My marriage was dying. It was like a slow, silent kind of dying at first, and then I nearly finished it off with what I did. I refer to that time as “the dark years.” We were out of hope, hurting and broken, living in the same house and unsure of what the future looked like.
I had once heard a radio DJ, who I’m sure got their information from somewhere reliable, say that if a marriage is struggling and can hold on for five more years, the couple will make it. But five years sounds like a thousand to someone in the middle of the journey.
But there we were, ten years into our marriage, facing an uphill battle. We both knew in our hearts that leaving wasn’t the answer, but while my husband tried his hardest to make things work, I met his efforts with complete resistance every single time.
He wrote notes and left them where I’d find them; I skimmed them and ignored him. He hired a sitter so we could go to the movies; I ended it with a fight. He gave me a marriage book to read; I told him all the ways I had tried before and how they didn’t work. I was a delight.
But little by little, parts of the wall I had built up around my heart began to crack.
I joined a prayer group with a friend of mine so she wouldn’t have to go alone, and it turned out the prayer group was specifically to pray for our husbands. Really? I thought, but I went anyway. God started to chip away at my icy heart as I kept going, and I found myself genuinely praying for my husband, wanting good for him.
Slowly, God changed me. He showed me where I was holding back, that my focus was misdirected, and He kept redirecting me back to Himself. He showed me forgiveness in a way I had never known it and restored my marriage, making it better than it ever was in the beginning.
On our sixteenth anniversary, I was reflecting on how it had been the best year of our entire marriage, and wouldn’t you know it? That was five years from our hardest time.
It’s overwhelming to reflect on the work God did on our marriage, and though marriages can be restored, I know they don’t always work out the same way. Marriage involves two humans and a lot of unique circumstances, but the part I want you to see most in my story is that God walks with us during our dark years and never leaves us. My story is about how once we see our depravity we can know more of the fullness of His grace. I sinned, yet He loved me still. He kept speaking to me, guiding me to make things right, to put me back where I was supposed to be.
Those dark years burst with the resurrection not only of my marriage but also my relationship with Christ, and that is a story I can’t quite get over.
I don’t know what your dark days or years are looking like right now, but know that no matter how they end, there is a beautiful story being written. He is with us every ugly step of the way, chiseling away at the cracks and making all things new.Leave a Comment
Michele Morin says
Jen, thanks for this encouragement. My heart has been heavy and in prayer for a young couple whose marriage is in trouble, and your story of hard work and hanging on assures me that there is a path back to hope.
Jen Chapman says
Saying a prayer for your friends right now, Michele. Thanks for sharing!
Lynn Koukal says
I second this that prayer is the remedy in any heart situation
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Praise for the Holy Spirit working in your heart and for YOU listening. So many times God is furiously at work, but we have free wills and when one or the other party chooses not to listen….a marriage that fails is not God’s fault, it’s a choice we make. I know God is able and He can do ALL things if we go to Him. It takes two people to work at putting a marriage back together relying totally on God. I just speak to the women (and men) who can stand before God and say, “I truly did everything within my power, and within Your power working through me, to make this work.” Yet, the other party still chose to walk away. You are not a failure, if despite your going to God and truly loving your spouse well, they walk away. Don’t let one person determine your worth. In Christ we find our identity. In Him we are more than worthy and if we ask He will work that truth into our hearts until we are whole again. Jen, I am so glad for your example in how depending upon God and choosing well can heal a marriage….I just felt a need to speak to the people reading who wonder why isn’t this my story? Because I’ve been there…..I hope that’s okay? Inspiring post!
Thank you Bev for your comment. I needed both yours and Jen’s side of this ‘beautiful story’. You see today is my anniversary of 31 years, but we have been separated for 3 weeks and yesterday he found an apartment. I am so lonely and afraid, yet I also know that God has a plan. I want so much for this to work, but my spouse is not a true believer and I’m not convinced he wants to put the work in that our marriage requires. I question all the time if I did enough. I could have treated him better, with more kindness and put him first more, instead of my kids. We have both made mistakes and it is so fresh this separation, that I’m lonely and so confused. I needed this today, so thank you both. God is working. Of that I do know, in my own ‘beautiful story’, no matter the outcome.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
The best advice I can give is don’t go down the road of “If only”. God is capable of redeeming the worst “if only’s”. Instead, concentrate on fighting for your marriage and praying… a lot. Invite him to go to marriage counseling together. Show him not just through words, but through actions that you want to make your marriage work. It may seem like a one sided effort at times, but if you really love him, keep pursuing and asking God for direction. It will call for a lot of humility, but as I said, I was not going to go down without a fight. I met his nastiness with love (only in God’s power). I forgave infidelities. If my marriage wasn’t going to make it, I didn’t want to have to say there wasn’t an avenue I didn’t try. In Jen’s case it worked. In mine, it didn’t. But, God has restored the years the locusts have eaten and has blessed me beyond measure. I have no regrets and I have a life now that is truly worth living. No matter which way it goes. God is SO faithful. He will see you through. Lean into Him….He loves you.
