Secondary Gains, Part 2

This was originally posted in Sept 2010 and much has changed in my life – but the concepts here are good.

So I last wrote about the adaptations that can become stumbling blocks when it comes to chronic, physical issues.  But what does this mean for relational ones?

When relationships are difficult, if we have the courage and possibly healthy background – we confront the issues and move on to repentance, reconciliation and relationship.  This is healthy and biblical and definitely worth the effort. But it takes two.  What if ongoing sin issues by another person, and a lack of repentance, keep all of this from happening?  We are to forgive certainly (Jesus forgave us though we didn’t deserve it).  But reconciliation and relationship are missing.  So how do you move forward in that kind of relationship?

Some people simply leave.  But let’s say that’s not the right choice for you for whatever reason.  We don’t abandon our children simply because they are difficult and while we can manufacture space with parental units, totally cutting them off can be challenging.  There are simply some difficult relationships we cannot escape even though we would wish to.

We adapt.  This can be good in that it can keep us sane. It may mean not investing in that relationship. Lowering our expectations of what that person can do to meet our very real wants and needs.  It does not mean revenge or resentment is a good place to camp. God asks us to love the unlovely and show respect for others, even when they have wronged us, simply because – well, HE asks us to.  They are as equally created in the image of God as we are and deserve our consideration and prayers even if we cannot have a true relationship with them that we would desire.

So we adapt. We work around the issues.  We learn new ways of ‘doing life’ with that person that keeps us feeling safer in the relationship. Maybe it means stepping back, not sharing our deepest thoughts.  It may mean finding other places to get our needs met (I am NOT advocating emotional or physical affairs here. . .).

But what happens if they do change?  That is what we want after all, isn’t it? Anger, resentment, hatred will all raise their ugly head at how that other individual has messed up and destroyed any hope of relationship with us.  We find freedom by moving away from that person.  We sometimes find our own ego stroked by comparing ourselves to them.  But then they go and change?  Whoa! Hey, that’s not allowed unless we dictate it – right?  Yet God has the power to change a human heart and we are to pray for those who persecute us.  So, what if He answers that prayer?

This happens in difficult marriages.  Husband decides finally to be the spiritual head of the home.  Even if he repents of his past failures and tries to keep his wife involved in the decisions and changes that are taking place (this is ideal guys, dictating to us will only garner resistance), the wife is going to have difficulty– even if it has been what she has prayed for.  She has to give up control and freedom to a person who has not proven himself worthy of the trust he is now demanding of her.  See how difficult this is?  She’s adapted, and even though it is not what she originally wanted, her life had become a predictable, even if unhappy – then the rules changed.

So here’s the tough question.  If someone is bugging you because they won’t change, ask the question, “If they changed overnight, if God did a miracle here, would I be able to accept it?”  If the answer is “no” then the real issue is not the other person – but you.  Let God deal with them and you get to work with Him over all that’s holding you back from the abundant life He’s calling you to, regardless of whether the other person changes or not.  Lean into it and see what God can do in you!

LGB

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Husbands and Church

A friend was expressing frustration to me the other day about her husband who was not attending church. She said, “Every time he doesn’t come – that’s when he really needed to hear the message!”

I nodded my head. I understand. Totally. Then I said “Let me challenge you. Come to church and ask God to have the message be for YOU to learn and hear. Let Him deal with your husband.”

When all we do as women, is focus on the deficiencies in our men, then we have now made them our idol. Now often we think of an idol as something we worship and adore. But really, it is anything that predominates our attention and keeps us from focusing on God. That could be reading books, or watching sports or television shows or spending our time in certain activities. Even focusing solely on our fears, can make them our idol when they take our eye off the Most High God who is the only One who deserves our worship and attention. Anything that steals our focus from a life that is designed to be lived in service and worship to our King, Lord Jesus, can become an idol.

Even difficult husbands can become our idols.

So what do we do? How do we get out of that kind of obsession with our husband’s deficiencies? Basically, there are two parts to resolving this:

  1. Pray for your husband. Pray that God will do the work that needs to be done, and leave your husband to God to fix.
  2. Seek God with your whole heart. Not so that your husband can be changed, but so YOU can be changed. Let God meet you in your loneliness. Let Him take your hurt, and anger and resentment. Let God grow you in the image of the Lord Jesus Christ as you pursue holiness and a life devoted to Him.

That sounds simpler than it is. We are complex beings. Hormones and emotions can make it difficult. Living with someone day in and day out who doesn’t treat us as he ought (according to Scripture), is frustrating to say the least.

No one said it would be easy. Marriage is not about your happiness, it’s about reflecting God to a hurting world. Even in a marriage that is falling apart, if you choose to honor God with all that you are, you will bring honor and glory to Him, and find that your witness to the hurting and watching world around you will be even stronger because you are different, because you are faithful under adversity.

I usually attend church alone. I have to accept my husband’s choices even if I disagree with them. Those who know me best do not judge me for being solo. I do not have to carry shame when I go because I am not there to be seen and approved of, I am there to worship the King, and to serve Him. For those of you feel embarrassment over your singleness at church, please don’t. I understand firsthand the shame (which comes from our enemy) but give that to God and know that you have infinite value and worth in His eyes just for being who you are as His child.

I challenge you to chew on these things and seek God first and let Him be the husband to you that your own flesh and blood man cannot. Don’t do it to get the husband you want, do it to be the woman of God He has called you to be, and trust Him with the rest.

