapable of dealing them a new hand. And this is where hope must be reborn (or birthed for the first time) for those suffering the broken marriage. A couple must believe that God is able to heal, willing to restore, and desirous to make all things new. Spouses in a broken marriage must embrace the truth, individually and as a couple, that God can bring beauty from ashes and breathe life into their ashen relationship. Hope, true hope, is born in the one who begins to expect God to fulfill His promises even when it appears the situation is beyond repair. Hope sees beyond circumstance and anchors itself on the certainty of God’s Word.

So, how does a couple suffering from a broken marriage actually embrace this kind of hope? Surprisingly, this type of hope is gained through brokenness. That’s right. The couple who wakes up one day and realizes the extent to which their marriage has been broken is closer to hope than they might know. But such a realization and appropriation of hope cannot come without outside intervention and guidance.

Most couples can experience brokenness without any help from anybody else. In fact, it comes naturally to those who allow sexual sin to infiltrate their union. But hope, healing, and a rebuilt marriage must involve external influence. Of course, there must be the touch of God if true and lasting healing is to occur. But there must also be the instruction and guidance of wise counselors and friends to help a broken marriage be rebuilt. Without such influence the probability of the couple drifting back to old patterns of deception and self-centeredness is virtually certain.

In choosing those to counsel the broken couple, the determining factor is truth. Invite truth-tellers in; reject falsehood. How can such a broken couple determine what is the truth and what isn’t? Through the benchmark of truth, God’s Word. God never lies. Never. If particular counsel does not match up with God’s Word, it is not good for the healing of the broken marriage. And such false instruction does more to damage hope than to encourage it. Truth, though it may require painful self-examination, will always lead to the path of freedom. And freedom (from deception, bitterness, fear, and self-centeredness) is exactly what the broken marriage needs in order to rebuild to a healthy, whole, ‘oneness’ union.

Why is hope so important in this process of healing the broken marriage? Because without hope it is easy to become discouraged. Healing a broken marriage is not easy. It takes time, sacrifice, endurance, and hard work. When the road gets bumpy it is hope that reminds the couple that their efforts will not be in vain. It is hope that reminds them that God is good, patient, and loving even when this appears not to be true. And it is hope that encourages the couple that what they are working toward will be more beautiful than anything they had in the past. This is the importance of hope for the broken marriage.

God promises a good return for those who invest in seeking hope. Amazingly, the Bible even tells us that we can ‘rejoice in our sufferings.’ Why? Because ‘suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.’ (Rom. 5:3-5) The benefit to pressing through the suffering of a broken marriage and pursuing hope to rebuild is that the love of God will increasingly abound. True love, true intimacy, and true joy can be experienced even by those whose marriages have been broken by sexual lust and unfaithfulness.

If you are living in a broken marriage, begin today to ask God to lead you and your spouse to hope. Keep a watchful eye for wise counselors and friends who can help you persevere, build character, and invest in hope. The small steps you take today toward a new attitude of hope will produce long-term benefits that far outweigh the current momentary sacrifice. And even if circumstances do not progress in the manner or time frame you expect, you can know that the hope you gain in Christ is not in vain because movement toward God is always movement in the right direction.

‘May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’
(Rom. 15:13)

We would like to help you in your journey of finding hope and healing. Please consider attending our upcoming Marriage Solution Workshop or getting a copy of some of our resources. Read what previous attendees of our Marriage Solution Workshop are saying. Call us on 800-NEW-LIFE (639-5433), we can help.

Warning: Facebook Could Destroy your Marriage

A New Jersey pastor told his married church leaders that they either had to delete Facebook or they would have to resign from their leadership role in the church. Other pastors have likened Facebook to the serpent in the Garden of Eden, and have urged their entire congregation to shut down their pages. The issue became more urgent when the marriage statistics came out for 2011. The report said that 33% of all divorce filings mentioned in their paperwork Facebook as a factor that led to the divorce.

We cannot blame Facebook–it’s what people do on Facebook that is the problem. The most obvious problem develops when out of curiosity, one reaches out to an old flame–“just to see how they are doing.” Or an old flame reaches out to us for the same reason. Without realizing it, we can soon be spending more time “Facebooking” with an old flame than we’re doing face-time with our spouse. And the longer we reminisce about those old feelings the more we find they become current feelings.

I don’t do Facebook. I have a Facebook page, but it is managed by the New Life Live radio/TV program people. But I’ve worked with couples whose major complaint was that their spouse was spending hours a day on Facebook, posting pictures, chatting, and checking on their “friends’” postings. It’s all too easy to get caught up in what appears to be someone else’s exciting life, especially if we feel we are merely existing.

Another step to creating a major problem in a marriage is for one partner to become too personal in what they share with a “friend.” Talking about your marital issues with someone other than your spouse creates intimacy with that person, and it is especially dangerous if they are of the opposite sex. That’s really how just about every Facebook affair begins–They say they simply just sat and talked with an attractive other about what was not working in their marriage.

In the real world, an affair can take months to develop. But on Facebook, all it takes is a couple of clicks. People are tempted, and it is so much easier to give in to that temptation on Facebook. One may be too reserved, or shy in real life, but they can become much bolder behind the screen than they would be in person. Many of those who have ended up destroying their marriage would never have even thought about having an affair without the private seduction available over Facebook.

