…"But the Word of God is not chained or imprisoned!" 2Tim. 2:9
People have all kinds of ideas and notions on whom they are to marry, how they go about finding “the one” to marry, and the list of standards and ideals they have for the one they marry. Let’s clear up a few things, shall we?
The bible doesn’t say anything about waiting for your soul mate to get married. It also doesn’t say anything about God having that one special person just for you…although people will argue with me on that one! What it does say is that we are to get or find a spouse—that means you don’t sit and wait for God drop one into your lap.
The only other clear directive to believers is to make sure that the person you marry is also a believer. (See 1Corinthians 7:39 and 2 Corinthians 6:14.) Notice that scripture doesn’t tell us to marry a person who simply says he or she is a believer. There is a huge difference between the two, but in all honesty, most people don’t get that.
Far too often single people—especially women—will date anyone who claims to be a Christian regardless of whether or not they have any real evidence of action to back that report up. You are not a Christian just because you went to church as a child, or because you attend services on Christmas and Easter. Even sitting in church every Sunday doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in your garage makes you a car. There are signs that you need to look for when trying to evaluate a person’s commitment to their faith. And make no mistake, it is exactly what you should be doing during the dating process.
Does the person actually show the fruit of their proclamation of faith? Does he regularly attend worship? Is she actively involved in a local church body? How often does he read his bible, pray, or fast? Is she a generous giver who volunteers her time, money and also tithes? Or is this person someone who just stamps “Christian” on their life but is not living out the Christian disciplines? Are they impatient, inflexible, demanding and selfish? Do their behaviors reflect the heart of a true believer or do they act no differently than those pagans in the world around us?
You need to really look at the person you are interested in and honestly assess their commitment to self- restraint, denying their flesh, exercising sacrificial attitudes and a devotion to truly following Jesus Christ. Check the fruit. Are they the real deal, or just some facsimile or counterfeit of a genuine believer? Far too often single people will jump into a relationship and get all emotionally tangled with another person who claims to be a believer but in reality, is living like total hell.
They don’t read the bible, pray, give to or even attend a church regularly. Some of these men and women may attend church but are out there living just like the heathens when it comes to dating by freely giving oral sex or fornicating their little brains on the first few dates. Clearly there are those who say they are a Christian, and then there are those that truly live as one.
Singles out there in the dating pool must be more discerning and less duped and dense when it comes to choosing the person they will be yoked to in marriage. Don’t make the common mistake thinking all that matters is what a person says in regard to their faith. This is definitely a time that actions speak louder than words, and you need to see their faith in action.
Most people don’t understand the power of sex. Our culture has poisoned their thinking and they’ve bought the lie that sex is just something you do because it’s exciting and feels good. Most people are totally unaware of the consequences of being sexually involved with another person.
I’m convinced that we are clueless about the ramifications of sex done the wrong way instead of the right way—God’s way. We have to start connecting the dots, folks. How you behave sexually outside of marriage has an impact on sex inside your marriage. It’s an important message that we must get out to our Christian young people.
Dr. Kenneth Ryan has written a great book titled, Finding Your Prince in a Sea of Toads. I highly recommend it for all single women and for parents of teenage girls. The book explains how to date the right way in order to “find a quality guy without getting your heart shredded”. A large portion of it is dedicated to telling young women how to handle themselves when it comes to sex and the importance of doing it right prior to marriage.
Dr. Ryan draws a brilliant analogy that drives home the point of how illicit sex has consequences:
In a classic ridiculous movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, there is a scene in which a supposedly horrible beast is guarding a cave. The knights have heard horror stories about its ferocity, having been told, “It has long claws and horrible fangs. It is a hideous monster,” so they approach the cave with great fear and caution. But all they see is a little bunny hopping around in front of the cave. “It’s just a bunny,” the first knight says in a British accent filled with derision. He approaches the cave casually and the bunny leaps to his throat biting and killing the knight. More knights follow and are slaughtered by the fake-looking killer bunny. It is a classic moment in movie comedy.
Sex outside of marriage is like the bunny. It looks like a harmless, fuzzy thing that you would want to cuddle. It looks warm, friendly, and desirable. People who warn against the dangers of sex while single are usually considered radical nuts, out of step with modern times. The derision is similar to that of the knights just before they were slaughtered. Many people hear the warnings about premarital sex and think they are not susceptible to its powers. You are surrounded by movies, magazines, TV shows, and friends who all deal with dating sex as if it is a harmless little fluff ball, nothing but fun. Any negative consequences are ignored or laughed at. Everyone seems to think sex is “just a little bunny” until it is too late.
