The Rewards We MissErwin W. Lutzer | May 25, 2008
Selected highlights from this sermon
“Good marriages don’t have conflict.” That’s a common myth and is completely false. In order to have a good and fulfilling marriage, it requires communication and forgiveness, even when it isn’t reciprocated.
Too often, we abandon marriages when they get difficult, but if we do that, we are missing out on valuable lessons—rewards which help transform our lives and sanctify our homes.
From time to time I share letters of comments with you, and by the way, I did receive e-mails and comments to last week’s message that are very encouraging from couples with great need who are finding hope. But how do you like this?
“I feel like a thing. Is my conversation so unintelligible that I’m not worth talking to? I could be a post in the ground for all he bothers to communicate with me. I feel as if I don’t know my husband. He has been hiding from me for years.”
Some time ago a woman told me, “My husband is as oppressive as a guard at Auschwitz.”
This past week I spend 3-1/2 hours with a friend of mine whose wife left him. I spent time encouraging him, praying with him. His side of the story of what happened is simply this - that even though he tried to be her servant, he was not able to create for her the perfect world that she really wanted. Furthermore, because of some abuse that she had endured in previous relationships, she not only didn’t want to be involved in any conflict, but also avoided it emotionally and then physically. She decided to leave. You see, in a marriage like that, any risk of getting on to something that is touchy or controversial is impossible because you can’t take that risk if someone does not want to work through conflict.
Well, as you know, this is the second in a series of messages entitled The Myth of the Greener Grass, based on the book by J. Allan Peterson, and I am at least borrowing his title. Today I want to explode the most common myth that there is about marriage. The most common myth is simply this, that good marriages don’t have conflict. “If I had married the right one why indeed we wouldn’t be having fights and arguments. We’d be getting along just perfectly, so because I married the wrong one, where is the escape hatch?”
I’m here to tell you that almost all marriages have conflict. The difference between fulfilling marriages and unfulfilling ones is how they relate to conflict, and how they work out their differences. You can be here today and you can hate your mate, and if you listen carefully, God will teach you how to love, and you, too, can have a fulfilling marriage if you meet certain requirements that we’ll get into in just a moment. But you see, we expect too much from marriage. We have our sights far too high. There are people who expect marriage to do what only God is able to do, and so here’s a scenario.
Here’s a woman who marries a klutz. It’s a good word. I checked it in the dictionary. (laughter) He’s self-absorbed. He can’t feel anything for anybody else, but he feels his own hurt very deeply. But he is a Christian. At least he attends church and has a good job so she marries him. She marries an unhappy self-centered man and she expects this self-centered man of all things to make her happy. How can an unhappy man make you happy? He’s failing at it, isn’t he? Then you have a man who marries a flighty woman. She’s the life of the party. Everybody likes her. She is oftentimes the object of attention and furthermore, she’s pretty, and because he can see a lot better than he can think (laughter) he decides that he’s going to marry her. But he hadn’t counted on something. Because her father left her when she was a teenager she had a lot of unacknowledged anger that she had never dealt with, and he gets married and now he discovers that she has two Pullman freight cars full of baggage, and he doesn’t know how to handle it, and pretty soon the very things that drove him to her (attracted him to her) are the very things now that he just can’s stand. She spends too much. She’s not focused. She’s everything that he doesn’t want. She (quote) isn’t the woman he married. We’ll talk about that in just a moment.
Well I am here to give you hope. No matter how disappointed you have been in your marriage. No matter how many disappointments and how unsatisfying and mismatched you are, there is hope. When a Britisher was told that there are many divorces in America because of incompatibility, I’m told that he was shocked. He said, “I thought that incompatibility was the purpose of marriage. I mean, why would anyone want to get married if you were not interested in incompatibility?”
That’s the whole point of marriage – incompatibility, and God is going to use marriage to work through those incompatibilities to do his work. You stay tuned. In order for this to happen I think that there are at least five assumptions that I need to make en route to a fulfilled marriage. Listen to these very carefully.
First of all, it does take two of you. You can’t work on a marriage too well alone. You can respond in a godly way, but you can’t really work on a marriage alone. Some of you may say, “Well, you know, that ends it right there. He’s not interested in counseling,” or “She can’t change, so we’re out of here. We’re checking out of this sermon right now.”
