Earlier this week I had the chance to sit down at NARME with marriage educator, therapist and author, Dr. William Doherty. What a great guy and a great depth of knowledge. It was a long deep and fun conversation about many avenues of marriage and faith. But today, I want to share with you one small piece of my conversation with Dr. Doherty, and that is the “Minnesota Couples on the Brink Project” and Dr. Doherty’s efforts to pioneer “Discernment Counseling”.
The premise of Discernment Counseling is to provide divorcing couples with a process to guide them to consider – is divorce the best option or can this marriage still be reconciled. It is a process of looking, thinking, hoping and determining: what has happened, where we are and where do we want to see this marriage go.
This approach differs from typical, traditional, models of marriage help, that seek to determine who is right or wrong and tend to assume that both partner’s are equally vested in strengthening the marriage. But what happens when you or your spouse are indifferent about working on the marriage? Can a marriage be strengthened, if only one person is willing to do the work? That is the difference of discernment counseling.
I love this thought of discerning before fixing, because it ties into the thought behind so many marriages of the Bible. That even when our marriages teeter on the brink of destruction, there is hope, as we discern what is still possible – through God. Check out these marriages:
- Abigail. Her name means beautiful, which refers to her character. Unfortunately, her husband’s name, Nabal, also reveals character, as it means “fool”. His callous heart drove their marriage to the brink of destruction and placed them in a life or death situation. Yet, Abigail’s character led her to bow down and pray. Her prayer is what spared Nabal from initially being killed by David (I Samuel 25).
- Job. After they lost every thing that they owned and he was covered with sore boils from head to toe, his wife wanted to give up on God. But Job found strength to hold on to his faith in God. Eventually, it was his reservoir of faith in God that restored them and their marriage.
- King Belshazzar’s Wife. In Daniel 5, the king literally sees a hand writing on the wall. Unable to interpret what he sees, he offers large sums of money for someone to interpret what he sees. However, it was his wife that was able to point him in the direction of someone that could interpret his vision. She discerned what her husband really needed and provided a real solution to what her husband was facing.
- Zipporah. When God was about to kill Moses for failing to circumcise his child, it was his little known wife that stepped in and saved Moses’ life. Although he is the famous one, it was her ability to discern what needed to happen that saved Moses’ life.
In each of these scenarios they point to the hope that our marriage’s receive when we move from only our raw emotions, feelings and input, to allow God to discern for us, what is next in our marriage. Likewise, if your marriage is facing a seemingly unscalable high mountain, allow God to discern what is next for your life and marriage before moving forward. Is He still able to restore your marriage…