Blessings In Your Marriage

When The Feelings Have Gone For the One You Married

 

The passionate love that a person had for their spouse when they married can wane within a few years, or after many years, to the point that it becomes an emotionless relationship – unless it is deliberately kept aflame continuously. This is a most vital truth that every person planning to marry, or already married, should keep foremost in their consciousness.

In the beginning months, and sometimes even a few years after the wedding, the husband or wife will go to great lengths to show love to es beloved. But there is an unfailing spiritual law in human relationships that affects every marriage. And this is the law: Showing love for your wife or husband can never be static or motionless. You can never maintain a status quo in your relationship with your beloved. Your love is either growing every day or your love is slackening every day. If it is growing, then there is no end to the growth of this love, and the words in 1 Corinthians 13:8 proves eternally true: ‘love never fails (or ‘ends’ in some other translations).

If your love is slackening, then there is a gradual, or a galloping, end to your relationship with your wife or husband. Love that is not daily growing will daily slow down to the point that it will become motionless with perpetual inertia. When that point is reached, either of two actions happen. Divorce, or a lifelong acceptance of going through the motions of living, devoid of any feelings. This can happen a few months after the wedding, or a few decades after the initial years of nuptial bliss. How many couples I know of personally who have permanently severed their hearts from each other after 25 or more years of cleaving together as one flesh!

What is the reason that love for a spouse wanes, though at one time that very love was so intense and true the person would be willing to give up es life for es beloved without a moment’s hesitation?

Why did Michal’s love for David wane to the point that she actually despised him in her heart, that is, in the deepest recesses of her consciousness? And why did David, a man after God’s own heart, end his love for his wife to the point he never again slept with her for the rest of his life? (2 Samuel 6:16-23) Why is that loving couples, who have faithfully brought up fine kids, and have beautiful grandkids, decide to call it quits in their long relationship, and seek other life partners in their senior years?

The answer is that husbands and wives – but mostly husbands – confuse true love with feelings of affection.

Please keep this counsel deep in your heart, child of God, even if you are sure your relationship with your spouse has a very secure foundation. Unless you understand and apply the following basic truth in all your dealings with your life partner, the day will surely come – as surely as there exists a universal Destroyer of marriages – that you will find that the passionate true love you had for your wife or husband has greatly diminished in its feelings, and with that diminution comes one by one all the deadly effects of a stagnant relationship. And this is the truth:

True love that never fails, that never ends, that always keeps growing forever and ever, is primarily based not on feelings for the one you love, but is primarily based on your will apart from your feelings.

Now let me explain that plainly.

There are two kinds of initial love. One is instinctive love. That’s the love that a mother or a father has for es child. It is a causeless love. The child did nothing to earn or win their parents’ love. Causeless love is also known as unconditional love. That’s the love our Father in heaven has for each of us. It is the love that made our Savior die for our sins even before we knew him. He loves us solely for the reason he created us in his image and likeness, just as we fall in love with our just-born baby solely because that baby came from our own body. Instinctive love is the second most powerful force in the universe. But it is not the love that never ends or fails. The most powerful instinctive love on earth today is mother’s love. But God says even that love has a limit, that awesome love can end if given the extreme circumstances.

‘Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget’   Is 49:15

The word ‘may’ is not in the original Hebrew. Young’s Literal Translation says ‘Yea, these forget’.

‘Surely’, given the circumstances, a mother will forget the child that came from her womb, if all she has is just instinctive love for him or her. And that is because even unconditional instinctive love is ultimately conditional on the responses of the one loved instinctively. Unconditional love becomes conditional after a certain point, and when the conditions for that love cease, unconditional love also ceases.

The other kind of initial love is the love that a man has for a woman he falls in love with, and vice versa. In this category of love also is the love of a close friend or of a brother or sister. This love can also be very deep initially, even to the extent the person will be ready to give up es life to save the one e loves – es wife or husband, or sibling, or friend. (See Romans 5:7) But, as in the case of maternal love, all such initial true love ends when the factors for such love fail.

