6 Things I’ve Learned Hanging Out With Addicts

 

This article first appeared in the Summer 2015 edition of
Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal.
7 Things I've Learned Hanging Out with Addicts

I‘m a good pastor’s kid: cradle roll, Sunday school, Vacation Bible school, the whole nine yards. I never went crazy or rebelled. I grew up in a well-adjusted home and didn’t get tripped up by the land mines that can wreak havoc on so many lives. I was a good church kid who hung around with other good church kids. Life was good. I spent my first decade of ministry in churches full of “good church people.” It was easy and comfortable. It was what I knew.

I’ve never had a problem with getting out in the world. I’ve just never had a compelling invitation to interact with those on the margins. That was before I discovered Recovery House, a local in-treatment facility for women overcoming drug and alcohol addictions. I was invited to go once a month and spend a few hours with the women there. They come to our worship services every week and sit on the second row. Long story short, these women have blown up my world in a beautiful way. Here are seven truths I’ve learned by hanging out with addicts for the past three years:

1. Real Ministry is Messy.

I’ve had numerous conversations with women whose husbands were addicts who refused to go to rehab. What’s the better option: advocating divorce for their future sobriety or saving the marriage by allowing the husbands to drag their wives back into addiction once they get out of rehab? These are not problems with simple, clean solutions.

2. Pastoring is Incomplete Until You Step Out From Behind the Pulpit.

It’s easy to solve the problems of the world from behind the safety glass of the pulpit. But ministry is made complete when the rough edges of life rub off on you, when your suit gets a little scuffed up, when you’re face to face with a problem bigger than a quick reference to a Bible verse. Two years ago I met a young woman named Jennifer* at Recovery House. She grew up in church and knew the Bible.

Behind her smiling veneer she hid the pain of a past abortion and an alcohol addiction that couldn’t make the pain go away. Jennifer found healing at Recovery House and her husband at an Alcoholics Anonymous support group. Jennifer, her husband, and their beautiful baby boy are now active in our church. I’ve been through the valley with Jennifer. I didn’t blush at the baggage. All the sermon platitudes of grace and mercy were incomplete for Jennifer until she realized that they applied to her in spite of her past mistakes.

3. Personal Sin Affects Others.

This heartbreaking reality is thrust on me every time I sit down and learn the stories of the women at Recovery House. Some grew up in drug-infested homes, some in pastor’s homes, but their sin never stays contained with them. So many addicts I worked with were moms. They have kids scattered around, some within the state, and are desperately trying to keep their own personal house of cards from collapsing.

I remember Karen from a year ago. A local girl whose mom was a drug addict and in and out of prison, all Karen ever knew growing up was a life of drugs. The last time she saw her mom was in jail. They were both serving separate sentences but happened to be at the same facility. That’s her family reunion. Karen finished her 90 days, but can’t seem to break the generational cycle of drug addiction.

4. The Gospel isn’t Just Academic Theory. It’s a Tangible Hope.

Seminary was a blessing for me, but being surrounded only by a bunch of maturing Christians made the hope of the gospel seem purely abstract and academic.

The beauty of the gospel radiates against the backdrop of the darkest sins. After an attempt to take her own life, Rhonda, a Native American who grew up on a reservation where alcoholism and hopelessness abounded, was ordered to rehab. Rhonda found God at Recovery House and Mt. Vernon Church. Two years ago she shared her story with our entire church. She couldn’t stop smiling.

5. Jesus Hung Out With the Likes of These.

Associating with addicts might seem objectionable, but I can’t escape the fact that Jesus would have jumped at the chance to be with these women.

Around six months ago, I met a middle-aged woman named Clara. She’d lived a rough life, with multiple arrests and abusive relationships.

Usually I ask the women to open up about their lives, but I had to ask Clara to stop before she shared too much. She was under investigation for the murder of her abusive boyfriend. I cannot say that I was comfortable sitting that close to a murderer, but these are the people that Jesus hung out with.

6. Love Truly Does Cover Over a Multitude of Sins.

Two girls, Rachel and Brittany, recently came through Recovery House. Both grew up outside of Christianity with an almost violent antipathy for the church. When they learned that Recovery House went to Mt. Vernon Church every Sunday as part of their entry program, they both seriously considered walking out of rehab and calling it quits.

They both now love the church. Rachel has given her life to Christ and has brought her mom to church. Brittany is on her way. Easter weekend, Brittany made a special request to Recovery House to be off-campus to volunteer all morning at our Easter Egg Hunt.

