Focus on the Family Broadcast

Allowing Grace to Transform Your Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Allowing Grace to Transform Your Marriage (Part 1 of 2)

Brad and Marilyn Rhoads openly share their terrible first year of marriage and how God intervened to introduce the concept of grace in their relationship. You’ll better understand how marriage is a picture of the gospel and learn ways to honor your spouse in a more grace-filled, loving manner. (Part 1 of 2)
Original Air Date: January 18, 2024

Marilyn Rhoads: If it is, um, in the day-to-day struggles of life that marriage hasn’t delivered what you thought it would be kind of like Brad and I are sharing here, then if you will be fueled by the Lord, I mean Christ came to give life, life to the full.

Jim Daly: Right.

Marilyn: Not in the easy. Christ’s life wasn’t easy. And our lives are not going to be easy, but we can have life to the full if we go to Him and say, “Okay, show me how You want me to love my spouse today. What does that look like to creatively love the person that I’ve committed till death do us part?”

Jim: Yeah.

Marilyn: And watch what the Lord’s gonna do.

John Fuller: That’s Marilyn Rhoads and she joins us today along with her husband, Brad. This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us, I’m John Fuller.

Jim: And John, as a husband or a wife, uh, you have a unique opportunity to show love and grace to your spouse. Now, probably your reaction to that comment, (laughs) tell us a lot about where you’re at, “Oh, gee, I got to do that too.”

John: The opportunity.

Jim: “I’d love to do that,” probably is the first indicator of, uh, either a problem or a blessing.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And today, we wanna discuss, uh, how to tap into the fruit of the Spirit to apply it to your marriage. Now you remember, that’s joy, love, peace, goodness, kindness, mercy, long-suffering, patience. And I think marriage demands it all.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And it’s the hardest place sometimes to display God’s fruit in your life.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And we wanna talk about it today because it probably is the exact antidote and the thing that you need to make sure you have a healthy and loving relationship.

John: And as I said, Brad and Marilyn Rhoads are our guests. They’ve been here before. Uh, they are cofounders of Grace Marriage, which is a ministry designed to help local churches strengthen marriages in their communities. And, uh, today, we’ll be talking about a book that Brad and Marilyn have written. It’s called The Grace Marriage: How the Gospel and Intentionality Transform Your Relationship. Stop by our website for a copy or give us a call.

Jim: Brad, Marilyn, welcome back to Focus on the Family.

Marilyn: Oh, thank you for having us.

Brad Rhoads: Thank you.

Jim: It’s so good to have you and what a great topic. Uh, sometimes it’s feels a little counterintuitive, uh, you know, grace. “Yeah, grace is good, but people take advantage of grace,” (laughs) you know, you start rationalizing. But man, in marriage, we need really a lot of grace, don’t we? Because it’s your closest relationship. They see the good, the bad and the ugly.

Marilyn: Mm-hmm.

Brad: Yes, it’s we’ve all got problems, we’ve got, got issues, we all have struggles, and in marriage, like nobody knows your problems like your spouse.

Jim: (laughs) I guess that’s the point I’m making.

Brad: Yeah, it’s, it’s, so there’s no place grace is needed more in human relations.

Jim: Not just the problems, but your spouse sees, hopefully, the godliness that you display, but (laughs) probably the selfishness you do too like nobody else, right? “Can you not put your dirty laundry in the spot that you need to put it in?” That’s a godly thing.

Brad: It’s not that hard. (laughs)

Jim: I always go to the laundry, I don’t know. Poor Jean. I- I keep these piles. I’ve got-

John: ‘Cause you travel so much.

Jim: I’ve got the dirty power ready to go and then it’s the almost-dirty-but-I-could-wear-it-one-more-time …

Brad: (laughs)

John: … T-shirt activities, you know? So we got these-

Marilyn: That’s thoughtful. (laughs)

Jim: Yeah, I mean, but, and then she messes the piles up and then I’m lost. It’s like, “No, no, no.” Anyway, um, you guys had kind of a whirlwind, uh, romance and quickly married if I remember the story correctly. So describe that and how did that work out (laughs) for you in your first year marriage.

Brad: Well, it worked out better for me than Marilyn. So it’s, uh-

Jim: (laughs) Well, let’s start with Marilyn then.

Marilyn: Um.

Jim: What was that like? So you’re dating, how long did you date?

Marilyn: Three and a half months.

