Friday, 18 May 2012

Unhappy - Try God's Plan

A traditional wedding vow might include the following phrases, “…to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish from this day forward until death us do part.  This I promise to you before God”.

It is reported that the average bride to be in the U.S. spends well over 1000 hours choreographing each moment of the day she will say the vows and her parents may have spent upwards of $30,000 – give or take $20k.

At some point in time, in over half of all U.S. marriages, one or both partners in the marriage find themselves unhappy.

The obvious answer is to chuck it all, split up the assets, pay the attorneys umpteen thousands of dollars and hope to find someone else who will make you happy – at least that is what the world would have you believe.

God has a somewhat different plan.  Husbands are to love their wives as much as they love themselves (Eph. 5:33). That alone should fix any unhappiness from the wife’s perspective.  That means my wife should come before Monday night football, my job, my children or anything else that I may deem incredibly important.

Wives are to help and respect her husband.  Respect is defined as notice him, regard him, honor him, prefer him, venerates, and esteems him; and [b]that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly.  Now what guy in his right mind is going to be unhappy given this support?

 That’s it, that’s God’s plan - love and respect.

Why doesn’t God tell women to love their husbands?  Why would God single out respect as the most important way for a wife to express her affirmation of her husband?  First of all most women don’t need to be instructed to be loving and nurturing, for most it comes naturally.  You may notice that God never commands us to do anything that comes easily.  God also knows that men thrive on respect AND it is difficult for most women to respect their husbands unconditionally.

Why does God tell husbands to love their wives as much as they love their own bodies?  The answer follows much of the reason stated for wives respecting their husbands.  The husbands are to follow the pattern of Christ, His love for His bride the Church.  God knows that women need to feel loved and cherished, He also knows that this does not come easily for men.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Self Help Books on Marriage

The following question was posed by a reader: “Is it possible to get sufficient help for one’s marriage by reading a self-help book on the subject?”

My highly regarded, well researched, well documented, and highly scientific response is “it depends.”

Unfortunately most of us believe that it is our spouse that is the primary cause of a less than satisfying (not to mention less than God glorifying) marriage.  Thus when we read something it is with our spouse in mind, i.e. they need to read this, they need to apply this, etc.  Before we know it we have highlighted half the book, all having to do with our perceptions of how our mate should change.  This will NOT work!

We must take into consideration the condition of your marriage, the credentials of the author and the specific methodologies being recommended.

Obviously I have a bias.   Based on my experience as a husband and counselor and the writings of some highly intelligent, well regarded authors – I believe the number one problem in all marriages is self-centeredness.  So if the self-help book helps you to recognize your personal contribution to the condition of your marriage and motivates you to change then it would be worth a try.

Problems stemming from poor communications, an inability to resolve conflict, intimacy issues, financial concerns, raising children, and/or problems with the in-laws are all heart problems.  

Most often a heart problem means that something or someone has taken up residence in your life as your messiah, to be distinguished from The Messiah.  Be it possessions, happiness, comfort, power, the need to control, etc.  Heart change comes about when you confess to God the need to change (i.e. repentance) and allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in your life.

You can only change you.  Though you may influence your partner most likely they won’t be too impressed by what you have read and how you think it applies to them.

Superficial approaches that don’t deal with the heart issues that are at the core of the problems will most likely be beneficial only if your problems are not serious and can be dealt with using mere behavioral changes.

The best and most reliable “self-help” book on marriage is the Bible.  If you are talking about reading it and seeing how you can apply its principles to you specifically and not your spouse, then go for it.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Canary in a Coal Mine

In the early days of coal mining workers would carry down into the tunnels with them a caged canary. If dangerous gases such as methane or carbon monoxide leaked into the mine-shaft, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners.

Just as the canary provided the miners with a warning sign, allowing them to seek safety, we must have something similar in our marriages to alert us that “dangerous gases” have leaked into our relationship.  What would serve as a “canary” in your marriage?

A married couple should at least afford themselves the same opportunity as the miners.  In marriage the dangerous gases could be represented by feelings of neglect,(not spending enough quality time together), or they could be represented by criticism, feeling unloved, feeling lonely, feeling disrespected, etc.  In fact it may be the negative feeling itself that serves as a canary for you.

The remaining question then becomes what represents safety for the couple and how do they get there.  Safety is always found in the arms of God.  The couple should consider coming together, talking candidly about what at least one of the partners is sensing and praying about it together. A good place to start is to ask God to “search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-4)

Reaffirm your covenant vow to one another, i.e. there is no exit strategy, you are both committed to doing whatever it will take to transform your marriage into one that glorifies God.

Next seek Godly counsel.  This may come from a “mature”, Godly couple whose advice  you would trust.  These would be people who have most likely walked down the path you are on and have worked through the issues.  If no couple comes to mind, perhaps your pastor or a Biblical counselor who has experience working with married couples could be helpful.

If your marriage is in fact still good, just not as God glorifying as you would like, you might benefit from reading a really good book together and talking about what you learn. Books such as Paul Tripp’s What Did You Expect? or Dave Harvey’s Whan Sinners Say I Do, or Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas would be excellent resources,

Without question if most of the couples that I have seen in counseling over the years would have taken these steps at the first sign of a dangerous gas their marriage they could have most likely weathered the storm and been stronger for having done so.