Some time back, I wrote the following to two loved ones whose marriage was failing. I offer it here on the chance that there are others that might find their way to it, take it to heart, and experience the beauty of restoration and a new life together.
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There may be nothing more painful in life than a marriage coming apart. I have been there. It is a terrible tension between so many emotions. Anger and love. Disappointment and hope. The desperately empty feeling of ending where you should just be beginning. It can seem like a part of your very body is being torn out.
I have experienced these feelings and have empathy for what you are going through, but my purpose in writing to you is not simply to commiserate, but to bring you hope. Real hope. Please hear me out.
The reason for the terrible pain is that the one who created us, who invented the whole male/female thing, had a really good plan for how we would help one another, bring joy to one another, and bring new lives into the world. Marriage is not of human origin; it is a really precise and important plan devised by God himself. And when we mess with his plans for any part of our human experience, it’s like tossing aside the manufacturer’s instructions for (sorry, dumb examples) maintaining an automobile or building a bookshelf. It might work OK for a while, but chances are that it will eventually fall apart or break down. Pain, suffering and regret are often the result.
God’s plans extend much further than marriage, and touch on every relationship. With parents, children, siblings, employers, friends, strangers, enemies, ourselves. With food, money, work, time and possessions. God really is a good Father. One who can be trusted to help us think clearly about choices and consequences — and far far more. It’s not rules and religion; it’s about experiencing life in all its fullness, the way it was meant to be.
But here’s the thing. Even though God has a beautiful plan for how things should work, he doesn’t force it. He respects our right to live the way we want, even though, as a consequence, we ignore him and are separated from him. There are many sins in the world, but the worst is the pride that keeps us in that dark place, far away from the God who wants better for us. And the scary thing is that we cannot fix our own dark and broken hearts. But God has a plan even for that!
Many years ago, I had it all figured out. An atheist druggy, I was way smarter than those idiot Christians believing their myths. But the reality was that I was desperately empty and desperately afraid. I had a long talk with a Jesus-follower one night, as I tried to win him over to my atheist view. When he left, and I was alone with my thoughts, I knew that he had something I wanted. He was at peace, deeply at peace, and seemed, somehow, to really know this God I didn’t believe in. My “prayer” at that moment went something like this: God, if you are there, I don’t want to miss out. If you can put together the broken pieces of this messed up life, it’s yours. Please just show me that you are real, so I don’t waste my life on some wild goose chase.
In the weeks following, God did indeed show himself to be real. Everything changed. To trust in God and not in ourselves finally puts us in that place of right-relationship with everything around us, and to understand our place in this amazing universe. My life has been his ever since.
So what about marriage – and this hope I promised? I have given some thought to this lately, since I have other loved ones and acquaintances also struggling in their marriages. I am persuaded that the answer to a marriage in crisis, as it is for all human woes and predicaments, is surrender to God. To fully embrace Jesus, proven to be God’s son by rising from the dead, and accepting the great exchange that is good news indeed: That Jesus suffered for our sins so that we do not have to, and he offers us the free gift of forgiveness and peace with God, just by trusting in him, turning away from our painful wasted lives of doing things our own way.
Done right, marriage is beautiful. I am convinced that if ANY two people, husband and wife, yield to God, and seek to do things his way, even the most badly messed-up marriage can be healed and restored.
My appeal to you is this: Please take time, even five minutes, to get in a quiet place and, with a sincere heart, reflect on what I have written, and speak to God with words something like the “if you’re there” prayer I used so many years ago. I know it can seem weird, even a bit frightening, but please take the chance that this is all, in fact, true. That I am not some crazy old man with silly outdated ideas, but rather someone that has seen many lives transformed and made whole by the power of this amazing loving God.
Please, of course, let me know if you choose to take that step. I will help you in any way I can to figure out the path forward in your new life. Contact me any time.
I have heard parts of your story before, but every time I hear it, it makes me so grateful to have been raised by a Christian. Although I have never been atheist, I have drifted from God and have had false happiness as I have tried to find my way in life. I tried to be married without God, and that was miserable. I tried to control everything and twisted the family structure to make myself the head of household, but failed of course at that plan. It wasn’t until recently that I came back around to God/would say that I became born-again involved in a good church as a member, started reading the Bible, and started to look at myself and my own relationship with God . . . that my marriage changed for the better. I think God knew that I would be drawn to Him through my failures in the biggest struggle of my life that is my marriage. . . or rather ME! I finally know that I have to fully trust God in all things and that His plan is greater than mine. Only by finally trying to get to know Him have I been able to trust Him. Now I clearly see His handiwork and how letting Him lead is healing our marriage.
Thank you, dad!
Love, Emily 🙂
Thanks, Emily. So good to know that you are at peace with God, not leaning on your own understanding, trusting in Him as He directs your paths. There is no better way to live.