Marriage and the Love Between a Man and a Woman

It’s Bro. Edu Cortez’s fault, that very talented photographer behind the lens of Extreme Details Photography – glory to God! He posts these beautiful photos of brides and their grooms, their poses and bodies speak of a language only a man and a woman so in-love with each other know and understand. These evoke exquisite emotions that are not commonly felt – well, not by a wife in her mid-forties like me :)! But, alas! The hopeless romantic in me succumbs to wonderful thoughts about love stirred up by these prenup and wedding photos.

They definitely make me think about the love that captures a man and a woman and brings them to a place where they could give of themselves to each other – in mind, in spirit, in heart, in body – in the sanctity of marriage. It is almost magical; a spellbinding process that is beyond their control.

I can’t help but think about Jacob and Rachel. Jacob, upon seeing Rachel for the first time, wept. Could it be that the rush of emotions was like an avalanche washing over him he just couldn’t express it in words he chose to weep? A love so powerful it seized him in an instant and spurred him to kiss that beautiful young woman who had just captured his heart? The Bible tells that he “lifted up his voice and wept”. I imagine that there were actually no words that came out of his lips but maybe only a pained cry, the soul’s expression of an emotion so strong and wanting to be released. Doesn’t love do that? It moves you so much it hurts?

Without a doubt, the love between a man and a woman is beautiful because it was from God and created by Him. It was part of His design of things from the time of Adam and Eve. And though disobedience drove the very first couple out of Eden, God did not take back the gift of love that He had given them in the beginning. And so, it is what we know and have to this day.

wedding2

Man and woman were created for each other. They are bound by love that makes pure, sanctifies, and not defiles – only in marriage. “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). The man honors the woman by giving himself to her in marriage, while the woman honors him by submitting to him. The husband is commanded to love his wife as Christ loves the Church (Eph. 5:25). The love of Christ sanctifies, nurtures, endures. It is a love that serves and suffers long.

So when I see a groom holding his bride with much love, care, and admiration, I am in awe of this wonder that God has given His creation.

I have been blessed with a faithful husband whose love holds in sickness and in health, in trials and in triumph. Often, the problem with couples, especially those who are still young, is that they are so idealistic. They look at other couples or spouses and compare. That’s where discontent, criticisms, complaints, fault-finding, and strife come in.

A year after our wedding, I experienced all these things with other marital problems. That’s why soon after, our marriage broke apart. (To read more of our testimony, click here).

When we received the Lord Jesus Christ and He restored our marriage and family, there were still problems and challenges we faced as husband and wife. But our Savior’s mercy and grace held us and taught us.

The world teaches women to be independent and self-sufficient, even to be independent (or defiant) from their husbands, thanks to the feminist movement. But this is in direct disobedience and rebellion against God’s commandment.

Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives [submit] to their own husbands in everything(Eph. 5:24)

For those who live and walk in the Spirit, we know that there is actually liberty in obeying God’s Word to submit to our husbands. Going into the marriage with reservations and holding back ourselves, and striving against our husbands could actually be a prison that we make for ourselves. When we willingly release ourselves in submission to our husbands, we usher in God’s approval, and hence, His favor, and everything flows easier.

This kind of submission doesn’t mean we must lose our voice. It means we honor our husbands by listening to them, respecting their decisions, opinions, and views, be led by them, and not usurp their authority.

This is God’s grand design for marriage.

I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.

Journey with Jesus,

At Peace with God’s Testings

A son whose simple dream was to get a good job abroad to bring prosperity to his family; who loves his father and mother that even at a young age, he accepted a job offer to work in China, just so he can help them. A son who loves the Lord Jesus and served Him faithfully. But fate would have it that this young man would taste the bitterness of God’s hard testing. While believing that his dream was at last within his reach, he ended up in a prison in China and was locked up. He was charged of transporting drugs to that country – a “drug mule”. How harder could it get?

How could he face the reality of a dream shattering to thousand irretrievable pieces? But maybe that’s easier to accept and come to terms to compared to the horrifying and uncertain future in prison in a foreign land with a charge that when proven guilty would send him to his death. How could he face every single day, knowing that that country is the world’s leading executioner?

And then there’s this wife whose fervent prayer is a blissful marriage, but what she’s been having for years is a difficult one, one that often sends her to great despair  and lose hope even of life, let alone a harmonious and peaceful married life. A wife whose soul is wearied by her spouse’s unkindness and seeming lack of love by the way he treats her most of the time. A wife who prays and wrestles, strives and fails, rises and believes, only to see herself go through the same cycle over again.

A wife who wants to hide from her God because she just couldn’t face Him with repeated failures and ugly mess. Who wants to escape and run as far away from frustrations, unhappiness and confusions as possible. A wife who thinks that the fights she never wanted make her unwhole and impure in the sight of God and what shall she do now? What shall she do with her dreams and her desire for almost-perfect marriage? How shall she close her eyes from the world’s standard of a happy marriage? But most of all, how shall she live with the daunting realization that this might just be the case for the rest of their life here on earth?

