Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Posts tagged ‘questioning God’s goodness’

Ever Accuse God of Being ABSENT or UNLOVING?

SOURCE:  Adapted from Paul Tripp Ministries

Have you ever accused God of being absent?

Have you ever criticized the Lord for being unloving?

I would like to think that I’ve always trusted in God’s omnipresence, omnipotence, omniscience, and eternal, unshakeable love. After all, these are things I’ve been taught since my earliest days Sunday School!

But I’m deeply persuaded that many “theologically sound” Christians actually doubt the presence and love of God. Why do I think that? Because God says we do! Take Isaiah 59:1, for example:“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear.”

Let me give you the quick context of this verse. Israel is suffering big time, and whether they say it audibly with their mouths or grumble silently in their hearts, they have accused God of two things: first, being powerless in their time of need, and second, being unmoved by their cries for help.

You and I are much like the Israelites. When life isn’t working out according to our plan, or when we’re suffering in some way, it’s very tempting for us to bring God into the court of our judgement and question his faithfulness, wisdom and love. That’s what Israel was doing – they were questioning the character of God.

I wish I could write to you today and say that at all times, I trust in the sovereignty of God and the nature of his love. While I have experienced his power and love on many occasions, I have to be honest with you: when the comfort and ease of life is interrupted, I wrestle with who God actually claims to be. I know I’m not alone in my struggle.

There’s a deep danger with this type of doubt: you no longer pursue someone you no longer trust. Think about it. Would you continue to invest in a company if you knew the CEO was corrupt and stealing from the investors? Would you continue to visit a fraudulent “doctor” who had faked his licenses? Would you continue to hire a babysitter convicted of repeated crimes?

You see, when you allow your heart to begin to question God’s goodness, even in subtle ways, you’ll quit pursuing him. That’s exactly what happened with Israel – they thought that God wasn’t strong enough to intervene (his hand is too short) and that he didn’t love his children enough (his ear is dull to their cries) to rescue them from the difficulty.

What Israel didn’t understand, however, was that the grace of God will visit in uncomfortable forms. Difficulty in your life is not a sign that God’s hand is too short, nor is it a sign that his ears are too dull. Rather, it’s a sign of his love. God will wrap his arms around you and bring you through difficulty to increase your faith and increase your love for him.

Advertisements

Why does God allow bad things?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

“Who sinned, this man or his parents?” the disciples asked Jesus when they saw a man who had been blind his entire life (John 9:1). They wanted to know why God allowed this terrible affliction.

This is the same thought Job’s friends had when they saw Job suffering through the loss of his children, his prosperity, and his health. “Job what did you do?” How have you sinned?” You must have angered God in some way,” they echoed.

As a counselor and coach, I find people ask God the why question when they face the big difficulties of life like blindness, a rebellious child or the death of a marriage. But they also ask God why with the minor irritants of daily life like when they burn dinner just before company arrives or they can’t find their car keys or cell phone when they have an important appointment to keep. We want to know why God? Why this? Why now?

We all want to understand why bad, inconvenient, or troublesome things happen to people don’t’ we? If we could know why, then maybe we can change or do something to prevent those bad things from happening to us.

Jesus answered his disciples’ question by telling them it’s not about who sinned. We’re all sinners. Rather, he told his disciples that in this situation, the man was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

At first glance, Jesus’ answer sounds unfair, harsh. Why was this man singled out for affliction so God could display his power? No one would willingly sign up for that. You’re right, and it’s good God doesn’t ask our permission because most of us would say “No thanks.”

One of the most influential women in my life has been Joni Eareckson Tada, who was paralyzed in a diving accident when she was only 17 years old. I have followed her story, read her books and listened to her speak since I was in college over 30 years ago.

God uses Joni’s life to show me, as well as thousands of others, the reality of Christ’s mercy, love, and grace. It’s not too hard to praise God when everything in your life is going well. It’s another story to continue to praise God and give him thanks when your life falls apart. That gets people’s attention, and they sit up and take notice. What is the secret to this person’s joy and peace? It’s not natural. That’s right. It’s God.