Jim: And then-

Marilyn: I would not recommend. Then we were married four months later, moved to a new town and I was starting graduate school. He was building a law practice and the wheels came off. They came off …

Jim: (laughs)

Marilyn: … before the honeymoon ended, wouldn’t you say? (laughs)

Jim: Really?

Brad: The first fight was at our reception.

Jim: About?

Brad: About I was rude to the photographer.

Marilyn: (laughs)

Jim: Oh, you were?

Brad: Yes.

Marilyn: And he was a family friend. He was kind of done at the end.

Brad: Yes.

Marilyn: We’re walking to the car and he’s like, “Let’s just stop and take one more picture.” (laughs)

Brad: Yes, I stared him to death, “Let’s just stop and let’s just take one more picture.”

Jim: Seems reasonable.

Brad: And Marilyn looked to me like, “Oh, my goodness, he’s rude.” (laughs)

Jim: (laughs)

Marilyn: (laughs)

Brad: I mean t- that’s our first picture, but, but it was, it’s so true. I went from her favorite person to least favorite person in about six months.

Jim: Yeah. Okay.

John: Wow.

Marilyn: Yeah.

Jim: So were you a little concerned at that point, all of a sudden, you saw the, the real man?

Marilyn: No, you know, no, it wasn’t that major of a deal at the moment, but I was a little embarrassed. But as we got married, I was really concerned because we both, you’re talking about what the fruits of the Spirit are and what love is, well, we’re just so naturally self-seeking.

Jim: Oh, we are.

Marilyn: And we’re just told that marriage, it should just work, so I expected it to just be easy and work and he was gonna meet my needs. And I was focused on really what I wanted.

Jim: (laughs)

Marilyn: He was focused on what he wanted.

Jim: Yeah.

Marilyn: Well, that’s a crash course to catastrophe.

Jim: It really is, and i- in the book, you described that first year as being just tumultuous, right?

Marilyn: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And, but in some ways too, it does give you an awareness, so that is a benefit.

Marilyn: Yeah.

Jim: Because some people go 14, 15, 20 years and they, they think it’s not going quite right, but they’re not quite sure.

Marilyn: Mm-hmm.

Jim: I mean, you guys got the heavy dose of, “This ain’t the way it should work…” (laughs)

Marilyn: Right.

Jim: … right at the beginning, right?

Marilyn: We’re not equipped.

Jim: So how did, what did that look like for you guys too quickly … How old were you at the time that you got married?

Marilyn: I was 23.

Brad: Yeah, I was 27.

Marilyn: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Okay, and so boom, you’re popping into this thing and the first year you’re going, “This is not heaven.”

Brad: Mm-hmm. Uh, for me, I, I didn’t think it was that bad.

Jim: (laughs)

Brad: I mean I thought our biggest-

Jim: Welcome to being a male. (laughs)

Brad: Yeah, I thought, I thought our biggest problem was her hypersensitivity and she would just settle down.

Jim: Yeah.

Brad: “We’re okay. It’s not so bad.”

Jim: So did that become your goal, how to settle her down?

Marilyn: Yes.

Jim: Is that the counseling you would give her, “Honey, just settle down.”

Brad: I did. In fact, I would use a hand signal and say, “Marilyn, just calm down.”

Marilyn: Yeah, that … (laughs)

Jim: Oh, oh, that’s good. How did that work for you? (laughs)

Brad: You can ask her. (laughs)

John: (laughs)

Marilyn: I did not go well, brought a lot of tears and a lot of frustration.

Brad: Yeah, that was, that was, wasn’t nice. (laughs)

Jim: Yeah, no, and I think, you know, so often, and Jean and I’ve done this, you know, “On a scale of one to 10, how do you think the marriage is?” And I say, “Uh, I think nine or 10?” And she’s like, “I think two or three?” “How could that be true?”

Marilyn: Yeah.

Jim: “I am a wonderful person.” (laughs)

Marilyn: Yeah, it’s often-

Jim: Did you guys have that kind of exchange?

Marilyn: Oh, absolutely.

Jim: And was it similar in numbers?

Marilyn: It would, it would have, we didn’t talk about numbers …

Jim: Yeah.

Marilyn: … but it would have been similar like …

Jim: Yeah.

Marilyn: … you saying, “I thought we were fine.” I was completely miserable and lonely and thought …

Brad: Yeah.

Marilyn: “Wow, is this it?”

