Lies Men Believe About Marriage: She’ll Fix My Sexual Lust

By Brandon Cox -January 4, 2021

Lies Men Believe About Marriage: She'll Fix My Sexual Lust

I saw a pornographic magazine for the first time when I was in the fifth grade. A friend’s Dad worked for the company that printed the industry’s leading periodical at the time and had a massive collection at home. So we attempted to educate ourselves in human sexuality entirely apart from parental direction or biblical principles. We were clueless, curious boys entering puberty, trying to figure out what sexual lust was about.

Now, I’ve talked to countless men my age who had the same experience. We were exposed, because of the sin and carelessness of our parents’ generation, to images that warped our understanding of human sexuality and male-female relationships. By age ten or eleven, most of us (primarily men, but some women as well) were getting a simple message etched into our brains whether we understood it or not: the human body is here for your entertainment. It’s an object, not a soul.

Since then, the pornography industry has exploded with growth, thanks to the Internet. Our standards of decency have eroded in this area as well. And our society is just now starting to learn the damaging consequences of our collective choices in this area. Finally, the world around us is waking up to the harsh reality that we’ve taught an entire generation of people to sexually objectify one another. Just browse FightTheNewDrug.org for five minutes for a massive education about why this issue of sexual lust matters so much.

As a result of being sexualized at a much earlier age than previous generations, we’re surrounded by marriages now suffering from the harmful effects of unbridled lust. Don’t misunderstand: sexual lust has been around since the beginning of humanity. It’s nothing new. Peruse the Old Testament and you’ll discover the raw stories of mostly men and a few women given over to the harmful results of lust. The fire of lust has burned since sin entered our race, but modern technology, both print and digital, have thrown massive amounts of fuel on that fire.

In the context of modern marriage, I’ve noticed a particular theme among young men who have grown up in this sexually-saturated culture of ours. They struggle with lust, and they get married with an incorrect assumption: she’ll fix my lust problem. I say “struggle” because I’m referring primarily to those guys who want to be pure, but keep finding themselves addicted to pornography, masturbation, and lustful thoughts.

Why Marriage Doesn’t Heal Your Sexual Lust Problem

Getting married doesn’t give you victory over sexual lust because singleness isn’t what causes lust.

Lust doesn’t come from a magazine or a website. And while Satan instigates our culture toward brokenness and certainly orchestrates temptation, he isn’t the root cause of our lust either. And lust has nothing to do with the attractiveness of your spouse. This is why I always cringe when I read something from a Christian leader who encourages women to improve their personal appearance to help their husbands curb their lust problems. First of all, if that’s the solution, single men are hopeless. Second of all, men with wives the world may define as physically attractive still have lust issues. And third… you’re just wrong! And it’s an often painful burden you place on the hearts of hurting women.

Where does lust come from? It comes from within. James put it this way:

TEMPTATION COMES FROM OUR OWN DESIRES, WHICH ENTICE US AND DRAG US AWAY. THESE DESIRES GIVE BIRTH TO SINFUL ACTIONS. AND WHEN SIN IS ALLOWED TO GROW, IT GIVES BIRTH TO DEATH.

JAMES 1:14-15 NLT

That’s right. Lust is an out-of-control desire. Desire, in and of itself, isn’t sin. Neither is temptation. Being attracted to someone isn’t sin either. But when temptation comes and awakens my desire and I, in the power of my flesh alone, choose not to escape, lust is born and gives birth to death.

Don’t blame your wife, your computer, or Hollywood for a lust issue. Blame your own flesh, your own mind, and your own heart. Does that mean you’re a terrible dirtbag? No. It means you’re human. You’re a sinner. And it can sometimes mean that you’ve been hurt and victimized in ways that weren’t your fault, such as sexual abuse or early exposure to pornography, both of which wire your brain in unhealthy ways.

Is Victory Over Lust Possible?

Yes. Victory over lust is possible. Some guys argue that it’s an out-of-reach goal, but the Bible says otherwise. Scripture is clear that we are “more than conquerors” through Jesus. Sin has been put to death in the death of Christ on the cross. You can absolutely win over your lust problem.

As a married man, you’ll need your wife’s support in the form of prayer, encouragement, and even some measure of accountability. But she can’t fix you, and fixing you is a burden that will likely crush her under its weight.

So, how do you win over lust for the sake of your spiritual and marital health? Here are the basics:

  1. Own the responsibility for your choices and agree with God about the sinful nature of lust. Confess it and claim the forgiveness God promises in 1 John 1:9.
  2. Take an inventory of your past for sexual abuse or premature exposure to sexually explicit material and ask God to give you peace and break the bondage that those experiences still hold on you.
  3. Open up to a godly friend – one who will love you without judgment but also be honest with you without reservation. Confession to God brings forgiveness, but confession to others is required for healing.
  4. Talk to your spouse. Whether it’s an affair, a pornography addiction, or out-of-control lustful thinking, she deserves to know. Intimacy is the goal of marriage, and it’s impossible without honesty and transparency.
  5. Get counseling and/or coaching depending on the severity of the problem. There is never shame in seeking the healing help of others.
  6. Commit to purity. Repeatedly. Claim the freedom and victory that are yours in the atoning sacrifice of the cross, in the power of the resurrection, and in the company of the Holy Spirit.
  7. Take the escape. God promises in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that he will never allow more temptation than you can, in his power, withstand. And, he will always make a way for you to escape. Always.
  8. Run away from sexual temptation. Don’t fight it. Don’t subject yourself to it or open the door for it. Run away! You’re strong only when you lean into God’s strength, and he delivers you by providing a route of retreat.
  9. Cultivate a softened heart toward people, especially women. Re-humanize the women you encounter by remembering they are souls, loved and cherished by the Father.
  10. Stay close to Jesus. When you draw close to God, he will draw close to you.

By the way, it’s entirely possible that your lust is toward other men. Everything I’ve said still applies. The desire and attraction, even for someone of the same gender, isn’t sin in and of itself. But when the temptation comes to dwell or to act on those thoughts, take the escape and stay committed to transparency with the people close to you who will love and protect you.

A Word to Wives

Wives are, more often than not, taken by surprise when the lust issue comes up. Most women think differently than most men and your initial reaction will likely be a question along the lines of, Is this my fault? I understand why you would ask that question. It’s easy to feel that it’s a comparison issue. But it’s really not. So hear this from the heart of a man – of a husband who has had this very tough conversation with his own wife: It’s NOT your fault.

It’s not about how you look. It’s not about how much sex you have or don’t have (again, if this were the problem, single men are toast). It’s about his choice to allow his desires to grow into lust.

While it is not your fault that your husband struggles with lust, you can help him, if you choose to show grace (and I hope you will). How?

  1. Listen to his confession.
  2. Hurt. It’s okay to hurt. Don’t ignore it.
  3. Be honest about how it all makes you feel.
  4. Set some boundaries with sexual intimacy to protect your feelings, while you work through it.
  5. Talk to someone – a female friend or a counselor.
  6. Ask God to heal you, over time.
  7. Forgive him. Not for his sake, but for yours. And remember how much God has forgiven you.
  8. Forgive him again when the resentment creeps back in – and it will.
  9. Expect honesty and transparency. Expect him to be accountable for his behavior.
  10. Love him, unconditionally. This is the hardest part, but it’s what you must do if your marriage is going to make it.

The conversation about sexual lust brings most marriages into valleys and shadows for days, weeks, or months. It’s not easy. It won’t be solved by this blog post, but maybe this is a starting place. As you walk through the valley remember this: there is hope. There is always hope. There is a Savior. His name is Jesus. He died for the sexually impure and his grace makes us clean and whole again. Keep running to Jesus!

This article on sexual lust originally appeared here, and is used by permission.

