No one enters marriage expecting to be unhappy.
Sure, we realize that married life won’t be completely argument-free, trouble-free, or mess-free, but we still harbor hopes for a “happily ever after.”
But the truth is that no marriage is perfect, and most are far from it. Christian marriages, unfortunately, are no exception.
After all, marriage is the joining of two sinners, and it’s only by God’s grace that the tiniest bit of good ever emerges from such a union.
Since every marriage will encounter difficulties, it stands to reason that all marriages will at some point in time need help of some kind.
Sometimes you’ll need help.
And sometimes you’ll be asked to provide it.
I’ve been in that place of providing it several times over the years, and while it can be a challenge, it can also be a blessing.
If your Christian friend has a troubled marriage, I hope these tips will be helpful as you encourage her.
(Yes, her, assuming you’re a woman. A woman should not be in a friendship-based counseling or accountability role with a married man, and vice versa.)
Helping a Friend With a Troubled Marriage
1.)Reaffirm God’s lordship and importance in your life.
Before you jump in to help a friend with her troubled marriage, it’s important to commit to the Lord that you value Him above all else, including the friendship. It’s possible that your friend won’t like hard truths you share; maybe she will feel shame or embarrassment about the secrets she reveals. Though it’s not the desired outcome, there’s a chance that your friendship may not emerge from this season unscathed.
2.)Pray, pray, pray.
Pray for your friend and her family. Pray with your friend. Pray for yourself, asking God for the wisdom you need. Prayer is always the best thing you can do, whether or not there’s more you can do.
Listening during times like this is not easy. You will probably hear things that you wish you didn’t have to hear. Your heart will ache for all people involved. You will weep over sinful hearts and you will wish you could go back to blissful ignorance. Listening is sometimes hard; a good friend will listen anyway.
It’s wise to remember that there’s more than one side to every story. Even the most honest person sees circumstances from her own perspective. It doesn’t make her untruthful; it just makes her human. Though it’s unwise to express open doubt toward your friend, it’s a good idea to think carefully before forming hard and fast opinions based on a single testimony, no matter how much you love the person sharing it.
5.)Guard your words carefully.
Desperate people grab the first lifeline they see. Show sympathy and genuine compassion without bashing her husband, and when in doubt refer to the next tip.
6.)Always revert to the ultimate source of truth: the Bible.
God’s divine power has given Christians everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). One of the sources of His provision is His Word. It is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, and is even capable of revealing the thoughts and intents of the heart (2 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 4:12). A question that should come up in your conversations again and again over the course of time is, “What does God have to say about this?”
7.)Point her toward helpful resources.
It’s probable that more help will be needed for your friend and her husband, both individually and jointly. Be vigilant about helping her secure the appropriate resources.
8.)Refrain from sharing details with others.
With the exception of truly dangerous situations, let your friend be the one to decide who knows the details about her marriage. Anything else (even when shared in the form of a “prayer request”) is considered gossip, which is sinful, unhelpful, and often destructive.
9.)Check in with her often.
Don’t assume that “no news is good news.” She may need some space from time to time, but it never hurts to ask her how she’s doing. Because she may face bouts of embarrassment, and may even be tempted to believe that she is overburdening you with her problems, reaching out to her assures her of your care and concern.
10.)Trust God’s leading and His provision.
If God is calling you to this task, He will equip you for it in every moment (Hebrews 13:20-21). If He led you to it, He will lead you through it (Psalm 32:8). These are not empty cliches. They are promises from God Himself, just waiting for you to claim them.
In helping a friend with her troubled marriage, you’re being asked to show the toughest kind of love that exists in a friendship – the kind that knows the mess and loves anyway, and the kind that balances truth and grace by the power of the Holy Spirit. It won’t be an easy path, but it’s a privilege to be invited to walk with a loved one during a season of difficulty.
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)