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Are You Married to a Selfish Spouse?

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Does your spouse define you? Do you live out a marriage of reaction to their sin and selfishness? What if they don't ever change? Will you? Your marriage does not define your heart, God does. Here's how to honor him with a heart of worship, even in a marriage that is struggling.

Victoria (not her real name) is married to a selfish spouse. She prays for him. She encourages him. She seeks ways to serve him. Her husband soaks it up but hasn’t learned to give half as much in return. If I give examples, I may blow her cover, but most of you know marriages like this.

Maybe you’re in one.

Somewhat understandably, Victoria struggles with bitterness. If her husband only knew how much just a small bit of giving back in return would mean, how if for one hour of a weekend he could make it about her instead of about him, the relief she would feel would be enormous, buther husband’s selfishness seems to run through his core.

They have talked about it, even with a counselor, but the thing about selfishness is that the more selfish you are, the less you realize it. Her husband thinks he’s doing “better,” but not by much, and usually only when Victoria brings it up, which ushers in a new kind of pain.

Victoria’s husband tries to be a little less selfish so that he doesn’t have to listen to his wife complain about it. So he’s fighting his selfishness with, yes, selfishness.

Victoria has prayed. She has gone to a counselor. She even brought her husband with her to the counselor—everything advice-oriented people tell her to do. But the situation hasn’t changed much, and doesn’t appear likely to. In that light, she asks me, how do you maintain a godly attitude?

Keep in mind—I wasn’t talking to the couple. I was talking to Victoria, and about her spiritualattitude, not resolving the situation (that’s a different discussion). What I’m about to say may make some of you married to selfish spouses angry, but I believe this advice is rooted in spiritual reality.

“Victoria,” I said, “you need to start thinking of yourself as the postal worker, not the store. You see all this good stuff that you do for your husband coming from you, but in reality, it’s coming from God. Your graceful attitude, your servant’s heart, your inspiration and motivation are all evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in your life. At root, though, you’re just the postal worker delivering God’s package to your husband. A postal worker doesn’t expect a thank you letter when she delivers the gift.”

I said this because I didn’t want Victoria to let her husband’s selfishness engender poisonous pride in her own heart. This wasn’t to chastise her, but to protect her on her journey toward God.

“Second,” I said, “and here’s the hope—if God is the owner of the store, and we’re just the postal workers, God can use any number of postal workers to deliver what we need. You’re acting like what you need can only come from your spouse, and since he refuses to deliver it, you’re stuck. With some things, that’s true. There are certain things only a spouse can provide. But God can deliver a fulfilling, meaningful life through any number of channels.

“If I keep waiting for a package from the U.S. Postal Service that has been sent and resent a dozen times and is always lost, eventually I’m going to ask God to send something via U.P.S. or Fed Ex. Maybe you can buy your own flowers, and thank God that your husband earns enough, together with you, for you to enjoy the weekly luxury of fresh flowers in your house. No, your husband didn’t think to buy them, but in a way God used your husband to make their presence in your home a reality. And no, your husband might not think to send you to the spa, but if you need a ‘pampering day,’ perhaps you’ll have to set up the appointment. Yes, it would be much more delightful if it came through your husband, as that would show his care for you, but think of it in this light: there are a lot of wives who could never afford to have a day like that even though their husbands would be inclined to provide it if they could.”

Every particular application is going to be different, so I won’t go on any further with Victoria’s story. But if you’re married to a particularly selfish spouse, hold on to these three points:

  1. Fight pride by remembering you’re just the postal delivery person. Everything God gives to your spouse through you comes from God. Your desire to serve, your creativity in serving, your commitment to serve, your conviction to love—that’s God’s work, not your own heart. You are choosing to be faithful in delivering those blessings, but without God, you wouldn’t have the blessings to give, nor likely even the inclination.
  1. God can deliver life’s blessings through many channels. We’d all like them to come in a certain way, but wouldn’t it be rather ungrateful of you to complain about a pair of diamond stud earrings if they came in yellow wrapping paper instead of red? Ask God to bring what you legitimately need as He wills, in His timing, and in His way. It may not be your ideal, but even in this, your spouse’s selfishness is simply helping you to press deeper into God. That, in itself, is a gift, when you think about it.
  1. Don’t stop giving. Don’t allow someone else’s selfishness to infect you. Set the positive example rather than join in the negative one. There’s a certain fulfillment that comes from being faithful when it’s done in the right spirit; seek to capture that.