There are only certain individuals whom God trusts with such deep suffering. Joni is one of them. Charles Haddon Spurgeon was another. Spurgeon, a renowned preacher, prolific author and beloved pastor during the 1800s, battled depression throughout his life. He was refreshingly honest with his struggle and never pretended he didn’t feel what he felt. Yet he always found hope in looking for God’s purposes in it. He wrote,

“Any fool can sing in the day. When the cup is full, man draws

inspiration from it; when wealth rolls in abundance around him

any man can sing to the praise of a God who gives a plenteous

harvest…It is not natural to sing in trouble…Songs in the night

come only from God; they are not in the power of man.”

Perhaps you are one like Joni or Spurgeon, whom God trusts with his severe mercy. If so, our world desperately needs to see Jesus in you.

For the rest of us, how might God want his works to be displayed in us in the midst of our inconvenience or daily disappointments? When we’re aggravated waiting in a long line with a clerk who isn’t moving fast enough for us, how might we move beyond thinking only about how we feel or what we’re not able to do and, in that moment, express the fruit of the spirit like love, or patience or self-control?

Do you think that God might also arrange or allow the minor afflictions of life so that the works of God might be displayed in us to a world so desperate to see him?

Is God Good?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

There was a time in my life when I didn’t believe God was good.

Like Jeremiah, in Lamentations 3, I accused him of being deceptive, capricious and unloving. I thought he was going to give me one of the deepest desires of my heart, and then suddenly it was snatched away. My heart fell into a deep pit, and it took a long time to climb back out.

How about you? Have you ever doubted the goodness of God?

We sing it, we say it, we know it, but truth be told, much of the time we don’t really believe it.

Most of us would acknowledge that we struggle trusting in God’s goodness during times of suffering. But it’s equally important to grasp that many times we don’t trust and obey God simply because we think we know better and want to be in charge of our own lives. Eve doubted God’s goodness even in the midst of paradise.

Things in life are not always what they initially appear to be. What looks good to us often turns out to be bad, and what feels bad to us can turn out to be good. As a child, I loved eating candy. It definitely tasted much better than meat or vegetables or even french fries and fruit. I ate so much candy my teeth decayed.

Going to the dentist felt bad, so I never wanted to go nor would I have chosen to. Thankfully my father saw beyond my foolishness and made me eat healthier and get my teeth fixed. It was good. Now that I’m grown up, I can see that, but at the time, I didn’t understand. I just thought my father was being mean.

In the same way, many times we can look back over the worst of times and see that they were also some of the best times of God’s goodness toward us. We see his provisions or experience his presence in deeper ways. From the vantage of history, we see that what we thought was bad, God used for good. In the Old Testament, Joseph was able to keep his peace and hope alive in the mist of circumstantial hardship because he knew that God’s purposes were always good (Genesis 50:20).

King David trusted in the goodness of God so completely that when God gave him a choice of what consequence he wanted for his sin, David told God to pick whatever he deemed best (2 Samuel 24:10-14).

Jesus knows this world is full of temptations, trials and hardships. Throughout the four Gospels, Jesus repeatedly tells people that he is telling them the truth, that God knows best what we need. Yet what they heard from Jesus was so different than their own way of thinking and believing that for many, it wasn’t easy to recognize it as truth even when they wanted to.

The father whose son was demon possessed begged Jesus, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24 NLT). Belief and unbelief isn’t either/or, it’s both/and. We believe and we doubt. But the more we believe, the more we can trust. Richard Rohr says, “The opposite of faith isn’t doubt, it’s anxiety.”

What did Jesus tell those who asked what they must do to do the work of God? He said the work of God is to believe (John 6:28-29). Once we believe, trust follows.

To help you get started, slowly meditate on this verse, word by word: “O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for you help” (Psalm 86:4,5 NLT).

In closing, take a few moments to ask yourself and answer the following questions:

How have you struggled believing God’s goodness?

Where do you not believe him?

How does your unbelief cause anxiety, guilt, or other happiness-robbers in your life?

How would you live differently if you believed with all of your heart that God is good?

