I’ve been writing a column titled “The Marriage Triangle” for The Relevant Christian Magazine (TRC). I like to share articles I find about marriage in between publication of The Marriage Triangle articles. This is a good one from The Intentional Life.
It may seem a paradox, but marriage is more important than love. Why? Because marriage is the normal situation out of which true and abiding love arises. The popular notion, championed by fiction and motion pictures, is that love is primary, and marriage is nothing more than a dull anticlimax. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve found that real love hardly exists outside the context of marriage. How could it? Real love is a slow growth coming from unity of life and purpose. Love is a product. It is the thing to be created by mutual service and sacrifice.
Please check out the “The Marriage Triangle“ tab here to read more articles about marriage.
by Patricia Knight
“’I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
I’ll admit it; I’m a pushover for statuesque oriental lily plants. From each underground bulb, a gallant plant emerges. Growing to heights of four feet, the lily boasts a sturdy but invisibly reinforced stalk whose purpose is to support and nurture the entire plant, as well as showcase the lily flowers it produces.
Though the lily plant is tall and grandiose, it seldom requires external support for stability. Even during summer windstorms, it will skillfully withstand thrashing wind without bending or breaking the stem. The lily is built for endurance. Even a plant rimmed with pendulous flowers remains stable under pressure.
It is apparent that the balanced lily stalk must possess intrinsic features that prevent it from breaking under intense environmental conditions, specialized fibers comprising the stalk that offer reinforcement. God, the Creator, designed the majestic lily plant for beauty and dependability, giving it equilibrium by strengthening its internal composition.
What augmented inner support do we depend upon when adverse conditions assail us? With personal tragedy, every fiber of our being revolts, thrashing our hearts, twisting and churning our minds, and interrupting our intrinsic ability to remain calm and composed. We may groan and bend under the emotional or physical weight of the hardship.
Whether we break or rebound depends upon the strength within us. Our tenacity alone is insufficient to fight our personal battles, to provide confidence and composure amidst life’s entanglements. When the winds of adversity blow through our fragile lives, does our resolve wither and snap? Reacting to trauma, we may feel as if all of our energy is sapped. Physical weakness may cause us to tremble or shake, but there is a solid Source of immeasurable reinforcement available to us. God converts our trembling to peace; our weakness to strength.
Unlike the lily plant, our Lord designed His children with a renewable Source of strength. The Creator implanted our psyche with innate fortitude, but when that limited resource of inner strength wanes, our Lord is delighted to buttress our supply with his own infinite strength. “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights” (2 Samuel 22: 23-24).
Believing in God’s absolute authority and power is much more straightforward when our days are peaceful and predictable. But, how do we respond in an emergency?
It must have been a traumatic jolt the day King Jehoshaphat of Judah was informed that a coalition of enemy armies was poised at his country’s borders threatening to attack. Vulnerable without a militia or armaments, where would the King find strength of opposition against such a formidable foe? “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord. The people of Judah came together to seek from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town of Judah to seek him (2 Chronicles 20:3-4).
The people prayed continuously as they stood firm to wait for the deliverance they knew the Lord would provide. The frightened, but trusting inhabitants, prayed, “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).
Delighted with their faith, God informed King Jehoshaphat and the people that they need not fight the battle. God further instructed them to stand firm in their faith “and see the deliverance the Lord will give you” (vs. 19).
God developed unique war strategy, creating an ambush between that caused the two foreign armies to destroy each other in the confusion of battle. Not an Israelite was harmed. God’s strength was magnified and the people learned a significant lesson about faith and trust at a time when their personal supply was impoverished.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).
Scripture reminds us to plunge our roots into fertile, watered ground, accessing the Lord, our sovereign Source of all strength. God has created each of us with a natural desire to seek Him and His provisions, to help with both minor and major calamities. Then on the occasion when we are confronted with an unsolvable adversity, it will be our first response to call on God for His expertise in fighting our battle, for lavishing His gifts of peace and love, and for His intervention to deliver an extra boost of strength.
The lily plant is strong, but not impervious to destruction. Drought, insect infestations, and flooding will defoliate the plant, eliminating its source of nutrition. The plant is given one chance to perform majestically with the nutrition stored within its bulb. If the stress is too great, the plant will collapse.
Our Lord is the God of second chances, over and over again. With the renewable Source of strength God provides, we are able to grow in faith, combat stress, and to submit to the will of the Father. Whatever we lack for life and fellowship with God, He will graciously provide. Union with the living, exalted Christ is the secret to contentment and the Source of abiding strength.
Doesn’t Spring feel like it’s taking forever to get here? In some parts of the country, it must seem like it’s still winter because the snow is still melting. Here in northern Arizona, our daytime temps hover between 50-60 but the ever-present winds make it seem much colder. No matter where we live in the U.S., I think we could all use a bit of Spring hope!
The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring. —Bernard Williams
Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the Lord.
A couple of months ago I decided to try posting more often than I had been doing. What I discovered is that I’ve been putting so much work into these almost-daily posts that I’ve been neglecting my other writing responsibilities. Since I believe that the Lord has provided these writing opportunities for me, I need to use my limited time and energy more wisely.
Starting this week, I’ll be posting three times per week: Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. I’m very thankful for my contributing writers, which alleviates some of the time I dedicate to this blog. I come across many great blog posts from other sources and I’ll continue to share those with you too. God is doing some great things in my writing life this year and I’ll be doing my best to honor what He has given me to do for His glory.
Beloved, thank you all for sticking with me and being a part of my bloggy world! I appreciate each and every one of you!
