Updated: Oct 29, 2018
Like prize trophies in a display cabinet, the enemy loves to see destroyed marriages. They are his pride and joy— particularly Christian ones. But why?
To find the reason, we must look again to Eden. Man was made in the image of God. And marriage was made to be a reflection of Jesus' relationship with His bride, the Church. Just as satan hates looking at man because man reminds him of God, he hates marriage because it reminds him of man's special relationship with God. What's more, he knows that two are better than one (Eccl. 4:9-12) and that once united, a married couple has more firepower to tear down his works of darkness than they do alone.
The Battle Plan
Marriage can be challenging, but it helps to have an arsenal of strategies ready to go. Being prepared spiritually is half the battle.
1) Recognize that you and your spouse have a unique calling together.
If you aren't walking this out, then the door is left wide open for conflict—
Strife thrives in the vacuum of purposelessness and boredom.
The animated family movie "The Incredibles" illustrates this concept wonderfully. When husband and wife unite on a common mission, they break free of the doldrums of everyday life and are filled with a renewed sense of purpose. Every aspect of their lives is affected positively, including their relationship.
2) Know who your enemy is.
Hint: It's not your spouse.
I am told that when you go squirrel hunting (told— because it's something I have zero experience in), you firstly look for holes in the bushes where the squirrels habitually pass through. When you set a trap, you need to set it right over the hole. In the same way, the enemy studies our patterns of behavior and is familiar with our weaknesses. He tries to exploit those areas by setting "traps" over them— traps of offense, misunderstanding, hurtful words or thoughtless actions.
He does not work alone, however. We often unwittingly give him an ally— our flesh. When we don't fully submit our flesh to God, the enemy uses it to gain a foothold in our lives and relationships. He knows our "blind spots—" our temper, past, selfishness, pride and any other flaws. It is worth noting though that although the serpent enticed Eve eat the apple, she chose to sin.
The enemy can't just declare open season on Christian marriages— sadly, most damage is done when we allow him access to our relationships.
Submitting our flesh to the Holy Spirit so we can warfare effectively is 80% of the battle. Exactly what this looks like depends on each situation. In one instance, it could look like resisting the urge to retaliate to a hurtful remark and staying silent. In another, it could mean having to confront an issue with grace and self-control. Most often, it involves taming one small yet unruly member of the body— the tongue.
3) Choose to forgive, seventy times seven. Easier said than done. But remember— because Jesus forgave those who put him to death, he has given us the power to forgive anything. When we learn the discipline of habitually checking our hearts and forgiving, it gets easier over time and leaves less room for the enemy to plant offense. The ideal is that, with practice, we learn to forgive on the spot— even before an offense has the chance to land.
One of the things that may help you to forgive is to put yourself in your spouses shoes for a moment. Why did they say what they said? Are they feeling wounded, oppressed or misunderstood? Is there a scheme of the enemy at work in their life that they may not be aware of? Choose the believe the best of your spouse and treat them with the graciousness you would want to be treated with when you mess up.
One last thing here. Forgiveness does not mean allowing yourself to be steamrolled by patterns of wrong behavior. Although you have chosen to forgive, in some instances you may also need to put boundaries in place (see "Jesus, Master of Boundaries," and "Boundary Mythbusters").
4) Do Battle using the Armor of God. Now you have made the decision to walk in forgiveness, it's time to put on your boxing gloves and fight using the tools that God has given you.
The Armor of God for Marriages
The Helmet of Salvation.
Your mind is the first place the enemy goes for. Ever been in an argument and had a million accusatory thoughts about your spouse swirling in your mind? There's a reason for that. The enemy is also known as "the accuser—" it's his job, it's what he's good at. If he can get you to operate in a critical spirit, then his work is done. That's why God has given us the Helmet of Salvation— because salvation is all about grace. Train your mind to respond in grace towards your spouse.
The Breastplate of Righteousness.
The amount of joy or misery in your marriage relationship is affected greatly by the attitude of your heart. If you don't mind negative thoughts towards your spouse, for example, pretty soon they will sink down into your heart, turning it rotten with bitterness. Make it your mission to guard your heart and keep it pure— the state of your heart affects everything. "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." (Prov. 4:23)
The Belt of Truth.
Ask God to invade your heart and mind with His truth, to transform you "by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2). As you apply the truths of the Word, your marriage will inevitably benefit from them. A practical example of using the Belt of Truth could be asking God to show you what lies have been operating in your marriage.
Footwear: The Gospel of Peace.
Like a boxer who needs to be light on his feet, you have to know your next move in each situation. Again, I can't stress enough, you have to be in the Word to fight successfully and effectively sidestep the enemy's landmines (you know what I'm talking about— that time you gave your spouse the wrong driving directions and it suddenly escalated into WWIII!) Read the Word, soak in the Word, pray the Word and speak it out as an act of warfare. As you do so, you will release peace over your marriage.
The Shield of Faith.
Have faith— God has this, you can rest. You don't have to fix your spouse. Do you trust God enough to believe that He can do a work in your spouse, as well as you? Have faith that no matter how dire the state of your marriage, God can do a miracle— even if it is simply to give you peace in the storm while you wait it out.
Choose, in faith, to treat your spouse as though they are behaving as the person God created them to be— even when they are not. Remember that criticism never caused anyone to change for the better. Positive encouragement and respect are much more likely to produce good fruit.
The Sword of the Spirit.
The most important weapon God has given you is the Sword of the Spirit. If you don't know how to operate in the power of the Spirit, nothing else matters. Sheer determination alone is not enough to effectively activate your other pieces of armor. You must rely on the Spirit to produce fruit in you so that you can live in victory— regardless of your circumstances.
To discover more and learn how the enemy has tried from the very beginning to pervert the roles of men and women, read "Trouble in Paradise."