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:
- 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:
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
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: http://www.navpress.com/images/pdfs/9781600062148.pdf
A link to their Focus on the Family interview on March 19 and 20 (scroll down the left side to Web Exclusives): http://www.focusonlinecommunities.com/community/events/misja