Broken & Hurting

Many loneliness-1879453_1920people experience the worst life has to offer. Sometimes, the pain is the result of illness or accident, but at times it is intentionally inflicted by other people.

Debbie grew up in a Christian home, and shortly after high school, met Kyle, a young man who attended the same church. After dating for a year, Kyle asked her to marry him, and she said “yes,” expecting to live happily ever after.

A few months after the wedding, however, Debbie was still on cloud nine when something went terribly wrong. When she got home from work one day, she found out he’d been drinking, and in a rage, he hit her. Horrified, she called their pastor, who provided counseling for several weeks. Things seemed to be getting better, until one night Kyle put a loaded gun to her head. In a panic, Debbie managed to escape. Even though her grandmother lived several miles away, Debbie somehow found the strength to run all the way. She survived, but something inside had broken, making it hard to trust anyone. She left Kyle and abandoned her faith in Christ.Silhouette 2

Every one of us is broken in some way. We might look fine on the outside, but inside we’re hurting. If we’re to find healing or any positive result from the pain, it might be helpful to take a look at Job, James, and Jesus to see how we can respond in painful circumstances.

Even though he did everything right, Job suffered terrible business losses, extreme physical pain, and undeserved accusations from his friends. His wife also lost everything, and chose to let go of hope and faith, suggesting that he do the same. Instead, Job turned to the Lord, and began to understand more fully his own weakness and need for God. These are important lessons that sometimes have to be learned the hard way. We have a tendency to be self-sufficient, unaware of our desperate need for God. In his darkest moments, Job chose to turn toward the Lord, and so can we.

The second possibility for meaning in our pain is character growth. James 1:2-4 tells us to remain joyful when we endure tests and trials, because they will help us mature. It is true that pain can break us, but it also has a way of strengthening us and deepening us. The difference is how we respond to the crisis and to the work of the Holy Spirit.

A third potential benefit of tribulation is that it can help us develop compassion for others. When Jesus looked at the crowds, he saw their need and was moved to compassion. He cared about people and saw their hurts. He felt their need, and acted. He fed them, healed them, taught them, loved them. The Apostle Paul picks up this theme in 2 Corinthians 1:4 when he says the Lord comforts us in our troubles so that we can comfort others.

Some people respond to pain by becoming hardened, bitter, or angry. Others are jealous of those who seem to have everything going right. If we want to grow in Christ and enjoy life to its fullest, however, we can’t afford to let either of those happen. Instead, we can turn to the Lord, mature as human beings, and develop a sense of compassion for others.

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There’s a song in the musical version of Les Misérables that a Christian pastor sings to a hungry, homeless criminal, “Come in, sir, for you are weary, and the night is cold out there. There’s a bed to rest til morning, rest from pain and rest from wrong.”

That’s what the Lord is saying to us in Matthew 11:28. “Come to me, you who are tired, carrying a heavy load, and I will give you rest.” Rest from pain, and rest from wrong.

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Check Your Baggage

Luggage 2When we say a person is carrying a lot of baggage, what we mean is there has been some pain, abuse, or failure in the past, and the person hasn’t finished dealing with it. We often have trouble letting go of it, healing from it, or forgiving the people involved. Whatever is in “the baggage” still has a negative impact on present-day relationships and attitudes.

There’s a Biblical Principle of Marriage in Genesis 2:24: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” I call this verse the Old Testament equivalent of Philippians 3:13-14: “But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Spiritually, in order to fully live in the present we have to let go of the past. If we want to enjoy the Christian life and grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, we have to allow God’s grace to set us free from our past, and move forward in a new direction, with different habits and attitudes, forming a different lifestyle that is shaped by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. This might entail ending some relationships and forming new ones.

Relationally, if we want today’s marriage to succeed, we have to stop focusing on previous relationships, good or bad, and live the life we are currently called to live. We can’t afford to live in the past.

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While Genesis states that it is the parents who must be left in order to form a new unity, there are others besides parents we must leave behind as well. These might include a boyfriend, girlfriend, or a previous lover or spouse. There may be a number of people and situations that have to be included in what we let go of: friends, abuse, wealth, lifestyle, job, fame, sports, or any number of things.

One couple lost a son in a boating accident. The woman drove her husband to divorce because she was unable to let go of the pain and loss, unable to heal, and unable to stop blaming him. She couldn’t let go of yesterday, so it ruined today.

House 1But it’s not only the negative that has to be left behind. Sometimes we have to let go of some positives: the good old days, a happy first marriage, the perfect job, a previous home and neighborhood, wealth, fame, or even a dream or ambition. An athlete who can no longer play is often headed for emotional and relationship disaster. A business person or a Soldier whose career comes to an end might find it hard to stop living that life and transition to retirement. Someone who loses a leg or an arm in an accident at work can have a tough time accepting the new reality, and letting go of the previous physical ability. Cancer survivors have to get used to “the new normal.” But anyone who can’t accept the new normal is in trouble. So is their marriage.