Now let’s take the relationship of a couple deeply in love. Over many  years of living together, the husband or wife begins to see many negative qualities in the one e loves, which e did not see in the initial years of living together. Arguments, quarrels, misunderstandings, offenses, and perhaps ultimately even betrayal, ensue as the spouse displays more and more of es negative qualities. After a few years, or decades, one spouse has had enough, and quits struggling to live with the unbearable flaws of the other. There is no more feeling of love remaining for the one who has consistently shown only an increasing lack of lovable qualities. In modern times, the relationship formally ends with a divorce. In earlier ages, and even today in the more conservative cultures, the continuing rift of hearts between the couple does not often physically rift the couple apart; instead they continue to stay under the same roof. But their natural conjugal feeling for each other is replaced with a resigned attitude of suppressed bitterness that simmers in their heart for the rest of their lives.

My family knew a man and his wife in our native community many years ago. The man and his wife were active members of their church and respected in society. But everyone knew that the man and his wife never spoke a single word to each other ever since something happened between them many years earlier. They lived together under one roof, but never spoke a syllable to each other for several decades. They both lived to ripe old age and are now dead. How they managed to do that is still a mystery to me. I mean the technicalities of living together without one word of communication at any time. But what is not a mystery is how such extreme living became possible. It is simply another case of a relationship that was based on feelings, and when the feelings evaporated the relationship dried up.

When you put that ring on your beloved’s finger on the blissful day of your union, or, as in my country, tied the string around your bride’s slender neck, or had your glowing groom tie it around your quivering neck, that is a symbol of an unconditional fidelity to each other till death parts you. When a groom or bride answers ‘I do’ to the following question,

‘Do you take (name) for your lawful wife,husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?’

they absolutely mean it with all their heart. But years later, it slowly becomes evident that the ‘I do’ actually meant,

‘I do promise to take you as my lawful wife,husband, to have and hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part, as long as you don’t act and speak in a manner that will affect my feelings for you.’

So how can you ensure a drying up of your love will never occur in your relationship with your spouse? By ensuring that your love for your wife or husband is not based on feelings. Enjoy the feelings and rejoice over them as long as the feelings come naturally. When the feelings wane, as surely as they will when your spouse begins to reveal his or her hitherto suppressed flaws, replace the feelings with your will of commitment.

If you have been recently married, or married for many years, it is most vital for the lifelong safety of your marriage that you transform your attitude toward your spouse from this day on with the help of God. Renew your old conjugal vows in your mind, and add the following lifelong pledge to yourself and to God:

‘I will love my wife (husband) unconditionally from this day forth, and when I say unconditionally, I mean absolutely unconditionally. If a time ever comes that I cannot find any more happiness in my wife (husband), I will continue to love her (him) even in the absence of any feelings of happiness. Whether she (he) pleases me or not, I will care for her (him) and cherish her (him), just as I would care for and cherish a part of my own body that is giving me pain. When my feelings have gone for her (him), I will continue to love her (him) by a deliberate act of my will in opposition to my natural feelings. So, help me to do this, Lord!’

That’s a pledge that should be foremost in your mind constantly – even in the days of your great happiness with your spouse. It is the surest insurance for the safety of your marriage when the days of trouble come, when God may allow the devil to test you through severe trials in your marriage.

Unless your love for your beloved is based on your will and not on your feelings, all your emotions of marital bliss you enjoyed in the early years of your wedded life will surely wane within a few years.

Now what’s the benefit of loving a spouse who is no longer giving you any happiness? Why take the great and constant pain of continuing to live with em when you could easily have less unhappiness living apart or find happiness again with a new spouse?

Because that’s the way our God loves you and me. Because his love never fails even when we stop loving him. And our God wants us to love our spouse just as he loves us.

To the unhappy husband he says:

‘For husbands, this means love your wives, JUST AS Christ loved the church…In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. As you love her, you ultimately are loving part of yourself (remember, you are one flesh). No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.’   Eph 5:25-29 NLT, VOICE. Emphasis mine

‘Husbands, love your wives [be affectionate and sympathetic with them] and do not be harsh or bitter or resentful toward them.’   Col 3:19 AMP

To the unhappy wife he says:

‘Wives, it should be no different with your husbands. Submit to them as you do to the Lord, for God has given husbands a sacred duty to lead as the Anointed leads the church and serves as the head. (The church is His body; He is her Savior.) So wives should submit to their husbands, respectfully, in all things, JUST AS the church yields to the Anointed One.   Eph 5:22-24 VOICE

And to both the Lord urges:

‘However, let each man of you [without exception] love his wife as [being in a sense] his very own self; and let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates, and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly.   Eph 5:33 AMP

And what is the final outcome of a husband loving his wife as his own body, of his not giving in to feelings of bitterness against her [in spite of her seemingly being an incorrigible nag], and of a wife submitting to her husband in everything just as she submits to Christ, of her esteeming him and admiring him exceedingly [in spite of his seemingly obnoxious qualities]?