What made the difference? The love from our church’s host team that greeted them when they got out of their van every week, from church members coming up and making them feel valued in spite of their addictions, from several of our women who go to Recovery House during the month and teach a variety of life skills, from me investing time to get to know them and answer whatever spiritual questions they have. Love makes the difference.

As much as I’ve been able to teach the Recovery House women the past three years, they’ve taught me so much more. They are walking examples of the power of the gospel, the promises of Scripture come to life. I thank God for every one of them.

*Names are changed to protect their identity.

Story of Hope: Jennifer

by Kaylan Preuss

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

—Isaiah 43:18-19

IMG_0805_pp

Jennifer grew up in nearby Sturgis—in a middle class, safe, whole family unit, complete with a dad, mom, and younger sister. So how was it that in 2012, as a young 30-something, she was facing her third divorce? She couldn’t believe or understand it.

Family life wasn’t exactly ideal during childhood. Jennifer’s mom took her and her sister on-and-off to a nearby Catholic church—mainly for the important things like confirmation and her first communion. But at home, her dad was a functioning alcoholic.

“He wasn’t abusive at all and he was present, but I don’t have many sober memories of my dad,” she said. “He did his thing and we did ours. He was there, but he wasn’t really there.”

As for her Catholic church, she didn’t like it or understand it. So she started attending a local community church with some friends and got involved. Because it was a small group, she never found the leadership or guidance she now says she probably needed during that time.

“I remember going to church camp at 13 or 14 and being ‘saved’ there, but I didn’t even really know what that meant. I didn’t do it for the right reasons. It’s what everybody was doing and it felt right,” she said. “Looking back now, I realized I wanted God’s blessings, but I didn’t want that way of life, so my salvation didn’t stick.”

Jennifer spent a lot of her teenage and young adult years making what she calls “less than desirable decisions.” She hung out with all the wrong people and battled her own addictions—drugs, alcohol, and promiscuity.

In 1996, she found a way out. She met a guy in the Air Force, originally from New Jersey, who was stationed in Columbus. At that point, all she wanted was to get out of Mississippi and he wanted a wife before he got out of the military, so it seemed they both had a solution in marrying each other.

“We got married and I got pregnant. When we had our son, I decided I wanted to live in Mississippi to be close to my family and he wanted to go back to New Jersey. He’s a great guy and we still co-parent today, but the bottom line is this: we should’ve never gotten married. I know now it didn’t work because God wasn’t involved in that relationship,” she said.

After their divorce and a short time had passed, Jennifer met someone else. She was a single mom raising her son and he was raising his twin girls on his own. This seemed to be the perfect Brady-Brunch-blended scenario.

They married in August 1998 when Jennifer was 23 years old. By November, the whole family was active in a local church where she was baptized and started to turn things around, focusing on “living right” and reading the Bible.

Jennifer said, “Life was good for us. We were very involved in church and tried to do the right things. We even attended Mt. Vernon for a while. He was growing as a believer and so was I, so it was a shock when I found out he’d had an affair.”

In 2008, after 11 years together, the couple split and Jennifer tried to move on again with her 12-year-old son. But just one year later, carrying her own bag of self-loathing and emotional pain, another man entered Jennifer’s life, trying to buy her affections and mend the broken pieces.

“He said and did all the right things. He seemed to be the answer to everything. He’d been a Marine. He was financially stable. He had a college degree,” she said. “There was a lot of pressure from him to marry again, so I did—for a third time. I didn’t believe in anything anymore, so I fell for everything.”

Two things happened after they wed—Jennifer soon got pregnant with her second son and red flags started popping up all over the place.

She began to find out the ugly truth behind his lies: he couldn’t produce a driver’s license; he didn’t actually have a degree; he was $12,000 in child support debt; he’d begun dating someone else a month after they were married. And the biggest lie of all? Jennifer wasn’t wife #2 like he said—she was #5.

“I felt stuck. The lies were overwhelming. I had no clue whom I’d married. He turned out to be a con artist and I’d fallen for it,” she said. “For three years, I tried to make it work. But at the end of it all, he left me with $21,000 worth of debt.”

The biggest blessing out of it came in the form of her second son, Reed—plus a life change she couldn’t have predicted. In 2011, she and her boys began attending Mt. Vernon again. And this time, things were different.

