Conflict. It happens in every marriage. Disagreements, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings can all lead to conflict and disunity. How can we prepare ourselves to handle conflict in marriage?
Did it ever occur to you that, in the battles that take place in your marriage, your husband is not the enemy? In fact, when we wrestle against our husbands, we are wrestling against ourselves. After all, the two of us are “one flesh.”
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. ~Ephesians 6:12, KJV
How can we resist this attack on our marriage? One thing’s for sure – we can’t do it on our own. But there’s good news!
- God is greater than our enemy. (1 John 4:4)
- He provides the means for us to stand through the conflict. (Ephesians 6:13)
- He gives us the power to win the battle. (Romans 8:37)
Let’s find out how to arm ourselves for the conflicts that may arise in our marriage.
CONFLICT IN MARRIAGE?
RESIST THE DEVIL
When tempted to point fingers at our husband and call him out on an issue, recognize that “Satan is the accuser of the brethren.” (Rev. 12:10) He’s the one who whispers in our ears, trying to drive a wedge between us and our husband. However, James 4:7 gives the solution: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” When we choose to resist listening to the enemy, we’re well on our way to resolving the conflict.
God would have us to reverence our husbands – not to play the blame game. Even when our husband is wrong, God tells us to “be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving.” (Eph 4:32) This is totally unlike Satan, who encourages us to dig in and fight for our rights.
CONFLICT IN MARRIAGE?
DRAW NIGH TO GOD
After telling us to resist the devil, James gives further encouragement for those of us caught up in the battle: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” (James 4:8)
It is impossible to win at spiritual warfare apart from God. The more we draw near to God, the closer we will get to Christ. Then, the closer we get to Christ, the more we will see our own imperfections, and the less we will be tempted to draw attention to our husband’s shortcomings.
Besides, when we draw nigh to God, He promises to draw nigh to us, equipping us with the armor we need to stand against the devil’s attack on our marriage.
CONFLICT IN MARRIAGE?
PUT ON THE WHOLE ARMOR OF GOD
Marriage conflict can be avoided. We’ve been given everything we need to withstand the enemy’s attack. However, we must faithfully put on the whole armor of God if we are to gain the victory.
Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.Ephesians 6:13
There are a couple of things we can learn from the armor-clad warriors of old. Firstly, to be fully protected in conflict, a soldier had to be fully armed. Likewise, must “put on the whole armor of God.” (emphasis mine) It is all necessary if we are to stand strong against the enemy. If we leave any part behind, we create a chink in our armor and make ourselves vulnerable to attack.
Secondly, the armor wasn’t created for the soldier’s comfort. It was bulky. It took time and effort to put on. It was cumbersome. Yet, no soldier would dare go into battle without it.
In the same manner, the armor of God isn’t always comfortable for us to put on. Our flesh may even rebel against the weight of the armor. However, in the heat of the battle, we quickly recognize the need for every piece.
So, how can we put on this armor and be equipped to stand against the wiles of the devil in our marriage?
Focus on Truth
Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). One of his tactics in igniting conflict in marriage is to whisper lies into the ears of believers. His purpose is to set them at odds with one another and to cause them to doubt God. When we listen to the lies of the enemy, the end result is conflict and disunity.
To combat this, we must be totally honest with ourselves and with God. It’s easy to justify our position and to lay the blame at our husband’s feet. However, God desires a different response from his children.
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.Psalm 51:6
When caught up in the heat of the battle, it is a wise woman that cries out to God and asks, “What is the truth in this situation?” “What’s in my heart?” “How should I respond to this?” “Is there a sin problem in my life that I need to deal with?”
It’s not that our husband is without fault in the situation. He may be the one with the most fault. However, that is between him and the Lord. It’s not our place to play Holy Spirit in his life, and it’s impossible for us to change him in any way.
When we accept responsibility for our part in the struggle and when we humble ourselves before the Lord and allow Him to work on our hearts, He can diffuse the situation. I wonder how many of our marriage conflicts would be avoided if we would simply yield ourselves to God.
This is not the self-righteousness of the Pharisee who said, “I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.” (Luke 18:11)
In fact, we are told that “There is none righteous, no, not one:” (Rom 3:10)
If we’re not careful, we can easily fall into the comparison game – comparing our righteousness to that of our husbands. The enemy knows that, if we can justify ourselves, we’re less likely to give up the battle.
Self-righteousness allows the enemy to gain a foothold. When his foothold is secure, he can then build a stronghold. This sets the stage for continual attacks that make it difficult to resolve even the tiniest conflict in marriage.
True righteousness, on the other hand, is imputed to us by God through the blood of Christ. It is brought to the forefront only as we yield our rights and follow after Christ. The result is a marriage that is peaceful and God-honoring.
The next way to arm ourselves against marital conflict is to be “shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” (Eph. 6:15)
The heat of the battle is not the time to be putting on your shoes! The whole armor of God must be put on before the conflict begins. If we have not prepared our hearts to run after peace beforehand, it will be difficult to pursue peace during the battle.
Conflict cannot survive in an atmosphere of peace. One way to arm ourselves with peace is by trusting in God and keeping our focus on Him. Focusing on our husband, our circumstances, or even on ourselves will often rob us of the peace needed to stand strong in the midst of conflict.
