Read Making Marriage Work Online

Authors: Joyce Meyer

Making Marriage Work (5 page)

As he began to study God’s promises, he saw that God was still as close to him as the days he first began to love God. While feelings waver, God’s Word stands firm as Isaiah also expressed in chapter 40, verse 8:

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

God wanted Dave to depend on His Word — His promises. During that time, Dave became familiar with the Scriptures that confirmed what God had taught him about grace and love. Three years after he left the service he met and married me. God had well prepared him for all of my problems. He had firmly learned not to operate by his feelings. He explains that God’s grace made him able to be patient with me and love me in the midst of my upsets.

When I was angry, Dave didn’t let it steal his joy. He knew that God was working in us, and he didn’t let our arguments tear him down. By God’s grace during those early years of our marriage and then by faith in His Word, Dave continued to enjoy life even when I was mad. His happiness during my trials made me angry and upset, but at the same time, drew me to him. I wanted what he had.

I saw stability in Dave that I had never seen in anybody in my whole life. No matter what I did, he remained the same. As the years went by, Dave could look back and see that God was preparing him the whole time for our marriage. When God was revealing Himself to me in those early years, I didn’t realize that He was making me think more like He thinks. And when it seemed that God had left me, He was actually wooing me or drawing me after Him so that I would get into the Word, then depend on His Word.

DON’T LET ANYONE STEAL YOUR JOY

It was a key factor to our success that Dave didn’t let me make him unhappy. Many disagreements could be avoided if we didn’t depend upon our spouse to make us happy. Dave’s contentment was in God’s promise not in my compliance.

Many disagreements could be avoided if we didn’t depend upon our spouse to make us happy.

When I have shared that in meetings, it really ministers to people. People feel that if they have a problem, they are almost obligated to be unhappy. I was a dependent person with irrational behavior, and I wanted to make Dave codependent on me so I could control him. It seemed fair to me that if I wasn’t happy, he shouldn’t be either!

Dave was a role model to me, who showed me new ways to handle disappointment and disagreement. I challenged Dave’s stability to the extremes. Sometimes for two and three weeks I wouldn’t say one word to him. Not one word. I would just shut up and not say a word. But Dave loved me and showed me the agape love of God. I saw God’s unconditional love in him and if I wanted to receive it, I could benefit from it, but if I didn’t, it didn’t stop him from loving me. His stability amazed me. He did get angry with me sometimes, but somehow he was always able to demonstrate his love while disapproving of my actions. He was the closest thing I had ever seen to what I might have conjectured peace or love to be like.

It is important for people who are married to a troubled person, or married to somebody who is having problems, or who isn’t saved, or whatever the case might be, to strive for stability in God. This can be a painful process but it is the direct path to eventual peace and joy. People must not let a troubled spouse’s behavior dictate their joy. They should strive to be stable and solid, so their behavior can witness to the other person.

The only way I had ever seen anything handled as I was growing up was with anger, force, and manipulation. Disagreements were handled by controlling people with temper tantrums. In other words, “I’m mad at you and I’m going to stay mad at you until you do what I want you to.” And that was the way I fought for what I wanted. I grew up in a negative atmosphere where I was taught, “You cannot trust anybody. Anybody who even wants to do anything or even says they want to do something nice for you has some ulterior motive.”

I’m using the example of the people who influenced my childhood, not to disrespect them, but to demonstrate that I believe people repeat what they were taught as children unless God does a work in them. Later, I will discuss how we learned to have healthy confrontations. But I was taught in the earlier years of my life to be negative.

HAPPINESS IS YOUR OWN RESPONSIBILITY

Six years into our marriage, Dave was beginning to tire of the fight. When I saw that Dave was no longer trying to give me “pep talks,” I realized it was my turn to do something about my unhappiness. If a spouse can make everything all right for someone, then Dave had been doing all the right things for our marital bliss. But I couldn’t be in harmony with him until I was in harmony with God.

I wasn’t aware at the time how painful my unhappiness was for Dave. He reflects on that time of challenge with both fond and fretful memories. When I pushed him to the edge, he would go out alone and pray and cry. In the beginning he would try to share with me about things, saying, “You have to change or this has to change.” And nothing ever happened. It made me worse. So Dave realized that I couldn’t change from the outside in. It had to be from the inside out. From that time on, he realized that all he could do was pray when I was being sarcastic or belligerent. He would cry, “God, I can’t change this! Only You can get on the inside of her and change this.”

It was at this time in our marriage that I began to read the Word of God with new interest and enthusiasm. The Word was beginning to make sense to me and draw me to desire more of God in my life. I know that people don’t like “pat answers” for life, but the Good News of the Gospel is very simple. I think that every person has to pick up the Bible and be willing to do what it says no matter what any other person does. And they have to do it as unto the Lord. Only then does an individual find the true path to happiness and wholeness.

3

BEFORE STARTING OVER, TRY THIS …

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6,7

If more people would actually pray for their struggling relationships, I believe they would see peaceful changes in their marriages. Too often, people spend all their waking thoughts on their problems instead of on their relationship with God. Consequently, they miss out on the peace that God wants to bring them.

