6 Commitments YOU Can Make to Help Your Marriage, Even When Your Spouse Wants Out
If you’re reading this, hopefully that means you’ve just finished reading I Want a Divorce (Part 1).
Did you answer the six questions for if you’re considering divorce based on irreconcilable differences?
If you are willing to look at your heart through the lens of God’s Word and what it says about God, His grace, His mercy, His love, and you… and let that redefine your belief about your spouse and marriage, then perhaps you are ready to commit.
Remember to trust in GOD’S faithfulness, not your spouse’s.
Then watch the seed of hope begin to grow.
Make the following 6 commitments.
Commit to BELIEVE THE TRUTH
We do NOT get to draw the line where God’s grace stops for our spouse; and vice versa. (Think: She doesn’t deserve this, or He can do what he wants- it’s not my problem!)
The sooner we can grasp that, the freer we will be in our marriage to love our spouse the way God loves us.
When you understand (and are humble enough to admit) that you need the same grace your spouse does- that your heart is not better than theirs just because your sin looks different- God can and will do amazing things!
God is still working in my heart and my spouse’s heart. He is not done yet.
So, what IS the truth we must commit to? What do we need to believe?
We ALL need the same Savior.
He does not wish that any should perish; He wants ALL to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
How do we know this?
Because He paid the highest price- His own life- to be in relationship with us.
He NEVER writes us off.
And so, we should never write off our spouse.
This brings us to our second commitment…
Commit to PAY THE COST
Really, Jesus already paid the cost (1 Peter 2:24).
He took the punishment you and your spouse deserved and exchanged it for freedom in Him.
The cost we are asked to pay is not that high… more on that in just a moment.
Remember Jonah (I wrote a lot about him in I Want a Divorce- Part 1)? He was commanded by God to go and love the people of Nineveh. Despite any cost to himself- that includes his pride, his comfort, his idea of what God’s love should like.
Like Jonah, you are asked by God to commit to pay the cost- no matter what that cost is. In this case it is:
Humbling yourself before God...
for the sake of your spouse...
in reaction to what Jesus has done for you.
BECAUSE… when you have a humble heart, you have an obedient life. And when you have an obedient life, you can make the next commitment...
Commit to the OBEY THE CALLING
In our pain and annoyance at our spouse, it is hard to remember what God is calling us to do. That’s when we need to remember to keep it simple.
Just like Jonah, God asks us to GO and LOVE.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and love your neighbor (spouse) as yourself (Mark 12:30-31).
This may be the hardest calling we’re ever asked to obey (ESPECIALLY in those moments of hurt, anger, frustration, and disappointment), but when we love God with everything we have, loving others is a whole lot easier.
God sent Jonah.
God has sent you. He is sending you.
Today, tomorrow, and for the rest of your married life.
God has a message for your spouse that He has chosen YOU to deliver.
A message of love and hope.
A message of “You and I- and our marriage- are not too far gone.”
A message that says, “I’ll love you the most when you deserve it the least.”
If your marriage needs a miracle, go and obey the calling to love like Jesus loves you.
If you are ready to make these commitments, awesome! We're cheering you on. But it won’t be all roses from here on out.
Be aware of those little moments when you’d rather run from God’s calling than obey. We call them “Jonah moments” because that’s what he did initially when God asked him to go and love. He ran the other direction.
And, unlike the big life moments (birth of a child, death in the family, new job/house, etc.), it is way too easy for us to run from God in the hundreds of little life moments. This creates daily, habitual sin.
Initiate the difficult conversation or isolate, blaming your spouse for not making the first move?
Numb out on Netflix or devote undivided attention to your hurting spouse?
Run or obey?
And yes, obedience is hard. But God! He doesn’t leave us alone to do the hard work. He shows His love in this Philippians 2:13 promise- God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.
Wow. Talk about love.
Thank you, God!
What does our heart show?
Before we move to the next commitment, let’s look back at Jonah.
In chapter 4 of the book, we see Jonah sitting outside the city of Nineveh, waiting, and watching- what will happen? When God refrains from destroying it, Jonah gets angry. He tells God he wants to die, he's so mad. (Doesn’t God see how EVIL these people are?! They deserve death!)
In judgment he sits, once again.
Yes, Jonah had obeyed God. He gave them the message. But did he love them?
His heart is showing. He still doesn’t really want Nineveh redeemed. So, God does a little object lesson for Jonah right there, while he’s sitting on the hill outside the city. Read it in Jonah 4:5-11. God wanted a heart-change in Jonah. He loved him too much to settle for less.
Like Jonah, we can do all the right things with the wrong heart.
So, we must ask God to search and change our heart. (Try praying Psalm 139:23-24 every day for the next week and see what God reveals about your heart.)
