That Perfect Married Couple

By Kathy Pollard

Do you know that perfect married couple?  They look happy together.  They’re always holding hands and seem to have it all figured out.  People look to them for advice.  They’re the hashtag-relationship-goals of social media.  I could name some couples that fall into this category for me.  I’m grateful for their example of marital bliss, and their PDA posts make me smile.

Neal and I are not that perfect married couple.  A superficial glimpse might make it appear that we are.  We do hold hands.  We do say nice things to and about each other on social media.  We’ve been asked to teach the occasional marriage seminar.  And so every now and then someone will remark on our relationship as being “exemplary” or some other thoughtful description.  I thank them because I appreciate their kindness but inwardly I cringe and think, “Far from it.”  We agree to teach about marriage because we can study what God’s Word has to say about it.  After nearly 27 years together, we can share some lessons we’ve learned from experience (some of them the hard way).  But we have had our own struggles and are still learning and growing, one year at a time.  We’ve hurt each other and let each other down.  As a wife, I’ve been guilty of lying, betraying, sulking, and manipulating.  Some of those hurtful things I knew I was doing in the moment.  Some of them I only realized later when I looked back over my behavior.  Our marriage has had rocky times because of the pressures of trials.  And our marriage has had rough patches because of the consequences of our own choices.  We’ve had to practice forgiveness, patience, and grace.  No, we are not that perfect married couple.

But we are a married couple and our God is perfect.

I’ve been reminded of this truth a couple of times this week.  Take a look at these “perfect” couples.

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I met this couple last night.  They got married at ages 15 and 17, and have been married for 55 years.  I asked them separately what has held them together for over half a century, especially since they started out so young.  Without hesitating, each of them said, “God.”  For them, it was as simple as that.  When they were standing together again, I pointed out that they each gave the same one-word answer.  She laughed and said, “Without God, I would’ve kicked him out a long time ago!”  They went on to add other advice, like the importance of giving 100% instead of 50/50 (and making that determination each new day).

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I met this couple two nights ago.  They’ve been married for 67 years!  It didn’t take long to figure out what has held them together.  She told me their first date was at Mammoth Cave.  He nodded and said, “I should’ve left her down there.”  He shared their secret to commitment:  “Divorce never crossed our minds.  Murder did, once or twice, but divorce was never an option.”  We all laughed and they looked at each other with a twinkle in their eyes that gave me a glimpse of the young couple they once were.  I loved their sense of humor and strong faith (made obvious by supporting a gospel meeting on a weeknight).  I imagine 67 years has given them a few stories of hardships and struggles but they are still together, still sharing some laughs, and still holding hands.

These are the real, perfect married couples.  I don’t know them well enough to see beyond the superficial.  But I do know that they’ve entrusted their marriages to their perfect God.  How blessed we are to enjoy life together, find reasons to smile, and keep holding hands despite our imperfections!

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us (Eph. 3:20).

God Will Be by Your Side, and I’ll Be on Your Other Side

Every now and then I get caught up in the what-if’s.  This afternoon was just such an occasion.  I was worrying about something to the point that Neal asked me what was wrong.  I unloaded my fears.  “What if this happens….what if this doesn’t happen…?” Neal listened and reminded me that God is in control.  I said, “I know but what if…..?”  And I proceeded to try to get him to understand all my reasons for being concerned.  He finally said,

“Even if the very worst scenario happens, God will be by your side and I’ll be on your other side.”

Okay, that was powerful.  How comforting to know that, no matter what, God will never leave me and neither will my husband.  That truth helped me take a deep breath and let go of the useless worrying.  I thank God for His promise to always be with me (Heb. 13:5).  I thank God for Neal’s wisdom and his commitment to caring for me.  I know that next time my “anxieties multiply within me” (Psa. 94:19), I will recall the peace-giving image of God and Neal flanking either side of me.

