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The Marriage Puzzle

Red Flags You Probably Missed

Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer | September 13, 2009

Selected highlights from this sermon

If you’re in a difficult marriage, you need to ask yourself, “Were there any red flags during the dating process that should have alerted me to these issues?” If you had paid attention to those signals, would you have married your spouse?

A word of caution to those still in the dating process: never marry unless you’re willing to put the needs of someone else above your own.

A word of hope for those already in a difficult marriage: you can have harmony in your marriage if you apply God’s word in your life and marriage. Understand one another; accept one another; have sympathy for one another; bless one another.

And no matter what situation you’re in, don’t try to get back at your spouse for something. Instead ask yourself, “How do I glorify God in this situation?”

Today I begin a series of messages entitled “The Marriage Puzzle—Why Commitment Can Do What Love Can’t.” Today we are besieged by a lot of information about marriage. We have books and seminars and sermons, and by God’s grace, what I would like this series of messages to do is to be absolutely transforming, and I know that in order to do that the messages aren’t going to do it. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. And unless you and I are open to what the Spirit of God would want to say to us, these messages might be considered to be interesting and informative, but not transforming, and I aim by the Spirit I trust at the transformation of marriages. By God’s grace I’d like to see bad marriages become good and good marriages become better. Now for that there’s going to be a price to pay in terms of honesty in dealing with issues that have been shoved under the rug in some marriages for years.

Many marriages are like windshield wipers on a car. One does one thing, the other does another and they never really connect. They know exactly what buttons not to push, and how they can avoid one another in the emotional and difficult thing called life. We hope to overcome that, and if you are here today and you are single, I have to emphasize to you that you need to listen because the principles that we are going to be talking about will help you to understand your family, especially should you be married someday. But in addition to that, issues that all of us face, married or single. For example, the next message in this series is entitled “Putting Your Past Behind You.” How do you finally deal with the past in the marriage relationship or the single relationship as well?

If there’s one verse of Scripture that is kind of the basis of today’s message, it is found in the book of Proverbs where it says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom but fools despise wisdom and instruction. What a verse that is, and we’re going to be looking at other Proverbs in a moment. But do you understand now what I mean when I say that only the Holy Spirit can do what we want to have done, that the message can’t do it? Many of you have heard many different things and you and I know much better than we live, so who can change us? Wives can’t change husbands. Husbands can’t change wives. Let’s let God do it. Would you join me one more time in prayer, and in this prayer open your heart to what the Holy Spirit is going to tell you in the quietness of your soul, and grant, oh God, the courage for us to do whatever You show us. For those couples, Father, who are struggling, You already know in advance, issues that they cannot address. Would You break it all down and help us, and would You bring about marriages that honor You in our selfishness and self-absorption? May we, as a result of these messages, deeply repent and seek only Your glory in Jesus name, Amen. I hope you prayed that prayer.

The basis for this message grew out of an observation I made. I don’t do much marriage counseling. I don’t consider myself a marriage counselor, but as a pastor, I’ve talked to many couples and tried to help them along the bumps of their marriage, and one of the things I often ask, especially where you have people who are so mismatched, or have such huge problems is, “Was there anything in your dating relationship that should have alerted you to this situation, and you should have known that this person was going to turn out this way?” Almost invariably (sometimes not, and we’ll discuss that), but almost invariably I hear someone say something like this. “Well, yeah, in retrospect,” and then they filled in the blank. And I thought to myself, “Now why aren’t we wise enough to learn from those who have had this experience, and let us look at some danger flags (red flags) that they should have picked up on and should have possibly known that they were headed for disaster, and so this summer at two different Bible conferences, I asked people to write me letters about their experience, and the red flag that they missed, or more accurately, the red flag that they ignored.

So this message is going to be a little bit different. We’re going to be plunging into God’s Word in a few moments, but before we do that, I’d like to just read some of these letters because we can learn from the past, and we will see that what we learn can come right out of God’s most Holy Word.

