the helpless marriage: marriage as friendship (part 3)

Earlier this week I wrote about the importance of friendship in marriage. Whether you’re currently feeling helpless in your marriage or not, we all could improve our friendship with our spouse, am I right?

But one of the questions I’ve received a lot through the years is, “How can we do that? We need examples!”

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Wow, that’s a great question. And I think the answer to that question will undoubtedly be a little bit different for everybody.  But here are a few things that may help you discover new ways to improve the friendship within your marriage.

1. Find something in common you enjoy doing together.

Megan and I are about as different as two people can be.  Many of the interests and hobbies I have are completely uninteresting to her.  Likewise, many of the interests and hobbies she has are completely uninteresting to me.  So over the years we’ve worked really hard on finding some things we enjoy doing together.  One is that we work on this blog…together.  Another is that every year we read at least one book on the subject of marriage, and we discuss it…together.  We’ve also found some specific games that we can both enjoy…together.  Through this process we’ve both put aside some of our personal interests for the sake of our own friendship.  This decision helped us get through the challenges we experienced in 2013…together.

If you’re anything like us and you don’t feel that you have much in common with your spouse, take some opportunities this year to work on that.  You’ll both have to give up some things in the process, but the end result will greatly benefit your marriage.

2. Grow in your love and knowledge of God.

There are a whole bunch of One Year Bible Reading plans online.  Most people fizzle out somewhere around Leviticus.  Others keep going and learn a whole lot about themselves and the plan God has for their life.  Dare I say it, but these are the ones that usually have stronger marriages, too.

If you’re never read the entire Bible, start with the New Testament, then go to the Old.  Or if you’d like, find a reading plan that includes something from the Old Testament / New Testament / Psalms / Proverbs each day.  Or find some other Bible and/or Marriage study to work on with your spouse, together.  Taking daily, or at least weekly opportunities to talk about what you’re learning will help your marriage grow to a whole new level.

3. Talk with one another at least 15 minutes a day.

Some may think this sounds easy.  But we’re not talking about the, “Can you pick up some eggs at the grocery store?” conversations.  Nor are we talking about the, “The kids need to be here, here, here and here this week…let’s get on the same page and figure out who’s taking them there and when.”  Instead, this is REAL conversation.  This is, “How are you doing?  How are we doing?  How are the kids doing?  How can I support you this week?  What struggles are you currently having?”  These kinds of things and many more…for 15 FULL minutes every single day.

If this is something you’re not currently doing, begin doing it today. And continue to do it for at least a month and see what happens.

Some of you may be excited to dive right in…but some may not even know where to begin!  For those who fall into this 2nd category, here are some ideas to get some conversations started.  It’s not a list that must be followed for the challenge, just some ideas to help you out.  Who knows, 30 days with 15 full minutes a day may start a pattern that you hope to continue for many months and years to come!  So have some great communication with your spouse.  Be reminded that you’re “one flesh”…be reminded that you’re best friends.  Be reminded that no matter what happens in life, you’re going to go through it together.

  1. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
  2. Name something you’ve never done but would like to try. Why does it appeal to you? What’s kept you from trying it?
  3. If you weren’t in the profession you are, what would be your other dream profession and why?
  4. If someone gave you enough money to start a business of your own, what kind of business would you start?
  5. Think back to your childhood or teenage years.  What do you miss doing the most?
  6. Can you think of something you craved when you were young and were denied?
  7. What was the best part of your childhood?
  8. The one argument your parents had, that you try to avoid, would be over…
  9. If our house was on fire and you had a chance to grab only five things before leaving, they would be…
  10. What friend has most influenced your life?  How?
  11. What is an accomplishment you feel most proud of?
  12. What do you think is your greatest personal strength?
  13. What do you think is your greatest personal weakness?
  14. What’s the one thing you would want to be remembered for?
  15. What do you feel the most regret about in life?
  16. What fears do you wrestle with the most? How do you manage them?
  17. What makes you most angry (in marriage or life)?
  18. What three things do you like doing with me the most?
  19. Can you name three qualities that attracted you when you met me/got to know me?
  20. Whose marriage do you most consider to be a model marriage? What is it about their marriage that you most admire?
  21. Are there some times when a disagreement needs to be postponed? if so, when? How can we discern those kinds of times?
  22. What have you learned to appreciate about me that you didn’t know when we first married?
  23. Are you satisfied with the amount of time we spend together? The amount of time we spend separately?
  24. At what times have we felt happiest together?
  25. How much is each of us contributing to our financial health? (In dollars, or otherwise.) Is each person’s contribution acceptable to the other?
  26. How have we learned to cope with the normal, day-to-day irritations of married life? How could we handle them even better?
  27. Do we feel more emotionally connected than we did early in our relationship?
  28. How are we doing at keeping our marriage a priority?
  29. Tell me about a time when you felt really close to me.  What made you feel that way?
  30. Is our sexual connection satisfying to you? To me?

