“Help, I married a sinner!” In the fourth of this mini-series (Eps. 138-142), Pastor Lutzer identifies 4 principles for managing conflict in a God-honoring marriage. When marriage differences and disappointments overwhelm you, 1.) Accept one another, 2.) Examine your heart, 3.) Own your own stuff, and 4.) Discover the freedom of forgiveness.
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Transcript: Welcome to “5 Minutes with Pastor Lutzer.” I’m so glad that you joined us again today, as we talk about the topic, “Making the Best of a Bad Decision.” Specifically, we’re talking about the decision of marriage. There are many of us who are happily married. We’re glad for the decision that we made but there are many of you who have, what I have called previously, “buyer’s remorse.” I could tell you so many stories of relationships and marriages that have begun badly, but as I like to emphasize, there are those that begin badly and they don’t have to end badly. Let me give you some suggestions today, some principles that I think will help you manage even some of the conflict that many of you are experiencing in your marriage.
First of all, the principle of acceptance. You have to accept one another despite your differences. I was reading one book about marriage and the author said, quite correctly, “Nobody ever marries the right person. We all marry the wrong person.” And you know, your mate has married you and you may be the wrong person. A simple fact is, we are two sinners and when we try to get together, we’re like two porcupines trying to stay warm in the winter, wanting to get close but not too close, never resolving the issue of closeness. So, accept one another. Don’t try to change your husband, ladies. You’ve tried, haven’t you? Well, I’d like to ask, how’s that working for you? You know, I think that the Chinese have a proverb and I’ve quoted it often. It says that no matter how long you cook sand, it will never become rice. Human nature is difficult to change and only God can bring about the changes that you desire, you can’t. So, first of all, there’s the principle of acceptance.
The second principle is more difficult even. It’s the principle of self-examination. It’s praying what the Psalmist said, “Search me, oh God, and know my heart, try me and know my ways and lead me in the way everlasting.” I’ve done enough marriage counseling to know that oftentimes, one mate will see the other’s faults with 2020 vision but they cannot possibly see their own. They may be living in darkness, narcissism, self-will, and all of those things but they don’t see it. You know, what I’ve done at times is said, I want you to list all of the qualities, all of the faults that you see with your mate. “Oh my. You know, Pastor, do you have enough paper here? We fill it all in!” And then I say, “I want you to write down your faults.” “Oh, let’s see. You know…maybe…indulgent…Sometimes, I drink too much” and we find it so hard to see our own sins. In fact, only God is able to really reveal ourselves to us. So, what you must do is to say, “Lord, what about me?” Examine your own heart. Marriage oftentimes brings to bear the fact that we are all struggling with narcissism, selfism, unacknowledged glory that we seek, and what we must do is to ask God to show us our part in this somewhat unhappy marriage.
Well, there’s another principle and that is you have to own your own stuff. There’s some of you who are listening to this who have been wounded because of past relationships or because of your home life. Maybe you had a father who abused you and what you’re saying in the marriage is: “I want my partner to heal me but he or she had better not touch my wound because if you touch my wound, I will scream, I will holler, I’ll become impossible to live with but I want you to heal me.” What we must do is to look into our own hearts — and this, of course, is related to what I said just a moment ago about self-examination. We have to own our own stuff. What is your role in this relationship that has made marriage such an unhappy experience? Deal with it. It hurts but deal with it. It’s the principle of owning your own stuff, the personal responsibility that is so necessary. Now, if you find that your husband is into pornography or having an affair or whatever, you should not let him get away with that. What you have to do is to go to those who are able to help you. Don’t live in an abusive relationship. Don’t just walk for help but run for help. But at the same time, you must deal with your issues even as your mate has to deal with his issues or the other way around. Sin has a way of making all of us equal. Own your own stuff.
Well, there’s much that I could say also but I have to go to another principle and that is the principle of forgiveness. Some of you have heard me tell this story. Rebecca and I were at the airport, actually in Minneapolis. We were going to fly home and Rebecca bought a sandwich and she brought it and we shared the sandwich and we’re sitting there and across the way, maybe ten feet from us, there was a woman who watched and said, “You know, the two of you seem to be very happily married. I’m getting married next week. What is your advice?” Well, you know, I began to stare at the ceiling and say “Oh, what should I say to her?” Just like that Rebecca said—“Be quick to forgive.” And I thought okay, Rebecca, I want you to thank me for the many opportunities I have given you to exercise that particular quality. The simple fact is this, we all disappoint one another and forgiveness is really the heart of a relationship that is growing, a relationship that I think would be very honoring to God. “Be kind one to another, forgiving one another even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” That’s the standard by which we live and God brings somebody into our life that helps us to see our own faults. We help them see their own faults, and God is there to help all of us to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
I’m going to end this series next time. It’s going to be a very special time. We’re going to pray for marriages that are in trouble. Be sure to join us but before I do, I want to leave you with this thought. When you are sinned against, don’t sin in return. Join us next time because we’re going to pray for marriages that are in trouble. Let your friends know that this is going to be the emphasis and as for today, you just go with God.