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.