When dealing with a major life crisis, let God handle what you and your spouse cannot.
I remember a story from my childhood regarding friends a few houses down from ours. Nine-year-old Karen ran into her parents’ bedroom to answer the phone. In her rush, she knocked over her father’s loaded gun and it discharged when it hit the floor, killing her instantly.
Life is filled with stories like this. They are examples of a major crisis that dramatically changes our lives and how we relate to each other. Times like this can put a huge strain on marital relationships. Things like miscarriages, job losses and financial collapse add an emotional stress that limits our capacity to support and encourage each other because we are all dealing with the same pain. It is hard to give comfort when you are needing it yourself. Pain can be all consuming and it is hard for others to lean on us when we can barely hold up.
This problem is exacerbated when you, or your spouse, bears some of the fault for the crisis. In fact, we have learned that times such as this put a huge strain on marriage. The spouse that we hope will give us support cannot offer it because they too are obsessed with their pain. And if they share some of the guilt, they can become the focus of our anger so at the same time they feel the oppression of guilt. For this reason it seems many otherwise stable marriages become unraveled when tragedy strikes. We know divorce rates go up for people under marital and emotional stress.
In the Bible there’s an example of a tragedy that was caused by the guilt of the key party—David. In that light we will ask the question, “How should you deal with a crisis in which you bear some responsibility?”
David commits adultery with another man’s wife and when he learns she is pregnant he orders the death of her husband by sending him to the front line of battle. Soon after the birth the child was struck ill. David pleaded for the life of the child. On the seventh day the child died.
Accept full responsibility for your guilt. (Psalm 51:1–5)
Psalm 51 shows us the two extremes brought together by Gods unfailing love. It reveals David’s extreme guilt and God’s extreme mercy. We learn God can make us righteous, whiter than snow, in spite of our extreme guilt.
Let go of what happened and move on. (Psalm 51:6–13) Forgiveness and mercy do not always mean we won’t face the consequences of our sin. In I Samuel 12:20-23, in his intensely emotional appeal to God for the life of the child, he does not question or begrudge whatever punishment God saw fit to impose.
III. Praise God for His forgiveness and unfailing love. (Psalm 51:14–19) If we can’t let go of our past and our failures, we cannot fully worship God. It questions God’s ability to fully forgive. It is no wonder that Satan is called the accuser. He tries to magnify the degree of our guilt to demoralize us and hinder our ability to worship God.
Steps you can take when you face a crisis in your marriage
- Every marriage will have at least one crisis that will put it to the test. Some of these tests are no fault of anyone; things like miscarriages, loss of a child, job loss, economic stress, etc. At such times we must learn that we cannot always depend on our spouse for support, in that they are hurting as well. We must turn to God and draw our strength from him.
- There may be times in your marriage when you or your spouse has created a crisis due to your own sinfulness, stupidity or incompetence. In such cases the one who is guilty must look to David as your model by accepting full responsibility, repenting and allowing God to restore your soul so that you can move on.
- If you are the spouse who was not at fault, you must forgive yourself and let go of your anger, so you don’t keep holding it against your partner. While caution and protection are in order, constantly reminding him or her of the offense does little to restore the relationship.
This article is an excerpt from David McClain’s book, Marriage in an iWorld: Restoring God’s Design for Marriage.
Dr. David H McClain has a M.Div from Western Seminary and D. Min from Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, CA. He has been a pastor over 40 years. He currently pastors a growing church in Alberta, Canada.