When a Couple Wants Change—Fast! (Part 2)

November 30, 2016

BCC Staff: In his last post Winston Smith began addressing those cases in which a couple in crisis comes, almost demanding that their longstanding problems be resolved ASAP! In that post he made these points:

  1. We can help them see that these ordinary moments, as difficult as they are, have the potential to change their marriage for the better. Every moment, no matter how mundane it may seem, is sacred because it is a moment lived before God, a moment in which we are called to trust in and walk in His love.
  2. Know what love looks mike in the Moment, and put it into practice.

Here is his conclusion to the article.


Love is a Person

People tend to think of love as an experience, that love is something that happens to us or just something that we feel. But, ultimately, the Scriptures tell us that love is a person. God is love, and love has come to us in the person of Jesus Christ. That means that love is something husbands and wives are enabled to do in a very concrete way because they are in relationship with the God who is love. Because of this, they can move away from love simply as an emotionally charged experience and toward Jesus as a person who empowers them to act concretely in love.

Slowing Down the Moment

It’s certainly not easy to put Christ-like love into practice in the face of hurtful emotions and verbal attacks. One suggestion is to help the couple learn to slow down the moment—to take that emotional, pressure-filled moment and slow it down so they are able to choose a better response.

Sometimes in the counseling room I’ll slow the moment down by asking a couple to describe their feelings as calmly as they’re able. I might say something like, “You’re both feeling really angry right now” or “You’re both feeling hurt. So let’s slow this moment down. I want each of you to very carefully describe what’s happening inside of you, and I want the other person to listen and not interrupt.” As each person talks, try to help him or her be as constructive in that moment as possible, to get outside of his or her hurt and attempt to understand the other person’s experience.

Sometimes I’ll set up those moments by saying, “It’s the nature of sincere love to enter into the experience of the other [Rom. 12:9–21]. I’m going to ask both of you to do that right now, and it’s going to be hard and it’s not going to feel natural. But that’s because we’re following Christ, and we’re loving sacrificially.”

A Homework Idea

There’s a simple sort of homework that can help people slow down at home and be better students of what’s happening inside of them. Whenever they are in a hard moment with their spouse, have them answer these questions:

  1. What was going on when this hard moment occurred? Describe the situation.
  2. How did you respond? What did you say or do?
  3. What were you thinking and feeling in that moment?
  4. How might God respond to what was happening inside of you (i.e., what truths about God’s love and grace might help you)?
  5. Based on what God said and who He is, how could you respond differently?

This will help them begin to develop a habit of moving away from emotionally charged reactions and walking in wisdom and love instead by asking, “What can I do in Christ’s love that matters right now?”

Love Consistently over Time                               

Why is God’s love so important, and how can spouses love consistently as time goes on? Particularly for the married couple, we must remind them that Scripture teaches that marriage is designed to point to something beyond itself. It wasn’t created simply as a gift for our enjoyment, but to point us to Christ’s love for us.

When things get tough, we should direct each partner to slow down and ask what this hard moment of marriage has to do with Christ’s love for him or her, for the spouse, or for the world. Then, have them ask themselves how they can then connect to that love and make it more present in a concrete way. And continue to do that. Instruct them to make it their habit in the moments of anger or hurt to stop, take a step back, and consider how they can love their spouse like Christ loves them in this difficult moment. It may not be easy, but it is possible.

One of the reasons it’s hard is that when people are really struggling, upset, and angry, they are oftentimes not aware of God’s presence and activity. The husband or wife might tend to think that He is far away, that He’s irrelevant, or that He has abandoned him or her. In those moments when they need God the most, they tend to believe that He is absent. Invite couples to see that every moment of their marriage matters to God and that He’s consistently present in every moment.

Conclusion

We need to help couples understand that life in Christ means walking into and living in hard moments, but those everyday moments have the potential to change their lives and their marriages for the better. Trusting in Christ means following His lead in the day-to-day, loving one’s spouse the way that Christ loves us. It means slowing down, understanding the situation, and then acting in love in specific, concrete ways. Even though it is hard, they can do it because Christ walked before them and continues to walk with them. He enables the couple to do what He has called them to do.

Note: This article first appeared on http://www.careleader.org/pastor-marriage-needs-change-now (November 15, 2016).