When you continue to love with your will your wife or husband who continues to hurt you, God’s universal spiritual law guarantees an ultimate result. The hurting person will eventually stop hurting. And a transformation begins to happen in the loveless heart and mind of the spouse as she or he continues to receive your love. All the spots, wrinkles, and blemishes of your faulty spouse begin to clear away one by one. And as your spouse continues to blossom under your unceasing and unconditional love, she or he will begin to do things to you that you could have never imagined even in the wildest fantasy of your dreams on your wedding day or in the initial blissful days of your marriage. And soon you will have a shining spouse standing before you – clean, holy and without a single fault in any area of her or his life.

‘He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and WITHOUT FAULT. IN THE SAME WAY, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies.’   Eph 5:25-29 NLT. Emphasis mine

When you forsake your feelings for your wife or husband and continue to love em, the very same feelings you sacrificed are sooner or later going to come back to you in hundredfold measure, brimful and overflowing. This is an absolute promise from the Creator who brought man and woman together in marriage.

‘Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time’   Mark 10:29-30

‘Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full – pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap.’  Luke 6:38 NLT

The more feelings you sacrifice so you can willfully continue to love your unlovable spouse, the more will be the love and the feelings of happiness you will eventually receive from your spouse. This is the greatest law of relationship.

Foolish, very foolish indeed is the man or woman, who after some years of enduring unhappiness with his wife or her husband gives up and goes their separate way to seek the happiness and love that eluded them in their first marriage. Whom would you personally choose to marry: A wonderful wife or husband who deserves a heavenly score of 10 points out of a maximum 100 in the measure of lifelong happiness she or he gives you, OR a wife or husband who, after some initial years of not deserving even one point in her or his qualities as a wife or husband, will give you happiness and love that both your heart and heaven will give an unbelievable score of 100 out of 100?

‘I tell you, her sins – and they are many – have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.’   Luke 7:47

‘She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.’   MSG

Before I conclude this message, I urge you to listen to this wonderful song on YouTube – the most influential I have heard in Christian music – by Don Francisco. As you listen, please ponder the words in the lyrics given below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKmkPHUkn5A

Love Is Not A Feeling

So you say you can’t take it, the price is too high
The feelings have gone it seems the river’s run dry
You could never imagine it could turn out so rough
You given, given, given, still it’s never enough

Your emotions have vanished that once held the thrill
You wonder if love could be alive in you still
But that ring on your finger, was put there to say
You’ll never forget the words you promised that day

Jesus didn’t die for you because it was fun
He hung there for love because it had to be done
And despite of the anguish, his word was fulfilled
Love is not a feeling it’s an act of your will
Love is not a feeling it’s an act of your will

Now I wouldn’t try to tell you that it’s easy to stand
When Satan’s throwing everything that’s at his command
But Jesus is faithful, his promise is true
And whatever he asks he gives the power to do

Jesus didn’t die for you because it was fun
He hung there for love because it had to be done
And despite of the anguish, his word was fulfilled
Love is not a feeling it’s an act of your will
Love is not a feeling it’s an act of your will

Courtesy: Don Francisco – Love Is Not A Feeling, from the album ‘The Early Works’  –    www.rockymountainministries.org

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

Blessings In Your Marriage

The Greatest Danger A Husband Faces In His Marriage

It’s not extramarital affairs anymore.

 

Probably no statistics is available of the real reasons why marriages break up. It is not possible to have one, because the reasons given by divorcees may only be the outward manifestations of the real cause of the breakup. Official reasons may range from infidelity to incompatibility.

