Hi, this is Pastor Ken coming to you once again with my Monday Marriage Message, thanks for taking the time to join me. If you enjoy these marriage podcasts and find them to be helpful or encouraging, please share them with friends and family.
This weekend I heard a preacher make an incredibly deep comment. The subject He was speaking about was not marriage, but as soon as he made this profound statement, I thought just how fitting it is in the marital context as well. His proclamation; “Gratefulness is the antidote for ungratefulness!” You might be thinking, “Really…that’s it?”, but I promise accepting the truth and consequence of that statement can radically transform any marriage.
What things do you wish were different in your marriage? Go ahead, pause the podcast and take some time to make a list. When the list of things you wish were different is completed, make another list of the things from the first one that you complain about to your spouse, to others, and yes even to yourself. If you have compiled your lists, we are ready to begin again…Among the people you complain to, perhaps you have even been taking these things to God. Certainly there is no problem with that, He invites us to bring our cares and concerns to Him (1 Peter 5:7). However, we must be careful how we do this, God asks us to cast our cares upon Him, but He does not welcome our grumbling. In fact, the bible tells us that the grumbling or ungratefulness of His people is one of the things He finds problematic. His word teaches us that one of the greatest sins of the Israelite people that He freed and led out of Egypt was their ungratefulness. In contrast, Philippians 2:13,14 instructs us to; Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.
This is an interesting scripture. These verses don’t even try to make the insinuation that our lives are free of trouble and therefore should be without complaint. This passage takes the difficulties of our lives and yes perhaps even our marriages into account. It says that we should avoid complaining and disputing (ungrateful behavior) in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. In other words, God knows our lives and yes often our marriages are not ideal situations. He understands there are many difficulties we must endure, many problems we have to work through, and yet He cautions that ungrateful actions and attitudes on our part are to be avoided. Why is that? First, the verse just before these says that implementing these instructions are how we work out our salvation. This does not mean that we do these things to obtain our salvation, but that they make our salvation evident. By acting contrary to “normal behavior”, we and others have opportunity to see God’s impact on our lives demonstrated. Second, the verses above tell us gratefulness is the key to us becoming blameless and harmless. This means that when we choose gratefulness over ungratefulness we respond differently. We don’t allow ourselves to further the difficulty of the situation, rather we become a part of the solution. Studies have long shown that an attitude of gratefulness prompts positive responses, which in turn foster positive outcomes. Choosing to be grateful when a complaint would seemingly be more appropriate, allows us to respond to challenging circumstances and difficult people in ways that will move to heal rather than further the hurt. Finally, when we choose gratefulness, we stand out. It’s easy to be ungrateful for problematic situations; anyone can do that. It is normal to be ungrateful for perplexing circumstances. No one thinks we’re unjustified if we complain about the difficult relationships in our lives. However, as Christ followers, indwelled by His Holy Spirit we are enabled and instructed to respond differently than the world around us.
When you consider it carefully, gratefulness and selflessness go hand-in-hand. The same correlation can be made for ungratefulness and selfishness. When we are being ungrateful, essentially we are saying we don’t like what we are enduring or how we are being treated. Our attention is on what we don’t think we deserve, what we don’t appreciate that others are doing, or how we want to be treated differently. This kind of inward attention is clearly selfish. However, when we employ the antidote for ungratefulness and choose to be grateful, our position and direction change. Gratitude flows outward toward others and upward toward God. Rather than being inward focused on ourselves, gratitude makes us outward focused on others, in other words, more selfless.
Interestingly, selfishness causes tunnel vision, whereas selflessness dramatically widens our view. The former asks the question how am I being affected by the situations and circumstances around me, the latter asks how can I affect the situations and circumstances I encounter. The first seeks to be helped, the second, looks to see how it can be of help. If you have heard me make note of it once you have heard me proclaim it many times, Marriage is intended to be reflective of God. Clearly, God is selfless. God created everything we can comprehend, and then gave it all to us to use and enjoy. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof Psalm 24:1 says, and He uses it all to provide for us and sustain us each and every day. Most impressively, God made the ultimate sacrifice by allowing His son to die in our place so we could live eternally with Him. God is selfless in every way, and so, our marriages, intended to reflect Him are also purposed to reflect selflessness. Selflessness is the atmosphere in which a marriage breathes easily. Selfishness on the other hand sucks the very breath out of marriages. It develops an environment that will slowly deplete the life of any marriage, ultimately bringing it to a slow and painful suffocation. When you consider that ungratefulness promotes selfishness and gratefulness supports selflessness, gratitude becomes the antidote for much more than ungratefulness alone.
Consider of all of the problems that arise from selfishness in a marriage. Many of the things you come up with in response to that query, may have been found on those lists I asked you to compile at the beginning of this podcast. When we consider the things we complain about in our marriages, they are likely fueled by selfishness. When you also consider that ungratefulness on our part only serves to further selfishness in the relationship, this time from our direction, the importance of a grateful heart becomes increasingly evident.
James wrote that we are to count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4). In his letter, James laid out the strategy for a obtaining a grateful heart in adversity. He said that we could be joyful in our various difficulties knowing that a grateful response to these problems will develop our patience. What I believe James was saying is that the more we choose gratefulness as a response to problems, the easier gratefulness in the face of difficulty becomes. Most of us have proven this to be true on some level in our own lives. As experience teaches us that certain problems are not “the end of the world”, our level of patience with those particular problems increases. We may even come to a point where something that formerly would have caused great difficulty for us, is now responded to as if it were no big deal at all. I think James meant for us to understand that the more we respond to trying circumstances with joy and gratefulness as God desires us to, the more prone we are to follow His Holy Spirit’s prompting in our additional responses to that difficult situation. As a result, the positive outcomes bring about a patience in trials yet to come. James went on to say, when fully developed patience make us perfect and complete. Apparently, God wants to utilize the difficulties in our lives and in our marriages as a refining process to bring about the changes necessary to make us more fully reflective of Him.
Questions to answer:
- In light of God’s instruction found in the scriptures we looked at today, what items from your original list of things you wish were different in your marriage have you been responding to incorrectly?
- When your spouse is ungrateful toward you, what response does that elicit in you?
- With that in mind, how might gratefulness on your part toward your spouse impact situations the two of you encounter more positively?
Actions to take:
- Discuss the correlation between gratefulness and selflessness and the connection between ungratefulness and selfishness. Talk about how these connections have impacted your marriage both positively and negatively.
- If you have listened to past podcasts about the primary relational needs of Love and Respect Husbands, discuss how gratefulness & ungratefulness on your wife’s part impacts your view of the respect she has for you. Wives, discuss how gratefulness & ungratefulness on your husband’s part impacts your view of the love he has for you.
- As a couple, seek each other’s forgiveness for ungratefulness toward one another, ask God to forgive a selfish and ungrateful spirit that has perhaps resided in your marriage, and ask Him to help you together to do a better job of reflecting Him and His ways.
So now, with a grateful heart toward each other and toward God for all He has done and continues to do in the perfecting process of your marital mirror…Go Be Awesome!