God’s weapon to help marriage!

Let’s think about God’s plan for marriage, what went wrong, and His powerful weapon that can fix it! We have all seen and heard the jokes about how challenging marriage can be. Anyone who has been married longer than a few hours can tell you that it is not only a wonderful experience, but also a very challenging experience. A great way to learn how to repair and restore something that is broken or damaged is to look at the original state of it.
Genesis 2:18 tells us that God noticed Adam’s all alone condition and declared it to be “not good”. It was not good for Adam to be alone. He needed a companion. He needed someone to share life with. He needed someone to care for and someone to care for him. He needed a helper. This word helper is not a term that belittles the woman. In fact, the Hebrew term is used over and over to refer to God as our helper. The woman was to be one who would experience life along side the man sharing his responsibilities in a co-operative relationship as they carried out God’s plan for them. Marriage was intended to be a relationship that benefitted them both bringing great satisfaction to them.
Genesis 2:18-24 states several times that God created the woman as a suitable helper for the man. This also implies that the man was a suitable partner for the woman. This means that the man and woman had many things in common, but they were also very different. Their bodies had similarities, yet they were very different physically. They were very similar in their emotional responses, but they were very different also. They were very similar in their thought processes, but they were very different also. They were very similar in the way they related to others, but they were very different also. The similarities were intended to bring unity and a sense of co-operation. The differences were intended to create a sense of individual value and mutual respect and dependence on each other. Something happened that transformed these differences into a battlefield.
Genesis 2:24 states that this relationship was to be the highest, most important relationship humans could experience. In fact, they would become one flesh. While this refers to a physical closeness that brings forth children, it also refers to an overall closeness that is so intense that the man and woman are part of each other in every way. This oneness includes shared responsibilities, shared experiences, shared victories, and shared memories. God’s plan was that the man and woman would help and lift each other up as they journeyed through life together. Sadly, too many couples live in a state of misunderstanding and disconnect that leads to marital misery.

Adam stated that Eve was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. Again, this speaks about oneness. This paints a picture of 2 people so intertwined that when one hurts so does the other. When one is happy, so is the other. When one is struggling, so is the other. This points to a dependability that is as strong as your ability to count on yourself. It also suggests an awareness of needs and a willingness to meet those needs that is as keen as our awareness of our own need and willingness to meet the need.
God had a plan that was truly amazing and the highest order of any relationships created on the Earth. All of the creatures God made had a male and female version, but the difference was strictly for pro-creation. God created marriage to be a uniquely special gift for mankind. Then, sin entered the picture and corrupted this beautiful arrangement., Marriage now had a capacity to create pain, and serious heartache. Thankfully, God provided us with a powerful weapon to take back the joys of marriage as He intended it…that powerful weapon is love… true love … self sacrificing love.
The thing that hinders us most often in healing or improving our marriage relationship is that we nearly always reach for the wrong tool first. When we think about improving our marriage relationship, we nearly always pull out an imaginary magnifying glass and start doing an inspection of the flaws of our mate. We look him/her over carefully and take detailed notes about all the things he/she should do better in order to make our marriage better. The magnifying glass is the wrong tool and yields the wrong result. We need instead to reach for the mirror and inspect ourselves carefully to see what we need to do better in order to heal and improve our marriage. So, I hope that as we explore this topic this week that you will resist the temptation to criticize your mate and will instead look for areas to do better yourself.
When sin entered the equation of marriage, the thing that was hurt was the quality of oneness. In the beginning, the man and woman were one. Think about what that means. They had a relationship in which they valued and took care of each other the same as they would take care of themselves. They had a complete enjoyment of each other’s company. They lifted each other up. When sin entered the equation that co-operative, caring unity was corrupted with substitutes that brought struggle and heartache. In fact, God told them in Genesis 3:16 that sin would bring disappointment, unfulfillment , and struggle for control to their relationship. He said it like this, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Eve would have a need for her husband to care for her and watch out for her best interest, but he would instead seek to be her boss or ruler. This would disappoint her and leave her feeling unfulfilled. The struggle would take many turns as the generations unfolded.
In 1 Corinthians 13, God gives us the antidote to heal marriage and restore the joy and pleasure to marriage. He has a plan to remove the disappointment and unfulfilment. However, the antidote is something we must choose to take every day in order to live a healthy married life. So, I hope you will plan on taking a dose every day to experience the blessing God intended for you when He created marriage.