Jim: So you had a bowling league experience that you described.

Marilyn: Oh, that’s hysterical. (laughs)

Jim: Yeah, yeah, let’s go to the bowling league, uh-

Marilyn: Okay, this is a perfect picture of our first year. Brad’s huge into sports and my family’s zero …

Jim: (laughs)

Marilyn: … into sports. And I’m married into this very, and he wanted to join a bowling league to help create business for the law practice and we were listening to a staticky St. Louis Cardinals baseball game on the way to go bowling. I’m in this horrible, ugly bowling shirt. I’m on a league …

Jim: (laughs)

Marilyn: … with all guys. I’m the only girl on our team. There were other girls on other teams, but, and then we get there, we, we bowl in the smoke-filled environment. I have to go home and take a shower. We’re on our way home …

Jim: (laughs)

Marilyn: … and it’s raining outside. We’re in a new town. And there’s a football game that’s going on and a high school football game. He’s, “There’s a football game. Do you wanna go watch it?” I said, “Do I wanna go sit in the rain and watch high school kids that I don’t even know play football?”

Jim: Smellin’ like smoke. (laughs)

Marilyn: And he said, “Yeah.”

Jim: (laughs)

Marilyn: And I said, “No, I wanna go home.” (laughs) So he dropped me off at the house and went back and watch the football game by himself in the rain. (laughs)

Brad: Oh, y- yeah, I was, I was so into building a law practice.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Brad: And I thought, “Oh, there’s no lawyers in the bowling league. I would m- meet new clients every single week.” I got referrals in that league for 18 years.

Jim: I mean look at the smile on your face. (laughs)

Brad: I- it was like a free legal clinic.

Jim: Oh my God.

Brad: I would sit there and they come from all the other lines to come ask me questions. I just give them cards. And I mean, it was just, I was starting from, from scratch and that was-

Jim: So it worked.

Brad: F- from my perspective.

Marilyn: (laughs) Yeah.

Jim: (laughs)

Brad: F- from her-

Jim: To get business?

Brad: Yeah, and Marilyn’s good in a lot of things. Bowling isn’t one of them.

Marilyn: It was, it’s not. I’m not worried about that.

Jim: Okay, so, you know, and this is so informative for people listening ’cause they might be in the same spot you guys were in and that’s what we’re gonna drive through here the next, today and tomorrow.

Marilyn: Mm-hmm.

Jim: But in that regard, w- what’s catching each of your … Well, is your attention being caught, Brad? I mean, are you going, “Okay, what’s going on here? It’s not working as well as I should, given Marilyn’s crying like every couple of days and being distraught.” How did you, how’d you pull the stick back in that airplane of emotion and say, “Okay, we got to land this thing”?

Brad: Well, God just opened my eyes. I mean, I went to-

Jim: Was there a day that this happened? Do you remember it?

Brad: There was, t- there was a day I remember vividly.

Jim: What was the 2 x 4 that He used to get your attention?

Brad: It was when I was forced to go to a marriage conference I didn’t wanna attend. And I mean, literally forced. I’ll spare the details, but I went. I didn’t wanna go. I didn’t think I needed to go.

Jim: Oh, you go to the football game, but you won’t go to marriage-

Brad: I don’t care.

Marilyn: There you go. (laughs)

Jim: No, I’m teasing, I’m teasing.

Brad: No, nope, you’re not teasing because I did want to go football, I didn’t want to the marriage-

Jim: (laughs)

Brad: But t- they put up Ephesians 5, “Husbands love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave His life for her.” And I was just asked the question, “What do you give up for Marilyn?” Nothing. I mean, I did what I wanted to do, basketball league, softball leagues, build a law practice. Husbands, you live with your wife and understanding why I do, so, “Brad, do you listen to her? Do you just sit and listen to her heart for hours?” “No.” “Don’t be harsh with your wife.” It’s like all of a sudden my sin became HD clear. It might have been when I was saved. I mean, I just remember thinking, “I’m doing absolutely nothing right.” So I came home to Marilyn and I said, “Look, the only thing that’s gonna be different is everything. I don’t expect you to believe me. I wouldn’t believe me. But in five years, you’ll know God changed your husband.” And our marriage literally experienced a miracle over the weekend. And Marilyn already got to a better spot of sufficiency of Christ. So when that weekend occurred, we instantly went to a new spot in marriage.

Marilyn: Mm-hmm.

