I don’t give much advice to hurting couples anymore. My advice is worth five cents, maybe less. The Gospel though, is worth more than gold. The Gospel is GOLD. When hurting couples look to the Gospel for help and healing, there is no stopping them. I’ve seen it first-hand. Several years ago Mark and Joan (not their real names) came to my office admitting they fought like cats and dogs. In fact their cat and dog stopped fighting out of deference to their owners. I met with Mark and Joan for months, and gave them the best tips imaginable to help their marriage, but like kindling on a smoldering fire, what I offered worsened their relationship. On this particular day, I sat behind my desk, the two sitting across from me with arms folded and shoulders slanted away from each other. I’d prepared nothing for this session, knowing it would do no good. Mark sighed heavily, and Joan frowned at him and gave me a look that said, “See, he’ll never change.”
I startled both of them when I threw my arms up in exasperation. Now I sighed and frowned, my hands slamming carefully, but hard on my desk. With an intense and grieving look I said, “I give up on you both.” Their shoulders slumped in defeat. “I really don’t think I can do much more for you guys.” Nearly all the air left them. A tear found its way out of Joan’s eyes, rolling down her cheek.
“There is only one thing that can change your marriage.”
Both raised their shoulders cautiously in hope.
“All I can tell you is to come together at the cross and there remember that Jesus died for you both. He took on himself your sin, this sin,” my index finger waving between the two of them, “and he rose again to offer new life. There is no other place you will experience transformation.”
I had their attention. The effect of just telling that story again seemed to raise some hope, and kept the one thread holding them together from snapping. “Guys, all I can tell you is you both need to stand at the foot of the cross; remember what Jesus did for you, and then look at each other and say you’re both so sorry for what you have done to each other, and to Jesus by the way you’ve behaved.”
What I did next paved the way, no, pointed to the place for a miracle, and it changed their marriage completely. “Mark and Joan”, pointing to the carpet at their feet I said, “Would you both kneel right now?”
“Now hold hands and look at each other.”
“Now tell each you are sorry, and ask Jesus to forgive you and to come and bury this mess, all this sin he died for, and bring about new life to your marriage.”
They did, and more.
Like repeating wedding vows these words were pushed out by streams of tears. Weeping, they held each other. Long silence followed. They finally stood. I stood with them. We hugged, and they left my office.
Their marriage was saved.
And since, I never counsel without first telling the story of what Jesus came to do and why.
A couple struggling with their daughter’s suicide.
A pastor’s family wearing masks, for fear their congregation will see what they are really like.
A missionary wife reviving from her husband’s resurrection from years of tormenting silence. He now speaks life to her.
I often tell now of the power of the cross, the gospel, in what I refer to as the moment.The moment the usual impulse is to lash out with harsh words, bury it, and let the new man, the resurrected Spirit-filled man speak love and life. Remember, at that moment what Jesus came to do. It’s what resurrected born-again people do. It’s how they speak. To live in old patterns of abuse, fighting with harsh damaging words is to pull out of the grave that which is already declared dead. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self[c] with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (Colossians 3:5-10)
The gospel reminds us daily that we are different people, who are not allowed to behave in the old way. Remembering that in the momentproduces a completely different response that can only bring life and restore what is broken. Do that enough times, and you, too, will discover a miracle.
Should you ever find yourself in a position to offer encouragement and hope to someone hurting, or a couple facing the end of their marriage, can I urge you to start your conversation with them by just telling the story of the Gospel? Once you’ve told that story, ask them to tell their story next to what Jesus did for them. You will be amazed at the power of the Gospel of Jesus.
It’s worth more than gold.
Because our salvation is an act of God’s grace—giving us something that we don’t deserve—we have a model and standard of grace for our marriage. Our desire is to extend unmerited grace to each other in our marriage, just as God showed it to us through Jesus.…Our forgiveness of each other has to follow the example extended to us. When we forgive, we make the conscious choice not to hold past transgressions and hurts against each other. We let it go and trust God with the situation. … As a couple we don’t live in defeat, but in confidence. The world and its troubles are temporary, but heaven is forever! – Brad & Heidi Mitchell, Build a Legacy Through Your Marriage