By Pastor TJ Freeman –
Jane made her way to the checkout line. She had prolonged her trip as long as possible by slowly making her way up and down each aisle of the grocery store. Now, it was time to face reality. She tried to remember a time when things were different; a time when she would have been happy to go home. She was sure things hadn’t always been this way, but years of discontentment had turned to bitterness and all Jane knew was that she did not want to go home.
Jane’s story is not unique. Men and women across America are facing the same challenge. Strained relationships, difficult financial situations, the challenges of parenting, and many other factors have led thousands of people to view their homes as a place of torture rather than a place of refuge. The discontentment they feel often turns to bitterness and leaves husbands and wives concluding that their circumstances have caused them to “fall out of love.” As a result, these frustrated partners unwittingly conclude that they must turn to other areas to find love. For some, this means falling into the arms of another. Others search for significance by becoming a workaholic, obsessing over health and fitness, or spending themselves deep into debt. No matter how the situation is played out, one thing is always true: If your love for your spouse is based on your feelings, your relationship is destined to fail.
That Fading Feeling
Most couples enter into the marriage covenant believing their spouse will make them happy. This is, in fact, part of God’s design. It was God who created the attraction between man and woman and a Godly spouse can significantly improve the life of the partner. Problems begin to arise, however, when the “good feelings” begin to fade. As a couple becomes more familiar with one another and the responsibility to maintain the household, raise children, pay bills, and make a living takes precedent, the romantic feelings decrease. This causes husbands and wives to become disappointed with one another. The root problem here is that we have been trained to believe that our responsibility to love and serve our spouse is dependant upon the way we are treated. In reality, your responsibility to your spouse is not dependant upon the behavior of your spouse. The roles of husband and wife have clearly been laid out in Colossians 3:18-19. In this passage, the Apostle Paul teaches that wives must submit to their husbands as is fitting to the Lord. However, husbands are instructed to love their wives and not be harsh with them. Instead of focusing on the role they have been assigned, most husbands and wives simply point to the fact that their spouse is not fulfilling their role. Each partner points the finger at the other and considers their role impossible if their spouse will not cooperate. This simply is not true. This passage of Scripture was never meant to be used as ammunition or an excuse for disobedience. Take a moment to examine yourself in light of this passage. Have you been blaming your spouse for your inability to fulfill your role?
The Worst Sinner
The Apostle Paul was one of the most influential Christians to walk the Earth. He is credited with writing the majority of The New Testament and his teachings are still being followed today. He is a man who lived passionately for Christ and called for all Christians to follow his example. If anyone had a good reason to boast, it was the Apostle Paul. However, he revealed in 1 Timothy 1:15 that he did not consider himself worthy. He believed that he was the “chief among sinners” and constantly analyzed his behavior to keep from sinning. Imagine how different your relationships would look if you practiced this same behavior. Instead of looking to your spouse as the problem, turn the focus inward. The truth is, the worst sinner in your relationship is you! As you begin to take hold of this truth, you will extend far more love and grace to your spouse than you had previously been able. If you feel as though you have fallen out of love with your spouse, it is likely because you have been working hard to meet your own needs instead of your mate’s.
Discontentment is a Symptom
If those loving feelings have become few and far between you have probably grown accustomed to the feeling of discontentment. Many who experience this frustration believe that they are simply a victim of a loveless marriage. Desperate to find joy again, the discontent person pursues alternative sources of happiness. In reality, the roots of this discontentment run much deeper and no amount of distraction can fill the void. These empty feelings actually serve to drive the lonely person back to their first love – Christ. As the creator, Jesus both deserves and demands our affection, for without Him we would not even exist (Colossians 1:16). Our tendency is to begin to trust in our spouse to provide the joy and contentment that only God is capable of providing. When we place this responsibility on another sinner, we are setting them up to fail. That failure leads to disappointment which leads to anger and discontentment. This is actually an act of God’s grace because it should draw us away from trust in man and back to Him. Instead of searching for new sources of joy, turn back to the author of joy and follow Christ with your life!