“I remember sending a message to a staff member saying, ‘I’m scared to death of being judged at church.’ Church is a hard place to be when you’re divorced. I felt like I was walking in with a neon sign over my head that said, ‘Single Mom, Divorced x 3.’ I felt like it defined who I was. But when I walked through those doors, I never once felt judged or condemned. It felt like family.”

About the same time, Jennifer began working full-time from home, giving her time to reflect on her past. What she realized was her issues began as a child, more than 20 years ago, when she began searching for love and a man to fill the gap her dad never could. She didn’t realize the impact her father’s alcoholism had on her life (who is now battling the end stages of his addiction).

She’d wanted the fairytale, but it had failed every time she tried to create it on her own.

“You don’t think you’ll ever get through the pain,” she said. “I prayed so much for the ability to forgive myself and let go of the shame that was binding me. It was when I opened the Bible and met the person of Jesus that I found my fairytale and the Father I needed all along. I’d tried to fill the gap in my heart with worldly relationships, but only Jesus could do that all along. He’s the only Love I need.”

Just when she realized how much Jesus loves her, everything else also melted away—the resentment, anger, brokenness, and shame. Though she still battles the enemy for freedom, she says she now understands that Christ’s power is made perfect in her weakness.

Today, Jennifer regularly attends a life group—a place where she feels safe to share, encourage, and be encouraged. She also serves each week on the host team and with the Children’s Ministry. And to top it all off, her sons are both actively involved at Mt. Vernon.

She said, “Now, I get it—this relationship with Jesus. There’s trust there. Grace is real. Yes, my story is messy and ugly. I created that. But Jesus stepped in and made me new, healing the wounds and filling in the holes. Sometimes the best fairytales come from the rubble.”

Celebrate for Molly!

Can somebody give me a ‘slow clap’ for Molly? You don’t know Molly, but God is doing something huge in her life. If you can get excited about life change, then you can celebrate for Molly. Molly is an addict. She came to Mt Vernon Church recently through Recovery House (a local residential treatment facility for drug and alcohol addictions). It was a big deal for Molly to even show up to church.

Enjoying the sun

Molly grew up with some bad religious scars from her childhood and vowed never to go back. When she found out that her rehab facility went to church, she almost dropped out of Recovery House simply to avoid going to church. She was skeptical, bitter, and distant.

But then, as only God can, love began to break down barriers in Molly’s life. People began to show her the love of Jesus in tangible ways. Our people welcomed her and embraced her in spite of her addictions. Ladies in our church became mentors to her. She liked the music and engaged with the message. Church took on new life for her. She began to read her Bible and ask questions. Mt Vernon created a safe space for her to explore her faith, and before long the cold embers of belief began to glow warm again.

Easter Weekend Molly requested (and got) special permission to go off campus and volunteer all Saturday morning at our Easter Egg Hunt. Molly doesn’t have any kids. She just wants to be at church now as much as possible. Yesterday I received an email from the staff at Recovery House to let us know the difference God has made in Molly’s life through Mt Vernon. Her time in rehab is coming to a close, but instead of going back home she wants to move to Columbus permanently. Why? In her words, “I do not want to leave Columbus because I absolutely love, love Mt Vernon Church. I can’t believe I am saying this but it’s true.

You don’t know Molly, but trust me when I say that the Molly I met two months ago would never say that. God is  radically transforming her life. God is doing something big. That’s a reason to celebrate! (or at least give a ‘slow clap’)

P.S. While you’re celebrating for Molly, please pray for Karen. Karen is new at Recovery House. She’s where Molly was when she arrived. Easter Sunday was her first Sunday at church in decades. She did not want to be there. Pray that God transforms Karen’s life like He has transformed Molly’s!

Two Things to Always Remember About Yourself

Earlier this week I made my monthly visit to the Recovery House, an in-patient facility for ladies overcoming drug and alcohol addiction. I always treasure my time there, and this week was no different. While talking with them, I was reminded of two incredibly truths:

1.29.15

1. You’re more important that you think. The ladies went on and on about my sermons, saying that in group therapy on Mondays they always have to share something significant they learned from over the weekend. They said by and large it’s always something from my sermons. They also accused me of being in league with the staff by what I preach, because they told me that everything I preach is directed right at them.

I’ll be honest. I was feeling pretty good right about then. You never realize how much your words can make a positive impact, whether in a sermon or in a conversation. You’re more important than you think.

