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About the Author:
Sabrina D. Black, an individual and family therapist, is the Director of Abundant Life Counseling Center. She founded Global Projects for Hope, Help and Healing (GPH3), a community service organization formed to empower and assist underserved, impoverished peoples outside of the United States. In addition to speaking nationally and internationally at conferences and retreats, she serves as adjunct faculty at Ashland Theological Seminary, Rochester College and Cornerstone University. Sabrina lives in Detroit, MI, with her husband Warren and daughter Kenyae.
If you've ever tried to do a difficult thing in your own strength, you know how quickly you become tired. Just surviving from day to day sometimes seems like a miracle. God's power is always available; but if we don't avail ourselves of it, what difference does it make for us? It is like having money in the bank and living like you are poor, when all you have to do is make a withdrawal.
Scripture says that God gives strength and power to His people (Psalm 68:35; Matthew 9:8; 2 Timothy 1:7). There is power in the name of the Lord, there is power in the blood, there is power in God's Word, and there is power in the testimony of the saints. We must learn to activate God's power in our lives, in our everyday situations, and in our marriages. All we have to do is fall down on our knees and pray; all we have to do is ask and receive, and trust and obey.
I guess you're thinking, "That's easy for you to say, but how can I do this?" I promise you, my friend, it is not easy for me because I am weak. However, you must remember, I am not doing this thing and neither will you. God in us transforms our marriages. The strength is in Him!
Ephesians 6:l0 is a verse that has really ministered to me. You can encourage others with this same verse. Following are five different translations of this verse. As you read each, stop and think about what the verse says to you before going on to read the next one.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. (KJV)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. (NASB)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. (NIV)
Last of all I want to remind you that your strength must come from the Lord's mighty power within you. (TLB)
In conclusion, be strong in the Lord-be empowered through your union with Him; draw your strength from Him-that strength which His [boundless] might provides. (AMPLIFIED)
In Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, the word "finally" means furthermore; from now on; henceforth; moreover. Therefore, the Word of God says: No matter what your situation is-whatever you are facing-from henceforth, be strong in the Lord. You may be feeling weak, tired, or fed up. You may be wondering what you're going to do, and how you're going to cope. The answer is: Finally, from henceforth, go forward; furthermore, be strong in the Lord. It was not until I got to this "final" point in my marriage that God was able to work. Before, I thought it was something that I could do. Not! It was a matter of my allowing God to be God and effect a change in both José and me.
To be "strong in the Lord" means to be empowered, be enabled, be activated for good works. This power we are talking about is taken from the Greek word that means "that awesome power." It's where we get the word "dynamite." So when the Bible tells us to be "strong in the Lord," it is talking about dynamite power. With God's power, you can blow the situation wide open.
We are told to be strong in the Lord for a reason. You know that when you're trying to do anything in your own strength, you just become tired; and when you get tired, distressed, or fed up, the weight is more than you can carry. But the Lord's power is mighty. The Lord does not get tired. When you have the Lord living within you (because of your relationship with Him) and you are growing spiritually because you are studying the Word and praying on a daily basis, you can rest in the Lord and work in His power. You can be strong because it's not in your strength that you continue; it's in the Lord's strength that you can carry on.
God has done wondrous works in my marriage. It is His power active and available in my life, in my marriage, and in my home that enables me to write this book. Sometimes I stop and look back, and I just do not believe it. I know it is the grace of God that has brought me through. As you read my story, think about your situation and how this information or my experience applies to you. Information is great, but it is no good if it is not applied and acted upon. So after reading, ask yourself: What can I do differently?
My husband and I have been married now for seventeen years, and I have been saved for sixteen of those years. The first year of our marriage was like heaven; it was bliss! At the time, I knew about the Lord, but I did not have a relationship with Him. I knew enough to pray before I went to bed. I sent my tithes to the local church and I knew that God was good, but that was about it.
