Marriage Advice From A Christian Perspective

Recognizing and Responding Properly to Trials

  • Jay Sklar Two Becoming One
  • 2004 10 Jan
Recognizing and Responding Properly to Trials

Christian couples need to address trials in their marriage the same way that doctors address sickness in their patients. When a good doctor has a sick patient, that doctor will take the time to carefully examine the patient and to ask the patient all sorts of questions: when did you start feeling this way? How long has it been going on? The reason that the doctor asks such questions is simple: he or she wants to know the cause of the sickness so that he or she can prescribe the proper course of action. Stated differently, a good doctor takes time to recognize the sickness so that he or she can respond appropriately.

 

Trials in marriage are no different. It is absolutely essential that couples learn to recognize the source of the trial so that they can respond to that trial in the proper way.

 

Recognizing the Trials: The Root and the Fruit

 

In their Bible study, Two Becoming One, Don and Sally Meredith note that trials produce a variety of symptoms that act as warning signals or difficulties. These symptoms can range from stress and anxiety to grumpiness and tiredness to bitterness and discord. These symptoms can be the fruit of some sort of trial. The question then becomes, “Is there a trial that is the root of this fruit?”

 

The Merediths identify several different trials in marriage that can produce negative fruit:

  1. Marriage: lost commitment, sexual conflict, adultery, poor communication, in-law conflicts, elderly parents, ex-spouse problems.

  2. Children: pregnancy, the death of a child, discipline problems, academic problems, a learning disability, two or more children under the age of six, self-image problem, stepchildren, leaving home.

  3. Health: injury, illness, diet, weight, sexual dysfunction, exercise, cancer, infertility.

  4. Financial issues: debt, foreclosure, budget, giving, savings, mortgage.

  5. Vocational issues: job change, loss of job, loss of interest, relocation, conflict at work.

  6. Major changes: moving, recently married, new child, new church.

  7. Other: death in the family, death of a friend, alcoholism, drug abuse, retirement, legal problems, vacations, holidays.

 

Each of these trials has the potential to produce symptoms that are harmful to our marriages. It is vitally important, therefore, that we know how to respond properly to the trials of life.

 

Responding to Trials

 

1. Recognize what the trials are.

Like a good doctor, you will need to recognize the root of the symptoms if you are going to respond to them properly. Sometimes this will be very apparent. One couple I know became aware that they had been snapping at one another much more frequently. They did not have to think long before they realized that they were both exhausted from work and a new baby and thus both a bit more cranky than usual!

 

At other times the root cause of marital strife or discord will not be so easy to identify. When this is the case, it may be wise to consider getting counsel from older and wiser believers or from a Christian marriage counselor. Whether or not the cause of the strife is readily apparent, however, it is very important that couples work together to understand the cause of the problem and to come up with a solution together to address it.

 

2. Respond with God’s Perspective

Sometimes we bring trials upon our marriages because we do not follow God’s laws. When this is the case, we need to confess it to God and ask for His forgiveness. We then need to take the appropriate steps to resolve the wrong that we have done (see Matthew 5:23-24). When appropriate, this will mean seeking forgiveness from others. Again, if counsel is needed, look for a good, biblical counselor to help you. Admitting our guilt is not always easy or comfortable, but it is important to remember that the sooner we confess our sin, the sooner its consequences can be dealt with.

 

In other instances, however, trials in our marriage are due to the sin of others (spouse, in-laws, stress from workmates), or they are simply a part of life (infertility, death of a loved one). When these trials hit full force it is very easy to become discouraged and downhearted. It is essential at times like this to remember God’s perspective on trials: He wants to use them in our lives to make us “mature and complete” in our faith (James 1:2-4). This means that we look to God in faith that He is good, even when life is not, and that He will give us strength and wisdom to bear up under our trials. Indeed, after James tells us that God uses trials to help us grow, the very next thing he says is this: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). Ask the Lord in faith for wisdom to deal with the trial in a way that honors Him. As always, do not hesitate to seek biblical counsel as well as support from other believers.

 

 

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