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Marriage Does Not Bring a Happy Ending

I had a difficult conversation with a friend about her upcoming wedding not too long ago. Defending her love for her fiancée, she asserted, “He deserves a second chance. He deserves to be happy and have a happy ending.”

A happy ending. Those words drummed a familiar beat in my heart.

Marriage As My Happy Ending

For years, I was convinced that if I found someone who would vow to love me forever, I could finally be happy. The fact that my parents were not married amplified this belief. To me, marriage signified the end of all my struggles in the search for true love—a happy ending. Thus, I felt the pressure to get married, to find “the one” who would hand me my happy ending.

With this pressure came an incessant and belligerent voice that kept pounding lies into my head: “Singleness is failure. Singleness means a lifetime of loneliness and misery. Singleness means you are incomplete.”

This deep-seated erroneous belief festered through the years and led me into many unhealthy relationships. Our culture today nurtures this warped idea of love and marriage. We have come to expect another person to make us whole and to provide us with our desperate need for eternal love and security. We expect marriage to complete us. We marry because we want to be happy. When we find ourselves unhappy in a marriage, we begin to look for a replacement either in a new person or new experiences, only to discover that neither can truly fulfill what our souls are truly hungry for. Why? Because of this simple, absolute truth: we are a broken people.

Somehow, we have learned to live outside of that truth. We have forgotten that we are bound to make mistakes and to fail each other. Whether or not we mean to hurt each other, it’s inevitable. We can never be enough for anyone, nor is anyone ever going to be enough for us. Our brokenness guarantees that.

Dr. Val Gonzales, a pastor, licensed counselor and friend, once proposed an idea about marriage that had me mulling over for a few nights. He said, “Marriage is not a vehicle to happiness. It is wrong to think this way: I will marry, so I will be happy. It should be: I am happy, so now I will marry.”

Don’t get me wrong: we can find happiness in our marriages. But it is not a guarantee. And more often than not, happiness comes as a by-product of our relationship with God. If our hope and our joy is misplaced, our unrealistic expectations of each other will likely lead to a marriage’s eventual end as is the case in so many of our marriages today.

 

Should I Marry Or Not?

I used to ask, “How do I know who my future husband is?” In between failed relationships, I came to see how foolish I was in pursuing true joy in another broken person. I subsequently learned to relinquish to God any claims I had for the right to be happy or to be married. When I finally learned to release this idol, that’s when I realized the better question was, “How do I know if I should get marry and not remain single?” I wanted God to take charge. And He did.

God shattered to pieces nearly all the foundations I stood on about who I was, who my family was, who my friends were, and who He was. Then He rebuilt them into quite possibly the most beautiful ground I could root my life on—the bedrock of Jesus’ love. He ushered my steps to a calling that spread like wildfire in my whole being: go and serve Him in the mission field.

Decision after decision I made from that point onwards—and yes, including my marriage—fell along the lines of this radical call. When my husband proposed to me and I said yes, there was not only immense peace but also clarity about what that meant. God made it clear to me that marriage would be good for me because I had found who I really am: whole, happy, and secure in Him. I was ready to commit to a covenant relationship intended to last a lifetime.

 

My Happiness In Your Hands

Many would probably applaud my friend’s declaration of love. But I would hesitate to do so, for it suggests that her future husband’s happiness hinges on her. No matter how good we are at making people happy, we all have our limits, because we are a flawed, limited people. It is dangerous to assume responsibility for another person’s happiness.

At times, we get tired and weary of life. Sure, we should work towards meeting the needs of our spouses, but we cannot expect ourselves to fulfill this perfectly all the time, nor should we demand of them the duty of meeting ours.

No one can fill that oh-so-familiar void in our hearts but Jesus. Because that deep hole we try to fill with fleeting moments of warmth and happiness is God-shaped. He is the solitary piece that can complete the puzzle of our lives and our identity.

We can try to root our happiness in another person’s heart, and it may give us, for a time, what we need. But as life happens, we’d probably realize that he is not big enough to handle his own longings and yours.

