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Saving Your Marriage

Philip Yancey shares some interesting insights on the difficulty of marriage:

Every marriage has crisis times, moments of truth when one partner (or both) is tempted to give up, to judge the other undependable, irrational, untrustworthy. Great marriages survive these weak moments; weak ones fall apart. When divorce happens, tragically, both partners lose out on the deeper strength that comes only from riding out such stormy times together. Great relationships take form when they are stretched to the breaking point and do not break.

Over the years, I have shared Yancey’s words with couples who are struggling in their marriages. For many, it re-energized them and gave them hope. For others, you could tell, they had already thrown in the towel. They somehow had concluded that, since the passion was gone and their feelings had died, there was no reason to keep the marriage together. Instead of trying to fight for their marriage, they were ready to move on and look for a new relationship.
In the early years of Christendom, the medieval church established a list of seven deadly sins. These were considered as evil dispositions that motivated us towards destructive behaviors. Many people are surprised when they hear that the first of these sins is “sloth,” or what we would call “laziness.” But is sloth really that harmful?

Dr. Scott Peck was an American psychiatrist who has written some of the most popular books in the field of psychotherapy. He believed that laziness is a major cause of evil, a primary cause of psychological illness, and the main reason that Americans are increasingly failing in their relationships, particularly marriage.

Love requires commitment and work. It requires effort, regardless of how you feel.

Tim Keller says:

Nearly everyone thinks that the Bible’s directive to “love your neighbor” is wise, right and good. But notice that it is a command, and emotions cannot be commanded. The Bible does not call us to like our neighbor, to have affection and warm feelings toward him or her. No the call is to love your neighbor, and that must primarily mean displaying a set of behaviors.

It is quite clear that our feelings are real, but they are not very reliable. They are not consistent and are tied to a number of complex factors. They come and go. Keller makes a great point in that our emotions are not always under our control, but our actions are.

I know of a counselor who strongly believes that feelings of love will follow acts of love. When he counsels those who are struggling in their marriage, he lays out a challenge for them. He asks for a four-week commitment. He then tells them that every day, for the next four weeks, they are to do five things each day that you would do if you were in love. The first thing each morning, they are to make a list of five specific things they will do for the other person in order to express their love. He says invariably over that four week period, they begin to see real progress. Unfortunately, he says that many refuse to accept his challenge because they do not think that they are responsible for their marital problems. In reality, they are too lazy to put forth the effort to love their spouse. They see divorce as an easier alternative.

As you examine your marriage today, are you truly loving your spouse through your actions? C. S. Lewis strongly believed that, even if you have feelings of indifference towards the one you love, you can change your heart over the long haul through your actions.

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