FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Speak, Solve, Seek

with Ann Wilson, Dave Wilson | September 9, 2016
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Unresolved conflict in a marriage is like a brick being laid between the two parties: the longer the conflict goes unresolved, the more the bricks build up, and the higher the wall between them grows. Dave and Ann Wilson conclude their message with the most important key for building stronger relationships.

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  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Dave and Ann Wilson talk about how unresolved conflict builds bigger walls within a marriage, and they share the most important key for building stronger relationships.

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Speak, Solve, Seek

With Ann Wilson, Dave Wilson
September 09, 2016
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Bob: Have you ever felt like the conflict in your marriage was so significant that there was just no way to get where you needed to go? Pastor Dave Wilson says that’s not the case—you’ve got a great Helper.

Dave: The King of the universe lives right here! When you surrender, He takes up residence in this temple and He says: “You want help? You want to resolve conflict? You want to get the forgiveness over years and layers of hurt? I can do that! You don’t have a chance unless you surrender.”

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, September 9th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. There is no conflict in marriage so great that two people, with knees bowed, can’t get to peace. We’ll explore that today. Stay with us.



And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. I know that sometimes couples can get locked up in conflict that just feels so significant that they lose hope and think, “There’s no way to get to a place where we love each other again.”

Dennis: And it’s why, Bob, at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway, we train both pre-marrieds—those who are contemplating marriage or who are already engaged—and married folks in the biblical basics of communication and conflict resolution. There’s not a person listening to this broadcast who doesn’t need to be fully trained and equipped, because you are going to have a lot of conflict over the duration of your marriage relationship.

Bob: We’re going to provide some of that training today as we listen to Part Three of a message from Dave and Ann Wilson, speaking on how to resolve conflict in marriage. Dave is one of the pastors at Kensington Community Church in suburban Detroit.



He and Ann have spoken for more than two decades at our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways. They understand what the Bible has to say about this. I’ve heard them speak about this at Weekend to Remember getaways—it’s so helpful.

Dennis: It is. Dave and Ann are just a sampling of the type of speakers you’re going to hear. We’ve got some of the finest communicators in America. If you’re looking for a fun, entertaining, romantic, and practically, one of the most biblical-equipping weekends you could ever have, as a married couple, the Weekend to Remember is it.

Bob: This week and next week, when you register, you’re able to take advantage of a special offer we’re making, where you pay for yourself and your spouse comes free. You save 50 percent off the registration rate. You have to sign up this week or next week, online, at If you have any questions, call 1-800-FL-TODAY; or you can sign up over the phone if you’d like. Then plan to join us at one of our upcoming getaways. I think we’ve got 40 of them happening this fall?



Dennis: Yes; and we’ve got some great locations: Phoenix, Arizona / there’s a great one there; Monterey, California / now, there’s a romantic location; Sacramento; San Diego; there are a couple in Estes Park; Del Ray Beach, down in south Florida; Destin, up in north Florida; Fort Meyers; Jacksonville; Tampa; Cedar Rapids; Coeur d’Alene, Idaho--we’ve got a couple there—that is really a cool location; Louisville; Chesapeake Bay; St. Louis; Parsippany; Dayton, Ohio; Portland; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Charleston, South Carolina;  Sioux Falls; Chattanooga; Dallas is going to be held in Las Colinas at the Omni Mandalay Hotel / great location; San Antonio / of course, the river walk is there; South Padre Island; Williamsburg.

Oh, I’m telling you, Bob—there are some great locations. People ought to come! One last one—in Bellingham, Washington—come join us for a Weekend to Remember.

Bob: I’ll be at the conference in Philadelphia. I would love to see you if you’re in that area, or if you want to travel to that area.



Some couples do make this a real getaway, and they’ll travel for half a day or a day to come and join us at one of these getaways. Find out more, online, at; or call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY,” to experience a Weekend to Remember.

Alright; here is Part Three of Dave and Ann Wilson’s message on resolving conflict. They begin with a little bit of a summary of what they’ve already talked about in this message.

[Recorded Message]

Dave: We said there are six: “Shut Up and Listen” to what’s really going on; “Soft Answer”—the more mature one is saying, “God, give me the power to de-escalate right now,” and He will / He’ll meet you right there. Watch how this whole conflict changes when you respond gently.

Then, the third one is: “Speak Truth” / “Speak the Truth” in love. Paul wrote this letter to this church in Ephesus. The first three chapters—theology / belief: “Who’s God? Who am I?”



Then, Chapters 4, 5, 6—he says: “Okay; what does this mean? How do you live this out?” So there is all of this practical stuff. One of the things he says is: “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the Head that is Christ.”

