Handling Marriage Problems

If we’re going to have healthy, joyful relationships, we have to learn to handle marriage problems that inevitably arise. These frustrations can actually increase as we become  more familiar with the Bible!  Since the standard set by God’s Word is so high:

This is illustrated by a situation that took place years ago when I was teaching on marriage. While talking about husbands loving their wives, a woman stood up in front of everyone and criticized her husband for the way he mistreated her. I could have interrupted and said, “Can we pray for you two?” or “Why don’t we talk about this after the study?” Instead, I was caught so off guard that I did the worst thing possible—nothing! I simply stood there with my jaw dropped while the angry wife finished berating her husband. After that I decided it was important to give people encouragement for handling marriage problems…

First, handle marriage problems by remembering your own weaknesses

Instead of keeping a mental account of all that your spouse does wrong, remind yourself of your own struggles. Instead of focusing on your spouse’s failures, focus on your own. We all have plenty of weaknesses to work on without obsessing over the weaknesses of our spouses. When we start to feel frustrated toward our spouse, we should think back about the ways we’ve failed. This will humble us and diffuse the frustration we’re feeling.

Second, handle marriage problems by thinking of ways to help your spouse grow

The Bible is not split into one section for husbands and another for wives. The passages on marriage, such as Ephesians 5:22-33 and 1 Peter 3:1-7, contain intertwined exhortations for both spouses. This encourages a husband to be familiar with the instruction for his wife, and a wife to be familiar with the instruction for her husband. If a husband knows what is expected of his wife, and a wife knows what is expected of her husband, they can help each other fulfill their biblical responsibilities. We should ask ourselves:

  • How can I help my spouse be a better husband or wife?
  • How can I encourage my spouse to fulfill the role God has given him or her?
  • Is there anything I can do that will make being married to me easier?

If you cannot think of any answers to the last question, you are not thinking hard enough!

Third, handle marriage problems by turning them into prayer

Take any feelings of hurt, betrayal, or disappointment, and pray that God will help your spouse grow in the area that is upsetting you. Pray also for God to help you be as forgiving and gracious as necessary. When it comes to our spouses, we far more likely to complain, gossip, yell, threaten, pout, or ignore than pray. If we would spend as much time praying for our spouses as we do on these other things, our marriages would be much better. Instead of focusing on:

  • What your spouse does wrong
  • How you shouldn’t be treated the way you’re being treated
  • How you deserve better

Every time you start to feel frustrated, pray for your spouse.

Why you should actually embrace marriage problems!

Have you ever considered that tension in your relationship can be a good thing? Often God is introducing areas that need to be improved. He wants you to embrace these marriage struggles. The best way to do this is by asking each other tough questions:

  • A husband might say, “Outside of the Lord Himself, do you feel like you are taking second place to anything in my life?”
  • A wife might ask, “Do you feel like I respect you?”

Then there are right and wrong ways to respond to these questions:

  • Imagine a wife answers that she does not feel that she is the supreme relationship in her husband’s life. He should not try to talk her out of the way she feels or persuade her to see things differently. This will make her feel even more misunderstood.
  • Imagine a husband answers that his wife makes him feel disrespected. She should not argue with him and try to convince him he is wrong. This will make him feel even more disrespected.

Instead, each spouse should listen to the other, apologize the right way, and try to make the appropriate changes. When couples ask each other these difficult questions, they should expect some painful discussions. That’s great.

A helpful way to view marriage struggles…

Some years ago I hurt my lower back. It’s a recurring injury that reminds me I’m getting older, so I returned to the chiropractor. If you have ever been to a chiropractor, you know they can be pretty forceful. There’s pushing, twisting, snapping, and popping. Sometimes you’re left feeling sore, but this is supposed to happen. That is how the chiropractor makes adjustments and straightens things out.

What if you went to the chiropractor and all he did was rub your shoulders, pat your back, and tell you everything looked fine? Maybe after that, he sat next to you and asked how your day was going. How would you react? I know how I would react: “This is not why I came here. I know if you are going to help me, you are going to have to apply some pressure and do some pushing and pulling. There is going to be some tension. There will even be a little soreness afterward.”

