I am thrilled to share with you that marriage is probably one of the most life giving relationships you can have. After 21 years with my wife, we have been through so much together. The tears, the laughter, the stress, the joy, all of it wrapped together has been amazing. I think what makes marriage so meaningful is time. Over time of love and grace and arguments, you experience life together. You build memories. You build intimacy.
Kids, please hear me tell you that marriage is life giving. I should add, when you do marriage God’s way, marriage is life giving. Great marriages take time, God and grace.
Now, not everyone’s experience of marriage is positive. When we allow our sin and selfishness own us, when we fail to do marriage God’s way, it can cause pain. So in this marriage series, we want to talk about the reality of marriage. Things like, why is marriage so hard?
Let’s begin by reading what Jesus said in Matthew 19:1-12.
When Jesus had completed these teachings, he left Galilee and crossed the region of Judea on the other side of the Jordan. 2 Great crowds followed him there, and he healed them.
3 One day the Pharisees were badgering him: “Is it legal for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?”
4 He answered, “Haven’t you read in your Bible that the Creator originally made man and woman for each other, male and female? 5 And because of this, a man leaves father and mother and is firmly bonded to his wife, becoming one flesh – no longer two bodies but one. 6 Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by cutting them apart.”
7 They shot back in rebuttal, “If that’s so, why did Moses give instructions for divorce papers and divorce procedures?”
8 Jesus said, “Moses provided for divorce as a concession to your hardheartedness, but it is not part of God’s original plan. 9 I’m holding you to the original plan, and holding you liable for adultery if you divorce your faithful wife and then marry someone else. I make an exception in cases where the spouse has committed adultery.”
10 Jesus’ disciples objected, “If those are the terms of marriage, we’re stuck. Why get married?”
11 But Jesus said, “Not everyone is mature enough to live a married life. It requires a certain aptitude and grace. Marriage isn’t for everyone. 12 Some, from birth seemingly, never give marriage a thought. Others never get asked – or accepted. And some decide not to get married for kingdom reasons. But if you’re capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it.” MSG
Did you catch what the disciples asked Jesus? Not the Pharisees, his disciples. “If those are the terms of marriage, we’re stuck. Why get married?” In your marriage, have you ever felt stuck? You’ve been hurt or expectations haven’t been met but you are in a life-long commitment and can’t get out. You’re stuck. The disciples wanted to know if there is no quick and easy escape hatch, why do it? Why get married?
Jesus’ response was perfect. “Not everyone is mature enough to live a married life. It requires a certain aptitude and grace. Marriage isn’t for everyone.” The marriage commitment requires the ability to have and give grace. It takes a commitment to allow time and God and grace to make it great.
Couple things about marriage that God teaches us.
First, Holy marriage, as explained by Jesus, is between a man and a woman. Second, marriage is a life-long commitment with no quick and easy escape hatch. Outside of extreme issues like adultery and abuse, marriage is a life-long commitment. Lastly, it demands that both individuals have the ability to have and give grace.
Today, I want to talk about those moments when you feel stuck. You might ask yourself, why did God put us together? Or, if you aren’t married, if you are in a friendship and that friend hurts you, you might ask, why did God put us together as friends?
I want to share with you what I share with everyone who is about to get married. This is the big picture of today. God’s goal for you isn’t day to day happiness, it’s bigger than that. God’s primary goal for your life is to grow up, to have great character, to give control to the Holy Spirit. God does want you to be happy, hear me clearly, but the bigger more important goal, is that you grow up.
The bible gives us a picture of what growing up looks like.
What happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, 23 not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. MSG Galatians 5:22-23
So you can get older but that doesn’t mean you are growing up in character. The point is to stop living in a selfish, controlling way to live God’s way. To give control to the Holy Spirit.
One of the most effective ways that God helps us grow up is through relationships. Now if you are married I want you to think: one of most effective ways God helps me grow up is in my marriage. My marriage is helping move from being selfish and in control to giving the Holy Spirit control.
Please hear me, as you walk through life in marriage or with friends, the stress of life will come out in your relationships. In marriage, after the honeymoon, you pay bills, change diapers, go to family get-togethers and your relationship changes because you have more responsibility. Over time, that stress shows up in your marriage and you feel stuck. You ask, “Why did God put us together?” Instead of dating and having fun, you enter a world of responsibility.
