What Jesus Mentions Most About Marriage Will Surprise You

By Gary Thomas -July 5, 2021

managing your money

This is the second in a series of posts excerpted from my new bookPreparing Your Heart for Marriage, a devotional for engaged couples. The second half of the book goes through every phrase of the traditional marriage vows so that when couples exchange their vows on their wedding day, they’ll have thought through, prayed through, and talked through all that they are saying. This week’s post is based on the importance of managing your money. 

Money, Money, Money

 “For richer, for poorer…”

Did you know that Jesus talked about managing your money more than he talked about heaven and hell combined? Close to 800 scriptures discuss money. About one-fourth of Jesus’ parables are about money, and one out of every seven verses in the Gospel of Luke discuss money.

Here’s the real shocker, one that people can hardly believe: Jesus actually talked about managing your money more than he talked about love.

Why do you think this might be true?

Money carries a spiritual weight that can lift you up or hold you down. It will bless you as a couple or it can become a deep divide.

Every one of us has a unique relationship with money that rarely gets discussed and that usually remains unconscious. Our feelings about money are visceral, deep-seated in the core of our being, and many of us don’t even recognize the way these feelings motivate us. Some of us deeply fear losing our money, and we react with panic and anger if it is threatened. Others of us are driven by greed to always have a little bit more, and we will sacrifice some of our most intimate relationships to make more time and energy available to procure more money.  I have seen some literally sacrifice their health and peace of mind to bring “just a little bit more” into what already looks like an abundant pile of resources. For still others of us, we’re driven by a simple selfishness that insists “what’s mine is mine” and are robbed of the tremendous joy found in giving. A few blessed souls have found that generosity with money brings great freedom.

The Bible does speak favorably of sensible saving (Genesis 41; Proverbs 21:20; Ecc. 11:12) but even more about generous giving (Deut. 15:10; Psalm 112:5; Prov. 22:9; Mal. 3:10; 2 Cor. 9:6-10). It seems to suggest that managing your money is a wise thing to do (Prov. 27:23-27) and exalts hard work over laziness (2 Thess. 3:10; Prov. 24:33-34). It also suggests that wanting to leave an inheritance behind is a good thing (1 Tim. 5:8; Prov. 13:22). All these together suggest that managing your money in a God-honoring way will bless you and nurture your marriage, while ignoring Scriptural truths about handling money may bring much misery, frustration, and pain into your life and marriage. Not thinking about the best ways to manage your money will likely lead you to the default position of mishandling your money.

You and your future spouse will be combining your financial assets, so to become one you’re going to have to talk about your relationship with money. Even if you keep your money separate (though I hope you don’t), how you are managing your money will impact each other. Take an honest look into your own soul to discover just how you feel about money, in a way you may never have thought about it before.

What gives you the most joy: a certain level of savings? Knowing that you’ve given away a certain amount? Seeing others smile when you meet a need? Getting to buy something you’ve wanted to buy for a very long time?

What gives you the most security? A certain credit score and a consistently growing retirement account? A secure job? Knowledge that your heavenly father has promised to provide all your needs?

When working with premarital couples, I usually find that their giving is rather haphazard. They often give primarily on the spur of the moment, without a plan, when someone presents a dramatic need. If they had a close relative die of cancer, it is likely that they give a yearly donation to a cancer foundation of some kind. Others will say they take advantage of a charity their employer will match. Still others like to simply claim that they “tithe” with their time, and therefore don’t really worry about how much money they give away.

As a Christian couple, you need to give, generously and often. Sometimes, it should hurt. At the end of the year, when you add up all that you gave for tax purposes, it’s okay to lose your breath for a second and think, “But we could have bought x, y, or z with that,” and then remind yourself, “Yet giving it to God’s work was the best thing we could have done.”

Where you give your money reflects your heart. It’s understandable that you would want to contribute to research to stop the spread of a disease that has afflicted a loved one; it’s a good thing to want to support a local symphony or library. Yet Christians are told to seek first (primarily, above all other good things) “the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33). We should be all about living for and celebrating the spread of Christ’s kingdom. That’s why my wife and I like to focus on works that glorify Jesus and spread his word. That doesn’t mean we don’t ever give to “civic” charities or medical pursuits. We do and we have. But it does mean that we want to invest most of what we give to work where God is the hero, and where God is specifically exalted.

If you’ve never studied this issue, consider listening to Andy Stanley’s three-part sermon series entitled “Crazy Like Us.” http://northpoint.org/messages/crazy-like-us/.

The reason I call evaluating your relationship with money “spiritual preparation” is that if you learn the lessons Andy talks about (there are three sermons; they would make for three great date night discussions), money will be a positive force for good in your marriage rather than something that rips you apart.

The spiritual secret is this: generosity blesses the generous even more than it blesses those the generous people give to.

Since money troubles are a major factor in marital break-ups, it’s a wise investment at this stage of your relationship for you and your future spouse to spend a few hours examining your hearts and the Scriptures, and making a plan to be wise stewards of the resources God brings your way. Let your upcoming wedding be the launching pad for a new relationship with money.

If money was important enough for Jesus to talk about so much, it should be important enough for you to search out his teachings on the subject and discover just why he emphasized our relationship with money.

Heavenly Father, let our upcoming union call us to a thoughtful awareness about our relationship with money. Help us to understand our fears and motivations and beliefs about money, and give us hearts that honor you and your truth when it comes to how we should handle, save, and give our money. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Read Next on Thriving Marriages  What Does the Bible Say About Marriage?

An Emotional Affair: How to Guard Your Marriage

By To Love, Honor, and Vacuum -August 3, 2021

Today’s post from Sheila at To Love, Honor and Vacuum is a great look at why an emotional affair is dangerous, but also preventable. While it’s written to women, this is extremely applicable to men as well. Enjoy!

Q: I am happily married to my husband. I don’t want to leave him, I’m very attracted to him. We’ve been married for [redacted] years and he has become more caring and loving than he was in the beginning. I know that he is who God wants me to be with.

The problem is, there is this man from church who I’ve developed an attraction to. I didn’t mean to, and I’ve tried to reason the feelings away. This man has never made a ‘move’ on me, or anything. My husband thinks he talks to me a little too much, so he likes me to only talk to him when he’s around and I comply. I find myself looking forward to seeing him, dressing up “for church”… It really makes me dislike myself. I’ve prayed about it a lot.

The other day I asked my husband what he would do if I died. He said that he didn’t know, that he’d miss me terribly, and that he’d get lots of help from family and the church. Then he asked me what I’d do, immediately my mind went to the man at church and how I’d want to marry him. I don’t even really know the man that well. I only know his major interests. I didn’t tell my husband that, I just said that I didn’t want to think about him dying, and I don’t want him to die, it’s the truth.

Help. I hate having these feelings. I want them to go away. I keep praying about it, and limiting talking to the man. I try to only talk to the women at church now, because he is popular with the men at the church. How to I stay emotionally faithful to my husband? I hate the thought that I may be having an emotional affair.

Wow. Okay, I know she’s not alone, so I want to give some practical help today.

I want to say something right off the bat that people may be surprised to hear:

Just because you are attracted to someone else DOES NOT mean that there is something wrong with your marriage.

Did you hear that? Let that sink in. I think we sometimes believe that attraction can only happen if we are unhappy, or lacking something. But you are not DEAD. You are simply married. And sometimes we meet someone who pushes all the right buttons.

We’re then thrown through a tailspin of bewilderment. You thought you were immune to this, because you have a great marriage. You’re in love with your husband. How could this be happening to you?

So here are some thoughts, in no particular order:

Emotional Affair Fact #1: Temptation is Not Sin

Jesus was tempted. Feeling attracted to someone is not a sin. And it really can happen to anyone–even someone with a good marriage.

Emotional Affair Fact #2: Temptation Does Not Mean there is Something Wrong with Your Marriage

As soon as we’re tempted, and feel attracted to someone else, we often start to look at our marriage and figure there’s something horribly wrong. There’s some unmet need, and my subconscious is trying to point it out to me.