Likewise, if we are going to embrace our marriage struggles, there will be some discomfort. There is going to be some struggle and frustration. We should not be alarmed, because this is part of the natural healing and strengthening process as God works in our relationships.

What is the alternative to embracing your marriage struggles?

Be lazy. That’s the simple answer. Choose not to:

  • Ask each other the tough questions
  • Talk about the tough issues
  • Take your marriage seriously
  • Improve as a husband, a wife, or a Christian

If you avoid discussing your marriage struggles, it’s true that you won’t have any tough issues with which to wrestle. But you will not grow either, and your marriage will not be strengthened. Even if you avoid the difficult discussions and the discomfort that accompanies your marriage struggles now, you will more than likely experience even tougher, more painful situations later.

So I want to encourage you to embrace your marriage struggles because of what they can produce. Romans 5:3–4 says:

We glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character, and character, hope.

Glory in the problems you are having, knowing that they are producing something good as you, your spouse, and your marriage are refined!

Discussion questions for husbands and wives:

  1. What marriage problems are “recurring injuries” for your and your spouse? In other words, what problems or conflicts do you continue to experience that need to be embraced so they can be “straightened out”?
  2. Why should you expect discomfort as you and your spouse discuss your marriage struggles? In what ways can this discomfort be beneficial?
  3. Why do marriage passages, such as Ephesians 5:22–33 and 1 Peter 3:1–7, intertwine instructions for both spouses? In other words, why should husbands and wives be familiar with Scripture’s commands for their spouses?
  4. After looking at the verses above, what things do you struggle with that are preventing you from fulfilling your role in marriage?
  5. How can you encourage your spouse to fulfill the role God has given him or her?
  6. What can you do to make being married to you easier?

Marriage God's Way bundle

This post came from Marriage God’s Way and the accompanying workbook. Both are for sale on my site. You can purchase the book and his and her workbooks for 30% off.

“What If My Husband Won’t Lead?” 5 Recommendations for a Wife in this Situation!

“My husband won’t lead!”

The command for wives to submit to their husbands is criticized by many non-Christians and even some liberal or egalitarian churches. As a result, you’d think as a pastor I’d regularly hear women saying, “My husband wants me to submit and I hate it.” Instead, the most common complaint I hear from wives is, “My husband won’t lead.”

Here’s part of a message I received recently:

I’m really struggling trying to get my husband to lead. I have tried to encourage him to do so, but I’m at a loss! Taking the initiative is what I want him to do, but he won’t. I have your workbook, but he won’t go over the questions with me. Short of reminding him again and again and feeling like I’m nagging him – which I hate doing and have tried really hard not to do – how do I get him to step up?

Unfortunately, there’s no answer that guarantees a husband will grow in this area. Although I provide the following recommendations, I can’t assure a wife that her husband will be different in the future. For any single ladies, this is one thing to keep in mind before saying, “I do.”

1. If your husband won’t lead, keep reminding him.

I’ll be the first to say that as husbands we can be oblivious and forgetful at times. God has called you to be your husband’s helper, and this is one of the best ways for you to fulfill that role. The obvious danger is that your reminders turn in to nagging. The woman who sent me the above question said she makes an effort to prevent that from happening. That’s wonderful!

2. If your husband won’t lead, keep inviting him.

Continue reading ““What If My Husband Won’t Lead?” 5 Recommendations for a Wife in this Situation!”

Does asking “in Jesus’ name” mean we get what we want?

Marriage-Gods-Way-author-Scott-LaPierre - asking in Jesus' nameWhat does it mean to, “ask in Jesus’ name”? Does it mean we get whatever we want?

John 14:12-14 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”

I have an agnostic friend who sends me questions from time-to-time…

Here’s what he sent:

“Hey man! Hope you and your family have a great weekend. I have another one of those irritating questions I keep asking.

What is your interpretation/explanation for John 14:12-14? In other words, when I read it, it seems to say that if you believe in Jesus you can/will do the works, in fact even greater works, than he has been doing, that as long as you ask of it in his name, anything will be done.