Lynda Stone says
“Do not fear for God is with you Do not be discouraged for the Lord is your God
He will strengthen you and help you
He will uplift you with His victorious right hand .”
These Words are true; hold on tightly to God’s promises.
He is absolutely faithful.
Prayers for all struggling .
Thank you, I needed a reminder of this verse. I am struggling with several things right now and reading this turns my focus back on Him and his unfailing love foe me. As I read this, I felt myself lean in on Him, resting my head on His shoulder, filling me with peace and a sense of security.
Please don’t feel alone. God is ALWAYS with you. Hugs
Jen Chapman says
Bev, thank you for sharing your story! You are exactly right – when other people are involved, the outcome is not set in stone, but the Company along the way sure is. I am so thankful that God doesn’t leave us, and gives us strength for every single day. He is so faithful. Your story is encouraging <3
And Tammy, I am praying for you right now. I am praying for your marriage, and for your husband. Praying most of all that God will help you see Him in a new, fresh way today, helping you know you aren't alone. Praying your husband is able to see His need for God and that he will choose to follow Him. ((Hugs))
Beth Williams says
Praying for your marriage. I pray God will help restore this marriage. You can pray for your husband & shower him with lover & acts of kindness. I pray that both of you see God in a new light. He is always right there with you. You are never ever alone. Read the Bible & find God’s promises in there. Cling to them tightly. Do not go down the road of “if onlys”. Do everything you can & leave the rest up to God.
Lynn Koukal says
We all learn to do different in the treasure of His hope
Diane Payne says
I needed that today. I’m struggling. Thank you.
Prayed for you D!
Jen Chapman says
Praying for you right now, Diane <3
Lynn Koukal says
Learning to talk to Jesus about everything is key He loves us most
So, first…this is an amazing story! Thank you for sharing it and for being so open about your struggles! There is a lot of truth to persevering through marital trouble and it seems common between 10 and 15 years for couples to have a very difficult time…I know we feel like we’re finally sneaking out the other side of the battle at just over 14 years. Second…. I don’t always click the links over here to (in)courage, but I couldn’t help it today and when I read your bio I knew why! I live in Hurricane, WV!!! What are the chances? Only God knows! Off to find your blog!
That is so cool!!! High five to another West Virginia girl! <3
Carolyn Smith says
I read this and I thought …believe it or not we have been married 41 years and how I struggle everyday . I think people look at a couple like us married 41 years , believers , active in church and think oh they are just made for each other . Yet , we are so miserable. In our marriage . I prayed for our marriage for years and years . Read everybook on marriage . My husband refuses to talk about us or try to make things better . I feel so fake sitting in the church pew with him . It’s so hard everyday living a life that is a lie . Our children all suffer . We don’t fuss or fight . My husband’s why of fixing our problems is to walk out and refuse to talk about IT .
I relate to you, Carolyn, very much. We have been married 31 years and the struggle is real everyday. And our family (especially our daughters) has suffered so much. My husband had been willing to try counseling; but then got mad and quit. We don’t fuss or fight either – he just is silent and withdraws. There is little to no communication. I am so sad. I struggle with living the lie. It’s not really a marriage…… But Jesus is there each and every day. For this I am very, very grateful.
That is my story Carolyn. I’ve just reached 70, been married 43 years, have a wonderful family, both my husband and I very involved with our church, yet our marriage has never been right for us personally. I love him, as a friend/brother, and so have stayed with him as I knew how hurt he would be if I left – yet he refused to go to relate (I went on my own, but he refused to go). Now I know we are together for the rest of our lives, and I feel sad that we couldn’t put things right,
My difficulty is that I don’t feel I can turn to my church ministers or fellow worshippers. They all seem to think we are the perfect couple.
Carolyn, MP, and Carol – I am praying for all of you right now. I also pray that God will send someone you can each trust to share all of this with. It is incredibly lonely to go through it alone. I’m praying for communication, for healing, for hope. <3
Robin in New Jersey says
Every married couple who is struggling needs to read the book, “What Did You Expect?” by Paul Davud Tripp. My husband and I have been working through this book for a year now with a counselor. We’ve been married almost 36 years and in counseling for five. It’s really hard work, but with the Lord as our guide, it’s worth it.