Jim: That’s so good though. I mean, how are you processing this, cautiously or enthusiastically?

Marilyn: Cautiously.

Jim: Yeah, that seems reasonable.

Marilyn: Uh, but he came home and I was an early riser. And, uh, he would get up two minutes before he had to be out the door. And he came outside the next morning and he had gotten in at 2:00 in the morning and I was planting flowers before church because it was spring. And he walked outside at 5:00 in the morning and said, “Where do you want me to dig?” And I looked at him like he was an alien because he would climb out of bed right before we had to be out the door.

Jim: (laughs)

Marilyn: So, and that’s when he said that to me and I just-

Brad: It just, just hit me like, “You took the best gift God’s ever given you, the most godly, beautiful woman ever and you’ve treat her like garbage for a year.” And I remember thinking on the way back, “She’s still there and I just wanna make it right.” And I still. I mean, it’s like it, it grieves me what I did to her for that year, but to your point earlier, I don’t know that Grace Marriage would exist as a ministry if we didn’t have that really hard year.

Jim: Yeah.

Brad: But, um, yeah, we, we know both sides of it. And we love taking couples (laughs) from where we were to where the God’s helped us get.

Jim: Well, that’s the whole point, right? And i- it takes effort, it takes awareness, it takes application of doing it differently. And everybody is somewhere on that continuum. I doubt there’s a perfect marriage …

Brad: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … uh, because we’re not perfect. People were selfish, as you said earlier. Um, describe what a performance-based marriage looks like. That’s the theme of the book. You’re talking about grace-based marriage or grace marriage.

Marilyn: Mm-hmm.

Jim: So the opposite of that, I guess, would be the performance-based marriage. Uh, it sounds sophisticated. It sounds professional sounds like a graduate class in relationship, but performance-based, w- what are the adjectives that describe a performance-based marriage?

Marilyn: It’s conditional. It’s, “If you’re kind to me, then I’ll be kind to you,” you know?

Jim: Right.

Marilyn: In that first year, when Brad wasn’t acting like I wanted him to act or helping me, I just withdrew. I distanced myself from him. I cried. I just felt alone. And I wasn’t gonna do kind things for him. I really just isolated myself …

Jim: Marilyn …

Marilyn: … from this moment.

Jim: … let’s, let’s unravel that a little bit. What was happening to you emotionally because I, in some ways, you represent wives, obviously. And so you became more isolated. What was happening to you that you’ve, like you couldn’t express it or you felt like, when you expressed it, Brad would just knock it down or didn’t receive it?

Marilyn: Right.

Jim: But kind of tease that out a little bit because I’m sure half the audiences or more will be female and they’re going, “Oh, I can identify with Marilyn. That’s happening to me right now.”

Marilyn: Yes.

Jim: So what, what does that look like or feel like?

Marilyn: It was an emotional rollercoaster. Because when you’re in a performance-based mode, then if things are going well, if he comes home and he doesn’t watch sports and he goes on a run with me, then I’m gonna be thrilled. I’m gonna be glad I got his time. But then if he doesn’t and he’s not thoughtful and just sits in front of ESPN and collapses until he goes to bed at night, then I’m, then I’m sad and I’m crying. And it was this rollercoaster of up and down based on how you’re treating me or how you’re not treating me.

Jim: Yeah.

Marilyn: So it was a roll … And I’m naturally more of a steady person. So the fact that marriage made me this, like Brad said, hypersensitive was the word he used, that’s crying on a regular basis and, and miserable a lot of that, the Lord showed me, even before he went to that conference, I’m putting my hope in Him.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Marilyn: And, and my hope’s in Christ. And when we come at marriage, like I’m saying, in a selfish, self-seeking way …

Jim: Yeah.

Marilyn: … which is what I was doing, not that he needed to be acting the way he was acting, but when I’m just focused on myself and what I’m gonna get rather than, “Okay, Lord, how are you calling me to love Brad.”

Jim: Yeah.

Marilyn: “What are you calling Me to in marriage?” So w- we both came so selfish. And then when you, when you couple that with this performance approach we have in all of life, it’s, it’s miserable and lonely.

Jim: That’s powerful. Powerful.

John: Mm-hmm. This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. And, uh, our guest today are Brad and Marilyn Rhoads. They’ve captured a lot of what we’re talking about and much, much more in their book, The Grace Marriage: How the Gospel and Intentionality Transform Your Relationship. Look for a copy of this book at our website. That’s or call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.

