2 Samuel 17-18 – Expect the Unexpected Lessons

Ever notice how some of our greatest lessons come to us in ways we didn’t expect? Simple, common-place events can suddenly yield unexpected gems of understanding and insight. Like when your child casually says or does something and suddenly you see things more clearly.

2 Samuel chapters 17 and 18 contain the story of battle plans and battles. Yet, in these narratives, you suddenly get a glimpse into the character and the heart of God Himself.

In these chapters, you see the providence and involvement of God in the plans of men. You get a picture of the loyalty that God exercises toward us. And you actually hear God’s heart of self-sacrificing love for His children. (2 Sam. 18:33) And the fact that these glimpses of God arise out of battle stories is yet another unexpected lesson.

In the midst of our battles, we need to remember that:

  • God is sovereign and providential over our circumstances.
  • He is loyal to us, even when others are not.
  • God loves us with a love that readily and freely lays down His life for ours.

We see these three characteristics displayed powerfully on the cross. On the cross, God demonstrated His providence, loyalty, and love by taking our place and dying on the cross in the person of Jesus. God did what David couldn’t do. He died for us. He died in the place of His rebellious children.

This is a lesson that will surface, not only in 2 Samuel chapters 17 and 18, but everywhere we turn…if we will have the eyes to see it.

Why Did You Get Married?

WHY DO PEOPLE GET MARRIED?

When I am counseling couples, I often ask them this question: “Why did you get married?“ The answers vary…

  • I fell in love with them.
  • We had so much in common.
  • I loved spending time with them.
  • We were tired of going home at the end of the date.
  • It just felt like the right time.
  • I was ready to build a life and a family with them.

Don’t get me wrong, these are all good reasons. But eventually, they are not enough to sustain a marriage. The longer you’re married the more difficult marriage becomes…leaving the above reasons insufficient.

WHY ARE THESE REASONS ARE NOT ENOUGH?

Look again at the reasons listed above…

I fell in love with them.

It’s certainly preferable to fall in love with the person you’re going to marry. But if that’s the main reason for getting married, what happens when you fall out of love? Throughout the course of the marriage, that feeling of falling in love with your spouse will come and go. So you need a bigger reason for marriage than falling in love.

We had so much in common.

People who come to me for premarital counseling focus on how much they have in common. But people who come to me for marriage counseling focus on how different they are. Early in the relationship, we tend to maximize our similarities and minimize our differences. But eventually, the differences begin to force their way to the top. So you need a bigger reason for marriage than your similarities.

I loved spending time with them.

There is a correlation between the amount of quality time we spend together and our feelings of love for one another. Early in the marriage, we’re afforded a lot of quality time together. But the longer you’re married, the more the demands on your time mount, and the less quality time you have. So you need a bigger reason for marriage than loving to spend time together.

We were tired of going home at the end of the date.

I hear this from a lot of people in premarital counseling. The consistent feeling of not wanting to be away from the other is certainly a good sign that this person may be the one. But many couples underestimate the issues that can arise from living under the same roof day in and day out. Some spouses even start yearning for more time alone. So you need a bigger reason for marriage than wanting to spend all your time together.

It just felt like the right time.

Often, when I ask couples why now is the time to get married, they will say, “it just feels right.” But, feelings have a way of coming and going. There will be times in marriage when you might even question whether it really was right or not. So you need a bigger reason for marriage than just a gut feeling that the time is right.

I was ready to build a life and family with them.

Of all the reasons, this is probably one of the better ones. But it is still a reason that stands on shaky ground because we have no idea what that life will look like. And what happens when that family grows up and moves on? These things will change, so you need a bigger reason for marriage than just the desire to build a life and a family with this person.

SO WHAT IS THE BETTER REASON?

When our original reasons don’t work like they use to, we typically try to get our spouse to change…so that things can feel like they used to be. But this creates tension and conflict in a marriage and usually makes matters worse.

When our former reasons don’t seem to be working, the answer is not to change our spouse. It’s to change us! That’s the real reason for marriage.

We need to understand that all the above reasons are good and important, but they are merely gateways to connect us and bring us into marriage. They can’t sustain a marriage. The real reason for getting married is that God uses marriage to mold and shape us into who we need to be. This is what it means when Scripture says, “the two become one.”

God wants to use our marriage to make us less selfish and more sacrificial. To be less self-focused and more other-focused. To learn to love more for what we can give than what we can get. It’s just that we don’t tend to see this early in the relationship. It’s something we need to grow into with time and experience.

A FINAL WORD…

No matter how you answer the question, “Why did you get married?” there’s a bigger and better question for you to answer. That question is, “Why are you married now?” If your answer is so you can grow into a better person for your spouse, you’re on the right track.

