Keeping Going When the Going Gets Tough – Part 1
By Craig and Barbara Smith
“Most of us are the authors of our own stress. We want everything to be perfect and go according to schedule, everyone in the family to be happy all the time…well, life just doesn’t run that smoothly” Nancy Plent (Unschoolers Network)
Let us look at some things that make life tough for us. What are the symptoms that make or break us.
Symptoms of Burnout
*Lack of discipline in children
*Lack of Patience
*Overeating or no appetite
*Overreacting to minor issues
*Making irrational decisions
*Unable to make rational decisions
*Lack of confidence
*Blowing up – short fuse
*Not enough time
*Wanting to throw it all in
Causes of Homeschool Burnout
*Not having regular time alone with God
*Not putting our marriage first
*Change in routine
*Rigid adherence to a curriculum
*Lack of support
*Too many commitments
*Falling into a repetitive pattern
*Forgetting to take care of and take time for ourselves
*Pushing children ahead before they are ready
*Child with a different learning style
*Death in family
*Feeling pressure from family and friends
*Children feeling/thinking they should be at school
Strategies for Avoiding Burnout
*Plan for time alone with God each day
*Dealing with marriage difficulties
*Implementing the 4 D’s of child discipline
*Exercise and diet
*Map out ERO Visits
*Take time off when stress levels are too high
*Lower your expectations
*Change your teaching style
*Limit scheduled activities
*Raise independent learners
*Strategize for meal times
*Fathers taking charge
In this first of three articles we will be dealing with the first two on this strategy list. The second two will be covered in the second article, and the third article will deal with all the rest, Lord willing.
Plan for Time Alone with God Each Day
We need to be meeting with God each day individually and as a family. This is number one. Our thorough devotion to our God, or lack of it, will direct everything else we do. Individual and family devotions are covered brilliantly in many books and tapes. We like keeping it varied yet simple. I (Craig) read the Scriptures, we all sing a couple of hymns or Psalms and we take turns praying.
Helpful Hints for Dealing with Marriage Difficulties
Craig and I were both trained up to have marriage difficulties. I believe that many of you were as well. Let me explain…..
At primary school it began with little crushes on fellow class mates. This was followed by school or Church dances in the local hall even before I went to high school. I used to hate going to them, but my mother took great delight in taking us to them. My mother was never allowed to go to them as a child, so she made sure my sister and I got along to them. Being at Boarding School for four years was no barrier to having boy friends, then after leaving school it was one boyfriend after another until the Lord saved me at 20 years of age. But do emotional entanglements finish when you stop dating or get married if you have been trained in them? We will look at this further a bit later on.
I then got involved with The Navigators, an organisation which was involved in evangelism and personal growth. They were also known as “Navigators, never daters”. In this organisation I was being trained for leadership. So my early life I was trained in emotional entanglements and to be a leader, to be independent, self sufficient and other strong leadership characteristics which are great in themselves but not helpful to my role as a submissive wife.
It took me a long time to recognise all of this. It was also very painful for both Craig and I to understand it and to deal with it. I am still working on the effects of this early training.
The first emotional relationship (whether it is real or in our imaginations, like a secret “crush” on a movie star) we grasp with all our being, we give everything emotionally to it. We don’t hold back. This is exactly what God intended for our first emotional relationship, only He planned it for when we get married, not as adolescents. Then something happens to break up this first emotional relationship. Oh, the pain and heartache, just like all those early 1960s rock ‘n’ roll songs told us about. So when we give ourselves to the next one, we hold back a little. We have been hurt, so we keep a little of ourselves for protection. Then as we go to the 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc., etc., etc., relationship, we give less and less of our emotional selves each time. The odd thing is, a common pattern of such behaviour is to become increasingly more physically involved each time, leading to physical as well as emotional fornication.