Far too many people have fallen prey to the fuzzy little bunny of sex, not thinking that it can actually do a ton of damage. This isn’t about condemning people but rather, we need to teach and warn others…especially our young people. You have to talk to your kids and warn them of the potential damage they face and the probability that they will impact their future sex lives when they become sexually active outside of marriage.
People who have had several partners, had all kinds of sexual experiences, used pornography, gotten into masturbation, or ventured into homosexual behavior, etc. have all sorts of imprinting and images stuck in their heads. There are memories and associations in their minds from all they have seen and done. Often people ask me, “Pastor, how do I get rid of these things so that my spouse and I can have a normal sex life?”
Now, this will really depress a lot of people—not that I’m here to depress you all—but the truth of the matter is you may never get rid of these images or feelings. One of the problems we have in Christianity is that because we believe in healing and restoration, people live casually. They think that what they do won’t matter because Jesus will heal it all and make it okay.
The reason so many churches don’t speak out about sexual sin is because Christians think it’s not big deal since once you get saved and ask Jesus to forgive you He’ll just heal it and it will all be gone. But that’s simply not true. Those of you who have been down this path, have you noticed the pictures never go away? You may be serving Jesus for 30 years and be living as pure as the wind driven snow, but sometimes you might be having sex with your spouse and you’ll still remember having sex with someone else. There are woman and men who love their husbands and wives deeply. Yet, if they are honest, they’ll admit that those thoughts still intrude into their minds even years later. They still remember it. A sound, a smell, a touch can all trigger a memory or an image in your mind. It’s not something you can just do casually without repercussions. This is why the bible says, don’t do it!
Paul warns us to flee from sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians 6:18 because “All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” What he is saying is that you hurt yourself, you sin against yourself and there is damage done to your own mind and body when you do this.
When you go down this path it’s going to be harder for you and at some level, you may struggle for the rest of your life. There is no magic formula or pixie dust or special prayer that you can say to make the residual consequences disappear. I know that people get upset when I say this, but it’s true. It’s like if you commit murder and then repent and ask God to forgive you, He will. You can even ask the victim’s family to forgive you and they will…but you still have to serve your time in prison. Why? Because even though there is forgiveness, there are still consequences. You can ask God to forgive you of your sexual sin and in your standing before Him, it’s like it never happened. But in your body and in your mind there are consequences to that sin.
Scripture tells us we can renew our minds and take our thoughts captive and that is what people who have done these things have to do. Again, I’m not condemning people but trying to point out the importance of telling your kids and our young people about this. They need to know this is a big deal and that they can’t casually have sexual experiences before they’re married thinking they will just forget it all when “the right one comes along”. You don’t forget it. You can be haunted by the images and the experiences for the rest of your life.
Sexual experience are highly imprinting even if you are not serious about it. Your brain and body don’t know that it “doesn’t really mean anything” and that you aren’t serious and just messing around. There is hope and you are not doomed, but it will require a lot of intentionality, a lot of resistance, a lot of energy fighting the thoughts, feelings and temptations because of your past. You can heal and have a meaningful life, but there is no magic wand to wave to make it like it never happened. People who don’t go there, the ones who do sex right in the context of marriage, don’t struggle with these things.
That is why churches need to talk about this. We should all be driven to teach the truth and quit giving the picture that Jesus will just make things all better…especially those who have been down this road and know what I’m talking about. We must start connecting the dots and realize that sex is very powerful and it’s a really big deal outside of marriage.
Remember the analogy…it’s not just a cute fuzzy bunny.
For many severely conflicted couples, divorce seems to promise peace from the infighting, a fresh start, the hope of new love, and a kind of “reset button” for life. Many buy into the idea that ending a marriage is a viable way to solve relationship problems.
Besides, you reason, it will ultimately be better for all, and the kids will make it—kids are resilient. And you won’t have to look for to find voices to side with you. People who love you will give you a biased shoulder to cry on; they want you to feel loved and supported. But don’t be quick to listen to your personal fan club. They are not objective; they are out to protect and rescue you. People like this will always urge you to divorce if they believe you are suffering emotionally in your marriage.
