Posts

Facing “For Worse” In My Marriage

“. . . for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and honor, till death do us part, according to God’s holy law, and this is my solemn vow.” 

 

I uttered those words over a year ago on May 28 to my then-girlfriend on our wedding day. The events of that day seemed to pass by quickly and before we knew it, we were changing our Facebook status from “In a relationship” to “married”. #Legit

Over the next few days, congratulatory messages streamed in from friends and family alike. My wife and I were both relieved that the months of planning and coordinating for the big day had come to an end. Finally, we could settle down and move on to bigger and more exciting things in life, like getting ready for our new house and building a life together.

Contrary to what most people say about the challenges one would face during the first year of married life, our first year went really well, with occasional bumps along the way. Friends and family can attest to how good God had been to the both of us in many instances in our marriage. It made it easy to give thanks to the Lord for His continued provision and presence in our lives.

As we entered the second year of marriage, we began to talk about starting a family. We had put off that idea in the first year because we were still staying in a rented room and were waiting for our apartment to be ready. We started discussing possible names for our children. I wanted my first child to be a girl; my wife had no preference. The anticipation and excitement grew as we started hearing from close friends who were expecting.

One recent afternoon, my wife sent me a text message along with an attachment showing the results of a health check she had gone for a few weeks ago. Before I could finish reading the detailed report, she called me. I knew something was amiss when I heard her muffled voice. “What does it mean?” she asked. My heart sank. I asked her to remain calm and give me some time to read the details of the report. That’s when I caught sight of these words, “. . . level is elevated. This may indicate a presence of cancer of the pancreas, stomach or colon. You should see a doctor early for follow up.”

The reality of the situation didn’t sink in immediately. I did my best to assure her that we would get to the bottom of the situation and seek medical help if needed. But as I thought about how my wife’s family had a history of colon cancer, the reality hit home and fear set in. To make matters worse, the specialist we wanted to visit for a follow-up was on vacation and would only be back in two weeks.

Suddenly, from what seemed like a great start, we were confronted by the reality that all our plans, dreams, and hopes might be dashed and replaced with lifelong challenges and painful days ahead. Sleepless nights, uncontrollable tears, and feelings of helplessness beset us in what seemed to be the longest two weeks of our lives. Despite having family and friends who prayed intensively along with us, the anxiety and worry did not lessen. I wondered about the future of our lives as a married couple. What if my wife really had cancer? What would it look like? What if we couldn’t have kids?

I felt a pang of regret as I thought about how I would always push back plans for a holiday overseas, which my wife wanted before we had children. I had argued that we needed to save money for the renovation of our new home. Now, it seemed that both the holiday and having children might not even happen.

During that period, two things helped me get through the days leading up to the appointment with the specialist. The first was remembering the marriage vows I had made to my wife before the Lord. The words “in sickness and in health” couldn’t have resonated more strongly, and I knew that God would give me the strength to journey with my wife through this. The reminder gave me hope as I prepared for the worst.

The second thing that comforted me was my wife’s reminder that because God had been so good to us in our first year of marriage life, there was no reason to doubt him now even if the situation turned for the worse. Trusting in an unchanging God allowed us to keep our hope in Him through life’s ever-changing circumstances. We trusted that the Lord would still be with us in bad times just as He had in the good.

Fast forward to the specialist’s appointment. By God’s grace and mercy, all the follow-up tests came back negative! We were cleared from all possibility of cancer at this stage. The doctor assured us that there was nothing to worry about.

Needless to say, we were overjoyed and thankful that the Lord had protected us from illness this time. While we both recognize that physical illness is an eventual reality for many and that nothing in this world is permanent, we thank God for more time to do His will and for teaching us what it means to depend and trust Him fully—regardless of the outcome.

