May 26, 2015

I Was Born for This!

Gary Thomas — 

I Was Born for This! final


“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”  (Prov. 17:17)

You’d be miserable indeed if you trained to become a fireman and resented it every time there was a fire. Not that you want there to be a fire, but putting out fires is what you’re trained to do. It’s what you signed up for. You don’t run from the fire—you move toward it.

In the same way, when we get married, we sign up to be there in times of adversity. If it is true that a brother is “born for adversity,” it is doubly true that a husband or wife is “married for adversity.” You’re signing up to be there during your spouse’s worst moments, most trying seasons, and even the most irritating personal challenges.

What if we took Proverbs 17:17 seriously and thus considered ourselves “married for adversity?” Rather than resenting adversity or feeling sorry for ourselves (instead of empathy for our spouse), we have to deal with adversity. We should see adversity as a call to action, closeness, encouragement, and support.

Imagine wives facing social embarrassment with their husbands, but working with him instead of laughing at him: “This is one of the reasons I married him, to help him through this.” Imagine wives suffering a husband’s long bout of unemployment thinking, “We got married so I could keep supplying the confidence and hope he needs.” Imagine the same attitude if he’s fighting an addiction, depression, or discouragement—a strong woman of faith realizing how dire things are but saying to herself, “I was born for this! I can love my man in the midst of this!”

Imagine husbands married to women who are gravely ill doubling down on their affection and assurance: “I was born to help my wife get well (or even, sadly, to help her face her death).” What if a man discovers he married a sexually wounded wife who needs special care and understanding and he becomes more concerned about his wife’s healing and health than his own satisfaction? Imagine a husband who is married to a gifted woman who wants to start a business but whose dad always told her she’d never amount to much. That husband provides the support, encouragement, and confidence she needs to become who God created her to be: “I was born to help my wife achieve her full glory!” Whatever the challenge, imagine Christian husbands taking up this biblical truth and instead of feeling sorry for themselves that they have to deal with adversity loudly proclaim, “I can do this! With God’s empowering Spirit, I can love this woman! I was born to do this!”

Instead of seeing a weakness or limitation as a point of frustration, Proverbs 17:17 calls us to let adversity define our commitment, call out the best in us, and depend on God’s love working through us.

The truth is, most marry for very selfish reasons but the Bible describes love as being showcased most clearly when we’re called to serve in the face of difficulty. A biblical friend doesn’t love only in wealth, health, social success, and sunny days. A biblical friend loves at all times. So, instead of feeling sorry for ourselves when our spouses hit a dry spell or when he or she is going through a difficult time let’s lace up our shoes a little tighter and remind ourselves, “I was born for this, to love my spouse at all times, especially in adversity.”

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25 responses to I Was Born for This!

  1. Man. Do I need steel toe boots?! If I keep reading I will. I’ve been married for 20 years. The first 4 unequally yoked to an addict. Then the next 10 to a born again addict in denial. Who then lost his job due to injury. Now, the last 5 to a full blown addict thanks to prescription abuse. This last year he’s claimed sobriety. But, I no longer believe him. Maybe I never did. We’ve now lost our marriage bed as his prescriptions have stolen that from him as well. I’m ready to throw in the towel. I’m tired. My husband claims salvation, but does not lean on God. I’m tired of cheerleading. I’m tired of being the spiritual leader. I’m tired of being a single parent, as he is not present when even present. I’m tired of being the heavy all the time. I’m tired of it weighing on me so heavily. I’m tired of making excuses for a man that doesn’t want to change. I’m a changed woman. Bitter, full of regrets and resentful of what I see as wasted effort. Not a good place to be. I know and have experienced the truth of your words. But, I gave up. When after years of trusting God, and hoping for my husband to do so also, has left me where I am. Please pray for me, all that read this! I do not desire a broken family. But, yet am tired of being SO broken!

    • I’m very sorry for your situation and I know I probably don’t have any business speaking to your pain: But if I may be so bold. Maybe a change of approach? It could be time for some tough love. I’ve heard Love Must be Tough by Dr. Dobson and Boundaries by Dr. Townsend suggested for dealing with an unrepentant spouse.

      Maybe love in your case means not allowing him to get away with this. 20 years of addiction is a long time. Maybe love means allowing him to crash so he can start his journey towards healing. Maybe getting a separation is the wake up call he needs to start facing his problem.

      Maybe you should join a support group for people in your situation? You need to take care of yourself too.

      Just something to think about.
      I will pray

      • I attend Celebrate Recovery at my church. It’s a program for any Hurts, Habits, and Hang Ups. I’m working on myself now. It’s difficult to make progress when the problem you’re trying to recover from is at home, everyday. I’ve also recieved the same advice from my sponsor and leaders there. If his behavior continues, without signs of repentance or change, then I need to think about my health and children. Both are at stake.
        Thank you for your encouragement!