Clearly, there is a problem here. People who believe in Jesus ask for things ‘in Jesus’ name’ all the time that never happen. And don’t give me that mysterious ways stuff, you know what I mean! And no one has gone on to ‘lay on hands’ to heal the sick or walk on water, or <insert Jesus’ miracle here>. So what is the evangelical explanation for this?

As always thanks for your time man!”

Here’s my response… Continue reading “Does asking “in Jesus’ name” mean we get what we want?”

Quit Being A Baby

I can’t tell you how often what I’m preaching on is what I need preached to me. Last Sunday’s sermon had a real focus on trials, where the theme could’ve been: God uses trials for our good (Rom 5:3, 4; 2 Cor 4:17; Jam 1:2-4; 1 Pet 1:6, 7). That’s what I need to be hearing. I should probably listen to my own sermon and take notes. Seriously. The trials I’m facing mostly relate to feeling like I’m letting people down, not able to please everyone, not  able to keep up with everyone, not able to get everything done, etc. as opposed to physical or financial trials.

Here’s part of an e-mail someone sent me this past week: “I have no doubt you will look back on this season as a time of great learning if you can but learn what the Lord would have you learn.” It was good for me to hear these words. At least part of what I believe God wants me to learn relates to my need to toughen up. I don’t mean that relationally, like being less sensitive to people (I should actually probably be more sensitive). I mean toughening up like…not feeling sorry for myself. Not being a baby. I think that’s what God wants me to learn. There’s a verse I was really meditating on this past week, and I’d like to share it, but first here’s the context…

Jeremiah the prophet had one of the most miserable ministries in Scripture; when you’re known as The Weeping Prophet, you know things are bad. He was regularly mocked, beaten, imprisoned, and rejected. In one candid moment of discouragement after learning the members of his hometown were plotting his murder, Jeremiah poured out his heart to God, questioning what God was doing…and wasn’t doing. What you would EXPECT God to do is encourage the beleaguered prophet with one of those verses like Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous hand. We love verses like this. We cling to them and memorize them. When we’re struggling we picture God saying verses like this to us. That’s not what God told Jeremiah though. Instead he said, “If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, how will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?” (Jer 12:5). Not only did God not comfort him, He actually rebuked him; He said, “If you can’t handle it now, how are you going to handle it when things get even worse?” God doesn’t always want to stroke us and make us feel better. Sometimes He wants to rebuke us and tell us to toughen up, and I think that’s what He wants me to learn.


The Vision of WCC

Sunday’s sermon was about the vision of WCC, but I’d also like to discuss what I (and the rest of the leadership team) don’t mean by “church vision.” I understand for many churches vision is talking about where the church will be in some number of years. Since I’ve been at WCC we’ve never had a leadership meeting discussing where we expect to be in the future, and I think there are three reasons for this…

First, you can make an argument from Scripture that we’re discouraged from saying what we’re going to do, or saying what we believe is going to happen:

  • Proverbs 27:1 Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.
  • James 4:13, 14 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow.
  • In Luke 12:13-21 Jesus told a parable about a man called a fool by God because he made great plans for the future, not knowing what the near future would hold (and for him it was death).

Second, it seems presumptuous to say where we’re going to be or what we’re going to do. Of course I can say five years down the road we’ll still be teaching God’s Word and we’ll still be a family church, but those are more descriptions of our values, who we are, what we want to focus on…as opposed to where we see ourselves.

Third, we don’t know who is going to join the church, what situations we’re going to face, what needs will arise, etc, so how can we say where we’re going to be or what we’re going to do? I understand this brings up the question of how we approach the future, and I’d say we pray for God to direct us, we trust He’s guiding us, and we deal with circumstances as they arrive. This is what we’ve done with the sound system, bylaws, carpet, installation of deacons, associate pastor position, etc. Currently we’re tossing around the idea of home fellowships and accountability groups. As opposed to saying, “By June we’re going to have four home fellowships and men’s accountability groups” we’re waiting to see how these develop while praying, “Lord, if this is Your will, please make it clear, and if it’s not, please make that clear too.”

