Last week, I interviewed a very special person, Meghan Villatoro, for my podcast, Rooted by the Stream which is live this week. Meghan has a blog, podcast, and a marriage coaching business, all of which can be found at her website, restoreamor.com. Meghan is living proof that God can restore marriage. After enduring infidelity in her marriage and a four year separation from her husband, they are knit together again in love and in sharing faith. Meghan is proof that miracles can happen even when all seems lost.
One of the remarkable things about what happened in Meghan’s life is that she left her familiar surroundings in New York to go to El Salvador, her husband’s country of origin. Once there, they began to have children. It was after her third child that she realized her husband was involved with someone else. The tremendous sorrow, depression, and fear that followed could have consumed her, but Meghan began to pray. On her website, she has many resources including prayers that came out of her experience.
Prompted by this conversation, in this post, I’d like to share 7 spiritual steps for strengthening or rebuilding a marriage. God CAN restore marriages!
#1 Make God First in Your Life
It may sound hard. Perhaps it sounds hard-hearted to you. But, a first principle for having a good marriage is that you put God ahead of everyone else in your life. He should come before your spouse, your children, extended family, the job, hobbies, entertainment – all of it. Why?
The answer is because He deserves it. He is so worthy of our praise, attention, and devotion. But, this is also self-protective. If you develop absolute trust and dependency on God – if your world should come crashing down, if your marriage does start to unravel, you have One to whom you can turn.
Philippians 4:6-7 says:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
When you are close to God through making Him your priority and hope, you can run to Him when life is very hard. You’ll recognize His voice, sense His presence, and He will help you navigate your trouble – in marriage or in any other area.
#2 Respectfulness Essential in Marriage
Romans 12:10 says, Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” But, I love the way that second sentence is written in some Bible translations. In some, it says, “Outdo one another in showing honor.” Outdo each other in being the respectful one! (The one way in which competition is ok.)
This is a second principle that is marvelous advice for any relationship. Strive to be the one who is most honoring, most respectful. Ask God for His help. “How can I really show my spouse honor and respect? Fill me with the ability to do this.”
I know there are some marriages where the one you are married to can be downright rude, cutting, critical, demeaning, even abusive. That is so hard, but even there, hard hearts can change, especially if you have your own behavior under control. However, if you are in a marriage where there simply needs to be growth in thoughtfulness and appreciation of the other, it is definitely doable and brings forth a lot of fruit.
In a Good Marriage, Love is an Action
Years ago, a pastor told a story about how tense his marriage had become in the early years. He was working and going to seminary, and as a young couple, he and his wife were repeatedly offending and misunderstanding each other. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to stay married.
One night, she had gone to bed and he was up late trying to get a paper done for his class. She had gone to bed amid tension and fighting. As it grew later and later and he labored away, he suddenly sensed the Holy Spirit say, “Go buy her some flowers.”
“What? No way!” was his first thought. But, as he felt it was God instructing him, he finally got up, reluctantly, and went out to a grocery store open at night, and bought a bouquet.
Once home, he got back to work, but then heard a second instruction. “Write her a note.” “No way,” was again his first thought. Giving in to write her was being humble, risking letting her have the upper hand. But he did it. And afterwards, God spoke one more thing. “Now pray for her.”
The young pastor did it. He set the bouquet in a vase with the note and left it out for her. The next day, when she found these surprises, she was so pleased – and softened by them. In turn, she found some kind things to do for the young pastor. As they continued on this Spirit led path of showing honor even when they didn’t feel like it, they “fell” back in love.
#3 Protect Marriage by Dealing with Anger
The third step or principle has to do with why and how you get angry with your spouse and then what do you do with it. Marriage often gets broken because people get so angry and frustrated with each other. But God can restore your relationship and help you remove the anger that has come between you.
My husband has a mindset about dirty dishes. He never wants to let dishes set in the sink overnight. Even if he is exhausted, he’ll still stop and clean up. What if we were to deal with anger in marriage the same way?
The Bible has a verse about this:
“In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:26 NIV
That is one of the best bits of advice ever. Just like the dirty dishes, deal with each day’s anger and resolve it. Don’t go to bed carrying it, if at all possible. (And I don’t want to be offering simplistic advice. Sometimes, the depth and breadth of anger is so much, it is hard to get out from under it.)
It is unwise to bring up really difficult topics as you are getting ready for bed. Save big discussions for when you are both rested. For more on how to talk through conflict and find mutually workable solutions, here is some help: How to Resolve Conflict in a Relationship | A Biblical Way.
#4 Let God Change Your Heart
God can restore marriage if these principles or steps are part of what you do. The beauty of all these efforts is that often God changes us as much as He changes our spouse in the restoration process. A painful and difficult part of healing a broken relationship is seeing what contribution we may be making to the brokenness.
