Thursday, February 18, 2016

Things Difficult Marriages Should Know

Recently we had the privilege of working with a wonderful Christian couple who are on a journey to cure a difficult and painful marriage. It makes little difference of the facts behind the last eight years of troubles, but health issues, painful childhood interferences, weak relationship skills and pride all mixed together to create an on again off again separation and a family in turmoil. Satan and his lies were fast at work to destroy what both spouses seemed to want from marriage and family, only to watch their efforts go up into the flames of despair and hopelessness.

A blog post cannot contain the many hours of emails, phone calls and personal time together. Jesus in all His wisdom and hope appears to be breaking through their darkness and leading them both together into the glorious light reserved for all of God’s children. If you are in a difficult marriage, consider sharing this post with your spouse and considering if the things we learned together are not things that can greatly change you and your marriage from the inside out. These things are vital for those who want God's blessings.

We Must Live All Things Christian in Our Home and Marriage
One of the first things I coach husbands in difficult marriages is that we cannot expect the Lord to do His mighty work if we don’t set the standard of “all things Christian in our home and marriage.” On the surface this sounds so simple, but in practice it is too easy to allow our spouse to trigger our hot buttons and pull us into the mud of sin and despair with them. Imagine if instead of repaying sin with sin, we were to instead stay above the fray and keep our courage to walk by the Spirit, even in these most hurtful times, instead of walking in the flesh. The flesh hurts and bruises so easily, but we have a promise from God that we “are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit” if we are in Christ Jesus. When just one spouse will start doing things in a godly way, then the Lord can help the other spouse unquench the Spirit that lives inside of them.

It Has to Begin with Our New Lives in Christ
No lasting change can come from fleshly battles, or the changing of the mind, if the heart is not in it. At the heart of the gospel is the good news that we are now dead to sin and alive in Christ Jesus. If we do not know who we are in Christ, or we do not understand that we can say “NO” to sin each time we are confronted with making a sinful response, we will fall back into our old fleshly ways and not allow the Spirit to work in us and through us. We must study who we are in Christ and the place to begin is Romans 6, 8, and Colossians. Once you get it from your head into your heart that you are indeed freed from sin and now walk in newness of life, it is then past sins and present sinful habits begin to disappear.

Growth Only Comes from Personal Responsibility
Your past may hold many reasons why we behave as we do, but if we are ever going to grow up personally, or grow up into Christ spiritually, we must accept personal responsibility for all our actions. Our past, and our childhood issues can explain some of our fleshly thoughts and misbehavior, but they do not excuse them. Ownership of one’s life means accepting responsibility = the ability to choose my response, no matter what the circumstances. This God ordained free will is given only to humans as animals have no choice. We can choose to react with common human decency, or even love, when feeling hurt, unloved or unlovable. 

Happiness is a Choice
One of the biggest breakthroughs in our time together was discovering that happiness is a choice.  If you have not learned this begin by Googling Dennis Prager and studying the matter. Also start listening to Dennis Prager’s Happiness Radio Hour on Friday mornings. When person after person living through the most devastating past and present, often filled with tragedy and health issues, can choose happiness over circumstances, one quickly learns that not only can I choose to be happy, but I also have a responsibility to do so. Happiness can come through right thinking, or it can come from behaving happy and then in turn watch the feelings follow. Both thinking right and doing right will produce happy chemicals in the brain. And even if they do not, we can responsibly choose to look outward and serve joyfully, even when we do not feel like it. Happiness is a moral issue because we drag down the life of others if we do not choose to be happy ourselves.

Feelings are Too Often Big Fat Liars
Far too many people live their lives according to their feelings and sensibilities and not by their values. Sorry ladies, but half the time your feelings are lying to you. God says that we are to take every thought captive to Christ Jesus, and I am sure He is including feelings. Some feelings come from emotions, others from thoughts and still others are simply fleshly desires. It is hard to even differentiate at times between what is of the Spirit and what is indigestion. Even when feelings are legitimate, one must decide if they should be held onto or discarded for some higher value. If I value relationships, I will quickly suppress my anger, my frustrations, even my unhappiness so that I may live out my values.

