July 3, 2019

Arise and Shine

Gary Thomas — 

She looked like a new woman.

My coworkers marveled when they finally realized that this was the same woman who had come to see me some weeks ago. The difference was that stark.

The first time we had met she felt beaten down. She could hardly speak three sentences without reaching for another Kleenex. But three weeks later she had light in her countenance, hope in her eyes, and confidence in the way she held her head.

The previous meeting, we hardly mentioned marital strategies. Instead, we talked about some spiritual truth. She learned to stop defining herself and her life by the disappointments of her marriage and to start looking at herself and defining herself by her relationship with God.

That simple spiritual strategy of no longer defining herself by the frustrations of one man and learning to root her identity in the acceptance and affirmation of one God was like pouring water on a thirsty plant, and it made her flourish (it also led to the eventual restoration of her marriage, but that’s another story).

When Isaiah tells Jerusalem to “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you,” (Isaiah 60:1) he was talking to a beaten-down nation that just wanted to breathe. They couldn’t even conceive what it meant to shine. Yet Isaiah told them that God had much bigger plans for them than survival. He wanted them to thrive, to be a light, to be a symbol of His glory.

In the New Testament, Paul calls us “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37). Life in Christ isn’t about survival or just barely getting by. It’s about victory followed by celebration and thriving. A marriage set in Christ can aim to celebrate and thrive in God’s presence.

The irony is that thriving and celebration is rooted outside the marriage rather than within it.  In another passage Paul puts it this way: “And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life” (1 Cor. 7:17, The Message).

God, not your marital status, defines your life.

When God rather than your marital status defines your life, marriage changes dramatically.  One husband, deeply frustrated by his wife’s stonewalling, fell in love with God’s grace all over again and from that platform spent a full year slowly wooing his wife back to an emotionally and spiritually intimate marriage. He wasn’t motivated by his wife’s response, for at first there was none (it took a year for his wife to respond in kind). But he was motivated by his heavenly Father’s approval. He told me, “I could feel the pleasure of God every time I chose to be patient, to be tender, and to be charitable.” He wasn’t getting any positive feedback from his wife, but he was fueled by the positive feedback from his God.

When we treat our spouse based on what God deserves rather than what our spouse deserves, even if they don’t respond there’s a wonderful moment of worship.

I have personally witnessed women in frustrating marital situations or frustrating singleness learn how to “arise and shine” even when their situation stayed the same. I have seen men humiliated by their wives’ rejection and brow beaten by derision learn to listen to another voice and begin to shine in spite of who they were married to. I have seen daughters and sons gain new strength, new vitality, and a new zest for life when they determined that their parents were wrong and God’s declaration about them was right.

How did they get there? They made the simple decision that the relational situation beating them down would no longer define them; instead, they drew their identity from their relationship with and reliance upon God.

This isn’t just a nice theological sentimental thought. It works. It’s not an excuse to avoid working on legitimate issues in your marriage; it’s an invitation to work on those issues from a proper spiritual framework: the affirmation and worship of God.

So, while there is an appropriate time to think through the issues in your marriage (or other relationships), do so from the foundation of God-affirmation. If you are in Christ, you can claim the following:

  • You are chosen and dearly loved by your heavenly Father (Col. 3:12)
  • You are protected by God’s “glorious might” (Col. 1:11)
  • Regardless of how you have messed up, “God has reconciled you through Christ to present you as holy, without blemish and free from accusation” (Col. 1:22)
  • Others may take us for granted, but God promises to reward us (Col. 3:24)
  • By His power, God will fulfill every good purpose for you (2 Thess. 1:12)
  • If you’re worried about messing up in the future “God will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one” (2 Thess. 3:3)
  • If there are worries about your financial future, “God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (1 Tim. 6:17)
  • You have the promise of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14)

I could go on for pages with more promises, but these are initial suggestions for how you can learn to arise and shine in the face of this fallen world’s hurts and disappointments. Learn to look at everything through the lens of Jesus and His promises.

My prayer this week is that you will reorient yourself, your thinking, your identity, your hope and your purpose on the God who calls you not just to survive, but to arise and shine.