“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” ~Elbert Hubbard

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This is part 3 in a 3-part series on the helpless marriage. Read each post in the series at the links below:

Marriage as Friendship Part 1

Marriage as Friendship Part 2

Marriage as Friendship Part 3

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the helpless marriage: marriage as friendship (part 2)

Earlier this week I wrote about the importance of friendship in marriage.  Friendship, you see, is just as important in marriages that may be feeling healthy as it is in those that may be feeling helpless.

Why is friendship important? Because marriage is the one relationship that most closely reflects the quality of our relationship with Jesus Christ.  Think about the gospel for just a minute.

We’ve sinned against a holy God. You. Me. We’ve all done it.

He sent His Son Jesus to pay the penalty for our sins.

And Jesus wasn’t just whipped and hanged on a cross. He bore the weight of our sins on His shoulders. Our sins nailed Him to the cross.

Think about the most painful thing you’ve ever experienced in your life. The greatest hurt you’ve experienced due to somebody’s sin against you. Now magnify that times a million. That’s getting close to what Jesus felt.

And what did He do as a result? He didn’t say, “That person hurt me so badly I’m never going to speak to them again.”  He didn’t say, “What were they thinking when they committed that sin against me?” He didn’t say anything like that at all.  Instead, He bore our sins and still invited us to be His friend. John 15:13 says it like this:

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Jesus said that, shortly before He laid down His life for you and me.

If your marriage is currently healthy – that’s great! It really is. Ask your spouse, “What’s one thing I can do for you over the next week to be a better friend?”

If you’re feeling helpless in your marriage, passages such as this should give you hope. Hope that friendship is possible in the worst of circumstances. Hope that restoration is possible.  In the most fortunate turn of events, Jesus has asked you to be friend!

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This is part 2 in a 3-part series on the helpless marriage. Read each post in the series at the links below:

Marriage as Friendship Part 1

Marriage as Friendship Part 2

Marriage as Friendship Part 3

the helpless marriage: marriage as friendship (part 1)

There are a few things in this world I really enjoy. A good cup of coffee, for instance, has the ability to truly brighten my day. A perfect song at just the right time, too, can lift my spirits. But these are simple pleasures. Sometimes I need something much bolder than coffee. Sometimes I need something more encouraging than a song. Where do I turn for such a thing? My wife.

My wife and I have a great marriage. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t consider ourselves ‘experts’ at marriage. Not a chance. But we do consider ourselves to be best friends. In fact, there are days I’ll call her on my way home from the office, not wanting to wait just ten more minutes to hear her voice. Our love for one another is deep, and our friendship cannot be measured.

Some marriages, however, don’t have the same experience. We know this because outside of our ministry here at SRC, my wife and I write a blog on marriage and intimacy. The comments and emails we receive on occasion indicate that many marriages are hurting. Couples have openly told us they’ve considered giving up rather than try to succeed in their marriage. In short, they’ve told us they often feel helpless.

What leads to these feelings of helplessness? Actually, a lot. Much more than I can write here. But one thing we’ve learned is that couples often marry with certain expectations of what marriage will be like. When those expectations go unmet, difficulties arise. And instead of working through those expectations together, the marriage slowly drifts apart.