I wonder how many others need those words said to them?  I can think of individuals I know who are hurting and could probably use the reminder that they’re not alone.  May I never get so caught up in my own little world that I neglect to comfort those around me.        That’s part of the purpose of the church, right (Heb. 10:24-25)?  I love knowing that I could go to another Christian with my fears or failures and be reminded of God’s faithfulness and their love.  May I ever strive to be that Christian for others, too.  I may not be able to solve problems or make the pain go away, but I can certainly hug more, pray more, and remind more that “God will be by your side and I’ll be on your other side.”

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another…1 Pet. 4:8.

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When My Husband has a Sin Problem, part 3

Many of the suggestions we’ve already looked at in this study have had to do with attitude.  Not your husband’s attitude, but yours.  You can’t make your husband repent.  You can’t make him start doing the right thing.  But you can control every bit of your attitude.  Compassion, humility, and goodness are powerful traits.  Your constancy in those areas will have a better chance of penetrating your husband’s heart than any rant or “punishment.”  As we conclude this series of what to do when your husband has a sin problem, remember that the goal is to make sure you’re doing your part to make it easier for him to go to Heaven.

9.  Rebuke gently.

If you’re like most people, you don’t enjoy confrontation, especially when it involves a friend.  When you do have to resolve an issue, you probably go out of your way to be careful and gentle.  You put a lot of thought into it.  You don’t want there to be any misunderstandings or hurt feelings and will treat it as tenderly as possible.  Make sure you’re no less gentle with your own husband.  Put as much forethought into it.

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).  Gentleness goes far in reaching any heart.

10.  Keep Your Convictions

Perhaps your husband has quit attending worship.  Keep going anyway no matter how inconvenient and even if you have to go alone for years.  If your husband has engaged in a particular sin for any length of time, resist the temptation to accept it.  Never give in and engage in it with your husband.  You will demonstrate true faithfulness by putting God’s will first no matter what.  In She Hath Done What She Could, Jane McWhorter writes, “Your husband may test your convictions, but he will respect you for them if you are sincere and consistent.”

11.  Know the Difference Between Shaming and Humiliating

When God’s people no longer blushed at their sin it was because they were no longer ashamed of it (Jer. 6:15).  Shame is good because it can lead to repentance (2 Cor. 7:10,11).  It can turn a tender heart.  Humiliation is different.  A wife who humiliates her husband is trying to embarrass him and attack his dignity.  Look up the various definitions of what it means to humiliate someone.  It’s not pretty or Christlike.

12.  Dissolve Your Anger

A certain amount of anger is natural and righteous indignation is good.  But be careful about feeding your anger by brooding or repeating your husband’s offense(s) over and over in your mind.  You will only lead yourself to the boiling point.  In her book, Loving Your Husband, Patsy Loden writes, “Anger robs you of reason.  Without reasoning ability, you are not responsive to seeking a solution.  Anger enslaves.  You cannot act in a loving way when you are angry.  Anger dictates how you act, and it is always in a negative way.”

How can you dissolve your anger?

  • Don’t focus on your rights (“That’s not fair. This isn’t what I deserve.”).
  • Don’t start keeping score.
  • Stay away from angry people–it’s contagious.
  • Pray for release from the feelings of anger.

13.  Focus on His Good Qualities

If your husband picks up a sinful habit, it doesn’t mean he’s a bad man.  Paul said the evil he didn’t want to do was what he kept on doing because of the sin in him (Rom. 7:15-20).  His struggle with his flesh was ongoing.  A husband with a sin problem is battling the flesh and failing.

To help your husband strengthen his godly traits, focus on them.  Point them out.  Open your eyes to the good that your husband does or tried to do.  Acknowledge the good in a non-patronizing way.  I love what Ruth Hazel said in The Challenge of Being a Wife.  “You will find that the more you focus on the good qualities of others the farther their weaknesses will recede.  Anyone can do better when he believes he can do better, and this assurance may be based on the faith and confidence someone else has in us.”

14.  Turn Him Over to God

God is the One in the heart-changing business.  You know you can safely leave your husband in God’s hands.  You don’t have to carry the burden all alone.  You can turn your husband over to the One who died for him.

