Do you wonder if your marriage is beyond repair? Have you ever had thoughts like these?
· There are too many wounds.
· There’s too much damage.
· It’s impossible to get past the hurt.
I’ve claimed all these statements (and others like them) as absolute facts only to realize they were keeping me from the very things I was desperately praying for — reconciliation with the man I had loved for nearly 34 years and a loving marriage.
When I met Mike, we were young, careless, unbridled teenagers, desperately in need of saving — but we had no clue about life in general let alone how to maintain a healthy relationship.
Three decades later, after we had raised two kids and had a grandchild, our marriage counselor would reflect on our relationship and confess, “In over 30 years of counseling, I’ve never worked with another couple with as much damage to their marriage — but who have stayed together.” Well, ours was a complete mess, and it took hours of prayer and counseling to convince us that it was possible to save it and start over again. God was willing to wipe away our past, heal our hurts and help us begin again, but it was ultimately our choice to embrace this grace-filled opportunity. Thank God that we were both finally ready to say goodbye to what had been and hello to what could be.
Once Mike and I were several years into our healing journey, God called me into full-time ministry and challenged me to encourage women to pursue God’s will for their lives and marriages. The acronym COURAGE stands for the seven steps we need to take to embrace healing for our marriage and other areas of our life.
Step One: Commit to change
God desires that we stop blaming others for our problems and start looking at the attitudes, outlooks, beliefs and behaviors we need to change. Do you need to make changes? Are you ready to stop trying to change other people, including your spouse, and change how you respond and react to them instead?
Step Two: Overcome obstacles
To change, we must identify and analyze the attitudes, outlooks, people, beliefs and behaviors that are obstacles. I needed to eliminate negative people and places from my life that might distract me from changing. What is keeping you from making necessary changes in your marriage? Do you need to remove yourself from people, places or things that will hinder your progress?
Step Three: Uncover your real self
Whether we realize it or not, many of us suffer from an identity crisis. We’ve spent so many years listening to what the world and others have to say about us, that we’ve forgotten who we truly are. It’s critical we take inventory of our identity, dispel any lies and embrace God’s view of ourselves over all others. I had to recognize lies such as I’m not good enough, not capable and not worthy of the life God desires for me to live. I then needed to uncover truth about myself by memorizing passages that tell us who our heavenly Father says we are (Psalm 139:13-16; John 1:12; Romans 6:6; 2 Corinthians 5:17 and 1 Peter 2:9). Are there any negative beliefs you need to eliminate and replace to uncover the real you?
Step Four: Replace worldly lies with scriptural truth
I had to stop believing that I could never get over the hurt, that my viewpoint was the only one that mattered, and that it was more important to please other people than to stand firm and please God. I had to keep my eyes on Christ and His Word, where true hope, peace and joy are found. I replaced lies with truth from God’s Word (2 Corinthians 10:5). Are there worldly lies you believe that hinder your ability to change and heal? Are you distracted by all the world has to offer and say? Is it time for you to make God and His Word first and foremost in your life and marriage?
Step Five: Accept the things you cannot change
We must accept that we cannot change other people and focus on the one person we can change — ourselves. Additionally, we can’t change past experiences, decisions or remarks. But we can discover ways to process our past or make amends for any wrongs we’ve committed. Are there past experiences, decisions or remarks you need to get past? Are there people you need to forgive (yourself? your spouse?) or ask forgiveness of?
Step Six: Grasp God’s love for you
God’s love for us is so great that it’s difficult to truly grasp and accept it. God gave His only Son over to be beaten, abused and crucified to pay for my sin. I had to fully grasp God’s love for me in order to freely release the unconditional love He was calling me to extend to my husband and others (1 Peter 4:8; 1 Corinthians 16:14; John 13:34; Colossians 3:14; and Ephesians 4:15). Do you genuinely grasp God’s love for you — in spite of your faults and failures? Are you willing to extend that same love to your spouse and others — in spite of their faults and failures?
Step Seven: Embrace a life of grace
In this final step, we gain freedom from guilt and shame and release any lingering unforgiveness and bitterness toward others. I had to realize God didn’t want me beating myself up for the mistakes I’d made, and He was calling me to stop berating Mike and others for theirs. At last, I accepted God’s complete pardon. God is waiting patiently, ready to pardon us from our past — but we must accept His pardon and pardon others at the same time.
Ann White is the founder of Courage for Life Ministries, which is focused on teaching the Bible to at-risk women. Find out more at courageforlife.org.