You can find the introduction to the Possession Series here.
Isn’t it amazing how something can start out right and end up so wrong? When the whole nation of Israel walked away from their captors into freedom, it seemed like the hard work was behind them. But according to God’s plan, the work was just beginning. As they journeyed through the wilderness they were a unit of one. Up until now God had done it all. Up until now their oneness was assumed. But things were about to change. They would begin the work of possessing their own land. Their oneness was about to be tested by their enemies.
Faith unites, fear divides
The Israelites were shown the good and the bad of this project. Their enemies were threatening but God meant for this intimidation to unite them in their quest to conquer and possess the land He had given them: their land. Instead of being empowered by faith, they chose fear, and everyone except Joshua and Caleb saw only obstacles and none of the promise. By focusing on the problems, these leaders played right into Satan’s sphere of fear and took down all the people with them!
Fear led the whole nation in the complete opposite direction of what God had said, “Scout it! Conquer and possess it!” They chose the advice of the majority instead of obeying Joshua and Caleb, who were telling them what they already knew, “God is able!”
Satan got the dissension that he set out to achieve: division among the nation based on fear. Even though God had taken steps to show them the goodness and blessings before they began, they didn’t start out with the end in mind.
United in faith
There is a huge correlation here to our marriages. We start out so right: A wedding. A celebration of Oneness and a promise of hope and faith. But then life begins to happen, unity is stressed and tested and we turn against each other. The natural contrast between male and female – which God intended to unite us as powerful allies against our common enemy – is turned inward towards each other. Our focus is wrong: We try to possess the wrong thing and use the wrong weapons against the wrong enemy. We are blinded to the blessing that comes with the original purpose of marriage.
Satan’s strategy of negative focus in marriage will yield the same results as it did for the nation of Israel: infighting to division. Negative thoughts get stuck in our minds as we focus on difficulties. Soon we think all the problems in our marriage are giant sized and unconquerable, even by God. As our focus narrows into singular concentration, every little offence (real or imagined) is magnified into an impasse. And Satan slips through the crack that we’ve opened and whispers:
- “he always does this”
- “this marriage will never change”
- “there is no other choice
- “there is no way this marriage can last”
- “this is just impossible to live with”
- “this just is not fair”
- “this is not right”
Focusing on these obstacles causes them to grow, in our reality, turning them into mythic giants. Soon the vision of your husband gets corrupted, which leads to a view of hopelessness in the marriage. Losing sight of the blessing is a scary place to be, but the saddest part is that fear has replaced your faith in God’s power of healing and restoration.
Fear always begins in the mind. The heart ruminates on thoughts and finally gives birth to actions. Can you see it? It is exactly the same technique that Satan used with the Israelites! It is a scare tactic meant to keep us away from our blessing.
Level headed faith
There probably is some unfairness in your marriage and probably some character traits or habits that are hard to live with. Both of you are broken people living in a broken world; broken people are hurt and hurting people hurt others.
Don’t deny the obstacles that are obviously present, or the tribulations that come with an offence. Rather, let faith lead your focus to the truth that overcomes obstacles. Faith will encourage you to say, “I will go at once and possess my marriage of milk and honey, for I am well able to conquer any obstacle” (paraphrased for application). Faith like Caleb’s enables us to look past the obstacles without denying their reality. He didn’t disagree with anything that the scouts said. He didn’t try to explain away any of the obstacles, argue the truth about their size, or deny that they existed. He simply responded with truth: Let us go up at once and possess it; we are well able to conquer it.
You already have been given a marriage of milk and honey. All that is needed is possession.
Is someone saying your husband is not good? (that’s a giant) Is someone saying you have to leave your marriage because you have no other choice? (that’s a giant) Or are they saying that your current situation is impossible to live in? (yep, giant)
People mean well. They just don’t realize they are being used by the enemy to direct your focus onto the current obstacles instead of the blessing of the plan that comes after the obstacles. Paul told us to keep our eyes on the prize and keep moving forward. We do that by laying aside the sin of fear and the comments of the nay-sayers, the bad reports.
A universal truth of God’s design is that whenever there is a wide opened door of opportunity, there will also be many adversaries. Marriage is that open door of opportunity, so we can expect our Adversary to push back. Let your focus pass over those giants, right into the promise that God showed you when you first met your husband. Each obstacle you conquer will bring you closer to possessing a marriage of milk & honey.
Chris over at Forgiven Wife invited me to share a little deeper regarding a comment in which I had spoken of a 365 Day Journey. Today’s post is that amplification. In her email she wrote something I want to share: “The process of change can seem an insurmountable hurdle […]”
This is where I want to jump off from to start.