3 Misconceptions about Marriage

Written By Lim Chien Chong

Chien Chong joined Singapore Youth For Christ (SYFC) full-time in 1998 after a six-year teaching career in a local junior college. In 2005, he became SYFC’s National Director. He currently serves in the pulpit and Bible class ministry in church, and also preaches, trains, and teaches in different churches and youth groups in Singapore. He has been married for 15 years and has two young lovely boys, Joshua (eleven years old) and Elijah (eight years old).

 

Weddings. It’s interesting how many people (women in particular) start dreaming and talking about their wedding at a young age.

I came across a blogger who wrote about how she started dreaming about her wedding as soon as she could talk.  And when she got her first piggy bank at four, she started saving—not for her education, but for her wedding dress. Numerous media outlets have reported that many women have the details of their dream wedding planned out by the time they’re 13.

But while a wedding marks one of the most important occasions in a person’s life, it can mean different things to different people. For some, it signals the start of something new and better. For others, it symbolizes graduating to the next stage in life. But there are also those who do not view it favorably in light of the rising number of broken relationships around them. For these people, they are skeptical about marriage, and conclude that marriages are outdated and no longer relevant.

Depending on our dreams and experiences, we may have either a romantic or bleak view of marriage. Let me share three misconceptions about marriage that I think most of us have, based on some of my personal reflections from Ephesians 5:31-33.

 

Misconception #1: Marriage is just a life stage

Some of us see marriage as another stage in life. When we are young, we attend school. After we are done with studying, we go out to work. What’s next? Get married and give birth.

Seen from this perspective, marriage is merely a rite of passage to adulthood. And this invariably affects our attitude towards it. Like everything else in life, we simply try to “make the best out of it”. So, marriage becomes a gamble; or maybe an investment.

My grandmother married my grandfather even though she knew she would be his second wife, believing that the marriage would bring her security. As it turned out, she was the least loved among the three ladies in his life. Even her own biological children were instructed to address her as “nanny” rather than “mommy”. It’s sad that while my grandmother was married into a rich family, she was not rich in many ways.

 

Misconception #2: Marriage makes us complete

Married couples often call their spouses their other halves. But to think of another person completing us has an obvious limitation. It means that before we are married or if we’re single, we are only “half a person”.

When I was younger, I used to think that many problems would be solved when I got married. I wouldn’t be lonely anymore, and I’d have someone I could truly trust and be honest with, someone who could make me feel secure. But reality can be very different.

My wife will tell you that she had some lonely nights and feelings of insecurity in the first few years of our marriage, especially when we got into conflicts and disagreements. At the time, I too wondered whether my wife, who was supposed to be my best friend, could truly accept and understand me. I was not alone, but I still felt lonely.

The fact is, married people still feel lonely, suspicious, and insecure.

 

Misconception #3: Marriage takes away our freedom

The idea that marriage is like “imprisonment” is not uncommon. Just before our marriage, we have our last bachelor’s party and take our last holiday trip as singles because we somehow think that life will no longer be the same anymore after the wedding day.

In fact, this is precisely the reason why there are so many negative jokes about marriage and funny ways to describe it. Because many people do feel resentful; they feel that the best part of their lives has been given away to their partners and children.

But is this really the case? And if it is not meant to be an “imprisonment”, then what should it be like? Are there any certain truths we can know about marriage?

 

God’s truth #1: Marriage is a special relationship closely knit by God

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. (Ephesians 5:31)

As Christians, we see marriage as a very special relationship that God has designed, in which two lives are closely knit into one. This doesn’t mean that we stop being individuals or that we need a spouse in order to be “complete”. What it means is that we cannot just focus on our own interests and expect our spouses to simply support us. We need to give due consideration to our time together, our common concerns, goals and interests.

I used to love to hang out for late-night movies and suppers, play my favorite sports and computer games, and even travel overseas with my friends. While I could expect my wife to support me by letting me continue doing what I like frequently and let her do the things that she likes, that would probably encourage me to look out for my own needs first, rather than her needs—or even ours, as a couple.

