Saturday, November 19, 2011


From Scott Means:

Hard stuff happens. That’s just reality.

During the Hope at Home 2011 Conference my lovely wife and I had the pleasure of speaking into the marriages of couples who have adopted. I greatly admire adoptive couples for the selfless love they have expressed by answering the call of God on their lives to adopt. But the reality for many is that life is really hard and the demands of an adoptive family create some unique stresses that I’m sure I cannot fully appreciate, not having adopted ourselves.
One of the foundational principles of a Surrendered Marriage, my shorthand description for biblical marriage, is selfless giving. This is how I describe that principle:
"The beauty and power of a Surrendered Marriage is found in what it compels you to give rather than what it permits you to demand."
Scripture paints a pretty clear picture of the way husbands and wives how are to love one another:
Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
Ephesians 5:2 (MSG)
But as much as I believe that we are called to a life of extravagant and selfless love, there are times when you just don’t have anything left to give. There are times when the physical and mental stresses of life will sap every ounce from your being.

When You Have Nothing Left

There will be seasons in your life when it feels like the walls are caving in. In these times you often go into survival mode, and it’s likely that your attention will turn from most things around you, including your marriage and your spouse.

It’s natural to turn inward and self-protective when life smacks you in the face, but I want to encourage you that even when you feel “alone” in your suffering and stress, you and your spouse are one, and anything you encounter in your life is encountered by you both. So while you may not have a lot to give, make every effort to remain present in your marriage and connected to your spouse. Let him or her help hold you up.

Give yourself permission to be in need. Tell your husband or wife where you are mentally, what you’re feeling and how he or she can help you. If you can manage it keep your emotions in check when asking for help. Do so without being critical and demanding.

Whatever it is, face it together.

When Your Spouse Has Nothing Left 

If you are the spouse of someone who has nothing left to give and it feels like you are the one left to hold things together, know that you are being Christ to your spouse. God bless you for your faithfulness.

Let me give you a few suggestions to help you deal with the situation:
  • Learn what stress looks like on your spouse (most people have characteristic reactions). Do your best not to respond to the emotions (fear, anger, moodiness or whatever stress produces), but to deal with the root cause instead.
  • Give practical help to relieve the stress when you can (that’s not always possible).
  • Be present and don’t back away. Be sensitive to what is most helpful – sometimes that may mean pursuing if they back away or may mean allowing space when needed.
  • Speak truth into their life. You can provide clarity to help separate facts from the truth. Keep point them to God.
  • Try loving them “as if.” Realize that what they are expressing is coming from a place of pain and pressure and is not necessarily who they really are. Have an attitude of grace.
  • You don’t need to silently endure disrespect or unkindness, but be gentle in pointing out that your spouse needs to watch how they speak to you.

When You Both Have Nothing Left

Our most difficult times are when both Jenni and I are under great stress, when neither of us is able to pick up the slack and do the reaching out. It’s probably true in most marriages.

For starters, let me tell you a hard truth: it is part of a husband’s responsibility to lead in this arena. If one of you has to lay down their life (put aside their own stress), it’s you. I encourage you to step up and carry things when your wife falters. It’s part of your calling from God as a husband, and he will strengthen and equip you to do it.
  • Start with spiritual intimacy – look together toward God for help and answers. It puts you immediately together on the same team and acknowledges the Lordship of Jesus and your dependence upon him.
  • You both will need to resist your tendency to turn inward. Try to stay present with each other. Stay connected in small ways (a text, a call, a kind word, a hug).
  • Neither of you is in a place to do big things for each other, so do the little things you know to do. They make a big difference.
  • Try to keep your head in the game. Remember that you are one even when you don’t feel like it, and neither of you walks alone in whatever it is.
  • Be real but watch how you communicate. When emotions are running full tilt it’s easy to say things in ways that convey something you don’t intend.

Shout “Grace! Grace!” to the mountain.

When I’m facing a mountain, whatever it may be, I like to remember these verses:
This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by [your] might nor by [your] power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty. "What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone [finish the work he set out to accomplish] to shouts of 'Grace! Grace!' [God bless it! God bless it!]
Zech 4:6 (NKJ) [brackets added]

May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing (through the experience of your faith), that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope.
Romans 15:13 (AMP)

Remember to continually speak words of grace and hope to your spouse at all times, but especially in times of significantly stress!

You can read more from Scott on his popular marriage blog, Journey to Surrender.

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