I’m going to begin with the narcissist. Narcissus, you remember, according to legend, was so enamored by his own image that as he looked into the pool and saw his reflection, he eventually drowned just looking at himself. The narcissist is the kind of person who would wear a t-shirt that says, “If you just worship me, we’ll get along fine.” That’s the narcissist. Now all of us are narcissists. We’re all self-absorbed. I’m self-absorbed. You’re self-absorbed. We’re trying to move to God-absorption, but we are doing it slowly, but the true narcissist (the real genuine article) is really a piece of work, and I could tell you much about narcissists, having done some counseling and seeing them, but here’s a letter:

“I thought I married Mr. Right, but I didn’t know that his first name was ‘Always.’” By the way, when you get somebody whose name is Mr. Right, he usually marries a woman who wants to change that first name to “Never.” I can already see sparks flying from here to Milwaukee. Imagine. “During the days we dated, he never apologized for anything. If we had a disagreement or something went wrong, it was always my fault. My opinion didn’t count for much. He will not discuss any viewpoint but his own. This self-absorption made me feel very lonely and rejected. We have two children who really feel disconnected from their father because he took no interest in them. All that mattered was his schedule, his work, and his friends. We can’t really talk about anything that is important to both of us because he doesn’t communicate. We live in the same house but we don’t have a home.”

How many people could testify to that? Red flag? “I saw in the dating relationship that he only cared about me for selfish reasons. Even back then I knew that he really didn’t care about me as a person.”

Well, let me read another letter, and this one is not only self-absorption, but it’s also sensuality, which is a separate category.

“I got pregnant soon after we met. My husband insisted that I have an abortion so he took me to the clinic. He showed me no sympathy or emotion. A few months after that we were married and later we had children. A few years later I accepted Christ as my Savior and now I became convicted of the sin of aborting my baby. My husband’s response was, ‘Well, it’s over and done. You can’t do anything about it. Forget it. Move on.’ This insensitivity killed my feelings for him, and in anger, to get back at him, I had an affair with his best friend. That was fifteen years ago. Today we are committed to each other and we are working on our relationship but there are many bumps along the way.”

What is the red flag? Oh, listen to this: “During our pre-marital relationship, I could see that my husband-to-be was more interested in my body than he was in me as a person. He cared about what he wanted, and not about what I wanted, and he showed no sympathy toward my hurt and pain.”

I have to pause here and make a couple of comments. You see, a narcissist also is not only self-absorbed. He has really no feeling for other people. He feels his own hurt very keenly, but he can’t feel the hurt of other people. You take this far enough and you get a sociopath who can do evil and have no sense of conviction or guilt about it. Also, notice she says, “My husband was more interested in my body than me as a person.” Fall in love with a body, young people, and the body will deteriorate. Fall in love with a person and the person will grow and develop and you’ll have a lifetime of relationship.

I know I don’t have time for all of these. We’re not even going to look at all of the red flags. There are too many and I’ll be dropping those in, in the other messages that I’m going to preach in this series, but I do need to read this letter. It’s the sensual person.

“I was 20 years old, a virgin, naïve with parents who were old enough to be my grandparents. They never talked to me about anything. They gave me no guidelines about whom to marry.” I feel sorry for young women like that. “He was more worldly than I was, but what was I to do? I didn’t know. I just assumed that that’s how all men are.” Listen: “I assumed that his intense pursuits of me must be love.” Never make that assumption. Many young men pursue a young woman and they say, “I love you,” and what they really mean is, “I love myself. I want you.”

“Within the first months of dating he introduced me to pornography, etc. His mother told my mother, ‘Karen did well to get our son.’ She thought her son was great but his father who knew better whispered to me, ‘This is the song Kenny sings. Me, Me, Me, I, I, I.’ Before we married my pastor warned me and even wrote us a six-page letter, but I disregarded it. It fell on deaf ears. During our honeymoon he brought the final draft of his thesis along and worked on it so I was alone, especially during the day. Needless to say, after we were married I always wondered about whether I was enough for him, etc.” Well they’re divorced now. She says, “My ex-husband is married to a younger woman who has all the credentials of worldliness that he has. She has a ten-year old son and she’s bringing him into the marriage. The ten-year old is struggling to have my ex-husband as his father.” What a mess! I, I, I, me, me, me!

What does the Bible say about the sensualist? “Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman, and embrace the bosom of an adulteress, for a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all of his paths. The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him and he is held fast by the cords of his sin.”

The narcissist teaches us something. He teaches us that you should never marry unless you are willing to put the needs of someone else above your own. I forgot to read the passages of Scripture that pertain to narcissism, and for lack of time I won’t, but the book of Proverbs is filled with examples of the narcissist. In fact, I’ll quote Proverbs 2:18. It says that the proud man is not interested in understanding. He’s only interested in expressing his own opinion. There you have the narcissist, but the sensual person tells us this: “Don’t get married if you are held by the cords of sin. If you have an addiction, no matter how well hidden it is, don’t marry.”

