Is It Possible For a Hopeless Marriage To Turn Around When Christ Is At The Center?
“Is it too late to save our marriage?”
I am asked all the time. “There’s no love left between us,” they say, “and we are tired of working at a loveless marriage.”
That may be how you feel, and I understand that discouragement. I get hundreds of emails with that kind of sentiment, and nearly every marriage goes through times when the love seems to be gone and one or both spouses want to give up. If this is you too, you need to know that you are not alone in this.
Renewed Hope Through Faith in Christ
The question you’re asking is, is it too late? No, it is not too late to repair a marriage, even after a divorce. My mom and dad divorced and came back together. They survived divorce, infidelity, and verbal abuse. Even then it was not too late for them. Until one of the partners has remarried, it is not too late.
The key is to ask yourself this question: Can I trust Christ in this? I’m not advocating or ignoring fidelity and abuse. I only use my parents to illustrate that it’s possible for a hopeless marriage to turn around when Christ is allowed to be at the center. My parents experienced the miracle of renewed hope and healing when they placed their faith in Christ.
One of the things I always like to ask people is, do you have a crisis of marriage, or is this really a crisis of faith? There’s no doubt that marriage is in crisis and under attack in our country, but I believe there is a greater crisis looming, which is at the root of many marital problems.
Seeking God’s Guidance And Committing to His Plan
In Matthew 19:6, Jesus said, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no person is to separate.” Have you turned to God to help you keep together what He has brought?
Jesus’ words are a powerful reminder that it is God who has joined you together, not some human legal requirement. My question to you is, do you believe that? If you don’t, you have a crisis of faith.
I used to think it took a third party to break up a marriage. Now I realize the greatest danger lies within. Having challenges in your marriage does not mean that you or God made a mistake. It simply means you must learn to do marriage God’s way, particularly His command to love and respect that we read about in Ephesians 5:33. You can come at this with renewed faith and commitment. God hates divorce, the Bible says, because He knows all the pain it causes and He wants to spare you and your children that pain.
So the first thing I recommend is that you seek God. Have you ever just asked Him to help you with your marriage? If you’re not meeting with a Bible-believing group of people each week to worship and hear the Word of God preached, that’s a great place to start. Seek out other godly believers who are willing to pray for you and pray for your marriage. Don’t deprive yourself of that.
Commit your life and your marriage fully to Christ and stand on His promises to help you. Many people think about praying, but really never pray. They hear the request to ask, but they kind of give up hope. That’s why I say it may be more of a crisis of faith.
The Different Facets of Marital Love
But you say, “Emerson, the love is gone.” I hear you—really, I do. Most of us would define love as a feeling, but love is much more than that. Did you know there are three Greek words for “love”? There’s agape love, which is an unconditional God-like love. There is a phileo friendship-type love like in Titus 2, where it says a wife is to phileo her husband (not filet her husband!). And then there is eros, the erotic and romantic love. All three are components of marital love.
Agape love—unconditional love—is a commitment to someone so deep that you’re willing to die for them—if they don't kill you first, that is. It is a choice to stay faithful to a vow. The Bible doesn’t say. “God so loved the world that He felt goosebumps.” No, it says that He gave. He acted.
We live in a feelings-dominated culture, but this kind of love is not sustainable over the long haul of marriage. This is erotic love, which will come and go. There is an ebb and flow. Yes, it’s exciting and we all love to feel this love, but it’s not a good foundation for a lasting and fulfilling marital relationship.
The Power of Perseverance
When troubles come—and the Bible says that if we marry we will have troubles (1 Corinthians 7:28)—we will need more than feelings to sustain us.
This may sound crazy, but just as good marriages go bad, bad marriages go good. Maggie Gallagher, the great researcher from the University of Chicago, said, “Five years later, 77 percent of very unhappy couples that stayed married now called their marriage either very happy or quite happy.” A bad marriage is not necessarily permanent!
You have to believe that the things you’re going through right now are not necessarily permanent. The amazing thing about Gallagher’s findings is that this was without any intervention. These marriages just got better. They outlasted their troubles. Isn’t that encouraging? Let me repeat: 77 percent of very unhappy couples describe their marriage as very or quite happy five years later. Just five years later! Five years may seem to you like an eternity, when you’re miserable, right? But take it from someone who has been married over forty years. Five years really isn’t that long at all.
The reality is all marriages go through seasons—some good, some bad—so don’t buy into the Hollywood message that you need to move on if you’re unhappy. Another relationship will not solve your problems. Divorce doesn’t solve that problem. The percentages are in your favor that if you stick it out during the tough times, you will once again enjoy the good times. God does not intend for you to be miserable. God is a God of hope who came that you might have abundant life.
So are you ready to give Him full control of your life and your marriage? Have you ever really asked Him to help you? I mean, seriously, humbly asked Him? When you do, I believe He will give you strength for the task before you. If you have not asked, then my question is, do you really have a crisis of marriage or do you have a crisis of faith?
Do you really believe that God joined you together? If He joined you together, then ask Him to help you at this point to keep you together. And here’s the deal. In five years, 77 percent of you are going to be happy, even though you didn’t do anything!
Don’t quit. It’s always too soon to quit, and if you do, my question to you is, have you just stopped trusting the Lord to help you at this time?
It’s more of a crisis of faith, and this crisis of marriage is really revealing the deeper issue.
Questions to Consider
- Emerson says that it’s possible for a hopeless marriage to turn around when Christ is allowed to be at the center. What makes Christ being at the center the key ingredient to turning around a “hopeless” marriage?
- Why is it important to ask whether a crisis is one of marriage or one of faith? What does it mean if it is, indeed, a crisis of faith?
- What do you think about the research findings that “Five years later, 77 percent of very unhappy couples that stayed married now called their marriage either very happy or quite happy”? What does this say about a great deal of the conflicts people are splitting up over today?
- Do you truly believe that God has joined you and your spouse together? What does this mean, then, when conflict arises?