The son in prison survives every single day because of Jesus. In the dark prison cell, He is his light. In moments of uncontrollable fear, He is his strength. Jesus’ love is kept hidden in his heart; nothing in this world could steal it from him. And the fire of his love for Him which flourished throughout the years that he served Him freely, keeps burning in his heart.

He reads his Bible everyday like it was his lifeline (indeed, it IS our lifeline!). He is given strength from above to rise up morning by morning to share the Gospel to his fellow prisoners, even to those who oversee them. He has given up thoughts about his own life and future. Maybe in the soul level, he has died to them. He lives surrendered to God and His will. He lives embracing his testing, suffering, and calling.

And the wife? Jesus spoke to her to embrace her life with all its testings and hardships. She should not run away from it but let Him do His work. She should not think that the mess, the failures, the frustrations do not make her impure as long as her heart is right with Him, connected with Him, and her whole being – her eyes, heart, mind and soul – is focused on Him.

And she was freed and knew that with the exhilarating freedom came a commitment, a covenant, that. she. will. not. dare. take. her eyes. off. of. Him. Her eyes, heart, mind, and soul must be engaged fully with Him. And yes, she can. She can go on with life, marriage, family, plans, service, ministry, with joy!

How can they be at peace with God and their woeful situation? How can we be at peace with our own testings and sufferings? It is this, this is the key:

For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us,[a] leaving us[b] an example, that you should follow His steps:

22 “Who committed no sin,
Nor was deceit found in His mouth”. (1 Pet. 2:19-22)

When we do good and suffer, and we endure the grief and take it patiently because of God – this is COMMENDABLE before Him.

We were CALLED to suffer with Christ and follow His steps.

This is our freedom, the balm to our pains and sufferings. This is our light in our confusions and comfort in our afflictions. This is our assurance in our discouragements and encouragement in our failures and frustrations.

Related article: A Reward for the Righteous (includes the testimony of the brother in Christ who was mentioned above).

Journey with Jesus,

 

Hope in Marriage {and Our Testimony}

For a debate in college about divorce, my classmate (he was top of the class) asked me what argument against divorce could I contribute beside those which are common ones. What did we know about the subject considering that there’s no divorce law in our country and we were all engineering students faced with math problems everyday? But we did have minor subjects and we needed to study them, too.

I thought for a moment then gave my opinion. “I think the existence of divorce has a psychological effect to people. For the unmarried, I think they may tend to be rash in making decisions to marry thinking that if they had made a mistake or things didn’t go as expected, they could file a divorce and start a new life. And for the married to not do their best to make the marriage work. I think that if people knew there existed a law which easily dissolves a covenant and is accessible to all, they would tend to enter into that covenant with the mentality that it may, or may not be permanent.” In other words, it creates a mindset.

There is no divorce in our country Philippines. What we do have is annulment and it isn’t that popular, especially among the masses. I can think of 3 reasons why:

  1. Difficulty – it isn’t easy to get an annulment, and the process is tedious, frustrating for many, and may take many years. I believe that our country, being predominantly Christian (though different sects), has stringent annulment law.
  2. Cost – it is very costly to pay for lawyers’ services. Almost only the wealthy can afford it. So, it is like a special privilege, if I may say so.
  3. Beliefs – I believe that majority of the Filipino people still believe in and cling to the sanctity of marriage, that separation brings a stigma, and so, they do their best to stay in the marriage.

These reasons could both be a strength and a weakness. Strength because they drive couples to avoid, at all costs, having to resort to annulment and lead them to the way of reconciliation. Weakness because for spouses who cannot afford the process, yet, their separation is final, may nevertheless choose to live with others while still legally bound to each other. They may start new families of their own without the blessing of marriage.

But, whether divorce or annulment, the fact still remains that broken marriages and shattered homes exist and so, there must be something higher, something that is above our strength, wisdom and power to do, that could give people hope for a strong, healthy, and lasting marriage.

That hope is in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Some people may have become bitter, cynical even, to believe that there is hope in a wrecked marriage. But there is. And that is our testimony.

I had walked down that hall – eerie, cold, and seemed not to care about the heaviness, the turmoil, that was going on inside me. I stared at dark, hardwood shelves that lined the walls and reached the ceiling; they sturdily held thick volumes of Law books. Two lawyers sat across the dark, burnished round table, as they briefed me about the rough road ahead. This was the Law Office of the country’s high-caliber names. And I felt so unsure. Lost.

I walked down that quiet hall again. Why was the road to freedom felt like diving into a bottomless pit? It is because true freedom is not obtained through a legal process, but a spiritual process. The Lord Jesus Christ declares:

I am the way, the truth, and the life… (John 14:6)

And only the Truth sets one free (John 8:32).