But divorce has been oversold. What most fail to acknowledge is the longstanding pain created by a divorce. Contrary to popular belief, statistics show that after divorce children are not okay. The ‘trickle-down effect” causes them emotional trauma that stays with them throughout life. Also, divorced people are less healthy and less happy, and have a higher risk of substance abuse. Depression is three times greater in women who divorce than in those who do not. And divorce severely lowers one’s standard of living. In fact, if statistics are to be believed, the one sure way you can guarantee that you, your children, and your grandchildren will live at or below the poverty level for their entire lives is simply to get a divorce.
Never mind the religious implications, we should fight for our marriages because divorce sucks. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t eliminate the relational dysfunction evidenced in the marriage. Marriage problems are relationship problems, they are the result of how two people interact with each other. You may abandon a troubled marriage, but you will still bring the way you interact with others along with you. You can run, but you cannot hide who you are.
And what of the pain you feel when you have to deal with your ex-spouse? You may think you’ll be free when you “ex” your spouse, but you will relive the pain and awkwardness of facing that ex at every holiday, every birthday, and every special occasion. Even in divorce, spouses don’t disappear.
Neither do the problems that divorce creates. It will hound you for the rest of your life.
There is a great joy to the early struggles of marriage. When people who “make it” talk about the early days of their marriage, they admit it was bittersweet but they say the sweet ended up outweighing the bitter. Researchers agree. In a recent study conducted by a team of leading family scholars headed by University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite, researchers found that “two-thirds of unhappily married spouses who stayed married reported that their marriages were happy five years later. In addition, the most unhappy in their marriages reported the most dramatic turnarounds: Among those who rated their marriages as very unhappy, almost eight out of ten who avoided divorce were happily married five years later.
The study went on to say that there is a kind of “divorce assumption” in America. People assume that they will either stay in a bad marriage and continue to be miserable or get a divorce and become happier. But the social science data challenge that assumption. Contrary to conventional wisdom, there is no evidence that unhappily married people who divorced were any happier that unhappily married people who stayed married! In no way does divorce reduce symptoms of depression, raise self-esteem, increase one’s sense of mastery, or generally improve any of the twelve separate measures of psychological well-being. Even the unhappy spouses who divorced and remarried generally were no happier than the unhappy ones who stayed married. In fact, the evidence seems to suggest that unhappy people are unhappy, period—married or not.
Dr. Waite concluded, “Staying married is not just for the children’s sake. . . . results like these suggest the benefits of divorce have been oversold.” It may look as if you will gain ground by eliminating some stresses of a bad marriage, but divorce creates more stresses than people bargain for: the ugliness of a breakup between partners; the reactions of children; potential disappointments and aggravation about custody issues, child support, and visitation orders; new financial or health stresses for one or both parents; plus the brand new relationships or marriages that also fail to make one happy.
If you are expecting marriage to be nothing but bliss, you will be sorely disappointed. It’s not that there is not bliss to be had—there is; it’s that bliss comes only after blisters. Marital bliss is the result of marital blisters—lots of hard work, where you work till it hurts, sometimes till you bleed. Marriages get happy not because partners get along so grandly, but because they stubbornly outlast the ways they don’t get along. There are all kinds of rough spots to work through when you step into life with another person: financial problems, job reversals, loss and its accompanying depression, child problems, and sometimes even infidelity. These things can destroy. But they don’t have to.
I know there are millions of unhappily married people throughout the world today. Maybe you are one of them. But unhappy marriages are unhappy because most ignore (or are completely oblivious to) the mistakes they are making in their relationships. There is hope for troubled marriages—even if you have become heartbroken and confused. But there is a connection between what you are putting into your marriage and what you are getting out of it.
The mere suggestion that people need to change their own behavior in order to get a better result is often greeted by blank stares. People tend to believe they should have a good marriage for no other reason than that marriage is supposed to be good. They believe they should have a good marriage because that is what they prayed for. They believe they should have a good marriage because. . . .we.., just because.
Someone who went through a divorce said, “I hit a horrible impasse in my first marriage. I felt I was right and she was wrong, so I cashed out. In my second marriage I saw the same things starting to occur that destroyed my first marriage. At first I thought I had made another bad choice in partner, but I decided to change how I was married, not my marriage partner. It turned everything around. I love my second wife, but I also understand now that I could have loved my first wife and not experienced the hell of divorce and the lifelong awkwardness it creates—especially with kids.”
Divorce is not always what you think it is.
