Friday, January 9, 2009

Love on Trial

"I've finally found someone who makes me happy," he said with a dreamy confidence.
"But you're married," his pastor reminded him.
"Well, it's not like we're husband and wife; we don't live like it anyway."
"Then you need to work on that instead of looking for someone else."
"We've been through all that, we're past all that. Besides, I wasn't looking for anyone. God brought Julia into my life for a reason. You always say there's no such thing as an accident - God is always working."
"You think God brought this Julia into your life to commit adultery with?" asked the incredulous pastor.
"No," the man laughed condescendingly, shaking his head at his pastor's simple-minded question. "We haven't committed adultery. We've both decided to wait until we're married for any of that. I do know that Julia is God's relief from all the misery I've been through with Rachel."
"You can't get married. You are married! To Rachel. God gave you Rachel as a wife."
"But God also wants us to be happy, and neither of us are."
"Who told you that?"
"You did, Pastor. You tell us that all the time."
"That's not how I mean it, and I think you know that."
"Well, a loving God wouldn't want his children to live in hell every day. He's not getting any glory from our marriage anyway. At least Julia and I will love each other, and that will make God happy."
"You can't do this. God will not be mocked,"
"Well, I've prayed about it a lot. Julia has, too. We're not trying to mock God, and he knows our hearts. We're not taking any of this lightly. We're both sure this is where God is leading."
"You're wrong. Plain and simple. And you cannot go down this road without consequences," the pastor replied, wondering how eleven years of preaching and marriage counseling led to this.

The above scenario is fiction, but it is based nearly verbatim on comments that have been made by professing Christians concerning their marriages. Maybe you've heard similar things. Maybe you've said similar things. What is it that has led to such cowardly lovers? Where is the emotional ruggedness that seems to fill every page of Scripture? Are we too far gone down the road of therapeutic mishmash to ever find our way back? I don't think so. But coming back will require a whole lot of difficult teaching on who God really is and what his love really means.

When people want to get out of a marriage, they will justify it by any means they can. They often assume God is in the ring with them - not to fight, but to root them on from their corner. So they square off against well-intentioned friends, and legalistic, rigid pastors, quite certain that God has their back. Surely God hates "spiritual abuse" as much as they do. These pastors can't be speaking for a loving God. They must be trying to control people for their own kicks. It never occurs to them that God is unbending.

Let me share a text of Scripture that sheds light on the love of God in a way that many cowardly lovers need to hear.

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:31-39).

What can we learn about God's love from this text?

1. God is for us. No matter what we go through, God is for us. He gave up his own Son for our sake. He will certainly not abandon us after that. Jesus is our Substitute, dying in our place. And Jesus is our Substitute, giving us his status and inheritance. No one can undo what Jesus did. No one. Not even ourselves. As Christians, we are justified by God and will live with him in eternal bliss.

2. But God being for us in justification does not mean that God is for us in whatever decisions we make on earth. Jesus is in Heaven interceding for us. Wow! The Son of God is in Heaven right now praying for us. The Bible says the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes a lot. How much would Jesus' prayers accomplish on our behalf? Well, we should never have another trial as long as we live with Jesus in our corner.

3. Because of Jesus' intercession, and his sacrifice, nothing can separate us from God's love. His love is stronger than any force in the universe. Why is it important to understand God's rugged love? Because we're going to go through the furnace on earth! Look at how Paul tries to encourage the Romans. Does he promise smooth sailing because of God's love? No. It's the opposite. "God loves you so much that when you go through tribulation and distress and persecution and hunger and poverty and even death, he's still there waiting on the other side." That's Paul's idea of comfort. Not escape from the trials of life. But the promise of God's love through the trial.

4. Nothing in all creation is able to separate us from the love of Christ. When God says that marriage is the picture of Christ's love for the church, he is talking about a rugged, durable, strong, non-cowardly kind of love that sticks with its commitments. God doesn't turn his back on his marriage vows, even when we do. And that is our example.

When Christians go through hard times in their marriages, there is a temptation to put God's love on trial. If God is loving, then he wouldn't want me to live this way. And if he does want me to stay married, like the pastor says, then God must not be loving like I thought he was. There is a third option, the right option. God is loving in a more rugged sense than we can wrap our minds around. And he expects no less from those created in his image and capable of such love.


JanAl said...

That was like 3 posts, in one, I took a lunch, and then came back to finish reading the rest! LOL! JK!
Well said!!!

James Larkhill said...

I found this very interesting and would like ot say that i have written a full book on my experiences of living in a realtionship for 17 year. Although marriage is a sacrament it can be a prison. This is captured in what i have wrote in my book which captures this frustration and pain.What i cant understand is why continuing in a unhappy realtionship with out love cant be hypoctitical.

Nan said...


Uh's another "Can we talk?" time.

You know, this post made me rethink and change some of my former positions on an unhappy marriage. I used to think that God was NOT getting glory from a marriage where two people were just miserably sticking it out, because "Scripture says to". I thought it was more honoring to end a marriage that seemed to be a failure.

"Bad" marriages are like "bad" diets. Diets don't fail people. People fail diets! Same goes for marriage!