Indeed it was insurmountable. Although I knew what God had showed me to do, I had no idea how He was going to change me or what I was going to be like at the end of the journey; this was flying blind for sure. I only knew for sure where I was: It was time for something to change. Our marriage had been ravaged; beaten up and bleeding… dying; a barely recognizable corpse. A sorry sight for representation of Christ and His church. Anais Nin captured my day when she wrote, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
To continue reading click to The Forgiven Wife.
What storm are you encountering … right now … at this very moment? When your marriage boat set sail on it’s journey everything was on a nice even keel; but now it’s anything but ‘smooth sailin’ and you have no idea where all the rough waters came from.
Does this present storm have you wanting to turn and run away in fear? How would you respond to Jesus as He asks you:
The disciples were clambering in a panic from their emotions. When crisis brings chop into our marriages I think we do the same thing, we end up paralyzed from our emotions and are faced with a huge temptation to focus on the circumstances and all the bad that could happen instead of all the power God has.
Isn’t this always our first wail to God?
make it stop ~ make it go away ~ make it be over
– always from our emotions.
I’m like one of the disciples, my default is to scramble to wake up Jesus before it gets too bad … before it gets too tough. What I’m really asking God to do is to change my circumstances. The disciples had already witnessed Jesus perform 3 miracles, yet when the storm hit, they still didn’t trust. I think this is why Jesus was agitated with them and why He calls this “little” faith. The answer isn’t in God changing the people around us or the circumstances we’re in (as we often ask Him to do), but in Christ alone. Diligently trusting. Diligently staying and standing, trusting that God will finish what He started.
~ Diligence is definitely the key ~
In 2 Peter 1, Peter lays out the track that will lead to a bigger faith that is the close intimate relationship Jesus is looking to have with us. For this very reason, adding your diligence [to the divine promises], employ every effort in exercising your faith to develop virtue …
Without diligence faith will stay “little”. Changed circumstances won’t grow you closer to Jesus. All this does is keep your faith muscles weak from lack of exercise, which puts you further away from intimate knowledge of Jesus and authentic fellowship with Him. (2 Peter 1:5-8)
Then, when you find your marriage in the middle of a terrible storm, your faith isn’t big enough to allow you the peace needed to stay with it. Don’t forget, Jesus was asleep during the storm.
Circumstances of the storm
- They were fisherman accustom to being on all kinds of water; they knew storms – this one was bad.
- They didn’t plan it, or plan for it. Zero control over it. And no help from anyone else.
- Their response revealed where their faith really was. Nothing like a good surprise storm to reveal your true level of courage on the open water.
They wanted Jesus to change the circumstances they were in; for Him to stop the storm and for it to be all over. But Jesus wanted to show them a different way to get on the other side of it. He wanted them to ride-out the storm by conquering through faith in Him.
Circumstances of a storm in marriage
- It doesn’t matter how well you think you know your spouse, people are not static. We are all healing, growing and changing. We are all capable of sin because we are sinners.
- Offences come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and colours. We have no control over how Satan is going to try and divide a marriage. You can guarantee he’s not going to be upfront … he hides and pushes from behind and it feels like you are capsizing.
- Nothing like a good spur of the moment crisis to reveal where you really are in your faith. How I respond to offence will show me just how much of my heart has been molded into the image of Christ.
How do you pray for your spouse when your marriage is confronted with crisis? This is when our true character of faith emerges. No rote responses. No practice runs or plans of eloquent words.
There’s really only 2 choices:
- Fear: Pray for the circumstances to change, asking God to remove our hardship and make it easy so that we don’t have to exercise faith. We want God to take away free choice and change those around us and what they are doing.
- Faith: We boldly stand in the confidence that comes from a bigger faith, diligently trusting as God shapes us into conquerors.
Similar to worry, which literally divides your strength in half, fear will eat away at the faith that is needed to sustain you through a storm in your marriage. It will lead you by the nose as a blind coward that is timid and afraid. Diligence in faith will drive you to where the real power is: closer to Christ.
The next time you and your spouse find your placid pond whipped into a frenzy of a storm, try asking yourself: What am I going to focus on, the storm or Jesus. It takes work and training to resist the temptation to rush to Jesus with that prayer of, “change everything else,” instead of, “with Your power, change me.”
I purposely waited until after Valentine’s Day to publish this post.
A couple of days before Valentine’s Day I was reading along on Twitter and saw a pattern emerge, “What I want for Valentine’s Day is …,” or, “All I want for Valentine’s Day is …” Although framed in many different phrases, it all boiled down to drawing the emphasis to self: Me. I. My. Considering who Saint Valentine was, I found this pattern at odds with his message.
