Seeing at-risk marriages saved and transformed is close to the heart of God, and our church. Too often, couples are told by the world that their problems cannot be solved and they should, therefore, divorce. However, this perspective fails to consider the reality of how marital problems present themselves and how couples can both survive and thrive in spite of them.

A common reason cited for divorce is “irreconcilable differences.” The rationalization follows that, because their relationship possesses areas of difference or conflict that is impossible to permanently solve, their marriage uniquely warrants dissolution. However, scientific study has indisputably demonstrated that the presence of irreconcilable differences, far from being unique, is the universal norm for marital relationships. In fact, the groundbreaking researcher, Dr. John Gottman, has proven that the majority of problems marriages face are what he terms “perpetual problems.” Unchanging differences in personality, dreams, temperaments, and extended family dynamics are just a few examples from the plethora of potential issues a couple may find themselves managing all the way from their first to final anniversary. This research also shows that the determining factor in marital satisfaction is not based on whether these perpetual problems exist but, rather, a couple’s ability to cope with and adapt to their own unique set of them.

Evidence that perpetual problems exist in every marriage is consistent with sin’s infestation of all human relationships. Every marriage can identify one or more “thorns” that serve a similar function to that of the apostle Paul’s in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Despite the recurrent pain a perpetual problem may inflict, and our sincere prayers that it be taken away, God often tells us instead that His grace is made perfect in our sustained weakness. Thankfully, we confess that, through Jesus Christ, no problem is beyond the peacemaking hand of God. However, the making of peace does not always mean the presence of a permanent solution. The insightful author of A Marriage After God’s Own Heart, David Clarke, asks and answers his question on the role of perpetual problems in marriage this way:

“Why did God make men and women so unbelievably different? The main reason is so that we would have to depend on Him. God wants to be at the center of every marriage, so He made the relationship so difficult that we have to keep Him there to make it work. That’s just like God, isn’t it? He makes sure that He is the answer to all of life’s problems.”

Couples need to know that having perpetual problems make them normal and that a God who is never without answers is always present and prepared to surround their thorns with His grace and peace. If a couple is willing to submit to Him, and the often challenging and painful journey of accommodating to one another, God is willing and able to show the way.

If your marriage faces perpetual problems and you’d like to learn more about how to have a thriving marriage, check out re|engage. Re|engage uses a small-group approach to facilitate marital health, and rests on the belief that God’s Word, God’s Spirit, and God’s people to offer everything a marriage needs to get well. Unlike traditional counseling or mentoring in which couples meet with an individual or even another couple, re|engage believes that marriage transformation occurs best in the context of community.

Matt Rhodes

✍️ Credit :: Joel MacFarland
Care Pastor

Matt Rhodes

🎨 Credit :: Colin McFarland
Digital Marketing Manager