One of my favorite illustrations which brings out God’s idea of marriage shows two people involved in a three-legged race. Each of the two participants must do his/her own part in the race. But the duo also needs to have a common direction, a common pace, and the willingness to speed up or slow down for the other person. If each individual wants to go in his or her own direction, both of them will not only get very frustrated and go nowhere, but may even fall flat on their faces.

But what if the couple cannot agree on whose direction and priority to go with? How do we know whose direction and priority is better? Under normal circumstances, it is truly difficult to decide. But for Christians, this problem is more easily resolved. The truths and principles in the Bible shape our direction and priority.

 

God’s truth #2: Marriage must point us to our relationship with Christ

This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:32)

While this passage in Ephesians gives clear instructions on the roles of husbands and wives, we must remember that the marriage relationship is actually referencing Jesus and the church.

Left to our own devices, our marriages will likely present great struggles. As singles, we can choose to ignore certain issues and struggles known only to ourselves. But when we are married, we have someone very close to us who is watching, and maybe even judging us 24/7. We may be constantly reminded about our own issues. Here I am, hoping my spouse can help me solve my problems. Instead, he or she magnifies my problems and makes my struggles even more pronounced.

The thing is, many of the issues we face in our marriages stem from the sinfulness in our own lives. Our spouses are not the cause of our problems; neither are they the solution. Our problem is that we are, first and foremost, at war with God. Our hostility against God affects the way we relate with others as well as the way we live. So we need to first find forgiveness from God. Jesus died for us to pay the price of our sins so that through Him, we can be forgiven by God. But does the wiping away of our past record of wrong guarantee a good life henceforth?

Well, the other interesting part to the death of Jesus was that He rose to life from the dead. God, by His great power, raised Jesus from the dead. And the Bible tells us that this same power is now at work in the lives of Jesus’ followers so that we can live a new and good life. That means that we have the power to live anew. Christian couples are thus empowered to live out their marriage as God intended.

In addition to this new ability that we have in Jesus, we also have a new understanding. The way Jesus loves His people, the church, and teaches them how to live in obedience and submission to Him serve as the example of how husbands and wives ought to relate with one another in love and obedience.

While our lives are made incomplete by sin, our lives are made whole again when we come to Jesus. So, whether we are married and single, we do live complete lives in Christ. What is different, though, is that married and singles experience this completeness differently in their lives.

 

God’s truth #3: Marriage is an expression of love and respect in the relationship

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:33)

Commitment and obligations are not expressions of bondage; they are expressions of love. If we love someone, everything is a pleasure; if we don’t, everything is a chore. Because I love my wife, I meet her needs because I want to—not just because I have to. In marriage, I am not imprisoned. In fact, I am free to make choices; I choose to love and serve my wife willingly and cheerfully.

We all know that we need to show love and respect. But while we know these concepts and their importance, we often don’t do it. A very simple expression of love and respect is how we talk to and about one another. Often, it is not difficult to see that couples don’t really love and respect one another by the strong, unkind, and demeaning words they use to describe one another, as well as the gestures they use, like rolling their eyes or raising their voices and hands at each other. While many feel criticized by their spouses, the sad truth is they have also done the same to their spouses.

Learning to listen, understand, and remember are extremely important. Once, my wife was very upset with me because she thought that I was not listening to the things that she said. But when I assured her that I was following her conversation and could repeat some of the things she said, her demeanor and response changed immediately. That was certainly one important occasion when my attentiveness and good memory served me well.

Another way in which we show love and respect is to learn to do what is most needful and helpful. The list can go on and on. It can get very demoralizing because it seems like there are so many things we need to do to get our marriages right.

But the good news is that it is actually not just about what we do. If the Lord Jesus constantly works in our heart and changes us, we will grow to be loving and respectful people. When that happens, we will know and do what’s loving and respectful.

