5 Ways You May Be Destroying Your Marriage

How does a once good marriage fall apart?

I get asked this question when it becomes public a marriage everyone thought was rock solid falls apart.

As the song goes — It’s a slow fade. A good marriage doesn’t deteriorate overnight. It diminishes gradually.

There are probably lots of reasons. There are usually a few common causes in my experience.

Many times couples are destroying their marriage – and, most times, it’s not intentional and they didn’t even know it was occurring. So, let me address this to those who may be in a season – or an upcoming season – where a good marriage is in jeopardy. (Satan loves those seasons.)

Here are 5 ways you may be destroying your marriage:

Other interests come between you.

Typical dangerous scenario: The couple hasn’t been communicating well, life is stressed, and suddenly a friendly voice or a pretty smile says an affirming word at the office. Happens everyday.

It could be a relationship – even good relationships like children or other friends – or a hobby, or work, but something gets a higher priority than the marriage. There was probably once a time when the two of you could “take on the world”. Nothing could come between you. You were inseparable. But, other things began to grab one or both of your attention – slowly, over time. Outside distractions will destroy a good marriage.

(I have also seen solid couples who once were so committed to the church. It was a stabilizing place for them. They found their friends there and their weekly encouragement. Gradually they get off track and are infrequent attenders at best. It provides a whole for the enemy.)

Are there distractions coming between you and your marriage?

Unresolved conflict.

Every couple is different – and every individual. I have found there is often one who doesn’t mind conflict and one who runs from it. There may be one who little things to bother and one nothing seems to phase. (Drawers continually left slightly open or clothes on the floor can prove to be a major problem if never addressed.) And, there are all kinds of combinations in between. But, when conflict develops at some point it must be addressed. Hidden pain never disappears on its own. And, many couples simply don’t know how to address conflict. (Get help if you don’t.)

Conflict left unattended sometimes sits like it never existed. But, oh it did. And, it does. Someone is holding on to it. Trust me. And, the longer it sits the deeper the wedge it causes. Someone reading this may be allowing an injury from years ago to continue to haunt you. Your spouse may not even know the hurt is still there.

The couple stops dreaming together.

When a couple is dating they have lots of dreams together. They discuss their future. They dream about where they will live and travel. They dream about family and adventure. It’s an energy which fuels the relationship. When it stops. The fuel it brought stops.

Many times we get so distracted with life stuff – the kids, work, paying the bills – it becomes all we have to talk about anymore. Those things we once dreamed about are replaced with current demands. This is natural, but it can de-fuel a marriage.

When is the last time you spent time talking about the future – your future as a couple?

Boredom.

I’ve long said this is one of the leading causes of marriages unraveling. Couples quit dating – quit laughing – quit having fun together. They get caught in the routines and busyness of life. Boredom sets in and the closeness they once shared begins to drift. The enemy love this and suddenly one or both spouses seek excitement elsewhere. Dangerous.

Do you remember when you once couldn’t wait to see your spouse again? You were newly involved and they were the first person you thought about in the morning and the last person at night? What was it about them which captured your attention about them? Chances are it’s still there – you simply haven’t noticed in a while.

When is the last time you belly laughed with your spouse? When was the last time you remember the marriage being “fun”?

Living separate agendas.

It’s okay to have separate identities. It’s okay to have separate interests. I would even encourage it. It keeps things interesting. But, it’s not okay to have separate agendas. The agenda of a marriage should be two very different people blending those differences into one. When this is not happening — the strength of the marriage will slowly — or quickly — fade.

Is it time to get back on the same page with each other? We have found sometimes (many times) we need to set aside time – just the two of us – to reconnect and get realigned with where we are as a couple and where we are going.

It will take intentionality on your part – and granted on both of your parts – to address these issues. But, a good marriage is worth the effort.

I’m praying for your marriage — as I continue to pray for mine. Stand firm.

One Common Struggle Every Pastor Faces

There is one common struggle every pastor seems to face. I’ve seen it dozens of pastors. I often hear it on Mondays – even after a great Sunday. I’ve been guilty of this one – many times. It was true in church planting and in church revitalization.

And, this common struggle, I’m not sure, but it could be a common struggle for every leader, regardless of what they are leading.

