Grace Rescued Our Marriage
Dead End—that’s where my life was headed. I’d walked away from a successful ministry position in a large church, serving as senior pastor while only thirty-one. I was only one year into this dream opportunity, when I knew I had to resign. I could no longer preach the gospel I’d held so dearly, but now was struggling to believe. For years, I’d asked God to intervene, to work some kind of miracle in our marriage, but the heavens were silent. I’d seen no change; in fact, things were getting worse.
In those early years, we were both operating in pride. Our misunderstandings, unrealistic expectations, and skewed perspectives fed a growing dislike of one another. But if anyone would have suggested “pride” as an underlying root issue, we would’ve quickly defended our actions and pointed the finger at the other partner as the source of the problem.
Pride can be so subtle that you don’t even realize it’s lurking beneath the surface. It invites you to view your spouse as inferior or tempts you to take up the mantle of “victim” and justify your resentment. But pride is like an oozing canker-sore in a marriage relationship; it’s always festering, and when bumped, it spews poison and pulsates with pain. By “pride” I mean a self-centered focus that views life through the grid of how this affects ME.
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
This verse contains a warning, but also a huge promise. While operating in pride, we’re functioning in a position that God opposes. No wonder couples are struggling and marriages are crumbling—pride is the air that our culture breathes, but pride strangles the opportunity for God’s grace to flow in our relationships.
Pride will be the natural default position unless a couple learns to recognize it and battle it.
God holds out the offer of a better way. The pathway of humility covers its travelers with grace. Grace is that empowering work of God that is necessary for a marriage to grow and thrive.
Battling Pride and Receiving Grace:
- Confess: The first step of humility is confession. Be willing to consider that you bear some responsibility for the conflict and admit that. Don’t allow pride to deceive you into thinking it is all your spouse’s fault.
- Communicate in Gracious Honesty: Honestly share your thoughts, concerns, and opinions—but with a humble and winsome attitude. We’re not talking about that brand of false humility where we try to one-up our opponent with a vastly superior “enlightened meekness” that smacks of insincerity. But convey your heart to your spouse with an attitude that recognizes the grace you’ve been shown, knowing you are a forgiven sinner, let your conversation be rooted in the love of Christ.
- Invite the Holy Spirit into the Conversation: Our marriage took a dramatic turn when we began praying together through our conflicts. This will be awkward and extremely difficult if you’ve not established regular times of prayer already. We’ve found that nothing has transformed our marriage more than this practice of going to God together, regularly, lifting up our need for Him to lead us.
The humility of Christ flies in the face of a “me-first,” self-centered, entitlement mentality, but it is the doorway to grace that your marriage desperately needs.
You may have heard LeRoy and Kimberly Wagner on the Focus on the Family radio program. LeRoy has served as a pastor and speaker for more than thirty years. Kim is a conference speaker as well as the author of Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior. They coauthored the companion volume for husbands: Men Who Love Fierce Women. Kim loves connecting with women through her (almost) daily blog: kimberlywagner.org where you’ll find several videos and other free resources. You can follow Kim on Twitter and Instagram @kimberlywagner7.