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Focus on the Family with Jim Daly

Strengthening Your Marriage Through Daily Choices

Strengthening Your Marriage Through Daily Choices

Pastor Ron Zappia and his wife, Jody, describe the turbulent early years of their marriage and how God's grace helped restore their relationship. They share the valuable lessons they learned through that process in a discussion based on their book, The Marriage Knot: 7 Choices That Keep Couples Together.
Original Air Date: February 26, 2020

Jim Daly: Hello, I’m Jim Daly for Focus on the Family, and I’d like to talk to you about our Option Ultrasound program. For the past 20 years, we have been, you have been, providing ultrasound technology and training to pregnancy centers all across the United States. As a result, more than half a million women who were considering abortion, have chosen to protect the life of their pre-born baby. That’s an incredible milestone. I’m so thankful for the generosity of friends like you who have partnered with us to rescue these precious moms and their children. But the need is ongoing. It’s not over. There’s so many voices in today’s culture who are relentless about abortion rights. And they’re willing to sacrifice the next generation. We can’t let that happen. We need to be diligent. Speak up for life by giving generously to Option Ultrasound. And we’d love to hear from you by June 30th. Donate to focusonthefamily.com/savelivestoday. Or call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.

Excerpt:
Jody Zappia: I thought we were going there to get an okay for a divorce. I thought the whole meeting was gonna be focusing on Ron and what he did and that I was pretty sure the Bible said that that was grounds for divorce.
End of Excerpt

John Fuller: You know the choices that a husband and wife make in marriage can either strengthen the relationship or they can weaken the relationship. And this is Focus on the Family. Today we have a really inspiring story about a couple who were in trouble and uh, they learned what God wanted them to do to change their lives and to give them a renewed, wonderful marriage. And your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.

Jim: Hey John, Ron and Jody Zappia have uh, an amazing testimony of faith and it demonstrates God’s power to heal a marriage and that’s why I’m excited to hear uh, from them today. If you’re struggling in your marriage, uh, this is gonna minister to your heart. In fact, God can use a marriage breakdown to draw a couple to Himself. That sounds kind of oxymoronic but it’s how God works. He’ll use your valley to put you on the mountain top and that’s the story of the Zappias.

John: Yeah, it really is a miracle, uh, to hear what happened and Ron and Jody have written a book called The Marriage Knot: 7 Choices That Keep Couples Together and we’re gonna explore those, uh, as we go along. You can get the book at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Ron is senior pastor of Highpoint Church in the Chicago area and uh, that’s a church that he and Jody planted in 2000. He also leads Highpoint Ministries which is a teaching outreach. Jody has served in women’s ministry and she works alongside Ron to help couples.

Jim: Ron and Jody, welcome to Focus on the Family.

Ron Zappia: Well it is a privilege to be here. We’re so grateful to be with you guys.

Jim: I love it. Um, I want to get right into the story-

Ron: Yeah.

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … because there’s so much good stuff here for all of us to learn about commitment and God’s really resurrection power in someone’s marriage.

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: Um, let me ask you, uh, you, you counsel a lot of couples-

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: … as we do on the phone here-

Jody: Mm.

Jim: … at Focus on the Family.

Ron: Sure.

Jim: What themes do you see specifically-

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: … when it comes to the breakdown of marriage within the Christian community particularly?

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: What themes do you hear in these couples that are breaking up their marriages?

Ron: Yeah. Well and, you know, oftentimes people will start with the communication gap. You know what I mean? We talk about that a lot. You know, there’s core one, really.

Jim: That’s probably the core one, really.

Ron: (laughs) Yeah, that’s what everybody says.

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Ron: And then to kinda in a little bit deeper you find out that there’s probably some things that are happening underneath the surface that are far greater than the communication gap and, you know, today people are having so much difficulty. Many relationships begin long distance.

Jim: Yeah.

Ron: That’s what happened with Jody and I, and that caused some trouble early on in our marriage. Um, there’s issues in regards to family members, and faith issues. There’s the faith gap, you know, where maybe not everybody is in the same place spiritually speaking, so one is either pulling the other or possibly even dragging somebody else down. You know, we see finances. I’m sure you guys know that, uh-

Jim: Mm.

