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Before You Say I Don’t

So many marriages today are ending in divorce. But yours doesn’t have to! As a marriage counselor, I’ve heard every reason in the world while couples are separating. The most common reason is there is usually someone else in the picture. Maybe it’s just thoughts or flirting (which are both still wrong), but that person is thinking the grass is greener on the other side. Let me say this: appearances can be deceiving. What looks better somewhere else usually isn’t. Sometimes it’s greener because it’s built over a septic tank. Proverbs 14:4 says, “Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much increase comes by the strength of the ox.” If you’re going to have oxen, you’re going to have oxen poop (can a pastor say poop?). You will have some mess in your marriage. You just have to clean up the mess along the way and not let it pile up. Most of the time couples blame each other for their failing marriage and true enough the person being blamed usually has problems – but who doesn’t? Rarely is a failed marriage the result of only one person. An excuse I hear all the time is, “I think I married the wrong person”. That’s one reason I’m a huge fan of long courtships. You must get to know the person well before committing the rest of your life to them. Still, an excuse is usually a front for deeper issues. Sometimes, the one saying this is thinking of someone else who appears to be better than the one they married. Other times, the one saying this is thinking of Mr./Mrs. Perfect (which do not exist). And other times this is said out of frustration because the other person is doing a lot of wrong things. Remember this though: a successful marriage is not the result of marrying the right person, feeling right emotions, or thinking right thoughts. A successful marriage happens because couples do the right things. If you are doing the wrong things you’ll eventually end up thinking you married the wrong person.

God wants you to change your ways. Instead of jumping ship or onto another ship, perhaps it’s time to clean up your ship – together. That’s right. Marriage takes two. I know one person in the marriage can cause the majority of the problem. If that’s you, the way to a better marriage is to repent and do right things. If not, you’ll carry all the wrong you’re doing now into another relationship. If you’ll cheat on your current mate, you’ll cheat on the next one without a heart change. If you’ll treat your current mate wrong you’ll eventually do that to your next one. Getting a new mate won’t fix a mean, harsh, selfish, unforgiving, or bitter attitude. Only God can do that. You should not bail on your marriage. You need to repent to the Lord and each other, forgive, and implement the change the Lord tells you to make.

Remember the words you said to each other when you got married? You probably said, “For better or worse, in sickness and health, for richer and poorer, till death do us part.” What you didn’t say was, “for better and better, in health and health, for richer and richer, till I find someone better and divorce do us part.” Marriage is not the union of two people filing separately now filing together. You don’t take them to be your starter wife/husband. You enter into marriage for a lifetime with the intent to work through whatever comes your way. No one has divorce lawyers in their wedding party. You have friends and family who are in full support of you being married for a lifetime. Separating won’t fix your marriage and neither will another partner, only God can as you work together doing right things. Every marriage has its challenges, but God is bigger than them all. He can give you a fresh start. Maybe it’s time to renew your vows – your covenant. What God has joined together, let no man separate (Mark 10:9).

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Stephen and his wife Haley have called Arkansas home all of their lives. Stephen has served in several ministry roles over the last 25 years and as a lead pastor for the last 8 years. Stephen attended Williams Baptist College and earned a BA in Biblical Studies from Ouachita Baptist University, an MA, MDiv, and DMin in Christian Leadership and Pastoral Ministries from Liberty University. When not pastoring, Stephen enjoys running, cycling, reading, writing, camping, fishing, and spending time with his family.

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