Bitter or Sweet? – Part 3

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We are continuing with the topic of improving one’s marriage, whether it is currently bitter or sweet. If you haven’t read the previous two Corners, I would encourage you to do that now. Marriage is precious, not to be squandered or taken for granted. If we will invest in our marriages, the dividends will be rich and ongoing. Therefore, may we invest whatever is necessary to improve our marriages.

Think about when you were getting to know your wife and then during your engagement. Did you buy her gifts and write her notes telling of your love for her? Did you delight in being with her and spend large amounts of time talking to her? What other acts of love and kindness did you show her? Are you doing those same kinds of things now? If not, why not?

As we continue looking at 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, we see that love is known by the actions that are prompted. “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Agape love is not passive but active. At the end of the last Dad’s Corner, we had studied 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 up through charity envieth not.

Love doesn’t vaunt itself, and it is not puffed up. We could restate these two points by saying that love is not proud. Pride is the utmost in self-love which would be the opposite of agape love. Perhaps that is why it is listed first in the “love killers.” There is no need to ask ourselves if we are proud, but rather we can simply assume that we are. Pride is such a “funny” thing. The more we resist the idea that we are proud, the more likely it is that we are proud. It would be far better to confess our pride before the Lord and seek His humbling grace. “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6).

Pride will be the root of contention in the home. It takes two proud people to quarrel. “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom” (Proverbs 13:10). If even one will choose humility, there will not be a quarrel. Pride will justify unkind thoughts, words, and finally actions. The place we must begin to conquer pride is to hate it just like God hates it. “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:16-17). Look for opportunities to humble yourself, and God will lift you up. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). One simple way to humble yourself would be to admit when you are wrong. In that process, though, be careful not to justify yourself.

Love does seek his own way. Last year there was a “Dictator or Servant Leader?” series of Dad’s Corner articles Part 1, and Part 2 that would nicely cover this negative aspect of love. Suffice it to say, it isn’t Dad’s way or Mom’s way. It is to be the Lord’s way. Dad just happens to be the one responsible for making the final decision.

Love is not easily provoked. Face it. There are going to be times when your wife does not say the right thing to you or doesn’t respond well. When that happens, do you react? Are you offended? “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalms 119:165). Have you ever been around anyone who is touchy and easily reacts? At best, they make life most unpleasant. May we be “thick skinned” and choose not to let things “bug” or offend us.

Love thinketh no evil, therefore, it doesn’t keep a record of the wrongs committed. There will always be offenses in a marriage, and you can be sure it will not draw me closer to my wife if I keep score. The Lord Jesus set the example for us to follow when He took all of our offenses on Him and forgave us. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Forgetting offenses is just the beginning of denying ourselves. It’s a good place to start.

Love does not rejoice in iniquity but in truth. I wonder if a key application of not rejoicing in iniquity would be not to tease my wife. I’ve noticed that many, well okay, maybe most, wives do not appreciate their husband’s teasing. Teasing appears to be like a dagger in a wife’s heart. I believe what makes it so painful is that generally there is at least a seed of truth in the tease. From a wife’s point of view, that means her husband, the one she trusts and who is her defender, has now turned on her and is making fun of her. In essence, teasing one’s wife is not the way to show agape love. I’ve been married to Teri for thirty-seven years, and I’m hopeful (she is probably too) that I will someday learn not to tease. I’m sure I’m much better at avoiding teasing than when we were first married, but there is still significant room for improvement.

One way to rejoice in truth is for Dad to delight in leading his family in Bible time every night. Family Bible time isn’t a “have to” but it is a “joy to”! I love Teri (and my family) by my love for the Word of God.

Agape love beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. This last verse presents the never-ending strength and perpetual power of agape love. It is not weak and frail. Agape love never says “the end.” It never quits no matter how difficult things become.

We just received very sad news about a wife who has cancer. Several years ago, that family also had a crisis with one of their children which has required great care and investment by the parents in both time and finances. Now on top of that, they face the heavy blow of the wife’s illness. This couple has demonstrated the reality of agape love through the years. They have been a beautiful picture of bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring. How that testifies to the reality of Jesus Christ in their marriage. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). They have glorified the Father through their love and devotion to each other. The Lord desires that depth of love in each of our marriages for our own personal edification and for a testimony to those around us.

Is your marriage bitter or sweet? Would you like it to improve? Agape love is a choice, and it is defined by the actions that it prompts. Make agape love decisions in your relationship with your wife and see what the results are. We will continue to look at this next month.

Unwanted Feelings – Part 5

As we conclude this series of articles about dealing with unwanted feelings, I will again remind you of the e-mail that we used to introduce our topic.

I woke up hurting and aching about the adoption this morning, and the feeling never left. Seeking HIM and seeking the peace and clarity that only HE can give.

