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?”

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.

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.”

Why did Jesus call a woman a dog?

An interesting – and possibly confusing – account took place between Jesus and a woman He called a “little dog.” Matthew 15:21-22:

Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”

The woman is a Canaanite, which makes her one of the Jews’ ancient enemies and a surprising person to seek Jesus’ help. When Israel entered the Promised Land they were supposed to destroy these people, because of their wickedness.

Matthew 15:23-24:

But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”
But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Why did Jesus call the woman a dog?

  • God told Abraham, “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3). Primarily this referred to the Messiah coming from Israel, but it also referred to Israel being the witness nation. The Jews would receive the Gospel first and spread it to the surrounding world.
  • Romans 1:16 says, “the gospel is…for the Jew first.”
  • When Jesus sent out the Twelve He said, “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 10:5a-6). Jesus didn’t forbid the disciples from preaching to Gentiles if they encountered them along the way, but they were to go first to Israel.

Jesus told the Canaanite woman the Jews had to have the first opportunity to accept Him. Matthew 15:25-26:

Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”

The “children” are the Jews, and the “bread” is the spiritual food or Gospel.

The Greek word for “dog” is kyōn, and it is a derogatory term the Jews used for Gentiles. The word Jesus used for “little dogs” is kynarion, and it’s not derogatory or cruel. It can be used affectionately, even of a family pet.

Matthew 15:27-28:

And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”
Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

The woman accepted the situation, including who she was.

She couldn’t stop the Gospel from going to the Jews first, and she couldn’t change her ethnicity. But she could be persistent and demonstrate her faith. She even says, “I’m not asking for the portion that belongs to the Jews. I just want some of the crumbs.”

Jesus rewarded the woman. The irony is many Jews would miss out on God’s salvation, because they didn’t have this woman’s faith, persistence, or humility. Many Gentiles would find salvation. They received the crumbs the Gentiles rejected, or that “fell from the table.”

Consider the progression:

  1. Jesus ignores her in verse 23.
  2. Jesus tells her, “No,” in verse 24.
  3. She asks again in verse 25.
  4. Jesus says, “No,” again in verse 26.
  5. She asks again in verse 27.
  6. Jesus helps her in verse 28.

This is a great illustration of the persistence needed in prayer. See also (Luke 11:5-13 and 18:1-8).

C. H. Spurgeon said, “Dear friend, possibly someone has whispered in your ear, ‘Suppose you are not one of the elect.’ Well, that was very much what our Lord’s expression meant to her. She was not one of the chosen people, and she had heard Christ say, ‘I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ Notice that this woman does not battle with that truth at all, she does not raise any question about it; she wisely waives it, and she just goes on praying, ‘Lord, help me! Lord, have mercy upon me!’ I invite you, dear friend, to do just the same.