Is God able to raise a dead, hopeless marriage? Let me pose the question a different way. Is there a point of no return, so-to-speak, where the hurt is too deep and the relationship too toxic for a turn-a-round to occur?
I’ve often heard people in struggling marriages (and friends and family who love them) say, I’m praying that God intervenes and does a miracle. And while I whole-heartedly believe in the miracle-working power of God, the way that God works to turn a marriage around is somewhat unique in nature – as compared to, for example, a physical healing or financial provision.
Let me explain.
One of my favorite Bible verses is Romans 8:11 that says…
The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
Many (including myself) have quoted this verse to say that since God raised Jesus from the dead, He therefore has the power to turn any difficult situation around in our lives…including a marriage in crisis. And while I agree in theory, let’s take a closer look at what this verse is really teaching us, and thus, how it applies to marriages.
First, we must understand that the apostle Paul is teaching about our salvation in Christ, and future resurrection. He’s writing about the simple gospel – the life, death, and bodily resurrection of Jesus…and the new life that’s available to us who repent and believe – which will be fully accomplished when Jesus returns and our physical bodies are gloriously transformed to be like His. He’s referring to the entire process of salvation.
All of this change is made possible, in part, by the the power of the Holy Spirit that takes residence in us at the moment of faith; and a process of transformation (becoming like Jesus) begins.
But in order for us to experience the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit, we have to cooperate with Him for the process to move forward. What I’m saying is this:
There is a process to marriage resurrection,and it mirrors that of salvation.
Here are four basic elements of our salvation and how they mirror a marriage turn-a-round:
Sacrificial love (the cross). Our salvation was 100% initiated by Christ Himself by going to the cross; and it was a selfless act of unconditional love. He made the first move towards us. In the same way, someone has to make a bold move of sacrificial love. Regardless of fault, hurt feelings, or any other issue that’s causing a marriage to falter, somebody has to make the first move. A bold move. A move that says, No matter how you’ve hurt me, I love you unconditionally and I’m 100% committed to this marriage. A move that says, There’s nothing you can say or do that will make me stop loving you.
Repentance (initiated by the kindness of another). The bible says its the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. Not just His power or holiness…but his loving kindness towards us when we least expect it or deserve it. That kind of radical love has the power to soften the hardened heart to say, I too am responsible for the state of my marriage. Think of the movie, Fireproof. When Catherine finally realized it was Caleb (not Dr. Gavin) that donated the money for her mother’s medical needs, her closed heart finally began to open.
Faith. Repentance and faith often go hand-in-hand. In terms of our salvation, faith says, Jesus, I believe you are who you said you are, I trust you completely with my life, and I know you have a wonderful plan for my life. In a dead marriage, this is where new life really takes shape. It’s the belief that there is a future and the hope to keep moving forward. A faith that says, I know we have real problems in our marriage, but I believe our hurts can heal and our relational habits can change. And two hearts, once closed towards each other by hurt and pain, begin to open again.
Transformation. At the moment of conversion, a sanctification process begins – a life-long transformational process of becoming more and more like Jesus. And in the same way, marriages are ultimately resurrected when old, toxic relational habits are replaced by healthy ones. In other words, when behaviors are changed. Relationships change when people change. That’s the bottom line of it all. And God is the only One in the people-changing business.
So, should we pray, “God, will You raise dead marriages?” Of course we should. Let’s just keep in mind that the miracle occurs in the people that compose the marriage, and that requires cooperation on their part. And once that occurs, the marriage habits/behavior (formed by the people in the marriage) will begin to change.
- Pray that one of them moves toward the other in a bold act of sacrificial love
- Pray that they other spouse receives it well
- Pray that faith and hope re-enter their hearts
- Pray that all of this leads towards changed behavior and healthy habits in their relationship
And by the way, this isn’t just for couples in crisis. Whenever Debbie and I find ourselves in the everyday marriage doldrums so-to-speak, this is the process that helps us find our way out.