An Easy Way to Spice Up Your Marriage

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the phrase “spice up your marriage,” the first thing that comes to my mind is coming home from work and finding my wife in the kitchen wearing nothing but an apron and a smile. (Sorry…too much information.)

Well, let me say before we go any further…this post is not about sex. So, wives, you can relax; and husbands, you can be disappointed.

But I believe that if you take this post to heart and begin to practice some of the things we’re going to talk about, it can be an easy way to spice up your marriage.

COMMON COURTESY

Believe it or not, one of the easiest ways to spice up your marriage is by practicing common courtesy. You’ve done this in the past when you were dating, and hopefully, you’re still doing it.

What Is Common courtesy?

Common courtesy is showing simple acts of kindness, politeness, and deference toward your spouse. It’s things like:

  • Saying thank you.
  • Holding the door.
  • Asking if you can help.
  • Complimenting.
  • Letting them go first.
  • Asking them what they would like to do.
  • Refreshing their drink.
  • Clearing the table.
  • Impromptu texts or calls to say, “I love you.”
  • Washing their car.
  • Letting them choose the movie or music.
  • Asking for forgiveness.
  • Saying excuse me.
  • Greeting them with a hug and a smile when they come home (even if your clothes are on.)

You can build your own list because common courtesy is as different and varied as marriage itself.

As I said, this is something we all did early in the relationship. It’s part of the reason we fell so in love with one another. But the longer we’re married, the more we let time, responsibilities, stressors, children, and fatigue crowd out common courtesy in our marriage.

Why is Common Courtesy Important?

When we let common courtesy slip, it begins to dull our feelings of love for one another.

You may be thinking…

“Yeah, but we’ve been married for a long time. They know I love them. Is it really that important that I keep doing these things?”

And the answer is…YES! Common courtesy is important because it adds the everyday spices a marriage needs. What are those spices?

  • Honor. Common courtesy is an everyday way of honoring your spouse.
  • Value. Common courtesy is an everyday way of showing you value your spouse.
  • Blessing. Common courtesy is an everyday way of blessing your spouse.
  • Sacrifice. Common courtesy is an everyday way of showing simple, on-going sacrifice.
  • Love. Common courtesy is an everyday way of demonstrating basic, boots-on-the-ground love.
  • Modeling. Common courtesy is an everyday way of modeling all the above, not just for your spouse, but for your children.

These are the daily spices you can add to your marriage by showing common courtesy. Doing this on a daily basis can help awaken a sleeping marriage and strengthen a good marriage because it shows your spouse they’re too important to overlook. And when they know that, they will tend to do the same for you.

A FINAL THOUGHT

Let’s be honest. This is not a big ask. It’s one of the simplest and easiest things you can do to invest in your marriage. It’s cheaper than marriage retreats, counseling, and divorce. It doesn’t cost you anything!

So do something simple, easy, and inexpensive to spice up your marriage. Spice up your marriage by showing common courtesy to your spouse. Who knows…it might lead to even spicier things!

If You Want Your Spouse To Change…

Remember when when you were so in love with your spouse you couldn’t think of anything you wanted to change about them? Does that seem like a long time ago?

WHY CAN’T WE SEE OUR DIFFERENCES EARLY ON?

In premarital counseling, I try to get couples to see their differences and the problems those differences will cause. But most couples either brush those things aside or get frustrated with me for “nit picking.” Why is it so difficult to clearly see our differences in the beginning?

We’re blinded by the excitement of love and hormones.

Being in love is intoxicating. Love effects the brain much like alcohol or drugs, and just like alcohol and drugs, it can impair our ability to see and judge things. Consequently, we can’t imagine any major differences, let alone the problems they could cause.

But the chemical intoxication of love eventually subsides and our differences become more glaring.

We minimize any possible problems.

When I’m pointing out differences in premarital counseling, the couple often thinks I’m making a big of a deal over small things. “So what if they’re not as much of a neat freak as I am, or if they are more of a saver than I am. So what if they’re an extrovert and I’m an introvert. These are small thing that we’ll handle when they come up.”

Even when we believe there are some differences between us, we don’t think they’re that big of a deal. We believe our love is enough to conquer these “small” things. But that’s like saying, “I love these shoes so much, it really won’t matter that there’s a rock in my shoe. It will be fine.”

We see the differences, but we believe that once we’re married our spouse will change.

I can’t tell you how many time this happens: A couple comes into my counseling office, at odds over their differences. And when I ask whether these differences were present before they got married, they tell me, “Yes, but I thought they would change.” And the really honest spouses will say, “Yes, but I thought I could change them.”

But after you’ve been married a while, the list of things you wish you could change about your spouse doesn’t get shorter. It gets longer. Which brings us to a second question…

HOW CAN I GET MY SPOUSE TO CHANGE?

