Every little girl daydreams of her own “Prince Charming” and their moment at the wedding altar. Wistfully, you envision years of marriage filled with love and mutual respect . . . then happily growing old together.
Nobody contemplates growing up and having a bad marriage.
And yet difficult marriages do happen. They happen to Christians, and someone in your circle of friends could be experiencing one right now.
It may be hard to relate to a friend who is in a tough marriage, especially if your marriage is healthy. Yet if the Lord has placed a friend in your life who is struggling in her marriage, it is no accident.
She’s there for you to learn to minister to.
Providing an Oasis
Your friend is probably starving for connections with others to refresh and encourage her spiritually. These relationships are her “oasis” in a world of hurt that she can’t describe to many people.
You may be asking:
- How can I support a Christian friend in a hard marriage?
- What does she need from me that she can’t get from the world?
Here are eight ways you can minister to that friend:
1. Share your friendship.
She desperately needs you to just be her friend. Women are naturally relational. But she needs a deep bond with you in order to believe you can be trusted with the secret pain of her heart. Learn to be a good listener. Avoid thinking you have to have the answers for every problem in her marriage, because you don’t.
Learn to love her well through unconditional love. Because she lives in a cloud of chronic discouragement, she may need extra praise and encouragement for other endeavors in her life. Her husband might rarely notice anything good in her, and the encouragement you give her to succeed and spiritually thrive could be a gift.
2. Let her set the tone of your visits.
Realize that her needs will be different every day of the week. One day she may be in tears, needing to vent her frustrations. Other days she may just need to go shopping or out to lunch without discussing what she deals with.
Take your cue from her demeanor, and let her start discussions of her situation.
3. Guard yourself from bitterness.
As your friend shares details with you, avoid getting so emotionally involved that you simmer in anger against her husband. If this happens, your ministry to her will be hindered.
Refrain from dredging up the past, such as asking if her husband has apologized after their last fight.
Never forget that your ministry to your friend involves praying for her husband. You can’t do that with a bitter, unforgiving heart against him. One day their marriage may improve and he may attend church or accept an invitation to your house for dinner. You want to remain open to what the Lord may do in his life. Be genuine and friendly if you run into them together.
Remember, he isn’t the enemy. Satan is.
4. Be willing to have a one-sided friendship.
Supporting a friend in a bad marriage may mean she has very little to invest in the friendship. Sometimes this is okay, especially when the goal of your relationship is to offer the healing of Christ.
Feel free to share with her the happy moments and trials you may be dealing with. But don’t be offended if she doesn’t remember to message you after your doctor’s appointment for an update.
Be considerate of her frazzled life.
5. Train your tongue to speak wisely.
None of us should complain about our husbands, yet none of us can say we’ve been perfect in this area. Our battle with pride causes us to accentuate the flaws of others and minimize our own.
Your friend needs to see godliness, and you need to train your tongue to speak wisely. Can you imagine how it sounds to hear someone talk about her husband leaving his socks on the floor when your husband is angry, controlling, unloving, or living for his addictions?
Let the situation she lives with cause you to praise God for your spouse.
6. Counsel her from the Word.
Let the Word of God take center stage in your friendship. If you have a lunch date, choose Scripture to share with her. Speak life over her whenever you can. Text Scriptures to her. Forward worship songs to her to refresh her spirit. Invite her to your women’s studies or offer to do a Bible study together—just the two of you.
That said, guard against “beating her over the head” with Scripture. If she’s really struggling with a fresh incident with her husband, refrain from preaching passages to her on forgiveness. She may need these reminders later on if you sense bitterness is taking root. But choose your words, time them wisely, and cover them in prayer.
7. Avoid being the only support.
Proverbs 11:14 says there is safety in an “abundance of counselors.” Whenever possible get a small circle of wise believers to support her. If you have a crisis in your own life, they can rally around her in your absence.
Pastoral care is very important. If she hasn’t yet confided in her pastor, suggest she do so. If she seeks professional help from a biblical counselor or Christian therapist, don’t pry, but ask if there’s anything you can do to support her therapy.
8. Pray, pray, pray.
When you’re overwhelmed on behalf of your friend, pray! When you don’t have any answers for her pain, pray! Never give up hope. She may endure for many years without progress, but your godly support will be like fuel that helps her keep going. Pray for her entire family. Pray for her husband to find freedom in Christ. Pray for God to turn everything into glory for His name.