Dear Lord, help my friends believe you in good times and in hard times. Help them trust that you are always good even when they don’t understand or it feels bad. Give them eyes to see that you are full of love and eager to forgive all their sins, all the time. Amen.

 

Drifting Away: One Thought, Choice, Doubt at a Time

SOURCE:  Joe Stowell/Strength for the Journey

Drifting Away

“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” Genesis 3:1

On a recent vacation, Tom was casually bobbing around on a raft just offshore. He closed his eyes, basking in the warm sun. Before he realized it, he had drifted too far from shore. He hopped off the raft to get back to the security of the sand, but the water was now over his head. He didn’t know how to swim.

The drift of our lives away from God is just as subtle.

And just as dangerous.

We drift one thought at a time, one small choice at a time, and often one damaging doubt at a time.

In fact, our adversary is delighted to help our rafts drift from the protection and presence of God by casting doubt on God’s goodness to us. If you sense that your life has been set adrift—that God is not as close and precious as He used to be—then you may have just been in the riptide of an old trick of the enemy of your soul. The same trick he used to sever Eve’s heart from the joy of her relationship with her Creator.

Satan’s opening volley was not a blistering attack on God; it was a simply a question that he wanted Eve to think about. “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1).

Actually, God had said that she could eat of every tree but one. But Satan twisted the facts to suit his purposes and to lead Eve’s mind to the conclusion that God was not the generous God she had known Him to be, but rather a stingy, restrictive, joy killer. Once she had let her heart drift to the wrong conclusion, it was easy for her to believe Satan’s lie that God just wanted to keep her from being as knowledgeable as He is and that the threat of them dying was just God’s way of scaring them into compliance with His stingy ways.

Satan still sets us adrift by planting doubt about God’s Word and spinning the facts to his own evil advantage.

Once we begin to suspect God instead of trusting Him, we inevitably drift away from Him.

So, beware!

Your life is full of scenarios where Satan can put his deceitful twist on your experiences. He is the spin-doctor of hell, and as Jesus said, “When [Satan] lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

With that in mind, keep a lookout for some of Satan’s favorite spins:

  • Lie #1: God is to blame for the evil that Satan has inflicted on our lives.
  • Lie #2: God has not rewarded me for being good. I’ve been used, not blessed!
  • Lie #3: God’s rules are restrictive and oppressive. He just wants to take the fun out of my life.
  • Lie #4: God is good to others but not to me. He must not love me!

And there are many other lies, all custom-made for your head and heart.

If you believe them, you have begun to drift away from the safe shores of God’s love and protecting provision. You’ll soon discover that you are adrift in the middle of nowhere, bobbing dangerously over your head. And count on it, as Eve was soon to learn, Satan won’t stay around to make you happy and fulfilled. He’ll be slithering off to more interesting company, leaving you in the deep waters of shame and regret.

YOUR JOURNEY…

  • Are you drifting in a sea of doubt? Make an appointment to talk to a trusted pastor or friend and ask that person to help you find your way back to God.
  • Pray and ask God to reveal the lies that Satan is using in your life. Find Bible verses that contradict the lies and recite them when you are tempted to believe what is not true.
  • Do you suspect God, or do you trust Him? How can faith shield you from the pitfall of suspecting and doubting God? Read Jeremiah 29:11Ephesians 6:16Galatians 2:201 Timothy 6:12; and Hebrews 11:1-40.

YOU are NOT the GOD I would have chosen!

SOURCE:  Michael Card

God’s Disturbing Faithfulness

What in the world is God up to?

“You are not the God we would have chosen,” Walter Brueggemann prays in his book Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth.

That troubling prayer resonates in my heart. For the truth is, most often I would have chosen (and indeed do choose) a god other than Him.

Most often, I would rather not learn the hard lessons the hard way. I would rather not have to worship in the wilderness, where God continuously calls me to find and be found by Him. I would rather God simply meet my expectations, fix my problems, heal my hurts, and be on His way.

I want a God who is faithful to me in ways I understand and expect, who expresses faithfulness in the ways I choose.

The good news is, there is such a god. In fact, there are many of them. Constructed of small snippets of Bible verses, glued together with human reason and need, these gods always move in expected ways, according to the given formula. Their faithfulness always feels good. It almost always ends in bankable results. That is the good news. The bad news? None of them represent the God of the Bible.

