As a pastor, I have many conversations with people where the bottom-line message they need to hear is, “Don’t give up.” Different people need to hear that reminder in different ways, but I want to encourage you specifically: Don’t give up on your marriage.
I want to tell those of you who have been divorced that Jesus loves you and no one is better than you or more deserving of God’s grace.
But first, I want to tell those of you who have been divorced that Jesus loves you and no one is better than you or more deserving of God’s grace. If you’ve ever felt rejected by a church because of a divorce, I’m sorry.
God Hates Divorce, But He Loves You
I want to challenge those who are on the verge of divorce and those who are going to stay married but have given up in their hearts but are not happy about staying together.
My challenge is: Do not give up on your marriage. Why? One reason is that God wants you to stay together. How do I know that? He tells us, in Malachi 2:16, “I hate divorce.” He hates divorce because He loves you. If you’ve been through a painful divorce, you understand that.
Part of the reason God hates divorce is that it’s tearing something He has joined together. Jesus said, in Mark 10:7-9,
“‘For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
God says that marriage brings two together as one, and the two should not be separated. So how do you not give up? I would ask you to do a few things…
1. Fix Your Eyes on Jesus
Your spouse can’t meet your needs, be your strength, or be your source of joy. That’s not their job
First, fix your eyes on Jesus.
I believe a lot of disillusionment occurs when we look to our spouse to do what only Jesus can do.Your spouse can’t meet your needs, be your strength, or be your source of joy. That’s not their job. That’s what Jesus wants to do for you.
Stop making your spouse the Savior of your life. People call their spouse their “soulmate,” but your soul was made for Jesus. Stop looking to your spouse to fulfill and satisfy you. Fix your eyes on Jesus.
2. Flip The Script on Your Story
Second, flip the script on your marriage story.
I’ve found that when a husband and wife are ready to give up, they are typically reading from a script that says, “My spouse is the bad guy and I am the victim.” I hear lots of, “If she wouldn’t do that, I wouldn’t act this way” and “he makes me respond that way.”
John Gottman is a psychological researcher who studies marital stability and predictors for divorce. He says the greatest predictor of divorce is contempt; when a spouse can only see the negative and has a judgmental, condescending, critical spirit.
God tells us in Galatians 6:5, “we are each responsible for our own conduct.”
Be Responsible For Your Own Conduct
I have a friend who is a marriage counselor. When he wants to help couples determine whether there is hope for them to have a happy marriage, he hands each a piece of paper with a circle on it. He says,
“Think of this as a pie that represents all of the problems in your marriage. I want you to draw whatever piece of the pie you think is your responsibility for all the problems.” He then averages the two percentages each wrote and says, “If on average, you think the problems are 15% your responsibility, then that’s about the percentage chance you have of being happily married.”
To be happily married you have to be responsible for your own conduct. I know what you’re thinking, “Yeah! If my spouse would just take responsibility.” But no, that’s not how this works. You take responsibility for your conduct.
Christians should have an advantage in this because we have already acknowledged we are sinful and in desperate need of a Savior. We should be able to take responsibility for our flaws and faults. Grace is the “x-factor” in Christian marriage. It should give us a huge advantage because we can look at ourselves as sinful and we can look at our spouses through the lens of God’s grace.
3. Fight With All Your Heart
Third, I would challenge you to fight with all your heart.
If you fight for your marriage with all your heart, you will be surprised by how your heart changes. Giving up on your marriage because you don’t “feel” love in your heart is like giving up on a car because it ran out of gas. You can do something about it. It’s going to take work, but you can fill the tank back up.
God encourages us, “Let us not get tired in doing what is good because at the right time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
The University of Chicago did a study. They found that eight out of ten couples who were in marriages that would be categorized as “very unhappy” reported that they were happily married five years later. On the other hand, five years after getting divorced two-thirds of couples regretted not trying harder. Sometimes the most important thing you can do for your marriage is hanging on.
So, hang on, fight, fight with all your heart. Don’t give up.
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