Well, what was the red flag she missed? I forgot to read that also. I’m hurrying today, and I need to take my time. She said, “I knew that he struggled with pornography, but I thought he’d get over it when we were married. I was wrong, wrong, wrong,” she says.

What about Mr. Anger? I learned from someone that angry people can sometimes be charmers, but listen to this letter:

“I married a man who was deeply angry and bitter. During our courtship he was able to hide it. He was Mr. Nice. I noticed his cynicism but thought I could live with it. There were moments when he was very charming, and very affirming.”

In fact, I know of a situation where a man was so nice and doing work for other people. He was the kind of person that all the other women of the church had wished they had married, and he was an abuser.

“I did not know that this was a cover for some deep seated anger and abuse. Little did I know that charmers can often be abusers. What red flag did I miss? Well, during our courtship (listen to this) he would sometimes hurt me and then say it was just for fun. He’d pinch me and hurt me and when I would cry out he’d say I was just a poor sport because he was having some fun. The same was true when he would take my hand and bend it backwards until it hurt. I did not know that that was the sign of an abuser. Well, now I know it was. We’re divorced, though my children are walking with God.”

Do I have time for one more? We need to get to the Scriptures and make sense of all of this and give people hope. By the way, the Bible is filled with verses of Scripture regarding those who are angry.

One more—number four—the lazy shirker. Here’s the letter:

“My husband thinks that the world owes him a living. He never held down a job and always complained about not getting paid enough. I saw all this but ignored it. He thought that life owed him. He’s not an alcoholic but has all the characteristics of one. He takes no personal responsibility but continues to blame others. It’s their fault that he’s not paid more than he is. It’s their fault that they reprimand him for being late at work. It’s their fault that he’s not promoted. It is my fault we don’t have enough money. If he loses a job, it’s never his fault. It’s always someone else’s fault. He believes that the world simply does not realize or appreciate his great abilities and contribution to the human race. Although we have four children, I have had to be the breadwinner and raise the children at the same time. Even though we are past middle age my husband is still waiting around for the world to realize what a great person he really is. He applies for well-paying jobs and can’t understand why he’s never accepted. He thinks he deserves a high salary though he’s not trained for that kind of employment. Red flag! I married the man I dated and I saw all of this before we married but thought he’d change after we said, ‘I do.’ Well, he didn’t change, and love is blind, and so here we are.”

Well, yeah, there you are. Oh, I just marvel at the book of Proverbs. Listen! I have to read these words about the lazy shirker: “As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed.” Isn’t that great? “The sluggard buries his hand in the dish but it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth.” (laughter) That is really funny but there are people, you know! There was a man who won a prize for being the laziest man in the world, and he was lying on a beach, and somebody said, “You just won the prize of a thousand dollars for being the laziest man in the word,” and he said, “Roll me over and put it in my back pocket.” (laughter) But here’s the key: “The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.” A sluggard is wiser in his own eyes. By the way, did you know that the Bible connects sanity with the ability of knowing who we really are? The book of Romans says this. “Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think but to think soberly.” The Greek word is sanely. Wow! The Bible is an absolutely overwhelming book for its accuracy.

Now I want to give you three characteristics of the fool. If we had taken all the passages that I had outlined and read them, we’d have discovered that the fool has certain characteristics. Now in the book of Proverbs, you know that everything is either right or wrong. You’re either a fool, or you are wise. It’s that kind of literature, so we are using the word fool in the sense that the book of Proverbs does, and the Bible says this: “Do you see anyone who is wise in his own eyes? There’s more hope for a fool than for him.”

Can I quickly give you the characteristics of a fool, and then give you some hope, and then plunge into the Scriptures? What is the number one characteristic of a fool? You say, “You can’t tell him anything.” That’s true, but why can’t you tell a fool anything? I’ll tell you exactly why. It is because he thinks he’s wiser than you are. He doesn’t know that he’s a fool. He doesn’t know it. Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt, you know. I mean he is living above it all. He’s wiser than you are. Number one, he doesn’t know he’s a fool, and number two, therefore you can’t tell him anything, and number three, he does the same thing over and over again without learning anything. That’s what the book of Proverbs says the simpleton does.