Here is a top 10 list for the US, in ascending order: Difference in priorities and expectations; addiction; childrearing issues; religious and cultural strains; boredom in marriage; sexual incompatibility; marital financial issues; physical, psychological or emotional abuse; communication breakdown in relationships; and the top reason, infidelity.   Source: Top10Stop.com

In the UK, ‘extramarital affairs are no longer the most common reason for married couples to divorce – growing apart or falling out of love is. Growing apart or falling out of love was the main reason for divorce (27%); an affair is now second (25%)’.  (Source: 2011 Grant Thornton Matrimonial Survey of 101 UK Family Lawyers)

I don’t have the statistics for other countries. But we can presume that several of the reasons cited for divorce in these two countries may also be the ones cited in other countries, though the frequency of reasons may vary from country to country. In the Eastern culture, there is far lesser frequency of divorces caused by infidelity. For example, from the several personally known cases in my own country, none was caused by the husband or wife straying into other arms. There wife-bashing is a far commoner cause of split-ups.

Sometimes the reasons in my land could be truly freakish, such as the groom discovering on the wedding night that the bride is a hermaphrodite, or a wife not allowing her husband to sleep with her. I counseled the husband, in the latter case, and tried to encourage him to be more patient, but he soon divorced the frigid woman and remarried a fine, normal wife. These, of course, are the rare reasons, but the most frequent cause for divorces in India and China, and in US and UK, and everywhere else, is basically the same.

The real cause manifests ultimately as cheating, or boredom, or lack of communication, or incompatibility, or something else. But except in the freak cases, almost all divorces have their origin in one cause: dissatisfaction with the wife, which after a few years burgeons into resentment and finally bitterness toward her. Dissatisfaction with the wife, in turn, has basic causes that are never cited as the official reason for breakup.

Dissatisfaction and bitterness almost always leads the husband to another woman, either before divorce or after divorce. Unfaithful husbands are so prevalent the reason marriages break up that the One who created the marriage institution declares he will not blame the wife for straying out of her legitimate relationship.

‘For the spirit of harlotry has caused them to stray, and they have played the harlot against their God…Therefore your daughters commit harlotry, and your brides commit adultery. I will not punish your daughters when they commit harlotry, nor your brides when they commit adultery; for the men themselves go apart with harlots’   Hosea 4:12-14

In this message I will focus on the causes that turn a husband into a dissatisfied spouse, which eventually lead him to break up with his wife.

Unless a youth, like Joseph the son of Jacob, has been keeping his sexual life pure from fornication through the help of the Holy Spirit, he enters wedlock with a premarital sexual background. That is, he has already cheated on his future wife before marrying her – either in his imaginations or in actual act.

Many Christian men who are guilty of pre-marital infidelity, come to realize their sexual guilt and repent of them before they marry. But in many cases, a young man’s basic sexual attitudes remain the same even after he has taken a wife.

I will first take the case of those men who committed fornication and entered marriage with an unrepentant attitude. Then I will go to those who married as virgins or as reformed men.

The young men who had been indulging in sexual fantasies and fornications carry this sin into their marriage. Perhaps, after marriage, they might have intended never to cheat on their wives. But a spiritual principle begins to work in their minds soon after.

Within a few years (in UK, the average lifespan of marriages that break up is 11.4 years), the husband begins to find his wife not as sexually attractive anymore. He then fantasies extramarital relationships that rekindle his libido. Or he may get into pornography. This in turn causes a greater dissatisfaction in him whenever he has physical intimacy with his wife. The dissatisfaction is displayed, not by discussing the issue openly with his wife – how many dissatisfied husbands will tell their wives, ‘I don’t enjoy sex with you anymore’? – but in withdrawal, in sullenness, and in quarrels over petty issues.

Withdrawing from the wife causes resentment in the woman, and she shows her frustration and disappointment with sharp words at her husband, which in turn makes him more dissatisfied with her. The vicious circle has begun in earnest, and from then on only a miracle from God can save such a marriage.

In the case of men entering marriage as virgins or as men who have repented of their pre-marital affairs, the marriage is far more stable and safer than in the first case. But, even in such cases, if constant protection of the marriage is not sought by fervent prayers, it is a vulnerable field for the devil to sow his seeds of dissatisfaction.

Couples who are sexually faithful to each other may live together for several years without mishap. But if God is not constantly in the center of this relationship, the day will come sooner or later that the man will fall victim to the enemy’s suggestions.

