It never ceases to amaze me just how fickle my feelings are in my marriage!

One moment I can look at my husband and think “we have such a good relationship, I can’t imagine ever fighting with him again,” and then, not even an hour later, I am furious at him because of something he said or did and I am trying very hard to remember those feelings of love and contentment I had been experiencing earlier on in the day.

The following quote by Mignon McLaughlin sums this up perfectly:

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person”.

To have a successful marriage, we cannot rely on our feelings! I often feel that marriage can be likened to a hill made of solid rock covered with vegetation at the mercy of the weather. The husband and wife are the vegetation covering the hill, the hill is God and the weather is our feelings. Deuteronomy 32:4 says: “He is the Rock; His works are perfect”. God ordained marriage, therefore He wants to be the Rock that sustains it.

The hill and vegetation on a hill are subjected to all kinds of weather conditions. Sometimes it is bathed in sunshine and shadows, the weather is calm and peaceful and at other times the weather can be cold and stormy. For days, it can be covered by dark clouds, storms may rage, little trees are uprooted and debris is strewn everywhere.

The hill, however, does not move. No matter how much the surface of the hill changes, no matter how dark and stormy it becomes, no matter whether the sun shines or not, the rock under the surface stays firm.

No matter what happens in the marriage, good or bad, if the marriage is centered on God, it can weather any storm or calamity.
We need the times of good weather in our marriages – times of gentle rain showers, times of sunshine, times to grow and nurture the marriage. We also need the times when it is stormy – when trees are uprooted and debris is strewn everywhere. When calm returns, and we are resting once again on God, the Rock, and we survey the debris strewn around us we often find that the debris and uprooted trees are the things that we did not need or that hindered our marriages. Things like selfishness, self-pity, anger, resentment, misunderstandings – God often uses the storms to uproot these things in our marriages.

Romans 5:3-5 states “…we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us”.

God uses the times of calamity and suffering in our marriages, and in our individual lives, to grow us and produce strength of character in order that we can have hope and our hope is in God.

When we cry before God for our marriages, He promises us in 2 Kings 20:5 “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you”. He will heal your marriage.

Often the healing in our marriages only comes after we have cried.
We have the reassurance that no matter how long the storm rages, the sun will shine upon our marriages once again and we can rest in the knowledge that God is our Rock and our Redeemer.

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“Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place.”  – Henri J.M Nouwen

Do you create space for your spouse to be able to grow?  Do you treat your spouse as a friend or have they turned into your enemy as the years have gone by?  Do you bring out the best in your spouse or do you criticize and belittle them?

1 Peter 4:8-10 says “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling”.

Is your love for your spouse deep enough to cover over the ‘sins’ you feel they have committed against you? Do you offer your spouse hospitality without grumbling?

Marriage is built on hospitality.  You need to make room for your spouse.
You need to make space in the cupboard so they can hang their clothes in half of it.
You need to make space in your bed for them.
You need to make space in your heart for them.
You need to make space in your life for them.
Do you offer your spouse hospitality within the confines of your marriage?

“There is no hospitality like understanding” – Vanna Bonta

Does your spouse feel understood by you or are there constant misunderstandings in your marriage?

“Hospitality exists when you believe the other person is on your side” – Danny Meyer

Does your spouse believe that you are on their side?  That you believe in them?

“Hospitality is the practice of God’s welcome by reaching across differences to participate in God’s actions bringing justice and healing to our world in crisis.” – Letty M. Russell

Do you offer your spouse healing and justice when their world is in a crisis?

“When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them.  Always be eager to practice hospitality” – Roman 12:13

When your spouse is in need do you reach out your hand to help them?  Do you make yourself available to them?

“The beauty of listening is that, those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking their words more seriously and discovering their own true selves. Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality…” – Henri J.M Nouwen

Do you allow your spouse to talk and do you listen in such a way that they feel heard?

Are you so hospitable towards your spouse that they have the freedom to be vulnerable with you?

