Say you’re in a difficult marriage and over a several year stretch, you have asked a variety of people for their advice.
You’ve heard everything from “I don’t know why you put up with that…you deserve so much better,” to “Maybe if you submitted more and didn’t nag so much, he would treat you better,” to “Unless he’s cheated or has left you, you don’t have grounds for divorce”.
You know, just a few conflicting voices there.
How do you know who to listen to?
First of all, I applaud you for not just up and leaving your marriage. And I commend you for asking for help and advice. Scripture is clear that it’s not just a good idea to ask for others’ opinions, it’s the wise road to take. Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22)
Second, I would make sure that you are getting counsel from people who hold the same values you do. If walking with Jesus is a priority for you, then you’re going to want to get advice from other people who use the Bible as their guidebook.
Third, doing what feels right is not always the best route, especially when you’re in pain, and have been in pain for a long time. Because if you’ve been in a difficult marriage for any length of time, what feels right will more than likely be to walk away. I understand this completely, I do, because you’re exhausted on many levels. But trust me when I say, now is the time to muster up your last bit of strength and fight.
Fourth, pray. Ask God what he wants you to do next. Ask God to bring wise people into your life, preferably more than one. In fact, go big or go home…you might as well boldly ask him to bring you and your husband a team. The more, the wiser.
But then, what do you do when advice you’re getting doesn’t seem right?
Over the years, I was given many, many pieces of advice that were good, solid, Biblical mandates. I was also give some pieces of advice that rubbed me the wrong way. That made me feel maybe not fully heard or understood. That made me think there was only one answer to marriage problems, no matter what the marriage problem was or how severe. And I did it all. I did every single thing that every single advice-giver told me to do over about an eighteen-year time period. Even when I didn’t want to. Even when I thought it seemed wrong. Even when I was a praying girl myself and thought it wasn’t lining up with what I felt God was leading me to do. I don’t recommend this.
Let me be clear: I do recommend following the advice that you’re given by the godly people in your life. They’re not out to get you. However, they may be misinformed in how to counsel someone in an abusive or addiction-fraught marriage (hint: not the same way that you deal with a couple in an average-hard marriage…like, at all).
But, sweet one, if you love Jesus and are following him, and you have the Spirit living inside you, and you are reading your Bible, and you are attending a good church and sitting under good teaching, and you are praying and doing your best to be open to God and to be obedient even when it hurts or is scary, and you are not in sin or in the grips of an addiction, can I tell you something that no one really told me when I was in the middle of my mess all those years?
If you are trying to do what’s right and you are truly trying to follow Jesus – even if someone who is godly disagrees with your decision – you are allowed to make your own decisions. You are an adult. God gave you free will. You are allowed to exercise it. No one will answer for your life and your choices except you.
Don’t rush to any huge or rash decisions, of course, but my dear, you can live your life. Stay close to Jesus. Keep your eyes on him. Read. Pray. Ask. Listen. Obey. Move forward. Move slowly.
And, worst case scenario, if you make a wrong turn, God is big enough to correct your course and bring you back to where you’re supposed to be.
If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage”, found here.
Exactly what I needed to be reassured of! Thank you!
That last sentence is the concept that finally propelled me from paralysis to action: God, I’m going to do this. I think it’s right. If I’m wrong, I need you to show me, to make it right to step in and help. He can and He will. Thank you!
You definitely can’t go by your feelings. Great advice often feels sooooo uncomfortable I want to run as far away as possible. And awful advice is so tempting in how easy it sounds. Being steeped in the truth of God’s word, prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit is essential to knowing which is which. Thanks for the encouragement!
Thanks for the encouragement! I have been seeking counsel from godly women in my life and it has been really helpful to talk through things with others in the midst of chaos and confusion.
My husband walked out a year and nine months ago, and I feel like divorce papers could come any day. It’s heartbreaking.
As I’ve sought godly counsel, honestly I don’t hear the things that you’ve shared here. What I’ve heard is a far more “realistic” perspective. I’ve met with women who have gone through this, chosen divorce and are now happily re-married. I’ve met women with who believe God might have someone better for me or who don’t believe God will work a miracle in my marriage because of “free will.” (Not saying I don’t believe in free will of course, but that statement comes out of SO many people’s mouths!) I’ve met VERY few who say, “no, fight for your marriage! Pray and ask God to heal your relationship.” But THAT is what I believe God has told me to do.
At the end of the day, I’ve realized that there are multiple approaches I could take that are biblical. And I’ve read so many stories and talked to so many women who have taken different approaches and are at peace with their decisions. I think at the end of the day, God will speak to us and tell us what we should each do. With a situation like a hurting (or even dead!) marriage, because the bible gives us so many different truths, it’s easy for someone to quote scripture and say, “oh, he’s cheated, you have biblical grounds to divorce him,” or “the bible says let the unbelieving spouse leave, so let him leave,” or “God hates divorce, so fight for your marriage.” At the end of the day, all of these are “right” and we have to ask the Lord to tell us what we should do. He’ll guide each of us uniquely in our situations if we turn them over to him and seek his face.
Thanks, I get so much conflicted advice…I think the best advice I’ve gotten was to just stop trying to fix my marriage, quit talking to him unless directly about our son, and let the Lord work on him…however easier said than done when your family was and is your world for 17 years.
So much easier said than done, Donna. Strive for peace between you and God for now.