Ron: … you know, the financial realm and the difficulty of couples together working through those things-

Jim: Yeah.

Ron: You know, those are just a few of the things that, that we’ve seen.

Jim: That lines up.

Jody: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Jim: I mean, the intimacy issues-

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … the finance issues and communication issues probably take the top 75%.

Jody: Yeah. That’s what I would say.

Jim: And Jody, now that we’ve covered the 40,000-foot view-

Ron: (laughs) Right.

Jim: … we got to zero in on you.

Jody: Mm-hmm. (laughs)

Ron: (laughs)

Jim: Right? Both of you.

Jody: Yeah.

Jim: What was going on in the early part of your marriage? Where were you at spiritually, if anywhere?

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: And then what was the atmosphere like?

Jody: Sure. Uh, Ron and I, uh, grew up high school sweethearts, so we’d met young. We went to different colleges, trying-

Ron: Yeah.

Jody: … to give each other space. Um, in that process, you know, neither one of those were raised in Christian homes. We had-

Jim: Yeah. That’s significant.

Ron: Yeah.

Jody: It is. And we had … We both had great parents. Hardworking.

Ron: Yeah.

Jody: Um, upon graduation I ended up going out east to Connecticut. He was in the Cleveland area in Ohio and we got engaged during that year and then we got married and it took about, uh, five months for us to get in the same city. So our first five months of marriage-

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: Wow.

Jody: … uh, we weren’t together but then it took us about six months to pretty much trash the marriage unfortunately.

Ron: (laughs)

Jim: Yeah, at six months most people are going, “Wow, that was fast,” to really, uh-

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … place the cracks in the foundation.

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: What did that look like?

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: I mean, you’re well beyond that now obviously.

Ron: Sure.

Jody: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Jim: But you’re doing this and talking about this to help young couples particularly-

Ron: Yeah.

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … uh, make sure that their foundation is stronger. So what, what would you label the cracks in your marital foundation?

Ron: Yeah, Jim, I mean, I’m just gonna get right down to it. I mean, Jody and I, you know, I l- this is the girl I loved, this is the girl I wanted to marry. Um, you know, we had been both working in the marketplace. We finally got to the same city, Chicago. This was it. And we were together and there was just something going on inside of me which wasn’t healthy, which wasn’t good. Um, you know, I was doing some things that I shouldn’t be doing. Jody probably would say, hey, she was doing, you know, do- not doing some things she could’ve been doing. You know, now we look back and we can see that.

But, uh, you know, I’ll just go straightforward and, you know, with both you guys just be real honest. I got myself involved in a relationship outside of our marriage at work. Uh, downtown Chicago. It wasn’t a good situation.

Jim: In that first six months?

Ron: In that first six months. And-

Jim: That’s a-

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: That’s amazing.

Ron: It was the crack.

Jim: Yeah.

Ron: I mean, it was … You know, there was many things that were going on. You know, we … Jody speaking and, you know, being really humble. I mean, she had a great opportunity coming out of college. I mean, she just … Her business career just skyrocketed and, you know, I was doing well in the business world but it wasn’t moving that fast. So there was a lotta these little things that I couldn’t even have verbalized them back then but, I mean, it led to me, you know, in an infidelity. I mean, it was a relationship that got on track somewhere. Jody went, uh, to a … you know, went away for a business trip and I was home and, um, she came back to surprise me early and the next thing you know, she got the surprise. And, uh, you know, real candid-

Jim: Yeah. You know, like we don’t wanna spend a lotta time in this spot-

Ron: Yeah.

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … because it’s painful.

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: And you guys have done a great job-

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: … mending the trust and doing that in Christ.

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: What was your conviction at that moment?

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: I mean, this is before you became Christians.

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: But it’s weird in that you had this sensitivity, I guess would be a good word.

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: You had a sensitivity toward God. Why?

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: What was happening spiritually for you guys? I mean, this is like-

Jody: Yeah.

Jim: … the worst moment of your life.