I married a wonderful guy. My husband is an excellent cook. He put dinner on the table every night. I worked in corporate America. My colleagues could not believe that I left work and went home to candlelight dinners every night. But it was true. (I have often said that his mother could be Suzy Homemaker's sister-which would make my husband Suzy Homemaker's nephew.)
He also keeps an immaculate house. So not only would I come home to dinner by candlelight, but the house would be spotless. Many times, my bathwater would be drawn because he knew I had a long, hard day. I thought, "Wow, isn't this wonderful?"
At my job, there was a lady who was always going on and on about these miracles at her church. I kept thinking, "Yeah, yeah, I know God is good. I don't need to go to church. I am too busy. I have all of this work to do on the weekends. I don't have time for church." But she insisted, and finally I went to church with her. That evening, they were having testimony time during communion, and everybody was standing up talking about how good God was. So, I said, "OK, I know God. I can stand up and give a testimony too."
So I stood up and I went on and on about how great my life was, how wonderful my husband was, the delicious dinners on the table, and how I had this great job in corporate America making lots of money. I had just purchased a new home, a new car, and a new wardrobe for my upcoming travels. I had everything in life someone my age could possibly want. But there was still something missing and I was not sure what it was. At that point I began to get tears in my eyes. With all these wonderful things, I was still not happy. I quickly composed myself. Tears did not go with the executive image; everything would be OK. I would get to heaven and Peter would greet me at the gate and say, "Well, Sabrina, why should you come in?" And I would say, "Well, I sent my money to the church, and I sang in the choir and I served on the usher board. I am a pretty good person, people like me and I do good deeds most of the time." But somehow I wasn't sure if that would be enough. So I sat down and consoled myself by thinking, "That was a good testimony."
After service, about five people rushed me. I thought, "What? What did I do? What did I say?" And the lady who had invited me leaned over and said, "I will talk to her." I asked, "What did I do?" She said, "First of all, Sabrina, Peter will not greet you at the gate. And if you really want to go to heaven, all you have to do is believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, receive Him into your heart, and have faith that you will be there with Him in heaven." I thought, "That's all?"
After we prayed and I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior, the joy of the Lord bubbled over in my soul. I was so excited. I went home and I thought, "Great! I can't wait until I tell my husband the good news. I have found a Savior like no other." Then I remembered that he was not real keen on religion. It had never been a concern before because neither of us went to church (except for the holidays).
My husband grew up Catholic. He went to Mass regularly. He prayed the rosary, paid penance, went to see the priest-the whole nine yards. His father was a devout Catholic. My husband grew up hating religion. Later he tried to give religion a second chance, but he had a few bad experiences with the church. So he hated religion, and he hated churches. In spite of the importance of my great news, I began to think, "Maybe I shouldn't tell him just yet."
So, I had this wonderful secret, this newfound love that I was holding, just waiting for the right time to tell him. My girlfriend called and asked my husband, "Hey, did Sabrina tell you about her great news?" I had not told him yet. My husband's sarcastic response was, "So you joined the local church, huh?" I could tell by his comment that he wasn't pleased and that my not telling him sooner was a problem. I immediately began to highlight all the positive aspects of my joining the church. "Honey, it's a wonderful place," I said. "You would love these people. They're young and vibrant, college-educated like we are, and they have great jobs. Many are newlyweds and starting families. Come on; come on, you'll really like it." He grunted. His response was less than enthusiastic, but he did come to church a few times in those early years. I thought he would see for himself that it was OK and the people were not that bad. He even met several people he knew from college. And I thought excitedly, "Great, he will come back. Yes, he'll come back."
My husband did not come back, but I kept going. For me it was more than the church; it was my commitment to Christ. The love of the Lord was growing in my heart. I had a desire for God's Word, and I wanted to know how He would have me to live my life. I rushed to church every time they opened up the doors. Then I would go home and say, "Honey, guess what the pastor said ..." "Do you know what the pastor said?" "And the Bible says ..." "And the pastor said ..." Not only did he hate religion, he hated the church, and now he hated the pastor. I kept thinking, "Lord, what am I doing wrong? I just love You so much, and I want him to come to know You, too." That was our second year of our marriage.