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4 Strong Ways to Reconnect With Your Husband

By Sheila Wray Gregoire -January 31, 2021

reconnect with your husband

“How do I reconnect with my husband?” That’s a question I get in various forms from so many of you who email. Life has gotten too busy, you feel like you pass like ships in the night, and you just want to feel like you know each other again. As we progress into the new year, I thought it would be a good idea to look again at how to reconnect with your husband if you feel as if the previous year–or years!–has made you grow apart. 

Here, for instance, are two questions quite typical of many that come in to the blog:

I am married to an emotionally distant man. We go through the motions of being married, but I have no idea what’s actually going on in his heart. In fact, I doubt there’s much there at all. And he certainly has no idea what’s going on in mine! We only have one child left at home and I’m afraid that when he leaves for college we’ll have nothing left between us.Another woman writes:

I’m tired of feeling all alone! My husband doesn’t want to do anything except play on his computer or play video games. We never spent any time together. Shouldn’t marriage be about the two of you? I don’t know how much more loneliness I can take.

Okay, those are rather sad to start off our year. But I know many of you are lonely. So let’s set the stage here on what emotional connection looks like, what it doesn’t look like, and how we can move towards reconnecting.

Some truths about emotional connection

Connection is based on communication. In order to reconnect with your husband, there are five different levels of communication: cliches, facts, opinions, feelings, needs.

We can share facts about our day–“It was so busy today, the last client didn’t leave until 5:15, and I didn’t think I was going to get out of there.”

But we can also share feelings: “I’m not even sure I like this job. People put so many demands on you and it all seems so pointless. We’re not producing anything worthwhile anyway.”

And then you can get to the point of sharing needs: “I just feel like there’s more to life than this. When I’m in my shop with a saw and some wood, I feel like I’m creating something. But all day long at work I feel like I’m just chasing paper, playing some big game, that doesn’t mean anything. I need more than that.”

Do you see the difference?

Many couples never get beyond facts or opinions.

Here’s the problem: when you’re stuck at the facts or opinions level, tension is going to start to build up, because you’re not really emotionally connected. You don’t know anything about what’s going on in each other’s hearts.

And so with each interaction that is only surface level, it’s going to feel like you’re actually growing more distant. That’s right: talking may actually make you feel worse, if the talking isn’t about something important.

And you can’t just jump over several levels of communication and expect to be able to reconnect with your husband and get truly vulnerable or talk about your needs without starting to share consistently at some of the other levels.

That’s why the answer to grow emotional connection isn’t necessarily to do something big. If you start insisting on a date night, for instance, where it’s supposed to be all romantic, you’re almost guaranteed to be disappointed and hurt. There’s too much tension there to have the date night go well! Instead, it’s better to start with little things to put into your day that can help you connect, and then, once that connection is starting to be there, add some bigger things to your life regularly that are low-stress and low-pressure.

But first, a few more truths about how to reconnect with your husband:

Truth #1: Most men are not emotionally distant or emotionally unavailable

Some men may indeed be emotionally unavailable, but what I’ve found in so many marriages is that the couple has built up patterns of interaction that have made sharing feelings hard.

So ask yourself this–when we were dating, did I know what my husband was feeling and thinking? Did he talk about his needs? Was he vulnerable to me? If so, it’s unlikely he’s suddenly become completely emotionally unavailable. It’s more likely that life has made him stressed, or that you’ve gotten into negative patterns of relating that have cut you both off from each other.

If he never opened up to you, and you never felt emotionally close, that’s a bigger problem, and may require a licensed counselor.

Truth #2: Most people actually want a good marriage

The vast majority of people rank having a good marriage as a major goal of theirs.

Often when we’re distant, though, we assume: “he must be angry at me and doesn’t really love me anymore.” We project negative feelings on our husbands that they may not actually have. He just may feel awkward, stressed, or unsure of what to do. Most likely he wants to feel closer to you, too! But he probably feels a lot of failure when he’s around you, because you’re likely upset at the lack of communication, and he senses it. And when a guy senses that he’s disappointed you, he will tend to retreat.

Of course he shouldn’t do that! But that’s not really the point right now: the point I want you to grasp is that your husband most likely wants to reconnect with you, too! Few people honestly want to go through life feeling distant from their spouse.

So here’s your assignment: assume the best of him. Assume that he is not deliberately keeping you at arm’s length. It will make a huge difference!

(Again, if he honestly doesn’t want the best, then I’d suggest seeing a licensed therapist, but in the majority of cases, the husband does care). 

Truth #3: Most people are lazy

We fall into these ruts, like playing video games all night or watching Netflix and never talking. And then those turn into habits. It’s hard to break a habit unless there’s something else vying for our attention. If you guys are used to separating at night, it’s going to be hard to start doing something together unless there’s an actual option ahead of you. So when he goes off and gets back on his computer after dinner, it isn’t necessarily that he’s deliberately abandoning you. He’s developed a habit. And he isn’t likely to break that habit unless there’s something else on the agenda for that night.

Truth #4: Men tend to appreciate low-key communication

Or, to put it another way, women tend to be more comfortable communicating face to face, when we’re sitting across the table sharing our hearts. Men tend to open up more when they communicate side by side, when they’re doing something together. If you try to force him to sit down and talk to you, he’ll likely feel very uncomfortable, like he’s on the spot. So try reconnecting by actually doing something!

Again–these are generalities. In your marriage it may work the other way, and sometimes different personality types make communication preferences quite different from what we’d normally assume. But often the generalities ring true!

This article originally appeared here, and is used by permission.

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No, Sexual Abstinence Is Not the Same As Purity Culture

By Jessica Lea -April 15, 2021

abstinence

Committing not to have sex before marriage is not the same as purity culture, says author and pastor Dr. Timothy Keller. While abstinence campaigns were a significant part of the purity movement, the requirement not to have sex outside of marriage has long been a part of the historic Christian faith.

“Some say that ‘sexual abstinence outside of marriage’ is identical to ‘purity culture,’” wrote Keller in a Facebook post Thursday. “This is simply not the case. The early church’s revolutionary sex ethic was that sex was only for within a mutual, whole-self-giving, super-consensual life-long covenant.” He continued:

This ethic replaced the (wrong) Greco-Roman model of sexuality—that men of higher status, even if married, were allowed to demand sex with anyone of lower social status. The first laws vs rape & sex without consent grew from this Christian ethic…Since then, every branch of the Christian church-orthodox, Catholic, & Protestant—in every culture and in every century has taught the ethic of sexual abstinence outside of marriage

Abstinence Is Part of Historic Christianity

Purity culture” generally refers to an evangelical movement that took place in the 1990s and which, among other ideas, emphasized not having sex before marriage and promoted courtship over dating. Said Keller, “The teaching went far beyond the Christian sex ethic to argue that you should not ‘date’ or even kiss someone unless you were sure you were going to marry them. Sexual thoughts, most physical contact, and sex outside marriage were elevated to ‘unforgivable sins.’”

Joshua Harris’s book, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” is one of the most well-known books from that time period. Prior to announcing that he no longer believes in Christianity in July 2019, Harris decided to stop publication of his book, and he created a documentary exploring the flaws people saw in it. Among the critiques people leveled at “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” (as well as the broader purity movement) is that it leaned toward a fear-based approach to sex and romance and promoted the idea that marriage is better than singleness. It also encouraged the belief that if people wait until marriage to have sex, then once they are married, they will have great sex and a wonderful marriage—which is a version of the prosperity gospel.

Purity culture was a reaction to the sexual promiscuity of the previous decades, and it is not that the movement’s ideas were all bad, as this author points out. Groups like True Love Waits, which encouraged young people to sign abstinence pledges, wanted to help people see sex as something precious. Part of the problem was that the purity movement reduced purity, which begins in the heart, to mere virginity. “Those who are angry at the abuses of purity culture are right to be so,” said Keller, “It has done harm and it should be called out and lamented.”

