I’m excited and honored to welcome back Pastor Bruce Goldsmith, of Laurel Hill Baptist Church in Charlottesville, Va., to guest post on CBB today as he continues to share valuable insight on creating a Godly marriage. Our hope is that this series will help couples in forming a beautiful and strong foundation for their marriage built on God’s love – you can read all the posts in this series here. And I’ll turn it over to Pastor Bruce now:
I would like to think that my counsel to couples is perfect and that they would never have any problems in their future with one another after my counsel. I would also like to think that because of my counsel, all the couples I have conducted weddings for would stay together in marriage. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Over the past couple of months, I have been working with two separate couples who have either decided to call it quits or who are struggling with each other so much that the end of their marriage appears to be inevitable.
In both cases, it is because of a lack of communication and because of a lack of forgiveness. Couple number one has been married for over eighteen years. They have several children together, but unfortunately their relationship has gone south because of a lack of good communication. What is sad about this relationship is that communication can be learned, if the couple is willing. With good counsel and practical techniques, communication can grow, and the marriage can be better. But in this case, the husband was not willing, after two years of counsel, to continue to work on the situation. He made up his mind that it was not going to work, no matter what happened. So, in that case, it didn’t matter what happened, he was not going to try any longer.
At the core of the problem was a lack of forgiveness. The wife was doing what she knew to do, not perfectly, but with good effort to work on the relationship, but he was overwhelmed with years of a diseased marriage. So he had decided to walk away.
Couple number two has been married for less than two years. I officiated the wedding; it was beautiful and very expensive. But just a couple months ago, the husband called me in a wreck of an emotional state. He asked if they could come see me right away. So, the next day we discussed the situation. As we talked, I quickly learned that there was a huge flaw in the relationship. She very much loves to be held by her husband. She likes to sit on the couch with him and hold his hand or lay her head on his shoulder. But he is not a touchy person; for him it is a little irritating. So often she would reach out to him, literally and figuratively, only to feel rejected by his lack of willingness. So, day after day, she reached out until she couldn’t take it anymore. In a sense, she was yelling at him to pay attention to her. Unfortunately, because she was tired of doing so, she began to have eyes for another man. And by the time they came to see me, she was already involved in another relationship. Now she wants out of the marriage. The husband, on the other hand, was oblivious to all this. For him, he thought the relationship was fine. He knew there were problems but felt like they could be worked on without much struggle. Sadly, the problem in her eyes was much bigger than he ever dreamed. Since their first meeting with me, they came back once more as a couple, but since then, she has not returned.
If you are like me, you are wondering how things like this happen in a relationship. In other words, what is so bad that one of the partners walks away? I mentioned two subjects that are often the root cause of breakups – communication or the lack thereof and a lack of willingness to forgive.
Mostly, I find in struggling marriages, people do not understand how to communicate well with each other. One thinks they are sharing their inner self, but the other is not understanding. So, I find that even in the smallest of matters, good communication focuses on making sure the spouse really understands what is being asked or talked about. For example, in couple number two, the wife who has found another person, was communicating, but her husband wasn’t understanding her need. Therefore, it really wasn’t communication. What should have happened, early in their relationship, was for them to be very specific in their requests to one another. That makes a huge difference. She could have told him early on, “I like to sit together with your arm around me for five or ten minutes.” as an example. And at the same time, he should have communicated that it was somewhat of an irritation for him to be touchy feel-y. Then they both could come to a logical and harmonious conclusion. I understand that sounds very simplistic, and it really is. That does not mean it is easy. These things must be learned.
Another part to their situation is, even though he was not comfortable with touching, he needed to learn how to sacrifice for her sake. To make changes in his life for her best interest. That is called self-sacrifice. And further, if they had been paying attention, they would understand that in a good relationship, forgiveness is essential. There has never been a couple who didn’t need forgiveness over something from each other. Each of us carries a lot of baggage in our lives, either from our own doing or our own inner selfish motives and desires or because of mistakes we have made. And depending on the situation, forgiveness of one another may need to happen often, and be repeated for years. Truthfully, a good marriage lives on continual forgiveness. People are anything but perfect, and it takes a lot of grace to live with someone.
Because I am a pastor, I understand the foundation of both good communication and forgiveness. I understand them because the Lord has exemplified them in His relationship to us. For example, God put on paper, a book, a manual, an instruction letter, called the Bible, for us to know what was in His mind. In other words, He loves us so much that He wrote down, over many years, His thoughts to us about how to live this life and how to have a good relationship with Himself and one another. He is the Master communicator. He knew we are weak and often make mistakes with each other and in life in general, so because He wants only what is best for us, He wrote for us the best way for us to have a blessed life – a harmonious life with each other and with Himself.
In my counsel to couples, the Bible is the source to help people see God’s love for each of us and how He wants for us to have a blessed marriage. One of the main things I share with them is, if they will read His Word on a daily basis, they will see that He communicates to us how we can best live with each other. He talks about being careful about our reactions to one another, that we should be very cautious about anger. He teaches us to put others before ourselves and to live lives of humility in our relationships. And He teaches many other things, all because He has our best interest at heart.
Not only has the Lord communicated about these subjects, but He has also communicated the need to forgive. You see, He understands forgiveness. It was His idea to come to the earth so that He could reconcile us to Himself. In other words, His book, the Bible, teaches us that we are all in need of forgiveness from God because we all violate Him in some way. Often we turn to other things or other people or ourselves as if we are god. That hurts His heart, because He made us.
The Bible teaches us that He even gives us the ability to live. Without Him we would not exist. Listen to what God says about Christ and His work for us. Colossians 1:15-20 (NASB) 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
So, when we look to other things or people, we deny Him as the One who loves us most. And because of our self-serving hearts, He demands from us our lives. He demands we pay the price for our waywardness or sin, the Bible calls it. The things we do that deny Him, in our actions or thoughts.
But it was He who made a way for us to be forgiven. The Bible tells us while we were sinners, violators of His Holiness, Christ came to the earth to die for us. Jesus came to pay the debt we owe to God for our stubbornness. Romans 5:8 (NASB) 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
So, forgiveness is essential for us to have a harmonious relationship with God, the One who created us and created marriage. Because of that truth, we are told to forgive one another of the things we do to hurt each other. Why? Because He forgave us of the many things we do to Him.
So, if you are struggling in your relationship, practice good communication. If you need help, seek a godly counselor who can help you with it. And allow yourself to forgive the one who is or has hurt you. If you are not familiar with the Bible, I encourage you to get one and read it. I think it is best to start in the book of John. It is in the New Testament. You can find it by looking in the index. I say read the book of John because in that book, we learn about who the Lord Jesus is most clearly.
If you will give God an open door to your heart, your marriage will be more than you could ever hope or think. It will not be without problems, but those problems will be able to be dealt with because you will learn from God how to be a good communicator and someone who lives a life of forgiveness.
Learn more about Pastor Bruce and Laurel Hill Baptist Church by visiting the website where you can listen to weekly sermons, read the pastor’s blog and more.
Photography and styling by Sarah Darcy.