5. DIFFICULT MARRIAGE & OTHER RELATIONSHIPS

Proverbs 25:15 states “By long forbearing is a prince PERSUADED, and a soft tongue BREAKETH THE BONE.” Similarly, Proverbs 15:1 states that “A soft answer TURNETH AWAY WRATH: but grievous words stir up anger.” Ecclesiastes 10:4 further states that “If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding PACIFIETH great offences.”

I take these verses and Proverbs 25:15 in particular to mean, that through patience and longsuffering (even in difficult circumstances), if you maintain the right attitude, self-control and be consistent in a selfless display of love, humility, commitment and respect, you can win over someone, even a difficult person in a position of authority over you, causing him or her to change how he or she thinks of you and treats you.

Also, if you resist the urge to lash out in anger or retaliation (even when provoked) but instead, choose to speak kindly, gently and lovingly (even if the hearer seemingly deserves a tongue lashing), this response on your part, has the potential to break or melt that hard or cold exterior of the person. In other words, your conduct can leave an impression on him or her and contribute to change in his or hers harsh or provocative ways.

This reminds me of a portion in the Bible where it speaks about a Christian woman that is married to an ungodly man and what she should do in that situation.

Some Christian women are married to unsaved men who treat them badly, disrespectfully and who try to make their lives very miserable in different ways. Some of these women are simply reaping the consequences of what they sowed, as they got married to such men after they were saved, knowing full well that the Lord prohibits the marriage of his children to unbelievers.

The Word of God states quite clearly that Christians are not to be unequally yoked, whether through marriage, business or otherwise, with unbelievers and goes into detail as to the reason why.

However, some believers got married to their spouse at a point in their lives when they (the believers) were not yet believers and therefore, unsaved. In such a situation, they did not disobey God and were not unequally yoked, although they are now saved but their spouse isn’t. In such situations, sometimes their spouse treats them poorly and contributes to a great deal of stress in their lives. Yet, in such situations although the easiest thing to do may seem to be just to leave, the Word of God advises the spouse to stay, if the unbelieving spouse does not desire him or her to leave.

Of course, if a person’s life is in jeopardy, in that the unbelieving spouse issues threats, physically abuses or displays behaviour that makes the believing spouse fear for his or her life and even that of his or her children, I do not believe that 1 Peter 3 is saying to physically stay in such a situation, where it could cost you and your children, your lives.

Mind you, I do not advocate for divorce (which the Word of God clearly prohibits) but in some cases, physical separation even if only temporary in some instances is feasible and permissible.

I believe that the scripture to which I alluded is addressing situations where the husband is not easy to live with, maybe does not support the wife’s newfound religion and relationship with Jesus, treats her poorly, maybe through insults and otherwise, is overbearing and does not love her but consistently demonstrates animosity, selfishness or indifference towards her.

On how one spouse (a Christian), could, through the right conduct, possibly influence and win over the other spouse in terms of earning that spouse’s respect, love and even causing him or her to come to Christ, in 1 Peter 3:1, Peter stated:“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives.”

In 1 Corinthians 7:10-13, Paul echoed a similar sentiment when he wrote to the Church at Corinth. He stated:

  • And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?”

The Word of God therefore makes it clear that a Christian should stay within his or her marriage even if married to an unsaved spouse, provided that that spouse wishes to stay with him or her. Even if that unsaved spouse is difficult to live with, the Bible emphasizes the importance of the saved spouse behaving right, consistently setting a good, godly example (which includes being kind always, loving even if it is not returned, being respectful, humble and using peaceful and soft words, even when provoked) and that sometimes, this may break down the heart of stone that the unsaved spouse seems to have and cause him or her to turnaround.

To my mind, having the right response is important in all circumstances and can influence change in many situations, including work relationships between employee and supervisor or employee and employee or in a filial relationship, when dealing with a difficult parent or sibling.

Irrespective of the environment, how a Christian behaves even in the face of bad treatment, neglect and provocation is observed, even by the one creating or stirring up the trouble. When he or she creates trouble, tries to make life difficult for the Christian or to be as wicked as he or she can be and instead of retaliating, the Christian turns the proverbial cheek and gives unmerited kindness, love and respect, in some cases (although not all), it can win over the oppressor’s devotion, respect and cause him or her to rethink his or her actions, be ashamed of his or her behaviour and begin to regard and hold the Christian in high esteem, although he or she did not before. For, the Christian’s behaviour stands in stark contrast to his or hers and this is enough to make him or her stop, sit up and take notice. He or she is bound to be confused and even get to the point of frustration, when he or she is doing his or her best to make the Christian miserable but the Christian is still doing his or her best to be kind and loving to him or her.

Love covers a multitude of sins as the Bible tells us but it can also penetrate the darkest, toughest, most cold of hearts. If you are in a difficult marriage, job or filial relationship therefore, the answer is not just to give up and run away.

Yes some oppressors will never change, no matter what you do but there are some that will, provided you have the right attitude. Sometimes that relationship can turnaround for the better, if you exercise patience, longsuffering, kindness, respect, humility, understanding, compassion and love.

There are marriages where the husband has been won over by the noble conduct of the wife and vice versa and even brought to Christ as a result. If you happen to find yourself in a difficult marriage or some other kind of relationship like a parent-child relationship or a work relationship, whose to say that your having the right conduct and refusing to behave poorly, will not influence change in the oppressor?

As stated before, there are situations where, no matter what you do or how you behave, the person will never come around. In the Bible for example, no matter what David did, how he behaved himself wisely and was kind to Saul (even sparing his life when he could have killed him), Saul still hated him due to jealously and insecurity and was set in his heart to destroy him. Although Joseph had nothing in his heart against his brothers and loved them, they hated him due to the extent to which Jacob their Father loved him and nothing that Joseph could have done or said back then in his childhood, could have changed their minds.

However, there are situations where behaving right can melt the heart of the person who has positioned himself or herself as your opponent. If you are Christian, ask God for discernment so that you will know which of the two situations you are faced with and for strength, where you know he expects you to stay in a situation and to behave honourably in your dealings with the other person. Also, be sure to pray earnestly for that person, that God will save him or her or if somehow, he or she is saved but is backslidden and treating you badly, that God will cause him or her to be humbled and to repent.

Joseph had no power of his own to change the opinion that his siblings had of him but yet, in continuing to cleave to God and to do what was right in his sight, God honoured his upright walk and behaviour, eventually intervening many years later to bring about remorse in his brothers for their actions to Joseph, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.

Even when faced with difficult relationships, be it a marriage, a filial or work situation or otherwise, God is able to turn it around but we must do our part. We must behave right, speak right, act right and be a good example to whoever is looking on. This means that we must endure suffering and be patient while waiting on God to intervene, should he see fit.

(Written on 27th March, 2022)

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