My dear friend, you understand why that attitude exists, don’t you? The man marries a woman who is judgmental. She’s judging everything. She’s a perfectionist. He can never please her, and so he just shuts down because of her judgmentalism. There was a man who was on an airplane, a Christian man, sitting next to a non-Christian, and the Christian wanted to witness to him and said, “Are you ready for judgment day?” The man said, “What is it? When is it?” And he said, “Well, it could be very soon, or it could be much later,” and the guy said, “When you find out those dates you let me know because I am sure that my wife wants to attend both times.” (laughter) He’s not going to open up if he confesses to you a struggle with pornography and you freak out over it. He’s not going to open up. He’s going to clam up and become what one woman said about her husband – the great stone face.
There are some marriages in which there is so much contempt and so much hostility that when he says blue she says green; when he says red she says brown. You can predict it. My dear friend, you are never going to have a fulfilled marriage, the both of you, unless both of you decide right now that you are no longer going to be adversaries. You are going to become allies. You’re going to be on the same page and you’re going to start to work this out. It does take two of you.
The second assumption is that you have to go through pain to get there. There may be some exceptions, but almost always you have to go through pain. You know what marriage is? Marriage is looking into a full-length mirror that shows you your sin. That’s what marriage does. It takes two sinful, selfish people and puts them together in intimacy and says, “Get along,” and it’s not easy.
Because of my Canadian background I love to drink tea. As a matter of fact, I didn’t have coffee this morning. I had a cup of tea at home, and also a cup of tea here at the church. There is a woman here, by the way, who loves to bring me boxes of tea. That’s her ministry, and I thank God for that because I’ve always got lots of tea. Well, you know when I looked at that tea bag this morning – you know a little white fluffy bag with a little string – I really did not know what was in it until I put it in hot water. And when you put a tea bag in hot water you discover the kind of tea that it is, and you’ve got all this brown stuff swirling around and there’s nothing, by the way, now in the water that wasn’t in the tea bag at the beginning, is there? Now here’s the thing. That little tea bag, that sweet little package represents the single life. Nobody really knows what’s inside because you’ve never had an opportunity to demonstrate what is inside. The moment you say, “I do,” you are in hot water. All right? (laughter) You’re in hot water, and suddenly everything begins to come out. “She makes me so mad,” the man says. Now wait a moment. Where’s all that anger coming from? There’s nothing that she can draw out of you that wasn’t already there. You know the dirty water? That was in that sweet little tea bag that you fooled her with before you were married, but it’s all there.
You can’t get from here to there without facing yourself and facing pain, which leads to a third assumption. We need to have a different perspective on marriage. Some of our staff this week introduced me to the book, “Sacred Marriage,” by Gary Thomas, an excellent book, by the way, but Gary Thomas says in his book that the real purpose of marriage isn’t happiness. You thought that you were going to be happy? Well, you know the real purpose from God’s standpoint isn’t happiness. It is holiness. He quotes someone as saying this. “Marriage is the merciless revealer, the great white searchlight turned on in the darkest places of human nature, and it is there in the searchlight that our sin is revealed so that God can work on it,” and he’s got a lot to work on, doesn’t he?
It’s so easy for us to see other people’s sin. You know in the Catholic tradition they have confession and I heard a priest who said a woman came to him and she started to tell him about all the things her husband did to her, and so forth, and he stopped her and said, “Whose sins are you here to confess?” (laughter) So what God is going to do is to work on us.
“Oh,” you say, “I knew right from the beginning that this was a bad marriage. I didn’t love her right from the beginning.” I have a couple of comments. First of all what you are confessing to is that you’re really not a Christian, because the Bible says you are supposed to love your wife. Secondly, could I be blunt here? You are an idiot to marry someone you don’t love, and thirdly, it has nothing to do with that. It has to do with this question. How do you keep your covenant in the presence of a holy God who was there to observe your vows?
