What Does Jack Reacher Have to Do with Marriage

Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher novels, tells about a time when he was unemployed. While trying to begin his writing career, he got into the habit of helping his wife with chores around the house. Then, he started going to the supermarket with her to help carry the groceries. She liked this, because he was quite a bit taller, able to reach items on the top shelves. On one occasion, a little old lady asked for his help. After Lee helped the woman, his wife said, “If this writing thing doesn’t work out, you can always be a reacher in a supermarket.” Instantly he thought, “What a great name for my character.” And Jack Reacher was born.

The irony is that he was helping her in the supermarket, and she helped him by giving him a name for the hero in his stories.

Having a proper understanding of the teaching on “help” in the Bible, couples who want their marriage to last a lifetime become extremely practical and intentional about helping their spouse in both small ways and big ways. They get good at it.

Christian psychologist Gary Smalley said helping is a powerful way of loving, empowering the partner to overcome the disasters that happen to everyone. According to Smalley, an “interest in being with and helping others during a crisis is a demonstration of love.”  Helping during the tough times can make or break a marriage, but having a helpful attitude and demeanor in the give and take of ordinary life is also essential.

Norman Wright and Gary Oliver point out that most couples begin their marriage responding to their partner’s needs by going out of their way to meet those needs. “But in time, this changes. Where previously most of our attention was focused on our spouse’s needs, our attention begins to focus on the fulfillment of our own needs. Each of us moves into the stage of giving less and expecting more.” A relationship that began good, turns into disillusionment, and disillusionment invites what John Gottman calls the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

Dr. Gottman explains that once these behaviors are in the mix, the relationship is headed in the wrong direction, and may be in serious trouble. These actions simply don’t help the situation, nor do they help the people involved. Talking seems useless. Husband and wife start living parallel lives. And loneliness sets in. Couples in a marriage where this is happening might feel like calling it quits. After all, that’s what their friends, their families, their therapist, and the media are telling them to do. You fell in love, it didn’t work out, you fell out of love. Get over it, and move on.

Throwing in the towel, however, might not be the best thing to do. That might just add more pain and failure to lives already in trouble. Instead, the wise couple will look for ways to help each other through the tough times. And, they’ll look for responses that will help the marriage itself.

Marriage isn’t a partnership where one is always weak and the other always strong. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. The idea is to help each other maximize strengths, and overcome weaknesses.

When couples begin to understand that the primary role in marriage is to be a helper, they realize in a very real way that they represent God to each other. The Lord is our helper, and he places husband and wife in the marriage to act on his behalf.

The bottom line is that a husband and wife who will routinely help one another in practical ways day after day will establish a friendship and an atmosphere of love that is contagious, and noticeable to everyone who knows them. They’re on their way to creating unity and developing a marriage that will last a lifetime.

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Help in the Bible

Helping is a major theme in the Bible. First, the Lord himself is our helper. Psalm 33:20 says, We wait for Yahweh; He is our help and shield, and in Psalm 46:1, God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble.

Second, the people of God are called to help others. Leviticus 25:35 says, If your brother becomes destitute and cannot sustain himself among you, you are to support him as a foreigner or temporary resident, so that he can continue to live among you. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 teaches, Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. In each of these scenarios, the helper is the stronger, richer, or more able person.

But the scriptural injunction to help others goes beyond the countryman, the friend, or the neighbor, extending even to one’s enemy. Exodus 23:5, for example, says If you see the donkey of someone who hates you lying helpless under its load, and you want to refrain from helping it, you must help with it. And in Matthew 5:44, Jesus teaches his disciples, But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

A third way we see helping in the Bible is that ministry is considered to be a way of helping people. When describing Paul’s Macedonian call, Acts 16:9 says, During the night a vision appeared to Paul:  A Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us!”

Fourth, there is a spiritual gift called the Gift of Helps in 1 Corinthians 12:28. And God has placed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, next miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, managing, various kinds of languages.

And fifth, in Genesis 2:18, marriage is initiated by God to be a helping relationship.

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