I continued to muse.

How could one get out of this difficult, painful situation?
Isn’t there any other way out of this mess?
How could one undo what’s been done? Unbreak what had been callously broken?
How could one erase, rub and wash clean the stain of shame and sin?
How could one end and close something at last or how could one start anew – either a new life with the old or a fresh new beginning with the new?
Are these even possible?

I had absolutely no idea.

I didn’t go back to that law office. Sometimes it’s good to be in that place of indecision. Then salvation came. And with it, restoration. Restoration! How I love that word! He restoreth my soul. He restored my family. He makes all things new!

It is all so easy for He has done it all. It is all for free for He paid it all.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Cor. 5:17)

Walk to Christ. Surrender to Christ. Be in Christ. He is the solution to our heartbreaking problems.

Endnotes:

  • More on our testimony: Only Jesus
  • Know the keys of salvation here.
  • For inquiries, prayer and counselling, and more information on the Gospel of salvation, click here.
  • Blemished canvas of our wedding photo

I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.

Reflections on the Family

We sat around the center table of our family room (which we made into a temporary dining table) to eat dinner the night we evacuated to our second floor. Earlier, when it was still day, though the flood water was already knee-deep in the streets, my beloved husband braved the rains and flood waters to buy us a single-burner gas stove. We realized that what we had upstairs was an electric stove and feared that the power might go out any time. I remembered we had given away our single-burner gas stove which we used during the great flood of 2009.

So we sat at dinner and I looked around our small table: our kids were excitedly getting their portions; my husband was silent in his seat, showing that calm he always has even during calamities; the heavy monsoon rains pounded our roof intermittently (it was hard not to feel uneasy), but as peace settled in my heart, I couldn’t help to say this, “I’m so thankful that our family is together. That we have each other, especially in times like this. It’s too hard to imagine going through calamities without the support of one another.”

I wouldn’t have known the vital importance of one’s own family had God not taken away everything that had made me self-sufficient. I grew up nurtured in a close-knit family but this hadn’t guaranteed my future choices in life. When my marriage didn’t work the way I had expected it to, I believed that there were options for me for a better life perhaps? Strength, wealth, and worldly wisdom could make one bold enough to re-dream and re-plan one’s future, that is, outside of the family God has given. Sacrificial love, such as love for the family and keeping it intact, could be easily forgotten.

The family is part of God’s perfect design of things with the presence of both the parents with their children together, dwelling in love and harmony with Christ as the cornerstone.

But we look around and we see that the family is more and more weakened, and there are broken homes everywhere we look. They could be very near us. That’s because more and more homes and families are not being built with Christ as the foundation. If not Christ, what could be these families’ foundations made of?

Self-centeredness

Whether one likes to admit it or not, the very core of one’s decision to let one’s family become undone is his or her desire to think about his or her welfare more than he or she does for the rest of the family. But of course there are special and extreme cases wherein restoration is no longer feasible or profitable for all involved. But still, there is hope in God. Nothing is impossible for Him. I will discuss more on this on next post, by the grace of God.

Career over family. I have heard many stories about families being sacrificed over one’s career. (I’m not talking about those who work abroad and sacrifice and endure the loneliness of being away from their families just to be able to provide for them. No. Actually, I salute these people for their sacrificial love).

But I tell you one story. The older sister of one of our maids went to Singapore to work as a domestic helper. When she left, her children were still small. Since she left eight years ago until now, she hasn’t returned. When their father died, she didn’t come home. When her children graduated from elementary and high school, she didn’t come home. When her husband was sick and needed to undergo surgery, she didn’t come home. But looking at her numerous photos, she is happy and enjoying her life in Singapore. I.Don’t.Understand. As a result of her absence, her daughter got pregnant out of wedlock at 16, barely out of high school.

Hurt feelings and unforgiveness. Would someone leave home and forget about family just because of hurt feelings and finding it hard to forgive? It happens. It happened to my beloved father’s family. My grandmother had a very young US Navy son who worked in the now defunct US Naval Base in Subic. This son helped his younger sister finish college with the clear instruction that after graduation, she also would work and help the younger sibling. But when this sister graduated from college, she got married at once and would not listen to her parents’ and older siblings’ admonitions. The US Navy son was so angry and hurt he left for the USA and never returned. Never. I was little and I watched as the family wrote him letters, putting a handful of earth in the envelop. I wondered then, why would they put dirt in the envelop?

My grandmother endured the pain of losing a son due to deep hurt and unforgiveness. Since the day her son left to the day she died, she never saw him again. When I was in grade school, we received a single letter from him with pictures of his family. He lived to old age but he never came back home.

Options. When one is faced with many options, like divorce or annulment, one could easily forsake one’s hope for reconciliation or restoration of marriage or family. I wrote about that in detail here.