You know, somebody gave this illustration. It’s like having a hammer and you continue to hit your finger and then you say to yourself, “You know I have a problem here. I have to change hammers. That’s probably what my real problem is.” And so you say to yourself, “I’m not getting along with this woman. What I really need is a new wife,” and so you keep hitting yourself with a different hammer, but you are doing the same thing year after year and not learning. The book of Proverbs tells us that a man like that is a fool.

I have a couple of comments. First of all, I need to emphasize that you marry the person you dated. Don’t ever think you are going to change somebody. If he’s an addict before you marry, I can assure you he’ll be a worse addict after you marry. I can assure you of that! If there is change, almost always it is for the worse and not the better. Don’t ever marry somebody because you think you can change him or her. God might, but you can’t. That’s very, very important. In fact, during the dating experience you actually see the nicest side of them, like a cartoon I once saw where a woman said, “Let’s get married. I’m tired of being charming.” Or like advice given to young men—don’t tell your girlfriend that you are unworthy of her; let it come as a surprise. (laughter) You see them at their best and not at their worst.

Secondly, and this is important, if you didn’t ignore some red flags, you probably never would have been married. That’s right! Didn’t my wife ignore some red flags? I mean, how in the world (I am speaking to the men now) did you get married if your wife didn’t ignore some red flags? In fact, I’d like you to do something this afternoon if you are married. Look into the eyes of your wife and say, “Thank you for ignoring some red flags,” and then she can thank you also, but don’t get into an argument as to who ignored the most red flags. (laughter) All right? Don’t go there. The simple fact is the world is broken. I’m going to be giving you a quote in another message that is almost chilling by one of the Puritans about our sinfulness. You take this sinful person and this sinful person. Some of you are thinking if you had married somebody else you’d be happier. Don’t be so sure.

I love to tell that story about a man who was walking through an asylum and there on the floor was a man who was beating his head against the wall (they had padded cells) saying, “Linda, how could you do it? Linda, how could you do it?” The man asked the director what was going on and he said, “He was madly in love with Linda and she jilted him and he couldn’t take it. All that he can do all day is hit his head against the wall and say, ‘Linda, how could you do it?’” When they got to the end of the row, there was a man who was doing the same thing, pounding his head against the wall and saying, “Linda, how could you do it? Linda, how could you do it?” The man said, “What’s that all about?” He said, “Well, he’s the guy who married Linda.” (laughter)

Folks, I have hope for you. Listen, my heart is filled today, and that’s why we need to plunge into the Scriptures. I don’t know if I can finish everything I have prepared. My heart is filled today with this fact, that no matter what situation you are in, no matter whom you married or wish you had married, or red flags that you bypassed, I’m going to be telling you in the next message some red flags where a man married a woman and he had enough red flags to have his own parade (laughter) but no matter where you are, you can glorify God in your response. Isn’t that wonderful? Praise God!

Let’s take our Bibles and turn to 1 Peter 3. I’ll quickly give you an outline here about what’s going on. The topic has to do with marriage and with women who are living with unsaved men, as well as Christian husbands: “Likewise wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if some do not obey the word they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives.”

If you are taking notes, number one, what the Bible says is, “Understand one another.” Ladies, do you want to change your husband? Nagging won’t do it. Judging won’t do it. Cajoling won’t do it. Trying to shame him won’t do it. Why don’t you let God do it? And how does God plan to do it? What is his plan? It is by the submission of the wives. Now this is such a huge topic and obviously we’re going to be dealing with it later on in this series of messages, but I just need to say that I’ve seen this time and time again.

I’m thinking of a situation where a man had a considerable amount of money, so he bought a considerable number of toys. I mean, we could say boats, cars, whatever, but his wife now began to spend even more than he, and she became very, very irrationally extravagant, and there was nothing that he could say, and her big point was, “Well, you’re doing it. Why can’t I do it?” and pretty soon, what you have is a situation in which when he says “blue,” she says “red.” When he says “pink,” she says “orange,” and they can never get on the same page, because “I deserve this and I deserve that.” Listen, you can’t have a happy marriage unless you obey God’s Word, and the Bible says, “Wives, be submissive to your husbands.” And that’s a tough thing to say in today’s culture. I understand how countercultural this is, but that is the means of God changing. Now, of course, if he’s abusive—if he’s abusing you or he’s abusing the kids, then run—don’t walk—to get help, but the point is that I can tell you story after story where there’s no harmony because there’s no submission and no willingness to sacrifice, and no submission, no willingness to (quote) give up all my rights, which is our problem. It’s my problem, it’s your problem as sinful human beings, and as a result what do you get? You get conflict. There’s always that undercurrent of conflict.

