Monday, August 22, 2011

Fill Your Marriage Box With Christ

Hello friends - I am thrilled at the response to the devotion on Friday, and excited that so many of you are interested in receiving my Ebook for free, titled 14 Days To A Happier Marriage. (It's not too late to sign up! Just enter your email address in the blue box to the right and subscribe to my blog before the end of the day today. If you are receiving this post in email, you're all set!)

Anytime the topic of marriage is brought up among a group of women, there will surely be lots to talk about. We love the feeling of camaraderie with other women as we talk about our husbands, share our problems and our marriage wish lists, and seek advice from people who have dealt with similar experiences.

In many instances, there will be commonalities, but even moreso, there will be lots of differences, because no two marriages will ever be exactly the same.

Each partner in a marriage is unique, and each marriage has its own unique share of good and bad. In some cases, circumstances are better or worse than others, but in all cases, there is a need for our Savior to be in the midst of it.

When trying to wrap my mind around how to respond to the heartbreaking comments left and the emails sent by readers last week, and praying for the right words, I began to see a mental picture........

I envisioned a big warehouse, filled with all sizes of cardboard boxes. Some boxes were small, while some were huge, taking up large parts of the room.  Each box had been labeled, with the bigger boxes describing the types of marriages that were held within that box, and the smaller boxes labeled with a variety of marital problems.

The biggest 3 boxes were labeled to say:

* solid and stable/ Christ-centered
* shaky, but still secure
* on the brink of divorce

Some of the smaller boxes, which would be put into one of the 3 main boxes, were labeled to say:

* substance abuse addicted husband/wife
* infidelity issues
* pornography addiction
* differences in parenting styles / expectations
* financial stress / foreclosure / bankruptcy
* lack of intimacy
* communication has stopped
* husband/wife is not a Christian
* lacks respect for spouse
* abusive relationship
* lack of love
* neglect / abandonment
* chronic unforgiveness

Picture yourself choosing one of the 3 main boxes (solid; shaky; brink of divorce). Then picture yourself picking up all the smaller boxes that represent a problem you are having in your marriage, and tossing them into your big box.

For some, your box might be empty, symbolizing that your marriage is in a good place right now.

For some, your box might be half full, filled with a few of your struggles.

Yet for some, your box may be overflowing, filled to the brim with blatant reminders of the difficult and painful issues you face.

Regardless of what your box looks like today - full or empty - it must have room for God. If we want to see change occur in our marriages, we have to allow God to replace those smaller boxes with His love, strength, forgiveness, and the courage to persevere, while believing that He is the King of transformation.

If we are so attached to the smaller boxes, holding on tightly to the ones labeled with hurts and pain and unforgiveness, focusing on them every day - then God cannot toss those boxes out, making room for Him to reside.

I believe with all my heart that God is capable of changing, reforming and renewing any person, and any marriage. Unfortunately, this transformation of change that we wish to see in a spouse, or in a marriage, will not happen overnight. It may not happen in the time frame that we would choose. It may require a spiritual wake up call to one or both partners in the relationship. It may need the intervention of Godly counsel or professional counseling.

But above all, it needs God.

God created marriage so that two could become one, and it is His desire that we hold the marriage covenant sacred. I know there are often valid circumstance that warrant the end of a marriage, and that God's grace and love and forgiveness abounds even when that decision is made.

Yet if we trust in God's Word, and believe in His power to work in even the most difficult situations, there is a hope for change. A change that will happen in His timing, and in His ways, and for His glory.

Regardless of which box you would hypothetically put your marriage in, one truth remains - God has to be in that box too.

If God is not in your box, then He is out of your box.

He is on the outside. Left in a place where He can see inside the box, and long to intervene, but is not allowed in because of a lack of faith.

Think back for a moment on the three main boxes that I mentioned above. Did you notice that there was one box that I did not visualize as being in the room?  That box was labeled "hopeless and over / cannot be saved".