When we finally get married after a number of these broken relationships, we are only holding onto our spouse by the emotional finger tips. Along comes the first argument and it is just so easy to let go. I was talking to a friend’s sister recently. I explained all this to her, and she said that in her current relationship she was holding her arms across her chest and leaning backwards with her emotions. How many of us are doing this in our marriages and don’t even recognise it and can’t break from it? We know we are in trouble but cannot figure it out and don’t know what to do.
Well, praise God, Craig and I are now seeing the light at the end of a long tunnel for us. We did not know what to do, but thankfully Craig made an appointment with a minister in our church denomination who is a good friend and who we really respect. We knew he would treat us with boxing gloves and / or brass knuckles as needed rather than with velvety soft kid gloves. He got us reading two books that began to change our lives: Reforming Marriage by Douglas Wilson and The Fruit of Her Hands by Nancy Wilson.1 From these I realised that I needed to bring God more into our marriage and into my reactions. Driving a stake into the ground, I determined that my sole purpose on earth is to please God. So when I came to a hard place in our marriage, instead of reacting away from Craig, I needed to react toward him in a way that would be pleasing, conciliatory instead of reactionary. But it was too hard, too hurtful, too painful for there were too many things in the way after many years of wrong reactions. So I just could not do it.
From reading The Fruit of Her Hands, I was challenged to react to Craig not for Craig’s sake but to please God. And do you know what happened? As I reacted positively to Craig, he reacted positively back to me, which made it easier for me to react positively back to Craig. His Needs; Her Needs
So it began to make a difference in our marriage. But we still had plenty of difficulties. Then we began reading His Needs Her Needs by Willard F. Harley Jnr.2 This book is amazing! We are reading it together, and after reading the first three chapters, we saw our marriage do a complete turn around. It was unbelievably instant. It wasn’t easy at first, as we faced the need to read this book together, but once we got into it and both wanted to work on it, all things came together for us. Harley begins talking about the fact that we each have five basic needs.
“The man’s five most basic needs in marriage tend to be:
1. Sexual fulfillment
2. Recreational companionship
3. An attractive spouse
4. Domestic support
The woman’s five most basic needs in marriage tend to be:
3. Honesty and openness
4. Financial support
5. Family commitment
These basic needs may not apply equally to everyone. Harley says that this disparity between men and women in regard to the priority of these ten needs makes it difficult for the two sexes to empathise with each other. “Why,” each asks the other, “are these five things so important to you? None of them strikes me as so vital that I couldn’t get along without them, at least for awhile. What’s the matter with you?”
“Because of this lack of understanding, the couple unknowingly works at cross-purposes, each trying to fulfill the needs he or she feels, not the needs the mate feels. So wives often shower their husbands with affection because they appreciate it and want it so much themselves. Conversely, husbands smother their wives with sexual advances, because sex is one of their most pressing needs. Each becomes confused when at best their mate responds with mild pleasure and at worst becomes annoyed, irritated, or frigid.”
“This sort of behaviour – in which one spouse gives the other something he or she really doesn’t need that badly – becomes self-defeating and destructive. Because the priorities of men’s needs are different than the priority of women’s needs, each partner must take the time to discover and recognise the other’s most important needs: those with the highest priority. Amazingly, many people think they can do this simply through intuition, but I’m convinced it can only happen as a result of clear communication and effective training.”
“In numerous counselling situations I have found men incredibly inept in regard to showing their wives affection. With few exceptions these men complain bitterly about ‘not enough sex.’ Meanwhile, their wives, who don’t really understand how to have a fulfilling sexual relationship or how to enjoy making love, complain, ‘All he wants is my body; he never just wants to be affectionate.’ The frustration that results on both sides can easily lead to an affair and possible divorce. It need not be! Let me show you why.”
Harley says marital breakups occur when one or both partners lack the skills or awareness to meet each others’ needs. “I want to show you how to affair-proof your marriage by building a relationship that sustains romance and increases intimacy and closeness year after year.”