I’m deeply grateful to the Lord for setting up the family. God places the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6). And more so for mercifully restoring our family and opening my eyes and heart to its importance, its value, to one’s life. Not only mine, but also these lives whom He has entrusted to my love and care.

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My gratitude list ~ the gifts I received from the hand of the Lord:

  • Watching Hannah and Tim sing in their respective choirs: Hannah in the Children’s Choir, Tim in the Cherubim’s Choir.
  • Reading Biblical Parenting with my beloved husband, digesting and discussing each teaching together.
  • This great opportunity to share the Gospel to friends and loved ones, even to people from around the world that I haven’t even met; the Lord continuously opening doors ~ glory to Him!
  • This well of wisdom that I can draw from any time. There’s really nothing to worry about on what to write because it is His Spirit that leads and guides.
  • The emails I receive and the opportunity to be of service to anyone whom the Lord leads to me ~ praise Him!

I’m linking up with other blogs, please check the list at the side bar.

Perfectionism: Letting Go at Last

I want a perfectly-maintained house: shining floors and surfaces, crystal clear windows, furniture always in place, curtains hanging straight down and not askew, no things on top of tables and chairs except the ones that should be there – vases, lamps, candles, frames, and, a sparkling kitchen that looks like its’s always ready to be photographed to grace the cover of a homemaking magazine.

When I fold linens, blankets, tablecloths and napkins, I do it perfectly: edge to edge, corner to corner, on the right side. I hate mess. I can’t stand mess. I always fix things – same height, or ascending, straight, aligned, nothing out-of-place – and want them in their proper places. I give instructions clearly and lengthily with much emphasis. I don’t want that what I want to be done will be done carelessly.

Yes, I’m a perfectionist and it’s a pain. When I was still well and strong, I did it all so as to avoid seeing mistakes which I could not take. Then God called me in illness and weakness, and my perfectionism became a burden instead of a desirable virtue. It was only recently that I realized how it was bearing down on me and causing all kinds of problems:

It frustrated me beyond words to see maids who do not have an idea on how to maintain a house clean and orderly.

It was hurting my marriage. I wanted perfect conversations with my husband, expected ideal reactions, looked for proper attitude, etc. I wanted him to lead according to my idea of leading. I was too idealistic, too analytical,  and too critical, with too many words. Without a doubt, my beloved husband loves me truly, a love that sacrifices and remains strong, but even in that I wanted him to show it the way I wanted it expressed. (I was really hopeless! But then there was the Lord Jesus).

And it was hurting the kids. I wanted my daughter to get good grades. I wanted her to be like me when I was a student: industrious, diligent, focused.

Until one night the Lord made me realize that this was not something that I should be proud of. I had sung praises, prayed and read my Bible, but I remained awake all night. Peace had gone out of me, and by the time the sun rose up, I was certain of God’s message.

I am flawed. Maybe I am flawed more than anyone in the family, yet He loves me completely and is tenderly patient with me. The Lord doesn’t want my perfectionism, He wants me to love graciously as He loves me. He has poured out His grace upon me, why can’t I extend the same grace to my loved ones? It’s alright to aim for excellence but not to the detriment of my relationships. He showed me what is truly excellent: loving and accepting totally these people who really love me, imperfections and all, for He received and loved me unconditionally, imperfections and all.

He taught me that loving fervently, remaining tenderhearted and kind, comes first and foremost, and should never be sacrificed for my desire of a picture-perfect family in a perfectly beautiful home.

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you(John 15:12, emphasis added)

The Lord has once again healed my heart and I was truly, fully liberated!

My gratitude list (my gifts from the Lord):

  • The Holy Spirit who works in and through me.
  • Freedom!
  • Renewing of the mind, transformation of the heart
  • Friendships
  • Watching Tim relish his Magnum ice cream.
  • White chocolate-covered mini pretzels
  • All who like Healing Moments on Facebook. Every single “Like” is an affirmation to God’s Word and His testimonies.

All Broken and Scarlet

I read her story, very briefly told, yet it didn’t fail to bless me. I know stories like that would touch a woman’s heart, whether to stir up wistful emotions or a feeling of deep gratitude to God, like what I had felt, for He turns ashes into beauty. Like what He had done to me.

This sister-in-Christ went back to her old hometown after several years and she shared how the sights evoked nostalgic thoughts. She reminisced how she went home after her sweetheart had proposed marriage to her, locked herself in her room and prayed earnestly, crying out to God to lead her to His perfect will. She had surrendered her life to Jesus years before and had been faithfully and fervently serving Him.

She married her sweetheart and they’ve been living blissfully together ever since and been blessed with an adorable daughter.

Such a beautiful story of a love that is chaste. This is how God has intended it to be: Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge (Heb. 13:4). But the moral standards have increasingly deteriorated through the generations. The sacred union that is supposed to be an exclusive act between a husband and wife has been broken. Pre-marital sexual relations are predominantly practiced in our societies, not to mention promiscuity.

