This week Sabra and I celebrated our wedding anniversary. So I’m taking a one-week detour from our current series to write about some things our anniversary has brought to mind. (But we’ll continue “Overcoming Satan’s Strategies for Destroying Our Marriages” next week.)
“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” – Proverbs 27:1
The past couple of weeks have been tragic for the city of Orlando. First, on June 11th, a man shot and killed singer Christina Grimmie shortly after her concert in Orlando. Then on June 12th, another man shot and killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in a nightclub there. Just two days later, a two-year-old boy was killed at Disney World when he was taken under water by an alligator.
How does this relate to me and Sabra and our wedding anniversary? We went to Florida for our honeymoon and spent part of our time in the Orlando area. The best man in our wedding lives in Orlando. And our son is in law school in St. Petersburg (the town where Christina Grimmie’s murderer lived), just a little over one hundred miles west of Orlando.
But these events also relate to us—and every married couple–for another reason. When Sabra and I took our vows before God 38 years ago, we had no idea what the future held. Just like Christina Grimmie when she was performing. Just like those people who went into that night club to have a good time. Just like the Nebraska family that went to Disney World to enjoy a vacation together.
Sabra and I had plans and dreams all those years ago when we honeymooned in Orlando. But things have turned out very different than we expected.
We like to think we have at least some control over the future and what lies ahead. But we don’t.
Just look at the following statistics: The United Nations reported that 437,000 people around the world were murdered in 2012. According to National Geographic, 725,000 people die every year from diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, 125,000 people are killed by snake bites, and 3,000 people are killed by scorpions. Even freshwater snails transmit a disease (schistosomiasis) that kills up to 200,000 people a year. Snails!
Are you frightened yet? Truly, that’s not my purpose. But it should make us all pay attention to God’s warning in James 4:13-16: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.”
Sabra and I had no idea on the day we married that I would end up studying at seminary, pastor churches in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and eventually become a seminary professor. We had no way of knowing we would be blessed by God with two wonderful children, a godly son-in-law, and (very soon) a grandson. And we certainly didn’t dream that Sabra would almost die from an unknown disease early in our marriage, that I would have a kidney transplant in my forties, or that I would nearly die from a recent illness that would lead to disability and early retirement.
Yet through it all, Sabra and I have grown closer to each other. Why?
The answer can be found in James’ passage above. He says that instead of presuming we know where our lives are going, we should say, “‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’”
We have prospered in spite of our difficulties because of God’s faithfulness. We haven’t grown wealthier, and we don’t have more things. That’s not how we’ve prospered. Quite the opposite. But God has used all of these experiences to bring us closer to Him and, therefore, to each other.
We’ve learned a lot through our years of marriage. But two things stand out.
One is that we have no control over much of life. God tells us in Proverbs 27:1: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” The passage in James 4:13-16 (quoted above) affirms this.
And while this sounds like a negative, it’s not. Especially in light of the second thing: God is absolutely faithful and true to His Word. We can trust His promise 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.”
Jesus said in Matthew 6:31-34: “‘So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’”
God keeps His word. No matter what today or tomorrow brings, God is with us, and He will see us through it. Even more, He will use it for our good.
I have been reading through Deuteronomy during my Bible study times in the morning. Moses is about to die and turn over the mantle of leadership of God’s people to Joshua. In preparation for this, God has Moses give Joshua this promise: “‘The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged’” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
God says through the writer of Hebrews that this promise is for all of us who trust our lives to Him. Hebrews 13:5-6 says: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’”
When we make Jesus our Lord–not money or anything or anyone else–we don’t have to fear what may come our way. Our lives and marriages will experience what He promises in 2 Timothy 1:7: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid (fearful), but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”
As Sabra and I have walked together throughout our marriage, we have seen the truth of Isaiah 26:3-4: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.”
I am ashamed to say that we have not always been steadfast, but God has.
Sabra led us to focus on one word this year–portion. I will write more about that word before the year is over. But how it is used in God’s Word and how it has been true in our marriage can be found in one passage that God brought to my attention recently.
That passage is Psalm 16:5-11: “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (bold mine)
This psalm of God as our portion is our prayer, as it was David’s. And I pray it is yours as well. If not, then you can learn how to make it yours here: Meet Jesus.
The Lord has been our portion for all of our 38-year marriage. And He has always been faithful.
No matter what frightening things go on in the world around you or what you may face in your future, you can trust that God is in control and He always keeps His promises. As you seek Him, trust Him, and follow Him, He will work all things together for your good and draw you ever closer together.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
♦ Read this week’s teaching together. Discuss what God is teaching you and how you can apply it in your lives and marriage.
♦ Whether you’ve been married a few months or many years, talk together about how God has been faithful to you. Discuss how this encourages you about the future.
♦ If you’re going through a difficult time right now, and even if you’re not, reread some of the Scriptures above that particularly encourage you. Are there other passages that encourage you? Review them together.
♦ Pray together and recommit yourselves to trust Him. Pray for Him to help you with this. Pray for Him to protect you from Satan’s attacks so you will remain faithful to Him and each other no matter what may come your way.
Next week we will continue our series on protecting our marriages from Satan’s schemes and attacks.
Until then, may God bless you in all His wonderful ways,