Friday, June 24, 2011

Fighting With Your Spouse in Light of the Gospel

Every married couple will have arguments. It does not matter if you are Christian or not. There are several reasons why we fight with one another: 1. because the other one is always wrong (figured I would get that one out of the way), 2. because both people are sinners, 3. because both people are different from one another, and 4. because both people are sinners (did I mention this one already?).

As a couple, dating or married, you are different from one another. You have different backgrounds, different experiences, different personalities, different likes, different insecurities, different expectations, and the list goes one. The reason you will have arguments with one another is because you married someone different than you. The reason you married someone different from you is because you cannot marry yourself, because of this, you will have arguments.

The other big cause for trouble in our relationships is sin. In addition to marrying someone different than you, you married a sinner. Yep, that's right, they are a sinner. And so are you. Because we marry sinners, and our spouse's marry sinners, there will be clashes in the relationship. We will show a lack of self-control. We will fail at being slow to anger, as the Bible says, and instead, have outbursts of anger. We will lack patience, compassion, and at times, energy. Because we are sinners, we will have moments where we will fight to have our way, to advance our own personal kingdom and agendas. Because we are sinners, we will care more about trying to conform our spouse rather than focusing on transforming ourselves. Being sinners will cause fights within our marriage.

Are we left helpless? Does the gospel inform us on how to navigate this?

I want to list some ways that the gospel can help us as individuals, and as couples, to navigate the times when we are arguing or fighting with one another. I wish I could say I have mastered these and have no problem with them, but I cannot. This list goes out to broken people from a broken person. May we all learn to apply these.

1. Remember that it was God the Father's providence and plan that brought you together with your spouse. This is important to remember when you are thinking, "what the heck have I done in marrying this person?!?" You committed, before God, for the long-haul; that means the "d" word has no place in our vocabulary.

2. Understand that the purposes of marriage are to glorify God and to sanctify one another. What does this mean? It means that you are called to glorify God through your marriage, but it also means that God is sanctifying you (transforming your character) through your marriage. Sometimes sanctification hurts because it requires we die to selfish tendencies. Embrace it.

3. Communicate to your spouse in a way that acknowledges they are a child of God. It is okay to clearly tell how you feel to your spouse when upset, but do it with intent to communicate not instigate, condemn, or tear-down. We do not avoid having conversations about how we feel as Christian couples, but the way we communicate aims at seeing a productive result, not tearing the other down or creating a fight. We have to remember their value in the eyes of God before we sin against God in our communication to them.

4. Commit to only speaking to your spouse in such a way that is glorifying to God. In other words, make sure that the words, tone, and attitude behind your speech would be something glorifying and pleasing to God. The Bibles says in 1 Cor. 10:31 "so whether eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." This includes our communication with our spouse. If you are too angry to do this properly, then you should begin praying for God to help give you strength, self-control, and patience to only speak to them in a way that glorifies Him.

5. Extend grace & forgiveness to one another with the lavishness that God has extended it to you. God has given us (followers of Jesus) grace. This grace has forgiven us of our sins though we deserve the most severe of punishments. If you struggle to give grace and forgiveness to your spouse when they mess up, just ask yourself why you believe you deserve grace and forgiveness from God for your daily mess-ups.

6. Give love to one another unconditionally, even when it is undeserved. Why should we do this? God has loved us through Christ with unconditional love. We did not earn His love, we received it unconditionally. Even when we mess up, God does not take His love away from us. We cannot operate with a conditional love toward one another by only showing our love when the other has done something to merit it.

7. Trust Jesus Christ to be sufficient to meet our needs as we have struggles. We often run to a million other things when we are having problems. Jesus wants us to come to him. We must not see Jesus as someone we only run to when we have religious questions. He desires to be our strength in times of weakness. He desires to be the first one we turn to, not the last.

8. Look to the power of Holy Spirit to help you in the midst of your arguments. In the heat of the moment our flesh desires to be right, to get the last word, to hurt the other's feelings, and so on. We must instead ask prayerfully for the Holy Spirit to be our guide, to be the Great Helper He was promised to be in Scripture. The fruit of the Holy Spirit's work will include: patience, self-control, and selflessness. These things are needed in our marriages.

These are just a handful of ways that the gospel informs how we are navigate arguments with our spouse. In the end, Christians should be modeling a different way of approaching marriage, not mirroring everyone else in the world. The way we do this is looking to Christ and seeing how the Scriptures inform what the gospel requires of us in any situation. This includes how to fight in our marriages.

Leave a comment below: Which of these is the most helpful to you and why? Why do you feel we forget as Christians that the gospel speaks to how we should handle conflict with one another?

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  1. Thank you for this blog! Although my husband and I do not argue very often, these points are something I think everyone should post on their wall! If we all remembered these helpful tips, it would most likely stop the argument from happening! I don't think we forget that scripture tells us how to handle these situations, I think we IGNORE them. Because as sinners and broken people we love the feeling of winning the fight. The feeling of having the upperhand in an argument. We all do! Myself included. Thank you for pointing this out!

  2. In our situation, where we appreciate grace and forgiveness probably more than average, true arguing doesn't happen much. I do, however, find that my pitfall is looking to my husband before God. I know who is the provider of all my needs, but when you spend every day with a spouse who is such a servant and whom you adore, it's easy to forget sometimes. I'm setting myself up for disappointment and it's unfair to him, as he never signed up to be savior to the world--Jesus did. I know if I do ever start to get out of line whether it is my attitude or my expectations of my husband, God puts the choke hold on me! And I'm grateful for that because He knows how much I cherish the gift of a happy marriage. A willing heart for spiritual correction goes way further than a zillion books on how to have a good marriage.