That could be true, but from the women I’ve spoken with I’d say that’s not necessarily true at all. Your marriage very well could be fine. It may not be, of course; but being tempted does not mean that something IS wrong with your marriage.

When we are attracted to someone else, the worst thing we can do is to then assume that we are unhappy with our marriage. That makes us start to doubt our marriage even more, or even look for things that are wrong with our marriage that explain why we’re feeling that attraction. “I must find my husband lacking if I’m attracted to this guy.” No, that’s not true. You just may very well fit with that other guy as well.

I am not one of those “there is only one person out there in the world meant for you” kind of person. I believe that God lets us choose our spouse, and that it is then up to us to become the best spouse we can be. Perhaps it’s because my grandfather was married three times to three wonderful but very different women (they all kept dying of cancer on him). Were those last two marriages substandard because the first was the love of his life? No, I don’t think so. He was happy in all three marriages, because he decided to love those women and be the best husband he could for each of them.

So the fact that you are attracted to someone else may simply be because there are many different people you could have potentially worked with.

Now, perhaps there is something wrong with your marriage. Hopefully this, then, will be the nudge to start addressing that problem by going to a counselor, talking to your husband about it, or doing something to change the dynamic. But it does not necessarily mean something is wrong, and assuming your marriage is on the skids is the worst thing you could do at a time like this.

Emotional Affair Fact #3: You Are In a Battle

You are not to blame for being tempted. This does not mean there is something wrong with your marriage. However, what you do with those feelings is something for which you are held to account.

If you start dreaming about the guy, or dressing up for the guy, or thinking about what you will say the next time you see him, you have crossed over from the temptation to the actively participating in the fantasy. You’re having an emotional affair (an affair of the mind).And that’s dangerous–even if he’s not reciprocating.

What I’m getting from this letter writer is the question, “how can I make this go away??!?” And I understand the feeling. You just want this horrible reality that you’re attracted to this guy to go away. You want these thoughts to vanish.

But the problem is that we begin to think that our thoughts and attraction is something that just happens, and we have no control over it, these thoughts come, and you do nothing to banish them. Because you feel that there is nothing you can do against these thoughts. 

You are not powerless, though, against thoughts or attractions. This is an empowering message if you’re struggling with unwanted thoughts or attractions! We DO have control over our thoughts. We can choose whether to entertain them or not.

We take every thought captive. We choose what to think about. If a thought enters your head that you know is wrong, replace it with something else. Pray. Sing a worship song. Make that your prompt to text something nice to your husband. Seriously, every time you think about this other guy, go text your husband and tell him something new that you love about him. Whenever you think about this man, go and hug your children. Choose to replace the thought.

Why don’t we do this? Because the thoughts are actually fun. Infatuation is fun. Infatuation is heady, and more intoxicating than a drug. But it’s not real. What’s real is deciding to love someone, day in and day out. So recognize you’re in a battle and fight! If you engage in that fight for long enough, by praying and taking every thought captive, you’ll find that your thought patterns do start to change. But don’t expect it to be easy.You have to FIGHT!

Emotional Affair Fact #4: Don’t Convince Yourself He’d Be an Awful Husband

I think often we feel, “oh, if I saw his flaws I wouldn’t be attracted to him anymore.” I think that’s a wrong way of looking at it. You see your husband’s flaws, and you’re still attracted to him, but that’s because you have decided to love him. If you decided to love this other guy, chances are you could overlook his flaws, too.

Stopping the infatuation with the other guy does not depend on seeing him as a horrible human being; it depends on seeing your husband in the right light, and taking your thoughts captive. Don’t think about how this guy probably snores and farts in his sleep; think about how much you love your husband, and how you will remain faithful. Fight the battle, ladies!

If you left your husband for him, you would open yourself up for a world of hurt. You’d hurt your families. You’d hurt your kids. You’d hurt your husband. And you’d hurt your relationship with God.

It isn’t about whether or not he’d be better with you than with your husband; it’s that you’ve already made a vow to your husband, and to break that would have serious awful consequences. So fight! Fight FOR your marriage way more than you fight AGAINST this guy. Make strengthening your marriage your priority; not seeing this guy as an awful guy.

If you want some practical ways to fight for your marriage, I have a free 5-day emotional connection e-course at my site for married couples. If you’ve been struggling to connect emotionally with your husband, or you feel that there are barriers to emotional connection, I seriously recommend trying this course! (And again, it’s free!) 

Emotional Affair Fact #5: Set up Boundaries so the Attraction Does not Become a Full-Blown Emotional Affair (or worse)

Set up boundaries in your marriage. It sounds like she is already do this: she’s not talking by herself to him very much; she’s trying to keep her husband near when he’s around. She’s trying to make sure that they don’t develop a real relationship that could blossom into an emotional affair–or worse. Good decisions!

I’d encourage anyone who is tempted by an emotional affair to set up some serious boundaries and do not let yourself be put in a compromising situation. Don’t text him–even if you can think of a legitimate reason to do so. (We’re on a committee together, and I need to tell him about the next meeting. I can text him then, right?). No. Because chances are you’ll start trying to think of more “legitimate” reasons to text him. Don’t friend him on Facebook. Don’t be alone with him. If you are on a committee with him, consider leaving that committee. If you work with him, consider leaving that job. I know that not all of these actions may be possible, but what I have found is that when you put distance between the person that you think that you are emotionally attracted to, and put your energy into your husband, that attraction wanes.

Emotional Affair Fact #6: Love Your Husband Wholeheartedly

Dedicate yourself even more to loving your husband. Make your sex life greatFlirt with him. Nurture your marriage every way you can. As you find yourself spending more and more time with your husband, you’ll likely find your attraction to the guy diminishing.

What do you think? Have you ever been in danger of an emotional affair? How did you extricate yourself? And what boundaries for marriage work best for you?

Read Next on Thriving Marriages  This Weekly Routine Will Build the Marriage of Your Dreams

An XO Marriage Story: Dry Bones

August 3, 2021 by Kevin & Barbara Goos

We’ve been married almost 32 years, but looking back, I can see the cracks start around our 23rd year of marriage. It didn’t seem like anything major at the time, no front-page issues, just the factors that matter when left too long unintentionally. Barb had some communication struggles and was holding onto old baggage. I made a decision to emotionally pull back because I believed that I was nothing more than a duty or an obligation, that my job was to be a workhorse. That thought seeded bitterness, and I turned away from Barb in my heart. After about two years, those cracks culminated in a crisis in our marriage and in our ministry.

Those cracks were the construction materials that paved the road for the enemy to drive his trucks on. It’s like we were beginning the worst kind of construction project—the building of bitterness. Fast forward two years, and out of that bitterness and turning of my heart, my decision-making and my view of life were very clouded… I crossed some physical and emotional lines with another person.

After everything, I remember feeling like we were gradually driving out of a fog. Suddenly, I could see clearly and look back and wonder how I could have ever thought, said, or done any of those things. But bitterness is a dangerous, subtle thing—a place where I was blinded. I ignored the very advice that I had counseled men, women, and couples with for years. By the time I realized what was happening, it was almost like being on a runaway freight train. I was almost too afraid to admit where I was struggling, facing the war between fear and love. Love: Oh, man, let me just try to fix this—I don’t want to hurt Barbara any further. Fear: I don’t want to lose everything.

We had to take a step back from ministry and go through a process of restoration, not just in our church but in our marriage, and we were in a position where we couldn’t talk to anyone. The interesting dynamic with us being a pastoral couple and leading a congregation at the time was that we were surrounded by people at the most difficult moment in our lives. I was a leader in our denomination across several states, and we had our church family, but in the middle of our crisis, we’d never felt so alone. You feel like you can’t talk to your congregation when you’re having a marriage crisis—you’re their leaders! We felt like we were alone at the bottom of a pit, and we couldn’t see a way out.

The beautiful thing was that through everything, God was right there, so close to us, ministering to each of our souls individually, healing our hurts so we could come back together and heal further. It wasn’t something we planned—we didn’t sit down and decide this was our strategy—this was God’s plan for our healing.