For all of us in relationship with others, we discover things about us that need attention. That’s my nice way of saying, you have junk in your heart. As you do life with others, as you feel the stress of relationships, it will reveal your hurts, your selfishness, your ego stuff, your greed, we all have a mixture of this stuff.
When you feel stuck in a relationship, it might be because God is revealing something about your heart. Maybe you have hurt in your heart and you need to forgive. Maybe you are selfish and you need to be humble. Maybe you do have an unhealthy ego. Maybe you are greedy and you need to learn how to give and serve. Maybe something is going on in you.
When Karen and I first got married, the most glaring thing that was revealed to me about me was I struggled to communicate. I was raised with two older brothers, we didn’t communicate. There wasn’t much need for words.
In your marriage, maybe with your friends, you feel stuck. Maybe it’s because God is revealing to you something about you.
2 Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. 3 Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. 4 Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
That is how we are supposed to live in relationships. We struggle with that. So the author continues to write and explain; if you can’t do this, change how you view yourself.
5 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. 6 He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. 7 Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! MSG Philippians 2:2-7
Maybe when you are stuck in your relationship, God is asking you to look into your own heart and motivations.
In relationship with others, the second thing we can discover is that your spouse or friend isn’t perfect. That’s my nice way of saying, people have junk in their lives. They have hurts, selfishness, ego stuff, greed in them, everyone has a mixture of this stuff. Maybe what they need is your love, not your judgement or anger.
Let’s read how important love is.
13:1 If I had the gift of being able to speak in other languages without learning them and could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth, but didn’t love others, I would only be making noise. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy and knew all about what is going to happen in the future, knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would it do? Even if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, I would still be worth nothing at all without love. 3 If I gave everything I have to poor people, and if I were burned alive for preaching the Gospel but didn’t love others, it would be of no value whatever.
Now that we know how important love is, let’s read the definition of love. This isn’t the kind of love that our culture talks about. Our culture only knows about a selfish love, a tit for tat love. God’s love is radically different, let’s read.
4 Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, 5 never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. 6 It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. 7 If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him. TLB 1 Corinthians 13:1-7
Maybe when you are stuck in your relationship, God is asking you to love them like He loved you. That’s hard. To feel the hurt or disappointment from a spouse or friend and the chose to love them the way God loved you. Does your love look like 1 Corinthians 13? …Never haughty or selfish or rude… …It does not hold grudges… …will hardly even notice when others do it wrong…
There is a difference between friends, dating and marriage. Friendships are very flexible. Sometimes you will have friends for a short time, then they move. Sometimes friends will hurt you and you can overcome it and you are better friends. Sometimes a friend can end up hurting you so much, you can stay friendly with them but maybe they aren’t your best friend any more. Friendships are flexible.
Dating is about discovering if you can bring out the best in each other. You date to discover how they respond to stress. You date to discover if they can love the way God loves. You date to discover how you need to grow up. Dating isn’t about scoring. Dating isn’t about feeling lonely and needing someone around to fill that void. Dating is about discovering who you are and who they are. Ask every older person in this room, if what I said is true. Ask them, if you would date again, how would you date?
What makes marriage different, is the lifelong commitment. It demands that you have and give grace. It will take time, God and grace to make it awesome. Marriage is a life time of discovering how you can grow up. How you deal with your heart. How you love your spouse like 1 Corinthians 13, even when you discover they aren’t perfect.
Maybe you are married and it’s not awesome right now. Maybe you feel stuck. Maybe you are hurt. Maybe you are tired. Maybe you are disappointed. Maybe your expectations aren’t being met. Maybe you aren’t happy. Maybe you are looking for that quick and easy escape hatch. You may not be happy right now and that is okay. Maybe God is working through your marriage to help you grow up, to give control to the Holy Spirit.
Quick disclaimer; I am not talking about the extremes of adultery or abuse.
Maybe you are stuck because you need to look into your heart. Is there hurt from the past? Are you selfish? Do you have ego and control issues?
Maybe you are stuck because you need to look at how you love. Are you able to love the way scripture explains love in 1 Corinthians 13? Do you have more and more compassion for your spouse?
Remember, God’s primary goal for you is to grow up. So maybe the marriage you are in is the best thing for you. The hardest thing you will ever do is stop blaming your spouse for being stuck and start living the way God asked you to and do your part. And that is my challenge for you. Stop blaming, go home and start loving… the way God loves you.