I recently completed a reflection series based on R.C. Sproul’s six-part series called, Intimate Marriage. It is a classic series that not only rightly defines the Christian marriage, but it lays out key topics and high points where we need to think deeply as it relates to our striving for an intimate marriage – a marriage that honors and pleases God.
In my counseling work, I offer couples a new angle on understanding why they face the problems they face. I summarize everything into one word: Sin. Sin is the reason why they struggle with whatever it is that brings them to the counseling office. By the time folks make it to the counseling office, typically they are at a low point, feeling as if they’ve hit rock bottom. They feel stuck in a pit and can’t get out.
During our first two sessions or so, when we’ve had time to allow for some of the dust to settle and providing allowance for dumping their baggage in the middle of the floor, I divert our attention by asking, so what does God think?
The crisis that led to them to my office suddenly faces a real threat. The couple has to face the prospect that maybe, despite all of the nuanced self-justification, they may not be in the right as much as they thought they were. Setting aside more egregious situations such infidelity or domestic violence, abandonment and the like, most folks who make their way into the office are at least moderately civil.
SIN IS THE PROBLEM
Since sin is the main problem that led them to their situation, we inevitably have to start asking about the specific sins they struggle with. Some people struggle with impatience, others with holding grudges, others with giving into anxiety or depression too easily, still others with things like lust, discontentment, anger, being overly critical, passive aggressiveness, covetousness, and list goes on.
However, sin isn’t the necessarily a thing that keep them swallowed entirely in their problems. Often times, it is their battle against sin. Even though I spend time normalizing the battle with sin, we still need to be reminded of how pervasive and extensive the battle is. I love this helpful blog by Pastor Brian Hedges, Your Fight Against Sin is Normal, wherein he helps readers get a sense that although your battle with sin is normal, he goes on to add…
This reality is not an excuse for laziness, but a summons to sober-minded watchfulness. But it is also a humbling reminder that we’re still waiting for final redemption and need the help of others in the good fight of faith.Your Fight Against Sin Is Normal, Feb 19, 2019
By pointing us to a time when all will be made new by Christ himself, we realize that today, we must fight the fight of faith and wage war against the sin that so easily entangles us. (Hebrews 12:1).
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)
MARRIAGE IS THE BATTLEGROUND
Knowing this in advance, we develop our understanding that our marriage is the battleground where the fight against sin is hottest. We struggle daily, but if we’re able to see it, our spouse is actually God’s grace to us with respect to our finest co-warrior designed to help intercede.
But that is our problem often times – our spouse is often viewed as the ‘enemy’. This is why they are in counseling. There is no interest, much less joy, in helping our spouse do battle against sin. So, rather than enjoining ourselves to God’s design, we give in to our own, individual way. Thus, repeats a cycle that slowly eats away at our marriage relationship.
One thing I have to remind couples of which is not easy to digest: In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood, (Hebrews 12:4).
YOUR STRUGGLE IS AGAINST SIN – NOT YOUR SPOUSE
This verse ought to be a helpful reminder on two fronts:
ONE: My struggle is not against my spouse but against sin.
But this is often the excuse we come up with. She won’t do this; he wont do that, and so we bicker and fight. A few years ago, my pastor gently pointed me to James 4:1 where this text put a sharper point on this fact of sin.
If I can have someone cool their jets by helping them see that the battle is with sin and not their spouse, then a new two-fold thing develops: (1) They can begin to see their sin a bit more clearly, (2) They can begin to soften up toward their spouse.
TWO: You might be doing battle with sin, but when compared to Jesus, you still have room to grow. Jesus shed his blood. You haven’t.
This is the other takeaway from this verse in Hebrews. As the author has just prompted us to fix our eyes on Jesus, we understand globally that our whole marriage is one of a co-laboring of fixing our our eyes on Jesus. To say another way…
My mission as a husband is to help my wife grow in her fixing her eyes on Jesus, and my wife’s mission is to help me fix my eye on Jesus. The battle against sin is life long, and so we need each other to encourage, support and spur on until the day we are united with Christ.Tweet
WILL YOU FIGHT YOUR SIN OR YOUR SPOUSE
We have to be sober-minded and think about this. How often do we find ourselves believing we’ve ‘done our part’, now our spouse needs to “choose” to do the right thing. If we say we want to be like Jesus, then we must realize it will come at a high cost to us.
A good friend once said, and I paraphrase, fighting against sin in your marriage will feel like death.
My counsel to you is to ask – will you fight your sin or your spouse? Fighting against a person is a thousand times easier than dealing with the sin in your heart that, in may ways, opposes your spouse.