While this post discussed what we don’t mean by vision, if you would like to understand the vision of WCC please listen to this sermon.

WCC logo

Learning from Nehemiah as fathers and husbands

Saturday was our Men’s Breakfast, which happens to be one of my favorite ministry activities. We have them on the first Saturday of every month (with the next being February 1st), but they seem to be so well received I’m considering having them monthly. We’ve been going through Nehemiah to see what we can learn from this great man to help us as husbands and fathers. With chapter 1 finished I wanted to share a few of the lessons we discussed…

  • 1:2 says Nehemiah “asked concerning the Jews who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.” He was a concerned man, and husbands should be concerned about their wives “loving them as their own bodies” (Eph 5:28).
  • 1:4 says when Nehemiah “heard how the Jews were doing, he sat down and wept, and mourned for many days.” He was a sensitive man, sympathetic to the difficulties and struggles of others. Wives appreciate having husbands that are concerned about them and seek to “dwell with them in understanding” (1 Pet 3:7).
  • 1:5-7 discuss him “fasting and praying before the God of heaven,” Whom he considered to be “great and awesome.” He was a deeply spiritual man with a very high view of God. Men need to pray with and for their wives and children, and exalt God to them.
  • 1:7 quotes Nehemiah saying, “We have acted very corruptly, and have not kept Your commandments, statutes or ordinances.” Even though it wasn’t Nehemiah’s fault the Jews had been taken into exile, and we can be sure he was more righteous than them, he still included himself as one of the transgressors. This sets a great example for men who should confess their sins, and not make excuses, but seek forgiveness.
  • 1:8 continues his prayer where he quotes Leviticus 26:33 and Deuteronomy 30:2-5 showing he was a man who knew God’s Word and relied on His covenants. Men need to regularly be in God’s Word and lean on the promises He’s made in it.
  • 1:11 he prayed, “Please grant me mercy in the sight of the king” regarding his request to return to Jerusalem. He recognized if he would be allowed to return it would be because that’s what God granted. He sets a wonderful example for fathers and husbands to completely depend on God.
  • The chapter closes with the words, “I was the king’s cupbearer.” He was a very trusted and loyal man to have this position, showing the loyalty men should have to their wives and children and the trust that should be able to be put in them as a result.

WCC's response to Typhoon Haiyan, how you can help and a final update

Tuesday morning I was praying for the Filipino victims of Typhoon Haiyan (by the way, I know based on Matthew 6:6 we’re supposed to keep our prayers lives private, but this story won’t make much sense if I don’t share that part with you). I felt convicted about praying without doing anything (James 2:15-17 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead), so at that point my prayer changed from praying for the victims, to praying how to help the victims. While I was praying I received an e-mail from World Concern and the subject said, “Typhoon Haiyan – How your church can help.” I thought, Wow, this is great Lord!

My initial plan was to write about helping the victims in my weekly bulletin letter, and when I opened the e-mail it said, “We have written a short paragraph for your Sunday bulletin to aid any announcement and offering you plan to make during your service this weekend.” I’m serious! That’s exactly how it happened and here’s the statement they provided: “Help victims of Typhoon Haiyan through this crisis. World Concern and its partners are responding now to help save lives. Your gift will help distribute food, safe drinking water, emergency shelter and relief supplies to the people of the Philippines. Nearly 10 million people are affected by this disaster. Please join us and pray for the victims and please donate today.

Here are two things to know about World Concern: first, 90% of every dollar goes to the need, and second, when I spoke with them they said the first month is more about survival than evangelism…sort of like the Good Samaritan dealing with the man left half dead in the road. The work is done through the local churches in the area to demonstrate the love of Christ, and then the Gospel is spread later.

