I made a profile on Quora Digest, an internet site where people ask their peers questions about anything and everything. I was particularly interested in questions about Ancient Egypt because I’m writing a novel about that time period. I found the site to be only marginally helpful. Opinion is king at Quora. Anyone can answer a question without citing a reference or historical fact. It’s of little value when researching history. Since I didn’t unsubscribe, I still receive a daily email of the questions most responded to that day.

Yesterday’s top question with more than 100 responses was, “Has anyone ever regretted getting married as soon as the ceremony was over?”

Poor guy. Reading the responses he got was depressing. Everyone who answered had their own horror story to tell. One by one they made it clear that they too had married a villain, a monster beyond comprehension. And most of them agreed that they had no idea before the wedding what kind of situation they were committing themselves too. Across the board, they were all divorced (and greatly relieved) except for one girl who was six weeks into her terrible marriage––and she wrote that it would probably kill her. My heart broke.

One thing was certain–people related in droves.

It is not an uncommon experience to plan your heart out, oversee every detail, sign contract after contract with professionals, pull off the wedding of your dreams, only to find that the bride or groom was the one aspect that you couldn’t guarantee.

The Biggest Marriage Mistake

Two weeks into marriage, I felt I had made the biggest mistake of my life. There had been warning signs before marriage that we would have problems, but like many of the people on Quora, I’d ignored them because it was my deepest desire to be married.

My young husband and I both suffered. He was controlling, angry, stressed out, more interested in TV and video games than me, and completely unromantic despite his many romantic gestures during our dating years. I thought I had married a Christian, but he looked nothing like the vision I had of a godly man. Pity me, but pity him too. I was needy, unrealistic, demanding, and unfaithful. What a pair we were.

The man I am married to now is nothing like that guy I married in my early twenties. The man I’m married to now is kind, compassionate, intent on my happiness, a wonderful listener, a hilarious friend who lightens the toughest of moments with grace and a good joke, quick to apologize, and, most importantly, a man of God. I can’t tell you how good it is to be married to this kind of man. I’ve never felt so loved and accepted in my life.

But here’s the twist: they are the same man.

The guy I deeply regretted marrying, is now one of the VERY BEST things that have ever happened to me. I wish I could somehow consolidate the last 18 years into an easy pill for you to take. I’d love to give you the marriage of your dreams without the hard work it took for us. But I’d be robbing you of the joy we found in the process. If you care to read on, I’ll tell you what changed, why it was so worth it, and how you can experience the same miracle that we did.

God: Healing the Hopeless Marriage

My husband and I have changed a lot, but these slow, grueling changes were the result of one cause: God. Before we were married, the president of my Bible college preached a sermon called, “But God!” Dr. Alford posed multiple impossible scenarios that, left to man and nature, would have been hopelessly broken. . . But God! Every time God entered the picture, what was hopeless became healed.

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Because I belong to the Father, because He who did not withhold even His own Son from me (allowing Him to suffer a terrible death on my account) promises that He will freely give me all things, I can trust Him. That’s the crux of our testimony. We were angry, we were miserable, we were unfulfilled, we regretted marriage, but we trusted God.

The Bible says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a ESV).

We waited (impatiently for sure) on the God who made marriage, and called it good. We turned our broken hearts towards the God who hates divorce, even when my husband had “the right” to divorce me because I was unfaithful several times. We yielded, though begrudgingly, to the God who swore He would work all things together for our good. And simply waiting, turning, and yielding with a mustard seed of faith was enough. God did the rest.

Was it worth it?

Yes, yes, YES! It was so worth it! I wouldn’t go back and change ANY of it! All of the sin, all of the painful consequences, all of the ruin we caused, it was all absolutely necessary to produce godliness in us. When I was unfaithful to my husband, I thought it was because he was a terrible husband. I told myself, if only he cared about going to church and reading the Bible with me, then I wouldn’t be struggling with this. I thought, if only I had married a missionary or pastor, I wouldn’t be so miserable, lonely and unfulfilled. I was very wrong.

Through adultery, God revealed to me that unfaithfulness had been living in my heart for a long time.

God, in His great kindness, gave me a husband who would forgive me multiple times until I figured out what was truly lurking in my heart. If I had married a pastor or missionary, I would have still been unfaithful because I was the problem. In His wisdom, God gave me a man who would forgive me and stay with me.

Have you noticed how little you cry out to God on easy days? How little you learn of Him when life is perfect? Those hard early years, and, all the hard days since, have forced us to need the Lord. And whenever I have needed Him, He has always come through for me. Through that interaction, I have grown stronger and stronger in my faith. It is like working out.

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Taking Marriage from Miserable to Miraculous

I believe there are three necessary steps to get you from miserable to miraculous.

  1. DECIDE: My parents had a hard marriage for many years. They were complete opposites and didn’t truly know each other when they married. And yet they endured because, as my dad constantly told us, “Love is a choice.” If you are to experience God’s healing in your brokenness, you must choose to stay. Against all odds, against all pain, against your heart’s pleading to run, you must choose to love God and love your husband in obedience.
  2. QUIT: Not quit marriage, quit trying to be God. I did not, and can not, change my husband. Whenever I tried to change him it stopped the healing process completely. God is not interested in my help as Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is more than able to change my husband for my sake! God taught me to sit and pray and honor and respect my husband “as unto the Lord.” Without fail, when I gave God the job of “fixer”, He did the fixing. I promise you this: if you try to change your spouse, even kindly with their best interest at heart, you will not experience the presence of the Lord. No exceptions. God wants to be mighty on your behalf. He wants the glory and honor of a hard heart made soft, an impatient man-made patient, a broken marriage made whole. God deeply desires to be the source of all the good in your life.
  3. DELIGHT: One of my favorite verses is Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Do you desire a happy marriage? Delight yourself in the Lord. Search out what that means with all of your heart. This step has a “part B”, you must also delight yourself in your spouse. If you search through the wreckage of where you are now and find small things about that spouse, who was made in God’s image, that you can smile about, tell them. Tell him you appreciate that he goes to work. Tell her you appreciate clean laundry. Tell him his jokes are funny. Tell her she’s a great mom. And for heaven’s sake tell her she’s pretty. You’ll be shocked at the results. People who feel appreciated, feel safe. Safe to be flawed. Safe to say sorry. Safe to grow.

Miserable to miraculous won’t happen overnight. But I promise you, I swear to you, my God is faithful and He genuinely wants this for you! If the unstoppable God who created you desires a miraculous marriage for you, only you stand in the way.

Elizabeth Forkey is a wife, mom, and YA fiction author who loves Jesus and seeks to understand the Gospel in all its fullness.

Copyright (c) 2018 Elizabeth Forkey, used with permission.