Most of us have heard those words; especially people in the military; (Thank you for serving!).
It’s a phrase used in battle meaning that a fellow soldier is hit, down, lying on the ground. “Man down” alarms those around to rally to rescue.
In battle, we don’t leave the fallen behind.
Is your marriage in an embattled position?
Has repeated failure caused you and your spouse to consider quitting?
Maybe you’re already separated and living alone?
Does everyone around you (yourself included) say, “Your marriage is beyond repair”?
After all, “It takes two to make it work” (they say).
And you can’t force your spouse, right? Which means there are only two options:
Stay and suffer
YOU are committed to saving your marriage at any cost.
That means without your spouse's help.
You don’t want to stay and suffer. You don’t want a divorce. So, what’s the third option?
Can my marriage be restored?
Can my marriage be changed? Not to what it once was, but to something BETTER? (If you’re desiring change, but don’t know where to start, read THIS.)
Little diddy ‘bout Jack and Diane
(If you know the song, you’re humming it in your head now, am I right?).
This is a story about a couple- (whose names aren't actually Jack and Diane, but we'll use them for privacy's sake)- who found themselves in your spot; with one man down.
Diane had been in an affair, but she was done with her marriage before the affair even started. Jack was a mess of a man who had done a lot of terrible things over a long period of time. He wanted to save his seemingly hopeless marriage, but how could healing come through SO MUCH PAIN?
Can you relate? Perhaps you’ve even said to your spouse: “I see why you want out. I’m not sure I would stay either.”
In this situation, it’s hard to know what to say or do.
The answer is obvious: turn to the internet...
No, please don’t. Because guess what you’ll find?
The new thing is marriage which stays intact legally but is open (and encourages you) to seek physical, emotional and even spiritual support in the arms of another.
Please, “X” out of that option immediately.
If you want to save your marriage, but you’re doing it alone, be encouraged. You're never really alone (read THIS encouraging post for more on that subject.) God’s word has a lot to say on the subject of being an army of one in a fight for the King of Kings.
But first, let’s get a few things straight:
It WON’T be easy
You CANNOT do it on your own… so don’t even try
It is ONLY by the grace of God that you can win this battle
By now you’re most certainly wondering…
God, how do I do this?
How do you save your marriage “by yourself” (but with our amazing God)?
It’s about repeating a set of successive Biblical concepts, (the first three of which we will cover in this post).
Understand the purpose of your marriage (not your purpose, God’s purpose)
Take captive your thoughts and prepare for your reactions
Resist the pull of your emotions (and your friends’/loved ones’ emotions) - If that's hard for you, take a listen to THIS podcast
Be a conduit of God's love; stop believing you’re the source.
Before we dig into these concepts, let’s set the stage with GRACE. How does this look as we approach our marriage?
As always, God’s Word tells us.
Read Matthew 5:38-40: You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
This means even if we’re treated unfairly by our spouse, we must react with kindness and love. What?! Why?
Because God asks us to believe that- if we follow His way- we are building up His kingdom instead of ours (Matthew 6:25-34). And let’s face it: has our kingdom really been looking that great lately? (For more on our kingdom vs. God’s kingdom, read THIS.)
You may be thinking: Well then I’ll just keep getting hurt! I don’t want to be a doormat. I need to defend myself! Others around you may be saying: “I think it’s better if you just get a divorce.”
Here’s the deal: SIN IS REAL.
We are all sinful, every single one of us (Romans 3:23-24). And with sin, comes consequences: hurt, pain, brokenness.
BUT, check out what God tells us in 1 Peter 3:13-17: Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be BLESSED. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. FOR IT IS BETTER TO SUFFER FOR DOING GOOD, IF THAT SHOULD BE GOD’S WILL, than for doing evil.
Don’t miss that:
It is better to suffer for doing good- if it should be God’s will. You will receive blessing in that.
Satan says that only idiots suffer for doing good.
But GOD says no, actually, that is GRACE!
Responding with loving kindness when it’s undeserved is MERCY. Love in action.
Without offense, there is no chance for grace.
Check out Ephesians 2:8-9. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
God says the grace that saved us is NOT a result of our works.
