How Surrendering to God Can Strengthen Your Marriage

Excerpted From
Vertical Marriage
By Dave and Ann Wilson

This is the last of our principles on resolving conflict, but it really should come first. The problem is that we often can’t hear this particular principle because we will skip over it, chalking it up to something uber-spiritual that only pastors and super-Christians apply to real life.

But now that we’ve drilled down into the origins of conflict and our own roles in it, perhaps our hearts can hear this. Besides, if you try to apply everything we’ve mentioned so far but fail to grasp this point, you’ll lose it all anyway. This is the linchpin: Only by going vertical and surrendering your life daily to Christ will you find the ability to resolve conflict with your spouse.

Surrender is not an act of religiosity but an act of being completely honest with God. If anger and bitter words are all you have to bring to the trading table, can you be honest and courageous enough to talk to God in the way you are truly feeling, not in the way you think he wants you to feel? News flash: He’s not going to blush at your anger-laced words; he’s already hearing it in your heart anyway. Can you abandon your personal will to win so that your marriage can win instead? Can you bring your worst and trust that God promises to trade it for his best?

Surrender is honesty with God that leads to the abandonment of one’s own plans and rights because of the belief that what God has for us can be trusted to be so much better than what we have for ourselves—even if we have to lose (or surrender) to experience it.

You may feel totally unable to use soft words in a conflict, to truly listen, to speak the truth in love, to move toward resolution, to forgive—or to do these things day after day, week after week, and year after year. What a daunting and intimidating task—to live out the vows you made on your wedding day. They are impossible.

But God can give us the power to do what feels impossible. In fact, surrender is really all about power. When we give up trying to do this in our own strength, God meets us right there and supplies a power far beyond anything we could ever muster on our own. Remember, he is the one who raises dead things, not you. He can give each of us a power that’s not natural; it’s supernatural.

The need to surrender is a common thread interwoven throughout the stories we’ve told in this book so far. So many times, I have been involved in conflicts where I find myself unable to move forward unless I am willing to surrender—and that usually looks like praying and giving everything to God. Nothing positive or transformative happens until I come to the point where I invite him into the conflict and say, “God, I want you to be a part of this relationship, a part of this conflict, and I want you to take control of my life. I can’t reach resolution on my own. I can’t get rid of my anger. I can’t get rid of my resentment and my bitterness.”

I hear him answer through the whisper of his Scriptures, the whisper of his people, or sometimes the whisper in my heart, but every time I surrender, God is gracious to remind me, “I know you can’t. But I can.” And what happens next is amazing; it’s like a door swings open to the working of the Holy Spirit in my once bitter and angry heart.

The center of a conflict is an ugly state to be in. While we are in it, we so often become focused on what the other person is doing wrong, as if we instinctively believe the conflict will somehow go away if the other person repents and changes. But your surrender to God requires your humility, not that of your spouse. The only humility you can do anything about is your own, so the question is: Will you be humble before him first so you can also be humble before others?

If you will, trust me, it will be a sweet surrender.

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Dave and Ann Wilson
Dave and Ann Wilson

Dave and Ann Wilson are co-founders and teaching pastors at Kensington Community Church, a national, multi-campus church that hosts more than 14,000 attendees every weekend.