Bonus Episode 22 – God, How could you?
I didn’t understand how could God let the things happen to me that led me to addiction? How could he let them happen to my wife? God, How could you?
Bonus Episode 22 – God, How could you?
I didn’t understand how could God let the things happen to me that led me to addiction? How could he let them happen to my wife? God, How could you?
Originally posted at: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2018/03/20935/
Religious belief and activity—particularly prayer—matter in important ways. They make a deeply practical difference in how husband and wife interact with each other in daily life.
Many Christians believe that the divorce rate among believers is on a par with that of the unbelieving world. That’s simply not true—particularly for those who take their faith seriously in both belief and practice. The best research from sociology’s leading scholars has established this fact time and again over the last few decades.
Most recently, research conducted at Harvard’s School of Public Health reveals that regularly attending church services together reduces a couple’s risk of divorce by a remarkable 47 percent. Many studies, they report, have similar results ranging from 30 to 50 percent reduction in divorce risk. Happily, this holds largely true for white, black, Asian and Latino couples.
Research conducted at Bowling Green State University, a major center for ground-breaking family-formation research, affirms this conclusion. A leader in this field, Professor Annette Mahoney of Bowling Green’s Spirituality and Psychology Research Team, reports from her decades-long research that a couple’s spiritual intimacy and church participation is “very, very important and undeniably a construct that matters” greatly in boosting marital happiness and longevity. Additional research conducted by Mahoney and her team demonstrates that marriages are stronger and happier when the husband and wife understand the deeper spiritual significance of marriage. These findings have remained consistent over many decades and across socio-economic differences. The Bowling Green team notes:
Three recent longitudinal studies tied higher religious attendance, particularly by couples who attend the same denomination together, to decreased rates of future divorce. These results imply that great depth of integration in a spiritual community can help prevent divorce.
This is because religious belief and activity matter in important ways, making a deeply practical difference in how husband and wife interact with each other in daily life. It helps them manage their conflicts in kinder, more forgiving, and collaborative ways.
Adding to this research, scholars from the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University found that how often a couple attends church together has a strong impact on marital stability. The more often they attend, the stronger their marriage. The researchers report, “When both spouses attend church regularly, the couple has the lowest risk of divorce.” Moreover, couples holding more conservative Christian beliefs had a markedly lower risk than those with no or more liberal theological beliefs. Couples who marry in a religious service show a modestly lower risk of marital separation or dissolution than those who marry in a non-religious ceremony.
Unequally yoked couples—in which one spouse is a Christian while the other is not—are especially prone to divorce, affirming the biblical charge against it. However, when the husband is the regularly church-attending, strong believer, the marriage is much more durable and happier than when the wife is the sole believer. Similarly, in equally yoked couples, there is a demonstrable marital benefit when the husband is the spiritual leader. This speaks strongly to the importance of the man’s spiritual leadership in the home, as a wife is generally more likely to follow and appreciate the husband’s leadership in religious matters than vice versa.
The faith benefit is strong even for couples facing serious difficulties in their marriage. Mahoney and her team explain, “Couples who belonged to the same denomination at the time of their wedding were twice as likely to reconcile as couples in religiously [different] marriages. Couples where either partner had converted to the partner’s denomination prior to marriage were four times more likely to reconcile” than those with no or dissimilar faith (emphasis added). That is a tremendously powerful marriage-strengthening dynamic for a relatively simple relational component.
Church attendance and shared belief are not the only protective faith factors. A couple’s shared prayer life is extremely powerful. A 2015 study discovered that husbands and wives praying together for each other individually and offering forgiveness for personal offenses has “significant positive” effects on marriage overall. It helps them deal with the troubles that naturally arise in marriage, making them both accountable to God, who tells us not to hang onto past hurts and to sacrificially love and forgive others.
The University of Virginia’s W. Bradford Wilcox boldly explains in his book Soul Mates that “shared prayer completely accounts for the association between church attendance and a happy relationship.” This means that prayer as a regular part of a couple’s relationship, according to this research, is the most important spiritual practice in relational success. This is equally true for Latino, Asian, black, and white couples. Prayer not only invites God into the relationship at times of unhappiness and struggle, but also helps the couple become more intimate and concerned with one another. Regularly sharing one’s thoughts with God in the presence of another is extremely intimate, perhaps rivaled only by physical intimacy. It binds people together. They both require great transparency and trust, enhancing the marital relationship.
Church attendance doesn’t merely increase marital happiness and relational health. It is also associated with the likelihood of being married in the first place; church attenders get married at markedly higher rates. Professor Wilcox explains that “For men and women of all races and ethnicities, attending church regularly increases the odds of marriage by at least two-thirds.” African-American men and women are 46 to 51 percent more likely to be married if they attend church regularly. The same measure for Latino men is 62 percent more likely and 58 percent for white men.
Clearly, it is proven by many measures that marriage and church attendance go together in profoundly important ways. For couples who desire happy, fulfilling and enduring marriages, vibrant faith participation is as positively consequential as nearly all other beneficial factors.
