I’m so excited and honored to welcome back Pastor Bruce Goldsmith, of Laurel Hill Baptist Church in Charlottesville, Va., to guest post on CBB today as he continues to share valuable insight on creating a Godly marriage. Our hope is that this series will help couples in forming a beautiful and strong foundation for their marriage built on God’s love – you can read all the posts in this series here. And I’ll turn it over to Pastor Bruce now:
When a couple makes the decision to come back for a second session of marriage counseling, I know that either they are curious or they have found some meaning in it from the first session and would like to know more. So, if you are reading this, I assume you are either curious and are not sure about what you are hearing or you are interested in what God has for you in your marriage. Whichever is true, I want to thank you for giving me another opportunity to speak into your life about your decision to marry and what your marriage can be when you allow God to be the center of it.
In my office, there are four chairs, two on either side of what could be called a coffee table. Usually, I will sit in one of the two chairs on one side of the coffee table while the couple I am counseling sits, one in each of the two chairs opposite me. In fact, as I write this, I am looking at those chairs which recall to my mind two very different realities. One reality is, at times, these chairs are occupied by two people who are very much in love with each other and who go on to live very joyful and blessed lives, growing together and living life together in a wonderful, harmonious way. But the other reality is, at times, these chairs are occupied with two people who are very much at odds with each other and are very challenged in their marriage. These couples would rather not be in my office and, in some cases, would rather not be with each other again. My hope is that you will be the first couple. That the rest of your life will be filled with countless blessings of unity and oneness and love that warms you until death do you part. You might ask, “how do I have a marriage like the first couple?” I’m glad you asked. The first couple understands a few things that are critical to a blessed marriage. First, they understand that they are both made in the image and likeness of God, (see my first blog post for a review of this Biblical truth), and secondly, they understand that they are with each other, to bless the other one. In other words, they understand that marriage is a relationship where each person lives their lives for the betterment of the one they are marrying.
You see, we all have a fatal flaw. The Bible says that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23). The word sin means, “to miss the mark.” It is an archers term. It means to shoot an arrow at a target but miss the bullseye, so to speak. The point is, we all miss the mark, specifically the mark or target of God’s holiness. He is the perfect standard. He is the perfect example of righteousness. But we miss the target of being like Him in every way. You might not agree with that or believe God, and His righteousness, has anything to do with marriage. I hope you will feel differently by the time you finish reading this post.
Let’s go back to the couple who is struggling with each other. The problems they are having are not really because they don’t love each other or that they don’t want to be with each other. Those feelings are symptoms of the real problem. The real problem is they are selfish. In other words, they are more concerned about themselves and what they “get” from the marriage than what they “give” to the marriage. And therefore, their selfishness causes them to be at odds with each other. I have never met a couple who lives their lives together selflessly, who want a divorce. Those people can’t stand to be away from each other. They look forward to being together. They want to live life in each other’s arms, literally and figuratively. For the selfless couple, marriage is more than wonderful, it is blessed. But for the selfish couple, they love one another only so much, because, life is more about them and what they get from the marriage instead of what they can give to the marriage.
I have been counseling couples for a long time and I can quickly tell when one of the people in the relationship, or both, are being selfish. The conversation usually goes like this: if I ask one of the spouses, “what would help you be happier in your marriage?,” the response is normally something like, “well if he or she would just …” I can stop them right there because that kind of statement tells me there is more of a desire for the other person to change than it is for them to change. I call that pointing the finger. What we all need to understand is that God created marriage to reflect His relationship within the Trinity, the relationship between the Father, The Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. In that relationship, each of the members of the Godhead lives and acts selflessly in everything. Each perfectly works in harmony with the other. But, sin in each of us, has caused us to be selfish, not selfless.
So most marriages that are in trouble, have a selfishness problem. And to change, God must be a part of the relationship, in fact, I should say, the center of the relationship. Again, because He is the only One who is truly selfless. Having said that, just because a person lives their life for God and wants their marriage to be blessed by God, doesn’t mean they are going to be selfless all the time. We all make mistakes. The good news however, is that God points out to us the times we are being selfish and says to our hearts, something like, “you are being selfish, aren’t you?” “You are wanting things your way instead of sacrificing yourself for your spouse, aren’t you?” And He graciously and kindly helps us correct the problem if we will agree with Him.
You might be saying, “I don’t really believe in the same God as you, how do I know your God is truly selfless?” In other words, “how can I trust the fact that your God is the way you say He is?” Interestingly, God knew we would have questions like that and they are good questions so to prove His selflessness and His love for us, He did a remarkable thing. He sent His Son, Jesus, to the earth to save us from our selfishness, among many other things. Jesus gave up His home in heaven, the place where He was comfortable and living in perfect harmony with the Father and the Holy Spirit, to rescue us from our selfish, sinful life. Remember, the Bible tells us we are all sinners, we miss the mark of God’s perfection, making us selfish. Well, that selfish, sinfulness also comes with another price. The Bible says, “everyone who sins must die” (Ezekiel 18:20) and “the wages or payment for our sin is death” (Romans 6:23). In other words, to miss the mark of God’s holiness means we have a debt to pay God, and that debt has a very heavy and a very high price. The price is death, eternal separation from God. But, and this is a big but, the Bible also tells us that God doesn’t want anyone to pay that price for their sin. He wants all His creation to be with Him.
