There are five factors that are in play in your marriage that will determine its success or failure. You have an obstacle, an ally, an outsider, an enemy and an advocate.

When D.L. Moody was asked which group of people caused him the most grief over his pastoral career, he replied, "I've had more trouble with D.L. Moody than with any man alive." The obstacle, my dear, is you. You have the ability to trip yourself up at every turn, to miss chances to serve willingly, to jump at opportunities to get in the last word, and to speak in anger and without putting any thought into what comes out of your mouth.

You are an obstacle. But you don't have to settle for that as fact. If Christ is your Forgiver and Leader, God wants to work on your heart to change you. Ask Him to show you the plank that is in your eye. Ask Him to reveal to you where you're falling short - and my new favorite prayer - ask Him to guard your tongue. He will help you to remove yourself as an obstacle in the equation of your marriage.

You also have an ally - the man you married. Perhaps it has been a long while since you've thought of your husband as your partner or even simply as one of your friends. We must think back - unless a gun was involved, you chose your husband to be the man you wanted to spend the rest of your life with. You willingly chose him. Think back to why. Make a list if you have to...anything from, 'he goes to work every day to provide for us' to 'he plays with the kids' to 'last month, he brought me flowers'.

Thank God for all the good things about him, asking Him to help you see him though His eyes. And ask God to simply strengthen your friendship. In the din of daily life - the mortgage, the kids, the laundry - we tend to forget about the friendship aspect. Enjoy your husband as your closest friend and ally in this long race called married life.

Then there is the outsider. These are people who don't uphold the value of marriage; who drag you down by husband-bashing as sport; who are in strong marriages themselves and secretly wish others could feel their pain.

An outsider can also be another man who has qualities that you wish your spouse had...and you feel yourself developing feelings for. You must protect your marriage from outside sources that can bring harm to your relationship and even hurt your attitude toward marriage in general.

And you have an enemy - Satan himself. Satan does not want your marriage to succeed. With every divorce, he celebrates. With every marriage that is mediocre, he is thrilled.

It took me awhile to realize that Kevin was not my enemy, but that Satan is. Just the other day, a young woman that I have spent time mentoring called me up to meet for lunch. She's getting married soon, and she's having some jitters. That same morning, as I was packing up a few marriage books to loan her, Kevin and I were bickering like nobody's business. As I stacked up those marriage books, I was muttering, 'How ironic! I have to go tell Lindsay that marriage is great when all I want to do is to tell her to run for the hills!'

I have no doubt in my mind that Satan wanted to undermine my confidence in my ability to encourage Lindsay about her upcoming marriage by making me feel like Kevin and I were doing far worse than we actually are. Thankfully, I recognized that, and we patched things up before he left for the day. I wasn't going to let Satan have even that small victory. He is our enemy and he is doing all he can to make your marriage difficult, with the intent to make it fail. Don't give him any ground.

But the best news - we have an advocate, Jesus Christ. He intercedes to the Father on our behalf. And He loves marriage. Marriage is to be a beautiful representation of the relationship between Christ and the Church, so of course, He is standing by willing to help us in any way we need to bring Him glory and to bring peace into our household. Lean on Him. Count on Him. Bring Him into your marriage in little, simple ways - pray for your marriage, for your husband, and for yourself as a wife. Ask that God will place a hedge of protection around your relationship. Ask Him to help both of you make your relationship your number one priority, after, of course, your relationship with Him.

Pray with your husband. This is Marriage 401 here - something I think Kevin and I have only done maybe ten times in our marriage, but when we have, man, what a difference it has made. Before sitting down to resolve a heavy conflict, stop and pray together asking the Spirit to help you both have softened hearts and help to work it out.

There's more than just you and your husband in your marriage equation. But you can pray to be less of an obstacle, you can pray for your alliance to be strengthened, you can pray for protection from outside influences, you can pray that your enemy will not be able to successfully interfere, and you can pray that your Advocate join you as the third, and most integral, party in your relationship. Afterall, He created the concept - He will move heaven and earth to help you heal and succeed and love as He loves you.


© Elisabeth K. Corcoran, 2004

Elisabeth K. Corcoran is the author of Calm in My Chaos: Encouragement for a Mom's Weary Soul. She is wife to Kevin, and mom to Sara, 7-&-1/2, and Jack, 6. Her passion is encouraging women and she fulfills that through heading up the Women's Ministries on staff at Blackberry Creek Community Church in Aurora, IL and writing and speaking as much as she can. Calm in My Chaos (2001) can be purchased directly through her publisher, Kregel Publications at #1-888-644-0500 or www.kregel.com, at amazon.com, or through your local Christian bookstore. This article is original and not excerpted from her book.