The Love Bank
The thing that really helped me to understand myself and our marriage was when Harley said, “Figuratively speaking, I believe each of us has a Love Bank. It contains many different accounts, one for each person we know. Each person either makes deposits or withdrawals whenever we interact with him or her. Pleasurable interactions cause deposits, and painful interactions cause withdrawals.”
“As life goes on, the accounts in my Love Bank fluctuate. Some of my acquaintances build sizable deposits. Others remain in the black, but have small balances, perhaps because of fewer interactions with me…Two love Banks constantly operate in marriage: his and hers”.
So the question is: who is filling our Love Bank? Oh, to have never been trained in emotional detachments before we were married! Oh, to train our daughters and sons to be emotionally attached to their fathers and mothers until marriage then have their first attachment to their spouse!
Joshua Harris in his book I Kissed Dating Good-bye3 mentioned how a girl Anna had a dream of when she walked down the aisle to David. As she took his hand, one by one all these other girls stood and came forward to stand on the other side of him. She felt betrayed. These were all the girls that David had dated. He had given each one a bit of his heart. They all came into his marriage even though they meant nothing to him now. She thought about it and realised that there was also a line of men standing next to her! She wondered, “How many times have I given my heart away in short-term relationships? Will I have anything left to give my husband?”
Anna and David had many people filling their Love Banks. Those old Love Bank accounts remain high because those who made the deposits are not doing anything to cause withdrawals. Once we have been married for a while and have a few children, if we are not constantly working on keeping our spouse’s Love Bank account balance high, there will be lots of withdrawals, possibly more withdrawals than deposits. Consequently the Love Bank balance of our spouse can actually get lower than the balance of those with whom we had previous relationships. It can also get lower than new relationships that come into our lives.
Before marriage, we had been trained in going into and out of emotional relationships. Do you think this behaviour pattern just stops because we get married? Not unless we work hard to stop it. So when the difficulties come and our spouse is making more withdrawals than deposits in our Love Bank, and we find ourselves in a negative balance with our spouse, it could happen, if we don’t fight against it, that we are back into previous or new emotional relationships, “usually work mates or the spouse of good friends” according to Harley. We experience what Paul describes in Romans 7:15-25: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” There are plenty of Christians who have done what they hate: broken their marriage vows of faithfulness simply because they weren’t watching their marriage’s Love Bank balances.
We need to seek God and the sanctifying power of His in-dwelling Holy Spirit through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ so that we can be delivered from this body of death and can serve the law of God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We need to work hard at being pure in all areas: intellectually and emotionally as well as spiritually and sexually. This is especially true of those who have been trained in the worldly ways of emotional fornication in their earlier years. But if we are filling our spouse’s Love Bank and our spouse is filling our Love Bank, then it will be so much easier to be pure in all areas. Loving your spouse, striving to meet his or her needs, is a great investment in more ways than one!
So Craig and I are working now on filling each other’s Love Banks. The aim is to keep it as full as possible so that we can break away from the habits and behaviours which make emotional withdrawals. We need to finish reading His Needs, Her Needs together, and then we want to read together The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman4 so that we can learn to better meet each others needs.
This has not been easy to share with you. We are all walking different roads with our marriages. This information will not be helpful for some who have not been trained in the way we were. But others of you will be struggling with these same issues and not know how to break out of it. This was written for you. No matter where we are in our marriages, I believe Harley when he says, “The husband and wife who commit themselves to meet each other’s needs will lay a foundation for lifelong happiness in a marriage that is deeper and more satisfying than they ever dreamed possible.” If the writing of this article helps to bring this about for you then it will have all been worth it.
1 Reforming Marriage and The Fruit of Her Hands are available from Geneva Books, Wibo and Lisa de Jonge, 13 Tararua St., Upper Hutt, ph. (04) 527-0565, email@example.com.