Jim: Marilyn, let me ask you the, the, um, transition of that. A- and what I mean is intellectually we can get there. We know that if we are not self-seeking, if we’re looking for the best in our spouse, um, we understand the Lord wants that expectation from us, etcetera, but then translating that emotionally, so that it’s real and true. I, I find most people struggle there ’cause we’re sitting in church, we’re hearing what to do and how to do it and we can regurgitate it. We could say, “Yeah, you know, I’m treating my husband in a godly way,” but sometimes that doesn’t translate emotionally. Intellectually, it does, but emotionally, it doesn’t. So how, how did you connect those thoughts to say, “Yeah, I’m really gonna lay my life down. I’m really gonna, uh, try to see Brad differently”? And this one’s coming to you too, Brad, so start thinking about it.

Marilyn: It was an aha moment for me because I really was to the point I was just, I thought, “Is this it, Lord?” This is what marriage is and that’s when I almost audibly heard Him say, “You have put him in the place of Me.”

Jim: Yeah.

Marilyn: “I’m your hope, not your marriage.” And the whole fuel to emotionally getting there, because intellectually, we can and we know this, but we have to be reminded daily.

Jim: But it-

Marilyn: Filled up in the Spirit. I mean, it is, it’s still a reminder daily …

Jim: Yeah.

Marilyn: … to go to the Lord and spend time with Him and, and be reminded that, “That’s what I’m to offer to my spouse and to everybody that He places in my path, is to lay down my life for another.”

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Marilyn: And so emotionally, the only way you can get there is, uh, by the help of the Holy Spirit.

Jim: Yeah. So Brad, on your side now coming your direction, uh, you have to sit and listen to these things (laughs) being said about you, but you’re the husband. How, how about you in that performance-based marriage? Where were you falling short and-

Brad: Well, one, I wasn’t pursuing a great marriage at all, you know? I was, when Marilyn came at me about something, I wasn’t responsive to her.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Brad: I was just took offense that, “She didn’t appreciate me, she didn’t do this,” and I was conditioning my love as well. And I watched Marilyn, when she realized that Jesus Christ is sufficient.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Brad: “I mean, He is enough. I mean, He’s enough for me.” It’s not, “Him plus you and I’m okay.” It’s, “Him and I’m okay.” So when she quit striving for a good marriage, quit addressing issues with me, it’s just she went to a stable place on the rock at Jesus Christ, so that our marriage stabilize. Now, it didn’t get good yet because I was still in the marriage.

Jim: (laughs)

Brad: I- I mean, it got steady, but when the Lord broke me is when it went … We went from bad to steady to great.

Jim: Yeah. And that’s such a great way to describe that. The, uh, grace-based marriage is the goal. That’s obviously the point …

Brad: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … of The Grace Marriage book. So you’re moving from this performance conditional orientation, what are the tiles that get laid on your path that begin to create a grace marriage?

Brad: Well, it’s Romans 6:14, it says, “Sin’ll have no dominion over you because you’re under grace, not law.” So it says sin won’t be your master, won’t control you because you’re under grace not law. So in a marriage, sin will have no dominion or control over marriage if it’s under grace.

Jim: Uh-huh.

Brad: It’s not sin has no control because you both graduate to such great spouses. Life’s too hard for that.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Brad: Just too much comes at us for us to be consistent all the time. But when love’s just given us a free gift of grace. Marilyn’s kind to me, Marilyn’s pursues me, she’s generous with me, she’s all these things. It’s not because I’m impressive. It’s that she-

Jim: That you deserve it.

Brad: Oh, no, not at all.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Brad: She just gives it to me as a free gift of grace, but think about what we received from God. It wasn’t like He looked down and said, “Wow, look, Brad and Jim are so impressive.” (laughs)

Jim: (laughs)

Brad: “Like I’m gonna give them some grace and good stuff.” No.

Jim: You’re singing Jean’s music. (laughs)

Brad: Yeah. (laughs) He says, “While we’re yet sinners, Christ died for us.” And I said, “How are we supposed to love one another, like that? Well, you know, while Marilyn is yet a sinner, I’m gonna die for her. Well, I’m a sinner. Marilyn should die for me.” Why? Because our marriage is so much bigger than just us having more happy. Our marriage is about bringing God glory and putting Jesus Christ on display.