Have you ever connected your maturity in Christ to speaking the truth in love? It’s like he’s saying: “Do you want to grow up? Speak the truth in love in your marriage / in your community.” Also, when you hear me say, ‘”Speak the truth,” also write this down—“Hear the truth in love,”—it’s both sides.

Not only am I the one who is going to speak it—because some of us: “Man! I love speaking the truth in love. I’m wired to do that. God gifted me! I can walk up to bystanders and tell them what’s wrong with their life.” That’s not what we’re talking about. It’s “speak the truth,”—packaged in love—both sides.

Ann: And I think that’s so important—the packaging part—because I’m all about, “Let me tell you what I think”; but what I’ve learned over years of maturing is that I need to ask—take what I think to God first.

Dave: Yes.

Ann: And let God package it in a way that, when I present it, it’s palatable so that Dave receives it.



Otherwise, it’s me and my agenda.

For some of you, you are good at speaking the truth. Others of you are so loving that you avoid conflict, because that doesn’t feel loving and you don’t like it. For you, I would say, “Speak the truth.” It’s so important for our relationships for truth to be spoken; because if it’s not—and you keep stuffing it down—what is—a root of bitterness starts and resentment starts. Then, there’s just this poison in your relationship, and it’s hard to get out of what happens as we give in to that.

Dave: I honestly believe, and we’ve heard this all week, that one of the purposes of marriage, by God’s design, is to sharpen one another to become like Christ. The best person to sharpen you—because she knows you and you know her so well—is your spouse.

We did this series at our church this last year where we’re working on a book called Vertical Marriage. When you get your life, vertically, from Christ, how does it affect your marriage? So the vertical mission of marriage is to shine so the world can see Who Jesus is, sharpen one another to become like Christ, and raise up soldiers for the battle—that’s a whole other thing.



As I listen to Ann speak the truth to me, guess what’s happening? She’s making me better. Now, here’s my tendency—get defensive. We all do that—we don’t want to really hear it. No; we need to get gentle and say: “I need to hear this. God is going to use her to sharpen me.”

Several years ago, she said to me on a Sunday night—I had preached all weekend / was exhausted and crawling in bed—we were just about to go to sleep. She said, “Hey, you know, I sort of long”—no; not sort of / you said—“I long for you to be, in our home, the spiritual leader you are in our church.”

Ann: I don’t know if I packaged that real well. I’m sorry!

Dave: She said it really gently; but when it came out, it finally hit me—it was like: “Wait, wait, wait! She just said I’m not a spiritual leader at home like I am at church.” I thought I was the man’s man of all men; you know? And I said: “What!? What did you say?”

She goes: “Well, at church, you’re like this strong leader. You lead us, as a community, and you pray like a warrior; and at home, you’re just sort of passive.”



I was like: “Wow! I thought we were going to make love and go to sleep. I guess that ain’t happening!” [Laughter] You know? And I’m not kidding—I got real defensive. I was like, “What are you talking about?! I lead here.”

She was great / she said it very gently; but what I heard, when I finally—it took me a day—I woke up the next morning, and I went to God with it. I said, “Is that true?” And God was like: “Yep. You lead with strength at your church. The men see you strong / the congregation does. Your wife doesn’t see that kind of strength in your home.”

I realized, right then and there, before God: “She’s right. God just used her to sharpen me.” Here’s how it came down: “Step up!”

Ann: And you did!

Dave: It was that simple—it was like: “God, I need to step up! She is right.” It was like I was leaving God—that was my job; you know?—so I left God there, and I came home, and just wanted to relax. Guess what? I don’t get that privilege, and none of you do either. You are called to lead your family. Men and women, lead with strength.



So it changed me because she spoke the truth gently. I shut up and listened—soft words, spoken in truth, changed our life. I’m not saying that now I’m unbelievable.

Ann: You are!

Dave: She wants to pray every night before we go to sleep. You know what I usually did? “Go ahead.” [Snoring sounds] I did! It just passively: “I love it that you pray! Go ahead,”—that’s not leadership! Pray! Lead her! So, I’m the guy; right?

Ann: You are.

Dave: So we’re praying together. It was just amazing how that changed our life.

Okay; we’ve got to fly! We’ve got to fly! Our clock’s already done. Here we go!

The fourth one is: “Solve or Go to Sleep.” Here’s what I mean. When you’re in the middle of a conflict, if that baby can be solved today, go for it! Many of them can—if you exercise these principles, they can be solved; but sometimes, you’re getting there and you need a timeout. Sometimes, it’s okay to sleep on it—not a week!—not a month! That’s what a lot of couples do—just drop it and never pick it up again.

