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.

Comments

  1. My heart goes out to you brother, I too have confessed my sins to my wife and I also have completely turned around. (Repented) And I have seen the fears and insecurities that are all too often present in our daily lives. I still struggle with her almost daily as there are so many things that seem to trigger her… I sense that there is truly more here than meets the eye. For instance, now that I have stopped all inappropriate behaviors and seek to maintain my integrity she is ever so fearful, suspicious, cautious, and yes oh so overly protective of my daily activities. I have put filters on our computers, stopped TV subscriptions,(Dish TV etc) and for a period of approximately two years have had no TV, except for approved DVDs (family friendly of coarse). I belong to a mens support and accountability group for sex addicts and see a counselor as often as financially able, and yet there is still not much progress in many of our marriage issues. I sometimes fear that we wont make it… I can now say that as I have grown in my recovery and seen first hand what it is like not to medicate my pain away how that we have always had our problems and that not all of them are mine. I know that my issues have greatly contributed to the problems we are still facing but I also now know that some of this stuff was brought into our marriage and we BOTH had a role in it. Truth is as long as there is somebody else who is willing to participate or if you yourself continue in medicating your pain you will never find out what the real issues are in your life and you both will continue to be so easily entangle in your choice of addictions. Whether that be alcohol, sex, workaholic tendencies or an affair with another person, the pain will always be under the surface and will not go away. As for our wives they too need all the help they can get. (If any of you wives are reading this please get and seek professional help because we men cannot, I repeat cannot be your healers). Try as we may to do our part it take time and support and growth. Proving our love takes time and an unwavering commitment and we all need the support of our true brothers and sisters to keep us accountable. If we give up because of pain or the battle gets to be too hard what have we gained in the whole process? I sense that a great many of us have much more to learn. Myself included. The answer my friend is in Jesus. He alone can strengthen you to be faithful and keep us on tract to show our spouses that we have the resolve to keep ourselves pure and faithful even when the going gets rough… I have seen change come about very slowly and I wish to encourage you to continue to fight not only for your marriage but for your own salvation. Phil 2:12

  2. My husband left my daughter and I, two months ago. He is an unbeliever and I am a Christian. I have continued to pray, seek God out, read scriptures, and cling to godly people throughout this entire nightmare. I pray for my husbands salvation every chance I get and am trying to help better myself through Christian counseling. I just get so frustrated because I feel like I am doing good things and truly praying with all my heart, but my husband is not responding, he claims he has to find himself. Is there any hope left for our marriage? Should I continue to put myself out there and have faith and hope in God? Is this what God wants? I feel like I’m at my breaking point and I don’t know what to do?

  3. A few months ago I began having a nervous breakdown because I began to realize that I could no longer ignore the dynamics of my marriage or the shambles it truly is in. I have no desire to attempt repair and hope for us staying married is repulsive to me. We are seeing a counselor and I have been completely honest about my desire for divorce and the fact that I am putting in a half-hearted effort for our marriage because of our five children. I don’t want him to touch me and laying in bed with him at night is torture. Kissing him is like kissing my brother. I can’t stand being around him and although we are both Christians I cannot do this anymore. Hope for me means being single and alone and not with him. I wake up everyday triggered and hopeless because I am still here and I am slowing losing what I have left, which is very little. He is trying very hard but I feel like I have an octopus choking the life out of me. What do I do?

  4. I am so confused right now. I have been married for 22 years. I grew up as a Christian but married my unbelieving husband anyways despite of the fact that people advised me that I was going into a marriage that was unequally yolked. We now have three children which are all grown. We have certainly had a lot of difficult times in our marriage including infidelity. About 5 years ago he cheated on me and decided he was leaving me. Through a lot of prayer he came back home. I don’t trust him. He travels a lot due to his job and I have been very discouraged lately. The other day God spoke to me through a Godly lady and told me God wants to do more with me, that He wants to take me to another level. She told me she didn’t know what but God was going to do something in my life. Then the very next day she said God spoke to her once again saying New Marriage. Another lady from my church also told me God has been waking her up at night and telling her to pray for me. Im very confused….not sure if this means God is going to do something New in my marriage or if this is the end of my marriage and God is preparing something new for me. I trust God either way let His will be done. I appreciate your comments and prayers as well.

  5. I just wanted to say as a married woman having dealt with a husband who dabbled in online pornography viewing. . . When I began dating my now husband, he and I communicated about how we felt about pornography. He presented himself as against porn (his father having been a porn consumer and he saw how it hurt his mother, and he claimed that women didn’t deserve to be so disrespected). I certainly was against it as I had battled body image issues (as most young and older women do these days), found it unnecessary, and also was convicted that it was repugnant to God. So I married a man who I thought was on the same page as myself. For the record, sexually, I was not a “withholding” sort of woman at all. . . if anything, it was my husband who was. Actually, he was a withholder of both physical and emotional affection and intimacy in the end.

    My husband’s eventual secret porn usage was only a small symptom of a larger problem. I despise porn, and I will forever be baffled over how easy it is to say “no” to something everyone knows is a destructive trap. . . but somehow, very weak, out-of-step-with-Christ men and women find themselves so easily ensnared.

    I am currently separated from my spouse, not ultimately because of porn (although that irreparably destroyed my spouse’s supposed love for me). I am separated because my spouse became his own “little god” with a very itty bitty little g.

    I for one am sick of hearing men (and women) saying how porn and this culture has preyed upon them and made them weak. C’mon. How hard is it to turn away from something that hurts your spouse and children (and other people in our society. . . human trafficking for sex, etc.)???

