Below are answers to questions gathered anonymously from individuals and/or couples in our church body.
ANSWERS FROM PASTOR CLANCY…
1. If your marriage has ended in divorce and your belief is that marriage is sacred, how do you translate that belief to your children without casting a shadow on the parent who chose the divorce?
One of the consequences of sin is what you have called a shadow. It is not possible to eliminate the shadows of sinful decisions. What your children need most of all is honesty and truth. Decisions have consequences and blessings have responsibility. You can tell the truth without the intent of casting a shadow on your former spouse. (Ephesians 4:15)
The children’s perception of the former spouse is not as important as the truth. Your tone of voice when talking to your child about the divorce is important, too. If the truth is that he/she shouldn’t have divorced you, then that is the truth. That doesn’t mean that you want everything back the way it was, but you are being honest with them about what is truth and that is what your kids need.
2. How do I encourage my husband to talk with me when we are having conflicts? He does not want to deal with conflict. He runs from it. He was not taught about confronting when there is conflict.
Good decisions take time and communication. Sometimes opinions and preferences collide on your way to a good decision. Decision-making often feels like conflict when really all you are doing is making a decision, though they share the same dynamics
Conflict often arises in a marriage when there are competing value systems. A value system, or your value system, is the set of beliefs that you have come to hold to which makes up your morals, virtues, convictions, beliefs and values. Sometimes conflict is necessary because someone’s value system has a flaw or is just downright sinful. A Christian marriage is to be biblical. In other words, if one spouse has unbiblical values in areas such as behavior, sex, money, gender roles, parenting and the other spouse has biblical values governing these areas, there is going to be conflict. It is not possible for opposite natures to compromise. If a couple shares biblical values, conflict can be more easily resolved.
Another reason conflict occurs is this…
Nobody likes to be surprised by problems. If it is sprung on him he may want to avoid conflict. Set aside time to talk about the issue and encourage him to write notes to bring to the meeting. Really what we are talking about is how and when you bring up an issue. If you bring an issue up, and it is a surprise or an attack, it is understandable that you don’t get results. Too many couples let too much time to go by before they settle a conflict. “Settle matters quickly (Matthew 6).” “Let everyone be quick to listen and slow to become angry (James 1).”
If communication is uncommon, then conflict resolution is going to be that much more challenging. You need to work at communication for the process of conflict resolution to get better.
3. If there is no intimacy in our marriage, how do we get it back?
Desire is a necessary ingredient in regaining intimacy. My chart (see below) is a good guide for both husband and wife. You will want to be around people of high character and high respect. It all begins with devotion to the truth of Christ and letting Him build a right heart inside you through loving Him and obeying His commands. In John 14:15 Jesus says, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.”
4. When your spouse has a character issue (temper, lying, foul language, etc.) how to do you work through that with kids, life, and all of that – especially if they don’t want to talk?
It seems accountability is the issue here. If someone is not accountable to common courtesy in a marriage it is next to impossible to be accountable to a counselor or a pastor. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:28-30) “For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:46) If someone is lying and being deceitful, there is a heart issue. The hardness of someone’s heart can be by various reasons by their own hardness or being sinned against. The individual may need to come under someone’s care and figure out how their heart got hardened.
5. How do you deal with a spouse that makes you feel that you are a failure?
Often a person will treat another that way in order to cover their own shortcomings. The Bible tells husbands to “Love your wife like Christ loved the church” (Ephesians 5) and “be considerate of your wife” (I Peter 3). James 1 talks about the tongue being a fire that can do real harm. You do need to take a clear stand and say that ANY kind of sinful and disrespectful talk will not be acceptable. A spouse that verbally abuses the other one is very likely to be unaccountable outside the home. If that spouse were to treat a co-worker that way, it wouldn’t be tolerated. You need to hold to that standard as well. Having the moral authority to confront requires being a person of high character and morals that you live out each day. When you fail, admit it. Hold to a Christ-like attitude in all situations and then, from that position, call your spouse to do the same. Counseling can help. Seek it as a way to get some accountability so both you can grow to love and respect one another.
6. After your sermon I realized I have none of those steps in my marriage. How do I start and try to work on this with a disrespectful almost hurtful and selfish spouse? I want the kind of marriage you just preached about.