Jody: It is. Um, ironically, the night before what we call our, you know-

Ron: Yeah. The war. (laughs)

Jody: … the worst night of our life up until that point I had actually seen some kinda television show and it had softened my heart to the point where I had recognized something was wrong in our relationship. I didn’t know what. And I actually shot a prayer up to God. I didn’t pray very often. I didn’t know God personally but occasionally I would pray and usually it was when I was in trouble and I was sensing trouble. Um, and I remember just kinda praying like, “Lord, you know, I …” or, “God, I don’t know what’s going on but if something’s wrong, if you’ll show me what it is I’ll do my part.”

Jim: Mm.

Jody: Um, but ironically, you know, that really got my attention ’cause I remembered the minute I saw that something was r- really bad. Um, God had my attention. I can remember almost being like, “Okay, what do you want?” Like he had my attention.

Jim: That’s amazing. You know, people that, um, put that offer forward to God, if I could say it in that way-

Jody: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Jim: “God, if you speak to me I’ll do what you tell me to do.”

Ron: Sure.

Jim: It’s usually in a moment of a valley.

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: It’s rare that we do that on the mountaintop.

Ron: Right.

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: You know-

Jody: Mm-hmm. Well, he had my attention and, um, but I had no clue what to do, uh, so I sought a little bit of counsel and, you know, my sister had just kinda said, “Well, you can’t just get a divorce.” Like I was definitely planning to get divorced because-

Jim: Why did she say that?

Jody: You know, again, that wouldn’t have been something she would normally say but her husband apparently was actually telling her to say, you know, make sure she gets counseling and Christian counseling.

Ron: Yeah. Mm.

Jody: And that just came from his church background. Um-

Jim: So you went to Christian counseling?

Jody: I … Well, I went across the street actually just to a church that happened to be across from my apartment-

Jim: First- right.

Jody: … and, um-

Jim: Just on a Sunday.

Jody: … the very next morning.

Jim: Yeah. Think of that.

Jody: Yeah.

Ron: (laughs) Yeah.

Jim: Talk about just churches in neighborhoods-

Ron: And she put a-

Jim: … all over the country.

Ron: Yeah, put a … I know, and she put a dress on, uh, and left.

Jody: I waited for church to be over. (laughs)

Ron: I looked at her. “What are you doing? I mean, what are you …” You know, you asked how, how … where we were emotionally. I mean, I was clueless. I had no spiritual, uh, awakening, understanding. I was at rock bottom. I mean, I just-

Jim: Yeah.

Ron: You know, that’s where I was.

Jody: Mm-hmm. So I go across the street and, um, I wait for church to actually be over.

Jim: Before you went in, you went (laughs), “Okay, no.”

Jody: Yeah, I didn’t go to church. I just wanted to-

Jim: It’s cute.

Jody: … get the counseling my sister told me I had to get.

Jim: Yeah.

Jody: So I walked in there and I’m looking at the walls and bulletin boards looking for something about counseling and then there’s this one really sweet lady there and she came up and offered to help and immediately we had a connection. Ironically, or, um … She had a really heavy Asian accent and I didn’t realize but it was actually an Asian church that was getting ready to meet in the afternoon. But the Lord even (laughs) worked through that language barrier and she was able to say … You know, I told her, “I need to get counseling,” and I think it’s the first time I had to verbalize this to someone. So I started crying-

Jim: Wow.

Jody: And she, sh- … her eyes welled up and, and she was like, “Um, well my husband, he was a failure too.” And then she said, “But go to Widow Creek.” And it was Willow Creek which is, uh, up in Barrington, but I think she’d said widow and I was … I almost said it and I didn’t. I was like, “Well, I thought about killing him last night (laughs) but I … That’s why I’m here.”

Ron: (laughs)

Jim: Oh, my goodness.

Jody: And, uh, and I know that was a bad idea.

John: Oh my.