I Corinthians 13 is known as the chapter that defines real love. However, it does more than that. It also contrasts the qualities that we have substituted for real love. Once we identify these substitutes and replace them with real love qualities, our lives will be radically transformed!
The first 3 verses address the things we most frequently substitute for love; achievement(doing impressive things), religious works(operating in spiritual gifts), knowledge, and deeds of generosity (donating to the poor and being martyred). Ever since the fall of man, we have tried to fulfill our mate with impressive deeds. We say things like:” I show you that I love you by providing great things.” “ I am a great person doing great things in our community, so you should be happy being married to me.” However, these substitutes always come up short. In marriage, your mate wants your love and attention. These deeds only lead to a feeling of being neglected and unimportant.
1 Corinthians 13 gives us a contrasting list of the qualities of real love and the things we substitute for it.True love expresses itself by being patient.The opposite of patient is impatient. Impatience causes us to relate to our mate in a manner that is harsh, grouchy, and snappy. Impatience causes us to be demanding and controlling as we are indignant that our mate is struggling to keep up. Impatience can take on a condescending tone as we embarrass our mate for struggling to keep up physically, mentally, or emotionally. Real love is understanding and ready to wait patiently as we help our mate keep up.
Real love is kind which is the opposite of unkind, rude, or inconsiderate. Some couples relate to each other in sarcasm and cutting remarks. I guess every couple has a different dynamic and they choose to relate to each other in various ways, but my experience is that while they may pretend that this is harmless banter, the reality is that the cutting remarks, especially the ones made in public, are damaging to the relationship. Over time, the pain builds up and eventually the relationship is harmed. The antidote is to choose kindness toward each other. I never heard of a person who didn’t appreciate kindness.
Real love does not envy. Do you struggle to applaud for your mate when he/she is being celebrated? Real love always lifts up our mate. In life, there are times when our mate shines while we stand in the shadows. Real love will cheer and celebrate from the shadows, but the opposite reaction is to try to spoil it somehow. Some people try to spoil it by trying to push their accomplishments into the spotlight also. Others try to tear down their mate to ruin the moment. Some will try to put a damper on the moment by creating relationship stress. All of these are expressions of the sin fun substitute for love that causes heartache.
Real love does not boast. Insecure people try to dominate the relationship by constantly declaring themselves to be the smartest, the brightest, and the best in the relationship while
putting down the other. No one wants to be around someone who constantly puts them down while always declaring that they are the brains and talent of the outfit. A marriage that contains this sinful substitute is filled with heartache. Real love acknowledges the worth and value of the other and constantly calls it out.
Real love is not prideful. Being prideful simply refers to the practice of feeling that I am more important and valuable than my mate. A prideful attitude will always put its own interests ahead of what is best for their mate. The worst thing is that a prideful person will never even acknowledge that they do this. The person married to the prideful person feels de-valued and insignificant in the marriage. They are simply there to serve the prideful partner. Real love does not express itself that way. In fact, real love will go to great pains to determine what is best for the other and make personal sacrifices to insure that their mate is blessed. After all, that is the love God expressed as His Son Jesus went to the cross to rescue us from slavery to sin.
Real love is not rude. Our words and actions matter. When we speak disrespectful, cutting words to our mate those words cause pain and affect the dynamic in our relationship. When we act in a disrespectful, unloving manner toward our mate, those actions create heartache and affect the relationship. Likewise, when we carefully speak uplifting words and take care to treat our mate in a loving manner, they also have a positive effect on our mate and our relationship.
Real love is not self – seeking. This is really the foundation of all that can go wrong in a marriage and is the root that all the other hurtful qualities grow from… a self seeking attitude. The heart question that God intended to be the driving force behind marriage is, “ How can I lift up my mate?” However, after sin entered the equation of the human heart the question became some form of this, “ How can I make my mate do more for me?” When this attitude is present in a marriage, the marriage is more like a tug of war. Each one is trying to get the most from their mate while returning the least amount possible. This is not a picture of love. In fact, this dynamic in marriage becomes about winning and losing, and rewards and punishment. Instead of relating to each other with hearts wide open eager to express love, this relationship has two people who are using each other to gratify self. What is the question that is driving your words and actions toward your mate? I want to encourage you to make sure it is, “ How can I lift up my mate?”