It begins by building the self-esteem that Christ teaches us to have. His love for you is a love that will never end. Hebrews 13 should give you the security and the truth you need to fight back. Once you are secure in your relationship with Christ, you are on your way. If your spouse will be accountable to Christ, he is on his way.
There are two kinds of people in the world – people who love ideas and people who love people. To be Christ like in your relationship, you have to love people more than ideas. If you love ideas more, you will end up using people. That is a recipe for a failed relationship. Jesus had ideas, but he didn’t love ideas – he loved people. Too many times we try to convert people to an idea rather than people to the person Jesus Christ. Pride and all of its destructive fall-out is birthed out of ideas that have become idols. When you will abuse someone because you are so passionate about your ideas, it is because you no longer believe in truth; you believe in control. Remember that, for the Christian, truth is a person, not a bundle of ideas. We teach what is true because it reveals a person who is true, and that person is Jesus. As Christians, we conform our behavior to Jesus because we love him. We love him because He first loved us.
Why don’t people do better at marriage? I have an answer to that question. It is because they want to control things with their self-serving ideas. That is not how Christ relates to us. Christ relates to us based on our needs for Him. He came to provide, serve, deliver, protect, teach – this is how He loves us. He didn’t come to control us. He came to be with us in a family relationship. Over and over again the Bible uses analogies of family and marriage to teach us how God wants to relate to us. Some people think that one day we will all stand before God in obedience to His will – like robots at His command because He is so awful in His power. Read the last 3 chapters of Revelation to see how it will really be like. It is not an assembly like the convening of the United Nations. It is a family on a hillside at a picnic. He did not come to control us! He came to deliver us – to show us His love and show us how to love one another. He came that we might have life and life to the fullest.
Additionally, it seems that most people are looking for a starting point to work on their marriages. Many have had a spark, many have had a boost, but not all have been able to keep it going. Follow the outline of the chart. It teaches you to begin by building a relationship with Christ. Read His word and put it’s principles into practice. There is NO substitute for that. Next, pray faithfully for your spouse. Don’t let discouragement control your thinking. Let God’s word control your thinking.
Both of you need accountability. If you live in isolation, it will breed all kinds of dysfunction into your marriage. When a couple has no Christian friends who they want to be accountable to, dysfunction and selfishness will prevail.
Next, confess your sins to one another. Admit your weaknesses and be honest about areas of neglect.
ANSWERS FROM PASTOR JASON…
7. How do I “feel” like I have a say in big or small decision in my marriage or just peace in the final decisions? I feel like the wife has to submit and respect the decisions that the husband makes and doesn’t have a say.
In Ephesians 5, the wife is called to submit and respect her husband:
- submit to your own husband, as to the Lord (5:22)
- respect your husband (5:33)
However, the two become one flesh (5:31), so the wife is not of lesser importance but under the loving care & authority of the husband as a critical part of him. The husband in this chapter has much greater responsibilities:
- love your wife (5:25)
- give yourself up for her (5:25)
- sanctify her (5:26)
- present her holy & without blemish (5:27)
- love your wife as your own body (5:28)
- nourish & cherish her (5:29)
- hold fast to your wife (5:31)
A husband who upholds these duties as the head of the house will create an atmosphere in which the wife wants to submit to his leading in decisions, which are not demands. Decisions within the home are open because both care what the other thinks. The home becomes a temple of worship where both are imitators of Christ (5:1), walking in love (5:2), discerning what is pleasing to the Lord (5:10), and fully know how to submit to one another (5:21).
8. I married a non-Christian. He believes in God and Jesus, but is jaded by the actions of those who call themselves Christians. He also is against organized religion. How can I help him? How can I be a good witness? You can’t give someone faith. I was blessed to be raised in a loving, Christian home and a wonderful church. His parents and siblings are not Christians and reinforce his beliefs that Christians are hypocrites.
“For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife…” (1 Corinthians 7:14a)
“For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband?” (1 Corinthians 7:16a)
The greatest opportunity in your life is to share and live out the gospel for your husband. The best example for him to see a Christian is your life. Work toward conversations about eternity and where he sees himself going. Does he believe in heaven and hell? Is he prepared to meet God and give an accounting of his life? Does he understand that he has offended a holy God? Keep the conversation about him and his need for a Savior. Everything else is usually a distraction away from where he needs to be focusing, especially if it’s about the behavior of other Christians.
