Imperially Imperiled

Listen to a bit of what Paul went through when He lived out his life in service to God:

“In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” (2 Corinthians 11:26-27)

And David: “If I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there.” (Psalm 139:8b)

Can I say that I’ve even experienced a tenth of what they went through? Absolutely not. Really, I’m in no position to compare myself to anyone, let alone Paul or David. It’s taken years to undo that grasping paradigm of peer-oriented centeredness. And I thank God for it. But I know that if I truly submit to God’s leading for my life, the road may indeed get rocky and bumpy and strewn with roadblocks and potholes. Smooth sailing (driving, whatever) may very well be a sign that I’m on the wrong track.

Look at any culture the world over, from time immemorial. The slow slide to decadence and ruin begins with a glut of blessing for which there is not commensurate response in gratitude and worship and service.

“My brethren (and sisters), these things ought not so to be.” (James 3:10)

One of the most poignant quotes that I’ve made my own says something to the effect, “don’t seek out suffering, but don’t reject it.” I’m sure I could find the person to give them proper credit for the quote, but (no offense) as applied to the Christian, it should go without saying. God does not call us to be spiritual masochists, enjoying pain for its own sake. Jesus, it says, “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2, emphasis mine). If we sought out suffering, that would mean that we knew what it took to make us into…what? What we think we should be? Isn’t that the thing that Jesus puts His finger on when He recreates us? That. (He points to our pride, our me-centeredness.) Give that to me. There are areas, and there always will be, in me that need to be turned over to Him for evaluation. Am I saying that I’m a follower of Christ, but not submitting to Him that which He’d desire to see? Of course He sees it, but He needs me to do it willfully. Then again, if I approach Him, thinking the worst, that all He wants to do is make me suffer, I have a highly skewed concept of just who Jesus is. “Don’t reject suffering, but don’t seek it out.”

“He hath shewed thee, O man (and woman!) what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” (Micah 6:8)

If obeying any of those three things spoken of in Micah takes us through the perils of Paul, the dungeons of David, the suffering of Jesus, or even hell itself, God promises that He’ll be with us. That’s the key of suffering. That’s the lesson to be learned through any hardship. Forget the pain, forget the torment, you won’t even “smell of fire” (Daniel 3:28). The test (and the answer) of any hardship is to know Jesus through it. For when you submit to the difficulties, you are well equipped to help others for whom “sin lieth at the door” (Genesis 4:7). This is axiom. And this is what Paul was trying to say to the Corinthians. He’d been tested and he passed. He was too humble to say it without adding the caveat “(I speak as a fool)” (2 Corinthians 11:23), because it wasn’t about the suffering, it’s about you. And God.

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (Philippians 1:29)

“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” (Isaiah 43:2)

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True Riches

“Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.” (Philippians 4:15)

Now, I know Paul is referring to the “giving and receiving” of alms and tithing and whatnot, but what about “the true riches” as spoken of by Jesus in Luke’s Gospel (16:11)? Because they’re two different things.

“If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” As an aside, the word mammon (of Chaldean origin) connotes the confidence (ie greed) that money bestows. I may be going all over, follow me here.

So, what are the “true riches” anyway? It could have something to do with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. “Power to serve” and all that. In my opinion, I believe it refers to the hearts of people. Something akin to what Jesus says when praying to His Father in John 17 (verse 11): “those whom Thou hast given me”… Because if God gives someone to you, be it a child, a spouse, a boarder in whatever capacity, you’re gonna need the power of the Holy Spirit in order to take care of, not just their physical needs, but also needs emotional and spiritual, etc. I.e. all of them.

“He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth Him that sent me.” (Matthew 10:40)

“as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Put those two verses together in context and notice how each person that we interact with ends up reflecting, not just on ourselves, but God as well. We represent God. And so does everyone else. Whether we—or they—realize it or not. So when Jesus talks about being faithful in the “unrighteous mammon”, or money, He’s talking about wealth and worth. And as we, each and every one of us, is worth the world to God, He looks at whether or not we’re faithful with what we earn and how we will use that to better the lives of those we’re entrusted to help and protect. Not just ourselves, everyone else.

