Surviving marital storms
SURVIVING MARITAL STORMS
The Secrets of a Satisfying Marriage - Part 12 of 12
Matthew 7:24-25 & I Corinthians 3:10
Matt. 7:24-25 "Everyone who hears these words and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rains came down, the floods rose and the winds blew against the house; yet it didn't fall, because it had its foundation on the rock."
BE PREPARED FOR . . .
1. "Rains" -- The Culture You Live In
"In the last days it is going to be very difficult to be a Christian . . . . People will become utterly self-centered, greedy for money . . . . proud and abusive . . . . They will be utterly lacking in gratitude . . . normal affections . . . self-control, and will be violent and loving pleasure instead of loving God." 2 Tim. 3:1-4 (LB/Ph)
Ideas that can erode your marriage:
* ______________________________ "self-centered"
* ______________________________ "greedy for money"
* ______________________________ "loving pleasure . . ."
"Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person . . . " Rom. 12:2 (LB)
2. "Floods" -- The Crises You Will Live Through
"Save me, O my God. The floods have risen. Deeper and deeper I sink in the mire; the waters rise around me. I have wept until I am exhausted." Ps. 69:1-3 (LB)
What to do:
"(God says) don't be afraid ., . . when you go through deep waters and great trouble I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown!" Isa. 43:1-3 (LB)
* ______________________________ in God's plan
* ______________________________ God's presence
* ______________________________ on God's protection
3. "Winds" -- The Changes You Will Live With
"To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven." Eccl. 3:1 (KJV)
"Sometimes it takes a painful situation to make us change our ways." Pr. 20:30 (GN)
"I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be ... I am ready for anything through the strength of Christ who lives within me." Phil 4:11, 13 (Ph)
Foundation for a Storm-Proofed Marriage
"God has placed Jesus Christ as the one and only foundation, and no other foundation can be laid." 1 Cor. 3:10
SURVIVING MARITAL STORMS
The Secrets of a Satisfying Marriage - Part 12 of 12
Matthew 7:24-25 & I Corinthians 3:10
Today we're going to conclude the series we've been in for twelve weeks -- the longest series I've ever done at Saddleback -- on the "Secrets of a Satisfying Marriage". Surveys tell us that 96% of all Americans will marry, 38% of those will divorce, 79% of those will remarry, and 44% of those will divorce again. America has the highest divorce rate in the world. Over one-half of all the divorces in the world occur in America. In Orange County, the divorce rate is over fifty percent. If GM or Ford produced a car that half of them were falling apart on the road it would be considered a national epidemic. You would see all kinds of legislation; somebody would do something about it. Very few people are trying to do anything about the exploding epidemic of divorce.
Divorce doesn't work. Ten year study of divorced couples in California discovered that only 10% of ex spouses said they had both succeeded in improving their lives by divorcing. Newsweek: "The landscape is littered with the victims of divorce epidemic. Ex wives raising their children alone, former husbands trying to start new lives and be good fathers to kids they see only on specific days, and children themselves often torn between warring parents." Why are so many marriages dying?
I think the answer is that they are unprepared for the inevitable storms that every marriage encounters. For the past twelve weeks we've been looking at what God has to say about marriage. Now it's time to put it into practice. Matthew 7:24-25 "Jesus said, `Everyone who hears these words and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rains came down, the floods rose, the winds blew against the house, yet it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock." He says the key to a strong house, home, is to have it built on the right foundation. The foundation is to do what God says regarding your marriage.
Notice: there are three external forces that can damage a home ‑- rains, they erode the roof; floods, they wash away the foundation; and winds, they shake the structure. I want us to look at three kinds of storms that will undermine your marriage unless you prepare for them.
Rains are the culture you live in.
Floods are the crises you live through.
Winds are the changes you live with.
Culture, crises, changes. These three things will shake your marriage unless you're prepared for them.
1. YOU NEED TO BE PREPARED FOR THE CULTURE YOU LIVE IN
Does our society work for or against the family? Against it. The pressures on your marriage are much more severe than they were on the marriage of your parents. It's very difficult today to stay married. George Gallup of the Gallup pole has written a book called Forecast 2000. One of the chapters in his book, after surveying all of America, is called The Faltering Family. He says there are four forces in today's culture that are eroding marriages and families.
