Perhaps you know of couples, co-employees or spiritual leaders that are so busy doing either spiritual-related "Kingdom-minded" activities or success-minded work that they spend very little time together as a family? They usually say‚ “I’m doing God’s work" or, “I’m doing this for my family.”
In marriage, however, there is no such thing as doing the wrong thing for the right reason. If doing or saying something in a certain way negatively affects your spouse, you need to try a different approach.
Unfortunately, our church lifestyle can also take up an enormous amount of our time and energy that should be devoted to and for our spouse.
From being early to church, to pre-service prayer meetings, to work days, to fundraisers, to ministries, to supporting other ministries on top of your own, and so on. Where is the time you have promised to give to your spouse?
We have witnessed untold amounts of solid leaders within the church, even high profile leaders, who‚ for the sake of God, the church, the Kingdom, have sacrificed the very existence of their own marriage for a taste of success.
Leaders in any capacity – whether church, corporate or on the job – that spend an extensive time on the road, in counseling, or even ministering to others, have even more of a responsibility to ensure the needs of their own spouse is met first.
There is greater capacity and temptation for highly active leaders to allow a slow, inch- by-inch death of their own marriages.
One unsettling factor is that the real motive for ministry has changed from being solely a burden for souls into a way to fill a void that their partner is not meeting. Since they are not receiving their worth of credit and appreciation from home, they seek to fulfill their needs through ministry.
Paralleling secular workaholics, schedule and activities that are church- or ministry-related take the place of family time.
If they are not careful, they fall prey to the alarmingly high statistic rate of ministers that have fallen into having affairs.
No result or reward is big enough to break your partner’s trust
I distinctly remember in the past when there was a good-hearted Christian who worked in an office that also had prominent, well-known Christian leaders who administered the company. These were renowned leaders who would be instantly recognized if named.
One day, this person was deeply hurt by some remarks made by her boss and she ended up crying and running into the bathroom. During this time period, her husband called the office and left a message for her. After she cried some and felt a little better, a co-worker had asked if she already had spoken to her husband about what went on. This worker said, “No,” and that she didn’t want to upset him by telling him what happened.
The co-worker immediately told her that if there was anyone on earth that needed to know what had happened to her, and to know that she was hurting and upset, it is her husband, her spouse, not friends or co-workers.
This couple has since been separated and divorced.
A healthy marriage would have prevented this couple, and the children they have, from becoming yet another statistic of marital disaster.
Spiritual involvement is good – if your marriage is on track
It is imperative that we learn if our own marriages are really healthy or unhealthy. Just being married does not classify it as automatically healthy. We truly must evaluate, or in light of Scripture, we say “judge ourselves.”
We must first start with the evaluation process to see where our own marriages are at. Here are a few starting questions:
• Is your marriage in a state of co-existence or intimacy? In other words, do you feel like you are living separate lives even though you’re married?
• Is your intimacy drastically lower than when you were first married?
• Are you constantly drifting apart for any reason? (Spiritual or work-related)
• Are you best friends with someone OTHER than your spouse?
• Do you confide in, or share your emotional ups and downs with your friends BEFORE or OVER your spouse?
• Is there a large amount or increasing amount of bickering, arguing, or conflicts?
If you have answered yes to one or more of the above questions, you are either in or in the direction of living in an unhealthy marriage.
It may come as a shock to many in the religious world, but our marriages are not automatically healthy simply because we are religious, or that we stand on having a healthy, loving marriage. In fact, it is being attacked now more than ever.
Religious or not, your marriage is what you make of it. In fact, for those in the Christian environment, the marriage itself can be an unhealthy one, all the while both partners are anointed and appointed, and used mightily by God. The anointing, acts and displays of God, do not in any way measure your right standing with your spouse!
In fact, in many cases as we have seen in recent years, the ministries have flourished while the marriages have crumbled.
Scripture is clear when it states, “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” (Romans 11:29 KJV)
One can live in total sin and disobedience, and still be blessed! Remember Moses? Did not God command Moses to smite the rock once? Yet Moses, out of anger and frustration smote the rock twice.
The result not only brought immediate repercussions on Moses’ disobedience and his punishment, but it also brought the miraculous power of God. Water still came out of that rock, even though Moses was in disobedience.
In terms of marriage and relationships, don’t allow the twisted, non-biblical teaching that if God is pouring out His blessing, financial spiritual, miraculous or otherwise, that your marriage relationship is right and straight. You can be at complete odds with your spouse and God, and still things will happen for you in the “Kingdom.”
In other words, if your marriage is unhealthy, than it’s unhealthy; regardless of how active and anointed you are. Yes, your spiritual life and walk with God will affect your marriage, but you cannot overlook the simple fact that if you do not love your spouse and make your marriage a priority, it will not survive.
Increased Church involvement can destroy your marriage –really!
To some this may sound blasphemous, but it’s true nonetheless. Far too many couples have allowed the “Church assembly” to become their God – instead God being their God. And if understood correctly, participation and involvement in church-related activities are an extension of their walk with God. Yet many couples and individuals “base” their relationship with God on their activities – essentially making their relationship with God a “performance-based” relationship. This is never advocated, nor taught in the scriptures.
If our marriages are healthy, then adding involvement that supports God, the Gospel and an overall help for others will definitely bring enrichment, depth and a satisfaction to the entire marriage.
Being busy in a healthy relationship brings rewards that actually benefit both partners. When healthy couples are busy, they are usually busy doing constructive activities that can add or strengthen their lives. They do not participate in activities that promote separate, individual ideas, goals and visions.