A FEAST OF JOY
“The cheerful heart has a continual feast” (Proverbs 15:15). Joy is a perpetual, delicious smorgasbord of delight, an avalanche of dazzling power that encompasses the heart and soul. Joy is exhilarating, lavishing our lives with zeal. Joy captivates behavior, illuminating a smile or a deep sustained laugh. Body language conveys our emotions with a sparkle in our eyes, spontaneous hand-clapping, or a little jumping up-and-down.
The exchange of wedding vows amplifies hearts with love, flooding them with joy. In such instances, joy owns the gamut of our emotions, rendering us incapable of passively managing surges of jubilation. Because the occasion is so anticipated and celebrated, our hearts stagger under the load, making us feel as if our epicenter of joy will actually implode. The Psalmist expresses it well: “My heart leaps for joy” (Psalm 28:7).
God’s Word is replete with examples of people whose joy knew no bounds even under the most profoundly challenging circumstances. Miriam, sister of Moses, unabashedly rallied the Israeli women to sing, using tambourines and dance to exuberantly express joy and gratitude to the Lord following His miraculous delivery of the Israelites from generations of slavery in Egypt. The women converted their sorrow and mourning into enthusiastic singing to God for His spectacular victory over the pharaoh and the Egyptian army.
David, King of Israel, was ecstatic that the ark of the covenant, the representation of God’s throne on earth, was returned to Israeli’s possession after many decades of absence following its seizure by the Philistines, who considered it no more than a lucky talisman. Rallying the people in a Jerusalem street parade, “David danced before the Lord with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sounds of trumpets” (2 Samuel 6:14-15). It was a time of tremendous rejoicing of national impact. David’s dance was one of true worship, explicitly demonstrating extraordinary love for his Lord.
Job, an Old Testament character, was “blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). Job’s dilemma still raises the quintessential question of why the righteous suffer. Job was steadfast regarding his innocence, though his friends accused him of liability for his suffering, determined that Job had caused his own demise by sinning. Job’s wife was so repulsed and discouraged with Job’s all-encompassing body sores, she advised Job to curse God and die. Having little hope for a cure and grieving the loss of his ten children and all of his possessions in one day, Job knew his joy could be deferred as he anticipated eternal life in heaven. Thus he admitted, “Then I would still have this consolation—my joy in unrelenting pain” (Job 6:10). In light of heaven, Job could readily rejoice, knowing he had remained true to God throughout his long ordeal on earth.
Paul and Silas were captured by the Roman authorities, then stripped and beaten with a whip made of several strips of leather into which were embedded bone and lead at the end. Once severely flogged with the whip, they were thrown into an inner cell in the dark, dank, malodorous prison with their feet fastened in stocks. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25). Suddenly a violent earthquake shook the prison, opening the cell doors and loosening prisoners’ chains. The jailer, responsible for all prisoners, was startled from sleep and assumed the prisoners had escaped. Paul and Silas intervened before the jailer committed suicide with his sword, and presented the Gospel to the jailer and his family. The jailer was then “filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family” (Acts 16:34). What unusual events were set in motion by a God who was honored and worshipped in spite of life-threatening conditions! When we trust in God, joy reigns supreme, regardless of adverse situations!
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the epitome of joy. He who was sinless during his entire life on earth, acknowledged His ultimate goal was to glorify His Father by offering His life as a perfect sacrifice, to redeem sinners of this world. When the soldiers burst into Jesus’ reverie of quiet prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane to take Him by force, Jesus succumbed to the Roman authorities, willingly complying with their orders. “Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and set down at the right hand of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3). Jesus obediently chose to die; otherwise no one would have had the power to kill Him.
The peace Jesus exhibited during his brutal trial and agonizing crucifixion ordeal is beyond our finite understanding. Though Jesus was exhausted and hurting on all levels, He rejoiced spiritually because He was accomplishing the goal for which He had given up His glory in heaven for a season to live on earth—that of becoming the perfect sacrificial Lamb to atone for sin. Jesus’ joy was powerful and zealous; the bounds of Christ’s joy were immeasurable.
If the man, Jesus, could prompt any amount of joy while confronting a terrifying, heinous crucifixion, it was only because He spent quality time with His heavenly Father in prayer, who strengthened Jesus’ commitment to His life’s goal. Utter joy is only possible for us because through Jesus’ death and resurrection, He guarantees our inheritance, providing hope for a life of joy on earth and a glorious eternity in heaven.
When Jesus appeared to His followers after his resurrection, He revealed to them the crucifixion wounds in His hands and His side. The disciples were so ecstatic to actually see Jesus alive, their joy was contagious, extending throughout the centuries to our current generation: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8). Indeed, we are commanded to rejoice. The Apostle Paul, himself frequently plagued with hostility and extreme suffering, taught: “‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!’” (Philippians 4:4). Christ was the source and secret of Paul’s joy.
One of our life’s objectives is irrefutable: we are to be defined by worshipful joy in which God’s entire creation participates. “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy” (Psalm 96; 11-12). Since all of nature responds to His authority, God accepts joyful worship from everything He creates. On that premise, let us assess the amount of joyous adoration our Redeemer receives from us. “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth” (Psalm 47:1-2).
Joy is not passive, but animated, manifesting praise and thanksgiving. Miriam and David unapologetically sang and danced before God Almighty. Like them, we eagerly worship our Savior, passionately reflecting His character with effervescent expressions of joy. It is God’s desire that we live triumphant lives, for which joy is one of the important components. Jesus said, “‘I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly’” (John 10-10, KJV). Let our words and actions be saturated with bountiful joy!