So with that background we now go to number four. Yes, you must open up lines of communication. Men, you have to start to talk. You great stone faces out there, you’re going to have to talk, and wives you’re going to have to accept your husband and not be judgmental against him so that he can talk and feel as if he is heard. And wives should be able to talk and communicate, and the husbands actually listen. Without communication you can’t have a fulfilled marriage. Two people can be in the same house, under the same roof, and be miles apart emotionally and spiritually. You are going to have to face the pain.
I was talking to a man in Christian ministry, of all things. This is not some person who is distantly related to the Christian message. He’s a Christian minister. He goes home and takes care of the kids, and makes the evening meal. What is his wife doing? She’s on the computer from about seven in the evening to eleven at night in a chat room, and that’s her life – the chat room. My dear friend, if you want to have a fulfilled marriage you are going to have to say no to the silliness of chat rooms, and you are going to have to begin to wake up and minister and connect with the mate God gave you. You’ve heard a hundred different stories and you think you’ve heard them all, and then suddenly somebody comes up with another one. So what you need to do is to open the lines of communication.
Is your marriage a priority, or isn’t it? If the chat room is more important than your husband, what are you expecting out of marriage? And where do you think that is leading you, by the way? And men, if you are on the computer, watching all kinds of stuff, how is that contributing to nourishing your wife? Are you serious about making a go of it or aren’t you? Are you just playing a game? Are you going to counseling so that you can say, “Well you know we tried counseling and it doesn’t work?” “Oh yeah, counseling? We were there. We tried counseling,” and now there’s an excuse for you to leave, and God says, “No.”
There’s a fifth assumption and that is that you have to learn the unfairness of forgiveness. There is something about forgiveness that is just so unfair and that’s what makes it so difficult for us to be good forgivers. It was so unfair that Jesus was credited with our sin when he was sinless. That was so unfair, but it had to be done so that you and I are forgiven, and some of you have been treated unfairly, but what you need to do is to realize that there is forgiveness. Now if there’s been infidelity, of course there’s a whole process there where trust has to be developed and so forth, and an excellent book on that has been written by someone who counsels in this area, but the point is that we’re not giving a simple solution that no matter what he does, just forgive. No, no, there are other things to be said, but forgiveness must be there or your fulfillment will not happen. Now I have said all of that by way of introduction.
Now what I’d like to do is to suggest that there are rewards that we miss when we don’t work through our differences and find fulfillment in our marriage. There are rewards that we miss, and for this, let’s take our Bibles and turn to the fifth chapter of the book of Ephesians, a passage that is very unpopular today because we have bought into the world’s values, and we’re so sensitive about what the world says about the role of women. No wonder our marriages are in trouble because we have not looked at God’s word and followed it, and the first lesson that we learn is the lesson of submission. If you are here today and you are new or you are visiting, I just want to explain to you something about Christians. Christians love the word “submit.” They love it, and they love it because Jesus Christ submitted to the Father. Where would we be today if Jesus did not submit to the Father? They love it because the Bible says that all of us are to submit to Christ. They love it because the Bible says that in the Church young men should submit to those who are in leadership - to the elders. We love the word “submit,” and it lies at the heart of Christian order and Christian faith.
So with that background we look here at verse 22 of Ephesians 5. “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” And there are some wives who are present who are saying, “I don’t like that.” The reason they are saying they don’t like that is because of fear of what their husband might do or has done to them, so I need to clarify. We are not saying here that you should not ever disagree with your husband. If you have a wise husband he’s going to consult you about everything. Rebecca has kept me from so many foolish decisions that I couldn’t even enumerate them, but at the same time it therefore does not mean that a wife agrees with her husband all the time. It doesn’t mean that the will of Christ is subservient to the will of her husband. Obedience to Christ trumps obedience to the husband. We understand that. If you are being abused, well then run for help. Don’t walk. Get help. But what this means is that the disposition of the wife should be to submit to her husband, and unless there are some extenuating circumstances, she should submit, and not merely out of duty but her disposition should be one to submit and to support him.