Now on understanding one another, notice what it says in verse 7. It says, “Likewise husbands live with your wives in an understanding way.” You say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, what does that mean?” Well, that’s a long story too that we’ll have to unpack in another message, but the fact is that many men don’t take the time to try to understand their wives. They don’t take the time to try to understand where they are coming from, and I know that sometimes it is said that women can be unpredictable, and we know all of that, but we as husbands have the responsibility of understanding our wives—to walk in their shoes, so to speak, that we might get a handle on the kind of people and husbands we should be. There is to be understanding on both sides. Both sides need understanding.

And then we should, of course, understand one another, but now notice how he says, “Accept one another.” I’m going to go here to verse 8. I know there he’s beginning another section. He’s speaking to the whole church, but in speaking to the whole church, wouldn’t this specifically relate to husbands and wives? Of course! Look at what he says, “Finally all of you have unity of mind.” How in the world are you going to have unity when you disagree? Well, the answer is that there are some things that you simply accept about your mate. You simply accept him (and) her even though you have those disagreements, but unity can be achieved without always agreeing on everything. She needs her space. You need your space, but it’s very important though that you achieve that kind of unity.

Every once in a while I have somebody say, “Oh, you know, we’ve been married for 30 years and we’ve never had an argument.” Well, I admire a couple like that but I can only tell you quite frankly that being married to Rebecca for 40 years, our marriage wasn’t quite that boring, if I might say that. We all have our disagreements. We all argue from time to time and God help us, may those instances become fewer and fewer, but the fact is that we need to be able to accept the differences as far as we are able and have unity of mind even if on all issues we don’t have exact agreement, and we accept our spouse with all of his or her failures and weaknesses even as we hope to be accepted ourselves with all of ours, and the Bible says you achieve unity of mind so that you are on the same page spiritually, the same page morally, and the same page in terms of your goals, and that becomes very critical.

So, what we should do is understand one another. We should accept one another, and now notice how Peter begins to talk about the emotional level of unity. He says, “Sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” I’m going to kind of lump those together and simply say that we should have sympathy. I almost said symphony, and by the way, that wouldn’t have been a bad mistake. That’s what a symphony is all about. They are on the same page.

So the Bible says that we should have sympathy one to another. I don’t think that you can have unity simply on the intellectual level. What you need to do is enter into the other person’s fears and anxieties and troubles, and when I read some of the other messages about red flags, you say, “Did you ever get any letters also from men?” The answer is yes and we’ll share some of them with you. For us as men this is very difficult oftentimes to be that sympathetic listener and the person who cares. My wife, Rebecca, for the 40 years that we have been married, suffers from migraine headaches. As a matter of fact, she had a bad night last night though she is here today, and I’ve often felt so guilty because I am not really able to enter into her pain, and I pray for her. Many years ago I fasted for six days and had many concerns on my mind, but number one were her migraines, and God did not see fit to remove them from her. But my question is, “How can I enter into her world and bear her cross with her (which by the way she bears so marvelously)?” There are times when she has one of these migraines and I don’t even know about it, but we as husbands need to have sympathy and be in symphony (I’ll use both words) and begin to enter into one another’s worlds.

Now that is difficult. Husbands, you need to be able to listen to your wife. Don’t simply be as one woman said, “I’m married to the great stone face. He’s into the newspaper. He watches television, and there’s no connection.” You may eat together. You may go places together, but there’s no emotional connection, and some of you, because of perhaps the way in which your wife has responded, maybe because of your background, you are finding it so difficult to connect on that level, but God expects us to. The Scripture speaks of unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Be quick to admit you’re wrong. Be quick. Beat your wife (don’t beat your wife – sometimes the lip event comes out differently than you are thinking). (laughter) Say it this way. Hurry to be faster than your wife to ask forgiveness.

And now we come to the biggie. Everything I’ve said up until now all comes together at this juncture. First Peter 3:9 says, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” Bless one another. Understand one another, and then we are also to be able to accept one another, have sympathy one to another and bless one another.

Now here is where the rub comes. Notice it says, “Do not render evil for evil.” In a marriage relationship, or in any relationship, when you feel as if you have been sinned against, what do you and I naturally do? We sin back. He does this; I’m going to show him a thing or two and I’m going to do that. And as a result you have tension in this relationship because we think to ourselves that because he did this I will do that, or vice versa. Having been sinned against we sin, and the Bible condemns that.