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17 responses to Arise and Shine

  1. Brother Gary I thank My Heavenly Father for providing for me so much wisdom through your website and your books. I just finished Sacred Marriage. What a truth-filled awesome book. And this I Corinthians 7:17 from the Message is right on. That is 100% plus true. We had a very over the top stressful marriage the first 14 years. But by His Grace we are now in our 29th year and I see God’s Hand everywhere. When I used to go to bed crying every night and now when I do cry which is not a lot but usually because I’m overcome with God’s Amazing Intoxicating Love that just sends shivers through my whole body. If our marriage survived any marriage can. Gary God has used and is using and will use mightily to shine His glorious light in this dark broken world. Blessings from ThisGladGirl because Jesus has made me glad.!!! :))))

  2. Such truth in your words. I particularly loved “The irony is that thriving and celebration is rooted outside the marriage rather than within it.” How I wish I had learned that earlier in our marriage, but how thankful I am that I did learn it (am learning it).

  3. I read this blog post and many others that are written by Gary Thomas and my heart resonates with every word!! However…… I lose the impact as I transfer from the head to reality day to day. I desire nothing more than to live this out just not sure how IN CHRIST to do that.

    Crossing into year 5 of the tragic loss of a child and living in the aftermath of ALL that has brought… the reality seems even heavier. Much hurt of marriage has risen to the top and navigating hurt on top of deep grief seems very daunting.

    If any insight into fleshing this out from written words I would GLADLY receive and sit with the Lord to understand.

    I have read your books and read this blog as in comes in and am soooo thankful for the wisdom it brings. Counseling and all the reading and desiring to live out the gospel, I am still living in a place of “lacking”!!! Perhaps I am NOT the only one …. maybe there are others that can feel my pain!!!

  4. This is a timely reminder for me to keep my focus on God, and to just surrender my past hurts, my present circumstances, and my future worries to the cross.

    The past is behind me. I need to learn what I can from it, and then release it.

    I need to be mindful that my present blessings far outweigh any strife.

    I need to keep my mind focused in the now, and not spend time and energy on something that may or may not ever happen.

  5. Great article! Very inspirational!!
    May we please have the story of her marriage restoration? Thank you.

    • Her story Is actually covered in depth in chapter 4 of the upcoming When to Walk Away. Her name (in the book, not her real name) is Rachel

  6. Thank you!

  7. Beautiful and encouraging words. Exactly what I needed to read this morning. I shouldn’t be surprised that God has found yet another way to speak to my heart — I continue to stand in awe of His power and providence. Thanks, Gary! Undoubtedly, the Lord is speaking his wisdom through you.

  8. I am sharing this with as many people as I can. This is life transforming.

  9. Believe it or not…..this is exactly what I desperately n exes today! So grateful for a God who sees me and never leaves me.

  10. This weekend, for the first time in a very long time, hubby and I are going away. Just the two of us. You know the issues that make me so anxious, and while I am feeling the fear and anxiety, I am trusting Him. Because the one thing that I have learnt over this last while, is that the Dear Lord above has never let me down. He is always with me – no matter how anxious or fearful I feel, He is always with me and He determines the outcomes of our lives. He will never leave me nor forsake me. Ever… All I have to do is simply trust in Him and be in relationship with Him. Very nervous, but also excited. Let’s see…

  11. I needed this message this morning. Thank you!

  12. Yes and Amen, Gary!!!

    My testimony throughout an abusive marriage was “You can be personally spiritually victorious in the midst of a troubled marriage.” Still, it’s sad that so many spouses have to be victorious IN SPITE OF a partner rather than WITH THEIR HELP, because the latter is so much better!

    Thankful to have been released from that abuse and now married to a man who pursues personal holiness and encourages me to as well. Thank you, Jesus!

  13. All I can say is for such a time as this. Thank you Lord for leading me to open this and see Gary Thomas’ words you gave him. Amazing love! I’m going to try this and share with a friend 💖

  14. Amen amen amen! Thank you for sharing this sir!

  15. Wow! This is balm for my broken heart this morning. What joy and peace can be ours when we believe and trust in the promises of God. I struggle so much to believe that God loves me. I know it in my head and believe His Word, but somehow it’s hard for me to accept it personally because my past, I guess. Earthy relationships can devastate me when my people-pleasing efforts aren’t enough to gain approval and affection. I will be meditating on this article and corresponding verses and promises. Praise God for this timely truth. Your ministry has helped me tremendously in my marriage and my walk with God.