Monday, February 18, 2019

A Recipe for the Hard Times in Marriage

Hard Times, everyone has them.  Fact is, I don't think we fully understand the value of the good times without occasionally drudging through the hard ones.  If this is true for all of life... why not marriage?

My husband and I have experienced a lifetime of hard times within the small span of the almost 22 years we have been together.  Secular when we met... then I got saved... 10 years later so did he... and all the tidbits which fill the space between those pivotal points.  Or how about jobless... recession... more joblessness... being married to ADHD... struggles with kids... death... disease... and, again, so much more which fills in the space between.

Hard Times.

But hope.

Within all of the above, the hardest of these hard times has always come as a result of my attitude... especially towards my husband.
He is my partner... or am I viewing him as my rival
He is my confidante... or am I keeping everything to myself
He is my encourager... or do I hide my doubt
Yes, some of my hard times are the result of my husband, himself, challenging me by his mood or attitude.  Yet, that is still no excuse.  I've tried EVERYTHING, but only one thing worked well.  Submit.  It may seem like a dirty word... "submit"... in our culture of hyper-feminism it is nearly derogatory.  However, Biblical submission is beautiful and rewarding.  I have a recipe for submission, formulated through years of trial and error....

This may seem obvious, but the content could be unexpected.  Yes, I pray for my husband and over our situations.  I may also pray that God would open my husband's heart and mind.  But most of all, I pray for myself... I pray over anywhere I may not be walking right or communicating well or doing my best for our relationship and the situation.  I pray, also, for strength to persevere as a reflection of God's love, grace and peace to my husband... regardless of how he reacts.

How many times have I had a rough day or challenge and found myself lacking in ability to act lovingly to those around me, including my husband.  As I come through my momentary rough patch I often feel a bit guilty for how I acted and then I look up to see my husband still standing strong having weathered the storm with me.  This encourages me to remember I can be used by God to help my husband when he is weathering his own storms.  The whole 'log and spec' analogy comes to mind!

May I always be humble and remember: his challenge or struggle today could be my challenge or struggle tomorrow... I ought to measure out the same love, grace, and care that I would hope to have measured back (even if it never is).

... in love.  I learned to lovingly do for him all the tender things a wife is called to do; coffee in bed, a welcome home hug, his favorite dinner, etc.  Even when I don't 'feel' like it, I ought to serve him if, for no other reason (and this is helpful if you are at dire odds with your spouse) but because Jesus did the same for ALL when they were unlovable, unreachable and down-right impossible!  If I am called to love and forgive and serve others the way Jesus did... doesn't this apply even more so to me with my husband?

 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
- 1 John 4:7-8 

... in grace and forgiveness.  As mentioned, I like to remember: I have bad days needing much grace and forgiveness as well!  If I can't issue, abundantly, grace and forgiveness for the hard times, messy times, and 'I just wasn't thinking' times... then what can I issue it for?  If I can't first issue grace and forgiveness to my spouse then any I issue elsewhere is empty.  Grace is the greatest gift ever bestowed upon mankind, forgiving us when we were unforgivable.  If it is given to me so freely, ought I not also give to others, especially my husband, unbound?

 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Matthew 6:14-15

... in peace.  It's hard, but I strive to choose not to argue or fight or be petty or irritable... the list could go on.  Culture says: REACT.  God says: SUBMIT and serve.  Reactionary living is one of the biggest rots to our modern culture.  We have lost the art of listening, serving and simply being there.  Opinion is not required in every situation.  Often, simple peace will suffice.  Walking in peace has the power to defuse the most hostile situations.  Walking in peace provides a pocket for clear thinking and processing (on both parts.)  Walking in peace is one of the hardest things a person can do during hard times, however, it packs some of the biggest rewards.

