We are all in the gutter, but some of us look at the stars-Oscar Wilde
They dream in courtship, but in wedlock wake…Alexander Pope
Because marriage, more than any other relationship, reflects God’s involvement with us and bears more potential to draw our hearts to heaven, it can more readily give us a taste of hell (Dan Allender & Tremper Longman III)
We all associate the image of fire with hell. And many marriages in American have gone through this fire of Hell. Whether the marriage ends or the couple stays together, marriage is seen by some as hell on earth.
The Apostle Peter was well acquainted with fire.
He denied Jesus while warming his hands over fire. Jesus questioned his love while fish were roasting over fire. In both cases he associated fire with a test. One he failed another he passed. I think that is why he wrote these verses in 1 Peter 4:12-13 (NLT):
1 Peter 4:12-13 (NLT) Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.
1 Peter 1:6-7 (NLT) So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.
Fire is certainly viewed as destructive and dangerous. Fires destroy forests, but fires also lead to renewal. Fire burns away the dross surrounding certain metals and reveals the pure gold or silver. The fires of life can destroy our marriage, or, if survived, purify our marriage. The fires of our marriage can draw our hearts to heaven or leave us with the taste of hell.
In the movie Fireproof
Captain Caleb Holt (Kirk Cameron) is a firefighter in Albany, Georgia. His seven-year marriage to Catherine is falling apart. Neither one understands the pressures the other faces, and after a heated argument in which Caleb screams in Catherine's face, she declares she wants out of the marriage, and takes off her wedding ring.
While Caleb claims to his friends and co-workers that Catherine is over-sensitive and disrespectful, Catherine simultaneously claims to her peers that Caleb is insensitive to her needs and doesn't listen to her. Further catalyzing Catherine's motivation for divorce is Caleb's addiction to Internet pornography and a large sum of money ($24,000, to be exact) he has saved up for a fishing boat he intends to buy, ignoring the fact that Catherine's disabled mother is in need of hospital equipment that she cannot afford, and which insurance refuses to cover. Caleb tells his father John about the impending divorce, and John challenges Caleb to commit to a 40-day test called, "The Love Dare." Caleb reluctantly agrees to do the test, but more for the sake of his father than his marriage. Catherine initially sees through Caleb's half-hearted attempts to win back her heart, which deepens Caleb's frustration. But with his father's encouragement, Caleb continues with The Love Dare, and eventually makes a life-changing commitment to God, unbeknownst to Catherine.
The movie has some various twists but the end result is Caleb and Catherine realize they need each other, and at the end they renew their vows in an outdoor ceremony, this time as a covenant with God. Their marriage is FIREPROOF.
Marriage is a Covenant
Did you see your marriage vows as a marriage Covenant? Did both you and your spouse get married knowing you were making a covenant before God! You did, whether you realized it or not.
Definition: a binding and solemn agreement to do or keep from doing a specified thing; compact
We know of Covenants from the Bible. God put a rainbow in the sky as a covenant that He would never destroy the world by rain. He made a Covenant with Abraham, He made a Covenant with David, He made a Covenant with all who by faith believe in Jesus Christ. That Covenant was sealed by the blood and body of Jesus.
When we get married, we enter into a covenant before God. In a Covenant, you make a binding agreement to stay with this woman or man until they die. In that Covenant we also promise to do so and so.
Most people believe “Well, my husband broke his promise to love me, or take care of me or so and so, so it’s OK for me to break my promise to him.” Or, well my wife is no longer the person I married, so my vow does not apply.
WE draw a line in our marriage
“I’ll keep my end of the covenant as long as you don’t cross over this line.” I’ll keep my word as long as you don’t … … … But as soon as you do, that’s it, I’m out of here!
