Does God Make a Difference in Marriage Part 2

Does God Make a Difference in MarriageDoes God make a difference in your marriage?

Last week I made some observations that often Christians act like God doesn’t really make a difference in our lives, and everything is ultimately up to us. We just don’t really have faith that God will actually move.

I see that in marriage, too, and I want to see how two different trends–though they may seem like they have nothing to do with each other–actually show that we have a long way to go with marriage.

1. Christians Divorce at the Same Rate as Non-Christians–Right?

You’ve heard that stat, haven’t you? In fact, it’s even worse than that. I’ve heard the stat that 50% of marriages end in divorce–but that it’s even higher in the Bible belt.

Do you believe it?

Chances are you do because Christians quote it all the time. We announce it from pews. We use it to fundraise for family organizations–Christian marriages need all the help they can get! We’re in dire straits, people!

Yet think it through logically. Do we believe that having God in your life should make a difference? Do we believe that God works in people’s lives? If we do, then how could it possibly be that our marriages are as bad as everyone else’s?

I started to wonder that recently and so I did an experiment. I looked through my church directory to see how many were divorced. It was closer to 10%.  Then I wondered–maybe that’s skewed, because once people divorce they stop going to church? So I thought back on the couples I knew in university. I wrote out a long list of all my university friends who had gotten married. And of all of them (we knew each other from the campus Christian group), only 2 had been divorced–a rate of about 5%.

I read a study recently that said that in marriages where couples pray together daily the divorce rate is more like 2%. I believe that. It makes sense to me. And I’ve read critiques of that study that found that our divorce rate was just as high because they really didn’t define “Christian”. Practically everyone claims to be a Christian, and so that’s pretty meaningless. We want to flesh out what the divorce rate is among those who honestly believe and try to live out their faith. I want to write a post looking at all the accurate studies, but I haven’t done that yet. I’ve actually been talking to a major magazine about writing it, and that’s why I’m not linking to studies here. I want to make sure they’re accurate first and do my homework.

But the main question I have is:

Why are we so quick to assume that God doesn’t make a difference?

2. Does God Make a Difference in YOUR Marriage?

Maybe the reason we’re so quick to believe it is because in our own lives we still really struggle with marriage. It’s an area that has brought us a lot of hurt and grief over the years, and we haven’t felt the “victory” or the “oneness” or the “intimacy” we long for.

I have to tell you that the last few weeks I’ve been really burdened by the emails that get sent to me. I had to turn off the Messages feature on Facebook because I couldn’t keep up with them all. And I’ve got Reader Questions of the Week now scheduled through to the end of June! But I started to keep track everyday of all the problems I heard about–really, really big problems–and then at the end of the day I’d show them to my husband. And we’d pray over them and I’d let them go. It helped me to realize how I was beginning to be changed by what I do, and I’m praying more for strength to really make a difference.

But the simple fact is that many, many of you are really hurting, and my heart breaks for you. Many, many of you are wondering, if we’re Christians why does my husband play video games for 6 hours a day? Why can he not get over this porn addiction? Why do I have no patience for him? Why am I always so frustrated with him? Why can I not motivate myself to show him love anymore?

From speaking at marriage conferences and talking to couples and to counselors, I completely believe that God can make a difference in a marriage. If you run to Him and you’re humble and you’re open to correction about the things that you have done wrong, and not just open to God correcting your spouse, God can do amazing things.

Even if your spouse isn’t turning to God, God can still work in your marriage. It doesn’t mean your marriage will always be saved; but He can work.

Yet often I see couples where both claim Christ, and where both go to church, and where both would say that they believe, and yet they are getting nowhere.

God is not like a mechanic where you can take your broken marriage and He’ll fix it for you. He doesn’t work that way. He’s not a mechanic; He’s a potter who wants to mold you into something better. But He can’t mold something that is hard and brittle; He can only mold us when we’re pliable, when we are humble, when we are open to be molded.

God isn’t really interested in fixing your spouse nearly as much as He’s interested in having your heart. And if we are humble before Him, He can transform us, which can start to transform a marriage. If your spouse is also humble before Him, He is then free to do a beautiful and amazing work!

But we have to stop making excuses. We have to stop pointing fingers. And we have to do the work!