Have we over romanticised all that Saint Valentine died for? As much as we like the cushy gush brought to us by marketing and advertising, let’s look a little beyond that to some facts:
- Saint Valentine believed so strongly in what marriage stood for that he was willing to die for it.
- He honoured Christian marriage and chose to break the law to preserve its sanctity.
- He endured a beating and stoning before decapitation.
Doesn’t exactly inspire a trip to People’s Jewelers and a romantic card from Hallmark.
There’s an excellent article in which Father O’Gara of Whitefriars Street Church in Dublin, says, “What Valentine means to me as a priest, is that there comes a time where you have to lay your life upon the line for what you believe. And with the power of the Holy Spirit we can do that — even to the point of death.”
Try Something New
I’m not a ‘buzz-kill’ that believes in looking for reasons to not celebrate. I love to partae! And, I believe in ALL things that celebrate marriage! I just want to find a better way to honour this courageous hero of marriage than:
- Making it about self.
- Making a mockery of his name sake by assimilation into the emotional promotions of flowers, frills and sales gimmicks.
A way of celebrating that would be more of an echo of Jesus. Saint Valentine knew the heart of Christ and followed His pattern. Inside Jesus was giver not a getter. He died giving, not getting.
If you really believe that Valentine’s Day is about marriage and lovers, and you want Saint Valentine’s death to mean something, I challenge you to drill down on giving. Don’t just give this day a fleeting acknowledgement that’s filled with expectations of getting. If you are a wife, celebrate your marriage by being the best, the most stupendous partner for your husband! Always being superior in your giving and excelling to do more than enough. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Instead of starting February 14th in the AM and ending February 14th in the PM, start now – February 17, 2014, and continue through to February 14th 2 0 1 5. Then, on Valentine’s Day 2015, you will really have something to celebrate.
Set aside a devotional time just for your husband, not to pray with him, but to pray for hm. Let God into all the recesses of your heart concerning your husband. It’s not a time to pray about his faults – it’s about praying for your growth areas as a wife.
Put the expectations of Valentine’s Day on yourself and make it about what you are going to give to your husband over the next year.
- Reconnect with God about your marriage vows. Ask God if He’ll be able to say to you, “Well done good and faithful servant?” And listen to His response. (1 John 2:6)
- We all suffer from immaturity. There are areas within all of us that need to grow up. Ask your spouse, “What is one thing that I need to grow in for you. An area that will help me be less selfish and a little more like Jesus.” (Romans 8:29)
- Ask God to reveal mindsets that are destructive to your marriage and egotistical attitudes. Make it a season to learn how to apologize for something you said that was hurtful. In an effort to grow up and be responsible for your own behaviour. Even if your spouse was 99% responsible and your reaction was 1%. Own one hundred percent of your 1%. (Ephesians 4:31-32)
- Ask for encouragement. Ask your man to tell you any area(s) that you are hitting it right! (Hebrews 3:13)
Concentrate on the cosmic picture of eternity. Does God really want me to grow into a spouse that’s able to get the most or a spouse who’s able to give the most? What will you give this Valentine’s Day of 2015? The day you were married you promised this man a lot … you need to give more than you promised.*
*Adapted from the quote by Anthony J. D’Angelo: Promise a lot and give even more.
If you missed the first part – Stop Talking (Part 1): Thank you I don’t need your help, you can find it here. In the first part I laid a foundation for why God asks us wives to be quiet from time to time.
I want to start Part 2 off with a visual exercise. Let’s say your son brings home his future bride. You’ve got super high-powered discernment and are able to clearly see the person of the hidden heart. Which hidden person would you hope to see?
She’s one who’s going to emerge when the pressures on from daily living.
Sister warriors, the part from 1 Peter 3:1 – ‘not by discussion’ – isn’t about becoming the mute-in-the-marriage, as some would have you believe. It’s about training to learn how to talk to your own husband, so that you’ll learn to speak the opposite of how the world has taught you to speak — so that your husband will WANT to listen to you.
The language God has chosen for us wives is the diametric opposite of the voice the world uses – we can see the difference by examining the contrast of:
- Listening to His instruction only.
- Observing other couples. That’s right. Observe the way other wives are speaking at their husbands. Then observe the behaviour and countenance and demeanor of the husband. Really examine the fruit.
When you stop talking, what happens? You are able to discern. Sights and sounds resonate with clarity. Being quiet is about observing what is going on around you – in this case, in the relationship of marriage. It’s not judging the people involved, just witnessing the interactions.