So glad to see you and your husband have found help and guidance. Saying a prayer for you and your husband right now <3
Thank you for this today. I live day to day and have been for 21 years of my marriage. We have gone through so much together and even though we don’t have the kind of marriage I would like I do know God has a plan and is working. “In His Time”… I pray that I don’t step on God’s toes with His plan. Please pray for my husband and I.
Praying for you and your husband right now, Amy <3
Jen, thanks for writing this post. My husband & I are in a similar situation. As I read it, your words resonated with me. The past 5 months have been so difficult, & sometimes I wonder if there’s light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve been married for 15 years, & things seem so intense. Through it all, I can see God at work…amidst it all. Waiting for a breakthrough.
Praying for you, Graham <3
Please pray for my son & his wife. She is planning to file for divorce this month. Both are committed Christians. There was sin and repentance. And much hurt. It’s a tangle. We are so very sad for both of them. Thanks, Shelly
Praying for your son and his wife, Shelly. Knowing they are Christians and repentant makes me feel hopeful for them. <3
Do everything you can to save and heal your marriage !! before giving up.
…especially searching God in prayer and crying out for the answers that come. I am at the crucible between desiring Jen’s amazing story of marriage reconciliation and redemption and potentially experiencing what beautiful Bev has exposed and expressed her own circumstance as. Bev: I love your heart and how you minister the True Grace of God and also, one other person shared that God had “given back the years that the locusts have eaten” to her. This is His Grace poured out and forth.
Marriage messiness and life messiness is such a vulnerable journey of “Trusting God” – as someone whose desires to have God redeem my marriage and for all Glory and Honour to be His – I will promote His desire as it appears in scripture- promote that all in marriage difficulty to pray and believe and invite the Miracle of marriage healing to be your focus… as you partner with God in the transformation, He will need in us being receptive to working hard at healing processes. Not just praying. But doing.. That said, I felt led to share a recent resource for marriage help that I got so exquisitely excited about and believed it was God’s leading for our life. Sadly, my husband declined. The pastor at our church told me that he knew of many couples who were divorce-bound and who had received healing help.
So, I still wanted to share and expose it as it is an international “marriage healing ministry” that focuses on healing. And if you go to the website, you will see the many regions where they use the program.
It is a specialized weekend and is financially reasonable and it specializes in learning a communication process that is unique and valuable.
Although my husband did not agree and I was so hurt, I want others to get the healing and to have access to this specialized course that has a lot of success.
As I said, my pastor witnessed miraculous transformation, which is why he gave me the information.
All others who have not had the marriage healing that you longed for and that your dreams led to broken relationship through divorce – a resounding blessing to you all in knowing that “God takes all things and makes them work together for our good.”
He takes every one of our wounds and bandages them up with His Compassionate love. He is the First Aid and the Living Band Aid who is the Compassionate Christ.
I am writing that for all of us – in good marriages, in challenging and struggling ones and in ones that were divided.
Nothing can separate us from the Love of Christ…He LOVES us still and no matter the circumstances, things always get better and better as He powerfully heals in His Majestic Ways – may you all be blessed to know that no matter what: “he rejoices over you with singing;He quiets you in His Love; He rejoices over you with gladness” (Zephaniah 3:16)
Christ took the guilt and shame for all sin or shame or guilt or pain that ever was. So, there is “NO condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus”.
Claim that for when you are tempted to feel guilt or remorse for what you didn’t do or what you did out of mistakes or bruising or brokenness. Every bitter brokenness He uses and “trades the ashes in for beauty and we get to wear forgiveness like a crown”
Because we all belong to Him and he loves us with an everlasting Love…May the Spirit speak that to Your heart today.
May we all focus on the provision and promise of His Love – not on the problem. For trusting Him and abiding in Him is His greatest desire for each of us – and He wants us to experience all the goodness that even sorrow can bring or brings – in Him is “fullness of JOY” no matter the circumstance.
I pray this for every woman today.
May You richly experience the Peace of Christ no matter the circumstance of your marriage and the outcome.
Blessings abundant to all…here is the marriage healing process I was introduced to…Lord: May this bring healing and HOPE or may you lead others to the Perfect & right resource that can help heal any broken marriages.
For you are a God of the impossible. In Your Precious name I pray and give access to this resource:
Sincere love to you all! Janine in Canada
God is always faithful to us. I am glad you held on. Blessings
“May You richly experience the Peace of Christ no matter the circumstance of your marriage and the outcome.” – Yes!!! His peace can give us strength to face every single day. Thank you for sharing!
Patty Baummer says
Again, always timely as I was AGAIN praying for my marriage this morning! It’s not a bad one, but not what it could be. Because I am human and make mistakes, this is my third marriage. I can’t allow this one to fall apart. Main problem – he is Catholic, I am Baptist. We are both believers, but he has a problem when I spend too much time at church and church functions. I’m not sure where to draw the line. I don’t do many things I’d like to with my church because of the issue it causes. He is a good man, but very stubborn and set in his own ways. The Lord has been showing me how selfish I can be and I’ve been working through that. He refuses counseling. He works 7 days a week leaving us very little time together. Just please pray for us, I surely would appreciate it. Thank you for blessing us with your story today!