While it is not fully understood why faith practice affects marriage so positively, the author of the Harvard study offers a nice round-up of some of the most widely held possibilities. Namely, regular church attendance and religious practice can:
– Reinforce a couple’s understanding that marriage is a sacred thing, larger than the couple and must ideally last for a lifetime.
– Reinforce biblical teachings against divorce, pornography, and marital infidelity.
– Reinforce the nature and importance of marital love, sacrifice, and attending to your spouse’s needs.
– Put couples in contact with numerous resources – encouraging friends/peers and marital education – that help them prepare for and strengthen marriage as well as resolve inevitable conflict. (Wilcox found that encouragement and advice from church friends accounts for more than half of the marital benefit of church attendance.)
– Increase many other important measures of personal health and well-being as well as a deeper sense of meaning in life, all things generally associated with greater marital happiness and protection against divorce.
Faith does matter. It makes a difference in all areas of life, including marriage. It is important that leaders and members of every church know this, as well as all marriage counselors. It’s one of the most powerful secret weapons in marital happiness and longevity—and this should no longer be a secret to anyone.
Glenn T. Stanton is the director of global family formation studies at Focus on the Family and the author of eight books on various aspects of the family, including The Ring Makes All the Difference: The Hidden Consequences of Cohabitation and the Strong Benefits of Marriage and Loving My LGBT Neighbor: Being Friends in Grace and Truth.
Ephesians 5:21 – ““Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.””
Whenever I (Dr. Townsend) talk about a wife setting boundaries in marriage, someone asks about the biblical idea of submission. What follows is not a full treatise on submission, but some general issues you should keep in mind.
First, both husbands and wives are supposed to practice submission, not just wives. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (see Ephesians 5:21). Submission is always the free choice of one party to another. Wives choose to submit to their husbands, and husbands choose to submit to their wives.
Christ’s relationship with the church is a picture of how a husband and wife should relate: “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (see Ephesians 5:24–27).
Whenever submission issues are raised, the first question that needs to be asked is: what is the nature of the marital relationship? Is the husband’s relationship with his wife similar to Christ’s relationship with the church? Does she have free choice, or is she a slave “under the law”? Many marital problems arise when a husband tries to keep his wife “under the law,” and she feels all the emotions the Bible promises the law will bring: wrath, guilt, insecurity, and alienation (see Romans 4:15; Galatians 5:4).
Freedom is one issue that needs to be examined; grace is another. Is the husband’s relationship with his wife full of grace and unconditional love? Is she in a position of “no condemnation” as the church is (see Romans 8:1), or does her husband fail to “wash her” of all guilt? Usually husbands who quote Ephesians 5 turn their wives into slaves and condemn them for not submitting. If she incurs wrath or condemnation for not submitting, she and her husband do not have a grace-filled Christian marriage; they have a marriage “under the law.”
Often, the husband is trying to get his wife to do something that either is hurtful or takes away her will. Both of these actions are sins against himself. “Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church” (see Ephesians 5:28–29).
Given this, the idea of slave-like submission is impossible to hold. Christ never takes away our will or asks us to do something hurtful. He never pushes us past our limits. He never uses us as objects. Christ “gave himself up” for us. He takes care of us as he would his own body.
I have never seen a “submission problem” that did not have a controlling husband at its root. When the wife begins to set clear boundaries in marriage, the lack of Christlikeness in a controlling husband becomes evident because the wife is no longer enabling his immature behavior. She is confronting the truth and setting biblical limits on hurtful behavior. Often, when the wife sets boundaries, the husband begins to grow up.
This devotional is drawn from Boundaries in Marriage, by John Townsend and Henry Cloud.
2 Corinthians 9:6 – “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”
Amy and Randall had been married for eight years, and they loved each other. However, when he was angry or upset, Randall became moody and would withdraw from Amy and the kids, except for occasional outbursts of anger. When his manufacturing business was struggling, he would sit silently through dinner. Once, during this period, the children were arguing at the dinner table. Out of the blue, Randall said, “Amy, can’t you keep these children in line? I can’t even have a moment’s peace in my own home!” And with that, he stormed out of the kitchen into his home office, turned on the computer, and stayed there until the kids went to bed.
Amy was hurt and confused. But she had a pattern of “handling” Randall’s moods. She would try to cheer him up by being positive, encouraging, and compliant. “He has a hard job,” Amy would think. “Nurturance is what he needs.” And for the next few hours, and sometimes days, she would center the family’s existence around Dad’s mood. Everyone would walk on eggshells around him. No one was to complain or be negative about any subject, for fear of setting him off again. And Amy would constantly try to draw him out, affirm him, and make him happy. All her emotional energy went into helping Randall feel better.
Amy and Randall’s struggle illustrates the importance of the first law of boundaries: “The Law of Sowing and Reaping.” Simply put, this principle means that our actions have consequences. When we do loving, responsible things, people draw close to us. When we are unloving or irresponsible, people withdraw from us by emotionally shutting down, or avoiding us, or eventually leaving the relationship.