That would be OK if marriage was merely a contract between two humans. But it isn’t. Marriage is a Covenant before God. Whether you believe in God or not, marriage was designed by God and no marriage is undertaken without His knowledge. God is in every marriage, whether you are a Christian or not. In fact, God often uses marriage to bring people to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
Your marriage vows are made to God as well as your spouse. Regardless of what specific sins you commit, you are still married before God. You have entered into a Covenant with Him, and He wants you to keep to your WORD. It is binding, there are no exception causes, right person or wrong person, you are held to your word by God. And God will use this spouse that you married to work His will in your life.
So this morning, I want you to consider not taking the Love Dare, but the God Dare.
I dare you to bring God into your marriage, and to hold Him accountable for your love for your husband or your wife. I challenge you to trust God to use whatever sin besets your marriage, your relationship, your love to work His will in your life and make you like Jesus Christ.
Regardless of where you are in your marriage, each day you get up and dare God to show you how he is using your spouse to make you like Jesus.
The God Dare is to Learn to Love and Forgive your spouse the way God does, and to realize that He will use your spouse to make you like His Son!
No partner left behind - unless you are my spouse
Captain Holt was a firefighter. He lived by the fireman’s creed “Never leave your partner behind”
The Army Ranger Creed “Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.
No man left behind, No partner left behind. These are your buddies who serve by your side, who watch your back. If they should suffer harm, you don’t run to save yourself, even t the risk of your own life you rescue them.
We make a vow, a covenant to marry this man or this woman, but as soon as they cross over the line, or fail to live up to what I expect a marriage should be, we cut the line and run?
We are expected to save our bunk-mate but not our bed-mate?
We are expected to do our job rather than keep our Vow to Almighty God!
We all stumble in many ways
James 3:2 (NIV) We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.
Joe works hard for his family. His job requires long hours, with a long commute to boot. He leaves early gets home late.
Joe complains that his wife Cheryl is always on the computer, chatting with friends. He gets home and she is on the computer. She seems to chat more with her friends than with him.
Cheryl complains about how he is never home, and when he does he just flops down in front of the TV. She complains about his big expenditures and how he has run up the credit cards. He never has time for the kids.
The reality is that Joe and Cheryl have become adversaries. They still loved each other, but in reality they resented their spouses and resented their marriage. They are like Caleb and Catherine Holt, resenting each other and looking for a way out.
If we are honest, we have all experienced times when we resented our spouse. We may have even asked that question – did I marry the right one? Did I miss God’s perfect will? Or we meet someone else who seems to be our “soul-mate” and thank we are missing out on life. Marriage is the proverbial “ball and chain” and we are living as a condemned man or woman. Such questions can lead to contempt for our spouse, contempt for our life, contempt for our marriage.
If marriage is to accomplish what God intends, and that is to make us Holy, to empower us to be Victorious in Christ, then there are some fundamental decisions we must adhere to, and they center upon what God delights in! We must take the God Dare with our marriage. We must trust Him with our spouse.
We must commit to seeing our marriage as God sees it – the way to bring holiness to two stumbling sinners.
I have talked with so many men, so many wives who were totally frustrated with the behavior of their spouse. They won’t stop doing this, they won’t stop doing that. They treat me so and so. I always ask, have you told your wife or your husband how you feel. They will usually say, they don’t want to listen to me, or they will say yes, but it doesn’t do any good. They might change, but pretty soon they are right back doing so and so again.
I simply tell them to bring God into the situation. Simply tell your husband or wife that you are not expecting them to change, in fact you don’t care if they change or not. You have given them to God and are trusting Him to work in their life to make such and such like Jesus. That may scare them, or make them laugh, but that is not enough, you need to tell your spouse that you are asking God to use them to make you like Jesus.
So honey, if you mistreat me, God will use that to make us both like Him. He will teach me to forgive and to love those that persecute or hurt me, and God will open your heart to see how your actions or words are hurting Him. God will use our marriage to produce the character of Christ in our lives. He will use our marriage to prepare us both to live with Him in heaven.
How does God use Marriage to Refine stumbling sinners and Make us Like Christ?
There are certain qualities that are ever present when we are dating. These qualities are often what single out that guy or gal from the rest of the herd.