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.Isaiah 26:3
Another way we can prepare ourselves to pursue peace is to ask God to teach us how to handle conflict peaceably before the conflict arises. Just laying our request before Him will open up the path to peace and to victory.
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7
When the enemy is waging war on our marriage, it’s often difficult to see beyond the chaos of the battle. Sometimes, it seems as if the strife will never end – that we’ll never get to the other side of the fray. This is when we must hold fast to faith.
It is the shield of faith that will enable us to not only fend off the fiery darts of the wicked but to also douse the flame. It helps us to hold on – to stand firm against the wiles of the devil. 1 John 5:4 tells us that our faith is the victory that overcomes the world.
Notice: Faith doesn’t lead us to victory – Faith is the victory.
- God will work all things together for good . . .(Romans 8:38)
- God will provide a way out of the conflict (Rom 10:13)
- God is in control (Psalm 27:1)
- God has a purpose (Jeremiah 29:11)
- God will forgive (1 John 1:9)
- God can restore what has been lost (Joel 2:25-26)
Salvation is the ultimate victory we gain through faith – “For by grace are ye saved through faith. . .” (Eph 2:8). It also gives us access to the wonderful promises of God. And with these promises come hope.
This is not a wishful thinking hope, but an assured hope in something better yet to come. Even when conflict arises, this hope serves as an anchor of the soul. It enables us to stand steadfast and sure in the promises of God.
Here are some promises of hope we can cling to during the conflict:
Become Skilled in the Word
Have you ever watched a sword fight? The swordsmen brandish their weapons swiftly and with great power. The skill needed to handle a sword effectively takes years to master. As powerful as a sword can be, it is of little benefit to the unskilled swordsman.
According to Ephesians 6:17, the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. As believers, we have unlimited access to the power contained in this piece of armor. However, just as the sword is ineffective in the hands of an unskilled swordsman, so also will God’s Word be of little benefit to us if we don’t learn how to use it.
In Hebrews 5:11-14, God’s Word is likened to milk and to meat. Believers that are unskillful in the word are considered babes – immature, unprepared for battle.
However, the more we use the Word of God, the more skilled we become in its use. God’s Word then becomes a powerful weapon enabling us to “discern both good and evil.”
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.Hebrews 4:12, KJV
The interesting thing about this Sword is that it not only serves as protection against the enemy, but it also cuts deep into the believer’s heart revealing what is there.
Often the root cause of conflict in marriage is embedded deep within our own hearts. Victory comes only when we allow God’s Word to penetrate and cut away pride, bitterness, anger, discontentment, and anything else that “exalteth itself against the knowledge of God.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)
So, how do we become skilled in the Word? Read. Study. Meditate. Memorize. Apply. And . . .
Pray, Pray, Pray.
Prayer is two-way communication between God and man. God convicts, man responds. Man questions, God answers. God reveals truth, man seeks wisdom to apply that truth. Man turns to God for direction, God leads him in the paths of righteousness.
Prayer is essential for withstanding conflict in marriage. But we need to realize that we aren’t the only ones that need prayer. Our husbands also need us to pray for them. Just as we need God’s help in putting on the armor – so does he.
The goal is for us to stand together, as one flesh, against the enemy. If either of us goes into battle unarmed, it will be easy for the enemy to pit us against each other. However, if we don the whole armor of God, we will be able to “withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand.”
So, what are some things we can do to “pray always with all prayer and supplication. . .”
Some people like to use an acronym to help them get started. Below are two that I have used in the past:
Another thing I have found helpful is to pray Scripture. This is simply acknowledging God’s Word and asking Him to make it real in your life (or your husband’s).
For example, if I were to pray Proverbs 3:5-6 for my husband, I might say,
Father, I pray that David will learn to trust You with all of his heart. Help him to not lean on his own understanding. Teach him to acknowledge You in all his ways, trusting You to direct his paths. Amen.
Sometimes, as in the example above, I repeat the passage almost word for word. At other times, I’m more specific. For instance, I might ask God to help my husband not lean on his own understanding regarding a particular decision that needs to be made. Regardless of how I do it, praying Scripture is always a HUGE blessing. It helps me to see my husband through God’s eyes. It also assures me that I’m praying God’s will (and not my own).
There are times, however, when it is difficult to pray for our husbands (or ourselves) when marriage struggles arise. Frustration, anger, and hurt can all stifle our attempts to pray. When this happens, we can rest in the promise that the Holy Spirit “maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26)
Conflict in marriage is real!
Often the battle comes on the heels of victory, as the enemy tries to knock us off course and bring us back down to where we once were. At other times, a battle arises to discourage or distract us from doing what God is directing us to do.
The key to victory is to realize that the battle is not a flesh and blood battle. The enemy is NOT our husband!
We are wrestling against “principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12) But there’s good news!
God has given us the means to arm ourselves for the battle:
- Resist the devil
- Draw near to God
- Put on the whoe armor of God
Only then will we be able to stand – and having done all to stand.
For practical help in dealing with conflict in marriage, you might want to check out:
4 STEPS TO DEAL WITH CONFLICT IN YOUR MARRIAGE