The Plank and the Speck–BE the Change: CHOICES {Part 3}

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”—Matthew 7:4-5, NIV

Possibly one of the greatest challenges I’ve faced in my spiritual walk has been living in an “unequally yoked” marriage. The constant pull between personal convictions and trying to live in peace with my spouse has often been an excruciatingly intense struggle. These days, though, there are far more rainbows and roses in our relationship than storm clouds, but it took many years and a lot of personal soul-searching to finally reach that point.

 
I’m often asked by other women in difficult marriage situations (not speaking about abusive relationships, here) who wonder how I’ve come to be so at peace in my marriage, or how I cope with the challenges rather than throw in the towel. My response to them is not generally well tolerated. And most of these women who once wanted advice from me are now no longer speaking to me. So what have I said and done to tick so many people off?

 
I chose to focus on ME, repeatedly asking God to change my own heart, rather than that of my husband.

 
Novel concept, I know!

 
That’s not to say I always did so willingly or joyfully, but rather out of sheer necessity. When I first “came back” to God, I constantly prayed for my husband’s heart to change. Of course I wanted him to love Jesus and all that jazz, but my deeper motive in prayer wasn’t his spiritual life but rather my own comfort and happiness.

 

 

“When you ask you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasure.”—James 4:3, NIV

This is where many spouses are brought to the end of their rope, and what motivates them to try to find help or counsel, their lives have become a leaky faucet of misery as their focus is continuously on the wrong-doings of their significant other. I get it because I’ve been there! In my situation, raising a child in a home where my husband and I disagreed on so much was just plain hard. And if God changed my husband’s heart (to agree with me about everything, of course, and to pick up his dirty socks…) then my life would certainly be much more pleasant and stress-free.

 
But, God being, well, GOD, knew my motives were off. And instead of instantly “poofing” my husband into everything I wanted him to be, He instead chiseled my heart into the ever-changing diamond He is designing it to be. And that whole chiseling thing hurts. A lot. Because it reveals my planks, logs, beams, or whatever you want to call them, instead of the specks, splinters, or otherwise tiny dust particles in my husband (who IS a believer now, but still leaves his dirty socks on the floor. In fact, I’m looking at them right now…).

 
At first I too was a woman who scoffed at the notion that I needed to change instead of my husband. I hated that kind of advice with a passion. One instance I remember in particular was a valued and trusted friend encouraging me to be more intentional about sex with my husband. The nerve! Easy for her to say, she was in a peaceful happy marriage! But for me, sex was typically the last thing on my mind because I was too butt-hurt over all the horrible things my spouse did (things that don’t seem so horrible now, in hindsight). But you know what? She was right! And choosing to be intentional about our sex life before I actually “felt like it” (you know, choosing to show love with actions instead of waiting for my emotions to “feel” like doing loving things) helped our marriage more than the nagging or resentment ever did. The point is, my behavior needed to change first, before my emotions would follow.

 
So, when a woman comes to me and complains how selfish and awful her husband is (again, not talking about abusive relationships!) and I gently try to share my journey of personal transformation rather than justifying her complaints, she usually gets upset with me and seeks advice elsewhere. But I can’t in good conscience sit here and join the spousal bashing. We are in far more control over our happiness and joy than we think. It really is a choice. A choice that is rooted in desiring change within ourselves, and doing whatever it takes to let God work that out—instead of focusing on all the wrongs being committed against us.

 
Ultimately God helped me see that the only change I can control is the change in my own heart. So, over time my prayers changed from grumbles against my husband to repentance against the sins I was committing against him with my attitudes and behaviors. I sought to treat my husband as I wanted to be treated, whether or not I felt like he “deserved” it. This often meant embracing the role of “servant” (not in a slave kind of way, but in an acts-of-service-to-others kind of way). God repeatedly brought me to 1 Peter 3, and the need to show my husband with my actions rather than my preaching (nagging, Bible-thumping, etc.).

 
Is your spouse inconsiderate or selfish? Do they hold to different faith perspectives than you? Do they act in ways that disappoint and discourage you? My best advice is to serve your spouse in love, and ask God to see your spouse through HIS eyes rather than your own. This prayer is what opened the door of change in my own heart. In fact, asking God to see my husband through His eyes is what allowed me to finally see how the choices I had made out of anger or resentment had so deeply hurt him (see: Waiting for Redemption). Yes, I suppose it would be easier to just call it quits and throw in the towel. Sign some papers and wipe your hands of the whole thing. Find some other guy/gal who makes you “happier” and agrees with you about everything, but ultimately, those aren’t the solutions that will bring lasting peace and joy because the root issues (within yourself) aren’t dealt with, but rather denied and ignored. God wants to change us first, so that our life can be a witness to motivate change in others.

