Practicing Humility in Marriage
- Arlene Pellicane
- 2014 23 Apr
Though you do not see him now, but believe in him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8 NASB).
I was irritated by all the little things. I had to stand in a long line at the post office. Lucy had given me grief about taking her nap. I was cutting up chicken to put in a casserole for dinner. Why does it take so long to prep meals anyway? I was in a bad mood although I didn’t really have a good reason for it. While I grunted at the chicken, James was in the family room practicing his guitar. He was playing a worship song and I began singing along.
My anxiety and irritation disappeared after just one verse. I was touched by singing that song about God’s amazing love. The Holy Spirit filled my heart and instantly, I was at peace. All my striving could not produce happiness, but in a moment God filled me with that joy unspeakable and full of glory.
The Humility of Marriage
The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 5:5 that God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Since marriage is an ideal place to humble yourself regularly, there are countless opportunities to receive God’s grace! Author Poppy Smith remembers a time when she humbled herself before God in desperation. Born in England, Poppy grew up there and in Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Kenya. As a young woman, she was working in Nairobi when a handsome American walked into her church and her life. Poppy says,
"I think I was like many women. I was naïve and starry eyed. You fall in love and you just want to get married and have babies. You don’t really give much thought to compatibility issues because you assume you are."
Poppy was 22 when she married that dreamy American. Her husband Jim was 32 and they quickly discovered they were about as incompatible as two people could be. He came from a conservative Christian home where women knew their place and kept house. Poppy grew up in a non-Christian home and had only been a Christian for a few years. She was talkative. He was quiet. She had never been to the United States. He had never been to England. They moved to the United States and now Poppy was dealing with a new marriage, a new country, loneliness, regret and anger.
Six months into their marriage, Poppy told Jim that she had made the worst decision of her life and that it was huge mistake that they had gotten married. Even though they were committed Christians, they didn’t know how to get along or how to meet each other’s needs.
"I came to an emotional and spiritual crisis within my third or fourth year of marriage. I felt totally oppressed by my husband’s expectations from his background. I was very lonely. He was gone constantly with his medical residency and he didn’t know how to be empathetic with me. Within a couple of years I was pleading with God to show me a Biblical way out of my marriage but I couldn’t find incompatibility as a reason. I thought I would have an emotional break down because I was so depressed or boiling angry. I just cried out to the Lord and he made it very clear: Poppy, let me change you. Instead of focusing on him and all the things you don’t like about him, Poppy let me work on you.
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I had become someone I hated. I never expected to be an angry, bitter, resentful person. The things I would say were so cruel and demeaning. It took me being broken before God. I wanted to please the Lord but I just didn’t know how."
Poppy had a deep desire to honor and obey Christ by loving her husband even though she was miserable in the marriage. When she humbled herself and said Lord change me, she began to see her marriage turn around. That was 45 years ago. Poppy laughs and says they’ve come this far because she stopped trying to change him. Instead she asked God to show her what she needed to change. Many times God uses our present afflictions to make us humble. That humility can then make a way for hope and happiness.
The Tension of Ethan’s Psalm
My firstborn is named Ethan and he was delighted to find Psalm 89 which was written by “Ethan the Ezrahite.” The Ethan of the Bible begins his beautiful Psalm by rehearsing the attributes of God and blessings of the believer.
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The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it (Psalm 89:11).
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness (Psalm 89:15-16).
But then Ethan laments the fact that the king had been defeated in spite of God’s promises.
Indeed, you have turned back the edge of his sword and have not supported him in battle (Psalm 89:43).
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How long, Lord? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire? (Psalm 89:46)
Ethan’s psalm depicts the age-old tension between the promises of a faithful God and the harsh realities of everyday life. Think of this Psalm as a wife. You know God has ordained your marriage and provided everything you need for its success, so then why is it so hard to get along sometimes? Maybe you don’t feel like the Lord is supporting you in your marriage. You know intellectually that God reigns over everything but why does he seem to be hiding from you? Why doesn’t he intervene in your marriage? Even with his questions and complaints, Ethan the Ezrahite ends his psalm with praise.
Praise be to the Lord forever! Amen and Amen (Psalm 89:52).
At the end of his venting if you will, Ethan reasserts his praise to God. God is true and good. And as if one Amen (meaning so be it) wasn’t enough, he writes it again. Amen and Amen. Sometimes you must talk to your soul and encourage yourself in God’s Word. When you choose to praise God, even when you feel abandoned or disappointed as a wife, God will bless you. When you’re facedown in humility and desperation, he will lift you up.
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Play it Loud, Sing it Loud
Sharon Jaynes recalls her first years as a married woman. When their son was little, her husband Steve would call her during the day just to say hi. Anxious to unload on someone, Sharon would start pouring out everything that had gone wrong in the day, even if it was only nine o’clock in the morning! After awhile, Steve hesitated to call. He told her that when she told him every bad thing that had happened, it made him not want to call. Sharon says,
"I could have gotten mad about that. I could have stewed over it. But you know he was right. I can choose joy or I can choose to be miserable. Sometimes we need to have a good chat with ourselves. David talked to himself all the time in the psalms. Read the psalms. He often starts out down but then he reminds himself who God is and what God does. Put on praise music, read the psalms, and speak the truth out loud. Play it loud, sing it loud. It will put joy back in your life when you’re feeling down in the dumps."
Before dump on your husband or stew in self-pity, you may want to have a good honest chat with yourself like David did. He asked himself,
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (Psalm 42:5).
See how he continues to praise God even when he feels downcast and disturbed? If you humbly ask God for help and praise him for his goodness, he will fill you with hope and lift you up. That’s what I experienced that blah day when I was irritated while chopping up chicken in the kitchen. When you turn to God, he turns everything around.
Picture that your home is in a children’s story book and that the sky is filled with phrases between your house and heaven. Those sentences are lifting right up to God and they are words of praise. Imagine that your home is a place of praise to God. Whenever God looks down upon your home, he is pleased with that sweet aroma of praise heavenward.
Lord I praise you that the heavens are Yours and the earth also is Yours. You founded the world and all it contains. My home is yours. I dedicate to you. I praise you for the husband you have given me. I humble myself before You and ask for You to be glorified in my home. I love you and thank you for watching my home closely with Your tender care.
Excerpt from 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife by Arlene Pellicane (Harvest House Publishers). Used with permission.
Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife and 31 Days to a Happy Husband. She has been a guest on Family Life Today, The 700 Club, Turning Point with David Jeremiah, and The Hour of Power. Arlene and her husband James live in San Diego with their three children. Visit Arlene’s website at www.TheHappyHusband.com.
Publication date: April 23, 2014