Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thriving Despite a Difficult Marriage

As a marriage counselor, I highly recommend the new book from NavPress titled Thriving Despite a Difficult Marriage by Michael and Chuck Misja. This book offers real hope to everyone who is married. In fact, while it is a good title, I am afraid some people will say, “My marriage isn’t difficult, so this isn’t the book for me.” And that would be a shame, because this book has a lot to say to every married person. In a sense, every married person is in a difficult marriage. I say that as a man who is happily married and would never choose anyone else as my wife. But if both parties to the marriage are truly alive, fully engaged with their intellects, emotions, and wills, there will be difficulty. You’re going to clash. That doesn’t mean you’ve failed, you have a bad marriage, it’s just the reality of relationships. It can add richness to your marriage, in fact, if you see differences as a blessing. To paraphrase Ruth Graham, if we both agree on everything one of us is unnecessary.

What I appreciate so much about Thriving Despite is that it keeps the focus where it should be, on me and my own sinful heart in the context of my marriage. Most Christian marriage books are focused on “how do I manipulate my partner into the behavior I want so that all my needs are met and I feel happy and fulfilled.” Of course, they’re not so blatant about it, but when you boil it down, that’s really what they’re saying.

The Misja brothers define the problem of difficult marriages like this:

“Simply put:

  • Your spouse does not offer what you long to receive.
  • He or she does not ask of you what you desire to give.
  • Consequently, you suffer the pain of disappointment.

    Your basic problem is:
  • You have difficulty keeping your heart alive and good in the face of ongoing, painful disappointment.”

    Now you might read what I’ve written so far and think, “They sound pretty uncaring. It doesn’t sound like they offer any hope at all.” The truth is that they come across in the book as very caring, and the effect of what they say is to offer the only true hope we really have (or need): no matter what happens to me in this life, including in my marriage, God will be with me and he offers personal change, deep joy, and a richness of life even in the midst of my pain.

    Of course, there are very tragic things that happen in marriages, including affairs and abuse, and the Misja brothers deal very thoughtfully and carefully with this.

    Here is a thought-provoking excerpt from the last page of Chapter One:

    “What If:

    You believed God was less concerned with whether or not your needs were being met and more concerned with the state of your heart?

    You were able to give up all efforts to become happy by trying to
    change your spouse?

    You no longer desired to show your spouse how poorly you are
    being loved?

    You had the capacity to accept your spouse as he or she is and have a lifestyle of forgiveness?

    You knew God’s grace in a way that freed you from guilt and shame
    so you could honestly explore the ways you don’t love well?

    You believed in God’s love for you so deeply that you were confident you could love strongly and wisely no matter what?

    You committed to finding purpose and passion for life that didn’t
    depend on your spouse’s response or approval?

    Your heart was no longer characterized by bitterness, despair, pride, or apathy?

    You were able to disengage from the destructiveness of your marriage while developing a desire to constructively engage in what was God-honoring?

    Sample from Thriving Despite a Difficult Marriage / ISBN 9781600062148
    Copyright © 2009 NavPress Publishing. All rights reserved.

    I hope I’ve whetted your appetite to buy and read the entire book. If I haven’t here are a couple more things to try to accomplish that:

    A link from NavPress to a PDF of the first chapter of the book:

    A link to their Focus on the Family interview on March 19 and 20 (scroll down the left side to Web Exclusives):


Ben said...

Looks great, Chuck. We are going to give it a look. Go Tigers! The MU ones that is. :)

Anna-ree said...

Hi Chuck! I Googled this book title and found your blog! I just caught Focus' radio interview the other day & immediately ordered the book/cd and am reading it now. I am DEFINITELY one that can relate to this topic. I'm on marriage #3 and it's a real stinker..and only 3 years young!
:( As for the book, I'm only up to 50 pages read, but it's great so far and is right where I'm at after 2 yrs of Christian counseling alone for my marital "difficulties". Thanks for your review and insight. God Bless!

Chuck Roberts said...

Dear Anna-ree;

Thanks for reading my blog. I'm sorry to hear of your difficult marriage. Hang in there with Thriving Despite. I will pray that you'll be blessed and encouraged by it.


chaywood said...

Hi Chuck. I was wandering around in a Christian bookstore the day before Easter, basically killing time. I do that a lot, trying to escape the hurt inside. I discovered your book and it seems to be written specifically for me. Just read chapter 1 and I'm looking forward to this insight.
Thank you

Chuck Roberts said...

Dear chaywood;

I wish I could take credit for this book, I'd love to have written it. It is extremely helpful to my work as a marriage counselor. However, it was written by Mike and Chuck Misja.

I am really glad that you found the book and that you wrote to me. I will pray for you.


La Familia Garcia said...

I too found your blog by googling the book after hearing it on focus on the family! I am happily married, but would love for one or both of my parents to read it. I don't know if I should get the book for myself and read it then offer to let them "borrow it" or just stragight out give it to them. They are very into reading good christian marriage books, and would love to have a christian counselor close, so I know they'd read it. suggestions?

Chuck Roberts said...

I suppose it mostly depends on how you think your parents will react to being given the book. I usually prefer passing on a book I've already read with the comment, "hey, I really liked this book and thought you might enjoy it." In some cases, it tends to take the edge off the personal message people often feel they're being given with a book like this.

Anonymous said...

I also found your blog after listening to the Focus interview and then googling the Thriving book. Thank you for posting info about it. I'm going to pursue purchasing the book as well. It's right where I am, like so many other couples.

LTT said...

Hi Chuck, thank you for your comments. I too found your blog when I googled the book. I've heard the pod cast twice and can definintely relate to this topic. Like Anna-ree said, I am on marriage two but not sure what to do. The one thing that they say is not to stay when there is physical abuse. I guess I am still trying to thrive despite. Not sure when to cut lose but will get the book. Thanks for you insight as well.

LTT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chuck Roberts said...

You also might find a couple of books by Nancy Groom helpful, like Married Without Masks and Heart to Heart About Men. Also Bold Love by Dan Allender. The book as a whole can take awhile to get through, but you can get a lot of help by reading the first chapter and three at the end titled, How To Love an Evil Person, How To Love a Fool, and How To Love a Normal Sinner. The Nancy Groom books you might be able to find only in Amazon Used Books--try to get the 2nd edition of Married Without Masks.

Josue said...

hey guys, I really like this post, I love to discuss topics on marriage, I remember when I was in college and did a study called before marriage, which criticizes develop a major cause of divorce

Christian Gottlieb said...

I really like your blog, Chuck. I wanted to share mine with you too. Here is the link:

God bless!

Christian Gottlieb