Archive for November, 2008

In-Laws: God’s Blessing

November 24, 2008

Your mother-in-law is not your enemy! Our parents and parents-in-law are a part of our lives. But whether we’re newlyweds or an ‘old married couple,’ how should we relate to in-laws? Actually, we need one another. Mutual freedom and mutual respect should be the guiding principle for parents and their married children. What guidelines does the Bible give for in-law relationships? Two principles must be kept in balance: leaving parents and honoring parents.

In Genesis chapter 2 we read, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Marriage involves a change of allegiance. Before marriage, our allegiance is to our parents, but after marriage it is to our spouse. We must cut the ‘apron strings.’

Don’t disregard your father-in-law’s wisdom. God often speaks through fathers-in-law and mothers-in-law. They are older and may have more wisdom than we. The mature husband and wife will consider carefully the advice of parents and in-laws. At the same time, you are not to put the advice of parents above the desires of your spouse. It’s the biblical concept of “leaving parents” and “cleaving to your spouse” that allows you to establish a new family unit under God.

How do you honor your parents after you are married, without allowing them to control you? As long as they live it is right to honor them. Sometimes we do not respect the lifestyle of our parents or in-laws. But we must respect their position. In the providence of God, they gave us life. For that we respect them. Honor does not mean that you must do everything your parent’s request. Honor is seeking to do what is best for them.

Honoring parents can get sticky because there are two sets of them. The wife’s mother wants them home for Christmas Eve. The husband’s mother wants them home for Christmas dinner. The principle is equality. In Romans 2:11 the Bible says, “God does not show favoritism.” We must seek to treat both sets of in-laws with equality. This may mean Christmas here this year and Christmas there next year. The purpose is to honor and show respect for them equally. Having done so, you have followed the biblical injunction: Honor your father and your mother.
Have you struggled to honor your in-laws? If so, how? How have you and your spouse dealt with these struggles?

Learning to Meet Needs

November 17, 2008

It has been my observation through the years that many husbands simply do not understand the needs of their wives. Conversely, many wives do not understand the needs of their husbands. In their ignorance, they make little effort to meet each others’ needs.

Some husbands believe that if they work at a steady job and bring home a decent salary, they have completed their role as a husband. Some wives believe that if they cook a meal now and then, do the laundry, and wash the baby’s face – that’s it. He should be happy. What’s wrong with the man?

The fact is we all have needs. This is part of what motivates us to get married. When these needs are not met over a period of time, we tend to get irritable. Irritation brings criticism, and criticism brings counter-attack. So, we find ourselves fighting rather than seeking to meet needs. This week we are going to look at marriage as a “mutual aid society.”

The husband who is satisfied with simply putting food on the table has a very limited view of the importance of his role as husband. The wife who is satisfied with cooking that food has a very limited view of the importance of her role as wife.

Food is important, but it is only foundational. It is not the final word. We have needs for love, affection, tenderness, kindness, and encouragement. These are as foundational to our emotional health as food is to our physical health.

Once the food is on the table, it is now time to nurture each others’ inner emotional needs. Why not make a list of what you think your spouse’s needs are? Then ask them to make a list of their needs. Rank them in order of importance. Compare your lists. You may find that you have been spending your energy in the wrong place. Remember your spouse is the expert on his or her needs.
One of our most fundamental emotional needs is the need for security. Safety from the crime-ridden streets of the neighborhood? “Yes,” but the greatest security need is the need for the deep assurance that your spouse is committed to you. That they can be trusted and that they will be there for you. The person who threatens his spouse with such statements as “I just think we should get a divorce. You’d be better off with someone else. Or “I think I’ll find someone who will really love me,” is striking emotional terror in the soul of the spouse.
We need to communicate to each other that whatever happens, we are with them. We want to help. We want to learn. If there are disagreements, we will take time to listen, understand, and seek resolution. “If you are hurting, I want to be there for you.” These are the commitments that create a secure atmosphere in which to grow a healthy marriage.

All of us have the need for significance or self-worth. We want to feel that we are important, that our lives are counting for something. In marriage we are called upon to encourage each other in our pursuits for significance. Ultimately our self-worth is rooted in who we are, children of God by faith in Christ. This makes us extremely important.

