Want a Good Marriage?
Fairly young in her faith walk, she didn’t know that God specifically tells us in Malachi that He hates divorce.
She also didn’t know that while Moses originally allowed divorce, Jesus clearly told us not to do so.
But she didn’t know what to do.
Her heart ached for connection with her husband.
Exhausted from fighting all the time, she wanted a break.
Maybe even permanently.
She’s not alone. I can’t even count any more the number of women who have contacted me wanting change in their marriages.
I consider it a great privilege to pray with them, answer their questions, and share God’s Word with them.
And since I used to be one of these ladies, just wanting to stop the pain, I can relate.
Their tears are precious to God, and I consider myself honored to have been trusted with and invited into their pain for a short while.
This week, God shared with me what I believe is a powerful analogy that most of them can relate to involving motherhood.
What most of us (and for years, me too) fail to understand is that this life is not about us.
For centuries, from Adam and Eve to the Israelites and Egyptians, to the current age, it’s been the same question for every individual: Will you choose to submit to God’s will for your life, or will you go your own way?
God sent a living example of His Grace in His Son Jesus to show us how to live. What this means on a daily basis is that choice between “God’s will” or “our own way” gets played out in the little decisions we make moment to moment.
We get married, and that’s a context through which we grow.
We have children, and there’s another context.
I know, I know, the analogy…
Okay, so when a mother gives birth, it’s clear that the baby is helpless. No other animal on earth takes as long to become independent as a human. From birth, they are dependent upon us or they die. Many of us choose to breast feed – most nursing moms have been bitten by our babies at some point. While we might yelp and pull away when that occurs, we do not then hold a grudge or feel upset at the child. There’s no, “He must not love me because he bit me,” or “He’s so selfish, thinking only of himself so much that he’s now hurt me,” or, “I’m just not going to feed him ever again because he’s so mean.” We don’t verbally or physically slap the baby for biting. Instead, we have an understanding of the mental, emotional, and physical capabilities of the baby, which results in a healthy thought pattern of understanding and grace – “He must be teething,” or “No, he cannot do that, so I’m going to pop him off when he starts getting distracted, or bites again,” or “Ouch! That hurt! I need to learn how to deal with this.”
We don’t judge the baby.
Instead, we demonstrate grace.
We are able to see him the way God does, not taking the biting personally, but looking at it as a behavior to be dealt with in a healthy way that results in a win for mom and baby.
The problem is that we don’t do this with adults – even though they might still emotionally and spiritually be infants.
Jesus hung on a cross – for all of us – and said, for you and me, btw, “Forgive them Father, they know not what they do.”
I know some of you are so wounded that your goal after reading this is will be to prove me wrong. And I’ve been there, too, aching for the pain to stop, angry at someone sharing God’s Truth with me…but God was using it to change my perspectives, which were unhealthy, unforgiving, non-grace-based and selfish. Isn’t the goal to become more like Christ?
I had to come to terms with whether or not I really believed what I said I believed. This meant that if I really believed God was all powerful, that just like Job, just like Saul, just like the man born blind that Jesus healed, I was suffering and struggling for His glory to be revealed – that He allowed my circumstances and had a purpose for them. The choice of whether or not to fight them was mine alone, but again, it all came down to the timeless decision every person must make: God’s will or my own way?
I choose God’s will. I prayed then and still pray that He would help me “get it.”
I’m still learning.
But now, after a decade of doing faith this way, I can see growth. And I have peace. And I want that for you, too.
Because it changes everything.
So if you have ever, like me, blamed those around you for causing you pain, instead of having Jesus’s cross-hanging perspective of “Forgive them Father, they know not what they do,” recognize that those feelings are cues to pray for a “will alignment.”
Dare you to go to God and ASK Him to help you “get it,” too. J
Double-dog dare you to “subscribe” to the blog, share it with a friend, or comment! J
I’m so thankful we are on this journey together!
Love to you,
Thanks for your comments, clearly I am not a morning person…don’t ever invite me to breakfast 🙂
I definitely understand and completely agree with the concept of being kind, tenderhearted and forgiving, 70×7, laying down your life, all of it. It is absolutely necessary for life by the Spirit. And I do see your heart in this, Nina, and didn’t mean to be so blatantly critical.
I recognize now that you were not referring necessarily to abusive situations, although I would like to say that I consider verbal/emotional abuse every bit as valid as physical. I often wonder what Christians actually consider abusive. It seems that many times, men are given a pass on behaviors towards women that they would not wish on their worst enemies.
When women are considered equal and free from the curse, which I believe is at the very core of many marital issues today, then you will see huge restoration in the area of relationships. It is very Christian cultural to view and treat women as somehow lesser beings, but God has clearly told us, both male and female, to rule the earth and subdue it. That is the mandate.
And the day men and women, and more importantly the Church comprehends God’s idea of “headship” as life giving, spirit led nurturing, is the day marriage gets restored.
I suppose that is why, although I give a certain amount of credence to your methodology, as I believe it is biblical…I know huge of me 🙂 , but seriously, what if Suzie loses it during menopause….whatever, what then?