2. You can often pick up His Needs, Her Needs from a second hand book shop or from Geneva Books.
3. I Kissed Dating Goodbye is available in all Christian Book Shops including Geneva Books.
4. The Five Love Languages is available in all Christian Book Shops including Geneva Books.
From Keystone Magazine
November 2002, Vol. VIII No. 6
P O Box 9064
Phone: (06) 357-4399
Fax: (06) 357-4389
Keeping Going When the Going Gets Tough – Part 2
by Craig and Barbara Smith
Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the positive feedback from Part 1 of this article. We have never had so much feedback on an article we have written before. Because of that and realising that this is an area of real need, we thought that we would extend this series out a bit. So this article will be dealing with marriage again.
(If you have not read Part 1 that was in the November copy of Keystone, then please contact us for a copy of it as this Part 2 will make more sense after reading Part 1.)
When we have had marriage difficulties, we have to work even harder on our marriages. Some one wrote to us, “Really appreciated the November issue of Keystone. Thank you for your honesty and encouragement to others in your article on Burnout. Your honesty has been a blessing and a great benefit to us.”
I want to be honest with you again and say that it has not been easy. I said in Part 1, “But we still had difficulties and had difficulty trying to work it out until we began reading His Needs Her Needs by Willard F. Harley Jnr. This book is amazing! We are reading it together, and after reading the first three chapters, we saw our marriage do a complete turn around. It was unbelievably instant. It wasn’t easy at first, as we faced the need to read this book together, but once we got into it and both wanted to work on it, all things came together for us.”
There was an immediate turn around. This happened in our minds and actions towards each other, not that we suddenly were head over heals in love and lived happily ever after. There was quite a struggle to overcome the fear of being hurt again by both of us. We struggled with the need to come together to work on this.
So first we made a clinical commitment to each other. Our love actions towards each other were clinical. We both knew that they were clinical: you know, doing nice things to each other because the Bible and the book said we should more than because we suddenly had this spontaneous, romantic desire to. We neither of us had it in ourselves for it to be otherwise. We were doing what we knew was right to be doing for the other. We thought it would come across as really fake and put-on, which made us hesitate to do anything at all, which would only leave us back where we started: doing nothing. But you know what? The emotions and feelings followed the actions! It was unbelievable when we knew each other was acting clinically towards each other that other good feelings could come out of it. So when Craig took my hand, or put his arm around me, or whispered sweet nothings to me, my heart responded positively to him. It made me want to meet a need of his.
Many of us are probably like this next person who wrote to us:
“I just thought I’d write and thank you for your input into my life with your magazine and your talks at homeschool conventions. I guess you’d be about five years ahead of us in the homeschool world – we benefited from you pioneering….But I particularly wanted to thank you for sharing your lives in ‘Over a Cuppa’. It has encouraged me to think that things could change for the better. I think I’d decided just to accept the good points of our marriage and thank God for them and leave my disappointments over unmet expectations with Him also. But perhaps growth is still possible! I had chucked in ‘marriage books’ a while back because I felt they just made one discontented! But if you are still growing and learning at your age (which is probably similar to ours) and stage, I feel encouraged! Thanks for your openness.”
Merely accepting the good points of our marriage and leaving the disappointments with Him is also what many of us do. This is the way so many of us are living out our married lives. We gel together as husband and wife well in some areas and not in others. We are meeting some of the needs of our spouses but not all of the needs. We settle for this half-way situation because it is too hard to do anything else. We are tired of the past hurts, so we accept the current situation and don’t work at it anymore.
Willard F. Harley says in the book His Need Her Needs, “Every couple has the choice to let unmet needs hamper or even ruin their relationship, or they can decide to preserve their marriage. Limping along in disappointment and bittersweet frustration doesn’t do any better. A mature coming together to meet each other’s needs is always the best solution.”
“Marital conflict is created one of two ways. (1) Couples fail to make each other happy, or (2) couples make each other unhappy. In the first case, couples are frustrated because their needs are not being met. In the second case, they’re deliberately hurting each other. I call the first cause of conflict failure to care and the second, failure to protect.”