Only Jesus can do it. Let His love consume you and make you whole. I promise: you will be filled to the full.

Will God Give Me More Than I Can Bear?

“God will never give you more than you can bear. He will give you only what you can handle.”

In the early years of my walk with Jesus, I found these words comforting whenever challenges arose. I even began dispensing the same advice to friends who went through tough times.

But when I lost my mother, I wasn’t so sure anymore. Not long after that, a close uncle (my mom’s brother) was shot dead. Then, my father passed away three days after my wedding. A few months later, another close uncle lost both his arms in a freak accident. The same words of encouragement that had meant so much to me suddenly held no water.

How could God allow these things to happen? It didn’t make sense to me. I thought to myself: Didn’t they say God will not give me more than I can handle? Hadn’t I just gone past my limit of what I could endure and carry on my own?

It made me think not only of myself but also of others who were in tougher circumstances than I was in. I mean, how do I tell a mother who has just lost a child that God will never give her more than she can handle? Or a husband who has to bury his wife and kids? Or a child who has lost both his parents?

How can I reconcile these crushing real-life experiences with this often-used statement of reassurance? Will God really not give us more than we can bear?

For a while, I carried on believing that He wouldn’t. I pretended to be strong and to keep going. But the pretense was hard to keep up with; I was barely hanging on.

 

Yes, He Would

After some time, I finally found the courage to admit this: that God does give us more than we can bear. I believe He allows us to experience overwhelming pain that could possibly wreck us and empty us, and to go through crushing defeats that will shake our very core.

How then should we make sense of the promise God gave in 1 Corinthians 10:13? After all, it does state unequivocally that God “will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear”. That’s when I realized this: the word “tempted” in this verse refers to sin. God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can resist. This oft misquoted verse does not refer to suffering trials.

When it comes to trials, I believe God gives us more that we can bear because if we can take everything that comes our way on our own, then we don’t really need Him. If we can bear every burden that we experience, then it would be unnecessary for us to call on Him for help, for strength, for courage.

Unless we have Jesus’ grace and strength, there is no way we can endure the trials. I know this because I went through some messy situations in my life that brought me to my knees and emptied me to a point where I couldn’t cry anymore because it was just too much. The pain was too much to bear; it was stuck in my heart and my throat. It was in those moments that nothing else mattered but my relationship with Him.

 

Pain is Good

So does this mean that God is cruel for allowing terrible things to happen to us? No, it doesn’t.

Truth be told, I think pain is good for us. No, I am not saying I like it—far from it. But while pain is a lousy companion, it’s a competent teacher. It helps us see clearly and go back to what we truly need. Pain lets us know that something is wrong.

I once saw a movie about a war veteran who lost his ability to feel the lower half of his body. In one scene, a high school volunteer who was helping him clean up commented that he sometimes wished that he didn’t feel pain when he was training for football. That’s when the man answered, “No, you don’t. You don’t wish to not feel pain.”

I think that’s the part we almost always miss. We want to not feel pain, believing that this is best for us. But pain is not our enemy. Pain actually helps us live life better. Pain can steer us into the right direction—a life focused and dependent on God.

I am not making light of the difficult things many of us deal with. Believe me, there have been many times in my life I wished I didn’t have to suffer. Yet, I have to say that in God’s wisdom, He has let them happen for a purpose.

I now depend more on Him for strength knowing that I would never make it without Him. I’ve learned to love people better and to truly care for their welfare. I saw the foolishness of my selfish desires and became wiser in my decisions. These are but a few of the lessons God has taught me—lessons I would have never fully grasped if pain wasn’t involved.

At the end of the day, trials and pain are realities we will always have to face. But we can definitely count on God to be with us every step of the way.

 

This article was first published here. This version has been edited by YMI.

When Our Church Leaders Fail

Written By Kezia Lewis, Thailand

Lately, news of church leaders’ failures have become common. We hear of pastors committing fraud, embezzling church money, or getting involved in scandals involving pornography or extramarital affairs.

