Suffering in Marriage

Suffering in Marriage

Suffering in marriage is common. I’m honored to be posting over at To Love, Honor, and Vacuum. Thank you, Sheila Wray Gregoire, for the opportunity! I hope you’ll check out all Sheila has to offer, and read the full post there.

Suffering in MarriageMarriage isn’t supposed to be about suffering, is it?

There may be a few marriages where everything goes smoothly and life is truly “happily ever after,” but truthfully I haven’t known any marriages like that. I considered my marriage very happy, happier than most, but it was not devoid of suffering. But it was actually those challenging aspects that brought me the greatest satisfaction and became the most valuable.

Suffering in marriage is a touchy subject. That idea may immediately bring up thoughts of abuse, control, manipulation, addiction, violence, and any number of other painful and destructive ideas. I just want to get this out of the way right now: those behaviors are never OK. Never. Period. End of story. If there is abuse, manipulation, or violence going on in your marriage, get some help now!

But there’s a whole other aspect to “suffering” that is much more common, perhaps universal.

As human beings we are basically selfish, and when two selfish people become joined in marriage there is certain to be suffering.

You are certain to be hurt if you get close enough to someone, and you are certain to hurt them also. And life has a way of bringing its own suffering in a thousand different ways. It’s not a matter of if, but of when. But it’s what you do next that really counts.

Suffering can crop up in many different ways. Your spouse wants sex when you don’t, or you want sex when your spouse doesn’t feel up to it – over and over again. Your spouse develops a serious illness. Your teenage child gets involved in drugs. Your baggage or your spouse’s baggage from your family of origin spills over into your life now. You’re forced to choose between a job you love and doing what’s best for your marriage or family.

Your suffering may be larger or smaller than someone else’s, but it feels really heavy – and probably unfair.

I hope you’ll check out the rest of this post over at To Love, Honor, and Vacuum. There I talk about how to tell the difference between “good” suffering and “bad” suffering. I’d love to see your comments and questions.

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How Spiritual Maturity Happens

How Spiritual Maturity Happens

Almost nothing brings greater joy to a family than a brand new baby. And in the family of God, a brand new spiritual baby brings joy in the same way. Last week was baptism day at my church, and it was rightfully a time of awesome celebration.

But what happens next? Nothing brings as much pain to a family as a baby who does not or cannot grow and develop. Likewise, it’s at least as great a tragedy if those brand new spiritual babies do not grow and develop in their spiritual maturity.

Are you the same as you were when you first came to know Jesus? Has your character continued to develop? Would others be able to see the difference in you? And what of the other believers you spend time with; can you see any spiritual growth happening in them?

In our recent reader survey many of you expressed frustration at the lack of spiritual development in yourself or others:

  • “We’ve been in spirit filled churches for 13.5 years, yet we struggle with the same issues and don’t seem to walk in maturity.”
  • “I am working hard for the Lord but I find no change in the people, and it frustrates me.”
  • “I’m really bothered by the lack of real LIVING it Christians.”

God is surely as saddened by believers who remain spiritually stunted as any parent whose child does not continue to grow and develop. God desires that each one of His children continue to grow “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13)

As much as we would all agree that spiritual maturity is a worthy goal, there’s a trap we too easily fall into when we simply try harder. We cannot make ourselves – or others – grow spiritually! Only God can make you grow.  Tweet that.

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How to Read the Bible for Spiritual Food

How to Read the Bible for Spiritual Food

The reasons people read the Bible fall into two main categories. There are those who study the Bible, comparing one verse with another, researching the original language and setting, looking for answers to intellectual questions, preparing for a class or Bible study or sermon. And then there are those who go to the Bible for spiritual food.

There’s nothing wrong with studying the Bible. Most of us need to do more of that. The Bible itself talks a lot about the benefits God’s word provides to those who study it diligently. I’ve studied the Bible since I was a little girl. I’ve read it through many times. I’ve studied the original languages and culture and setting. I’ve read books, taken classes, and listened to countless expository sermons and teachings. And I’m grateful for every one of those things.

But it’s possible to do all those things and still not have your heart changed. There are professors at divinity schools who know as much or more about the Bible than you or I do, and still do not believe in God. Satan himself knows the Bible better than we do, and even believes in God. “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble!” (James 2:19)

There is a huge difference between studying the Bible for knowledge and going to the Bible as a starving person looking for nourishment.     Tweet that.

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7 Mistakes to Avoid When You’re Worked Up

7 Mistakes to Avoid When You’re Worked Up

Angry ManIt’s a rare person who never gets emotionally flustered. And I’m not sure such a person truly exists. Some people get worked up over the smallest things – the coffee maker didn’t start on time, or your coworker pulled into your favorite parking spot just as you were about to grab it. But there are plenty of big things that can cause even the toughest person to temporarily lose their emotional footing, such as a serious illness, a major financial loss, the death of a loved one, or a friend’s betrayal.

Reacting out of your emotions when you’re worked up is natural. And we each have our favorite ways of doing so: withdrawing into isolation, lashing out in anger, or dissolving into tears or anxiety. Strong emotions affect our decision-making ability, and it’s easy to say or do things out of those emotions that we will later regret. One of the first steps in emotional maturity is understanding yourself well enough to know when you need to slow down long enough for your rational mind to catch up.

When you feel the heat of being emotionally worked up churning in your being, press PAUSE. Here are several mistakes to avoid at those high-temperature times.

  1. Don’t make big decisions. Making wise decisions that will have long-lasting consequences requires a clear mind. Most of us can’t do that when we’re worked up. Quitting your job or your marriage, throwing away a friendship, selling or buying something expensive, moving to a new church or city, bailing out on a challenging project – none of those decisions can wisely be made out of fear, anger, disappointment, frustration, or any other strong emotion. Wait until your mental temperature cools somewhat, and include your rational mind in the decision-making process.
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When You Can’t Feel the Presence of God

When You Can’t Feel the Presence of God

You’ve experienced those moments. Perhaps it was when you first came to know Jesus and your whole being seemed engulfed by His joy. Perhaps it was in a time of crisis and you unmistakably knew that God had come through for you. Perhaps it was in a beautiful nature environment and God’s peace flooded your soul. Perhaps it was at a Christian service or event and your heart was filled to overflowing with inspiration and courage to do God’s work. There have been times when you knew the presence of God, and it was sweet.

But right now you don’t. Your mind may be filled with confusion and worry, and you can’t seem to hear God’s voice. Your financial circumstances are dismal, and there’s no miracle on the horizon. Your marriage is in trouble, and your prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling. Sickness or grief or pain characterize your days, and God seems nowhere to be found. Your soul is dry. If only you could feel Him with you it would make everything better.

You’re trying as hard as you can, but you can’t feel the presence of God.

If you’ve been a Christian for very long, you can almost certainly relate to those feelings. Your head may believe what God says, but your heart craves to sense His presence when things get tough. You want to hear His voice telling you what to do next. You want to feel His comfort for your aching soul. You want Him to bring you relief and reassurance and refreshing.

But nothing happens. And you may be tempted to question, “Where is He?”

There’s a truth that came to mean a great deal to me during some of my own dry periods, and it’s this: The teacher is always silent during a test. TWEET THAT.  It could be that God is allowing a test so that you – and the universe – can see what you’re truly made of. Will you still trust Him?

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