The Blessings of an Unhappy Marriage Part 2

March 4, 2011 at 11:04 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 18 Comments
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Last time we looked at the first two of four Bible principles to help us understand what God wants to do in our marriages. Think about some of the things that you have been told to do in order to make your marriage “happier.” Chances are, the things that are coming into your mind are things that focus ultimately on changing your spouse instead of changing you. How different are God’s ways from our ways!

Principle Number 1: Satisfaction in Marriage

Is being unhappy in your marriage a sign that your marriage is not “working?” No! Not when we use God’s definition of “working.” If your marriage is “unhappy,” but God is using it to conform you to the image of His dear Son, then you can find satisfaction in your marriage.

Principle Number 2: Separation in Marriage.

If you are married to someone right now, make a list of people with whom it’s okay for you to be physically intimate in a romantic or sexual way… That list should be very short. It should have one name only on it, and that name should be the name of your current spouse. That is “separation” from the affections of others.

Obviously, the principle of “separation” applies when it comes to sexual intimacy, but also, when it comes to where our devotion and affections lie, our spouse must hold a place of separation that is higher than our parents, our friends, even our children.

Then, there is the “separation” from worldly wisdom about your marriage. Let’s be honest: Who knows more about marriage?
God or Dr. Phil?
God or a psychiatrist?
God or that sweet little elderly couple that’s been married for 60 years?
God or a marriage counselor?

God invented marriage and He commanded its rules and consequences. We would have to agree that God wins out every time in a test of Who knows more about what your marriage is supposed to be!

Now I want to move on to the third and fourth principles:

Principle Number 3: Sanctification in Marriage

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

I Corinthians 10:13

Not only is your spouse ordained to be your spouse by God, but your spouse was specifically chosen for your sanctification. That does not mean that your spouse was chosen by God for your immediate, temporal happiness! Your spouse was chosen for your “ultimate” (the “ultimate” may be far off) joy, and for God’s glory. This concept of how God works has become almost alien to us in our modern society. Maybe this illustration that I’ve borrowed from a Puritan preacher named Chadwick will help to make it more clear.

One Saturday afternoon Mr. Chadwick was in his study, trying to decide what to preach in church the next morning. He could not seem to find any inspiration, so after much prayer and study he went for a walk. As he walked down a country lane, he saw a little shop, and out front were two men. One man was an awful looking oaf. He was huge, with big muscles and an evil scowl. He was pounding a giant hammer down onto a piece of metal which was lying on top of an anvil, and sparks flew with every grunting blow. Beside the monstrous oaf was a fastidious little man in fancy clothes. He wore spectacles, he had not broken a sweat, and he was simply pointing imperiously at the anvil as the larger man did all the work. This scene did not sit well with Preacher Chadwick, who, being a Puritan, prized the ethic of hard work and despised laziness. Mr. Chadwick went up to them, and said with disdain to the smaller man, “Well sir, I’m not even sure why you’re here! He’s doing all the work, and you don’t seem to be doing anything!” The fastidious little man smiled, and calmly explained, “No, sir, you don’t understand. I’m the blacksmith here, and this man is just a mean-spirited oaf. He thinks he’s destroying something. I am simply pointing out to him where to strike. Without me, he would make a mess of the job, but with my control and direction, the end product is going to be something beautiful.” Mr. Chadwick immediately knew what he would preach about the next morning!

This story is a picture of God and the devil. The devil may be pounding away at your marriage even as you read this. No doubt, he thinks he is destroying you, and your spouse, and your children, and your whole family. What he does not realize is that he is being used by God to make you into exactly what God wants you to be. One day, when you stand before God justified and sanctified and looking much more like Jesus Christ than you ever thought you could, with your children gleaming like jewels in the crown of Christ our King, I think the devil will be furious at how often he thought he was performing pure evil, when, in reality, God was allowing him to work out God’s perfect will all along!

The things about your spouse that seem like his or her faults – the very things about him or her that drive you absolutely crazy – are the very things designed by God to teach you to grow in Christ-likeness. And if your spouse has certain strengths, then these strengths are the very things which God knows must be present if you are not to be tempted beyond that which you are able to bear.