What does this mean for your marriage? (If you want to go deeper in this concept, click HERE to listen to a powerful podcast on mercy and grace.)
Well, if you’re looking at your spouse thinking, Man. He/she is just so rebellious. Steeped in sin. Remember, you're not perfect either.
And God didn’t wait for our works. He didn't begrudgingly offer His free gift of salvation until we accepted it.
Instead, Jesus gives us GRACE. He COVERS our sins WHILE WE ARE STILL SINNING! (Colossians 2:13-14)
Grace must set the stage for how we treat and respond to our spouse; regardless of their actions. Love must be the backdrop against which everything plays out.
Now, onto #1…
#1: Understand the purpose of your marriage (not your purpose, GOD’S purpose)
Understanding God’s purpose for your marriage is vital for a proper perspective on how to save it.
Take a moment to read Ephesians 5. Do not skip this part!
In a nutshell, the purpose of marriage is to show a picture of God’s love for His people; a living example of Jesus’ sacrificial love for the church and the church’s response to Him.
This is powerful. It’s the gospel in action!
To save your marriage, you must love your spouse emotionally, physically, with your words, with your heart, with your mind, etc., but you must love Biblically. That means sacrificially, without expectation of being loved in return. In other words, God asks you to do this whether you see results or not. In fact, prepare to be rejected.
Sounds depressing, right?
But here’s where you must focus on the purpose: to show God’s love so that your spouse and those around you might come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. You’re loving like Him because that’s how HE loves YOU (1 John 4:19), and you want to show that love to the world.
Loving your spouse to demonstrate God’s purpose for your marriage will glorify HIM and further His kingdom, and THAT is a blessing in and of itself. HE will sustain you, fill you, give you strength (more on that in part 2 of How to Save Your Marriage Alone).
God will use our marriage problems to bring us to Him, and with Him is exactly where we need to be. Don’t lose heart; there’s hope in Him. (Find more hope for your hurting marriage, listen HERE or check out part 1 of the blog series: Is Your Marriage Hurting? There is Hope!)
Take some time to read Is Change Even Possible for my Marriage? and gain a better recognition of God’s purpose for your marriage. Make sure you understand it; it’s the driving force behind the next three Biblical concepts.
Now with eyes fixed on HIS purpose for your marriage, you're ready for the next concept:
#2: Take captive your thoughts and prepare for your reactions
First, you must recognize: God will prepare your mind for action … and reaction. You need to know your WHY. Why will you act (and react) in loving kindness?
Because that’s what Christ did for you, remember? Grace.
2 Corinthians 10:5 says take every thought captive to obey Christ.
So, when you’re tempted to think: There’s no hope, I’m the only one fighting for this marriage, you are wrong. Take those thoughts captive to the Truth: Christ loves you and He loves your spouse; and HE will help you fight for your marriage.
1 Peter 1:13 says, Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Preparing your mind and being sober-minded, setting your hope on His grace, is NOT a one-time thing. It must happen moment by moment. But how?
Deepen your relationship with God. Remember, you can’t save your marriage on your own, so your relationship with HIM must be strong. (For help with this, read Getting to Know God: Building a Relationship of Love and Trust)
Read God's word. Study James, John, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and you will learn exactly how God wants you to think and act (and react)
Know God’s promises and stand in confident hope on them (for more information, read THIS)
Make HIS thoughts your thoughts (Philippians 4:8)
Taking your thoughts captive is not about making you feel better emotionally. It’s about having a clear action plan, which makes it a lot easier to act/react from a place of love- even in the heat of the moment.
Remember Jack and Diane? In that case, Jack collected evidence (text messages, credit card receipts, etc.) proving his wife’s affair. The action plan for moving forward? Destroy all the evidence; there was no need to revisit it and drudge up old thoughts/feelings. Jack didn't want his wife to think he would throw the affair in her face or hold it over her head forever. He would not issue condemnation anymore. (The truth to which he held his thoughts captive: If we are forgiven in Christ, we are new creations.)
OR take another example (maybe you can relate?): Your spouse comes home angry and proceeds to treat you with disrespect, blaming you for something you didn’t do; or just simply taking out their frustration on you. The truth to which you must take your thoughts captive? Ephesians 4:29- Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (your spouse!). You bring glory to God by putting aside sinful anger. Ooo boy, that's hard. But still true. (Do you struggle with anger? Read THIS.)
