A good marriage seems rather elusive today. How did we start out loving each other so much, and now it seems like we hate each other? What's happened to our marriage?
Speaking from personal experience, my wife and I both came out of very different circumstances, each of which could have led to tragic consequences for our marriage. She came from a family where fighting (real fighting) seemed an everyday experience. And I came out of a marriage where my ex-wife went from loving me, to hating me, and I didn't know which version of her I would wake up to from day to day. So, to summarize, fighting seemed to be the "normal" in both of our pasts.
Even before we met my wife decided she would never settle for being married to anyone who thought fighting was "normal," and I decided I would never go through that again. When we met we both made it clear that we would never settle for that kind of marriage.
Although I put my wife through a great deal (things that most wives wouldn't have tolerated), we never let those things degenerate to fighting, or arguing, and her unconditional love for me finally brought us through it. We also soon became best friends (sooo important), and as of this time (37 years of marriage) we have never had a fight, an argument, or resorted to shouting or name calling.
Now let's try to put this in some practical perspective.
Let's say that Stephanie is a "believer," and Ralph isn't. Before long Ralph's unsavory ways are beginning to rub Stephanie the wrong way and she finally has had it. She let's out,
"I've had it with you. I've had it with your empty beer cans and cigarette butts. From now on you can cook your own dinner and wash your own clothes. And something else -- you never go to church with me. Well, I'm going to keep going to church and we're going to pray that God will straighten you out. If you don't -- then I want you to pack up and get out!"
Wow, that'll sure win Ralph over won't it. He's going to fall on his knees, repent, and then rush to church with Stephanie -- right? Her approach is sure to win him over. In effect, she is saying, "I've got this God. Just let me deal with Ralph and his stinky ways, and when I'm through you can have a crack at him."
Now let's give Stephanie a few healthy suggestions. She's a believer, and Ralph is an unrepentant sinner and a slob. But Stephanie begins to ask God what she can do to win her husband over. She's read in the Bible that she's to honor and respect her husband. She decides that from now on,
"Ralph, as you know I've become a Christian and Jesus has given me a new perspective on our marriage. At the same time He's given me a new and deeper love for you. From now on I'm going to try my best to love you and be the best wife I can be. I will pray for you, but my prayers will be that someday you will love me again as you did in the beginning. And, I won't be pressuring you about going to church any more. I'm not ready to give up on our marriage. Please have patience with me as I try to change for the better. I want to make you happy that you married me again."
This is dynamite. It's Holy Spirit "magic" that can work miracles in their marriage. Her love, kindness, and tender ways will begin to melt his hard heart -- and without her trying to do it herself now God can win him over. In this instance Stephanie didn't get in the way of the Holy Spirit, who has been dealing with Ralph for some time but she kept getting in the way. Now that she's decided to do it God's way the Holy Spirit can begin to work on his conscience in ways that only He can.
Let's say that Robert is a believer and Angie is not, and Angie's not very happy about being married to Robert. She rebels and is angry with him much of the time.
Robert says to Angie, "the Bible says you're to obey me, and by God I'm going to see to it you do. My meals are never on time, you're a lousy cook, and sex with you seems to be next to never. I'm going to make sure you shape up, woman!!!"
Yeah, that'll do it every time. Hit her over the head with that "obey me," stuff and she'll just melt in your arms, right?
But let's give Robert some hints on a better way.
Robert says to Angie "Honey, I know you're not happy and it's affecting our marriage, but from now on I'm going to do my best to love you like Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. I'm going to respect you, protect you, and do my best to provide for you. I'll do my best from here on out with God's help because I want to be the kind of husband God wants me to be."
This is how God can work miracles in marriages.
But let's be clear about something else. What I have outlined above is not some magic formula. In some cases the Ralphs and Angies mentioned above unfortunately never respond and they end up leaving the marriage. The Bible says, "But if the husband or wife who isn't a believer insists on leaving, let them go. In such cases the Christian husband or wife is no longer bound to the other, for God has called you to live in peace." (I Corinthians 7:15 - NLT)
Another reason so many marriages fail is because their concept of love is based on the world view of "being in love." Take a look at the long list of Hollywood marriages that seemed to be "a match made in heaven," but a few years later they can't stand each other and split. Their matches made in heaven were based on the chemistry and the feelings of "falling in love" and when those feelings subsided they reached the conclusion they were "no longer in love." They fail to realize that that very chemistry that made them feel like they'd "fallen in love" was a passion created in them by God so they would procreate (make babies) in their younger years, and once that's accomplished the chemistry begins to die down.
But if we look to the Bible and its definitions of love we find that "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 it rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails . . ." (I Corinthians 13:4-8). Put simply, love is something you do, not something you feel.
If you would like to schedule Ken Simmons to speak to your church or organization he can be contacted at: Ken Simmons Ministries, Ontario, California, firstname.lastname@example.org or call at (909) 957-8882.