It is When I live Out My Values That I Become Happy
If you are one of the billions who are trying to live by feelings and emotions, you will never be happy. Happiness comes for Believers and non-believers when they look outside of themselves and decide that love, joy peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, meekness, temperance, faith are all wrapped up in serving others. Those who turn inward and lose hope often find that their lives are not doing anything worthwhile. It is no wonder that Jesus has set us free because He has given us a whole set of new values that come as a result of the fruit of the Spirit.  

When I Betray My Values I Go Into My Box
The biggest relationship problem we face in marriage is that we far too often betray our own values and when we do, we quickly jump into a box of self-justification. For people of self-betrayal, there is always an excuse for why I behaved badly, or why I am in a bad mood, and it is because you, or someone or something else is to blame. When I am in my box I can’t see you anymore as a real person, because I am hurt or upset and it’s now all about me! One of the most important lessons we learned together is to understand how to recognize when we are in the box and why we need to get out of the box quickly. If I stay in my box, I can never have a true, caring relationship so I must learn to exit quickly. I also must not allow the things that trigger me to send me into the box in the first place. Living a life of regularly betraying ones values creates miserable people. To overcome self-betrayal one must go back to the beginning and establish and live out God’s values of love, joy, peace, patience, self-control, and treating others the way you would want to be treated. No matter what, I must choose to own my life and chosen values.

Your Rabbits No Longer Need to Define You
Too many of us have carried our past ruts and habits into our marriage and they are destroying our happiness and any chance at harmony and oneness with our spouse. These “rabbits,” as Lori calls them, are a vestige of the old sinful flesh that linger when we do not fully believe that we are freed from the past and all our past sins, failures and hurts. Until we have given our lives over to walk in the Spirit, and put aside fleshly dead deeds, we have no choice but to battle against sin with every weapon we have. We must apply self-discipline, and the tools of human behavior and psychology to lessen their effects, but the real hope of ridding ourselves of our bad rabbits is to give them all to Jesus. Let Him place them on the cross and allow Him to discipline us when we need training in godliness so that we may learn to walk in newness of life. Out with the old and in with the new, brand new, and now on to all things Christian.

Discipline is Necessary to Break Bad Habits
Most people need a patch to break the bad habit of smoking, and others can throw their last carton away and never pick one of those nasty things up again. Many do not realize how much better their lives would be if they simply surrendered their “rabbits” to the Lord and allowed them all to be placed on the cross in 30 A.D. where they belong. Look at the seriousness of God on the issue of sin. Jesus said cut of off your hand or pluck out your eye; Paul said he beats his body and bruises it, lest he be disqualified by sin; and Hebrews says, You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin {Hebrews 12:4}. God has a prescription for Believers who keep sinful habits lingering; For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives{Hebrews 12:6}. God wants us to strive against sin and establish strong accountability for it. Your spouse knows you best, and loves you most, so if you do not have enough self-discipline to keep your sinful habits away, then decide on what disciplines are necessary to keep get your marriage where the Lord wants it to go, and let them hold you strictly accountable for keeping your new commitments.

The Bottom Line
  All Christian marriages can be healed if both spouses desire to begin to live out “all things Christian” in our homes and families. It may not happen overnight, but then again, let’s not underestimate the power of the Spirit in the life of Believers to show us how to walk fully and completely into all of God’s promises; even those promises that seem too hard to believe, like taking a messed up life and transforming it instantly into a child of God and godly spouse. This is our hope for all Christian marriages as we are hearing the miracles wrought in the lives of those who are willing to do things God’s ways so that they may reap His blessings. Life is too short to not always keep in mind that we will all stand at the foot the Creator's throne and give an account for how we lived our lives. Think on the apostle's words and hide them in your heart so that you might learn that this life is not the end, but the brief testing ground of our faith. May we be faithful to all He has called us to, let our service to Him begin by doing our part in our marriage, towards the one we said we would love the most in this whole world. 

Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come… For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.
I Timothy 4:8-10