You can’t force your husband to repent but you can choose to still love him.  Love can motivate you to make sure your attitude and your example make it easier for your husband to be convicted to give up the sinful habit.

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Photo Credit: Traci Sproule

When My Husband has a Sin Problem, part 2

“My husband views pornography.”

“My husband loses his temper.”

“My husband has a drinking problem.”

“My husband lies.”

Perhaps you’ve not only heard Christian women make these statements but you could say one of them yourself.   What can you do when your husband has a sin problem?  What should you do?  If you missed part one of this study, you can check out the first five suggestions here.

6.  Seek Outside Help If Needed

If the sin problem is some kind of addiction (like pornography or alcohol), it would be wise to get help from those who have experience helping others overcome these types of struggles.  Sometimes bringing in a third party adds an accountability factor that makes it easier for your husband to put away the addiction.

Just remember to check your motives before involving others.  If you want to publicly shame your husband because you’re angry, you’ll surely make matters worse.  If you truly have your husband’s best interests at heart, you can prayerfully seek help or counsel from a godly source.

7.  Study the Word

This can’t be neglected.  The world has their own opinions about marriage and much of it is not biblical.  Some friends or co-workers may encourage you to get revenge or to look out for yourself first.  Some, because of their indignation on your behalf, may suggest actions that just aren’t right.  The world promotes pride and selfishness.  The Word commands humility, selflessness, and putting the needs of others first (Phil. 2).  The world says you can give up on your marriage whenever you want.  The Word teaches that marriage is for life, with the exception of adultery (Matt. 19:3-9).

Without Bible study, there is confusion and that can be dangerous.  For example, some have decided that pornography is grounds for scriptural divorce.  “You have heard that it was said of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:23,24).  This verse is the reason some believe that viewing pornography equals adultery.  In Matt. 19:9, Jesus gives one valid reason for divorce.  The word He uses is porneia, which means “sexual immorality.”  This is unfaithfulness in marriage by having sexual intercourse with someone who is not one’s spouse.  While the adultery of the heart mentioned in Matt. 5:24 may eventually lead to the physical act of adultery, it does not carry the same immediate consequences as the physical act.

Pornography is still a sin and anyone guilty of it will give an account on the Day of Judgment, but it is not a scriptural reason for divorce.  In Matt. 5, Jesus was teaching that adultery begins in the heart, just as murder begins in the heart (v. 21,22).  But that doesn’t mean we can cart someone off to jail for being very angry with someone (even though it could lead to the physical act of murder if left unchecked).  Furthermore, there is the practical matter of determining how much pornography a husband must view in order to be guilty of adultery.  Just once?  Once a month?  For years?  With physical adultery, there is no guessing game.  A husband who has sexual intercourse one time wth someone who is not his wife is guilty of adultery, and the wife has the scriptural right to put him away if she so chooses.

Bible study is essential in knowing how to handle a sin problem in a way that pleases God.  Feelings can be strong but unreliable.  It’s important to see what God has to say about it.

8.  Continue to Be a Good Wife

It can be hard to respect your husband if you don’t feel he deserves it.  It can be hard to submit to your husband if you don’t respect him.  When your husband disappoints you, you may recognize that you must still take care of him but feel you don’t have to cherish him or treat him special.  You may even go so far as to let the house go or let yourself go and feel justified.  These types of thoughts fall under the category of “wisdom of the world” (James 3:13-17).  They may be natural feelings but they’re not biblical.  The Bible teaches that one’s good behavior is not dependent on another’s worthiness (as we saw in last week’s post).

You’re accountable for your own actions so you must continue to be godly, pleasant, and sweet.  You can’t refuse to obey God just because your husband has.   Continue to love and respect your husband because you hope for his repentance, no matter how long it takes (Gal. 6:9).  If you disrespect your husband, you will make it easier for him to justify his sinful habit.  And you will one day look back and regret your attitude.  If you continue to be loving and committed to a gentle, Christ-like sweetness, you will have no reason to look back with regret.  You will know you did the right thing (1 Pet. 3:1,2).

