The Practice of Rejoicing

“Let your fountain be blessed,

And rejoice in the wife of your youth.”

– Proverbs 5:18

Who doesn’t want to be ridiculously happy in their marriage? We all start off with that in mind. Engaged couples can be annoying to be around because they are just so enamored with each other. Something gets lost, though, for many as the years of living life together take their toll. When the enjoyment of the relationship is gone, most husbands I talk to blame either the circumstances or their wives. When they do this, I think they miss the opportunity that is right in front of their faces and are in danger of justifying destructive choices.

The “father” of the early part of Proverbs warns the “son” of the dangers of falling into the trap of adultery, painting a picture of a life squandered and riddled with regret. His career, marriage and reputation could all be destroyed for the fleeting passion of the “other woman.” How could he avoid this pitfall? The seemingly simple but wise advice is to indulge himself fully in enjoying the wife that he has. He is told to rejoice in her, to be satisfied with her and to be exhilarated or intoxicated by her. If he is able to be this enamored with his own wife, the allure of chasing something else (whether it is a career, lust,  or another “more fulfilling” relationship) is lost.

I can almost hear men reading this and saying, “I would love to enjoy my wife, but (insert wife’s faults here).” You see, we tend to see happiness as a product of external circumstances, rather than cultivating a joyful heart and attitude. In this section of proverbs, the verb translated rejoice is a command. It is assumed, then, that it is something we should be able to do. So, how do you make this a practice in your life when you are living with an imperfect wife? Rather than spending your time lamenting your wife’s faults or regretting the decisions you have made, spend some time meditating on some of her great qualities. There is a reason you fell for her in the first place. Make a list of these qualities and how they have made your life better. Imagine how your life would suffer without them.

It should go without saying, but as you begin to appreciate some of the good qualities you see, take the time to make sure your wife knows how valuable and precious she is to you. The Hebrew word for rejoice could also be translated celebrate. Take the time to celebrate your good fortune in being married to someone so wonderful. As your attitude changes, you will likely find you are a great deal more satisfied with your marriage. In addition, I would be willing to bet your wife’s demeanor would change as well. What woman doesn’t like the idea of being adored, appreciated and celebrated?

Mike Sorenson, LPCMH

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Embracing Limitations

“We all move uneasily within our restraints.”

– Kay Redfield Jamison

Limitation is not a popular word in American lingo. We are surrounded by motivational sayings, urging us to believe that “anything is possible,” “we can do anything we set our mind to” and so on. We are a people who love to dream big and encourage others to do the same. While confidence is important and success often does not come without a level of faith and determination, there is also a belief in oneself that can border on delusion. That kind of “self-confidence” is destructive and possibly debilitating.

Americans do not like to be told ‘no.’ Our success as a nation has come at a price: a sense of entitlement. Who doesn’t grow up wishing they could be a rock star or professional athlete? Few of us are blessed with the talent to do so, however. Yet, so many chase after a dream that is unrealistic for them, believing what they are told, that they can do it if they believe in themselves. When it doesn’t happen they end up greatly discouraged and wondering why God didn’t allow them to have what they most wanted. One only has to watch the tryouts for American Idol to see hosts of these unrealistic dreams being crushed. Is it a loving thing to encourage someone on a path toward the music business when they have no discernible talent? Is a life without limits really attainable?

Humility, as it is understood in the Bible, is not the antithesis of success. It actually redefines success. Many success stories will not be highly publicized or even be acknowledged by those it helps. Many are gifted to perform roles that may seem menial to some of us, yet are vital to the growth of God’s kingdom. He has given each of us gifts and a purpose, and every role is important (1Cor 12:12-26). God gifted some to serve food to widows, freeing up the apostles to teach and ending a dispute that could have fractured the early church (Acts 6:1-7). He has asked others to suffer in order that He might use their example.

The truth is that what we may view as a limitation could be the source of our greatest triumph and purpose. Recognizing the limitations of our life is often one of the keys to finding our purpose. Joni Eareckson Tada was paralyzed in a diving accident when she was 17. Hers is not a story of success because through grit and determination she was able to heal herself and walk again. Her success came in embracing her struggle and using her greatest area of weakness to glorify God and help others. Had she not been a paraplegic, there would be no Joni and Friends camps for special needs children. The power of her ministry is in her weakness. That is what gives her credibility when she talks of how to suffer well.

Sometimes a limitation is something we need to account for and accept before we are really able to showcase our strengths. Tons of people every day refuse to take medication, refuse to go to counseling, refuse to work on their marriage, or refuse to delegate responsibilities because they don’t want to acknowledge that they have a problem. If those obstacles were removed or accounted for it would likely be the catalyst to tremendous growth or great success.

The key to finding our purpose and direction in life is embracing both our strengths and our weaknesses. Both have valuable information to share with us and we are unwise to ignore either one. God does not put obstacles or limitations in our path unnecessarily. There is no benefit from living in a delusional fantasy world where we don’t have any weaknesses. In humility, embrace your own brokenness as an opportunity to glorify God and you just might see Him work in ways you’ve never seen before.

Mike Sorenson, LPCMH