And then the big question is, are you hospitable towards yourself? Do you offer yourself all the things we have mentioned above? Do you love yourself? Have you taken to heart the following commandment found in Mark 12:31 “Love your neighbor as yourself”?

In our marriages we need to learn to be hospitable to ourselves and our spouses.

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A wise person once told me to go and read Lamentations 3:17-26 whenever depression or sadness or hopelessness or despair overcame me.

I thought they were joking because the writer of Lamentations, Jeremiah, is known as the ‘weeping prophet’ and Lamentations itself is basically a funeral song, known as the book of tears.

The book is filled with sadness, regret and disappointment similar to how I feel at times.

Lamentations is a very depressing book, thank God it only has five chapters!

Depression can be genetic or the result of some great trauma or because we are weighed down by the poverty and injustice we see worldwide.
It can also be caused from not being in right standing with God or due to unconfessed or hidden sins.

Often my depression is caused by the fact that God does not answer my prayers.  I feel called to do things for Him and yet all doors remain closed and I begin to doubt my ministry, I begin to resent the feelings of desperation that often arise because my heart longs to follow God, I long to serve Him in a mighty way and be recognised as His beloved child and I have this secret fear that life is passing me by and I will never achieve my heart’s desires.

And it is then that I confess my lack of faith to my God, my God who promised in Jeremiah that He knows the plans He has for me, plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future.

And that hope is found in Lamentations 22-24:

 “Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘the Lord is my portion; therefor I will wait for Him’”.

Lord please help us to remember that you are Jehovah Jireh, the Lord who provides.  That as we confess our sins and seek you with all our hearts you will provide for our ministry. That as we start to praise you, despite our depression, you will grant us your peace and your joy.  And we cling to the knowledge that you are the One who will provide comfort when we fail or sadness and depression overwhelms us.

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope” Lamentations 3:21

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Are you prepared to have your marriage ‘interrupted’ by life? Are you prepared to withstand the ‘trials and tribulations’ that will certainly occur as you and your spouse ‘become one’? Are you allowing God’s word and instruction to take root in your marriage and are you growing closer to your spouse (and to God) daily?

My husband, Steve, and I recently found ourselves ‘reviewing’ our marriage as our lives came to an abrupt stop. Figuratively speaking, we skidded to a halt with burn marks on the tarmac!

Steve was perfectly healthy one day, and the next he was in hospital with encephalitis. We weren’t even sure what encephalitis was! The neurologist explained that it was when the brain swells, and even with today’s medicine, there is still a 20% mortality rate. He spent thirteen days in hospital, and we were warned that it would take at least six months before he would fully recover.

Our daily lives have changed drastically as we have had to slow down for him to catch up! We have realized during this time just how vital it is that Godly marriages be established and rooted in God’s Word.

Colossians 2:7 says: “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”

Solomon was not specifically thinking about marriage when he penned the following scripture “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor: if either of them falls, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone:  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken”.Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

I have, however, always thought that this is a beautiful description of marriage and, for me, the ‘cord of three strands’ which is not ‘quickly broken’ has always represented the husband, wife, and God.

During the first two weeks of Steve’s hospitalization, I was so thankful that God was on my team, that He was the third strand in our marriage.  Steve ‘fell’ and was ‘overpowered’ by his illness, and with God’s help I could ‘help’ him up, and because of the power of prayer, we were able to ‘defend’ ourselves against this sickness. God needs to be in the midst of every marriage.

When he was in hospital, I received a message from a friend and this is what she asked: “Has this time given you time to reflect on your marriage vows – in sickness and health…? That’s what love is isn’t it?’

That is exactly what love and marriage are, and her question reminded me of the vows we take on our marriage day. We vow before God to take our spouse “to have and to hold, from that day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death.”

Often the ‘interruption’ can turn into a blessing if together the husband and wife can pray and strengthen their marriage.

