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Is Your Marriage Next?
by pamela spurling

All over, it seems at every turn, there are hurting wives, hurting husbands, hurting families, hurting relationships---marriages on shaky ground. We look around and wonder how'd things ever get into such a mess? Even the seemingly best homes, best friends, best couples---difficulties abound. Is your marriage next? That's the message I want to share with you today.

Not long ago, I received an email from a hurting sister... hurt because of the condition of her life, hurt because of the condition of her home, and most significantly: hurt because of the condition of her marriage. Her resolve to "stick it out" was waning and her faith was surely being tested. Another email was of a similar nature and this wife was struggling with respecting, rather, her lack of respect for her husband. Still another letter from a woman who felt she could no longer respect or respond to her husband intimately. These letters and others are reminders that the enemy is seeking whom he will to kill, steal and destroy.

Some time back, I was talking with a woman and as the conversation unfolded, it became apparent that her marriage was crumbling...a short time later, she shared "the rest of the story" and a few details of her husband's initial involvement with internet pornography and now an affair with another woman. More destruction by the enemy of our souls. Recently, a few of us gathered at the home a dear friend whose husband had chosen to leave her for another woman. As the evening progressed, what was to be an evening of encouragement to her, ended up being an evening of instruction---sort of a wake up call---to those of us who are married. Though no one spoke this, I'm pretty sure we were all pondering a thought something like, if this could happen in this "perfect marriage," then who's next? Ironically, I've been attempting to prepare a message for several weeks concerning marriage, commitment and destructive activities a wife might be engaged in. The bitter fact remains... marriages are crumbling---some from within and some from without. And without serious work, serious commitment, and serious prayer... any marriage could be next. You know, there's been serious enemy attack here lately---I know that with the new baby and the caring for the recovering gentleman here in our home, I haven't been as attentive to my own husband as I ought to be and, Omy, the bitter enemy has come in to remind me of this---ugh!---I did talk it over with my husband and have gained assurance of his love---but isn't it just like the devil to seek to cut us off at the knees!

A lesson we learn from a devastating event is how not to do it next time or how not to continue the errant pattern. Another great lesson we learn is that without the LORD, we are nothing and only in Him do we find true worth and happiness. I am sharing from the heart today a message I pray will be received by open hearts. I am grieved over the destruction of these and other marriages and pray the LORD will enable me to encourage you in your home today. Some of the things I share today, I have shared with you many times nevertheless they bear repeating---not because I think I have the answers (I do not) nor are they particularly profound (they are not), but because they continue to come up in conversation and because it matters not the age of the women nor the socioeconomic conditions in which they live---these tragedies are universal and Bible truths are timeless.

Whenever there is a breakdown in communication or in a marriage, there is a tendency to look for and assign blame---it's got be someone's fault---right? One seeming common denominator in the destruction of marriage is lack of attention. Personal attention by the husband to the wife? No, not necessarily, though probable. It is often the wife's lack of personal attention to her husband *and* to herself---yes, *herself!*. This came through loud and clear to those of us gathered around the friend whose husband had chosen to go with another woman. You know, it was incredible to me the modest but candid openness of our friend to share what she'd learned through this turn of events. Further, it seemed that the LORD had prepared our hearts to learn from her (or to be reminded) of truths we know. She shared with us how we must get back to paying attention to our appearance and to our behavior toward our husbands. I laugh now as I think of her describing the need to be a little more enticing about what we wear in our bedrooms... I thought of this as I thought of my favourite nightshirt... oh, my, it needs to be replaced! She mentioned our underthings, etc...

As I sat there listening, my thoughts trailed off and I wondered to myself... have I once again stopped waiting at the window, nose to the glass, for my husband to return? Have I stopped eagerly awaiting his retelling of the events of *his* day? Have I once again played games to avoid intimacy after a long day? Have I neglected to be intriguing or alluring to him? (Pr 31.22) Have I once again forgotten that he is (small "L") lord of this home? (1Pe 3.6) Have I become careless or neglectful of his real---very real---physical needs? Am I seeking to meet his needs that his heart can safely trust in me? (Pr 31.11) Have I withheld myself from him? (1Cor 7.2) Have my actions prompted temptation in my husband? (1Cor 7.5) Have I tried to impose *my* love language on him rather than exploring or discovering more ways to speak love to him in *his* love language? These and more questions swirled through my head that evening and in the days that followed.

O, sisters... we mustn't fall into the quagmire of popular thought and actions of women who set trends in the world but never base them on the *Word*. We mustn't try to emulate their ways or follow in their paths... but one thing's for certain, and that is that we do indeed live in the world and the devil surely is bent for the death and destruction of Christian homes and marriages. And so then, how shall we live? We must learn... we must observe... and we must be willing to obey the Word. It is given for our instruction.