The Bible says in the last part of verse 33, “See that she respects her husband.” That’s a separate sermon. Husbands need respect. Sorry, ladies, but it’s biblical. They need respect. All right, let me tell a story. Here’s a woman whose marriage is in trouble. It’s breaking apart, and I said to her, “Are you submissive to your husband in the matter of spending?” I had a hunch that she wasn’t, and I remember a friend saying to me, “You know, my wife likes to go shopping but she never looks at the decimal points.” So I said, “Are you submissive?” and she said, “Why should I be? He bought a new car for himself, and if he buys a new car for himself, well then why can’t I buy A, B, C, D, E and F, even if he doesn’t like it?” And that woman had the audacity to pray to God to help her marriage. I believe that there are so many angels in heaven whose full-time job is to take these kinds of prayers and throw them in the wastebasket where they belong. God says to himself, “Why should I answer her prayer for her marriage when she ought to get on her knees and say, ‘I am a rebellious, disobedient wife.’” Her husband wasn’t being unreasonable. She should have repented of her sin. Then she could have begun to say, “Oh God, help my marriage.”
Prayer, you see, is oftentimes like an air raid shelter. Its intention is to justify our rebellion. “Well, I’m praying about it.” Well, stop praying about it and repent about it. If you were to do that who knows what God might do? So you say, “Well, does the husband ever submit to the wife?” Sure, there are times. It says in verse 21, “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” We often submit to our wives because husbands, if you think you are off the hook, I have to warn you about what is coming. All right? But first of all, we miss the lesson of submission. We miss that lesson if all that we think about is the way is to bail out of the relationship.
Let’s go on to a second reward that we miss – the lesson of selflessness. Now, how do you like this? Verse 25 says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” Wow! Husbands love your wives as Jesus Christ loved the church. Have you ever given yourself up for her? The Bible says, “Love her as Christ did and gave himself up for her.” This is a kind of love that doesn’t depend upon how she looks, or whether or not she is the same woman as you married.
Howard Hendricks likes to tell the story of a guy who said, “Howie, you haven’t heard anything until you’ve heard about my wife.” Hendricks said, “All right, tell me,” and he began to write one thing after another on a note pad all the things the man said, and then Hendricks said, “Why in the world would you be so stupid as to marry a woman like that?” He said, “Well, when I married her she wasn’t like that.” And Hendricks said, “Oh, I see. You made her that way, did you?” (laughter)
Notice how selfless the love of Jesus Christ is. Despite our fickleness, despite our selfishness, despite our disloyalty, when we make Jesus look bad, he still loves us. Husbands love your wives as Jesus Christ loved the church. Camp on that verse for a week and see what it will do for you. Selflessness!
I came across a quotation about what dying to self really is, and it’s from an unknown source, but here it is. “When you are forgotten or neglected or purposefully set at naught and you sting and hurt with the insult or the oversight, but your heart is happy being counted worthy to suffer for Christ, that’s dying to self. When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, when your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed and you refuse to let anger to arise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient loving silence, that is dying to self. When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity or any annoyance, when you can stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensitivity, and endure it as Jesus endured it, that is dying to self. When you are content with any food, any offering, any raiment, any climate, any society, any attitude, any interruption by the will of God, that is dying to self. When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation or to record your own good works or itch after commendation, when you can truly love to be unknown, that is dying to self. When you can see your brother prosper and have his needs met, and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy, or question God while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances, that is dying to self. When you can receive correction and reproof from someone of less stature than yourself, and you can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart, that is dying to self.”
Wow! I need to tell you in humble confession today that it has taken me not months but years to see my own selfishness in my relationship with Rebecca. We as men just don’t get it until God clobbers us with a two by four, and even when he does that, we make other excuses for the pain. God says, “Serve your wife. Don’t be her boss for a while. Serve her,” and you’ll notice that the Scripture says, “as Christ loved the church.” Don’t give me this that she isn’t the woman you married or this shouldn’t have happened in the first place. The question now is how do you keep your covenant and how do you let God sanctify you and purify you and bring to the surface all of that hostility and all of that self-will and all of that selfishness through the intimacy of marriage? That’s the issue.
Number three is purity – purifying love. You’ll notice what Jesus is up to. Well, he is sanctifying the church. You see, men, in case you missed it, you and I are to be Jesus to our wives. I remember counseling a young woman who was going to get married, and she didn’t know whether or not she should marry this guy, and I said, “Well, are you getting married to Jesus?” Well, that ended it for her, but that’s the analogy. She’s to be the church. You’re to be Jesus. I mean after a while there should be some family resemblance, right?
