Couples marry, with the dream of being content – fulfilled and satisfied. How is it possible to begin there, but end up with contempt – feeling disrespected and disparaged? During the premarital season it is important for each couple to discuss expectations. Hopefully you had premarital counseling before you married and were able to discuss many areas of expectation together. However, as important as premarital counseling is, in marriage we all discover this truth: it is impossible to truly know our “spouse to be” fully, and completely, prior to interacting with them day after day, month after month, and year after year, in marriage.
Now that you are on the other side of the marriage “door” you have almost certainly found that your spouse is not living up to all your expectations. You may be struggling with disappointment. An important piece of the marriage puzzle is this: we must recognize the powerful potential that unfulfilled expectations wield in our lives and in our marriage. They can be a strong force in either of two directions.
The positive way forward is contentment. “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Phil. 4:12
The negative way backwards is to give in to contemptment, forming a mean opinion of your spouse and feeling justified to have a heart of disdain. Please do not think that I am being unkind when I say this: Remember the part of your wedding vow when you said : “For better or for worse.”? Let’s face it; none of us are going to do life perfectly. We must prayerfully prepare our heart to face the “worse” in our spouse – just as we hope that they will, by God’s grace, do for us. You may find it hard to believe that disappointing times in marriage can be the very best opportunities to grow in genuine love for our spouse.
I want to insert a qualifier here. The “for worse” part of our vow does not mean that if we are being physically abused that we are to just stay put and put up with it. Absolutely not! I pray that you are not facing this, but if you are, seek help from someone you trust who is qualified (or can guide you to someone who is qualified) to help both you, and your spouse. It may be impossible to see it now but even in this situation there is hope for the redemptive power of Jesus to bring change and restoration.
So what are some keys to the “secret of being content”? Or, as other Bible translations say, “ I have learned the secret [of facing life] (AMP); “I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be.” (Phillips) It goes without saying that the means of appropriation are supernatural. There are certain martial scenarios where there is no way to find contentment by human strength alone. The secret then is found in this verse: “I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]” Phil. 4:13 (AMP)
In reality, this is the secret of being content, in all of life, single or married – to be infused with inner strength and confident peace. I am reminded of a blog I wrote several years ago entitled Invisible Rain. God’s people were fighting a losing battle against strong feelings of contempt towards God for their situation. If that’s your predicament today, or you know someone who is gridlocked there, I pray that revelation and insight would break the strongholds. If we can find a way to truly know the depths of God’s heart, we will find the path of contentment.