Saturday, March 14, 2015

Catholic Survival Guide in a Troubled Marriage

My purpose in these posts is to bring a variety of Christian and other writers in a desire to share significant writings that in my estimation contribute to the common good and directly or indirectly give glory to God and extend the Lord's work of salvation to all of humanity. G.S.


When we experience trouble in Marriage, it is difficult to know whether it is still possible for God to help us save our Marriage or whether it has already died. God is eager to help us discern our state of affairs beginning with our own state of soul. It is a miracle of God's power and love when a man or woman who had become completely absorbed in their own concerns - ambitions and fears - turns again to God and once again or perhaps for the first time finds joy in God while at the same time experiencing distress over the trouble or signs of breakup in their Marriage.

Each person makes choices every day. The married man did and still does. The married woman did and still does. We spend much of our lives driven by ambition, insecurity, or fear or any number of other passions, but a driven life often doesn't pay close attention to anyone else. Ineffectively absorbed in our own concerns we become handicapped and perhaps incapable of selflessly loving others. A driven human being develops hardness of heart, a condition that even God finds difficult to penetrate. God must be patient and wait until life's difficult and painful circumstances crack the hard shell of that heart, which is now a broken heart, and only then can God's love begin to seep through the cracks and finally enter into that heart to bring it back to life.

God designed human beings and marriage for each other. In God's design of human beings, a man and a woman can freely come together to be joined together by the power God entrusts to us to love the other as we love our self. The gift of Marriage is manifest when the man loves the woman before himself and when the woman loves the man before herself. They each take responsibility for their own life to care for their own life, to keep themselves healthy and energetic to be able to love the other well, and in time, to love the children entrusted to them by God and to love them well, as they need to be loved.

In the beginning, when the devil tempted the man and the woman, they gave in to the temptation to become selfish. The consequences of their sin is that the man became insecure in his work and in his relation to the earth and to the world. The man throws himself into his work, becoming obsessed with success and ambition and at the same time fearful of failure and of losing everything and afraid of dying. When he looks into his wife's eyes, it is no longer clear whether she respects him and supports him. For her part, the woman became insecure in her relation to others and in her relationship with her husband. She clings to her husband in a way that seems to him exaggerated, or nagging, and he pushes her away, and in time he stops loving her as she needs. When she looks into her husband's eyes, she no longer feels assured that he cherishes her.

To this day this remains the situation of humanity both within and apart from marriage. When the man or the woman remain obsessed with their wants and fears, they become incapable of truly loving the other and treat each other as objects to be possessed, forces to be controlled, resources to be managed, but not as precious persons to be loved and cared for. No marriage can survive such conditions for very long, when one or both no longer really listen to the other, no longer give their undivided loving attention to the other.

The most precious and valuable thing we have is our life, our attention, our genuine interest. As we give our undivided attention and wholehearted interest to others, as we invest ourselves in the other, as we encourage the other and value the other despite their shortcomings and faults; we allow God's power to flow through us and give life to the other. When we keep our attention to ourselves or invest it in things, the flow of God's power, life, and love stops, and we begin to dry up. We no longer give life to the other, and we end up sucking life out of the other, using the other, trying to extract from the other the vitality that we can only truly find in God. In effect we expect other human beings to be god, but it is impossible for them to be god, because like us they are only human. Only God can be god for us.

It is a fact that many people leave their spouses and get out of their marriages primarily for self preservation once they feel that the marriage has become lifeless and a drain. God doesn't approve of marriage breakups, of spouses turning away from one another, of giving up on the other, and of living only for themselves. At such times God can only weep for us and with us. Jesus showed us God's way by allowing his life to be drained out of him to the last drop as He hung on the cross. He accepted to suffer the full consequences of all of our sins in order to reverse the tragic fall of humanity and show us the way back to life, back to God the Father, back to paradise.

Some troubled spouses remain in their dried up marriage and accept to suffer being drained by the other because they count on God to replenish their life every moment of every day. They pray for their troubled spouse and hope they will accept to also turn to God for life and let Him renew them and restore their ability to stop thinking only of themselves and begin again to love the others, their spouse and their children if they have any.

Reader, if your spouse has left you or there are signs that this is about to happen or may happen, I have no idea whether this tragedy can be reversed or stopped. What is at stake is your free will and the free will of your spouse. Unlike taxes, love cannot be extracted by legislation or by force. Love can only be freely given. You can pray for this, but even God cannot force your spouse to do something if your spouse doesn't really want to do it. No one can force another person to act against their will, except through violence or by imposing one's will on the other by force, physical or psychological constraint. This can never be love but only exploitation. It would be dangerous to yourself for you to insist on something against your spouse's free will.

At all times but especially under trial it is very good and life giving for us to turn to God and ask Him for forgiveness, love, and life. I am glad every time that someone is able to accept grace and comfort from God, especially when under such difficult situations in their marriage.