Praying for you right now, Patty!
Praying for hope and for wisdom and for healing. <3
Becky Keife says
Jen, thank you for shining a light on God’s fingerprints in your life, especially through those dark years. It’s faith-building to remember that God has the power to redeem what is most desperate and broken in our lives, if only we surrender full control into His faithful hands. Such a gift to have your story here on (in)courage today. xx
Thank you so much, Becky <3
Mary Hood says
A beautiful story! Praise God! We are approaching our 30th year. We have been declining for a very long time. We have received counsel, to no avail. The silence is becoming unbearable. God is faithful and personal to me like never before in my walk with him, but He gives no definition about what to do. Please pray. So many issues it Has to be God’s intervention.
Praying for you, Mary <3 Keep listening for direction, and keep your eyes on Him while you wait. Hugs to you <3
Beth Williams says
Thank you for a truly personal post. It is hard to hold a marriage together for the long haul. Life gets hard, people get busy & before you know it trouble brews. It takes a firm foundation in Jesus to walk through the valley & come out the other side. Partners have to pray for each other & seek God’s promises. It also takes will power & determination to stay put for the duration. You both have to want to keep on trying. Surrender all of your lives to God & He will help save your marriage.
Yes! Thank you, Beth <3
He is faithful
God is sovereign
His mercies are new every morning
I am an immigrant in this country
I married a national of this country
Is second marriage for both of us
He has mobility issues burn is still going
Since the beginning he and his daughter treated me bad
I realized recently they are bullies
They ignore me and only talk to me to order me something or complain about something I did or to rebuke me for some mistake I committed
Has been six years now under the same abuse
I’m planning to attend the shelter for abused women in this city
I need counseling and help to leave this house and this family
Praying for you right now, Ana! Praying for your safety, and for wisdom and direction about what to do. You are right, God is faithful. He will be with you. <3
This very short article makes it look like improving her marriage was simple. I have a feeling there was a lot of hard work involved, above and beyond the prayers.
Definitely a lot of hard work.
But prayer was made it possible. Without the prayer that ultimately changed my heart and my husband, there is no way this would have worked. We both had lots of changes to make, and some counseling, and tons of forgiveness, and it seriously took about 5 years before it was what we wanted it to be. Worth every second.
I agree, do everything to keep your marriage vows to God unbroken. Pray He changes “you”, be loving and kind regardless, practice good listening skills, and never allow emotions to power over God’s direction for the both of you. I’ve been there (years ago) now married 18 years to another, I look back I have peace. But I was married forever. He was not. Divorce drastically changes the dynamics of your entire life thereafter (If you have children). Thankfully, I did have my children to love and care for. Now we all share grandchildren, but anyway, I find myself telling my friends not to file for divorce. Let your spouse. Just do all of the above, rely on God, and have zero regrets… I agree w/ Bev; don’t play the “if only” I agree so much! … and I pray for those going through this, nightly. Hugs. Lori
Thanks for sharing, Lori. I am so glad you have peace. I know every situation is different, but listening for God’s direction is essential. Knowing He will never leave us no matter what happens is so comforting. <3
I’ve been married for 34 years. I’ve drawn close to the Lord, but it didn’t help my marriage. I prayed for my marriage, but nothing happened. I’m to the place now where I don’t believe that God cares about my marriage. He heals other marriages, but He doesn’t heal mine. He placed unusual circumstances in my marriage that prevent this from ever being healed. We’ll stay together till death parts us, but there is no joy in our relationship.
Suzanne, I am so sorry. I know marriage is two separate people making their own decisions, and ultimately sometimes one of them doesn’t make the right choice. I understand how you must feel. I felt the same way about physical healing. My mom suffered from multiple sclerosis for decades before she ultimately passed away at 49, and anytime someone else was healed it hurt my heart, and I felt left out. I felt like God had completely overlooked us. It is so hard to trust his plan when it doesn’t go the way we think is best. I don’t pretend to have the answer for this. Faith is hard. But what I do know without a doubt is that Jesus will not leave you. We will still have hard, seemingly unfair circumstances, but we don’t go through them alone. He is faithful like that.
“Marriage involves two humans and a lot of unique circumstances, but the part I want you to see most in my story is that God walks with us during our dark years and never leaves us.”
He will not leave you, and I promise you He cares about every single detail of your life, Suzanne.
“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” – Deuteronomy 31:8
Praying for you right now <3