From a Christian Marriage Counselor

James A. Winkle, M.A., has a Christian Counseling Service (Individual and Family Counselors) in Hawthorne, New Jersey. Mr. Winkle served as an elder delegate to the 1976 CRC Synod. In a letter accompanying this article he was asked to write, Mr. Winkle states: “Needless to say, my role as a Christian Counselor would be much easier if I didn‘t have to spend half my time helping individuals ‘unlearn’ what was told them both from the world, as well as the confusion and watered down rhetoric that flows from some of our pulpits.”

Our back window on our house overlooks a small stream. A few mornings ago, during breakfast, I noticed from the corner of my eye three high school kids (who must have been a bit late for school) attempting to “hop the rocks” and hopefully eliminate a large distance—perhaps even make up some lost time.

However, as earnest as they were, and I must even add cautious, they all managed to get one foot soaking wet. It was interesting to note that the first jump (with right foot) landed each of these kids firmly on a rather large rock. But now, the tricky part. With a heave they had to stretch and try to reach (with their left foot) a barely visible and apparently most slippery protrusion. What each thought was possible could not be mastered!

This little episode of three kids on their way in life—hopping across obstacles—trusting they are well grounded as they jump, reminded me of a much larger scene; a scene that I’m all too familiar with the unstable marriage relationship.

I sipped the last swallow of my coffee, and glanced at the clock now realizing I had about 20 minutes to get to the office and begin my day of counseling. As I travelled down the winding roads, I couldnt help but reflect on the scene at breakfast: one foot well secure on a firm rock, while the other helplessly submerged in slimy mud.

I knew I would be counseling Grace and her husband Al this morning. And here, with a much different set of circumstances of course, was the same concept. Shall we call it: a perplexing dilemma? Let me explain.

• They came to me on the advice of a Christian friend. One who had heard some great things beautiful reconcilitory change brought about in marriages, because of our Christian counseling.

Grace is a Christian. She believes in God and accepts Jesus Christ as her Savior and Lord, and worships in a church where God’s Word is preached and held in sacred honor. However, Al wants nothing to do with Grace’s God or any aspect of Christianity. A very perplexing dilemma.

Can you picture in your mind’s eye now the scene at the window this morning? Here’s a couple trying to “jump the rocks” as it were. But tragically the mutual unity and oneness of this marriage is jeopardized to its foundation. Grace is trying to live her life on the standards of God’s formula, whereas Al is in a different kind of “water” altogether—the standards of the secular world.

We really don’t need a Grace and Al to dramatize the reality of this kind of relationship. I’m sure that you too have met the “Grace’s or Al’s” in your life.

Then there are those who, as husband and wife, both consider themselves to be Christian, but have their lives, and their values, and their priorities in different worlds.

Yes, there are all kinds and all types, and unfortunately when one hears the call of “a different drummer,” the tragic and ungodly dilemma begins.

I need not outline all the direct or subtle “tunes” the secular, evil world is playing. However, I would like to underscore a crucially important note. A note that must be played continually, loudly, and convincingly: the sound a Christian makes, within his or her marriage, as a retort to being swept away by the “sounds” and call of today.

Christian husbands and wives must be challenged and encouraged from the pulpit, in Bible groups, through Christian books and periodicals, and by the Christian “helping professions” to keep both feet firmly grounded, at all times, on the absolute Truth of God‘s Word. Living a life that uses the Bible as its recipe gives an entirely different perspective on our perplexing dilemmas!

Lei’s refer back to Al for a moment; he feels that to have a mistress on the side is an appropriate way to find deeper fulfillment in life. Or take, for example, the advice his lawyer friend gave him. His lawyer suggested that if his marriage is turning sour, then try group sex with a variety of women—all shapes and sizes—then “maybe youll realize that the ole lady isn’t so bad after all.”

Maybe Al would find “these others” better than his Crace, but of coure either discovery is diametrically opposed to Cod‘s standards.

The mishmash of secular advice (legal, social, and psychological) is making a diabolical impact upon untold lives and marriages. One out of every two marriages ends up “on the rocks.” Here on the East coast, newspapers carry the “Dissolution of Marriages” columns; and it‘s usually twice as long as the “Marriage License Granted” column. Divorce is now as common as getting new tires on a car—every three years.

Then too, our “perplexing dilemma” takes another interesting turn: the question of re-marriage. The voice of which drummer will the person listen to? Secular social mores lure a person into multiple divorces and re-marriages if necessary. However, the voice of God through Scripture clearly indicates that the “wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) and the husband should not divorce his wife” (1 Cor. 7:10–12). Consider also, the passage in which Jesus calls remarriage adultery (see: Matt. 5:32; Matt. 19:9; Mark 10:11–12; Luke 16:18) “but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress, and whosoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

Divorce for any other reason than that permitted in the Bible is a sinful denial of the sacred vows a couple made before God and His witnesses, and the faithful allegiance owed to the spouse “till death do us part.”

• I’m fearful however that our denomination is not standing firmly, with both feet, on this Godly principle. To be sure, the historic stand of our Church has been: “remain unmarried as long as the other party to the divorce has not closed the door to reconciliation by remarriage or persistent fornication.” I, as a Christian counselor, cannot offer approval or blessing to what Christ has called adultery—and, neither should the church! • Well, the day came and went. Grace and Al, along with five other couples had been seen for counseling. I heard the voice of the “other drummer” over and over again in statements like: “we have irreconcilable differences,” “there’s no hope,” “our marriage is dead,” “we’re definitely incompatable,” et cetera. As I shared with Grace and Al, and with all the others, let me share with you. These phrases DO NOT belong in the vocabulary of those who believe that “with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).

Yes, with God there’s hope. “Old things (habits, sins, hatred, bitterness, resentment, lust, et cetera) can pass away, and we can become the person God wants us to be—a new person in Christ.” Transforming power is available I don‘t give heed to the humanistic view, coming from the secular arena, which denies that the Holy Spirit can bring about in either or both of the partners the kind of character change needed to restore the broken marriage.

So, dear friend, if you feel the urge to “hop to a different rock” beware! If you know someone who is straddling both, help him or her back to the firm rock of God’s standards. Urge your Church Council and Pastor to underscore and maintain our historic-Biblical position. As we stand united in the harmony and unity of God’s authoritative Word, we may then silence the sounds of “the different drummers.” What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.