Yet these very same qualities are the ones that seem to be tested the most in our marriage, and yet will bring that sweetness of the fruit of Jesus Christ in our lives.
Those Qualities are Respect, Selflessness, and Acceptance. When you are dating, thinking they are the one, you notice how they respect you, think you are something. They listen to you, your thoughts and opinions are important. There is selflessness about them. They sacrifice what they want to do what you want. They seem to put you first. They accept you the way you are. They love that thing that you are so embarrassed about. They seem so close and loving; they accept me and love me just as I really am.
Something about marriage will test these qualities. Yet these qualities are what we need to be like Christ.
Marriage and Respect
Respect for others, respect for Life is foundational component of society. Without respect for life murder is commonplace, without respect for authority society breaks down into anarchy. Without respect for others it becomes every man for himself.
Jesus was the picture of respect. From the lame, blind, poor, tax collectors, prostitutes, people of all walks of life were treated with respect by Jesus. His respect for His Father was greater than anything, and that led Him to throw the money changers out of the Temple. That led Him to call Hypocrites those who burdened people with so many restrictions that they could not come to God.
We find it easier to respect an image, an ideal rather than actual real, flawed people.
We fall in love with this striking woman or gorgeous hunk of a man. We have this ideal in our mind – they will love me, they will treasure me, they will protect me, they will provide for me. But the closer we get the more flaws we notice. Instead of an airbrushed beauty we discover wrinkles, moles, flaws. Instead of that dashing white knight we find a guy who scratches and belches and had bad breath at times.
Our ideal mate is in reality made of flesh and blood. We discover they can be selfish, tired, non-communicative, boring. And as the ideal gives way to the reality, often times our respect and admiration turns to resentment, and even contempt.
When our respect slips into contempt, it’s because I am weak, not because my wife is failing. If I was really mature, I would have the same compassion for her weaknesses as Christ does. Respect is a spiritual discipline, an obligation I owe my wife.
Contempt is conceived with expectations
Respect is conceived with expressions of gratitude.
You chose what you obsess over – expectations or thanksgivings.
In the mid-eighties Lydia and I went through a rather difficult time in our marriage. We had six children ranging from 2 to 10, selfishly I had bought a big house that we really couldn’t afford, money was extremely tight, the economy sucked so business was bad, my dad was under a great deal of stress. My wife was under a great deal of stress. I was under a lot of stress.
Instead of focusing on God and what he wanted me to do, I focused on unfulfilled expectations. My dad wasn’t paying me enough, Lydia wasn’t paying me enough attention, she wasn’t taking care of the household duties, and she was worn out, living in ratty sweats. I began to resent my life ad even resent my family and my wife.
Then I remember watching the movie “Overboard” with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. He was a single dad with four hellishly awful boys and he finds Goldie Hawn washed ashore with amnesia. He convinces her she is Annie, his wife and he brings her home. At first it is too much for her, but she gets the house under control, the kids under control, Kurt Russell under control. Wow, she becomes super Mom and Super Wife. I wondered why Lydia couldn’t do that. Stupid expectations, stupid unrealistic expectations.
Just when my marriage was about to fall apart because I did not respect and value my wife and all she was doing for me, God brought me to the place where my wife and my children were all I had. I saw my wife in an entirely new light-her love and respect for me, even though I had failed and disrespected her. She stuck by me when my brothers kicked me out of a company I had regarded as my own, as my life, as my reason for living. God showed me that without my wife and my children, I was nothing. She stuck by me the next few years as we struggled financially, and then started a paving business. She put food on the table for six growing children when we barely had enough to feed ourselves.
I’m not saying my wife is a perfect saint, but her decision to stay with me even though I was a stumbling and resentful sinner who did not show her the respect that God desired, brought about a change and work in my life that resulted in God showing His ability to transform stumbling sinners into strong saints.
Husbands – You Are Married To A Fallen Woman in A Broken World.
Wives – You Are Married To A Sinful Man in A Sinful World.
