Do You Believe There’s a God?
About the Guest
Just like your car engine, every marriage needs a check-up from time to time. Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with Dr. George Kenworthy, author of the book Marriage Makeover: Minor Touch ups to Major Renovations, about calling on God to strengthen and renew your marriage.
Dr. George Kenworthy talks about calling on God to strengthen and renew your marriage.
Do You Believe There’s a God?
George: Most of the people that I see have a belief in Jesus, they would consider themselves Christians, they know that the Bible says God hates divorce, but they get to the point where there is so much hopelessness and despair that they just don't know what else to do. So for me to start quoting Scripture and just saying, "Well, here is what the Bible says," by itself, that isn't harmful. But to show them a great, big God who can work amazing miracles in people's lives, that seems to help people get over the hump.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, January 18th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. The first step in repairing a troubled marriage is sometimes a beginning lesson in theology.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. Do you have a contract for your central heat and air at your house? Do they send somebody out in the spring and in the fall to do maintenance? Have you got one of those maintenance agreements for that?
Dennis: No, I'm a gambler.
Bob: You just let it slide and hope for the best?
Dennis: Well, you know, I've taken some of those contracts out in the past, on a used car that I bought, and never ended up using the contract, so you kind of figure, you know, I think I'm just going to …
Bob: You roll the dice on one of those.
Dennis: I guess.
Bob: Because I've been like you, and I just recently replaced a central air unit that I think to myself, "Boy, I wonder if I'd had it maintained better, if it would still be functioning better instead of having to replace it."
Dennis: I understand, yeah.
Bob: And the reason I thought of that, is because I was thinking about it relation to marriage. There are a lot of marriages that you look at today, and you go, "You know, if these marriages had been a little better maintained"…
Dennis: Now, I'm not a gambler.
Bob: When it comes to marriage? Do you have a service contract here?
Dennis: All the service contracts and training and equipping you can give me. In fact, we've pretty much given our lives to that here at FamilyLife. Barbara and I starting in 1976, helped start this ministry, and, Bob, I think every marriage from time to time needs a checkup and occasionally, we need a marriage makeover. In fact, we've just recently produced a new book here at FamilyLife, FamilyLife Publishing, in fact, that is a book by that same title – "The Marriage Makeover," by Dr. George Kenworthy, and he joins us on FamilyLife Today. George, this is a great job, and it's a nice piece of work – how we can all have a marriage makeover and strengthen our marriage for the long haul.
George: Well, thank you, Dennis, it's great to be here with you today.
Dennis: And, you know, the thing I like about what George has done, he's taken his practical experience, Bob, as a pastor and as a Bible scholar, plus all of his experience going back to 1969 when he and his wife, Joan, were first married, along with his three children that they had, and he's compacted it into a short book that, well, frankly, is just chockfull of great advice on how couples can have a marriage makeover.
Bob: And in your pastoral work, you've seen lots of couples come who hadn't taken care of their marriage along the way, and now there were some major malfunctions, and they've come to the pastor's office and said, "Can you fix this," right?
George: One of the challenges, I think, for every pastor, we come across these couples with regularity. At least, for me, as a young pastor in Iowa City, Iowa, I didn't know what to do. All I felt I could do is say, "I'll pray for you," because I didn't feel I had the experience or the knowledge, even though I had an undergraduate degree that emphasized psychology, I didn't know what to do. So, okay, I'll pray. It just came to a point for me, as a pastor, where that wasn't good enough anymore. I needed to do something more.
Bob: And what happened? What caused you to move from, "Okay, I'll pray for you," to some sense of "I think I can help?"
George: Well, Bob, during that time, I was doing my doctoral work at the University of Iowa, and part of what I did was spend time with the Ph.D.s in counseling, and I began to become aware of the kind of training that, at least, we got, and suddenly realized, for the marriages that are really in trouble, having somebody come in and just simply say, "Here are all the problems in my marriage." You do that week 1, and then you talk about the problems week 2, and you talk about the problems week 3. It's great to have somebody empathetic who will listen to you, but there comes a point where you get tired of sticking your nose in the junk of your marriage week after week. And, for the difficult marriages, that wasn't working.
So as one who proclaimed God's truth, I came to the realization that if I say, and I say this from the pulpit – "God can do what's impossible," it was time for me to ask myself do I believe that as I'm helping in the church?
Dennis: You know, George, just in my own experience, I've counseled a lot of couples who have come for help – some knowing that they were in a desperate situation, others just coming just knowing something was wrong and needing this marriage makeover that you write about in your book. You counseled a couple one time who came to you who were in serious trouble – John and Amy – and they really ended up becoming kind of a picture of what you're really hoping to do in all marriages.