A point that our friend made and one that I have understood to be key in the cohesiveness of a marriage is attention---now this attention must go both ways, but since I am only sharing with women, I will share a couple of reminders regarding the behavior of the wife. The Word says in Ephesians 5.33 "...and the wife *see* that she reverence her husband." When we "see to something" we set that as our focal point, we don't let it out of our sight, we watch over it, we guard it, we protect it and we don't allow ourselves to be distracted from the task or duty. In the same way, as wives, we are commanded to see that we reverence our husbands. See that... see that? Reverence. What does it mean to revere something? It is to regard with affectionate awe or veneration. It is feeling or showing due reverence. I've asked myself, am I reverencing my husband in my words and in my thoughts? How 'bout in my actions? Do I outwardly demonstrate my inward conviction that he is lord of this home? I might tell you---I might tell him---I really respect---reverence my husband, but am I outwardly demonstrating it? We know as wives and mothers that words mean nothing if not followed by actions. Our actions speak much louder than our words speak, and it will be our actions, not our words, that will be remembered.

Our comments, our sighs, our little snide remarks... chip, chip, chip... our "not tonight's," our distractions, our lack of interest in their world and our over attention to our own... chip, chip, chip.

I must be blunt dear sisters, and I know there are times and situations of exception, but I will risk saying that *words* about the marriage bed will never replace *action* in the marriage bed. If we are continually excusing our disinterest, or our lack of ability, our tiredness, our distractions, we open the door for temptation. Yes, the husband is to be self-controlled, but the wife has much influence in her husband's life. Women will say they are embarrassed about their shape ( I know I am about mine) and therefore often use it as an excuse for avoiding intimacy---many times under the guise of the husbands displeasure with her weight. But I know this from a friend of mine, and I do know this myself that husbands are far more forgiving than we credit them. In fact weight is not an issue to a husband when he is being loved by the wife who adores and is giving her attention to him. If weight is an issue, then I pray you will join me in the pursuit of losing some weight and getting in better shape. Another friend mentioned that her husband was indeed not happy with her weight *but* when she was loving him in the way he needed, the weight was *not* an issue between them---he told her so and when she believed him, she was able to work on what she knew was a problem---albeit minor. It was more her issue---her block. A wife who continually excuses herself from this vital part of marriage will surely be creating a stumbling block to her husband. Again---please know that I am not suggesting that every husband will be drawn away or that it is the wife's responsibility to prevent him from straying---my hope is to encourage you to strengthen your resolve to be a good wife.

A wife who is continually tired, continually distracted must face her issues of avoidance and confess them as sin. This is a strong statement---but I will tell you that I know that I have been wrong in the times I participated in this behavior. My husband was not respected and I was not loving as I should have; not only were these actions selfish, they were also Scripturally wrong---I withheld myself from my husband. (This does not only pertain to the physical intimate relationship) I needed then and continue to need to work in this area---being rested, being thoughtful of his needs, being prepared to be attentive to him---these are all matters over which I have control and *must* follow through. You know one thing that often comes back to me is how a new bride behaves toward her husband... she attends to him, reverences him, honours him, esteems him highly and seeks to please him. This is what is so attractive to a man. Now think on this for a moment. Why would a man look to a woman outside of his marriage? Would it be over a woman who was not attentive to, interested in, intrigued by or attracted to himself? No. As surprising as it is, commonly (this is by no means the only answer) the woman who wins the heart of such a man is not necessarily attractive---generally not as attractive as the wife---but that's not what he's looking for, that's not what satisfies him the most. What he's longing for---what will most satisfy him is someone who will find him enticing and will *tell* him so... someone who's interested in his world, intrigued by his conversation, someone who will initiate intimacy, passionately seeking to thrill his soul---someone who will *tell him* and/or *show him* that he's still "got it"---that he's charming. All of these things say *respect* to him---these things meet a deep inner need---these things show him reverence----and isn't that just what the Word tells us to do as wives? "...and the wife see that she reverence her husband." (Ephesians 5.33) Now the first portion of the verse pertains to the husband and a wife might argue that she'd be far more willing to reverence her husband were he to be loving her as himself and while that is likely true, it doesn't seem to a prerequisite as far as Scripture goes---the wife is to see that she reverence her husband.

O, sisters... this is such a hard area to discuss because it seems that there are difficulties of one sort or another in every marriage and in bringing this up again today, there is a distinct possibility---no, probability that something said here may open a wound, expose tender emotions or prompt fearful thoughts. This has not been my intention. My full intention is/has been to encourage you to check your steps/motives, to love, to forgive wrongs, to overlook failings or inadequacies, to improve your health, and to seek ways to reverence your husband. May the LORD indeed bless you---bless your marriage and your home---and may you be thankful.

God Bless you.

Sincerely in Jesus---pamela spurling   2001   19992010   PO Box 2130 Snohomish, Washington 98291 USA
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