Copyright 1996, John H. Stoll
The primary complaint in most marriages is that a lack of communication is the basis of discord and misunderstanding. Though this is a problem, to be sure, it is the result of the problem, not the root cause. In order to construct a foundation for marriage, based on God given principles, one must first look at the basic problem.
I. The Causes of Marital Discord: There are basically four.
First, the root cause is SELFISHNESS. Since selfishness began with Adam/Eve, and is passed along to all mankind, this problem constantly intrudes into marriage, which leads to division not union. The ego centeredness in all of us overwhelms, and this brings problems in every aspect of life.
Second, there is the problem of COMMITMENT. The original will of commitment made in the marriage vows, needs to be reinforced daily on the part of both husband and wife. The selfish tendency in each of us to go our own way, can only be overcome through exercising daily and continuing commitment.
Another problem is that of PRIORITIES. Generally we tend to place our work first, then our family, and finally our responsibility to God. For the Christian these priorities need to be reversed. When God is placed first in our life, the family second, and our work last, then our personal life will be more fulfilling, and God will honor our priorities (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2; Romans 8:6), and this in turn will benefit everyone in the family. Note: most ministers have their priorities right, but have a tendency to fuse one and three together, so that their wives and families get left out, which is tragic both to them, as well as a poor testimony to their congregation.
Finally, the fourth problem is a lack of TRUST between husband and wife. Trust is the foundation and jewel of marriage (Proverbs 31:11). Trust is built through the WILL of Agape love (I Corinthians 13). This type of love is not of the emotional variety, but of a willingness to project one's self to their partner unselfishly, through honesty, truthfulness, integrity, understanding, openness, encouragement, etc. The combination of the willingness on the part of each to the other, produces a trust that nurtures emotional love and fulfillment that is so satisfying.
Selfishness is a hindrance to building trust, whereas trust can only be nurtured by not only trusting the other, but by being trustworthy of the trust they have received. This takes a commitment of the WILL.
II. Building a Fulfilling, Fruitful, Relationship: there are three basic principles or guidelines to follow, in order to have this kind of a marriage relationship.
Since most marriages suffer from a daily, almost imperceptible erosion, there needs to first be a RE-COMMITMENT to each other. This means a renewal of trust in each other. It may not be easy, because of the past abuses of trust, but this is where one must first trust the Lord, then their mate. It is also necessary for each to trust the Lord to help them be trustworthy, since each has squandered the original trust that was given to them.
Moreover, it requires a cutting off of past "garbage", and not "dumping" it on each other every day. Instead each must be committed to work at being trustworthy of the new reservoir of trust they have received. Included must be a willingness to forgive and be forgiven, since a change of habits does not come easy. When one slips back into the old habits, there must be confession and forgiveness, without a casting up of the past such as, "there you go again, I knew it was too good to be true". Rather, reflect upon the time and place where the re-commitment took place, and a trusting in the genuineness of the willingness of the commitment that was made.
Each has a personal responsibility to make the necessary changes, and at the same time be accepting of the other, realizing the imperfections each has. This takes time to change, as well as trusting and becoming trustworthy.
The next step is to develop the WILL of Agape love. As was noted above, this is the love of will, not emotion. It is a selfless love, willing to give, rather than take. Selfless love, bonds; selfish love divides. Agape love accepts each other, "warts and all". It produces a reservoir of trust, through daily, positive reinforcement of each other, refraining from criticism and casting up, and never takes one's partner for granted.
The final step is to work on the four "C's" of marriage: 1) A daily continuing COMMITMENT to the one you love; 2) Developing open COMMUNICATION, by accepting each others thoughts without attacking. The ultimate goal of every marriage should be an "emotional nakedness" between husband and wife, without fear of being "attacked", though this does not mean they have to think alike. This is far harder than physical nakedness in the bedroom, but far more important; 3) Provide for loving CONFRONTATION. God never intended us to think alike. It is not do you confront, but how. In Proverbs 15:1 it says, "A soft answer turns away anger"; 4) Have a willingness to COMPROMISE, since we will never think alike. Compromising helps us to overcome our bent toward selfishness.
III. Conclusion and Commendation: God has entrusted the leadership of the family to the husband/father, and therefore it is his responsibility to "set the pace" by example, rather than by precept (Ephesians 5:25; I Peter 3:7).
When a husband/father sets a loving pace by example, and treats his wife like a "queen", then she will have no problem willingly submitting herself to her husband. She does not want a driver, a bully, or a dictator, but a loving, accepting mate.
Since parents are developing learned behaviors in their children, which they will carry over into adulthood, and transfer over to the one whom they marry, it behooves parents to set a proper example before their children. Dr. Shedd, a Christian psychologist, once asked a five year old boy if his Daddy loved his Mother. The boy proudly answered that he did. Then Dr. Shedd asked him how he knew that? The little fellow said, "When my Daddy comes home at night, and Mommy is in the kitchen getting supper, Daddy comes in and pats Mommy on the fanny; boy does my Daddy love my Mommy". That Father probably never realized that his behaviors made such an indelible impression on his son. And, this carries over into most all examples parents display before their impressionable youngsters.
Finally, daily pray that you may be sensitive to meeting your beloved one's needs. There is nothing greater to bind and bond a husband/wife together than a spiritual sensitivity that each has for the other. This produces the Lord's blessing on the relationship that is fulfilling.
Have thine own way, Lord, have thine own way;
Thou art the potter, I am the clay;
Mold me and make me, after thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.
Have thine own way, Lord, have thine own way,
Hold o'er my being, absolute sway,
Filled with thy Spirit, till all shall see,
Christ only, always, living in me
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