MJ – I hear you on the Spirit in us, fulfilling the law through our relationship with Jesus. You will get no argument from me.
I had an encounter today that made it clear to me why the words I write sometimes insight a negative reaction from you, Randi. I realized that we are probably surrounded by differently situated women. The majority of the women who I personally know and those I don’t who are sharing their pain with me are not abused.
These beautiful women share very intimate details of their lives, sometimes things even more horrific than emotional or verbal abuse, and so I doubt they are just leaving the abuse element out of their discussions with me… And I have had the privilege of walking beside and interacting with literally hundreds (maybe even more) of women in the last five years who are struggling in their marriages, and I would say it’s less than 5% of them who are being abused – and yes, they are again sharing intimate details, so I don’t think it’s just something they’re leaving out.
The bottom line is that I’m not exposed to a volume of abused women. I’m not saying they aren’t out there, but they aren’t the bulk of my experience. Once in a while, I do encounter someone who is being abused, and I might blog about it, while of course, protecting her identity.
I don’t mean to offend you, or anyone else for that matter, and I want to continue to grow in how His love is seen through me. I also think it might help if we put some context around what you read here, and realize that I blog from my life experiences – for some reason, they are just radically different than yours. I also think you might continue to find me upsetting to read, especially if you continue looking at my blog from the abused woman’s angle, given that you seem to have many abused women in your life.
I don’t mean to be disrespectful to you or them, but my experience with these ladies has been on opposite ends of the spectrum – some literally feel called by God to leave their husbands (and I support them) and others literally feel called by God to martyr themselves in their own homes (and I support them, too). Both stances are Biblical. I don’t feel I have the right to question their relationship with God, and I don’t want to discount either group.
I am thankful these ladies aren’t alone, and appreciate your efforts as you minister to them. It seems you have special empathy this direction, and I am sure it brings you much fulfillment to love on them. 🙂 Hope this clarifies something and we can avoid future conflicts. 🙂
All – when I wrote this post, I wasn’t speaking to abused women. I’m not sure if I am now, either, but in discussing this with my current theological advisors, I was reminded of 1 Corinthians 7:10-11. I do not think this verse connotes head coverings or women being silent in church, due to the cultural contexts of those communications, and while I might receive comment about how this verse doesn’t apply to women today, I’m just relaying what I was told, as I said I would. When I asked about the context, it was explained to me how it is relevant and different than the aforementioned verses, but if you are aware of something neither I nor my advisors are aware of, please do share from Scripture about that. Anyway, here are the verses:
10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband.11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.
Again, my post wasn’t intended to equate a baby with an abusing husband, and I apologize for that misperception, or any other offenses. I am trying hard to be loving in how I communicate, and am troubled when I upset someone else.
It also wasn’t my intention to equate a baby with an abusive spouse, or men in general in a demeaning way (Respect Dare and all).
Thankful for the dialogue, and grateful to be on the journey,
Sorry, forgot to say that the verses are the NIV translation. Here’s the NASB, which is more accurate in terms of literal translation to English:
10 But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband11 (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband ), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.
Excellent and thought-provoking. Great job, Nina. Lately I’ve been drawn to the verse in 1 Corinthians 7:4 that talks about marriage not being about our rights – but about serving each other. I love how The Message paraphrases it: “Marriage is not a place to “stand up for your rights.” Marriage is a decision to serve the other, whether in bed or out.” Your challenge to extend grace by thinking of my husband (and maybe other, difficult people in my life) as one who doesn’t know better, helps me to frame my responses more appropriately.
When my son bit me during nursing, I DID respond honestly – ‘OUCH! That hurt! Don’t hurt mommy, please!’ and when he persisted there was a small tap to remind him to respect mommy. BUT, I never held it against him.
Obviously, God wants me to respond as lovingly to the adults that I judge as ‘they should know better’.
Thank you for the clarity,
YES. 🙂 And I love it that you said, “respond honestly” because we too often misconstrue “grace” and “live like Jesus” with “doormat” and “say nothing EVER.”
Randi, I’m really sorry, but I’m not seeing where my post tells women suffering abuse not to leave – I have in the past and will continue to in the future, leave that to them and what God is saying to them at the time…I am sorry that you have this perception from reading my post – I will continue to go over it as I want to continue to learn about my communication and get better at it. I have just a few minutes here to respond, then have to get about getting people to their places…
For what it’s worth, I really don’t consider myself an authority – actually, the gap between me and God is the same as it is for a brand new believer – infinite. Without Christ, there’s no way across that chasm, and I’m not any better than anyone else. I am so sorry to have come across like this to you! I lump myself into the “infant” category as well, even though I have a life-filled relationship with God, and I know my experience of Him is microscopic compared to what is possible if I continue to pursue this intimacy for my entire life – and even that will be just a small fragment of relationship with Him. 🙂
I am not called to have deep theological discussions covering the explanations of all the words used in the old and new testaments – and as much as I’d like to, there will still just be places where we might disagree. I have been under the authority of those with PHD’s in theology, who equate the covenant (either old or new testament) of marriage as an example of Christ and the church, and parallel in that teaching is the concept of idolotry and adultery being symbolicly similiar.
