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Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love. Ephesians 4:2
Unless you really married someone who is perfect, your marriage dream has been tainted by disappointment. Whenever you or your spouse failed to meet each other's expectations in some way, somebody is disappointed. It happens in all relationships, but is most painful in a marriage relationship. You thought you were getting a perfect angel. You thought you knew your spouse well. Then – surprise! – you saw something in him or her you didn't see before or something that was no big deal before. And you felt disappointed.
For example, some people are disappointed to discover after marriage that their spouse:
Snores louder than a chainsaw;
Isn't as courteous and polite as when they were dating;
Isn't as tidy around the house as they hoped;
Doesn't place the same value on family traditions;
Doesn't display the spiritual depth they had perceived;
Is more reserved socially than they expected.
Let's say it plainly because we all know it's true: nobody's perfect. You didn't marry the angel of perfection you thought you were getting – and neither did your spouse. When the honeymoon ended and the glow of your first year together dimmed, you began to see your partner more realistically. You rubbed each other the wrong way occasionally – not because you wanted to (most of the time) but because your differences and flaws were beginning to show more clearly. In the overall scheme of things, these relational glitches are not usually major. Most are momentary annoyances. But the end result is disappointment that continues through married life.
The antidote to disappointment is persevering love, a love that hangs in there even when your spouse doesn't live up to your ideals. You wish your husband wouldn't slurp his soup, but you love him just the same when he does. You wish your wife kept the house as neat as a pin all the time, but you love her just the same when she doesn't. Yes, you will still feel disappointed at times. But persevering love rises above feelings of disappointment and loves anyway, as if you were perfectly contented.
Marital disappointments are unavoidable because marriage is the collision of two different perspectives and ways of living. You brought into the union your own family background and traditions, but your spouse came with a different set. When your first Christmas together rolled around, for example, you were bummed because you wanted all white lights on the tree "just like my family did it," but your spouse insisted on colored lights "just like my family did it."
Your marriage is also a blend – and in some cases a clash -- of two different personalities. One of you may be the quiet, stay-at-home type while the other is an outgoing party animal. Somebody will have to deal with disappointment just about every weekend and holiday.
You also came to the altar with two different sets of values and philosophies. You may be fairly compatible on most issues, but it's unlikely that you grew up in the same denomination and political party, or if you did, that you share identical views on every issue. Here's hoping you have found a good deal of common ground in your beliefs, moral code, and practices of behavior. But there is plenty of room in these categories for shades of differences and the accompanying disappointments.
Finally, you brought with you into marriage a truckload of expectations that may differ from those of your spouse. You always dreamed of having four or five kids, but your spouse wants two – tops. You would like to live close to your respective parents, but your spouse’s idea of happiness is living at least 1,000 miles from either set of parents. You expect a lot more romance out of marriage; your spouse expects a lot more sex.
So what do you do with the disappointments – great or small – that accompany the many differences you have discovered in your relationship? Where does persevering love kick into action? The apostle Paul's words in Ephesians 4:2 are the key to dealing with differences and disappointments. Ideally, both of you will adopt these "be-attitudes" in the power of the Holy Spirit and take turns cutting each other plenty of slack.
Be humble. Take the servant’s roll by not demanding that everything happen your way. Remember: you're basically dealing with preferences, not issues of life and death, right and wrong, my way or the highway. It's OK to state your desire to stay home on Friday night, but will it really kill you to go out with your more social half from time to time – and make sure he or she has a good time?
Be gentle. "If you don't do something about your snoring, I'm moving to the den--period!" Hey, do you angry ultimatums and threats really help settle differences and heal disappointments? No, and they can even make things worse. When you are persevering in some area, be tender and kind about it. And when your spouse is doing the persevering, be gracious and grateful.
Be patient. Maybe it seems that your spouse will never yield to your preferences in some areas. Maybe he or she is overbearing and demanding about some things, even to the point of being unkind or ungracious about it. Maybe you live with constant disappointment, afraid that things will never change in some areas. Here's a place where you need to lean into Jesus in prayer, hang onto his Word, and wait for him to do something you cannot do. In the meantime, follow Paul's instruction, make allowance for your spouse is faults, realizing that he or she is doing the same for you over other issues.
Why go to such lengths in a marriage relationship? "Because of your love," Paul answers. Your love for each other is not on trial when disappointments arise. Rather, your love, which is rooted in God's love for both of you, is the solid platform for working through and persevering in disappointments. And your love will grow even deeper as you take steps to heal any disappointments that arise.
What were some of the first minor disappointments you experienced in your marriage? Were any of them humorous? How did you deal with them? Were there any major disappointments arising from your differences? How did you deal with them? What do you most need to remember from Ephesians 4:2 this week about dealing with differences and disappointments as they arise in your relationship?
Great Creator, thank you for not giving me a spouse who is a photocopy of me in every way. How boring that would be! Instead, you brought us together to complement each other in so many ways. One of us is strong where the other is weak. One of us is skilled where the other is all thumbs. We don't match up perfectly in every area. If we did, how boring that would be! The areas where we differ or don't seem to fit as well are areas to trust you and grow closer together. Don't allow my relatively minor disappointments to block your work of helping me grow deeper. Help me to be humble, gentle, patient, and forgiving with my wonderfully unique spouse. Amen.
Renew Your Love
Activate the "be-attitudes" quote from Ephesians 4:2 in your marriage this week in the face of differences that disappoint.
- Are you disappointed that your spouse won't do things your way? How will you demonstrate the humility of persevering love in the face of this disappointment? For example, perhaps he will decide to adopt his or her method of doing something, such as how the dirty dishes should be arranged in the dishwasher.
- Is there a disappointment where you characteristically respond with anger? How will you demonstrate the gentleness of persevering love in the face of this disappointment? For example, instead of barking at your spouse for forgetting to balance the checkbook, maybe you will sit down calmly with him or her to remember the details of each missing check and write them in for your spouse.
- Do you often feel impatient with your spouse? How will you demonstrate the patience of persevering love with him or her? For example, perhaps you will decide to quit nagging your spouse for avoiding a certain task, even if it means doing it yourself.