The final part of this series next week will deal with rebuking, shaming, anger, and convictions.

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Photo Credit: Traci Sproule

 

 

 

 

 

When My Husband has a Sin Problem

WHEN MY HUSBAND HAS A SIN PROBLEM

Part One of a 3-part Series

A couple of years ago I was assigned this topic for a lecture.  I thought I’d share with you some of the things I learned when preparing for the class.

There are some expectations from a Christian husband:

  • He’s to be the spiritual leader in the home (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22-24).
  • He’s to love his wife wholeheartedly (Eph. 5:25-33).
  • He’s to provide for his family (1 Tim. 5:8).
  • He’s to be Christlike in his attitude and behavior toward his wife (1 Pet. 3:7).

Some husbands try to live up to these expectations but fall short.  Some don’t care to try at all.  Some are really good in one area but weak in another.  Husbands are going to mess up and sin, as we all do (Rom. 3:23).  But what do you do when your husband is dealing with a sin problem?

  1.  Don’t Seek Revenge

Some sins are hard not to take personally.   When your husband’s sin hurts your heart, you may be tempted to hurt him back.  There’s more than one way to seek revenge.  You could say hurtful, cutting things.  You know where your husband’s insecurities are so you know where to strike verbally.  You could bring up sins from the past.  You could retaliate by engaging in your own sinful activity and then say, “Now you know how it feels!”  In your effort to make him pay, you become guilty of sin yourself.

For the Christian, revenge is not an option.  “Never take your own revenge.  Never pay back evil for evil to anyone” (Rom. 12:9,17).  “Do not say, ‘Thus I shall do to him as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work'” (Prov. 24:29).  The gratification of vengeance is short-lived.  If you give your husband a taste of his own medicine, you will soon taste the bitterness of guilt.  Spiteful words or behavior will not make your husband want to quit sinning.  God says the way to overcome evil is with goodness (Rom. 12:21; 1 Thess. 5:15; 1 Pet. 3:9).

2.  Don’t Give Ultimatums

In desperation, you may hope to threaten your husband into behaving.  “If you don’t give up the sinful habit, I will never sleep with you again.”  “Get your act together or I’m leaving you.”  But what’s the saying about “two wrongs”?  When you give ultimatums, you are promising punishment.  That’s not your role.  You are not your husband’s parent or savior.  You are his helper and lover.

3.  Don’t Air His Dirty Laundry

We all want sympathy when we’ve been hurt or mistreated.  But if you desire your husband’s repentance, you will protect his reputation by keeping the matter private (Prov. 11:13; 17:9).  No one deserves to have their private struggles made public.  Instead, practice the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12).  Do you want every sin struggle of yours shared with others?  Do you want your weaknesses to be the topic of conversation when your husband gets together with his pals or his parents?  Use wisdom in determining when/ if to disclose anything and with whom.

4.  Pray for Him

It’s true that you can’t make anyone do the right thing.  Praying fervently for someone doesn’t mean they will repent.  However, it’s important to remember that God loves your husband even more than you do.  You can pray for wisdom (James 1:2-4), patience (1 Cor. 13:4), compassion (Col. 3:12), and strength (Phil. 4:13).  Prayer brings peace (Phil. 4:6,7).

5.  Remember Your Own Shortcomings

Do you ever feel like your sin list is a lot shorter than your husband’s?  The Bible says that anyone who transgresses in one area has become guilty of all the law (James 2:10).  Make sure you’re not holding your husband up to a higher standard than you hold yourself.  Grace and compassion go a long way toward reaching the heart of a struggling husband.

(Part Two will cover when to seek help, how to continue being a good wife, and how to maintain your convictions.)