This is faithfulness?

The faithfulness of God is celebrated throughout the Bible, especially in Psalms. It is one of the psalmists’ favorite reasons for praising Him (36:5; 71:22; 86:15; 89:1-2, 5, 8; 100:5; 138:2). And why not praise God for His faithfulness? When we think of all the wonderful promises He has made and realize that because of His perfect faithfulness He will perfectly keep each and every one, how glorious! Who wouldn’t want to give their lives to such a God as this? Who would not choose Him to be their God?

Yet as we enter more deeply into a relationship with the God of Scripture, we increasingly discover—to our great annoyance—that, despite the reports to the contrary, most often God refuses to act in simple, easily understandable ways that coincide with our definition of what His faithfulness should look like.

We ask Him to be faithful by answering all our prayers for healing. Isn’t Ps. 103:3 crystal clear? He “heals all your diseases,” it says (emphasis mine). So we beg and plead, and yet the cancer rate among Christians remains virtually the same as among those outside the faith. We respectfully request financial help; after all, Phil. 4:19 explicitly promises that “God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (emphasis mine). When the looked-for check does not appear, what are we to think? Either God is not being faithful to His promise (unthinkable!) or else we do not understand what that faithfulness means.

So what is the missing piece of the puzzle? What is God’s faithfulness supposed to look like?

This is surely the question that troubled Job.

The religious world he inhabited believed God’s faithfulness should look like doing, fixing, judging (even cursing), answering, healing, and ultimately providing. That, at least, was the point of view of Job’s friends. In return for their works-righteousness, they believed that God was obliged to make things right for His people.

Yet Job, whom God Himself declared righteous, is beset with every sort of suffering and loss. A thousand years or more before the man of sorrows, Job became acquainted with all our grief. In return for his righteousness, Job received unimaginable suffering. Where was God’s faithfulness? Had He forgotten His promises? Was He hiding? Was He asleep? As I spend more and more time in the book of Job, I begin to wonder if the deepest source of Job’s pain was not the murdered children or his wrecked health, but rather the terrifying prospect that the true God might indeed be nothing like the god of his old definition.

In Job’s world, God was a question-answering god who faithfully provided wisdom. Yet when the God of Job finally appears, He only asks more questions. How disappointing for Job’s friends. The God of Job clearly has more in mind than meting out justice. His faithfulness is expressed in a way that no one could ever have imagined: He showed up! Nothing could have been more disturbing for the lot of them.

“My ears had heard of you,” stammers Job, “but now my eyes have seen you” (42:5).

A God whose faithfulness is more a matter of presence than provision. A God whose faithfulness is made visible simply by showing up . . . sound familiar?

Faithfulness Incarnate

In His own time, as well as ours, many who came close to Jesus were disappointed by His disturbing revelation of the faithfulness of God.

There were those who wanted Jesus to judge and condemn. In John 8, the scribes and Pharisees hounded Jesus for a judgment against an adulterous woman. If Jesus were to be faithful to their notion of God and the law, they reasoned, He had no other choice but to pronounce her fate. After all, she was caught in the act.

Others wanted healing, and certainly Jesus healed people by the thousands. But faithfulness for Jesus didn’t always look like healing. In John 11, after hearing of the life-threatening illness of one of His closest friends, Jesus appears to loiter for two more frustrating days. As a result, Lazarus dies. Martha and Mary appear with the same disappointed accusation on their lips (though I believe in different tones of voice). “If you had only been here, he would not have died,” they both say. If only . . . you had fixed things, healed him, answered our prayers the way we wanted them answered.

But, like His Father, Jesus has come to show us that God is faithful to us in ways we never could have dreamed. Jesus refuses to condemn the woman caught in adultery because, as Frederick Buechner once said, He knew He would be condemned for her (Jn. 3:17, Ro. 8:1). “I pass judgment on no one,” Jesus will say to His critics (Jn. 8:15). Later, in the face of His hearers’ disbelief, He will declare, “I did not come to judge the world, but to save it” (Jn. 12:47). The disturbing faithfulness of Jesus does not look like condemnation. Instead He showed up to save!

