Last year, at The Cove, we had the privilege of attending a Military Marriage Seminar with Pastor Tommy Nelson from Denton Bible Church in Texas. You might have heard of this great man of God—he is the one who has taught lessons from the Song of Solomon to many young people (and us older folks, too!). When the weekend together was drawing to a close, Pastor Nelson ended with ten admonitions to the 125 military couples gathered. The points were, in part, a summary of the seminar, but also a strong closing challenge for all of us.
“I have seen how they acted, but I will heal them. I will lead them and help them, and I will comfort those who mourn. I offer peace to all, both near and far! I will heal my people.” — Isaiah 57:18
Early in my military career I worked in a vehicle workshop. When a vehicle was involved in an accident on operations or during an exercise, there was only one level of repair we offered – combat repair. If the vehicle’s body was damaged we would hit the damaged parts with a sledge hammer until they either fell off altogether or were out of the way of the wheels so we could drive the vehicle away. Once a damaged vehicle was back in a standing workshop, then we moved from combat repair to restoration. A skilled trades-person would rebuild, re-mold and replace panels until the vehicle looked new. In some cases the restoration was nothing short of amazing. Sometimes we settle for combat repairs in our life when what we really need is restoration… and sometimes we discard our relationships altogether when we could have seen them repaired and restored.
Everyone has faced some difficulty in their marriage. Anyone who says they have not is either lying or has never been married. Difficulties come from many sources – some we carry into our marriage as baggage from our previous lives. Perhaps some baggage we acquire while in the marriage and some baggage comes from our spouse, which in turn can create more baggage for us if we respond negatively. Baggage can take the form of bitterness and unforgiveness, destructive habits, wrong attitudes, pride, careless use of words, poor financial management, fear… I’m sure you can add to the list yourself. The problem is that all married people experience these damaging problems to some extent, but many don’t know how to repair them.
Sometimes the damage is so great or overwhelming that people choose to discard their marriage and walk away, either emotionally or physically. Some carry out combat repairs, but don’t quite get to restoration. The bad news is that we lack the strength, patience, humility, wisdom and courage to restore ourselves and our relationships when they are damaged. The really good news is that God is the master of restoration.
When the prophet Isaiah quoted God as saying, “I have seen how they acted…”, the ‘they’ were the Israelite nation and ‘they’ had acted very badly. Their actions included drunkenness, laziness, greed, rebellion, disobedience and dishonesty. They had also betrayed God by worshiping false gods, the God equivalent of adultery. As a result of the damage they had done to their relationship with God, the Israelites had been taken captive by foreign powers, robbed of their wealth and independence and kept in captivity. They were in very bad shape. In spite of their state, however, God said He would heal them.
When you consider the magnitude of
How do you do that? First recognize that our natural response to failure is to run and hide. Instead of doing that, take your problems to God and tell Him what they are – we call that confession because we are agreeing with God that we have done wrong. He won’t be surprised, but He does want to hear that we know what He knows about us. Then we need to ask the Holy Spirit daily for the strength, patience, humility, wisdom and courage we need to help restore us and our marriages. He will gladly help when we ask. Then we should seek out some encouragement from other Christians and maybe even attend a marriage conference such as the ones run by FamilyLife.
I think that too many of us have grown up thinking of God as the old guy with the angry look and the big stick waiting to punish us for our failings. Some of us treat Him as we would a grumpy uncle – we don’t ask for help for fear of being yelled at. The reality is the opposite – God has His arms wide open and He yearns to hear our confessions so that He can take pleasure in restoring us and our relationships.
Questions to share:
1. What areas in your life need repair and restoration?
2. How are those areas affecting your marriage?
3. What can you do about that?
4. Ask God to restore you and your marriage and ask the Holy Spirit to give you the daily strength, patience, humility, wisdom and courage that you need.