The best example of someone who was sinned against and didn’t sin back was Jesus, who, when he was reviled, reviled not again. When he suffered he uttered no threats but kept entrusting himself to him who judges righteously. Jesus is our example here and you and I would not be redeemed today were it not for the fact that Jesus, when He was sinned against, refused to sin back. And if you are here today and you’ve never trusted Jesus as your Savior, that’s why we offer you His redemption and His forgiveness because He took what He didn’t deserve so that you and I might get what we don’t deserve, namely His forgiveness and His righteousness. What a marvelous thing Jesus did for us, and you there in your guilt and in your despair and emptiness I urge you today to trust in Jesus, who, when He was sinned against did not sin back.

But do you know what happens in marriages? You always find this—that people are more anxious to get even than they are to ask a different kind of question, namely, “How can I glorify God in the midst of this situation? My wife has done A, B, C, or D,” you say, or your husband has done these things, and rather than asking, “How do I get even? What do I do now? How do I straighten this out? How do I teach him a lesson?” you have a different question and that is, “How do I glorify God in the midst of this situation?” and when you begin to ask that question you get different answers because you begin to understand that no matter what mess you are in, today God has given you and me as a child of God (as a daughter of God or as a son of God) the resources to respond in a godly way, and that is what God is looking for.

The issue isn’t whether or not you straighten it out because you maintain your rights and you teach him (or you teach her). That’s not the issue. The issue is how do we have godly responses when we are sinned against? To illustrate this let me read a letter that was given to me some time ago in an entirely different context (and I’m reading it from the very sheet that was given to me). I read this letter because as you read it you’ll notice that there were no red flags. He seemed to be marrying a very godly young woman, and yet things went very badly, but listen for this. Even though they went badly and he was greatly sinned against, he had an entirely different response.

This is to Dr. Lutzer.

“I married a young woman nine years ago who had the same goal as me to be a foreign missionary. Two years later she gave birth to a severely disabled girl and our hopes of overseas missionary work were destroyed. What was worse was that my wife because so angry at God that her heart turned against him. On our six-year anniversary she served me with divorce papers, and also revealed the identity of her new man that she was involved with, and eventually went on to move in with him, and later on marry him. What is more, she moved my children (we have three) out of state to a location eleven hours away from me. When the children do come to visit me she does not send our handicapped daughter because of her distrust in my ability to care for her, which is totally unfounded. I have not had my daughter in my home for fourteen months. I know by all accounts I have every right to be bitter with my ex-wife, however, I have made a promise to God that whatever happens to my ex, I will look out for her. I have always paid child support to her. Her current marriage is floundering (any surprise there?) and appears to be drawing to a close. She does not know this but I have some potential business deals that may grant me outstanding financial returns. I have promised God that should she find herself destitute I will not use it as a means to take our small children away from her like I know many others might do. I would rather provide her with whatever she needs to live. Obviously I do not foresee ever reconciling with her to the point of remarrying, but I do pray that she finds the heart for serving God that she once had, and should she remarry, I pray that she finds a man who will stand as a godly example to the children. This is the most difficult resolution I have ever made in my life, and I don’t boast in it in the least. It is not easy to maintain a positive attitude toward her, but God has given me the grace to make it, and it is making a world of difference in my life.”

When we are sinned against, we glorify God best by not sinning in return.

Let’s pray. I want to close in prayer, of course, but what has God said to you in this hurried message? Some of you perhaps are engaged and based on this message you see red flags all over the place. You should maybe rethink your pending marriage. We’ll talk about that more next week.

Others of you know that there are huge issues in your marriage that just lie there unresolved. You don’t want to touch them. Are you willing today to ask a different question? How can I glorify God in my marriage, rather than how can I maintain my rights, how can I do what is best for me? You talk to God right now if God has talked to you. I haven’t talked to you. You’ve heard words, but only the Holy Spirit can take what I’ve said and bring it home into your life and give you the courage to be obedient. You talk to him right now.

Father, we are so self-absorbed. We don’t even see our sin. We see only our issues and our side of the story. It is tweaked to suit us. Would You come and reveal to us our sin that we might repent, but even those in a marriage who think that they are the right one may be brought to repentance that in humility and brokenness You might give us sympathy for one another, that You might give us hearts that are forgiving? And may we never, never render evil for evil, but bless one another. Lord, You know all the couples listening to this who desperately need Your intervention and help. Grant them the grace to let You do it. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

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