Strong Marriages is a ministry we partner with for marriage mentors. Here's a story from Jeremy and Stephanie Gonser, in our Carrollton congregation, that shows God's power to redeem through mentors, biblical counseling, and the truth of God's word!
When we first got married, we had so many hopes and dreams for our life together. We were both raised in the church, and we’d been “Christians” basically all of our lives. We thought we knew about grace, forgiveness, and love — so how was it that after sixteen years of marriage were we ready to call it quits?
Truth is, we were relying solely on our own understanding, our own knowledge, our own stubborn ways. We never received premarital training on what a marriage should be. Stephanie’s parents had been married 28 years and Jeremy came from a broken (divorced) home. We had tried counseling before, but that seemed to be “her versus him” most of the time.
Years of resentments, grudges, verbal and mental abuse, manipulation, selfish behaviors, name calling, and threats of leaving had damaged our relationship deeply. Worst of all, we had a countdown until our son graduated high school! We would tell each other, “only seven more years,” then “only six more years,” etc. We were so naïve — in divorce, no one wins.
Then it happened: Infidelity ripped through our home, and Jeremy found himself moving out. The home was finally broken.
That’s when Stephanie decided she couldn’t do it anymore. God, if this is going to work, it has to come only from you. She made herself available for God to do his work. Jeremy still wasn’t there yet, but we both continued to attend church regularly and even sit by each other.
During a sermon on marriage, Pete gave an invitation to pray at the front with a mentor couple from a ministry called Strong Marriages. That was the first time we met Chris and Karen Jackson.
We wanted to start with Strong Marriages immediately, but God’s plan for us first led us to counseling. During this year, we studied the book of Romans every day, learning who we are in Christ and who Christ is in us, resting in God’s grace, experiencing his forgiveness, and discovering how to give that to each other. We learned how to love the way Christ loves us.
We were ready to start our Strong Marriages program. Wouldn’t you know it, our mentors were the same couple we prayed with a year earlier! It’s incredible how God works. We started our Strong Marriages journey: uncomfortable conversations, tears, praying together, homework, daily blessings, regular meetings with Chris and Karen in their home, learning God’s design for our marriage. Our relationship was changing every day. Our understanding of God and his love for us was increasing every time we studied the Strong Marriages material. We were finally living out the marriage God had planned for us!
We have just celebrated our twentieth anniversary, and we know that apart from making ourselves available to God, and without the help of Bent Tree and Strong Marriages, we would have never got past year sixteen.