Get An Eye Check Up
Jesus lays out an amazingly simple solution – check your eyesight for splinters and specks before you start complaining about the planks in your wife’s eye.
If you say “But my wife is the one who has the plank”, you are exactly the one Jesus is talking to. Jesus wants us to have humble spirits, humble hearts. We must cast off contempt and resentment and learn the spiritual discipline of respect.
Look at the people Jesus loved and offered respect-publicans, tax collectors, adulterous women, prostitutes, financial cheats, traitors, betrayers.
He washed their feet, he spent time with them, and he ate with them. Where was His contempt? There was none. He gave them His respect, He gave them His hand. We need to extend our hand of respect to our wives, our husbands, regardless of their sins.
Marriage and Selflessness
Once we have obtained that goal of marriage, most men will move on to what they are all about – Ambition and Accomplishment. Wives nowadays are about the same thing, perhaps on a smaller scale.
Marriages become preoccupied with accomplishments. We brag about our job, our money, our car, our home, our friends, our deer, our golf game. These accomplishments become a substitute for the selflessness and humility that are the foundation of intimate relationship.
The man is off making his way in the world, trying to provide for his family, while the wife is either working as well and at the same time becoming a taxi-driver and errand girl for her children. Instead of the intimacy that marriage is designed for, it becomes a series of accomplishments and errands.
Bill McCartney became famous overnight in Christian circles in the early nineties. A successful college football coach, he started Promise Keepers, which swept the nation. Yet his wife was lonely and hurting, which led to severe depression, during which she lost 80 pounds. Her busy husband didn’t even notice. She said she felt like she was getting smaller and smaller and smaller. Bill admitted his hard-driving approach to the ministry was distracting him from being a promise keeper to his wife and family.
Once he realized what was happening, he took the drastic step of retiring from coaching and stepped away from Promise Keepers to devote his life to his marriage. The McCartney’s are together and thriving in their marriage relationship today because of his decision.
Too often spouses struggle because one is making the other look smaller, while promoting them self. In marriage, being Godly is being selfless. I am no longer free to pursue whatever I want. I am no longer single; I am part of a team.
Marriage is about reining in your ambitions to what God wants. And God wants your marriage to be alive and thrive. But we must experience the cross daily. Jesus Christ set aside His ambitions and powers to become a selfless servant. He went all the way to the Cross, dying for you and me. God says we must be willing to die for the benefit of our marriage, our spouse. Paul said he died daily. Husbands, wives need to discover that selflessness that attracted them in the first place. That selflessness is a daily bowing before the Cross and dying to what each other wants and living to what God wants.
If I was the type of husband who expected my wife to cook for me, have sex with me whenever I wanted, keep a perfect and quiet home for my enjoyment. I would be the type of Pastor who would “browbeat you to fall in line regardless of your particular gifts and talents.”
Likewise if a wife abandons her family to ambitiously serve God, she will likely display the same lack of compassion and empathy for others as she does for her own family.
Our ministry and service to and for God is based on selflessness, and that is an integral part of marriage. God wants us to have the mind and heart attitude of Jesus Christ:
Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV)
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!
Marriage is about selflessness, about putting the needs of your spouse first. Those ambitions and accomplishments mean nothing if you lose your wife or your husband.
If you fail to practice selflessness in your marriage, it can hinder your prayers.
1 Peter 3:7 (Phillips NT)
similarly, you husbands should try to understand the wives you live with, honoring them as physically weaker yet equally heirs with you of the grace of eternal life. If you don't do this, you will find it impossible to pray properly. (Hindered)
Word is ekkoptō, to cut off. Without this quality men, you will keep getting dropped calls when you are praying. Your prayer life is inextricably tied in with your relationship with your wife.
Marriage and ACCEPTANCE
When most of you that are dating, I imagine you had your spats. There may have been that fight followed by a long phone call and hopefully then that makeup kiss. The acceptance was there, the reconciliation was quick, complete, without damage to the intimacy of your relationship. In fact, often the misunderstanding brought a renewed and deeper intimacy.
