Trouble in paradise: Putting the marriage series into practice

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This is the final part of the marriage series, and it’s going to be different. This article will focus on the practical side of what we’ve learned so far by sharing the testimony of how my husband and I have been put to the test ourselves.

I often say that I live Scripture. By that, I do not only mean that I am continually studying the Bible. It also means that while I am studying God’s Word, the lessons come to life in me and through me.

I know this aligns with what Jesus promises born-again Christians (John 8:31-32, 14:15-17, 15:7, 1 John 2:24), but the way it happens never ceases to amaze me.

When I started writing the series on marriage, I was a bit worried that God would put all that I wrote to the test in my own marriage. Our relationship is really good, and it has been that way for all of the almost 6 years that we have been married. I did not feel like shaking that up.

And because my marriage is good, I felt that I didn’t have enough wisdom to write about marital problems, since we didn’t really have any experience in that area. But at the same time, I knew that I would have to end the series with an article about marital difficulties. Even though I had no idea what that article would look like.

So, I put it in God’s hands and decided to wait and see what He would give me.

He gave me wisdom indeed. But I didn’t expect that it would be such a profound experience…

Man and woman fighting in the sunset, it's unclear whether he is walking away from her or towards her to comfort her.

In the week that I was planning on posting the previous article 10 crucial habits of Christian wives, something happened in church that reminded me of a past before I was saved by God. A past filled with darkness and sorrow. Because something from that past seemed to become an issue in the present, I decided to frankly and transparently discuss it with my husband, so that we could tackle it as a team.

But… he did not take it well. At all. Because he knew something I didn’t know, something he had been harboring in his heart since even before our marriage.

Now, to understand what happened, you need to know that before God delivered me, and before my husband and I were married, I suffered from a common PTSD symptom called dissociation. It was pretty bad, causing lots of problems and leaving me with major gaps in my memory.

Occasionally, something that happened in those gaps, resurfaces. And when it does, it needs to be dealt with before it becomes a festering wound infecting our marriage. That isn’t always easy, but the alternative, we believe, is way worse.

So, when I told my husband about what bothered me, I expected that it would be awkward and embarrassing for me, not that he would implode and explode at the same time.

But he did. And I have never seen him that angry, disgusted, upset, and sad before. What I told him, apparently answered a question he had on his mind since the time we started dating. It gave him a part of a puzzle he had been trying to piece together in his mind. He didn’t want to bring it up himself, afraid to hurt or to be hurt. Hearing part of the story led to more questions of course, so I tried to help find the missing pieces with the help of calendars and vague memories. Vague, because of the gaps in my mind.

Learning these things made him feel deeply betrayed by me because he felt that I had withheld information on purpose. He began to doubt my honesty, my faithfulness, my love, everything. Unbeknownst to me, what had been almost menial to me, was crucial for him. Because he felt that if he would have had that information at the time, we would have never been married. Therefore, he felt that the foundation of our marriage had just been blown to smithereens…

Now we were both crying.

After 3 days of this, we had fallen into a pit of despair. And after I realized that we hit rock bottom, for some reason I looked at the clock, and I saw that it was just past 10 AM, the moment that 10 crucial qualities of Christian wives was programmed to be published. Then it hit me:

This was a test, and we could not let the enemy win. We were going to come out of this victoriously and stronger than ever.

So, what did we do? We struck back with what God taught us from His Word!

That might sound strong and courageous, but it didn’t happen by our own strength. Our response was so out of character for the both of us, so out of this world, that we can only consider it a miracle, a sign of His transformative work in us.

Without truly comprehending how it happened, we followed the steps I had written in the previous article with surprising accuracy. Therefore, I will walk you through those 10 crucial habits and tell you what putting the theory into action looked like for us.

1 We built on love

A cord of three strands is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12), and so we both knew, from the inside out, that we needed to grasp God even more tightly right there and then.

I reached out to Him in prayer, petition, repentance, and gratitude for my husband.

And my husband brought his pain and sorrow before God, and then he started praising God loudly to songs like “See a victory” from Elevation Worship. Afterward, he felt completely renewed in his love and passion for me. He was going to see a victory!

2 We acted from a humble heart

We counted the other more significant than ourselves when we, out of love for God and each other, were heartbroken by the pain the other person was suffering. He felt he wanted to comfort me, since I was in tears, while I was in tears because he was in so much pain.

I could do nothing else but humble myself before my husband and God. And because of that, my husband saw my honesty and forgave me.

I truly felt like the Mary about whom Jesus said: “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47, ESV)

3 We were respectful

At the start of our altercation, my husband, in all his anger, failed to be respectful towards me. And I was deeply hurt and shamed by that. The old me would have become extremely angry and even more disrespectful in response, escalating things even further. But the new me didn’t.

Instead, I kept my helmet of salvation on. I turned the other cheek in full trust of God. I did not feel threatened once. I felt strong and peaceful, standing firm in God’s truth.

Then I distanced myself and gently but clearly told him that he was not allowed to speak to me like that, since I am a child of God. The things that we were discussing, happened before our relationship started. But what matters most, is that they happened before I was born again, and so now they are under the blood. If God did not hold them against me, who was he to hold them against me?

