We were driving into Oregon listening to John Macarthur's teaching on the fulfilled family, a sermon series on Ephesians 5:22-6:4. He said something that I won't forget. Here are two quotes from that sermon series.
"People will ask me what’s the key to your marriage or what’s the key to your family, how is it that your family is so close or you are close to your wife and you have such a wonderful relationship and I can just go back to this. There is no magic, there is no formula, there is no gimmicks. It’s not a question of how many times did we do this or how many times did we do that or who was in charge of this or what kind of processes or methods did we use. It’s simply a question and it has to start in my heart, am I committed to obedience to the Spirit of God, am I committed to the controlling influences of the Word of God, am I going to live out a Christian life?"
"Because of fallenness there will be conflict. You have to go back to the spiritual dimension to end it and that’s what’s so wonderful about this passage that we are looking at and you can go back to Ephesians now, that the solution to the conflict in marriage is spiritual and it starts with allowing the Holy Spirit to control your life, letting the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, obeying the Spirit of God as he reveals his will through the will of God. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can reverse the curse in a home. Where you have a Spirit filled person in the home, you have hope. You ever try to pick a fight with a Spirit controlled person? Ever try to pick a fight with a totally joyful person that just has rising joy in their heart? Ever try to pick a fight with somebody who is thankful for everything, even the conflict? Ever try to pick a fight with somebody who is totally submissive. Very difficult. Where that exists there is hope. It’s a spiritual issue. Conflict goes where the Holy Spirit dominates."
I thought these quotes were so good, that I should leave it at that. But perhaps a word or two is in order. Why does your marriage suck? Why do you have problems in your marriages? The answer is that you have two sinners who got married to each other that have some sanctification issues. "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask" James 4:1-2
How do you fix your marriage conflicts? In almost every case, the solution is more heart and life holiness. If we pursue holiness and fellowship with God, then there will be some improvement in our marriages. Now you might be married to an unbeliever, even though they may profess to be a Christian, which in that case may mean that the more godly you are, the more they will despise you. Unregenerate people hate the light. John 3:19-20. But even unbelievers may willingly live with a godly Christian.
With all the marriage advice books out there, you would think that the Bible is full of marriage tips and helps. But there is very little said on marriage. This is because if you follow the commands in Scripture to walk in holy living, then your marriage will not suffer. But don't try to live a godly life for the sole purpose of improving your marriage. Live to please and know the Lord, and when you do so, the other areas of your life, including marriage, will be affected for the better.
So if your marriage is in trouble, go to God in repentance and ask Him to help you to love your spouse. Use the means of grace that God has given; prayer, Bible reading, preaching...etc. Don't worry about trying to change your spouse. You can't change them anyways. You have the responsibility before God to love your spouse, even if you think they are your enemy. God even calls you to love your enemies. Does love rule your home life?
"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God." Colossians 3:1-3