So for me, what has helped me a lot in my own marriage is to constantly focus on three aspects:

  1. 1.God’s design; that my marriage is a special relationship closely knit by God
  2. 2.Christ’s work; that my marriage must point me to my relationship with Christ
  3. 3.My role; that my marriage is an expression of love and respect in the relationship

In fact, these are the same three aspects that we should turn back to for all other issues of life. If we can always remember God’s good design, Christ’s completed work and our expected role in the different areas of life, we will be able to handle and work through our struggles the way God intends.

Confronting Marriage Struggles: Before and After

Written by Juli Vesiania, Indonesia, originally in Bahasa Indonesia

“And they live happily ever after.”

That’s what I gathered from the movies how marriage would be like. Two people unite and start their married life together. Marriage was supposed to be something beautiful, wonderful, and heartwarming.

The other reason why I looked forward to getting married was because I wanted to be close to my children in age. I wanted to be a friend to them, just as my mother was to me.

However, when the opportunity to get married finally came at the age of 24 years old, I wasn’t so sure anymore.

 

My struggle before getting married

For one, I wasn’t sure my boyfriend was “the one”.  How could I know for sure that he was given to me by God? Am I sure I can live with him? Am I the right person for him? Can I be his helper? I had so many questions and they overwhelmed me.

That’s when I had to remind myself why I started dating him in the first place. At the start of the relationship, I had asked my boyfriend some basic questions. Does he fear God? Is he responsible? What if this relationship progressed to marriage?

When I remembered his answers, the commitment we made to each other when we started dating, and after getting to know him better through our relationship, I became assured that he was the right one and finally agreed to marry him.

 

My struggle after getting married

After getting married however, I realized that marriage was not always beautiful, wonderful, and heartwarming; it was certainly not a party. Marriage was in fact, life after the party. Married life involves two people with different backgrounds trying to live life together—and that can be very challenging.  

Before we got married, my boyfriend and I only met once a week, so our differences didn’t really bother us. But after getting married and having to live together, our differences have become a lot more noticeable.

I like savory food. My husband likes sweet food. So now when we go out for dinner, we must consider each other’s preferences. And when I cook at home, I need to cook two different meals to fit both our taste buds. Our differences have become something that we have to deal with for a lifetime.

Another conflict involves our sleep schedules. I am an early bird, and I’m full of energy in the morning. So I go to bed early and wake up early. My husband, however, is a night owl. This is a problem because we sleep in the same room. My husband might still want the lights on in order to work on something, while I just want to hide my face under my pillow, cover my ears, and yell, “Turn the light off! I want to sleep!”

These might seem like simple problems, but if they are not resolved well, they can be detrimental for the relationship.

One day, I came across a prayer by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. It was a beautiful prayer which inspired me to deal with my marriage problems wisely:

God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,

courage to change the things which should be changed,

and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

Reading that prayer reminded me that there are things we can’t change. Instead, we need to adapt to and accept those things. I can’t change the fact that my husband likes savory food and is a night owl. What I can do is to learn to adapt and accept his preferences.

Sometimes, it can be a challenge when my wants differ from his wants. But if it’s just about what I want, I need to compromise—to do something just because it’s important to my spouse. If I want to guard the peace in my relationship (Romans 12:18), I need to learn to give in.

When we learn to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21), we are able to build a harmonious marriage. The little differences don’t bother us anymore.

In the first five months of my marriage, I felt God refining and shaping myself through every good and bad experience with my husband. Though we still face differences in our characters and habits, I am reminded that the purpose of marriage is not the pursuit of happiness.

Instead, as American author Gary Thomas writes in his book, marriage is a means through which God refines us, so that we become more like Him.  When someone gets married, they go through God’s refining and shaping process. Happiness is not the purpose, but an extra that God gives to us when we go through the process.

 

So, is marriage wonderful? Yes. But that doesn’t mean that there won’t be any problems, or that everything will be peaceful, or everyone happy. Marriage isn’t like the movies. Instead, it is beautiful because my faith and knowledge about God grows, and also my character.