 
Whether we are dealing with a spousal relationship or another type of relationship (familial, friendship, coworker) the principle still applies: choose to ask God to change your heart instead of focusing on how you are being wronged. Choose to forgive. Choose to serve that person instead of gossiping about them. Choose to pray for a new perspective. Choose to ask God to help you love the person as God loves them.

 
Is everything perfect, now that my husband sits next to me at church every Sunday he’s not working, or now that he’s bought me more flowers in the last nine months than in the previous nine years? Of course not! If anything, I have come to see that no matter how “great” my husband is, and how much he “changes” still has little effect on my happiness, peace and joy. Why? Because my happiness, peace, and joy come from JESUS, not life’s circumstances. Certainly things are more peaceful around here, but my husband is still the same person with the same personality and quirks. Being a Christian doesn’t necessarily mean he picks up his socks consistently. I still have a choice every day whether or not I will serve, love, and respect my husband or nag, resent, and slander his character to my girlfriends. Sometimes I still choose the latter, but those instances are coming fewer and farther between as God continues to transform my heart to align more with the character of Christ. By choosing to BE the change instead of nagging for him to change, God has brought about peace within me and within our marriage. And, as an added bonus (blessing) I now get to enjoy things like going to church with my husband instead of going alone.

 
So, if you really want that person to get the splinter out of their eye so your life will be a little less stressful, I suggest asking God to remove the beam in your eye first. Be the example of change with your life, attitudes, reactions, responses, and actions. How you choose to behave/respond while under adversity will speak far greater volumes to the “problem person” in your life than begging God to change that person or nagging them into behaving how you’d like them to. Choose respect, forgiveness, mercy, service, and the greatest of these things, LOVE. Ask God to transform your heart into a 1 Corinthians 13 heart. It WILL hurt, and it WON’T be easy, but the peace that results will far surpass the temporary pain that comes from sacrifice, submission, and developing a life of humility before others.

 

 

 

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”—Matthew 5:5-9, NIV

***PLEASE NOTE: This article is NOT referencing marriages where adultery, pornography use, physical or emotional abuse, or other more serious offenses have occurred. This is not in any way representative of such deeper struggles and is not intended to brush those issues under the rug or blame those behaviors on the victim. We are each responsible only for our own choices and responses, not the choices of others! If you are in an abusive relationship, or have a spouse immersed in pornography or sexual sin, please seek the help of a professional. Your spouse’s choices are not your fault or because of anything you have done to “deserve” such treatment. You are not responsible for their actions/choices.

______________________________________________________________

See also CHOICES PART 1: Freedom to Choose

CHOICES PART 2: Careful, that Fence Could Give You a Massive Wedgie
I will be continuing this series on choices in much greater detail, if you haven’t already, please enter your email under the “Follow” tab to receive new posts in your inbox. No spam! Just new posts, (usually two to four posts a month at most). If you found this website to be of encouragement to you, please share it with your friends!

 

**If you are struggling in an unequally yoked marriage, and need resources for reading or help, please email me at RebeccaAarup@mail.com and I would be happy to share some books/resources that have helped me greatly along my journey.**

Advertisements

Heart Sick

Heart Sick

“If your instructions hadn’t sustained me with joy, I would have died in my misery.” Psalm 119:92 NLT

Have you noticed that some of these verses about “delight” have referenced pain, misery, anguish, trouble, or discomfort of some kind? (See Psalm 119:143) I like how the Message puts it:

“If your revelation hadn’t delighted me so, I would have given up when the hard times came.”

Do you know anyone who has given up? Perhaps you have given up? I know a few people who have definitely given up on life, given up hope for happiness, and are certainly drowning in a sea of their own misery. I have been there myself. Part of the problem is whether or not we really understand the character of God. It’s one thing to look at a verse and nod in agreement, but if that truth hasn’t infiltrated the deepest recesses of our minds, it won’t transform our behavior. And by behavior I mean whether or not we choose to trust our Sovereign God when we are facing terrible distresses. We can know all the facts in the world about the Bible, Jesus, God and various doctrines, but if we are not living it out, it is worthless information (James 1:23-25); just words on a page or knowledge in the brain. Facts won’t transform us.