George: Yes, that's absolutely right. Well, John and Amy attended the church that I pastored at the time, and when they came to me, I think Amy, at least, was coming for absolution. She had already given up on her marriage. She wanted me to say, as she expressed the fact, that she was in love with the next-door neighbor and didn't love John anymore, and that she had gone to a couple of counselors who couldn't help; that probably it was okay for her to just go ahead and pursue getting a divorce, because if you don't love your husband anymore, what's the point?
And with John and Amy, I said to them what I say to each couple now that comes to see me – you know, John and Amy, do you believe that there's a God? In the course of my ministry, no one has ever said no to that question. Of course, if their coming to my church, you would hope they believe there's a God.
The second question is, are you willing to apply the principles of God's Word to your life and to your marriage? What Amy wanted to say is, "Well, George, that's not the point. The point is I don't love John anymore." But I pressed her – "Amy, will you be willing to apply the principles of God's Word to your life and to your marriage?" And she said, "Yes." And then, invariably, especially over the last several years, where I find the real problem is people are so hopeless. They really want to do what God wants them to do, but they don't have the hope and the strength and the energy to do it.
So the third question is, are you willing to pray that God the Holy Spirit give you power and strength that you don't have? Well, they weren't sure if they wanted to say yes to all those questions, but they did. And so we started our – about six-month work together, and I gave them the best counsel I could from God's Word; tried to help them in their relationship; and as time went on, we were making some progress, but it was the proverbial three steps forward and four back, on occasion, at least. All the while, she is still having a relationship with the next-door neighbor, because I don't insist that people break off their relationships. I know it's wrong, they know I know it's wrong, but I think that's God's work not my work.
Well, eventually, it came to the point where we were frustrated in what was happening, and I said, "I think you need to take a trip. Do you have someplace you can go? Maybe Florida." And they said, "Okay, we'll try that." So they made a trip to Florida as a couple, and I was hoping a new environment, new setting, kind of like a Weekend to Remember place where they can learn some things and grow.
George: But when they came back, they were scheduled to meet me the week that they came back. And Amy called first and said, "George, Florida was awful. I filed for divorce today. We're done. I'm not going to make the appointment later in the week." And then the same day, it was only probably 20 minutes later, John called. He didn't know that Amy had previously called. And he said, "George, we're done. I'm not going to make the appointment this week. I filed for divorce. I don't think Amy is ever going to give up the other guy. I've had it."
And I was forlorn at that point. You know, you do what you can do as a pastor and as a Christian friend – you pray again and say, "God, I gave it my best shot."
Dennis: You know, I want to stop you there, because it's at this juncture that a lot of pastors and a lot of friends of family members or friends who are in deep trouble and in desperation in their marriages give up.
Bob: Yeah, throw in the towel.
Dennis: They come to this point, it looks so hopeless, there's no way you can see your way out of this. You know what? I join you in your unbelief and your despair. Yeah, go ahead, terminate the marriage, go ahead and kill it, and let's move on.
Bob: And you were feeling some of that when you got these calls, weren't you?
George: Oh, I definitely was feeling that. It seems like every time I counseled someone, I'd get to a point where I may feel some of that hopelessness. Oftentimes, even when I'm – I'm always training somebody when I do counseling – and there are times where, when that person I'm training – afterwards, I'll just say, "From my perspective, I don't know if this couple is going to make it. But I know God is a great big God, and He can do what I can't." And that's always the secret for us. With every couple, we went every session praying that God the Holy Spirit will have a God moment for them the next week. And we pray expectantly – I trust that God wants to do that in our lives, and I've been praying this way for John and Amy and not much had happened for these initial six months.
And then, in God's sovereignty, what happened is that very day when Amy called me– she called back an hour or so later, and she said, "George, I was driving around our hometown, and I saw a billboard that had 473-PRAY on it, and it kind of struck me funny." She called the number, talked to a prayer counselor for about 10 minutes, and now she's ready to really do what God wants her to do.
Dennis: Yeah, yeah.
Bob: So what was the upshot of what the prayer counselor said and her willingness now to do what?
George: Well, she was still having a relationship with the next-door neighbor, and so she asked me, "You know, George, what do you think I should do?" I said, "What do you think you should do?" And she said, "Well, I think I need to break off the relationship with this guy." I said, "Great, I think that's right."
Dennis: You know, there's a passage in the Bible, as you were talking, that this just reminds me of because, George, for a lot of people, it sounds like God talk to say that you're going to pray that God shows up sometime in the next week in their lives. Some people kind of, "Ah, that's interesting God talk." But you know what? It's not God talk if God can show up, and if he's able to show up.
Dennis: Now let me read to you what the prophet Jeremiah said in describing this God, because a lot of people don't believe the right thing about God, so they think He's kind of weak; that He's not really got it all together; not capable of showing up here in the 21st century in the midst of all of our high-tech world. He is capable of breaking through even through a billboard, okay?