Anywhere one looks, there is this brokenness, the splashing of scarlet. A sin so scarlet and yet, so well accepted by the mainstream. We don’t have to look far. It happens all around us. I had lived that way, too. Looking back now, I learned that it all happened because I didn’t really know God. My knowledge of Him was superficial. It is easy to get so lost in life just by mere ignorance.

But even those who profess that they really know God and diligently read and study His Word, yet, they fall. I heard a brother-in-Christ testify that before, while he was an instrumentalist in another Christian congregation, he was living-in with his girlfriend. If there was no true regeneration, true spiritual birth, the self remains powerless against the lusts of the flesh.

We were all born in the flesh. That is why there is a need for a second birth: to be born of the Spirit.

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:5-6)

Many profess that they love the Lord Jesus Christ but they live in an entirely different direction as His Word teaches. We are all broken and scarlet-tainted people, until we lay ourselves prostrate before the Savior and let His blood wash all our sins, as scarlet as they are.

“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool. 
(Is. 1:18)

His blood, this scarlet flow that was shed in Calvary – it is the only thing that can wash away all sin, the only thing that can heal all brokenness. This scarlet flow washing clean our scarlet-tainted lives.

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. (Heb. 12:14)

Related:

(If you haven’t received the Lord Jesus Christ in your life and are not sure if you are saved and heir of eternal life, know the keys of salvation here).

My weekly gratitude list ~ thankful to the Lord for:

  • this video that Hannah made for me for Mother’s Day. To know that she’s been inspired enough to make one for me makes me think that all my efforts in rearing her in the way of the Lord are coming to fruition.
  • a happy celebration of Mother’s Day with family.
  • using difficult problems that bring heartaches to draw me closer to Him – humble, surrendered, and needy.
  • the fervent love of brethren-in-Christ, friends and family.

When You’re a Leah

(Image source)

I’ve always been pro-Rachel. Fact is, if I would be totally honest, I knew I had secretly felt some kind of disdain towards Leah (or women in similar plight). I thought that the one who’s loved is always the heroine and the one to be admired. (I know there are dark crevices in my heart but I’m depending on the Lord’s light that it can penetrate even through them). Until I read a precious comment from one of my blog followers, one beloved Joanne Potter.

Her comment, though short, penetrated to those dark crevices in my heart (that I wasn’t aware I had, in particular, concerning Rachel and Leah’s story) and it got me thinking deeply. It haunted me for weeks, until I knew I had to write about it. She said in her comment that Leah is her favorite Bible hero.

I always knew that I was my husband’s Rachel, and that is true. But I have also known how to be hurt by my Jacob. A kind of pain and confusion that finds no solutions but to seek sanctuary in God. And this is the thing that followed me for weeks ever since I read that comment. What if being a Leah didn’t only mean that her Jacob had a much beloved Rachel, but that she didn’t feel loved by him? What if a wife were the only woman in her husband’s life but she lived in painfulness more than in love and happiness? Wouldn’t that be like being in Leah’s predicament – hoping and waiting for love that soothes, inspires, nurtures and heals?

Leah lived longer than Rachel. When I read this part the first time, I wished Rachel didn’t die young. My eyes were always on her. But that is exactly the difference between God and man, He sees what we do not see. And when Jacob, and most women in this present-day who read their story, had only his eyes on and affections for Rachel, God’s eyes were on Leah.

God’s compassionate heart wanted to comfort her so He gave her sons and a daughter. When Rachel was gone, did Jacob love Leah then? I believe not. And nowhere in the Bible tells it so.

When you feel like you are a Leah, unloved and hurt, know that there is One who loves you with an everlasting love. Everlasting means He has loved you even before the foundation of the world, and will always love you. You cannot make someone love you, just like Leah didn’t succeed in making Jacob love her, even if she gave him children. But there is One who loves you just the way you are, and you don’t have to do anything to make Him love you or love you even more. His love is constant.

The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” 
(Jer. 31:3)

The Lord Jesus Christ is not only our Savior, but our Bridegroom whom we eagerly await. We are His beloved Bride and He is coming back for us and we’ll be married to Him: the marriage of the Lamb and His Bride (Rev. 19).

For your Maker is your husband,
The Lord of hosts is His name;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel;
He is called the God of the whole earth. 
(Is. 54:5)

If in this life, we hunger for love, acceptance, and nurturing, we know we have a refuge in the Lord Jesus Christ. We can run to Him and we know He will always love and uphold us, just as He loved and upheld Leah. And His love is enough to sustain us until the day that we will be united forever with Him.

Related: First Love

(If you haven’t received the Lord Jesus Christ in your life and are not sure if you are saved and heir of eternal life, know the keys of salvation here).

