If you missed it, be sure to read the first installment of this series What Should You Do When Your Spouse Walks Out the Door? Part 2!
2. Find a biblical counselor. Solomon declared that “where there is no counsel, the people fall. . . . Without counsel, plans go awry” (Prov. 11:14, 15:22). If you find it impossible to resolve these issues on your own, find a biblical counselor to help. Many times it takes an objective third party to get involved in the details of your conflicts for complete reconciliation to occur. Jesus recognized this and instructed His disciples that they may have to take witnesses with them or even the elders of the church to resolve some matters (Matt. 18:16,17). Don’t underestimate the help that someone well-versed in Scripture can give as you attempt to determine areas of compromise or personal repentance. You have to recognize that we all have those blind spots in our view of ourselves. Remember Solomon’s acknowledgment that “every way of a man is right in his own eyes” (Prov. 21:2). A good counselor will help you to see your personal needs and the steps to resolving these issues in your life.
However, let me give a few words of warning in finding a counselor. Don’t begin talking to all your friends and family to get this counsel. The more counselors you have, the greater potential for contradictory advice. Also, it is very possible that some of your friends will tend to get on your side and not give the best counsel. In addition, if close friends or family get all involved in the details of your mate’s faults and failures, he or she will find it difficult to continue an open relationship with these people once you’ve reconciled. Therefore, it’s best that you keep the intimate details of your marriage confined to an objective third party who will keep all information confidential.
In addition, it is essential that anyone you counsel with must also attempt to speak to your spouse to get the other side of the story. Preferably your counselor will bring both of you together in order to hear both sides at the same time. I have found that it is impossible to effectively counsel one person in a marriage because there are always two sides to every conflict. Remember the wisdom of Solomon on this subject: “The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him” (Prov. 18:17). Therefore, be willing to let your spouse and your counselor examine you and your behavior with the Word of God.
It should go without saying that this counselor should be a Christian and use the Word of God alone as his source for any encouragement or instruction. God’s Word is profitable to teach, convict, correct, and discipline us to righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). His Word is powerful and able to cut to the heart and reveal our thoughts and motives (Heb. 4:12). Don’t settle for the wisdom of men when you can have the insight of the very God of heaven to motivate and instruct you. Don’t forget David’s admonition to steer clear of the “counsel of the ungodly” (Ps. 1:1). Therefore, seek a godly counselor that will truly instruct you in the way God would have you walk.
3. Approach with confession. When you approach your spouse by letter or in person, come with humility and confession (James 5:16). At this juncture your attitude is of the utmost importance. If you come with hardness, criticism, and new charges, your attempt to reconcile will be fruitless. Instead, approach with humility, acknowledging your own faults first. This attitude and gesture will be perceived by your spouse as a sincere attempt to reconcile.
The benefit in taking this approach is that it immediately disarms your spouse and defuses his or her anger. Why? Because if you first make personal confessions of failure then your mate doesn’t have to prove that you have done wrong. You just admitted it. Likewise, if you will ask forgiveness for your insensitivity and unloving actions, there will be an immediate softening in your mate’s heart. Tenderness of heart is always a fundamental prerequisite for any reconciliation to occur. Therefore, come with confession, repentance, and the request for forgiveness. Remember Paul’s encouragement, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you” (Eph. 4:32).
4. Don’t talk it, walk it. It’s easy to simply say the things your spouse wants to hear as you attempt to reconcile, but if you want lasting reconciliation and a relationship that grows, there must be more than mere words. I see this mistake repeatedly in my counseling ministry. Men and women will promise anything if only their spouse will allow them to come home. When it becomes apparent that there has been little or no change, the couple separates again. If you don’t want this to happen in your relationship, then make sure you make the changes you’ve promised. Your actions must be the loudest voice your mate hears. Don’t talk about your love, but demonstrate it to your spouse.
However, many think, Is it realistic for me to expect real and lasting change in my spouse? Should my mate expect it in me? Yes! If you have both sincerely looked at yourself and your personal failures and repented before God, radical change must result. This is the fruit of true repentance according to Scripture. This was the message that Paul the apostle preached during his ministry. He declared that people “should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:20). Notice how Paul defined true repentance: When a person turns away from sin, he must also turn to God, which is where the power comes from to accomplish the acts that prove repentance is real. The word befitting refers to action that has comparable worth or stands up to its profession. Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable for both partners to expect real and lasting change if sincere repentance has taken place.
This kind of change is the only thing that will bring lasting reconciliation in your marriage. Without it, there will only be a short interlude to the fighting and the break-ups.
5. Be patient. With the couples that I have helped to reconcile, I have found patience an invaluable asset because no two individuals are ready to forgive and begin to work together at the same time. Usually one partner is always more willing than the other. This requires patience and long-suffering on the part of the other. If the more willing partner fails to show patience at this point and begins to pressure and force, all can be lost.
What causes you to be patient and allow your spouse the time he or she needs? Love. “Love suffers long and is kind” (1 Cor. 13:4). The fruit of the Holy Spirit is patience. As the Spirit rules in your heart He will motivate you to be patient. After you have been patient, you will continue to be kind as well. There will be no huffing and puffing, rolling of the eyes, or explosions of anger when your mate asks for some time to think over your requests.
However, let me warn those of you who desire more time: Don’t drag out a period of separation to the point of discouragement. This can be equally harmful. You may think, But how can I know if he (or she) has really changed enough to go back together? There are no easy answers here. However, statistics reveal that the longer a couple stays apart, the more difficult it is for them to reconcile. That is why Jesus said, “Agree with your adversary quickly” (Matt. 5:25). Paul also declared that prolonged separation is unwise, as it puts both partners under an increased sexual temptation (1 Cor. 7:2-5). Therefore, don’t be disobedient to the Lord on this issue. Remember, the only way you can truly work on your problems is to work on them together. The only way you can be sure real change is occurring is to be under the same roof. The only exception to this counsel would be if there are unsafe or illegal circumstances continuing in your home. These situations must be discussed with your pastor or counselor.
In conclusion, let me encourage you to seek reconciliation. God can heal any broken heart. Jesus has promised that He possesses the ability (Luke 4:18). He can also transform the hardest heart. All He is waiting for is for you to surrender. If you are willing, God can do great and awesome things in you and your spouse. However, it takes two willing hearts to bring about the lasting change that is needed for a successful marriage. If you are willing, won’t you begin to take these steps today? Only by obeying Him in your personal life will you ever see what’s possible. Remember, “With God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).
If you would like more information on the marriage ministry of Pastor Steve Carr or his book Married and How To Stay That Way, please come and visit us on the Internet at www.covenantkeepers.org