Now notice what Jesus is up to. He’s washing the church, sanctifying her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, so that he might present the church to himself, and ultimately to the Father, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish, and that’s what husbands are to do with their wives. They are supposed to be interested in their wife’s walk with God, and their wife’s purity and holiness, and that’s why the Bible says we are to lead the home. It doesn’t mean that you have to be a Bible teacher, or you have to teach a Sunday school class or know the Bible well, but do you encourage your wife by praying for her? Do you ever pray together? Is there in your mind an attitude here of service and helpfulness and encouragement as her leader? That’s the question that needs an answer, and so what the Bible says here is that we have the responsibility negatively to keep our wives from evil. This is why there are some women who are working in environments where a Christian woman should never work because it is an environment of temptation and it exposes her to evil.
You say, “Well, I’m single,” and you say, “How do I know that the man I’m going to marry is going to be interested in my purity and my sanctification so that when I die I am presented and made honorable to Jesus Christ?” Young ladies, listen. Here’s a good criteria. How is he treating you during your dating experience? Is he encouraging you sexually? Does he want to convince you to go to bed with him before you get married? If he does, I suggest you take that fish and throw him back into the lake. All right? (applause) I think more of you should have clapped on that one. (laughter and applause)
Many men are out there who say, “I love you.” What they really mean is “I love myself and I want you. They are selfish, egotistical, self-absorbed, evaluating only your body – not your mind and not your heart and not your character, and they are unworthy of you, young ladies. They are unworthy of you. Jesus doesn’t want an unholy wife, and because of that he sanctifies the Church and purifies it, and that’s what he’s doing in our hearts and that’s what our marriages should do. The whole point of marriage is to purify us, and as I’ve mentioned, there’s nothing that brings our sins to the surface as clearly as the intimacy of marriage.
Number four, there is intimacy. This is such a rich passage. Once again, I say to myself, this should have been a longer series, but I’ll pick this up at some future time. Notice what the text is saying here. It says in verse 28, “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.” Oh, what have you done for yourself recently? “Oh,” you say, “I spend a lot of time making myself happy.” Okay, spend an equal amount of time making your wife happy, and in the process you will be happy because she’s one body with you. You know, if you have a broken arm and you are trying to get help for the arm, it becomes important to you. Why? It’s because it’s a member of your body and when one part of the body hurts, the whole body hurts. When you have a disgruntled, unhappy wife, you hurt because she’s part of your body, so whatever it is that you do to yourself (and most of us are very self-absorbed at this point), you do for your wife, because in the process you are blessed. Do you want to be blessed? You bless you wife, and you’ll be blessed. That’s what the text says. “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it, just as Jesus Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” And then it says, “A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife (that’s a separate sermon too), and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound. Wow! So what he really means is that every time you pursue happiness for yourself, if you put that amount of energy into the pursuit of happiness on the part of your spouse, it comes back to you.
Now I told you the ultimate purpose of marriage was actually sanctification and holiness, not happiness. But here’s what I want to say now. When we get to this point, when our spouses are fulfilled, we get fulfilled and our happiness is found in their happiness. To summarize it, a happy wife – a happy life! That’s where your happiness is found, and I need to say again that in our marriage Rebecca often has found her happiness in my happiness. To my shame I am only learning to find my happiness in her happiness, and that’s really where happiness really comes from. It is the mutual fulfillment of one another when you no longer see your own needs as being superior, and it is so easy to justify. In my case, you know I’m doing ministry. It’s so easy to justify, and you really get down to what is important and what God is going to hold us accountable for, and suddenly we realize that the answer lies right here. If you win the battle in your marriage you can almost win the battle anywhere else. No wonder Paul says this mystery is great.
