If your marriage is broken, and you feel distant, and you’re reeling from heartache, can God restore it?
I think it’s one of God’s favourite things to do! But I also think this question has a lot of nuance to it, and I was thinking about it this week as I’ve been on vacation knitting.
So let me tell you about a new knitting project I’ve started–and I’ll circle back to our bigger question about restoration!
I knit a LOT of socks. And whenever you knit a pair of socks, you have a little bit of yarn leftover.
And what do you do with that little bit of yarn? i’ve been making it into this sock blanket:
Many knitter friends know that I’m working on this, and so I get “donations” of their ends that they want to get rid of. Lots and lots and lots.
Sometimes the colours are perfect. But sometimes they just don’t really work.
As I was getting ready to go on vacation, I grabbed a sock pattern book that I love, and that I decided I was going to work through, knitting every pattern in there as a challenge.
The pattern I arrived at was called “Drip Candles”. What it does is combine little bits of ends into something quite lovely (for knitters, it’s a simple fair isle repeat).
So I got together some absolutely ugly bits that just won’t work in my blanket, and I tried it. And wow! They turned out beautifully. I even knit two pairs! (One for a guy and one for a woman).
I was talking to my mother about why it is that I love patterns like this so much, and we both decided that it’s because I get real satisfaction from using up bits that other people would have discarded. I don’t like waste. But beyond that, I love creating something beautiful out of what no one else would have seen as lovely. I’ve made about 8 of these blankets (and give some as gifts) too, and most of them are made of yarns that look quite ugly by themselves, but work beautifully when you put them together.
When Katie (my youngest) and I were talking about this, we decided that my extra joy comes from this: I could knit a pair of lovely socks from lovely sock yarn and they will turn out lovely just like everyone expected they would. So by knitting them, let’s say I’ve increased the beauty in the world by + 5.
But when I take really ugly yarns that have no use and combine them to make something pretty, I haven’t just increased the beauty by +5, because even if I land at +5, I didn’t start at 0. I started at -5. So I’ve now increased the beauty in the world by 10!
I think God sees reconciliation in similar ways.
God loves creating something beautiful out of that which was broken. Isn’t that what salvation at its heart is? He takes those whose “sin was as scarlet, and makes them white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18).
It’s like one of my favourite verses:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Scripture even tells us that Jesus has a “ministry of reconciliation”:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
What does this mean for those of you who are having marriage problems?
God uses imagery of that which was dead coming to life so often in Scripture. One of my favourite stories is Ezekiel and the vision of the dried bones. Ezekiel didn’t see any life, but as God called the bones together and blew life into them, they joined together and lived.
That’s God’s heart. That’s God’s nature. That’s what God wants!
And through the power of the Holy Spirit, God can grow us and change us and soften hearts and convict and do all those things that need to be done.
I’ve seen transformations in marriages. I’ve seen transformations in people’s lives when they are on the brink, and they don’t see how they can ever have hope anymore.
But here’s the thing: God never forces anything.
And that’s where things get dicey.
God gives us free will, and that means that we have the ability to resist what God wants to do in our lives. Even though God longs to transform us and reconcile us, He does not do that outside of our own repentance. He does not do that unless we turn to Him first.
When we turn to Him, what He can do is limitless! But God is a god of boundaries, and He does not trespass over ours. If we say no, He doesn’t come in with a wrecking ball.
That’s where the knitting analogy falls apart. My yarn, you see, cannot refuse to be used. But people can refuse. People do refuse. And that can be very heartbreaking. I shared that in a video earlier this year, and I’ll post this again because some may need it:
You may also enjoy:
- Iron should sharpen iron: Why marriage should make us better people
- 10 reasons rushing forgiveness after an affair is a bad idea
- Why won’t my husband change?
HOWEVER, if there is repentance, God can and will grow something beautiful.
When we are both soft towards God and repentant, no matter how big the problem is, I believe that God can knit something beautiful with all the unravelled ends. Whether it’s an affair or porn use or general selfishness, when there is real repentance, God can bring about something beautiful.
Unfortunately, you can’t repent enough for both of you. You can’t do all the work in a marriage; the other person has to be willing to open their heart to God, too. I wish it were simpler, but that’s not how God works or how life works.
But when we are willing, the beauty can be intense.
What if we’re willing, but our spouse is not? Even if the marriage ends because it’s not a safe or healthy one, God can still make something beautiful out of the life of anyone who is surrendered to Him. Even if that beauty doesn’t look like what you thought it would, there is something wonderful about bringing beauty out of that which was broken.
God loves doing that.
And I pray He will do that in your life, too.
And now i must go finish another pair of socks!
Has God ever brought something beautiful out of something ugly in your life? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of Bare Marriage
On Vipers in Diapers, Emotional Enmeshment, and Toxic Churches
Dads shouldn't need their adult daughters to give them adulation and affection. That's called...
The Uncomfortable Truth about Waiting until You’re Married for Sex
Growing up, we hear, over and over again: "Just wait for the wedding night! The wedding night will...
Is Someone Stepping on Your Air Hose?
So many women--and many men as well--honestly feel like the church is hurting them. I do not...
Can Sex Be Hot and Holy at the Same Time?
Can sex be hot and holy at the same time? One of my big picture passions that I want people to...
Who I WON’T Be Calling Out for Bad Teachings–But I’m Grateful You Are!
This week, as we've celebrated one year of The Great Sex Rescue, I've received some amazing...