I’m really burdened by a relationship issue in my extended family, and it’s causing me to pray like I never have before. That’s the beauty of relationship issues; they drive us to God. My instinct is to get on the phone and try to force the issue and make it all better, but like Calm Healthy Sexy wrote in a post she linked up to Wifey Wednesday this week, we have to wait on God’s timing. She says:

The devotional book I’m reading, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, reminded me this week to “stop trying to work things out before their times have come.”  That idea really spoke to me; it made me realize that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do.  Even though I believe in God’s timing in my life, I haven’t been operating as if I believe in it at all.  I’ve acted as if everything depends on me, as if I just need to keep charging ahead and things will fall into place exactly as I’ve planned.  The only problem is, it’s not working.

We have to pray and then honestly walk in faith. We have to wrestle. We have to cry. And we have to believe.

Yesterday I took a day to fast and pray with a “blogging buddy” of mine from the other side of the continent. We prayed for each other all day and for ourselves and then at the end of the day we called each other and prayed on the phone together. We were both burdened by something similar and we needed God to lift that burden. But that meant also emptying ourselves and fighting for it. It meant giving God more of us, not just asking for more of Him.

If you believe in God, He should be making a difference in your marriage. If He’s not, the problem is likely not with God. It’s likely that He wants to bring you deeper, or bring your husband deeper. Of course you can do everything right and lean on God and your marriage may still not be saved, but even in that God wants you to lean and trust, because He does want to make a difference even in the brokenness. But maybe, instead of getting angry at our spouses and feeling defeated and feeling lost we need to throw ourselves more on God and get back to the only source that can bring real healing.

Do we believe God works, or not? I fear too often we really don’t, and then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.


  1. Read my post today and you’ll see why this is so important to me – I need to stop trying to control everything, and just surrender to God and let Him do it. Its not in my control, but it is in His – and that is how I need to live my life. Thank you for a wonderfully written and thought-provoking post. It is also so applicable to any facet of life – addictions, parenting…
    The Baby Mama recently posted…Intimacy in Marriage – and how important it is!My Profile

  2. Mrs. Mac says:

    A difficult marriage can be an eternal lifesaver! Relying on God to be your fulfillment, your friend, your guide – it can “grow you up” as a believer! A friend of mine has a difficult marriage to someone who is mentally ill. She is also the most forgiving, gentle, peaceful person I know because of her time spent in prayer. Christ is her strength and comfort. Her marriage is the testing ground for her faithfulness. To God be the glory!

  3. I remember hearing a speaker at my high school say that for a couple who are virgins when they get married and keep God at the centre of their marriage, the divorce rate is very low. She said 2% and this is over 20 years ago, but I held onto that and got married with confidence the confidence that faith and obedience would make a difference in my marriage.

  4. God works mightily in those who believe and trust in Him! We must take the first step in obedience, like loving our husband, and then God fills us with His mighty strength to actually love them. Very few of my solid Christian friends have divorced either. They know that God wants us to stay committed ‘until death do us par’t and He is the glue that helps hold us together.
    Lori Alexander recently posted…Getting Married At 18?My Profile

  5. I’ll speak from the experience of having been in a marriage where both of us were fully dedicated Christians, but our marriage was in the tank. I learned during that time that there is a vast difference between having a broken heart and having a broken spirit. I cried a lot, prayed a lot, talked to my husband a lot — but all from a broken heart. It wasn’t until I let my spirit be broken — when I truly humbled myself and took a hard look at how God saw ME in our marriage — that I felt the shift. Years later, I can honestly say our marriage is wonderful and ONE-derful!

    Terrific observations here, Sheila! And I have seen studies saying that actively practicing Christians have more like a 10-20% divorce rate, I think. Don’t quote me, but I know it’s substantially lower than the 50% stat usually given.
    J at HotHolyHumorous recently posted…Do You Have a Blind Spot in Your Marriage?My Profile

    • Oh, my goodness, J, that is such a great distinction! I think I’m going to use that in the book I’m writing right now–I’ll give you the credit, of course. :) But that’s just what I’m trying to say! I think often we go to God with a broken heart, and because we have a broken heart and we’re so sad we assume God’s on our side. But God is on BOTH of our sides, and He wants to make real changes in the heart.

      • There’s one thing I’ve always wondered when I heard that (that Christians divorce at the same rate). I would suspect that non-Christians are more likely to cohabitate serially. If a couple lives together for a few years and then splits up, even if they weren’t legally married, that’s just like a divorce.

        I do NOT intend to downplay the significance of marriage, but to point out that the statistics are skewed from the beginning. I think it’s quite likely that a higher percentage of Christian couples will marry, rather than cohabitate.