As part of that healing, we began walking through a restoration process, rebuilding our marriage from the ground up. We still loved Jesus and each other, but we’d reached a place where we were having a hard time communicating. I’d caused tremendous pain to Barb and to our family, and there was broken trust, anger, and hurt. We sought good, qualified, Christian marriage counseling, but then Barb found XO and Jimmy and Karen Evans.

There was a period during that restoration process when almost every day, our devotion time as a couple was spent watching or listening to some kind of broadcast, podcast, ministry, or studio event that was available on the site. If it was there, we probably watched it, listened to it, prayed over it, and talked about it. For about 500 days, Jimmy and Karen walked along that process with us as active participants, even though they didn’t know us. They were de facto our long-distance marriage coaches, pouring into us as we put our life back together. We even did a Vision Retreat, and that was very powerful. It helped us steer the direction of our life’s calling and of our ministry from then on.

Barb

It sounds a little corny, but we like to say that XO’s influence on our marriage feels a bit like the 2009 movie Julie & Julia. Jimmy and Karen were our marriage counterparts, where we never got to meet them, but they walked us through a transforming process. They helped us see where our marriage could be stronger and healthier—they helped us address not just the big things but even the small things that could become big.

Out of it, God birthed a whole new facet of our ministry. We committed to Him that since He’d helped us, we would do all we could to help other couples find hope in crisis—or help them avoid crisis altogether. If they can see that God did it here, maybe they can see that He’ll do it for them too. God brought a lot of different young adults and couples into our path, and we advise them to listen to Jimmy and Karen. We send them XO resources and encourage them to go on a Vision Retreat.

We were even able to write a book, Dry Bones: Redeeming Your Past, where we talk about our journey back to healing in our marriage. We share that with other couples in the hope that our testimony helps them in their journey. It’s a vulnerable thing to open up this yucky area in your life and share it with people, but we really believe God can use our story to help other people, to give them hope where they may not see any. If they can point to someone else who’s been through it and come out the other side, I think it’s an encouragement. Our whole reason for wanting to help people is to point them to Jesus, to their healer. We want to show them that there is hope in broken and damaged relationships because God is our healer, and He can do great, amazing, miraculous things.

Our story has some major layers of redemption and restoration, and a lot of that is due to the influence of XO and Jimmy and Karen walking with us on our journey to healing. We’re at a point in our journey where shame has become a testimony. Like the Samaritan woman at the well, we’ve gone through shame and brokenness, but we know God is using that and making it a testimony of His goodness. In life, we like to speak out of areas of expertise, but in reality, it’s so much harder to warn people of where they might step on landmines in their life.

Words of Wisdom from Barb & Kevin: Communication is key.

There’s a phrase Jimmy repeats often, and it’s really freeing, “My feelings are real; they’re just not always right.” Because at the moment, the feeling can be so strong when you hit that rough patch or that crisis. There’s something that’s putting heat and pressure on the relationship: parenting, finances, career, the relationship. Some people explode on that feeling, escalating the conversation into a true conflict. But the way we often think about it is, Is that a decision-making feeling? Do I want to build a life making decisions based on the feeling of this moment? Very often, the answer to that question is no, but if you acknowledge the feeling, it is no longer the engine to the train.

A big part of good communication is assuming the best motives of the other person. We want other people to assume the best motives of us, but sometimes, we don’t always assume the same of our loved ones, and we pick up an offense. Assume the best motives out of your spouse and try not to pick up those offenses. When someone says something that might offend, rephrase it back to them and ask for clarity. Instead of just assuming the worst, disarm the situation. Usually, the other person is horrified by the assumption and is absolutely willing to clear any confusion and bitterness. Clearing up those miscommunications is key to healing in your marriage.

Do you have a story of how XO has impacted your marriage? We would love to hear it! Email us at stories@xomarriage.com.

How to Share, Trusting Your Spouse

by Jimmy Evan


The image of Adam and Eve hiding themselves with fig leaves is one that artists have been fascinated with for centuries. It’s a little comical–a couple lives together in Paradise, totally naked, then suddenly become ashamed of their bodies.

But there’s a serious lesson for marriage to be found in this story.

When God created Adam and Eve, according to Genesis 2:24-25, the man and his wife were both “naked and unashamed.” This represents one of God’s important laws related to marriage: The Law of Purity.

Before sin entered the Garden of Eden, it was pure and wonderful. In fact, the word eden  itself means “pleasure and delight.” Adam and Eve were naked together in a place of delight. That was marriage in its ideal state.

Then came the Fall. After this, the first thing Adam and Eve did was cover their genitals with fig leaves. Why the genitals? Well, those are the most sensitive areas of the human body. Those are also the areas where men and women are most different. They hid these places from each other.

A marriage lived in purity is one where the husband and wife don’t have to hide their differences. They can expose the most sensitive areas of their lives without any problems.A marriage made impure by sin results in a man and woman hiding from each other. They feel the need to protect their most sensitive areas.

When Karen and I first got married, our relationship wasn’t healthy. I was verbally abusive and dominant. I hurt Karen with the things I said, and it made her “cover” herself. She refused to let me into the most sensitive areas of her life. It was a form of self-protection.

I wasn’t treating Karen right, and because of my behavior, she didn’t trust me or share herself with me.

I didn’t know my wife. We had no intimacy at all.

It wasn’t until I repented that our marriage became pure. I had to ask God to change my heart and I had to ask Karen for her forgiveness. She said, “Jimmy, you really wounded me with your mouth.”

When I finally apologized, the fig leaves started coming off. It didn’t happen overnight, but she began opening up more to me, little by little. Eventually she began to tell me things I didn’t know. The things she told me took me by surprise.”

How long have you felt that way?” I would ask. “Why didn’t you tell me that before?”

Her answer was devastating: “It was because I couldn’t trust you,” she said.

A disrespectful spouse will destroy trust. A spouse whose language is always sarcastic and critical will cause the other spouse to hide their true feelings. We simply can’t trust our hearts to someone who isn’t careful in the way they treat us. That’s when we protect our most sensitive places with fig leaves.

The fig leaves only come off when we feel safe with each other. That’s when the man and his wife are “naked and unashamed.”

If we aren’t careful with our words–if we disrupt the safety of the relationship–then we must apologize. We have to take responsibility and say, “I’m sorry.” Only then will we become each other’s safe place.

Trust and intimacy are only possible in an atmosphere of purity. Does that describe your marriage? Blessings,

Jimmy Evans

Founder & President of XO Marriage

https://mailchi.mp/xomarriage.com/marriagebuilder_09_05_2021


Four Comforting Truths to Remember in Tough Times

By Joshua Pease -April 26, 2021

tough times

All marriages hit tough times, and most of the time here at Thriving Marriages we focus on  how to survive them. A list of “why spouses get divorced” is filled with money issues, a death in the family, moving, or other stressful life events, and it’s important to have tools that help us navigate moments like these. But there’s another side to these tough times that’s focused on far less: their benefit. While there’s no way to lessen the pain of stressful seasons of life, it is helpful to remember that good is always at work in them.

For the past two years, finances have been very tight for my wife and I. I unexpectedly transitioned careers in my mid-30s while trying to support a wife and two young kids, and our money  questions have gone from “how much should we save?” or “how much can we spend on clothes?” to “how are we going to pay our bills this month?” It hasn’t been fun for anyone, but especially not for my wife.

For a variety of reasons ranging from her experiences growing up, to her emotional hard-wiring, to her natural desire to build a comfortable life for her children, Christina has felt the pain of these past two years deeply, and I’ve felt the pain of not being able to provide like I’d want. I have had to learn in these tough times how to let Christina feel deep amounts of stress, to cry, vent, and process perfectly legitimate emotions without absorbing them all as her telling me “you’re failing us” (which she totally wasn’t saying). I think I’ve gotten better at this, though I still have a long way to go. That being said, I have been so focused on my issues, that I haven’t paid enough attention to how Christina has been changing too.

Last night, following a particularly disappointing day, Christina spoke encouragement into my life, and told me it was going to be okay. This morning, even after waking up early with our two year old, she was quoting Bible verses to me about how God has our family, and we’re going to be okay. We would survive this time time, Christina told me, the same way we have for two years: through God’s loving provision for us.