Because abstinence campaigns were a part of the purity movement, it is not hard to see how some, in rejecting purity culture, could come to see all abstinence as negative. This, Keller stressed, is a mistake. He said,

Sex is not for people who only give only a part of themselves (the physical, or maybe the emotional), but the whole self to the other—legally, economically, socially, emotionally, spiritually. The Greek word porneia (‘sexual immorality’) was infused with new meaning by New Testament writers. It meant any sex outside of marriage. It was based on a radical egalitarian principle that the husband’s body belonged to the wife, and the wife’s to the husband (1 Cor 7:4). That meant that anyone who within marriage exploited or abused was violating the Christian sex ethic just as much or more as those who had sex outside of marriage. 

Keller also pointed out that the purity movement happened quite recently in comparison to what the church has taught throughout its history. He concluded, “to say sexual abstinence outside of marriage is automatically ‘purity culture’ is at best historically naïve and uninformed and at worst deliberately dishonest. They are not the same.”

The Basis for Christian Marriage

By R.C. Sproul -May 2, 2021

Christian marriage

Some years ago, I attended an interesting wedding. I was especially struck by the creativity of the ceremony. The bride and the groom had brainstormed with the pastor in order to insert new and exciting elements into the service, and I enjoyed those elements. However, in the middle of the ceremony, they included portions of the traditional, classic Christian marriage wedding ceremony.

When I began to hear the words from the traditional ceremony, my attention perked up and I was moved. I remember thinking, “There is no way to improve on this because the words are so beautiful and meaningful.” A great deal of thought and care had been put into those old, familiar words.

The Basis for Christian Marriage

Today, of course, many young people not only are saying no to the traditional wedding ceremony, they are rejecting the concept of Christian marriage itself. More and more young people are coming from broken homes, and as a result, they have a fear and suspicion about the value of marriage. So we see couples living together rather than marrying for fear that the cost of that commitment may be too much. They fear it may make them too vulnerable. This means that one of the most stable and, as we once thought, permanent traditions of our culture is being challenged.

One of the things I like most about the traditional wedding ceremony is that it includes an explanation as to why there is such a thing as Christian marriage. We are told in that ceremony that marriage is ordained and instituted by God—that is to say, marriage did not just spring up arbitrarily out of social conventions or human taboos. Marriage was not invented by men but by God.

We see this in the earliest chapters of the Old Testament, where we find the creation account. We find that God creates in stages, beginning with the light (Gen. 1:3) and capping the process with the creation of man (v. 27). At every stage, He utters a benediction, a “good word.” God repeatedly looks at what He has made and says, “That’s good” (vv. 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31).

But then God notices something that provokes not a benediction but what we call a malediction, that is, a “bad word.” What was this thing that God saw in His creation that He judged to be “not good”? We find it in Genesis 2:18, where God declares, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” That prompts Him to create Eve and bring her to Adam. God instituted marriage, and He did it, in the first instance, as an answer to human loneliness. For this reason, God inspired Moses to write, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (v. 24).

But while I like and appreciate the words of the traditional wedding ceremony, I believe the form of the ceremony is even more important. This is because the traditional ceremony involves the making of a covenant. The whole idea of covenant is deeply rooted in biblical Christianity. The Bible teaches that our very redemption is based on a covenant. Much could be said here about the character of the biblical covenants, but one vital facet is that none of them is a private matter. Every covenant is undertaken in the presence of witnesses. This is why we invite guests to our weddings. It is so they will witness our vows—and hold us accountable to keep them. It is one thing for a man to whisper expressions of love to a woman when no one will hear, but it is quite another thing for him to stand up in a church, in front of parents, friends, ecclesiastical or civil authorities, and God Himself, and there make promises to love and cherish her. Wedding vows are sacred promises made in the presence of witnesses who will remember them.

I believe Christian marriage is the most precious of all human institutions. It’s also the most dangerous. Into our marriages we pour our greatest and deepest expectations. We put our emotions on the line. There we can achieve the greatest happiness, but we also can experience the greatest disappointment, the most frustration, and the most pain. With that much at stake, we need something more solemn than a casual promise.

Even with formal wedding ceremonies, even with the involvement of authority structures, roughly fifty percent of marriages fail. Sadly, among the men and women who stay together as husband and wife, many would not marry the same spouse again, but they stay together for various reasons. Something has been lost regarding the sacred and holy character of the marriage covenant. In order to strengthen the institution of marriage, we might want to consider strengthening the wedding ceremony, with a clear, biblical reminder that marriage is instituted by God and forged in His sight.

This article about Christian marriage originally appeared here, and is used by permission.

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Before You Leave Your Wife

Five Words for Struggling Men

Article by Marshall Segal

Staff writer, desiringGod.org

I used to wonder why so many marriages ended in divorce. Why so many of my friends through grade school, high school, and college were the children of divorce. And then in the years after college, why so many of my peers had already been divorced.

And then I married. And like any other married person, I suddenly felt how painfully hard communication can be between a man and a woman. I groaned over how grueling decision-making often became. I saw how marriage drew more sin out of me than any other relationship had before. I was confronted with how proud, defensive, and sensitive I can be when I am sinned against. I stumbled into all the typical (and explosive) marital land mines — budget, schedule, cleanliness, conflict, in-laws. I began to trace just how much our family backgrounds were shaping (and often straining) our new family.

Dating had sweetly accentuated our similarities; marriage profoundly stressed our differences. What had felt so compatible, so safe, so, well, easy at the altar, suddenly felt, at times, impossible. In other words, we discovered why many people get divorced.

And while the number of divorces has swelled in recent years, at least in America, temptations to give up and abandon our vows are almost as old as marriage itself. Since that first husband and first wife tasted the awful fruit of sin, Satan has seeded the thought that divorce might actually be better than marriage — that, whatever God might have said about marriage, surely he would understand why it would be different in our case.

God confronts temptations toward divorce directly with a tough but hope-filled word through the prophet Malachi, a place we may not think to look for marriage counsel and clarity. I don’t intend to address here husbands who have suffered adultery or abandonment. The men in Malachi’s day, and the men I have in mind, were husbands whose love had grown cold. They left because they thought another woman, another marriage, another life might finally satisfy them.

Five Wakeup Calls from God

The minor prophet Malachi gives us a surprisingly clear and profound (and often overlooked) vision for marriage.

“Sinfulness in marriage always begins with sinfulness in our relationship with God.”

In Malachi’s day, husbands in Israel were divorcing their wives because their hearts had grown cold (Malachi 2:16), and because many of them wanted to marry foreign women (Malachi 2:11). Why foreign women? “After the return from exile in Babylon, Judah was a small, disadvantaged region of the Persian Empire, surrounded by much more powerful neighbors. In such a situation, marriage connections were a useful means of gaining political and economic advantage” (Zephaniah, Haggai, Malachi, 133). Essentially, many of the men had abandoned their wives in search of a better life. They decided to provide for themselves, even if it meant sacrificing their bride and children.

Times were bleak as the people returned from exile. The letter begins, “‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have you loved us?’” (Malachi 1:2). The people were feeling abandoned by God. Suffering made them desperate, some of them desperate enough to abandon their covenants and desert their families. Beneath the marital infidelity was a deeper fear and wrestling — not with a spouse, but with God. Sinfulness in marriage begins with sinfulness in our relationship with God.

So, knowing something of what these men were facing and how awfully they responded, how does God confront them and call them to repentance and faithfulness in marriage? He rebukes them by reminding them what marriage is and why it’s worth guarding and keeping with all our strength. And in doing so, he gives us five great words for Christian husbands tempted to leave.

1. You made a promise.

The Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. (Malachi 2:14)

Though she is your wife by covenant. As God confronts these men who have gone after other, more desirable women, what does he remind them of first? You made a promise. From the very beginning, God said, “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Hold fast here does not mean a warm, affectionate embrace, but an exclusive and steadfast devotion — a covenant (Deuteronomy 10:20Proverbs 2:16–17).

When you vowed, before God and witnesses, “I take you, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part,” what did you mean? Was your vow merely an ambition — “Well, we tried . . .” — or was it a promise?