Marriage is acceptance to the extreme. We are constantly confronted with things that we don’t like about our spouse. We either accept them and move on, or we argue, get hurt, stop talking, and stop having relations.
Marriage forces us into the intense act of reconciliation and acceptance. It’s easy to get along with people if you never get close to them.
Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV) "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
If there is no acceptance in the marriage, things get really icy!
Marriage dissatisfaction reveals unrepented sin. Couples don’t fall out of love so much as they fall out of repentance. Sin, wrong attitudes, personal failures that are not dealt with slowly erodes the relationship.
We all enter marriage with sinful attitudes. When these attitudes surface, the temptation will be to hide them so they are not so well known, or flaunt them out of ignorance or pride.
Dating is like a dance where you try to put your best feet forward, look your best, act your best.
But spouses need to admit their sin and not run or hide from it, but use the revelation of your sin as a means to grow in the foundational Christian virtue of humility, leading to confession and renouncement and acceptance.
Then grow further by adopting the positive quality that corresponds to the sin you are renouncing.
If you’ve used women in the past, practice serving your wife.
If you’ve been quick to ridicule your husband, practice giving him encouragement and praise.
View marriage as an entryway into sanctification-as a relationship that will reveal your sinful behaviors and attitudes and give you an opportunity to address them before the Lord.
Here is what happens in a selfish marriage. Our partner does something she or he know ticks us off. It could be anything, but let’s give an example like, he goes out with the guys or hunting or something when you had something else planned.
Ephesians 4:26 (NIV) "In your anger do not sin… and do not give the devil a foothold.
Be angry and sin not. Do not give place to the devil.
When we get angry or upset or feel neglected, we usually have a fall-back sin that we excuse and resort to. Kind of like, we’ll I’ll get you back. Anger and or feelings of contempt give room for the devil to maneuver in our lives. That old temptation rises, but this time we are powerless to resist. Or we resort to a learned bad behavior.
When the marriage is actually designed by God to be a mirror so we can we can our sin and weaknesses, confess and clean up, sometimes we throw the mirror down and break it.
We are accepted in the beloved (Eph 1:6) Husbands and wives must realize that each has ugly sins that will surface from time to time. But they must be committed to accepting the ugliness and working through it to producing that peaceable fruit of righteousness.
Marriage is a Spiritual Discipline. And disciple is painful:
Hebrews 12:11 (ESV) for the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Marriage is Seasoning for heaven
Mark 9:49 “For everyone will be salted with fire.”
Stress-free, comfortable marriages are an indirect desire to remain an “unseasoned”, immature Christian.
God has ordained that our refining process takes place as we go through difficulties, not around them.
We must go through the Red Sea, into the fiery furnace, through the River Jordan, to the Cross. God gives victory through our problems.
Jesus: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23)
Like climbing a difficult mountain, we need to step back and say “this is tough, how do I keep loving this person in the face of this challenge?”
Would I rather live a life of ease and comfort and remain immature in Christ, or am I willing to be seasoned with suffering if by doing so I am conformed to the image of Christ?
If it was so easy to love someone till death do you part, why would we need to promise to love each other “till death do us part?” It is precisely because our society knows such a promise will be sorely tried and tested.
WE DON’T PROMISE TO EAT OR TO BUY CLOTHES.
Every marriage comes to a time when the “RUB” goes the wrong way. It is for those times such promises are made.
The Seasoning “Rub” of Marriage is for Eternal Glory
Paul wrote in 2 Cor 4:17 “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
Any Sports Team-football, baseball, soccer, can go undefeated if they play weak teams. We love teams that have given it their all and have championed against the powerhouse team. We love an underdog that has vanquished a mightier foe. There is something about a struggle that brings out the best in our teams. We know when they’ve given it their all.
Young couples need to hear that: “A good marriage, a lasting marriage, an overcoming marriage is not something you find; it is something you work for! There will be struggles, there will be trials and tribulations, sometimes from without and sometimes within. You must learn to crucify your selfishness. There must be times of confrontation, and there must be times of confession. Eventually through the refining fire of this relationship will emerge a relationship of beauty, trust and mutual support.”
