“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” – Colossians 3:1-2
The last three weeks we’ve discussed how important it is to be committed to our marriages for the long way. We have looked at passages from a portion of the Scriptures we refer to as “Wisdom Literature,” specifically teachings from Ecclesiastes and Proverbs. And we have found some ways God teaches us to have “long way” marriages.
This week we will discuss an important lesson from God that we find in Psalms. I have loved the psalms since I was a child. But I gained a new appreciation for them early in my preparation for ministry when I was in seminary.
I took a course on the book of Psalms with Dr. Samuel Balentine, a young, fairly new professor. He introduced us to the idea that the psalms could be divided into two basic categories–praise and lament. Many of the psalms contain both. The key is where the psalmist’s focus was or where his perspective on life was laid.
We have just finished the Easter celebration in our churches. A major part of this focus is the death of Jesus. As He dies on the cross–as the final sacrifice for our sins–the Gospel writers record seven statements He makes. One of them is found in Matthew 27:46: “About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’).”
This is a quote from Psalm 22:1: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?” This is a psalm attributed to David, clearly during a time of pain and distress.
This becomes more apparent as this psalm continues. We read in Psalms 22:6-8: “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. ‘He trusts in the Lord,’ they say, ‘let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.’”
We also find in Psalm 22:16-18: “Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” We can understand why Jesus would cry this psalm from the cross and why this lament so related to what Jesus was experiencing.
But as Jesus identified with this portion of the psalm, we can be certain He also identified with the remainder of it. The lament turns to praise.
In Psalm 22:19-24 we read: “But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen. I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you. You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”
What made the difference that turned the lament to praise? The answer can be found in one word–perspective. The view had moved from self and the problems and pain of the current situation. Instead it was now focused on the One who will bring His good purposes in every situation—the Lord God.
God promises in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
The “good” for Jesus was His pain, suffering and death on the cross that led to His resurrection and defeat of death, sin, and Satan for us. (See more about this here: Meet Jesus.) The “good” for us and our marriages is that whatever we may go through, God will use it for good in our lives and marriage.
Another psalm speaks about this truth. Psalm 73 again begins with lament and ends with praise. The psalmist states that at first he complained against God. He says in Psalm 73:2-4: “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.”
The writer goes on for some time with similar concerns. And then we read Psalm 73:15-17: “If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children. When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.”
He continues in Psalm 73:21-26: “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
What made the difference? It was a change in perspective.
When the author was focused on the world and the things of the world he was “grieved” and “embittered.” He was “senseless and ignorant.” But then he realized God was always with him and always held him. God was there guiding him and would always strengthen him. He had moved from anger and discouragement to praise and thankfulness as he refocused on God.
The same is true for us in our lives and marriages. It is why Paul writes in Colossians 3:1-4: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
The author of Psalm 73 and Paul in Colossians 3 follow an almost identical theme. Look at life without the guidance of the Holy Spirit pointing you to God and you’ll be led to despair. Allow Him to lead you and you’ll be brought into God’s sanctuary. Then you’ll have an entirely new and hopeful perspective.
The psalmist’s first look at life is futile. He went from confusion to envy to brutishess and ignorance like a beast. All this happened when he was trying his best to do what was right. But like us, he sinned and fell short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Then, he came into the sanctuary of God–the very presence of God–as we can through faith in Christ (Ephesians 3:12), and everything changed.
The psalmist knew from this new perspective that the “earth has nothing I desire besides you [God]” (Psalm 73:25). He realized that “God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26). He understood that “it is good to be near God” (Psalm 73:28).
It’s easy to get our focus off the Lord and dwell on the things in life—and marriage–that aren’t going well. When we do, we only make things worse. As the psalmist discovered, we must allow the Lord to change our perspective right back on Him and all that He promises. This brings back joy and hope in our lives and helps us see the “good” that God has for us, through all circumstances.
This is exactly what we must understand if we are going to have a long way marriage. Change your perspective, change your marriage.
Questions for Discussion
♦ Read this week’s teaching together. Discuss the things God spoke to you about, and how they will impact your marriage.
♦ God desires to give us the grace and help we need as we seek him and ask for it. So like the psalmist, we must faithfully continue to do so. Are you struggling with something right now? Perhaps your finances are tight. Maybe there is a health or job issue. Maybe you are having troubles with your children. Whatever it may be, refocus by praying together that the Spirit will assure you that Jesus will never let go of you. Ask Him to help you see that Christ is better than anything and everything else. Ask Him to enlarge your faith so you can live from the perspective of His sanctuary.
♦ As you find a new frame on life and its struggles, God wants to use you to be His instruments to minister to others. Look together for opportunities God is providing you. Don’t lecture or argue with people. Simply hold up distinctly biblical frames that God has taught you. Demonstrate a quiet confidence that God’s perspective on life is right and that it works. Let your conversation be grace-filled and be patient. With consistent time and prayer these seeds will take root in your lives. You will see your lives and God in a new and more hopeful way.
♦ Close your time together with prayer. Ask God to help you keep your focus on Him. Ask Him to help you be His instruments to help others do the same.
Next week, we will begin a new series on time and marriage. God says much about time and how we are to use it. This includes in our marriages.
Until then, may God bless you in all His wonderful ways,
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