A wedding is a celebration not of love found, but of love declared, love promised. We make promises precisely because, as committed as we feel in our white dress and rented tuxedo, we may want to leave one day. Because marriage really is hard. If we abandon our promise when it doesn’t serve us anymore, we prove that the vow wasn’t really a promise, but just a formal way to get what we wanted.

2. Divorce vandalizes what God made.

Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? (Malachi 2:15)

As any man considers divorce, he must remember that marriage is far more than “the legally or formally recognized union of two people as partners in a personal relationship.” A marriage is a joining together of a man and a woman by God. And not just by God, but with something of him in their union — “with a portion of the Spirit.” This is not merely a social or physical union, but a spiritual one. And as many a wedding officiant has noted, “a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12) — husband, wife, and Lord.

“A wedding is a celebration not of love found, but of love declared, love promised.”

The picture the prophet paints comes close to one Jesus himself paints in Matthew 19:4–6 (quoting Genesis 2:24): “Have you not read, . . . ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Divorce rips apart a divine masterpiece. However you met, and however you dated, and however you decided to marry, God married you. God made you one. Would you undo what he has done?

3. Divorce lies to children about God.

And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. (Malachi 2:15)

God made marriage to be an abounding, multiplying, fruitful covenant. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth’” (Genesis 1:27–28). When he made husband and wife, he was seeking offspring.

And not just any offspring, but offspring that would love, honor, and obey him: “The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:6). God wants godly offspring from our marriages.

These offspring are not always biological: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4). So we do not have to bear sons or daughters to carry out God’s charge to be fruitful and multiply. In fact, the most important and enduring dimensions are spiritual (making disciples), not biological (having babies).

So how might your divorce affect your children spiritually? What damage, over decades, might it do? If faithful marriages retell the story of the gospel (Ephesians 5:25), inviting our children into the indescribable love of God in Christ — what would divorce say to them? Imagine the barriers it might drive between them and God. Imagine how the pain and betrayal might make them question his love and faithfulness. Imagine how your divorce could confuse and unsettle their faith (and the faith of other young people who look up to you).

4. Divorce soaks a soul in violence.

The man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 2:16)

The strongest word to these husbands comes at the end: if a man divorces his wife for lack of love, he “covers his garment with violence.” It sounds terrible enough, even to modern ears, but what does it mean?

The garment is a common metaphor in Scripture that unfolds the quality of a person’s character. The psalmist says of the wicked, “Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment” (Psalm 73:6). Similarly, in the New Testament, Jesus says to one of the seven churches, “Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy” (Revelation 3:4). He means that they had kept their souls unsoiled by the stains of unrepentant sin.

And violence is a picture not only of the cruelty of divorce. It is a violent act, especially in that day, when a woman was far more dependent on her husband for provision and protection. Even today, to abandon your wife is an act of violence against her (however civil the proceedings may have been). A man who divorces his wife harms the one God gave him to protect.

But violence is about more than relational brutality, because this man wears violence as a garment. Violence is not just what he does, but who he is. He has not just ended his marriage with violence, but he has soaked his soul in violence. This kind of corruption is what God saw when he looked out over his fallen world: “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11). And how did God respond? With righteous and devastating judgment against them (Genesis 6:13).

And so this violence, this soul-steeped sinfulness, is not just violence against a wife, but violence against God — against his will and commands. The violence is not simply marital harshness, but aggression toward God. It’s the kind of rebellion that invited the flooding of the whole world.

5. God listens to men who stay.

How we handle marital struggles is so crucial, in part, because God has tied our faithfulness in marriage to our experience of God. No man can abandon his wife and still thrive spiritually. “Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). Even if a man thinks he can thrive spiritually while neglecting or abandoning his wife (or if he fools those around him into thinking so), it is only a mirage that will end in destruction. And that destruction will harm far more than him.

Malachi strikes the same warning as he confronts the men: “You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand” — in other words, you weep because your prayers are being hindered. “But you say, ‘Why does he not [regard us]?’ Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless” (Malachi 2:13–14). God refused to receive their offerings or answer their prayers because they had refused to love their wives.

“A man who divorces his wife harms the one God gave him to protect.”

How you treat your wife will affect how God treats you. Not because husbands earn his love by our works, but because our works reveal our faith. If we’re faithful in marriage only when it’s pleasant or convenient, we betray how small God and his commands really are in our eyes. We show whether we are truly men of faith or faithless men. And faithless men do not have the ear of heaven.

Guard Yourselves in Spirit

As God confronts these men and calls them to remain faithful to their wives, he charges them, more than once, “Guard yourselves in your spirit” (Malachi 2:1516). In your spirit. What might that look like for Christian men in struggling marriages?

More than anything, it will mean deep, meaningful, and regular fellowship with the faithful Groom of our souls. The Groom who gave himself for his filthy and unfaithful bride, the church, that he might sanctify and cleanse her (Ephesians 5:25–26). The Husband who, despite how far his wife had run, how many lovers she had known, how often she had lied and left, still says to her — to us,

In that day, declares the Lord, you will call me “My Husband.” . . . And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord. (Hosea 2:1619–20)

Men who might leave would do well to spend more time asking why God hasn’t left yet. More time below the beams that bought their forgiveness and life. More time meditating on the wedding day to come, when we will sing,

Let us rejoice and exult
     and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
     and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
     with fine linen, bright and pure. (Revelation 19:7–8)

If we lack the strength, patience, and resources to stay and love, it is not because God has not provided them. It is only because we have not loved the bride of our youth with the endless help of heaven.

Marshall Segal (@marshallsegal) is a writer and managing editor at desiringGod.org. He’s the author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating. He graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Faye, have two children and live in Minneapolis.

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/before-you-leave-your-wife


Godly Marriage Brings Spiritual Transformation

By Ray Hollenbach -April 22, 2021

transformation

Wouldn’t it be a shame to stay married to the same spouse for a lifetime and not be changed by the process of sharing life together?  Or raise children for twenty years and fail to grow in patience, grace, and kindness? Our most important and personal relationships touch us deeply. We experience transformation. The rough edges rounded, the abrasive surfaces rubbed smooth: changed into our true selves.

And then there’s Jesus. Wouldn’t it be a shame to take the identity of “Christian” for most of our adult lives and somehow remain unchanged?

A marriage which does bring transformation is no marriage at all. Godly marriage always brings transformation. Or another example: raising children without experiencing vulnerability and risk is to fail at parenting. Friendship without open give and take is only a shadow of real relationship. Yet year after year we find ourselves in the same spiritual shape. While promoting a recent blog post I used Facebook to encourage others to visit this site. The “teaser” in my status update was this sentence: “Wouldn’t it be terrible to be forever forgiven, but always unable to change?” One of my Facebook friends responded with the comment, “That pretty well sums up my life.” How many of us could have posted the same comment?

Any godly relationship brings transformation at the deepest level. Do we have a relationship with Jesus, or an arrangement? For many believers he’s the one who paid the price for our sin, paved the way to eternal life–and the one who left the planet a long time ago. The average believer in North America knows how to appropriate the legal exercise of God’s forgiveness, but has no real expectation of becoming “conformed to the image of Christ.” (Romans 8: 29) Scriptural promises of transformation are pushed into the future, as if they will magically happen at the second coming.

I’d like to suggest three earth-bound agents of change God can also use in our spiritual lives. In marriage, family, and friendships we experience transformation through love, commitment, and constancy. These three pillars of human relationship can also become the means by which the Holy Spirit works in our lives.

3 Pillars of Transformation

Love

The reason I am less of a jerk after thirty-six years of marriage is simple: I love my wife and don’t want to cause her pain. When I act selfishly toward my wife, she pays the price. I witness first-hand the grief I cause and because I love her I determine to think of her before I think of me. I’m still a selfish man, but am I less selfish after thirty-six years of trial and error? The same can be true of my relationship with Christ. If Jesus is simply the Divine Defense Attorney who rescues me from hell, he has no claim on my life. If, however, Jesus is the passionate love of my life, I will joyfully conform my actions to those things which give him joy. This isn’t about following the Law, it’s about pleasing my beloved. Of course, the first question is–do I love him, or do I merely want to use his sacrifice?

