Discouraged Spouse: My Spouse isn't interested. She has made it clear to me that she has no interest in trying to reconcile our marriage. She has been out of the house six months. There's nothing more I can do. I am not sure if I should come to counseling anymore.
Biblical Counselor: Look at the promise of 2 Corinthians 2:14-16, "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life."
My goal in counseling is not primarily to help you reconcile your marriage, but help you be the aroma of Christ to God as you respond to her and her struggle to love you. God is your primary audience and reward in all this, not your spouse and marriage. He is pleased by such a sincerity of love toward her. He is pleased with you faithfully pursuing love week to week. (2 Tim 2:22) The results of your attempts is up to God. She may reject your repentant change but God is pleased as you continue to do good and is working through you to speak to her conscience. We can stop counseling, but you must not stop growing in the aroma of Christ. Biblical discipleship counseling exists to help you remedy areas of your heart, mind and actions that need biblical change.
Discouraged Spouse: But every good thing I try to do she says is only because I am trying to manipulate her.
Biblical Counselor: You must pass her "sincerity test" before you can influence the relationship. You told me there has been a long history of you grumbling against her, putting her down, not investing time, talk, or even touch with her. Indeed many of your responses were probably provoked by her in some way, but it still revealed a lack of unconditional love toward her. The devil has a strong wedge between the two of you. For you to remove the wedge you must change your aroma - the aroma of conditional love must be changed to unconditional. Your attitude and actions toward her must become consistently reflective of 1 Corinthians 13:4-6. But, this could take a significant amount of time. God could change this in two weeks, a month or a year. The question is, however, are you still going to be the aroma of Christ regardless of her response? Remember this equation: "Doing good" plus "length of time" results in "proven sincerity". Her rejection of you accomplished two very good things. First, it became a test of your sincerity toward her. Second, it became an opportunity for you to grow. So, even though she does not possibly see it that way right now, you must, so that you do not lose heart. We are praying for that moment when God sets up an opportunity for you to prove that you truly love her and have changed toward her and you pass the test! We pray this will be on such a significant level that she is surprised by your response.
Discouraged Spouse: But she never gives me the opportunity to show her that I've changed!
Biblical Counselor: 1 Corinthians 3:5,6 says, "What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.”
The Lord will be faithful to give you various opportunities to prove the sincerity of your love - to prove that you have changed in your relationship to God and thus you are able to be more patient, more kind and less self-seeking towards your wife and family. Trust Him for the opportunity as well as for the result. Know that the result of passing the test of sincerity may indeed lead in time to full reconciliation with your wife and family, but it will absolutely result in greater fullness of life, character and heart in you with the Lord for the rest of your life on earth and eternity (1Tim 4:7,8). You will get greater good when you are good because God is good and a rewarder (Heb 11:6).
Discouraged Spouse: But it actually seems the more good I do the more she pushes and pulls away. What's the use?
Biblical Counselor: Sometimes this can actually be a good sign. It means that your goodness could be bothering her conscience. You see when Jesus Christ died on the cross, the guard who was at the foot of the cross looked up, immediately after helping kill Jesus, and proclaimed, "Truly this was the Son of God." He had been a part of many crucifixions but he had never seen a man die like this man - so compassionate and full of love. You have to pass the test of your wife's increased rejection of you by continuing to be full of compassion for her and your family, like Christ was on the cross, for God's glory.
When the apostle Paul was involved in murdering many Christians before His conversion, he watched the way Christians responded to the brutality he was inflicting on them. It was right after killing Stephen, a Christian man full of wisdom and goodness, that he was confronted by Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" Would Paul's conscience have been won over by Jesus had Steven and the other Christians displayed retaliation when they were inflicted with unjust suffering? No! It was in the context of their persecution that Paul was won over to Jesus Christ.
Never does your love and change look more genuine then when your wife's hurt, bitterness and anger over your sin is at it's height of expression toward you. This is how the dynamic of spiritual influence occurs. Again, I go back to Paul's statement in 2 Corinthians 2:15-16, "We are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are perishing and those who are being saved." Your Christ-likeness will have a drawing effect on your wife and family, regardless of her present rejection of you, if God is saving her. You will prove your sincerity and you will grow in your sincerity if you remain like Christ, doing good throughout the rejection. Your wife's increased rejection serves to allow you to increase in your sincerity for God and her. The persecution of others can either serve as proof that you really have not changed or proof that you have truly changed in your motivations, your behavior, and your love.
Discouraged Spouse: Oh boy, I just don't know how I can keep it up! Where can I find the strength to keep handling such rejection.
Biblical Counselor: First, godly sorrow over your own sin and its affect on your family, works energy in you to remain repentant (2 Corinthians 7:10-11). You owe your family better than what you gave because God called you to it. Every punishment your family inflicts on you for your past sin is another opportunity to dig out of the debt of love you owe and prove yourself genuine. At some point, your family will be given an opportunity by God to see your sincerity. Keep those opportunities open.
Also, you will need to practically apply Hebrews 12:3, "Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." This passage was written for such a time as this. You will be able to endure only by thinking much about His costly sacrifice for you. You are laying down your desire for respect, relationship, closeness, and much more, in order to show your family that you love them more than you need these things from them. But to fill the vacuum left by their rejection, you will need to think often about the example of Jesus and the good you have gained from Him. You will have to not only be sad and prayerful about your family’s rejection of you at this time, but thankful and hopeful about all the good that Jesus has accomplished for you that you will experience in this life and the one to come. Your involvement in counseling and in the local church will be key to continuing in these perspectives that keep you energized in growing in sincere love.
This week I would like you to memorize, for 15 minutes each day, the following passages: 2 Corinthians 2:14-16; Hebrews 12:3; 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 - one phrase at a time. I would also like you to complete the following study, working on it 15 to 30 minutes three days this week: Becoming a Person of Influence, When You Are a Person in Conflict.
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