Faithlife
Faithlife

One Marriage

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“Top-ten List” of “You might be a male if . . .”
10. You know stuff about tanks.
9. You can go to the bathroom without a support group.
8. Someone forgets to invite you to something and he can still be your friend.
7. You can drop by to see a friend without bringing a little gift.
6. Another guy shows up at the same party in the same outfit, and you become lifelong buddies.
5. You have one wallet, one pair of shoes, one color, for all seasons.
4. There is always a game on somewhere.
3. Your pals can be trusted never to trap you with, “So… notice anything different?”
2. Something mechanical doesn’t work, and you bash it with a hammer and throw it across the room.
1. You can do your nails with a pocketknife.

LET’S PRAY AND ASK GOD TO GUIDE US

It probably doesn't surprise you that surveys indicate that most of us would like to have only one marriage during our lives. Not just one marriage, but a good marriage, and for a lifetime. In Malachi, these words are recorded:

Malachi 2:15-16
So guard yourself and your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. I hate divorce, says the Lord God of Israel.

Now remember, God is saying. "I hate divorce." If that's your situation, God's not saying he hates you or your circumstances. What God is saying is he hates what divorce does to us as people.

Why does God hate divorce? I think, first of all, because there's a tearing apart that happens. Marriage is the closest of all relationships. It's closer than a parent/child or close friend relationship because Scripture says the two become one. When we pull that apart, we rip a hole in our hearts. It does something to our souls. It's not as easy as we think it's going to be. It's not simply dividing up our assets, and deciding who gets an equitable share of goods. Even if we're amicable in the process, divorce is devastating on people.

Those of you who have been through it know how emotionally wrenching it is—the roller coaster you've been through in that process. You're aware of the conflicting emotions you still carry, even now. The biblical word for marriage is gameo, and it means to fit together or to pair up. When we pull those apart, there's a wrenching of the spirit and soul that lasts for a long time. It rips a hole in our heart.

I think the second reason God hates divorce is that a covenant is broken. A promise that we've made has been broken. God has established a covenant relationship with us. He expects us to keep that covenant. He hates to see us break our promises. There are long term issues and consequences related when we're unable to keep a commitment, a covenant relationship.

I think the third reason divorce is a bad idea is that it's not the cure-all we thought it would be. It's not simply putting something behind us, and moving on. It doesn't resolve the issues. In fact, often in many cases, divorce creates additional issues for us.

It's hard for us when we divorce. It's not a surprise when we say we'd like to have one marriage, because I think we've come to recognize that divorce isn't the answer we thought it would be for us.

What do we do? How do we work through our issues? What are some of the things going on? What are our problems really? Is it just that we've fallen out of love somehow? Is it that I no longer care about this person? Don't I have those feelings any more? I think we forget that love is the mental and emotional commitment to care even on the days we don't feel like it. There are some days we don't feel like loving. There are some days we're not very lovable. But love is that mental and emotional commitment to care and to act like we care even when we don't feel like it. But many of us have lost that feeling.

Willard Harley said, "When a husband and wife are in love with each other, they're happier, healthier, wiser and more productive than ever. But when love fades, they lose everything that made them better people. What once seemed almost effortless becomes awkward and very difficult. Instincts that worked for a couple who are in love work against them when they lose their love for each other. And in most cases, the relationship eventually becomes so bad that couples try to escape each other through divorce or permanent separation." (Love Busters, p. 9.)

In other words, when we no longer have those feelings, all our attitudes and actions and habits work against each other. What once used to work for us now works against us. We look for the slightest reason to be upset.

It's human nature to view other people in terms of their weaknesses and to see yourself in terms of your strengths. When it comes to our spouse, oftentimes we look at the little things about them we don't like, and wish we could change. We look at things that we would want to be different. We look for them in their weaknesses and see ourselves in the things we do that are of benefit and help the relationship and we wonder why we get in so much trouble at times.

1 Corinthians 13 describes love, and what ought to be occurring for us in relationships.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not rejoice in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could have that kind of love in our marriage? Wouldn't it be nice to have a love that brings value to us, a love that affirms us, a love that's encouraging, a love that we could count on, and a love that we could trust? But that's not what many of us have in our marriages.