How do you know if your marriage is in danger? The problem is already occurring if one person refuses to talk with their spouse about what is happening on their Facebook. If you are being shut out of your spouse’s activities on Facebook, your marriage is probably already in the danger zone. Safety comes with complete openness regarding who you each are talking with, and when both of you know all of each other’s passwords. That’s at least a beginning point in protecting your marriage. Be careful in this digital age–you don’t want to be one of the 33%.

How do you handle Facebook and other social media issues in your marriage? In your family?

Article was sourced from the blog of Dr. Dave Stoop with permission:  Dr Stoop is a regular co-host on New Life Live.

Irreconcilable Differences

A friend of mine recently e-mailed me an article written by a clergyman, in which he discusses the idea of irreconcilable differences. It was a revelation to me, and got me thinking about the way marriage is going in our country these days: Downhill.

Before we begin, let me just say that there certainly are circumstances in which a divorce is permitted in the minds of even the staunchest Christian. No one believes that you must stay together when your spouse has committed adultery, and if you have been abandoned without word for years, this also qualifies as a reason to be divorced. I personally also adhere to the belief that when one spouse becomes abusive physically, this is a deal breaker. However, in the first case, that of adultery, I have worked with many couples who can repair their marriages through counseling and spiritual work, and this is a good thing, since divorce really is a horrible thing, most notably on the spiritual level.

The premise that was set forth in the article was this: Men and women by nature, are created to have irreconcilable differences. They are made to complement one another, to join together in a mystical union. If we look at the book of Ephesians, this mystery of union is compared to the joining of the human and Divine natures of Christ. Those two natures simply cannot be joined together, since they are qualitatively different. And yet, it happens: A mystery.  This is the highest view of marriage possible, and one which obviously has pretty much disappeared in our self-absorbed society.  So, while this view has obtained for thousands of years, it is suddenly non-functional. Let’s look at why this might be.

What is the Purpose of the Family?

No one can doubt that the family is the basic unit, the fundamental organism of society. Without stable families, a situation unknown until our present times, society will begin to come apart. Without stable families, people become mere individuals, living for themselves, unable to invest in others, unable to sacrifice for others. We see this process happening all over our society, and few have understood that this situation is an entirely new societal formation. Families are no longer required in order to have children. Families are no longer stable multi-generational groups who live in love and care. All is fragmented, broken, disjointed. Of course, there are millions who still adhere to the old ways, but over time, the preponderance of those prizing the individual over the family will tip the balance, and families will go the way of the horse and buggy. Replacing them will be various assortments of people living together with little or no commitment to the family’s health. Of course, all will suffer, but especially the children. We can already see this happening right now.

Myths about Marriage

In order for this breakdown of the family to occur, it is necessary for alternate theories to dominate the national psyche. While families were relatively stable until the Twentieth century, when divorce laws began liberalizing across the western world, there is at present very little non-spiritual incentive to stay together. Even though researchers have demonstrated that children of divorce have trouble in their own marital (or non-marital) relationships, this fact has done little to stem the tide of divorces. Why?

There are many myths which swirl about in the ether, and they are both powerful and seductive. Some of them are:

  1. I have a right to be happy in my marriage. If I’m not happy, I can pull the plug and move on to someone who makes me happy.
  2. I need to find my soulmate. My current spouse is not on the same wavelength as I.
  3. My spouse and I are as different as oil and water. We are just different people, and we need to find new spouses have similar interests.
  4. I don’t love my spouse any more. There is someone else whom I feel attracted to, and I want to love that new person.

You’ve all heard these arguments for divorce, and over them all, like a banner are the words:  Irreconcilable differences.  Yes, you and your spouse do have irreconcilable differences, because that is the essence of marriage. That is the basis for the sacrifice you are called to make in forming a family made up of those who have different wills than our own. Bridezillas aside, we don’t always get our own way when we marry. It may be necessary to submit our will to that of another: a spiritual exercise of the highest order.

The ideas that there is someone else “better” for us out there is a temptation to be resisted at all costs. We have chosen our spouse, and failing the major impediments to marriage mentioned above, our job is to find a way to live joyfully within those boundaries.  It is certain that no children desire their parents divorce, unless there is criminal behavior, such as assault, being demonstrated in the home. Is there drunkenness or other substance abuse? This is another spiritual matter that needs fixing, and it may promote the need to separate until it is dealt with.

But, since men and women are different qualitatively, it is ludicrous to bemoan that fact, and cite it as grounds for divorce. It is actually grounds for marriage! The desire to join together in union with another soul different from our own is the basis for marriage, and the programme is this:  I will spend my life serving this person, and will be faithful to the other until death. It is a serious vow one makes, and finding it difficult is no cause for release from it. Temptation to do so is all around us, but if it is recognized as such, we can fight against it.

The only other thoughts which this idea of the “rightness” of irreconcilable differences brought to my mind was this: If these differences are the essence of marriage, according to God, what does this say about those who try to bypass these difficulties by marrying another person who is very similar? I am referring, of course, to gay marriages.

The idea of marrying someone alike short circuits most of the inherent struggles faced by those following the mystical plan of marriage instituted by God.  These couples can never know the fullness of the mystery of union between a man and a woman, and the homosexuals’ decision to call what they do “marriage” does not present a comparable struggle.  Can I unite myself to another whose very being is mysterious to me? Can I take a chance and see if love can flow from this union, if children will be sent us through this mystical union? This is the dignity and grace of marriage as instituted by God, and no other arrangement contrived by man can compare.