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How Can I Help My Sister’s Marriage?

QUESTION

My sister and her husband recently separated and I am having a hard time with it. They have two young children, and they both do not want to go for counselling and would like to just stay separated. I have talked to them about the vow they made before God when they got married and how they should really try to do some counselling. How can I help them realize that what they have done is affecting their children but also loved ones around them? I don’t want them to stray away from the family as well.

ANSWER

I am sorry to hear this. And at the speed with which we are answering these “Ask A Pastor” questions the situation perhaps has changed one way or another and I’m sorry if this answer comes “too late.” I pray it still may help you. Truthfully: The question you ask is the question every pastor asks again and again. And it’s a heartbreaking question because we feel so hopeless.


Our Difficulty

In my experience the most well spoken, and rationally laid out—biblically laid out—argument often does little to help. It is really hard to convince someone to do something they don’t want to do. As the saying goes: “The heart wants, what the heart wants.”

And think of it: A good friend speaks to us maybe one or two hours a week (or a few more). But with our own thoughts, we are really speaking to ourselves all the time. And with that 24/7 conversation in our minds, we are pretty good at convincing ourselves of something—even of sin. Often before we can speak to a friend about a sin they have already long convinced themselves in their minds that it is okay, and rationalized it for their situation. This is the reality of our sinful hearts, and it should make all of us grieve.


Our Hope

But I’m not telling you this to tell you that it is beyond hope, and that you should give up. But I’m telling you the difficulty we have in changing people’s minds so that you turn to God. It really is beyond you to help. But God is our hope. It is true and not cliche: God must change the heart. The Spirit is able to change our heart, our inward desires, and our thoughts. He also convicts of sin which leads to repentance.


When we realize how difficult it is for us to change a loved one’s heart, it can give us fervency (and desperation) to cry out to God. And we plead with God. And we acknowledge our great need to Him, and ask Him for mercy in our sin. And more: Our own helplessness causes us to persevere in prayer—and like the woman in Jesus’ parable—helps us to keep going and asking God again and again.


So my answer to you is: Pray. What is most important is prayer. It is not, (as we can say when we’ve tried everything else), “Well, all I can do is pray.” It is, above everything else: “I can PRAY!” God can change hearts! He changed King Manasseh’s heart—He can change anyone’s!


God has given prayer to us to use, and He has told us that He answers prayer. And consider this huge thought: What if no one is praying for your loved one? What if you are the only one? Pray.


Now all that is not to say that you have nothing to do but pray. Yes you should talk to them. However: Even what you say and do should be first prayed over. Practically, pray (ask) God to provide you with an opportunity to say something that will be effective. And ask Him to help you speak the truth in love and at the right time. It’s helpful when we determine prayerfully what to say, instead of just looking to “confront” or argue, because then often we say things we regret. Pray, “Lord, give me words to speak.”


Pray also that your life may be an example of godliness and may draw others to Christ. Because more important than our loved ones’ marriages falling apart are their souls.

I will pray for you and your loved ones. And reader—whoever you are—I ask you to stop as you read this and pray also for this marriage. Pray that God may intervene and change hearts.


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