Sandy did it all by the book—found Mr. Right in her senior year in college. She graduated, found a good job. And with anticipation of pure happiness, she wore a huge grin to complement her white wedding dress.
She walked down the aisle toward the altar where Tom, her groom waited, no doubt, eager to make her happy.
But why didn’t someone tell her she was walking down the aisle to a complicated blend of two lives each with hidden issues.
Even before the honeymoon was over, they surfaced one by one. Sandy and Tom quickly found themselves in the not-so-happily ever after. Petty arguments, disagreements about money spending and quick blame ignited into fights.
Months and months dragged on. And although they wouldn’t admit it, they both realized their relationship was seemingly great while dating, but as a married couple it became a poisonous combination.
They played the game well. No one could tell their misery. They hid their flimsy relationship from family and friends. After all, who would believe that so soon, their marriage would be in trouble.
Too painful to stay together. Too embarrassing to file for divorce.
But they’re not alone. Some marriages like Sandy and Tom’s end up in dreaded divorce court. Yet, statistics indicate less than 25% of unhealthy relationships avoid divorce and instead seek God’s divine intervention.
The latter group ends up discovering unresolved issues from the past. They make a commitment to seek God’s input, apply His instructions, and live out these 4 lessons.
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1. Learn to Fight
Wait a minute. Isn’t fighting a bad and hurtful practice? It’s not if, instead of battling each other, you both fight the intruder that threatens your relationship. Sadly, Pam and Joe had mastered the art of incorrect fighting, they attacked each other. Accusations, blame, hurtful words, slamming doors and spiteful gestures filled each confrontation.
None brought solutions, only wounds that multiplied. Soon fighting outnumbered pleasant moments together. But rather than giving up, they gave God a chance to change them.
God was the one who pointed it out. He made that transformation path clear. The change had to begin with the mind. That stinking thinking that brought back the past—insecurities, hurts, disappointments and rejection had to be deleted.
In order to move forward, their mind had to entertain a different type of thinking. And that was because their thoughts dictated their words. And those words either gave life or gave death to their relationship.
Before they expressed what their heart held, they vowed to… “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29
Pam and Joe’s fighting turned to, truth-filled discussions. These interactions covered by love drew them closer under the umbrella of understanding.
Lord, Thank You for teaching us to guard our mouth, for granting us wisdom to speak words of life and encouragement. Be our strength to only speak truth and utter edifying words.
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2. Learn to Listen
Statistics show couples are more attentive to social media communications than to one another. In the meantime, what happens to meaningful conversations with our spouse? Where did the exchange of what’s in our hearts stop.
“He won’t listen,” is the most common complaint from wives across the globe.
In reality, neither one listens effectively because social media and other distractions speak louder, more often and with lures hard to resist.
Where will this lead? Before we enter into robotic marriages ruled by electronic gadgets for communication, a U-turn is needed.
And on the road to the correct destination, God’s billboard reads, “…everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).
Quick to hear and slow to speak? Gulp. Tough to do because often we’re preparing the answer before our spouse has finished their statement.
Compassion is an essential part of any loving relationship. But compassion is impossible without really listening. You need to know what your partner is experiencing in order to respond with empathy.
“Repeat what your spouse said before responding,” counselors often instruct.
In order to repeat what was said, we need to listen, truly listen. This may be the step that turns a relationship from one with animosity to one with understanding.
Father, show us the way to be humble enough to listen, wise enough to understand our spouse and loving enough to react with kindness.
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3. Learn to Forgive
For Linda and Pete, married life moved through the years with a blend of happy moments, challenges and tough times. But after eight years and three children later, Pete’s infidelity shook Linda’s world.
After months of uncertainty, of sobbing her nights away and diligent prayer, she cried out to God one more time. And His answer stunned her. “Forgive him,” she heard God say.
Forgive him? Just like that? Impossible. Her shattered heart had no room to forgive. And what if she forgave him, how could she trust him again?
But God said, "...With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26).
More tears and desperate prayers followed. And one-night Pete came home. Linda sat across from him at the kitchen table. “After what you did, I’m devastated,” Linda said, “But God told me to forgive you. And I do. So, now you are free to go. Our sons and I will be okay. Jesus will be their father and if you leave, He will be my husband.”
Pete remained silent. And days later, he announced he would leave everything behind and would be devoted to their sons and to her.
Their marriage continued for decades and her heart rejoiced in the freedom that her forgiveness brought.
Prayer: Lord, no pain is too big that you cannot ease. No heartache is so deep that You cannot heal. Help us to please You with forgiveness in our heart and with trust in You.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Maria Mikhaylichenko
4. Learn the Recipe
Mrs. Sanchez was poor, she lived in a mud hut in the mountains outside La Paz, Bolivia. But she managed to make great tasting soups using not a recipe, but anything she gathered from the fields around her.
Conversely, few marriages end up in a delicious relationship without a recipe. That’s why God offered His own in 1 Corinthians 13:4. The definition of love He presents includes ingredients to which we can add our own flavor.
Love is patient. Lord, in moments of frustration, fill us with patience.
Love is kind. Allow our thoughts to be covered in kindness.
Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, is not rude, it is not self-seeking. Father, we ask for a heart empty of these destructive enemies. We declare that our hearts will be clean and pleasing to You.
We ask that you calm our heart so we’re not easily angered. Allow forgiveness to rule our reactions so we won’t keep record of wrongs.
Lord, allow our love to be pure so it does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
No matter how painful the situation, how empty of joy we feel, how uncertain tomorrow looks, help us to always protect our marriage vows, to always trust in Your power at work, always hope in your ability to restore, and to always persevere and never give up. Amen.
In a world that is bitterly painful, uncertain and often cruel, God’s recipe for love in a marriage strengthens the partnership enough to withstand the deepest valleys.
And we soar above those valleys when we identify the destructive forces that make a union unhealthy. We exchange them for God’s ways that make a relationship rich and vibrant.
And in the midst of a chaotic world, we still maintain that richness by following God’s love recipe that conquers all evil, overcomes fear and brings a new glow of hope for each tomorrow.
Janet Perez Eckles is an international speaker, author and founder of JC Empowerment with a passion to teach and coach you to thrive in relationships and reach personal and professional success.
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