What does the advice you give someone facing difficult circumstances say about your relationship with Jesus?
This is especially revelatory when discussing marriage. Let me just say, marriage is difficult. It is meant to be difficult. Where else will you be faced with one person who knows all of your dark secrets, crazy dreams, good habits, and really bad habits?
Marriage is meant to sharpen us into being more like Jesus. We must learn to love unconditionally, and marriage gives us the place where we must do just that. It is a place where we are called to forgive daily, sometimes hourly, as Jesus forgives us.
But, when a friend's marriage goes bad and we are asked for counsel, what does our advice say about us and our own personal view of Jesus?
When the walls of Jerusalem were being rebuilt, there was much adversity. It was so bad that they had to guard the low places in the wall just to keep building. The families of the builders encouraged them to stop.
Why? Because the families were afraid. They were looking out for the well-being of their beloved builders. Those family members allowed for their feelings to get in the way of encouraging others to follow God. Instead, we should follow what the builders did in Nehemiah 4:9, “So we prayed to our God and stationed a guard because of them day and night.”
As family and friends of those dealing with difficult marriages, God has given us the responsibility to encourage each other to follow God’s commands, not our own commands or our feelings, as Proverbs 16:9 says: “In their hearts humans plan their course but the Lord establishes their steps.” Our human hearts are deceptive. That is why we must trust in God to guide our steps, the way we live our lives.
Regardless of the words you use, your advice should communicate, “I know you are hurting but God has a plan and His plan is good. I am and will continue to pray for you,” instead of, “You should do what is good for you, take care of yourself.” Your words should obey God’s command in 1 Thessalonians 5:11: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
Are you showing love the way God instructed? Are you encouraging your loved one to love with God’s kind of love? We must ask ourselves, “Why am I encouraging him or her to do what is good for him or her?”
Moreover, our advice should echo the fact that, “Love is patient … it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs" (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).
While keeping in mind, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interest, but also for the interest of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
Satan hijacks all of our thoughts in an effort to cause problems for God’s people. When we do not guard against his tactics we provide advice to others that goes against God’s will for their lives. We can guard against his tactics by taking every thought captive a la 2 Corinthians 10:5: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.”
Imagine where we would be today if Jesus had done what was easiest for him instead of finishing His cry in Gethsemane with His immortal words, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Jesus set aside what would make Him comfortable only to speak and do as was obedient to God the Father. When we are helping friends and family walk through a “for worse” season of marriage, we will be placed in positions where being obedient will not be comfortable and may even be painful. But setting aside our comfort, our desire for peace, is the most loving thing we can do and will ultimately be the best thing for our loved one’s marriage.
Editor’s Note: The above blog originally appeared here on EngageMagazine.net in April 2017. The writer, Marion Newbury, works with numerous organizations to help fill the gaps in service and education on PTSD and Moral Injuries as well as being an Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) master trainer. It is her life experience that helps her fulfill her passion of providing information, training, and assistance to both military and civilian families. Marion also works with several local churches to develop both their military ministry and social media ministry programs.