In their marriage, Randall was sowing anger, selfishness, and withdrawal of love. These hurt Amy’s feelings and disrupted the family. Yet Randall was not paying any consequences for what he was sowing. He could have his tantrum, get over it, and go about his business as if nothing had happened. Amy, however, had a problem. She was bearing the entire burden of his moodiness. She stopped what she was doing to take on the project of changing her moody husband into a happy man. Randall was “playing,” and Amy was “paying.” And because of this, he was not changing his ways. Randall had no incentive to change, as Amy, not he, was dealing with his problem.
What consequence should Randall have been experiencing? Amy could have said to him, “Honey, I know you’re under stress, and I want to support any way I can. But your withdrawal and rage hurt me and the children. They are unacceptable. I want you to talk more respectfully to us when you’re in a bad mood. The next time you yell at us like that, we’ll need some emotional distance from you for a while. We may leave the house and go to a movie or see some friends.”
Sowing and reaping has to do with how spouses affect and impact each other’s heart. Amy and Randall had a problem in relational sowing and reaping. He was being hurtful and difficult, yet Amy took the consequences of his behavior for him. In their relationship, the one who has the problem isn’t facing the effects of the problem. And things don’t change in a marriage until the spouse who is taking responsibility for a problem that is not hers decides to say or do something about it. This can range from mentioning how her spouse’s behavior hurts her feelings, all the way to setting a limit on the behavior. This helps place both the sowing and the reaping with the same person and begins to solve the boundary violation.
This devotional is drawn from Boundaries in Marriage, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.
Colossians 3:12-14 –“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
I (Dr. Cloud) was leading a seminar, and I asked the audience of married couples to stop for a moment and think of their spouse. I told them to think of all of the wonderful things that they love about their spouse and to concentrate on how awesome that person is and how much they love him or her. “Think of the wonderful qualities that you admire and that attracted you to that person. Let those feelings fill you,” I told them.
Then, after they were feeling all giddy and in love again, I asked each person to turn to their spouse who was idealizing them at that moment and to repeat after me, “Honey, I am a sinner. I will fail you, and I will hurt you.”
You could feel the sense of discombobulation in the room. In one moment, they were shaken from the ideal to the real. Some began to laugh as they got it. Some felt even closer to each other. Some looked up confused as if they did not know what to do with my invitation.
But that is reality. The person you love the most and have committed your life to is an imperfect being. This person is guaranteed to hurt you and fail you in many ways, some serious and some not. You can expect the failures to come. As the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 7:20, “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” We can expect failure from even the best people in our lives.
So the question becomes, “What then?” What do you do when your spouse fails you in some way or is less than you wish for him to be? What happens when she has a weakness or a failure? How about an inability to do something? What about an unresolved childhood hurt that he brings to the relationship?
Other than denial, there are only a couple of options. You can beat him up for his imperfections, or you can love him out of them. The Bible says, “Love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Nothing in a relationship has to permanently destroy that relationship if forgiveness is in the picture. No failure is larger than grace. No hurt exists that love cannot heal. But, for all of these miracles to take place, there must be compassion and tenderheartedness.
What does that mean? I like how the Bible describes God’s compassion: “to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior” (Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionary). For God to have compassion on our brokenness or sin is certainly to stoop to an inferior. But we need the same attitude toward an equal spouse for two reasons:
First, you forgive what is inferior to the ideal standard. You humble yourself to identify with your loved one, who is experiencing life in a way that is less than you or even he would want. You give up all demands for your spouse to be something he isn’t at that moment.
Second, if your spouse is hurting or failing, you are not morally superior, but you are in the stronger position at that moment to be able to help. God never uses the stronger position to hurt, but always to help. As Paul puts it in Colossians 3:12-14, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
What a picture that is! “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” What if you “wore” these qualities every time your spouse failed or was hurting? I think we would see a lot more healed marriages.
But that is not the human way. The human way is to harden our hearts when we are hurt or offended.
I was talking to a friend the other day who had offended his wife in a relatively minor way. But to her it was not minor at all. As a result, she did not speak to him for several days. Finally he asked her when she might forgive him. “Will it be before next month? Before Christmas? Just let me know so I can get ready.” She finally broke and started laughing, and things were fine again. She saw how unnecessary her “hardness of heart” was to the offense.
Hardness of heart, much more than failure, is the true relationship killer. Jesus said in Matthew 19:8 that failure is not the cause of divorce, but hardness of heart is. This is why the Bible places such a high value on tenderheartedness.
This site is intended for individuals who struggle with maintaining sexual purity. This information is posted for individuals at various stages in their recovery, year 1 to year 30+; what applies to some, may not apply others. Spouses are encouraged to read this blog with the caveat that they may not agree with, understand, or know the reason for some items posted. As always, take what you like and leave the rest.