Working through problems is taxing. It is much easier to go shopping or dancing with the gals or go out with the guys or a sports game than to deal with intimacy issues or rejection issues or a relationship that is cold and going nowhere. It’s easier to look elsewhere for emotional satisfaction.
When you see marriage in the light of God’s design, then you realize there are spiritual benefits to working on this relationship, and therefore there are eternal benefits.
Otto Piper: “If marriage…is a disillusioning experience for many people, the reason is to be found in their passivity of their faith. People dislike that the blessings of God may only be found and enjoyed when they are persistently sought (matt 7:7; Luke 11:9) Marriage therefore is both a gift and a task to be accomplished.”
Don’t run from the struggles of marriage. Embrace them. Grow in them. Draw nearer to God because of them. Through the struggles of marriage you will reflect more of the spirit of Jesus. And thank God He has placed you in a marriage where your spirit can be perfected.
John Wesley married a widow at the age of 48:
A greater source of trouble was his marriage to Mrs. Vazeille, February, 1751. Having come to the conclusion that "in my present circumstances I might be more useful in a married state," he speedily consummated his design. Unfortunately, he could scarcely have hit upon a more unsuitable woman. Of a bitter and angry spirit — indeed, almost if not quite insane — she became the torment of his life. A number of times she left him, and again returned. She defamed him in private, and seized his letters and put them in the hands of those she knew were his enemies, interpolating so as to make them bear a bad construction. In one or two instances she published them. At times she was outrageously violent toward him, and there was always little else in their intercourse than constant connubial storms.
Wesley was almost worn away. February, 1756, he writes: "Your last letter was seasonable indeed. The being continually watched over for evil ; the having every word I spoke, every action I did —small and great — watched with no friendly eye; the hearing a thousand little tart, unkind reflections in return for the kindest words I could devise, 'Like drops of eating water on the marble, At length have worn my sinking spirits down.'
Yet I could not say ' Take thy plague away from me,' but only ' let me be purified, not consumed.' “Wesley patiently endeavored to win her to a better mind, but all was in vain. His domestic wretchedness was protracted through thirty years, until she died October 8, 1781.
His love letters to her make tender reading. "My dear love, I know not how to stay a day at any place without writing a few lines," he wrote to Molly on April 2, 1751. "I wonder at myself. How is it that absence does not lessen but increase my affection? I feel you every day nearer to my heart. O that God may continue his unspeakable gift! That we may both daily increase in faith, in zeal, in meekness, and in tender love to each other!"
But after only three months into their marriage, Wesley seems to have been troubled by the increasingly jealous disposition of his wife. "My wife, upon all supposition that I did not love her, and that I trusted others more than her, had often fretted herself almost to death," he wrote. Wesley talked with her about it and "by the blessing of God the cloud vanished away, and we were united as at the beginning."
Sometimes Mrs. Wesley drove a hundred miles to see who was with her husband in his carriage. John Hampson, one of Wesley's preachers, witnessed her in one of her fits of fury, and said, "More than once she laid violent hands upon him, and tore those venerable locks which had suffered sufficiently from the ravages of time." She often left him, but returned again in answer to his entreaties. In 1771 he writes: "For what cause I know not, my wife set out for Newcastle, purposing 'never to return.' Non eam reliqui ; non dimisi; non revocabo." (I did not forsake her; I did not dismiss her; I shall not recall her.)
Charles and Anne Lindberg
Charles and Anne Lindberg had their 18 month old baby kidnapped. A ransom was paid, but the boy never returned. The boy was found 10 weeks later, dead, in the woods near their home. His body had been ravaged by wild animals. Reporters snuck into the morgue and took pictures of the badly decomposing body and put them on the front page.