And I realized how profoundly my wife had changed over these past two years. How she had leaned into the panic and pain and frustration and anxiety and depression of these two years and fought to find God, and how God was transforming her into someone able to trust and believe, even when some of her heart’s deepest desires felt threatened. And her growth makes me want to grow more, to be a better follower of Christ, and a more devoted husband and father. Rather than the tough times of the past two years making our marriage weak and frail and easily damaged, Christina and I are stronger than we’ve ever been before … and we’re not even out of our financial stress yet! I imagine what our family will be like when the day comes when things are a bit easier, when we’re able to rest a bit more, to save, buy a house maybe, plan for our kids’ future.

So for anyone going through their own tough times, here are four truths to hold on to:

1. Tough Times Won’t Last Forever

This is hard to remember when the tough times rage, but there will be another side to what you’re going through. The lie easily planted in our hearts during stressful seasons of life is that “it will always be this way,” “God doesn’t care about you,” “you’ll always mess things up.” None of these are true. As the saying goes “It’s all good in the end. So if it’s not good, it’s not the end.”

2. God empathizes with your pain

Even when we believe that God is in charge of our tough times, it’s not easy to believe he cares. Or maybe we think he “cares” in some abstract “Jesus died for the world’s sins” sort of way. But the Bible tells us that there is no struggle we’ve been through that Jesus didn’t personally experience. Not only that, we are God’s children. Imagine how you care about one of your kids after a hard day at school, or when they fall and hurt themselves. Think of how you enter their pain and say “it’s okay, you’re okay, it’s all going to be okay.” God does that for us too.

3. Even in Tough Times God Doesn’t Waste Anything

One of my favorite, and easily overlooked, parts of the story of Joseph is how everything he went through – his arrogance toward his brothers, the humility of becoming a slave, learning the agricultural economy as the head of Potiphar’s house, seeing what “middle management” was like while in prison – ultimately made him a perfect candidate to be the Pharaoh’s righthand man. This doesn’t dismiss how awful Joseph’s 17 years(!) were, but it does say that God didn’t waste one bit of it. It’s hard to see now, but God will use every single moment you’re experiencing for good.

4. Surviving Tough Times Strengthens Your Marriage

I don’t want to make this sound like a guarantee: we have to do the hard work of leaning in to the pain, letting God speak to us, obeying, learning to love our spouse, etc. But in that process both you and your spouse will become closer to the best version of who God made you both to be, which means your marriage will be closer to God’s best for it too!

Again, this doesn’t make the pain of tough times disappear … but it does mean that God can reach in to all things, and work them for good. I hope that encourages you today.

Read Next on Thriving Marriages  Actually, Communication in Marriage Isn’t What’s Most Important. What Is Might Surprise You.

VIDEO Marriage, Divorce, and Singleness

John MacArthur Nov 21, 2010

Open your Bible to 1 Corinthians chapter 7, and we’re going to do something that I don’t do very often. We’re going to cover forty verses tonight, so you’re going to have to stay with us on this, and this is going to be a very, very rich experience.

We have looked the last two Sunday mornings at Mark chapter 10, at our Lord’s teaching on the subject of marriage and divorce, and we now come to the apostle Paul who helps us with some of the implications of what our Lord taught. And actually, he even expands on what our Lord taught. Now let me show you something of the essence of this by pointing out a few verses in chapter 7. Verse 10, “To the married, I give instructions, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband.” Paul is saying, “I’m going to tell you something that doesn’t come only from me, but it comes from the Lord.” So he’s referring back to the teaching of the Lord.

However, in verse 12 he says, “This time to the rest, I say, not the Lord.” He doesn’t mean that this isn’t from heaven, he doesn’t mean it’s not inspired, he simply means “I am not quoting our Lord this time,” referring in verse 10 back to the fact that God hates divorce, and our Lord affirmed that, as we saw in Mark 10, “I’m giving you instructions that come directly from the Lord.” Here he says, “This doesn’t come directly from the Lord, but I say if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her.” Now he’s gone beyond the teaching of the Lord into new areas of divine revelation, no less from God but just not quoting the Lord.

Verse 25, concerning virgins, “I have no command of the Lord.” (“I can’t go back and quote Jesus on this, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy. This is coming from me, but you can count on it because God has mercifully enabled me to speak the truth.”) And even at the end of the chapter in the final verse, he says, “I consider that I also have the Spirit of God.” (“This is not coming from me, but it is rather coming from the Holy Spirit.”)

So at no point in this chapter does Paul intend to say that I’m going to be teaching you something that the Lord is not speaking about. He is simply saying I am teaching you something that I cannot find in the precise scriptural record of the teaching of Jesus. It is no less from the Spirit, it is no less trustworthy.

Now, as you work through these forty verses, the best way, I think, to do this is to understand that he’s dealing with the Corinthian church. And in the Corinthian church, there were all kinds of issues, as you know, and marriage was one of them, marital status was a huge, huge issue. And, apparently, as so often in the epistles of Paul, he is answering specific questions that have been brought up to him and trying to clarify things that the people need to know. His teaching is equal to the teaching of Jesus. It is inspired, it is in no way inferior, it is in every sense binding and authoritative on us, but not all of it comes specifically and directly from Jesus.

The background, however, of what he’s doing here is the Corinthian chaos. People in the Corinthian church didn’t come out of a Jewish background, so they didn’t have an Old Testament view of marriage and divorce, even a convoluted one like the Jews we talked about today. They came out of paganism. They came out of godlessness and worldliness, and myriad marital problems and entanglements and misunderstandings existed.

For example, here would be a typical scenario that would exist in the Corinthian church with a whole group of converted Gentiles. Rome had no uniform marriage law. They would be under the influence of the Roman Empire. And the Empire contained, for example, many slaves and many of the believers were slaves. A marriage in the strict and legal sense did not even exist for slaves. A master could allow what was called contubernium or, literally, tent companionship – living together, we would say. This was entered by slaves without a ceremony and could be ended if the master chose to end it, and at any point he could sell one of the slaves, and that would virtually end it anyway. It is like today’s “live-in” sex partners.

Since many early Christians were slaves, it is very likely that they had lived in such unions in the past and maybe in multiple unions and maybe even in the present. Now what? What’s their status?

Beyond the slaves, for the common people, there was a custom called usus, U-S-U-S. It specified if a woman had dwelt with a man for a year, she was his wife. That would be what we call common-law marriage, only in America, I think it’s seven years. Another way of marrying for common people was called coemptio in manum, marriage by sale. You went to a man who was a little low on cash and you bought his daughter. This is a rather traditional way, kind of the dowry. The father would sell his daughter to a husband with money.

Now, if you get beyond the common people, you get to the upper classes and the noble people, a little more of the elite folks, they had marriage called confarreatio. They actually had a ceremony, the noble people. They had a joining of right hands. They said vows. They prayed prayers to Jupiter and to Juno. They had rings, by the way, they had rings and you could find in ancient Roman literature the fact that they cut up a cadaver and somebody named Aulus Gellius cut up cadavers and said that there was a nerve that ran from the third finger on the left hand directly to the heart and so the ring should be put on the third finger of the left hand. That was part of the ceremony. They had wreaths, veils, flowers, and cake, so guess where your wedding came from. An old Roman tradition picked up by the Roman Catholic Church and standardized.

The moral character of life in the Roman world and life around Corinth was low. Divorce was high where marriage even existed. And with the slaves, where marriage really didn’t exist, the changing of partners was a rather constant issue. And even the common people in their sort of informal covenants together broke them and went to other people. On top of that, immorality was rampant. In fact, you can find in the literature that the Romans had wives for the cooking and the care of the house and concubines for their sexual needs. Concubinage was everywhere, fornication was everywhere, adultery was rampant. It was a horrible world.

