Restoring Broken Relationships

When it comes to the brokenness seen in many toxic relationships, including a chaotic marriage, the road to freedom and restoration is often a process. Just as hurt and pain usually develop over a period of time, recovery and healing also tend to follow a progressive journey back toward stability. Here are four prescriptive steps that may offer some guidance, especially if you find yourself at the threshold of change . . . ready and hopeful that God has a better plan for the future.

Step 1 – Recognize and Admit: The Role of Confession and Breaking the Power of Your Secret

The first thing you must be willing to do is face yourself and do so with courageous, but brutal honesty—to say, “This may be about me, not the other person. I recognize and admit that I have a problem. In fact, I may be the problem. What do I need to do differently?” We often carry the “secret” of our struggle for years and the only thing we experience is the growing power it has over every aspect of our lives. Honest reflection is critical if you are to break through the fear and shame and take personal responsibility for what needs to be done. In 1 John 1:9, it says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confession requires bringing things into the light where they become visible (see Eph. 5:13). The child cries out at the, “monster under the bed” until the light is turned on. Only then, do we see things for what they really are. The same is true when it comes to our relationships. Bring them into God’s light where the Great Physician can perform the necessary surgery.

Step 2 – Clean Out the Infection: The Role of Grieving and Breaking the Power of Your Denial

The painful and/or distorted emotions within a broken relationship must be addressed and resolved so the potential for restoration and reconciliation can be released. Otherwise, sinful and destructive patterns will continue to have a negative impact on your life. These emotional wounds often become infected and infections have a natural tendency to spread. It may not be easy and it may not be pleasant—no infection is attractive—but the source of pain needs to be cleansed. Just a like a parent who must touch and gently clean out the scraped knee of their child, so too, God must be allowed to “touch” the sensitive, hurting and impaired places in our lives. And He graciously allows this to happen. David and Psalmists were constantly crying out before God and there was no minimizing or denying the reality of what they were wrestling with. Psalm 62:8 says, “Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” Only then can a healing salve and bandage be applied. When we turn to God with our greatest fears and our deepest griefs, we will always encounter the safest hands.

Step 3 – Renew the Mind: The Role of Truth and Breaking the Power of Your Unbelief

A wrongful and unbalanced belief system usually contributes to codependent relationships. How you think about your relationships and the beliefs you carry may have so distorted the truth, you are now bound by the lies that you actually live. The enemy of our soul is a liar and a deceiver, but the ability of God’s Word to give discernment, clarity, direction, hope, wisdom, and changed thinking are evident. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2) and the washing of His Word (Eph. 5:26). Just as the rain softens the ground and we can more easily weed the garden, in the same way, truth has a way of softening our “heart ground” and allows God to remove the things that tend to choke out life. He is a faithful gardener, but when our hearts are hard and closed, He usually just gets what’s at the surface and not down to the root of the matter. Allow His grace and truth to wash over every part of who you are. The result will be new life and not only that, but one of greater abundance.

Step 4 – Exercise the Will: The Role of Accountability and Breaking the Power of Your Fear

While owning the problem, addressing damaged emotions, and having a renewed mind are all important, by themselves, they are not enough. Concrete and proactive steps must be taken through confession, repentance, obedience, and accountability. Every journey really does begin with a first step. Committed action is usually the result of strong conviction. It’s the evidence that indicates we are ready to move on and beyond the past. The Apostle Paul told the Philippians he was, “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead” (3:13). The truth, however, is that most of us cannot do it alone—we need someone to walk with us. A friend once told me that accountability is the breakfast of champions, but too many of us skip the most important meal of the day. Isolation is Satan’s primary tactic to take out any believer. We just become easier targets. In 1 Kings 4, we see a description of Solomon’s key officials. Embedded in this list is a priest named Zabud, who is called, “the king’s friend” (NASB). Here is the wisest man who ever lived, who had the insight to have someone part of his inner circle who apparently served the primary role of friend. Who is your Zabud? Find that person and ask them to prayerfully consider taking this journey with you—not as an enabling deterrent, but as an accountability partner.

God is an expert at mending broken hearts and broken relationships. Yet, it’s within the brokenness where He can usually be found and where He draws the closest to us. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Ps. 51:17).

Eric Scalise, PhD, currently serves as Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) with Hope for the Heart. He is also the President of LIV Consulting, LLC, the former Senior Vice President for the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) and former Department Chair for Counseling Programs at Regent University. Dr. Scalise is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with over 42 years of clinical and professional experience in the mental health field, and he served six years on the Virginia Board of Counseling under two governors. Specialty areas include professional/pastoral stress and burnout, combat trauma and PTSD, marriage and family issues, grief and loss, addictions and recovery, leadership development, and lay counselor training. He is a published author, adjunct professor at several Christian universities, conference speaker, and frequently works with organizations, clinicians, ministry leaders, and churches on a variety of issues.

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