Commitment

Insanity is hereditary–you get it from your kids! How many times in one day can a two year-old push you buttons? Why don’t we just walk that toddler to the front door and say, “That’s it, pal. I’ve had enough. You’re on your own!” Raising children comes with a twenty-year commitment to the unknown. We stick with our children when they drive us crazy. We continue to pour our lives into them even when they are ungrateful and egocentric. We remain true to them even when we don’t understand them, simply because we are committed to them. Commitment stands firm even when love wants to run and cry. If we learn commitment from raising our children, how much more will commitment serve us as a means of grace with God? Even when we feel He may be against us, commitment can hold us firm. Of course, the Almighty is no petulant child, but there are certainly times when we do not understand his actions. His commandments can run counter to our desires, but commitment can steady us until we come to our senses again and his wisdom. That commitment can also strengthen our resolve to order our lives around his priorities.

Constancy

Life is so daily. We do the laundry this week, knowing we will do it again next week. Repetitive tasks threaten to overwhelm our desire for whimsy and adventure. Yet those who neglect the everyday matters are regarded as immature and irresponsible. The constant parade of days and weeks, months and years builds faithfulness into our souls. Could we become like Tolkien’s hobbits: those quiet little folk demonstrated unseen reserves of strength. What if the everyday-ness of life reveals something of God’s grandeur?

Spiritual transformation begins with relationship, and marriage is a great example. The real question whether our relationship with Jesus rises to the level of our most cherished human ones. No one should settle for marriage, family, or friendship without transformation. Why should we settle for less with God?

Read Next on Thriving Marriages  Prayer Will Supercharge Your Marriage (Including Your Sex Life!)

Prophet, Priest, and King

The High Calling of Christian Husbands

Article by Greg Morse Staff writer, desiringGod.org

As our cultural moment seems to spiral into greater disorder, men of God do well to ensure that they attend to their own households. With so much happening beyond our walls, the temptation can be to neglect what happens within them.

We can fail to realize that our homes are precisely where many ungodly arrows are aimed. The attempts to redefine marriage, maleness and femaleness, and what constitutes a “modern” family are swings of the ax at the same trunk. The Christian household, in glad submission to God’s design, has been secularism’s target all along. Our churches will be strengthened, and the trajectory of culture helped, when more of us resolve with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

While new and noisy paths are laid in Sodom, we should heed the prophetic voice: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16). Progress, for us, will look like a return to an ancient path: the path of rebuilding a spirit of worship in our homes, of reclaiming and defending the Christian household. And godly men will lead the way.

As for My House

Men, no one influences the spiritual climate of our homes like we do. If we are lukewarm and careless, we send a spiritual draft throughout the household. If we burn as a furnace for the Lord, even the most antagonistic child within our walls will not but feel the warming influence.

“Our great aim is to lead our families in a way worthy of God. Why else are they put under our care?”

Our great aim is to lead our families in a way worthy of God. Why else are they put under our care? To help us think through how to do this, I believe it helpful to borrow from the classic categories applied to Christ: prophet, priest, and king. We are prophets who speak the word over our households; priests who give ourselves to intercessory prayer, speaking to God on behalf of our loved ones; and kings who govern, defend, and provide for them.

PROPHET

As prophets in our homes, we have the great privilege to speak the words of God to our family. We are spiritual shepherds. Too few today know the joys of hearing a father earnestly, joyfully, humbly giving voice to the words of God in Scripture. But what many of us did not experience as sons, we can give as fathers, God helping us.

We speak to exhort, encourage, and charge our children to a life worthy of God. Paul recognizes this when he says, “Like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:11–12). We not only exhort, but encourage. Not only encourage, but exhort. This extends to our most beloved companion as well, as God charges us to love her like Christ did his church, washing her with the word (Ephesians 5:25–27).

PRIEST

As priests in our homes, we get to intercede for our family before God. In a heart-stirring account, John G. Paton, the great missionary among cannibals, recalled his upbringing:

How much my father’s prayers at this time impressed me I can never explain, nor could any stranger understand. When, on his knees and all of us kneeling around him in Family Worship, he poured out his whole soul with tears for the conversion of the Heathen world to the service of Jesus, and for every personal and domestic need, we all felt as if in the presence of the living Savior, and learned to know and love him as our Divine friend. (21)

Kneeling together, pouring out our souls in supplication for our family, our churches, our nation, and the lost world — this is a mighty inheritance to leave our children. Whether before them or in the secret place, we get the high privilege to labor in prayer to God on their behalf.

KING

God has firmly written into the nature of every man to lead, provide for, and defend those in his charge. As societies descend into ungodliness, this category of the three is the last to depart. It is a groveling existence for any man — Christian or non-Christian — to abdicate his kingly duties; indeed, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).

Though under attack from all sides, the man, as head, makes decisions for his family (both popular and unpopular). Because he loves those affected by his choices, he considers their perspective before steering to the left or to the right. He does not micromanage, but he does actually drive from the driver’s seat. He leads his children and his queen as he follows Christ, his head (1 Corinthians 11:3). Mature masculinity governs its household well (1 Timothy 3:4).

He also leads in ways many kings of the world, untutored in the lordship of Christ, wouldn’t dare. He doesn’t just take up the privileges of authority, but its responsibilities, bending low to carry physical, emotional, and spiritual burdens for the family, and doing so with joy. His sacrifice extends, if it is necessary, even to a cross in the imitation of his Savior. And he leads his family in other unflattering tasks such as confession and repentance. His glorious crown is one of thorns.

Three Men in One

Considering these categories, I find it all too easy to play to my strengths and avoid the discomfort of being seen as weak in the other areas. Isn’t being a prophet of the home sufficient? I have found that those around me are affected when I am weak in any of these three callings. None can be safely neglected.

Consider, then, what we need to hear if we simply content ourselves to operate in one office to the neglect of the other two.

Word to Prophets

What happens when we speak God’s word to our families as prophets, but do not take up the mantle of king or priest?

We might seem faithful in teaching the word. The atmosphere in our homes will be filled with godly content. We will remind them of the immortality of their souls, the great danger of sin, the need for Christ’s righteousness and regeneration, the bliss of union with our Lord, and the joys of a coming world with him in glory. But the great danger for us, if we teach much but pray and govern little, is to lose spiritual power and respect in the home.

First, we will lie in danger of becoming a teacher lacking unction. Our words will lack the heavenly taste, the gravitas, the indescribable influence required to make your teaching most profitable. Teaching good theology while praying little is akin to a heavy bird flapping with small wings. The word of God will not return void, yet do not forget, “The kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20).

Second, we will risk not being taken seriously in the home. If we do not make decisions to govern well on behalf of the family, how can we really oversee souls? “If someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Timothy 3:4–5). For the bookish among us, what if we learned how to do things around the house, how to be more decisive? What if we worked to attain competencies beyond our study? If we spend more time on our knees and more time engaged in the concerns of daily life, might our excellent words be better received?

Word to Priests

What happens when we pray much, but fail to lead and instruct?

It cannot be denied: if we pray, we do well. But if we seek only to bless them with secret words in our closets or with hurried prayers before meals, will we not soon find our prayers becoming shallower and our exhortations weaker (if we attempt them at all)? Would you be a man “praying at all times in the Spirit,” yet stripped of the Spirit’s sword (Ephesians 6:17–18)? We will not be content to merely exhale our family’s concerns to God, but also inhale God’s word and speak it to them.

“Whether before our families or in the secret place, we get the high privilege to labor in prayer to God on their behalf.”

And if we neglect governing, perhaps we will fail to see how we can be the extension of God’s arm in our family beyond prayer. Their concerns are our prayerful and practical concerns. We do not send them off to be warmed and filled elsewhere, but we pray and then turn to do what we can for them. We take our wife on dates, throw the football around with our son, listen to our daughter’s anxieties and dreams. We endeavor to bless their minds and bodies along with their souls — inside our closets and out.

