Defending Your Marriage From External Stressorsby Dr. Harold L. Arnold, Jr.
As I listened to the married couples gathered at the monthly marriage fellowship, the word "rebuild" kept coming to my mind. While some of the couples were paragons of strength, others were floundering in troubled marriages. For some marriages, I sensed desperation in their testimonies of infidelity, loneliness, disrespect, devalued self-worth and communication failures. Still others seemed paralyzed in mediocrity and satisfaction with the status quo. The emotional wounds and disappointments had left many of these couples feeling broken, without any clear path to restoration.
As I addressed the group, I asked for their patience to examine a biblical story that on its face seems removed from the subject of marriage. It is the story of Nehemiah as recorded in Nehemiah 2-4. I started with a question. It was the same question, in fact, that the Persian king Artaxerxes asked Nehemiah, his trusted Jewish cupbearer, in Nehemiah 2:2, "Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart?"
The king's observation was accurate. Nehemiah's heart was burdened by a call that God had placed in him to rebuild the shattered walls of Jerusalem that had been destroyed when the nation was taken into captivity. In response to Nehemiah's request, King Artaxerxes permitted Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem to assess the state of the walls and eventually to begin repairs. God had obviously stirred Nehemiah's and the king's heart to begin the difficult work of restoration. But, as Nehemiah soon learned through the mocking and ridicule of neighbors, enemy attacks to undermine his efforts, and the waning confidence of his own people, obeying God's call to rebuild was going to require remarkable perseverance, faith and obedience.
Like Nehemiah, many of you are also experiencing a great sadness of heart. And for many, this emotional state is directly connected with the struggles in your marriage. The disappointments, frustration and anger have left your own emotions in shambles, much like those broken walls of Jerusalem. My message to you is to have hope that God hears your cries just as He heard the lament of the Hebrew captives. God is calling you to rebuild the walls of your marriage. This call to rebuild is about prioritizing God's desires for your marriage over your own desires—in a pursuit of holiness. It is a call to marital intimacy that is built on selflessness, trust and respect. It is a call to extend grace as you unconditionally love the spouse to whom God has joined you. And, it is a call for an investment of time to allow strained emotions to heal.
You should be prepared, however, for attacks on your efforts to rebuild your marriage. In a culture that values individualism and self-satisfaction, your efforts to exemplify godly stewardship, humility and grace in marriage will be mocked—sometimes from your own family. With half of those around you opting for divorce, your unconditional commitment to an abundant marriage will be met with sarcasm and envy.
All of us experience attacks on our marriage – often leading to our own sadness of heart. God, however, has made provisions for you to withstand these negative influences. Fortifying the walls of your marriage is not simple, as it also requires obedience to the Lord's call to rebuild.
If God is stirring your heart to strengthen your marriage, this series of articles is for you. They are designed to provide insight, encouragement and practical advice to those seeking to protect their marriage from the external stressors that threaten it.
Copyright 2008 Dr. Harold L. Arnold, Jr. Used with permission.
Other articles in this series:
Finding Stability Amidst Marriage Stressors
Defending Your Marriage Against Mediocrity
Commitment: The First Defense Against Marital Stressors
It's About TIME: Building the CORE of Your Marriage
Ten Tips for Protecting Your Cross-Cultural Marriage From Outside Influences
Next Steps / Related Information