It could start with some lewd pictures on his office computer. (Porn-watcher Sextracker has claimed 70 percent of pornography is downloaded in office hours.) If he continues to succumb to his base urges, he is soon transformed into a frequent, and soon, an addicted watcher. An addicted porn watcher cannot have a longlasting marriage. He becomes not only dissatisfied with his wife, but also becomes distrustful of her, as one study has shown.

Zillmann and Bryant (1989) conducted an experiment to test nonviolent pornography’s effect on traditional values about marriage and family. This and other similar studies have led them to conclude that ‘those massively exposed to pornography will become distrusting of their partners in extended relationships…Another likely consequence is a growing dissatisfaction with sexual reality (cited in McNair, 1996: p. 77)’.

Similarly, Linz and Malamuth (1993) comment that exposure to pornography ‘fosters a lack of respect for social institutions such as the family and traditional sex roles for women (p. 17)’.  (Source: University of Pennsylvania. asc.upenn.edu)

The man who enters marriage without a pre-marital record of infidelity, but who succumbs to temptations that bombard him at the workplace and elsewhere, and continues unrepentant, is soon a man who finds no more pleasure in his wife. Even if he does not go to other women, his marriage is no more as rock solid as it might have been in the early years. The relationship may drag on, unhappy and unexciting, usually because the wife continues to cling to him. Unhappy marriages may continue for a lifetime, or it may continue for 20 or 30 years and then break up.

All men about to embrace matrimony, or who have been safely married to this day, should heed God’s Word to ensure that nothing will ever happen in their lives that can roll off a domino series of consequences, which will eventually lead to a breakup or an unhappy marriage.


 “Extramarital affairs are no longer the most common reason for married couples to divorce – growing apart or falling out of love is.”


The number of years a man has been married to a woman is no criteria for how safe a marriage is. A couple may go on without serious trouble between them for three decades, and then something might happen that makes the man resentful at his wife. Once resentment sets in the man’s consciousness, and he doesnt overcome it immediately with God’s help, then only a miracle from heaven can restore the husband’s earlier passion for his wife.

How can earnest men of God ensure that the enemy cannot infiltrate their marriage even in a remote way? By constantly ensuring that they have Christ as the only foundation and Savior of their marriage. It means, he has no confidence that his good character or the good qualities of his wife will keep their marriage safe. His only confidence is that he is constantly keeping the Creator and Lord of marriages at the center of his relationship with his wife.

In practical terms, this means that the husband should be constantly alert against every form of subtle and overt sexual influence. It means, he should not put himself in a situation where his chastity might stand the slightest risk of compromise. As an instance, if obscene images unexpectedly flash up on his computer, he should not linger over them for even a fraction of a second, but instantaneously click them away. He should eliminate every risk of an extramarital affair by putting on a constant moral shield against temptations from female colleagues or acquaintances. A truly alert husband should never allow himself to be alone in a room with a woman other than his wife or other immediate member of his family.

The man who wants his marriage to be absolutely safe from danger should, above all, practice mental morality. He should take the greatest care that a lewd image doesnt find lodgment in his mind even for a fleeting moment. For this is the way the tempter entered the consciousness of many great man and eventually caused them to fall.

Their fall began with just one small thought rolled in the mind over and over, until it became an unstoppable avalanche that took the victim all the way into the immoral abyss. That’s how David, a man after God’s own heart, slid smoothly into the deadly pit of adultery. Instead of instantly turning his eyes away from a scene he knew his eyes are not meant to see, he lingered illegitimately for a few seconds over the stunningly beautiful wet body of another man’s wife taking a bath. The little lingering soon became an irresistible obsession…and you know the rest of the story.

The assured way for a husband to guard against resentment toward his wife is to ask God fervently to give him Christ’s power to forgive, so he can go to bed without harboring offense against her.  [Courtesy: Judy Baxter-flickr.com/ photos/ judybaxter]
It is not only lascivious thoughts that a husband should be constantly on the guard against – he should equally guard against holding any negative thoughts about his wife. Perhaps it could be something his wife had said or done to him. It is in the nature of all women…well, almost all women, to say now and then words that are more irritating to their husbands’ eardrums than a mosquito hovering around their ear lopes. The husband might have done something stupid, and the wife might have given him her frank opinion in raw uncensored version.

