by Pastor Jim Solomon
Editor’s Note: In the following interview, Pastor Jim Solomon explains to FamilyLife writer Mary May Larmoyeux why he always has hope when he counsels couples with troubled marriages. Solomon is the pastor of New Hope Community Church in Newtown, Conn.
Why don’t you give up on some couples?
Because Jesus never gave up on me, and I know that only the Lord can bring hope into what might appear to be hopeless. I have seen Him work miracles especially in marriages, and even in whole families. I know the truth of Matthew 19:26, that with God all things are possible.
I have seen the Lord turn trials to triumph and hopelessness to hope and anxiety to peace. I have seen it over and over again. And I also know that my wife and I have something that’s so rare in this world—our marriage is not perfect but it is centered on the One who is.
I have seen that developing a Christ-centered marriage is what helps two people learn to appreciate each other’s differences rather than to be threatened and annoyed by them. I know that only the Lord can help two people who are otherwise helpless and that only He can give hope to two people who otherwise would truly be hopeless. I know that His principles and His Word and the help of His Spirit can make two people who otherwise could be like two ships passing in the night become one in spirit and with each other. I have confidence really more in Him than in me.
People have told me that I have the gift of counseling but I feel that the main gift that I have is Jesus.
Have you ever run into any couples who went to a counselor who did not have that perspective and recommended divorce?
Yes, many, many times. More times that I’d like to even think about because I wonder about the ones who I never did get to serve and who I never had the opportunity to guide in God’s truth rather than the world’s lies. …
I personally know of at least eight or nine couples who were literally in divorce court as a result of their counseling where their therapist or psychologists or whatever you call them literally advised them to call it quits.
What would you say to a couple where one spouse is going to a secular counselor who recommends divorce, and the other is seeing another other counselor who disagrees?
I would say they would need to really stick to one counselor when it comes to the marriage issues and really allow God to speak through that counselor. I guess I would say that if they have two counselors telling them two different things, they have a choice. They can have hope in God and remember with Him all things are possible and at least allow themselves the opportunity to really have a new beginning. Or, they could get a divorce.
I would emphasize that getting a divorce would make them no different from the rest of the world and no happier than the rest of the world. They would be a statistic. They would be following the crowd.
I would use the language of the culture to motivate them to follow the Lord. I’d say, “Do you want to be like everybody else or do you want to be a non-conformist? … This marriage has died, but God is the author of life and he wants your marriage to live because he wants you to live. And you’ll have more joy and contentment and fulfillment in the long run by staying married than by being a quitter.”
What does marriage look like in a Christ-centered home?
It’s a home where Jesus is on the throne—not the husband, not the wife. It’s a home that thanks God when there is joy. And wherever there is sorrow, God is called on to give comfort. Whenever there is tension in a Christ-centered home rather than giving up, husbands and wives and parents and children look up.
Ideally, if both the husband and wife are present in the home, the husband is charged by the Lord, (I’m thinking of Ephesians chapter 5) to love his wife the way Christ loved the church. So he’s called to take initiative to say, “Honey, the road we’re on right now is not going to lead to anywhere good. Can we stop traveling down it and now just ask God to help us?”
If my wife, Anne, and I are sensing tension in our home, a lot of times we’ll stop and just say, “Lord, help us. Give us self-control. Give us patience … Help us have the desire to seek to understand rather than be understood, so there’s no need for defensiveness. Help us to treat the other person the way we would want to be treated, even in the way we communicate and whether or not the other person reciprocates. And help us not to run from each other but to run to each other as we run to You.”