Remember that your marriage isn’t just for you – and it isn’t just for your spouse – it’s for God to use in making you more holy, which is the definition of sanctification.

Principle Number 4: Sacrifice in Marriage

Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

Ephesians 5:24-25

Spouses are supposed to love each other the way that Christ loved the Church. In other words, the way that He loved all the people who would one day trust Him for eternal salvation. I can not think of a single thing that Jesus should have done for the people that would one day go to Heaven, but that He failed to do. Many spouses are willing to envision a scenario in which they would dramatically die for their spouse. But few are willing to go through the mundane, day-to-day, detail-oriented task of living for their spouse. Christ did both. He lived and died for His bride, the Church. Christ gave Himself for the Church.

In giving yourself for your spouse, the primary emphasis is not on dying literally, but on sacrificial giving. Be a “living sacrifice,” says Romans 12:2. Think of some of the most serious issues that cause problems in a marriage.

Adultery? Adultery is terrible and hurtful. The pain and destruction that it causes must not be minimized. However, we have all committed spiritual adultery (unfaithfulness) against Christ, and yet He loved us anyway.

Cruelty? Mental cruelty toward your spouse is a grievous sin! It can be a form of torture. However, no one has ever been as cruel toward anyone as the people that Jesus came to save were toward Him. Yet He loved us anyway.

Physical violence? I think a man who physically abuses His wife should be whipped and then shot and then put under the jail. But no spouse has ever endured a beating like the beating that Jesus willingly took from the people that He came to save. And yet He loved us anyway.

Lack of affection? I wonder if there is anyone in the world as lonely or heartbroken as the spouse who can not get affection from his or her spouse. But Jesus was forsaken by His family, His friends, His relatives, His disciples – by everyone He cared about – and yet He loved us anyway.

Finances? How many people have I counseled with who have had their credit completely ruined by their spouse? Their savings gambled away, their children’s education spent on beer or toys or drugs or pornography. But how much of the resources that God has entrusted to us have been spent on vain and frivolous and even sinful things rather than invested in His Kingdom? And yet Jesus loved us anyway.

Christ never ever has and never ever will divorce His bride, the Church – no matter what! Has your spouse done worse to you than you’ve done to Christ? The Cross of Calvary says no – not even close.

Some people tell me, “You just don’t know what my spouse is like! I can’t love him or her, because he or she is just unlovable!” That describes Jesus’s ministry to a tee. He came to love the unlovable. I want everyone to have a happy marriage, but I’m simple and sentimental. God wants everyone to have a marriage that makes them more like Jesus. Jesus loved the unlovable. If God has chosen your marriage and your spouse to be the vehicle to teach you how to love the unlovable, then I’m sorry. I genuinely am. But, on another level, I’m also excited and glorifying God for your sake! He works in the lives of those He loves and He will one day repay every hurt with joy unspeakable!

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  1. […] Next time, we’ll look at Sanctification and Sacrifice in marriage. LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  2. […] By recognizing that God has made a way to escape from every temptation. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, […]

  3. […] the Bible uses the word “love” for the way spouses are supposed to treat each other, it is a translation of the Greek word “agape” […]

  4. I cannot thank you enough for this article. It is such a blessing to see Spiritual truth about marriage posted online.

    My husband and I are separated. As painful as it is for me and for our children, I remain hopeful that the Lord will restore our marriage someday and it will be better than ever.

    Through this awful experience, the Lord has brought me to a place that I could have only imagined on my own. Not knowing what to do, not knowing how to “fix it”, the Lord has taught me that (1) I am not the fixer…He is and (2) by putting my faith and trust in God, I am able, through His Grace and Wisdom, to walk humbly in His love and forgiveness.

    Only by the grace of God have I been able to continue to love my husband in spite of all of the things that were said and done; in spite of the fact that he has shut off all communication from me and from our children; just….in spite of. God has forgiven me for my sins, and we are commanded to forgive others as He has forgiven us. It still amazes me the sense of peace that came over me the day that I was able to repent of my sin of unforgiveness of my husband, and I continue to pray for him every day.