When we hear of such news, more often than not, we crucify these leaders. If we come from these churches, we might disown them, or criticize them in front of the whole world. We are hurt, and the natural reaction is to return the hurt. As a friend once put it, “Hurt people hurt people.” Because these leaders have failed and disillusioned us, we feel justified in punishing them for the pain they have caused us.

Perhaps, however, there are better ways to respond.

Show Them Love

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”— John 13:34-35  

When our church leaders fail, we should show them love. We do not excuse their sins; nor do we shield them from the consequences of their actions. But we don’t need to trample on them. We shouldn’t allow their lapse in judgment to paint them in a worse light.

How can we do this? One way is: Don’t gossip about them. We can begin at home, by exemplifying this brotherly love to our kids. When things like this happen, we tend to tittle-tattle and dig up even more of these church leaders “deficiencies”. Or, we may gather in groups in church or cell groups saying we want to pray for their welfare, but end up speaking badly of them.

When we behave this way in front of our children, we make it seem acceptable to speak against our brothers in the faith. We portray them as villains who had always planned on wreaking havoc in our churches, and make monsters out of them. We forget the good things they had done and remember only the mistakes. We bury them alive in their sins—and forget who they are in God.

Pray For Them

Church leaders are under more spiritual attack because they are on the frontline. The enemy makes every effort to tear them down, because he knows that when he destroys a leader in God’s church, he can discourage and weaken everyone under him. When a leader fails, we can even lose brothers and sisters in Christ, who give up on God and His church entirely.

So we should pray for our leaders—always. And when they fail, we should pray for them even more. We should not allow the enemy to have his way and give in to his tactics; we should not hand him our leaders on a platter when they stumble. Instead, we can lift them up to Jesus.

Pastors and church leaders are as human as we are: they have struggles of their own, and they go through temptations just as we do. Just as our decisions don’t define us, bad decisions don’t characterize our church leaders—our true identity is in Jesus. Yes, we will make mistakes and make bad decisions, but mistakes can be the beginning of greater intimacy with Jesus. Let’s pray for that to be true for our leaders as well.

Be There For Them

When our church leaders fail, we should be there for them as fallen brothers and sisters. This is one way to show them love. We can go to them, pray with them, and help them recover from the mess so they can stand up again. Let’s not shut them out of our lives or our churches, because they need Jesus more than ever.

A friend once told me: “Your husband is not God. He is going to mess up and he is going to hurt you, just like you will mess up and hurt him too. He is human after all.” This advice has given me the strength to be gracious to my husband, just as he has to me. Our relationship with Jesus keeps us and our marriage strong; He is the only one who is perfect and blameless.

I believe we can apply this for our church leaders as well. It’s easy for us to see them as infallible and perfect people—we don’t expect them to err, and we forget that they are not God. We forget that they are flawed and that they will mess up, as they are human after all.  

So when (and not if) they mess up, let’s not be shocked and withhold our grace. Instead of running away from them as though they are too filthy to bear, let’s run to them and raise them up to Jesus. We only need to look at ourselves to remember that we are no cleaner, yet Jesus thought we were worthy of His sacrifice.

Jesus loves our church leaders even when they fail; He will forgive them and be there for them in the darkest of times. We can do the same.

The World Calls Me a Hypocrite . . . Am I?

Written By Kezia Lewis, Thailand

I once met a lady at church who touched me with her behavior. She would raise her hands during worship, and cry and belt out the songs with an obvious ache vibrating in her voice. During prayer time, she would plead with us to pray for her. I wanted to embrace her.

Then I learned of her story.

She was having an affair with a guy who was married—with kids. I was shocked, and boiled with anger. From then on, only one thought rang through my mind whenever I saw her—“What a hypocrite!” I had to resist the urge to berate her: Stop pretending. No use coming to church if you’re leading a double life.

I felt justified in being angry because I saw myself as “defending” God. Surely, I thought, He disapproved of her staining His name with her pretense and her claims of righteousness.

Then God ministered to my angry heart.

