“All for one and one for all, united we stand divided we fall.” — Alexandre Dumas, (“The Three Musketeers”)
“I (Jesus) pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” — Bible
John and Jane, recently married, were very different. That’s probably what attracted them to each other before marriage. They challenged each other to try activities that were not familiar. Jane was more outgoing and enjoyed parties. John liked this because he knew he needed to be more social. Jane on the other hand recognized her need to enter into deeper relationships, which pulled her away from the party scene.
Now, however, those differences were beginning to cause difficulties. Instead of working and growing together, they argued and tried to convince the other to come over to their side: more parties vs. more home time, many friends and shallow relationships vs. a few friends with deep relationships. It wasn’t a matter of right or wrong; it was simply a matter of different.
One of the devil’s most effective tools for destroying marriages is to divide and conquer. He wants to split us into two enemy camps, constantly fighting one another. The most common reason cited for divorce is infidelity, an affair. However, there is usually some reason why the affair occurred. That reason frequently is an unmet need in the marriage. The unfaithful partner feels his/her partner is not satisfying them in some way and rather than work together to resolve the issue, the unsatisfied partner goes looking for someone that will meet their need, and the division occurs.
Clint and Penny Bragg, in their book “Your Marriage, God’s Mission,” suggest two types of barriers that bring about division in a marriage: external barriers, imposed from the outside, and internal barriers, which act from within.
External barriers come from differing views in how to handle the challenges of life. Finances often cause significant strife in marriage. If one is a spender and the other a saver, sitting down together to work out a budget and then sticking to it may be difficult. Perhaps husband or wife has a job opportunity in a new location and the spouse is reluctant to move. Or maybe the challenge is how to discipline the children – or maybe just whether or not to have children.
External barriers can be removed if husband and wife first acknowledge the differences and then agree to work together to reconcile any disagreements. Each must be willing to change if necessary.
The devil has a way of exaggerating differences that in the long run are not significant. Our natural selfish tendency is to protect and provide for ourselves first. Marriages survive and thrive when our number one desire is to put God and our mate first. Ultimately we are not in control of our marriage or our life; God is, so we need to follow his plan.
Internal barriers are a little more challenging. They often drive the external barriers and removing the internal barrier removes both. Common internal barriers include anger, addiction, egotism, greed, self-gratification and being very judgmental.
Many of these internal barriers (if not most) can be related back to experiences in our life that had a major impact on us. Abusive anger may be caused by a very abusive home life when growing up. Addictions may stem from a desire to drown out pain, real or imagined.
Unforgiveness is another internal barrier that must come down. All of us make mistakes, some of them very grievous. We must be willing to have a forgiving spirit. Repentance is another key ingredient. Forgiveness must occur even without repentance, but both are necessary for a healthy marriage.
In spite of the world’s efforts to convince us otherwise, we are born with a selfish (sinful) nature. Barriers, both internal and external, will only come down when we learn to deny ourselves and put the other person first.