Against All Odds: Help for the Hurting Marriage

Have you ever been in a situation or circumstance where there were a lot of problems and it appeared that there was no way out? It appeared hopeless, against all odds.

An ancient king of the Jewish people – Hezekiah – faced a situation that appeared to have no good outcome. It was one of those “against all odds” circumstances. There were a lot of problems and it appeared that he was not likely to succeed in preventing the impending destruction of his kingdom. You can read about it in the Old Testament of the Bible (2 Chronicles 32).

The part of the story that I want you to think about is found in these verses…

“After Hezekiah had faithfully carried out this work, King Sennacherib of Assyria invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified towns, giving orders for his army to break through their walls. When Hezekiah realized that Sennacherib also intended to attack Jerusalem, he consulted with his officials and military advisers, and they decided to stop the flow of the springs outside the city. They organized a huge work crew to stop the flow of the springs, cutting off the brook that ran through the fields. For they said, “Why should the kings of Assyria come here and find plenty of water?” Then Hezekiah worked hard at repairing all the broken sections of the wall, erecting towers, and constructing a second wall outside the first. He also reinforced the supporting terraces in the City of David and manufactured large numbers of weapons and shields.” (2 Chronicles 32:1-5, New Living Translation)

Hezekiah did not sit around waiting for his kingdom to come crashing down. Neither did he abandon the people who trusted him to lead them through this time of adversity. The king took steps to get his house in order, to make provision for the challenges he faced and was about to encounter.

His response to what appeared to be a hopeless situation provides biblical principles that are applicable for our own hardships and afflictions. Notice three things he did.

Blocked off the Bad

Hezekiah cut off the access the Assyrian army would have to the water in the area. That access would allow the “bad” to get a foothold around the city. Hezekiah doesn’t just sit around waiting for God to do something. This would be a good practice for us.

Do you have financial struggles, but continue to pursue an unsustainable lifestyle instead of living within your means?

Do you have relational situations where friends/family are pushing you in a direction you know God doesn’t want?

Do you want to grow spiritually in your marriage, but all of your busyness and distractions leave no time for the spiritual disciplines necessary for that growth?

What causes the enemy to linger in your lives?

Mended the Broken

Hezekiah repaired the broken sections of the walls around the city. What about the things that were once healthy and strong in your marriage, but are no longer – communication, trust, friendship, sexual intimacy, resistance to temptations that weaken your marital connection? Hezekiah and his people worked hard to repair what was broken to keep the enemy from easily overtaking them.

Bolstered the Weak

He built another wall outside the main wall and reinforced the supporting fortifications and terraces. It wasn’t enough to have one wall around the city. Do you know the weak spots in your life, in your faith, in your marriage? If the enemy concentrated his efforts there, would he be able to break through and destroy your marriage and faith in God? All may seem well now, but over the long run you would be vulnerable. What are you doing to reinforce the vulnerable areas of your relationship with your spouse?

Every marriage will face a time of adversity and distress. It may be a chronic illness, the death of a child, a crisis of faith, a financial setback, a loss of trust and security because of an adulterous affair, or an out-of-control addiction. Are you prepared? Is your house in order?

Ash Wednesday

Today, Ash Wednesday, is the beginning of the church season known as Lent. It is a forty-day period before Easter set aside as a time of soul-searching and repentance. The forty days reflect Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for his own time of spiritual reflection. In the early church Lent was a special time when new converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism on Easter.

Historically, there are four spiritual acts of Lent:

  1. Giving to the poor
  2. Prayer
  3. Fasting/Abstaining
  4. Repentance

It’s that last one that has me thinking today. Repentance is often defined as “to feel sorrow for sin” and rightly refers to our sin against God. But, we also sin against each other in our marriage and family relationships. We offend and hurt the ones we love. And we are offended and hurt by the ones we love.

In every marriage and family there comes a time when we must repent for our actions or words. That is often followed by an apology. How you apologize and what you say in the apology is important. Here are four components of a biblical apology: 

  1. Confess sin – “I am sorry.” It helps to be specific about the offense. Avoid saying “but…” That tends to void the apology. A house is not clean until you open every closet and clean every room. Confession includes no more secrets and genuine regret.
  2. Accept responsibility – “I was wrong.” Repentant people do not give excuses or shift blame.
  3. Genuinely repent – “I have deep sorrow over my sin.” True repentance is essential for God-honoring change. In a marriage or family relationship, an intention to not repeat the offensive behavior needs to be verbalized in order to build trust. Heart change brings about life change, so true repentance is critical. Changing the course of life involves a decision to live in obedience to God and a deliberate turning from the things that cause temptation.
  4. Request forgiveness – “Will you please forgive me?” This sends a strong signal that you know you’ve done something that requires forgiving, not just excusing. It also lets the other person know that you want to see the relationship restored.

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” – Psalm 51:1-2