9. How can we not fight about finances?
You must talk about your finances whenever it is necessary. It shouldn’t be a secret. There is no his money and her money – you are team. Work on your plan to get out of debt. Debt cripples your ability to thrive.
You are to be good stewards of the money that God has given you, so discuss where that is and is not happening. I believe biblical tithing starts at 10% of your income. Everything you have is a gift from God, so your thankfulness is revealed in your obedience to tithe.
10. How can we establish trust?
You must each start with humility and seek reconciliation with each other. Seek forgiveness for past mistakes then verbally reinforce your dedication to each other and your marriage. Discuss areas in your marriage that are questionable and create doubt, then work to remove them.
11. How can we be respectful during times of anger?
Disrespect and every other issue during an argument usually stems from the evils of the tongue. If you are angry, you need to walk away and keep quiet until you are calmed down. After you have both prayed for wisdom, get back together to talk, not yell. Start the conversation with your dedication and love for each other then you can discuss whatever has happened.
12. How can we be thankful for each other?
Mutual thankfulness starts with the little things you say and do every day. Pray for each other and with each other. Plan special times together alone and without distractions. Vocalize your thankfulness to each other regularly. Become each other’s biggest fan by praising things they do (working, cooking, providing, laundry, mowing, etc), especially in front of your children. Finally, a suggestion from my son, Joey, be nice to each other.
ANSWERS FROM PASTOR JEREMY…
13. What advice would you give someone who has an unsaved spouse?
Paul gives us his advice in 1 Corinthians 7:12-14, “To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.”
Since marriage is a covenant relationship, meaning that someone else’s actions do not determine your own actions, I certainly would not seek a divorce (provided this is not an abusive or threatening relationship). What I would say is: love your spouse, just as you would love them if they were a believer. Do everything you can to show them love and grace and forgiveness in the way that Christ has shown you. While this can be extremely difficult to someone who may not understand the source of this love, I believe it is what the Lord calls you to.
14. Other than prayer, how can I help bring my husband to accept Christ as his Lord and Savior?
First Peter 3:1-2 gives us some suggestions:
“Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”
Certainly prayer is critical in this pursuit, but what I believe Peter is saying to us is that, “This is the closest, most intimate relationship you have. If you will show forgiveness and humility and Christ like character, there is little chance they will miss it.” While it is not your responsibility to bring him to the Lord or make decisions for him, it is your responsibility to show the love of Christ to him through your behavior. I believe God gives special grace in these circumstances to the person who is witnessing to an unbelieving spouse. Also, Peter later goes on to say that we must first and foremost submit to Christ, and if there is anything an unbelieving husband would call you to do that is disobedient to Jesus’ commands, you must serve Jesus rather than your husband.
15. All the great couples in the church that we aspire to be like have something in common – they serve the Lord in some fashion together. My husband and I have very different gifts, in different areas. I believe God brought those gifts together to compliment each other, but how do we find our calling to serve Him together?
This may be a particular area where it would be wise to sit down with a couple who has served together faithfully and just ask questions. In 1 Corinthians 12:11, we are told that the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts when and as He chooses. This tells me that spiritual giftings can change, and that there may be gifts that you do not even have or realize yet. In this scenario it is best to sit down with someone who has good discernment and allow for things to be drawn out. I would pursue this in addition to regular prayer for clarity and direction in these callings. Finally, in areas that are not as concrete, it is okay to just try out different ministries that you feel may fit the two of you. If they don’t, it is okay to pursue another one. Each part of the body has a role, and sometimes it takes a little while to determine what that is.
ANSWERS FROM PASTOR KELVIN…
16. Do you have suggestions for a Bible study/devotional my husband and I can do together? What are some things that my husband and I can do to grow closer spiritually, intimately, emotionally? Especially when kids, life & jobs happen around us 24/7/365! Small, simple, things? Why is it hard to open up and be vulnerable with each other?