It is crucial that we understand the power of forgiveness. When we forgive, we release ourselves and others from the pain and injustice of the past. But forgiveness doesn’t happen quickly. It can’t happen quickly. It happens slowly, with a little understanding, and with some confusion. It has to sort out the anger, the pain, the betrayal, and the injustice. When forgiveness finishes its work, however, both the forgiver and the offender have been renewed, transformed, and liberated.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean there will be no scars. We typically carry the consequences of pain long after the hurting stops and forgiveness is complete. The singing group Point of Grace sings a song called “Heal the Wound.” The words of the chorus deal with scars that might remain for a lifetime.

  • Heal the wound but leave the scar
  • A reminder of how merciful You are
  • I am broken, torn apart
  • Take the pieces of this heart
  • And heal the wound but leave the scar

Water and ReedsOne middle-aged couple recognized that they still carried some of the baggage from their past, so they decided to do something about it. They had both been in a previous marriage, and still felt some attachment and affection for their exes. They also felt guilt and pain because of some of the decisions they had made early in life. They called their pastor for guidance. He suggested that they create a private ritual, during which they would identify the aspects of their past that they wanted to be free from. They also talked about how to forgive each other, and how to receive God’s forgiveness. They took a month to plan, and then went camping. The second day, they took a hike along the river, until they came to a suitable spot. They both wrote down the specifics of what they wanted to let go of. Then they read them to each other. They prayed and asked God to wash them, forgive them, and help them to let go of the past. They also asked each other for forgiveness. Then they threw their lists into the river. Watching them float downstream was therapeutic. The river represented a washing or cleansing, and they were able to start fresh, committed to each other, committed to living in the present.

To the degree that a couple is willing and able to leave the past, they have an opportunity to create a new unity as a couple. The opposite is also true. To the degree that they cannot or will not let go of the past, they will be unable to create the unity essential to growing a healthy, happy marriage.

Suitcases

Marriage Seminar in Kentucky

Couple 4Linda and I are speaking at a marriage seminar in Kentucky the weekend of March 4-6. Slightly south of Lousville is a town called Radcliff, which is right next door to Fort Knox. Pastor Josh Nagel of a church called Lifeline Assembly has asked us to come. And you are invited. The focus of the weekend will be “Getting to the Next Level.”

If you’d like to join us for a fun experience that is designed to help you build a great marriage, please consider crashing the party. Here’s how you can get more information about the event.

Lifeline Assembly

Phone: (270) 351-6150

Address: 1116 South Dixie Blvd. Radcliff, Kentucky 40160

Email: lifelineag@gmail.com

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/57756292718/

Couple 3

Getting to the Next Level? Yep. Every couple gets to a point in their life where they need to get away, take some time to focus on where they are and what’s become of their relationship, and then do something about it. No, not punch each other in the jaw. Our approach will be to take a few Biblical Principles of Marriage, add the results of clinical research and the best writing on marriage in the country, plus our own experience as a couple. The result is a weekend experience that’ll help you take the next step in building a great marriage.

Mapping Census 2000:  Location Maps

Unity Produces Winners

QBMy wife and I watch college football on Saturdays during the fall, and in the spring we watch college basketball’s “March Madness,” featuring the top teams in the nation. The significance of teamwork makes sense to us, so we use the expression, “We’re on the same team” to emphasize the unity between us.

The players and coaches have different personalities and roles on the team, but a common goal unites them. They win or lose as a team. Therefore, everyone in the organization focuses intently on teamwork, chemistry, working together, and developing a team spirit.

Similarly, in marriage we have different personalities and interests. We have different roles in the relationship, the family, and the household. But the bottom line is that we win or lose together. That’s why we can’t afford to fight against each other. It makes no sense to compete against each other. We are on the same team. If my wife succeeds, then I succeed. If I do well, she does well.

Yankee Stadium

Several years ago I noticed that whether talking about the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup, or the World Series, after it’s all over and the champagne is spraying in the winning team’s locker room, a reporter inevitably asks the question, “What is it about this team that brought you this championship?” The answer is always, “There’s a camaraderie on the field and off. We get along. We care about each other. We have a chemistry. We’re a band of brothers, a family, and it carries over to the way we play.”

They’re talking about unity, and unity produces winners.

The team concept helps Linda and me stay focused on unity. But each couple has to discover what works for them, because unity produces winners.

