When Percy Sledge or Michael Bolton begin to sing “When a Man Loves a Woman” the ladies swoon and scream. And if you as a husband love your wife that way, she’s likely to respond in a similar fashion.
That song, still heard 50 years after it first came out, speaks to something deep in the hearts of human beings, something God put there, something that differentiates a successful marriage from a non-successful one. Regardless of how hard the enemy tries to distort and complicate it, loving your woman well will keep her heart close to yours and make your relationship intimate and strong. That’s something of what it means to love your wife like Christ.
Let’s get the objections out of the way right now. Life is complicated, and human beings are broken. God has given your wife free will also, and she has the option to refuse your love. Women can cause men enormous pain (the song implies that too), and your needs are important. I have some very strong things to say to women who behave badly toward their husbands.
But as a man God has gifted you with the responsibility and the power to be as Christ to your wife. Nothing happens – spiritually, emotionally, or sexually – until you step up. It’s vulnerable, scary, and perhaps overwhelming, but that’s what God has called you to do.
And you can do it!
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Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale was an officer in the US Navy during the Vietnam War. He became a fighter pilot, and in 1965 he was shot down while returning from his second combat tour over North Vietnam. Held for nearly eight years as a prisoner-of-war in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton”, he suffered repeated torture and years in solitary confinement without any prisoner’s rights, and with no assurance that he would survive the war or live to see his family again.
As the highest ranking officer in the camp, Stockdale shouldered responsibility for the other men also held there. He made it his mission to do everything in his power to help the men survive unbroken, while at the same time leading the American resistance against Vietnamese attempts to use the prisoners for propaganda. He instituted a cohesive set of rules governing prisoner behavior which provided the men with hope and empowerment. He developed an elaborate method of internal communication the men could use even during enforced silence or solitary confinement. Risking further torture or death if discovered, he found ways to forward secret intelligence to the US government through letters he was allowed to write to his wife. Following his release he received a total of 26 medals including the Medal of Honor.
Could you survive that kind of trauma? What kept Admiral Stockdale sane during those years of imprisonment and torture? What allowed him to do so much to help so many other men survive unbroken?
The Stockdale Paradox
Researcher and author Jim Collins writes of an enlightening conversation he had with Stockdale. When asked how he made it through Stockdale responded;
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It’s the day after Christmas. The presents are unwrapped. The Christmas decorations may still be up. Christmas dinner leftovers are still in the refrigerator. If your Christmas was wonderful, you may be feeling a little letdown already. If it wasn’t so great, you may be glad the holidays are nearly over – and wishing you had some leftovers to worry about.
If you’re feeling a little undone, here are a few suggestions for how to make the day after Christmas work in a positive way for you.
Express gratitude for what you received.
Children are well known for being disappointed if they didn’t get a particular gift they were hoping for. You’re a little more grown up – or at least you should be. Your Christmas probably wasn’t what you hoped it would be in some way, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t receive any wonderful gifts.
If someone gave you anything – however small – tell them Thank You again. If you learned something about yourself, about others, or about the true meaning of Christmas, express gratitude. If you recognized the Christ child in a special way this year, tell God Thank You once again for sending Him.
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The Christmas holiday season is promoted as a time of togetherness. Families sometimes travel long distances to be with loved ones for Christmas. Holiday parties, family gatherings, giving of gifts, and even church events are usually focused on joy and celebration of being together.
But what if that’s not you this year? What if you’re lonely at Christmas?
What if your family is messed up and being together only stirs up more trauma? What if you have no family or friends nearby inviting you to be with them? What if your marriage is in trouble, your kids are estranged, or outside circumstances are keeping you apart? What if you are spending your first Christmas after the loss of a loved one?
Feeling Lonely and Being Alone are not the same. You can feel lonely in a crowd; I’ve been there. You can feel at peace when you’re alone; I’ve been there too.
The important thing is to take positive action, to plan in advance. You may, and probably won’t, experience the ideal Christmas you think you want. But you’re not a victim!
Don’t let the loneliness of Christmas happen to you; you happen to your Christmas!
Taking Charge of your Christmas Experience
Wearing yourself out trying to please others or wallowing in self-pity are easy traps to fall into during the holidays. You have other choices! Here are some positive actions to consider as you choose to happen to your Christmas.
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How do you find freedom from compulsive sexual behavior? What does it look like? What does it take to get there?
I’ve been overwhelmed by your response to my post last week about Dealing with Masturbation and Pornography as a Christian. I’ve heard from men and women all over the world who are crying out for freedom. And I’m here to tell you that God has a way out! There is a pathway to freedom! And that’s what this post is about.
This is not for you if you wonder whether what you’re doing is wrong. It’s not for you if pornography and/or masturbation is not your struggle. It’s not for you if you think maybe you should “cut down” on your consumption of compulsive sexuality.
But if the Holy Spirit has put His finger on this part of your life and said, “This right here; it needs to stop. Let Me have this!”, then this post is for you.
This is for you if you’re sick and tired of the bondage, the hiding, the shame and the guilt. It is for you if you’re ready to do whatever it takes to find freedom. It is for you if you’re ready to fight with everything in your being to experience Christ’s victory in this area of your life.
You cannot be successful in this journey by going half-way. If you’re not all in, you’ll fail. Jesus has freedom available for you, but you cannot do your own thing in one area and expect to win a battle with compulsive sexual behavior.
This means war!
So pick up your sword, get furiously angry at your bondage and the one holding you there, and get ready to do the work ahead of you. As Mel Gibson when he played William Wallace, find the scream in the bottom of your soul and cry out with all your might,
7 Steps to Freedom
Here’s what it takes to get there.
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