1) Alternative life styles. He says there is mass confusion about roles and goals. How many happy, normal families do you see on TV?
2) Radical feminism. This is just as selfish as chauvinism. The attitude of "I've got to be me even if it means leaving my husband and going off and doing my own thing."
3) Materialism. The pressure to have more. Families are so busy trying to make a living that they are never at home together.
4) The sexual revolution. People magazine did a survey and said, "The Number one cause of divorce is unfaithfulness." Over half of all spouses nationwide admitted to adultery.
The media's portrayal of every sexual relationship on TV, how many of them are in marriage? Practically none. It's almost always outside of marriage.
We shouldn't be surprised these kinds of things are happening. The Bible says that as the time gets closer to Jesus' return that we're going to find cultures like that. 2 Timothy 3:1-4 (Phillips) "In the last days it's going to be very difficult to be a Christian. People will become utterly self-centered, greedy for money, proud and abusive. They will be utterly lacking in gratitude, normal affections, self-control, and will be violent and loving pleasure instead of loving God." Does that sound current to you? That is the newspaper! We don't have time to go into all of these but there are three ideas in our culture that can erode your marriage that we will look at. They will sap the strength from your relationship.
Humanism is the desire to put "me first". "I've got to do what's best for me." That's fine if you're single -- you focus on yourself. But once you got married, "me" becomes "we". You've got to say, "What's best for us?" When people say, "We're just incompatible," that's a code word for selfishness. It means I'm not willing to change. I'm not willing to give in. I want what I want when I want. We're in the "Me" decade. That attacks marriages.
Materialism. "...greedy for money..." We can become so over committed and overextended trying to keep up with the neighbors that we don't have time for each other any more. A good example of how materialism affects marriages is the pre-nuptial agreement.
B.C. cartoon: B.C. is looking up the definition of pre‑ nuptial agreement in a dictionary. "Pre-nuptial agreement is an agreement between two people who love each other almost as much as they love their possessions."
Like the lady who married four different husbands: a millionaire, then a film producer, then a butler, then finally a funeral director. Someone asked her why she did that. She said, "I married one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four to go."
In our culture, money is the answer to everything. I saw this in the NY Times, an advertisement for a fur coat, "The divorce is final coat. Your marriage blew it... fine. Satisfy yourself and go buy a fur coat! OK, so it didn't work out. The important thing to remember is there are a lot of other people out there who have gone through the very same thing. Shed the tears and slip into a fur. An Antonivich fur. Any one will do, they're all so extravagant. The fox will do nicely. So you lost the man of your dreams. Find the fur of your dreams at Antonivich."
Relationships don't matter. What matters are not people but possessions. That kind of materialism destroys marriages. J. Paul Getty, when he was alive, was the wealthiest man in the world said, "I would give my entire fortune for one happy marriage."
Hedonism. The Playboy philosophy loving pleasure more than loving God. It's the philosophy if it feels good, do it. We live in an age of instant gratification. Forget morality, just do whatever feels good. A man wrote to Dear Abby recently, "I'm in love and having an affair with two different women. I can't marry them both. Please tell me what to do. Don't give me any of that morality stuff." Abby's answer is classy, "Dear sir, the only difference between humans and animals is morality. Please write to a veterinarian."
I admire Barbara Bush so much. I think it really took courage when she spoke at Wellesley College to the graduating class. She cautioned against placing your career over your marriage and family. She said, "At the end of your life, you'll never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. But you will regret time you did not spend with your husband, a friend, a child, or a parent. If you have children, they must come first. If you don't want the responsibility of parenting, don't have kids. Our success as a society depends not on what happens in the White House, but what happens inside of your house." This took guts. It counteracts the culture.
How should Christians respond to a culture that says, "Me first, money first, pleasure first and forget everything else." Romans 12:2 "Don't copy the behavior and the customs of this world but be a new and different person."
So, in order to deal with the first storm -- the rains of culture which erode relationships -- you've got to counteract the culture. Go against the tide. Go against the flood, the stream.
