So, sweet one, you’re in a difficult marriage. You’re not just hitting a rough patch.  You’re not just being overdramatic.  Your expectations are not just too high.  You don’t just need to chill.

There is addiction. Or there is abuse. Or there is unfaithfulness. Or there is mental illness.

Your Christian marriage is not just a regular marriage that takes some extra effort and extra grace.

Your Christian marriage is broken.
Your Christian marriage is destructive.
Your Christian marriage hurts you on a continual basis.
Your Christian marriage leaves you crying yourself to sleep more than you want to admit.
Your Christian marriage, by all accounts, is dead or dying a bit more every day.

And yet, you are choosing to stay.

Hopefully, you are not choosing to stay for reasons like, I’m afraid of what people will say {because only One opinion of you matters}, or I’m afraid I’ll lose God’s love {because that will never, ever, ever happen}.

Hopefully, you are choosing to stay because of reasons you have thought and prayed through.  Things like, you honestly can’t figure out how to live on your own financially at this stage of your life, or you are homeschooling and feel that is what’s best for your children, or you’re pregnant or have young children and the upheaval of a separation or divorce right now would not be what’s in their best interest. Or something else that I’m not mentioning here.  There are as many solid reasons to stay as there may be to leave.  And only you and God can determine that.  (Let me say that again: only you and God can determine whether you stay or leave your marriage. If you are a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit in you, and God promises that he has given you a sound mind and the mind of Christ.)

So say your marriage is the very, very hard kind. And say you have decided, at least for this season of your life, to remain married and living together. And say that your reasons are thoughtful and prayed through.

There is one thing I believe you need to do before you can move headlong with determination into your decision, and that is this:

You must grieve the death of your marriage and the death of your dream for your marriage so that
bitterness does not take root.

But how? How do you lay something down – grieve something – that you’re still entrenched in? Funerals are after someone’s death for a reason.

Every person is different, and every path through grieving will wind in a variety of ways.  But here’s one suggestion.

I believe this work needs to be done alone with God.  I would find some extended time alone, even if it means you have to get a babysitter.  You need to be in quietness and solitude.  Perhaps in your home alone, or in nature, or in a church sanctuary when you know no one else will be there.  Before you go away, I would Google “psalms of lament” and choose one that resonates with you, but one of my favorites for the really sad times is Psalm 142.

So once you’re alone and in silence, here’s what I would do.  I would take a few deep breaths and close my eyes.  I would ask the Spirit to quiet my heart and mind, and to meet me in these moments, to guide and bless this sacred time together.  Then I would read the Psalm out loud. Slowly. Stopping where words ring most true to you.

And then I would talk, or write if journaling is more your thing. And I would tell God everything you had hoped for your life and your marriage, all the dreams you had as a little girl, all the wishes you had when you first met your husband, all the hopes you had on your wedding day.  Then I would read the Psalm again, slowly.

Then I would tell God all of the ways your dreams and wishes and hopes have not come to pass in your marriage, the ways in which you are hurt on a regular basis, the ways you feel like a failure, your fears for what this might mean for your future. Then I would read the Psalm again, slowly.

Let yourself feel your pain. Let the tears come.  A broken Christian marriage is a death.  You are not overreacting. This is very real pain. Then I would ask God to help you grieve this, to help you put this to bed, to help you lay this down. (A word of caution here: you may have to ask him this over and over again, after you finish this time together.)  Then I would ask him to help you move forward in determination, in grace, in steadiness, in forgiveness, in integrity, with a peace and a trust in his promise to never leave you nor forsake you.

This will not be easy, but it will be important.  And you may emotionally and physically feel exactly the same as when you began, but a work will have been done in the spiritual realm. Your tears and prayers are being accumulated and are a fragrance to Christ on the throne.

And it will be once you’ve taken the steps toward actively working through your grieving – even while still married – that you will be able to move forward with a renewed sense of purpose and calm. And this will be a light to your husband, your children, and it will bring you a deep feeling of joy knowing you’re doing all you can be.

If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage”, found here.