2. You’re not as important as you think. Immediately after they took me up to the mountaintop they brought me right back down to earth. Four of the ladies went on to tell me about all the spiritual experiences they’ve been having, at other churches. Some are in transition and have a choice on which church to go to. They said they’ll always be thankful for Mt Vernon but they love their new church in town. One girl who I’ve been working with for two months and who started off very hostile to the gospel shared how she got saved this past Sunday! It was just at another church (the nerve)!

It reminded me that as important as I might think I am, I’m just one small piece in God’s puzzle. God’s kingdom and God’s purposes are a whole lot bigger than me.

Remember, you’re more important than you think, and you’re not as important as you think!

Why I Love Hanging Around Addicts

You’d never think that a “good church kid” from a staunch Southern Baptist background would willingly hang out with a bunch of addicts, but I do and I love it! More than that, it’s one of the favorite ministry things I get to do each month. Mt Vernon church works together with Recovery House (a local in-residence treatment facility) to help ladies battle drug and alcohol (and more and more prescription drug) addictions that are ruining their lives.

9.30.14

Every Sunday a dozen of the ladies from phase one march into church two by two. For many of them, it’s the first time they’ve been in church in years, if not decades. Once a month I get to go out to Recovery House and spend two hours with these ladies, getting to know them and answering any spiritual questions they might have. Yesterday was my day to go to Recovery House, and I walked away (as always) reminding myself that it was for afternoons like this that I got into ministry.

Like most months, the current group of clients for Recovery House is a motley crue of broken and damaged lives: we had an exotic dancer, a preacher’s kid, and a mousy-faced, harmless-looking lady who was actually a murderer (she sat right next to me!). I learned about their stories, their hurts, their broken homes growing up (four of them grew up with parents who were addicts), their children, their divorces, their abuse. Being insulated for so long in the antiseptically clean environment of a Baptist church (not saying that hurt like this doesn’t go on in the church, just that we weren’t supposed to talk about it), it’s shocking to realize just how much brokenness exists in the world.

Here’s what I love about hanging out with a bunch of (recovering) addicts: the gospel shines so brilliantly against the backdrop of their broken lives. They are all hungry for religion, for someone or something greater. So I get to tell them about the Jesus of the New Testament, and there’s none of the arm-chair theologians, stiff-necked traditionalism that can sometimes obscure the beauty of Jesus. They are broken and hurting. Jesus is grace and truth. And they embrace him like the woman at the well or the blind man receiving his sight.

It’s fresh. It’s refreshing. It’s free from any church politics. It’s a group of sinners encountering and embracing Jesus. That will never get old!

Celebrate Something Small Today

6.30.14I’ve just filled out the paperwork to start community college!”, she told me ecstatically. On the surface, those don’t look like words to throw a party over. I mean, it’s not like she got into Harvard or Yale. And she’s also 25, starting to get on the older side for college. If anything, she should be chastised for waiting so long.

But here’s why I celebrated with her, and here’s why you should to: she was a statistic, another example of someone who could not and would never be a productive member of society. She was an addict. When I met her, she had been in rehab seven times by the time she was 25. (Even addicts will tell you, seven times is a lot!) She couldn’t stay out of trouble. She couldn’t stay off of drugs. Others had given up on her a long time ago.

But this last rehab was different. She met Jesus and found a power she never had before. She got connected to a loving church where she grew in her faith. Some of our ladies came alongside her as surrogate moms and gave her the affirmation and guidance she’d been searching for. She went through the program successfully. It’s been a year and she’s still clean. She’s got a job, she’s got an apartment, and when she saw me she wanted to tell me she just filled out the paperwork to start community college. She had joy radiating from her face, and I did from mine as well.

She’s no longer a statistic. She’s a person with hope. Hope to reenter society as a normally functioning member. Hope to finally put this painful chapter of her life behind her. Hope to be a whole person again.

Community college may seem small, but to her it’s the world. What’s something small you can celebrate today? Another day still married? Another day of health? Another day to spend with your kids? Another day with food on the table? Take something small and celebrate it today. You’ll be glad you did.

QUESTION: What’s something small you can celebrate today?

And Then She Told Me She Was a Lesbian . . .

5.27.14Recently I got a chance to practice what I preach in the most unusual and uncomfortable fashion. One of the great privileges I have is working with a group of ladies at an in-treatment facility center in Columbus who are dealing with a host of addiction issues. One of the things I try and do is help the ladies dig deeper underneath their addiction to discover what’s really driving it. We’ve talked through traumatic events, bad-guy boyfriends, abortions, abusive homes, you name it.

