A Marriage That Bends but Does Not Break

When we do premarital counseling, my husband and I have a phrase we say over and over again—“Take divorce out of your vocabulary.”

Have people gotten divorced that have gone through our premarital counseling program? Yes. We don’t have a 100 percent success rate. It’s disheartening, but I think it tells us one very valuable thing about ourselves that is vital to doing any work with those who are married or looking to get married. . . .

We don’t have the magic answer.
Because there isn’t one.

If magic is what you are looking for to solve the marriage problems of the world, it’s not going to happen. Most of you reading this know this. You are nodding your head and saying things to yourself, such as “Of course” or “Yes, magic. Not helpful.”

But do we believe it? We search high and low for the answer. We spend copious amounts of money on books and search the Internet for answers and solutions. We want a system. We so badly want a system that will work, that will “foolproof” our marriage. But there are no rule books; there are not steps 1, 2, and 3 to save our marriages.

The Scriptures do teach us what we need to know about marriage. Praise be to God! We can look in Genesis and Matthew and all over the Epistles for good news about God’s design for marriage. And we should! Don’t stop now!

But if we believe that this alone will protect our marriages like a talisman, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Studying the Bible and searching the Word will grow your faith and your relationship with each other. It will fortify your soul and your marriage, so please, please do not stop, but it is important to be aware that the “knowing” of it will not guard your marriage. When we trust in “knowing,” we’re in trouble deep.

First Corinthians 8:1 tells us that “This ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up” (ESV). We can’t trust ourselves to save our marriages. We can’t trust our minds and our hearts, even those fully devoted to Christ, to make the right decision at the right time.

We all have weak moments. We all have “in the pit” times. Our marriages are no different. I’m so sorry, newlyweds, but it’s true. When you ask couples whose marriages have stood the test of time, over and over the answer you will hear is that there were good times, and there were bad times, and then there were really, really bad times. There were the “almost” times.

Almost done.
Almost lost it.
Almost gave up.
Almost walked out.

What was the difference? What turned “almost” into “not quite”?

Not quite done.
Not quite giving in.
Not quite over.

Jesus. We have a God who is bigger than our “almosts” and even our “not quites.” While Ephesians 5 and Matthew 19 and Genesis 2 are super valuable passages to learn and grow in our marriages, one thing will save our marriages . . .

The Savior.

Isaiah 42:1–3 tells us more about this Savior and how He interacts with His people, how He interacts with our marriages.

Behold My servant, whom I uphold,
My chosen, in whom My soul delights;
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up His voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed He will not break,
and a faintly burning wick He will not quench;

He will faithfully bring forth justice. (ESV, emphasis added)

Jesus will not let you break. He will not let your marriage break. With Jesus, we bend. It hurts. But His love gives us love that bends but does not break. We can learn and hear about this only through the Bible, the Living Word. Jesus is the Word made flesh, so we can’t separate ourselves from the Bible and know Jesus. But there is no system, only salvation.

When the really, really bad times come, we lay back and rest in Him all the more. This goes against everything we will want to do in that moment. We will want action. We will want change. We will want movement and doing. We will want to declare demands. When our marriages are suffering, when the wick of earthly love and passion is burning faintly, we tend to blow so hard trying to save it that we railroad the whole debacle. Knowing Jesus gives us the power to tread lightly. To bend with the struggle into each other. To seek Him together. To trust Him together to bring us through to the other side.

This is one reason we use that phrase—“Take divorce out of your vocabulary.”

So often, we simply need to give ourselves some time. We need to step back from the wick and let the oxygen get in the marriage. We aren’t just going through the motions, but we are taking our time. Letting Christ love where we are struggling to love; letting Christ heal where we need healing.

Seek Him. He has already found you and your marriage. He sees the struggle. Hold your spouse’s hand and trust in Him. Bend. Let His love build you each and build you together. Pray together for His saving work to be done, even when you don’t feel like it. Pray in a journal if you can’t bring yourselves to hold hands. Pass it back and forth. And give it time. He will faithfully bring forth justice. Trust Him with your heart and your marriage. He gave His very self for all of it. Let the God of the resurrection do His work in His time.

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Heidi Goehmann

Heidi is a licensed clinical social worker and mental health provider, deaconess, writer, speaker, wife, mom, and advocate. She can always be found at heidigoehmann.com, advocating and providing resources for mental health and genuine relationship. Heidi loves her family, sticky notes, Jesus, adventure, Star Wars, Star Trek, and new ideas . . . not necessarily in that order.

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