When wives ask me how to fix a broken marriage with God I have a three-step answer. Pray hard, set good boundaries and get yourself into a godly community for support. But what does it mean to set good boundaries and how does that fit into a Christian marriage? To answer that question today I have invited Cherith Peters who will share how good boundaries are biblical and can provide hope for a broken marriage.
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How Good Boundaries Provide Hope for a Broken Marriage
Good boundaries are greatly misunderstood within large portions of the church. For a lot of years, I (Cherith Peters of His Dearly Loved Daughter) genuinely believed they had no place in a healthy marriage. I saw boundaries as unloving, controlling, and selfish. But when my own marriage fell apart after I discovered my husband’s many infidelities and deep sexual addiction, God lovingly opened my eyes to the reality of good, healthy, Biblical boundaries.
If you need hope for a broken marriage, perhaps learning some Biblical principles of boundaries will help you discover, as I did, that God does not want His children to abide with sin. He has called us to be set apart for Him. When we decide to choose holiness, boundaries become a necessity, and we will find hope as we learn to obey Him with our whole hearts!If you need hope for a broken marriage, perhaps learning some Biblical principles of good boundaries will help you discover, as I did, that God does not want His children to abide with sin. Click To Tweet
What are Boundaries and Why are They Important?
Understanding good boundaries doesn’t have to be complicated. Personal boundaries are really as simple as physical ones. If you need to protect your property from a neighbor who is violating it, what do you do? You build a fence around it, right?
Personal boundaries are no different. They serve as a perimeter of protection around our hearts, and around ourselves, that minimize the ability of others to violate what belongs inside. They clearly define where others end and we begin.
Boundaries are like a fence
Let’s take the example of a fence a little further to help us better understand the importance of good boundaries.
Let’s say you have a next-door neighbor who is growing something illegal on his property. One day, you notice the crop has spread across the property line into your yard. If you do nothing, you will be implicated along with your neighbor if the police show up to investigate.
On the other hand, if you remove all traces of the illegal substance from your yard, build a fence to keep it from spreading onto your property again, and report your neighbor to the authorities, you will ensure that the consequences of his bad behavior do not land on you.
Of course, ideally, you would be able to stop your neighbor from making bad choices too. Unfortunately, we just can’t decide how another person will behave. Boundaries allow other people to keep their right to make terrible decisions while keeping us free to make good ones.
It’s as simple as that. What are boundaries, and why are important? Boundaries are a clear line of protection that keeps the consequences of the sins of others from landing on us.What are boundaries, and why are important? Boundaries are a clear line of protection that keeps the consequences of the sins of others from landing on us. Click To Tweet
Good Boundaries vs. Unhealthy Boundaries
The problem is, too often the term boundary is used to represent something ugly and unhealthy.
- Many times, people make threats meant to control another and call it a boundary.
- Other times, they react to a situation with some dramatic show of strength instead of responding in a way that has already been clearly communicated.
Good boundaries are not about control, and they are not a reaction in the heat of the moment. They are about protection, and they are well established long before they have been violated.Good boundaries are not about control, and they are not a reaction in the heat of the moment. They are about protection, and they are well established long before they have been violated. Click To Tweet
Healthy Boundaries Don’t Control, they Protect
When we make a demand about another person’s behavior, that is not a boundary. We can’t tell someone else what they can and cannot do. What we CAN do, is plainly lay out how we will respond in a given situation.
I don’t have the authority to tell my husband that he can not be unfaithful to me. I do have the right to say that IF he is unfaithful, I will separate myself from him. He gets to choose whether he will honor my boundary and remain in relationship with me, or whether he will violate it and end our marriage.
Healthy Boundaries are an Established Response, Not a Heat-of-the-Moment Reaction
A person violating a healthy boundary should always know what he is doing. If my property line is unmarked and my neighbor trespasses, I can’t ever be sure he knew he was trespassing. On the other hand, if I build a great big fence on the line, everyone knows exactly where my boundary line stands.
Our personal boundaries should be just as plain. We need to figure out exactly where our borders stand, and clearly communicate their parameters. That way, if they are violated, not only will we know exactly what to do, but the one violating them will know what to expect. We’ll be free to respond rather than react, and there is great peace and comfort in that place of security!
There are many other signs of unhealthy boundaries that we’re not going to get into here. I wrote a post on my blog called Letting Go of Control and Fear with Good Boundaries, which goes into much more detail on the subject. Check it out if you’d like to learn more about the difference between good boundaries and unhealthy ones.
