When my children were much younger, they would often come home from school spouting all kinds of information about who did what to whom, for what reason, the resulting consequences, other people’s responses to those consequences, and on and on. Knowing that kids are very capable of spinning quite colorful tales, I usually felt the need to ask, “And how do you know all of this?” Sometimes the source was quite credible, such as a teacher or other parent. Other times — say, if the story came from another child — I would have to explain that before you believe anything, you must always “consider the source.”
The source of any information must always be considered, even if that information is coming from inside our own selves.
When people say, “My heart is telling me…” a red flag usually starts waving in my mind. As a life coach, I want to start asking all kinds of clarifying questions to make sure that their hearts are not about to mislead them entirely. It is not that I don’t think people should follow their hearts — after all, our hearts are where Christ dwells when we invite Him to be Lord of our lives, and no decision should be made in life without consulting “our heart” on the matter.
However, if we are honest, our hearts simply cannot be trusted as the final authority on many things — especially a marriage relationship. They simply are not reliable sources of information.
Jeremiah 17:9 warns,
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
Sometimes our hearts tell us to do something that does not mesh with what other (wiser) folks believe we should do. If we choose not to seek the counsel of others, and especially of the Holy Spirit, our hearts can lead us way off course in life. Why? Our hearts are usually in pursuit of one thing — personal happiness — both in life and in marriage.
Notice how in the very next verse, God assures us,
I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve. — Jeremiah 17:10
God is really the only One who can recognize what is truly operating in our hearts. He is the best emotional expert to help us discern what we are feeling, why we are feeling that way, and how to move forward with the best course of action.
If you have experienced the “What if my heart is telling me I married the wrong person?” question lately (and most humans admit entertaining this thought at various times in their marriage relationships), I encourage you to consider this: Your heart may be telling you to jump ship, but what is the Lord telling you to do?
The reason I ask is because of a precious principle I learned from a phenomenal book called The Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. He theorizes that marriage is not ultimately about our happiness — it is about our holiness. It is about our willingness to let God use our presence in one another’s lives to create a more Christlike character, to lovingly challenge each other, to purify our motives, to create more compassion in our lives, and to spur us on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). A Spirit-led marriage simply transforms us both into the man and woman God ultimately wants us to become. There is no better refiner’s fire than the institution of marriage. It turns immature boys and girls into fruitful men and women and transforms our self-centered natures into servants’ hearts.
I know. I know. Being transformed is not always fun. It requires work. And energy. And patience. And humility. But do you know what is fun? Living a transformed life. Enjoying a transformed relationship. Resting in the security of a transformed marriage.
Walter Bradford Cannon theorized that human nature’s response to tension or stress is to “fight, freeze, or flee,” also known as the “fight or flight” response.
Rather than running away or remaining stuck in a relational rut, I urge you to reconcile the issues troubling your marriage. Seek the help of a marital coach or counselor if necessary. Sure, there is usually some expense involved, but most couples (including Greg and me) will tell you that it has been the best money they have ever spent. In fact, if you think counseling is expensive, just wait until you see the price tag of divorce! Whew! Talk about an ounce of prevention being worth more than a pound of cure.
Earlier I posed a test question: “Your heart may be telling you to jump ship, but what is the Lord telling you to do?”
Now I would like to end this section with a few more questions.
Although some divorces are justifiable (such as in the case of unrepentant adultery or abuse), a greater percentage of divorcing couples simply run out of energy fighting for the relationship. They reach the end of their ropes. They decide to cash in their chips or gather up their toys and go home — alone. They would rather gamble on a more successful second attempt at marriage (or third or fourth) than ride out the storm until dawn bursts on the horizon. They just want to trade their current spouses in on a new-and-improved version and get on with a “happier” life.
But let me ask you this:
- What if you knew 100 percent that there would be no “next person in line”?
- What if this divorce really is the final chapter in your intimate relational experiences?
- If you were to take the Bible seriously about not having [an intimate relationship] outside of marriage, and you were positive that this is where [that] life ends and your life of celibacy and singleness begins, would you still want to hit the eject button on this relationship?
- Would you be willing to muster just a few more ounces of energy each day to iron out the wrinkles of your relationship? To make it work, for the benefit of both you and your spouse and for the glory of God?
- Would you like to grow up (mature) and grow old with your mate rather than spend your remaining years in loneliness and isolation?
- Wouldn’t you prefer to hand a legacy of lasting marriage down to your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren?
Take some time to meditate on those questions. Invite the Lord to “search your heart” as He promises He can. Open yourself wide to the possibilities. Imagine that marital bliss could be waiting just around the next counseling corner, just as Holly experienced.
As I was writing this in the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, I couldn’t help but overhear a middle-aged single woman one row over declaring that so many of her married friends were always bemoaning how miserable they are with their current husbands. Eager to find a man with whom she can share her own life, she often responds (half in jest, half-serious), “If he’s so horrible, honey, send him my way. I’ll take him!” None of her friends had taken her up on the offer. But her point was well made. Many single people would give their right arms for the marital struggles that we have because, in their minds, even a remote chance at working through the challenging times and cultivating a rewarding marriage is better than no marriage at all.
So before you come to the final conclusion that Mr. or Mrs. Right is actually Mr. or Mrs. Wrong, consider what kind of longterm marital health benefits can result from some short-term marital strength conditioning.
Excerpted with permission from The Passion Principles by Shannon Ethridge, copyright Thomas Nelson.
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Ladies, as a recently-divorced woman (not by my choice), I’m so proud of couples who choose to love the Lord together and persevere no matter what the obstacles. It takes guts and godliness to stay and work it out, be humbled, listen, care, repent of your own part, and forgive one another. But, the beauty on the other side is like nothing else! If you feel like you married the wrong person, I am praying for you! And, if you’re getting divorced or have already been divorced, I’m praying with and for you, too. There’s always grace. Always mercy. Always a fresh, new day to begin again with Jesus. Consider Shannon’s questions above and join us in conversation on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full