2. YOU'VE GOT TO PREPARE FOR THE CRISES YOU'RE GOING TO LIVE THROUGH.
These are like floods. I read a study that listed the top twelve most stressful crises that a marriage can experience:
1) Death of a child
2) Jail sentence
3) An unfaithful spouse
4) Major financial difficulty or bankruptcy
5) Business failure
6) Being fired
7) Miscarriage or stillbirth
8) Court appearance
9) Unwanted pregnancy
10) Major illness in the family -- cancer or heart disease
11) Unemployed for over one month
12) Death of a close friend
These crises are inevitable and they will come into your life. They usually come suddenly, no warning in advance -- "In July, you're going to have a major crisis in your marriage." They just come up on you and engulf you and sometimes you're overwhelmed like David. Psalm 69:1-3 "Save me, O my God, the floods have risen. Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire. The waters rise around me and I've wept until I'm exhausted." You ever felt like that, like you're going under for the last time, being swallowed up, drowning, sinking? Some of you feel that way this morning. You feel like your marriage is about to go under. What do you do when your marriage is in deep water? What do you do when you're in over your head? And the floods of adversity are sweeping you off your feet?
Do what Isaiah says (Isaiah 43:1-3), "God says, `Don't be afraid. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.'" That's a great promise. When you're in over your head, when the floods come, the unexpected crises that batter the foundation of your marriage, you do three things:
1. Relax in God's plan. He says, "Don't be afraid." Don't get uptight. Don't worry. God has a plan for your life. God's plan for your life is always greater than the problems you're going through. God's purpose for your life is always more significant and more powerful than the problems you're facing. Yes, you're having problems. Yes, it's a crisis. But floods always diminish and you need to hang on.
2. Recognize God's presence. When you go through deep waters and great troubles, He says, "I will be with you." You're never alone when you're going through a crisis. You may think you are but you're not. God is with you. You need to tune into that, recognize it. Open up your eyes and see, "God is here with me, I'm not in this alone." You recognize God's presence when the flood comes along.
3. Rely on God's protection. "When you go through the rivers of difficulty, you will not drown." That's a promise. You can count on it. You may get wet. You may loose the house. But you're not going to drown. God is with you. And He has a plan for your life. You need to say, "Lord, we're trusting You to see us through this." Notice the word "through". It doesn't say when you go over the floods. It doesn't say when you go around the floods. The only way to go through a crisis is through it. When the crises of life come in marriage your options are: You can either walk through it together or you can walk out. Those are your options. You can walk through it together as a team -- face it together -- or you can walk out. The tragedy is because a lot of marriages aren't built on the right foundation when the crisis floods come into their life, and they sweep them off their feet, the couples drift apart in the flood.
What is the key to coping with a crisis? The key is commitment. It is commitment that will carry you through the crisis. Commitment to your marriage.
Psychology Today did a cover article on "Why Marriages Last". This is in no sense of the word a Christian magazine. Yet when they studied American marriages, this was their conclusion, "A key to lasting marriage was a belief in the marriage as a long term commitment and as a sacred institution. Many of our respondents thought that the present generation takes the vow `Til death do us part' too lightly and is unwilling to work through difficult times. Successful couples viewed marriage as a task that sometimes demanded that you grit your teeth and plunge ahead in spite of the difficulties."
Commitment means being willing to be miserable for a while. Commitment means being willing to be unhappy while you work out the problems. Instead of walking out you hang in there even though it stinks! Even though you've very unhappy you hang in there until you work it out. That's commitment. The willingness to forego happiness for the purpose that the relationship may ultimately find satisfaction.
When you face the floods of crisis that are going to come into your life stick with it. Don't give up. The fact is, you made a binding vow before God. You promised "Till death do us part". God expects you to keep that promise. You said, "For better or for worse, in sickness and in health." Stick it out because the floods will recede.
