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Marriage

Joe showed up every Tuesday. The Bible study was important to him. He came because his marriage was on the rocks. He and his wife were struggling and had been for quite some time. As Joe told it, his wife was fed up with the relationship and wanted a divorce. He was holding on as tightly as he could.

As for the cause of the problems, Joe took a page from Adam’s book on marriage. When things start to fall apart, blame the wife. “The woman you put here with me...” (Genesis 3:12). Joe pinned all the blame on his wife. According to him, she was the only one at fault. He genuinely believed their marriage would be just fine if his wife changed.

Joe showed up every Tuesday to equip himself to change his wife.

I pointed this out to him on numerous occasions and told him in very clear terms his strategy would not work. The clues were there to help him see this–the most obvious one was the fact that his wife never attended the study with him. But he was oblivious. After every Bible study, he went home excited to share with his wife the latest golden nugget of truth that would help her become the wife he wanted her to be.

Let me take a quick detour here and offer a word of advice to husbands. It’s not your job to fix your wife or to change her. Search the Bible. You will not find “Change your wife, thus saith the Lord.” Your role is to love her as Christ loves the church. Assuming the role of Mr. Fix-It will push her away. And besides, what makes you think you can change her when you can’t even change yourself?

Back to Joe. I tried to shift his thinking. “Joe,” I said, “when you come to Bible study, open your heart to the message God has for you, not the message you think he has for your wife.” He acknowledged that this made sense, but it took a long time for it to sink in.

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Two years passed. Joe was losing hope for his marriage. Everything he tried widened the gap, moving them further and further apart.

One Tuesday night, after the study, Joe grabbed me to talk. He looked different. He asked me, “Have you guys been teaching this stuff all along?”

“What stuff, Joe?”

“Forgiveness–that Christ has totally forgiven all my sins.”

I wanted to hit him. I couldn’t believe he asked me that question. Had he not heard anything for the past two years?

Christ’s finished work on the cross was front and center every single week. And I talked with Joe one-on- one about Jesus’s finished work numerous times. The message was being delivered, but he wasn’t hearing.

Joe was obsessed with his marriage. He was afraid of losing his wife, but even more, he worried that God would punish him if his marriage failed. That’s what was keeping him up at night. Since he believed his wife was the reason the marriage could fail, Joe channeled all of his efforts toward controlling and changing her. He completely missed the message God had for him.

Joe’s idea of God was not much different from the pagan views in the Greek and Roman Empires. The gods are angry and need to be appeased. Joe was doing his best but to no avail. .His marriage continued to spiral out of control, and Joe believed God’s anger toward him was growing by the minute.

In his mind, he was doomed. There was nothing he could do to hold back the flood of God’s anger. Punishment was inevitable. That all changed for Joe in a moment during a Tuesday evening Bible study. The truth broke through. Joe’s eyes opened, and he saw clearly that Christ’s sacrifice had set him apart as “holy in [God’s] sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:22). Christ had already satisfied the Father on his behalf.

Joe could finally see beyond God’s justice into God’s heart of love for him. The veil had been lifted, and God’s grace was shining through. Understanding the truth that Jesus Christ satisfied God the Father on his behalf was the truth that changed everything for Joe.

Excerpted from Simple Gospel, Simply Grace by Bob Christopher

Bob Christopher talks about perseverance in marriage.

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