Real love is not easily angered. It is interesting how well we can control our emotions at work, at church, and around those we want to impress, yet when we have outbursts of anger toward our mate, we declare that we can’t help it. Then, we usually go on to blame our mate for our bad behavior. The truth is that we can help it, we just choose not to help it. We feel that if our mate sees the raw depth of our emotions about something that they will better understand and conform to our desire or preference next time to avoid another explosion. In short, it is a manipulative ploy used to control the other. This is not an expression of real love. instead, it is an expression of a person looking to serve themselves at the expense of the other. This is a habit that is very harmful to the relationship and should be stopped right away.
Real love does not keep a list of wrongs. When we develop the habit of reminding our mate of all their past failures and mistakes, we are driving our mate away emotionally. No one want to be reminded of all of their mistakes. When we do this, we are saying that our promises to forgive our mate are worthless. If you have forgiven your mate, then don’t keep bringing it up. I suppose the one possible exception might be in dealing with someone who has a long pattern of repeated hurtful behavior like abuse or addictions. Other than that, we should forgive and not mention it again.
Real love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. Real love does not like to see their mate failing or looked down upon. Let me explain. Through the years, I have known many people who asked the church to pray God to touch and change their mate. So, all the saints would set about to petition God to touch the person and then one day… one wonderful day…the person has an encounter with God and is radically transformed in answer to all the prayers. But, a new problem rears its head…the first spouse is not so happy about this transformation. It seems that the first spouse has now lost his/her position as the object of attention at church and now has to watch as everyone rallies around their spouse. Before long, the first spouse feels led to change churches or stop going to church altogether. This is not an expression of real love. Real love never takes joy in struggles and failures of their mate.
Real love always protects. In a marriage relationship, real love is protective. In other words, we should know that our mate would never share embarrassing things about us with others. Real love demands that when we are in a disagreement with our mate that we would never say anything to make him/her look bad to our family or friends. This would especially include never posting anything harmful or embarrassing on social media. Real love demands that we lift up our mate and protect their opportunity to be respected and liked by our family and friends. if you are in the habit of sharing negative things about your mate with others, I hope you will quit immediately. This not an expression of real love.
Real love always trusts. Trust is huge thing is marriage. Of course being trusted requires proving that we are trustworthy, but for today, I want to simply ask,”what do you expect from your mate?” Do you have the anticipation of good things or do you live with a sense of dread that he/she is about to do something to disappoint you any minute? What we expect often affects the way we relate to others. If you expect to be disappointed, then you tend to be cold and stand offish which communicates something negative and discourages your mate from even trying. People who don’t trust their mate always have a plan B waiting just in case their mate fails them. On the other hand, when we expect our mate to do their very best for us, we communicate something positive that motivates our mate to truly do their very best. This creates a positive, loving atmosphere in the marriage.
Real love is hopeful. How do you see the future with your mate? Do you envision a future filled with adventure, love, and laughter? Or do you envision a future filled with disappointment, boredom, and conflict? Hope is important. When we are hopeful , it causes us to be positive, upbeat, and willing to work towards something positive. When we expect negative things, then we condition ourselves to endure to the bitter end. We give up on everything positive and the energy drains out of our marriage. Real love is hopeful.
Real love always perseveres. Life is not easy. Life is a journey that is filled with ups and downs. The changing circumstances of life present us with lots of opportunities to give up on our marriage partner and go searching for something or someone better. The fact is that giving up is not an expression of real love. Giving up is an expression of self preservation and self gratification. The truth is there is no way to find a marriage partner who can carry you into a life that is all up and no down. The wandering heart that is searching for this fantasy will never know real love.
Real love never fails. Real love is not weak, but rather is determined, rugged, and endures through the challenges of life. God’ plan for marriage was that it would be a rock solid relationship that would allow a man and a woman to lift each other up as they face the challenges of life together. Real love is not a force that blows on the fickle winds of emotion… it is a whole hearted decision to lift each other up no matter what may happen tim death do us part. Real love leads us to spend our lives seeking to bless and lift up the other while putting self on the back burner!
Real love is God’s weapon to help us overcome the things that seek to transform the gift of marriage into a painful imprisonment! Choose Love … God will help you as you do!