September 1st 2015, my wife and I celebrated three years of
marriage. I have attended many weddings since our own and I can’t help but
notice something key in the fantastic sermons prepared by pastors for the bride
and groom. Pastor John Wesley Nguuh preached in our wedding from Colossians 1
and 2 and he too did a great job at giving us last minute pieces of advice
before we became man and wife. One common theme in all those sermons I have
heard is this: your spouse will hurt you.
When I heard it at first, I was perplexed. What a way to ruin a magical moment!
Why would I want to hear that my wife would hurt me minutes before getting
married? Well, it’s necessary because that is the naked truth that the world
won’t tell you. After the magic of the day is spent, you are married to a human
being. For the follower of Jesus, this is an especially important thing to
consider because often we think that since our spouse’s sins are forgiven,
their capacity to sin is also erased. Not so, Beloved. When I say your spouse
will hurt you, there are self-preserving people who may say, “Aha, that’s why
you should sign a pre-nup!” Well, for starters, if you are going to sign a pre-nup,
then you are not mature enough to get married in the first place. Secondly, a
pre-nup may protect your favourite sofa seat but it can’t stop a breaking heart.
Saying your partner will hurt you is not saying, “Watch out! She’s gonna cheat
on you anytime now!” That’s an unhealthy way to live life. In fact if you have
that kind of fear, you need to deal with lots of personal baggage before you
absorb what I am about to say today. That kind of fear will paralyse you. Hurt
is often unprecedented. Like your husband forgetting to fix that leaking tap.
Did you see that coming when you said “I do”? No. But you married him anyway. They
key to dealing with the fear of the extremities of hurts is to marry well and
to marry in God’s will. That’s a blog for another day. However, I am aware that
there are couples who are living in light of the extremities such as
unfaithfulness and physical abuse. If you are in that space, you need to get
external help. But even if the extremities do happen after you marry well, you
need to know how to deal with it as a born again follower of Jesus Christ.
what the scriptures say:
“For to this you
have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example,
that you should follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin; no
guile was found on his lips. 23 When he was reviled, he
did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted
to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in
his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By
his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:21-24 (RSV)
Jesus Christ is
often hurt by his spouse, the Church.
Yet Christ sets an example for us to follow when he is hurt by the world
he created. Christ redeems his spouse and we ought to do so too. Let us dissect 1 Peter 2:21-24 a bit.
that you will suffer because Christ suffered.
“For to this you have been called, because
Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in
his steps.”(1 Peter 2:21)
One of the top
lies that people believe about the Christian faith is that if I become a
Christian, God won’t allow anything bad to happen to me. The second top lie
they believe is that if I become good Christian
and stick to the rules, God will be my personal bodyguard and hurt those who
hurt me. Newsflash, Beloved. God will allow suffering to build your character.
He has done that since the start of the world and we are no exception. God is more
interested in who you become more than in how you feel in a brief moment of
pain. Why? Because the joy of maturity after the pain outweighs the brief
moments of pain. If you feel your pains are longer, then your joy will be
equivalently longer. Jesus Christ did not suffer only so that the Christian
would not suffer but also and moreover that WHEN the Christian suffers, he or
she would overcome. He not only picked the cross for us; he also showed us how
to pick up ours. Christ is not only the Hero that saves us from pain; He is
also the exemplar of how to handle pain that is sure to come. And when our
relationships cause us to hurt, we ought to remember that sin is the ultimate
cause of suffering and that sin is temporal. Don’t allow a temporal suffering
to deny you an eternal blessing. God will reward each man according to his
work. Is your behaviour in your marriage in response to suffering producing an
eternal, imperishable reward kept in heaven for you or it is storing up results
that will be consumed by fire despite your salvation?
“He committed no sin; no guile was found on
his lips.” (1 Peter 2:22)
other time are our mouths more dangerous that when we suffer. In the height of human
suffering, Christ Jesus kept his mouth shut.