There is much in the Bible about divorce, separation, and marriage, and it grieves me to think that somehow I’ve communicated that I am a “black and white” law person on Scripture – it’s my calling to encourage women to pursue God’s will, to share my experiences and what the Word says. I typically don’t speak about abuse because I’ve received information from those who have had God confirm to them that they are to leave, and others who have had Him confirm to them that they are actually martyrs in their own homes – I don’t want to discount their experiences, either of them, and I support both camps fully – who am I to question someone else’s relationship with God? 🙂 I will pose your thoughts about Galatians to my advisors, however, and post back here if they let me know anything different than what I’ve already said.
I am so sorry that I offended you, and I appreciate the feedback. It grieves me to have come across this way to you, and I will consider what you have said – I feel that I have not communicated clearly to you, and for that I am also sincerely sorry.
I didn’t even see your follow up comment until I posted what I did… we all have hot buttons and so I’m understanding of that… I hope I didn’t come across as too defensive… it’s just that Nina is a good friend and I felt you might not see how it was intended. Thanks for your follow up comment!
Wow, I was simply going to say that all this was well said, but then I saw the first comment and I realized how people can take things so differently. First of all, I believe that when we live in the spirit it actually holds us to a higher standard- not one that we can achieve on our own- but we WANT Christ to live in us so we can always be on the road of sancitification, and becoming MORE like Jesus Christ. It’s not as if we have no use for the Old Testament anymore and understanding the law… it is so we can understand sin and see our need for submitting to Christ each and every day. (So I don’t think living in the spirit takes away the need to look at the law… we’ve been redeemed from the law by Christ, but it’s our free will whether we will submit to his Holy Spirit as He guides us, or not). Secondly, I don’t think Nina means that we should put up with physical abuse that is harmful to ourselves or our kids. EVERY book making the same kind of points she is making always specifies that if you are in danger, you should get out and get good CHRISTIAN counseling. I think seperation is a must until trust can be restored, if that’s even possible. I don’t even think she was saying that divorce is necessarily a sin… I think God knows our hearts and when we see it as an easy out from a lot of tension, or if there is really no hope. We all know the verses in the Bible where divorce is technically “allowed”… when it comes to physical abuse, I think seperation is important for safety and to see if the person is willing to make changes, including getting professional help. Anyway, I believe this post is a very good one and I can’t tell you how much this concept has changed MY marriage. The point is that we are not always hurt physcially, but emotional abuse or just feeling neglected can still hurt a LOT, and I’ve found it’s very important to truly find forgiveness, give grace, and draw closer to God so HE can help you with the situation. Just in saying to myself “Lord I forgive him– and I release him to you for YOU to work in his life” has made a HUGE difference in my circumstances. My focus on the Lord and submitting to His will of wanting every marriage to work has only helped my marriage to get better, and I trust it will continue to get better because Christ is in it!!!
Thank you Nina. I always glean so much from your posts. God truly speaks to me through you. I appreciate your willingness to speak out even when you know you will come against opposition. Keep up the great work for the Lord!
I have come to a better understanding in my situation that my husband needs me to be more of “Forgive them Father, they know not what they do,” than “What the heck are you thinking?” while rolling my eyes. I am a work in progress. 🙂 The Lord has done a major overhaul in me, and continues to teach me daily. I still have a long ways to go. But I believe God will restore my marriage and bring my husband home. Even with all I have been through, I do not believe divorce is the answer. My vows said for better or WORSE. This just happens to be the worse part.
I have to say, I’m really surprised that you are comparing a baby, who has no training in discipline to an abusive spouse. Then I loved it how if anyone challenges you, you’ve already “covered” yourself, nullified that there could even be a possibility of another answer, disqualifying people out of hand no matter what their circumstances. Remarkable you seem to feel you have that much authority. Galatians 5 is fairly comprehensive in determining what is “sin” and I do not see that divorce is one of them. ” Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. ”
I would contend that you chose to live by the “letter of the law”, and not the “spirit of the law”. Yes, divorce is the last thing Jesus/God wants, because it is extremely painful for all concerned, and one must always work in every way to reconcile, to see if there is a possibility of a non-abusive, both verbally and physically, change. But your advocating that somehow staying married is always God’s will, even in the case of continued abuse, puts a yoke on women you have no right to do. When Jesus spoke to the Pharisees in that context, he was rebuking them for taking marriage lightly and treating women as if they were somehow disposable and not precious. When studying the scripture, one must always consider them in historic and biblical context…for instance, Women should never speak or teach in church. Are you now going to say THAT is the case? Either live by the law, or don’t. Don’t pick and chose what you will peach to suit your purposes.
Hi there…I just wanted to say that having seen both sides of this issue over the years, it is a bit of a hot button. I absolutely stand by everything I said, the biblical perspective, historic context, everything, but since I cannot remove my post an reword it, I will ask your forgiveness for coming off personally snitty. So please accept my apologies, I did not mean it to come off as a “personal attack.”
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