And in the meantime, we can pray and encourage each other on the way.

Blessings,

LGB

P.S. I am not advocating for a woman staying in the home with physical abuse. Please seek safety and get wise advice. Emotional and verbal abuse, please get wise counsel.

Love in Action

I have not previously posted links to other blogs, but today is an exception: The simple wife.

The Simple WifeOn January 11, 2011, wife, mother and writer, Joanne, suffered a stroke. Her daughter found her. She spent time in a medically induced coma and is now coming out of it. This is certainly a tragic and difficult circumstance for her family. I am aware there are other people who are suffering horrific health issues: children with cancer, husbands who have lost their wives and children in car accidents and so much more horror and suffering that goes on in this world and that my heart grieves over when I read about them.

So what is so unique about this one? Why would I bring this blog and Joanne’s story to you? I share it, because I am so moved by the love and dedication of her husband, Toben. He has been blogging on her page about her progress and every time it brings me to tears to see a man so in love with his wife, even when she is totally incapable of doing anything to earn or deserve that love.

When I see love like this modeled by a human, fallible, man it does two things to me.

First, it reminds me of how far from that I am in my marriage. I grieve because I do not have that kind of love and dedication directed my way. It highlights my loss and I pray even more for this woman who right now has no clue how loved she is. She may suffer a brain injury, but in many ways she is much more blessed than I am, although some may question my own cognitive capabilities at times! (I do!)

Secondly, it highlights the beauty of love that is modeled on Christ’s example in Scripture. He loved us when we were unable to return that love. Grace, compassion, tenderness. God’s love reached through time to woo and win the hearts of those He created. Our sin put us in a coma, totally unable to see the depravity of our situation, and still, He came to nurture us and heal us and bring us to Himself. Toben, a mere man, exemplifies Christ in his actions and in his honest blogging as he tends to his wife and cares for his two daughters.

It is good to remember that there is such a thing as this kind of sacrificial love when some of us are so desperate for it. I may not have a human husband like this here on this earth, but I do know that God promises to meet us in our pain.“For the LORD has called you like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit, like a wife in youth when she is cast off.” (Isaiah 54:6 ESV).

Toben may never read this blog, and that’s fine. I still pray for him and his family and know that God is crediting His faithfulness to him. I am blessed to be someone Toben has touched as he does what God has called him to do, faithfully love his wife.

Blessings,

LGB

Dream Bigger

I often ask God for things that I want or think I need. New house, new husband (hahaha!), healed son, health, financial security. The list could go on. Sometimes when I’m feeling particularly stressed my prayers simply become requests for help or rescue.

But for twenty years rescue hasn’t come.

What if my dreams and prayers are too small? Maybe a house, which could burn down, would not ultimately satisfy me. Or if my husband were Brad Pitt or better yet Gilles Marini! Still, he may not satisfy (looks ain’t everything, gals!).

What if my kids were perfect angels, obeying everything, picked up after themselves and helped around the house? Okay, wait. I cannot find anything wrong with that!

I struggle with this verse in Scripture:

“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Mat 21:22 ESV)

Whatever? Really? But when? So I can ask for riches – and for my debts to be cleared away. Anything goes right? Does that mean that I can sin with abandon and ask God to clean up after me so I don’t have to face the consequences? See what I mean? It seems like there might be a limit to “whatever” even though even in the Greek it seems to mean exactly what it says. Oh, how easy to believe a false prosperity gospel based on that one verse!

Maybe the clincher is “if you have faith.” Maybe part of me doubts God’s willingness to rescue me in my difficult circumstances. That would be a sin of unbelief. Maybe my faith is misplaced in asking for things that are not in line with what God desires for me? That is probably the key. Faith means believing in what we don’t see. That God has some greater purpose and plan beyond my ability to know or understand. Even Abraham did not see the Promised Land and his descendants as innumerable as the sands on the shore or the stars in the sky. God promised and did it – but Abraham never saw it while he walked on this earth.

So maybe I simply don’t dream big enough. A house will burn or decay. My health doesn’t matter once I’m dead (and we all achieve that end at some point). Consider the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11 which ends thus:

And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. “ (Heb 11:39-40 ESV)

So we get whatever we ask – when we ask in faith – but even those who did, didn’t see the fulfillment of what God had promised. They got something better!

Maybe I need to pray bigger prayers. Maybe prayers that my children will overcome the generations of sin and spiritual bondage that have held our families back from impacting the world for the glory of God. Prayers that the work I do today, even in writing a blog, or a book, will in the long run, impact women, save marriages and strengthen the church in ways I might never see or fully understand. Maybe even one life will come to know Jesus in a real, powerful, life changing way and embrace Him as not only their Savior, but Lord, and in bending their knee and wholeheartedly following Him, they will have a great impact on people I will never meet this side of heaven.

Maybe instead of temporal things I need to dream of a bigger legacy of a way that God, right now, today, would reach down and through this blog and other words I might speak, or hugs I might give, extend His message of grace to a hurting world.

My circumstances might stink. Sometimes I truly do want to quit the fight. But then I think of things like this and feel emboldened to stretch a little further. To take just one more step today in faith, knowing that in heaven, I will see the fruit of my labor and rejoice because I will have received the commendation of God. That joy will far outweigh my sorrows here. Some days I need to be reminded of that, don’t you?

As I typed this, Chris Rice’s song “Deep Enough to Dream” kept going through my head. Maybe it will inspire you to dream bigger as well. Blessings,

LGB