However, as long as God is not real to us we spend our lives relying only on ourselves. We don't let God help us. We refuse his guidance and light. We live in darkness. Marriage is real when the man and the woman make themselves a gift for the other. Their life is a treasure that they freely choose to offer each day to the other out of love. This requires taking attention away from my own wants and giving my attention to the other, caring for the other. This has become so difficult because we no longer live in a Christian society. Society has become pretty much pagan because people live pretty much only for themselves, and by themselves, without God. When we are surrounded by selfishness, it is even harder to be selfless and loving.

Every human being struggles with this because of the original sin. At the beginning, the man and woman turned away from God. They stopped trusting God to give them all they needed. They began a new thing, trusting in a stranger instead of God, the tempter instead of the Creator. The tempter suggested they shouldn't trust God to give them all the good things they needed and wanted. He tempted them to think that they should stop relying on God and just grab for themselves whatever they wanted. He told them that they didn't need God to tell them what is right or wrong, that they could just decide for themselves and by themselves and be like gods.

That is how the first man and woman began deciding for themselves what is right and what is wrong. The creation had been a beautiful work of order and harmony, peace and love, goodness and beauty. They disrupted that harmony by pushing God away. They lost God's love and trust because they stopped trusting and loving God. They lost each other's closeness because they refused to accept responsibility for what they had decided and instead they blamed someone else for what they had done wrong. They became separate from nature because they stopped caring for it and began thinking only about themselves. This continues to be the situation of humanity, of the world, of planet Earth. This is why in our day humanity is endlessly at war, destroying the environment, and killing off so many creatures. This is why we cannot save ourselves, why we need a Savior, why we need God.

We need God every moment of every day for everything. We need the light God is offering so our mind can begin to see things clearly and understand what is really going on in us and around us. We need God's presence dwelling within us to see where we are going and what God is doing.

We need the love God is offering so we can stop trying to squeeze love from other human beings. If we let God love us and learn to love Him, then we will let Him fill us with his love to overflowing and in this way we will know happiness, but no human being can "make us happy" and we ourselves can "make happy" no one. God designed human beings with a huge space inside us to welcome the presence and love of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

We cannot understand that because we cannot understand God, who is a divine being, completely different from us and from all that exists in the visible universe. God is a single divine being, but in God there are three divine Persons who live in perfect communion, harmony, love, and peace. God's simple desire that we exist is what is keeping the universe and us in existence. God is bursting with the dynamic energy of divine love, and it is from God's abundant life and energy that the universe was born and continues to exist. God created us in his own image and so we are most human when we accept to live in love and community, letting God's love fill us and move us to love Him back whom we cannot see by loving others whom we can see here on Earth and by accepting to be loved.

As we allow God to bring our will into harmony with his, we allow God to dwell in us and we begin to dwell in God. We live as children of God when we use our freedom to put our trust in God and let Him guide us along the path of our daily life. To become fully alive we need to continue to put God's will first, ahead of our own will, God's great will ahead of our small limited will. This feels impossible because we cannot follow God by our own efforts.

We need the presence, the power, the light and guidance, the love and peace that the Holy Spirit brings. We need to confess our sins to God through Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation... this is a powerful way to practice surrendering our will to God. We need to do this as often as we notice that we have significantly turned away from the Lord.

Then as we participate in the Holy Mass each Sunday and even during the week, at each Mass we offer God our self, our life, all that we want and fear, all our responsibilities, all our weaknesses, and all our desires along with the bread and wine, and we let Jesus unite our offering of self with his, our spirit with his. Then, at Holy Communion the heavenly Father gives us his answer to our offering, our sacrifice. His answer is his gift to us forever the same, Jesus his Son, so that Jesus may slowly transform us and, with our daily consent, enable us to resemble Him more and more, and enable us to live our life as He did while He was on Earth. Jesus alone can enable us to live fully here and, when it is God's time, in Heaven.

There is nothing more delightful on Earth perhaps than people who trust in God together and share their lives together: husband and wife, parents and children, relatives, friends, co-workers, neighbors, cities, nations.... That is the kingdom of God: people who come to know that God is real, who experience God's love for them and accept that love including his forgiveness and mercy, and who begin and continue to know God's will and try to do it with his help, who discover God's ways and ever ask his help to walk in them.


My purpose in these posts is to help spread the contributions of a variety of Christian and other writers in a desire to share significant writings that in my estimation contribute to the common good and directly or indirectly give glory to God and extend the Lord's work of salvation to all of humanity. G.S.


© 2004-2021 All rights reserved Fr. Gilles Surprenant, Associate Priest of Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montreal  QC
© 2004-2021 Tous droits réservés Abbé Gilles Surprenant, Prêtre Associé de Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montréal QC

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