God Please Save My Marriage!

Praying for a miracle

As a pastoral counselor, I wish I had a proverbial dollar for every time I’ve heard someone ask for a relationship miracle. “God please save my marriage,” many ask.

But do we understand what we’re seeking?

Miraculous Rescue from the Abyss

We were driving home from a family fishing trip in northern Quebec Canada. We were on a 1.5 lane logging road 80 miles north of Maniwaki—literally the middle of nowhere. It was dark, it was late, and it was raining cats and dogs.

I crested a hill and my father said, “You might want to move over to the left.” As he said this, I noticed we were headed down a hill toward a one lane bridge over a logging river. There were no guardrails, just 4×6” planks on either side of the bridge. We were just off to the right of where the bridge would be at the bottom of the hill so I needed to move.

And I did—or at least I tried!

I moved the wheel, but nothing happened. I turned sharper and still nothing. I tapped the brakes and still nothing—now I knew I was in a mudslide and had no control of the vehicle. “I can’t stop it—we’re sliding,” I shouted! “Hang on everyone,” Dad yelled. We slid into a sign and it flew over the car. We were headed at an angle off the side of the bridge seemingly to go air-borne into the abyss…when all of a sudden…we stopped.

We stopped!

We sat there stunned for what seemed like hours, but was actually only a few seconds. “W-we stopped,” I stammered. Dad opened his door to try to get out but quickly realized that wouldn’t work and that we were not yet out of danger. The front third of the car was handing over nothing—he couldn’t get out because there was nothing but air to stand on.

“OK girls,” Dad shouted to my Mom, sister, and friend in the backseat, “Slide out the driver’s side door quickly and carefully. They complied between sobs and shrieks. “OK Son,” Dad said, “Now you get out too.” “But I can’t Dad!” I was white-knuckling the steering wheel still with both feet on the brake, the car in park, and with the emergency brake pushed all the way to the floor as well. “If I let go, the car may fall with you in it!” “It’s OK,” Dad said, “You keep it in park with the emergency brake on. Just slide out and I’ll be right behind you.”

I remember sliding out like a cat jumping from a proverbial tin roof. I ran to the front of the car and held the hood—pushing the car back from the edge of the bridge as best as I could. Before Dad even made it out, a man mysteriously showed-up behind us in a jeep with, believe-it-or-not, a winch on the front. Without a word, he strapped the cable to our back pumper, cranked up the winch, and pulled us off the board on the edge of the bridge. When he did, the plank fell off the edge of the bridge, right into the rocky water below. It was broken and split in two—thus, there was literally noting holding our car on the side of the bridge before he pulled us.

Like a hot, the man rewound his cable and jumped back into his jeep. Dad tried to pay him, but he just shook his head “No” with his hand out as if to say, “Stop it.” He drove away, and while we pulled out pretty quickly right behind him, we never saw his taillights or any sign of him again.  Was he human—or an angel—we don’t know! What we DO know is that God spared our lives that night and there’s really no good explanation as to why I’m still here, apart from God’s grace and work with me, even as a young man.

Miracles and the Abyss of Divorce

The difference between the abyss we nearly fell into that fateful night and the abyss of divorce is simply this–one involves free will and the other does not.

Plummeting off that bridge would NOT have been my choice. But I’ve seen many couples and individuals in a marriage choose to give up–to plummet into divorce while their partner prayed for a miracle. Was God being “stingy?” No. He simply chooses not to override the free moral agency of others.

Having said that, if you’re praying for a marriage miracle, is there no hope of God’s intervention? Furthermore, is there nothing else you can do but “wait and see?”

Actions: God’s and Your’s

What God will do, is put truth into the path of a spouse headed toward divorce. He’ll speak to them through His Spirit. He’ll put people in their path who can speak to their hurt and bring healing–if he/she will receive it. I’ve watched this happen again and again.

Your job in this?

First, it’s to pray, pray and then keep on praying for your spouse. Next, it’s to take whatever steps you can. I turned the wheel, hit the brakes, and shifted down into first gear during our terrifying mud slide event. None of this stopped us, but I know I did all that I could. Furthermore, I know God took over at that point and, I believe, saved us. Part of the reason for that is that we had prayed before we left and, knowing my mother, he was praying the entire trip–especially since I was driving!

God rescued us. And, He can do the same for you and your spouse…if you’re both willing.

I’d love to help you if I can. Check our “Resources” tab above or contact us for a free consultation.

 

Blessings,

Pastor Joel

 

Finding Christian Marital Advice: 7 Keys

Every marriage has challenges. So when a christian couple is struggling, how do they find solid christian marital advice and counsel?