“The [legitimate] needs are so strong that when they’re not met in marriage, people are tempted to go outside marriage to satisfy them…. But aside from the risk of an affair, important emotional needs should be met for the sake of care itself. Marriage is a very special relationship. Promises are made to allow a spouse the exclusive right to meet some of these important needs. When they are unmet, that is unfair to the spouse who must go through life without ethical alternatives.”
“Couples that find their needs unmet often become thoughtless and inconsiderate. When that happens, marriages slide into ugly and destructive scenes. The failure to meet these needs is often unintentional, but reaction to unmet needs develops in intentional harm. That often leads to unbearable pain and, ultimately, divorce.”
Harley goes on to say, “In or outside marriage, most people resent denunciations, criticism, or corrections. If others tell us we have made a mistake, we often try to justify our failure or cast blame elsewhere.”
“On the other hand, if someone we care for explains that he or she would like us to meet a personal need, we are usually willing to help. As long as we are not cirticized, we can willingly accommodate others with some change in our behavior.”
“Successful marriages require skill – skill in caring for the one you promised to cherish throughout life. Good intentions are not enough.”
Let’s look at these needs from His Needs Her Needs again. The husband’s five most basic needs in marriage tend to be:
An attractive spouse
The wife’s five most basic needs in marriage tend to be:
Honesty and openness
So we settle for our spouse meeting some of these needs of ours and being resigned to never having other needs met. Disappointment and bitterness can play on our minds and hearts at this stage. And we are vaguely aware that we let our spouses down in some areas, that we’re not meeting their needs in one way or another, but just leave it in the too-hard basket. We may flirt with someone who somehow seems to be meeting a long-unmet need. In the worst case, even Christians have fallen into having an affair. Those who do end up in an affair usually find that this liaison only meets one of their needs! Suddenly they realise more of their needs were being faithfully met by their spouse than they realised. This new liaison may meet one need that was wanting, but it doesn’t come close to what they just threw away. So let’s learn from this horrible situation and look at our marriages: which needs of our spouses are we meeting and which ones do we need to work at meeting?
The needs of ours that our spouses are meeting will be filling their Love Bank with us. The needs that are being neglected will be causing withdrawals in that Love Bank. So as we work on these unmet needs, we should see less withdrawals. This didn’t happen over night for Craig and I. In fact we are still having to work on this. We have habits that are hard to break. Especially when we get busy we fall back into our old ways. Because we now want to have a good marriage does not by itself make it a good marriage. Effort is required. We need the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) operating in our lives to help us to make our marriage be the best it can be.
“I just wanted to write and encourage Barbara. Having received my Keystone today, I was reading the article she wrote on Helpful Hints for Dealing with Marriage Difficulties. _______and I have gone through a very similar thing. Having been married now for 16 years, we have struggled most of that time. We did have other relationships before we got married, but I attributed a lot of it to the fact that I came from a ‘broken home’. My parents split up when I was 12. I didn’t have a Christian upbringing either, my husband did but he was adopted – which had issues he had to deal with also. The Lord has also been teaching us, and we have read the books you have suggested, but it is still a struggle. I believe the marriage is the foundation to the family, so if the enemy can disrupt that he will. Our son left home this week, but I feel a large part of it was because WE couldn’t get our act together!! Matt 12:25 says, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided itself will not stand’. And verse 29 says, ‘How can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.’ And as Malachi 2:15 says, ‘Has not the Lord made them one? Because he was seeking godly offspring.’ And my favourite scripture Proverbs 14:1 which I got at an Above Rubies camp a couple of years ago: ‘The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.’ Yet this is what I seem to do all the time. It seems knowing what to do and doing it are two different things. Also if the husband isn’t doing his part. But we’re only responsible for ourselves. Sometimes I moan because I always seem to be the one trying to work things out, but I think females tend to be like that, and the Lord encouraged me to do it as ‘Unto Him’. This week I’ve been reading Spiritual Mismatch by Lee and Leslie Storbel. As 1 Peter 3 says – they’ll be won over without a word. It’s like we can change but we can’t force them too. I’m having to learn GRACE. While we were yet sinners Jesus died for us. Therefore we have to die to ourselves. And I’m learning the definition of love probably doesn’t even mean what we think it means…I have such a passion for this subject. I could go on all day, but just to encourage you, we’re not there yet either, but I feel it’s a real key for restoration in the whole family. And you’re brave being so transparent about it, I hope a lot of others will be encouraged as I was.”
