Marriage is hard enough without the pressures that particular forms of suffering, such as disability, bring to it. But there are character qualities which flow from genuine saving faith and the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer that will keep even the most challenged marriage together.
In addition to the four character traits we thought about in yesterday’s post, Ernie Baker expounds on four more Christ-like demonstrations of true saving faith.
Next, Paul urges his readers to be long-suffering with each other. It should take a lot for them to get angry. Peter says that, “God’s patience waited” in the time of Noah (1 Peter 3:20). Being short-tempered, impatient, and irritable sets up a fear-filled atmosphere. If you are like that, it is not safe for others to talk to you. Often, they will withdraw through self-protection. It is impossible to have a healthy home that is withstanding the pressures of disability if those are the attitudes and actions being displayed. What can you do so that this changes?
Bearing with One Another
I am so thankful that the Lord puts up with me! He bears with us all in the midst of our weakness. The opposite attitude to this is seen in many of the things we have noted above. On what issue(s) do you need to show more tolerance to your family members, whether or not they have a disability, bearing in mind the struggles they are also experiencing?
This forgiveness is unconditional, undeserved, abundant grace such as we have received from the Lord. Forgiveness should flow like a gushing river out of our relationship with Christ, given how much he has forgiven us. The opposite of an attitude of forgiveness is toxic for relationships. Being resentful, dwelling on the offenses of others, and wishing them harm destroys closeness. The command here is explicit. If you have any complaint, forgive, even though the person has not earned it. Just as you received undeserved favor, so grant it now to others. You may say, “But you don’t know the extent of the offense,” “I just can’t let it go and give forgiveness,” or, “That’s not fair.” When my soul whispers (or yells!) these things to me, I reflect on the following:
- I remember how much I have sinned against God (see also Matthew 18:21–35). I have probably committed the same offense against the Lord of the universe. If he can forgive me in Christ, I can forgive others in Christ.
- God keeps the record books and is a God of justice. He, the Judge of the universe, will make all things right. No one is going to get away with anything unless they repent. I must let the all-wise God handle the offense so my soul can be relieved of the burden.
How about making a decision right now, based upon how much you have been forgiven, to forgive your spouse for whatever way you believe you have been sinned against?
Above All, Love
Christian love for one another flows right out of relationship with Christ. It is a sacrificial love that seeks to put the needs of others first (see Philippians 2:3–5). In fact, Paul claims that this one character trait will hold everything together (Colossians 3:14). The opposite of this love is so destructive to relationships! Self-centeredness that is motivated by self-protection and putting your own needs first causes harm. Is there something you could do, related to the care of your child or spouse, that would demonstrate this type of love?
These eight character traits, from the right motives and from the right source (Christ), will hold any marriage together. Jesus can make a difference, but you must surrender your life, your situation, and your marriage to him!
[Excerpted from HELP! Disability Pressures Our Marriage by Ernie Baker.]