You are probably asking, “why then, does your God require such a high price”? Another good question. The answer is because He is holy. He is perfect in His nature and in every other way; He is without flaw. And because He is Holy, He cannot, and will not, allow anything or anyone to be eternally with Him who is flawed because that would violate His very nature. In other words, He would cease to be perfect. But He wants to have a relationship with everyone He created because He made us and loves us. So, to have a relationship between a perfect, unflawed God and a very less than perfect human being, is impossible, unless that human being is somehow made holy, too. So, to give His creation a chance to be Holy, He came to the earth to give His life, in death, in our place. Meaning, He literally came to the earth, born to a real woman, physically, as God in human form, and died for our sin, our selfishness. He became the world’s substitute for sin. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” If I could relate a story to you of something that happened to me a few years ago, I think it will help make the point. While driving through a local town, I accidentally drove too fast through a school zone. I was talking to a group of men who were with me in the van I was driving and I simply missed the fact that we were going through a school zone. Well, as you can imagine, a police officer quickly pulled me over. As I am telling you this story, please keep in mind that I am one of those drivers you hate to get behind, I drive the speed limit or just under it. In fact, up to that point I had only received one ticket in my driving career. So, when the officer came up to the window, I told him I had simply not been paying attention and drove too quickly through the zone. But, in my mind, I was thinking, surely if I tell him what a good driver I had been all these years, he would let me off. But, that’s not what happened; he was kind and considerate and listened to my story, but simply said, as he was handing me the ticket, “at least no one was hurt, and it shouldn’t affect your insurance, have a good day.” I was in shock, I thought I was going to get off with nothing. Well, my brother-in- law told me, if you go to court and explain the situation to the judge, he will certainly dismiss the charge. So, I decided to do that. I took a day from work and went to court. As I sat in the courtroom, along with many offenders, far worse than me (at least that’s what I had conjured up in my head), my name was called. So I quickly went to the judge’s bench and the police officer who wrote the ticket came and stood beside me. The judge asked me one question, “Mr. Goldsmith, you have been cited with violating the speed limit in a school zone, are you guilty?” I said, “yes, your honor, I was going too fast through the zone.” But then I remembered how good a driver I had been all these years, so I said to the judge, “Sir, may I say something?,” to which he replied, “of course.” I said, “Sir, I have been a good driver all these years, does that make a difference?” I was thankful for what came out of his mouth, he said, “of course, it means a lot.” I really thought he was going to dismiss the charge. But instead he quickly followed those words with, “your fine will not be so much but you still must pay. You can pay the clerk on your way out.” Immediately, I was furious. I went to the clerk’s window and asked, “he didn’t reduce it at all?” She said, “nope!” As I traveled back to my office, I was getting more and more angry. Until I felt God speaking to my mind. He said, “Bruce, you were guilty of breaking the law, no matter how good of a driver or how careful you have been all these years. The only way you would be free from the charge is if the deputy said to the judge, “your honor, Mr. Goldsmith is guilty but I would like to pay his fine for him. I will pay his debt he owes so he can go free.” When I heard, in my mind, those words, I realized, that is exactly what Jesus did for me and everyone who surrenders their life to Him. Although we are all guilty of sin against Him and the Father, He still came to earth to give His life, even though He was not the guilty one. And He did that for everyone who believes in Him and what He did. He became the substitute for anyone who will believe. I don’t know about you but that is the epitome of selflessness. Think about it, to give up your own son, your own child, for the life of someone who is selfish. That seems crazy, doesn’t it? But that’s exactly what He did. And do you know why? Simply because He loves you. That’s it! Just because He loves you. No matter who you are or what you have done.
When I talk to the couples who are struggling with each other, about what God did for them, they will often acknowledge their selfishness as a very destructive habit in the relationship. And they realize, if they want their relationship to be what it can be, they need to change; not their spouse, they need to change. They need to accept the truth that they need to be like Jesus and give themselves for their spouse, simply because that’s what Jesus did for them. And because that’s what love does. In other words, true love is selfless! You see, people can say they love someone, but real love isn’t expressed until selfishness is put away and sacrifice is put on display. A sacrifice that is motivated by what God did for each of us.
If you want your marriage to be blessed by God, ask yourself, “what am I wanting from this marriage?” If it is to get something, then you must know, it will be a relationship motivated by sin, which only produces selfishness. If it is to give something, specifically love, to your spouse, because that’s what God did for you, it will be a relationship that will be blessed, and you will enjoy it till death do you part.
By the way, the relationship you want starts by asking God to save you from your selfish ways and from the debt you own Him. Just ask Him. Then, surrender your life to Him. In other words, simply trust that He loves you and gave His life for you, to pay the debt of sin for you, and then live your life for Him. By doing that, you will not only have a wonderful start to your marriage, but you will be safe for eternity as well.
As you’re planning your wedding, ask yourself, “what am I wanting from this marriage?”
Photography & Styling by Sarah Darcy.