Please don’t drift apart.

Instead, take an opportunity to evaluate your current marriage in just one area – your friendship.

Friendship, you see, is THE defining factor of a great marriage. Think about it, how many people do you know who have gotten divorced but can honestly say, “Yeah, we were great friends. It just didn’t work out.” Sorry, but nobody says that. Ever.

Maybe you’re currently feeling helpless in your marriage. Or maybe you and your spouse are getting along quite well! Either way, take an opportunity sometime over the next few days to discuss these questions with your spouse. Don’t just think about them yourself. And don’t write down answers in a journal. Instead, have a nice 15-30 minute dialog with your spouse, and see where your conversation takes you.

Question 1: What is one thing we can do together this month to improve our friendship?

Question 2: If we could talk more about one area of our marriage, what area would it be?

Question 3: Helpless, Helpful, or Hopeful – Which word would you currently use to describe our marriage? If helpless or helpful, what steps can we take so we both see it as hopeful?

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This is part 1 in a 3-part series on the helpless marriage. Read each post in the series at the links below:

Marriage as Friendship Part 1

Marriage as Friendship Part 2

Marriage as Friendship Part 3

Have a question or comment?  Feel free to let me know in the comment section below.

why do you believe what you believe? (part 1)

Michael: “Hey, Chris. How ya doing?”

Chris: “Pretty well, I suppose.”

Michael: “That’s good. Hey, just out of curiosity…I heard you’ve been attending that new church in town.  And I was just wondering…”

Chris: “Oh yeah. We love it there.”

Michael: “So you DO go to church?”

Chris: “Well yeah. Why?”

Michael: “Don’t take this the wrong way or anything…but why?  I mean, c’mon. Hasn’t our culture moved past this religious nonsense?”

Chris: “Ummmm…what ‘nonsense’ are you referring to?

Michael: “Well, we know by now that there is no God. I mean, how in the world can a ‘loving’ God allow so much suffering to go on in the world?  I just don’t buy it.  Not to mention people rising from the dead. Not to mention so many wars in the name of ‘God’. Not to mention…”

Chris: “Hey, just let me stop you there. I may not be able to answer all of your questions, but I believe God is loving. I believe He exists. I believe…”

Michael: “You believe it, huh?  But why?  Why do you believe it?”

Chris: “You know, if you have so many questions why don’t just ask my pastor. I’m sure he’d love to answer your questions.”

Michael: “You want me to talk with somebody else? C’mon, just tell me why you believe it?”

Chris: “I just do. Can we stop the 20 questions already?”

Michael: “Sure, I’ll stop. And I’m happy to hear your answer whenever you’re ready.”

Over the next couple of weeks, Chris does his best to avoid Michael around the office. But he occasionally thinks about Michael’s questions about God.  He knows he doesn’t really have a good answer, and in time he begins to question his own faith. He thinks about world poverty. Suffering. Some of the claims within the Bible. And he begins to doubt…remaining unsure of how to respond to such challenges.

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It’s one of the simplest questions anyone can be asked: “Why do you believe what you believe?”  And sadly, some of the most common answers are the worst ones to give. For example:

The Bible Says It, So I Believe It!

I know what you’re thinking. “Why is this a bad answer?”

Well, because you’ve just opened the door to a number of additional questions.

“Oh, so you believe slavery is a good idea?”

“You believe we should stone people?”

“You believe women should wear head coverings?”

“All these things are in your Bible, you know?”

And they’re right. They are. And there’s a good answer to every single one of these questions.  But the original question was, “Why do you believe what you believe?” And now you’re way off topic.

I’m Sure My Pastor Would Love to Answer Your Questions.

It’s true. I would. Any pastor would. But here’s what the Scriptures say:

Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:15)

You have a responsibility to answer the questions of others. Pastors are happy to help, but you yourself have a responsibility to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.

I’m Not Sure I Want to Talk About This Anymore.