I wanted this letter included because too often our children leave home as soon as they can because of the undercurrents in our homes. We not only have a responsibility to our spouses to make our marriage as good as it can be but also to our children. You may have often heard it said that the best thing we can be doing for our children is to love our spouses as God intended us to. Unhappy children who give us nothing but trouble and who can’t wait to leave home are the unhappy fallout of inattention to this duty to love our spouses as God would have us do.
“Thanks, Barbara, for your openness and humility in sharing the way you have about your marriage – may God bless you RICHLY, and I’m sure He’ll use it to bless many others (us included).”
And may God richly bless us all as we seek to be obedient to Him in our desire to please Him in our marriages. Let us remember to continue to meet the needs of our spouses we are already meeting well. Then work at improving how we meet other needs. We do these things, as difficult as they sometimes are, for the Lord’s sake, for the sake of our marriages, for the sake of our children….but knowing that we personally also benefit by enjoying the fruit of a more peaceful, enjoyable and satisfying marriage partner from now on!
From Keystone Magazine
January 2003, Vol. IX No. 1
P O Box 9064
Phone: (06) 357-4399
Fax: (06) 357-4389
Keeping Going When the Going Gets Tough – Part 3
by Craig and Barbara Smith
We were horrified to discover, after the last issue of Keystone was printed, that the last two lines of Part 2’s article were chopped off! The final paragraph should have read:
“And may God richly bless us all as we seek to be obedient to Him in our desire to please Him in our marriages. Let us remember to continue to meet the needs of our spouses we are already meeting well. Then work at improving how we meet other needs. We do these things, as difficult as they sometimes are, for the Lord’s sake, for the sake of our marriages, for the sake of our children….but knowing that we personally also benefit by enjoying the fruit of a more peaceful, enjoyable and satisfying marriage partner from now on!”
This is a tall order. This is something that we need to be continually working at. We will never get to the point where we will be able to just coast along: something is always changing, and we can let things change by themselves (the doctrine of original sin and the second law of thermal dynamics both say the change will be downhill) or we can work with the changes in an effort to ensure the overall effect is beneficial. The lists and books that we have mentioned in these and other articles are merely tools for us to use. None can claim to be exhaustive lists, fool-proof formulas for success or items that will necessarily suit our current needs. They are tools for us to use to help get us onto a better track, to help us come to grips with Biblical principles that we need to be applying to our lives. Sometimes people try to use books or lists of ideas as a quick fix for marriage difficulties. It doesn’t work like that. There are no quick fix methods (in this quick fix age) for getting our marriages back on track once we get stuck in a briar patch of thorny problems. We also believe that all marriages have difficulties of some sort. Good marriages call for hard work and a need to be doing what we know is right. We two just want to mention again that the most difficult part for us getting on track again with our marriage was the decision we made together to do so.
Craig will now mention what he has been sharing at workshops about the clinical part of getting our marriage on track again. For us this was a key to begin communicating again……
We’d tried talking about the difficulties, but always went round and round in circles. This is what happens when neither is willing to admit to their failures, but is more concerned with finding fault with the other. This is especially hard for me (Craig), for in the final analysis I am the one to carry the full responsibility as head of the household, head of the marriage. It was imperative to find someone we could trust, a godly man of Biblical wisdom and maturity, to whom we could bring our difficulties, laying them on the table for him to see and give counsel, a man unafraid of offending us by telling us the truth! The description I used at the time was someone who would use a two-by-four to whack us between the eyes, who would pull out his six-shooters and give us both barrels, who would not handle us with velvet gloves for we are not very good at taking hints, but need it spelled out in no uncertain terms. Our counselor did exactly that: told us what terrible sinners we were against God and each other, how we had been defrauding one another in our attitudes, how we had some serious confessions to make to one another and to God, and how I especially had better start shouldering my responsibilities, taking charge and start working on some solutions with Barbara who had better be a lot more cooperative.