Jim: Yeah. You know, you guys are in it, we’re in here at Focus on the Family, the marriage battle, if we wanna use …

Brad: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … that terminology. But I mean, when you think about it, look at all the metaphors that Jesus Himself used about the bride and the bridegroom …

Marilyn: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … the marriage. There’s something powerful there about marriage and the illustration that it is for our spiritual journey, that God is using these illustrations so powerfully, right? Have you thought about that? I mean, this is amazing.

Brad: Oh, it really is and t- that’s the sad thing is God created marriage and it’s the most beautiful thing. I mean, it is a great gig. I mean, other than my relationship with Jesus, the most fun I have in life is with Marilyn. You do life with your very best friend, get a date and enjoy one another, that most people just get dominated by cellphones and the business life and miss out on the gift God gave them. And then that analogy, husband, wife, Christ and the church, it’s almost a turn-off to the gospel as opposed to an attractional magnetic force to the gospel.

Jim: Mm-hmm, that is true. Marilyn, you mentioned in the book this idea of rescue mentality in your marriage. It sounds great. What does it mean?

Marilyn: Well, I mean, this is another where you take the verse, “Yet while I was a sinner, Christ died for me,” he rescued us.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Marilyn: And while Brad’s a sinner and I’m a sinner, we lay down our lives for one another. So when we’re struggling because like, Brad … Life’s hard. It throws a lot of tough things at us and then you, you bring to the table our flesh that naturally wants to rise at times that we, it’s … When you have a rescue mentality and you have a grace mentality, you get over things so much faster. Because it’s God’s kindness that leads to repentance. It doesn’t give a jerk license. You’re asking earlier, “Does this give someone a free pass when I went to Brad and shared, ‘My hope is in Christ?’” It, it really, I think it’s more exposing of sin when you have a kind response.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Marilyn: I know when Brad’s come in and I’m with the kids, and especially when they were little and I had it up to my eyeballs with kids and I’m short and I’m throwing a baby at him and, and maybe not …

Jim: (laughs)

Marilyn: … talking to another child like I should. I can remember a specific time I really was, I was blowing it at the house. And Brad walked in and kind of looked around and he just jumped in and started helping. And he grabbed one of the kids that was on my every nerve and took him for a walk around the block.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Marilyn: Well, that just left me to deal with myself. They came back in, I apologized to both of them.

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Marilyn: But if he had come in and said, “Marilyn, you know, y- you need to do this,” I, my response would have been, “You have no idea.”

Jim: Right.

Marilyn: “You haven’t been here.” And that would have just escalated my struggle and I probably would have defended myself and not felt, felt repentant for it.

Jim: Right. I- it would have made you resentful.

Marilyn: Right.

Jim: That’s what that does.

Marilyn: Right.

Jim: You know?

Marilyn: But instead, I was left to, to see my sin was exposed before me in that rescue approach.

Jim: And, y- you know, in that way, you’re giving a great example of a grace marriage when you come in and say, “Okay, what do I need to help?” You do or just do it without even asking. Uh, that’s awesome. Uh, where do you think with the couples that you interact with to help them along this journey, where are the majority of couples failing?

Brad: They take offense at the manifestation of the struggle and withdrawal as opposed to having a posture of pursuit and rescue. I mean, it’s natural when somebody doesn’t act great to wanna withdraw from them, but we’re in a gospel of pursuit.

Jim: Yeah.

Brad: I mean, just, I’ll just give you a real tangible example. When I was in the law, practice, just the law got the better of me. Anxiety. Couldn’t sleep. Had a case I thought I had messed up and I was just working around the clock. I was cold. I was distant. I was anxious. I knew I shouldn’t be any of those things. But I was like, “Lord, give me peace. I couldn’t find it.”

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Brad: “Lord, take anxiety away. I couldn’t find it.” But Marilyn is kind of me throughout that process. I’d come home one day and she sobbed and I’m like, “What’s wrong?” She said, “I’m so worried about you. I’ve been praying for you all afternoon.”

Jim: Yeah.

Brad: So, so what if she takes a different approach, “Brad would you quit being cold, would you quit being distant, would you quit being anxious, would you handle life better?” “Oh, oh, that’s my problem. I’ll just handle life better.”

Jim: (laughs)

Brad: You know, it’s, so it’s just grace, it’s really your only answer, ’cause when we really try to change the behavior of our spouse through repeated verbal efforts, how effective is that?