Not an Easy Answer

This isn’t as easy as some may think. The “knee-jerk” reaction is often to

Happy Christian Couple

say, “Well, just call your pastor.” The problem is that many pastors don’t feel comfortable doing anything even close to marital counseling. First, they weren’t trained for this in seminary. Second, they are afraid of lawsuits if their advice doesn’t work or is misapplied. And third, it’s hard–and often not much fun either.

“Christian Counselors” Often Aren’t

Christian, that is. In other words, that’s the other challenge here. Many who advertise themselves as “Christian” counselors or therapists are nothing more than secular clinicians who mention Jesus occasionally. Their therapy consists of Freudian psychology and secular humanism with a few Bible verses added in to make it sound spiritual.

While some of what these folks offer is helpful, it often misses the bigger picture of what marriage really is and thus, how to fix it. Since God created it (See Genesis 2:24), who better to show us what to do to make it better?

So What’s a Believer to Do?

Over the past 25 plus years of my pastoral ministry to couples, here are a few tips I’ve picked-up that may help:

  1. Pray! It’s amazing how often we forget the promise of Proverbs 3:5-6. This passage tells us that God will direct us if we seek His direction over our own ideas and understanding. Start your search with sincere, fervent prayer.
  2. Then, do a Bible Study on Marriage. I always tell people that it’s important to see what God has already said on a subject before pursuing His specific word on your situation or seeking advice from others who claim to represent Him. An easy way to do this kind of study is to get a copy of a Topical Bible or just use an online Bible resource to search for verses on marriage. Here’s a great site which includes access to resources like Nave’s Topical Bible.
  3. Talk to your pastor, but give him a break. What I mean is, start with him, but let him know right up front that you don’t expect him to do counseling. Rather, you’re looking for advice on FINDING someone you can meet with. If he’s comfortable doing it and you’re comfortable with him, fine. Still, this approach gives him an “out” if he wants to refer you to a counselor, mentor, etc.
  4. Call your denomination. Most Christian networks or denominations have referral services to help you find good marital counselors. Call or go online to see what you can find.
  5. When considering a counselor or mentor, do your homework. Go to the counselor’s website and look at his/her statement of faith. If one isn’t posted, call the office and ask for one. If they don’t have one or won’t send one, move on to other options. To see an example, CLICK HERE.
  6. Ask Questions. Choosing a counselor is important. A good one will welcome your questions in making a decision about whether or not to use his services. Ask about the counselor’s philosophy, training, and faith. Where does he/she attend church? What schools did he/she attend? Many times, the answers to these questions give you more options of websites to surf so that you can find out what this person believes and thus how they’ll approach the task of helping you.
  7. Ask us! If all else fails, you can click the Contact Us button above to ask a question or seek further information. Our mission is to support couples from a biblical perspective. We’re always glad to provide more resources including our flagship book, “The Crucified Couple.” Get your copy or learn more here.

 

Tolerating Bird Dogs and Imperfect Partners

I grew-up in a family of hunters. My favorite season was the Fall when we’d hunt partridge, pheasant, and ducks. I was a pretty good wing shot and I loved working with a group of friends/family plus a good dog…although that was/is hard to find.

A good bird dog will find birds, wait till the right time, jump those birds and when the hunter shoots one, retrieve them. I never seemed to get the combination right over the years. First there was Smokey, actually my uncle’s dog. Smokey would point and jump them well, but then he’d only bring birds to my uncle regardless of who shot them. Also, if they fell in the water, we were all out of luck because Smokey, a Weimaraner, didn’t do water.

Later in life, I had Ginger, a Beagle/Spaniel mix. Ginger was a great dog and would find and jump birds well. She didn’t wait for me, but usually stayed close enough so when the birds jumped, I’d still be able to get off a good shot. Ginger even retrieved. The problem was, she retrieved for herself more than me. She would literally tear the birds to pieces before I could get to her and attempt, (notice the word “attempt”), to take them away. She was great to hunt with if you never planned to eat anything you shot.

In more recent years, I had Daisy, a purebred Labrador Retriever. She was awesome. Great at finding birds. She’d wait for my command to jump them. She’d even find them once they fell. The problem was, she wouldn’t touch them. Apparently, she’d been punished for messing with birds where she grew up before we got her, (I’m guessing chickens). Thus, she wouldn’t touch anything with wings. She’d just run up to them and sit down next to them. She’d then look back at me as if to say, “Hey, this is yours. I don’t want it. And don’t even think about asking me to grab it—‘cause it ain’t happenin!”

Imperfect dogs…imperfect people

What I’ve come to see is that there are no perfect dogs. People either. That is, as much as we want to find the perfect partner for marriage or the perfect employee or the perfect friend, we soon learn that he/she doesn’t exist.