Jeremiah 32:17 – "Ah, Lord God, behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Thy great power and by Thy outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for You who shows lovingkindness to thousands but repayest the iniquity of the fathers unto the bosom of their children after them. O Great and Mighty God, the Lord of Host is His Name." He is a great God.
Dennis: He can break through in the most desperate situations and, you know, the interesting thing is, it took six months of you praying for that couple when they weren't willing to pray, necessarily, before God broke through. I think some of us quit after six months and one day. I know Barbara and I have prayed for couples, and we've grown weary of praying, but we have to continue to go to God and say, "God, would you show up in our friend's life? In our family member's life? Will You show Yourself strong and would they respond?" That's really what you're praying for, isn't it?
George: Absolutely. And, to me, that's the one thing, as a pastor, I try to teach couples that come in, because, naturally, in a church, most of the people that I see have a belief in Jesus. They would consider themselves Christians, they know that the Bible says God hates divorce, but they get to the point where there is so much hopelessness and despair that they just don't know what else to do – "I've got to be happy somehow, and I don't think I can continue to be happy married to this person who is making me miserable." I mean, that's what I hear. For so me to start quoting Scripture and just saying, "Well, here is what the Bible says" by itself, or at least, particularly, the portions of the Scripture that says God hates divorce, that isn't helpful. But to show them a great big God who can work amazing miracles in people's lives, that seems to help people get over the hump.
And what we try to do with that is we'll tell stories to couples that come in, stories like John and Amy. In fact, Amy has contacted couples in my church now in Minneapolis and shared her story. She's been up to visit us in Minneapolis, came over and greeted the staff and, in fact, when she came that day, she was carrying her new baby, beaming, you know, from ear to ear. And I said when I saw her, "You know, Amy, I've been telling everybody here that you're the billboard lady of her town," and I then reminded her of the story, and I said, "You know, when you think of that story, what God did for you," at this point it was about seven, eight years earlier that God had done the miracle for her, you know, what do you tell people?
Now tears came to her eyes, and she said, "George, it is the most amazing miracle I have ever experienced, and if I can talk to people in your church or talk to people anywhere, it's a privilege for me to share what God has done for me."
Bob: How did she get from telling her lover, "I heard the voice of God, and I must obey," to the point where she's showing up and saying, "It's the most amazing miracle." What happened?
George: Well, it seems like, invariably, what happens, and I'll tell people in the early sessions, "I'm going to be praying that the spirit of God really touch you powerfully." I will tell them at that point, "We're going to begin praying. We're going to see God intervene a little along the way, but there will be a week, and there will be a day in that week, where we're going to see something huge to happen, and at that point instead of climbing up Mount Everest face down in the mud, you're going to get the sense there's still work to do, but we're coming down the other side of the mountain." And that's exactly what was the case with John and Amy.
After that experience, it was a very short period of time, and God restored their marriage, and they were doing great. So I'd like to think that the previous six months, when I was giving them a bunch of tools that that was helpful. Now they knew what to do with the tools, and they could begin applying them. But it wasn't long after that that they had their marriage makeover.
Bob: Go over those three questions again, and explain for our listeners why you think those three are so crucial.
George: Well, the first question is do they believe that there is a God? And since so much of what we do is dependent upon a conviction that there is a God in heaven who is a great big God who still can do miracles, do the impossible, as that Jeremiah passage says. Well, it's important for me to know that both the husband and wife believe that.
Bob: Question number one – do you believe there is a God. Question number two …
George: Question number two is related to that song we sing, at least, in my tradition – "Trust and obey, trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey." And so the second question is getting at that. Are you willing to trust and obey? Will you do what God's Word tells you you're supposed to do? So that's the second question, and that's …
Bob: And that's important because if they're not willing to trust and obey, then all the talking in the world is just flapping your jaw, right?
Dennis: Yeah, yeah.
George: The third question relates to those folks who will say, "I know what I'm supposed to do. I don't feel like doing it." Or, in the book I tell a story about a friend of mine, Mike, who was an accountability partner of mine. He had formerly been a pastor himself, so he could identify with my world, and as my accountability partner, we got together every single Saturday morning, and I'm seeing all these miracles for these people I don't know all that well, and now my accountability partner tells me, "I don't love my wife anymore," and I know what I'm supposed to do. I don't feel like doing it. He furthermore said, "George, I am sick and tired of doing the right thing. I always have to do the right thing, and it's wearing me out." And then he would look at me with these pleading eyes and say, "George, what's wrong with me?"
He knew the theology. He didn't have the power and the strength to do it. So what I kept telling Mike, "Mike, what I'm going to pray for you, I'm going to pray that the spirit of God gives you the power and the strength that you don't have in and of yourself, to do what God wants you to do." One of the things about Mike, because he was a pastor in a tradition like mine, he was fearful of God's wrath, and he even told me, "George, I'm afraid. God may judge me for my disobedience," but that didn't get him over the hump.