Here’s how WCC is going to help…

Until Sunday, December 1st, the congregation is invited to put a check in the offering box with “Philippines” in the subject line. We’ll see how much money is given and WCC will match that amount in a gift to World Concern. On December 8th I’ll let the congregation know how much we ended up giving. If you would like to join us in this ministry, please send your checks made out to Woodland Christian Church (430 Buckeye St, Woodland, WA 98674) with “Philippines” in the subject line.

And here’s an approach you might take with your family…

Sit down with your kids, discuss the disaster with them while possibly showing some pictures, share applicable verses (like James 2:15-17 and Luke 10:25-37), figure out an amount to give, and then pray for the victims together as a family. Tell your children it is a tremendous blessing for us to have the opportunity to live out our faith and give to those in need!

Update made on December 9th, 2013: The amount the congregation gave was $1,765 and WCC matched that amount bringing the amount given to World Concern to $3,530!!!

Feeling sorry for ourselves and thanklessness

Elwyn, my friend I’ve discussed in sermons and bulletin letters and is attending camp with us (and is here today!), sent me a message this past week that started with, “We checked your weather and saw it was 81. Nice! Today it is 104 in Yuba City. We are thankful…that it is not 105!!!” A few days later he sent another e-mail that said, “111 degrees today. Yes, I said 111.” This made me think of something: I’ve been complaining lately to myself about the heat: What’s going on? Thought we got away from this when we left California? When I read Elwyn’s message two things came to mind…

First, 80’s don’t seem too bad compared to 100’s…or 110’s. Many times the struggles we’re facing wouldn’t seem as bad if we considered what other people are experiencing. Many times we feel sorry for ourselves because we’re thinking about ourselves too much and not enough about others. One of the benefits of praying for others is it takes our minds off ourselves and helps us to think about what others are going through. Our struggles start looking a lot smaller. If we think about ourselves all the time…and all we’re going through…and how tough our lives are…and how we’ve got it so bad, then we’re going to be miserable. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 Paul lists all the suffering he experienced and I’d say second only to Job or Jesus (Isa 53:3) Paul might be the man most acquainted with suffering in the entire Bible. Amazingly though, he could write an entire book (Philippians) about all the joy he experienced. At least part of that must have come from how much he thought about other believers. In 2 Cor 11:28 he said, “what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.” His beatings and shipwrecks weren’t upsetting him so much, because he was so burned for other believers…and non-believers.

The second thing I thought of is I’m not thankful enough. There are always reasons to be thankful. Elwyn was thankful it was 104 instead of 105…then, although he didn’t say it, maybe he was thankful it was 111 instead of 112. I’m not sure how hot it’d have to get before he’d finally complain. If we’re believers, just the thought of what Jesus has done for us as well as what awaits us should fill us with unspeakable joy (1 Pet 1:8) and thankfulness.

And here’s today’s (7/14/13) sermon: Luke 4:3 Wait on the Lord

Katie's sickness during pregnancy

Well it’s finally starting to settle in that Katie really isn’t going to be sick during this pregnancy. At first it seemed too good to be true, so we just sort of kept thinking, “Wow, it sure is nice there hasn’t been much sickness…yet. We’ll just keep enjoying things the way they are while we can, because WE KNOW it’s coming.”

Katie’s been doing so well we almost figured it would seem like she was never sick before! We made it sound like things were going to be so bad and then…they haven’t been bad at all. People were already beginning to help. We had people volunteering to watch the kids, bring us food, clean our house, come over and help Katie during the day, etc. When it was obvious Katie wasn’t very sick, I told her we should let everyone know how good she was doing and that we didn’t need all the help. Katie said she wanted to pretend like she was sick so people would keep coming over to clean our bathrooms. Just kidding J.

I know a lot of people were praying for Katie this pregnancy (thank you all so much for that!), which is what I attribute the change to this time.

From the Pastor’s wife (aka Katie),

I am just so thankful for the way things are going this pregnancy. I was very sober going into this fully thinking that I would be couch bound for about 5 months and very sick. I have a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum. It is extreme “morning” sickness that lasts all day and night. I was hospitalized at times to receive IVs because the dehydration was so severe. All three previous pregnancies were exactly the same and so I was ready this time with some bible verses that encourage me greatly. I still have days where I have to pinch myself because I just can’t believe it.

