The #1 Cause of Failed Marriages & Churches

Lately I’ve been pondering what’s the primary reason so many marriages and churches ultimately fail. Is it because of self-centeredness? Narcissism? A refusal to die to our own interests so that the love of God can reign in our hearts?

I guess we could debate this all day. All sorts of core issues could be cited, and entire books have been written to analyze the subject.

However, I’ve been increasingly focusing my attention on an obscure passage in Nehemiah 4:2 that seems to describe where much of the problem lies. Nehemiah and his followers wanted to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem, but their efforts were ridiculed by critics as impossible: Do they actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap—and charred ones at that?” (Nehemiah 4:2)

The imagery here describes people who want to build something grand and glorious, but the available building materials are seriously flawed. Rather than coming directly from some manufacturing plant, the bricks have been drawn from a “rubbish heap.” No longer in pristine condition, they are charred and broken.

This explains a lot about the difficulty of constructing healthy marriages. While the bride and groom typically dress up in their finest apparel on their wedding day, underneath the tux and gown are flawed, burnt, and broken people.

You may not want to own up to the fact that you’ve been “charred” by your life experiences, but we ALL have. We’re in this together, so we might as well be honest. If “original sin” wasn’t a big enough problem, we’ve all been scarred by imperfect childhoods, toxic relationships, poor choices, or mishaps in our career.

So what happens when two flawed, broken people come together in holy matrimony? Well, ideally, God’s healing process can begin. But too often, the opposite occurs: The flaws and brokenness come to the surface in even greater ways than before, and the couple has no idea how to handle them.

And no wonder it’s so difficult to plant healthy churches these days. People may bring their “Sunday smiles” to church, but during stressful times their dysfunctions emerge. Unity is strained, because everyone wants to get their own way.

Yes, it’s hard lay a strong foundation when you’re working with charred materials.

In case you think I’m being far too negative, let me also point to one reason for hope. God knows all about our flaws and imperfections, and He loves us anyway. The whole point of the Gospel is that the cross of Christ provides both forgiveness and a remedy for our sin-wrecked nature.

However, here’s the problem: In order for the Gospel to do its restorative work in our lives, we have to acknowledge our brokenness and sincerely want to change. Otherwise, our inherent flaws will be compounded rather than healed.

If you’re feeling like a charred stone today, don’t despair. You aren’t alone. There’s hope for a turnaround when you cry out to the One who’s able to make ALL things new (Revelation 21:5).

And I almost forgot to mention another very encouraging fact. Despite his persistent detractors, Nehemiah and his team were successful in rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall—even though their building materials came from the rubbish heap. With God’s help, you can build something beautiful as well.

7 thoughts on “The #1 Cause of Failed Marriages & Churches

  1. Jim, great insights. As you know, this is my favorite topic. I would say that the greatest need is Ephesians 4:11 about equipping people to live in love and truth. We know from voluminous research studies that breakups occur in homes and churches because we can’t get along with others who are different from us. As a result, we het frustrated, angry and surly. Surly anger with personal attacks lead to deep wounds and fight with flight. Without healing, equipping and the fruit of love we follow Cain and rhetorically kill our loved ones.

  2. Thanks Jim,
    Great message Jim.
    Just as spend quality Time with Jesus every day, we need to be unselfish and spend that QT time with our loved ones.

  3. Another good message Jim. It’s true we all have a lot of baggage when we come to the altar. And as you mentioned, all of those flaws are covered up on the wedding day. I was just reminded of that this past Friday, January 1, 2016, while performing a wedding for two broken people. In the natural, I’m not sure if they will make it…but in Jesus, I know they will. My wife and I will celebrate our 45th anniversary this coming March and the statistics said it would never work. Jesus gave us a clue to marriage and life in John 12:24. “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone…” God grace can only get through when we truly surrender and die to self.

  4. Jim,
    First time I have read your blog. Very good insight on relationships!
    With this brand new year that has been given to us; my hope is for our personal broken relationships will be restored…..according to His good purposes!

    One thing I know …… He desires this for His children. John 17
    Thank you!
    Joy and peace

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