The Best Present for your Spouse
With Valentine’s Day here, what do you think one of the best presents you can give your spouse is? Flowers, chocolate, or a night out are great choices, but would there be something that’s even more significant? Most of the gifts we give tend to wear out, become eaten up, or are forgotten the time the next birthday or Valentine’s Day comes around. I’d like to suggest a present you can give your spouse that will have lasting value all year, and is related to what we’ve been talking about-how to get unstuck in life’s challenges. Even if you aren’t married, keep reading, because we’ll be talking about more than marriage.
Last week we saw that the church used to be the 1st place members went to for help, but gave some reasons why this tends not to be the case today. My concern is that many people act as if things are great in their lives, at least until trouble strikes. This doesn’t need to be your story though. Today I’d like to examine what you can do to avoid getting stuck, or worse yet, caught in a marital train wreck. Not only should you do this with your marriage (if you are married) but you should do it with your spiritual walk with God as well. What I’m about to explain is one of the best gifts you can offer your spouse.
How would your spouse feel or think if you took an honest assessment of your marriage, and identified the areas in which you needed growth, and the areas in which you had wrong expectations that were hurting the relationship? And to not only identify these areas, but to also have specific ways in which you were going to grow and seek help? Would they be upset if you set out to do your part in making 2019 the best year of your marriage? I doubt that your spouse would be opposed to you doing that. In fact, I believe they would be thrilled to see you pouring into the marriage relationship, so that it would be everything God intended it to be.
How do you go about assessing your marriage to see where you and your spouse are in agreement, or where there are areas that need addressed? In this post, I’d like to talk about the marriage assessment. We’ll save the struggling marriage discussion for later. A marriage assessment is essentially a list of questions that you answer with your spouse that help identify where you both are living out the one flesh relationship of marriage as God intended, or where you could use growth. Some people will go away for a couple days to reflect on their marriage together, while other people break up the assessment in pieces, and spend time each week working on it. The important part is that you have uninterrupted time that you and your spouse can work on it together, so that you’ll really have the time to listen to what they say.
For example, you’ll ask your spouse how they are doing spiritually, how their life has been increasingly governed by God’s Word, and how you can help them grow spiritually. You’ll hear their thoughts on how they view the communication in the marriage, and if there are specific ways in which you can serve them (that you may not currently be doing). After you hear your spouse’s answers, and give your own, you will both feel as if you know each other in a much deeper way.
What do you do though if you see areas that you both know you need work and help in? Depending on how strong your marriage currently is, it may be enough to read and learn from some resources on that topic. Or, you may prefer to connect with another couple that serves as a marriage mentor, where you can observe them and ask them those questions, receiving answers that line up with God’s Word. If it’s an area in which there is a lot of conflict and you haven’t been able to learn or work it out on your own, then you’ll want to reach out for specific help right away, before things get worse.
Yes, a marriage assessment isn’t the easiest or most exciting thing you could spend your time on. It can be one of the most helpful things you can do for your marriage though. So where would you find a marriage assessment that would have questions and next steps from a biblical perspective? The good news is that we have one for you. Look for this to come out in the near future, or you can ask for it now.
Maybe you aren’t married, and are disappointed because there doesn’t seem to be much mention of non-marriage challenges, perhaps anxiety or fear, etc. Are there people in the church that would want to walk with you in fighting these? The answer is yes, but you’ll need to stay tuned to find out more.
Next time we will look at an important asset you can take advantage of in your marriage: a marriage mentor couple. We’ll also continue answering common hurdles that people have about going to their church family first for help in life’s challenges instead of somewhere outside the church. Hope to see you next time!
Help! What do I do when I’m stuck?
Perhaps at some point in your life you’ve taken your vehicle off the road and become stuck. The tires are spinning and mud is flying, but you aren’t getting anywhere. Now, you can keep punching the gas and hope that eventually your tire will hit firm ground, or you can seek help to pull you out. What happens when you become stuck in one of life’s challenges, such as a conflict in marriage or addiction? You could keep going at it with the attitude of “I’ve got this,” or you could seek outside help. Sadly, many people do not take advantage of the help that is available, thinking instead that they’ve got it.
Why don’t people look to the local church first for help?