Matthew 12:36 says that on the day of judgement men will account for
every careless word they spoke on earth. Proverbs 18:21 says death and life are
in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruits. Spouses
will always eat the fruits of what comes from their mouths when they are hurt. Unprocessed
words will only cause more hurt. Hurt people end up hurting people. I have
personally found it necessary to retreat in prayer when I am hurt and angry.
When the LORD has processed my thoughts and words, I start to see my share of
the problem that I was previously blind to. And even when I don’t see the solution
after prayer, the LORD has often prompted me to extend grace to those that hurt
me just as he did for me on that cross.
up the right to retaliate.
“When he was
reviled, he did not revile in return” (1 Peter 2:23a)
set the bar. You cannot sin if you have been sinned against. That is the bar he
has set. Often, people retaliate intentionally for an offense that their spouse
made accidentally. Revenge is an ultimate mark of a lack of Christlikeness. At
the heart of Christianity is a perfect God who forgave sinful men. At the heart
of revenge is an attitude that counters God’s work on the cross. I like that
Jesus tells us that if we don’t forgive those who’ve hurt us, neither will God
forgive us. It is plain and simple. Mathew 6:15 “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not
forgive your sins.”
(NIV). So what do I do, you ask. Look at what 1st
Peter 2:23c says “but he trusted to him
who judges justly.”
Christ left vengeance to God, who judges justly. You
ought to do the same. Many people have misconceptions about forgiveness. Some
think that if they forgive their spouse they are endorsing the sin against them.
Beloved, forgiveness is to take the keys and open the prison gates only to discover
that the prisoner was you. That is why lack of forgiveness does not ultimately
and eternally hurt the offender but rather the offended.
not threaten or punish.
“when he suffered, he did not threaten.” (1
One way spouses
can do this is to deny each other conjugal rights. Denying conjugal rights is
not only dangerous to your sexual life but also sinful in the eyes of God. The
LORD says in 1st Corinthians 7:4-5 “4 The wife's
body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the
husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. 5 Do
not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that
you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will
not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”Of course
there are countless other ways spouses can threaten and punish each other when
they are hurt. For example, the self-preserving spouse once hurt fears being
hurt again. Often this spouse tends to believe that their marriage is meant to
be magical and devoid of any strife. So when disagreement occurs, they act as
if something strange were happening to them. To cordon their space from further
hurt, they punish their partner through indifference or ignoring. Indifference
and ignoring your spouse may look like a wise tactic, but it is otherwise; it
is lazy and ineffective. The logic behind such a spouse’s tactic is, “I won’t
be close to them, so that when they hurt me, it won’t sting so bad.” Don’t
treat a marriage like a war-zone, Beloved. The hurts will only get worse.
Husbands who threaten or punish their wives must know that their prayers are
waste: 1 Peter 3:7 “Husbands, in the
same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with
respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of
life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”
Hurt will come, Beloved. And the best thing we can do
about it is not seek strategies to dodge it but rather ask God to prepare us to
learn through it. One myth that my wife and I often hear from couples when they
hit a snag in their relationship is that they never imagined struggling with basic
things such as lack of exclusivity, poor boundaries, unfaithfulness, horrible
communication etc. They thought things would be natural and so got surprised
when they got hurt. Beloved, the only natural thing after starting a
relationship is a break-up. Everything else must be intentional. Boundaries
with the opposite sex won't be kept naturally. Purity won't be observed
naturally. Faithfulness won't be established naturally. Exclusivity won't be
maintained naturally. Friendship won’t grow naturally. Good communication won't
occur naturally. Romance won’t bud naturally. All these pillars that support a
great man-woman union must be done intentionally, purposefully and diligently,
if you want a thriving relationship. If you think that boundaries,
purity, faithfulness, friendship, good communication and romance are natural
once you start dating, you will be surprised to learn that anything but an intentional
commitment to things that matter is an unintentional commitment to things that
do not matter. If you are not intentionally committed to making your
marriage work, you are unintentionally committed to make it fail.