When it comes to building a home, it is common knowledge a firm foundation is crucial to the structure. If the foundation is weak and unstable, the rest of the house will not be in good shape. Yet, this same principle can be lost when it comes to the foundation of our lives and marriages. In the church, this is a rising concern. Married couples and families can attend church every Sunday, but without applying the knowledge of the Word the foundation they build on will be rocky at best. This leads to many rocky marriages within the church. There needs to be a call and corrective to Christian couples to confess they have chosen to live on a shaky foundation of their own desires and need to build their marriage on the solid rock of applying God’s Word. Christian marriages need to place God back at the center of their marriage. Dr. Erskine Dodson shows how to do just that in his marriage handbook Help Us, LORD—We Can’t Fix Our Marriage.
Married for more than 35 years to his wife Phyllis, Brother Dodson has served as a pastor, college professor, church planter, and missionary and has seen too many Christian couples build their marriages upon the wrong foundation. The Lord has used this burden to give Dr. Dodson the passion “to see strong, godly and loving families everywhere, especially in urban communities. For me, helping families know the Lord and become firmly rooted in the Word of God is imperative” (Dodson viii). It is toward that end he has written this handbook, a tool that God may use to empower Christian couples to “make God the center of their marriage” (Dodson x).
In ten succinct chapters, Dr. Dodson exhorts Christian married couples from the Word of God, equips them how to apply the Word of God in their marriages, and encourages them with how the Word of God transforms marriages. Chapters 1–4 lay the groundwork by asking the couple if they have trusted in Christ as Lord of their life and the implications that flow from that, both in their individual lives and in their marriages. Chapters 5–8 build upon that groundwork and takes the couple through an eight-week exercise which makes up the bulk of the handbook, both in its purpose and content. Covered in these eight weeks are the power of prayer (week 1), the power of God’s Word (week 2), applying God’s Word through loving your spouse (weeks 3–6), and continuing the application through dating, courting, and sharing prayer requests (weeks 7–8). The book closes with a success story in chapter 9 from a Christian couple who worked through the handbook’s material and with the final commendation in chapter 10 to “Let God Fix Your Marriage” (Dodson 84).
Help Us, LORD—We Can’t Fix Our Marriage by Dr. Erskine Dodson is a considerately concise and immensely practical handbook that will help rocky Christian marriages rebuild their foundation on the solid rock of God’s Word. The book’s emphasis that only God can restore (Dodson 77) reminds the couple God is the one who does the work. The book’s conciseness contributes to the practicality of the handbook. The short chapters do not drown the couple in reading through a load of material but inform them on what God’s Word says. The chapters close out with practical applications (see “Thoughts and Applications” at the end of each chapter) meant to transform the couple’s lives and marriage by the Word of God.
While the concise and practical nature of the handbook will of no doubt benefit to the Christian couple working through it, it does mean other helpful material was left out. For instance, in chapter 6 the week 2 exercise for the couple is to read and study God’s Word. Pages 65–74 list a number of Scriptural passages for the couple to walk through. However, if the couple has not been in Scripture much, they may not know how to go about studying it well. Providing a brief summary in the OIA (Observation, Interpretation, Application) approach to Bible study could have proved helpful. Also, more stories and real-life examples, like what we see at the top of page 47, would have strengthened the content that much more.
Minor critiques aside, this practical marriage handbook is a worthy and necessary resource for Christian couples who are struggling in their marriages. Purchase a copy of the handbook for yourself and your spouse and have another Christian married couple walk you through the material as they mentor you. As you do, allow God to work in your marriage and let the love He has shown you in the gospel drive you to live with Him as the center of your marriage!