A Grief of Mind

When Esau was forty years old, he took as wives Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite. And they were a grief of mind to Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 26:34-35).

Hittites were really bad people usually. They were enemies of God, pagan and idolatrous. Esau decided to marry two of their women. I believe the text is implying that these two women were just like all the other Hittites. He brought them home to mom and dad. What was the result?

They were “a grief of mind” to his parents. The ESV puts it like this, “and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.” Look at what Rebekah said about it later on:

Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I loathe my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women like these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me?” (Genesis 27:46, ESV).

A Grief of Mind

Rebekah hated her life because of these two women. If Jacob, her other son, were to follow in Esau’s footsteps, she would feel like her life was worthless. I’ve talked to many a parent who has experienced this. Their children went and married a spouse who was selfish and immoral and it brought great pain upon the whole family. The whole family!

It ruins harmony. Your son or daughter is torn between being in harmony with the parents or the spouse. Every interaction is painful. Visits are a headache (before, during and after). Christmas, Thanksgiving and birthday parties are almost unbearable. When that son or daughter has a spouse who is ungodly, then even something as “simple” as going to worship services and church activities can be an all-out war. If you’ve been through it, you can appreciate what Rebekah is saying…she hated her life because of it.

This is just a simple reminder from the Scripture that our choices, especially who we marry, can bring either great joy or incredible pain to our lives and to the lives of those we love. Choose wisely! Pray a ton. Seek God’s wisdom. Ask for the advice of Godly men and women who can guide you through these critical choices. It seems like Esau made decisions based upon lusts, emotions and the moment (Hebrews 12:16). Think past the moment and the emotions. Consider how this decision will affect scores of people who love you!

A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother (Proverbs 10:1).

A foolish son is a grief to his father and bitterness to her who bore him (Proverbs 17:25).

My first wedding

If you are wondering…”My first wedding” means the first wedding I performed…just to be clear.

19 years ago today, I performed my first wedding. My wife’s sister, Karen, and her husband, Jason, were joined together in marriage by God on October 18, 1997.

I remember being so nervous that I forgot to have everyone be seated. After my father-in-law said, “Her mother and I do,” I was supposed to say, “Please be seated.” Well, I just went on and preached the wedding, not even realizing that everyone was still standing! After several unnoticed attempts my father-in-law finally got my attention, and I got the memo! “Oh yeah, please be seated!” What an embarrassing moment.

Another memory is that Anna was pregnant with Joseph then. She was the matron of honor. That was October and in the following February we would have our first child. Man…time flies.

We were so young. Good grief, I had only been married just over a year and at the reception I was sitting with three couples who had each been married for over 50 years! I remember saying, “There are over 150 years of marriage experience here!” Two of those couples were Anna’s grandparents. All four of Anna’s grandparents have passed away since then. Again, time flies.

Marriage and Time – Two great gifts from God.

There’s not much of a point here except that marriage is such a special gift given to us by God. So is time. Put both marriage and time into the hands of people who value both and you have one special relationship.

My parents will be celebrating their 50th in 2018. Anna’s parents will celebrate their 44th anniversary this year in November. Again, time flies. Tom, my father-in-law, will say this year that “the first 44 years are always the hardest.” Last year it was the first 43. He has said that every year that I can remember on their anniversary. Of course, he says it with tongue in cheek, but he is saying that marriage takes a ton of work and commitment. And a lot of love.

Happy Anniversary, Jason and Karen! You are such a blessing to have as family, as brethren in Christ, and as best friends to Anna and me.

In An Understanding Way

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered (1 Peter 3:7).

So, what does it mean to live in an understanding way? What is God asking me to do when He tells me to live with my wife according to knowledge?

Let’s look at how other versions translate this phrase:
  • “…in an understanding way…” (ESV).
  • “…according to knowledge…” (YLT).
  • “…dwell with them with understanding…” (NKJV).
  • •”…give thought to your way of life with your wives…” (BBE).

The BBE (Bible in Basic English) as you can see above translates this as we are to “give thought to your way of life with your wives.” As husbands, we need to “know” and “understand” who this woman really is. I need to “know” and “understand” the value of this woman to God. My treatment of her will either bring God’s blessing or punishment upon me, so I’d better “give thought” to this woman and this relationship!

I have come to understand that the rest of verse 7 explains what dwelling with her according to knowledge means.

In an understanding way:

Understand and know that she is a weaker vessel. Both males and females are “vessels,” meaning that our bodies are containers of our spirits (1 Thessalonians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 4:7). We are vessels to be used for God’s honor in His house (2 Timothy 2:20-21), whether male or female. She is weaker, “since she is a woman” Peter says. The wife is to be handled with care as something precious and valuable. You do not hear often of a woman beating up on a man or raping a man – it is the man who is doing these things. He is stronger typically, hence the term “manhandle.”

Understand and know that she is a fellow heir of the grace of life. She is not a sub-citizen of the kingdom of heaven. There is no second-class Christian. In business and the military folks rank and classify every person. Everybody in the world has a class and a level it seems, but not when it comes to salvation in Jesus Christ. A woman receives the same salvation and blessings of the kingdom as a man does.

A husband must know and understand these things in his heart. If a man does not value his wife, how can he honor her? Why would I seek to appreciate her thoughts, her dreams, and her input if I look at her as a second-class citizen? When a man looks at a woman as a slave, as subservient to him, as a piece of meat, as an object to be used, then it is abundantly clear that he does not value women. Simply put, if a man treats a woman this way, God will not hear his prayers.

Husbands, give thought to your way of life with your wives!

Unconsciously Competent

What if I am a knucklehead toward my wife but do not know it? Why not leave me blissfully ignorant? Well, if we want to improve our marriages, then being a blissfully-ignorant knucklehead will not cut it. The goal is to become unconsciously competent, and I’ll explain that in a moment.

The Conscious Competence Ladder

These four levels of growth and development have been used in various ways over the years in secular training. I believe they have a very Biblical basis to them, so I am sharing them with you for your consideration.

Unconsciously incompetent.

You lack abilities, training or skills and you are not aware of it. For example, you are saying and doing things (or not saying or doing things) that are hurting your wife. At this stage, you are just clueless and need to be made aware. She might make you “acutely” (not-so-cutely) aware after she has blown a gasket with you because she is at her wits’ end. I mean, you could blame her for having a conniption fit. Or, you can wake up to the things you are doing that are setting her off.

Consciously incompetent.

Now you are aware that you have been a knucklehead. The actions and words have not really changed. However, your conscience is now pinging you every time you make those mistakes. You realize your need for instruction and growth, and you reach out for help. “I don’t want to be like this anymore and I need counseling and training!”

Consciously competent.

With God’s help and a lot of advice, you begin to treat your wife with honor and respect. The right behavior and words are being demonstrated, but you really have to muscle your mind to do it. It is like hitting a baseball left-handed (if you’re right-handed). Watching someone learn how to drive a stick-shift can be painful, both to you and the car. But once he has it down it becomes second nature. This leads to the final point.

Unconsciously competent.

Finally, your new way of treating your spouse in some ways has become second nature. I am not saying that we never have to think about it again, because James 3 says we can never tame the tongue. What I do mean is that after years of behaving the right way toward your wife, there will be loving deeds that at one time you never would have thought of doing, but now you do them without really thinking about them.

Nobody today has to tell me how to ride a bike, and I don’t have do go through mental steps to get on a bike and ride it. It is second nature. That wasn’t true for me at 5 or 6 years old, though. Now, please understand that we always have to grow as Christians; we never “arrive” at perfection. In one area of my life I may be on step #4, and in another I may be on step #1.

“I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

Problems with People Pleasing Part 4

Sometimes people pleasers feel for whatever reason that they have to get involved in every situation. Every time someone asks them to do something, they do it. Whenever they are asked to get involved, the people pleasers dive in thinking it is their duty to do so.

Even Jesus at times said, “No.”

Did Jesus jump into to solve every problem that people wanted him to address? No. Here is the first example:

Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But He said to him, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:13-15).

What was the real problem in this relationship between the man and his brother, according to Jesus? Greed…plain and simple. Jesus had the wisdom to know that if He jumped in this family drama and tried to be the referee, the real problem would never be solved. I believe this is a great lesson for us, men. It is not that we go around and never get involved in other’s disputes, but we must develop the wisdom with lots of prayer to know when it would be best for us not to get involved.

Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears (Proverbs 26:17).

Here is a second example of Jesus having to say, “No.”

And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out” (Mark 1:36-38).

Jesus had the power to heal everyone’s sicknesses and diseases, and the crowds knew it. They were flocking to Him – everyone was looking for Him. Even Simon Peter was searching for Him to get the crowds to Him. That makes sense, doesn’t it? However, Jesus had to keep His main mission and purpose in mind. He came to preach the gospel and save people from their sins. Jesus did not come to end all human suffering while He was here on earth.

Here is the most compassionate and selfless Man in history, and He said, “No.” Jesus went on to the other cities to preach, which means that there were people left behind who did not get healed of their sicknesses and diseases. That might be difficult for some to grasp, but that is what Jesus had to do because His main mission was to preach and save souls.

We must remember this as well. There is a time that we must learn to say, “No” to some things so that we can say “Yes” to the purpose and mission to which God has called us. Even the apostles did this exact thing in Jerusalem when they did not get directly involved in caring for the widows, but delegated that task to the seven men appointed for it (Acts 6:1-7). They could not leave their mission and purpose to take care of something that another person should be doing, because in doing so, their own work would not get accomplished.

I encourage you to meditate upon this and pray for wisdom. Again, it is not that we seek to avoid getting involved…that is not the heart of Jesus. But even Jesus and the apostles at times had to set boundaries.

Am I not better to you than 10 sons?

I’m certain that none of the men reading this would ever make the mistake of saying that our wives are somehow honored just to have us as their husbands…  How can I be so certain of this?  It’s really quite simple.  You see, such wise decisions account for most of us men even being alive still – and I know for sure I would personally only get one shot at a mistake like that…  I mean, really, at the very most we might very secretly “believe” that to be true – but we would never be so foolish as to voice that sentiment out loud.  Right?

When my wife is hurting though, or struggling with some problem in her life, I love to fix that.  Often, even though I think I’m being very clever and not manifesting anything “out loud” – what I am actually doing on a very basic level is showing her how I am the solution to all her woes.  Whether it be my great ideas that spill forth from the keen intellect housed within, or even just the physical prowess that I might demonstrate as I “man-handle” something into place that will surely solve everything.

Unfortunately, while I’m so caught up in what I believe to be quite amazing repairs to everything that comes along – I am not honoring her at all, because I am not helping her to see the power of God working in her life.  He is the only one who can truly cure our woes, and the only one deserving of honor and glory.  If I am not helping my wife, a sister in the body of Christ, to embrace God’s will and let Him exercise complete dominion in our lives, or in our marriage – if I am not giving God the glory and acknowledging Him in His rightful place – then I am not honoring my wife at all.

There may be some reading this who can relate to what I struggle with, but even if there is not a single person out there – I can at least take some small measure of satisfaction in knowing that there have been others (well, at least one) throughout time.

The situation – a wife in distress:

1 Samuel 1

[1] There was a man from Ramathaim-zophim in the hill country of Ephraim. His name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. [2] He had two wives, the first named Hannah and the second Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah was childless. [3] This man would go up from his town every year to worship and to sacrifice to the LORD of Hosts at Shiloh, where Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were the LORD’s priests. [4] Whenever Elkanah offered a sacrifice, he always gave portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to each of her sons and daughters. [5] But he gave a double portion to Hannah, for he loved her even though the LORD had kept her from conceiving. [6] Her rival would taunt her severely just to provoke her, because the LORD had kept Hannah from conceiving. [7] Whenever she went up to the LORD’s house, her rival taunted her in this way every year. Hannah wept and would not eat.

Yep, OK, this is the classic scenario, my wife is clearly in distress, and here I come to save the day…

[8] “Hannah, why are you crying?” her husband Elkanah asked. “Why won’t you eat? Why are you troubled? Am I not better to you than 10 sons?”

What did I just do?  Well, I solved her problem – that’s what.  I reminded her of how lucky she is to have me.  How can there be any issues as long as I am here?  Whoa!  Stop right there Nathan!  (You see, I even have to step outside and actually address myself in the third-person in order to throw on the brakes here and truly stop myself from making an already horrible mistake even worse.)  Isn’t that exactly what we said I should NOT do?  Oh, yeah… right.

Well, that was certainly not a great example for us men – but take a look at what Hannah does, and the strength of character she displays in her next actions:

[9] Hannah got up after they ate and drank at Shiloh. Eli the priest was sitting on a chair by the doorpost of the LORD’s tabernacle. [10] Deeply hurt, Hannah prayed to the LORD and wept with many tears.

She doesn’t lose sight of her priorities.  Instead, she keeps right on track and goes straight to her source of strength.  Notice the honesty she shows, and the total baring of her soul to God.

[12] While she continued praying in the LORD’s presence, Eli watched her lips. [13] Hannah was praying silently, and though her lips were moving, her voice could not be heard. Eli thought she was drunk [14] and scolded her, “How long are you going to be drunk? Get rid of your wine!” [15] “No, my lord,” Hannah replied. “I am a woman with a broken heart. I haven’t had any wine or beer; I’ve been pouring out my heart before the LORD. [16] Don’t think of me as a wicked woman; I’ve been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment.”

Then, when she has finished praying, look at her behavior and the expectant faith she displays in her demeanor.

[17] Eli responded, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant the petition you’ve requested from Him.” [18] “May your servant find favor with you,” she replied. Then Hannah went on her way; she ate and no longer looked despondent.

…and now – the rest of the story.

It is important to note that it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Elkanah.  There are constant references to his spiritual leadership, getting up early to bow in worship before the Lord (v.19) and regularly going up to sacrifice (v. 3, 4, 21).

When Hannah explained how she would fulfill her oath to the Lord (v. 22) what was his reaction?  He really honors her and shows deference to God’s role in their lives, by his answer:

[23] Her husband Elkanah replied, “Do what you think is best, and stay here until you’ve weaned him. May the LORD confirm your word.”

So, we do have a great example of how such a conversation or situation should go, and we know without a doubt that the Lord is faithful and able to work in our lives.  He is the creator, and only He knows what is best for us.

1 Samuel 2

[21] The LORD paid attention to Hannah’s need, and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the LORD.

Would You Look at the Prudence on that Women?

“House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord” (Proverbs 19:14).

Have you seen the size of my house?  Have I shown you my latest toy?  You’re going to be so impressed!  If you only knew how big my bonus check was!  I wonder how much money he makes to be able to afford a car like that?

In Proverbs 19, Solomon says that all that physical stuff has an earthly source; it is “an inheritance from fathers.”  But a “prudent wife”, a wife of wisdom and insight, is from God.  Solomon’s point is not to discredit the physical blessings we receive but to elevate and put into proper perspective the value of a wife with wisdom.

Would You Look at the Prudence on that Women?

How much do we value the wisdom of the women in our lives?  Women and men are so very different and that is by God’s design.  In my 19 years of marriage I haven’t always appreciated those differences.  In fact, they have been the source of a lot of frustration and more than a few arguments.  When God created man He realized that man was incomplete, “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Gen. 2:18).  Women perceive things differently, they feel things differently, and they often have different priorities.  My wife’s differences are a gift from God.  Do I truly appreciate those differences?  Here are two simple questions to help us consider how we view the wisdom of the women in our lives:

  • Do I regularly SEEK my wife’s input on decisions that impact the family?  Do I seek her input when studying scripture, preparing a sermon, etc.?
  • When my wife suggests a different course of action do I usually perceive it as a challenge or a criticism?

Earlier in my marriage I wasted a lot of time and energy, and caused a lot of problems, because I didn’t appreciate Kristine as a helper or a partner.  Instead, I saw her as a confusing puzzle that often got in the way of what I had decided was the best course of action.  Our “differences” would regularly turn into a battle to determine who was “right” and who was “wrong”.  As I’ve matured, I’ve come to appreciate her wisdom and perspective and I realize that the things that make her so different than me are the very things that make her such a valuable partner.  Turns out, God knew what He was doing all along!

So I don’t really care if you know what kind of car I drive or how big my paycheck is but pull up a chair and let me tell you about Kristine’s wisdom.  Get comfortable…this is going to take a while.

Problems with People Pleasing Part 3

The last two Tuesdays, we considered problems with people-pleasing (Part 1 and Part 2). Today we will look at the people-pleaser and his marriage.

Problems with People Pleasing Part 3

I have to write from the outset that this is not an article encouraging you to dismiss your wife’s feelings, opinions, expectations, ideas, dreams, etc. It is a Biblical concept and command to honor and seek to please your wife. Please consider these verses (1 Peter 3:7; 1 Corinthians 7:3-4,33; Ephesians 5:28; Ecclesiastes 9:9; Proverbs 5:18). God wants us to “make mamma happy.”

However…
  1. God comes first (Acts 5:29). Abram and Adam listened to their wives instead of trusting God (Genesis 3:17; 16:2). If pleasing your wife means violating God’s word and doing things He would not accept, then that’s going too far.
  2. Christ’s approval is what matters first. If Christ approves of you, but your wife does not, then whose approval is weightier? You are complete in Christ (Colossians 2:9-10).
  3. Consider your motives. I will just refer you back to the previous two articles for this point.
A people-pleaser who drains himself for his wife.

Sometimes a people-pleasing kind of personality is joined in marriage with a controlling, perfectionist spouse. That becomes a toxic and painful relationship. The controlling, perfectionist spouse is addicted to control. Everything must be flawless and in order. He or she demands perfection, and that is when acceptance and approval comes. The spouse is only given full affection and “grace” when he or she does everything “right.”

In comes the spouse who craves acceptance and approval. This people-pleaser will wear himself or herself out and go completely bankrupt (financially, spiritually, morally, emotionally) in order to gain the acceptance of the spouse. Resentment, bitterness and anger build within all while the people-pleaser “serves with a smile.” That is not healthy.

A people-pleaser who kills his marriage to please others.

That man who gave everything to win his bride may then move on to pleasing everyone else around him. His wife and kids may get neglected because he is going around trying to make everyone else happy. Is he truly being a servant of Christ or is he just trying to make everyone like him? We need to ask ourselves these questions. If I am seeking to solve everyone’s problems but end up neglecting my wife and children’s needs then that is a red flag. I may be a people-pleaser, not a sacrificial servant of Christ.

Another way this people-pleaser may kill his marriage is by letting friends and family exert an unhealthy amount of influence in his relationship. Mom, dad, friends and family are exerting too much pressure and control from the outside and it is creating a serious strain on his relationship with his wife. Who is he going to please? It is like the comedy sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond.” The folks just won’t leave. Raymond just needed to put his foot down and stand up for his marriage and his wife, but he kept caving in to mommy and daddy.

Next Tuesday, we are going to continue this concept as we consider:

Setting healthy boundaries and expectations.

Problems with People Pleasing Part 2

Last Tuesday’s article was about Problems with People Pleasing. Today we pick up where we left off with this question:

What is the difference between being a people-pleaser and being a sacrificial servant of Christ?

First of all, on the outside, those two people may look exactly the same. Their actions and behavior might appear identical. They both wear themselves out for others. Think of the apostle Paul, he was truly a sacrificial servant of Christ, not a people-pleaser. He did, however, wear himself out for others.

I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? (2 Corinthians 12:15)

Paul was not a people-pleaser, but because he loved Jesus Christ, he was  a sacrificial servant for others. There is a profound difference.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)

Furthermore, being a people pleaser is ultimately all about you.

You don’t want conflict. You don’t want negative emotions. When your motivation is about people liking you and not being disappointed in you, the focus is you. Refusing to say “No” is about you. Maintaining that illusion of harmony is self-centered, not God-centered. Being a people-pleaser is about craving acceptance and approval from people, not about being secure in your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:42-43)

What we get down to is motive and heart.

  • Why am I doing _______ or committing to __________?
  • Why am I sacrificing time, energy, and resources for this?
  • Am I seeking people’s approval or God’s approval?
  • Am I serving out of guilt, doing “penance” for my past mistakes? Or am I serving others out of a gratefulness to God?
  • Why am I uncomfortable with others’ negative emotions around me?

Think about it. Are you “complete in Him,” (Colossians 2:9-10), or are you complete in having people like you?

We will discuss this more next Tuesday and the implications it has for marriage.

Problems with People Pleasing

What is a people pleaser? What are the problems with people pleasing?

You seek to take away any conflict, any negative emotion, or any discomfort of those around you.  Life for you consists of exhausting yourself to make everyone around you happy. Serve any need. Anytime someone asks you to do anything, you say “Yes.” The thought of saying “No” brings such stress and anxiety because you do not want to disappoint people or hurt their feelings. That might translate to people not liking you…perish the thought! They will not accept you or approve of you, and that is the last thing in the world you want. You would rather be bankrupt and bedridden as a result of sacrificing yourself than to entertain the thought of saying “No” to those around you.

If those words define you, then my friend, you are a people pleaser.

For some, this isn’t a problem, but for others it is like a disease or an addiction. It brings great damage to relationships. A people-pleasing husband will seek to avoid conflict and uncomfortable conversations with his wife. He will just keep serving and enabling her hurtful behavior. Any negative emotion she has, he tries to deal with quickly to eliminate it. What results is an illusion of harmony, not intimacy. A people-pleasing father will try to be his kid’s best friend and buddy, because he wants to avoid any negative emotions. He wants his children to like him, but it results in them not respecting him.

The people pleaser will be the person that everyone says is a great guy and has a servant’s heart. Inside, however, he is falling apart. His bitterness and resentment is growing because he feels like others constantly take advantage of him. He smiles on the outside and is the dutiful soldier to give of himself, but is his heart really in it?

I am going to write more about this next Tuesday, men, but for now I want you to meditate on a question:

What is the difference between being a people-pleaser and being a sacrificial servant of Christ?