All marriages start off very selfishly. When a couple begins dating, it is generally all about each person’s own interests. “I like what you do for me. I like the way you make me feel. When I’m with you I’m happy. You make me feel validated.” At the beginning, marriage really is the ultimate in narcissistic expression. The reason you are getting married is because of what he/she does for you. And it’s the same for the other person. It’s all about me, me, me!
But then you get these two me, me, me people together and something has to give. Marriages where couples are able to make the transition from selfish, me-centered thinking, the ones where the husband and wife realize that they can’t get everything they want, are the ones that make it. The marriages where couples can’t do that…and many people don’t…are the ones that fall apart.
It’s amazing how many spouses are always asking, “How can I make my spouse___________? Fill in the blank with whatever fits.
How can I get my spouse to load the dishwasher the way I want?
How can I get my spouse to do the things I want to do?
How can I get my spouse to keep the house better?
How can I get my spouse to spend less money?
Chores, money, time, attitude…the list goes on infinitely. They may use other words like “get”, “change”, encourage”, “teach”, etc., but the real idea is how do I make my spouse do what I want? These are the people who have not made the shift from the me, me, me and I want, I like, I need mentality to a sacrificial, giving, putting the other first, we way of thinking.
Listen to me. The bottom line is that you can’t make anyone do anything. People will complain that their spouse doesn’t clean the bathroom the way they want, or fold the clothes, or hang the towels, or wash the dishes, the “right” way…which is code for my way!
I’ve got news for you, The Furor, Your Highness—she’s not your slave; and he’s not your slave! Stop being a narcissistic snot! Not everyone gets everything they want. If there is a specific and certain way that you just have to have things done and you don’t like it when your spouse fails to meet your standard, the answer is simple: You do it!
There are areas in our home that I am pickier about, like my office, so I am the one who cleans it. In other areas, it’s my wife who wants things done in a certain way, so she takes care of that. What we don’t do is argue and insult each other all the while insisting that the other person does it my way. I either shut up and let her do it her way, or I do it myself if it’s something that want to have done just-so.
Sometimes you have to give, compromise, do it yourself and hush up. If you constantly fight to win, dig your heels in to have everything exactly the way you want it, when you want it and how you want it, you will lose, but not in a good way.
Sometimes you just have the mentality that “I get to lose.” Deliberately choose to lose. Lose your selfishness, your ego, and your right to be right all the time. Ironically, losers win and winners lose in this one.
by Mark Gungor
We plan our wills, our finances, our health, and our vacations. When we are planning a vacation, we go through great lengths to plan and organize everything. Where stops will be, how long we’re going to be staying there, and what we’re going to wear….etc. The list is never-ending. When my wife and I go on a short weekend trip, she takes enough clothing for a month. When we plan a promoting scheme for our business, we leave no stone unturned. What about the biggest, and we are hoping, the most extended trip of your life? Your marriage.
I know this is just about a foreign word in our society today, but I’m from the Old School and I still think that a lifelong dedication to one partner brings with it some of the most overwhelming results you can never really explain, and that no amount of money can ever buy.
It also brings with it some twists and turns, bumps and bruises, talks and compromises, and that’s what makes it so great.
I love hockey, and when I used to play, I took plenty of bumps and bruises, twists and turns, compromises and talks, but boy was it fun.
Everyone would limp off the ice, get our gear and limp off to home and we were smiling and taking about what a great game we just played. It was fun! We played because we loved the game, irrespective of if we took a blow now and then. Do you love your spouse? Have you definitely made a game plan to make this commitment succeed?
Now you who are not married and just living together will never understand what I’m talking about. LOVE IS A COMMITMENT! You do not have a relationship that will feel what I just described, unless you’ve got a lifelong commitment. No running out the back door when things simply do not go your way. You work it out. If your marriage relationship does not have a destination, how can you know when you arrive? And why wait for love to materialize out of stardust, when you might select excitement and romance now?
There’s a straight forward yet surpassing plan for a marriage of depth, hot romance and excitement! A Plan, you ask? Exactly! Good marriages are no accident. The rules are easy enough; you only need an outline to follow. Hard times can strike any family relationship. But deciding to love, in the effective techniques outlined here, can result in relationships that are harder when the hard times come, and they can come.
Six elements to staying in Love:
I can go further into each one of those points on another post, but I am able to assure you, if you implement these into your marriage, you’ll see a major change happen. That change may take time and lot of persistence on your side, and don’t be stunned that the most wide-reaching change just could be in you.