Word to Kings

What happens when we serve as king, but not as prophet or priest?

We may govern an orderly home. We may labor admirably for our family and pride ourselves in our self-discipline. But ours will be a spiritually impoverished household. For all our earthly forethought and provision, we will have left those under our care exposed to unseen foes — the most dangerous enemies — and failed to fill their plates with what Jesus calls “the good portion” (Luke 10:42).

And if we are not given to prayer and God’s word, our self-resolve will grow thin, our strength will fail, for “even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted” (Isaiah 40:30). We will not know what it is to “mount up with wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31) because we won’t wait on the Lord, nor cry out like that king of old, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

But add to our kingliness the speaking of God’s word over our family and prayerful intercession for them, and we will rain down blessing upon their heads and fortify them against the evil one. We will grow in stature in their eyes and be kings worthy of the name.

Of Prophets, Priests, and Kings

Acting as prophet, priest, and king in our homes is a simple way to consider what it means to be a Christlike head of the household. We imitate (not replace) Christ, who is our mediating Prophet after Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15), our Great High Priest who intercedes for us (Hebrews 4:14–16), and our Anointed King of Psalm 2, to whom all must bow and kiss his ring.

Lastly, then, I commend family worship as a great place to exercise the two most neglected offices of our day: priest and prophet. One simple structure for family worship is to pray (priestly), read Scripture and share a thought from what you read (prophet), and pray again. Consider also singing a song of praise together. This could take ten minutes, or you could linger longer. Consistency is key.

As unbelievers go from bad to worse, both society and the church are in need of God-fearing, Christ-loving, and Spirit-filled households. And men, it has been given to us to be Christlike leaders — in the word, on our knees, and over our homes — as we care for the immortal souls entrusted to our headship.

Greg Morse is a staff writer for desiringGod.org and graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Abigail, live in St. Paul with their son and daughter.

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/prophet-priest-and-king

How and When to Stop Being a Doormat

By Sheila Wray Gregoire -April 12, 2021

stop being a doormat

Sometimes we get in a rut in marriage where we actually hurt our spouses because we enable sin. Sometimes we need to learn how to stop being a doormat. Let me begin with a story.

I know of a woman whose husband had been involved with porn heavily for years. They had gone to counselors and he had said he would stop but he hadn’t. They had talked about it for years but nothing changed.

Finally, she decided to stop being a doormat and told a few select people in her small group and the elders at her church, and the elders confronted her husband about this and told him that they were supporting the separation. The small group helped the wife to pack her things and helped her to get into another place to live. They are not divorced; they are separated. But she has tried everything else and it hasn’t worked, and now her church is backing her as she puts her husband in a situation where he has to choose: will I do the right thing and follow God? Or will I turn away?

This, I believe, is the biblical model. I have had other women on this site comment, saying something like:

MY HUSBAND USES PORN BUT HE SAYS THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH IT. I WANT TO SPEAK TO SOMEONE AT CHURCH, BUT I DON’T KNOW WHO TO GO TO, AND MY HUSBAND SAYS THAT HE IS THE HEAD OF THE HOUSE AND I MUST SUBMIT. I’M LOST.

That is not headship! That is a cop out.

Read Next on Thriving Marriages  Are You Always Irritated at Your Spouse?

Headship should never be used as an excuse to continue in sin, or to give you a cover so that you can lead a “second life.”

There are times, I believe, when a spouse is so endangering his or her relationship with the family and with God that something must be done. And if nothing is done, then that spouse is giving cover to the sin. In my book 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage I talked about this at length. God wants marriages where both spouses chase after Him, not marriages where one spouse uses the relationship as a cover for sin. And sometimes we need some intervention, it’s part of what it means to stop being a doormat.

3 Areas Where You Should Stop Being a Doormat 

I am not going to talk about affairs or abuse or substance issues because we all already talk about those widely in our culture and in our churches, and I hope there’s agreement that in these cases steps must be taken. But too many people think, “because my problem doesn’t fit into those categories I have to live with it and there’s nothing I can do.” Here they are:

1. Porn Use

A man (or woman) who uses porn is not only participating in a sin; he is wandering down a road that will destroy intimacy both with his wife and with God, and will ruin him as a father. It cannot be tolerated. It’s one place to stop being a doormat.

2. Withdrawal from Sex Altogether

In too many marriages sex has become almost non-existent. Usually when it’s the man who withholds sex sex porn is involved. Sometimes, though, it’s simply major pscyhological and emotional damage. Maybe there are homosexual tendencies, or maybe the man has so pushed down his sexuality because it’s threatening to him in some way that he becomes passive and asexual. Maybe she has so much psychological woundedness or anger that she withdraws.

Churches have sympathy for the wife who comes in and says “my husband uses porn”. They often don’t know what to do with a spouse who comes in and says, “my husband (or my wife) never has sex.”  It doesn’t seem like as valid a complaint. In fact, if it’s the man who is going in to ask for help, often the problem will be turned against him: “what did you do to chase your wife away?” Yet in my experience when a spouse completely withdraws from sex it is often not primarily that other spouse’s fault. It is often something psychological or spiritual going on inside the spouse who has withdrawn.

Read Next on Thriving Marriages  How to Build Trust in a Marriage

We were created for intimacy with another person. We are not meant to be lone rangers. If a spouse rejects sex, they are specifically rejecting community. And they are rejecting a huge part of themselves. Do you realize how huge this is? How big a deal this is spiritually and emotionally as well? This can’t be ignored, and a person who has become asexual must be confronted and told, “you need to get counseling”.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having psychological trauma; there is something wrong with refusing to deal with it. You can stop being a doormat by insisting on counseling.

3. Financially Endangering the Family

I received an email from a wife recently who said this:

FOR THE LAST FOUR YEARS MY HUSBAND HAS REFUSED TO WORK. WHEN HE DID WORK HE OFTEN CALLED IN SICK, AND WAS ALWAYS SEARCHING OUT WAYS TO APPLY FOR DISABILITY. NOW HE JUST SITS AT HOME AND WATCHES TV AND PLAYS VIDEO GAMES ALL DAY. HE’S JUST A BIG SLOB. WE LOST OUR HOUSE AND I’M WORKING TWO PART-TIME JOBS TO TRY TO PAY THE BILLS, PLUS KEEPING THE HOUSE CLEAN AND DOING HIS LAUNDRY. HE WON’T WORK! WHAT DO I DO?

A man who refuses to provide for his family, and who has become this lazy, also needs Christians to come alongside him and say, “put up or shut up”. This isn’t acceptable. I would say that the same would be true for a spouse who is consistently getting the family deep into debt with spending.

If your spouse is acting in such a way that they are denying a vital part of themselves and a vital part of the Christian life–like responsibility or intimacy or community–then doing nothing about it enables that spouse to avoid any impetus for spiritual growth.

And yet all too often that is what we’ve done–we hate divorce so much that we ignore the other side: God does not want an army of wounded, damaged people. He wants wholeness. And so we must deal with people who are refusing to confront huge issues.

Note that I’m not talking about a difference in sex drives, or problems when one spouse won’t do any housework. I’m not talking about disagreements over child rearing or over the role of TV in the house. I’m talking about things that go to the very heart of who we are as people and what is our relationship before God. And these are issues which, if not dealt with, will continue to drive someone further away from God and further into darkness.

In the old days, brothers would come to support their sister and would give the husband a pounding. That doesn’t happen anymore. But now churches need to fulfill that role.

In my book I use an example of a church intervention. A woman was married to a man who was consistently driving his family into deeper and deeper debt. She was working hard to try to keep the family afloat but she couldn’t manage it anymore because of his spending.

The elders came to the guy and sat him down and said, “we are going to help you make a budget. Then you are going to stick to it. You’ll report to one of us every week until this is all sorted out. And if you continue to overspend, we all will show up at the house with a moving van and we will help your wife get established with the kids in a house of her own until you come to your senses.”