We originally decided to stop having children after Johnny because of my pregnancies and I am so happy that we reversed our decision! We can’t wait to meet our little Charis Hope!

Thank you to all of you who prayed for me and checked in on me. Thank you also to those who brought me meals and helped me with the kids and my home! It is so sweet to be part of such a wonderful, loving fellowship!

Our new baby

Isn’t saying, “new baby” pretty redundant? We still call Johnny our baby, so I suppose new differentiates the two of them.

Anyway, Katie has something called, “hyperemesis gravidarum” two fancy words for the condition that makes her terribly sick during pregnancies. How sick? Throwing up all day, hooked up to IVs for dehydration, difficulty keeping water down…from sucking on ice, serious weight loss, stuck on a couch all day on her back.

For that reason, and our desire to adopt, we decided on a vasectomy two years ago. Then we moved to pastor WCC where we met families with 12, 12, 11, etc children, and a number of “smaller” families with 5-7 children. I should point out we have some families with 1 or 2 children as well just so you don’t…I don’t know…think we think you have to have lots of kids.

Katie and I always wanted a large family. We thought we’d accomplish that through adoption. The problem is, we wanted to adopt younger than our youngest and our youngest just turned two. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, until you consider how difficult it is to adopt babies. So here we are looking at all these big families and realizing it’s going to be years before our family increases. We start thinking of having a reversal and our wonderful church says, “We know your wife will be sick. We’ll do whatever we can to help. We’ll be understanding regarding you not being able to pastor the same during her pregnancy.” As a note, my ministry hasn’t been compromised at all during Katie’s pregnancy, and I’ll discuss why in a second.

So in December we went through with the reversal. The complications began immediately and have continued up to yesterday when I had to take a trip back to Tacoma to visit the doctor who performed the surgery.

Regardless of any complications though, if the determining factor of the surgery’s success is our ability to have more children, then in May we learned the surgery was a complete success. And by the way, May is considerably earlier than the 12-18 month period they tell you to expect to wait.

So for a lot of reasons, this baby is very special to us. In some ways this baby is even more special than…or let’s say differently special than our other children, because of the effort required to have it, but more importantly because of what it represents. I hate referring to our baby with “it”, but we don’t know the gender yet.

Now how has Katie’s pregnancy been? Two things have made it great so far…I guess three actually…

First, many people in the church have been so helpful and giving (this is why my ministry’s remain unchanged). Yesterday one girl spent the whole day at our house. This allows me to stay at my office without any of my work (especially studying), being interrupted. This morning a woman from the church surprised Katie by showing up to clean our bathroom and make us lunch (she said she’s coming back to do the same thing Thursday). Tonight a woman is bringing dinner for us. When I go to the church for VBS practice, another girl comes over to help out.

The second reason the pregnancy has been going so well is Katie has been feeling really good. By the way, “feeling really good” is a relative term. During her other pregnancies she was throwing up countless times per day, so this time being relegated to a couch without throwing up is “feeling really good.” In fact, Katie’s been feeling so good, we started worrying. The only other time Katie felt this good was when she miscarried. Needless to say, we’ve had a lot on our mind. Until today.

Today Katie went for her appointment to hear the baby’s heartbeat. To be honest, I thought she was probably having another miscarriage. Katie called me from the hospital and said they couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat, so they ordered an ultrasound. I was pretty confident my fears were confirmed, and I was already wondering when she’d be able to be pregnant again.

The time waiting for Katie to call me back about the ultrasound – probably no more than an hour – seemed like forever. This brings me to the third reason: Katie called me and said the ultrasound showed the baby is doing great.

Many people have been praying for Katie. A number of women have told me they pray for her everyday. I have to believe this is why she’s feeling so much better this time.

I’m thankful for so many things: my wonderful children, wife, church family, parents, and especially this beautiful new baby. Here’s the verse I keep thinking about that summarizes how I’m feeling: Genesis 33:5 Jacob said, “These are the children whom God has graciously given me.”