I would like to try something this morning. I want to go back and reread our Scripture passage. Every time the words "love" or "it" is used, I want us to substitute with our name. I want you to read along with me. We will start in verse 4 and slide our name in wherever the word love is. "Rick is patient, Rick is kind. Rick does not envy, Rick does not boast, Rick is not proud. Rick is not rude, Rick is not self-seeking, Rick is not easily angered, Rick keeps no record of wrongs. Rick does not rejoice in evil, but rejoices with the truth. Rick always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Rick never fails."

Does that describe me? I'm not always patient. I can think of a couple of times in the past week when I wasn't kind. There are times I'm arrogant. I keep track of when I've been hurt.

Maybe the reason there's some struggle in our relationship is because we've not really learned to love. The reality is sometimes our harshest words and actions are often left for the people closest to us. Oftentimes it's what happens in our marriages where we're impatient and unkind. We speak harshly. We act harshly. We get angry easily. We wonder why our relationship begins to drift apart.

We may share a home. We may share a meal. We may share a living room. We may even share a bed, but sometimes we don't have a whole lot in common. We aren't that loving to each other.

Harley, in his book Love Busters, lists these six love busters. I think they're apparent for many of us.

  1. Selfish demands. "I want what I want right now. I want you to do it this way." Who wants to live with a dictator?
  2. Disrespectful judgments. Who wants to live with a critic? "You always. You never. How come?"
  3. Angry outbursts. "You should be careful. You never know when he or she is going to blow up." Who wants to live with a time bomb?
  4. Dishonesty, where we cannot speak the truth or we speak half-truths or we leave things unsaid. Who wants to live with a liar?
  5. Annoying habits. Who wants to live with a dripping faucet?
  6. Independent behavior. Who wants to live with an inconsiderate jerk?

Incompatibility is a real issue where we have differences, things about us that we don't like. We have things about us that aren't the same. Rick Warren said, "Incompatibility generally means he doesn't have enough income and she isn't very pattable." Maybe that's how it is in our relationship.

But Dr. Paul Pompaneau, the director of Family Institute, said, "Any two people can be compatible if they work at it, if they want to be." Why is it we've been convinced our relationships can't work? Gary Chapman, in his book Hope for the Separated, said there are three reasons why marriages fail: lack of an intimate relationship with God, lack of an intimate relationship with your mate, and lack of an intimate understanding and acceptance of yourself. In other words, intimacy is a real issue. So often, we don't want to let people get too close.

Where do we go from here? I think the bottom line issue is this: I'm convinced that until we get our hearts right, we'll never have our relationship issues right. We need to allow God to occupy that spot in our heart that's designed for him, the spot I've tried to stuff so many other things into—marriage, work, hobbies, actions, attitudes, things that I like or dislike, sometimes even things that end up being wrong for us. I'm convinced that wholeness only comes in God. It doesn't come in a marriage. There isn't a person in the world who can meet all of your needs. There's not a person who completes you and makes you whole. That's what God does. Until we get in a relationship with him, until we have discovered his grace in our lives, we'll always struggle with filling that spot in our heart.

There won't be a person in the world who can meet your needs, who can reach out and fill the spot that has been designed for God. I'm convinced that most of our struggle is because we've never really understood God's grace in our life. We've not become graceful people in the process. I'm grateful for the difference God's grace has made in my life. Diane and I would both say it has made a difference in our marriage.

I can be a real jerk, and I'm not always patient and kind. I'm not patient. I'm not always loving. I don't always speak the truth. There are issues for me when I'm rude, self-seeking, and easily angered. That empty spot in life is a hole only God can fill.

Matthew 11:28-30
"Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I'm gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Is God in control of my life? Is he in control of my marriage? Have I prayed and asked God to be at work in me? Am I looking for ways for MY SPOUSE to improve, or am I looking for ways for me to improve? Am I looking for ways for me to be more loving and gracious? Have I really resolved the issue of God taking his place and fixing the hole in my heart?

It's interesting to me. We have many couples that get married here every year. I'll have to be honest and say I've gotten to a place where I'd almost rather do a funeral than a wedding because when you bring the casket everything stays right there. You don't have 43 people wanting to do things their way. Weddings have become more of a production. We spend lots of money and energy and time on weddings today. We make sure every detail is right. People get concerned, sometimes too concerned. Moms get uptight. Much planning and process goes into the wedding. I wonder if we'd not do better to put that much energy and effort and resource toward the marriage and not just the ceremony. It's easy to plan a wedding.

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