Peace was not even a concept in the early days of our marriage. Six years into our marriage, Dave was possibly at a point that if he could have asked for a second chance, he would have offered God another rib and said, “Lord, how ‘bout a new model; this one isn’t working!” Fortunately, Dave didn’t trade me in on a new wife. He did ask God to change me in the areas that were causing us so much pain, and after a period of time, I did begin to change in those areas. It was during his time of intercession that I began reading and studying the Word.

I began to study the Word, but typical to when a person is changing, I appeared to get worse before I got better. The Word was convicting me and fortunately, Dave didn’t stop praying for me. When we share about this time in our lives, I have heard Dave say, “When you are praying for somebody in an area and they get worse, that’s not the time to stop praying. That’s the time to get encouraged. Most people give up when they pray for somebody and a person gets worse because they think their prayers are not working. But in reality God is beginning to deal with them, and their flesh is getting all upset.”

There will be a transition period so if you keep praying during that period of time, they’ll get through it and will be changed in that area. Too often Christians give up praying because they want instantaneous success and immediate answers.

Jesus told us to ask and keep asking, to seek and keep seeking, and to knock and keep knocking until the door opens that we want to enter. Matthew 7:8 promises a response:

For everyone who keeps on asking receives; and he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, [the door] will be opened.

When God was dealing with me, I felt more stubborn than ever before I started to improve. It can make you mad to find out that you are the one who needs to make changes instead of the one who you think is irritating your life. When Dave saw how irritable I was becoming, he became encouraged instead of discouraged.

It is so important to understand that a process takes time, and time is something of which God has plenty. He is not in a hurry when it comes to working things out. He knows that eternity outweighs the longevity of today. He will work with us until the work is complete, no matter how long it takes. When you see that God is dealing with your loved one, don’t give up but rejoice and keep praying.

It takes time to receive the blessing. So many people want everything to be big now. It’s not going to be big now. You are going to have to go through a learning process or a transition of metamorphosis like the caterpillar turning into a butterfly. There are many things that must happen in that process. When God completes the work in your marriage, you won’t regret any of the process that it took to get where He wants you. The happiness will be so complete that the process will no longer matter. But don’t give up in the middle of the process. God had something great in store for both partners of a marriage when He promised that they would become one. If you are having problems in your marriage: Don’t give up!

God had something great in store for both partners of a marriage when He promised that they would become one.

STAND FIRM

I believe many couples are divorcing after years of marriage because they are not given proper direction on how to stand against the enemies of marriage, of which pride and selfish self-centeredness are two of the worst. There are some good role models, but we have to search for them: people with loving, stable relationships, who have been willing to be patient and work through their difficulties, who realize the grass is not always greener on the other side as we are often tempted to believe it is. The church should demonstrate to the world what a godly marriage is suppose to be like, but instead we now have percentages of divorce among Christians so high that they barely differ from the world.

Because we live in a society that expects things instantaneously, most people want everything to be good immediately. But there’s a process that must take place for anything to become solid. That’s why I like our motto for the ministry which is
slow and solid
;
fast and fragile
. If it’s fast, and fragile it’s not going to last very long, and it’s not going to be very effective. But if it’s slow there’s going to be a lot of solidity to it.

The letter to the Ephesians has much to say about the process of establishing both the family and the church. Paul clearly teaches that spirit forces of wickedness will come against us as we strengthen ourselves in the Lord (Ephesians 6:10-12) and when they do, we are to put on the full armor of God.

Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place].

Stand therefore [hold your ground], having tightened the belt of truth around your loins and having put on the breastplate of integrity and integrity and of moral rectitude and right standing with God.

Ephesians 6:13,14

If you study the times when it appeared that God brought instant answers, you will find that someone had been praying and standing on their petitions for that miracle for a long time. God answers through a process of events, and we must not abandon our hope before we get His answer. We may see God’s answer manifest suddenly, but work had been going on behind the scenes for probably a long time. It may encourage you to realize that if you are trusting God and praying, He is working on your situation even though you have not seen the evidence yet. This is what faith is: It is the assurance of things unseen.

God answers through a process of events, and we must not abandon our hope before we get His answer.

When I started getting in the Word, God did me a great favor in calling me to preach because I’m a committed, responsible person. And if I was going to do it, I was going to do it right, which meant I had to study a lot. I studied for the home Bible studies that I taught for six, seven, eight hours a day in order to teach for one hour.

Gradually, I started changing and conforming to the Word. One of the first things I had to learn was to respect people. Learning to respect and submit to authority was another major event in my life. It was very hard for me to do because I didn’t trust anyone. I could not believe that Dave would make a decision with my best interests at heart. No one had before I met Dave, so I had no positive experience on which to base trust. I had to learn to trust.

As I read the Word, I saw that God had a plan to bless me and not hurt me. Marriage was His idea and He established it for a purpose that was greater than I could understand. He said that He came to bring us peace.

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trails and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]

John 16:33

But I lacked peace and Scriptures pointed to the fact that peace is the goal God had in mind when He established authority and relationships. I was so hungry for stability and peace. And I just made my mind up that I was going to have peace regardless of what changes would be required of me. I understood that to have peace, I must be in Christ and let Christ live in me. At that point, I stopped arguing with Dave so much. I had finally come to the point where arguing just wasn’t worth it to me anymore.

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