Healthy boundaries in marriage can look like a lot of different things— establishing regular date night rhythms, using accountability software, saying “no” to extended family, etc.
But sometimes in marriage, the best thing we can do is lower the walls around our mess and invite others in.
Christian community is a means of grace to you
Five years ago— in the weeks and months after our first daughter was born— my husband and I entered a very difficult season in our marriage. We’d never properly addressed my husband’s decade-long battle with pornography and it reared it’s ugly head with a vengeance during that time. We were surprised, overwhelmed, and discouraged. There was a lot of prayer and a lot of tears.
I’m convinced, though, that the thing God used more than anything else to get us from point A to point B was other people. Our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We opened up and told our church community group everything that had been going on. And it wasn’t an overnight miracle— newsflash: recovering from and fighting against pornography never is— but we feel confident we’ve crested that particular hill.
The “mess” in your marriage might not be as heavy as pornography. It might be that you struggle to connect with your spouse; that the two of you have a hard time communicating well; that you’re just vaguely dissatisfied with marriage or life in general. Whatever your “mess” is— I guarantee that God wants to use Christian community to meet you in it and grow you through it.
So what’s so great about Christian community?
Confession and intercession
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” —James 5:16
Confession and intercession make Christian community powerful. The Bible is clear that confessing our sins, bringing them into the full light of day— no matter how cringe-worthy— is necessary and life-giving. Confession works to loosen the hold those sins have on us.
And to be clear: we’re called to confess our sins to God and to each other.
When we confess our sins to each other, we can lift one another up in prayer— sweet balm to our weary souls. Think of Moses holding up his staff in Exodus 17— and how Aaron and Hur held up his arms when he couldn’t anymore.
That’s the picture.
When you’re weary, hopeless, at the end of your rope— your Christian community bears you up in prayer, believing for you what you can’t seem to believe for yourself anymore.
Stirred up to fight the good fight
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” — Hebrews 10:24-25
When we bared our very ugly situation to our sweet friends, they assured us that we weren’t the only ones. Pornography addiction isn’t really something that casually comes up in small talk— but once we ripped the band-aid off, man after man looked my husband in the eye and said, “Me too. I’ve been there.”
But here’s the crazy thing: they weren’t there anymore.
We were so tired— so hopeless. We were struggling to believe God could do what he says— because our experience seemed to say he either wouldn’t or couldn’t.
And then, once we let people into our mess, we found ourselves surrounded by other men striving for godliness in that same area of their lives— role models and comrades in arms. We saw the freedom they were experiencing now, and were hopeful we could also get there one day.
Our friends also imparted wisdom. They helped adjust our perspective a bit— we’d thought of pornography as something that would be magically defeated in this life. We learned instead that pornography is often something resisted over a lifetime, slayed again and again as we die to ourselves daily and live to Christ.
In short, we were stirred up, encouraged, and equipped to continue fighting the good fight. That’s the power of Christian community.
Bear one another’s burdens
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” —Galatians 6:1-2
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” —Romans 12:15
Loving a man who struggles with pornography is really hard. One of the best things about telling our situation to our friends was that, suddenly, my friends knew what I was going through. Many of them had been through it themselves. And they were quick to tell me, “I’m so sorry. This sucks. How are you doing today? I’m praying for you.”
That was really pivotal for me. Just feeling seen and validated. Through their love, I felt the love of Christ. His deep, inexhaustible, tender love for me empowered me to continue loving my husband well.
Our friends have also been faithful to check in, especially when they know one of us is traveling.
In those very raw early days, our church hosted an overnight women’s retreat. I wanted to go, but in all honesty, I was afraid. Andrew was too. One of the other husbands, whose wife would also be at the event, invited Andrew to crash on their couch so as to not be alone— and he did! With our baby in the pack-n-play and our dog to boot.
When Andrew deployed to Afghanistan for 7 months, our friends were faithful to ask me how things were going. I was honest with them. I asked for prayer when we needed it, and I asked the other men to check in with Andrew directly.
These wonderful people— our companions on the bumpy road to glory, co-heirs with us of eternal life— have truly fulfilled the law of Christ by bearing our burdens with us.
Go forward in faith
This is how Jesus intends for us to love one another.
The Church is Christ’s body— not perfect yet, but growing in holiness. God’s good design is for the Church to be a primary conduit of His grace to you. Jesus wants to love and serve you through His body.
I know it can be scary to let other people into your ugly. I know that sometimes people are hurtful. But Jesus calls us to love one another through thick and thin. He calls us to lower the walls around our mess and invite others in.
Don’t miss out on the good work God wants to do in your marriage through the ministry of other believers.
Letting our faith family into our mess was the best thing we could have done. On our part, it was one small, mustard-seed-sized step of faith. But God grew it into righteousness, joy and freedom. He can do the same for you.
Have you heard of the The 31-Day Pursuit Challenge?
Every marriage begins with passion, purpose, and pursuit, but few stay that way. That’s why we wrote Husband in Pursuit and Wife in Pursuit Together, they make what we’re calling the 31-Day Pursuit Challenge. Couples are encouraged take the challenge together. We’re already starting to hear stories of transformed marriages! Are you up for the challenge?