The days of bliss became a faint memory. We spent the next ten years trying to learn how to relate to each other all over again. We did not seem to have anything in common. The things that excited me when we were first married did not work anymore. When I accepted Christ in my life, I did a complete turnabout. The things I used to do or wanted to do, I had no desire for anymore.
Some of you may remember that when you first got saved, you became totally righteous-radically saved. As a new Christian, you knew all of the right things to do, all of the right answers, and all of the biblical approaches to life. I went home with that kind of attitude. However, I was totally self-righteous-a major sin, but I was too immature in my faith at the time to know it. So every time my husband did something wrong, he heard: "You're going to hell." "God will get you for that." "Let me show you how you ought to live." Then I started leaving tracts in his lunch box, Bibles under his pillow, little notes and Scriptures posted on all of the mirrors and the refrigerator. For a nonbeliever it was Scripture overload. Can you imagine what a delight I was to live with? I often look back with wonder, and I know it must have been because of the grace of God that we are still married years later. The Lord knows I did not intend to, but I almost messed it up, by trying to help God save my husband.
There are a couple of things I want to mention as precautions at this point. Most women who are involved in unequally yoked relationships have heard the Scripture that your husband may be won through your quiet and gentle spirit. "Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives" (1 Peter 3:1 NIV). My caution is that Scripture says that he may be won, not he will be won. It does not say that because you are quiet, gentle, and meek your husband will be saved in two weeks or any specific time frame. As a counselor, I see a lot of women who are carrying anxiety and guilt about their husband's salvation. However, we must remember that there was a time in our lives when we were without God and didn't know enough to know we needed salvation. Even if we knew, we could not save ourselves; and we certainly cannot save anyone else. Do not become burdened or feel responsible for your spouse's salvation. I know you probably don't fully believe that things will ever change. So go ahead, take matters into your own hands, tell him what he's missing, brag about what the pastor says, and what so-and-so's husband is doing! And after you have wasted your time doing these things-and it is a gross waste of time-trust in the Lord to draw your husband into the faith the same way that He drew us.
The second thing that we need to remember is that we are all sinners. Yet, God loves us and Christ died for us even while we were sinners. That is the way we should love our spouses. We should not be waiting for them to change, waiting for them to be fixed like a broken watch, or waiting for them to get saved before we show them the love of Christ. What happens is that in our zeal to get our husbands saved, we do everything but show the love of Christ. The fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, etc.) is totally absent from the picture. In our efforts to be his savior, the fruit of the Spirit is not perfected in our lives. Although you really want to "be all that," you still have growing to do. So stop thinking that you are better than your spouse-he can see right through you!-and your superior attitude does not provide a warm welcome.
My girlfriend Dee can tell this story better than I can. She confided that early in her marriage to Robert, she discovered that he did not want to go to Bible study every week. Well, this was "unacceptable" behavior for her husband, and she made her thoughts about it clear to him. What she realized later (after many arguments) was that her disappointment in Robert had to do with her grandiose perception of her own spirituality. She apologized to him for trying to make a clone of him. Well, guess what? God moved in his life and he began attending Bible study regularly and without her prodding form of "encouragement."
Remember, whenever two people are teamed together in marriage and are unequally yoked spiritually, they both will have a difficult time when one partner tries to pull toward the Lord. Also, keep in mind that the purpose of the yoke was to make the work easier. When you are not on the same page spiritually, one person is doing twice as much work.
Excerpted from Can Two Walk Together? by Sabrina D. Black Copyright © 2002 by Sabrina D. Black
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
1. The Power of God - Active and Available
2. What Does It Mean to Be Unequally Yoked?
3. Walking in Wisdom
4. Maximizing Your Marriage
5. Seeking Counseling-Finding Solutions
6. Mr. & Ms. Communication in Marriage
7. Friends: Yours, Mine, and Ours
8. Giving Him Something He Can Feel