We all have been guilty of trying to change our spouse. We tend to believe our problems would go away and our marriage would be better if our spouse would just change! And we’re so convinced of this, we try to “help them” change.

What not to do.

Our attempts to change our spouse look something like this…

  • We point out the thing we think they need to change. (Maybe they just don’t see it.)
  • We try to convince them why our way of doing things is better. (Surely they will see the reasoning.)
  • We nag them into doing what we want them to do. (But we would never call it nagging. We’re just trying to help.)
  • We elevate the volume and the intensity of our communication. (They just need to know how serious we are about this.)
  • We withdraw and withhold the things that are important to them. (After all, if I can’t get what I want, they shouldn’t get what they want.)

If you’ve tried any or all of these tactics, you know that they’re not very effective. Even if they get you what you want, it will be a short-lived effort and a long-lived resentment.

What to do?

So what do you do if you want your spouse to change? Here it is…

If you want your spouse to change…you change!

I know this is not what you want to hear. (It’s not what I want to hear either!) But follow me on this…

Opposites attract when you’re dating, but after the honeymoon, opposites tend to aggravate. That’s when we start trying to change our spouse, so they will fit better with us.

But marriage is like a dance between two dance partners. If you don’t like the way your partner is dancing, you have three option:

  • You can try to pressure your partner into dancing the way you want. But this is not really dancing. It’s wrestling.
  • You can ditch your partner for another who will dance the way you want. But this is not really dancing. It’s running.
  • Or you can change the way you’re dancing! This presents the greatest possibility of change. Your spouse doesn’t want to be forced into doing something different, any more than you do. But if you change the way you’re dancing, your partner will then have the freedom to choose their options.

Difference that frustrate you about your spouse may be due to something as simple as differences in personality or up-bringing. And you can’t do anything about those. But so often, your spouse is acting the way they are, because they are reacting to something you’re doing…or not doing.

  • They’re nagging you, because you’re not listening to them or doing what needs to be done.
  • They are ignoring you, because you’ve been ignoring them in some way.
  • They’re not asking what you think, because you’re too harsh and critical.
  • They complain about not spending time together, because you’re not spending time with them…at least not in a way that connects with them.
  • They are upset about overspending or underspending, because you’re not valuing what they value.

In other words, they’re dancing the way they are, because you’re dancing the way you are. So one of the most effective ways to effect change in a marriage is to change yourself.

One last thought…Don’t be so quick to try to change the differences that drive you crazy. These differences that attracted you in the beginning are now there to grow you in the present. Sometimes we need to accept our spouse the way they are, rather than try to change them. After all…isn’t that what we want them to do for us?

1 Samuel 9 – The Master Chess Player

I’m not very good at chess. I can’t think like a chess player. Really good chess players think many moves ahead, as if they already know what’s going to happen.

God is a really good chess player.

When you look at 1 Samuel chapter 9, you will find one “coincidence” after another…pointing to God’s sovereignty and intricate timing. For example…Saul, looking for some donkeys that had run away, “just happens upon” Samuel. For this to happen…

  • The donkeys had to wander off at the right time.
  • The servant had to think of consulting Samuel just when they were close to the town Samuel was in.
  • Saul had to encounter the women who knew where Samuel was.
  • Saul and the the servant had to catch Samuel before the feast began.
  • Etc.

You can’t read 1 Samuel chapter 9 without seeing God’s complete control and sovereignty. That, in itself, is amazing. But even more amazing is the fact that God’s complete sovereignty and control is used in accordance with God’s great love and mercy. (1 Sam. 9:16)

After being rejected time and time again by His children, God could have used His sovereignty to punish them. But instead, He continues to orchestrate every little detail, so that He might continue showing mercy and grace.

When it comes to chess, God is the Master chess player. He sees many moves ahead of us. So look at your circumstances and situations. They may not be what you want (as when the donkeys ran away), and they may not be what God wants (as when Israel rejected Him and wanted a king.) But God is still in complete control and He’s moving all the pieces around the board to give you the greatest shot at being who He wants you to be.

Things I Would Tell My Newly Married Self

I have done a lot of premarital counseling, and I’ve found it to be both enjoyable and frustrating. Enjoyable, because you get the opportunity to walk with a couple and to speak into their present and future lives. Frustrating, because many of these couples have no frame of reference for what you’re telling them…and they’re often too “in love” to hear it anyway.

Engaged couples mean well and they want to have the best marriage possible. It’s just that the excitement of becoming Mr. and Mrs. makes it hard from them to really imagine the feelings and frustrations they will face down the road. The light in their fiancé’s eyes blinds them to the issues that are there. The blood that rushes to their head (and other places) keeps them from hearing things they need to hear.

Remember when you first realized that marriage wasn’t what you thought it would be? Maybe it was the first time you realized those quirky parts of your spouse’s personality weren’t going to change like you thought/hoped they would. Perhaps it was when you discovered that their approach to money felt less like pulling together and more like tug-of-war. Maybe it was when you realized the sexual tension and excitement you felt during the honeymoon phase had morphed into a dull predictability that was just a notch above doing the laundry.

We’ve all encountered things in marriage and found ourselves thinking, “I wish someone had told me about this.” So I’ve thought about it, and here are some things I would tell my newly married self:

  • You don’t need to be right all the time…even if you think you are.
  • Dirty clothes go in the hamper, not on the floor beside the hamper.
  • Just because they say they’re fine, doesn’t mean they are.
  • “I wish we were closer” probably means something different to them than it does for you.
  • When they say, “There’s nothing in this house to eat,” it doesn’t they want to go get groceries.
  • They can criticize their parents. You cannot!
  • People’s standards for cleanliness vary greatly.
  • Just because their personality is different from yours doesn’t mean they are brain damaged.
  • Your sex life will occasionally ebb and flow, but it will always take work.
  • If you don’t look at them, you’re not really listening to them.
  • It’s ok to disagree on how to raise children. They will grow up anyway.
  • Compromise is not surrender.
  • It won’t hurt you to watch what they like to watch. (I’m still learning this one.)
  • The more you’re willing to release, the more you’re able to receive.
  • When you say, “Where do you want to eat,” and they say, “Anywhere’s fine,” DON’T BELIEVE IT!

These are just a few of the things I would tell my newly married self. I’ll bet you could add to the list. What would you tell your newly married self? Leave your ideas in the comments and let’s see how many of these we can collect…for all those people who don’t know what they’re getting into!

If You Love Them, Prove It

When the couple walked into my counseling office, it was obvious things were not good between them. Their heads were down, there were very little pleasantries offered, they chose opposite sofas on which to sit, and neither wanted to be the first to talk. When they finally started opening up, each told story after story about how the other had overlooked them, stopped spending time with them, and failed to act lovingly toward them. And each confirmed that they had been acting that way toward the other!

Now, here’s the kicker…when I asked them why they were still in the marriage, each said, “Because I love them!” It was at that point, I wanted to say, “Prove it.”

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Deuteronomy 19 – Justice

Justice is a key component for any civilization that hopes to survive and thrive. It’s desired by those who have been wronged and dreaded by those who have wronged others.

God is a God of Justice. We don’t like to think of Him in this way, but his heart of love requires that the innocent be protected and the guilty be punished. In Deuteronomy chapter 19, God spends the first half of the chapter dealing with protecting the innocent and the second half of the chapter dealing with punishing the guilty.

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Deuteronomy 15 – Share What You’ve Been Given

You can see it in a small child protectively clutching a toy. You can hear it in their voice when they punctuate the word “mine!” Since the Garden of Eden, our natural tendency has been to keep, rather than give.

But God’s people are to be characterized as givers. We are to demonstrate the character of the One who has so graciously given everything to set us free and continues to generously give everything we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3) He reached down when we were in need, leaving us an example to follow.

In Deuteronomy chapter 15, God institutes the year of Jubilee or the year of release. It’s God’s way of reminding His people who they are and where they’ve come from. Deuteronomy 15:4 teaches us that as God’s children, our hearts and resources should go out to the poor and the debtor. Just as God freed us and blessed us, we too are to free and bless others. And as we generously share what God has given us, God will bless us even more.

This applies spiritually as well as materially. We are to give the forgiveness we’ve been given. We are to give the love we’ve been given. And we are to give the mercy we’ve been given. As God’s children, we are to give release and relief, both spiritually and materially.

Have you experienced release and relief from God? If so, how do you need to share that? Whom do you need to forgive? How do you need to bless someone? Find a way to start today!

How the Heart of a Marriage Survives a Near Fatal Heart Surgery

In the following guest post by Debbie Latour, you will hear how a married couple faced a dangerous heart surgery and came out stronger in love, life, and faith.

When you’re divorced, middle aged, and are given the gift of happily-ever-after with a second marriage, your optimism for the future is renewed. The birds sing again, the stars twinkle brighter, and the dark cloud of a failed marriage gives way to a clear, bright sky.
As we age, certain aches and pains are expected. However, you do not anticipate that less than a month in to a new marriage, you’d hear that your husband has an aneurysmal ascending aorta. His cardiologist sent us home with the recommendation that its growth be monitored and checked in a year.
For the next year, I watched this incredible gift from God, knowing he had a ticking time bomb in his chest, praying that this was not the day it ruptured and my happily-ever-after came to a screeching halt. I lived that year in absolute fear.

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