I have a miserable marriage and my spouse does not want to work to make things better. My church sent me to you because they said I needed a professional. I’m discouraged and I’m not sure I want to continue in my marriage, though I know I do not have biblical grounds for divorce.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to a typical conversation in my life. The preceding paragraph is not an exact transcript, though it is a common introduction I hear from despairing people who come to me for counseling.
By the time they get to me, their marriage has been on the rocks for several years. Their church has not made a dent into their problems for various reasons. Typically, they have received counseling from several other sources.
Eight complicating factors
There are always complicating factors in their lives that pushes them farther from the hope found in Jesus. Here are eight of the most common complicating factors I experience from the folks I counsel.
- Their problems have gone on for so long that the couple is bitter, angry, and unforgiving toward each other.
- One of the spouses does not want to work on the marriage.
- The church has not been as effective as it should be. (This is not a criticism of the church. Perhaps the couple is in a good church, but they have not accessed all the church could provide for them.)
- They are listening to many different voices, e.g., weak sermons, poor friends, popular books, subjective impressions, and secular counseling.
- They have isolated themselves from biblical community–the people who could help them.
- They are not willing to do the hard work necessary to change.
- They expect counseling to cure, in a short period of time, what they spent years destroying.
- They are in a spiritual warfare against the enemies of the spirit world who have set up strongholds to keep them in bondage.
They come to me for two hours out of their week, which is my standard counseling time. If they come back at all, it would be two weeks later, if not longer. Most of the time it is much longer. This gives me two hours to change them (1 Corinthians 3:6).
Upon leaving the counseling session they re-enter their chaotic world. Here’s the math: there are 168 hours in a week. We meet for two hours