Distractions in Marriage – Part 6: Caring for Loved Ones

This week we conclude the series about distractions and how they affect our marriages. We want to talk about one more distraction that was high on the list of those shared with us on Facebook. And it has to do with caring for those we love, especially when it involves sudden or chronic health issues.

There are so many things involved when health issues arise. And any of those things—or all of them combined—can pull us in different directions and make time for each other more difficult. There are doctor appointments, tests, and treatments that seem to never end. Working out the complicated schedule is hard enough just to get everything done dealing with the health issue itself. But add to that all the normal requirements of life—work, home, finances, children, school, and so on—and it can easily become overwhelming.

Anyone in your family–your spouse, your children, your parents, and even you–can face sudden or chronic health issues that require your care. And anytime extra care is needed, it pulls on us physically and emotionally. It requires time and other resources and takes a toll.

When health concerns arise, we have no control over them. But they must not be ignored. They demand our attention. It is both biblical and pleasing to God that we respond to the needs of our own health and that of those we love.

Sabra and I have experienced this ourselves in the last few years. First it was my health, with a sudden illness that kept me in the hospital for seven weeks and outpatient rehab for months. Along with the crazy schedule and practical issues to take care of, dealing with exhaustion and emotional stress began to take its toll.

And our aging parents also have required more of our time and energy as their needs increased. My dad became very ill and was in and out of the hospital for months before he died last spring. And Sabra’s mom continues to need more assistance as she attempts to remain living by herself. It is a blessing to be able to do these things.

In the Ten Commandments, God said we should “honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12). Paul repeats and expands on this in Ephesians 6:2-3: “‘Honor your father and mother’- which is the first commandment with a promise so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” (Paul includes the commandment as it is found in Deuteronomy 5:16). We are no longer under our parents’ authority as a married couple (see Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:31). However, we are never to stop honoring them.

God expects us to take care of those we love. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 5:8: “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

So while good and godly—and necessary—these situations can also bring distractions which impact our relationship with each other. God calls us to love one another (1 John 3:11). So when we demonstrate love by helping take care of others, it is an act of obedience to God. But it is also an act of obedience to God to nurture and care for our relationship with Him and with each other every single day.

Sometimes it’s hard to know how to do this. When we feel pulled in many different directions, we tend to get dragged along by whatever comes up. But we must take our struggle to the Lord in prayer. He alone knows all we’re going through and can show us what to do.

Our relationship with God is the most important one we have. And the next is our relationship with our spouse. But sadly, even our relationship with our spouse can become a distraction from our walk with God if we let it. We must not let that happen because our relationship with our spouse depends on a strong relationship with God.

Our marriage, by its very nature, demands the most of our time. Therefore, it’s extremely important to center our marriage around God. We must not allow distractions to keep us from spending time alone with Him. If we do, our relationship with our spouse will start to spiral downward.

And if our marriage is not strong, our ability to help others will be greatly hindered. In a nutshell, the other people in our lives are extremely important, but our relationship with God is of the utmost importance. We must never forget that.

As we’ve discussed, distractions shift our attention from something of greater importance to something of lesser importance. The most dangerous distractions are those that take our focus off of God. It is our sinful nature to shift our attention from God to lesser things. The Bible calls this idolatry and is full of warnings against it. God’s first two commandments warn us about this. We read in Exodus 20:3-6:

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

When God has the proper place of being first in our lives and marriage, everything else will fall where it should. We will love Him and then be able to love each other with His kind of love. Then we will be able to serve others together with His type of love.

Jesus said this another way when He was asked about the greatest commandment. We read in Matthew 22:37-39: “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

This distraction from God to less important things affects our relationship with Him and each other. And it hinders our responsibilities to Him and others. Thus we ultimately are distracted because of our fallen, self-centered nature.

But if we listen to God through prayer and His Word, He will use distractions to increase our focus on Him and strengthen our self-control.

Any of us who exercise regularly know that we strengthen our muscles by pushing them against some form of resistance. We push back against that force and we become stronger. The same can be said in our spiritual life. We can push back against the distractions Satan throws at us to distract us from God and His Word.

We’re told in James 4:7: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (bold mine).

Our exercise for doing this is to “submit yourselves, then, to God.” To do this, we must know what God says in His Word. James 1:22 says: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

When we study God’s Word and then do what it says, our focus becomes centered on God. We become less distracted, which leads to us to focus on and love God more. Only then can we focus on and love each other more. And this allows us to then love, care for, and serve others together without harm to our marriage. Instead, it will strengthen it.

The distractions we’ve discussed in the last few weeks are only a few that will be thrown our way. But, Praise God! Distractions do not have to destroy our marriage. The ways that we have learned to help us deal with distractions can be used no matter what we face. And when we use them, our marriage will come out stronger than ever.

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♦   Read this week’s teaching together. Discuss what God has spoken to you about through it.

♦   Are you or someone you love dealing with a health or some other issue? What distractions has this caused? Talk about possible ways to take care of the responsibilities without it hindering your relationship.

♦   Is God the most important person in your lives? What can you do to make sure He is?

♦   Are you exercising your spiritual muscles—both as an individual and as a couple? (Our Couple Connect tool was designed to help you do this. Download it for free here.)

♦   Make a commitment to help each other to not allow distractions hinder your relationship with God or each other. Begin by setting times in your schedule this week to meet with God and with each other.

♦   Close your time in prayer together. Ask God to help you deal with the distractions that will come.

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May God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,

Other posts in the DISTRACTIONS IN MARRIAGE series:
Part 1: Distractions Can Be Dangerous
Part 2: Three Steps to Avoid Their Harmful Effects
Part 3: Controlling Technology
Part 4: Choosing What Is Best
Part 5: Setting Priorities
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Photo by Aditya Romansa on Unsplash, (CC0), cropped/text added.


About David Penley

A devoted husband and father, former pastor and seminary professor, who longs to grow closer to the likeness of Christ each day and share God's love and truth with everyone.