Jim: At least you had a sense of humor and-

Ron: (laughs)

Jody: But anyhow, I, I figured it out. Yes. I figured out, no. So I trusted, again, her but she gave me some really wise words and that was, um, “But don’t go there with half your heart. Go there with your whole heart.” And those words would come back to me. So we ended up leaving, um, or I end up leaving and Ron decided to come along to this marriage ministry that was meeting at this large church in, uh, um, in Illinois and they, uh … We walked in there and, um, that was where God started this work. And then within two weeks of being in this workshop I ended up, um, requesting for a meeting, ’cause I had to make a decision about this divorce.

Jim: Right.

John: And today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, our guests are Ron and Jody Zappia. And, uh, we’ve got their book, The Marriage Knot. Uh, we’ve got caring, Christian counselors a click or call away, and other resources to help you in your marriage. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.

Jim: Ron, I wanna capture something, uh, and the emotion of it because for some reason you had what I would call a conviction.

Ron: Yeah. Right.

Jim: You know, you were feeling bad.

Ron: Right.

Jim: That’s a good thing.

Ron: Yeah. Yeah.

Jim: It’s interesting in our culture today how we’ll run from that but that w- is what I would say is the Holy Spirit and your conscience-

Ron: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … working in tandem-

Ron: Yeah. Totally.

Jim: … about good and evil.

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: And so you had that. That’s really good. What happened next? I mean, that remorse. What … How were you dealing with Jody and what were you saying to her?

Ron: Yeah. Well Jim, you know what? The thing was this is, you know, I was at the rock bottom. You know, people say that all the time but I was there, man. I mean, I had some, you know, rough edges that need to be filed off and Jody let me come with her to this pastor’s office. Y- you know-

Jim: That’s amazing too, quite frankly.

Ron: Yeah. I- it was incredible.

Jim: Mm.

Ron: And we went into this pastor’s office and he asked us … It was the most unconventional counseling technique I’ve ever (laughs) heard of. He asked us. He said, “Well, I’ve only got 45 minutes for you,” which is a great thing, you know, for-

Jim: That kind of puts the pressure.

Ron: … (laughs). And he said-

Jim: Let’s get to it.

Ron: Right. And he said, “You know, we can do one of two things. We can either, one, talk about how bad your marriage is and the crisis that you’re in,” which it was. Or he said, “Number two. We can do this. Um, I can talk to you about the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ and the forgiveness that’s available on the cross and how you can build your life on, marriage on the rock.” And we were just like … Um, we looked at each other. I remember tears in the eyes and, you know, I, I mean it was happening. Repentance was happening right in that moment.

Jim: Yeah.

Ron: And I just said, you know, “Give us the Jesus thing.” And literally he led us into prayer. He explained what was going on. He, um, led us both to Jesus. We walked outta that counseling meeting. You know, certainly not with everything fixed and, you know-

Jim: Oh, right.

Ron: It was gonna be a long road.

Jim: Lotta work ahead.

Ron: But I’m telling you man, I … You know, you said, you know, how was God working? I was convicted. That sense of backpack of guilt and shame was gone. I mean, that forgiveness was real.

Jim: Mm.

Ron: I’d never experienced anything like that in my life. And so we went back out in the car and, you know, God was working. And, and we began to make then the choices that were necessary to really put the pieces back together.

Jim: Yeah.

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Jody, um, women hearing this are going, “Are you kidding me, Jody.”

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: “What were you thinking?”

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: The fact that you let him back into your life and let him tag along and-

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And I would say that could be a critical spirit.

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And I- I’m very impressed with how you responded actually. But I wanna recognize the deep wounds that do exist-

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … with some women that have been hurt.

Ron: Sure.

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And they d- … It, maybe it didn’t work out.

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Or maybe they’re still struggling to work it out.

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Where did you find that ability to say, “Okay, let’s keep moving forward. I think I’m in the process of forgiving you.” I don’t wanna put-

Jody: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Jim: … words in your mouth but was it kinda-

Jody: Yeah.

Jim: … instantaneous or how was that forgiveness process for you?

Jody: Well, honestly I was actually pretty skeptical or … You know, Ron-

Jim: Okay, that’s good.

Jody: … did, did tag along.

Jim: I mean, it feels right to hear that, frankly.