There was even a women’s liberation movement. Jerome Carcopino has a wonderful little book, if you can ever find one, it’s called Daily Life in Ancient Rome in which he goes back and digs out all the history of these things and he says there was a women’s liberation movement around biblical times in which, quote, “Some women were not content to live their lives by their husband’s side but carried on another life without him.” Another writer says, “What modesty can you expect in a woman who wears a helmet, hates her own sex, and delights in feats of strength?” Hmm. We have some of those in our society.

The same writer (Juvenal) says, “Thus does she lord it over her husband, but before long, she vacates her kingdom, flits from one house to another, wearing out her bridal veil,” end quote, by overuse.

So marriage in Paul’s day is a disaster, like in our day, chaotic. And, of course, among the Corinthians now that have come to Christ and they have been taught the standard of one man, one woman for life in a true covenant, a real covenant, a public covenant before God and before others, they have all kinds of questions, and the questions are the best way to break down this chapter.

Now, there are always those people who come up with the idea of no marriage, no sexual relationships at all. That would be like Mother Ann Lee, who was the mother of no one, of course, since she didn’t believe in having any relationship with a man. She started a group called the Shakers that quickly went out of existence, for obvious reasons. They had this notion that any kind of physical relationship was evil and wicked and sinful and that took care of their operation pretty fast, really.

So the first question that we could sort of form as we jump into this chapter – and this must be behind what is going on as the chapter opens – is to ask the question: Are normal physical relationships between a man and a woman somehow wrong? Are they unspiritual?

Let’s start. Chapter 7 verse 1, “Now concerning the things about which you wrote,” and that’s why we believe these are questions that need to be answered because he’s referring directly to something that was written and sent to him, the apostle Paul, “concerning the things about which you wrote.” And you can imagine what was in that letter based upon the history that I just described to you, based upon the culture. So first, it is good for a man not to touch a woman. That’s a euphemism for sexual relationships. It is good, it’s okay. It’s good not to have sexual relationships.

That is to say, it’s not evil. It’s good. It falls within the realm of goodness, kalos. It’s okay. Celibacy is all right. It’s honorable. It’s excellent. It’s all right not to marry. It’s all right to stay single. It’s all right never to do that. But, verse 2, “The general rule, however, because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife and each woman is to have her own husband.” Why? Because of what? Immoralities. You say, “I want to stay single all my life.” Huh. Well, singleness is good if it is not the cause of sexual sin.

The general rule is: Get married. The reason is simple. Because of temptation – because of temptation. There is no place for fornication – that’s the word there translated “immoralities” in the NAS. The fact of life is that if you try to stay single, as good as celibacy can be, marriage is the norm, and marriage is better if being single results in temptation. I want you to know that Paul doesn’t say get married because you find somebody that you like. He says, really, get married because you’re running at a very high risk of life if you don’t.

There are six reasons for marriage that I jotted down. Procreation, Genesis 1:28; pleasure, Hebrews 13:4, the bed is not defiled, it’s undefiled, pleasure; purity, right here; provision, you take a wife in order that you might protect her and care for her and nourish her and cherish her as the Lord does the church; partnership, not good to be alone, you need a helper; and picture, a picture of Christ in the church. But right in the middle of that is this notion of purity. Each man is to have his own wife and each woman is to have her own husband. Verse 3, “The husband then must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.”

So Paul is saying – there are some people saying, “Well, should we just stay single? Should we just be celibate? Should we see sex as evil?” Why would they say that? Because it mostly was in their world. It was just immorality everywhere, fornication everywhere, adultery everywhere, all the time, by everybody. And so some of them think they’re taking the noble high ground and saying, you know, “Maybe we just don’t do that at all” because it was a pornographic culture, it was a debased culture.

You know, it’s nothing new for that to be the conclusion that people make in a time of debased living. I think there were many mediaeval monks who made that conclusion, that the high ground was to be celibate. They were seeing sexual relationships of any kind in any relationship as some kind of a defilement. But Paul says, “Look, it’s okay to be single, it’s okay to live without any relationships with the opposite sex, but it’s a whole lot better to marry because of immoralities. And then when you do marry, you have the duty to fulfill to each other.”

That duty, obviously, is to render the physical affection that is consistent and God ordained for the procreation and the pleasure of people in a marriage. In fact, the duty is so high in a marriage that the wife doesn’t even have authority over her own body, the husband does. And likewise, the husband doesn’t have authority over his own body, but the wife does. So stop depriving one another. Paul says that’s not what God is asking. You look at the culture you live in and the history you come from in the past and all of that and maybe you want to say – the high ground, the noble ground in this sex-saturated, sex-mad culture is to just say, “I’ll never do that, I’m going to live a life of complete abstinence, and this is the level of purity.”

Paul says, that’s good, that’s not wrong, that’s not bad. But for most people, that’s going to lead to immorality, so have your own wife, have your own husband, and fulfill your duties to each other, and do not deprive each other of that. Unless (verse 5) by agreement for a time so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. If there is some exigency in your life, some trauma in your life, some issue in your life which, much like fasting from food, consumes you with sadness and sorrow, these kinds of things flee your mind, you agree to that. But come together again. Why? So that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. Don’t do that. You give Satan opportunity.

So the opposite is true. You think that you’ll be more pure by withholding that. The truth is you’re going to go right down the path that Satan wants you to go, into sin, because you’re going to be tempted because of your inability to exercise self-control. Get married for the sake of purity, and when you’re married, fulfill your marriage covenant physically, do not deprive each other except for some great spiritual cause, and come back together again so that you don’t put yourself in a position that Satan would tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Now, Paul says this in verse 6, “I say this by way of concession, not of command. Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.” What he is saying is, “Look, celibacy is a gift. It’s a gift. And I’m just conceding the fact, not commanding it. I can’t command celibacy because that wouldn’t be right. But I would, by way of concession, say, ‘I wish you were like me,’” which is to say that he’s what? He’s not married.

Was he ever married? Most of us think he was because he was a member of the Sanhedrin, and you had to be married to be a member of the Sanhedrin. What happened to his wife? Who knows, we don’t know. We don’t think he left her at home and took off for the rest of his life. So he probably lost his wife in death. He says to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians chapter 9, “A man has a right to lead about a wife,” has that right, but Paul did not exercise that right, and it was based upon the fact that each man has his own gift from God.

And this is what we talk about, the gift of singleness – the gift of singleness. And that is a gift. If you drop down to verse 32, “I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord, but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided,” verse 34.

So there are some benefits to being single, if you have been given by God the gift. Each man has his own gift. Celibacy is a gift. And you remember the disciples back in Matthew 19? We read that today. The disciples said to Jesus (after His teaching on divorce), “It’s better not to get married.” And what did Jesus say? But not all men can handle that. Not everybody can handle that. It’s okay. It’s good. It’s honorable. It has great potential to keep you single-minded and focused. But it’s a gift, it’s a unique gift.

The gift is best known by those who feel strong, complete comfort in being single and no strong desire for a partner, for an intimate partner, a life partner. It’s an option. But please don’t conclude that there’s anything wrong with the God-given gift of physical intimacy. Singleness, the last thing that God wants out of singleness is sexual promiscuity. Be single if that’s not a problem. If that’s a problem, get married.

All right, the next question on their mind, probably on that letter he got from them, “Should the formerly married remarry?” And verse 8 is where he starts to talk about this, shifting gears, “But I say to the unmarried and to widows” – these would be two categories of formerly married people. A widow is someone whose spouse died, right? Everybody knows that, it’s universally understood. But who are unmarried people? Well, they can’t be widows because it’s the unmarried and the widows. Now, there are only two ways that you can be married and then not be married. You either were widowed or you were divorced. That has to be what that means.

So to those who have been divorced (called the unmarried) and to widows, “it is good for them if they remain even as I.” The unmarried are the formerly married, the agamosgamos, the married idea, and then a, the alpha privative, divorced people. Verse 11, “If she leaves, she must remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband.” Again, the same meaning has to be in view. Down in verse 34, you have the unmarried and the virgin. The unmarried aren’t the widows and the unmarried aren’t the virgins. So who are the unmarried? They have to be the people who were married and now are no longer married.

