Whenever I hear the phrase “bunker mentality” I have a mental picture of a soldier in the bottom of his foxhole with his hands over his badly dented helmet, immobilized by fear. He has had all that he can take and has decided, like a turtle, to withdraw deep into his shell until the danger has passed. I think this describes the reaction of many husbands and wives who are having marital problems and have tried everything they can think of to put things back together and it has failed. To make matters worse, the process of reconciliation has made it worse instead of better. They have found out that things are actually worse than they suspected, because everything is now out in the open, no longer hidden by lies and deception. Before it seemed possible to rebuild, but now it looks hopeless and the pain of it all is unbearable. They ask themselves, “should I stay and fight for our marriage or surrender and sue for divorce?” The prospect of an amicable divorce seems unrealistic, but “what about our children…what will it do to them?”
For many this is a very real dilemma and sometimes they choose a third option, that is to hunker down in their foxhole, put their hands over their eyes and ears and try to ride out the battle that is raging all around them. No more information gets in and no more information gets out, and the only sound they hear is the muffled cry from within that has yet to subside. As a practical matter all of us should know how to deal with this dilemma, either because it describes where we are right now, or because we know someone who is in the process of climbing into their foxhole. Or perhaps it’s to prevent you or your spouse from seeking refuge where no real refuge exists.
There is a parallel to this dilemma in chapter four of Nehemiah’s account when the laborer’s where being mocked and then attacked by their enemies during the rebuilding of the temple walls and gates. The threats were relentless and the attacks grew in their frequency until the workers fear caused them to spend more time looking over their shoulders than working at their assigned tasks. Eventually they went to Nehemiah and concluded that the work should cease and hiding was their only recourse. They thought that by discontinuing their work and hiding out in the perceived safety of their homes, the problem would just go away. It was obvious that they feared their earthly enemies more than they feared God for not continuing the work He had assigned them to do.
Nehemiah however would not be deterred in the mission God had given him and instead of giving up and yielding to fear that gripped everyone else, he devised a plan that would bring security to the project and would keep it moving forward at the same time. He divided his workers in half and while one half worked, the other half stood guard, fully “equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked (4:16-18).” They also concluded that there was strength in numbers and although the work was spread out across a long perimeter a trumpeter was stationed high on the wall and if trouble broke out anywhere along the perimeter, he would sound his trumpet alerting all those in close proximity to rally to their comrades in arms, to repel the attacking forces. The trumpeter was the only man who was not armed because Nehemiah wanted him to be focused on one task and one task only.
Nehemiah’s battle cry was simple and it motivated his men to overcome their fears and to stand and fight and not to give up the work that God had given them to do. “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, and your daughters, your wives and your homes. Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us (4:14, 20)!” How are you to fight the battle to rebuild and preserve your marriage? By being armed in one hand with the truth found in God’s Word and in the other hand, the willingness to act on it. Also, be wary of the sin that can so easily entangle you and be ready to sound the trumpet of alarm when it comes into view. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
You have three options when you are faced with the task of rebuilding your marriage, they are to run away, stand and fight or hide in hopes that it will magically be restored without the pain and sweat it will most surely require. As it is with most things in life, the best option is usually the most difficult and rebuilding a marriage that is in ruin is no exception. Both you and your spouse must be united in purpose, be willing to work like you have never worked before, be willing to sacrifice your life for each other and always be on the alert for those people and influences that can and will do harm to your new and fragile relationship.
Fear, uncertainty and doubt will rise up in you as you face your demons, but remember what Nehemiah told those who opposed him and the work God had ordained, “ ‘The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding (2:20). Come let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace (2:17).’ So they began this good work (2:18).” There is no disgrace in failing along the way, but there is if you give up or try to hide from the reality of your circumstances. Why, because you’re not fighting for yourself but, for “your brothers, your sons, and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” You are taking the fight to the enemies of God, which is sin and not your spouse and in doing so, you give Him the glory. “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is overflowing in the many expressions of thanks to God (2Corinthians 9:12).”
Tool #282 “Remember this: God is able to make all grace abound in you, that in all things at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work (2Corinthians 9:8).”