The first challenge was to read a book together. And discuss it. And work out applications, that is, things we were going to start doing that we hadn’t been doing. Our initial list has on it signs of affection which I (Craig) needed to start performing, even in public: holding hands, giving a hug, buying flowers. “Give me a break!” I said. These things will now seem cold and clinical because each of us will know I’m doing it only because the book suggested it; these acts won’t be “spontaneous” or “from the heart” and therefore not properly valid. They’ll be fake tokens of affection, not real ones.
Well, the fact is, just as Naaman’s servant in II Kings 5 convinced Naaman that he had nothing to lose from doing something so simple as dipping seven times into the Jordan River to fix his problem, I decided holding hands wasn’t so hard to do. The truth is, I really wanted to hold hands like we used to do when courting. But now things were different, I said to myself, and went through the arm-chair psychologist routine for a bit. Look, just forget all the analysis stuff; it’s all just an attempt to make excuses anyway. Just hold her hand, you big oaf!
The act of showing such signs of affection, even after they’d long been dropped, even when they’d probably appear to be mere clinical actions, demonstrates a commitment to making things better, a commitment to Barbara, a commitment to changing my habits and routines for her sake. I tell you what, there is more meaning in our holding hands now, more significance, than there ever was 25 years ago in our courting days. And yet, I’m aware that I’m talking about some fairly basic things here, Philippians 2:3 kind of stuff. But it is vital to be on top of this if we are ever to be immersed in the lifestyle of Ephesians 5:21-33 to which we have been called.
There will always be work needed in our marriages, especially if we were not trained in purity, particularly emotional purity. The Bible’s standard for our emotional purity is, first, to be so totally committed to our spouses that our marriages each reflect the relationship of Christ to His church. This is a unique union which should be obvious to all onlookers as a one-of-a-kind relationship. Second, the Bible says this about our relation to all others outside our family: “Exhort [older men] as you would a father; treat younger men like brothers, older women like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity” (I Timothy 5:1-2). Don’t flirt with anyone apart from your spouse in your mind or with your eyelashes or with your words or with physical touch or closeness. We need to be continually working towards purity and emotional purity in our marriages. And that includes how we effect the emotional purity of others.
We as parents need to be working at training our children in purity, emotional as well as sexual. We are training our children in something, either in purity in all of their relationships or that flirting to some degree is ok. So how far is ok? Even to ask the question shows we have erred: purity is in the exact opposite direction. We counsel our children, “Pay attention to all, show intention toward none.” Like many of you I (Barbara) was trained to be in the dating scene from an early age – it really did affect me. Consequently I now really struggle to be emotionally pure every day. Most days I get the victory now, but it has been a struggle for me over the years. If we train our children from a young age in purity, then, by God’s grace, they should not have the same struggles in their marriages that many of us have. Even though we fail in this area at times, we must see the need to be training our children in all purity. It is worth the struggle to be pure and to train our children to be pure. I know this is not a popular message in these days of excessive freedom in forming relationships, independence in how youth spend their time, the fashions they follow, independence in transport and finance, etc. But as Matthew 7:13 says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Craig and I want to be found by God to be seeking Him in all areas of our lives, and we want this for our children.
