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The Cure for Broken Relationships

by Robert Hawes  
4/19/2017 / Christian Living

It's tragic to see so many marriages falling apart, including Christian marriages. In many instances, this is attributable to stubbornness and selfishness on the part of one or both spouses. In other instances, it seems to be the result of years of unresolved frustration and anger that give rise to bitterness. In the latter case, things tend to come to a head quickly, with one spouse abruptly storming out on the other, who is then left bewildered and broken. Where children are involved, it's all the more tragic.

What's the remedy for this? Counseling? Therapy? Medication?

The answer became more fully apparent to me some time back while I was praying for a Christian couple that was in turmoil. This was one of the rare instances in which the Spirit actually answered me, and he did so as he almost always does - by interrupting me, which I suppose is his way of letting me know that what I'm hearing is not my own thought. He said, very simply, "I can't help them if they won't yield to me."

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are all essential to establishing and maintaining the harmonious relationships that God intended us to have with one another, and all are called "fruits of the Spirit" in scripture (Galatians 5:22-23). They are manifestations of the transformative work of God in our character, and they can only be developed in us as we learn to yield to him rather than indulging our own desires, which typically manifest as lust, anger, stubbornness, selfishness, unforgiveness, bitterness, vengeance, and the like - all the things that typically destroy relationships.

If you're facing turmoil in a relationship today, it may well be that - contrary to conventional wisdom - marriage counseling should not be your first step toward reconciliation, at least not for the Christian. As I see the teaching of scripture, the first step may well be to spend time apart for awhile, seeking God individually, repenting of selfishness and learning to hear his voice and yield to his gentle prompting. Ephesians 4:3 refers to a "unity of the Spirit" that results in "the bond of peace." If you are both focused on him and yielded to him, the Spirit will naturally facilitate peace between you. Counseling tends to focus on working out your animosities, which shifts your attention to yourself and will likely cause you to become defensive. By giving control over to the Spirit of God first, you learn to see things (including one another) through his eyes, and the old complaints and battles will be far easier to overcome because pride and selfishness will no longer be in the way.

What, then, if your spouse is not interested in yielding to the Spirit of God? The hard truth there is that reconciliation may not be possible. As painful as this may be, regardless of what your spouse may choose to do, remain focused on the Lord, yielding to the Spirit rather than to succumbing to despair. The Spirit is not only capable of producing a unity that results in peace between persons, but also between us and our Lord, and it is this peace that the Bible tells us "surpasses all comprehension" and is able to "guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus."

When the peace of the living God has hold of you, there is nothing you cannot endure. Jesus was able to face the specter of the cross, in spite of being abandoned by his closest friends, simply because he knew "I am not alone, because the Father is with me" (John 16:33).

Your Father will be with you, too. Look to him and yield to his Spirit, cultivating the bond of peace that unity with him results in, no matter how even those closest to you may wound and betray you.


* Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible (copyright: the Lockman Foundation).

Robert Hawes is the author of "In Search of God: A Look at Life's Most Essential Question," as well as many articles on various subjects ranging from politics to theology and Christian apologetics. His blog is:

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