Friday, 15 February 2013

A Chicken and Egg Question

A recently published blog suggested that there are four main components that establish the foundation of a healthy marriage (The Marriage Counseling Blog). They are, in order listed, (1) a business component, (2) a friendship component, (3) a spiritual component, and a (4) romantic component.

While I would agree with the four categories I think that there is a definite prioritization of those categories if the marriage is to be truly healthy.  I think the spiritual component, more specifically a God centered marriage, is the most important building block.  Let me give you two reasons. The first reason is that it was God who instituted the concept of marriage.  It stands to reason that He, being the expert in relationships, would be the One we would turn to.

The second reason is that I am self-centered and so are you. 

As for the business component, let’s be honest because of your own biases you may not be as open as you would hope to be when it comes to talking about money management, delegating household responsibilities, child rearing and/or the day to day management of the household.  If you have truly committed those affairs to the Lord you will be more objective.

Even a friendship component can be self-serving.  A friend is someone we can relate to very well, they might be like us.  We enjoy their company, we enjoy doing things together, we enjoy laughing together and find we have many of the same interests in common.  In reality the friendship does something for me and to that extent I have a vested interest.  It makes me feel better about myself, it fills a void in my life, it keeps me from being lonely, etc.

The fourth category listed is also fraught with the possibility of being self-serving.  True the romantic component is what separates the marriage relationship from other relationships. It includes physical intimacy, emotional intimacy, and sexual chemistry.  These couples focus on one another; enjoy physical cuddling, holding hands and just being together.  But romantic love too can be self-serving at times.

Thus the only one of these four foundational components that is (a) not subject to manipulation and (b) has a direct bearing on how well you are able to be other-centered in terms of the other three foundational components is the spiritual, i.e. your relationship with your heavenly Father.  Get this component right and the others are sure to follow.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Discernment Counseling - Sad but True

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Matthew 19:26 

Many of us who do marriage counseling get discouraged.  Depending on whose statistics you want to read, up to 70% of marriage counseling is ineffective.  Furthermore those who claim to be Christians appear to be divorcing at the same rate as non-Christians.  Now there is a new form of counseling being offered referred to as “Discernment Counseling”.  Instead of traditional marriage counseling which attempts to help couples stay together, discernment counselors help the couple weigh the pros and cons of staying together or divorcing.

I guess I would be particularly leery if the discernment counselor just happened to be a divorce attorney.  Frankly if God is not in the equation the discernment counselor may serve a useful purpose.  One reason marriage counseling is ineffective is because the couple waits until things have dramatically deteriorated or one or both have made up their minds to divorce.  They just want to rationalize their decision by going to a counselor so that they can say they have tried everything.  People wait until it is too late.

 My opinion is that many of those couples who claim to be Christian are not.  Because someone believes that there is a God and they do not consider themselves to be a Muslim, a Hindu, Jewish, or a Buddhist they, by default, claim to be a Christian. Hence the divorce rate among Christians is high.  This becomes exacerbated when you consider second and third divorces in the statistic.  In these instances God is still not in the equation.

IF God is in the equation all things are possible.  God is the great Healer.  A suggestion is don’t wait until the animosity between the couple is so thick that you need a machete  to cut through it.

As soon as you sense there is stress in your marriage, be it week one or year four seek out a Godly couple to mentor you, to walk along side of you, to do life with you.  If you prefer a counselor seek a Biblical counselor, not just one who is a Christian.

As a Christian couple you have made a covenant with God and with each other.  One purpose for the body of Christ is to build one another up.  There is no shame in seeking Godly counsel and wisdom. 

I am not a discernment counselor, nor do I have the spiritual gift of discernment.  What I can tell you is God hates divorce, Malachi 2:16

 

Monday, 11 February 2013

Closet Anger

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Ephesians 4:31-2

Dennis Rainey, President of Family Life said, “I believe anger is one of the most dangerous and least talked about emotions. Anger can destroy marriages. It can devastate families. It can crush young people who grow up in homes where they are treated with disrespect and contempt.

There are many people who seemingly never have a problem with their tempers in public but are more volatile than you'd ever imagine in their own homes and families.”

 Anger is also a topic that I don’t like to write about particularly since recently I was accused of being angry.  Fortunately it was not my wife who was the accuser.  My anger is rarely directed at a person but I’ve given my computer a piece of my mind on many occasions, enough about me.

 Matthew 12:34 tells us that what comes out of one’s mouth is from the overflow of one’s heart.  If someone is spewing anger it is because there is anger inside of them.  Those who are angry always want to blame someone else or blame their circumstances.  When in fact it is not an external event or person who is responsible for the anger, it rightfully belongs to the person who is expressing it.

The anger is a manifestation of something else going on inside the angry person. Major contributors of someone exhibiting anger are fear, a response to being hurt or a loss of control.

As a Christian we should dig down to determine the source of our anger. For example if my feelings were hurt – why did I take it personally? Could God use the other person’s slight to grow me? If something didn’t go according to my plan (or else I wouldn’t be angry) I need to ask myself “What was my desired outcome?”  Then ask myself, “Why did I desire that outcome?”  In other words what is the true driving motivation behind my anger?  If my fear is causing my anger I’m not trusting God.  When we experience negative feelings it often is a red flag that we have a heart issue, that something has become more important than God, i.e. our reputation, our desires, our need to control, etc.

We should go to God and repent and ask Him to heal us, to free us from our anger.  I should then go to anyone I have offended with my anger and ask them to forgive me.