    Sadly, there is no hope if you can’t say no to something you know from the start is plain out destructive. You kill hope the moment once you start dabbling.

  6. Also, “hope” for the cheater, the one who perpetrated the betrayal, is more likely. In these situations, the one who has been cheated and betrayed has been forced into a situation to deal with a giant baby/little god with a little “g” individual who thinks he/she can have it all back. The betrayed individual staying in the situation has a lifetime of having to deal with bad memories and pain to overcome because someone brought the trouble to him or her.

    The cheater gets hope. The cheated gets the burden and pain.

    How is that fair and just? The cheated is the one in the end who has to make the decision whether to totally rip apart their family (if they have children) while the cheater sits there and acts pitiful and like he/she has been transformed.

    How can we sit here and say there is hope for anyone else but the cheater?

    • Lily – You sure nailed that one on the head. I know you’re right because I’m going through it right now.

    • My marriage fell apart when I discovered that my husband had been cheating on me and to add insult to injury, he left to persue the other woman and we are no longer communicating.

      I clung on to God for dear life and still do. I really searched out with God what brought us to this place and what I found was devistating. I had controbuted to my marriage brakedown. I had so much brokeness inside from things that had effected me long ago, that I had never made peace with. The hurt was still there from my husbands behaviour but I was starting to heal in areas that I didn’t know where broken. If it hadn’t been for my husband doing what he did, those areas would have most probably just become more broken over the years. There was hope inside my pain and with Gods help, I have come to terms with a lot of past hurts and I have been able to forgive those who caused them.

      God is working on healing on other areas of my life at the moment and it is good. I no longer have the searing pain from my husbands behaviour and with Gods strenth and mercy, I have been able to forgive him. We are still not communicating and are in the middle of a divorce, but I can honestly say that while I could move on, I have no wish too, I would rather follow Jesus and what he says in the Scriptures. Showing my husband the love and forgivness that Jesus shows me on a hourly basis. I belive that everything can be worked through. I belive that I have been promised the reconciliation of my marriage but this is not about my husband and I (other than our salvation), its about Gods glory and showing the world that God hates divorce.

      If you had asked me three years ago what I would do if I caught my husband cheating, I most probably would have said set him on fire and leave (albeit a joke). The reality has been far diffrent.

      There is hope for the betrayed spouse, I have seen God provide it and work on me. We cannot control anyones behaviour, so my husband owns and is responsible for his infidelity and everything else after that, but taking account and responsiblity for my behaviour in the marriage also has opened my eyes and its no as hard to forgive when you realise that your behaviour may have played a small part in getting you both to the place where they cheated. I’m not saying that this is true for everyone, but its very rare that there is not some huge issues with in the marriage that lead to infidelity. A marrige break down is usually 50/50. Its a shame that people see themselves as the victim, yes they have been on the reciving end of some horrific treatment but something along the way has seen one of the partners not having some of their needs met. I have suffered greatly as a result if my husbands actions, but he is the one who is more broken, he is the one that has chosen the out, he is the one outside of Gods will, he is also the one who is holding a lot of anger against someone that he claims to no longer care about. I would say, I got the better end of the deal in someways but I am very much concerned about him, I do after everything still love him, just maybe not in the way that I used to. I have found through Christ how to unconditionally love someone.

      I guess I belive that God can save any marriage, you just have to be willing to let him do the work on you and leave your husband or wife in His more than capable hands.

      I want to to know that there is hope with Christ. I hope this all makes sense?

      • Hi Lily-
        I have to disagree with your comment that marriage breakdowns are 50/50. My marriage was abusive, and throughout my marriage I had worked very hard to address the things I did that bothered my husband, hoping to “earn” his love. He was always emotionally very distant and there was little to no affection, no love, no validation, and no hope for closeness. Several years into our marriage and after many months of lies, I caught him at a strip club. A year and a half later he confessed infidelity, but with prostitutes. I went into shock. I wanted to do the Christlike thing and forgive him, so I did. However, when I began asking him pertinent information about his “indiscretion”, such as, “Did you use protection?” or “How many times did this happen?” or “How much did this cost?” he was resistant to divulging ANY information and tried to minimize his behavior. He said as little as possible.

        Recently I have been reading about narcissists. These people are everywhere, and no amount of counseling or “trusting God” can save a marriage if you are married to someone like this.

        When I was at the deepest and darkest time in my life in trying to get away from my abusive husband, NO ONE FROM THE CHURCH HELPED ME. A CONCERNED, CARING, LOVING LESBIAN COUPLE saw the signs of domestic violence and gave me a place to go. My church body did not help me at all.

        I have been a follower of Christ since I was three years old. I know the Word very well. The church’s ignorance on issues of domestic violence everything surrounding it concerns me greatly. The church encourages men and women EVERY DAY to stay in marriages that are killing their soul because of its lack of understanding. GOD TOOK ME FROM MY MARRIAGE BECAUSE I WAS GOING TO DIE IF I DIDN’T GET AWAY. God hates divorce not because He forbids it, but because of the pain and trauma that it does to society. My divorce is also like prescription medication. Sometimes it is necessary to stay alive.

        I don’t know if you will understand any of this. If you haven’t walked through it, you probably won’t. You will probably think that I am overly dramatic, but I don’t care. Maybe someone who needs this perspective will read this and stay alive too.

      • sorry- I meant this for Kerry

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