What it boils down to, though, is that good boundaries are clear and they protect, and unhealthy ones attempt to control and have not been well established ahead of time.
Biblical Principles of Boundaries
I think most of us understand that boundaries make sense on a practical level in any relationship. But for those of us who have chosen to follow Christ with our whole hearts, that’s not enough. We need to know what the Bible says about boundaries.
After our marriage hit its breaking point, I decided I was going to read through the whole Bible specifically looking for what it has to say about boundaries. I spent the next two years doing exactly that. Twice!
To say I was surprised by what I found would be an understatement. I was floored. Completely shocked! I discovered that our God is a God of boundaries. He makes them for us, and He has called us to have them in our own lives and relationships.
Proverbs 4:23 Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
After those two years of Bible study, I spent another 6 months turning the information I had found into a workbook that clearly lays out Biblical principles of boundaries in a way that helps the reader interact with the concepts and learn to apply them to her own life. It’s called the Biblical Boundaries Workbook, and you can find it on Amazon through this affiliate link, or by clicking on the image below.
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If you are interested in finding out some of what the Bible has to say on the subject of boundaries, I really believe this is a good place to start. Nothing beats digging into the Word of God for yourself when it comes to finding answers to hard questions, and this workbook will help you do that in the area of boundaries.
Finding Hope for a Broken Marriage with Good Boundaries
What I’ve learned is that having good, God-honoring boundaries sets us free to live our lives in obedience to Christ without having to worry about how the bad behavior of others might drag us down into sin ourselves.
How Boundaries Changed Our Story
After discovering my husband’s sexual sin, I had some really tough decisions to make. I avoided it for a long time, but God didn’t let me keep my head buried in the sand. He lovingly taught me how to set down boundaries in our marriage that honored me, my husband, and most importantly Him.
I can’t tell you how freeing it was to finally obey. I was able to find myself again, and my identity was suddenly all wrapped up in who Jesus Christ had made me, not in whether or not my marriage succeeded or failed.
It’s not always this way, but in our marriage, I only had to respond to a boundary violation one time. After I laid down my parameters, things changed. Especially when I actually held to my boundary after it was violated!
As we separated for a set period of time, my husband realized he was going to lose everything if he continued in his sin. During our time apart he finally came face to face with his sin. He acknowledged it for what it was for the first time in his life, and he chose to humble himself before God and repent.
Enforcing that boundary was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life. I was scared to death. I didn’t want our marriage to end, but I knew I couldn’t go on being a part of something so dishonoring to God. Once I actually did it, though, I felt so free! Even before I knew things had changed on my husband’s end, I felt the hope of knowing I was obeying God.
The Harvest of Hope for a Broken Marriage
Galatians 6:7-8 Don’t be misled – you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.
When our spouse is choosing to rebel against God, it’s going to affect us. There’s no way around that. Even with good boundaries, we’re going to get hurt. That’s the price of love in this broken world. We still hurt God day in and day out even though He is perfect, and so are His boundaries.
However, that pain will be minimized as much as possible with good boundaries. Additionally, we’ll be giving our spouse the best chance of seeing his sin for what it is and choosing repentance. We may still suffer the sting of seeing someone we love endure the consequences of rejecting God, but we won’t suffer those consequences ourselves.
Instead, our lives will be filled with the blessings that follow obedience. We’ll be free and full of hope!
At the end of 2015 I discovered that my husband of nearly 17 years and the love of my life had a serious sexual addiction and had been repeatedly unfaithful throughout our marriage. Obviously, that discovery was devastating and nearly ruined me… but God. God showed up (as He always does) in the middle of that dark time and pursued me with reckless abandon. He showed me again and again that no matter what happens in this world, my identity is in Him. Who I am is defined by Him, and He says that I am His dearly loved daughter. In the years since that discovery we have had front row seats to God’s amazing redemptive power. We’re learning that it doesn’t matter how badly we’re broken; God can make us new! He is remaking me into a whole and healthy daughter. He’s remaking my husband into a man after His own heart. He’s remaking our marriage into a beautiful, grace-filled testimony of His wonderful love! And out of all of it, He is building a ministry to help other couples on the same journey. If you’ve suffered the sting of intimate betrayal, or face the monster of sexual addiction, I encourage you to hop over to our ministry’s website, www.hisdearlyloveddaughter.com to find encouragement and support. You don’t have to do this alone!
If you enjoyed this you would also like these posts:
- How to Fast and Pray in a Way that Pleases God
- 3 Powerful Reasons to Fix a Lack of Respect in Marriage
- How to Be a Godly Wife to an Ungodly Husband