Bob Jones University Press
A friend recently confided in me, “Brother Jim, I have lost all hope for my marriage.” I can vividly recall the emptiness of his downcast eyes and the hollowness of his words. His head was slung low and his shoulders slumped in abject despair. My heart was gripped by the poignancy of his sorrow. I thought, “How tragic when a man loses hope!”
How does a man get to a place of such forlorn sorrow? What causes such hopelessness? What happens in a marriage to cause such defeat? This man began his marriage with all the idealism of youthful love and joined a young bride at the wedding altar with the greatest of dreams for the future. They had basked in the soft glow of the unity candle. How did the light fade? Why did the dreams vanish? Where did the idealism go?
Because marriage is so intimate, so spiritual, and so uniquely complex, it harbors many causes of hopelessness. One cause may be the chronic friction of personality differences. While it is true that “opposites attract,” the very differences that initially attract a couple to one another can be the things that eventually drive them apart. I once knew a woman who was bubbly, vivacious, and loved to talk. She met a strong silent man. This was perfect! She had someone to talk to who would sit quietly and listen to her for hours. He, on the other hand, was happy that he didn’t have to do any talking at all. Twenty-five years passed and they came for counseling. “He never talks!” she complained. “He just sits there and never says a word. I never know what he’s thinking or how he’s feeling.” “She won’t shut up!” the husband interjected. “She talks about anything and everything! There’s never a moment of peace.” The very thing that had drawn them together now threatened to destroy their marriage.
Another cause of hopelessness is the waning of emotional love. Most couples are shocked to find that the initial euphoria of romantic love can take a beating over time. They watched it happen to their parents, and have even observed it in other seasoned marriages, but swore in their youthful idealism that it would never happen to them. But it did, and for good reason: “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matt. 24:12). Man’s sinful nature and the debilitating nature of the flesh guarantee a constant drain on the best of relationships.
Other causes include financial pressures, in-law problems, and differences in parenting styles. Add to these the ever-present tension of sexual adjustment and communication breakdowns, and the picture is clearer. When the less obvious but powerfully influential causes such as spiritual coldness and even spiritual warfare are factored in, the focus becomes clearer still.
Whatever the reasons, many couples lose hope for their future. In over thirty years of marriage counseling, I have seen this happen in countless relationships. Here at the Moorehead Manor, hundreds of people have come for counseling, most for their marriages. Almost without exception, they have lost a grip on hope. One distraught wife typifies the fear of many: “Is there any hope for our marriage?” she asked pleadingly. Perhaps you are like her. Maybe you’ve even harbored the same question in your own heart. If so, you are not alone. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man” (I Cor. 10:13). This commonality of life’s struggles is underscored by Christ in a gripping summation of His earthly ministry. He stood before a hometown crowd in Nazareth and preached from Isaiah 61:1–2:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18–19).
In a concise yet sweeping statement, our Lord described the common burdens of mankind. These burdens that plague man also affect relationships. What is common to man is also common to marriages as seen by Christ’s descriptive words.