Friday, September 15, 2017

Happiness: A state of well-being and contentment

     The authors of the American declaration of independence wrote that "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"  are "unalienable rights" guaranteed to all people. While that contentment or feelings of well-being certainly is a good thing, it seems that our society today has made the pursuit of happiness the ultimate goal in life. The Bible says to “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love…” (Ecclesiastes 9:9) and certainly, our Heavenly Father desires peace, joy, and happiness for our, His children. The writer of Ecclesiastes also wrote “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other” (7:14). We all like to be happy, but what happens when we experience the trouble that eventually comes in this broken, sin-filled world?
     The commitment to marriage to often is based on whether or not a person is happy. One writer of a relationship book went as far to define commitment as the product of a person’s satisfaction in the relationship plus the investment they have in the relationship less the quality of alternatives available to them. This idea is prevalent in the Christian church today and it is diametrically opposed to God’s view of commitment! The 80% divorce rate for couples who experience long-term illness or lose a child proves this to be all too true. Many people today abandon their marriage if they aren’t happy and believe that they will find happiness with another person.
     Happiness is a good thing—that well-being and contentment we feel when times are good is wonderful. We must remember that when times are bad, we can get through those times easier when we work together as husband and wife. Happiness is circumstantial, God is bigger than the circumstances. Rather than pursuing happiness, we are to pursue God and walk in obedience to His word. One researcher found that 80% of unhappy couples experiencing problems and remained together, found happiness together after they worked through the problems. Enjoy the good times and work through the problems and trouble you encounter. Make an effort to bring happiness to your spouse; it is likely that act will bring happiness in your own life.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Patience: Tolerating inconveniences or enduring through adversity

     Two Greek words are translated “patience” in the Bible and both are important in marriage. Hypomone is an endurance through adversity—being patient in affliction as Paul wrote in Romans 12:12. Hypomone has to do with things or circumstances. Makrothymia, on the other hand is more about people. This is the toleration of others or longsuffering with others. Makrothymia is listed as one of the Fruit of the Spirit and means that we are to give grace to people rather than contempt because they inconvenienced us. The difference between the two types of patience may seem trivial, but if we consider the distinction between the two and apply the Biblical principles to our marriage relationship, our marriage will improve.
     The fact that 80% of couples who experience long-term the illness of one spouse or the other divorce demonstrates that far too many people today do not have “hypomone” or endurance in their lives. People today often don’t persevere in marriage, yet, the Bible admonishes us to persevere or have patience through the troubles and adversity we experience in life. No marriage is perfect and when we work through the problems we experience, our will marriage grow.
     Couples also need to be patient with each other—to have “makrothymia.” Colossians 3:12 tells us to clothe ourselves with, among other things, patience or longsuffering. Who tends to be most annoying to us? Our spouse! Our differences can be trying sometimes and we need to give grace to each other—to accept and tolerate our differences. Proverbs 16:12 says that “a fool shows annoyance at one, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.” Being patient with our spouse will help us avoid looking a fools, and more than that, we demonstrate love for God and our spouse by being patient with him or her.

     Do you have both kinds of patience with your spouse? Are you committed to your spouse no matter what and work with him or her through the adversities you face? Do you also bear with your spouse? Tolerating your differences and seeking to connect even when he or she is annoying? Surrender to the Lord and in His strength bear with your spouse and patiently love them—clothing yourself with patience.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Collaboration: Working as a team to resolve problems or accomplish goals

     The marriage relationship, according to God’s plan, is a relationship of unity and common purpose. It is a relationship where husband and wife work together as a team to resolve problems they encounter and accomplish their goals. They use their differences to better meet the challenges and fulfill God’s purpose for them. In short, they collaborate. That collaboration, that working together doesn’t happen without being purposeful and deliberate as recorded in Amos 3:3; “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?”
     Collaboration is a great concept for marriage - when two or more people collaborate, they are working together toward a common goal. We know there are going to be many challenges and some definite problems in life and when we collaborate, we are utilizing our differences, our individual strengths and abilities to meet those challenges and problems. Whether we face financial difficulties, problems with children, job or relationship problems, or anything else, we will better meet those difficulties when we face them together as a team. It doesn’t mean that we will necessarily agree on the best way to resolve problems, but it does mean that we will focus on the problem, not each other. We won’t allow our differences to become the problem.
     To effectively collaborate we must drop the ‘my way is the way to handle the problem.’ It requires a humility and acceptance of the fact the our spouse has valuable input into the resolution of any problem or the accomplishment of any goal. One person may be a “financial expert” while their spouse has no training in the area, but if the “expert” doesn’t at least objectively consider what his or her spouse has to say, they are perhaps missing a point of view that may save loss and pain down the road.
     Will you collaborate with your spouse? Will you work with him or her to discover the best solution to problems you encounter? To achieve your purpose and goals a couple? The challenge is to put aside your pride and preconceptions to seek healthy resolution to the problems you encounter. Be purposeful and deliberate about walking together with your spouse.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Conflict: A state of divergent views, wants, or desires between two or more people.