3. WE NEED TO PREPARE FOR THE WINDS OF CHANGE -- the changes you're going to live with.
Change is a part of life. It is also inevitable. Everything changes with time except God. Ecclesiastes 3:1 (KJV) "To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven." Everything has a season and even marriages have seasons. Marriages go through summer, spring, winter, fall. Marriages go through stages. It is common knowledge. A lot of famous books (Passages) are written about the predictable stages of adult life. There's the honeymoon stage, the childless couple stage, then the decision whether to have children or not, raising young children, preschooler stage, raising children through grade school years, parenting teenagers -- the stage you think will never end, College Years -- thrusting the child from the home, empty nest years, retirement years. Everything is changing. Life changes. If you don't learn how to adapt to change your marriage will not be stable. There are winds of change that will blow against the structure of your marriage.
You marriage is dynamic, not static. It's always getting better or getting worse. Deteriorating or improving. Growing together or growing apart. No marriage stands still.
One of the most common complaints I hear is "But s/he's just not the person I married." And I say, "Of course s/he isn't. And neither are you. You're not the person your mate married." Because we are always changing. Always growing, developing, deteriorating. We change. It's inevitable that if you don't change with your mate, the winds of change are going to blow you apart.
We change emotionally as time goes on. We change intellectually. We change spiritually in our commitments. We change physically. I never understood why people would marry for looks. Beauty doesn't last. The person who marries because the person is good looking is like buying a car because they like the paint job. The paint job is going to fade. You've got to like more than just the paint job.
As we wind up twelve weeks on marriage, I want to say to you, commit yourself to loving your mate for the rest of your life no matter what changes take place. I have personally committed my life to loving my wife, Kay, for as long as I live, no matter what happens. Commit yourself to your mate, in spite of the winds of change.
Some changes aren't too pleasant. Provers 20:30 "Sometimes it takes a painful situation to make us change our ways." Do any of you identify with that verse? There are going to be some changes in your marriage that are very, very painful. The question is, Do you let painful changes in your marriage make you bitter or make you better? It's your choice. The difference between "bitter" and "better" is the letter "i" -- I make the difference.
When changes come into your marriage and into your life and family you have several options:
You can reject it and pretend it doesn't exist. But it does.
You can resist it. Fight the change.
You can resent it.
Or you can relish it. Make the most of it. You realize change is inevitable so make the most of it.
What is the secret of coping with the winds of change? Philippians 4:11 & 13 "I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be ... I am ready for anything through the strength of Christ who lives within me." Paul says there are three attitudes you need in order to cope with the changes that are going to happen in your life and marriage:
1. Contentment. "I've learned to be content, whatever the circumstances..." Contentment means enjoy the present. Don't say "When we get a bigger house then I'll be happy", "When we have kids we'll be happy", "When the kids leave we'll be happy". You don't let your circumstances be the source of your happiness. You learn to enjoy the present even in not the best circumstances.
2. Flexibility. "I am ready for anything..." Be willing to adapt. Change. You are changing all the time and your mate is changing all the time. If you don't change to adapt to your mate in their changes, you're going to be blown in different directions. The secret of successful marriages is the ability to grow and change together instead of growing apart.
3. Faith. "I'm ready for anything through the strength of Christ who lives within me." You need to say, "I'm trusting Christ to help me in the changes that I know are going to take place in my life and marriage."
If you don't have a strong foundation there are many storms you can count on in life that are going to batter your marriage. There are the rains of culture which can erode your relationship. Materialism, humanism, hedonism. All the values that the world promotes in the media. The rains of culture can erode your relationship.
There is the floods of crisis that when they come suddenly on you can cause you to drift away and couples drift apart. I think of the movie "Ordinary People" and how a crisis caused a couple to drift apart.
Then the winds of change can blow you in opposite directions if you're not careful and prepare for it.
How can we make our marriages last when so many are falling apart? What is the key? How do you make it last through the storms? "Everyone who hears these words and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rains came down the floods rose, the winds blew against the house, yet it didn't fall because it had its foundation on the rock." The key is to have the right foundation. The right foundation is to practice what God has said -- what we've talking about these last 12 weeks. Don't forget it; remember it, review it and practice it. The secret is to build your marriage on the right foundation.
