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Rebuilding a Christian Marriage after Painful Experiences

When I was growing up, I said that I believed in God, but I didn’t understand my beliefs. I really connected church with God, though I actually attended very little. I thought church was either for the really good people or for the weaker people who needed something. In my mind, it was something I was going to work on later, when I was older. Older people seemed to be the ones that went to church anyway, maybe, I thought, because they had nothing else to do. We seemed to go an average of about 1.3 times a month, which means once a month, on Christmas, on Easter, and sometimes in “big hurts” when we were searching for something, but we didn’t know what. As for forgiveness, I didn’t really connect it with church at all. As far as I was concerned, I was only going to be hurt once, and my guard was up so that a 100 mph wind couldn’t blow it over.

When I met Kathy, her family went to church, which intrigued me. They would picnic, go out on Friday and Saturday, and go to church on Sunday. It seemed like a good tradeoff for a bigger belief in God, but it just never really sank in for me. God was just a Sunday thing. As much as Kath and I tried, our church relationships didn’t grow. Our other life, the Monday-through-Saturday one, played a bigger part, and it was clear that our two different lives didn’t mix well, almost like oil and water.

Let’s fast forward at least a couple of decades to after I began fully believing in Jesus and in His death and resurrection for all my sins—past, present and future. Our calling into marriage ministry showed us that many long-term Christians are also in bondage to some of the same things that we were prior to becoming Christians. Many couples have shared that when they go to church on Sunday, everyone is happy, singing, and smiling, when, in fact, they are completely broken inside. They feel disconnected not just from their spouse and family, but also from their church family, even in their small groups. So many people carry things they don’t feel able to share…with anyone.

A lot of things can break a marriage—emotional affairs, infidelity, or a relationship just headed that way. Couples need to talk about these things to work through them. Sometimes it’s as easy as going to a marriage event like either the Art of Marriage or Family Life’s Weekend to Remember. Some couples need outside counseling—we always recommend the Biblical kind. We did. We simply never got the help we needed from either the church or the family, though, of course, we’re not saying that it’s not possible. They couldn’t help us anyway, as we either couldn’t, or didn’t know how, to be totally honest. It’s a hard place to be.

So how do you start rebuilding a broken marriage?

Reading the scriptures together as a daily habit can really help. We started with a chapter of Proverbs a day 14 years ago. It was a way for us to get fed, to start to understand the scriptures, who wrote them, when they wrote them, and who their audience was. It also helped us to understand how spiritually mature their audience was then, which we really need to consider now. People who have gone to church for years, like we did early in our marriage, can still be immature in the faith. It took a few years of reading the Bible before we added praying, which started just with me. Then one night Kath asked if she could add to our prayer, and this practice has become a staple in our relationship with the Lord. Without it, in my opinion, we would be vulnerable to real opportunities to slip…or to do worse, including engaging in full-blown emotional affairs. (Let me take a minute here to point out the importance of getting some regular accountability from godly people. Both husbands and wives need it, but I want to emphasize that men really need accountability from strong, like-minded dudes in their lives. We need to take every precaution we can.)

Here’s another thing about praying together. Without it, we would also not have the ability to love and to forgive unconditionally, which is a big deal. Broken marriages do not get fixed without forgiveness. That’s not saying it’s easy…just necessary, especially according to Matthew 18:21-22 (ESV): “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but 77 times.”” In other words, we cannot reach the limit on how many times Jesus commands us to forgive. There just isn’t one. This tells me that Jesus is serious about forgiveness in all our relationships, and in marriage, maybe even more so.

Another thing that helped us rebuild our marriage is sharing our story. Once we started sharing our story routinely, we had people, in some cases long-term churchgoers living in shame and carrying old burdens, say they were stuck in so many ways until they heard our broken story.

Sometimes people, Christian or not, just need to hear your broken story to be able to talk about the burdens that keep them in bondage. We found out that Jesus actually redeemed the brokenness of our marriage when we shared our story.

So, let me ask again, how do you start rebuilding a broken marriage?

Read the Bible together. Pray together. Get some accountability. Ask Jesus to reveal to you the people that He wants you to share your story with. Do you love Him and them enough to show unconditional love by sharing, then hearing, and then helping them into forgiveness?

We all have a story. Can yours be used for the good of others?

  • brion beaver - April 17, 2023

    I appreciate your willingness to share, great work

  • Bob Deno - April 26, 2023

    It has been an amazing walk the last 14 years. Helping others while strengthening your own relationship is not easy but with HIM it is possibly. #Thankful