Titus 2sday, Domestically Divine, Teach Me Tuesday, Encouragement in Trials, Women Living Well, Winsome Wednesday, Proverbs 31 Thursday, Faith Filled Friday, Spiritual Sundays, Sharing His BeautyA Wise Woman Builds Her Home

Dealing with a Difficult Marriage Part 4: Focus on Your Marriage Not on Others’ Marriages

(photo source: Google images)

In this series:

Dealing with a Difficult Marriage Part 1: Do Not Dwell in Your Hurts for a Long Time
Dealing with a Difficult Marriage Part 2: Make a Firm Commitment to Obey Gods Word No Matter What 
Dealing with a Difficult Marriage Part 3: Don’t Let It Change You for the Worse but for the Better

One of the things that exacerbates problems in marriage is the habit of looking at others’ marriages and  probably secretly comparing with, and envying, them. We read and hear about husbands being fabulously described by their wives and we feel sorry for ourselves as we compare in our minds and heap upon our spouses criticisms and faults as we decide that he’s not anything at all like them.

These observations and comparisons could very well be true, but to use them to further discourage ourselves, fan the flame of  disappointments, and heighten other ugly and negative emotions that we might be trying to extinguish, will not at all solve the problems. That is their life and we have our own which urgently needs all our attention and love.

This is the life, the marriage, the family, the home that God has gifted us with (Yes, they are gifts!), and instead of studying others’ lives and marriages and endlessly wishing that ours were like theirs, let us focus our eyes, minds, hearts, and energy toward our own homes, being encouraged and intimately guided by the Word of God.

We may see and read all manner of beautiful marriages around us but we do not know the whole story and we cannot possibly imitate them or pattern our own marriages after theirs. Successful marriages among our beloved brethren in Church could serve as shining examples and inspiration but the work still lies in us to make our own marriages succeed, but not without the mighty hand of the Lord in all of it.

The Bible has provided a “divorce-proof “(or in our country, “annulment-proof”) guide for Christian marriages. We need only to examine the words very thoroughly and meditatively and begin to apply them assiduously in our marriages accompanied by unceasing prayers. There are two vital things that the Bible teaches husbands and wives: Love and Respect.

For the husbands to love their wives. How? As themselves.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself… (Eph. 5:25,28,29,30,33)

The Apostle Paul compared the love of a husband to his wife to the love of Christ to the Church, emphasizing that we are members of His body, flesh and bones. Apostle Paul got his fitting analogy from the beginning of all things, going all the way back to Genesis. We remember that God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep while He busied Himself taking a rib from him. And from Adam’s rib, God created Eve, Adam’s wife. We can only imagine him beaming with love and happiness as he declared, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh!”

Adam, the first man and husband, recognized Eve his wife as from his own, not at all separate from himself. And so he loved her as his own body. Does this mean, therefore, that a husband who is unkind to his wife is actually being unkind to himself? It is really hard to understand if this is the situation of the marriage.

In turn, the wife is commanded to respect her husband. How does she do it? To submit to him in everything as she does to the Lord.

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

…and the wife must respect her husband. (Eph. 5:22-24,33 NIV)

Must one worry that one might be blindly or hazardously submitting to everything even to a husband’s unkind treatment? But in these two primordial commands for a husband and wife, God has designed a perfect balance in their application: the wife respecting, and submitting to, a husband who loves her like his own self. Each party, therefore,  must play his/her role with complete dedication to attain and maintain equilibrium, a state wherein there are no strong clashing forces that foment strife. In simpler terms, there is peace and harmony.

That is why Apostle Paul used the love of Christ to the Church and the submission of the Church to Him in everything as the bases of this Love and Respect Equation between a husband and his wife – it is that sacred!

If it be possible and you know that it would proceed smoothly and turn out well, discussing this with our spouses would be very beneficial indeed. You may both offer up prayers before you sit down and amiably talk about these verses in detail and with an open heart and mind.

If a heart-to-heart discussion would prove to be difficult (remember the problems with verbal communication in part 1 of this series?), you may write a letter to him expressing your desire to have a happy and harmonious life with him, letting him know also of your sincere appreciation of the things that he does for the family, and telling him you respect him (and mean it, too!). You may include the above verses but not in a “preachy” way but as a wife who is willing to give everything and do her part to help make the marriage succeed and pleasing in the eyes of the Lord.

