Thursday, October 21, 2010

What does love do?

The other day when I was working at my brother's house,  I wanted to take a break but I didn't have my book with me, so I picked up one of my old Elisabeth Elliot books - she always has something good to say. Flipping through it for something to read, I could hardly believe it when I came across this chapter! Now you may be wondering why I posted this: after all I don't have a husband. Well it doesn't take a husband, I think this chapter applies to any relationship and it fit in perfectly with a conversation I had recently.  I was horrified when I read what she said about frustrations leading eventually to hate, and pray that doesn't happen to any of us.

A couple of my own thoughts after reading this are: that it can be good to speak up (though not in a nagging way like mentioned below, or in anger). The other is to stop focusing on second causes, ultimately the Lord is letting those clothes be left on the floor (or whatever else happens to be irritating you), what does He want you to learn from it? Even if it is just patiently training a child to be more considerate - what can I learn from this? What am I doing to irritate others?

My Matthew Henry reading this morning in 1 Samuel 30 had a couple quotes that I felt went well with this subject, plus I also included one from Ruth that was on my mind. I hope all this gives you as much to think about as it did for me, and that some of you may find it helpful. And just so you know, even though I'm sharing what I'm thinking on this...don't think I have successfully achieved this kind of attitude..."for without me you can do nothing." John 15:5

"Thus apt are we, when we are in trouble, to fly into a rage against those who are in any way the occasion of our trouble, while we overlook the divine providence, and have not that regard to the operations of God's hand in it which would silence our passions, and make us patient."


"When we are disappointed and discouraged in our expectations from second causes, then to go on with cheerfulness, confiding in the divine power, this is giving glory to God, by believing against hope, in hope."

"Every creature and every condition are that to us, and no more, that God makes them to be."
~ Matthew Henry 

 "Everything is an affair of the spirit. If eating and drinking can be done "to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31) so can everything else. For those who long to follow Christ, "The performance of smaller duties, yes even of the smallest will do more to give us temporary repose....than the greatest joys than can come to us from any other quarter." (George MacDonald).

At a conference where I was speaking about the little sacrifices of love I suggested that if, for example, your husband drops his clothes on the floor and leaves them there you might instead of nagging (your views on the subject are quite well known to him!) simply pick them up. This sort of suggestion does not go over well these days - we're terrified of being "walked on," or becoming co-dependent," or enablers. One woman's questions following that talk were:
             1. Why shouldn't my husband change and pick up his clothes?
2.If he doesn't, how do I handle the resentment I feel?

The first answer is simple: of course he should change, but you can't make him! God knows you've tried. It's time to leave him to God (I was not talking to husbands!)

The second question pierces to the heart of things: The resentment - my heart, my attitude toward the man - reveals my attitude towards Jesus Himself, for what I do to one of his brothers I do to Him - alas.

I greatly value question and answer sessions, hoping to clarify the application to individual lives of the principles I try to set forth. But having been at this a good number of years, I am more and more aware of the difficulty of helping people turn their eyes to Jesus. The world, as Wordsworth put it, is too much with us. Has a husband's careless habit anything to do with my relationship with Jesus? Yes, everything to do with it.

As I reminded my daughter Valerie (in the book I wrote as a wedding present to her, Let Me Be a Woman), you marry a sinner. There simply isn't anything else to marry. So the husband sins against the wife - and let us wives not forget - he, too marries a sinner. If he sins in being thoughtless and my reaction is sinful, two wrongs don't make a right.

Most questions about relationships can be answered quite simply if we ask ourselves this question, what does love do?

Let me start with my love for God. Loving Him means the thankful acceptance of all things his love has appointed. We learn to love him as we learn to "frame our heart to the burden," as Samuel Rutherford said. Clothes on the floor at worst constitute a 'small burden'. This, if not accepted, as soon as we find we are not in a position to change it, becomes an irritation, which then becomes resentment, which becomes real anger and eventually with all the irritation not accepted for the love of God, becomes full-dressed hatred. "But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes." 1 John 2:11. No wonder we lose our way. No wonder we are baffled. Darkness descends because we do not ask the Lord to teach us love.

Surely the questioner would protest that she does not hate her husband. But she certainly hates what he does and marriages break up when "small" things accumulate and resentments build. Love is the intention of unity. Resentment is the destroyer of unity.

John S Dwight said, "rest is the fitting of self to its sphere." If in my sphere I find things out of place through someone else's fault this is my opportunity to fit myself, to give a little, to do the small thing that should have been done by the other. Love is very patient, very kind, never rude, never selfish. And it's amazing what rest comes from the gentle fitting of self to it's sphere.

Now as to the "handling" of resentment?" Again, turn your eyes upon Jesus. Had he good reason to be resentful? Did people treat him with respect, believe his words, trust his judgments, follow his leading, love and obey him? Think on these powerful words -

"For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.  For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:  Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
1 Peter 2:20-24

In her thought provoking little book called If, Amy Carmichael writes,

"If I am soft to myself and slide comfortably into the vice of self pity and self sympathy; if I do not by the grace of God practice fortitude, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

Some things my be legitimately alleviated, others necessarily endured. May we be wise enough to know the difference."
~ From Secure In The Everlasting Arms by Elisabeth Elliot

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"Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
Isaiah 55:6,8-1