If we do, it will be easier to make the next commitment…
Commit to GO 100% ALL IN for your marriage
Jonah’s attitude- his anger, pout-pout face, and actions- showed he was more concerned with his own comfort than others’ lives and eternities.
If we’re honest, we are the same way in our marriage.
I know I am.
Realize this in advance- It will be extremely out of your comfort zone to:
Love your husband/wife the most when they deserve it the least
Be a servant to them despite how they treat you
Hold your tongue when they lash out at you
But in those moments, when you set aside your comfort and choose to believe the truth about God, others, and yourself, you will see God faithfully show up time and time again.
When you say, “Yes, God, I will go and love,” and then do so from a heart overflowing with praise to the Lord, you are demonstrating your service to a God. The God of compassion, mercy, and unfailing faithfulness, who is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Psalm 86:15, Lamentations 3:22-23).
God demonstrates His commitment to go 100% all in for us.
Look at Jonah. He disobeyed, ran away, and wound up in the belly of a fish.
God never left him alone.
Instead, in Jonah 3:1, God came to him a second time.
He was relentless in His pursuit of the Ninevites and chose a sinful person in Jonah to do His work.
He also shows His love for Jonah. He didn’t write him off or consider him a lost cause just because he didn’t get it right the first time (and even failed at his second attempt).
God was (and is) 100% committed to Jonah, the people of Nineveh, and us.
When we understand this, we can…
Commit to TRUST GOD WITH THE OUTCOME
The story of Jonah is only mentioned one time in the New Testament: hundreds of years later in Matthew 12:38-40.
One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority.”
But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.”
Let’s check out the parallels:
Jonah had to be forced to GO.
Jesus willingly went- even to a people who would hate and kill Him- to save them.
The question is…
Will I be Jesus or Jonah?
Will I be Jonah and…
Run from God’s calling to do something for your spouse’s good?
Doubt what God can do?
Question if God’s way is really the best way? Maybe I know better…
Wonder if I even want to do things God’s way; after all, it will require so much of me
Ask, where is the justice?? What about all the wrong my spouse has done to ME?
Or will I be Jesus (figuratively speaking, of course) and…
Willingly go, ready to sacrifice my own comforts, desires, and expectations to restore the relationship? (Think of Jesus hanging on the cross)
Know God’s character; that He is just. He knows everything you AND your spouse have done. He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people (your spouse)and continue to help them (Hebrews 6:10).
No matter how your spouse acts, God is still just. He is still sovereign. He is still faithful. He still loves them. And He still wants you to serve Him by loving them, too.
He will take your obedience and do amazing things in your marriage. That means you can make the next commitment...
Commit to EMBRACE WHATEVER COMES NEXT
Say YES to God and go 100% all in- on Him, on your spouse, on your marriage.
Then watch the miracles that will unfold.
Vow to change: an encouraging call to action
Here is where you back up your commitments with action.
Every day, say yes to GOD for the benefit of your spouse. Ask Him to show you your spouse’s greatest needs, and how He wants to use you to help meet those needs. Write down your observations in two columns: spouse’s needs/how I can help.
Every day, say yes to your spouse and marriage. Remind yourself as you look at your spouse: I am going all in for you- 100%- whether you EVER reciprocate or not. I have received God’s mercy and grace and I do NOT get to draw the line where grace stops. God has asked me to GO and LOVE you, and I will say yes, every day, because GOD is worthy and you and our marriage are worth it.
Take ownership of your learning and submit to the teaching of God’s Word. Go to a Bible-based church, read Scripture daily, join a Bible study. Drink in all He wants to show you. You’ll be better equipped to love your spouse with God’s mercy and grace the next time they sin against you (and they will- today, tomorrow, the next day…and so will you!). Respond in love and forgiveness.
Commit to spending time with God Every. Single. Day. Pray (just talk to Him!). Tell Him your greatest fears, weaknesses, and needs. He already knows what they are; He just wants to talk and help you deal with them.
Find a godly mentor/accountability partner who will disciple you with the truth of God’s Word. Someone who can help when you are weak or struggling, and consistently pray for you and your spouse. If your spouse will join you, find a godly counselor and attend Biblical marriage counseling together.
Grant and seek forgiveness. Grant it daily, even when they don’t ask, because that’s what God does for us. When you ask for it, be specific; for what do you need forgiveness? Be willing to ask for forgiveness whenever it’s needed. Your humble heart will melt your spouse’s.
Every day, commit to say yes again. Walk in hope and trust that obedience to God’s Word will always produce good fruit. Make these commitments before the Lord. Stay and fight for your marriage, asking HIM to help you every step of the way.
Listen to the corresponding podacasts: