All my years of pastoral counseling has confirmed that there are three great traps that must be avoided in every marriage:
Infidelity, Insolvency, Indifference
And in that order. Who could have imagined the incredible devastation wreaked on families by this trio of tragedies? My involvement with troubled families over the years has reinforced my determination to vigilantly guard my own heart. As the old country preacher said, “Flesh is flesh, no matter whose bones it’s stretched over.” I never exempt myself from the vulnerability that all of us share.
One thing we can do to safeguard against these traps is to turn them on their heads by using them to set honorable goals for our marriages. However, please understand that such goals are not mere targets for success. Rather, these goals must be rooted in our hearts with deep conviction. Simply thinking of them as goals diminishes their importance. It’s not like setting a goal to lose ten pounds or read a book a month. Think of it in terms of building a fortress around your marriage to protect it against invaders.
I’m going to tackle three goals for every husband over my next few posts, starting with…
GOAL #1 – Unyielding Faithfulness to My Wife
At 64 years old, I cherish my relationship with Judith more than ever. The 43 years the Lord has given us together is a testament to God’s sustaining and protecting grace. Looking back, I can recall a few times where divine intervention preserved me from evil. Allow me to be brutally honest and share three things the Lord has used to keep me on the path of righteousness.
1. The Bedroom Relationship
It is easy for men to build up resentment in their hearts when they feel their sexual needs are being neglected. Be warned: bitter thoughts lead to bad decisions. The temptation will come in the form of an entitlement mentality. When a man begins to think his wife’s neglect warrants an affair, he is on dangerous ground.
Please understand, I am not attempting to lay blame on wives at all. If you feel your wife is failing you in the bedroom, the first place you need to look is in the mirror. Instead of sulking or indulging your resentment, make sure your spousal love is unconditional. Love her “as Christ loved the church.” Engage in open heart communication, and if problems persist, get counseling. No matter what, you are never entitled to stray.
If you feel your wife is failing you in the bedroom, the first place you need to look is in the mirror.
In striving for unyielding faithfulness, work to make sure the bedroom relationship is mutually satisfying. Don’t allow bitterness to take root and fester in your soul. Great resources are available to help couples discover the pleasure God intends for the marriage bed. (I recommend The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller.) In short, the relationship I’ve enjoyed with Judith has kept me from seeking satisfaction elsewhere.
2. The Brutal Risks
Considering the incredible risks of infidelity also greatly aids in maintaining unyielding faithfulness. How many men have sacrificed the permanent on the altar of the immediate and traded a lifetime of joy for mere moments of sexual release? It makes no sense. As Esau sold his birthright to fill his belly, so thousands of Christian men have lost their spiritual birthright to satisfy their fleshly passions.
The risks of infidelity involve physical, emotional, and spiritual damage. If the risk of sexually transmitted disease isn’t enough, consider the emotional pain infidelity inflicts on families. For me, I need only consider losing the respect of my wife, children, and grandchildren and temptation’s power is curtailed. Of course, having the Word of God in your heart and yielding to the Spirit’s control is vital, but thinking about the loss of honor is, I think, a part of that. We’re instructed to “think on things honorable and commendable.” (Philippians 4:8)
In my case, I would also consider my congregation “over which the Holy Spirit has made me an overseer.” (1 Peter 5) A pastor is to be an example to his flock. Thinking about the spiritual harm infidelity would inflict on my church and on the cause of Christ helps build a wall around my heart that keeps the enemy at bay. These brutal risks are the negative deterrents in my own life and I think they’re comprise a legitimate tool for any man who seeks unyielding faithfulness.
3. The Blessed Reward
Just as there are negative deterrents to infidelity, there are also positive ones. Like the Apostle Paul, I want to finish my course, run the entire race, and fight the good fight of faith to the end. As I’ve said before, I may not be as smart, as talented, or as gifted as many are, but I can be as faithful as any. To stand before Christ and hear “well done” is something to which every man should aspire.
Finally, there is also the reward of a godly legacy. To know that my children will remember me as a faithful husband and father is greatly important to me. Memory is a gift that death cannot destroy, and building precious memories for my grandkids is a major part of my life now. We must realize that being a man of unyielding faithfulness has the power to influence generations for Christ and his gospel. By the grace of God, all of us can be that man.