    For anyone reading this who is either separated or struggling with an unhappy marriage…please, turn your fears, your pain, your sadness, your hurts, your anger….everything….over to God. Take the time while reading God’s Word, to ask God what needs to be fixed in your life….what YOU may or may not have done wrong. Take your eyes off of your spouse…repent for blaming them for everything…offer forgiveness even if it’s not asked for. When you have repented to God of your sins, go to your spouse and apologize for the things that you have done wrong. Remember…you cannot control whether or not they accept your forgiveness. If they accept your apology, you are on your way to reconcilliation. God has opened the door for your marriage to be better than ever. If they refuse to accept your apology, and shut you out…..remain faithful to your marriage and PRAY….A LOT !!

    Separation is not to be a precursor to divorce. Your time apart should be used for Spiritual healing and reconcilliation. If you are not taking steps to reconcile with your spouse, you need to really question your relationship with the Lord.

    Marriage is a covenant….not a contract. You promised “till death do us part” not “till the divorce papers are signed”. You are still able to uphold the covenant before God…even if you are not living with your spouse. Honoring God should always be your priority.

    Praising Him through my storms.
    To Him be the Glory…forever and ever.

  5. Thank you for that comment. That is a beautiful testimony. I will pray for you and your marriage.

  6. […] (directing her toward righteousness). This definition makes sure that our understanding of the 4 “S”s of marriage does not lead us to the conclusion that we should be hard to live with on purpose in order to help […]

  7. […] wives, but they need reverence more than love because reverence makes it possible to lead in love. Remember, husbands are commanded to love as Christ loved. Without willing reverence from the wife, the […]

  8. I wanted to thank you yet again for this amazing web-site you have designed here. It’s full of ideas for those who are definitely interested in this subject, especially this very post. You’re really all absolutely sweet and thoughtful of others plus reading your blog posts is a superb delight if you ask me. And what a generous gift! Ben and I are going to have fun making use of your points in what we should instead do next week. Our list is a mile long and tips might be put to good use.

  9. […] To show God’s redemptive glory in the picture of marriage; and 2. To sanctify husbands and wives through the marriage covenant and relationship. Christ hath redeemed us from the […]

  10. […] of whether this type of exchange makes you chuckle, or hits a little too close to home to be funny, one thing is sure: As Christians, we need to stay busy. Not slothful in […]

  11. […] As redeemed creatures we were “meant” for God. In marriage we must think of ourselves as “meant” for each other – ordained by God to show His glory in our union and relationship, and practically, to help work out our sanctification. […]

  12. […] Spouses “leave” their old lives as sons and daughters and brothers and sisters, to commit to a higher allegiance to each other. So too do Christians leave our old protections, homes, hopes, tasks, and masters, to […]

  13. […] own burdens and they bear other peoples burdens. Your wife doesn’t respect you like she should? Tough – you’re a man – pick up that burden and carry it. Be respectable whether you earn her […]

  14. […] Marriage is supposed to remind us to rely on God, not on our own faculties. […]

  15. […] it makes about as much sense as saying, “I’m miserable, so I’ll get out of this marriage.” Or, “I’ll get drunk.” Or, “I’ll leave the church.” Or, […]

  16. […] Part 1 2. The Husband of One Wife – Part 2 3. The Blessings of an Unhappy Marriage Part 1 4. The Blessings of an Unhappy Marriage Part 2 5. God Is Real, God Is Good, and God is REALLY GOOD! 6. Mysteriously Meaningful Marriage Part 1 7. […]

  17. […] in winning an unbelieving spouse to Christ. Remember, your marriage is not primarily for your happiness, for you, or even for your spouse. It is for God to use as a means to illustrate and preach the […]

  18. […] Those who married must remember that distractions are given to us by God not to annoy us, but to help sanctify us. Marriage can be seen as snare or it can be seen as a safe […]


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