When a spouse turns away from God, we can feel it is our job to fix him or her.
He’s checked out; she’s doesn’t value time together; he works too much; she’s not honest.
It’s frustrating, and we want the situation changed.
But here’s what we already know: we can’t fix anything (or anyone) on our own. And all that effort trying to alter our spouse’s behavior might be better served in first trying to do this: making sure our own hearts are turned to God.
With the Holy Spirit in us, we are capable of pursuing our spouse with powerful conviction and love. But to do this we might need to ask ourselves some tough questions: Am I focusing more on what needs to change about him or her rather than on how God might be asking me to find Him in the situation? Am I trying to see my spouse the way God sees him or her? Do I ever even try to look at him or her through God’s eyes?
Are we letting Christ change us enough so our spouse can’t help but be affected?
Personally, I know this to be true. Five years ago, I was the person who needed to change, who needed to surrender her life to Christ—and Justin knew it. He was in a community of men who loved him and who were supporting him to be more like Jesus. And for me, this change Justin was experiencing was uncomfortable, because I didn’t want to change.
Yet, Justin’s healing is what prompted my own healing. His pursuit of Christ is what prompted me to pursue Christ. His actions of love and generosity and kindness to me were what eventually prompted me to surrender to Christ. I witnessed the beauty of Christ changing Justin, changing the heart of the man I loved. And that, simply, was what melted the hardness around my own heart that didn’t want to initially change.
This took over seven months.
We know it can take years.
We know it isn’t always a happy ending.
But don’t give up.
Before we look at our own marriages, let’s look at our own hearts.
In his book, Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas writes, “marriage isn’t something you find; it’s something you fight for.” And the fighting for the heart of your spouse might mean starting with looking at your own spiritual health. What if the warrior God is asking you to be, on behalf of your spouse, requires your complete surrender to God?
Again, we can’t change our spouse. And really, if you think about it, do we really want it any other way? Even if it is hard? Don’t we want to trust Christ and His strength more than our own?
From where do we draw our strength and our joy in a difficult marriage?
There is hope for married couples who remember this: While you can’t change your spouse, you can let Christ change you.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:3-5).
Finally, Holy Entangled, perhaps we should ask God to show us what He sees when He looks at our spouse. And then, ask ourselves these questions:
- What are the difficulties in my marriage teaching me?
- What am I learning about God? How is this marriage causing me to grow?
- How is it challenging me?
- From an eternal perspective, how is my marriage helping me?
We would love to know how you are and what you think.