I write this because some of you may live the rest of your lives still married to a selfish spouse, and the last thing I want to see is your spouse’s selfishness affecting your spirit with resentment, bitterness, and eventually your own selfish demands. Nobody gave to Jesus a tenth of what He gave to them, yet He lived a supremely glorious, powerful, faithful, and joyous life.

In other words, don’t allow what your spouse isn’t to define what you become. Yes, in one sense this is an act of “spiritual self-defense.” But when a spouse sins in a way that doesn’t rise to the cause of divorce, and traditional methods haven’t worked, what else is a spouse to do? There may be a time, further down the road, when you can re-engage with this issue. But when you know it’s time to just accept it for the time-being, these three steps will keep you on track spiritually and even help you to grow in love rather than collapse in bitterness.

Blessings,

Gary Thomas

(If you’d like to learn more about Gary’s newest book, A Lifelong Love: How to Have Lasting Intimacy, Friendship, and Purpose in your Marriage click here:http://www.garythomas.com/books/lifelong-love/)

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Blessings to you.

Setting Healthy Boundaries

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Every person has things that they will tolerate and those things that they will not tolerate. From ourselves and others. It’s called setting boundaries. But are the boundaries we set healthy boundaries?

Children that grow up in dysfunctional families are not given a choice, or not taught what healthy boundaries are. There are not usually boundaries set in dysfunctional homes. Sexual abuse is tolerated or hidden, beating Mom when the dinner isn’t ready on time, cussing and screaming, slapping, verbal attacks, degradation. There are all forms of abuse being tolerated. If there are any boundaries at all they are usually unhealthy.

What is a boundary? According to Webster’s dictionary it is “A limit. Anything marking a limit.” It’s as though we draw a line in the sand and say, “Don’t cross this line!” As Christians we can set healthy boundaries by refusing to listen to dirty jokes and  gossip for example.  Those are healthy boundaries. Once we have let others know that we will not tolerate filthy language, gossip, dirty jokes or whatever it is that offends us we must stick to those boundaries.

What are unhealthy boundaries? Allowing someone to verbally abuse us is one example of an unhealthy boundary. For example, I tell my husband that he can cuss all he wants but I just won’t tolerate the “F” word. Is that really a healthy boundary? No! Or for example, “Just don’t hit me in the face.”

There are many many examples of healthy and unhealthy boundaries but what it boils down to is what and how much I will tolerate, not just from others but from myself. Will I allow someone barging into the bathroom while I soak in the tub? Will I allow someone to continually verbally abuse me and say nothing? Will I continue to be degraded in front of my co-workers? Boundaries are set so that we may be treated with dignity and respect. If I allow others to belittle me or in some way show less than the respect that I deserve then I have not set boundaries. I am accepting that I am “less than.”

Children that have been abused have not been taught boundaries. As adults we tend to allow others to abuse us verbally, emotionally, or physically because we have not been taught that we are loved and respected as another human being. We expect less of people and of ourselves because that’s what our life experiences taught us. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In Gen. 1:28 God told Adam and Eve about ownership. We are not to only take control of the things of the earth but that we are to take control and responsibility for our physical, emotional, and spiritual lives. “We are made in the image of God, we were created to take responsibility for certain tasks. Taking responsibility, or ownership, is knowing what is our job, and what isn’t.”* In other words, are we going to allow certain unhealthy things to control us?  “It takes wisdom to know what we should be doing and what we shouldn’t.” *

In  Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend book, “Boundaries” he states, “Any confusion of responsibility and ownership in our lives is a problem of boundaries. Just as homeowners set physical property lines around their land, we need to set physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries for our lives to help us distinguish what is our responsibility and what isn’t.” *

They go on to discuss attitudes, feelings, behaviors, choices, values, limits, talents, thoughts, desires, and love. All have boundaries. “Boundaries are built and you can’t develop or set boundaries apart from supportive relationships with God and others.”