For this reason, I suggest that each couple take some time to talk about unity, define it, and come up with a slogan or word picture that summarizes for you the essence of what unity means. That way, you develop a verbal shorthand that you can use to remind each other.

Woman Thinking

You don’t cripple your partner, because the team needs him. You don’t cuss at or discourage your team member, because you need her to be at her best if the team is going to win. And you don’t bring up past offenses after they’ve been dealt with. A team that implodes and fights against itself is a team in trouble.

This Biblical Principle of Marriage comes from three scriptures. The first is Genesis 2:24: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one.”

The second is Matthew 12:25: “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” It would be absurd for a king to attack his own realm. That would be a recipe for disaster. No entity can last very long with internal division and strife.

But my favorite scripture on the crucial dynamics of unity is Matthew 18:19-20: “Truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, I am there.”

The basis for expecting prayer to be answered isn’t merely the fact that two or three are in agreement, but because the Lord himself is with you. This is a continuation and development of the Old Testament theme of God dwelling among his people, and of Matthew’s earlier account of Immanuel, the God who is with us.

Where there is unity, the presence of God is invited in and the power of God is activated. But the opposite is also true. Disunity unplugs the power of God and evicts the presence of the Lord. That is why unity is essential in our churches, and in our homes.

Holding Hands

The bottom line is this: anything that builds or promotes unity in the marriage is worth doing, and anything that destroys or hinders unity must not be done. We have to be that practical about it, that pragmatic.

When a couple will do what it takes to build and maintain unity, the results are astounding. The presence and the power of God are at work in their life. Miracles begin to happen. They are healthier and happier. They can weather any storm and solve any problem. They win the battle against the kids. And, they develop a great sex life.

The opposite is also true. A couple who won’t maintain unity, will undo the blessings and lose out on what the Lord has in mind for them. Interestingly, it’s entirely up to you. It isn’t up to chance, as if some people just get lucky and pick the right guy or the right gal, and it all works out. And it isn’t up to just one of the persons in the marriage. It has to be decided and acted on together.

Happy Brown CoupleUnity invites the power and the presence of God into the home, and prevents the devil from getting a foothold in the most important of all human relationships. The wise couple will recognize this and do whatever it takes to promote unity, and stop doing anything that hinders it.

God’s Plan for Marriage?

Paul & Linda Linzey

God’s plan is for marriage to be full of beauty and glory, happiness and harmony, each partner thinking of the other. But it doesn’t always start out that way, or if it does, it doesn’t always stay that way. People become self-centered, wanting their own way. Or, they are so fragile or bruised from their past that they are afraid of being hurt again. Some couples mean well, but don’t have a clue as to what it takes to grow the kind of marriage they really do want.

Linda and I met at a Christian college. We were preparing to enter lives of ministry. Shortly after meeting in the cafeteria, we started talking about dating. One of her classes was a psychology course in which her professor gave the students a list of one hundred questions to talk about if you were in a serious relationship and wanted it to work out long-term. W’d go to a local park and talk about the questions and issues identified on the handout. This started shaping our relationship, and within five months we were engaged.

PD_0333During the months leading up to the wedding, married friends from our church tended to say things like, “You guys are in love now, but wait ‘til after the wedding!” It made us wonder, “What’s going to happen after the wedding?” After we’d been married a few months those same friends would say, “You guys are in love now, but wait ‘til you have kids!” “Uh-oh! What’s going to happen when we have kids?” After we had three children, those same friends said, “You guys are in love now, but wait til they’re teenagers!” By that time we figured out that those friends, while they meant well, simply didn’t know how to grow a good, healthy, happy, Christian marriage and family.

In our early marriage, my wife and I meant well. We loved each other and wanted what was best for each other. But both of us came from families that modeled poor relational styles, and we began to automatically reenact the marriages of our parents.

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Knowing that we wanted something better than either of us had witnessed, we read books on marriage, attended seminars and couples retreats, talked with our pastors and several marriage counselors. We had our share of tough times, especially during the years after our sons were born, but on our twentieth anniversary, we had some friends over to the house to celebrate. I was in the living room with some friends, and Linda was in the kitchen when I heard someone ask her, “So, what’s it like being married to the same guy for twenty years?” I waited for her answer, and then heard my wife say, “You know, in twenty years we’ve had seventeen good ones.”

At first I got mad. What do you mean we’ve had three bad years? But then I realized that if a baseball player went 17 for 20 at the plate, the batting average would be .850, which isn’t bad. I think I can identify the years she had in mind as not being good ones. I came home from work one day, shortly after our second son was born, and Linda asked me if we were ever going to be happy again. I was twenty-four and she was twenty-two. We had two young sons. We weren’t getting enough sleep. We were dirt poor. Life was just hard. I answered, “I don’t know, Sweet-Heart. I think so, but I don’t know. How ’bout if we stay faithful to each other, treat each other right, and see what happens?”