Why I’m Not Pursuing Gay Relationships Anymore

It was past midnight. I was with the guy I had liked for more than a year. We had just left a gay bar and, for some reason, started to talk about Christianity and homosexuality.

We were both Christians, but he and I held different views on this matter. He believed that it was not compatible with Christianity to act on gay desires, while I was convinced that God would bless same-sex relationships between Christians.

This wasn’t the first time we had talked about this. Every time we broached this topic, we’d disagree sharply with each other. I’d argue that since being gay wasn’t a choice, God surely would not forbid us from acting on what was natural to us. He’d contend that the Bible was very clear that homosexual behavior was sinful and not part of God’s will.

In the thick of our disagreement that night, God planted this thought in my head: “Your belief that Christianity is compatible with homosexuality is based on the borrowed arguments of others who hold such convictions. Why don’t you look into this matter for yourself and come to your own conclusions? Besides, if this is true, what do you have to lose?”

Until that moment, I’d been unreservedly gay-affirming. I was 13 when I realized I experienced gay desires. When I was 17, I went onto the Internet to find out what Christianity had to say about homosexuality. I came across and accepted many arguments that interpreted Scripture in a way that condoned the pursuit of gay desires in a loving relationship. So when I started to look for romantic love, I did just that—I sought a loving, committed, and monogamous gay relationship.

But when God prompted me to pursue the truth on homosexuality, I decided that I would conduct an intellectually honest inquiry. So, from 2008 onwards, I began to look at arguments on why homosexuality wasn’t aligned with God’s will, even though I didn’t agree with them at that point. I also figured that I ought not to get into a gay relationship as well, since that would compromise the integrity of my quest.

Over the next seven years, even as I examined arguments in favor of the traditional reading of Scripture on homosexuality, I remained largely gay-affirming and was actively looking for a gay relationship. In spite of that, God led me on a journey in which He showed me His heart on the matter and the beauty of His design for my sexuality.

 

Discovering Loopholes

As I re-examined the arguments that said Scripture permitted loving gay relationships, I found that they weren’t as convincing as I had initially thought when I first came across them. I discovered many loopholes in those claims. Besides being built on presuppositions that remained to be tested, there were leaps of logic that begged further questions, and the isolation of biblical verses from their proper context.

The more I read, the more I realized these arguments were not watertight and the more I started to ask questions such as: If homosexuality is so good, why did God forbid homosexual behavior so consistently all throughout the Bible, in the Old and New Testaments? Why did He not clearly hold up committed gay relationships as something to be aspired toward, just as He did with committed heterosexual marriages? If gay relationships are part of God’s will, why couldn’t He have made gay people with sexual parts that complemented each other? What am I to do if it’s indeed wrong to act on my gay desires, even if it’s out of love? How else would I find love?

At the heart of my grappling, I had to address core questions of surrender and trust: Am I just holding on tightly to my own views out of fear or pride? Am I really open to seeking out and believing what God has to say about homosexuality? If His will is indeed different from mine, am I willing to trust Him to provide for me in His ways?

 

The Beauty of God’s Design for Marriage

As I began to move away from gay-affirming theology, God used numerous occasions to solidify the conviction in my heart that homosexuality was not aligned to His will. One of these decisive moments was when He opened my eyes to the beautiful design of heterosexual marriage.

By this point, God had already led me to understand how the key differences between men and women led to a harmonious complementarity between the two sexes. So when He showed me that human marriage between a man and a woman was a powerful, compelling picture of the divine, complementary marriage between Jesus and the Church, it made sense to me.

I learned that marriage is meant to be a beautiful, lasting, and holy covenant in which the husband lays down his life for his wife—just as Christ sacrificially laid Himself down for the Church, His Bride—and the wife submits to her husband’s loving headship—just as the Church is called to pour herself out in willing submission to Christ, her Bridegroom and Head (Ephesians 5:22-33).

