by Laurie Kopf
My husband, Rob, and I have worked through many struggles and problems in our marriage. The fact that we remain married is a testament to God’s grace and power.
During one of the more difficult periods of our marriage I decided to write out a list of pros and cons. It was a detailed list of the “good” and “bad” qualities I saw in my husband. I then tucked the list away in my Bible for safekeeping. Every once in a while, usually when we were fighting, I would take it out and read it, sometimes even adding to it. I often thought, If God would just fix him then we could live happily ever after.
Years later, in a Bible study I was attending, we studied Philippians 4:8, which tells us, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things” (emphasis mine).
As I allowed this verse to penetrate my heart, I became convicted about keeping my secret list of pros and cons. Through His Word, God was showing me how wrong it was for me to dwell on my husband’s negative qualities. Instead I needed to spend time dwelling on his good qualities.
That day I took the list out of my Bible and used a pair of scissors to cut the “con” side completely off. To symbolize my newfound conviction, I literally burned up the con side of the list and watched the flames consume it.
Surgery on my hardened heart
Destroying my list of cons was just the beginning of how God began to work on my heart. The next step was to reveal my own shortcomings. He began a process where He slowly performed surgery on my hardened heart. He revealed sin that had penetrated deep into my life.
It began when I noticed that during arguments my husband would sometimes make statements like, “You always think everything is my fault!” Or, “You think you never do anything wrong!”
I finally realized he was right; I actually couldn’t see anything I was doing wrong. Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” Knowing very well that I was far from perfect, like King David who wrote this Psalm, I began to ask God if He would show me my own sin.
God began to reveal my heart, and I recognized sin that I had been completely blind to previously: selfishness, bitterness, and discontentment. He also revealed to me the hypocritical sin of pride, which I put into action repeatedly when I chose to be critical and judgmental of my husband.
Matthew 7:2,5 says, “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you … You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” I knew I didn’t want to be judged by God in the same manner I had been judging my husband. I knew I needed to pardon my husband from not meeting my expectations if I wanted to be pardoned by God in the many ways I failed Him on a daily basis.
“God, please change me”
I finally realized that praying, “God fix my husband” wasn’t as pleasing to God as praying, “God, please change me!” I had no control over what my husband said or did, but I did have control over my own choices and reactions. I started asking God, Please make me the wife that my husband needs, and, Show me how I am failing him.
I also realized that the bitterness and discontentment in my heart had blossomed from my own false expectations. I was expecting my husband to supply me with emotional needs that God alone can provide. It also became clear that I had been taken in by the world’s notion that my marriage was all about me and my happiness.
In an article titled, “Finding God in Marriage,” Gary Thomas writes, “The first purpose in marriage—beyond happiness, sexual expression, the bearing of children, companionship, mutual care and provision, or anything else—is to please God.” Rather than asking, “What will make me happy?” We are told that we must ask, “What will make God happy?”
He goes on to say, “The key question is this: Will we approach marriage from a God-centered view or a man-centered view? In a man-centered view, we will maintain our marriage as long as our earthly comforts, desires, and expectations are met. In a God-centered view, we preserve our marriage because it brings glory to God and points a sinful world to a reconciling Creator.”
I was finally beginning to understand where I had gone wrong and why I was so miserable. I was beginning to see that the enemy, Satan, had blinded me from the truth and had me thinking like the world. The lie was, “I deserve to be happy,” when the truth is, “It’s all about pleasing God.”
A daily struggle
When it comes down to it, we shouldn’t think, What can my husband do for me? Instead we should ask, What can I do for my husband? How can I please him? How can I encourage him? How can I come alongside and support him? How can I bless him?
I want to be clear that this is still a daily struggle for me. I believe it will always be a struggle this side of heaven. But, I will say that I’ve found that when I do things God’s way, they go a lot smoother. I’ve found that not only does my husband benefit, but I do too, and even more importantly, our children and grandchildren benefit.
I just want to thank my husband, Rob, for his willingness to let me publish this article. Some husbands would recoil at an article suggesting that they need to be “fixed.” But Rob’s humility shows his heart to see marriages built up and strengthened. In the writing of this article, he was a tremendous source of encouragement. We are so thankful that we never gave up on our marriage. We give God all the glory for where He has brought us today.