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“Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.” — Matthew 19:3-8
Read that passage again—what was the reason that Jesus gave for the allowance of divorce? You might be surprised. . . . .I was. The one reason why Jesus said that Moses allowed divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1) was because of the hardening of hearts.
Perhaps your answer to that would be, “There are lots of reasons why people get divorced. You can’t narrow it down to just one. And besides, marriage and divorce are topics that people write books about! Too much for one devotional!” So true—and so it is that I can mention one such book, and worthy of our attention.
It’s called The Marriage Miracle: How Soft Hearts Can Make a Couple Strong, by Bob & Cheryl Moeller. I can only share a small portion in this writing, but there are priceless nuggets in this book—from the Bible—which would cause us to perhaps re-think what happens when a husband and wife dare to “give up,” or grow cold towards each other. And what I found especially interesting in this new publication was that marriage was not the only application of the book’s principles . . . . any relationship is subject to one or the other becoming hard-hearted. So in a broader context, this book zeroes in on truth for us all. Having problems with relatives? with co-workers? with neighbors? maybe even fellow church members? We are all subject to becoming hard-hearted, even cynical, towards others, married or not.
In Chapter Four of the Moeller’s book I found a list of euphemisms which are commonly used by couples (even ones dealing with deployment) . . . phrases which reveal that their hearts have grown hardened towards each other:
1. “We have a failure to communicate.”
From the book: “Couples who can’t quit bickering often use this as their excuse. Actually, couples who constantly pick at each other are often surprisingly clear and precise in their communication. Each understands exactly what the other person is saying.” (p. 79-80)
And from God’s book, the Bible: “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’” (Mark 7:20-23)
2. “We don’t share the same values.”
From the book: “The reason many couples claim they cannot get along is that they just don’t share the same core beliefs and convictions. Again, we beg to differ. The reality is not so much that a Grand Canyon-sized gulf exists in their values system, as much as they have hardened their hearts and chosen to disagree as a way of life. The root cause is an inner decision to reject the other person from the heart.” (p. 81)
From God’s book, the Bible: “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others.” (Philippians 2:1-4)
3.“We’re no longer the same people. We’ve changed and grown apart.”
From the book: “It sounds convincing at first, doesn’t it? Not really. It’s total and complete jive. A more honest statement would go like this: ‘We have each hardened our hearts toward each other, we have no intention of changing, and we’re looking for a good excuse to get out of this marriage.’” (p. 83)
From God’s book, the Bible: “But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15)
4.“Hey, I didn’t mean anything by that. I was just teasing. You’re way too sensitive.”
From the book: “A hardened heart is often disguised as a sarcastic tongue. You hear them all the time—the jibes and put-downs people make about the person they are married to. Yes, the one-liners can be funny. But when one or both spouses trade verbal barbs all day, it’s a sure sign something deeper is wrong.” (p. 84)
From God’s book, the Bible: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come from your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)
5. “You make me so angry!”
From the book: “The truth of the matter is no one can make us do something we don’t want to do, including getting angry—not unless they have a gun pointed at our head. When we accuse someone else of making us angry, we are really saying that we’ve chosen in our hearts to get angry, and they are the excuse for doing so. . . . Anger management doesn’t make any more sense than hate management or lust management. You don’t manage sin, you get rid of it.” (p. 85)
From God’s book, the Bible: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” (James 1:19-21)
Perhaps you see your marriage, or a friend’s marriage, in any or all of those statements. “So what?” you ask, “We know there are issues!” The question then is, “What next?”
Solving a problem starts with identifying the problem. . . .then admitting your part in the problem. . . .then taking steps to change, not your spouse, but you. The Moellers write, “When God does open heart surgery, the patients are never the same. He replaces their heart of stone with a heart of flesh—and a marriage is transformed.” (p. 124)
Since this is a particularly lengthy posting, this is a good place to take a breather!
And when you continue on in The Marriage Miracle: How Soft Hearts Can Make a Couple Strong you will find:
—the stages of a hardened heart. . . .I (Linda) am reminded of the old adage of “hurt people hurt people” and Oswald Chambers’ insightful statement on the discipline of disillusionment, “Most of the suffering in human life comes because we refuse to be disillusioned” (The Place of Help, p. 1000);
—the impact (on yourself & others) of making the choice to soften your heart rather than harden it;
—the importance of an examination of the true condition of your heart;
—who is the Great Cardiologist, the Great Healer, the Great Physician. . . .God;
—how God demonstrates unconditional love to us by His forgiveness, His mercy, and His grace through His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ;
—how and why we need to demonstrate and extend those same gifts to others;
—the value of a simple prayer like, “Lord, please help me to love my spouse even more than I do now. Please help me to be the husband/wife I should be”;
—the beauty of brokenness which leads to confession;
—what “oneness” in marriage really means;
—how a transformed heart is filled with God’s Holy Spirit;
—the battle of temptation and how we fight;
—what to do when only one heart is softened in a marriage—this is so important, especially in parenting, even when divorce takes place; “While it may seem discouraging and even foolish to keep our heart softened toward our spouse when they fail to reciprocate, it’s actually a winning game plan. It sets us up for a closer fellowship with God, it models the behavior that will give our children an edge in life, it will teach us valuable spiritual lessons, it will invite unexpected blessings from God into our life, and ultimately it will be the most powerful tool God can use to soften our spouse’s heart.” (p. 155)
—the role of the church in helping hurting marriages;
—freedom from regret over past mistakes;
—prayer, praise, and purpose and how they are victors in the battle against pride;
—the legacy of a lasting marriage.
Is that too much? My toolbar says that my “word count” is too high today, but there is much to think about. Let me close with three Bible verses:
For nothing is impossible with God. — Luke 1:37
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. — Ezekiel 36:26
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. — Psalm 139:23,24
Chambers, Oswald, The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers (Grand Rapids: Discovery House Publishers, 2000).
Moeller, Bob & Cheryl, The Marriage Miracle: How Soft Hearts Can Make a Couple Strong (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2010).
Questions to Share:
1. What value can you see in preparing your heart for the challenges of deployment by first examining your heart attitude towards your spouse?
2. I often hear from military couples that they grew closer during the deployment. . . .but the opposite is sometimes true. How can you maintain oneness with your spouse, even when you are miles, and months, apart? Read “The Paradox of Drawing Together While Apart” on Excellent or Praiseworthy, 9/1/08: click here