As he realized that that was true indeed, he apologized to me and God, and his whole demeanor softened and we both communicated with respect for each other.

4 We remained pure

Throughout the whole ordeal, we both tried to remain pure, free from any kind of unrighteousness. As soon as we felt we overstepped a line, even a little, we asked God and each other for forgiveness. That might seem hard to do in the middle of an argument, but it was hardly any effort at all, as we both felt that we wanted to do that from the inside out. And not only is that a sign of God at work in us, we believe that that worked in our benefit too, for: “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry;” (Psalm 34:15, NIV)

5 I was obedient, yet free and assertive

Even when he was angry and upset with me, I continued to care for my husband’s needs. If he said he needed space, I gave him that. If he wanted a hug, I gave him that.

I felt free to do that since I felt free in Christ. It was the Holy Spirit Who gave me the strength to endure. He gave me patience and enabled me to be kind, even when my normally very kind husband wasn’t so kind at that moment.

But like I said, there were moments when I had to speak up in defense of God. And although I felt guilty about what happened and the way it made him feel, I knew and know that I am not a slave to sin anymore. So, although I am dealing with the consequences, in a way I can distance myself from what happened before God delivered me.

Because although I used to be an instrument of the devil all those years ago, now I am an instrument of God, and nobody can tell me otherwise.

6 We were peaceable

Both of us were astonished by the tremendous amount of peace that we felt in those three days, even during the experience of pain and suffering. That might sound counterintuitive, but that’s just it: We cannot comprehend this experience, since it is supernatural.

Not only did we feel this peace, we eagerly wanted to restore peace between us. I did my part by listening with supernatural self-control when he needed to say his part. When I spoke, I prayed to speak words of encouragement and upbuilding, instead of making things worse.

He said that in the past he would have felt a need for a separation of some sort, but now, through Christ, he felt he just wanted to mend what was damaged and remain united.

7 I aimed to be beautiful from the inside out

When I realized that my husband was repulsed by what I did in my past, I felt an urge to make myself look more beautiful. He loves the way I look, and he is grateful for being the husband of a beautiful wife. So, for a short moment, I thought: Maybe I can win him over by doing my hair a certain way he likes and putting on some makeup for a change.

But then God reminded me of what I wrote for Him: Be beautiful from the inside out.

Therefore, I tried to let my inner beauty speak for itself and reminded him of my faithfulness and other aspects of the beauty God gave me, by letting actions speak louder than words.

8 I tried to remain diligent

To be honest, I felt sad and worn out by all the emotions after this had happened. For a couple of days, I could hardly bring myself to do anything useful. So, I took some time to recharge, doing nothing but the essential chores while nourishing myself with God’s Word. But as soon as the mourning was over, I got right back into it, on fire to tell you guys this testimony of God’s power at work in our marriage.

9 We gave generously

We remained mindful of each other’s needs, and one of those needs was to reconnect in all areas of our relationship. Where some couples respond to difficulties with a “silent treatment” or other forms of deprivation, we did none of those things. We didn’t want to punish each other in any kind of way since that was not our place. Despite all the pain, we experienced we just wanted to be there for each other in mercy, love, and kindness.

10 We were each other’s friend

We felt that nothing could come between us. And so amazingly, even when things were hard, we did all of the things I wrote. We:

  • loved each other
  • supported and cared for each other
  • showed each other kindness
  • wept and rejoiced with each other
  • trusted each other
  • interceded for each other
  • gave each other counsel

What we learned

As my husband and I were evaluating what had happened and what we felt, we both felt that God’s peace throughout it all is what stood out the most. God was always there, binding us together by His love. Yes, there were moments when I feared that my husband would leave me, but then I responded to that fear by putting my trust in God. Because I knew that we are a cord of three strands and that we are strongly intertwined with God’s love. And even if he would leave me, God would have a plan, I was sure of that. God always takes care of His children.

So, instead of damaging our relationship, it grew stronger. On top of that, this experience also strengthened our relationship with God.

We also came to the realization that although my husband felt that certain events in the past built (or destroyed) the foundation of our marriage, in reality, this was far from true. God was always the foundation. His hand was in everything, from the start. The events weren’t decisive, but God was. God used my past mistakes, my dung, as fertilizer. And today the tree grows stronger, while flourishing, and bearing fruit.

God was and is our great comforter. He comforted us by sending us Scripture verses that were spot on, for example, Psalm 139:23-24. He sent people from church to encourage us. He sent a friend, who knew nothing about this whole situation, who texted the following:

Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

  • Sometimes life can leave us a little damaged.
  • But God comes and He is able to renew our hearts.
  • He can remove the scars and bring new life and hope in us.
  • Give Him the right of way, and He will make all things new.

And when we came to the Sunday service, two days after this ordeal, we were met with the words “And the enemy can’t take what I have, or change who I am, I belong to You” from the worship song Belong To You by Iron Bell Music. Those words suddenly had a whole new meaning to them. The rest of that whole service was as if God was speaking to us through the person preaching. And then we knew: We had passed the test by His grace and for His glory.