Imagine George and Jeannette who have been married for 15 years. They profess to be Christians. Their lives are pressured with raising three children and all the demands of daily life. George works hard to provide income for the family. Jeannette’s life is consumed with children and household. Both of them struggle with a growing dissatisfaction over the monotonous routine of their lives. They have learned how to play the ‘blame game.’ Both are sure that the other spouse is at fault for their unhappiness. Bickering, criticism, or silence often marks their time together. Their sex life falters. Their children sense the unhappiness of the parents. George and Jeannette exist together in the same house. They long for something better. They either hope that somehow the other one will change and stop causing their unhappiness or they quietly search for a way out of their unhappy life.
Though the names of the characters change, George and Jeannette’s story is the story of millions of couples. Through the years, I’ve counseled many married couples whose homes are shattered with criticism. There is no magic wand to wave that makes all the hurt go away. There is no simple formula that transforms a failing marriage overnight. But, there is hope!
I like to ask George and Jeannette this question. “Tell me the last significant time when your heart was overwhelmed with what God has offered you in the gospel.” Invariably, their answer to the question reveals the barrenness of their souls. Usually the following are true of George and Jeannette.
Firstly, I find that their walk with Christ is sporadic, sometime emotional and mystical, but rarely substantial because their understanding and experience of the gospel has not brought them into a joyful obedience to the Word. God’s Word is the means by which He speaks to broken lives and brings restoration. Our prayer is our confession of love for Him and need of Him. Church attendance is that primary weekly ritual wherein I declare that I am a follower of the resurrected Christ and it is that community where I am nurtured in fellowship with other believers.
Secondly, I find that they do not live with a self-awareness of their duty to live all of life being conscious that they belong to Christ. Consequently, they do not examine their thought life; they are not careful with their words; they live and act without an ongoing sense of accountability to God. They have marginalized Christ to the periphery of their lives.
Thirdly, and as a consequence of the first two, they fail to recognize their own sin and brokenness. George and Jeannette do not know what it is to fall on their faces before God, confess their sin, and experience his grace and forgiveness. They know the facts of the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection for sinners, yet they fail to daily confess their need of the gospel. They do not personally know the words of the psalmist: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. George and Jeannette’s home is devoid of forgiveness and grace because their own souls are not experiencing forgiveness and grace.
Imagine what a marriage would be like where spouses live in brokenness before God – spouses who see their own sin more vividly than the faults and sins of their spouse – spouses who continually experience God’s grace and forgiveness – spouses who come to each other in the fullness of God’s grace.
Criticism is the practice of people who are good at seeing the sin of others. Brokenness is the experience of those who see their own sin. See your sin today and come to Christ who offers you more than a Band-Aid for your life and marriage. He alone can forgive sin and heal your broken heart with grace.