And, I'm happy to say, that as we prayed for Mike, it took a while, but God hold of his heart, too, and he and his wife have a wonderful marriage today. He's able to talk about his marriage makeover, but, for him, it was that last question – you know, will you be willing to pray that the spirit of God give you the power and the strength that you don't have, because he didn't have it.
Dennis: You know, I'm thinking of a television show – Bob, what's the name of it, where there is a makeover of a home?
Bob: Extreme makeover, isn't it, yeah?
Dennis: Where a number of things happen every week. A number of people show up in a house, they do an assessment of the condition, they get a plan, they go get resources, and then they come back, and they do all this work. Well, wouldn't it be great if that could occur in a marriage? Where someone showed up who had a plan, who was good at assessing where the needs were and who went to work and was able to refurbish and renovate and do something spectacular where the residents in the home said, "Wow, look at this room. Look at our bedroom. Look at this kitchen." Well, you know what? There is. He is the Lord God Almighty, and it's we, ourselves, who have not given Him the access to our lives and our relationships to allow Him to do that.
I'm thinking, Bob, of two things right now. I'm thinking of not only George's book and how having a makeover in your marriage is important, but I'm also thinking about the Weekend to Remember, where the Lord God takes the plan, the blueprints, that George writes about from the Scripture, and during the Weekend to Remember couples come and experience that, and the Lord God shows up. And when He shows up, He does renovate, He does refurbish, He does create hope, and that's what we need in this country. There are just a ton of people today who are going to bed every night hopeless. They think they are destined to misery in their marriage and family for their lifetimes, and that does not need to happen.
Bob: I think about what goes on at the Weekend to Remember, and, of course, those weekends, there's been a lot of prayer take place before we ever show up for the hotel. Volunteers in those cities have been praying …
Dennis: … for every couple …
Bob: Our staff has been involved in prayer, the speakers pray. So we really have set that hotel apart for the weekend and asked God to show up by His Holy Spirit and do a work, and it is amazing to see how God honors that and how He does show up, and you've seen it over and over again – as couples come on a Friday night, and they're in isolation, and they're not happy with one another, and they are hopeless. And on Sunday, they leave with hope, and they leave with a plan for how they can begin to rebuild the damage that's been done.
Dennis: And not just a warm feeling that you get at the end of a television show that shows a house that has been refurbished. I mean, those shows are very entertaining. I mean, you feel for some of those families because of what's been done materially for their family. You know, little boys and little girls now have these magical bedrooms that are everything they ever dreamed about, and you're looking at the expression on those children and the husband and wife's faces as they experience their new home.
Well, you know what? As nice as that is, that's nothing, that's nothing compared to when God shows up and truly does a renovation and a marriage makeover, because that makeover will impact not only that marriage, but the children and the generations to come.
Bob: A lot of our listeners have never been to one of the Weekend to Remember conferences that we have and, of course, we're about to start a new season of them here in another month. If a listener is interested in attending, they can go to the website, FamilyLife.com, get more information about where the conference is coming to a city near where you live and how you can sign up for that. Again, our website is FamilyLife.com, and I want to encourage listeners to consider getting a copy of Dr. Kenworthy's book as well. It's called "Marriage Makeover," and it outlines just exactly what you take couples through when they come to see you in the midst of a difficult situation in their marriage.
Again, we have copies of the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center. You can go online to request a copy or call 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY and request a copy of Dr. Kenworthy's book, and we'll make arrangements to get that sent out to you.
Now, I was talking not long ago to a couple who had been going through some tough times in their marriage. They heard the interviews that we did back last year with Dr. Emerson Eggerich, who wrote the book, "Love and Respect." And that was what they needed. She had not understood her husband's need for her unconditional respect, and he had not understood and appreciated how to love her well. And as they listened to those interviews, it was like someone turned the light on, and it brought about a dramatic shift in their marriage.
That two-CD set of those interviews with Emerson Eggerich, we are making those available to listeners this month who can help FamilyLife with a donation of any amount for the ongoing work of this ministry. We are listener-supported, and folks like you who help provide the financial resources for this ministry, who help keep us on the air in this city and in cities all across the country, we appreciate you, and we want to say thank you by sending you this two-CD set when you contact us.
If you're making a donation online at FamilyLife.com, when you get to the keycode box, just type in either the word "love" or "respect," and that will let us know that you want to get this two-CD set sent out to you. Or when you call to make a donation at 1-800-FLTODAY. Just let someone on the team know that you'd like that CD series, and we'll get that sent out to you. Thanks for your financial participation and your support of this ministry. We really appreciate you.
Well, tomorrow we're going to continue to look at some of the very practical things that you have recommended, Dr. Kenworthy, to folks who have come to you seeking help for their marriage. I hope our listeners can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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