Jim: Well, and I, I appreciate that. That’s kind of what I’m dancing around when I say m- moving from an intellectual understanding to an emotional standing. T- that really is what I’m saying because it’s difficult to actually do grace.

Marilyn: Mm-hmm.

Jim: It’s easy to understand its application …

Brad: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … but it is hard for us as selfish creatures to actually put …

Marilyn: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … into play grace.

Brad: And more initially than overtime, because the more you practice it, we have a concept called red light on the dash, when your spouse, you can tell they’re doing poorly or red lights up on their dash.

Jim: Yeah.

Brad: And they need care. So it’s become a lot more natural for me o- over time, that when Marilyn sees me doing poorly for her to try to help me instead of just getting frustrated at me. So, and frankly, grace is hard, but the alternative is harder.

Jim: Uh-huh.

Brad: Couples that come to me in crisis counsel and they just can’t stand each other. And they say, “Well, grace is hard.” I’m like, “With all due respect, what you’re doing looks a little harder.”

Jim: Yeah.

Brad: I said, “It is difficult in the short run, but in the long run, it creates a new atmosphere and it builds your relationship on the rock and the forgiveness of Jesus, not in the inconsistency of the behavior of man.”

Jim: You know, at the end of this first day, and we want you to come back tomorrow, we’ll keep the conversation going, uh, really to help couples do a better job.

Brad: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And I’ll tell you what, marriage is under fire today. W- we are getting inundated with negative messaging about marriage and, uh, we here at Focus on the Family, I know you too, uh, want to build up the institution of marriage because it is God’s design. And when it works, it works beautifully. And it brings such, uh, peace, not only to your family, but your community, everything else. Think of marriages generally were going really well, this world would be a different place.

Marilyn: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And that excites me. That’s why I put my effort into it. And I know it’s your cause as well. But I’m thinking of that couple that is back in year one of your marriage. That’s what they’re living and they’re … She’s going, “Oh my gosh, Marilyn, I so identify with where you were at and I’m struggling,” uh, what can they do to move out of that performance-based marriage into a grace-based marriage today? To begin that process, what, at the end of the day one here, what would you recommend? I mean, we’re gonna offer the book, but what are you saying they need to do?

Marilyn: Oh, you’re, just pursue the Lord first and just ask Him what He’s, what He’s calling you to start with yourself, is the first place to start because we’re so naturally focused on what we’re wanting from the other.

Jim: Yeah, that’s very true. (laughs) Anything to add, Brad?

Brad: I just totally agree with Marilyn.

Jim: (laughs) Yeah, that’s good.

Brad: W- when I sit with the Lord, you know, H- He shifted my attention off of me onto loving others. So it’s, we love because He first loved us. So rest in His delight. You’re an adopted son or daughter of Christ if you’re in Him and then live out of that confidence fully loved, so then you can love others.

Jim: It’s a good start. Let’s come back next time and keep it going. Can we do it?

Marilyn: Sounds great.

Jim: All right. Uh, let me turn to the listener. We’re here for you to Focus on the Family. Our goal is to equip you by giving you great resources opportunity. We have Hope Restored, which is our marriage intensive program. It’s an incredible program.

John: Mm-hmm.

Jim: I mean, four out of five couples, two years after that experience will still be married and doing much better and have greater satisfaction in their marriage. So it starts the process. And about half of those have signed divorce papers. So it’s an amazing save rate, if I could call it that, that really does equip the couples, uh, to do marriage far better than they had been doing it obviously. So if that is something that you need to look at, give us a call. We’ll give you the information and talk with you more about it. But at the very least, The Grace Marriage book, uh, we wanna make that available to you. If you can make a donation of any amount, uh, do that and we’ll send it as our way of saying thank you. If you can’t afford to, we’ll trust others will cover the cost of doing that ministry and, uh, just let us know you need the book and we’ll get it into your hands.

John: Mm-hmm. As Jim said, uh, encouraging marriages is a passion here at Focus on the Family and let us know how we can help you. Uh, our numbers 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, 800-232-6459 or stop by where you’ll find all the details about Hope Restored and about this great book, The Grace Marriage, uh, and also ways to donate to the ministry. And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we continue the conversation with Brad and Marilyn, and once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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The Grace Marriage: How the Gospel and Intentionality Transform Your Relationship

Receive the book The Grace Marriage and the audio download of the broadcast "Allowing Grace to Transform Your Marriage" for your donation of any amount!

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