One of the ladies at the facility for the past few months (we’ll call her “Leslie”) has been a tough nut to crack. She shows no emotion. She doesn’t talk. The most I’ve been able to get out of her is that she doesn’t go to church. She seems to be still deciding whether recovery is for her. Recently I was leading the ladies through the story of Jesus and the adulterous woman in John 8:1-11. It’s a classic story of grace and forgiveness, perfect for a group of ladies who are dealing with guilt and shame.

During a question and answer time afterwards, Leslie spoke up unsolicited for the first time in two months (believe me I’d tried my hardest to get her to engage). She put the core truths of that story to the test. She said, “Is it true that you can’t be forgiven if you don’t want to change because that’s what my friends told me because I’m a lesbian.” And . . . things . . . got . . . weird.

Maybe it was just me. There’s no reason why it should have gotten weird. We had literally been discussing abortion, self-mutilation and crack cocaine in the previous ten minutes. If there’s an issue out there, these girls have lived through it. But homosexuality, that’s the ‘unforgivable’ sin for evangelicals today. Adultery is frowned upon, alcoholism is scoffed at, but homosexuality is, well, just read the newspapers. Watch the culture war being raged between the church and society over tolerance and acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle.

Leslie’s quiet, but she knew what she was doing. She dropped that bomb on me to see how the preacher would react. If God forgave the adulterous woman, what about her? Did John 8 apply to her, or is homosexuality the ‘unforgivable’ sin? After Leslie threw that grenade into the middle of the room, the entire dynamic of the conversation shifted. They didn’t want to know about dinosaurs anymore (yes, that was a previous question), they wanted to know why the Bible was so out of touch with modern culture and why it condemned a lifestyle that everyone else seems to accept. If Jesus was so ‘loving’ and ‘forgiving’ (as they put it), why would he be so hateful to condemn the homosexual lifestyle? Especially if it’s something that you’re ‘born with’?

My response was . . . what I’m going to write about tomorrow. Stay tuned!!!

 

How to Have Your Heart Broken in Ministry

2.26.14My heart is broken the fourth Monday of every month at 1 pm. It’s like clockwork. If you want to have your heart broken in ministry, here’s a guaranteed way: work with people suffering from addictions. Mt Vernon Church is privileged to have a partnership with Recovery House, an in treatment facility assisting ladies dealing with drug and alcohol issues. During the first 90 days, the ladies come to Mt Vernon every week for Sunday services. We get to know them. We learn their backstories, their tragic choices, and their courage in attempting to face their consequences.

On the fourth Monday of each month, I meet the ladies at Recovery House and we have two hours of “girl talk.” We get to know each other, share our stories, and they can ask any spiritual question they like (some of the questions are way out of left field). I get to know the ladies and learn about their upbringing, their families, their kids.

And then they break my heart. This past Monday, I went out and learned that we lost three ladies this month. Two of them relapsed, and one decided not to continue in the program. They’re out in their old haunts, promising to try harder, but we all know how that’s going to turn out. They’ve resigned themselves to months (and sometimes years) of struggling with the addictions that brought them to Recovery House in the first place. Many of you know the pain of watching someone you care about walk away and ruin their lives with reckless choices.

If you want easy ministry, stay inside the four walls of the church. Only talk to nice looking middle class families. If you want your heart broken, roll up your sleeves and begin caring for those dealing with major addictions. I rejoice with their successes and weep with their failures. Somehow I think Jesus would do the same.

Calling a Spade Anything But a Spade

8.19.13On July 3, the Egyptian military ousted democratically elected president Mohammed Morsi and installed themselves as the functioning government. In recent weeks the military has begun opening fire on supporters of ousted president Morsi, killing hundreds of them. By all classical definitions, what happened in Egypt was a military coup.

Yet interestingly enough, the White House has called what has happened in Egypt everything but a coup. Their refusal to call a spade a spade is simple: by law, if they refer to what happened in Egypt as a ‘coup,’ then they would have to cut off $1.5 billion in aid to them, something they’re unwilling to do at this point. The result is a strenuous case of linguistic gymnastics as the White House press secretary dances around pointed questions about Egypt, refusing to use the word ‘coup.’ If there weren’t millions of lives at stake, the whole exercise would be laughable. The White House refuses to admit something that is so plainly obvious to the outside world.