    • Dear Theresa,
      I am praying for you, sweet sister-in-Christ. I have been where you are….mentally, emotionally and physically spent, worn-out and weary, feeling used and abused. I cried out to God to change my husband, change my circumstances and He didn’t. What He did do was change me. You can be the lighthouse in your husband’s darkness. You can model to your children how to love those who are, at times, unlovable. You can be a great example to your children of what commitment and faithfulness looks like, even when it is incredibly difficult. You can show your children what a covenant marriage is – that we do not give up and we do not lose hope because we vowed to be with our spouse through the best and the worst times, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer. You can shower your husband with the love of Christ because He died for us when we were yet sinners. Where sin abounds, grace abounds even more. God is with you, God is for you and God is in you. All you need to do is love this man and let God do the changing of his heart. Nothing is too hard for Him. He made the heavens and the earth and all that it contains. He resurrected Christ from the dead. No plan of His can be thwarted. Your suffering is not in vain. God will turn every tear into gold. We are broken people living in a broken world. Rejoice! We have a Savior, a Deliverer, a Redeemer. Do not let your heart be troubled for He has overcome this broken world! Overcome evil with good. His grace is sufficient for you and He will show Himself to be the One of power when you are weak. Pour out your heart to Him because He loves you and He cares for you. May God bless you most abundantly as you trust fully in Him. He has saved you for such a time as this.
      Sending hugs and a ocean full of love to you!

  2. The timing of reading your Spirit filled blog was impeccable. I really needed to read this and digest it. My husband has been laid off work for months, and I forgot my cheerleading role he needs from me. I started to get selfish and wonder why me, poor me. Well yes I did sign up for this! Adversity is part of life. How did I forget in this way? We have talked and things are better. My own attitude improved and I can take care of that. Thank you so much. I really needed to hear it. God gets the glory!!

  3. Gary,

    I love the way you write. It’s honest, hard truth that challenges our “comfortable” Christianity. I do want to ask how you reconcile this counsel to a wife whose husband is abusive (emotionally and/or physically)? Sometimes challenging or confronting your spouse is better than standing by watching the destruction of yourself and family. In my opinion, being supportive from a distance is healthier than staying close to someone who is unsafe. Both parties have to refuse to be victims. Being married to person trapped in an addiction, you can easily become an enabler. I love the heart of this post, I just think there are times when the support has to look a little different. I would love to hear your thoughts.

  4. Although I am not married, God used this article to help me in a current relationship struggle. Thank you. I’ve been dating a man for almost a year. We are both over 50. I’ve never been married and he’s been married twice. Over the past six months I’ve seen him struggle more and more with overwork at his 60-hour a week job (which doesn’t give us much time for dating), concerns over his grown children and grandchildren, and discouragement over watching the long term relationships of others break up among other things.

    I read this quote in your post, “We got married so I could keep supplying the confidence and hope he needs.” Imagine the same attitude if he’s fighting an addiction, depression, or discouragement—a strong woman of faith realizing how dire things are but saying to herself, “I was born for this! I can love my man in the midst of this!”

    I realize that I’m walking in a different place than those who are married so my responses and involvement will be different. However, I still love this man (and he loves me) so I want to do my best to support and encourage him in this place. Even though encouragement is one of my spiritual gifts, it has been a challenge at times to continue to supply him with that confidence and hope he needs. I guess the answer is that a strong woman of faith (me) needs to continue to stay plugged in to the One who supplies that Hope and Courage. Abide in the Vine and remember that I was born for this!

  5. Cathy: I am a male and I have asked this question before. I have wondered why it is so. Although it seems as if its double standard, but I do not know and to be honest, the answer is unknown to me. I’d imagine that we all have to learn now as single people to be ready to hear “not tonight” although having waited 27 years its somewhat unexpected that one would have to go thru that. But….

    Gary: Thanks for all you do and for your wisdom. Can you please throw some light on Cathy’s comment? How should a christian young (wo)man deal with this? I know there are no errors in the bible and I trust God’s word. I just don’t understand how to naivigate it.

    To everyone else and those in difficult marriages, I pray you get through and God sees you through.

  6. Thank you Gary for your posts and responding to the comments made.
    “ING” Gregg- Growing- learning- progressing. I have found that the trials that I have gone through with my wife have helped me to grow to be a more loving man of God and better husband. The trials that I have had to go through have been difficult, but not in vain. Keep loving for God has said, “Love never fails” 1Cor 13 NIV

  7. Gary many thanks, we just had this discussing yesterday.. I was trying to explain the marriage is like a 3 stranded cord –her and I and God as in a 3 way covenant. And my wife Beth rejected it as “using the Bible as a trump card” – A real devastating blow. It’s true I have been in this slump that you speak of and with job loss. She has had to pick up more than her share lately. I am trying to turn the corner on being in this and overcoming and loving her through this. It really seems in vain, as she is leaving the state and our family on the 5th of June…
    I had been operating in the checklist mode, if I do this this and this, she will be happy.. You can’t checklist your way into love. It comes from the heart and I have been digging deep into my soul for truth and answers. My heart is still sold-out for her and would walk through fire for her, but it is not working.