So formerly married people, now single by death, widows, or single by divorce, unmarried, what does Paul say? Verse 8, Well, it’s good, again it’s good to be single, so it’s good to stay single. It’s good so that you can serve, so that you can be free as verses 32, 33, and 34 were pointed out to you. But look at verse 9. If they do not have self-control, let them what? Marry. It’s better to marry than to burn. Not burn in hell but burn with desire. It’s fine. You were married, now you’re single, be single, stay single, stay focused, live your life that way. That is preferable. I think that’s great advice from the apostle Paul, great advice. But if you need to be married, if that’s a problem physically, get married.

And you remember in 1 Timothy 5:14, the apostle Paul makes this very clear when he’s talking about widows there. He says, “I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, give the enemy no occasion for reproach, for some have already turned aside to follow Satan.” You don’t want a lot of young widows with all their desires being vulnerable to evil things around them. Stay single if you’re able. Paul was able and he was focused, and he was given that gift. It indicates that God can give that gift even after marriage if He so desires.

Be convinced that God has allowed your singleness for holy purposes – for holy purposes. Pour your life into the kingdom. This is picked up in verse 26, “I think, then, that this is good in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Don’t seek to be released. If you’re released from a wife, don’t seek a wife.” If you can handle that, it’s good because it’s tough in the world. The world they lived in was like the world we live in. “But if you do marry, you haven’t sinned and if a virgin marries, she hasn’t sinned.” They were asking those kinds of questions.

This abstinence idea had apparently taken over. It’s okay to marry, it’s okay to stay single. Yet when you do, you’ll have trouble in this life, and I’m trying to spare you. If you can be single, it simplifies your life. It narrows down the realm of your trouble. You got enough trouble with yourself, you marry somebody, and now you got two people, two sinners colliding. And you have a bunch of children, and you’ve got six sinners smashing into each other, and it just keeps going.

There’s something to be said for just one sinner. It lowers the level of conflict. However, this assumes that one can deal with that kind of situation. And in verse 29 he even says, “The time has been shortened, so from now on, those who have wives should be as though they had none, those who weep as though they didn’t weep, those who rejoice as though they didn’t rejoice, those who buy although they didn’t possess, those who use the world as though they didn’t make full use of it, for the form of this world is passing away.” Paul is saying, if you can stay single, it simplifies your life and you can pour your solo life into the kingdom, but you have to have the gift to do that or it just becomes a horrendous means of temptation.

So the question, then, is: Is sexual activity unspiritual? No. Singleness is good. Marriage is good, if you don’t have the gift of singleness. Should the formerly married remarry? Yes, if they desire to be married because it’s better to marry than to burn. But if you can be single, be single and focus on the kingdom.

Another question apparently is raised here: What are the alternatives for those who are married? What are the alternatives for those who are married? Now, understand what happens. Maybe, let’s say, a wife comes to hear the gospel, she believes in the gospel, she is saved, and now she’s got an unconverted husband. Is she in a situation where she is unequally yoked together with an unbeliever? Is she having a relationship with a person who is part of the kingdom of Satan? Is this Christ with Belial, you know, in the language of Paul in the 2 Corinthian letter?

Is this light and darkness joined together? Is this sin and righteousness joined together? They were asking these kinds of questions. And, of course, the Lord’s teaching was no divorce. So the question comes, what are the alternatives for those that are married? Verse 10, “To the married” – those of you who are married. Now, before, he was talking to those who were what? Single. If you can stay single, it’s good, but it’s better to marry, if that’s what you need.

Now he’s going to talk to the married. “I give instructions, and not I but the Lord,” and here, this is directly from the Lord (Matthew 5, Matthew 19, Mark 10) the wife shouldn’t leave her husband. Why? Because God hates divorce and because God joins together every couple. What God has joined together, let not man separate. So he reiterates what the Lord taught. God hates divorce. Don’t divorce. One man, one woman, in one union, the indivisible one, for life, no separation.

Now you come to verse 12. “To the rest, I say” – not the Lord, this is from me, the Lord hasn’t got any instruction on this specifically – “if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever and she consents to live with him” – this is the opposite situation. But in this case, this is a brother who has a wife and in this case she’s the unbeliever but she wants to live with him. Should he divorce her just because she’s an unbeliever? The answer: No, he must not divorce her.

And a woman, verse 13, who has an unbelieving husband and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband or divorce her husband. Why? “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for, otherwise, your children are unclean but now they are holy.” What is that saying? That is saying, “Look, if your unbelieving partner loves you and wants to stay with you, you stay in that marriage.”

Why? Because you become the sanctifying instrument in the life of that nonbeliever and in the lives of the children of that union because you are the one receiving the grace of God that is being poured out on your life that will spill over to those unbelieving people and to your husband or your wife and your children. Instead of the Christian – listen – being defiled by the unbeliever, the unbeliever is cleansed by the presence of the Christian. We’re not talking about salvation here, we’re simply talking about the pure, wonderful blessings of God falling on a believer and spilling over to a nonbeliever and making a purer, cleaner, lovelier home.

God pours out His blessings on His redeemed and on the children of His redeemed. So it’s the opposite of what they were thinking (I need to shake that partner because he’s a pagan, he’ll defile me). No, you’ll be the means of sanctifying influence on him.

However, verse 15 creates another scenario. If the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave. Let him leave. Literally, if he takes himself out, that’s the verb, if he eliminates himself, chōrizō, technical term, really, for divorce. “If an unbeliever divorces a believer, let him leave. The brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.” Here is the second exception for divorce. The first is adultery, we saw that in Matthew 19, Matthew 5. Second one is an unbeliever divorces a believer.

You are not under bondage. The bondage is broken, the bond is broken. You are no longer bound. Romans 7. The married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living. If her husband dies, she is released from that law. Same language here. If an unbeliever leaves, you are not bound. What does that mean? The union has been broken, you no longer are bound by it, which then assumes that you have the right to remarry if a nonbeliever leaves because God has called us to peace, and the blessings of peace are what God wants for His children.

You say, “Well, I think I’ll just hang on until the dying day. I think I’ll fight this guy all the way to the end. I think I’ll make it really impossible for him to divorce me because I want to see him saved.” Good. However, verse 16 is written for you. “How do you know” – “How do you know, O wife, whether you’ll save your husband?” That’s pretty practical, isn’t it? Marriage is not an evangelistic tool. It’s an evangelistic context, but don’t think that just by hanging onto this guy that somehow you’re going to save him. How do you know whether you’ll save him? Or how do you know, husband, whether you’ll save your wife?

That’s not the point. You have no knowledge of that. When the unconverted person is determined to leave and seeks a divorce, you don’t need to perpetuate the tension and the frustration and the hatred and the animosity under some notion that you might be the only person on the planet who can be the instrument of salvation. That’s for God to decide.

Well, the summary comes in verse 17, and this answers another question: Should salvation change our marital status? That’s kind of what we’ve been dealing with. “Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk.” Salvation doesn’t really change anything. Now that you’re a believer, you don’t have to give up sex, throw out your partner – doesn’t change anything. If you – he gives some illustrations and analogies. “Was any man called when he was already circumcised?” If you were saved when you were Jewish, you can stay that way.

Don’t become uncircumcised. If you were called in uncircumcision, don’t be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God. And that’s simply an analogy and an illustration to say everybody remains in the condition in which he was called. So if you were saved single, that doesn’t change. If you were saved married, that doesn’t change. If you were saved and all of a sudden your unconverted spouse wants to divorce you, stay the way you are. Stay the way you are.

“Were you called while a slave?” Verse 21. Don’t worry about it. If you’re able to be free, do that. If there’s a path to freedom, take it. For he who was called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freed man. You’re free in Him anyway. Likewise, he who was called while free is Christ’s slave. You were bought with a price, don’t become slaves of men. Don’t let anybody dictate what you ought to do. “Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called.”

So how does that work out? You come, you receive the Lord Jesus Christ, you’re a converted husband, you have an unsaved wife. You’re a converted wife, you have an unsaved husband. What are you supposed to do? Withhold from him a physical relationship? Divorce him? Throw him out of the house? No, stay where you are. Stay where you are. You’re single and you come to Christ. Are you now supposed to be a monk the rest of your life? Are you supposed to be celibate the rest of your life? No. If you have that gift, fine. If you don’t, get married – get married.