Here’s the spiritual application: what sin (spade) in your life are you refusing to call out as what it really is: sin? What area in your life have you been struggling with for years? What habit or addiction would be plainly obvious to everyone else as a problem, yet it’s something you refuse to admit you need help with? What spade are you calling anything but a spade?

  • Maybe it’s an addiction to internet pornography that you still convince yourself you can still handle on your own.
  • Maybe it’s your penchant for buying things you don’t really need with credit cards you shouldn’t have, and your debt is now sky high.
  • Perhaps it’s that hobby that you still call a hobby, but it’s turned into an obsession, negatively impacting the relationships around you.
  • Maybe it’s that alcohol that you promise you can quit anytime, but deep down you know you can’t.
  • Perhaps you’ve gotten consumed by your work, finding your identity in that rather than in your family.

Whatever it is you struggle with, be honest with yourself. Call a spade a spade. If you struggle with something, get help.

11 Reasons Why Marriages Fail

6.3.13It’s marriage week here at MTVPastor. A few days ago my gorgeous wife Robin and I celebrated our 11 year anniversary. In honor of that, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on marriage in three different posts. Today I’ll share 11 reasons why marriages fail. Wednesday I’ll write on 11 ways to strengthen your marriage. Friday I’ll finish up with 11 reasons why marriage is worth it.

We see marriages around us fail for a multitude of reasons. Underlying the causes of divorce are some common themes. Here are eleven of them:

1. Lack of communication. Constant and meaningful conversation is the lifeblood of a marriage. You would think that all marriages have meaningful conversation, but they don’t. Couples don’t carve out time. They’re too tired. The husbands don’t want to talk. Television replaces conversation, and separation begins.

2. Busyness. We can be too busy for our own good. A career is good, but not if it comes at the expense of your marriage. Hobbies are good, but not if it comes at the expense of your marriage. Friends are good, but not if they come at the expense of your marriage. Even kids can drain away precious energy from your marriage. The couples that can’t cut back see their marriages float away in a sea of busyness.

3. Selfishness. At the core, marriage is about serving your spouse, about submitting yourself and your needs to the needs of your spouse. If the couples can’t grasp this, submit their ego and embrace the concept of mutual submission, then fault line cracks will appear at the base of your marriage.

4. Can’t overcome your family of origin. Many spouses were raised in broken, abusive, or dysfunctional homes. They walk into marriage knowing only destructive marriage habits from the example of their parents. If they can’t overcome and move past their family of origin, their parents’ destructive marriage will become their own destructive marriage.

5. Unwilling to grow in your marriage. Marriage is all about change. You change. Your spouse changes. If you’re unwilling to grow and change with your spouse, you don’t have much of a shot. The trick of marriage isn’t finding a perfect spouse who will never change, but to find a way to continuously fall in love with your ever-changing spouse.

6. Lack of investment in your marriage. Husbands, your marriage isn’t complete when you say “I do.” Without constant and intentional investment, your marriage will struggle. Just like a farmer’s work isn’t done when he plants the seed, neither is your work done when you walk the aisle. Marriage takes hard work, lots of it.

7. Addictions overwhelm a spouse. Sometimes a latent addiction can rear up and consume a spouse. An eating disorder, a pornography addiction, alcoholism, if left unchecked, will wreck a marriage. It takes two people to make a marriage work, but only one person to wreck it.

8. Bitterness and unforgiveness overwhelm you. Your spouse will hurt you more than any other person on the planet. They will continually remind you that they are a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness. Because you’re the person closest to them, you will deal with the brunt of their imperfections. If you choose to hold on to past hurts and slights, bitterness will poison your soul and consume you.

9. You give up too easily. Make no illusions: marriage is tough. It’s not for the faint of heart. Every couple will come to points where divorce seems like the easy option. The marriage that works is the marriage that chooses to fight when things get tough, not quit.

10. Sin entices and destroys the marriage. Sin is always looking for a way to destroy the beauty of your marriage. It may use the approach of greed, selfishness, an affair, or any other number of enticements. If you’re not constantly on your guard, sin will destroy your marriage.

11. The love grows cold. Love is like a campfire that must be constantly tended to and stoked. If left alone, the fire will eventually burn itself out and grow cold. When the love grows cold, there doesn’t seem to be much left to save. Don’t let your fire grow cold.

QUESTION: What other reasons cause marriage to fail?

image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net