Read Next on Thriving Marriages  Ultimatums Are Bad, Right? Actually, They’re VITAL For a Thriving Marriage. Here’s Why.

They weren’t talking about a divorce; they were saying, “what you are doing is so unacceptable that you must stop. And if you won’t, you alone will bear the consequences because we will help your wife through this.”

Churches Can Help Us Stop Being a Doormat

Now, elders should never do anything this drastic until they hear both sides of the story; but once that story is clear, if one spouse is consistently damaging the family and damaging his or her own spiritual life, then action simply must be taken. And just because they’re married is no reason to avoid taking that action.

I know most of my readers are women, and so let me talk to the women for a moment. Many of you leave heartbreaking messages on this blog about men who have turned their backs on the marriage, but won’t move out. They like someone taking care of the housework and taking care of the kids, and they like the benefits that marriage brings, even though they have rejected the intimacy and responsibility. Ladies, if you put up with this, you are enabling him to move farther and farther away from God. God did not create marriage so that we would have an excuse to not work on our issues.

If your husband is addicted to porn, deal with the internet and get him accountability. If he has substance abuse issues, get him into rehab, luxurybeachrehab.com, is an addiction treatment center website with a lot of useful information on a variety of treatment programs. If he’s cheating on you, tell someone. If he’s not working, do something.

Go to your church and find someone who will help you; who will sit down and talk to your husband, whether he likes it or not, to hear his side of the story. Someone who will walk you through an intervention process, if it is necessary (and in some cases it definitely is). And someone who will stand alongside your husband and give him the tools and help he needs to rediscover who he was made to be.

I know this is scary. Those times are rare, and please, don’t take these words as an excuse to leave your husband because he plays video games too much or won’t put stuff in the dishwasher. I’m not talking about normal marital disagreements. I’m talking about things where men (or women) have completely forsaken key elements of who they were designed to be. And in that case, your children need to witness health and wholeness and healing. So don’t stop until you find someone to help you!

Your Marriage Can Survive The Storm It Is Facing

By Gary Thomas -March 30, 2020

survive the storm

You can survive the storm. 

A few weeks ago, a good friend of ours texted both Lisa and me to ask what was going on. She had had a terrifying dream about us the night before. “You and Lisa were in this tall tower,” she explained, “and this red plane was headed straight for you. I could see both you and Lisa overcome with sorrow and the plane was aimed right at you to finally take you out, but we couldn’t find a way to get into the tower to help you. I spent most of the night praying for you two. I couldn’t stop crying.”

God had “outed” our pain, so to speak, so we shared the details with her. When I later explained all that was going on in our lives to a counselor (I hadn’t been to one in over twenty-five years) and then sheepishly told him about our friend’s dream, he paused and said, “Uh, do you guys have anyone who can pray for you regularly? Because I don’t think that dream is too far off.” We were going to need help to survive the storm we were facing.

Because the situations (there are multiple) don’t involve just us, Lisa and I don’t feel free to share the details widely. But we have certainly felt targeted from just about every angle we can imagine and since I began meeting with that counselor, an entirely new front has opened up so apparently the “red plane” hasn’t run out of fuel yet (and prayers of protection and conquering for our entire family would be most welcome, as God leads).

Perhaps that’s why I was primed to be enthralled when a publisher sent me an amazing book of devotions to preview: Jeff and Sarah Walton’s Together Through the Storms.

We all know the biblical Esther was made queen “for such a time as this.” I believe God can also use books for such a time as this, and in the extraordinary turn of events our world has seen in the past month, I can’t imagine a more appropriate, helpful and encouraging book for marriages that are wondering how to survive the storm they are facing. I believe God inspired it and prepared it just in time, as I am sure many couples, now more than ever, are facing multiple challenges and “red plane” attacks of their own.

Here’s the beginning of their story (and their book):

We remember it like it was yesterday. The sun was shining, everyone was smiling, and, other than the fact that the DJ played the wrong song for our first dance (which we eventually laughed about), it was as close to a perfect day as it’s possible to be. I was twenty-three. She was twenty. Sarah and I were young, we were in love, we were excited, and we were ready (or so we thought) to embark on a life together.

We didn’t expect life to be perfect, of course—but we nat­urally assumed our marriage would be filled with more of the “better” than the “worse.” So with stars in our eyes and big dreams for what the future would hold, we confidently vowed:

“ I take you … to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, for as long as we both shall live.”

That was nearly sixteen years ago. Little did we know that those years would bring chronic illness, financial loss, job loss, special needs, suffering children, overwhelming stress, and the marital strain that accompanies each. We never imagined that we’d experience so much of the “worse,” “poorer,” and “in sickness” parts of our vows.

The Waltons’ marriage barely got a chance to breathe before they faced a monumental challenge. They were instantly asked to survive the storm that was beyond anything they could imagine. What is often a very happy time for couples became terrifying for them:

Less than three years into our marriage, we excitedly wel­comed our first child into the world. All was going well until he spiked a fever and was hospitalized with a severe infection at seven weeks old. After five days in the hospi­tal with terrifying, inconclusive reports, we were sent home without answers. We thought it was an isolated incident, but over time it turned into years of life-altering neurolog­ical challenges that have forever changed our family’s lives. Every day, we helplessly watched as our sweet, smart, funny little boy would turn into someone else, displaying behav­ior that was extremely difficult to control and navigate. Countless consultations, tests, and evaluations left doctors shaking their heads, and all we were left with in the end was an increased financial burden, a stressful home life, and growing fears for him and us.

This wasn’t just a tough challenge, it became a long-term challenge and might even turn into a lifelong challenge, depending on God’s healing mercy. But in many ways the Waltons had just begun their season of storms:

Along with that, Sarah’s health was rapidly declining, and with each of our four children that she bore, she was increas­ingly unable to function through her own chronic pain and illness. On top of that, an ankle injury that she sustained in high school has now led to five surgeries and an inability to do much of what she loves anymore.

As our son’s disorder continued to intensify, and as Sarah grew sicker and our younger children began to exhibit their own chronic pains, my job as a consultant to orthopedic surgeons often kept me from being home. Our marriage began to suffer under the weight of it all.

Eventually, doctors were able to pinpoint the myriad symptoms of Sarah’s (and several children’s) maladies to Lyme disease, but they weren’t able to offer any clear consensus on what to do in order to treat the neurological and physical ailments. Reading this story, I could imagine the checks flying out the mailbox and the bank account depleting as they sought to do their best to overcome a tricky and nefarious disease.

Read Next on Thriving Marriages  The Sexiest Habit Your Marriage Needs (it involves a calendar)

Unfortunately, even more bad news was ahead:

When we were at our lowest point, convinced that we couldn’t endure anything else, it became clear that I could no longer sustain my on-call job. So I left it behind, along with half of our income. We sold our dream home and downsized to a smaller rental home. A year later, my new company began to struggle and suddenly I was without a job—leaving us with no income at all.

Our family was in crisis. Most of our time spent together as a couple consisted of doctor appointments, navigating challenges with our son, soothing crying and hurting chil­dren, discussing what treatments we could afford, healing from each of the nine surgeries undergone between the two of us, dealing with Sarah’s chronic pain, and stressing about our draining finances, all the while being too exhausted to address the tensions that were building within our marriage. We were both broken and both wondering where God was and why he was allowing such deep and layered suffering. As we endured one loss after another, we found ourselves bat­tling despair and hopelessness, and being confronted with deep questions of faith that neither of us had faced before. We were surviving, but we—and our marriage—were hanging on by a thread.

But we’re still here. Still together. And, somehow, stron­ger for it all.

If ever a couple had “street cred” to write about how to survive the storm, the pain and its impact on marriage, the Waltons do. What amazed me about the book though was the faith and inspiration that breathes off every page. While avoiding easy answers and sentimentality, the Waltons have found hope, healing, and strength to persevere in their faith in God and the rich treasure trove of truths found in Scripture.