    • It’s not working YET, Gregg. And, to be honest, it may never work. All we can do is be faithful to the life before us. I’m so sorry, Gregg. I do pray that God will engineer a change of heart and a new restoration in your marriage.

  8. How true this is Gary! Marriage has a way of exposing our weaknesses. When I married my wife, it wasn’t long after that I started thinking to myself, “I didn’t sign up for this!”. My selfishness began surfacing in ugly flesh-like fashion. But now 16 years later, as my wife is going through a very rough emotional time, even as she attempts to reject me, I am there for her. And I will not be dissuaded. For I now see my wife from God’s perspective more than ever before. She is His child. He loves her in her broken state. He even loves me in my broken state! I can now truly proclaim that I was born for this!

  9. “Was I born for this”- I did that but my husband married for selfish reasons. What then? How do you stay when your spouse is neither dedicated to you or God.

    • Carrie, I know that has to be a very hurtful situation. But the apostle Paul’s words in such a case is that the wife was “born” to provide a godly example to help point her husband to God (or back to God). This is often a long-term process, but that’s how I think this post applies to you. It will be difficult in this situation not to feel sorry for yourself, and that’s where worship comes in (see yesterday’s page post). But I’m not pretending this is an easy truth for you. I can feel your hurt and I’m sorry for it

  10. “Broken together”… lyrics, but this post shouts those words to me. Thank you for this great post, Gary! “I get to do this!” is what I say to myself. I get to love this man, my husband.
    What a blessing he is!

  11. Thank you again, Gary, for showing us the Christ love that we are to model to our spouses. How many marriages could be saved, or made to thrive and not just survive, if only we approached loving our spouses with the paradigm of “I was born for this . . . !” The words alone are a reminder of who we are and what we promised when we gave our spouses the gift of ourselves for life! “. . . for better or for worse, in sickness or in health, for richer or poorer, ’till death do us part!” To have the mindset of “I was born for this” is to have a courageous yet compassionate mindset! It is to go forward with patient endurance and unending love! This is the mind of Christ!

  12. Thx Gary, I needed this word! How many times can a husband hear “not tonight” and keep positive? My wife is damaged, but so am I! Lord help me to love her harder and not pull away as is my tendency. Amen

    • the more you show her how understanding you are about her wounds, that you love her despite the wounds, the better those wounds should heal, and she will respond to you. Prayers for healing for you both!

    • James, when it gets to this stage (I can hear the frustration through your words) it usually takes a third party counselor; I hope you’ll consider that route. Good for you for hanging in there, but also don’t overestimate your ability to live in deprivation. I’ve seen guys do that, and many times crash. It’s far better to work with a counselor now–dealing with the underlying issues–rather than try to overcome a serious fall.

      • Maybe this is a female based, not understanding the male side of things based question, but how is it that as a single Christian male, a man is expected to be abstinent, but in marriage if there are times when sex is not an option, it is considered deprivation and extremely difficult to deal with? Either men can go without sex and still be spiritually sound, healthy individuals, or they can’t. Unless something changes physically in their bodies when they marry, which I am pretty sure isn’t the case. I am not trying to be difficult here, but am truly curious, because I have heard this argument before, (sex deprivation in married men is dangerous, etc) and it mystifies me. I know that sex is important in marriage, but the reality is in many marriages is that there are times when it is not possible. What does this mean for men?

        • Great question, Cathy. Let’s just deal with this on a very practical level: a single man (hopefully) doesn’t spend an entire night sleeping next to a woman. A single man doesn’t see another woman getting dressed, or walking naked from the shower. God made that man to desire his wife when he sees her, and a married man has so many, let’s call them “provocative triggers” during normal married life, that it IS more difficult for a married man than a single man to ignore sexual excitement. A single man can choose to limit provocations more easily than a married man living with his wife can.

          That’s why I’ll tell couples where the sexual relationship has died and the man is struggling that, while they’re working to a place of healing, it’s legitimate for the husband to say, “I need to sleep in a different bed. I need to use a different shower. I need for us to get dressed/undressed in a different place.” If sexual integrity matters, the husband’s sexual faithfulness shouldn’t be taken for granted.

          Having said this, there are certainly times–a severe illness, for example–when it would be cruel for a husband to pull away from his wife like this just because he’s struggling with self-control. In those instances, I believe the husband has to stand strong and do what’s most loving for his wife.

          I’m not entirely sure what you mean, though, when you say there are ” times when sex is not an option.” Certainly, there are short seasons (days, not weeks) in any woman’s life when full sexual expression isn’t possible, but those don’t usually preclude some sexual care. A long-term, severe illness, dementia, or something like that is an entirely different issue, but I’m not sure what else would apply. If you mean that a husband feels neglected when he occasionally has to wait a couple days, I’m with you–he just needs to be strong. But as a normal pattern, I’m just not sure when that would apply; a couple can find creative ways to care for each other even when every option isn’t on the table, so to speak.