Last time we examined the initial steps that are necessary to make change happen in a marriage. In order to set off in the right direction of lasting change, we need to pray that God will help us to look within ourselves so that we can see the situation as it really is. Asking God to help us examine our own hearts, as well as asking
His Spirit to change us, is crucial in addressing change as He sees appropriate and best. Second, we need to treat each other in love, that is, to consider our mate’s needs ahead of our own, for love conquers all. Third, we must confess our own wrongdoing to God as well as to our partner, because admitting our own faults makes our prayer life much more effectual, and it creates the platform for reconciliation (James 5; Matthew 19). Today, let’s look at the heart of change.
What is Causing the Problem?
The Bible is sufficient to address all human woes. Conflict is one aspect of humanity that many of us have a difficult time addressing and handling. However, through the inspired word of God, the apostle James gets to the root of our problem:
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures (James 4:1-3).
Here lies the root of our problem and at the same time the solution to our dilemma of change. The root of the problem is our heart. Our selfish desires cause us to want to have our own personal needs met at all cost and ahead of the needs of others. And therein is our problem― self! The Bible tells us that human behavior is like
this: if someone gets in the way of my accomplishing or achieving my personal goals, there will be WAR! In the midst of conflict or a difficult situation we need to ask God to help us examine our own heart, asking Him to aid us in seeing whether there are any selfish desires that are getting in the way of my being the person He desires for me to be in Christ. Self can be so dangerous.
For example, one day I arrived home and could not get my car in the garage because my wife had parked too far to the left side of the garage. It was cold, snowy, and slippery, and I did not feel like enduring the difficulty of the weather. At that moment I had a choice. I could either submit my disappointment to God, and ask Him for grace and wisdom to deal with the difficulty or I could ruminate on how my expectations were not met. Well, what did I do?
Every step toward my front door was filled with the thoughts: “How often do I have to tell her that she needs to park on her side?” I continued, “Doesn’t she get it?” Then it got worse, “That selfish woman just doesn’t care!” The outcome of this wrong way of handling the problem and thinking resulted in my eventually getting through the door and “letting her have it!” After the Holy Spirit fully convicted me of my wrong, I sought forgiveness from my lovely wife which she graciously gave me. However, the Holy Spirit also led me to see that it was “self” that took over as I insisted in my desire to have the cars parked a certain way as well as being free from any inconvenience of walking on snow and ice, a desire that overwhelmed me to the point of behaving unlike Christ. I continue to learn from God and His word how to handle my emotions and conflict in a manner that glorifies His name.
So What Do I Do with my Emotions and Desires?
I have learned that the way to victory over conflict is to pause, pray, and seek God’s word in order to respond correctly (i.e. as He would want me to respond).
How does this work? Well, pausing in the midst of conflict is the key. This may not come easily, but with practice it will become natural over time. As people we must learn the art of waiting before we respond to conflict. I have taught my children something called the S.T.O.P. principle (which, by the way, is good for us adults as well). I tell them that before we engage in any activity or respond to a situation, we must S.T.O.P. and think it through. It goes something like this:
S = is this Safe?
T = is this Truthful?
O = is this Obedient to God?
P = is this Pleasing to the LORD?
If my response can pass the yes test to all of the above, then I can move forward with what I have decided to do. I have found that when I give myself the time to think what is facing me this way, God can have the time He needs to reason with me in a way that leads me to respond in a manner that lifts up Christ and glorifies His name.
As I work through my emotions, I must also pray asking God to help me understand what I am feeling and why am I feeling this way. Am I angry? If so, why? Am I jealous? If so, why? Do I feel disrespected? If so, why? Am I afraid? If so, why? As God helps me to analyze my feelings and discover what they are and why I am feeling the way I do, He leads me to the place where I discover either that I am being selfish or that I have a legitimate reason for feeling the way I do. My next step in the process leads me to respond in a way that brings reconciliation and healing to the conflict: turning to God’s word for how I should respond.
Seeking God’s word is pivotal to handling any difficulty. In the midst of conflict what God has to say is an absolute when it comes to resolving the issues that are before us. As we honor God’s word, He will honor us. As we honor God’s word, we can always expect the best outcome for “all things work together for the good, to them that love the LORD, to those that called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Let me give you an example.
One day Sheila called me. She was angry that her husband Larry was not leading as he should in spiritual things at home. As a result she had decided that she had had enough and was going to leave him due to his lack of being a good example to the children. “All he does,” she said, “is go to work and then spend the rest of his time watching television or hanging out with his friends.” Granted that Larry had some problems and did need to experience change. However, Sheila needed to do some soul searching as well. First, she needed to look at what it was that she desired that she was not getting. In other words, she needed to ask the question: “Why am I so angry?” As she answered this question, she then needed to ask herself: “Am I responding the way God desires for me to respond?” In other words: What I am about to do (my response to my situation), is it safe? It is truthful (to God, my marriage, and to being a godly woman)? Is it (my response) obedient to God’s word? You see, Sheila needed to respond in a manner that speaks God’s love, His choice, and His desire for her marriage. Sheila needed to consult God’s Word thoroughly for how she was responding and how she should have responded to her situation.
I know that sometimes the choices we have to make are hard and work against the grain of our flesh. However, my friend, the Christian life is not about living in the flesh; it is about living in the Spirit. Biblical application to our situations will only bring God’s blessing and peace. Biblical application to our situation will extend to us spiritual growth and maturity that is out of this world!
Building Lasting Change
Change is hard. However, applying God’s word to the difficult situations in our life can help us make the changes that we need to make. The outcome will be out of this world. The first steps that we need to make in order to see the change in others is to prayerfully ask God what it is in ourselves that we need to allow Him to transform. We must then adjust our attitudes by His grace. After that we must confess any wrongs that we may have done. We must then further analyze the problem as God does by looking at what is motivating our response by looking at why we are thinking, acting, and responding the way we are. As we S.T.O.P. to consider this and seek to employ biblical principles to resolving the conflict before us, God will perform marvelous acts of change in our lives, and our marriages will become a place of heaven on earth.
David Guerrero is the founder and director of Rekindle the Flame Ministries. RTFM is a non profit 501(c)3 Christian organization that seeks to aid the body of Christ is experiencing transformation of life through faith-based counseling, seminars, conferences, training, and newsletters. Please contact us at (715) 310-2196 or on the web at http://www.rekindletheflameministries.org for more information how we can help you your church or your organization. Contact us if you like to be on our mailing list.