Jody: Yeah, yeah. He tagged along when we came. I, I couldn’t explain everything other than the Holy Spirit was definitely at work. Like I said … I did have a sense that, uh, you know, God had my attention. I will say that. Maybe because of that prayer I prayed. I don’t know.

Jim: Did you want the marriage to work after that?

Jody: Um-

Jim: Or were you ambivalent?

Jody: I actually w- w- … I thought we were going there to get an okay for a divorce. So-

Jim: Okay, so that was your mindset?

Jody: Yes. And I also thought-

Jim: So how did you start to turn?

Jody: I thought the whole meeting was gonna be focusing on Ron and what he did and that I was pretty sure the Bible said that that was grounds for divorce, um, so I was actually the harder person in that, uh, in the meeting. But the pastor was wise in drilling into me. He made me own my part. And, um, what I’ll say to women-

Jim: What did that feel like? I mean, did you get defensive?

Jody: Well, I was mad. I was-

Jim: Yeah.

Jody: I was ticked.

Jim: “What are you talking about?

Ron: Yeah. (laughs)

Jim: I’m not the one who did that.”

Jody: Right.

Jim: I can completely understand that.

Jody: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Jim: So how did you absorb that? How did you embrace what he was saying-

Jody: Well, I can remember-

Jim: … rather than just reject it?

Jody: Yeah. In moments I was really mad and I probably did … Uh, I know there was one time, you know, where he’d asked even about our relationship prior to getting married and had we had sex before marriage. And I remem- … You know, I said, “Well, yes, but he’s the only person and I can’t say … You know, none of my friends could say the same thing here, you know?” And I was … It was my little self, you know, trying to be a good person.

Jim: Protection. Yeah.

Jody: Um, and then he said, “Oh, so you guys told each other it was okay to have sex outside of marriage then?” And I said, “No, we did not. I would never say that,” you know?

Jim: Mm-hmm.

Jody: And so I can remember being mad and defensive and then at the same time recognizing, you know, well, I guess actions do speak louder than words. And, and the other thing is I also had sin in my life that I was never quite sure if I had been forgiven or not. So I knew I needed the forgiveness. I just didn’t plan on talking about my needs that day.

Jim: Mm.

Jody: I thought it was gonna be about him and, again, getting this okay for a divorce. But, um, what ended up happening is, you know, we both owned our sin and at the foot of the cross the ground is even and we did pray at the end of that meeting. And I remember walking outta there, um, saying, “Wait a minute. What about the marriage though?” You know, like we didn’t really figure out-

Jim: That’s interesting.

Ron: (laughs)

Jody: … what are we supposed to do?

Jim: Wow.

Jody: Like he sh- he, sh- does he-

Ron: Yeah.

Jody: … need to move out? You know-

Ron: Yeah. Right.

Jody: Like basic things. And, um-

Ron: Or get out. (laughs)

Jody: … you know, we confirmed certain thing- … Yeah, we confirmed certain things like the relationship had ended. Um, you know, Ron was able to say definitively that that was the case and then he said, “Well, then it’d possibly be best if you could stay together. Um, are you willing to do that?” And f- I was willing to try that. So what happened from there is, um, he said, “Well, I don’t know what’s gonna happen with your marriage.” (laughs) And, um-

Jim: The pastor said that?

Jody: Yeah.

John: A lot of hope there.

Jody: Yeah. (laughs)

Jim: That’s pretty straight though.

Ron: Well, it’s pretty true. (laughs)

Jody: Yeah.

Jim: But you know what? I can only imagine he thought, “If their hearts get right with God their marriage has a chance.”

Jody: Yeah. Yeah.

Jim: And that’s pretty good counseling actually.

Jody: It was.

Jim: And you guys took it well.

Jody: Yeah.

Jim: You both looked inward-

Ron: Yeah.

Jody: Yeah.

Ron: … to yourselves before you started pointing fingers.

Jody: Yeah.

Jim: Now, the question is-

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: … did that last?

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: How long-

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … did you guys continue to work on your own thing before you maybe wanted to work on your spouse’s thing?

Ron: Right.

Jody: Yeah.

Ron: Well, I think the forgiveness was important for you, Jody. And I know it was more about, you know, forgiveness for you was, you know, that, “I can forgive but I’m not gonna stay married.” So the real question was what?