Who Believed the Toxic Sex Teachings More: Husband or Wife?
I truly believe that most guys are good guys. I often get accused of hating men, but that's...
Echoes of Menstruation: Spoken Word Poetry
Let's talk about the echoes of menstruation. Yesterday on the podcast, we were discussing how...
On Christianity Today, Plagiarism Culture, and Feeling Erased
This has been a week of great thrills and great disappointments. Thankfully, the thrills were...
I completely agree that it takes two people willing to change to make a marriage work, but God can do something beautiful even in one changed heart even if the marriage doesn’t survive. I believe this is an important message.
God has healed my marriage in so many ways. It’s pretty amazing to be where we are now compared to where we were, but so much of the change was what God has been able to heal & redeem in me. I can’t heal for him. That’s his journey and his responsibility.
It has been a relief to know that God is not in a rush. That healing is helpful no matter the age of your children. There is intimacy with Him in the journey and your healing becomes a tool and an asset to help lead others through their own healing.
I’ve mourned many dreams including where I thought my marriage would be, but God is good. He doesn’t waste anything and He is always at work. It is hard to love imperfect people, but boundaries and your own emotional health are important and life giving.
Thanks for the encouragement Sheila.
I love that, Aspen. And, yes, God can make something beautiful even if the marriage doesn’t survive! This is so true. We are more important to God than our marriage is. God loves US.
I’m so glad you’re on a good journey!
“God has healed my marriage in so many ways. It’s pretty amazing to be where we are now compared to where we were, but so much of the change was what God has been able to heal & redeem in me. I can’t heal for him. That’s his journey and his responsibility.”
I love what you wrote there. There was so much broken in my own marriage, a lot of it my own fault, but there was enough fault(as opposed to blame) to go around. When I started down my own path to correcting or at least repenting and atoning for past mistakes, it was occasionally frustrating that my wife sometimes seemed like she was not keeping up, or even trying to. Before we could really move forward, I had to surrender all that, and rather than trying to get her to improve, I had to work on my responses to disappointment. What I learned was that a lot of our issues were not our issues at all, but things we carried into the marriage from before we ever met, and those had to be healed as well, or we would likely fall into the same patterns.
That’s beautiful, Doug, and very humble.
As much as we disagree sometimes, That almost feels like getting a gold star on my homework.
Thank you for this Sheila. Hardness of heart is what caused the death of my marriage. God has already brought new life into my heart from those ashes though. Every word of this post rings true from my experience.
I’m glad you’re doing so well, Rachel, and that Jesus has become even more real in your life. That’s wonderful!
Yes! I can’t count how many times I was told to have more faith, to pray harder, that God could do miracles. And while I firmly believe that He can, I also believe that He did not create us as puppets but as people with free will. I tried and tried, and I lost many friends and forever changed my relationship with my family when I finally filed for divorce. But when my ex said after the divorce was final “of course I knew I was mistreating you, I thought you deserved it” that was when I knew I had made the right choice. He was willfully mistreating me. There was no repentance to be found, and the marriage had no chance.
I have been remarried for 3 years now and I can finally say that I understand why people get married. When you are married to someone who works with you and not against you it’s a beautiful thing. I’m grateful for Gods ability to redeem my past and allow me to experience true love and acceptance.
That’s lovely, Jenn! I’m so sorry with the way you were treated in your first marriage, especially by your family who should have supported you. I’m glad you’re in a safe place now!
Jenn, your story almost mirrors mine. The straw that broke the camel’s back for me to leave my previous marriage was when I started getting spiritually attacked (dragged off the bed and held down in the bed in my”dreams” by something invisible but sinister). This stopped when I moved out. My ex later admitted that our marriage breakdown was in fact his fault ( we were both in fault in our poor relationship however) as he never truly TRIED to make things better even when we had 3 rounds of counseling by different therapists. Which was of course at MY pushing. Now he is by himself all alone and I am happily living with a man I am in love with who takes care of me, helps me, pushes me to be healthy and take care of myself and constantly says loving things to me and thanks me for all that I do. I am so thankful for second chances.
I’m so glad you’ve had a second chance too, Angela. And I think that’s interesting that your ex-husband admitted he never tried.
Yeah, it took me a while to reconcile with that admission from him. I feel sad for him now but he put himself in this position. Good thing is we co-parent extremely well and put our daughter first before any angst we may have with each other.
Thank you for this post. I sometimes struggle with the concept of restoration when marriage didn’t start out well to begin with. I have experienced healing even when it was rather one-sided. Sometimes I’m not sure what the goal looks like, though I want a marriage that glorifies Christ. This post encourages me to keep seeking His best.
I’m glad, Elizabeth!
I have an uncomfortable question. I was recently diagnosed with high risk hpv. My husband and I were both virgins when we married. He has denied being with anyone else, but he has lied to me many times. So, I don’t know what to believe. Is it possible that he’s telling the truth. If so, how did I contract this STI? Thank you!
Jennifer, generally the way that HPV is contracted is through sex. If you have not had sex with anybody else, then it means your husband has. It’s very unlikely you got it any other way. I’m so sorry.
Jennifer, I read on Live Science that it is possible to get HPV from sexual contact but without actual intercourse. So, your husband may have not had actual sexual intercourse and thinks it’s not lying to be technical about it. But, of course, if he’s lied to you before, how can you trust his word? I’m so sorry too, and will pray for you.