I briefly worked at The Home Depot, which gave me some up-close and personal observation opportunities. It was telling (and sad) to see so many women rip their husbands a new one, tearing down their lack of ability and knowledge of the family finances… out in public, in front of the eyes and ears of others. These wives lacked discretion, and it echoed through their voices.
While you are quiet and observant so that God can deal with your husband, He will also be teaching you something: discretion. But not just any discretion – discretion as it relates to your own husband, who you believe is presently not obeying God’s Word.
We need to be effective tools in God’s hands for Him to use us to shape our husbands. If you lack “the quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offense or revealing private information,”* your husband won’t listen to you, let alone seek your opinion. He cannot trust you.
Also, it’s important that we don’t look like spiteful and ignorant women. “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful face on an empty head.” –Proverbs 11:22
By stepping back, you can see a clear, thorough image of yourself. You can ask God: “What kind of wife am I? What do I look like … to You? God, let me see myself.”
What do I see?
In Proverbs, God says it’s the midyan wife that’s a problem; she is the one to whom He’s saying this. Our English translations have used a number of different words that can capture her quality(s):
- Contentious: She’s given to starting arguments – with her husband.
- Brawling: She’s rough or noisy in fights – with her husband.
- Nagging: She’s constantly harassing out of fear – her husband.
- Scolding: She angrily rebukes and reprimands – her husband.
- Discord: She causes disharmony – with her husband.
- Disagreeable: She is unfriendly and bad tempered – with her husband.
- Strife: She’s bitter in disagreement over fundamental issues – with her husband.
- Quarrelsome: Her temperament is characterized by quarreling – with her husband.
ewww, and unfortunately, there’s more … some wives can get even worse.
In Proverbs 21, we have the wife that takes the cake. She gets the word midyan and the word ka’as, which means: She’s angry, grief causing, and full of indignation, provocation, spite, wrath and vexation.
Of course husbands could have these traits too, but God’s not speaking about them, is He? All of these character traits have to do with talking, and it’s women who love to talk… A LOT. But if you are a midyan wife, God is saying that your husband is better off in the heat of a desert, possibly dying of thirst or starvation … alone. It is better to dwell in a desert land than with a midyan and ka’as woman. –Proverbs 21:19
Wow, that’s pretty bad. I was pretty bad. But I couldn’t get it until God got a hold of me and I shut my mouth long enough to see it.
Talk, talk, talk – STOP!! … just for now
We women burst at the seams to talk. We always have something to say about everything — especially the behaviours of our husbands. And because we are such powerful creatures, our talk is amplified.
“New research indicates there’s a biological reason why women talk so much more than men: 20,000 words a day spoken by the average woman, according to one study, versus about 7,000 words a day for the average man.”**
Now take a ton of words, lots of emotion and power, and throw in a pinch of the all-knowing deified-diva, and we’re off to the races, driving our husbands off the couch and out to the garage, or even further way … out to the desert land.
What’s a girl to do?
It’s not that God wants our ‘gift of gab’ to be lost. He wouldn’t purposely design us this way and then tell us, “Don’t talk.” He simply wants to renew our minds so that we can talk correctly – His way. Once we get a good look at ourselves, we can quickly unlearn the wrong way, but it can’t happen if we don’t step out in courage and ask God to show us what we really look like.
No one knows the heart of your husband like God does, right? God knows what your husband’s doing, how he’s doing it, and why he does it. As you stand down, your focus will shift from your husband’s behavior back to God’s grace, and he will feel the pressure release as he’s taken out from beneath your magnifying glass. This is when he hears from God: as he relaxes.
I remember thinking that if I didn’t keep telling my husband, he would think that I agreed with and condoned what he was doing. The funny thing is, though, that God never says anything like that. He simply says that He doesn’t need my will or my intervention. God said, “You don’t have to agree with Darrell, just stop reminding him that you don’t. He already knows it.”
Step back to go forward
You can’t demand that your husband listen to you. You don’t power your way into his face and space so that he’s forced to hear to you, because he’s not going to. Men don’t respond to verbal force by listening and obeying – they respond to force with force. They tighten up, circle the wagons, hunker down, and dig in. God KNOWS this is how a husband will respond, because He’s the One that wired him to do exactly that – with all the testosterone! And that’s why He tells wives, not by discussion.
What God is really asking wives to do is disengage from this particular battle, so that He can step in. With me constantly engaging my husband in a battle of wills over one particular issue, Darrell was so busy fighting against me that God couldn’t get his attention – I was in the way.