What is the right foundation? "God has placed Jesus Christ as the one and only foundation, and no other foundation can be laid." Spiritual unity acts as cement. Place Jesus Christ at the center of your relationship. Do the things that cause spiritual growth together. Dedicate your marriage to the glory of God. Meld yourself together to become a ministry team. What is a ministry team? It's when the husband and the wife, together, say "We can be more effective together serving the Lord than we can be apart. We will become a team to serve God in our church and in the world. We will minister together." That's what God's ideal is for your marriage. If you will do that you will be astounded at the difference it will make in your relationship. You get a common goal of ministry together.
The first is from a fellow who, in the last six months, had a major crisis in their marriage. He says,
"Dear Rick, these last few weeks have been awesome. Our 24 year marriage was near dead not too long ago but is now in full bloom. We just recently renewed our wedding vows. Just the other day a light clicked on inside my head. I've never had this feeling before in 50 years. I know what did it. I got involved with a small group. I started having a daily quiet time in the Bible. I began tithing and praying regularly, listening to your sermons on marriage. I finally know that God is by my side. Praise the Lord."
Dear Pastor Rick, Little did we know five years ago when we retired in Leisure World how much our lives were going to change. Our daughter was the one who introduced us to Saddleback Community Church. But the big changes did not begin until August 1986 when I came in to see Janell at the church office to seek help with some problems that we were then facing. We were immediately enlisted to work in the children's program. We were to learn about Jesus and His importance in our lives. It was also an opportunity to be with young children again. My husband's role with the children has been a marvelous experience for him. It's also given my husband and me a new direction for our lives, new goals to meet. It came at a point when we needed new direction. The retirement years can also present problems. Another adjustment in our marriage of almost 48 years. Yet these years have been made happier and more productive ones because of our involvement at Saddleback Community Church, with you all, and especially with the children's ministry.
Here's a couple who's been married 48 years and they say they're still adjusting. There's still changes that you go through. They said at retirement they needed a new challenge. We found meaning and significance in ministry together for the kingdom of God.
As we conclude this series I want to talk to three separate groups.
First I want to talk to those of you who are single. Thank you for putting up with twelve weeks of marriage messages. That has taken considerable grace and forgiveness. I appreciate that. If you're a single adult here today, I want to say to you, please be careful about who you marry. Do not jump into a relationship quickly. Do not let your emotions or glands or anything else get the best of you. Check it out. Do not become unequally yoked. This is the second most important decision you'll make in your life next to accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. It's very important. And it's always easier to get in that it is to get out. Insist that you go through 6, 8, 10 weeks of premarital counseling with a Christian who can point out whether you're really suited for each other or not. Check it out. Just because you love someone doesn't mean you should marry them.
To those of you who are separated, I want to say that God understands your hurt. He hurts with you and I hurt with you. When an expensive piece of art is damaged, they don't replace it, they lovingly repair it, restore it. Give it another shot. Get help, whatever it takes.
To those of you who are married couples, as we close 12 weeks on marriage, I want to say to you, Do not become complacent. Do not take your mate for granted. Work at your relationship. Cultivate it. Read books on it. Go to marriage enrichment seminars. Get the tapes of this series, listen to it and review it. Talk about it. You don't even remember what I said 12 weeks ago. How can you practice what you don't remember? Find the time. Put the investment into your marriage so that when the rains of culture try to erode your relationship and the floods of crisis try to come and undermine the foundation and the winds of change beat against the structure, you will have a foundation that is built solid on your relationship to Jesus Christ.
I want to pray for your marriages.
Father, I want to pray that the principles we've looked at for the past twelve weeks will not be forgotten. I pray that they will be reviewed regularly and put into practice. Please, protect these marriages from the culture we live in, the crises we live through, and the changes we live with. Help each husband and wife make the right choices. I pray that Saddleback church will become known where husbands really love their wives and wives really love their husbands. I pray that each person standing here, right now, if they have not done so, will personally commit their life to Jesus Christ and say "yes" in their heart. I pray that each couple would commit their marriage to Jesus Christ because You are the only stable foundation when everything else is unsettled and unstable in the world. You are our Rock. I pray Your blessing on these marriages. Protect them from outside influences and from temptations. May we have strong marriages and strong families that build a strong church and a strong nation. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.