I escaped the hardships of a painful childhood by joining the Marines when I was 17. I served on eight deployments in the Afghanistan War and eventually became an MMA champion. I’ve always been a fighter, but I was not always intentional about fighting for the most important things in life — like being the husband and father God intended me to be.
My wife, Kathy, and I were married when we were 18 and 19 years old. Both of us came from broken homes, were unchurched and had no biblical model or example to follow. We spent the first 15 years of our marriage in turmoil. We went to church on Sundays, but it was only a show.
After I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), we experienced a three-year downward spiral that nearly ended in divorce. Kathy and I became convinced there was no hope for our relationship. But Kathy’s prayers and willingness to fight for our marriage lifted me back to my feet. Now Kathy and I are thriving in our marriage and helping others to do the same.
Because I’ve experienced God’s help for myself, I know it’s possible to overcome challenges, find hope and step into a marriage that reflects God’s original intent. Here are a few pointers to help kick-start your relationship:
Make the decision
To start with, you must make the choice to have the marriage you desire. Nearly everything in culture pulls you away from being the spouse God created you to be. Your marriage is not going to improve until you are intentional and start making daily investments by learning to align your relationship to the covenant marriage God intended for you. This is one simple decision, but not an easy task! It may be difficult to live it out, but it will be well worth it.
Don’t do it alone
When people come to me for marriage advice, I ask them three basic questions: “Where are you going to church?” “Who are you accountable to?” and “Do you have mentors in your life?”
Then I explain that we all need those people who have overcome trials to pass on their wisdom and insights to the rest of us. Furthermore, we need those who will hold us accountable. We need those whom we will allow to speak hard truths and guide us in recalibrating our life and marriage to reflect God’s plan. Unfortunately, the opposite usually occurs: We surround ourselves with those who enable us in our own selfish and destructive desires.
We must be wise in choosing the people who are closest to us. Being in a church community allows like-minded Christian couples — who face similar struggles — to lock arms with us for encouragement and to experience the process of healing together.
Pay it forward
You may ask yourself, How can I help anyone else when I’m still in this mess? But helping others gives us purpose and accountability, and it ensures that we continue to grow. Simply share about what God has revealed to you, where you are and where you intend to go in your own marriage. You don’t have to be perfect — you never will be.
Kathy and I are enthusiastic about God’s restorative power and covenant plan for marriage. We can’t help but share it, and every time we do, we believe our marriage comes closer to the marriage God originally designed for us. I challenge you to discover what God has in store for you and your marriage, and then discover the joy in paying it forward to others.