Jody: Yeah. I remember figuring out within the first week was recognizing that I knew I needed to forgive but then … And, and I wanna say the r- way I knew that I needed to forgive was because I had just been forgiven for the first time. So that-

Jim: Mm.

Jody: … feeling of knowing for the first time that I was forgiven helped me to recognize that, okay, I know I need to forgive. I knew enough … I didn’t know the Bible but I had heart, um, one time I had looked in the scripture and came across the scripture that said something about, uh, unless you forgive your brother you won’t be forgiven.

Jim: Yeah. That’s good.

Jody: And it’s kinda ri- … I think it was in college I … That like stopped me reading one time. (laughs)

Jim: So that stuck there though.

Ron: (laughs)

Jody: Yeah, ’cause I was like, “Oh, I’m in trouble.” But-

Jim: God will use everything.

Ron: The power of the Word.

Jody: But I remember that, yeah.

Jim: Yeah.

Jody: And so I had a sense that I needed to forgive, so that I was willing to do that. I, I had experienced that it can happen in a moment but it still felt like stepping off the edge of a cliff. It felt r- very scary but, um … So I, I said, “Okay, I know I need to forgive. I think I can do that, but I don’t need to stay married.” And that was a fair question because again, we had had this experience but we didn’t know for sure what it actually meant.

Jim: So in moving forward, when did you come to the conclusion that, “Yes, I wanna stay married to Ron?”

Jody: Uh, I would say I was willing to move forward with the marriage when finally, um, I understood that my bigger issue was trust.

Jim: Right.

Jody: And what I figured out about trust; and this was probably two weeks into this process; was just that, um, I had said, “Okay, um, I think I can forgive but how do you have a marriage without trust?” And i- the pastor said, “Well, that’s interesting. Does the Bible say to trust one another?” And I said, “I don’t think so.” And he said, “That’s correct.” And then he said, um, “What does it say?” I said, “Well, to love one another.” And I was like, “Oh, okay.” And he goes, “So you don’t need to worry about that. Like why do you think it says that?” I said, “Well, probably ’cause we’re not trustworthy.” And he’s like, “Yeah, you’re absolutely right. You know, none of us really truly are.” And he said wh- “By the way, who do you think you’re supposed to trust?”

Jim: Ah. Wow.

Jody: And, um, I said, “God,” and he said, “That’s right.” So I left that day and I can remember just like I … probably another couple of weeks all I thought about was, “Okay, can I trust God? Do I trust God?” Um, but I came to the conclusion that I could trust Him and that made all the difference in the world to me-

Jim: Mm.

Jody: … because now the pressure was off of-

John: That’s the kind of honesty I think God wants, right?

Jim: Yeah.

Jody: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Ron: Yeah, and you know, Jim and John, the … one of the things for us was we learned this equation after, you know, and … But it really … You know, no matter what your breakdown is. So you’ve got a married couple that’s listening and whether it’s like ours or it’s any situation, you know, that causes marital division and breakdown. The trust part has always got to be worked on.

So we learned this equation, um, CB over T and so what that means is the CB stands for changed behavior over time. And so Jody had to see changes in behavior with me and, you know, as we counsel couples now, you know, you need to see the changed behavior over time.

Jim: Right. You can’t stay in the same spot.

Ron: Yeah. Exactly. And so, you know, how much time is the real question. And for us, you know, we had marriage difficulty, you know, in the first year so it didn’t take us as long to kinda move forward once we were willing to commit ourselves to the Lord and we saw Him making these changes that we couldn’t make in ourselves.

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Ron: But a couple may be listening that it’s, you know, many years of a real difficult situation. Unforgiveness. Maybe it’s even infidelity or it’s a problem with pornography or whatever the case is. It’s time. And if it’s going on for too long, that secret sin, you know, that changed behavior is gonna require more time for the other person to trust.

Jim: Okay, we got to get to some help for folks.

Jody: Sure. Awesome.

Ron: (laughs) Right.

Jim: And we … I mean, we are winding down but you mention in the book seven choices that can keep couples together.