Now while we all admit this and spout it as a cliche, our response to it is often illogical and well, ridiculous. Here are some common reactions I’ve witnessed to the lack of human perfection:

1. Keep hunting for it. Whether it’s romantic relationships or a corporate vacancy we’re attempting to fill. I’ve watched people waste years chasing something that we all know doesn’t exist–perfection. If we know it doesn’t exist, why pursue it?

 2. Attempt to create it. Some of us believe our talent, patience, and skill set is so amazing that creating perfection in others is inevitable should they be given the opportunity to spend time with us. Right!

 3. Harp on, and focus on the lack of it. This is the opposite of #2 above. In this case we think if we just complain about what’s missing in someone, they’ll suddenly become able to fix it and thus become, you got it, perfect! This is the most common approach and my only question to those practicing it is, “How’s that working for ya so far?”

 4. Live in the denial. In this case, people just pretend others are perfect even though they know deep down, that this just isn’t the case. The ultimate example is a mother who’s child is a public menace, yet she brags to others about what a model child he is. My wife is a school psychologist and lives with this daily.

 None of these work!

 Yet, we continue to try them.

 What’s better is to accept the reality of imperfection and then play to and focus on people’s strengths. Now with selecting a mate, we obviously know we can’t live with some things and that’s OK. The same is true of hiring. A kleptomaniac with a wrap sheet miles long wouldn’t make a good bank teller, for example. Still, the “little things” we decide we can live with need to be, just lived with! This is easier when we focus on strengths and leverage those.

 Each of the retrievers I’ve owned had strengths. I learned to adjust my hunting approach to those and, we did very well together. Smokey brought all the birds to my uncle which meant I had more room in my bag for other things. He didn’t do water, but he was great in the brush for hunting partridge or woodcock. Ginger was great at finding and jumping birds. I just had to be fast enough to get to them and her, before she shred them like yesterday’s financial reports. I’d just give her treats to trade for the bird and all was fine. And with Daisy, I’d just get more exercise by walking to her as she sat next to my downed prey instead of asking her to bring it back to me. It was healthier. 🙂

 So, my advice is to analyse the four common responses to imperfection above and reject any you’ve been guilty of. Next, I’d make a list of absolute requirements for the people you’re seeking and admit that anything else is what you can live with. Finally, I’d recommend choosing to support and encourage the strengths in the people around you. You’ll be happier–and so will they!

Blessings,

Pastor Joel

Help Me Save My Marriage!

When I first met Kathy and Dan (not their real names) Dan was living with another woman in an open, and blatant affair…

“Help me save this marriage pastor,” she begged. She had been praying for and trying to work things out with her husband for at least a year before we spoke. Kathy was amazing in that most women would have walked away. She wanted to save the marriage and their family despite her husband’s obvious excesses.

What does a counselor/mentor do in such circumstances?

I don’t know that there’s an easy answer to that question, but I DO believe that even these kinds of marriages can be saved. Unfortunately, many counselors just listen and empathize without giving much if any practical advice.

In Dan and Kathy’s case, I spent time with Dan and learned that he needed to do some spiritual healing based on some pretty severe emotional wounds. We did something called “Steps to Freedom in Christ” by Dr. Neil Anderson. He was able to forgive his father, forgive Kathy for some of her mistakes in their relationship, and then seek forgiveness after walking away from the adulterous relationship.

Today, if you were to meet Dan and Kathy, you’d never believe they had ever had a problem. They love each other deeply and spend a lot of time laughing and serving together in their church. Their kids are happy–it’s really an amazing story.

So how does this kind of miracle turn-around occur and how might it happen for you?

  1. Don’t give up. Kathy’s commitment led to Dan’s and together they were relentless about rebuilding their relationship. I’m convinced that two people who are committed to healing and growth can will have a successful marriage.
  2. Seek spiritual healing individually as well as collectively. Too often, we want to tackle the obvious physical problem and thus miss the underlying issues. Forgiveness was the key for Dan and Kathy. God led them to it and the rest was/is history.
  3. Learn your spouse’s love language, personality, and motivation. Also seek to understand the basic difference in primary needs expressed by most men versus most women (See Ephesians 5:33).
  4. Most importantly, know and focus on the real reason for marriage. I cover this in detail in my book “The Crucified Couple,” but suffice it to say that the real purpose for marriage is bigger and more powerful than meeting your needs or your spouses. I would argue that a good marriage demonstrates the unity and perfect balance of the Godhead (Genesis 1:26 and 2:24). I would also argue that it pictures Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:32).

If you’d like to speak with someone about your marriage and see if you can experience what Dan and Kathy did, please click this link and send us an email. It would be our pleasure to serve you.

office@christianmarriagementor.com

Blessings,

Pastor Joel