“Things will never be right between you and your spouse until you get things right between you and God”

 I will never forget the day I heard those words. They completely changed the course of my marriage . . . and my life.

Almost 25 years ago, my wife and I were separated for the 3rd time and headed straight for a divorce.

Six hundred miles and five months of no talking separated us from any chance of reconciliation- all hope was lost.

Then a chance meeting with a minister.

His name was Clifford Smith.

He was an unqualified counselor (his words).

But what my new friend, Cliff told me changed everything.

I thought that all hope was lost. I was staring into a dark abyss of lost dreams and broken promises. My only thread of hope was to find some sort of salvation for myself in the midst of all of the despair. But the salvation I was looking for, was not the salvation I would find.

My questions were:

  • What’s wrong with me?
  • Am I that screwed up?
  • Am I destined to ruin every relationship?
  • Is there any way I can salvage my marriage?

Cliff’s answers were:

  • Everything.
  • Yes, you are.
  • Probably.
  • I don’t know- I’m not a marriage counselor.

Clearly, this wasn’t going so well for me, but then he said those fateful words, the most beautiful words (and most misunderstood) I ever heard.

“Things will never be right between you and your spouse until you get things right between you and God.”

I had no idea was this guy, Cliff- this ‘minister’ was trying to tell me. I just wanted to be happy. I just wanted to stop crying. I wanted my heart to stop bleeding. I wanted to feel something positive and good again.

I wanted love.

I messed up, I get it. But was there anyway that anyone could ever love someone as messed up as me?

The answer was YES!

But no one on this planet!

Cliff explained to me that God loved me and He loved me even though I was unlovable. He showed me that it was through God’s Son, Jesus that I was truly and unconditionally loved.

I’ll admit, I was pretty dense and it took a little bit for me to figure everything out. WHO AM I KIDDING? – I’m still figuring it out!

But there were a few lessons that really hit home for me.


God Loves Me and My Mess

The Bible says:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  – John 3:16

That was great, but it was the next verse that really hit home for me:

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  – John 3:17

What?! No condemnation? That was a turning point for me. God loved me AND my mess. It wasn’t that God approved of my mess, but He accepted me exactly as I was.

The good news was that He didn’t want me to stay that way.


God Wanted To Clean My Mess FOR Me

God knew that I created my mess and He also knew that I was powerless to clean it up.

My wife and I were separated 3 times in 3 years. After each separation, I would try to clean the mess up on my own. I thought that I could:

  • do better
  • make amends
  • try harder
  • be a better husband
  • be a better person

But I failed, not once, not twice, but every . . . single . . . time!

Cliff showed me that God had already cleaned my mess for me. He had done it on the cross through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Jesus had died for MY sins. His death cleansed me of all unrighteousness. This was a free gift of both Mercy and Grace!

All I had to do was receive His Gift.

Now, I may be dense- but I’m not dumb.


I said “YES” to God

I gladly confessed Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I repented and jumped into the nearest river (Severn River, MD) and was baptized for the forgiveness of my sins.

When I came out of that water, I came out with the Holy Spirit and with a new Hope for my life and for my marriage.

Sure there was a lot of things I would have to do to heal and restore my marriage. But now I was no longer alone, I was no longer doing it in my own strength. I fully embraced Philippians 4:13:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I was finally making things ‘right with God.’ That was the first thing Cliff told me- make things right with God.

So, I embraced my new relationship with God. I devoured the Bible, gulped down every devotional and commentary I could find. I poured myself into prayer. Every bit of my new passion was born out His love for me.

““This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  – 1 John 4:10

Because of His great love for me, I was now free to love myself and others, including my wife.


Go Home

God told me that I had to go home. I had left (abandoned) my wife and our marriage. It was my responsibility to make amends.

Sure my wife wasn’t innocent. We were both former ballroom dance instructors, so we knew that it ‘takes two to Tango.’ But, this wasn’t about her. This was about me. God was telling me that I needed to be a Godly Husband, a Godly Man.

So I quit my job and drove 10 hours back to Michigan to continue the restoration process that God had begun in my life.

Today, 23 years and 4 beautiful children later- the words still ring true. Whenever I find that there is conflict in my marriage, I go back to these words:

“Things will never be right between you and your spouse until you get things right between you and God.”

Then I ask myself: “JR- How are things between you and God right now?”

As long as I take care of my relationship with God, then He shows me how to take care of the rest.

 So, let me ask you some questions.

How is your relationship with your spouse?
How is your relationship with God?

Is your relationship with your spouse strained?
What kind of relationship do you have with God?

Is your relationship with your spouse cold and distant?
How close is your relationship with God?

Do you have trouble communicating with your spouse?
How often do you talk to God?

Have you lost intimacy in your marriage?
Do you have an intimate relationship with God?

Every relationship takes time, energy and effort. But every bit that we invest with God is increased one hundred times over.

There are is a lot of great marriage advice and principles that you should follow. Many are found on this blog.

But it all begins and ends with our relationship with God.

I promise you.

Get this right and everything else will fall into place.

Get this wrong and everything else will fall apart.

Do it for your spouse.
Do it for yourself.
Do it for God.

Start today, maybe with a simple prayer for your marriage:

Dear God, show me where I am wrong, show me what I need to change, show me how to change. I know that my marriage isn’t where it needs to be. I know that I am not the spouse that I need to be. I want your favor and blessing in my marriage. I want you God to be in my life in a greater way. Show me how – reveal yourself to me and use me to be a vessel of your love in my marriage.

Don’t just stop there, pray that prayer every morning and seek God with all of your heart:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  – Matthew 6:33

Do it- seek Him with all of your heart.

Your Marriage IS Worth It . . . and so is your life!

*My wife, Carrie and I always consider it a blessing and privilege to pray for you and your marriage- let us know how we can pray for you today in the comments below.

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