Let Joy Be Your Reason

Why process life – and marriage – through the lens of suffering when we have something better instead? Jesus processed life through Joy and it gave Him strength! (Hebrews 12:2)

I write a lot. Much is actually handwritten. So recently I ordered several journals from Amazon. My favorite has a watercolor painting of a hummingbird. Something stirred in me when I saw it, so I went to Google and learned that, in some cultures and religions, the hummingbird is a symbol of resurrection and joy. Who knew?

Life is hard – to be sure.

Like you, I’ve been facing some pretty tough challenges these past few years – and still am. Not that life was a piece of cake prior, of course. And if you’ve read my story, you know that already.

As we each process all that’s happening around us and around the world, we have a choice to make. It’s simple really. I must choose – each day – between death and life:

  • I can process life through the lens of Suffering.
  • Or I can process life through the lens of Joy.

Suffering is a given.

But how we process it makes a HUGE difference in how we experience Life and Love and God. Here are a couple of not-so-productive ways to look at suffering.

It means I’m bad. When we focus on suffering, we open the door to shame.

God is displeased with me. I must work harder to improve my behavior if I want a good outcome – in this life and the one hereafter. God helps those who help themselves.

We know that’s not God’s perspective. But we often think, feel, and act like it is. Very sad.

It means I’m good. Or focus on suffering can turn me into a self-righteous martyr.

How good of me to suffer with the likes of you. You’re so lucky to have a great Christian wife like me. It’s okay because I’m earning stars in my crown by putting up with your faults.

Yep. When I “benefit” from adversity in that way, I rarely – if ever – make progress. And life continues to go downhill – with my willful participation!

  1. I give in to negativity.
  2. And I give up on fulfilling the call the Lord has upon my life.

When I focus on Jesus instead …

I can’t help but be joyful. Joy is the one emotion that lasts throughout eternity. So why don’t we practice it more in the here-and-now?

Because we are bombarded with negativity. Much of it comes from within our own camp. Just this morning, I received this word of inspiration by email:

Your marriage is a tool and a test to deepen and demonstrate your love and reverence for Jesus Christ. God is using your spouse to bring you an eternal reward.

I actually disagree with this way of looking at marriage. This point of view keeps us sin-focused – on our own sin, as well as our partner’s sin. It’s like trying to walk forward while looking behind you all the time. You’re bound to trip and stumble. And your reward is only available in the hereafter?

Instead, let’s focus on learning to walk in the Newness of Life in Christ!

Simply put, Marriage is a place to practice the Joy of the Lord. To see another person as God sees him. And to love him accordingly! Two simple steps:

  1. Focus on the marriage you want to create.
  2. Keep moving forward with your heart and your eyes fixed on Jesus.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Your spouse is the primary recipient of who you are. Let him reap all the benefits of your Joy in the Lord! Let Joy Be Your Reason for Living in Love!

Question: What is the biggest challenge you face in loving your mate? Share your answer in the comments box below.

The Blame Game

I just read this article from Graham Cooke’s Team Brilliant Staff. I’m interested in your thoughts on its application to Christian marriage. Please send your comments to mail@drdebismith.com

The Blame Game

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. – Colossians 1:9-14

You’ll hear a lot of talk about justice in the world, in the media these days. There’s “justice” for fathers, incensed in their belief that mothers have more legal rights to child custody after sad and unfortunate marital splits—men starting colorful demonstrations and costumed protests to attract media attention. There’s “justice” for those affected by violence and the outcomes of violent events, people who want those responsible to be tried and found guilty. There’s “justice” for the victims and the families of accidents and incidents of negligence—anything from horrific car crashes and tragic crushes in stadium rock shows, to slips and trips and burns from hot coffee.

So many different cries for justice in the world, some seemingly deserving, others seemingly not, and yet is there real justice to be found? What’s called for is judgment, often legal—a desire for people to be held accountable. For punishment, for condemnation. Continue reading

A Metaphor for Christian Marriage

Fred & Dr. Debi and the Memories Swing Team dance the *Congress of Vienna Waltz at Mariners Church in Irvine, CA. Vintage dance is stylish, elegant, easy to learn, fun, very romantic, and a great metaphor for Christian Marriage.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. ~ Ephesians 5:21

This passage applies to the body of believers in fellowship with one another, so it naturally applies to husbands and wives as well. However, just how husbands and wives are to submit to one another is easily misunderstood in our current culture.

That’s what Ephesians 5 Romance is all about — learning what submission looks like in the 21st Century. In this workshop couples learn to pay attention to one another’s needs and to be responsive to one another in light of his/her unique design and purpose.

* Congress of Vienna, music performed by Bangers and Mash, Breakfast at Fezziwig’s CD, available at www.bangersandmash.us, used by permission. Choreography by John Hertz.

The Box

forgive me

My dentist has a poster on the ceiling at his office. He put it there so his patients would have something to look at while they’re in the chair. I think about it sometimes because it reminds me of myself. It’s a picture of a tiny kitten looking up helplessly from the bottom of large cardboard box.

The caption reads,

“I’m much better at getting myself into things than I am at getting myself out of them.”

Maybe you can identify? Isaiah put it this way:

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way… (53:6a)

Kittens, sheep, people. Sometimes there’s not much difference. No one plans to get himself or herself into a pickle (Sorry. I like to mix metaphors), yet we all do at one time or another.

Many couples start backing themselves into The Box early in their relationship. Something happens and one of them has hurt feelings. Maybe it’s the woman. (Sometimes it’s the man.) If she says something to her partner about it, he might minimize her feelings or get defensive about his actions or intentions. He means well, but it doesn’t help her feel better.

At first, it seems like a simple thing. Each tries to forget what happened, to move beyond it because it feels so childish to them both. However, the outcome of those early hurts starts a cycle of negative interactions that will continue to grow and solidify over time. Before long, they’re trapped in The Box.

In The Box, he believes that she is overly sensitive and avoids sharing his own thoughts and feelings with her. She believes that her feelings don’t matter to him, and she withdraws, too. It’s lonely. Being in The Box together.

Getting out of The Box is simple, but it isn’t easy. The Good Shepherd is there to help. Just ask. He may suggest you find a local “shepherd” to walk with you through the process and show you the way step-by-step. If He does, give me a call. I’m here to help you get out of The Box. It’s a process, and I’ll write more about that in future notes, too. In the meantime, I’ll be praying for you both!

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