And before Jesus moves on to the tomb of his friend Lazarus to call forth the “dead man” from the grave, He enacts what most of us never regard as a miracle. But it may be the most miraculous miracle of the whole story. The miracle? Jesus wept.

He showed up and entered fully and painfully into the suffering of His friends. Moments later He would indeed provide the resurrection miracle none of them could even have imagined asking for. Yet Lazarus would eventually die once more, wouldn’t he? Death would remain a reality, even as it is for us today. But what had changed forever was the image of the face of faithfulness. Not judgmental; not with anger in its eyes but rather a tear. God incarnate enfleshed and gave form to faithfulness.

Faithfulness was Jesus fully present.

Present in their redemption and ours.

Present in their suffering and ours.

Present in their loneliness and ours.

Acquainted with their griefs and ours.

This was a faithfulness no one expected—so deeply personal, so fully satisfying. Jesus didn’t always faithfully give people answers or healing or judgments, but He did give them Himself.

The Promise of Presence

Who is God for you? What do you think His faithfulness should look like? Is He a predictable theological entity, frozen on the throne? Is your greatest hope for Him that He might appear someday and pass judgment on your enemies? Or could He possibly, unimaginably, be the God we meet in Job who descends from the throne room where He has been dealing with the accusations of Satan, the God who shows up, having been moved by Job’s tears.

Who is Jesus for you? How is faithfulness written on His face for you? Is He merely a caricature walking three inches off the ground? Or might He impossibly be the very image of the God whose disturbing faithfulness looks like simply showing up to make His name “Immanuel” true in the fullest way it could ever be true. Could it be that the best show of faithfulness is not the healing or the unexpected check that saves from bankruptcy, but the unthinkable truth that God has chosen to be “with us” through it all? Could it be that the miracle is not provision, but presence?

Faithfulness most resembles the God who showed up and, in the process, became acquainted with all our sorrows. His promise of faithfulness is heard in His parting words, “Surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Mt. 28:20, emphasis mine). It is the best promise any bridegroom can possibly make to his bride.

In our frustration we cry out to the heavens. We shake our fists at the sky, demanding that God act, move, fix, heal. We insist that He be faithful according to our expectations of faithfulness. My mentor, Dr. William Lane, used to say,

We want the God of the magic wand. The God who makes the cancer go away. But more remarkably, He is the God who comes alongside us and suffers with us. He is the God who never leaves us.

Ask yourself, how did God Himself speak of His faithfulness? What are the words He most often used in both the Old and New Testaments to describe what it would look like? How about:

Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.

—see Dt. 31:6; Heb. 13:5

Now the dwelling of God is with men and women, and He will live with them.

—see Ex. 25:8; Rev. 21:3

No doubt I will go on forgetting all this and doggedly keep demanding God to provide.

I need money.

I need health.

I need happiness.

And when the sky remains silent I will likely fume at Him in frustration, “Where are You?” I will doubt Him and His promised presence with and in me because what I think should be His provision has not shown up on time.

And He will continue to pursue—passionately and patiently—my foolish, forgetful self.

If, like me, you find yourself disturbed by what sometimes appears to be a lack of faithfulness on God’s part—if you, too, are beginning to feel that He is not the God you would have chosen—then perhaps it is time to wonder if God is up to something else, something other than trying to become our pie-in-the-sky god.

Just maybe He is working a more miraculous miracle than we ever could have asked for or imagined. He, the God of the universe, has determined to do a work in (not for) us. Paul declares in Phil. 1:6 that He has promised to do this interior, spiritual work until He is finally finished, and that will be on the day Jesus shows up fully, finally, and completely, once and for all time.

Brueggemann is right.

This is not the God we would have chosen.

But neither could we have dreamed up nor imagined such a God: a God the immediacy of whose presence is incarnate in us by His indwelling Spirit, a God who is committed to the throes of completing this labor of indwelling us, of being born in and through us. It is His deepest desire. It is the greatest of all His wordless miracles.