When I was in the early stages of our marriage, I was truly the nagging wife. (I could have gotten a medal – #1 Nagger!) Out of anxiety to “get things right,” I would insist that we needed to do this and we needed to do that – especially where it concerned our kids. My husband could hardly get through the door without me jumping on him and bombarding him with a to do list.
Our favorite story from this period is when I insisted we needed to buy a new set of pots and pans so that the kids would not get certain metals in their systems. (I had been listening to some worrisome commercials.) For me, the pans needed to be “bought yesterday.”
We did buy new pots. We’ve actually had them almost all the years of our marriage and we both love them. But, I’ll never forget how I was like a “dog with a bone.” My poor badgered husband. The pots were only ONE of my many “must do” projects.
What God Says About Marriage Restoration
However, I began to learn from the wonderful passage Ephesians 5:21-33 that marriage should look like the relationship of Christ with His Church. I heard the two bits of advice in this passage, “wives submit to your husbands,” and “husbands love your wives,” in a particular way:
“Submit to your husband,” came to mean to me, don’t overwhelm him. Let him get through the door and unwind before launching into concerns or demands. And don’t let them be demands. Give him breathing room. Respect him as a man.
But, “husbands love your wives,” came to mean “listen to her,” and “support her emotions.” Don’t, with a superior male air, try to fix everything immediately so that you’re not bothered with it any more. As we both began to understand these things and this Bible passage, our fighting lessened.
Above all, marriage goes so much better when we take Jesus’ words to heart, “First take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:5 BSB
#5 Restoration Requires Selfless Love
If we’re going to have lasting and beautiful marriages, we need to love each other as Christ loved (and loves) us. He laid down His life, His privileges, everything. The Bible says that “Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather he made himself nothing…” Philippians 2:6-7 NIV
Our “flesh” really fights being humble and serving someone else. What we naturally want to do is win, be more important, get our way, etc. But, if we have a humble heart and seek to live out what Jesus said – it is better to give than to receive – we’ll be happier. Greed and grabbing never ultimately satisfy and they sure make for a crummy marriage. The only way to get this giving and yielding heart is to know Jesus and allow Him to create it in us.
The Bible promises that “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17. If you do not know Jesus yet, you can find help here: Why Did Jesus Die?
And, not only can we have Jesus in our life, but we can be filled with God in yet another way. He comes to us as the Holy Spirit and helps us to love others like Jesus. For more understanding about the Holy Spirit, you can read Who is the Holy Spirit and What Does He Do?
#6 Share Faith So God Can Restore Marriage
Meghan Villatoro talked about the healing value of her husband’s return to sharing faith with her. That return enabled her to trust again as she saw God’s transformation of his heart.
In the Bible book of Hebrews there is a verse that advises:
“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another…” Hebrews 10:25 NLT.
When we share faith with each other, worship, prayer, and study of scripture, our hearts change. Our attitudes change. We treat each other better. Holy and noble things become our aspirations.
Marriage becomes much better for the couple who is linked together spiritually.
#7 Find the Good and Praise It in Your Spouse
Who are the people we are most apt to find fault with? Yes, it is our family members. We cut strangers a lot more slack. And often, people will, sadly, find in a marriage that their spouse is ready to tell them everything they have done wrong, but forget to say thank you or give praise.
And yet, it’s amazing how people bloom with praise; how they rise to your good words about them and try to do more of what you have complimented.
There’s a method of marriage counseling called “short term counseling.” The idea is to help people quickly begin to resolve their relationship problems without months of their working at it. One concept in this approach is to ask a couple, “What are you doing when you DO get along? Figure that out and do more of it.”
This is not that hard. If you think of moments when you are really getting along, you can highlight that to one another and say, “Let’s do more of that.”
Are you happier and more at peace when you’re doing a particular sport or hobby with each other? Do you get along better if each of you is listening more deeply and responding less rapidly?
The Bible advises, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” James 1:19
Above all else, understand that it pleases God if you seek to love, honor, and bless your spouse. It relieves your children of anxiety, if you seek to be the peacemaker.
“if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18 NIV
A Final Prayer for Restoring Marriage
In all that has been said above, this also is an important point: If you are in a dangerous situation, with an abusive person, do not remain there. Restoring a marriage cannot happen where there is ongoing, unrepentant violence or abuse. God does not expect you to stay where you are not safe. He will help you recover from what such a situation has done to you, if this is you.
But, if there is hope and a possibility of restoring your marriage or for simply making it stronger and a greater blessing, here is a simple prayer:
Father, in the name of Jesus, I pray for the one reading this prayer right now. God bless their marriage, strengthen it, make it full of joy. If there has been pain, struggle, and brokenness, heal that in the name of Jesus. Let them start over. Build love and trust. Father, help them to know that marriage is one of the highest forms of discipleship and through it we witness to the world that deep and abiding love is possible. God bless this reader in every way and give them hope. In Jesus’ name, Amen
If you would like to receive highlighted posts, other faith building materials, and occasional free resources straight to your inbox, please scroll down and sign up for our email list! I would love to share more with you! Blessings!