Wednesday, September 28, 2011

When Sinners Say "I Do"

So my nephew and his fiance asked Miles and I before they got married for marriage advice and some books.  We talked with them for awhile, and then they said that the best book they had read so far was When Sinners Say "I Do" by Dave Harvey.  They gave us a copy of it, and it sat on my shelf of "books to read" for about a year.  I really don't enjoy reading, but I always have high hopes that I will read more.  With my background in psychology, I've read a huge number of books about marriage, so I figured this was just going to be another one. 

Well, one day, I decided to pick it up and start reading. It was good from the start.  Why was it good?  Because it is biblical.  I have read so many books about all kinds of topics that try to integrate psychology and Scripture, but psychology usually takes precedence.  This book is biblical.  It doesn't allow people to make excuses. 

I'm not finished the book yet, but I just read a chapter about examining yourself in a conflict.
1.  In humility, suspect yourself first. 
2.  In integrity, inspect yourself.
3.  Admit that circumstances only reveal existing sin.
4.  Focus on undeserved grace, not unmet needs.

We must always humbly and honestly suspect that our sin is present, and it is playing a role in the conflict.  We are so quick to recognize our spouse's sin, but it takes a lot of humility and honesty to admit that we aren't being patient or we aren't being loving or we are being selfish, etc.  Our sin (being impatient, unloving, and selfish) is already present; the heat of the conflict magnifies them.

These four points are all so important, and ignored in our society.  Miles & I work hard at the first three. It was the last point that was most got my attention.  I see it so much.  Psychology encourages us to express our needs and be honest with people.  The biggest problem with this, is that we don't know the difference between our needs and our desires.  There is nothing wrong with wanting an affectionate touch from your spouse, and a godly spouse will try to do this.  However, it is a desire, not a need.  There is nothing wrong with wanting a kind word of encouragement, and a godly spouse will try to do this.  Again, it is a desire, not a need.  Instead of worrying about your "needs" that aren't being met, focus on giving grace . . . which by definition is undeserved and has been offered to you interminably. 
Have you read James?  
 1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.(James 4:1-2)
It is our desires that cause quarrels among us, not our needs. 

Have you read what Jesus teaches?   
27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
   32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:27-36)
Divorce is often based on "irreconcilable differences", but if you read this passage . . . you are going to have a difficult time convincing God of that.  He commands turning the other cheek if someone slaps you.  He commands giving to people who take from you.  He commands that you give to everyone who asks (even if you are constantly giving and not getting anything in return).  This is a difficult passage, but it would save a lot of marriages. 

So just some food for thought . . . are you inspecting yourself humbly and honestly?  Are you aware of your sin?  Are you extending grace to your spouse?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Testing Trust

"Shall I accept good from God and not adversity?" Job 2:10

I've had a lot of trials throughout my short life, but I'm finding that I deal much better with acute problems than chronic problems . . . meaning . . . I can handle the problems where something happens, its over, and then I adjust my life to it.  Like when my mom died.  One day she is there, the next she isn't.  There is nothing I could do to bring her back, so I adjust my life, and move on.  I'm not saying it was easy, but it was something that I had to keep working at.  I don't deal so well with the problems that are always present.  Like Miles' health, we are in a constant state of trying to figure out what is the source of his health problems.  If we had a diagnosis, then we could deal with the diagnosis, but living in a constant state of what is it?  How can we treat it?  When is he going to feel better? . . . is extremely stressful.  In all reality, you deal with both types of problems the same way . . . ask God for strength, live in the light of His promises, and adjust to your new normal.  But when I am constantly trying to solve the problem or fix it, I live in a constant state of discontent. 

So I'm a fixer . . . and when I can't fix it, I have to wait on the Lord.  I don't like it, not one little bit.  It should be easier and less stressful when I let the Lord take care of it.  There is no need to worry about anything, because whatever I am worrying about will be taken care of at the appropriate time.  It isn't on my time table though, and I can't deal with that.  It attacks my pride of self-sufficiency.  But that is exactly the point . . . I'm not self-sufficient . . . that is sin.  I need to be God sufficient, because he is all I need.  The day that I truly live out the promises that God's grace is sufficient for me, that He loves me, that when I am weak He is strong . . . that will be a beautiful day of rest and trust.

Maybe all He is trying to teach me is to trust Him. That is the heart of the Gospel anyway, right?

"When God tests you, it is a good time for you to test Him by putting His promises to the proof, and claiming from Him just as much as your trials have rendered necessary." (quoted from an excerpt of Streams in the Desert by A.B. Simpson)