Single or married, whatever God wills in whatever situation you’re in, stay that way. This is so important because Christianity was never intended to just rip and shred families; the very opposite is true. And unless that unbeliever wants to leave, you become the sanctifying influence for the one that stays.

So is our sexual relationship somehow unspiritual? No. Should those saved after they’re widowed or divorced remarry? Yes, you have the freedom to remarry or stay single, whatever is God’s will for you. What are the alternatives, then, for married people, to Christians? No divorce. And if you do leave, you don’t remarry anybody else and you come back to your husband. Those are your two options. If you’re married to a non-Christian, the non-Christian decides to divorce you, let it happen. You’re free to remarry.

Now, there’s another question in Paul’s mind at this point and it has to do with virgins. Verse 25. Now concerning virgins – these are the never married. We’ve dealt with the single and the married and the widowed and the formerly married, divorced, and now we get around to the virgins. Now, this is probably what was going on – now, get the big picture. They’ve got this sexually perverted culture, they want to distance themselves from the world, and so they come to the conclusion that if they just distance themselves completely from physical relationships, this is going to be the spiritual high ground.

Therefore, there would be people who had never been married, men and women, virgins would cover men and women who’d never married. They’d never known a man, to borrow the biblical euphemism. What do they do? Do they just stay that way? Parthenoi. It is used in Revelation 14:4 one time to refer to men. That’s why I say, it can be men or women, most often used to refer to women. These are people who had never had a relationship.

So “I have no command of the Lord.” The Lord didn’t say anything – the Lord didn’t say anything. “However, I will give you my judgment,” literally, “as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy” or faithful. “I will give you a faithful judgment as one who is trustworthy” because he is inspired by the Lord. “I think, then, that this is good, in view of the present distress, that it is good for a man to remain as he is.”

So if you can be single – back to verse 1, verse 8 – stay single. Hard times are coming. They were, by the way, about seventeen years from the first general persecution under Domitian, the sixth emperor of Rome, and it was a massacre and a bloodletting of Christians. So he’s saying, look, if you’re single and you’ve never been married, so you’re not now married to a believer or non-believer, you’re not divorced, you’re not widowed, you’re in the category of never having been married, boy, that’s a good place to be in.

That’s a good place because of the present distress, the challenges that are coming on us. It’s going to be a tough world. A few years from now, some of you are going to – you’re going to be killed. Diocletian’s persecution stretched across the Roman world. But – verse 28 – we already read 26 and 27 – verse 28, “If you marry, you haven’t sinned, and if a virgin marries, she hasn’t sinned.”

Are you beginning to get the picture of what they were asking him? That singleness seems to be the right thing, no sexual relationship seems to be the right thing. And he’s setting all that aside. Look, there’s trouble in the world, singleness is great because you’re not going to bring a family into the world and then watch your children being burned at the stake, your wife. There’s something to be said for being single in a time of terrible, frightening persecution. But if you marry, you haven’t sinned. And if a virgin marries, she hasn’t sinned. “Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I’m trying to spare you.”

You’ll have thlipsis, the word for trouble, pressure. You’ll be crushed. It literally means to be pressed. Because we understand that, don’t we? The single person worries about his own life. The married person, all of a sudden he worries about his wife and he worries about his children or she worries about her husband and her children.

And then he says in verse 29, “Look, it’s a short time, life, it’s a short time. For some of you, it’s a very short time because you’re going to get caught in the persecution. So from now on, those who have wives should be as though they had none. Those who weep as though they didn’t weep, and those who rejoice as though they didn’t rejoice, and those who buy as though they didn’t possess, and those who use the world as though they didn’t make full use of it, for the form of this world is passing away.”

Marriage has no relation to the eternal, right? You remember when they said to Jesus, “Whose wife shall she be in heaven?” And Jesus said, “In heaven, there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage.” This is good advice. Paul says the pressure of the system, the problems of the flesh, living in this life, and the passing of the world means that if you can concentrate on the eternal things in dire times, you simplify your life. We’re all going to have to simplify. We’re all going to have to pull things in. We’re all going to have to live in these difficult, difficult times. But for single people, life is simpler and not nearly as threatening or painful.

In verse 32, he adds, “I want you to be free from concern, and one who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife.” And that’s exactly what he ought to be concerned about, exactly.

Married folks have divided preoccupations, divided responsibility. His interests are divided, verse 34. “The woman who is unmarried and the virgin” – that’s the formerly married one who is now unmarried, either by widowhood or divorce – “is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit. One who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.” And that’s exactly what she ought to be concerned about.

And the things of the world, this doesn’t mean sinful things, just means the issues of life. “But I say this for your benefit, not to put a restraint on you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.” You know, Paul was living this as a single man who had once been married, and he understood the single focus of this. He advises these virgins in the same way that he advised the formerly married in this passage and says, “Stay where you are. If you’re married, stay married. If you’re single and you can do it, stay single. And if you’re a virgin and you can deal with that, stay that way – stay that way.”

So the bottom line here, up to this point, is that becoming a Christian does not of necessity mean that you have to make some dramatic alteration of your marital status. That’s not what the Lord requires.

Two more questions remain here. Should fathers spare their daughters the difficulties of marriage and keep them virgins for life? Oh, boy, some really well-intentioned fathers were saying “Well, I don’t want you marrying some of these men in the world out there. I don’t want to have you deal with all of that, all the immorality that may have been a part of their lives in the past.” You can understand this. A father comes to Christ, the father’s in the church, he’s got young daughters that are coming up. There are other men in the church. There are the young men in the church, single men in the church, but their lives before Christ have been very sinful lives.

And so this Christian father says to his daughters that he’s raising in the things of Christ, “I don’t want you to get married. I don’t want you to do that. I want you to be pure. I want you to be devoted to Christ. I want you to be focused on the life of the church. I’ll take care of you, as your father. I’ll care for your life. You can stay at home and you can spend your life in the service of the Lord and honoring the Lord. So, apparently, some of these fathers thought this was really a great idea.

Paul needs to answer that. Verse 36, “If any man thinks he’s acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter, if she’s past her youth and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes. He doesn’t sin, let her marry.” You know what had happened? Some fathers were making a promise, “I’m going to keep you a virgin. I’m going to protect you from this wicked, sinful world. I’m going to protect you from these men. I’m not going to put you in a position to be married and deal with all the troubles of life. I’m going to take care of you.”

And then the girl gets older, she comes into maturity, and she’s past her childhood, and she wants to get married. And he’s kind of stuck and he’s saying, “Well, what do I do?” He now thinks he’s acting unbecomingly toward his daughter. She doesn’t want this. So Paul says, “Let her marry – let her marry. But, on the other hand,” verse 37, “he who stands firm in his heart being under no constraint but has authority over his own will and has decided this in his own heart to keep his own virgin daughter, he will do well.”

So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well and he who doesn’t give her in marriage will do well if this pleases her. But if it gets to the point where this is now an action that is unbecoming to her, that is irritating to her, that she doesn’t desire, that she doesn’t want, let her marry. So if she wants to stay single, keep her, care for her, let her invest her life in the kingdom and the advance of the gospel. But if she wants to get married, let her marry.

God can lead through fathers. I have to believe that. But sometimes we may have plans that just really don’t make sense. Fathers in those days made contracts and probably some of these fathers had made some kind of covenant. You know, we have some of that going on today. People making covenants of abstinence and things like that. That’s fine for single people. But it would be silly for a father to say this is a life covenant, because you really don’t know until time passes and a daughter reaches some level of maturity whether or not she can deal with being single or being married. In any case, a father who cares for a daughter and she stays home and focuses on the Lord and the kingdom does well, if that’s her desire, a father who lets her marry does well as well.