She started writing, something that her husband’s fame had prevented. She wrote: “One can perhaps say that sorrow also played its part in setting me free” She expounds, “What I’m saying is not the old Puritan truism that ‘suffering teaches.’ I do not believe that all suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable”
A difficult marriage, in and of itself, may not cause us to grow, to become holy. We must respond with understanding, love, patience, and a pursuit of virtue within that difficult marriage.
There is no room for victims in a difficult marriage. To become holy we must commit to virtue in the midst of difficulties. We can’t control how our spouse will act or how the world will act, but we can control how we will act and how we will respond. Seeking after holiness, virtue in the midst of hardship, abuse, neglect puts you in the driver seat. There are no victims in God’s marriage design.
Virtue means strength of character. It is power to do right, make the right choice, power to overcome the weakness of sin, bad choices
Anne Lindbergh wrote that “Undoubtedly the long road of suffering, insight, healing, or rebirth is illustrated in the Christian religion by the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
There is not a marriage represented in this sanctuary that has not experienced sorrow, not experienced trials. There isn’t a shared bedroom in Cass County where tension doesn’t occasionally or even frequently lift its snarling head.
Seasoning Brings Life
Anne Lindbergh wrote Second Sowing:
For whom the milk ungiven in the breast
When the child is gone?
For whom the love locked up in the heart
That is left alone?
That golden yield
Split sod once, overflowed an August field,
Threshed out in pain upon September’s floor,
Now hoarded high in barns, a sterile store.
Break down the bolted door;
Rip open, spread and pour
The grain upon the barren ground
Wherever crack in clod is found.
There is no harvest for the heart alone;
The seed of love must be
As long as our pain and wisdom and lessons remain locked up in the heart or hoarded high in barns, they remain sterile and unfertile. Useless. To grow in the midst of difficulties, we must rip open the bags of grain and seeds and pour them out wherever we see fertile ground.
My Marriage is Worse than Most
You don’t understand what I’ve been going through.
Accept this: We often can’t choose which trials we face.
Some of us have physical maladies. Unfortunately we do not get to chose whether we get cancer, kidney stones, arthritis, eyesight loss, brain aneurism, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, diabetes. We all must face the truth that our body will degenerate as we get older. You don’t get to pick which part goes out of whack.
We need to have the same attitude with our marriage. We each experience certain things with our spouses that are difficult to accept. One may struggle with alcohol, one with smoking, one with drugs, one with addiction to pain killers, one frail health, one anger, one physical abuse, one unhealthy sexual proclivities, one with Alzheimer or dementia, one with wandering eye, one with poor communication skills.
Sometimes we “put up” with the problem because of the benefits. We’ve all seen movies or TV stories about politician’s wives who put up with certain failings because of the “benefits” of her life.
But when there is not that benefit, when the struggle or hardship is so overwhelming that it obscures everything around it, such hardships become chains, a taskmaster, a tyrant, a brutal burden.
Where do you draw the line?
I will love my wife as long as she doesn’t do this, weighs this, stays this way. If she does this, gets this disease, looks like this, I’m out of here! What kind of Honorable person does that. Not one who shows respect, not one who is selfless, not one who is accepting. Not one who is willing to be seasoned by their Covenant before God!
There is no line in God’s Marriage Book. He has no lines with us. If Christ lives in your heart, there is total acceptance. There is no longer any sin that you could commit that would put you over the line into hell. You are His.
Our marriage is a picture of God’s Love and acceptance for us and His total satisfaction for what His Son Jesus Christ did. If we are like Christ, there is no line we can draw in the dirt. This man, this woman, God wants us to stay joined to the rest of our lives. We are both stumbling sinners, we have both been loved and accepted because of Christ. God is using our marriage to conform us to Jesus Christ. We must live by the God Dare, and trust God to use our spouse to season and perfect and discipline us, and to yield that peaceable fruit of righteousness.
TOTALLYMARRIED Christians Focus on the Eternal Benefits of the refining fires of marriage
TOTALLYMARRIED Couples Focus on Pleasing God
You are either seasoned to death or seasoned to life!
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