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: So I think it’d be easier for you to quickly list them and just-

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: … highlight a couple as we go through it quickly.

Ron: Yeah, that’s great.

John: And we’ll put the whole list online as well.

Jody: Awesome.

Ron: Awesome. Yeah. Let me just start with choice number one. It’s what we were talking about, to grow spiritually. And so you got to make the choice to build your life individually on the rock but also your marriage and I think that’s where couples at times have difficulty is choice number one. We got to grow spiritually. Like you said, Jody and I were just in the infant stages of doing that. Choice number two, choose to love unconditionally. And, you know, our culture has a different attitude-

Jody: Mm.

Ron: … take on what love is.

Jim: Yeah.

Ron: Certainly it’s more about feeling. It’s about all these kinds of things. Um, you know, but it’s the choices daily. We talk a lot about you before me and the self-sacrifice that’s necessary to love unconditionally.

Jim: That is so important.

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: I, I, I don’t wanna rush too fast-

Jody: Mm. Mm-hmm.

Ron: Yes, totally.

Jim: … because it’s critical. And I think it’s as simple as that.

Ron: Mm.

Jody: yeah.

Jim: God does not make this complex. “So you wanna become more like me?

Ron: Right.

Jim: I’m gonna put you in a marriage-

Ron: Yeah. (laughs)

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … and then you got to become selfless.

Ron: Right.

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And it’s gonna grind your flesh-

Ron: Yeah. Right.

Jim: … your sin nature right to a pulp-

Ron: Yeah. Yeah.

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … if you’re relying upon me.”

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Isn’t that it?

Ron: Yeah, totally. Oh, that’s it.

Jody: It is true.

Jim: I mean, that … And you get there.

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: Now you’re on the mountain.

Ron: Yeah.

John: Mm.

Jim: Okay, sorry. Keep going.

Ron: Yeah, no. No problem. And choice number three, we talk about serving sacrificially. And I think one of the keys there is we’ve learned is that the best way you can serve your spouse is by fulfilling your God-given Biblical roles. And so, um, you know, some of the choices that we talked about are, uh, choosing to please regularly. And, uh, uh, you know, we’re not talking about, uh, taking out the trash or emptying the dishwasher here. (laughs)

Jim: Although that does help. (laughs)

John: (laughs)

Jody: It helps.

Ron: It’s a-

Jim: Love starts in the kitchen, right?

Jody: That’s right, it does.

Ron: (laughs) Yes, it does. But really, you know, that intimacy that’s gained in a relationship is so, so critical. And we found that many couples are struggling in this area, uh, as we counsel physical.

Jim: Emotional and physical.

Ron: Yes, totally.

Jim: Yeah.

Ron: And, you know, and we’ve got to be honest about, you know, there’s past reasons, there’s hurt, there’s abuse. That if that’s happening to you now, get the help that you need and, and slow down men and women to really get the help you need to move forward in this area. We talk about choosing to persevere persistently and, you know, the scripture is clear. You know, it’s not a matter of if, but when. The trial is coming. What are you gonna choose to build on? And, um, you know, the last two choices are to communicate respectfully which is so critical in a marriage relationship and then lastly, to choose to bless abundantly. And so these aren’t choices that happen once or twice. These are things that happen over and over and over again that really will strengthen the marriage now.

Jim: For 30 years.

Ron: (laughs) Totally.

Jody: Yeah.

Jim: And this is year one of the marriage.

Jody: Yeah.

Jim: I mean, that’s so awesome. I think at the end here what I’d like to suggest is, um, that person that maybe doesn’t know the Lord.

Jody: Mm.

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: Kinda right where you guys were.

Ron: Right.

Jim: And they’re struggling. And Jody, it may be the wife.

Ron: Yeah.

Jody: Mm. Mm.

Jim: And she doesn’t know where to turn. That idea that you leaned into God-

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: What would you say to convince that person to say, “Okay, God.

Ron: That’s good.

Jim: I don’t know what to do-

Ron: Yeah.

Jody: Right.

Jim: … but I want to hear from you?” Kinda what you did.

