If you are married and reading this, my next statement will not be a new insight for you: In every marriage, you will have conflict. You might be thinking, “Thanks Glen. Appreciate you brightening my day with that truth!”
But please stay with me. I don’t share that truth about my marriage and yours to bring discouragement, but to show that God wants to change our perspective on marital conflict in two fundamental ways. We need to fully cooperate with God so He can work this change of perspective into our heart, our mind, and our will. And to get to the first of those two ways of changing our perspective, we need to go back to the book of Genesis.
Back to Genesis
As you read about Adam and Eve in the first chapters of the book of Genesis, you see God creating both of them and then bringing them together as husband and wife. God has a design for marriage, and He lays that out in Genesis 2 - one man and one woman in a lifelong, committed relationship with Him at the center. His design is not difficult to see as we read that chapter.
But have you ever thought about this: When God created Adam and Eve and brought them together as husband and wife, He knew what would happen in Genesis 3! He knew they would disobey Him and eat from the tree He had told them not to eat from. Which also means that He knew that the resulting sin in their lives would cause marital conflict.
I am a firm believer that God provides for our needs. And just as He sent Jesus to meet our greatest need - for our salvation - He provides for you and your spouse when it comes to working through marital conflict. He has help for our marital conflicts.
So the first change of perspective that God wants to bring in your heart and mind is this: God has not left you to figure out marital conflict on your own. God wants you to be confident that He has help for you and your spouse as you work through conflict.
I think many of you reading this might be saying, “So what help does God have for my spouse and I working through conflict?” To that question, I say “I’ll get to that soon.” However, I am convinced that unless you first cooperate with God in changing your perspective on conflict, the tools He has given you will be wholly ineffective in helping you and your spouse work through conflict.
Waging War on Our Fear
As we begin to discuss the second way that we need to cooperate with God in changing our perspective on conflict, let me ask you a question: Are you or your spouse naturally bent toward avoiding conflict?
In my experience talking with couples, I find that one spouse in the marriage is generally more inclined to avoid conflict. I am that person in our marriage.
I grew up thinking conflict was bad, so my plan was to avoid it. But that plan did not work well for our marriage. In the first years of marriage, rather than sharing things with my wife, Shawn, and trying to work through them, I just avoided them. And the result of that was growing resentment in my heart. This resentment and conflict avoidance kept us from growing as husband and wife.
So if you are naturally bent toward avoiding conflict, it is good to recognize this about yourself. But believe that God can change you - as He has me since our first years of marriage - to say “No” to the temptation of avoiding conflict. Conflict is not a sign of a bad marriage. Conflict is a normal part of all marriages.
But even for those of us who are not conflict-avoidant, most of us would be honest and confess that there are some subjects that are just “hot buttons”. Past experience reminds me that when we talk about these hot button topics, things can escalate quickly, and the end result is not good!
So the fear of things blowing up often tempts us to not talk about things that we need to discuss. Fear is at the core of why many conflicts never get discussed or resolved. We may have fear of conflict in general OR we may fear discussing certain topics because of where those conversations have led in the past.
That is where we must cooperate with God in changing our perspectives on conflict in the second fundamental way: You must ask God for courage to have these hard conversations, being confident that He is at work in both you and your spouse.
When it comes to both the confidence and the courage you and I need, we need to look to what God’s Word has to say so we can grow in both confidence and courage in marital conflict. Here are three of my favorite places to go:
But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. I praise God for what He has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me? Psalm 56:3-4
For I hold you by your right hand — I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you. Isaiah 41:13
I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4
These are just three examples of dozens of places in Scripture that you and your spouse can go to grow in both confidence and courage in dealing with marital conflict. God speaks through His Word, and we can grow our faith as we learn these promises and marinate on them. But please remember that we must do more than merely recite these kind of verses - we must have faith to believe they are true, and that God will be faithful in keeping these promises related to my fear!
Final Thought and the Answer to the Earlier Question
Here is insight from the Lord that is critical for every husband and wife: My growing faith in the Lord’s promises and His faithfulness is the substance that fuels my confidence and courage. A growing faith is the key. And that growing faith will help me walk into those hard conversations with my spouse, confident the Lord is at work in both of us. And as you know, the key to a growing faith is growing your vertical relationship with God AND growing your horizontal relationships with other Christ-followers. So I encourage you to be intentional in growing in those vital relationships!
I have not forgotten the question that was shared earlier: “So what help does God have for my spouse and I working through conflict?” In addition to helping you and your spouse change your perspective on conflict as you grow in confidence and courage, He also has important insights and practical help for your marital conflict.
My wife and I spent two whole podcast episodes sharing those. So go to one of the links below and scroll to Abiding Marriage Podcasts #20 and #21 – Working through Conflict in Marriage Parts 1 and 2. There you will learn, and can begin to put into practice, God’s help for your conflict as husband and wife. And be sure to check out our show notes for Part 2, because there we share a number of great online resources to help you continue to grow in working through marital conflict:
As I wrap up, let me leave you with an encouraging quote from a mentor of mine related to this topic: “All marriages will fight. Good marriages know how. Marriages that avoid arguments at all cost are robbing themselves of the good God wants to accomplish through conflict. Conflict is an opportunity: To honor God. To grow to be like Christ. To love each other enough to tell the truth in love; to work together more fluidly; to listen and understand one another's differing values. Arguments typically expose what's precious to us and areas we need to grow in. If we stay away from arguments, we will avoid one of God's primary means to grow us to be like Him and toward each other.” (1)
Written by Glen Solberg, Abiding Marriage, 2023. Send comments or questions to info@AbidingMarriage.org
Photo by Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash
Source: (1) You Are Being Lied To E-book from Marriage Revolution. Author Hans Molegraaf.