The struggle –

We often let a few negatives overshadow many positives.

Things can be going great, but we can get one negative email – and our whole day is ruined.

We can have one season of struggle and we forget all the seasons of triumph – or all the promises for future reward.

We can miss the blessings God is providing all around us by focusing on the distractions of a few critics we may never please – regardless of what we do. We can live in gloom and doom about a present situation, forgetting how God has blessed us and how He has promised to bless us in days to come.

Are you ever guilty of this? Am I alone here?

The Bible is not silent about this struggle. Elijah – who the book of James tells us was a person just like us – fell apart with one threat from Jezebel after he had had tremendous success in ministry. (1 Kings 19)

It really is a common struggle. A common temptation to see the negative immediate reality, over the bigger picture positives of what God has done and is doing.

I don’t know, this is speculation on my part, but I think this struggle may have existed throughout the Bible with God’s people. For example, consider one of our “go to” favorite verses of encouragement – Jeremiah 29:11.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord , plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Put it in the context in which it was delivered. Notice Vs. 10

For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.” (Emphasis mine.)

One of the greatest promises – a promise God is in control and has a masterful future planned. This promise fits well on coffee mugs and desk plaques. We love it so much.

But, what do you think the people heard when this great promise was revealed by the prophet?

Again, it’s speculation on my part, but don’t you think when the people heard those words it was the “seventy years” of captivity they were about to face which jumped out to them more than the “future and hope“?

Yet, which do you think was God’s intent – to encourage or discourage? (Hopefully, you know the God who is love enough to answer correctly.)

Again, everything can be going according to plan. God can be working in your life, but one setback – one season of decline in church attendance – one negative email – can destroy your perception of reality. Common struggle.

This is why, as pastors – as leaders – as people of God – we must keep our mind and focus on the bigger picture. A focus on what God is calling us to do – what He is currently doing – and, ultimately, what He has promised to do – rather than the voices of the negative minority.

The Apostle Paul said it like this, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Who is brave and honest enough to admit I’m not alone here in this struggle?

5 Suggestions for Ridding Your Life of Fear

Most of us live our lives with some kind of fear. It is probably uncontrollable to a great extent. We live in a very fearful world. Every week seems to have new issues which can make us afraid.

The title of this post may be a bit misleading – fear may always be with us.

But I think it should be a challenge to have less fear of this world in our life. This is certainly true if we are obedient to the commands of God.

What would it be like to live your life apart from fear – or, at least, with less fear?

Here are some points of understanding which can help us become less afraid of the unknown situations of life:

Life can be uncertain –

There are lots of unknowns in the world. This fact alone makes people afraid. Most people would prefer to know the outcome of a situation and yet many times, probably most of the time, we do not get that privilege. Most of the horrifying experiences of my life seem to come upon me suddenly. We tend to want the expected to occur, but we should always be prepared, at least emotionally, for the unexpected.

Fear is an emotion and not necessarily a reality –

Someone actually defined fear as a felt reaction to a perceived danger. We innately have the ability to respond quickly to danger. Sometimes we can feel that a situation is going to be scary before it actually is. Our reaction to the sense of fear often determines how well we handle the situation.

We must keep ourselves from allowing negative scenarios to build in our mind. People often take a fear and begin to build scenarios in their mind of what might, could, or is going to happen. Most often these scenarios are irrational. When the emotion of fear begins we must analyze its rationality and if it is based on an unknown occurrence we must dismiss it as strictly emotion and not reality.

Sometimes we must face our fears in order to receive victory over them –

We can’t allow fear to alter God’s plans for our life or steal our joy. We should not be too surprised if in our weakness and fear God encourages us to be strong. When Elijah was hiding out from Jezebel because he was terrified, God sent him back to face her again. (1 Kings 19) Elijah had to go back before he could go forward. God will often allow us to face our fears as well.

Ask yourself two questions:

  • What fear do you need to face before you can get on with your life?
  • Is fear holding you back from moving forward in some area of your life?

There are two consistent themes in the Bible. We are to walk by faith and we are not to be afraid. I think those two themes are related to each other. It takes doing the first to accomplish the second.