“The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22)

One day (prior to payday) I was riding around on my bike, running errands, feeling the need to give to a certain ministry of which I’m fond. I only had a certain amount of time to get said errands done and I couldn’t have made it to where I needed to go in order to start the process for said donation. On my way back home, the left-front brake line of my bike snapped and after the pain subsided in my left middle and ring fingers, I thought to myself good thing I didn’t give that money, looks like I’ll need it to replace my brake line. Sounds sound enough. The next day, after a friend dropped me off at the bike shop, then rode away in his pickup, I made my way across the street to get lunch to sit and write and wait for my bike to be repaired. I should add that the repairs, minor repairs at that, were gonna cost me thirteen bucks. Certainly not enough to break the bank. Far less than what my panicked mind was expecting when it happened. After my fingers had stopped hurting of course (it was cold out) and after I thought it better not to have donated. So thirteen bucks, eh? Well, as I made my way to where I was going, I ended up finding fourteen dollars strewn across the parking lot on my way there. I was content with the first three. Wondering what I’d done to warrant this good fortune. Just joking, I’m not superstitious. And I don’t usually crane my neck looking for more, but after I then found a five spot, then another, then a single in a puddle, I was all ears, and eyes. Alas, all I found was a dime on my way back after lunch. So, really, it was $14.10. More than enough to pay for my bike repairs. The point is, God has no shortage of funds. If it’s money you’ll need, give to receive. As if this even needs stating but, God paid for my bike repairs. What else was fourteen dollars going to buy me at that time? And if you’re worried about where the money’s going to go after you send it, don’t. The obedience is in the giving. And again, if I may toot my own horn, I would like to add that it’s not like I wasn’t willing to give, but sometimes God wants us to both be willing, then do it. To “put works to our faith”, as it were.

Point is, go ahead and give, and it doesn’t even have to be money. God will see to it that your needs are well supplied.

“And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42)

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2)

Oh really?

Having Mercy, Giving Mercy

Mercy is that quality that no one deserves but everyone needs. It’s that way in any realm and with anyone in a position to receive it in whatever capacity. The whole concept behind “mercy” is that someone, in a superior position to us, is willing to suspend any judgment or penalty, purely out of the kindness of their heart. It’s not something that you work to earn. It’s not anything that you ever deserve. It’s a gift. A gift that, hopefully, keeps on giving.

“With the merciful Thou wilt show Thyself merciful.” (Psalm 18:25)

Jesus tells a story in Matthew’s Gospel (chapter 16), of a man who owed a sizable debt to a creditor. When the creditor forgives the debt but instead of turning around and doing the same to others in a similar position, the man shows no mercy to those who in turn owe him money. The creditor hears of the unmerciful man’s conduct and calls for him. Listen to what he tells the man: “O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?” (Matthew 18:32-33, emphasis mine) We see here, that in a practical sense, one of the smallest elements of mercy is  forgiveness. The creditor tells the man, much like God would tell us, that he forgave him because he desired him. Only God could say something like that. God wants to extend His mercy and forgiveness to us. All we need to do is make the effort to ask. Forgiveness is essential. It’s like the oil that keeps our gears from grinding. There are rules in life that must be enforced. Gravity is a law that shows no mercy to the person who does not abide by its strictures. But God’s love, at once more ubiquitous than gravity, and also stronger, brings with it the help and mercy and forgiveness needed when anyone (everyone) runs afoul of the things that God requires to appropriate it. And even if you don’t feel that you can ask for His mercy, look beyond that feeling which says that you’ve messed up too much (impossible) and tell God you need His mercy and forgiveness. “Please” and “thank You” work wonders with God, too.

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

But again, there’s another side to it. Earlier on in Matthew’s Gospel (chapter 6), Jesus says “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” We are all blind in certain areas. Only God sees all, and only God has the wisdom and wherewithal to know why those blind spots exist. Whenever we humble ourselves and admit that we don’t know everything, either about ourselves or about others, we put ourselves in a position to receive the mercy and forgiveness that we will inevitably need. So forgive the person who cut you off in traffic, who cussed you out, who glared at you and unsettled the rest of your afternoon. This hardly needs restating, but who knows what caused them to act that way? To act in such an antisocial manner? God knows. And by humbling yourself in each incident, you have the high ground. Your simple act of mercy and forgiveness can be the first fissure that eventually leads to the cracking and crumbling of their facade to the world. That’s when God can begin to deal with that person.

Because if you’re the only person who sees how someone truly is, then you’re the person who God will hold responsible for seeing His mercy and His forgiveness applied to their life.

“And mercy rejoiceth against judgment” (James 2:13)

Putting the Fun in Fungible

Making Money

Gold is poisonous. No really. When you melt it down or smelt it, the fumes emitted are toxic. Gold poisoning is an actual medical condition caused by overexposure to gold. The body can’t digest heavy metals.

“Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered (rusted); and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.” (James 5:2-3)

But again, the Bible uses the analogy of the smelting and refining process to show what God does with us and our faith in Him: “The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the Lord trieth the hearts.” (Proverbs 17:3)

“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:7)

I’m not advocating a form of Christian Socialism, but again, the book of Acts (written by Luke, the “beloved physician” Colossians 4:14) does talk about how early Christians “had all things common” (Acts 2:44) And when something like twenty percent of the world’s wealth is in the hands of Christians, and the Bible does say to tithe (give ten percent of) our earnings “into the storehouse” (Malachi 3:10), I’m hard pressed to see why the worlds is in the bad financial shape it’s in today. What with the extravagant giving spirit inherent in God’s character coupled with the exhortation to give: “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” (Ephesians 4:28)

Making Money

Who determines worth? Who determines wealth? I know that Paul says “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). I would have to say that it’s the power that said wealth represents. And power corrupts—without God. My opinion is that if we have wealth and the power that goes along with it, we should be using it for good and minimalizing that which we think we need in order to live from a place of being “content with such things as ye have” (Hebrews 13:5). This active discipline in the winnowing of our possessions in light of the greater good. God’s good. How much do we really need to be happy?

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6)

This can be a touchy subject, that of financial issues and principles. Oswald Chambers says that it’s “ungovernably bad taste to talk about money in the natural domain.” What he’s saying is that unless we make the effort to see God as our provider, both of things spiritual and things natural, the acquisition of money will be the chief aim of our lives. Sure, we’d never admit to it, but just let a financial crisis arise (hasn’t it already?) and where do we look for the undergirding confidence that our wealth was bestowing, however subconsciously?

As in any domain—emotional, familial, physical—God restores. If you’ve faced financial difficulty (and who hasn’t?), God will help you see things in a better light and then take you to that horizon. I believe the process is expedited when we agree to dial down our grasping and spending and learn to live simply, yet love extravagantly.

What makes your world go ’round?

“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things (anything) which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.” (Acts 4:32-33)

Figures of Speech: Re Arrangement

Who knew that you could apply logic to the realm of romance and relationships? For far too long, the Western notion of “love at first sight” and “written in the stars” and other such feelings-based nonsense has guided the modern marital zeitgeist. Well, I’m here to show the difference between induction-based reasoning and deductive reasoning with reference to Mr. or Ms. Right. Or Mr. or Ms. Right-Now. Whomever you might be considering. And how, if we were to listen to the left brain when dealing with something that has been the domain of the right for far too long, it would allay most, if not all of the fallout resulting from a poorly planned matrimonial mash-up.

I would first like to say that when you or a loved one goes through a divorce (for me, it was my parents) you hear all the adages that make up the prevailing attitude of the event. I think the one that stood out the most for me was this phrase: “The seeds of the divorce are there when you go up the courthouse steps to apply for the license.” Or down the aisle, or wherever. The church. And that’s a paraphrase by the way, I forget where I read it. The point is, if a marriage is destined for failure (Destiny, hah!) the reasons for it were there all along. Someone wasn’t all in. What follows, at least for the partner most hurt, is a long, dark night of the soul during which they analyze to the nth degree every piece of information in an attempt to ferret out the clues that might have shown the end from the beginning. So why not do it now? If ya got the guts!

I don’t mean to be flippant. Please understand that I’m not a bitter cynic who’s been scorned by the opposite sex and am now here to spew invective at engaged individuals. I am however, concerned about the pathetic state of Western marriage in general (bored, by and large). Wondering if maybe the whole “disposing thereof” should be put into the hands of couples from a generation or two prior who’ve made it thus far. Put the arrangement of prospective couples in the hands of those who actually know what they’re doing. As I know that sanctioning something like that would never fly, the best I can offer is my two cents and the exhortation to put the thing in God’s hands and have Him bless accordingly (or not).

Say you’ve met someone. They now fill your dreams and color your days. You’re on cloud nine, ten even. And before I go any further, if you believe in God and that God has created you and also someone for you (as do I), then the procedure should be simple, right? In an attempt to divine a simple answer (yes/no), we try all sorts of things. Tantamount to pure divination, any sign we see either points to the fact or fiction of the one in question. S/he loves me? S/he loves me not? Enough to tie the knot? Oh, I’m so confused. This would be an example of deductive reasoning. From the top, down. Loosely defined, sure. But whenever we take a conclusion and assert that it’s the right thing, in this case, right person (a “yes”), then we tendentiously see all attendant phenomena as agreeing to their future station as spouse. I would argue against this being the right way to go about thinking of the whole matter. As I mentioned in the previous post, if there’s one thing on this earth about which I’m agnostic (agnostic: without knowledge), it’s the heart-depth of another person. I might be somewhat perspicacious (I like to think I am), but on any deeper level, I need the insight of the Holy Spirit to let me know if someone’s being genuine, honest, merely factual, or just shining me on.