I saw that the Word of God consistently referred to Jesus as the Bridegroom (male) (Mark 2:19-20, John 3:29) and the Church as His Bride (female) (Matthew 25:1-13, Revelation 21:2; 9-10), and that the consummation of history was described as the Wedding Feast of the Lamb of God (Revelation 19:9). This sealed the conviction in my heart that God has created us male and female for very good reasons (Genesis 5:2). One of them is that He intends for marriage to be a union between a man and a woman so that the marital covenant can be lived out as a profound sacrament that embodies and expresses to the world the way Jesus loves the Church and the way the Church loves Jesus.

I remember having tears in my eyes when I learned this truth that day. Firstly, I was very moved by the beauty of God’s design for marriage and how it displayed the glory of Jesus’ covenantal love with His Church. Secondly, I knew that this truth meant that acting on my gay desires did not glorify God and it demanded a reorientation of my life.  

 

Understanding the Underlying Issues

That was how God convinced me on the theological and intellectual fronts. What He did next was to address my emotional concerns.

Throughout my gay-affirming years, I had firmly believed that being gay was a natural part of who I was and that I was born gay. Then God helped me to become aware of the issues that likely led to me having same-sex attraction.

The Lord showed me that all my life, I’d longed for my father to give me more attention, affirmation, and affection. Though my father did the best he could and I’m thankful for him, he could only give me the kind of love he had received from his own father. There were also other reasons why I didn’t perceive and receive his love very well when I was growing up.

In primary school, I constantly wished that someone would show me the ropes and how to be a guy. And throughout my secondary school years, I struggled with not fitting in with the rest of the boys in my class. I neither felt secure in my identity as a boy nor did I feel like I belonged with the guys.

I’m now aware that it was not a coincidence that it was also in secondary school that I started to have crushes on my male classmates. My longing for the attention and affection of my father, coupled with my desire to have for myself the masculine traits of other guys, turned into a romantic longing to have the attention and affection of desirable guys. It became what I began to experience as same-sex attraction.

When God surfaced these underlying issues, He led me to understand that my same-sex desires was not a natural, innate part of who I was. Rather, it was a symptom of deeper issues I needed to address.

I realized then that the way forward was not to keep looking for a gay relationship to try to meet these needs, but rather, to meet these needs in healthy ways—in the ways that they should be met. I also needed to seek healing for these wounds, so that God could build up in me what had been lacking for years.

As I came across the life stories of others with same-sex desires, the issues they faced were similar to the ones I dealt with. And I knew that if I were to act on my gay desires with someone else, I would not only be deepening my own wounds, but I’d also have a hand in deepening the wounds of my romantic or sexual partner. It’s like two people feeding each other sand in an attempt to sate their hunger, when their real need is for food that truly nourishes and satisfies. Not only does the sand not fill their hunger, it’d further bring ill health to their bodies, and misdirect and ruin their actual appetites for food.

 

A Life-changing Journey

Needless to say, those seven years of searching and researching were life-changing. Although I started out being gay-affirming and had no interest whatsoever in changing my stand on homosexuality, the Holy Spirit planted and deepened the conviction in my heart over the years about God’s wonderful design for my sexuality.

Though my heart was often unwilling to accept what I had read, I found myself gradually giving intellectual assent to what was written and, eventually, realizing that these words were true because there was a deep witness in my spirit. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of truth [who] leads [us] into all truth” (John 16:13).

That night, when God challenged me to look into this matter, He asked me, “If this is true, what do you have to lose?” Well, I lost my right to hold on to what I would prefer to be true and a way of living for myself that would have felt so much easier. But I gained a deeper trust in God, knowing that because He is who He says He is, His loving and righteous ways are much better than mine. And I gained a way of dying to myself that led to God’s truth, healing, and abundant life—to true, lasting happiness (John 12:24-26).

So today, even though I still experience same-sex attraction, I’m no longer pursuing gay relationships because I want to pursue a loving relationship with God, who first pursued and loved me.