He is not the God any of us would have chosen but, as Brueggemann marvelously concludes, He is the God who has chosen us.

———————————————————————————-

MICHAEL CARD is an award-winning musician, performing artist, and songwriter. His many songs include “El Shaddai” and “Immanuel.” He has also written numerous books, including A Violent Grace, The Parable of Joy, and A Fragile Stone. A graduate of Western Kentucky University with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in biblical studies. Michael lives in Tennessee with his wife and four children.

How to Be Happy in an Unhappy Marriage

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

After two failed marriages, Janice decided to try one more time for the relationship she dreamed of. Yet, just one year later, her marriage to Hank was crumbling. Defeated and confused, Janice cried out to God for some answers. “In that moment,” she says, “I began to realize that there is no perpetual honeymoon to any marriage. Sometimes it’s just plain hard work. It was then and there that God told me I could not depend on my husband to make me happy, I would only find my true happiness in God.”

Even as Christians, many of us have grown up with unrealistic expectations of marriage. Hollywood and Harlequin have taught us that we must find our perfect match—our soul mates—to be happy. When difficulties occur in our marriage, we may wonder, like Janice did, whether we have found the right person or may even think we have made a terrible mistake. After twenty-six years of marriage and over two decades of counseling couples I have learned that God created marriage to mature us and for us to enjoy, but it was never intended to fulfill us or make us happy.

Marriage is God’s great idea, but in every marriage there are seasons of difficulty and times of dryness where one or both partners may feel dissatisfied with the marital relationship. As we work to improve our marriage, sometimes our efforts don’t produce the changes we want. During these times, the question we need to ask ourselves is not, “Should I leave my spouse so I can find another person who will make me happy?” but rather, “Can I learn to find contentment and joy while in the midst of an unhappy marriage? And if so, how?”

Change Your Focus

Everyone I know wants to feel good inside but few know the secret to lasting happiness or even what happiness is. Is happiness a feeling of emotional ecstasy? Intense pleasure with life’s circumstances? An internal state of well-being or contentment? Happiness can comprise all of these things.

Several years ago my husband surprised me with a beautiful pearl necklace I had admired. I felt really happy—for about three days—until I began longing for some earrings to go with it. We all search for something to fulfill us and make us happy, whether it is people, objects, or positions of status. When we get what we desire, we feel a certain emotion we call happiness. This feeling, however, is always short-lived and, like Solomon with his 700 wives and me with my pearl necklace, we begin longing for the next thing we desire that will bring us more satisfaction.

While on a trip to Walt Disney World, I was struck by the number of cranky youngsters and frustrated parents. My children, like many others, were caught up in the excitement and wanted everything they saw. They felt elated whenever they got what they wanted but their happiness didn’t last. When the next thing they desired was denied, the thrill they felt just minutes before quickly deteriorated and they became miserable.

Soon after my Disney experience, I traveled overseas to do some speaking and teaching in the Philippines. I observed barefoot children merrily swinging on old tires, living in houses constructed from cardboard boxes. These children didn’t need lots of stuff to make them happy. Though maybe just for the moment, they were enjoying what they had.

Many of us feel dissatisfied in life because we are not content with what God has given us. We want more. How does this apply to our marriage?

Jesus tells us that where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also (Matt. 6:21). If our treasure, or deepest desire, is in having a great marriage or a fat bank account or certain other things we deem essential to our well-being, then we will feel unhappy when we don’t get what we want. For whatever has our heart, has us.

No one is more concerned with our happiness than Jesus is. He just tells us a different way of obtaining it than the world does. He tells us that happiness is never found by pursuing happiness or pleasure or people, but only found by pursuing him. He says, “Blessed (or happy) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). Too many of us hunger and thirst after happiness (or a good marriage or a big house), instead of hungering and thirsting after God. We forget that Jesus is the only one who can deeply satisfy our soul. Everyone desires unfailing love (Prov. 19:22); it’s just that we will never receive that kind of love continually from our spouses.