“…for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts…” (1 Chronicles 28:9)

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

Now, you may be asking yourself, “Why would someone want to deliberately deceive me into marrying them? Are you saying there’s no vestige, no trace of love in them for me at all?” And if you’re not asking yourself this, you should be. The world is replete with those who take delight in causing the downfall of others, strip-mining their faith and their confidence before they move on to the next victim. Some call them “emotional vampires”, elsewhere in other circles they are known as “sociopaths”. The Bible uses such terms as “flattering” (Proverbs 26:28), “subtle”, (Proverbs 7:10), “cunning” (Ephesians 4:14), among others. The truth is if we don’t retain some glimmer of a realization that the person we’re looking to spend the rest of our lives with could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, truly, we are being naive.

With these keywords in place, I believe we can then look to the method of induction (a bottom, up approach) as a means of analyzing any qualifying qualities in a prospective mate. Feelings fade. This is the natural order of things. And if this rubs you the wrong way, then take a step back and consider the mental effectiveness with which your boy/girlfriend or fiancée gives you. Do you feel like yourself (remember, can’t truly love another until you love yourself) when you’re with them? Now take feelings out of the equation and consider the smallest of cues, of clues. If you’re Christian, are they? Good. Do they ever bring up topics of discussion in matters spiritual? How deep are they? How sound are they in their doctrine? Now put feelings back in. Does the love of God shine through them? Are they patient? Kind? Compassionate? How do they treat the waiter? Seriously. Everything tells. And as you are making the biggest decision of your life (next to salvation), one that will in turn make or break you, everything should be on the table. Think. *clink* Bottoms up!

While this process might be anathema to many in the throes of a complicated romance, this side should be explored by all. A logical, hands-off approach to finding a mate will not disappoint. Then again, if we don’t think through things rather than simply feel what feels good, we may very well end up being the ones who are disappointed. Where did it go wrong? The clues, the answers, were there all along. And depending on how the marriage turns out, you’ll find that it was arranged from the outset, after all.

 

Figures of Speech: Thinking Twice

Not sure if it’s come through, but as I am a child of divorce, the only thing that I’d assent to being agnostic about is other people. And it’s not that I’m cynical.

“But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men.” (John 2:24)

I can’t say I’m as keen in my ability to read people and motives as it says Jesus was, and is. But since I know myself, I’m therefore able to identify fickleness and shallowness in other people and strike their name from my list. No offense. Does that make them bad or evil? No, it makes them human. Just like me, unperfect. And unless those two things, among several other key factors are identified and reconciled with, placed on the table for discussion, someone shouldn’t be considered a prospective mate. It’s not unkindness, it’s wisdom. Thinking twice about marrying someone that you only think you know should be required of all couples with the intent to marry.

And pre-marital counselling should be legally prerequisite of all couples prior to going down the aisle.

“His disciples say unto Him, if the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. But He said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.” Jesus and His disciples speaking in Matthew’s Gospel (19:10-11) on the topic of divorce. He continues on in the next verse: “For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake.” I read something once that sought to assert that Jesus was advocating self-castration here, which is ridiculous. Sure, a eunuch is a household slave who was castrated so as to prevent breeding. As blunt as that may sound. But there’s also an implied metaphor of willing celibacy—by choice. Then again, when Jesus talks of “cut[ing] off and cast[ing] from thee” any offensive member of the body (hand, foot, eye, Matthew 18:8-9), I suppose the same could be said for inordinate sexuality? Marriage isn’t just about sex. And when a man is attracted to a woman because that’s all he sees and that’s all she shows, the marriage is lame from the outset. Marriage—Christian marriage—is about two people coming together for the cause of Christ. To tell people about the saving grace of Jesus Christ and then show them how it’s done. No two ways around it. People’s words, in this case, aren’t enough to convince. Actions must show that the words spoken carry weight and resonate with the true state of a true heart. A heart that is resonant with the heart of Jesus.

I am a romantic at heart, don’t get me wrong. But as marriage is the most important decision next to salvation, it should be treated as such. And just because society’s paradigm regarding marriage says one thing, that doesn’t mean I have to align myself with it. As with anything, newness fades. And I’ve been smitten and overwhelmed by different women but know in the back of my mind and the bottom of my heart that the feeling will pass. And I also wonder about the source of such intense feeling. Pheromones? Maybe. But I know that there are deep and tangled reasons as to why I would meet someone and not be able to think of anything else for a time. That’s not good. Think twice.