Devotional Suggestions: The Love Dare by Kendrick, Moments with You by Rainey, Night Light by Dobson
Pray together! They don’t have to be long, eloquent prayers. The Bible says, “pray without ceasing” and “pray in the Spirit on all occasions.” So practice short, conversational and spontaneous prayers in your relationship as you walk through life together. Just stop and take your spouse by the hands or embrace them and pray right then and there for specific challenges, needs or to encourage or build them up. Also pray for each other individually when you have a quiet moment. Another way to enhance your relationship spiritually is to share or converse about how you are growing or what you are learning about God from an inspiring Christian book or author you are reading or a study you are in (i.e. Beth Moore, or a verse or passage that really stood out to you, etc.) Even though you may be doing those things individually, God can bring you together and create a spiritual bond as you share with your spouse how you are being impacted and shaped by them.
By the way, the above-mentioned are two of the biggest contributors to intimacy. However, I believe there are a few more key elements. One: affection. Show and practice it as much or as often as you can. Hold hands, hug, kiss, touch, etc. When you express these things you are also being a great example to your children of what a marriage should look like. Two: make time for each other. One of the most important things we did in our marriage early on was establishing a routine with our children as far as bed times. After they were in bed that was our time to connect. Get a sitter and go on dates! It could be as simple as going for a cup of coffee, a walk, dessert, or it could be out to dinner, a movie, shopping, etc. Three: loving and encouraging communication – cards, texts, phone calls, emails, etc.
One final word on intimacy…be spontaneous, creative and romantic! These things will breathe life into your oneness and lead to you drawing closer as a couple.
When it comes to emotions or being vulnerable you need to be open and honest. You have to start somewhere. It may be hard because you have never really established that deeper level of transparency. It may be as simple as giving it more time and emphasis. It’s like anything in a covenant relationship – it takes time and development. The more you do it, the better it becomes.
17. What if you have prayed for years about your relationship with another person, and they have also prayed for years about the same. You feel like God is calling you to step up your relationship with an engagement or such. You tell them this, and they say they are getting the opposite and this pulls you apart and ruins your relationship. What do you do? How can two people be getting the opposite feelings and guidance from God?
First of all, you have to be very careful when it comes to feelings, however strong they may be. You see, feelings come and go but you have to focus on reality and on what is true – God’s truth (Philippians 4:8). It could be that you had such strong feelings for this person and for the relationship that it was blinding you to what God’s will was for this relationship (James1:5-8). I would also say, based on the other person’s opposite reaction to stepping up the relationship…that would be a strong indicator from God to me that this relationship may not be what He has for me. That could very well be the answer to your prayer.
I would also lovingly and strongly advise you to seek out a third party who is impartial, a good friend to both of you, someone you both respect and who is a solid Christian who could give you insight, counsel and wisdom concerning your relationship.
18. When do you quit holding it in? What if your thoughts would hurt their feelings?
First of all, it is not healthy to hold everything in. You should be expressing and releasing things to the Lord in prayer (1 Peter 5:7).
Second, it won’t hurt if you express and covey your thoughts in a biblical way, “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) or with a spiritual filter, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29 and 30-32).
It still might hurt them a little, but if you follow these biblical steps they won’t feel the sting.
19. Any marriage that does not have some disagreement or argument is not healthy, right? Maybe it’s the way husband and wife disagree/argue?
In all my years, I have yet to come across a marriage that does not have some areas of disagreement and argument. I am convinced it’s because of the fall (Genesis 3) and our sin nature.
The Scriptures are very clear when it comes to unity in the church…”make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3). This verse and the one preceding it show how seriously the Lord is about unity in relationships. That goes for marriage as well. The husband and wife should make every effort to be unified even in the midst of arguments and disputes.
One of the best ways to do this is by first submitting to Christ and His authority in your life, then submitting to one another out of reverence to Him (Ephesians 5:21). Then comes the how-to for the husband and wife – what their roles are to maintain unity and oneness (to wives in 5:22-23 and husbands in 5:25). Ephesians 5:21 is the key, though. If your vertical relationship with the Lord is right, your horizontal relationship with your husband and wife will be right, on center, unified.
Also, applying these biblical principles will help in a big way, “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) or with a spiritual filter, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29, 30-32 and Philippians 2:1-5).