        Hope that’s not a rabbit trail… 😀

        Julie recently posted…Blitz Week – Day 3My Profile

  6. Actually, studies have shown that practicing Christians have a lower divorce rate than the general population. One study found that Americans who attended religious services several times per month were about 35% less likely to divorce than those not religiously affiliated. On the other hand, those who were only nominally “Christian” and not active in church were actually more likely to divorce.
    Lindsay Harold recently posted…Mississippi to Ban Abortions after 20 WeeksMy Profile

    • Yes, exactly! I’d love to compile a good article with all of these studies, but the common stat I hear is that we’re just as bad. And it’s simply not true!

  7. I hope I don’t get ripped apart for posting this here. I love your blog and I love your marriage advice and constantly encourage friends from all beliefs to read your blog because I think everyone can benefit from the wisdom you share. And even though what I’m about to say may seem contradictory to this, I also agree with this post.

    My husband and I are atheists. We love each other. We’ve had our marital bumps and humps and we had to and did learn how to communicate and work through it. We have been together over 10 years now and married almost 7 years. We do not have God in our lives but we’re very happy and divorce is not an option.

    But wait! How can I agree that god makes a difference if I’m an atheist?? In my opinion it falls back to common goals and a common interest. If both people in the marriage highly value their religion and having a relationship with their God (or Gods depending on the religion) then I think it gives them a common goal/interest. They both agree that they are working on living a certain way together. I feel that far too many couples have lost sight of that today. Marriage seems to be more about what can I get from this instead of giving and/or creating something together.

    While I personally don’t think it’s required or necessary to be devoutly religious to have a successful marriage, I do think common or similar goals are and I think religion is a great provider of that for many people.

    • Thanks for your input, Brienna, and I’m so glad you’re here and that you find me helpful!

    • This is a profound observation. I could not agree more! It has very little to do with God and more to do with core values and interests.

    • “Marriage seems to be more about what can I get from this instead of giving and/or creating something together.” I completely agree, Brienna! I’m also not religious, but Sheila, your blog is great for any married couple! (And incidentally, reading it has helped me see that not all Christians are “extreme,” even when sometimes I disagree with what you’re saying.)
      Marriage is about realizing you’re not first anymore. For religious people, it’s a re-affirmation that God is first. For non-religious people, it’s about putting the good of the relationship first. Not you first (that’s selfish), not your partner (that’s called being a doormat), but the relationship.
      Keep on Sheila, great work!

  8. God makes a difference in marriage when you INVITE Him to do so. When I really saw how God wants me to love my wife as Christ loves His church and began to do so and ASK Him to help me do so the change was dramatic. Don’t get me wrong our marriage was not ‘on the rocks’ by any means but realising that she is a precious jewel entrusted to me by God to be loved according to His Word made the difference. Now our love for each other is stronger than ever and I know that looking after her is a joy and privilege which He gave to me out of all the men in the world. Whenever we go separate ways, which is not so often, we always remember to say “I love you” before we go. We pray together every night thanking God for our marriage. Yes God DOES make a difference!

  9. You are so spot on. Taking on the same attitude as demonstrated by Christ is the only way we can live as transformed people in our lives and in our marriages. Humbling ourselves and thinking more highly of others is an integral part of living a purposeful and meaningful life, one that will include strife and conflict but will ultimately see us through to the other side.

    Thanks for sharing you thoughts and I can’t wait to see the article you are working on.

    Megan@DoNotDisturb recently posted…Here and Now:My Profile

  10. “Even if your spouse isn’t turning to God, God can still work in your marriage.” This is so true, and it really has broad application to so many areas of our lives. Why do we say we believe God can work, but act as if everything is entirely dependent on us? (Or as if it is entirely dependent on our spouse changing or doing something we want him or her to do?) I am becoming convicted that I am guilty of this line of thinking in a lot of areas of my life.

    Thanks so much for mentioning my post.
    Gaye @CalmHealthySexy recently posted…Welcome to the Let’s Get Real Party #33My Profile

  11. Great post! Really enjoyed it. I’ll be curious to see what you figure out about those stats. I do remember reading in a class a few semester something interesting about the divorce rate. Here in the US no one actually tracks divorces and complies that info into stats. Its a combination of using new marriages (which are tracked) and I think the census. Sorry, can’t remember the details. But I think it also talked about how that stat is also counts divorces from both first time and repeat marriages. When in actuality first time marriages have a lower divorce rate, whereas for those who remarried the risk is even higher. Sorry, can’t remember all the details but thought it was interesting.

    • Yes, you’re right. I’ve read that same thing. They don’t track individuals; they look at the total number of marriages and the total number of divorces, so it does get really skewed.

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