Now I have two concluding comments here about those of us who are married and all of our struggles, and those of you who are going to rebuild a broken relationship. And I believe that that’s happening, by the way. From the response I received to last week’s sermon, many of you are grappling with building a new relationship. And by the way, don’t feel hesitant at all to go for counseling. Do you know what the problem is? Most people who go for counseling go when everything is in shambles and it’s too late. Go early and get some perspective, and go willing to learn, not saying, “Well what is he going to tell me?” Well probably something you should know as a matter of fact.
Let me make a couple of comments.
Number one, your response to disappointment in your marriage is just as important as the issue is itself. As I was thinking about this yesterday as to how I could say it with the clarity that no one would miss, this is what came to me. When your mate sins against you, don’t respond by sinning against him or against her. That you’ve been sinned against gives you no permission to sin. It may well be that his sin is an entirely different sin. It may be a sin of the flesh. Now suddenly your sin can be a respectable sin. It can be the sin of anger, of the silent treatment. It can be the sin of punishing through what can be called oftentimes a passive-aggressive nature. That can be your sin.
Let me give you a scenario. The husband on Sunday morning wants to get to church on time, and he has good reason to because he’s a Sunday school teacher. And he’s on his way and he goes out in the car, and he’s waiting for his wife, and he’s praying, “Oh God, give me patience,” but eventually he can’t help it. He presses the horn. She hears it, and her response is, “So that’s what he’s doing. I’ll just let the old goat stay out there for a little while longer as I take my wonderful time.” And so he presses the horn again. She gets into the car and it is dead silent on the way to church. Finally he says, “Couldn’t you be ready in time, Honey?” She says, “Well, are you the one who got the kids up? Did you make breakfast? Let me ask you that. I had so many things to do. I didn’t see you doing all these things, did I?” And then he parks his car, and her parting shot before he goes to teach a Sunday school class is, “Well, what is your class on today? The filling of the Holy Spirit?” (laughter) She socked him right where she knew she wanted to sock him, and she got it all out of her system without raising her voice, without so much as shouting, but it was exactly what she wanted. If he sinned against her by telling her to hurry (I doubt whether or not he did - and by the way, those of you who come to church late, [laughter] and that’s a whole lot of you, I’ve often prayed for you. I’ve often asked God to forgive your sins and to make you come on time at the judgment seat of Christ.) You know maybe we could say he sinned against her because of his impatience, but there’s no doubt she sinned against him. That’s the way some marriages are. When your mate sins against you, don’t you dare now sin against him. There are ways to handle conflict, and one way is not for you now to sin.
Second, your relationship with Jesus Christ stands at the heart of your marriage. Look at the text. “Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church.” The whole bottom line here was this. When God wanted to demonstrate the relationship of Jesus to the Church, the whole purpose was he invented marriage. Many of us think that when the Apostle Paul was looking for a good analogy between Jesus and the Church he said, “You know what? I think marriage would really work. That would be a good illustration.” That’s not the way it was. Right from the beginning (Genesis 3) the intention was that God wanted our marriages to be pointers to the Trinity, the submission of the Son to the Father, the order that is in the Trinity, and the love that the Father then would have toward the redeemed, and the Son in submission redeeming. Our marriages are supposed to demonstrate to the Christian world the truth of the Gospel, and lying at the heart of it is Jesus Christ and your relationship to him.
If you have never trusted Christ as Savior, all of this would make little sense to you. You’d say, “Where is this coming from?” Well, it’s coming from the Christian context of those who have trusted Christ as Savior. They have been redeemed and because they are redeemed they, like Jesus, who redeemed them are a covenant-keeping people, and as a result they experience the fulfillment that God promises.
If you have never trusted Christ as Savior this is your opportunity to do it. Even as I speak to you, the Holy Spirit can be speaking to you, showing you your need and showing you that Jesus can be your Savior. Receive him, and if you know him, go home and have a long talk with your spouse. Talk about things you’ve never talked about before. Accept one another and the grace of God will be there to help you.
Father, we do ask in the name of Jesus that much grace shall be poured into the lives of those who have listened to this message. We pray today, Father, for those marriages that are in trouble, and we ask, oh God, please be merciful. Bring fulfillment, bring happiness and show us our sin. Teach us the meaning of repentance, and we ask, Lord God, that through your grace our marriages might be pointers to the Trinity and to the love of the Son toward us. We need you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.