Friday, 9 November 2012

Are You Languishing?

John Ortbetg
The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg offers a number of thought provoking challenges.  In chapter two Ortberg suggests

“Psychologists have begun to speak of what is perhaps the largest mental health problem in our day.  It is not depression or anxiety, at least not at clinical levels.  It is languishing – a failure to thrive. Languishing is the condition of someone who may be able to function but has lost a sense of hope and meaning.  Languishing is not the presence of mental illness; it is the absence of mental and emotional vitality.”

In the book of Jeremiah, chapter 29 verse 11 God does not say, “I know the plans I have for you, plans for you to languish.”  In fact as a Christian married couple our marriage is to be a direct reflection of the love between Christ and His bride the church.  Talk about thriving!
As I read this description I could not help but think of the number of couples who must be languishing, who have lost a sense of hope and meaning.  This is sad for any couple but in some ways I think it is even sadder for couples who profess to be Christians.  In part because they know that they are either disappointing God and/or they are disappointed because in some way they think God has let them down.

There has been a story told about the late, great professional football coach Vince Lombardi, whether or not it is an urban legend I cannot say.  He was the head coach of the Green Bay Packers.  Supposedly he started each training camp by saying to his players, “gentlemen this is a football.” His point being if you execute the basics better than your opposition we will win.  Okay so let me connect the dots.

As a Christian married couple you will thrive if you do the basics according to God’s “playbook”.  If you believe and act as though the purpose of marriage is to glorify God you will be well ahead of the game.  If you pray together, have devotionals together, attend a house of worship regularly, and are connected to your church through a small group and/or are serving together you will be more likely to do well.  If the husband even attempts to love his wife half as much as he loves himself and his wife adores, respects, admires and appreciates her husband, all will be well in Camelot.


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. 
Matthew 5:37 

Perhaps you have heard the term “passive–aggressive behavior”.  It is a term that describes certain types of behavior in interpersonal interactions. It is typically characterized by a hostile manner that is camouflaged as something else.  In other words a person who avoids conflict or who has a hard time being assertive may resort to displaying their displeasure in a subtle but aggressive manner.

Some examples of passive-aggressive behavior include hostility masquerading as a joke; sullenness, intentional forgetfulness; procrastination, deliberate failure to accomplish a task; sulking; etc.

The bottom line is that the person isn’t getting their way and rather than be direct they attempt to manipulate the situation until they are successful.

Perhaps it is a task that my spouse has asked me to do that I would rather not do.  I might “forget” to do the task or do it so poorly that my spouse figures it would be better to do it themselves.

This is one of many forms that self-centeredness takes.  It also displays a level of insecurity, an inability to communicate, an unwillingness to be forth-right and honest, and an inability to be assertive.

If you are that kind of person take advice from Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback church.  He summarized twenty years of counseling in two words – “Grow up.”  Practice being direct.  “Honey, I’d prefer to not bath the kids but I’ll be glad to tuck them in and pray with them.”

Whining and complaining does not become an adult.  Honest communication is a much healthier approach than sulking, being sullen, or being manipulative.  You want a sports car, your spouse wants a mini-van.  An honest exchange of why you hold the position you hold can clear the air.  The operative word in that sentence was “honest”.  A passive-aggressive approach might be to leave articles on safety, mpg ratings, reliability information, etc. laying around the house in conspicuous places.

Certainly that type of information could be helpful in making a final decision.  However in a God centered marriage the couple would pray about their decision.  They would then use an active listening technique to be certain they understood one another’s position.  They might close with a prayer and agree to reflect on their discussion and come back together the next day to resolve their difference of opinion.

Monday, 5 November 2012

To Share or Not to Share

I was recently asked what advice I would give a person who was worried about sharing information with his/her spouse.  The concern was whether or not it would be beneficial to the relationship to share the information in conjunction with a fear that the partner may not take the information well.

This is a very real and legitimate question and there is no easy answer.  Without knowing more details I ventured forth an answer.  Please recognize that not having all the “necessary” information has never prevented me from offering an opinion.

In this case I was fairly certain that the hypothetical couple was married.  However I was uncertain whether or not they were Christians and if so, whether or not they were nominal Christians, i.e. Christians in name only or an evangelical, Bible believing, committed couple.  Armed with little I offered the following:

·       Trust and honesty are cornerstones to a healthy marriage, regardless of whether or not the couple is Christian.

·       If I react to difficult news in such a way that my partner is unwilling to share the news for fear of my reaction then I have weakened the marriage.

·       If I’m the spouse that is unwilling to share the information I am going to be plagued with guilt and fear that the secret I’m keeping will be discovered some other way.

·       Most likely bad news is going to rock the world of a Bible believing, evangelical Christian who is committed to the relationship, perhaps even more than the non-Christian.  The difference is that the former believes that marriage is a covenantal union made in the presence of God and that such a union should not be broken.  In such a case it would be hoped that the aggrieved spouse seeks healing and reconciliation.

·       The person withholding the information must ask themselves “Am I afraid to share the information strictly because of the unpleasantness it will bring?” or are they truly concerned the marriage won’t withstand the truth?

I started out by saying this is a legitimate concern because in today’s society there is plenty of bad news.  Consider a recent study indicating that wives cheat on their husbands almost as frequently as the husbands do. Social media, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc., is contributing greatly to the breakup of the family.  There are still forty to fifty percent of couples headed for divorce and an additional 25 to 40 percent who are living parallel lives.  The endemic level of pornography use may pose an even greater threat to marriages than anything else.

Is yours a covenant marriage?  Is your marriage able to withstand the truth?  Are you committed to one another such that you will walk through any difficulties together and come out the other side even stronger?