Everyone is aware the housing market has crashed. For many, it was the loss of their hopes and dreams, as well as investments, construction businesses and a huge labor force. As I drive through various subdivisions in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, I frequently see homes for sale. Some of them are magnificent structures, others are very modest. I always pray for the families that may have lost their dream, their job, and their dwelling place that was so special and oftentimes the fulfillment of lifetime dreams. Occasionally, I pull into the entrance of the driveway and pray. I ask God to bless them, to help them sell their home for whatever reason it was placed on the market.
The most important issue, however, is not the house, but the question I often ask: “I wonder if those who dwelled in that house really could be considered a home – a family living in meaningful harmony?” Most dwellings do not house a joyful, truly fulfilled family. Marriage relationships have crashed as surely and often as suddenly as the housing market.
I am praying continually for our nation. We are headed in the wrong direction. Government is being presented and perceived as the all-provident source, as God Almighty. I am convinced that many Americans have bought into this lie because of the deterioration of the American family. The father is too often missing and, if present, seldom a spiritual leader. Couples do not understand any better than most national leaders the importance of building relationships on a biblical worldview.
Betty and I share insights from our nearly 50-year journey in the new book Living In Love. I do not exaggerate when I proclaim that in our house a home dwells. Betty and I are more in love today than when we met or were first married. We share what Beth Moore, Kevin Leman, Max Lucado, Emerson Eggerichs, John and Stasi Eldredge, Ruth Graham and many others have called “an honest, open, transparent journey.” Living in Love is not merely a “how to” book, but rather it is about how a relationship has worked and can work for every marriage.
Through the trials, temptations and challenges every couple faces, we have learned valuable life lessons. We do not for one moment believe that our exciting, fulfilling adventure should make us the odd couple. We believe it should be, through God’s supernatural enabling, the norm, the expected, and the typical. Sadly, this is not the case. We have shared our personal story to offer hope and healing, along with some helpful insight and encouragement for every couple. Wherever you are in your life journey, I believe you will gain wisdom and become very excited about the possibilities. However strong or weak your marriage relationship may be, I am convinced you will read and sense very clear possibilities and hope concerning your future. Please give us the opportunity to share what cannot be contained in a brief article.
As I pray with deep concern for our nation and the erosion of its foundation, I believe the primary stone that must be restored is marriage and family. Betty and I share that it begins with commitment – first to God, and then to one another and to the marriage itself.
We then discuss the absolute necessity of open, honest communication. We must learn that sharing our position is not really as important as hearing more than words from your spouse. You must hear their heart. A necessary aspect in communication is wise and necessary confrontation. The Bible says, “Do not allow the sun to go down on your wrath.” Hurt and resentment lead to an emotional and mental callousness that has a cancerous effect on relationships.
We point out the importance of conflict resolution, not conflict insulation. Even when seeking comfort or counsel, many people may find someone who merely consoles them in their misery with no real solution. Be careful of this process. Betty and I have watched people live in separate worlds for years. God says He hates divorce, but please hear this: it is not the courthouse papers and records or the judicial process leading to a legal separation, it is the division, separation and strife that occurred long before divorce papers were filed. Because He cares for us all so deeply, God hates that which separates us from Him, His love, peace, guidance and wise counsel. He detests that which separates us from our spouses and the family we have been blessed to have as a result of the beautiful marriage union.
Betty and I point out that confession is not something we do to feel better, but to actually get better. “Confess your sins one to another that you may be made whole.” We always feel better when we acknowledge wrongdoing, but we are not necessary different. Repentance (a turn from that which hurts and coming to God with our whole heart allowing Him to change us and redirect our steps) is absolutely essential.
In our book we deal with the challenges that every married couple faces. We discuss the issues of money and tragic financial mistakes and the way to reestablish lives on a sound, secure foundation.
God revealed to us some essential aspects of parenting, and I can promise you, they will bless you, your children, your grandchildren and the families of others you care about. You will want to share what we pass on concerning the difference in teaching and training children. Somehow our children looked beyond my failures as a father because of my honest pursuit of God. They actually saw the One and only Father that can be the all-in-all everyone desperately needs. As a result of knowing the Father, and because of the principles that were applied, our children and grandchildren love God and their families with all their heart.
In the book, Betty and I openly and honestly discuss the challenges regarding sex and the distraction of lust, appetites, the damaging potential of jealousy, and the subtle ways the enemy can pull couples apart.
Before closing with a strong chapter on the importance of encouragement, we reveal the sinister work of the invisible enemy. The principalities and powers of darkness destroy many marriages. The enemy is crafty! God has granted us the grace to unmask this hidden danger. The “accuser of the brethren” will misdirect most couples, causing them to see their spouse as their fiercest accuser.
Because so many of our friends and viewers of LIFE Today have asked to hear more from Betty, let me assure you in the book Living in Love, you will hear from this truly beautiful, very meek, yielded-to-God wife, mother and best friend a man could ever have. Let me share a few thoughts from Betty in the very first part of the book under the sub-heading, “Commitment pushes us beyond fear and frustration”:
True commitment also involves stretching. As imperfect people, we get the wrong idea about commitment, and in order to protect ourselves, we commit only so far. Instead of giving everything we have, we hold back, afraid to give ourselves fully because we run the risk of getting hurt. Instead of completely engaging with our mate, we back off and hope to avoid what I call “ugly stuff”…
The truth is this: you cannot have a harmonious, God-honoring relationship without making a firm, daily decision to honor each other and to stay attuned to each other’s thoughts and feelings, no matter what. Otherwise, you won’t be living, you’ll simply be existing. And you won’t even be existing together but rather operating in separate worlds. You may share the same physical space, the same room, but you’ll be in different emotional and mental places.
You can come to a place in your relationship where you are strangers, wondering how you ever got along in the first place and unable to recognize or remember the love you once had for each other. It could be compared to the distance you may sense between yourself and God when you don’t communicate with Him. Of course, God never leaves us or forsakes us, and that’s the level of commitment a husband and wife need to have with each other.
Sadly, over the years James and I have observed many couples living as though they have no common focus or interests. In a way it’s as if they are held captive within prison walls they have allowed to be built in their relationship. This is not what God intends! If you are living in this bleak world, you must – with God’s help – break free.
When you try to operate in a separate, commitment-free zone, you only do damage to your relationship–possibly far more damage than you realize. A lack of dedication to each other is insidious in the way it begins to harden your heart and your attitudes. If you allow a lack of commitment to creep into your life, you’ll find yourself becoming more and more calloused to your spouse’s feelings and needs as well as to your own…
People come to marriage with a commitment to the person they think they see in their spouse. And everyone comes into marriage with a commitment to her or his own self-interests and dreams. James and I want you to understand that the path to your own self-interest lies squarely through the territory of your spouse’s best interests and the best interests of your relationship.
Please know that Betty and I wrote this book with you and those you love in mind. We want the very best for every person on the planet. If we care enough to share, imagine how deeply God cares and how much He loves you! He can help develop the relationship I believe every person longs for.
Betty and I are praying for those who read this commentary, and for all who will give us an opportunity to share what we are learning on life’s journey in the pages of the book Living in Love. We look forward to hearing from you and others concerning the difference God has made and will continue to make in your lives and relationships. Surely the possibilities merit a trip to the bookstore or an online visit to www.livinginlovetoday.com to order it. The strength of a nation will always be determined by the strength of families! Do you agree?