We didn’t allow a lot of television consumption in our home, but on my daughter’s first birthday, we went out and bought several episodes of VeggieTales. My children grew up on those moral teaching, silly song singing vegetables. Many times, I sat with them and enjoyed the clever ways that the creators brought their messages to life. One episode has always been my favorite – Madame Blueberry, A Lesson in Thankfulness.
Although Madame Blueberry was struggling with discontentment in the area of “stuff”, the lesson taught me that discontentment is a toxin that can get into the bloodstream of our life and poison every aspect. The writers of this episode boiled it down – the cure for discontentment is having a thankful heart. Eighteen years later, I still remember this lesson and try to apply it regularly. Today, we will address contentment in our marriages. The apostle Paul teaches us some very important ideas that can be carried into our marriages. He said that we can be content in all things and that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. I would surmise that this includes being content in our marriage. He taught us that God might not take away all difficult things but God’s grace is sufficient to get us through and that God’s power will be shown through this. These principles can be utilized in our marriages to bring us greater happiness, peace and longevity.
There are marriages that survive and even thrive throughout all of the ups and downs. Have you ever wondered why some marriages break apart and end in divorce while other marriages last until death do us part? It isn’t because one marriage was easy and the other was hard. One major reason is contentment – either a lack of contentment or a thankful heart. A thankful heart chooses thankfulness – it chooses to focus on the good rather than the bad. Whether you’ve been married for thirty years or one year, you are on a path together and you will have beautiful times and at other times, you may seriously question why you chose this person. Remember, love is not a feeling but it is a choice. When you are choosing to love in the way that God intended, you are living out the Gospel in your home and choosing to extend grace and mercy to each other. This is a journey and any couple that makes it to the successful end, will tell you that it was not always easy but it was always worth it. In every marriage, there is a daily opportunity to overlook each other’s weaknesses and flaws and deal lovingly with your spouse’s sin. How in the world do we do this when our spouse is creating tension, angst or pain in our life?
We must realize and remind ourselves that we are imperfect too. Each of us has the human condition – sin. We have a tendency to look out for our own interests and we don’t like being wronged, inconvenienced, embarrassed or uncomfortable. Also, we all have traits that even if they are not wrong, they still annoy the people that know us the best. Once we realize this, overlooking our spouse’s faults becomes much easier.
I’m not suggesting that you never voice your concerns. Some things do need to be voiced out of serious concern for the health of your marriage or even the mental, physical or spiritual health of your spouse or children. How you go about voicing these concerns is crucial – check your motives. You will never change your spouse and your love should never be conditional. Only God and your spouse can do the actual work necessary for change. So, once you have discussed your concerns, you must only very sparingly bring this up again. For example, you may have concerns about the way that your spouse parents your children. If it is not an issue of physical endangerment, emotional or spiritual abuse, you can voice concerns for your children’s sake but you cannot force change. Your spouse may be abusing their body with food, alcohol or tobacco. It is appropriate to express your concern for their long-term health and even your worry about losing them to an early death but once you have let them know how you are feeling, you have to let it go. Policing them and harping on them will only drive them further into the abuse. Another issue in marriage can be the lack of emotional support and encouragement. Again, I think that it is important to help your spouse understand the deficiency and how it affects you but don’t bludgeon them. An important part of being content in this area is being intentional about noticing the times that your spouse does support and encourage you.
There are areas where contentment is not appropriate. First, if there is physical endangerment, being aware and vigilant is crucial, especially to protect children who cannot protect themselves. If your spouse has abused or endangered you or the children, don’t justify this behavior. Getting yourself and the children to safety is the first priority and then attempt to get your spouse the help that they need. Second, you shouldn’t allow or enable controlling and manipulative behavior. Instead, acknowledge it. Once you’ve learned to recognize it, you cannot be controlled or manipulated unless you allow yourself to be. Also, controlling and manipulative behavior has probably impaired your ability to trust your own judgement or decision making skills. If this is you, seek wise counsel to help you make sense of the situation. If enabled to continue, controlling and manipulative behavior will negatively impact the development your children.
If you remember only one thing from this post, remember that you are not responsible for changing your spouse – you are responsible for loving them. Sometimes loving them means keeping your mouth shut. Sometimes loving them means holding them accountable. Sometimes loving them means not allowing them to control and manipulate you or the children. Sometimes loving them means getting them to professional help. Don’t exaggerate behavior that can be overlooked and don’t throw the safety net under someone who needs consequences. May God richly bless you and your marriage with the peace of a thankful contented heart.