God has a plan even when our fear tells us that He doesn’t –

Since fears are an emotional response and emotions are not always reliable, fears will often cause people to lose their trust and dependence on God. At the same time, God will often use fear to draw people to Him. Most people grow best when they are being stretched by life. God often uses faith-stretching events; times when people are most afraid, to grow and mature His people. One time Jesus made His disciples get into the boat, even though He probably knew as the Creator that a storm was approaching. Faith tells us that God’s plan is secure, even when our fear says otherwise.

As we grow more in love with God, we fear less –

Perhaps the greatest secret to overcoming fear in the Bible is found in 1 John 4:18, which says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” Perfect love casts out fear. If ever a person could perfectly know the love of God he would never have to be afraid again. Whenever we run from the challenges of life, God has to wonder why. He must wonder “Am I not enough? Do you think this is too big for me?” As we grow in our love for and our trust in God we will be better able to live our lives in a confident assurance that God is in full control.

To continue to mature, as believers, we must be working to rid our life of the fear which keeps us from completely following and trusting in God.

What is your greatest fear you would like to overcome?

This One Song Can Dramatically Improve Your Marriage

She Believes in Me” written by Steve Gibb and sung by Kenny Rogers has the power to improve your marriage.

Wow! Is this is misleading statement designed as a catchy phrase to get you to read a blog post?

No!

I’m not saying I’d never do something like it, but I’m not this time. I promise!

And, granted, the song itself can’t improve your marriage. Listen to it a thousand times and your marriage may not be any better.

But, it’s the principle within the song, which if applied, I’d come close to guaranteeing it will work.

Years ago I used to share that song on marriage retreats I led. Contained within it is one secret – one principle – which can dramatically change, maybe even save, a marriage.

Here are the lyrics, in case you don’t remember them:

(The bold emphasis is to make my point.)

While she lays sleeping, I stay out late at night and play my songs
And sometimes all the nights can be so long
And it’s good when I finally make it home, all alone
While she lays dreaming, I try to get undressed without the light
And quietly she says how was your night?
And I come to her and say, it was all right, and I hold her tight

And she believes in me, I’ll never know just what she sees in me
I told her someday if she was my girl, I could change the world
With my little songs, I was wrong
But she has faith in me, and so I go on trying faithfully
And who knows maybe on some special night, if my song is right
I will find a way, find a way…

While she lays waiting, I stumble to the kitchen for a bite
Then I see my old guitar in the night
Just waiting for me like a secret friend, and there’s no end
While she lays crying, I fumble with a melody or two
And I’m torn between the things that I should do
And she says to wake her up when I am through, 
God her love is true…

And she believes in me, I’ll never know just what she sees in me
I told her someday if she was my girl, I could change the world
With my little songs, I was wrong
But she has faith in me, and so I go on trying faithfully
And who knows maybe on some special night, if my song is right
I will find a way, while she waits… while she waits for me for me!

End of song.

There it is. 

Did you catch it?

It’s pretty simple. I’ve written about the principle before HERE, but the principle is simple. Inside the heart of every man is a desire to be respected, especially by the one he loves. When a man feels a high level of respect – from anything or anyone, he will do just about anything to earn it again – so he goes “on trying faithfully“, as the song says.

I know. The woman needs respect too. I know also, if she’s not receiving the love she deserves, it will be much harder for her to respect. I get it – I really do. It may not even seem fair to suggest what I’m suggesting – respecting anyone who doesn’t deserve respect. It would almost be like telling someone to love someone who doesn’t deserve to be loved or forgiving someone who doesn’t deserve forgiveness.

It’s radical talking. (Of course, Christians are called to love and forgive radically – just a reminder.)

I can’t help, however, pointing out something I’ve seen improve many marriages. When the woman makes even slight changes in how she respects – in the way she says things – the language she uses – the genuineness of her admiration – something changes in the man. Something good. He wants more of it.

And who knows, maybe on some special night, if his song is right, he’ll will find a way, while she waits, while she waits for him.

By the way, a note to my wife Cheryl: Thanks for believing in me – even when I don’t always believe in myself.

The Dad Challenge: The Nurturing Father

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4

Fathers are not usually seen as the nurturing ones in a family. When my boy’s got sick, they didn’t want me, they wanted Cheryl.