As children of God we are all uniquely gifted. As we express these gifts or abilities under the direction of the Holy Spirit we experience satisfaction. We can see something of how God is using us as His instrument for good. We are humbled, but we are also encouraged.
Positive comments about your spouse’s efforts to explore their interests and giftedness is a way to help meet their need for significance. “You’re a super mom,” is encouraging to a wife who has chosen to be a “work at home Mom.” Critical comments, on the other hand, tend to diminish self-worth. Look for ways to encourage your spouse.
Wherever man is found, he is a social creature. He relates to others. Marriage does not diminish this need to relate to those outside the family. The wife may wish to be a part of a ladies’ civic club. The husband should seek to encourage her involvement. In so doing he is helping meet her social needs.

A husband may want his wife to initiate a neighborhood dinner or participate with him in a church Bible study. Such activities may not be at the top of her priority list, but they quickly ascend in importance because meeting his needs is important to her.

In helping each other develop social relationships, we are enhancing their growth as a person. If we put down their social interests as being superficial and unimportant, we create tension because we are seeking to thwart one of man’s basic needs, the need to relate. In a healthy marriage, social relationships are seen as a normal part of life. When we seek to meet each other’s needs, we are building a strong marriage.

The Importance of Attitude

November 3, 2008

I am responsible for my own attitude. My spouse may treat me unkindly, or ignore me, but I am still responsible for choosing my thoughts. The challenge is to have a loving attitude. The question is, “What is the loving way for me to look at this?” Love always seeks the well being of the other person. This does not mean that I am unconcerned about myself and meeting my needs, but my first concern must be for my spouse.
This does not imply that I am to become a doormat. That is not the loving thing to do. Accepting such behavior is not loving my spouse. When you choose the attitude of love, you are asking yourself, “What is best for my spouse in this situation?” Always that means holding your spouse accountable for unacceptable behavior.
“I love you too much to sit here and allow you to destroy yourself. What you are doing is hurting me, but it is also detrimental to your well-being and I will not be a part of it.” This is a loving attitude.

Trouble is inevitable, but misery is optional. Attitude has to do with the way I choose to think about things. It has to do with one’s focus. Two men looked through prison bars – one saw mud, the other stars. Two people were in a troubled marriage – one cursed, the other prayed. The difference always is attitude.

Negative thinking tends to beget negative thinking. Focus on how terrible the situation is, and it will get worse. Focus on one positive thing, and another will appear. In the darkest night of a troubled marriage, there is always a flickering light. Focus on that light, and it will eventually flood the room.
Maintaining a positive attitude in a troubled marriage may seem impossible, but the Christian has outside help. Lord, help me to see my marriage the way you see it. Help me to view my spouse the way you view them. Help me to think the thoughts that you have toward them. This kind of praying will lead you to a positive attitude.
A positive attitude can be the salvation of a difficult situation. A lady said to me, “My husband hasn’t had a full-time job in three years. The good part is that we can’t afford cable TV, so we spend a lot more time talking on Monday nights. She went on to say, “These three years have been tough, but we have learned a lot. Our philosophy has been “Let’s see how many things we can do without that everybody else thinks they have to have.” It’s amazing how many things you can do without. It’s been a challenge, but we are going to make the most of it.”
There is a wife who has learned the power of a positive attitude. Do you think it has been easy for her? For him? Not at all. But a negative, critical, pessimistic attitude would have made things worse. Why would you want to make things worse?
We must not yield to our natural tendencies. We must seek to walk the high road of looking for God’s hand in everything. Even in a troubled marital situation, God is always at work.
The challenge of keeping a positive attitude is not a new idea. It is found clearly in the first-century writing of Paul the apostle. He wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds. …Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, or admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Phil. 4:4-7.
We are responsible for the way we think. Even in the worst marital situation, we choose our attitude. Maintaining a positive attitude requires prayer. Paul said, bring your requests to God. Tell him what you want. Will God always do what we ask? No, but what does happen is that “the peace of God” descends on our emotions and our thoughts. God calms our emotions and directs our thoughts. With a positive attitude, we become a part of the solution, rather than a part of the problem.
One reason my attitudes are so important is that they affect my actions–that is my behavior and words. If I have a pessimistic, defeatist, negative attitude, it will be expressed in negative words and behavior. The reality is that I may not be able to control my environment: sickness, alcoholic spouse, teenager on drugs, mother who abandoned me, father who abused me, spouse who is irresponsible, aging parents. But I am responsible for what I do within my environment. My attitude will greatly influence my behavior.
If you want to know your attitude, look at your words and behavior. If your words are critical and negative, then you have a negative attitude. If your behavior is designed to hurt or get back at your spouse, then you have a negative attitude. Guarding the attitude is the most powerful thing you can to affect your behavior. And, your behavior greatly influences your spouse.