By Abraham Lee
It is a sad but true statistic that one out of two marriages in the Western world ends up in divorce. Among Christian conservatives, the statistic is one out of three. This is alarming. It appears that even among Bible-believing Christians, the divorce rate is not far behind the rest of the Western world. What is more alarming is that this gap is closing.
As a minister, I would like to see a reduction in the rate of divorce especially among evangelical Bible-believing Christians. And I would also do everything I can to make this happen. This is because of the principles of marriage that are clearly stated in the Bible, which every Christian should adhere to:
1. God was the One who instituted marriage because it was not good for man to be alone. That is why after God made Adam, He made a wife for him, named Eve.
2. Jesus clearly taught that marriage should be life-long and that divorce should not be permitted other than because of unrepentant sexual immorality.
If this is so, why is the divorce rate among Christians on the rise? And more importantly, how can a Christian save his or her marriage from divorce? Well, the good news is that Christians have the Lord to turn to when marriage is at the verge of breakdown. Even so, this does not exempt us from our practical responsibilities to save our own marriage. Let me share some practical things to do.
In my many years of counseling, I have found the following steps should be taken to resolve Christian marriage problems and thus save the marriage:
1. Both partners must agree to try to save the marriage because it is Biblical to do so. God says in the book of Malachi, “I hate divorce”.
2. Listen & talk to each other without condemning, criticizing or blame-shifting. Understand & empathize with one another. In the Bible, a verse in Ephesians states that we are to only speak words that edify and impart grace to the hearer. This is all the more important to do in the context of a troubled marriage.
3. Be completely honest with your partner. Share your heart with one another. Discuss your disappointments, hurts, offenses etc. with each another. Resolve whatever differences there may be with your partner in a spirit of love. Again, the Bible says you as Christians are to love one another as Christ loved you.
4. Go back to the earliest time when you felt something changed in your marriage. Try to discover the root causes of the breakdown in your relationship.
5. Once you have identified the root causes, help one another deal with it. Be willing to change yourself; do not only expect your partner to change. Make it a point to pray with one another that God would help both of you to change.
6. Share your marital problems with someone you trust, for example a mature Christian friend or minister. Ask them to help and pray along with you. This is one of the privileges and benefits of being members of a church.
7. Be accountable to other Christian friends. The husband should be accountable to another Christian brother and the wife to another Christian sister. These people will come alongside to help the troubled couple to take the steps necessary for reconciliation.
8. If there is an affair with a third party, be willing to bring it out into the open. The Christian brother and sister to whom you are accountable should lovingly but firmly separate the third party from the couple. Here extreme sensitivity is called for because these are matters of the heart where very strong emotions are involved. This is especially so if the third party is also a Christian, perhaps even from the same church.
9. Rebuild, re-fire and rekindle the marriage relationship. Christian friends can help with the children so that you and your partner can have quality time doing things that reignite your love for each other.
10. Put in what was missing in your relationship. It might be encouragement, affirmation, support and understanding, interest in one another, concern or speaking each other’s love language. Do not focus on problems of the past. Rather look forward to develop your relationship with each other in a fresh new way. After some years being married, even Christian couples may take each other for granted.
11. Since both you and your partner are Christians, spend time studying the Bible together on topics related to marriage, relationships, love, commitment, faithfulness etc. Allow God’s Holy Spirit to transform you both into better marriage partners through the study of God’s Word.
12. Here is something I always encourage if both partners are willing. At an appropriate time, have another formal exchange of vows before close friends and the minister. Don’t wait till your marriage is deemed perfect before you do it. Renewed exchanges of vows of faithfulness towards one another seal your commitment as a couple once again.
13. At all times and throughout the process, pray and trust the Lord to work things out. It is God’s will for the marriage to be saved. Of that, you can be certain.
Christians should marry for life according to the Bible’s injunction. No matter what the problems are, God is there to help every Christian couple have a successful marriage.