Additional readings:

This is the last part of this series. If you have missed the other parts, you may go here. It has been a challenging, enlightening and humbling 4 weeks of writing and sharing these lessons, totally depending on the Lord’s wisdom, light and leading, with the lessons I’ve learned in my own marriage and close walk with the King! This series has become more illuminating with your unselfish sharing of your hearts and thoughts, and for that, I’m grateful to the Lord for bringing you here!
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My gratitude list – thankful to the Lord for:

  • this chicken cannelloni which gathered love, joy, and laughter around our table on a Saturday afternoon.
  • blueberry-scented tea light candles
  • this deep and enduring fire between me and my beloved husband which has unfailingly helped to resuscitate many an ailing marriage season and colored many a gray moment.
  • the commitment of my husband that runs strong and deep and has weathered many storms and has seen the harder, unpleasant side of married life, which side has taught us patience and sacrificial love.
  • the wisdom that Hannah my daughter gradually gains from our continuous study of the Word.
  • the thanksgiving message of a beloved sister-in-Christ which touched my heart and stirred a new fervency of love deep within me for the Body of Christ.

Dealing With a Difficult Marriage Part 3: Don’t Let It Change You for the Worse But for the Better

(photo source)

In this series:

Dealing with a Difficult Marriage Part 1: Do Not Dwell in Your Hurts for a Long Time
Dealing with a Difficult Marriage Part 2: Make a Firm Commitment to Obey Gods Word No Matter What 

It is not our job to change our husbands. That’s an impossible task to do. Until we accept that fact, we wouldn’t stop trying and then failing and being frustrated with the futility of our efforts. Changing a person’s heart is the work of God. That’s why we should never grow faint in offering constant, earnest prayers for ourselves, our husbands and children, for only God can do wonders and miracles in a person’s life.

But, empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit, there are things that we can do to help improve ourselves and our relationships. When we find ourselves in a difficult marriage, we may become bitter and deteriorate into an “ugly”, pitiable person, or we may become a better, stronger, more beautiful woman of God, as the Lord has intended us to become by putting us into our difficult situation in the first place. He wants us to be overcomers.

Many times in the Book of Revelations, the Lord Jesus speaks of the wonderful blessings for those who overcome. We must understand, therefore, that as long as we are at the center of God’s will for us, He will deliver us from whatever difficult situation we are in. In the meantime that we are waiting for Him to transform our marriage, we may focus ourselves into doing the following:

       1.  Live Past Our Disappointments

As long as we adhere to the belief that we have married the wrong person and that he is hopeless, our married lives will become exactly that – beyond repair, hopeless. We can never think and see any good thing about him and our situation. We become torn between thinking of maybe-a-happier-life without him and living a life that does its best to completely ignore him. In both situations, we know that these are not the will of the Lord.

But if we understand and accept that the Lord put that person in our life, especially as sacred a commitment as marriage, then we can rest in the thought that we are not in the wrong relationship but only a difficult passage of our married life. And we can stop thinking that there could be a better life outside of it. On the other hand, we can trust in the Lord that He is with us in this and thus, we will be emboldened to recommit ourselves into the marriage and do our best to make it work.

        2.  Keep the Stance of Constant Forgiveness

This doesn’t mean that we delight in evil or rejoice about injustice, for love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out (1 Cor. 13:6 NLT), but we do it to liberate ourselves from the burden of unforgiveness, keeping the Lord’s words to forgive “seventy times seven” (Mat. 18:22). Meaning, we should forgive even until we have lost count.

When he seems to be unremorseful, we pray. We pray for grace to forgive even that, too, and rest in the truth that God is righteous and just.

       3.  Re-examine Ourselves

As we wait for the Lord’s help, we can spend this time to search our hearts. Turn the waiting period into a cleansing time wherein we strain to really look inside us and examine our attitudes that might have been annoying to our spouses. Since we realized we cannot change our husbands, then we can turn our attention to ourselves. Maybe there are still things in us that we need to work on and improve. Maybe when we have removed the “mote in our eye”, we can begin to see that it’s not really “a beam” that is lodged in our spouse’s eye (Mat. 7; I intentionally reversed whose is the mote and whose is the beam)! Meaning, maybe if change started in us, removing those things that, upon our thorough studying, irk our spouses, things will improve.

      4.  Make Our Baseline Love, Peace and Friendliness

Maybe we have lived in on-and-off hostilities too long that we have become used to treating each other unterderly. Both partners have become used to criticizing, snapping, and even insulting each other.

Start making your baseline love, peace, and friendliness. Meaning, do not automatically think that the other is hostile making us react in the same way, but always presume that he means well, even if sometimes, he slips. Let nothing fall below this baseline where hostility resides.

Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. (1 Pet. 3:11 NLT)

This is most effective if both spouses agree amicably to set this as the standard and commit to keeping it.

Practice dwelling on the side of love, peace and friendliness all the time, and not on the side of animosity. If one feels that the other is deliberately and actively being antagonistic, do not do the same. Instead, remind him gently but clearly.

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Eph. 4:15)

       5.  Be a Shining Light

Never forget that we were created for God’s glory and the best way to be that is to be a shining light to others, showing them that He lives in us.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Mat. 5:16 NIV)

So, that being our motivation, let our actions give glory to His name: treating our husbands with respect and loving and caring for our family unflinchingly even if we’re hurting.