Many people feel they are being disobedient, will hurt others feelings, people may think I’m controlling, or angry if I set boundaries. But setting healthy boundaries are none of these. All children need healthy boundaries set in place not only for their safety but for learning they are loved and respected and we as adults also need to put in place healthy boundaries.

As a survivor of childhood physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological abuse I had to learn to create  healthy boundaries in order to live an emotionally healthy life. All of our relationships are affected by the boundaries we set or the lack of boundaries. What we tolerate is what will continue!

One of books that was of great help in my understanding and learning how to put in place healthy boundaries is:

*51AFJW77T0L._AA160_[1]Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend

I highly recommend it and the workbook. (available at http://www.amazon.com)

If you have confidential comments or questions feel free to e-mail me at: elah501c@bellsouth.net

 

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Blessings to you.

When Christ shows up in your healing

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“The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

Little Suzie sat on the front stoop of her parents country home hugging her dog. Tears streamed down her face as she whispered her sorrows into his soft fur. Her dog was her only comfort in a world filled with pain. Her spirit was broken and her only hope was that one day she would grow up and leave home.

Children have desires and wants and needs and the one need that is the most important is the need to feel loved. Suzie felt no love other than the love her dog shared with her. As the years passed and the abuse continued her need for love was buried and replaced with anger, hatred, and the need for revenge. Oh sweet revenge, she thought. I’ll show them all! The anger and hatred soon became her survival.

She went on to high school and college and that need to feel loved was pushed down deep yet it remained a part of her soul. Being the only one in her family to go to college she excelled beyond any expectations; her own and her families. She had her own home, she loved her job, she traveled, and her life style made others envious. But something was missing.

Her anger was deep and showed its ugliness through veiled sarcasm and not caring what others thought. She lived as she pleased and didn’t give a flip whether people liked it or not. Her relationships were negatively affected but she wasn’t aware of why and didn’t give it much thought. She felt she had no need for God, for He had abandoned her many, many years ago, or she abandoned Him. Either way, she didn’t care.

Her life was going along fine except the memories and pain from the past kept cropping up. Nightmares, flashbacks of events that left her sweating in the middle of the night, and dreams she didn’t understand.

Her thoughts for revenge had changed over the years. Instead of wanting to hit, curse, and harm those who had harmed her she decided the best revenge was to overcome all the pain they had inflicted. She entered into therapy.

The Lord Jesus met her there.

He knew her brokenness and I’m sure He shed many tears when He saw her broken spirit. With love greater than she could imagine He took her under His wing and loved her through pain so deep, even she didn’t know it was there. He walked her through the issues left behind. The shame was lifted, the false beliefs were rectified, the guilt that said all was her fault was corrected.

Christ showed her areas in her life that needed adjustments, like her attitudes! Her language was cleaned up, her broken heart began to mend. The greatest healing He brought to her was instilling in her heart that she is very much loved. By Him! He was restoring all that the abuse had stolen.

It wasn’t easy and it didn’t happen over night but with Christ beside her, with Christ holding her up with His right hand, and with Christ picking her up and carrying her when she was too devastated to continue the journey, she finally made it!

No more night mares, no more flashbacks or terrifying dreams, no more heart filled with hatred and wanting to hurt those who hurt her. All was replaced with forgiveness and a peace seeped within her that was beyond her own understanding. She was finally free from the devastating issues that had plagued her for much of her life. And the most deep seeded need of all has been filled, she finally realizes and accepts, Suzie is loved!

God the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit knows your pain and knows your brokenness. Allow Him to walk through the pain with you. Allow Him to restore what the abuse stole from you. Trust Him with your innermost healing and if need be, He’ll even carry you when you can’t seem to take another step forward.

~~~~~

If you have confidential questions or comments please free free to e-mail me at:

elah501c@bellsouth.net

Assignment:

Look up these scriptures. What do they say to you, right now?

Psalm 3:3

Zephaniah 3:17

John 8:32, 36

Ephesians 4:31,32

Proverbs 14:29

Genesis 28:15

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