Ann: We just say 24 hours. Sometimes, you need that time to process and to cool down.



Dave: Yes. So, how do we solve it?

Ann: Well, let me give you an example for what I did. This was years ago when our oldest was 13. We got in a fight before school / we argued. I got really mad / he was mad. I kind of took away his privileges for the week. I got in the car with him, taking him to school, and I cooled down. I said: “CJ, I’m really sorry. I blew up. I wasn’t really mad about you. I was mad about something else. I want you to forgive me. Please forgive me.” And I said, “What are you feeling about this?”

He was looking out the front window, and he said nothing. I said: “Now, talk to me. Don’t—let’s resolve this! Let’s talk about it,”—nothing. We got to the school. I said, “Don’t get out of the car until we talk about this.” He looked at me, opened the car door, and got out. Now, I was hot! And now I was like, “What do I do?” In line, the people were honking their horn like, “Get her going!” I’m going home / I am trying to figure out: “What should I do? What should I do?”



Why is it sometimes we try to figure it out before we go to God? Why don’t we go to God first, and ask Him? So I did. James 1 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives”—what’s the word?—“generously.” So I am like: “Jesus, I need You! I don’t know what I’m doing! I need Your help.” He gave me this picture. I went home and drew the picture of what He gave me in my mind. I put it on CJ’s desk, where he studies every night.

So CJ came home, looked at his desk, and came down with this paper. He is like, “Mom, is this your attempt at being an artist?” I said: “Well, actually, that is what happened. That’s me; and that’s you. We had a fight this morning. I’m calling our fight like a brick. The brick is in our lives now. It’s in between us.”

He said, “Mom! I’m not even mad that we had a fight.” I said, “I’m not either, but the brick is still there; because that problem / the fight is unresolved. So the question is: “Will we get rid of the brick in our lives?” He said, “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.” [Laughter]



So I said, “CJ, Dad and I travel around the country; and we see marriages that are broken, where people have had a fight and they don’t know how to resolve it. They have another fight / it makes another brick; they don’t resolve it. And pretty soon”—and I took my pencil and I drew all of these bricks until there was a wall between the couple. I said, “So many people can’t even talk, or communicate, or like each other because they have so many unresolved issues—it’s a wall between them, and they can’t even talk. I don’t want that with you. I don’t want you to take that into your marriage when you get married someday. I want you to know how to fight and to have a resolution to every single argument.”

He goes, “So what do we do?” Honestly, I kind of went through these things that we are talking about. I said, “I am really sorry.” He apologized, and we prayed. I took my pencil, and I erased all of the bricks. I said, “I hope that you and I will always be able to talk, and I hope that we will never have bricks in our relationship; because for Dad and me—



—“CJ, we don’t—and it takes hard work to get rid of the bricks in your life.” For us / for our family—to watch him now, as a married man, with his wife—he’s amazing! He’s really amazing.

Dave: Yes; I tell you—some of you have walls. What I would encourage you to do, as we break here in a few minutes—you have to start with one brick. One at a time, you take it to God / you say, “God, help us.” You start to talk. Some of you just need to talk tonight about one brick. When you get through that one, maybe there’s another one. Maybe, there’s a real wall. You’re going to have to get to the next “S” at some point—and they [Ann and CJ] did—“Seek Forgiveness.”

I would actually say, “Seek or grant...” Sometimes, you’re the offender. You need to go and ask for forgiveness and say, “I’m sorry.” That takes humility. Sometimes, you’ve been the one hurt, and you need to grant forgiveness.



I became a man at age 32, and it was the year I forgave my dad. I had never forgiven him, and I had held it for years. The day I said, “I’m going to forgive my dad,” I thought it would take a week—it took four years. God took me through a process. I remember reading a quote that said, “When you forgive someone, you set a prisoner free, only to discover you’re the prisoner.”

I realized that year, when I forgave my dad—and, by the way, he didn’t receive it / he said, “What for?”—that it has nothing to do with them / it’s all about you. I became a man. I tell the men of my church, “I became a man at 32.” It doesn’t matter how old you are—it starts when you seek and grant forgiveness. So we don’t need to say anything about that.

The last one is this, and I think it’s the most important. It’s the plus one—and it’s “Surrender”—to whom?

Ann: Jesus.

Dave: Jesus / “Surrender to Jesus.” You try any of this / any of this without Jesus—good luck! It will not work! It does not work. If you take the Word of God and try to apply it, it does not work without the power of God.