When we are hopeless, miserable, and despairing it is an outward evidence of an inward illness; the heart that has not fully understood the living truth of God’s promises. We’re not instructed to transform our behavior through memorizing facts (not that memorization is bad-quite the contrary), we are told to be “transformed” by the “renewing” (Greek word meaning “renovation”) of our minds; this is the only way to discover God’s will. (Romans 12:2) Our mind must undergo a spiritual renovation. This process involves removing the old décor, tearing down some walls, maybe building a new room, and removing the old clutter. This renovation will teach us to think in a different way. This way of thinking is led by the Holy Spirit, and is centered on the word of God and his revealed truth. Without this mind makeover, we are left to our own way of thinking which seems good to us, but in reality is conformed to the thought processes of the world. We cannot be worldly and spiritual at the same time.

If we really know God relationally (as opposed to just factually) we will begin to have a transformation of thought which will result in a transformation of behavior. Take a marriage, for example. As you get to know your spouse as a person (their character) you begin to behave differently around them. You have a level of trust based on your knowledge of who they are, and how they have acted towards you in the past. You also allow yourself to be more “real” in the presence of your partner as opposed to a person you just met last week. It’s not the facts of your spouse that influences your behavior, it’s the knowledge of their character based on your experience with them in your life.

So, are you miserable? What has your experience and relationship with God been like? Do you know his character, do you trust what the Bible says about who he is and how he feels about you, his treasured creation? Your relationship with God will dictate your behavior. Walking around moping and feeling sorry for ourselves is a demonstration of disbelief in God’s word. Does that sound too hard? Think about it!  It is something we are all guilty of at times, but it can be different! God’s word can sustain us with a deep lasting joy despite any situation. It doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll be walking around bubbly and enthusiastic all the time, but it does mean that deep down we will trust God, his word, and his promises and know his plan is being worked out in us. (Romans 8:28) That knowledge and experience with our Lord will relieve our pressure, lift our burdens, and give us joy! God is working this out: hallelujah! I know I can’t figure it out on my own (and when I try it usually turns into a total nightmare) but I know when God is moving miraculous things occur. I want my eyes to be open to the miracles he’s performing every day in my life, but I can’t see and be thankful for those things if I am fixated on not getting my way.

If it’s in my life (and yours) then God allowed it, and if I have a problem with that I need to dig deeper in to his word to discover more of his heart for me. God isn’t the problem, he’s the solution.

Prayer

Jesus, right now I choose to thank you for this circumstance in my life. I admit I am uncomfortable, but I realize that you are painting the portrait, not me. I will stop trying to add my colors to your picture, and let you be the Artist. Teach me more of who you are and what you are up to in my life so I may learn to trust you completely in all things. Today I ask for you to show yourself to me in a mighty miraculous way, confirm for me the truth that you are here, you care, and you have a plan. Impress that upon my heart with your Holy Spirit, and help me to be quiet so I can listen to your voice.

Blameless

Blameless

“May I be blameless in keeping your decrees; then I will never be ashamed.” Psalm 119:80 NLT

When we enter the presence of God are we ashamed or confident? Can we come to him in prayer and feel good about the way we have conducted our lives? The prophet Isaiah got a taste of the holiness of God and declared, “Woe is me for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips…for mine eyes have seen the glory of the Lord of hosts!” (Isa 6:5) This account gives me goose bumps every time I read it. How do we view ourselves when we come into the presence of the Almighty? Do we come to him with an attitude of indulgence, demanding what we think we need? I fear much of what has happened today is a lack of self-awareness. We don’t view ourselves as we ought to. We are weighed down with pride. We approach God as if he is our vending machine. “Bless this pursuit, God, thank you!”

We ought to be ashamed of ourselves for ever losing sight of the holiness of God!

Yet, God doesn’t call us into a life of shame and regret, does he? He calls us into a life of holiness. He is a Holy God, and he demands holiness from his children.  However, there is a big difference between living a holy life, and living a life of bondage. We can try so hard to be “good” in our own power that we become slaves to rituals, rules, and conduct codes. Read the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) and try to live that out. It can’t be done apart from the Holy Spirit! Reading the “do’s” and “don’ts” of the law then trying to act them out is a sure way to feel like a failure. We are called to live a blameless life, but we are not called into bondage. The only way to live a holy life is to walk in the will of God, and that involves spending time getting to know Him. As we get to know the voice of God and his leading we get “in tune” with the Holy Spirit and his ways. Over time we see a change in our conduct.

 The behavior springs forth from the relationship, the relationship doesn’t come from the behavior.  If we have the relationship right, the behavior will flow. So, are we walking the “fruits of the spirit”? Are we a living testimony of the Sermon on the Mount? If not, we need to check in on our relationship and knowledge of the Lord. If we are walking in the Spirit, he will lead us into his will.

