Manny and Janice each loved Jesus but increasingly found it difficult to love each other. It seemed as though they found themselves living in a vicious cycle of arguing without ever resolving anything. They also found themselves more keenly aware of their differences to the point where they believed they were complete opposites about everything except for their faith in Christ.
Each of their friends was advising them to get out of the marriage. They argued that God wants us to live happy in our marriage. If you find you can’t, then get divorced and remarry someone else. That line of thinking seemed more and more appealing as time progressed.
They had tried everything they knew to fix their marriage. They had been to some of the best licensed Christian counselors in their city. They had attended three marriage retreats. They had read several well-known Christian marriage books. Yet, all of these only seemed to provide temporary relief. In fact, the underlying theme of all of those attempts was to try harder to change so you can be what your spouse needs. By the time they arrived at Grace Life International for counseling, their marriage hung by a thread. We were their last stop before divorce.
They had even prayed many times for God to heal their marriage…by fixing the other person, certain, he/she was the real problem. “Lord if you would just show Manny that his pride is the problem, our marriage could be happy.” Janice prayed. “Father, if you would only show Janice that she tries to control me, our marriage would be fine.” Manny prayed. God actually was about to transform their marriage, but in a way they couldn’t imagine. Here’s how.
God was using their marriage to reveal to each of them that when they came into the marriage, they brought hurtful patterns with them. These patterns are what the Bible describes as flesh. Flesh is not our body. It is also not our old nature, which has already been crucified with Christ. Flesh is all of the ways we’ve learned to live independent of Christ in us in hopes of giving life meaning. The conflict and frustration they were experiencing was the fruit of living in their relationship by the flesh.
As their counseling with us progressed, Manny was shown his specific patterns. Janice was shown hers as well. They were really surprised to discover that their patterns of fleshly living were very different. However, they had to admit that this was the root of their problems which no one had been able to help them understand before. It was great to see them both take ownership of their own flesh.
We were then delighted to show them God’s solution which was this. They could turn away from their dependence on the flesh to Jesus Christ in them. They were taught how they could rely daily on Jesus Christ in them to meet their deepest needs for love, acceptance, worth and security. And then with those needs met, they could let Christ live through them to love the other person. All of this was based on the truth of the New Covenant using Scriptures like Galatians 2:20.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Slowly but surely, as they continued in their counseling, individual transformation began to occur. As it did, they were shown how to forgive each other so they could stop living from a place of offense. Soon they found themselves starting to love each other. They still struggle at times but they found those time diminishing and the love for the other person growing.
The last day we saw them they looked very different than the first day. They came in with arms crossed and anger etched in the furrows of their brows. They left, with peace in their hearts, and eyes full of love for each other. Like all marriages, they sometimes slip back into those fleshly patterns but at least now they understand what is happening and ask each other for forgiveness to turn back to Christ in them to get their deepest needs met.
Is it possible that God is using the conflict and challenges in your marriage to reveal your own fleshly patterns? If so, be encouraged. That means he is about to show you your freedom in Christ from them so you will be able to love in a way you could never imagine.
If you’d like to know more, please attend our Marriage by Grace Conference. You may come in person to our conference room or you may come live online wherever you live. Here is the link for more information: Marriage by Grace.