Ann: Yes.



Dave: You literally need the power of God. How do you access the power of God? You surrender. Some of you have never surrendered. I know you listen to Christian radio, and you probably listen to Christian music, and probably drink milk from a Christian cow [Laughter]; but you’ve never surrendered to Jesus!

Some of you need to surrender tonight! It is like: “I am surrendering! I’m putting up the white flag and saying: ‘It doesn’t matter what I want anymore. It’s not about me; it’s about us / it’s about a legacy.’”

Ann: Yes!

Dave: And the only way that happens is when I surrender to Jesus. Think about this—I was looking out my window today, looking at that ocean— like: “Oh, my gosh! The God of the universe, who made that ocean and is in control of the universe, lives right here!”


Ann: The King!

Dave: The King of the universe lives right here! When you surrender, He takes up residence in this temple and He says: “You want help? You want to resolve conflict? You want to get the forgiveness over years and layers of hurt? I can do that! You don’t have a chance unless you surrender.”



My son preached a couple of weeks ago. He’s 24 years old, and we sat there,—

Ann: —crying!

Dave: —like: “What is going on!? God is working in our son to teach us!” He was teaching on Saul, the one who killed Christians after the resurrection, who met Jesus on the Damascus Road and became Paul / the Apostle Paul. That’s one of the reasons we’re here today—his life was radically changed because he surrendered to Jesus and everything changed.

Cody said this—and we were just sitting there, like: “Wow! That is a true statement!”—he said, “Paul had one encounter with Jesus—changed his whole life.” He goes, “Here’s what you need to know—you are one encounter with Jesus away from a new marriage. You are one encounter with Jesus away from a radical life change and a radical legacy change.” [Applause]

So here’s how we want to end. We didn’t get the chance to do this in the last session—it will only take three minutes. Here’s what we want to do—we want to pray for you. Now, the action step is going to be this: I hope you go tonight, and before you crawl in your bed, I hope you hit your knees, and you surrender or maybe re-surrender. You’ve watched our video from The Art of Marriage. We had to re-surrender on our 10-year anniversary—



—one of the darkest moments in our life and the greatest moment because, together, we went to our knees and said: “I repent. I surrender.” I hope that’s what you do. If you can’t do it together, one of you do it; and ask God to do a miracle.

But here’s what we want to pray. If you’ve been married five years or less, stand up. I want to see who they are. Stand up. We want to celebrate these newlyweds; right?

Ann: Yes! [Applause]

Dave: Look at that! They’re awesome. [Applause] Pray for them.

Ann: Okay.

Dave: We’re going to pray for you.

Ann: We’re going to pray for you guys:

Father, God, thank You for these couples. God, they’ve been married a short time, but I know that they are going to have an incredible impact. We ask, God, that You would protect them from Satan’s strategy of destroying their marriage. We pray that You would give them wisdom and a love that surpasses all understanding / that You would guard them and protect them from the evil one who only wants to kill, steal, and destroy. I pray they would have a legacy that lasts for generation after generation, God.



Dave: Alright; please sit down. Six years to twenty—stand up real quick. Look at this! [Applause]

Ann: Yes!

Dave: Whoa! 

Jesus, I pray for these couples / I pray for these families. They probably never even get to talk to one another—they’ve got young kids, probably. So God, I pray for energy; I pray for wisdom; I pray for power. Lord, I pray for surrender. Some of them are in a critical stage of their marriage, trying to decide if they should keep going. God, I pray that You would touch them even tonight. In Jesus’ name; amen.

Alright; last category: twenty years or more—stand up. These are the Legacy Builders.

Ann: Yes! [Applause]

Dave: Awesome; awesome!

Father, God, thank You for 20-plus years and more. I pray for 30, 40, 50, 60—that they would never quit until the day they die—

Ann: Yes!


—that they would fulfill their marriage vows / leave a legacy. God—that they would turn over an incredible legacy to the next generation and beyond that the kingdom of God would advance through them and through their legacy. In the name of Jesus we pray; amen.”

Ann: Amen. Thanks, you guys. [Applause]

Bob: Amen.



Don’t you love these guys? [Applause] Great!! Okay; so you said something—

Dave: I don’t want you to ask a hard question, Bob.

Bob: I won’t. I love the brick—I love the picture. So many couples think, “If I’m not mad anymore, it’s over.”

Dave: Yes.

Ann: Yes.

Bob: And the brick is a great picture of you can say—like your son said—“I’ve forgotten that. I’m not mad about it.”

Ann: “I’m not mad about it.”