Can God force His way between you and your husband? Yes, but He won’t, not when He’s already invited you to step back and work co-operatively with Him.
The midyan wife will always have zero influence in her husband’s life. But a wife who knows when and how to talk, will have a powerful influence on her husband’s life.
In like manner, you married women, be submissive to your own husbands [subordinate yourselves as being secondary to and dependent on them, and adapt yourselves to them], so that even if any do not obey the Word [of God], they may be won over not by discussion but by the [godly] lives of their wives, -1 Peter 3:1
Wow, that one packs a wallop, doesn’t it? What do you do with instructions that challenging?
One of the things I love about God is that His ways are provocative, unapologetic, and radically different than mainstream culture. The things He says push against my flesh and challenge me to grow up into a fully-developed eternal person (James 1:2-3; 1 Peter 4:12-13) while I still live here in the temporary realm. This growing up is hard at first, but God always delivers the power for us to complete what He instructs if we follow His way instead of doing it on our own.
1 Peter 3:1 was one of those verses that used to challenge me, and occasionally still does. Sometimes the problem I had was with the first half, and sometimes it was with this little phrase: they may be won over NOT by discussion.
I used to hate that phrase. It offended my flesh because it didn’t make sense. When I thought I had grasped what it meant, I went beyond confusion straight into anger. “God’s telling me to shut up! That’s just not fair!” My head felt like it was going to explode from shutting up.
If I know anything about God, I know that He is always just. If something seemed or felt wrong or unfair, the injustice came from my interpretation of His instruction, not from the instruction itself. He mercifully waited for me to grow up so that He could help me understand this verse in a way that changed how I see it. It is a relief to not struggle with it so much anymore. I hope it will bless you too!
1 Peter 3:1 is not about setting the tone for the entire marriage. Instead, it is a God-style conflict resolution tool that is to be used when the two of you are at odds and the unity of the marriage is threatened. It’s something to flow in and out of, not where the relationship lives. The time that wives are to move into this silence is stated in 1 Peter 3: if any do not obey the Word [of God].
The Word clearly states that the time to use it is when your husband is being disobedient to God, in whatever form:
- Not allowing himself to be persuaded; refusing to believe or withhold belief; refusing belief and obedience
- Will not comply with
The above description is from Blue Letter Bible. Also, it’s pretty clear from esword too: Contumacious – Stubbornly or willfully disobedient to authority.
Thanks, But No Thanks
… [husbands] may be won over NOT by discussion …
The word, ‘not’ is from the Greek word aneu and it literally means: without one’s will or intervention. Translation: God doesn’t want my will for my husband’s life or need my intervention in the scenario we are currently fighting about.
God has asked us as wives to be quiet because He is better qualified to intervene in our husbands’ lives than we are. Your husband will hear God’s correction, but he won’t hear you harass him about the circumstance. God needs you to stand down and back off. The phrase ‘not by discussion’ beautifully and purposely captures God’s intention towards the disobedient husband, as well as His message to a wife: “Thanks, but no thanks. I’ve got this.”
My Words Were Wrong?
If you find that you have little to no understanding about men, this generally translates into disrespect for them. My lack of knowledge came through the cultural instillation of feminism. I did not know how to talk to my husband so he would hear me. I needed a new understanding, and a new language to express that understanding.
Do you realize what God is actually doing here? In the vehicle of this current fight, He’s calling shotgun and wants you to voluntarily move to the back seat and keep quiet. This is more commonly called ‘minding your own business.’
Try looking at it this way: You are a parent. Your son is disobeying and your daughter keeps chirping in and trying to get her brother to do right by being the one to tell him he’s wrong. He just won’t listen, so they always end up fighting over the same thing. What are you going to say to your daughter? “Be quiet. I’ll deal with this.” You don’t want to hear from her, do you? As a parent, you know there are times to step in, and times to let them be, and it’s your choice.
This is EXACTLY the way our Spiritual Father works – He’s the Good Parent, we are the siblings. It’s HIS choice when to step in. As a wife, your chirping-in is just seen as controlling and bossy, nagging… disrespectful. The fact that my husband wouldn’t listen to me, didn’t come to me for counsel, or ask my opinion, was the proof that I had not been speaking correctly. You will never be a beneficial influence in your husband’s life – especially when he’s off track – if you have talked too much and done it wrong.
“You don’t have to be a “person of influence” to be influential. In fact, the most influential people in my life are probably not even aware of things they’ve taught me.” –Scott Adams
Part 2 to follow next week:
Stop Talking – OK, I’m quiet, now what do I do?