As the pastors of marriage and parenting at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, Clayton and Ashlee Hurst know a thing or two about relationships. They’ve been married for more than 20 years, have two children together, and counsel countless couples on how to develop a Christ-centered, meaningful marriage.
Yet, there was a time when their relationship was anything but healthy.
“We both grew up in Christian homes and our parents had stable marriages,” Ashlee told JS in an exclusive interview. “So we went into marriage thinking it would be easy. We put a lot of effort into the wedding day, but none into the days that followed. Slowly, because of our lack of knowledge of what marriage was truly about, we descended into a valley of hopeless and miscommunication, and pride.”
It’s only by the grace of God, Clayton said, that their marriage was able to heal after five years of suffering. Now, they want to help others avoid the pitfalls and traps that so easily entangle people in this world of romantic comedies and unrealistic, Nicholas Sparks-esque relationship expectations.
The Hursts share their story of struggle and pain, healing and forgiveness in their new book, Hope for Your Marriage: Experience God’s Greatest Desires for You and Your Spouse. They combine their personal experience with biblical wisdom to address the most common roots of marital decay and outline small, manageable changes that can be implemented to get a marriage back on the right track.
“We want people to know, ‘Here’s what we did, don’t do this,'” Ashlee said. “Here’s the things we wish we would have known to help other people along the way. People who are in that hopeless place, we want to give them hope.”
(Photo: Joe Center)Clayton and Ashlee Hurst
It’s long been reported that half of America’s marriages end in divorce. While the number is significantly lower among Christian couples, that doesn’t mean they’re immune to marital difficulties.
“We were shocked at the number of people who would come up to us in the sanctuary after service and ask for prayer for their marriage,” Clayton shared. “Marriage turned out to be the number one thing people ask for prayer about. Across the board, people are looking for hope.”
While couples struggle with a number of issues, from lack of communication and unforgiveness to mishandled conflict and unrealistic expectations, it “always boils down to pride,” Ashlee said.