Jody: Yeah.

Jim: How would you encourage somebody? How have you encouraged somebody-

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … who’s in that exact spot-

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … but maybe not leaning in the direction that you did-

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … which was into God?

Jody: Yeah. I would say, you know, there is hope for you.

Ron: Mm.

Jody: Um, I have found God to be 100% trustworthy and faithful and, um, He does meet us right where we’re at. He’ll take-

Jim: No pre-conditions.

Jody: No pre-conditions.

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: You don’t have to clean up your act.

Ron: No.

Jody: No.

Jim: Just go to Him.

Jody: And I would say for the first year I felt like all I gave Him was garbage. I can remember ’cause I, I would take a lotta the things I was still processing, the hurt. And I was, I was receiving healing from it is what was happening but I just kept giving it to Him and giving it to Him. And I remember one day finally crying and saying, “Okay, one of these days I’m gonna give you something good. I promise.” You know-

Jim: Oh, wow.

Jody: And, um, but He- He’s been so faithful. And what I’ll say too is you can’t control the outcome. You don’t know what’s gonna happen.

Ron: Right.

Jody: But when you do put your faith and your trust in the Lord, He’s got your back, you know?

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: That’s good.

Ron: It is.

Jody: And, um, one thing … My mom had even, you know, in he- one of the advice she had given me was, um … Originally she was saying, like, “Get outta that marriage and get out of it quick.” And she said, “Or y- or you’ll end up an empty shell of a person.” And-

Jim: Mm.

Jody: I h- again, I had just made this faith commitment to the Lord and for the first time in my life I felt full. I couldn’t even describe it.

Jim: Wow.

Jody: But I was able to read that letter and say, “Okay. I think my mom’s talking about herself maybe right here. And I know she means well but I’m never gonna be an empty shell of a person,” because I could just tell like God had moved in and taken residency.

Jim: Mm.

Jody: So when you put your faith and your hope in God, He’s got your back. He’s with you. Um, regardless what happens in your marriage, if you do that you’re gonna be okay. He’ll give you the answers you need-

Jim: Mm.

Jody: … and you just keep praying, um-

Jim: Yeah.

Jody: … for your marriage and your spouse.

Jim: Ron and Jody, I mean, this is so good. This is exactly what the Word talks about.

Ron: Mm. Yeah.

Jim: That testimony-

Ron: Yeah.

Jim: That people overcome their shortcomings, their-

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … sinful environment because of the testimony of others.

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: And you are doing that.

Jody: Mm.

Jim: And it’s wonderful, uh, to encourage couples to continue-

Jody: Mm.

Jim: … to seek God first and then work on the marriage. And you’ve demonstrated that beautifully. Um, The Marriage Knot, that’s your great book and I hope people will contact us to get a copy of that. And, you know, if you can send a gift of any amount we’ll send it along as our way of saying thank you but if you can’t afford it, we- we’ll trust that others will cover that expense. Just get in touch with us because your marriage is that important to us-

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … that we’ll trust the Lord (laughs) to make-

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: … sure we can put this into your hands. And if you’re in a spot where, um, men, it’s the last hope, we have a great, um, intensive marriage program called Hope Restored. It has a post two-year, uh, 80% success rate.

Ron: Wow.

Jim: And couples are doing so much better. It’s one of the … I’m-

Jody: That’s great. Mm-hmm.

Jim: … very proud of what our team is doing in that area because this is the ground floor.

Ron: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Marriage is where it starts for the Christian community in my opinion.

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Not everybody’s gonna be married. I get that.

Jody: Mm-hmm.

Jim: Uh, you don’t need to send me an email about that. But it is great to build the foundation in God’s way and you have demonstrate that. Thanks for being with us.

Ron: Oh, thanks so much for having us today.

Jody: Thanks.

John: And be sure to call our number and, uh, get a copy of this great book, The Marriage Knot. And we can tell you more about Hope Restored and we can also set up a time for you to consult with one of our counselors here. That number, 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459 or we have details at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Well, 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 once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

Cover image of the book "The Marriage Knot" by Ron and Jody Zappia

The Marriage Knot

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