This, too, is a poor response. But it is a popular one. Unfortunately, by giving this answer you’re essentially choosing to not share the joy and hope you hold so dear.

I’m planning to continue this series of posts for quite some time. But for now, feel free to leave a comment and let me know how you would respond to the question. Why do you believe what you believe? How should you respond to this question? If somebody asked you tomorrow, how would you respond?

 

have a marriage question?

The Helpless MarriageNext Weekend, April 26-27, SRC will begin a 3-week message series on the subject of marriage.  The topics of discussion include:

  • The Helpless Marriage
  • The Helpful Marriage
  • The Hopeful Marriage

Throughout the series, we’re hoping to answer some of YOUR questions on the subject of marriage.  If you have a question you would like us to consider answering as a part of the series, please feel free to let us know by leaving a comment (reply) below.  Thanks!

the scarlet thread: part 3 (john 3:16)

Scarlet Thread Image 1Three weeks ago we began a new series titled, “The Scarlet Thread”. In my first post here on the blog, I mentioned that I was really looking forward to this series because…

I hurt.

I hurt because I’ve lost family members I love.

I hurt because I’ve lost relationships with people I love.

I hurt because I’ve seen marriages fail for countless reasons.

I hurt.

This past week my family lost yet another loved one. That’s three funerals in two months. Indeed the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.

But this series has reminded me of a very important truth. It’s so simple, but I know I sometimes forget. It’s so magnificent, but I know I sometimes don’t always see it as clearly as I should.  Here it is…

I cannot heal myself. Nor can I restore myself. I cannot rest in myself. Nor can I give myself hope.  Instead…

The Scarlet Thread shows us that healing comes from Jesus, and Jesus alone.

Restoration comes from Jesus, and Jesus alone.

Rest comes from Jesus, and Jesus alone.

Hope comes from Jesus, and Jesus alone.

Jesus came. Jesus gave. Jesus rescued.

But that’s not all. The scriptures say:

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NLT)

Because He came. Because He gave. Because He rescued, we now have an opportunity to be a part of His story. We’re not writing our own story anymore. We’re simply participating in His.

What’s most fascinating, however, is that we have an opportunity to begin participating in His story now. Right now. Today.

You see, far too often we read “eternal life” and we think to ourselves, “Oh great. When I die I’ll get to be with God and everything will be grand.” But that’s not what the Scriptures teach us. They don’t teach us that at all. Instead, the Scriptures teach that when we believe in Christ, we begin our eternal life immediately. Not later. Not when we die. Eternity starts immediately.

We can be with God and experience Him…every day.

We can live in hope and joy…every day.

We can truly love others…every day.

Perhaps you’ve taken the opportunity to profess faith in Jesus. But perhaps you, too, get caught up in day-to-day life and sometimes forget. You forget that you can’t heal yourself. You forget that you can’t rest in yourself. You forget that you can’t give yourself hope.

So, this week, I ask you to forget about forgetting.  Instead, take the opportunity to remember. Remember what it is He has done. Remember He desires to know you. Remember He desires to be with you.  Remember He desires to be your friend. Remember He desired to give His life. He desired to bear the cross. He desired to bear your shame. He desired to experience it so that you could experience eternal life…right now.

And maybe, just maybe, knowing that you are experiencing eternal life right now will lead you to think through these questions a little differently now that this series is coming to a close.

If indeed your eternity begins NOW…

  1. Where is God asking you to go?
  2. What is God asking you to give up to more fully follow Him?
  3. Are you trusting God to use you?

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Questions or comments?  Feel free let me know by leaving a comment below.

only king forever:

Easter is nearly upon us!  It’s a day of worship! A day of celebration!  A day to acknowledge Jesus as King!

We’re having three services this weekend at SRC:

  • April 19: Saturday at 6pm
  • April 20: Sunday at 9 & 11am

Whichever service you attend, we’re planning to begin by acknowledging Jesus as our “Only King Forever”.  Watch the video below, and prepare to [loudly!] sing it out this weekend!