The wife’s greatest fault, according to the Bible, is her inability to respect her husband or submit to him always. She can, of course, respect him as long as he is always doing something honorable. I am yet to hear of the awesome discovery of such a man.

‘Wives, submit to your own husbands…let the wife see that she respects her husband.’ Eph 5:22,33

The man’s greatest fault, and danger, is that, he becomes bitter at his wife who refuses to submit meekly to his opinions, nitwitted though they may be. He knows his wife loves him as her own life, but her stinging words keep popping into his emotions ceaselessly. This is the danger start point. When a man gets emotionally dissatisfied with his wife, and he keeps his sullen feelings beyond sunset, they begin to fester resentment in his heart. And festering resentment soon causes the fatal marital male syndrome known as bitterness.

Husbands, love your wives [be affectionate and sympathetic with them] and do not be harsh or bitter or resentful toward them.’   Col 3:19 AMP

‘Husbands, be sure you give your wives much love and sympathy; don’t let bitterness or resentment spoil your marriage.’  Phillips

Never go to sleep with your hurt feelings pent up in you. It is deadly poison for your marriage. You may not be able to get over your hurt feelings by willing them away. Seek God’s intervention speedily, and he will put a calm over your thoughts and emotions, and softly bring a willingness in your heart to forgive your wife, and you can go to sleep in peace.

‘And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.’   Eph 4:26-27 NLT

And if God doesnt intervene immediately, keep asking for his power to forgive, and after a few days of such persevering prayer, you will begin to notice a change in your attitude toward your wife. Keep on praying until there is no trace of resentment in your heart toward your wife.


Never go to sleep with your hurt feelings pent up in you. It is deadly poison for your marriage.


So, the greatest danger a husband faces is his marriage is gradual falling out of love with his wife – because of his bitterness at her, which is because of his sexual or emotional dissatisfaction with her.

And if the husband does not forgive his wife, and lets his bitterness grow in him, and finally leads him to be unfaithful to her, God shuts out that man’s prayers to him. And without God’s help, he cannot continue happily in his marriage and so breaks up with the woman he once loved so passionately.

‘Here is another thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, weeping and groaning because he pays no attention to your offerings and doesn’t accept them with pleasure. You cry out, “Why doesn’t the Lord accept my worship?” I’ll tell you why! Because the Lord witnessed the vows you and your wife made when you were young. But you have been unfaithful to her, though she remained your faithful partner, the wife of your marriage vows. Didn’t the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth. “For I hate divorce!” says the Lord, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.”   Mal 2:13-16 NLT

 

Pappa Joseph

 

 

Utmost Christian

Do The Opposite Of What You Naturally Want To Do

 

A Godly old woman I know had a constant problem. She had a maid who came daily in the morning and took care of all the cooking and other home chores. The old woman was fully satisfied with her maid in all aspects of her work, except in one area. Every day when the maid returned to her home, she took away with her a generous portion of the foodstuff she found in the aged woman’s house. Now the maid had all the freedom to eat as much as she liked where she worked. And the kindly old lady had never refused anything that the maid had asked her. So when such generous treatment was given to the maid, it became an unbearable thought that she should want to daily pilfer from her employer.

The Godly old woman began to lose sleep over this problem. Day by day, her thoughts about the maid’s behavior rankled her more and more. After a month or so, she became acutely obsessed with the maid’s behavior and not being able to do anything about it. Of course, she could dismiss the maid, but she didn’t want to do that. Once when I met her, she was in an especial state of dejection. For the maid had now taken away a good chunk of the special cookies the old woman had carefully kept in her biscuit box for visitors. The situation was getting out of hand, and the old woman was ever more agitated.

I told her, ‘Next time thoughts of her pilfering comes to your mind, bless God that you are able to provide her the pilfered food’.

She stared into my pupils. This was obviously an alien concept to her.

‘I will give her all the food she wants if she asks me, but I cannot tolerate her stealing food from me.’

‘Try that solution anyway’, I coaxed her. ‘When next time anger swells up in you at what she is doing to you, suppress that feeling and force yourself to thank God she has taken some food home.’

