Focus on the Family

Guarding Your Heart in Marriage

by Cheryl Scruggs

We seemed to have it all: professional success, adorable twin daughters and a good marriage by worldly standards. But our picture-perfect image concealed a widening chasm between two people unable to connect on an intimate level. This led to 10 disappointing years of marriage, seven painful years following our divorce and one remarkable, true-life story of a love rescued by God.

After years of frustration, my longing for emotional fulfillment led me first to an affair and finally a divorce, leaving my husband utterly devastated and seething with anger. Yet, incredibly, seven years later we once again stood at the altar, promising to "love, honor and cherish" one another. A new and vibrant love had risen from the ashes of our family's pain.

In our book I Do Again, we share our story  – a story that reveals the hidden secrets that slowly destroyed our marriage and demonstrates how God opened the way to healing. We learned that prayer and God's redemptive power offer renewed hope for even the most troubled marriages. The rewards of restoration are well worth the wait.

Yet we live in a culture of divorce. Everywhere we turn, a marriage is in trouble or a couple is separating. The statistics are staggering, and no couple is immune to the possibility – not one! But there is hope for all marriages.

May I ask you a question? Are you guarding your marriage? Better yet, are you guarding your heart in your marriage?

Most of us enter marriage so in love, and so positive, that we would never think of divorce much less take the time to guard our hearts against it. "Divorce and marriage problems happen to other people, not us," we often say.

However, God's Word instructs us: "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life" (Proverbs 4:23,). God knows what He is doing, and He knew there would be reasons for us to guard our hearts. This is why He includes it in His Word. There are many ways to guard your heart in your marriage, but I will focus on the deception that can lead to divorce and the deception of divorce itself; and how couples believe the lies –  that divorce will bring peace and fulfillment rather than destruction.

From a Biblical perspective, Jesus Christ should be the central focus for a marriage. Jeff and I experienced a 10-year first marriage not centered on Christ, a divorce and seven-year separation, followed by the miracle of a restored and healed marriage  that is now Christ-centered. I will conclude this series by sharing what our redeemed, restored marriage looks like today.

Many marriages start on rocky soil. Ours did. Jeff and I were ignorant of the fact that we needed a strong foundation. Love was our sole foundation. And love is important. But love alone is not enough.

What do I mean by rocky soil? I'm talking about a marriage that has a shaky base. A foundation that may be weak or wavering. One that may not last long or may be not be sturdy. One that is likely to collapse. One that is unreliable, uncertain, wobbly or unsteady.

But in His Word, God thankfully laid out a solid biblical plan – the sturdy soil He intends our marriage to stand on!

Through our ministry, we've met hundreds of couples who've taken their marriage commitment lightly. Not much thought is given to what the purpose of marriage is, and many couples believe that love alone will sustain them! When these same couples experience rough spots, that's when they discover how rocky or sturdy their soil is.

Most of us lack the necessary knowledge and wisdom about marriage, and thus often choose a spouse based on emotions and feelings. Do not get me wrong, emotions and feelings definitely play a role, but marriage is about much more than what we simply feel. Marriage is about God and glorifying God. It is about becoming holy and sanctified. It is about seeking His Will for a spouse, and – once married – glorifying Him as a couple. That's why it is so important to choose a spouse wisely and not just depend on feeling butterflies in our stomach.

Oftentimes we dismiss potential red flags in the name of love, convincing ourselves that they are not that big of a deal, or that our love can conquer all. However, in reality, a red flag almost always signals a deeper problem. You will never find the perfect spouse and you will never be one yourself, but it is important to be discerning, because marriage is a lifetime decision.

God wants us to seek His wisdom and His knowledge in choosing a spouse and cultivating a marriage. But our culture has a way of luring us away from this gift that God designed for a man and a woman. John 10:10 says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Satan will try to destroy your marriage, but God has a wonderful plan.

As you read this series, pay close attention. Ask yourself the hard questions. Are you deceived into thinking there is no hope for your marriage? Are you deceived into thinking that divorce is the answer for your unfulfilled expectations? Are you deceived into thinking there is another spouse out there for you? Are you deceived into thinking divorce is a peaceful, fulfilling option?

Based on personal experience, we can tell you that divorce is not the answer to eliminating marital strife. Jesus is!