     Conflict in marriage is inevitable; husbands and wives are just too different. Too often, conflict between husband and wife is hurtful and breaks down the relationship rather than build it up. Friends, this should not be! Healthy conflict resolution is possible, but successfully working through conflict involves 4 levels:
     1. Biblical Ideals: Dying to self, living for others, having an attitude of humility.
     2. An Attitude of Collaboration: Working together to achieve a common goal; as Dr. Tim Kimmel wrote,“The goal of discussion should always be unity, never victory.”
     3. Principles of Healthy Communication: There are principles by which we can keep every conversation or conflict healthy such as; no “I” statements, no attacking, listen before responding, etc…
     4. Using Communication Tools: There are many great communication tools to help couples work through any conflict. Discover, learn, and use one or more of the tools. 
     Paul wrote: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29) When those divergent or different views, wants, or desires come up, we must remain calm and seek to resolve that conflict in ways that will build up the relationship, rather than tear it down. Conflict may be inevitable, but hurt does not have to come from the disagreement. Use the resources below to help improve your communication.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Humility: Free from arrogance and pride - putting others first.

     The biggest problem in marriage is not finances, communication, or sex; it is pride - the absence of humility. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves (Phil 2:4). Yet, too many Christians do not act with humility. They may speak words of humility, but their behavior does not demonstrate it. The me first culture, taking care of self before others is alive and well in the church. Few couples think of humility as an important aspect of a strong, healthy marriage, but it is.
     Humility in marriage means that we are to put our spouse first, not in a co-dependent, subservient way, but in a loving and kind way. We are to treat him or her with respect and honor, even if we must address issues. Humility means that we don’t demand our own way, get defensive when our spouse brings up an issue with us, or treat our spouse disrespectfully when they don’t do something the way we think it should be done. It means that we desire the best for our spouse no matter what.
     Folks, we have to start looking more like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and less like the world. We must get rid of our attitudes of entitlement - our attitudes of self-importance. We must listen to understand our spouse, rather than reacting negatively to every perceived wrong. Do your words and actions demonstrate humility or pride. Honestly examine yourself and how you react or respond to your spouse.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Community: Living Together as the Body of Christ

     The Body of Christ, the church, is meant to work together to accomplish the purposes of God. Likewise, the family and specifically, the marriage relationship, is a microcosm of this function - in fact, marriage and family came before the church and is supposed to reflect the very nature of God - community - working together in unity and singleness of purpose. Yet, so often we see division and diversity of purpose in marriage, family, and the church.
     The problem is that many people have bought into the cultural ideal that the individual comes first. It is all about me; make me happy or I am moving on - to another relationship, church, or community. God’s plan is for oneness in marriage; unity without separation. His plan is that the Body of Christ would work together for His glory, not work as individuals for our own glory.
     Friends, we have got to stop thinking as individuals, as lone islands in the sea of humanity. We were created for a purpose; God’s purpose of being light to a dark world; of being a testimony to His love and goodness. We are that light and testimony when we live in community - living in unity, harmony, and working together. We must reject the ideals of the culture and embrace God’s view of marriage and the church; giving up our rights to do whatever we please, living in community and sharing our lives with the person we committed our life to.

More on this subject in my article:  The Marriage Relationship and the Individual

Monday, July 4, 2016

Grace: Offering love, kindness, and goodwill to your spouse

     The Chinese Christian leader, Watchman Nee wrote, "It is exceedingly ugly in the sight of God for the forgiven person to be unforgiving, for the one who has received mercy to be merciless, and for the one to whom He has given grace to not be gracious to others." Yet, too often, we, who have received much grace, do not offer grace to our spouse - the person we profess to love more than anyone else in the world.
     Your spouse will fall short; he or she will sin in some way on a pretty regular basis. You will have arguments and will probably say hurtful things to one another. Extending the frace you have received from God to your spouse is essential to a Christian marriage, a marriage according to God's design. This doesn't mean that you don't address sin, but criticizing every mistake and lapse of your spouse will only drive you apart. Judging your spouse and getting them to do things right is not your job, leave that to God.
     Grace requires humility; you will not give grace when you judge your spouse or think yourself better than him or her. You must examine your own motives; are you focused on the wrong your spouse does? Or are you focused on helping him or her become a better person? Grace seeks the best for your spouse and the Bible teachs that your are to give your spouse grace - to offer love, kindness, and goodwill even if they don't do things right.