II Corinthians 3:18, Philippians 2:12-13, I Corinthians 9:4-27, Philippians 3:12-16 and other passages mean our sanctification and maturity in Christ, becoming the kind of husbands, wives and parents we want to be, is a constant struggle. The closer we get to Him the more faults we’ll see in ourselves, the more impure we will realise we are. This is depressing. Yet here is a proper, a balanced, a Biblical self-image, one that is totally at odds with the popular notion that people need to have positive self-esteem and always feel good about themselves. No, we need to know we are weak and faulty sinners, that it is the grace of God alone that carries us on, allowing us to see that even while we are truly becoming more and more sanctified, and that a part of that sanctification is perceiving that the true gulf between our righteousness and His is getting wider all the time, even so, His grace allows us to see more of the true extent of His love and commitment toward us in Christ! When we are weak, then we are strong; let him who boasts, boast in the Lord, not in his journey to discover a positive self image!
Another key to having a fulfilling marriage is for us to be content in our marriages. Paul says in Philippians 4:11b “for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am”. For some of us it is taking longer than others to learn to be content. Contentment doesn’t just happen when we marry. We should have learned to be content in God before we married. If we did not, then we may tend to look towards our spouse as the source of contentment, something our spouses cannot be; only God can be that source of unfailing contentment, one that never lets you down or disappoints.
Norm Wakefield stated in his book, Equipped to Love, “Whenever someone looks to anything or anyone rather than God as the source of all things, he commits the sin of idolatry. This may sound strange, but it’s true. Here is a good definition of idolatry: looking to any person, object or idea to supply what only God can supply.” Heather Paulsen says in her book , Emotional Purity (see back cover), “We must examine things in our lives that may be idols. Could it be the idea of marriage? Or could it be the ‘friend’ you have?…..When discontentment is felt in life, when one does not find true contentment with God alone, problems can easily occur. Ask God to point out areas in your life where you are not content, then ask Him to help you be satisfied with His plan. He will begin to reveal areas where you are not fully in His will. Once this lesson is learned, you may need to lean on God ‘the Educator’ to continue to keep you reminded of His instructions. If you are married, where do you find your satisfaction? Are you longing for your spouse to fill your empty heart? It will never happen. Only God can fill this hole in your heart. He designed it that way. Your husband has not been created to make you happy. Your wife has not been created to satisfy you always. Look to God to fill this area of your life. Trust Him to take care of your marriage. Be content with where you are in life. As difficult as marriage can be, continue to draw near to God. God can use another person, your mate perhaps, to contribute to your happiness and satisfaction, but remember it ultimately comes from God and He deserves the glory.”
I Timothy 4:6b-7: “Train yourself in godliness, for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 6:6: “But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment.” We need to be training ourselves in godliness and learning to find contentment in Christ Who will give us contentment in our marriages.
All this training and learning starts to sound like hard work. But look at it from different angles at the same time. Why not decide – the two of you together – that you could have the best marriage anyone around you has ever seen? Why not decide that as a couple? Team up to mutually decide to have a marriage that is going to set a benchmark for Biblical conformity, attract attention, make your children the happiest and most secure little ones around – and incidentally, a marriage that is going to thrill you down to your socks as well! It is a simple, fairly well-defined, identifiable goal. And if we don’t get
In Church last night I was challenged by the verses in Hebrews 12:1-3: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.”
I was thinking of this in relation to our marriages. “Let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us from keeping our marriages in all purity and keeps us from having good marriages. Let us run with endurance the race (working on our marriages) that is set before us. We need to look unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith (it is only as we seek to please Him that we can do it; we are not pure as He is pure; we do not suffer as He suffered), who for the joy set before Him endured the cross (nothing in our marriages can compare with that), despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (to be there with Him being our goal
Many of us have grown weary and have lost heart. Let this be a challenge for us not to grow weary and lose heart any longer but to do as we are told in Luke 9:23: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” It is dying to ourselves, denying ourselves as we seek the Lord Jesus Christ, as we fix our eyes on Him, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, that we are able to do it. As we fix our eyes on Him, we can look forward to the joys of a fulfilling marriage and the ultimate fulfillment of meeting with Him, in godliness and contentment, at the end of our days.
From Keystone Magazine
March 2003, Vol. IX No. 2
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Phone: (06) 357-4399
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