You see, what we see as hopeless from a worldly perspective, God sees as a heavenly challenge.

A challenge that calls us to trust Him enough to allow Him to replace all the problems, with purpose and hope.

A challenge to follow His instructions, found in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7, even when we do not feel like it - "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

God longs that we fill our marriage box with so much of Him, that we see changes within ourselves, and changes in our spouses, which eventually leads to changes in marriages.

Our God has been filling up marriage boxes for countless generations, and He wants to fill yours too. Better yet, He wants your marriage to be in the best box of all, "solid and stable / Christ centered."

If your situation seems hopeless, filled with resentment, bitterness, lack of respect, and distance - ask God to help you trust Him, and to give you a glimpse that change is possible.

Ask Him to reassure You that He sees your marriage box, and that He is still in control, with a plan, a purpose, and a hope.

Ask Him for patience, as He slowly but surely starts to fill your box with more of Him.

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Mechelle said...

I needed this post today & I've read it twice today with tears overflowing. I see the boxes in the picture & I wish I could just put my belongings in those boxes & never look back. In life I've has goals, dreams & seemed to be heading toward a successful life. Marriage & children were in my dreams at a early child.I was so prepared so I thought. 7 1/2yrs. of marriage and year after year I've hung in there thinking things will would get better.I married someone that had been married before & I thought I asked all the right questions, I thought beening that he had been married before that our marriage would be awesome! The marriage happened so fast & the planning was so exciting. Things happened that would make any bride break down but I was so happy I didn't care what was going on around me. Now that I look at some of the things that happened I often think that maybe God was trying to get my attention but I didn't recongized God's voice! The 2nd week of marriage I remembered how I wished I was famous so I could have annulment like the Rich & Famous. I noticed a that my husband liked for me to spend all day with him. He didn't want anyone coming over our house, he would call all day long when I was at hld my mother that he hoped that I wouldn't be spending a lot of time over her housse, he noticed when anyone would look at me & would question me if I knew them or not,he didn't want any neighbors talking to me,we would go out with other christian married couple but he would always find a reason why he didn't want to be bothered with them, so now none of my friends will come over or invite us over their house and he likes it that way. Yep, I didn't see that I was being islated. We now have a son & things are the same. He has 2 friends that he has & one of them he wants to take my son around but I've asked to meet his friend & the wife but he gives me excuses why we can't meet. He has a made case of Road Rage & I thank God that we are still alive because of his behavior. You see my heart is heavy because I don't know what to do & I've waited for a change and nothing has changed. I asked to reveal who this person is that I've married & I heard God's voice. As I listened to God I wondered how this could happen. How could I marry someone like this because I've never hung around anyone like this in my life!I often think that God didn't choose this person for me but I chose him when maybe God was trying to get my attention to warn me.I don't know what I am suppose to do now. God just keeps revealing things to me. When I said I do I stopped being me because being me brings people in if you know what I mean. I am a people person & I make friends any where I go & this would always have my husband on edge. My son is 3 & I saw something my husband did to him I feel that was the time God showed me something else about the man I married. I feel so hurt because I think that this is the time I should have just stood up & spoke up but I didn't. I am not sure how long does one wait for things to change before they so okay this is it......... I know this is a long letter but I am not sure when one stops fighting for their marriage. I now have bad anxiety.....

Anonymous said...

Mechelle, I encourage you to seek Christian counseling, either from your pastor or a therapist, right away. It has helped me so much as I tend to be a passive people-pleaser and my husband tends to be a controller. I pray that you will have the courage to seek help because it will strengthen you to fight the battles in your marriage. Also check out the books "Boundaries" and "Boundaries in Marriage" by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Those books changed my life more than any others, besides daily study of my one year Bible (vital too!). A great Bible study that will give you tools and understanding is Martha Peace's "The Excellent Wife." Seek God for help and you will be blessed!