In this time of trial for so many marriages, Together Through the Storms can be a life preserver for marriages going through similar trials. You’ll still have to learn how to swim (or at least paddle) in the midst of your trials, but the truths discussed in this book will keep you from drowning in sorrow, doubt, and despair (natural temptations all). It’ll help you survive the storm. Unfortunately, the book isn’t available until May 1, but pre-sales are crucial for any new book and I’m hoping this one finds an enthusiastic response. Christian Book Distributors, Barnes and Noble, Amazon—anywhere you normally order books, you can pre-order Together Through the Storms.

I’ll end this blog post by quoting Jeff (chapters are written from both the husband’s and wife’s perspectives, and both Jeff and Sarah are excellent writers) and urging you to take advantage of a book that I truly believe was written and is being published “for such a time as this”:

We’re writing in the trenches, right there beside you, not from the mountaintop. But we have written these pages as a testimony to the faithful­ness, goodness, and sustaining grace of Jesus. He has been and continues to be our help, strength, song, and salvation.

So this is a book about marriage, but it’s very different than most books on marriage. It’s for the storms—to prepare you for them in the future, or to help you navigate them in the present, or to help you deal with the aftermath of what you’ve just come through. We hope to encourage you by acknowledging many (though certainly not all) of the chal­lenges that we can face when storms come into and against our marriage. That’s not because we’ve navigated our storms and safely reached the other side, but because Jesus Christ has been faithful to strengthen us, carry us, and change us and our marriage as we continue to weather them together.

Every marriage begins in the sun; every marriage must pass through storms. For you, maybe those storms have brewed within your marriage—from rubbing up against each other’s weaknesses, differences, and sins—perhaps from the pain of infidelity, addiction, hurtful patterns of sin, or an unbelieving spouse. Or maybe for you it’s been the storms of circumstances around your marriage: the experience of excitement over starting or growing a family becoming a deeply painful struggle with infertility, loss of a child, or special needs; or living with chronic illness, a life-altering injury, something that was done to you in the past, financial loss, tensions in your extended family, or a rebellious child.

Whatever your storms have been, or will be, these trials will inevitably cause you to wrestle with difficult and complex questions of faith—and they will either drive you closer together or further apart. It’s where and to whom we turn to for the strength and hope that we need to endure the storms that will make all the difference.

It’s possible to survive the storm. 

How To Date Your Spouse When Stuck In Your House

By Brad Hambrick -April 10, 2020

date spouse

So, how do you go on a date when you aren’t allowed to leave your house? A month ago, this question would have been a lame set of jumper cables to start a conversation when there wasn’t anything to talk about. Now, it’s beginning to feel like an essential marital survival skill.

Many of us are learning how to work from home. If both spouses are doing this, it can feel like “we are spending more time together than ever before” (in corresponding news, many couples are also second guessing whether they ever want their spouse to retire). We’re realizing that “time together” and “dating” are not the same thing.

In this article, we’ll consider five actions to help you meaningfully date your spouse during a time period where you can’t leave your home.

Action 1 – State: “I want to spend meaningful time with you.”

After spending weeks sequestered together, it might be worth reminding your spouse, “I like you, and I enjoy time with you.” Minor irritants uninterrupted by work can make us begin to doubt this.

It reminds us the base-level message of a date is, “I like time when its just you and me.” This is what makes a date romantic. When daily annoyances increase, this message can get lost.

When movement is freer, we can get distracted from the message of dating (i.e., “I like time with you”) by the activity of a date (i.e., “This is fun”). During COVID restrictions, when activity is limited, we get the opportunity to make sure the focus is on the message.

Action 2 – Ask: What makes a traditional date most meaningful to you?

COVID-dating (oh, don’t we wish that wasn’t a term) is a time to learn more about your spouse. As you figure out how to meaningfully pursue one another during this time of restriction, ask, “What do you enjoy about dating?” This will force you to think a bit more candidly and deeply about the activity of dating. Answers might include:

  • Getting dressed up
  • Not doing the dishes
  • Lack of distractions
  • New conversation prompts from being in a different place
  • Trying new foods (or, at least, old foods we don’t know how to cook)
  • The freedom to choose what we want to do
  • We laugh more
  • We make more eye contact
  • You give me a simple kiss that doesn’t lead anywhere
  • We have sex afterwards

All of these are legitimate answers. Add to the list. Take things off the list that don’t fit your marriage. Everything that winds up on your list prompt at least two types of thinking: (1) creativity for how to COVID-date, and (2) ideas for how to meaningfully pursue your spouse when you’re not on a date.

The current riddle for you to solve is, “How do I make the things that my spouse enjoys about a date possible while we can’t go out to dinner, shopping, or to a movie?” But focusing on meaningful engagement more than the activity will make us more romantically engaged spouses. Getting out of the “it’s Friday night, where do you want to go” rut is good for your marriage.

Focusing on meaningful engagement more than the activity will make us more romantically engaged spouses.

Action 3 – Identify: What time of day works best for a quarantine date?

COVID is lethal to schedules. We can’t assume anything is going to be done at the same time or in the same order as it occurred pre-Coronavirus. Things will return to normal, but in the meantime, we shouldn’t put our marriage on pause.Read Next on Thriving Marriages  These Are the Words Your Spouse Desperately Needs to Hear

For couples with young children, nap time may become the new prime dating real estate (because you can’t get a babysitter). If that’s you, how many of the things that make a date meaningful fit well in the 1-3pm time slot? Maybe you get a fancy coffee and pastry to go instead of dinner as takeout.

The main point is, dating during quarantine may not occur at traditional times. If our thinking goes on lockdown and we only think of dating as something that happens on Friday or Saturday evening between 6-9pm, we are likely missing many of the dating opportunities that exist.

Bonus: If COVID-dating forces you to think this way, then you will identify a dozen sneak-a-dates you can do when our full roaming freedoms return. [Note: Sneak-a-date is a bad maneuver for a single man, but a highly admirable moment for a married man to create.]

Action 4 – Think: What are non-functional questions I can ask?

What is one of the side effects of being under house arrest? Constricted thinking. We just ask functional questions and give functional answers.

We don’t see as many people. We can’t go many places. We’re around each other all day, so there’s nothing I experienced that you don’t already know. “Why don’t we switch roles and you tell me what I did today?”

This reduces mealtime to a mere hunger-aversion exercise. Going for a walk together [yes, at a safe social distance from any other non-familial pedestrians] becomes mere exercise. When constricted thinking sets in, activities that were once bonding become mundane.

If you need help coming up with good questions, visit bradhambrick.com/dailytalk for over 200 conversation prompts divided into 10 categories of meaningful conversation. If nothing else, you can talk about how absurd some of the prompts are and how excessive somebody must be to come up with that many conversations. As long as you’re talking to each other, the article served its purpose.

Action 5 – Do: Put effort into getting ready and redeem the time.

Part of the impact of “going on a date” is that the time is set apart from the rest of your weekly rhythm. It may feel silly but get dressed up. Put on cologne or perfume. Complement each other like it’s a special occasion. Put takeout on your nicer dishes instead of paper plates. Light a candle to put on the table.

If you can drive together to get takeout, treat that time like part of the date and not just an errand. Don’t talk about things that need to be done around the house or the part of being at home that is most annoying. Set the time apart to engage with and enjoy your spouse. Treat the time you designate to date your spouse like a date.

Conclusion

I’m under no delusion that COVID-dating will become a fad that lasts any longer than is absolutely necessary. When we get our “traveling mercies” back (never have I wanted to pray for those so earnestly… I think I know what they are, finally!), you have my full permission to print a hard copy of this article and make it a burnt offering in celebration.

But, if we redeem the time in these ways, I do believe we will find that we will grow in contentment and the ability to enjoy simple things. These qualities will result in a more stable, intentional, and lasting enjoyment of one another. That would be very good.