Bob: If you haven’t resolved it, it’s still there until it’s resolved; right?

Ann: Yes.

Dave: And here’s one of the things we say: “If you’re in a conflict—and some other conflict is coming up that you thought you resolved—you didn’t resolve it. If it’s coming back into this one, guess what? It’s still there. You’ve got to go back.”

Bob: And when you get into the next conflict, all of those bricks come back out.

Ann: Yes! Yes; that’s what I was going to say. They’re just kind of all stuffed down there—they’re hidden. But now, we bring them all up.

Bob: Right.



Okay; so if a couple—you have two couples—one couple’s over here and they say: “Here’s how we do it. When we fight, it’s loud. It’s at each other—we’re saying things we shouldn’t be saying to one another.” Here’s this couple over here—they say: “When we fight, we get snotty and silent. It’s just kind of like, ’Okay.’ We just abide in silence.” Is there one that’s better than the other?

Ann: It’s a good question.

Bob: Is loud better than silent? Is silent better than loud? What—

Ann: I think they can both be deadly; because over here, the people that are using their words to hurt one another, those really don’t go away. You know, those are things that we hold onto / we stuff those down then. So we say: “Don’t say things that are going to hurt the other person. Don’t use your words as weapons.”

But these people over here, you never know what’s going on in here too [pointing to brain or heart].

Bob: Right.

Ann: Like, to take every thought captive is really important. So I think both can be dangerous. This one—the volatile—they’re getting it out, but I think this one can be deadly too. What do you think?

Bob: Well, I think—[Laughter]



Dave: She does that to me, too, Bob!! [Applause]

Ann: Ha-ha!

Bob: I think you’re exactly right!

Dave: Good answer.

Bob: Yes; that is a good answer. No; I think some people who do the silent thing feel like it’s more spiritual than the loud thing.

Dave: Yes; right.

Ann: Oh, that’s a great point. And sometimes that bitterness—

Dave: Oh, you know it!

Ann: —can seep in and poison.

Dave: This is toxic!

Bob: Yes; that’s right.

Dave: No; “I’m not shaking your hand, Bob, I’m pushing it down.” If you push it down, and you’re silent, silent, silent—for days or weeks—it’s toxic.

Bob: Yes.

Dave: It’s going to come out one way or another.

Ann: Somewhere.

Bob: This was so good! Wasn’t this good tonight? [Applause] Thank you, guys!

Ann: Thank you. [Applause]


Bob: A little interaction there with our friends, Dave and Ann Wilson, as they were talking about resolving conflict at a recent FamilyLife event. And it was helpful. I think the folks who were there, not only were challenged, but motivated to want to make their marriage better.

Dennis: I think there are a lot of things you can learn as long as you’re laughing as you learn it.



The audience, as you could tell at the end, absolutely, thoroughly enjoyed Dave and Ann. That’s what people can expect, Bob, when they go to a Weekend to Remember. They’re going to get practical biblical help around communication; resolving conflict; sex; around the roles of a husband and a wife; how you can lock arms, as moms and dads, in raising the next generation. It’s a practical conference, a helpful conference, and a hope-filled conference for every couple.

Bob: And I often ask couples, at the end of a Weekend to Remember, “How was it different than you thought it would be?” And the thing that I hear most often is people just saying: “It was more fun. It was just more refreshing than I expected it to be.” I think a lot of folks hear about a weekend conference and they think, “Oh, man!”

Dennis: “Lectures.”

Bob: Yes; right.

Dennis: “No fun.” Well, I’m going to tell you—we train our speakers. They’re already great speakers to begin with; but by the time you’re finished with the conference, I think it’s going to be, truly, a weekend to remember.



Bob: Well, and right now is the best time for folks to sign up to attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember getaway; because when you register this week or next week, you pay the regular price for yourself, and your spouse comes free. It’s a buy one/get one free opportunity. It’s only good through the end of next week; so take advantage of the offer. Go online—find out when a Weekend to Remember is coming to a city, either near where you live or a city you’d like to visit this fall, and then plan to join us for a fun, romantic getaway at one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaways.

Again, register now; and you pay the regular rate for yourself and your spouse comes free. Register, online, at; or call to register. If you have any questions—1-800-FL-TODAY is our number—1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”



And with that, we’ve got to wrap things up for this week. Thanks for being with us. I hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend. Then join us back on Monday. We’re going to hear from Gary Thomas. He has got some thoughts for us on what couples who thrive in marriage all the way to the finish line—what they are doing / what we can learn from them. We’ll hear his message Monday. I hope you can be here for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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