Things did get better. Eventually we were happy again. We could tell when it got better because we could laugh together again. We were no longer angry all the time. We could look at each other and smile. We liked being in the same room again. It would have been real easy to call it quits during the tough times. It would have been easy to mistreat each PD_0227other, or to give in to the temptation to have an affair. But we didn’t. We stayed faithful. We treated each other right. We made the decision to honor each other.

On our thirtieth anniversary, I took my wife out to dinner. While talking at the restaurant, Linda said to me, “You know, in thirty years together we’ve had twenty-seven good ones.”

Hmmmmm. Next August we’ll celebrate our 40th. I wonder what the count will be.

Designed to Help

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The first term in the Bible for couples is not husband, wife, spouse, partner, or mate. The first word for a married person is “Helper.”

After each day of creation, God looked at what he made and said, “It’s good.” But after he made man, he looked and said, “Hmmm. Something’s not good here. He needs help” (Genesis 2:18).

It’s important for both husband and wife to keep in mind that their first and most important role in the marriage is to help. It’s also a good idea to understand what “help” means and what it doesn’t mean. For example, when God made a woman to be the man’s helper, it doesn’t mean she is less important. It doesn’t mean he is the main character and she’s in a supporting role.

Throughout the Bible, God is called our helper. We see this in Deuteronomy 33:29, “The Lord is my shield and helper,” in Psalm 10:14, “God, you are the helper to the fatherless,” Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble,” and in many other scriptures, as well.

In American culture, we tend to think of a helper as someone who’s less important. A good analogy would be a sidekick, a companion or colleague who is usually considered to be subordinate. The sidekick is not the hero, not the leading role. It’s a support character. But this is NOT what God had in mind when he created woman for man, and man for woman.

When helper is used in the Bible, it’s just the opposite. God is our helper, and he’s certainly not the sidekick. He’s the strong one. And this is the term used for the first woman. God has no intention of men thinking they are the more important person in the marriage. No hint that the woman is of lesser value.

The point is that in marriage, a woman represents God to her husband. Similarly, a man represents God to his wife. Each of us needs help in many ways. God is our help, but he often uses people to be his hand extended, his love expressed, his agent to help in time of need.

We need to understand this not just in theory, but in practical ways, as well. For example, next time there’s an argument or a conflict, what would happen if the husband and wife said to themselves, “My lover is obviously upset about this. What can I do to help? What words can I choose that, instead of making things worse, will actually help make things better?”

What chore around the house does your spouse hate? You could offer to do that. Does your partner have a huge project to get started on? Perhaps you could volunteer to assist, without trying to take over and be in charge.

ID-10076456 My wife is a teacher, and has a ton of books – literally! When she had to move to a new office across campus, I volunteered to spend a day helping move her books, files, and other stuff. Then a few weeks later, I took an afternoon to help her rearrange the bookshelves.

A couple of weeks ago, I was yelling at my computer because it wasn’t behaving how it was supposed to. In my desperation I called out to my wife, who stepped in and asked if she could help. YES! PLEASE! She solved the problem and taught me a few things about the software.

The fact is, we all need help from time to time. What if when we’re on our way home from a tough day at work, we turned our thoughts towards home and started thinking about the minute we’ll walk through the door, how we can be a helper to the people living there. Can our words bring healing instead of pain? Can our actions invite peace instead of strife? Can our behavior encourage rather than tear down our partner and kids?

Life is hard in many ways. Life beats us up. We need someone to come alongside, put an arm around us, and be there for us. God invented marriage so we’d have a friend to help when the going gets tough.

  • Photos courtesy of  Nenetus, Stockimages, and Ambro at Freedigitalphotos.net

 

Biblical Principles of Marriage

Paul & Linda Linzey

About half of the marriages in America end in divorce. About half of those who stay married are not happy. They are staying together because of finances, internal or external pressure, the kids, the teaching of their faith tradition, fear, or some other reason. This means that only twenty-five percent of Americans who get married, stay together and are happy.

Unfortunately, many Christians find themselves in similar circumstances. This has far-reaching ramifications, yet many people simply do not know what to do differently. Part of the problem is that eighty-seven percent of pastors in North America admit that they do not know how to help the couples in their congregations.

This book will combine clinical research, pastoral experience, and secular and religious literature on marriage, to present a practical guide for pastors, chaplains, and congregational lay leaders who are called to help the couples in their ministry context. The result is a practical, hands-on curriculum that may be used in couples classes, sermon series, seminars, or retreats. It may also be used in counseling and private conversations.

The theme verse for the Biblical Principles of Marriage is Proverbs 24:3-4: “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”