Could you please pray for me to find my comfort in Christ? And to trust HIM. If you have time, could you please send me a Scripture that brings you comfort in times of loss? I will meditate on it. Amy

If you haven’t been following these Mom’s Corners about negative feelings, I suggest you go back and read the first four articles so that you have the whole picture in your mind before you continue this one.

Choosing Right Thoughts

One mom wrote to share with me something that helps her with unwanted feelings. I wanted to use her exact words as I told you her suggestion, but when I went to retrieve them, I couldn’t find her letter. She explained that she had once heard a speaker say that if you memorize Psalm 103, you will never again experience depression. She had chosen to do that and had discovered incredible victory over her negative feelings that were manifesting themselves in depression.

Even though I can’t vouch for the speaker’s words that if you memorize Psalm 103, you will never have depression again, I thought Psalm 103 would be one I should memorize for my personal use and to share with others. This is especially true because I have had to deal with depression in my past, and I regularly hear from moms who are in the midst of depression. While I am only on verse ten out of the twenty-two verses in my memorization, let me show how this Psalm begins:

“Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:1-5)

In reading Psalm 103, we can quickly see that the focus is on the worship of God and gratitude to Him for all He has done for us. When we set our hearts on praise and gratefulness, there isn’t room for the negative feelings to control us.

Physical Components to Emotional Stress

If you are struggling with unwanted feelings on an ongoing basis, I encourage you to evaluate whether there is a physical component to it. How is your diet? Are you consuming white sugar, white flour, and caffeine, or are you eating healthy, nutritious food? What about getting adequate sleep? Are you exercising? Those are areas of your life that you have control over and that you can change so that they do not drive your negative feelings. Perhaps as you get those aspects of your life where they need to be, the feelings will be resolved in the process. It is ultimately possible that the root cause of negative feelings could be a health issue that would be helped by the attention of a medical doctor.

Sometimes we try to justify our negative feelings because we think they are hurting no one but ourselves. However, if we face the truth, we have to realize that those emotions do indeed affect not only our lives but also the lives of others, especially those we love the most, our families. This is easy to see with something like anger because the recipient of anger is likely going to be emotionally hurt by the anger. However, if we give in to worry, that will affect our words, our countenance, our responses, and our interactions with those who are close to us. If we are lonely and begin to feel sorry for ourselves, that will as well reach beyond us to those with whom we live.

Living with Chronic Pain

Let me give you a personal example of this. I have lived with chronic back pain for many years. One day last week, I had my normal back pain plus a new pain that caused me to hurt every time I took a deep breath. I knew this new pain was temporary and would be gone in a day or two, but it still hurt right then. In addition, I had a sort of allergic reaction in my mouth that was causing the roof of my mouth to burn, ache, and itch. That morning a family member shared with me something I had said to them that they felt had an attitude behind it.

Were any of those very big problems? No! However, added together that day, they presented a spiritual battle. Rather than fight the spiritual battle with my thoughts of self-pity, I decided to cry. Here is the outcome of my good cry.

  • Red, puffy eyes
  • A terrible headache
  • A runny nose even after I stopped crying
  • A perpetuation of my self-pity
  • A bleak countenance
  • A concern in the family manifested by them asking me if I was okay
  • An insecurity in one family member indicated by her thinking she was the cause of my crying
  • A sadness that pervaded our home that evening.

As I evaluated that period of crying, I couldn’t figure out one positive benefit that had come from it. All the outcomes were negative. At the moment I chose to cry, I also had the opportunity to choose what I have been encouraging us to do in these articles. Had I done those things, God’s grace would have given me the strength to accept the pain and discouragement and move on with my day.

Remember our key verse from the first article: “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:16-17).

We walk in the Spirit by seeking the Lord’s strength in prayer (2 Corinthians 12:9). We do it by taking those negative thoughts captive and bringing them into the obedience of the Lord (2 Corinthians 10:5). I could have had a grateful heart thinking about others who have so much more pain than I do (1 Thessalonians 5:18), and then prayed for them rather than feeling sorry for myself. Had I begun to put into my mind the verses that I have memorized, gotten out my notebook of special Bible verses, or opened my Bible to read it, the self-pity would have been neutralized by God’s abundant grace. Even getting up and getting busy would most likely have set me walking in the Spirit rather than fulfilling the lust of my selfish flesh.

By the next morning, I had repented of my negative, self-focused thoughts, asked my family’s forgiveness for how they were affected, and moved on with the Lord Jesus for a new day. I encourage you when you fail to do the same. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Remember that His mercies are new every morning. “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

I want to encourage you to deal with your negative feelings rather than succumbing to them or believing yourself to be a victim of them. Not only will you benefit from this change but those around you will benefit as well. My prayer for my life and for yours is that we would continually walk in the fruit of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).