Yes, it CAN seem like
hypocricy to remain in a marriage that is "cruel and unusual". I used to think that way. I think ANYONE could make that claim if they had that mindset. And true, SOME marriages ARE like hell on earth. But the "furnace here on earth" mentioned in this post, is a great analogy, of the MANY types of suffering Chritians are called to endure. Why is it that we think only the heroes of the Bible were the ones God was speaking of being called to suffer? How limited is that kind of thinking? What if every modern day martyr had said, God wants me to be a Christian witness, but He doesn't want me to be uncomfortable doing it. So if I believe in my own mind, I'm suffering too much to be a witness for Christ.... Goodness, after all, he is a LOVING God!

The greatest testimonies for Christ that I have seen are the ones who ENDURE the suffering, rejoicing and giving thanks for it!!!!!

What if Paul would have said...
"You know, I could be a much better witness if I wasn't always laid up with these affictions, you know; the beatings, the stonings, the starvation, the floundering at sea, the constant mocking and ridicule."

"What if Stephen would have said..." Wait a minute God. If I allow myself to be stoned in Your name, how would I continue to stay here and share Your love with others? I think it's best and I think You would agree, if I remove myself from this uncomfortable situation."

Listen to what the Word promises...not only does the Word say there will be trials coming upon us, but fiery ones! Hot "like a furnace" ones! Those are ouchies folks! And He makes sure to add, "DON"T BE SURPRISED!"

God is not unloving!!

How unloving would Jesus have been toward us, if He said..." You know, I want to do the will of You, my Father...and I know we set this all up. I know I went into this world (marriage for some folks today) with good intentions and plans to honor You. But how was I to know that I would be asked to endure such emotionally painful and even physical circumstances? Please take this cup from me. (Please support me as I seek to escape the trial) I know you are a loving God and even though you said to endure to the end, would not want me to suffer through it, after all, I am SWEATING BLOOD over this! I ask that You let me out of this covenant (marriage for some folks)that I made with these sinful, mean-spirited people...I mean at look how they treat me!
What? You say, that I would remain out of love? That love for another supercedes my suffering? You say that my suffering is part of the plan, and I must stay the course? You say that You will be glorified THROUGH my suffering, but not if I cowardly run from Your call? What? Say that again? There's actually a great reward waiting for me as a result of enduring the trial? And that I can actually, truly endure the suffering because You've got my back? You're telling me that if I am willing to change my mindset, I can actually overcome this desire to bail out? Ok then, if there is no other option, I'm going to set my mind as flint. I'll stay the course. For the joy I believe you have set before me, I'll endure the cross. But... Father, I'll need Your help to do this. Give me grace to see it through. Help me NOT to dwell on how to get out of this, but how to REMAIN steadfast and show the world that I believed it when I told my disciples that YOUR WORD IS TRUTH! Help me to be the first among many to show that suffering IS part of Your plan, and You will reward those who endure to the end. My trial may indeed be fiery, but I'll not run. Not my will, but Yours be done. Let's do it..."

Thank you Jesus! I am SO glad that You were willing to stay the course for my sake and the Father's glory!

I guess, two things come to mind when I consider my own marriage. At times, it is SO stressful. At times I get weary. At times it doesn't make sense to stay the course. At times.... those sound as bad as the "if onlys"!
Then there are those times when my husband is the most wonderful man I know! He is the most kind, patient, generous and enjoyable person to be with!
Guess what? He can say all the very same yucky things about me! At times, I'm a sullen, moody, selfish, bitter, vengeful, hateful, person to have to get along with! He should want to leave me!

I hate to say it, but when I've wanted out of my marriage badly, at that time, it's an "all about me" attitude driving those desires.

I've never ever said, "You know, I'm going to end this marriage relationship because I'm just TOO hard to get along with and out of love for my spouse and the misery I'm putting him through, I'm going to end the relationship. I just can't stand to see such a wonderful person so unhappy. I'm going to end it for the sake of my spouse, and I know God will bring someone else into his life that will treat him good, the way he deserves. I don't know how it happened, but I just wasn't the right one for him. He deserves so much better. God would not want him to be that unhappy."

In closing, there are persons out there, who HAVE proven God right. They HAVE shown that every word of God proves true. They HAVE overcome extreme obstacles in their marriage and I cannot tell you how beautiful thay have made Jesus look in doing so!

May God give all those who for the Lord's sake, believe His word, lean on Him for understanding, and strength, when they decide to endure the fiery trial that their marriage often is. I've yet to sweat blood...

If I whine and rebel because my marriage is too hard, I'd hate to see how I'd respond to a real trial!

I no longer believe it is hypocritical to stay in a stressful marriage. I believe it's hypocritical when people say they truly believe God's Word, yet refuse to live it.

Nan said...


One more thing I might add to my previous comment...
I have a very stable marriage. It is founded on the Rock. I have a very good husband, and I know this even when I'm being rebellious and bullheaded.
Often, we have more fun together than two people oughta be able to have...and God says, "Go for it!"

Nan said...


Oh more thing and that's all...

In the comments made by Mr. Larhil, I respectfully submit that if a relationship is unhappy and without love, there has to be it is sin at the root causing the unhappy marriage, and God never winks at sin... let alone, endorse it.
Love is a choice, the Bible is clear on that!

JanAl said...

NAN~ in agreement with you, especially,

"I no longer believe it is hypocritical to stay in a stressful marriage. I believe it's hypocritical when people say they truly believe God's Word, yet refuse to live it."
AND your last comment.