The Bible, however, tends to also place the father in a nurturing position. We are told not to “exasperate” our children, which means not to wear them out with correction, but to “bring them up”. The phrase literally means we spend time with them on a regular basis and encourage them in the development of their character.  

Sounds like nurturing to me.

The Bible tends to lay a huge responsibility on the father to help set the tone or the climate of the home. A father, who is consistently harsh or is never satisfied with his children, will tend to produce children who lack the confidence to face tough situations in life.

On the other hand, a father too quiet and passive to be intimately involved in the lives of children will likely lead to adults who cannot connect well with others, either in the workplace or in their own marriages and homes.

Fathers are often one of the best determinates of a child’s future success in life.

Wow, this is a sobering statement, but it’s true!

If a boy never feels he meets his father’s approval, he may become either an underachiever or an overachiever, but he will likely never feel that he “measures up” in life. A girl whose father fails to affirm her will often seek that approval from others – often in seeking inappropriate or less than ideal relationships. She may enter marriage unrealistically expecting something from a husband he may or may not be able to give.

I haven’t even mentioned the impact of an absentee or abusive father. Some reading this know this impact well – including the writer of this post (me).

The biggest impact in the life of a child whose father never nurtures is they often have a harder time realizing the nurturing aspect found in a loving relationship with a Heavenly Father. Without the model of an earthly father, they may see God more in the role of Judge than of “Abba” – which is the Hebrew term for our modern “Daddy”.

I’m thankful for the grace and mercy of God, which allows so many second chances for fathers who have missed the mark – but if we desire to be Godly fathers, we will strive to nurture our children in love.

How’s this for a Dad Challenge? I love investing in other men. We are in this together! I want to encourage you today! But, we have great work to do, men. Let’s do it to the glory of God!

For more thoughts on parenting, click HERE.

Ask yourself – what changes do I need to make to be a more nurturing dad?

3 Suggestions for When God Tries to Speak to You

So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if He calls you, say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 1 Samuel 3:9

Has God been trying to get your attention lately? Is God trying to tell you something? Are you having a hard time hearing?

Samuel was in training to be a prophet. He was set apart from birth to be God’s anointed one. God had something to tell Samuel, but Samuel couldn’t recognize the voice of God.

Eli told Samuel to lie down and simply say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”

You and I live in an often crowded and busy world. There are lots of “voices”. I can’t remember the last time I had a day with nothing to do. My home is quieter than it once was when two boys kept the hallway filled with the sounds of football, basketball, and any other sport Mom would let them get away with in the house, but there’s still plenty of noise and activity. My calendar is fuller than ever.

Often, I find myself surrounded by the “stuff” of life. The idea of hearing from God in the midst of all this clutter seems nearly impossible. Yet, I know my very existence hangs on my God relationship. I need a word from my Father!

How about you?

Perhaps you too would love to hear from God, but your life is too thick for His word to filter through.

I love the advice of Samuel’s mentor – Eli. I believe his instructions could be helpful for us.

Here are 3 ways Eli encouraged Samuel to hear from God:

He told Samuel to be still.

Samuel laid down, in the stillness of the night, and waited for God to speak. Many times we can’t hear from God because we are – frankly – too busy. God tends to speak with a quiet whisper to listening, trusting ears. “Let them who have ears hear” – Jesus might say.

Consider your past week – when would you have had time to hear from God had He tries to speak in a whisper?

He encouraged Samuel to listen expectantly.

Samuel left Eli knowing he was waiting – and he knew Whom he was waiting for. He wasn’t surprised when God spoke, because he was anxiously awaiting His voice. I think many times we would be surprised should God choose to speak. We almost don’t expect Him to anymore.

Ask yourself – have you given up your belief God can, should He choose, answer your request? Are you praying in faith?

Perhaps most important, Eli mentored Samuel to obey God’s word.

It is one thing to hear from God, and quite another to do something about it. When God speaks to you – this is a monumental event! It is important to obey. I often wonder if God speaks most to those He knows will do as He asks.

Be honest, are you living in obedience to God today – as much as you know how? Should God ask you to do something contrary to what you want to do – are you in a season where you would obey?

God may be trying to speak to you at this point in your life. In fact, if you are a believer, I’d be surprised if He’s not. My question for you – are you in a position to hear?

Stop, wait, listen – and obey the word of God today!