May 1, 2014

By Susan Reusser, LCSW

We are told in scripture that there is “nothing new under the sun .” Ecc 1:9. There are many researchers and theorists who describe human behavior and the interactions that seem to improve our relationships. It is reassuring to me to know that God, the author of marriage, family, and our community in Christ, has also given us guidance about how to live together.


One of the great blessings of working with Christian counselors is the opportunity to study God’s word in preparation for helping those in the body of Christ who come to us for counseling. This week has been no exception. Earlier this week, one of our counselors shared about a workshop she had attended by a well-known marital researcher and counselor named John Gottman. “Gottman found that the four negative behaviors that most predict divorce are criticism of partners’ personality, contempt (from a position of superiority), defensiveness, and stonewalling, or emotional withdrawal from interaction. On the other hand, stable couples handle conflicts in gentle, positive ways, and are supportive of each other. (Gottman Research Institute) While this researcher does not espouse a Christian world view, his observations of “what works” in a marriage bring to mind many passages from God’s word:

  • Proverbs 19:13b - a quarrelsome wife is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof.
  • Proverbs 16:18 - Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.
  • Romans 12:9-13 - Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
  • Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:9-13 - For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,  who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.  Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.  We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

Gottman’s observations certainly are confirmation of the guidance given to us over time from God. As Christians, we have more than a list of do’s and don’ts for our relationships! We have the Word of God and the power of Christ. We cannot in our own power do ANY of the things suggested by Gottman or given to us in scripture on a consistent basis. The divorce rate in our world illustrates our human failure to love one another in our own strength.

Lest this sound like a list of marriage laws, please look closely at the last passage. As you interact with others in your life, pray that the Lord brings to mind that those around you are also loved dearly by God.   They are fellow laborers for His kingdom. These scriptures apply to each person with whom you will interact. “God has not destined us for wrath” – ANY of us! His desire is that even when we disagree, when life is difficult, when things look bleak, we would encourage one another. Redemption is not only for the “not yet” but also for the “now.” We pray that God’s kingdom would come, “on Earth as it is in Heaven.” May this redemption happen in the small things, in our friendships, our marriages, and our parenting, by the grace of God and through the power of His Holy Spirit.