Where do people turn to when they become stuck in one of life’s challenges? In today’s world, the church is not one of the first places. People tend to seek help outside of the local church, either from secular or parachurch organizations. This has not always been the case, however. In fact, there was a significant period when the church was the primary place for the care of souls. The Puritans, marked by their keen insight into pastoral ministry, made it clear that they believed the primary place of care for hurting souls was in the local church. But after the Puritans, there were no books published on helping people from Scripture for over 100 years.
As time went on, a number of factors led to the diminishing role of the local church in caring for souls. Competitors to the Bible’s understanding of people and their problems, the difficulties of ministering to people on a one-to-one level vs preaching to them, theological battles for the truthfulness of Scripture, the World Wars, and the psychological revolution all contributed to more people going outside the church for help. Even in Seminaries, pastors became less and less equipped to help others with their problems. Typically, they would only take one or two classes in pastoral care which taught them how to refer people to get help outside the church.
In recent years, there has been a renewed focus to bring the care of souls back to its rightful place in the local church. Even still, people struggle for a number of reasons to believe that they should seek help here. My interest in writing these several articles is reflective of a strong desire to souls cared for well in the context of the church. Sadly, I’ve seen people not well cared for and the local church miss out on many opportunities to help, but this has served as motivation to do better. In the following posts, I’ll be explaining why members should seek help for life’s challenges in the local church, and how this happens. I’ll be using the topic of marriages, but certainly the help I’m discussing would apply to any challenge of life. My hope is that you will take a good look at where you are, and if you’re stuck in any area, will reach out for help. In addition, my hope is that other believers in the church will have a desire to minister well to others, and will know how they can do that.
Are things really as good as you let on in your life?
Let’s begin with the question of why people tend to look for help outside the local church first. The town of Newport, TN, ranks 2nd in the state of Tennessee in the divorce rate (almost 25%). Given that about a quarter of the marriages end in divorce, we would expect to see marital challenges in the local church as well. Yet, how many of these challenges are made known? How many couples come each week acting as if things are great, while their marriages are falling apart? Often, it’s not until the divorce papers are being finalized that the situation is revealed. I would love to see this change though. What would it take for people to reach out for help even before there are major problems, to enrich their marriages, or at least to get assistance when there are problems that aren’t being resolved? Let’s look now at some common obstacles people have in asking for help in the local church.
Common obstacles to asking for help in the local church
1. The belief that the church is only there for “spiritual” problems: Often people think that if they have a question about their faith, then the church is the place to go, but if it’s about anything else, then the church won’t have a real answer.
2. Fear: People can fear that others will think less of them, look down on them, or treat them differently if they find out they are having struggles. They’d rather ask someone they don’t know than someone they do know. In some cases, their spouse has warned them not to get help, they are afraid of possible repercussions.
3. Pride: We don’t like others to know that we struggle. We like to keep our image and the appearance that we ‘have things together.’
4. Previous past experiences: Some people haven’t been helped well by their local church. Instead of being helped, they were hurt. Now, they are reluctant to try again.
5. Questions about help:
· People don’t always know if the church really wants to help them by coming alongside of them in life’s challenges. Will they get a burst of initial help that dies out if change isn’t quick? Are the pastors or others too busy to take on their marriage struggles?
· People may not be sure that the church is qualified to help. Are there really people who can help for their problems, given the depths of the challenges? Does the Bible really have something to say for the particulars they are in? Will they get a couple Bible verses and a “call me later” type of help, or will it be deeper?
· People may wonder how to ask for help. Who should they talk to?
· The process of help is another obstacle. How much commitment is involved? Is there a cost? What specifically does it look like to be helped?
6. Comfort: As hard as things can be in life, it can seem more difficult to change than to stay status quo and not seek help. Often, we don’t want to seek help until it appears that it will be more uncomfortable to remain where we are than to change.
7. Who sets the terms for change: As humans, we don’t mind changing as long as we set the terms. We’ll change as we want to. Asking for help means that we’ll have to change on God’s terms, not our own.
As I continue with this series, I’ll be addressing these obstacles following the topic of marriage. When I’m done, my hope is that you’ll know how you can strengthen your marriage and what you should do if you see challenges in it. As I said earlier, these posts go beyond marriage to any particular struggle you are having. I hope you’ll keep reading!