‘God has blessed you with abundance’, I continued, ‘so much that her pilfering doesn’t make you go hungry. And God is able to return twice as much as she pilfers from you. Enjoy her pilfering in the thought that you can afford to provide her what she wants even if that provision is by her own theft.’

The Godly old woman was confused but bemused at the novel solution I offered. She assured me she will give it a try.

While not many of us have to daily deal with a thief in our home, we encounter situations in our workplace that require a similar solution: Doing the opposite of what our natural inclinations urge us to do.

We realize a colleague has spoken ill of us behind our backs. Rebuke in your mind, or even aloud, the offended emotions that make you resent him and want to get even with him. Force the noxious thoughts to give way to deliberate thoughts of forgiveness, asking God to enable you to do so. Grab your reluctant mind by its scruff and force into it the words, ‘Lord, bless him who did that wrong to me!’ Yes, you have to exert mental and emotional violence against your kicking and struggling thoughts to crucify them and give birth to Godly thoughts. You see, the natural inclination to forgive any wrong done to us is anathema to our original human nature. Which is why James tell us to ‘take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’.1

Or, say, a time waster comes over to where you sit and not only wastes your precious work time but bores you to the core with his babblings. The natural response varies from person to person. Some smile and endure the pain reverberating from their tympanums. Some shoo him or her away at the first opportunity. But the common emotion driving all these responses is the same. It’s dislike, scorn, impatience, hate. Now the Godly solution is to put your precious work aside and take captive the thoughts of scorn and impatience and willfully release the thoughts of goodwill toward the person damaging your aural apparatus.

Thomas, my fellow villager, is a unique character in every sense of the word. He has the capability to never discern even the clearest signs of unwelcome in the person he has managed to stall with his inquisitive words.

Once, very early in the morning, when the birds hadn’t yet tired of their morning chorus, came Thomas over to my place and leaned on the doorbell…until I forced myself to emerge out of my comfy blanket, and groggily headed to the door, thinking that only something of urgent import could announce itself so early in the morning and with such persevering tintinnabulation2.

On opening the door, it was a grinning Thomas. I gave him a piece of my natural mind, and went back to bed.

Photo Courtesy: Ivy Dawned – flckr.com

Over the next few months, I had to undergo further intensive training by the Holy Spirit in dealing with the natural mind. Less than a year later, Thomas, never known to give up a targeted victim, appeared at the door again at around the same time of the morning. This time the spiritual mind was ready, having knuckled the natural thoughts back into the abyss from which they came.

I smiled at seeing the horror. I mean, I really smiled from the heart. Then, opening the door wider, I greeted my tormentor warmly, and sat down to what I thought was going to be an unending hour with him.

Strangely, either because Thomas became uncomfortable with my strange response, or because of my own new mental disposition, the hour quickly came to end, and Thomas bid me good-bye.

I very seldom see him these days, and whenever I do, even my natural feelings naturally give way to my positive thoughts, so that I really look forward to meeting him now. And Thomas himself seems a changed man. He just doesn’t seem such a boring person anymore – and this is the man from whom I had in the past literally hid myself behind a bush or ducked my head whenever I espied him a 100 meters away.

There is a natural man in us which Christ’s followers had renounced and crucified when they accepted Jesus as their Savior and Lord. But the natural man, which Paul calls the ‘old man’, is often capable of wrenching himself free and  taking captive our feelings and thoughts of our ‘inward man’ for a short while. This was what Paul experienced often.

‘I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.’  Rom 7:21-23

When we detect the natural man back in our minds, we must put on the spiritual man back with vigor, and we must deliberately and willfully do the opposite of what our old nature instigates us to do. And we can do it only through Jesus Christ – by appealing to our Lord to repossess our minds.

‘O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death [from my natural man]?’ cries Paul. And he answers himself immediately:

‘I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!’  Rom 7:24-25

God’s law of love never fails to eventually work dramatic changes in the affected person – both the one who loves and the one who is loved. When you force yourself to keep giving kind thoughts and kind acts, sooner or later they come back to you in the full measure you gave – plus some.

‘Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you mete withal it shall be measured to you again.’  Luke 6:38 KJV

 

Pappa Joseph

 

1 2 Cor 10:5 NIV
2 A ringing or tinkling sound.