Does the Bible Teach Us How to Pray?
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Does the Bible Teach Us How to Pray?

Is My Marriage Over?

This is a question we rarely vocalize aloud, let alone within Christian circles. Yet it likely haunts some of you in struggling marriages, especially if you grew up in a home with broken love. Before you make any life-altering decisions, take a moment to breathe and ask yourself a few questions.

First, how severe is the sin that divides you? Did your spouse have an affair, are you being abused, are insults used as weapons, are you repeatedly having the same fight over finances?

Second, whom have you talked to and sought help from?

Third, have you done anything to try to resolve this issue besides simply talking?

From there, consider who might be able to help you. Think of marital sin in relation to sin in the church (Matt. 18). You ramp up the accountability in relation to the sin. Does your husband constantly demean you and refuses to repent? Does your wife constantly undermine you and dismiss your hurt? Perhaps there is a trusted friend who can speak truth in love. I can count half a dozen men who would let me have it if my wife told them of unrepentant sin in my life.

Beyond that, pastors and elders are wonderful resources. They are neutral when it comes to marriages, but not when it comes to sin. They are charged to care for the flock. I once heard of a woman who informed the pastor that her husband was a drunk. The pastor went to pay him a visit, and the man took off running. The pastor eventually caught and tackled him—though the pastor claimed they both tripped—and they had a heart-to-heart. The man repented and renewed his devotion to both his wife and the Lord.

Perhaps the issue is not one-sided. If you keep having the same arguments over and over, welcome to the club. My wife and I have argued about the dishes since we married in 2009. Are these arguments creating a gulf in your marriage? Do you feel like you’re spinning your wheels? I would encourage you to seek out a counselor to help you out of the ditch. We all need third-party intervention at times. It takes a village to raise a marriage.

Consider going to a counselor even when times are good. Growing up in suburban DC, I used to tell transplants that “this is where families come to die.” It seemed like every family chose career and petty grievances over love and life anew. Now, as a chaplain who has counseled hundreds of couples, I encounter countless couples who only seek help at the height of crisis. Why not seek out preventative care—as we do in so many other ways—before we reach a state of emergency? Asking for help is a sign of God-given humility, not failure.

Can God Sustain Lifelong Love?

When most couples come to me for counseling, they have already threatened divorce or decided on divorce, but they haven’t taken any of the steps I mentioned above. Why do so many of us respond to suffering by pushing the “eject” button? I can answer that. Most of us truly believe that broken love is an inevitability. We don’t think that we’re worthy of lifelong love, and we don’t believe that God is gracious enough to sustain lifelong love for his Son’s sake and by his Spirit’s power.

Let’s circle back to the beginning: How severe is the sin? If there has been an affair or another ground for biblical divorce, this is a serious matter that requires pastoral wisdom. This is why your pastor and elders need to be a part of this discussion. Perhaps the offending partner has repented? Perhaps the innocent partner wants reconciliation? If not, in many churches a lack of repentance will lead to church discipline. Church discipline is exercised with the hope that the unrepentant sinner will be cut to the heart and be reconciled to God. If there isn’t ground for biblical divorce, I would plead with you to take a breath before making any rash decisions. Begin working through some of the steps I outlined above before determining that your marriage is over.

Several years ago, I had my worst fight with my wife. I was training with the Army, and she was at home with our kids. We were hardly talking. A dear friend called me, patiently listened to me, and then gently asked, “Have you forgotten your vows?” I am indebted to such a friend. Find such a friend, and as much as possible, seek out reconciliation. In God’s providence, our persevering love reflects his love through Christ Jesus.

Set me as a seal upon your heart,
As a seal upon your arm,
For love is strong as death,
Jealousy is fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
The very flame of the LORD.
Many waters cannot quench love,
Neither can floods drown it.
If a man offered for love
All the wealth of his house,
He would be utterly despised.

Song of Solomon 8:6-7
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Stephen Roberts

Stephen Roberts is an Army chaplain and also writes for Modern Reformation and The Federalist. He is married to Lindsey—a journalist—and they have three delightful and precocious children.