Tuesday, September 11, 2012

When Marriage is Hard

How do you stay in the game when everyone's enjoying it more than you? Surely something's wrong when it's this hard, right?

That's what I'm asking this morning, not because my own marriage is in trouble, but because three marriages we know are either crumbling or crippled.

Not that ours is stellar right now. My husband is discouraged about the amount of time children take away from marriage. When can we count on them to stay asleep, he wonders? What will guarantee they'll fall asleep when the clock says they should? When will someone watch them so we can go out...for the first time in two years?

And I wonder how you live happily with someone who counts hardships rather than blessings? How do you live with a glass half-empty person and not grow weary?

Two of the three marriages around us struggle with the same thing...a glass half-empty person sabotaging the positive flow the other spouse desires, and finds second nature. It's not uncommon for God to pair up opposite personalities who have similar values. The differences mold us and the similarities ensure we're both going in the same direction. 

When one person is higher maintenance for whatever reason, how does the other spouse consistently give more--and still regard the marriage as a blessing rather than a constant drain? 

Lord, I want to know how to pray for other marriages, and how to flourish in my own. What are the issues you want to speak into my heart? What wisdom from you will help marriages everywhere?

1. Let God Do the Loving

1 John 4:19 We love because He first loved us. 

Don't try to love in your human strength. You'll fail and Satan will win. Pray that God will love your spouse through you. Pray to become God's instrument of love. Knowing your own brokenness will help you remember to love in His strength, not your own. Satan wants you to love in your own strength because he knows this means failure.

2. Draw Strength from Scripture

Isaiah 40:28-31 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

If your marriage is in trouble, or if you're struggling for any reason, don't forsake God. You need Him and if you don't go to Him, Satan wins. Better yet, abide in Him all the time and ward off trouble before it starts. Set a timer and pick up your Bible or kneel to pray at regular intervals. 

If you don't know the Bible well, Google your particular spiritual need and read the verses suggested. For example, if you need strength or encouragement, Google "encouraging Bible verses". Or "Bible verses for strength". Or "Bible verses about Christian marriage". Also, develop a Bible reading plan which includes the Old and New Testaments. We can't mature in our faith if we only read the Bible in fits and starts. To really know God's heart and His plan for mankind, read the Word from cover to cover.

3. Be Humble

Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

How do we live at peace with everyone? How is this possible, when the world is full of difficult people?  Mentally ill people, even, with no conscience or boundaries. The Lord knows it isn't always possible, so he asks one thing of us. Just do your part. Let me worry about the outcome.

Doing our part involves having a humble heart. We can't give 150% without a strong sense of humility. Satan works to puff up our egos. Scripture reminds us of our depravity and our total dependence on God. Prayer does the same. You can't spend time in the presence of God on a regular basis and have an ego problem. And the opposite is true: If you don't spend time with God on a regular basis, you will have an ego problem.

Meditate on the verses below to understand how God feels about humility:

2 Chronicles 12:12 And when he humbled himself the wrath of the LORD turned from him, so as not to make a complete destruction. Moreover, conditions were good in Judah.

Job 22:29 For when they are humbled you say, ‘It is because of pride’; but he saves the lowly.

Psalms 18:27 For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down.

Psalms 149:4 For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. 

Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.

4. Respond to the Holy Spirit

As you pray, the Holy Spirit will give you tangible direction, even if it's to remain still and wait. Follow His directions. 

For example, my task is to have the children mostly ready for bed when my husband arrives home at 7:00 PM. We've been having family meals despite his long working hours, but now it's time to save dessert for 7:00 PM and eat earlier without Daddy. The children can still sit at the table with Daddy while he eats dinner, and we can still talk about intimate things together, with Daddy still guiding us spiritually.

If one spouse is feeling neglected--whether that seems reasonable or not--it's time to mix things up and find more time. 

Children require a lot of time and energy and I can't make that go away; I love being a mother. When poison ivy itches in the middle of the night, a child needs attention. When dreams become too much, a child needs attention. When the dark is too dark, a child cries out. 

But I have to make sure I'm giving just as much energy to my marriage. Men with quality time as their primary love language will have the most trouble during the child-rearing years, even if they love being fathers. None of us chooses our love language, any more than we choose our personality. It isn't my husband's fault that he needs more of my time.

That's important to remember no matter what the issues in your marriage are. Your spouse didn't choose to be critical, or negative, or nervous, or serious, or overly-driven. If it's his personality you have trouble with, don't hold it against him. He probably dislikes the negatives in his personality as much as you do and if he could change them, he would. And the opposite is also true. We would change what we hate about our own personality, if we could. 

The Holy Spirit will help sort out the issues. He'll put the right information in our laps and the right attitude in our hearts. We must be receptive and obedient and spend quiet time with God, so we can listen. We can pray all we want, but if we don't also get quiet and listen, change won't happen.

5. View Your Spouse as Jesus Does; Live the Gospel

Jesus died for your husband. You may wonder at times if your spouse is worth all the effort, but Jesus doesn't question this. Your spouse is dearly loved and Jesus sees him as a sinner in need of grace.  Look through the eyes of Jesus and be ready to extend that grace. Be ready to express undeserved love. The grace and love you also need.

6. Be Thankful

If you haven't already started your blessing list, start now. It'll give you a whole new perspective and sometimes that's all we need to thrive in our marriages. Perspective.

1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

7. Be Obedient to God Concerning Divorce

If your spouse is faithful, stay married to him. If he's strayed in the past and has repented and asked for forgiveness, stay married to him. Only in cases of adultery, or abandonment by an unbelieving spouse, is a Christian permitted to divorce.

If you're in an abusive marriage--either serious emotional manipulation or physical abuse--move out but don't divorce. Chances are you're an enabler--a condition which attracted you to an abuser in the first place. Both of you need help and staying under the same roof together will only prolong the abuse and dysfunction. 

Remove yourself and get help and ask that your spouse get help. Even if your spouse never gets help, at least you've taken responsibility for your own emotional health. Your children depend on you for a picture of a healthy marriage. If you maintain an abusive marriage your child may marry an abuser, or become one. So remove yourself and let God redeem the brokenness. Easier said than done, but nothing is too big for God. Remain romantically unattached. Wait on God to heal your spouse.

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.


TerraD said...

Oh, I wish I lived closer to watch your kids for you. I was just thinking of you yesterday, and how I'd love to take you out for lunch or dinner for just a short break.

Christine said...

Oh, thank you dear friend. We would appreciate that so much. :)