Created in his image, God designed us to experience happiness when something brings us great delight. For example, God is delighted when we find our greatest pleasure in him. But often it is not God that brings us our greatest joy but what he gives us. We desire his gifts but we don’t realize that our greatest gift is God himself. Oswald Chambers explains: “The great enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, but the good which is not good enough. The good is always the enemy of the best.” We want and pursue good things, but often neglect the best thing. The Psalmist reminds us where lasting happiness is found. He writes, “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11). God’s love is the only love that never fails (Jer. 31:3).

Guard Your Heart

To find any joy in an unhappy or difficult marriage, we must learn to guard our hearts (Prov. 4:23). Many individuals who struggle in marriage get very good at guarding their hearts, but the walls they build to protect themselves are against their spouses instead of against their real enemy. In the midst of an unhappy marriage, our spouse may feel like the enemy, but God tells us that our real enemy is Satan and the Bible warns us that he is out to devour us (1 Pet. 5:8).

Satan’s goal has always been to get us to question God’s goodness and to doubt that what God says is true. Jesus tells us that Satan is a liar (John 8:44) and his strategy is to take something that seems true and twist it ever so slightly. In a difficult marriage, Satan may whisper lies like, “Why should you be the only one trying in the marriage? It’s not fair. Find someone else who will make you happy.” Or, “Don’t forgive, she doesn’t deserve it. You’re entitled to feel this way after what she did to you.” Or, “He will never be the person you want. You made a terrible mistake marrying him and God doesn’t want you to spend the rest of your life unhappily married to this person.”

Satan wants us to believe that God is not good and that he does not know what is in our best interest. Remember, he is not interested in our well-being or our happiness. He wants to destroy us and our families.

Guarding my heart not only requires me to be aware of Satan’s schemes, but to draw close to God and listen to truth. Don’t let Satan deceive you into believing that any lasting happiness can be found apart from God.

Live for the Eternal

In the midst of hardship, our natural response is to look for the nearest exit. That’s true of difficult marriages as well. Whether we exit in big ways like divorce or adultery or in small ways by shutting down and withdrawing emotionally, we want out. Yet the Bible tells us in James 1 that it is in the midst of difficulties that we have the opportunity to develop one of the most important disciplines we need to live life well—perseverance. Without this quality we will tend to live for what brings us relief or pleasure in the short-run.

I love to eat, especially sweets. I love tasting warm, gooey chocolate in my mouth, and I could be happy eating chocolate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Yet when I over-indulge, I’m plagued with other emotions like guilt and regret. I’m angry that I’ve sabotaged the bigger goal I have of gaining self-control and maintaining good eating habits. I’ve also discovered that when I succeed in saying no to the chocolate temptation, I actually feel happier with myself.

We only understand what makes us truly happy when we have a long-term perspective on life. Living for the moment can fool us into thinking that temporal pleasures bring happiness. The writer of Proverbs warns us, “At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. You will say, ‘How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction!'” (Prov. 5:3,11,12). Many have discovered only too late, that what brought joy in the moment caused hardship and grief in the long run.

The apostle Paul reminds us that it was only when he kept the eternal lens fixed tightly to his spiritual eyes was he kept from utter despair in times of great difficulty (see 2 Cor. 4). Looking at the big picture gives us perspective in the moment and helps us see that God is good and is doing something good in us, even in the midst of a difficult marriage (Rom. 8:28, 29).

Knowing that you can find some joy the midst of an unhappy marriage will give you enough staying power to persevere until things change. You can experience a sense of well-being as you learn the secret of being content in whatever situation God allows in your life. When we take the high road in the midst of marital troubles it leads to growth and spiritual maturity. In addition to that, our children will watch an example of what it means to walk with God and to trust him in all things. And while enjoying these blessings you may discover that your marriage improves. However, the greatest happiness in all of life will come when we hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And in the end, that is all that counts.

————————————————————————————————————-

Leslie Vernick is the director of Christ Centered Counseling for Individual and Families and the author of How To Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong (WaterBrook). She and her husband, Howard, live in Orefield, Pennsylvania.

NOTE:  If your marriage consists of physical or emotional abuse, you may also need to take measures to protect yourself and your children in ways that are beyond the scope of this article. Please consult with your pastor or Christian counselor to find ways to deal with this situation.

Tag Cloud