When I come into the presence of God I do not want to be ashamed.

“I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin.” 2 Samuel 22:24

“I will be careful to lead a blameless life-when will you come to me? I will walk in my house with a blameless heart. I will set my eyes before no vile thing.” Psalm 101:2-3

“He whose walk is blameless is kept safe.” Proverbs 28:18

“You must be blameless before the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 18:13

“For he chose us in him before the beginning of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Ephesians 1:4

“Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with him.” 2 Peter 3:14

All of the biblical knowledge in the world will be put to shame without a right heart. The Pharisees followed all the rules, but their hearts were perverse. They didn’t grasp the fact that their behavior would not earn them anything before God. They had to come to Jesus first, and they were unwilling to do that. No doubt, they were put to shame because of their religious hypocrisy.

If we want to have confidence in our prayer life, we need to be walking the blameless life. We cannot do that apart from Jesus. Intimate dependence on him is the beginning of correct behavior. We start in his word, getting to know him, spending time with him and letting his Spirit change our hearts as we mature in him.

This is the holy life; walking in the will of God.

A relationship with a holy God will lead us into the blameless life. In this way we can enter the throne room of Christ and have confidence in what we ask.

The holy life is the life never put to shame.

Prayer

Jesus, I know every single day I fall far short of your holy standard. I want to come into your presence with confidence and assurance that I am in your will. Help me this moment to see a glimpse of your true holiness. I know you want what is best for me, and that it’s perfectly lined out in your word. Teach me to love your word so I can know your word and follow your word. I need your Spirit to guide me into truth to keep me from being ashamed in your presence. I want to stand before you confident that I am in your will and living the blameless life.

Bonded

Bonded

“I cling to your laws, Lord; don’t let me be put to shame.” Psalm 119:31 NLT

Have you ever gotten super glue on your fingers? I have and it is miserable to try to get off. Once it’s bonded to your skin, it doesn’t want to leave.

How bonded are we to the word of God? The Psalmist said he “clings” to the word. The Hebrew word means “attached to, stuck, adhered to, or bonded with”. This gives us quite a mental picture! Adhered to the word of God, fixed to it, immovable from it; this is the way of the one who is not ashamed.

“You need to persevere.” Hebrews 10:36

“Let us not be weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

“For this very reason make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8

Do you want to persevere in your faith and be productive for the Lord? The key is to cling, or be bonded to the word. If we are clinging to the promises of God, then we will not be put to shame; in fact we cannot be put to shame because God is faithful to his word! The problem is we want to claim God’s promises over our life without the commitment. We like to hear, “all things work together for good” but we don’t really pay attention to the last part, “to those who love God”. (Romans 8:28) When we come to a place where we truly desire to see God active and abounding in our lives we must come to the end of ourselves and our pride. Lay aside our selfishness in order to know the word of God, understand it, and love it. To love the word of God is to love the character of God. When we love and seek him our desires are aligned with his, and he gives us those desire with much pleasure!

“As for you…never tire of doing what is right.” 2 Thessalonians 3:13

The command to persevere is all over God’s word. It’s not easy to rest on the promises of a God we cannot see, feel, or touch; yet we are urged to do so with determination. Perseverance leads to confidence and trust. We will not be ashamed because we will be resting in the truth of God and faithfulness to his word.

“As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.” James 5:11

The Lord finally brought about Job’s deliverance. It wasn’t instant, but it did come, and Job had to persevere in order to obtain the blessing. We are fortunate we are not generally asked to persevere as Job did. For the majority of us we don’t even come close. Job was able to stand before God blameless even in his afflictions, and he was able to persevere without shame. His friends had some interesting judgments over his life, but God knew Job’s heart and that is all that mattered. In the end, all things worked for Job’s good because he loved God and did not give up on his promises.

If we want to stand before God and man unashamed, we need the word in our hearts. We need it to be bonded to our lives with the stickiest of spiritual super glue, or determination. All around us there is a battle for our love and attention, but we must first and foremost keep his word at the center. It takes focus with perseverance.

Prayer

Thank you for your promises, God! I am undeserving of your favor, and yet you are generous beyond measure with what you provide for your children. Many things I know I take for granted, and I confess it. I confess my pride and love for other things over your word. Change my heart! Direct it towards your truth that I may persevere until the day I see you face to face. Let me never become weary in following your laws, because I trust you and know you have designed what is best for me. Continue to teach my heart how to love your word as it should!