by Mike Blacet
Even before our wedding day, my wife and I were having serious problems. Some of the problems were caused by us, wounds that we were unwittingly carrying into the relationship. Some of the problems were caused by people and circumstances outside of our control. I had no idea what to do. I was very literally at my wits’ end. And I’m confident that my wife was as well. In seeking God, I heard four simple words that changed everything from that moment forward:
“Love her. Trust me.”
Ever since we were children, we have heard the age-old fairy tale that goes something like this: The knight in shining armor, a fearless warrior, seeks out the princess, perfect in all her beauty. He slays a dragon, wakes her from her slumber, and, of course, they live “happily ever after.” The story has been told over and over, in so many variations, through so many characters. So we arrive on the scene and do our best to fill the role, perhaps secretly fearing there is no way we’ll measure up. And we expect, or at least longingly hope, that the other person is going to fill their role. In time, or maybe very quickly, we find out that ours isn’t a fairy tale. What has happened to this fairy tale we thought we entered into or so desperately want to enter into? Is it even humanly possible? Maybe we conclude that it isn’t really possible, so we give up. We sink. Or we fight the one we love.
One of the most common experiences in every marriage is grief. Let that sink in. Every husband and wife grieves, in varying measures. We grieve who we thought our spouse was supposed to be, who we thought we were, what marriage is about, and what kind of God would bless this, knowing what we were getting into. We have to grieve our false images. This has been my experience as well. And it has been grueling at times. Perhaps it is supposed to be. But Jesus didn’t pull any punches. He told us ahead of time.
Mark 2:17: “Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners.’”
John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
So, you married, or are preparing to marry, a sick person, a sinner. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s perfectly normal. As you come to grips with that, don’t forget that Christ offers and is the remedy and has already overcome the trouble you have had, are in the midst of, or is ahead.
That is why I’m so thankful that God gave me those four words: “Love her. Trust me.” That was terrifying counsel. Stop trying to fix or change what I’m afraid of in her? Trust this God who lets people hurt, this God who has already let me get hurt?
“But, God, I can see the disaster ahead.”
“So, Mike, she’s your disaster? And not your treasure?” He delivered it gently, but it was quite a blow.
“Love her the way I love you, Mike. You are a ‘disaster,’ yet still my treasure.”
I knew he was right. I was doing things disastrously in this relationship. I was not loving his daughter very well at all. And I blamed her for the mess inside of me. Yet, he continued to be with me, and guide me, and love me.
“She’s free from you, Mike. Christ secured that for her. Agree with me in that. I’ve invited her to come to me just as she is. Will you let her come to you just as she is? John 8:36 tells us, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
It isn’t our spouse’s responsibility to meet all of our needs. That isn’t possible. Not even close. God alone promises to do that for us. This leaves our spouse free to give to us, as opposed to obey us. “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
It all comes down to that four word promise, “Love her. Trust me.”
So how do we practically participate in God’s craftsmanship?
Love. First things, first. Love before, and then, while asking for and helping with change and growth, tend to your spouse’s weaknesses the way you would tend to their physical wounds—with gentleness. Deliver your words gently, especially the sensitive ones.
Make a list of ways that you are willing to unconditionally give to your spouse, even when (or especially when) you are at odds, you’ve had to set some boundaries, or they are experiencing the difficult consequences of their ways. Put them into practice.
Ask. When you would like your spouse to do something for you or give something to you, ask them if they are willing, as opposed to telling or demanding it from them. Asking says that you have no intention of being in authority over them. All that is theirs, and they are free to give and withhold. It upholds equality in that you are declining to be their master. You are side by side.
Accept their no. If your spouse is unwilling or unable to help meet your need, let God meet it in another way. This is what makes it even possible to accept their no. Are you reluctant to let God meet your need in another way, as he sees fit? Do you know that he will?
To treasure your spouse’s freedom to say no is to value them and their freedom over what you want from them.
Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. It can’t be said enough. Free them from debts they can’t even repay, from the past they can’t unwrite. Let Christ pay that debt to you. Let Christ meet the needs that your spouse can’t meet.
Can we forgive them for not being the fairy tale that they were never supposed to be? Can you forgive yourself for not being the fairy tale that YOU were never supposed to be?
Jesus is enough. Psalm 62:1-2 says, “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” This task of loving our spouses while trusting God is far from easy, and cannot be done alone. It was never intended to be done alone. If you are struggling in your marriage, don’t hesitate to seek help from a Christian counselor. A counselor will help guide you through steps toward healing or rejuvenation, offer practical ways to carry out a rewarding relationship, and can recognize and address hidden obstacles.
Mike Blacet is a therapist with Cornerstone Christian Counseling Services. His first career choice was engineering, but God got ahold of him and turned many things upside down, or right-side up. Mike and his wife Angela have been married since 2001. They enjoy their time together as a family with their two daughters, Madelyn and Grace, and their son, Noah.