Well, there’s nothing left except two verses: Should widows remarry? Should widows remarry? We can put divorce in here as well. A wife is bound as long as her husband lives but if her husband’s dead, she’s free to be married to whom she wishes, with one provision – what is it? – only what? Only in the Lord. Only marry believers. Only in the Lord. “In my opinion, however, she’s happier if she remains as she is.” That’s just an opinion. He said, “Look, I can just tell you, as a man who was married and a man who is single, it’s simpler. And I consider that in saying this, I’m giving you the mind of the Holy Spirit.”

And I say this to you that are single, particularly. If you can remain single in the service of Christ, do so, but not to the jeopardy of your purity. If that’s an issue, get married. And if that’s an issue, don’t postpone your marriage because marriage postponed constitutes an illegitimate single life. If you don’t have the gift of singleness, get married. It always makes me shudder a little bit when somebody says, “Yeah, we’ve decided to get married.” “Oh, great. When are you getting married?” “A year from March.” “Oh, really? Just exactly what might happen between now and then, do you have any idea?”

I’m a believer in – like you give the girl a ring and within sixty days, you’re married. You say, “Oh, we can’t plan the wedding.” Forget that, forget that. What do you mean, plan the wedding? Look, I have a plan, I have a plan. We do the weddings here, we do them sometime on the Lord’s day in the afternoon, and we just have all the people who want to get married come up. Don’t have to pay anything, everybody use the same flowers, we just have a big time. The church is here. We sing a lot of great songs, we have a great time.

One pastor tried that. And at the end of the – they do that in Russia, by the way, I’ve been to those services and I’ve been to the weddings that happen immediately after the Sunday morning service – they’re really wonderful. One pastor said, “I’m going to do that.” He got up after a sermon and he said, “Will those, then, who are wishing to be married, please come forward.” And it’s a fact that three bachelors and forty-two old maids came. So you have to put some limits on how that works. I mean you got to have your partner picked before the Sunday that you show up in the front, okay?

Well, all of that to say Paul gives us some great practical help here – doesn’t he? – in this chapter. Really wonderful choices here. Isn’t that like our Lord who gives us such grace – such wonderful grace? For single people, don’t delay. If God’s designed you for marriage, get married. If you’re divorced or widowed and you can stay single, stay single. If not, and you have grounds for remarriage, get married. If you’re widowed and you can stay single, stay single; if not, get married. If you’re married to a believer, remain. If you’re married to a nonbeliever and he wants to stay or she wants to stay, remain, and be a sanctifying blessing to the family. And if you’re married to an unbeliever who wants out, let him go. You’re not in bondage to that person.

You say, “Well, look, I’m so far down the line, I’ve already messed up all that.” Well, you’ll be glad to know if we confess our sins, He’s faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, right? It’s all about His forgiveness. There must have been many such in Corinth who were seeking His forgiveness. Accept His grace and live from now on the way He commands us to live.

Father, it’s been exciting the last three weeks to just dig into this a little bit and to have hopefully a better understanding of your truth on this, and we know that what you give us is for our good. It is so that we can put ourselves in the place of maximum joy and maximum blessing, and we all need forgiveness, Lord, for so many things in our lives. And there are folks who, in this congregation tonight, are feeling some of the pain of breaking your law in the past, but you’re a God of forgiveness and you cleanse us from all our sins according to the riches of your grace that are provided for us endlessly and boundlessly in Christ. And all you ask of us is that we confess, that we repent, and that we start a pattern of obedience in our lives now. I pray, Lord, that your grace would be upon all of us and that your power would be on us to enable us to live as you would have us live, whether single or married, whatever it is you have for us, may we know that clearly, may we live joyfully in the midst of that. And would you provide for us what we so much need in order to be the people you want us to be. We thank you. In your Son’s name. Amen.

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-359

Waiting till the wedding night – getting married the right way

 By Steven Crowder Published September 14, 2012 Last Update May 7, 2015

The author and his wife on his wedding day in August 2012.

The author and his wife on his wedding day in August 2012. (Courtesy of the author.)

As anyone who’s read my abstinence column here at Fox News Opinion could guess, my wedding is something that I’ve looked forward to for quite some time. After having tied the knot at the end of August, I can now say beyond all shadow of a doubt, that it was everything I’d hoped and prayed that it would be since childhood. (I’d also prayed to be bitten by a radioactive spider and develop sticky hands, but… I was an idiot.)

Let me preface this column by saying this: my wife (I have to get used to saying that) and I not only waited sexually in every way (no, we didn’t pull the Bill Clinton and technically avoid “sex” sex,) but we didn’t shack up as live-ins and most importantly, we courted each other in a way that was consistent with our publicly professed values.

We did it right.

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Feeling judged? I couldn’t care less. You know why? Because my wife and I were judged all throughout our relationship. People laughed, scoffed and poked fun at the young, celibate, naive Christian couple.

We’d certainly never make it to the wedding without schtupping, and if we did, our “wedding night would be awkward and terrible,” they said.

Turns out that people couldn’t have been more wrong.  Looking back, I think that the women saying those things felt like the floozies they ultimately were, and the men, with their fickle manhood tied to their pathetic sexual conquests, felt threatened.

I think it’s important to write this column not to gloat (though I’ll be glad to), but to speak up for all of the young couples that have also done things the right way. When people do marriage right, they don’t complain so much, and so their voices are silenced by the rabble of promiscuous charlatans, peddling their pathetic world view as “progressive.”

Our wedding was perfect. Our wedding night was nothing short of amazing. I write this on a plane heading into a tropical paradise with the most beautiful woman to have walked the planet earth. I know everybody says that their bride was the “most beautiful in the world.”  They’re wrong. I win.

I’d like to tell you a story of our morning after, however. One that transpired into one of the most glaring epiphanies I’d ever had.

As my wife (again, still not used to that) and I ate breakfast at a local inn, we discussed how excited we were to start the rest of our lives together, how scary it was that everything was now so different. At the same time, we overheard the table next to us discussing their very own wedding from the night prior. What a coincidence!

“The thing is, nothing’s really changed,” the bride said.

Puzzled, my wife asked, “Did you get married last night too? So did we!”

“Congratulations!” the other dame said. “Yeah we did, just last night.”

“Where’s the groom?” my wife innocently… scratch that, naively asked.

“Oh, he’s sleeping. There was no way he was coming out with me this morning!” She paused and smirked. “Let’s just say that he’s got a lingering headache from a really good time last night.”

My heart sank. Firstly, that poor schmuck’s “good time” was simply getting snookered. Not enjoying the company of close family and long-lost friends with a clear head and clean conscience, not staring in awe at his beautiful new wife, wanting to soak in every glimmer of her eyes as she shot him heart-racing looks from across the dance floor, not taking all of the cheesy pictures as they cut the cake, not even carrying her across that suite threshold as they nervously anticipated their “nightcap.” He probably won’t remember any of it. Instead, he got smashed. He was “that guy”… at his own freaking wedding.

Then I realized something. Our wedding was truly a once in a lifetime event. It was a God’s-honest celebration of two completely separate lives now becoming one. Physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually, everything that made us who we were individually was becoming what bonded us together. Our family traveled from far and wide to celebrate the decision of two young people to truly commit themselves to each other, and selflessly give themselves to one another in a way that they never had before that very night.

The people next to us that morning? Well, theirs was just one big party.  And the morning after? Just another hangover.

Our “weddings” were the same event in name only. They know it, and we know it.

Do yours the right way.  If you’re young and wondering whether you should wait, whether you should just give in, become a live-in harlot/mimbo and do it the world’s way.  If you’re wondering whether all of the mocking, the ridicule, the incredible difficulty of saving yourself for your spouse is worth it, let me tell you without a doubt that it is. Your wedding can be the most memorable day and night of your life… or just another party.

Oops. Did I just make a “judgment?”  You’re darn right I did.

Steven Crowder is a comedian and Fox News contributor. Follow him on Twitter@scrowder.

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/waiting-till-the-wedding-night-getting-married-the-right-way

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.

Read Next on Thriving Marriages  You Can Choose a Good Marriage, Starting Today.

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.

Read Next on Thriving Marriages  5 TED Talks for Your Marriage

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.”