The Christian with captive thoughts and God’s Word in their heart knows what sin is, and won’t entertain wrong reactions no matter how much it feels emotionally right.
God’s purpose for your marriage is not divorce. It is to reflect the kind of love Christ shows His bride (the Church) when He fulfilled Romans 5:8.
It’s HIS purpose, so stay focused on HIM. How?
Regularly attend a Biblically-based church that conforms its beliefs to the Word of God
Listen to VowsToKeep Radio on our weekly podcast by clicking HERE
Ask a seasoned believer to be your mentor/accountability partner (for more information on this, click HERE.)
Avoid people who don’t encourage you to adhere to Biblical Truth, especially in the marriage context
Maintain total mental commitment to the truth of God and follow His instructions.
In other words, do everything you can to keep your compass pointed to TRUE NORTH- at the God who loves and knows what’s best for you, your spouse, and your marriage.
So, with education and knowledge of God’s Word, we take our thoughts captive and prepare for godly reactions to really difficult situations.
But there’s a pressing pull you cannot discount:
#3: Resist the pull of your emotions (and your friends’/loved ones’ emotions)
This can be an enormous challenge and distraction.
Remember 2 Corinthians 10:5 (take your thoughts captive to Christ)? Read the first part of that verse: We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God.
If your emotions and the opinions/emotions of your friends and loved ones don't align with God's Word, you cannot give weight to them. Instead, be confident of this: You are building your house on the ROCK of God (Matthew 7:24-25).
Your reactions will be more in check (because of clear direction from God’s Word).
You will see the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24).
And you will no longer be at the mercy of outside events. Your emotions cannot rule you when you are submitted to and obeying God’s instruction! When you feel the rage rise within you, PRAY. Lord, I need You know. Help me to love like You. Direct my words and actions.
Draw near to Him. He will draw near to you. (James 4:8) THAT IS A PROMISE.
In EVERY new situation you face with your spouse, God will meet you. He is so good and faithful like that.
What about Jack? I mean, his wife cheated on him!
He said, “I’m going to do what God’s Word tells me. NO MATTER WHAT. I know He will work the results for my good and His glory. My trust is NOT in my own works, but in the works of God, so I’m going to keep on obeying His counsel, and ask Him to help me do so.”
Oh, the peace that is found when we reach this place!
And peace is key, because without it, the stress is unbearable. We were not made to endure the brokenness of this world alone. That’s why it is so easy to escape into medication, alcohol, drugs, etc.; numbing ourselves to the pain rather than facing reality. Erecting idols in the place of our almighty, loving, all-powerful God. Missing the blessing of trusting a heavenly Father. (If you want more information on how to build a relationship of love and trust with the Lord, read THIS.)
Submitting to our emotions leads to fear, anger, and panic. When we act out of our emotions, we do unwise, ungodly things.
This does NOT mean we must ignore our feelings; they can be indicators that something is amiss (or going well). But we must keep them in check with God’s Word. And God’s Word says the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:22-24).
Notice the first fruit of the Spirit listed: LOVE.
LOVE is the basis for everything you’re doing to save your marriage.
Vow to Change: An Encouraging Call to Action
On a piece of paper, make two columns. At the top of one, write "God's love is NOT" and at the top of the other, write "God's love IS"
Read1 Corinthians 13:2-8, 13: and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
In the "God's love is NOT" column, list everything from the passage that God says love is not (for example: envious). Circle the ones you struggle with.
In the "God's love IS" column, list everything from the passage that God says love IS (for example: patient). Circle the ones that are most difficult for you.
Take some time to write a prayer that 1) thanks God for loving you in all the ways HE asks US to love others, and 2) asks God to help you love your spouse the same way He does.
In the next week's post, you will learn the fourth Biblical concept to help save your marriage: what it means to love like a conduit. How can you love your spouse when it’s least deserved, and some practical ways of doing so? It’s a powerful post with Biblical reminders for how/why we should love like HIM, so don’t miss it.
To go deeper, listen to this post's corresponding podcast: