Volume 7, Issue 1: Femina
Your letter arrived yesterday, and I sensed your urgency for a reply. Although
you may be expecting "marriage counseling" from me, I must first address something
far more important and fundamental.
When I knew you in college, you called yourself a Christian, and I saw you at
many of the Bible studies and conferences the first few years. But then something
happened, and you changed in your junior year. You said you just weren't "on fire" anymore.
It wasn't long after that when you started seeing Alan. Next thing I knew, you
were engaged and then married. That was twelve years ago.
In some ways, I am amazed that your marriage has lasted this long. Not because
I don't think you are both very nice people. Alan has always been a courteous
and hardworking man, with a great sense of humor. You've been a cheerful and thoughtful
wife and an energetic mother. These are good qualities that many would envy in
a husband and wife. Nevertheless, it sounds as though you have both depleted
your resources of strength. The good humor and thoughtfulness have nearly disappeared
altogether, and now impatience, resentment, and self-centeredness have taken
their place. Your grief over this is obviously understandable. In fact, I am
grateful that you are so disturbed because this is a sign of hopenot that your
unhappiness is itself the cure, but it means you are willing to ask for help
and listen to the answers.
Think back to your wedding twelve years ago. I'm sure you've long since realized
that the bridesmaids' dresses and flowers, the cake and the mints, the rice and
the limo were all simply expensive ornaments decorating the doorway to the house.
This house was your marriage. As I recall, your doorway was quite lovely. The
house was lovely for a time too. But it doesn't stay lovely by itself, and it's
not a "one time deal" making it lovely as you did with the wedding.
Now think about the vows you made at your wedding. Do you remember them? What
did you swear, before God and man, to do? Perhaps you should dig out the wedding
video and listen again to what you promised . How long has it been since you
reflected on this? And why does it seem you are so powerless to do what you promised
to do? I'll tell you why.
Marriage is a created thing. God created marriage and He created it for a purpose.
It does not exist for its own sake; nor does it exist for the sake of the husband
and wife. Marriage exists in order to honor and glorify God. Obviously, a poor
marriage does not intentionally fulfill its purpose. Can you think of any marriages
that seem to fit this description? I'll agree with you that there are precious
few of them.
In order for a marriage to be God-honoring and God-glorifying, it is essential
that the husband and wife each live in a way that pleases Him. And frankly, Pam,
you and I both know that you walked away from that obligation. With regard to
your marriage, you have tried, I know. You say you've made resolutions to be a
better wife. You've gone to marriage seminars and read books. But it only seems
to get worse. Why?
The reason is that you are looking for answers in the wrong places. You have
expected to find the answer in yourself. ("I'll lose the ten pounds." "We'll go on
a date once an week," etc. ) You've both thought the key to a happy marriage lies
in material things. Now you have the jobs, the house, the cars, the vacation,
but you have no peace or joy.
You must go to the Author of marriage to supply these things. They cannot and
never will be found in yourself, or in any external material thing , including
your marriage . You must humble yourself, confess your sinfulness, and call on
God to forgive you in Christ. Only Christ can cleanse you and free you from yourself
and from the power of sin. Once you are put right with Him, once you are regenerated
(or born again as some say), then you will be in a position to learn what God
says about marriage. Then you can begin to apply His direction for a marriage
that is God-honoring.
Let me quote Samuel Rutherford from his Letters . "Be humbled; walk softly.
Down, down, for God's sake, my dear and worthy brother, with your topsail. Stoop,
stoop! it is a low entry to go in at heaven's gate."
It seems to me that you are reaching the end of your resources and feeling keenly
your need to look outside yourself for strength and purpose for living. Look
to Christ , Pam. He has not promised happiness in externals, but He has promised
us peace and joy and forgiveness in Him. Only He can put your marriage on the
right foundation Himself.
I'll look forward to hearing from you.