Couples that live in CLOSENESS that have hectic lifestyles do not allow the busyness to overtake their relationship. They know when to draw the line on the amount of busyness they allow, which in turn could become a temptation to bring a wedge in their relationship.
High profile and nationally renowned Christian leader Bishop Thomas Weeks III painfully opened up and shed some light in his book What Love Taught Me and said:
“She didn’t want to talk to me, which was kind of putting me on a special time-out.
Well, you know what happens during that time – I simply work more focused. I get more accomplished and by the time she returns I am further ahead. I thrive off of being consistently consistent especially the more I found out over the years that this behavior was a damaging attribute that continued to happen no matter what. I grew into a workaholic. This became a pattern, feeling the rejection because she was gone, which caused me to work more, which created a train in motion that would not stop, for anyone.”
It’s so interesting to notate that “church work” was related as being parallel to being a “workaholic.” When put in its proper perspective, church work and secular work both take you away from your spouse. So, you cannot allow time being taken away from your spouse if you have not already given the time your spouse needs from you – no matter how noble the cause.
In fact, some couples avoid spending the time that God had actually meant for them to share with their spouse by spending it elsewhere – even spiritually-motivated activities – thus creating a breach in closeness and fellowship in their marriage.
They slowly decrease the closeness with their spouse, and start relying on others. While it sounds spiritual, and like this pleases God, it doesn’t! God commanded that the “two shall become one.” We cannot justify lengthy‚ alone times with God unless it is as Paul stated, with the consent of both in the marriage.
You can’t go back in time
One vital reason for knowing when to step back from involvement is that what little time you have with your spouse will make or break your marriage – whether in the short run or long run.
“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” (Friedrich Nietzsche)
Therapist Deniz Ince says, "The couples we see encounter problems with not spending enough time with each other… The lack of time is part of modern life and couples are struggling to plan their time effectively and make time for one another. In many cases, this is masking more fundamental problems.”
Even the London Sunday Times newspaper was reported to write, “Couples are simply too busy for love.”
Firstly, being extra busy doing anything whether good or bad, constructive or destructive, takes the time, attention and energy away from your partner and redirects it elsewhere.
While it may sound good and noble to point your energies into helping others in some way, you also need to realize that if it is in any way detracting necessary time that must be spent for your spouse in order to maintain a closeness in your marriage, then it is not a good or noble thing to do.
The needs of your spouse must always come first. Even before others that are being helped or ministered to in some way.
Sacrificing your marriage to help someone else is not an acceptable sacrifice at all.
Research through Howard Markman of the University of Denver Center for Marital and Family Studies has shown that “couples that spend quality time together are less likely to argue, bicker and hurt each other. They are healthier and happier in all areas of their life. Consequently, the more quality and fun time together they spend, the more time together they WANT to spend with each other.”
According to a Huffington Post article, "A third of couples spend less than 30 minutes of quality time together a day and three in 10 feel their relationship is suffering due to the lack of 'couple time,’ a study has revealed.”
Spirituality, including church attendance can actually become a cover up and a contributing factor of the marital breakdown – if you allow that. The dynamics work the same in principle with any such time-inducing activities.
Never sacrifice your marriage for ministry
Contrary to popular Christian leader’s examples, God did not call, anoint and appoint you in your ministry to be more important than your marriage. As we often say, “Your marriage is your FIRST ministry.”
We’ve seen how devastating it is for God’s people when we have high profile leaders that demonstrate their need for ministry and success over the importance of marriage. Leaders announcing divorce while promoting their “newly founded ministry.”
Ministry is obviously of utmost importance, but not more important than your own marriage!
We have found that God’s Kingdom and church-related work and ministry can often times be used as “scapegoats” to escape their faltering marital troubles at home. Helping others then becomes a temporal fix to an unwanted marital situation and lack of fulfillment in their own marriage. While helping others may appear on the outside as a noble cause, when done overboard, it’s simply a reason to avoid dealing with internal issues in the marriage; not merely motivated by a deep, spiritual burden.
What really happens to a couple at that point, is very simple. They are spending less time with each other. And because they are not resolving those issues and conflicts in their marriage, they stay apart from having to work on it even longer and slowly singe their conscience over time.
Did you know that extreme church attendance actually presents an opportunity to stay away from each other and avoid having to deal with the real issues?
We’ve heard directly from up and coming ministers how they are saddened by their marriage slowing down their momentum of success!
“If you are actively involved in either ministry job-related extra activities, and your marriage is suffering, stop some of the activities immediately and get your focus on rebuilding our marriage!” (Rev. Mike & Trisha Fox – Marriage for Today)
If you are taking time away from your marriage and family time, sacrificing that time for anyone or anything else, you will destroy your marriage and family. And the sad part about this is that after it’s all said and done, the very ones you helped while destroying your own marriage will not be there to kiss you good morning or hold you when you’re in pain. The closest relationship you should have should be with your spouse.
What needs to happen is simply a refocus on priorities. And, when we focus on strengthening our married couples in our churches, in our places of employment, in our families – we will see a SURGE of strength, power and restoration not only in our home, but also in our jobs, our churches, communities and eventually our nation.
It’s not as hard as you may think – a simple re-shifting of focus back on our spouse. And when we’re right with our spouse – then both partners can do mighty things in God’s Kingdom – but do them together, thereby multiplying their efforts and multiplying their rewards – as a couple!