Originally posted in Start Marriage Right

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How ready are you to respond to God when He asks the following question?
“Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8)
Is your immediate response the same as Isaiah’s “Here am I. Send me!” Or is it more along the lines of “Not me. Send someone else”
Are you bowed low under the weight of your failures and sins? Do you feel there is just no way you will ever be able to measure up to Gods’ standard of holiness? Are you ill equipped and lack knowledge? Are you too busy?
If you truly want to serve the Lord none of the above excuses hold much weight. God looks at your heart and if your heart’s instantaneous response is “here am I. Send me!” He will take care of the rest.
Isaiah saw God sitting on a lofty throne surrounded by angels declaring His praises. His response was to cry out “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips”.
An angel flew to Isaiah with a live coal that he had taken from the altar and touched his lips with it and said “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sins atoned for”.
Jesus’ death and resurrection is the live coal that touches our lips today when we confess our sins and ask for forgiveness. One of the most difficult people to forgive is ourselves – we need to claim God at His word, that once we are forgiven, He remembers our sins no more.
He sees our hearts and if we truly desire to serve Him, He will make a way, in spite of us.
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ADDICTIONS…a headless chicken

When God begins a spiritual healing work in your life you may often feel like a headless chicken running around.  We receive our healing but it sometimes takes a while for that fact to sink in and become a reality in our lives.

When a chicken’s head is chopped off it will still run around for a few minutes, spurting blood all over the place until it collapses to the ground dead.

So, it is with many of us who follow Christ.

We pray for healing and freedom from various addictions/habits – drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, anger, worry…

We declare our healing, believe we are healed and yet we still run around frantically, have no self-control and continue to act in a self-destructive manner questioning God all the time “Why won’t you heal me?”

It has often taken years for our bad habits/addictions to take root in our lives so purely out of habit we continue with them and it is during this time of ‘running around like a headless chicken’, blood spurting and making a mess everywhere that we may need to seek professional help, or start a journal documenting our thoughts and feelings, or join a group who are experiencing what we are going through.

You may even have to admit publicly, for the first time, that you have a problem. You will need to face the fact that your guilt, shame, self-disgust…will be made public.

“Hiding our hurt only intensifies it.  Addictions grow in the dark and become bigger and bigger, but when exposed to the light of the truth, they shrink.  You are only as sick as your secrets.  So take off your mask, stop pretending you’re perfect, and walk into freedom” – Unknown

God does heal miraculously at times but most of us find that we have to go through the death throes (we have to live the painful, violent, agonising moments/days/months of dying to our addictions, to ourselves) before we collapse ‘dead’ to the ground. Dead to the addictions that have held us in chains.

It is then that God says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you…” (Ezekiel 36:26)

Or as Andrew Murray puts it: “When we pray for the Spirit’s help…we will simply fall down at the Lord’s feet in our weakness. There we will find the victory and power that comes from His love”

“Recovery didn’t open the gates of heaven and let me in.  Recovery opened the gates of hell and let me out” (author unknown)

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“I’m going by the upper road, for that still holds the sun
I’m climbing through night’s pastures where the starry rivers run;
If you should think to seek me in my old dark abode,
You’ll find this writing on the door,

“She’s on the Upper Road.” (selected)

We sit and weep in vain, while the voice of the Almighty tells us to never stop moving upward and onward. (Streams in the Desert)”

God is in Heaven and I am walking on the Upper Road and before I turn to the right or the left I will stop and listen for God’s voice saying “This is the way; walk in it”. (Isaiah 30:21)

Tomorrow I will continue my journey upward in the knowledge that it is through the trials, the hardships, the pain, the disappointments, the joy, the happiness, the blessings – that it is through all these things I am growing into a woman God can be proud of and rejoice over.

It is because of my past – the good past, the not so good past and the awful past – that I have searched my soul and assessed my character and realized that change and growth is needed. I have more empathy towards others and judge far less. I am able to forgive easier (especially myself), I am able to write about His faithfulness. I am able to love deeper because the hurt and pain have somehow shaped me into a more caring person.

I have witnessed that He is a God who still performs miracles, that He is a God with the most wonderful sense of humor. I am able to be more open and honest with others. AND it is because of this past that I am able to look forward to the future with joy and hope and courage because my future is encompassed by Him.

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