Here’s the thing. I’m single, though only with reference to marriage. And as I am a child of divorce, my attitudes toward marriage have gone from being diametrically opposed, to neutral, to advocate. But even then, as I do not want to get divorced myself, I’m content to wait. One of the most pragmatic pieces of advice my dad ever offered me is when he told me if I had the desire to marry, God put it there and it’s because He made someone to fill that…not void, what’s a better word? Yearning. I assent to that. I’m willing to wait. And to pray for every girl who in spite of looking like she had what it takes, ended up being only a flash in the pan and then burning out.

The Bible is replete with stories of men and women who God brought together through circumstances that make mine look like nothing. Drawing upon those models for wisdom and encouragement is the thing to do.

How will I know? I’ll know.

“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make an help meet for Him.” (Genesis 2:18)

And until then? Jesus speaking to His disciples: “and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” (John 16:32)

Figures of Speech: Denouement

Denouement

Almost sounds like “day no more”. Interesting. A fitting word for divorce. It’s from the French and literally means “the untying of a knot”. A divorce happens when one, if not both members of the marriage, have given up. To their mind, the relationship can go nowhere but down, the offenses in question are unforgivable and irreconcilable and any grass, anywhere, looks greener. As an aside, the actual part of a rope that makes up the braided, twisted part of the knot itself is called a “bight”.

“For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away.” (Malachi 2:16)

When God does anything, there is the stamp of permanence, of eternity. He “only doeth wondrous things” (Psalm 72:17). This is why, from His perspective, divorce is the antithesis of what He stands for, who He is. No one who marries consciously thinks that one day they might be headed to the courthouse or law office to undo the vows they took with one another. But as the years drag on and they realize that they’d be happier alone or with someone else, the quick-release option of divorce begins to glow with possibility. The current divorce rate is around sixty percent. It’s the same for Christian marriages, indicating either God didn’t bring them together (“What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” Matthew 19:6, emphasis mine), or there’s something missing that would help the blind couple see their relationship in a better light. Again, if three out of every five marriages is statistically destined for failure, and God “hateth putting away”, does this mean God hates sixty percent of all marriages? Food for thought. Don’t choke.

“I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress, I say, that it is good for a man so to be. Art thou bound unto a wife? seek not to be loosed. Art thou loosed from a wife? seek not a wife.” (1 Corinthians 7:26-27) There! See how easy it is?

Marriages succeed or fail according to the level to which each spouse is willing to know and love Jesus and in turn live out a Christlike attitude towards the other. An attitude of selfless service toward their respective spouse. And yet, this attitude, this integral component of our being (in a word, wholeness) is supposed to have been worked into our life in the years leading up to the day we met Mr. or Ms. Right.

Here’s the thing, we as Christians—male and female alike—make up the bride of Christ. There’s a Japanese word, naijo. It literally means “the inner help”. It refers to the role of a woman in seeing her husband has everything he needs as he lives out his life of service to his liege lord or Shogun. The same principle is found in the Bible. As the man attends to the needs of God, seeing that the family is steered in the direction God would have it, the woman (generally more adept and adroit in matters emotional) is in charge of the invisible realm of the hearts of her husband and children before the Lord. Much has been written and argued over the roles of gender and I’m not here to do the latter. And predictably, there is controversy among contemporary Japanese women who view the status of naijo as demeaning and subordinating. In America, the same attitude is leveled at a biblical view of marriage that insists that the man is head of the house—under God. Though, I believe that equality in marriage—Christian marriage—is still retained in spite of clear roles defined for either gender–we complement one another. And I believe that when those lines—those roles—are disregarded and disrespected, the dissolution of the marriage is only a matter of time. This being said, if the man is askew in his reception of God’s voice, the wife should be able to call him on it. He needs to listen.

Divorce happens for any number of reasons, too many to list. If there was one overarching rule I’ve observed, starting with my own parents’, it would be an unwillingness to admit  they were wrong in some capacity—and then talk about it, being willing to give up everything to save what God started. I can only imagine the ensuing confusion when one thinks, not that they were wrong in doing something that upset their spouse, but in marrying them in the first place. Who knows? God knows. “Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.” (1 Corinthians 7:28) The word “trouble” there implies pressure. We shouldn’t be surprised when we feel pressed and frustrated in our marriage, but don’t let it get out of hand.

Like a broken bone, a broken marriage can heal and become stronger than it was starting out. And second marriages can in turn be better than a first. But until we learn to “attend upon the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:35), we won’t know how to respond to our significant other. Seen as a love story, we must realize that it takes time and patience and skill to drive a narrative (our marriage) from its opening scenes, on. And to see that the story continues.

“Happily ever after” costs everything.

“But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.” (1 Corinthians 7:15)