3 Sneaky Ways Satan Tries to Harm Christian Marriages

April Motl

Crosswalk.com Contributor
Updated Feb 15, 2024
3 Sneaky Ways Satan Tries to Harm Christian Marriages

Marriage and family are meant to be a picture of God’s love for us. Because these relationships were designed to glorify God, they have always been subject to the enemy’s attack. Way back in Genesis, we see Satan bringing separation in marriage. The story hasn’t changed despite the passing of years; our marriages are still targets for the enemy. Here are three ways Satan tempts us away from God’s best for us.

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hands out

1. Taking Matters into Your Own Hands

This is such a tricky balance in life! God wants us to be intentional about our lives! He involves us in His work and will. Yet, all the while, that intentionality and involvement sort of rests in a “hammock” of faith and trust in God’s work. He designed all of us to work, but He didn’t design us to see that work as our provision - God is our Provider! God provides work and fruit from the labors. He even provides miraculously when there isn’t work or enough fruit from our efforts to cover our needs. While God supplies all our needs, He does involve us in the process for our benefit. But we aren’t our Provider, God is.

Work is just one everyday example of this balance in life we need to maintain. Marriage is the complex dance of balancing all these life pieces together. Taking matters into our own hands, whether provision/work or another life facet, always gets us into trouble - even when it comes from the best intentions.

The Lord promised Abraham and Sarah a baby. They believed in God. And they waited on Him. He took longer than anyone ever imagined, so they decided to “help” God by procuring a child through another route. It wasn’t God’s design, but it was a common practice of the time, so it seemed like a reasonable response. It ended with much grief, and their promised baby, through God’s design, came in their sunset years - a true miracle!

It doesn’t matter what it is or how well-intentioned; whenever I set about taking things into my own hands, I end up making a mess of the situation. And quite often, the enemy is there to make the most of the circumstance.

This is probably his oldest trick in the book - the “apple” looks good, it’s useful, it will make everything better.

Abraham and Sarah both took turns taking matters into their own hands, and each time, it was detrimental to their marriage and family. In Egypt, Abraham asked Sarah to skip telling the border guard she was his wife because he feared for his life. If they thought she was as beautiful as he feared, they would kill him and then take her for Pharaoh. She complied and left our their marriage. She was indeed taken to be part of Pharaoh’s harem. But God had another plan. Sarah and Abraham were meant to fulfill a purpose for His kingdom, and nothing would thwart that. So, He struck Pharaoh and his family with illness until Sarah was determined to be the cause. She was sent home to Abraham, and they departed Egypt. It was Sarah who suggested the course to remedy their childless state and “help” God fulfill His promise.

No matter how many times we’ve made this mistake, it can happen to us again!

To safeguard your life from this trap, you might ask the Lord for discernment in this particular area. You could ask God for wisdom to see with clarity if there are areas of your life/marriage/family where you are doing things your way instead of relying on God. You also want to check the action you are about to take and see if it goes against any of God’s principles or directions. Sometimes, something goes against God’s design in a really obvious way. Other times, Scripture might not say something expressly on the topics, but you can see that particular action doesn’t line up with the rest of God’s heart.

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Husband and wife fighting

2. Discouragement

While Satan was attempting to prove to the Lord and all the audience of the heavenly host that Job would curse God once his blessings ran out, Job’s wife became part of Satan’s attack plan (Job 2:9). The first wave of Satan’s scheme involved Job's treasures - his children, his wealth, his property. The second wave of attack involved Job’s person. Once God allowed Satan to touch Job’s person, his wife, who was spiritually one with Job, was swept into the plan to bring Job down. And off went her mouth, tempting Job to turn from his faith and trust in his Lord.

It isn’t the easiest concept from Scripture to digest or apply, but the enemy of our souls can sometimes use us against our spouse! We are wise to consider this.

To safeguard your marriage, consider some extended time in prayer, asking the Lord for insight into how you might respond/engage your spouse in ways that are not of God. Discouragement is often a fingerprint of the enemy - has there been an action or conversation you took that deeply discouraged your spouse? Ask the Lord to forgive you, cleanse your marriage, and ask your spouse to forgive you. If your spouse has discouraged you, ask the Lord to help you keep your heart centered on His truth and grace.

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Sad couple

3. Unprocessed Hurt and Emotions

But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes. 2 Corinthians 2:10-11

Harboring bitterness is probably one of the easiest ways the enemy spoils relationships and also rips us off of God’s blessings. If unforgiveness was left alone in our hearts, it would be poison enough, but Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians that the enemy uses unforgiveness to take advantage of us. It isn’t just set inside our souls; it becomes a tool in the enemy’s hand.

Unforgiveness can develop into bitterness. Scripture warns us of bitterness’ power:

See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled… Hebrews 12:15

There are only a few places in Scripture where I see definite “grace dams” in someone’s life, and bitterness is one of them! I need every drop of God’s grace in my life that I can get - so if holding onto bitterness robs me of that grace, then I need to do whatever it takes to rid my heart of it! Working through unforgiveness is the key to washing bitterness out of our lives.

A close relative of unforgiveness is anger. It’s another natural human emotion the enemy so sneakily uses against us.

BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. Ephesians 4:26-27

God knows things in life will make us mad, but His Word warns us not to allow that anger to remain in our hearts overnight. When we allow anger to fester, the enemy gets “opportunity” or a foothold in our lives. That word there in Greek is the same word used to describe a location the military would use in battle. I don’t want the enemy to have a military outpost in my emotions or my marriage - so whatever it takes, the anger can’t stay!

On the note of anger, I’ve known many Christians who cite “righteous anger” and also this passage from Ephesians as if they are passes for us to be angry. When I can, I ask, “Why do you want the right to be angry? Why do you want it to have anger in your heart?” I’ve seen the lasting fruit of anger. I’ve experienced its destruction quite personally. I don’t want it in my life. James tells us the “anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).

Unprocessed emotions and hurts are tools the enemy often tries to use against us. We are wise to safeguard our marriage through prayer over this area of our lives. Sometimes, long conversations and even outside help are needed. Whatever means necessary, we are healthier as individuals and as a family when we are aware of our emotional responses and navigate them with grace and the guidance of Scripture.

(If you’d like more help processing your emotions, Soul Sorting is a resource that might be helpful.)

Marriage is a wonderful relationship experience. But to be married well requires more than most of us imagine when standing at the altar. We are wise to invest all we can in the health of our marriage. A piece of that nurturing is “weeding the garden” of our relationship. The enemy can come in so small and unassuming, the same way a weed sprouts up next to a seedling. If we don’t tend the weeds, they end up larger than all we’ve planted and then choke out the good plants, so they can’t bear fruit. I hope this is a good start for ways to prayerfully “weed” the garden of your love so it can bear all the sweet fruit God intended for you!

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April Motl is a pastor’s wife, homeschool mom, and women’s ministry director. When she’s not waist-deep in the joys and jobs of motherhood, being a wife, and serving at church, she writes and teaches for women. You can find more encouraging resources from April here and here

Originally published Thursday, 15 February 2024.