It’s hard to find decent couples’ devotionals. Often they are light on Scriptural exegesis, heavy on anecdotal stories, and so general as to be simplistic. That’s why Steve Hoppe’s 31 Day Devotional on Marriage Conflict is so special. Hoppe interacts well with Scripture, gives specific applications, and focuses his counsel directly on conflict.
As part of the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s series, 31-Day Devotionals for Life, Marriage Conflict maintains the same general structure as the other volumes. Each of the 31-Days has an issue specific focus, a relevant passage of Scripture to highlight Biblical principles, a short reflection on the passage, and a series of reflection and action questions to round out the day. Each day contains their own self-contained gems of wisdom for navigating marital conflict in a Biblical manner, and so they can be read as one-off pieces of counsel. Cumulatively, however, the book presents with a model for addressing conflict not simply navigating one martial hurdle.
The book is broken down into four sections. Section one sets the foundational principles for navigating conflict. Hoppe highlights identifying deeper root issues of conflict, checking our tone, and cultivating personal spiritual health ahead of conflict. Days 4-14 focuses on some specific common “pitfalls.” Here he lists things like “fighting,” “checking out,” “exaggerating,” and “using identity statements,” among other things. Part three shifts focus to what he calls Conflict Essentials. This appears as the bulk of the devotional and highlights specific measures for improving your ability to navigate conflict in God-honoring ways. What I love about this section is that Hoppe does not spend all his time focused on refereeing the types of arguments couples have. He actually wants to help readers cultivate better habits when it comes to conflict, and part three aims to do that. Finally, Part four turns attention to “Conflict and Community,” offering guidance on when and how to involve others in our marital troubles.
Overall I think this is a marvelous devotional. It’s a great devotional for couples, but it can be read by single partners in a marriage. The focus of the book is on individual responsibility, and it successfully avoids any suggestion that you can change your spouse. Yet, Hoppe is good about encouraging personal change in order to see marital change. As we take responsibility for our part in marital tension and discord we can see an impact on our relational environment. The book is very practical without being just a list of “to-do’s”. It is a resource that encourages drawing close to the Lord, leaning on Him for strength, and living with others from a place of grace. I will be using this book for years to come.
Most helpfully this book is rooted in Scripture and gives good exegesis without getting bogged down into the details of textual analysis. Hoppe has good practical counsel, but all of it is grounded in what Scripture teaches and how the gospel shapes Christian couples. It is a devotional that actually takes us to Scripture and doesn’t merely use Scripture as a springboard to ideas and topics. There are, of course, far more comprehensive and detailed works out there, but the brevity of the book makes it an accessible and encouraging tool for couples. If you are married, or getting married, or counseling married couples, read Marriage Conflict: Talking as Teammates.