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Developing a Humble Heart in a Hard Marriage

After more than a decade as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I can tell you a few things with certainty:

1) The vast majority of marriages truly can be salvaged (in my opinion).

2) The biggest obstacle that most people face in marriage is their own selfishness, not their partner’s.

(Before I go on, I want to explain very clearly that I am not writing to women and men in abusive marriages. If you are being physically or psychologically harmed by your spouse, this article is not for you, and I URGE you to seek help immediately.)

That may be a very hard sentence to read. There were years in my life where I would have run the other direction if someone told me my biggest issue was my own selfishness. But now, standing on the other side of my own marital struggle, in addition to helping others walk through marriage challenges, I can testify that the one key ingredient to any success that’s been had - in others or myself - is humility.

Humility isn’t easy to come by. It’s not often modeled in families during our formative years. It’s certainly not the foundation of the character of our country. And we often miss it in church, the place where it should be most prolific.

But it’s worth searching out.

Humility isn’t something that we wake up one day and decide to try out. It’s something that is fought for in the inner sanctuary of the soul, with prayer, tears, and repentance.

And that’s why many marriages don’t make it. Fighting for and embracing humility goes straight against our human nature. We desire to be ruler of our own world, keeper of our desires, master of our own universe. And when we match up against another soul, just as selfish as ours, craving to rule and reign over our own wills and desires, we are absolutely bound for failure.


Unless the hard work of repentance has been tended to in the soul.

Unless the desire to love rather than to be right has been fought for and occasionally won.

Unless a heart, cracked and broken under the weight of its own sin, has done its reckoning with the only One who holds the needle and thread to put it back together.

Unless the words, “I was wrong, and I’m so sorry,” have escaped the lips of the offender.

Unless, through whispers shrouded in tears, “Please forgive me,” eyes meet and forgiveness can begin.

Not demanding.

Only seeking to serve the other.

This is the only way.

Because it’s His way.

He did not demand that His life be spared, but offered it up willingly. He did not say, “You can be saved IF…” He only says, “Come just as you are, however you are. I don’t care, just come.”

Can we as wives lean into the emotional life of Jesus, that His own humility might overlay our lack of humility? To ask for what only the Spirit can do inside a willing heart. We can’t make this happen. But we can want it. We can look into our own souls, and see where we offend our Savior, and offer it up to Him in humble repentance. It is only then that we can go to our spouses and offer our brokenness in humility, not defensiveness, and say, “I screwed up. Can we try this again?”

It’s amazing what the humble heart of one spouse can do to the other. Humility often begets humility. If you want to start a good cycle in your marriage, ask the Spirit to do His humbling work in your soul.

Humility is utterly beautiful. To Jesus and to your spouse.


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