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
- Romans 12:17-18 

Scripture is clear in regards to the husband-wife relationship on this matter: God commands the man to love his wife as he commands the wife to respect or honor her husband.  Why?  Does God mean that man does not need to respect his wife or wife does not need to love her husband?  No, not at all.  Elsewhere in scripture we see beautiful examples of a reciprocal spousal relationship.  In actuality, God is the author of "Love Languages" and He knows (because he created us) what speaks to our hearts loudest and best.  For woman, we need to feel love from our husbands and our husbands need to know they are respected by us.  Time and time again, the greatest cause of strife in marriage comes when wives, often unintentionally, disrespect their husbands.  

After many failures on this point, I began to listen and learn what my husband feels is disrespectful.  You can do this too by asking questions like: Does he flare up when he is interrupted?  Does he grow irritated when he feels ignored?  Does he loose it when you disagree with him in front of the children?  Does he take deep offence when you don't consult him on various issues?  Whatever you notice as your husband's trigger-point, whether or not you agree it is "reasonable", do everything in your power to show him more respect by responding alternatively in those situations. I can honestly say, arguments have dropped by at least 90% in my household since I began working on this area of our marriage.

However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, 
and let the wife see that she respects her husband.  
- Ephesians 5:33

I think this has been the hardest lesson for me.  I like to control and be in charge!  I have had to work at trusting that God knows what He is doing when he moves my husband to make certain decisions.  Good or bad, my responsibility isn't to the outcome of my husband's decisions... it is to God in obedience to my husband (as long as he doesn't ask me to go along with anything unbiblical).  It is hard to stand by, when times are hard, and not try and take control.  However, I have  learned: you CAN and should relax and TRUST God at work through your husband... even if he is not a Christian... even if it feels like times get even harder for a while.  The struggle is not permanent, but obedience to God carries eternity.

I have also had to grow in trust with my husband in sharing my heart.  This may seem silly, after all, we get married as the result of sharing hearts... right?  Yet, often, when we are the ones having the hard time, we forget our closest Allie beside God is our husband!  The tips I have had to wrestle through: Don't isolate yourself or soak in a self-defeatist, woe-is-me attitude or think all issues must be self-solved.  God has blessed us with a spouse in order to help us.  Since my husband became a Christian he has also become my most valuable prayer partner.  When he was secular, I still found ways to share my heart gently and honestly.  Praying for God's good timing always helped (as long as I listened to His leading!!).  When my marriage was really struggling, this took time as I learned how  to better talk/listen with my husband.  Through many trials and errors I grew in patience with him, myself and God. Trust. God will bless perseverance.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
- Ephesians 5:22-24

Stir well and apply liberally!

Hard times can be within the home... or they can be life's daily challenges somewhere without.  Regardless, draw close to God and to each other.  You WILL come through stronger on the other side.  And for those with unbelieving husbands:  I have seen many husbands turned by the loving, gracious, caring acts of their wives... my own included.  If we are called to reflect the Light in a dark world, why would we miss this awesome opportunity with our husbands?

This may seem like a lot of work!  You may wonder, "What about me?  When do I get such treatment?"  Fair enough.  Well... you will find your affectionate care becoming contagious.  It may happen in days... or weeks... or months.  It may even take years, as it did in my own situation.  In the meantime, persevere, leaning on the Lord as your strength and guide.  Do all to honor God and God will, in His good timing, bless you in unexpected ways.

This life isn't about us.  It isn't about the hard times.  It isn't even about our husbands.  It is all, completely, 100% about Him who calls us and justifies us... it is all about His glory alone.  The Hard Times are merely a vehicle to remind us of His strength and power over our weaknesses.  They are an opportunity to draw ever closer.

The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. 
She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. 
Proverbs 31:11-12 

I pray you find strength for the Hard Times as you draw close to God and trust Him to draw you and your husband closer together.


Speaking of love and marriage, I have a new Bible Study out this month, "Love Is..." correlating the whole of scripture to the tenets of 1 Corinthians 13.  Have you been longing to learn how to love as Christ calls us to?  You may want to check this study out.  You can find a FREE link on my Instagram profile OR you can subscribe to my newsletter (it is FREE) and receive February's issue with the "Love Is" Bible study and more.  Details are below:

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