Next Monday, by God’s grace, Dealing With a Difficult Marriage Part 4: Focus on Your Marriage and Not on Others’ Marriages.

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My weekly gratitude list – thankful to the Lord for His gifts:

  • the uniting power of need and trials
  • having a sweet, restful slumber with my little Tim, all warm and chubby curled up beside me and snoring away ~ :)
  • the beauty of words that give light and heal – grace from the Word
  • morning by morning, waking up to new and refreshing inspirations from my Lord and King!
  • learning that our new housekeeper does nails, too!

Dealing with a Difficult Marriage Part 2: Make a Firm Commitment to Obey God’s Word No Matter What

(photo source: Google images)

In this series:

Dealing with a Difficult Marriage Part 1: Do Not Dwell in Your Hurts for a Long Time

2.  Make a Firm Commitment to Obey God’s Word No Matter What

We could be so hurt we could get ourselves into either of two situations: one, we honestly think we are excused from earnestly keeping some of God’s Word at this time, or two, we could plunge ourselves into just blindly embracing “Love bears all” in great fear of God but feeling miserable all the while.

In the first situation, as if we’re saying in our hearts, “Lord Jesus, I’m so hurt, confused and really frustrated I can’t possibly keep every word of Your Word now.” So, the Word blurs in the background as our hurts and resentments take center stage. The mind wallows in the quick sand of negative thoughts and as it does, it goes deeper still. It can’t seem to extricate itself from it.

“He never changes. He is always like that! Oh, why didn’t I see that before?” Questions upon questions roll out as the misery deepens.

“Hard-hearted, rude, ill-tempered!” The mind continues to spew out negative adjectives, the resentment becomes real and hardens.

But the Word is begging:

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy— meditate on these things. (Phil. 4:8)

Then, the mind recalls a long list of all his faults. One by one they flash like a horror film and yes, they are many! But these words are calling once again, like coming from behind the veil that we have made:

Love keeps no record of wrongs (portion of 1 Cor. 13:5).

And we are anguished between entertaining our resentments and keeping God’s Word.

On the other hand, wherein in our desire not to displease God, we tell ourselves that love bears and endures all things (portion of 1 Cor. 13: 7) period (without first paving a way for a deeper understanding of the whole context and establishing the heart and mind to humbly and completely obey God’s Word). Then, we do our best to convince our hearts and minds and make them be in complete subjection while we continue to fume inside.

To just keep repeating in our minds that love bears and endures all things like a mantra hoping that all the heaviness, hurts, and resentments will fly away is a futile exercise and we’re only letting steam build up in ourselves until we’re just ready to burst or come apart.

In the first situation, we are imprisoned by our hurts and resentments. Either way, there is no liberation.

But we know that our misery has to stop and we need to extricate ourselves out of it. Let God’s Word assume its rightful place in our lives and let it work powerfully in us. Clear up the fog, rend the veil, open the Word and look clearly and make a firm commitment to obey it no matter what. 

Keep God’s commandments not seasonally, not temporarily, not vaguely, not selectively, not incompletely, but all the time and all the way. In trials and in victories.

…Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecc. 12:13)

DO NOT LET ANYBODY OR ANYTHING KEEP US FROM KEEPING EVERY WORD OF THE WORD. Understand it, surrender ourselves to it.

Love is patient.
Love is kind.
It does not envy.
It does not boast.
It is not proud. 
It does not dishonor others.
It is not self-seeking.
It is not easily angered.
It keeps no record of wrongs. 
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Cor. 13:4-7)

 The Bible tells us:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. (Eph. 5:22-24)

If it seems hard to do this considering the circumstances, then, do it as to the Lord. As the Bible says:

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men. (Col. 3:23)

It becomes so much easier when we commit to offer everything we do to the Lord and not to man. We are given the power to make this commitment. It is in the clear understanding of the Word, in the complete acceptance of it, and in our humble yielding to it that we are liberated. 

Next Monday, by God’s grace: Dealing with a Difficult Marriage Part 3: Do Not Let It Change You for the Worse but for the Better

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Now, for my gratitude list – ever grateful to the Lord for His gifts:

  • Relishing these ham and cheese sliders that I made, not forgetting the times that I was too sick to eat more than a few spoonfuls of rice porridge and clear soup.
  • this precious friendship I have with Hannah my daughter – I’m blessed, blessed, blessed!
  • Cupping her kayumanggi (brown) face with my hands and telling her I’m proud of how she’s growing up in grace, her love and compassion increasing each day, as she happily assists me with my needs.
  • My little Tim wiping my tears with a tissue that he himself got while whispering ever so softly his tender love and care – a priceless Christlike virtue!
  • the testimony of a brother-in-Christ whom God delivered from the largest religious cult group in the country where he served since he was a child together with his whole family (by God’s grace, I will share his testimony in the coming weeks)