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Photo Credit: Traci Sproule

Revive Me #50– Elevate Your Marriage

Revive Me, Week 50– A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Elevate Your Marriage

I’m tired of all the marriage bashing.  Marriage is honorable (Heb. 13:4).  No one will be happy in their marriage if they are caught up in the worldly mindset of pleasing self.  But those who put godly traits into practice, like serving, yielding, and giving, will find daily joy in their marriage.  In other words, when we lower ourselves our marriages are lifted up.

How can you elevate your marriage?

Accommodate Your Spouse’s Likes and Dislikes

  • Are you paying attention?  Are you listening?  Do you remember?
  • Look for various ways to prove it.  For example, if your spouse likes a cup of coffee after work, have a fresh pot ready.  Thoughtful gesture= love affirmation.
  • Keep your eyes open for new likes and dislikes.  We all change as we age.
  • Get in the habit of asking, “Is there anything I can do for you?”  This question should be asked in various areas of life (bedroom, work, ministry, etc.).
  • Do what you can to make your spouse feel like it’s a joy to serve them (using words, gestures, facial expressions, and touches).

Value Your Unique Marriage

  • There’s only one marriage exactly like yours.  You have your own history, memories, inside jokes, and traditions.  Relish it!  Protect it!
  • Don’t take it for granted.  Regularly point out specific things you love about your special relationship.
  • Don’t let anyone bad-mouth your spouse or your marriage.  Remember, it’s honorable.

Seize the Day

  • Don’t wait for your spouse to deserve to be served.
  • Keep putting your spouse first no matter how you feel and no matter what others say.
  • Replace excuses with acts of service.
  • Serve without hoping to be served.  Let genuine love and their happiness be your motivation.
  • Start now.   What can you do today to elevate your marriage through service?

It’s ironic that the world considers these types of things to be drudgery.  Those who practice selfishness are the ones with the dull marriages.  Christians know that serving is satisfying.  There is no regret.  We will not look back one day and think, “I wish I hadn’t been so thoughtful.”  Consistent service enhances marriage.  It feels good and it’s intoxicating.

“Serve one another humbly in love” (Gal. 5:13).  Doing things God’s way brings out the best in everything.

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Brainstorm ways to include unexpected acts of service into your schedule.
  2.  Spend time meditating on Scriptures concerning humility, putting others first, and agape love.  Here are some to start off with:  Phil. 2; 1 Cor. 13; Rom. 12:9-13; John 13:14-17.
  3.  Pay attention to your heart when you serve.  Are you filled with joy and satisfaction?  Or is your service done resentfully and grudgingly?

Read it.  Memorize it.  Live it.

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Photo Credit: Traci Sproule

 

A Daughter in the Family!

One month from today our oldest son Gary will get married, Lord willing.  From the time he was born, Neal and I have been praying for the woman Gary would choose to marry.  The most important thing to us is that he would marry someone who will help him go to Heaven, but naturally we wondered what she would be like.  Would she really like us?  Would we be able to have a close relationship with her?  Would we click?  Only recently has it truly dawned on me…we’re getting a daughter!  Please indulge me while I tell you a little about her.

She has a great name.  Chelsea is her name and it suits her completely.  She is just as beautiful, sweet, and strong as her name sounds.  Her name means “a port” or “a landing place.”  I’m thrilled to know that she is exactly that for Gary.  She will be a wonderful woman for him to come home to each day.  She will be his “port in the storm.”

She is willing to take on a new name.  Chelsea’s family name is important to her, but she will be taking on Gary’s family name.  That simple change is symbolic of her willingness to love, honor, and submit to him (Eph. 5:22-24).  It means she will be in his care and under his protection (Eph. 5:25-31).  I have no doubt that she will honor her new name.

She already wears the most important name.  Chelsea is a Christian.  She wears the name of Christ faithfully.  She is kind, giving, and loving.  Chelsea truly shines.  All who know her can’t help but see the spirit of Christ.  We love her radiant soul.

We couldn’t be more proud!  Chelsea is so dear to us already.  We are grateful to God for blessing Gary with such a treasure, and we look forward to having her as our very first daughter.

Chelsea & Gary
Chelsea & Gary