Friday, May 18, 2012

Mutual Encouragement in the Middle of a Messy Life

Janet, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be a wife and mother, set apart for the gospel of God concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, through Whom I have received grace...

To all those who struggle with an imperfect life, a difficult marriage, and hard circumstances:

Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul, a humble servant of Jesus Christ, was providentially hindered from going to Rome so that all Christians could benefit from the theologically rich letter that was written so long ago to the Romans.  This encouraged me today:

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. Romans 1:11-12 ESV

Mutual Encouragement

Christianity is never to be lived in a vacuum.  There is nothing inherently spiritual about being cloistered in a monastery or living life as a hermit in a cave.  Yes, God sometimes calls His children to live apart for a time (Jerome, Paul, John Bunyan, John) either in exile, in prison, or some other solitary spot.  However, for the most part, the Christian life is to be lived in community - within families, churches, groups, towns... interacting daily with others in similar circumstances.  That's where the "One Anothers" of the Bible are worked out.  We are to love one another, pray for one another, encourage one another, rebuke one another... the list goes one.  And we are also to mutually encourage one another as we share our faith.


The best relationship in which to mutually encourage another to walk in faith is within the marriage relationship.  Ideally, marriage should be based on friendship, on developing a closer and more intimate bond as the years fly by.

Jill Briscoe's marriage demonstrates this mutual encouragement.  She prays, 

"My heart beats for the man in my life!  The one You gave me nearly 50 'man years' ago.  My husband; my other self; my friend - for whom I thank You every day.  How could You match me a man so well?  One who never allows me to take myself too seriously?  One who has brought the soft colours of life, love and laughter to my 'worry world', teasing out the knots of knottiness in my stomach - chivvying me into rest.

One who constantly challenges me to be the woman You want me to be, because he insists on being the man You want him to be and nothing else!  Jesus first and last: Jesus all in all!  I LOVE that in him, perhaps above all else.  What a gift!  No grey in this partnership, only the rainbow of promises, even after rain.  Hear me for this man of mine - and Yours." ~ p.11, 12 The Deep Place Where Nobody Goes by Jill Briscoe.

"No grey in this partnership," Jill Briscoe says.

No grey, eh?  

That's all very nice.  I'm glad for Jill, and for others like her who have a "singing, shiny marriage", who are perfectly partnered with the love of their lives - the one person who is most compatible with them, who understands and accepts and deeply loves them.  

What of those who live in the grey?  

What about wives who struggle with feelings of inadequacy, with lack of confidence, with a certainty of worthlessness?  What about those who wallow daily in the depths of despair because their life seems to be constantly changing from the mountaintop triumphs to the valley of despair?  Has God forgotten them?  

What about wives and husbands who are opposites in everything - in the things they love, in their goals and aspirations, in how they handle money, sex, time, children... everything?

The question is, "To Whom should they go?"  

The blessing of having a husband who is not perfect is that it should drive a wife to Christ.  He IS PERFECT!  He is the One with all of the answers.  He doesn't miss a bit of the struggles she goes through.  He is never without compassion, and He is full of truth and grace.  

I remember, as a young wife, going to our pastor with some deep concerns.  I was told "go home, and submit to your husband."  I felt as though the pastor patted me on the head (not that it happened) and said, "There, there."  I felt completely patronized.  Yet, because I didn't have anyone else to turn to, I turned to the Lord.  I devoured His Word.  He gave me the strength to carry on, and I began to understand that this world is not meant to be a perfect place.  It is full of sin, full of trouble, full of difficulty.  Yet God has planned that we should serve Him right where He has planted us.  

I learned that I could glorify God in the middle of my painful circumstances.  

I learned to re-interpret the lies the devil whispered to me, and to think God's thoughts after Him.  I do not believe that I would be the woman of faith that I am today, were it not for our trials and tribulations.  We've had plenty of those, but they have served to teach me that God is good, all of the time, in every way.  People are sinners, no matter where we go.  It ought not to be a surprise that they sin against us.  At the same time, we sin against them... so we have to learn to make much of Jesus and to allow ourselves to die, to diminish, to fade away.  There is joy and abundant life in Jesus Christ and in living in the Light of the Gospel every single day.

What about my own husband?  I've hinted that, unlike Jill Briscoe, my hubby and I are strange bedfellows indeed.  We are opposites in what we like to eat(me: healthy; hubby: sweets), to watch on television, to do for fun.  We are opposites in how we handle money and investments (he is high-risk; I am no-risk).  We are opposites in bedtime routines (he's a night owl; I love mornings!).  I love to talk.  He hates to talk.  I thrive on relationships.  He's more of a loner.  I fly by the seat of my pants; he likes routine.  I love to travel; he'd rather stay home.

What was God thinking, bringing us together?

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:11-14 ESV

Know this: every single event that occurs is in some sense predestined by God.  It is no mistake that I am married to a husband who is very, very different from me.  God has purposed that this relationship is the best one for me - the one in which we can best learn how to mutually encourage one another in this walk of faith.  In this marriage, with all of its grey, and all of the various colours of the rainbow that swirl up and down as changeable as the weather, I can glorify God.  In fact, I do glorify God.  

I love my husband.  He is funny and brilliant and steady and loyal and rock-solid. He is independent and quiet and a bad communicator, so I am still learning how to draw him out without being disrespectful.  I still have lots to learn from this man, and God knows this.  

So, if you struggle with an imperfect life, a difficult marriage, and hard circumstances, be encouraged!  God has not forgotten you.  He is with you in the middle of your mess.  He will provide everything you need for life and godliness.  Walk with Him.

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