He showed me that He didn’t need or want my defense. He wanted me to love her, because He wanted her to stay. He reminded me that He accepted her—all of her, the good and the bad—as much as He accepted me. All of me. He showed me that her sins did not define her, just as my sins don’t define me.

I’m not that different

I used to expect nothing less than perfection from those who claim to follow Jesus. When I began walking with Jesus, however, I discovered that perfection wasn’t going to happen overnight. I was—and am—still flawed. I carry with me baggage from my old life, including habits and ways that need to be knocked down. I still wrestle with brokenness and weaknesses. And while I am not the same old Kezia, I mess up badly every day and go back to my old self even after years of walking with God.

One of my many weaknesses is gossip, an ugly habit that I have been a slave to for most of my life. I feel that if I don’t join in the conversation of dishonoring a person, I become an outsider—or worse, I become “the outsider”, the victim of gossiping. I fear I won’t belong anymore, and that I would be rejected. So I cave in to my fear and take part in smearing another person.

Every time I gossip, however, shame covers me from head to toe when I realize what I have done. Maybe this is just who I am—a blab—I tell myself. Maybe I am mistaken in claiming to be God’s child, because surely I would never do this if it were true. Maybe I am no righteous daughter of the King for blabbing about what so and so did.

Living in a fallen world inside a fallen body, I feel the tension between a determination to live a holy life, and my flesh and old life. Every day, I make decisions that go against the grain of who Jesus is; I sin and bring disgrace to His name. And when this happens, I hear the world—and even myself—label me a hypocrite.

Am I a hypocrite?

I pray, go to church regularly, sing songs of worship, and praise Jesus. Then I go home and act against God’s truths, as if mocking Him. I find myself crawling back to my sins. I feel like a fraud—a villain masquerading as a hero, consciously deceiving people about my true nature.

So, am I a hypocrite? The answer is yes, I am.

But not in the way the world would understand it. The world sees my “goodness” and my “righteousness”—a pretense I don to appear virtuous.

I have been made righteous by Jesus’ blood, and that is who I truly am; that is who He sees. But a lot of times I go against that truth because it’s easier to be rotten than to be righteous. It’s easier to stay in the mud than to fight to come out of it. It’s easier to just be like everyone else, doing what everyone else is doing. The world has made it as simple as possible to defy God. I end up being a hypocrite because I can’t help staying in the mud.

Some people give up being Christians entirely because they are tired of being hypocrites. So many times, too, I’ve wanted to give up the fight. To stop making claims of righteousness, to stop trying to pull myself out of the mud.

But God would not let me—He always pulls me out. Jesus declares that I am a new creation: I am His daughter; I am righteous; I am His. He will not let me go and let me be.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13)

“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’.” (Romans 8:15)

Being a hypocrite is not a good thing. But I don’t think God wants me to give up on Him on account of being labelled a hypocrite. Instead, He wants me to give up my unrighteousness—which may take a really long time, which means I will continue to be a “hypocrite” for the time being.

I am a mess, a broken person. Giving up to my sins seems effortless. But God will stop at nothing to reclaim me. He is relentless in telling me of His love, of demonstrating to me that I have a Father in Heaven who cares for me deeply. When I read His Word, it wraps me with peace, it removes the shame of my sins, and it gently pulls me up. How can I not go on? How can I give up the fight? How can I give up the race He has set before me, when He hasn’t stopped running for me and with me? I must not find satisfaction in the mud. It’s not what Jesus wants for me. It’s not who Jesus sees in me.

“Sovereign Father, have Your way in my life. I want what You want for me. I pray for freedom from the destructive cycles of pride and fear in my life. I pray: take off this mask I put on to try and belong like everyone else. It’s so subtle I hardly notice that I’m donning it. Uproot this inclination to be wicked that manifests itself in many different forms in my life. I pray that I live in the realness of Your love and in the truths of Your Word. I am Your child. This is who I really am. Help me to behave like Your child. I pray this in the name of the One who died for me, the Rock of my Salvation, Jesus Christ. Amen.”