{This is part two of a two part series on porn when it enters your marriage. You can read part one HERE.}

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{Image Courtesy of Cuba Gallery in Creative Commons on Flickr}

Yesterday, I shared a 5-minute version of my first year of marriage. It was heavy. Year one was punctuated with a lot of pain, hurtful words and a lack of forgiveness. But, it would be unfair of me to tell you how hard it was without telling how much God taught us, and how far we have come. I want to share with you how I got from year one to year five, and the things that God has taught me through His word, through community and through my own sanctification.

So, here we go. Just a few very practical things that God has used in my life to persevere my marriage.

1.  Die to your expectations…and expect more!

I think it’s fair to say that most people get married with expectations – stated or not. I dreamed of the likes of a fairytale. I dreamed (even though I didn’t realize it) of a marriage that would be defined by PDA, great dates, surprises, fancy dinners at home, vacations, freedom and purity. I didn’t think I would hurt him, and I didn’t think he would hurt me. But, what I learned quickly is that marriage doesn’t save us. Being married didn’t mean that we were sinless. I know that sounds silly and naive, but I really think that some (maybe most) of us get married with an expectation that looks a little something like that. So, three months into our marriage, I felt like my world was crumbling. Marriage was not at all what I thought it would be. It was much, much harder.

But, here is the truth.  God is sovereign. Completely sovereign. And if I really believe that, then I have to believe that my first year of marriage, no matter how hard it was, was the best possible year for me. If I really believe that God works all things together for good for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8.28), then I can rest knowing that what I expected, and what I wanted for my first year pales in comparison to what God wanted for me.

Let me be clear. That doesn’t make it any less hard or less hurtful. But it does make it more hopeful. If I believe that every confession from my husband, and every hurtful word was for my good, then I can walk in freedom knowing that God is doing a good work in my life, that He is accomplishing something in me. And I can move from one day to the next trusting that God is not out of control, but trusting that God has planned these moments for my best good.

During our first year, we did some counseling with our pastor. He looked at me and said, “I think you need to have a funeral. Bury your expectations for what you thought your marriage would look like, and start to embrace what God has for you instead.” I think that God may be calling some of us to this. Not to expect less out of marriage, but to expect more. We often expect marriage to satisfy us, even save us; but God wants us to expect more out of our marriages. What if we started expecting our marriages to be a place where God would sanctify us, show us our sin, change us, and prepare us for Him? How would our responses to difficult circumstances change if we really believed that all things were working together for our good and His glory? What if we actually asked Him to make our marriages a place not just for our happiness, but also for our holiness?

2.  Remember that his sin is no worse than your own.

Sexual sin carries a lot more shame with it than most sins in our culture. I am not sure what all plays into that, but I imagine most of you would agree.  For those of us with spouses who struggle with sexual sin we need to remember that all sin, no matter how we feel about it, is offensive to God. There are no degrees of sin (except for blaspheming the Holy Spirit…I’ll let Jamie blog on that!).

So, my sin of discontentment, or my sin of self-hate, is no less serious than my husband’s sexual sin. And my unforgiving heart towards my husband’s struggle said as much about my heart towards God as if I were looking at pornography myself. It is all offensive. It is all serious. Sure, some sin feels more serious because of the people that it directly affects and sometimes the consequences of sin look different, but scripture tells us that the cost of sin (all sin) is death. God does not make any distinction there.

All sin required a sacrifice – ours as much as our husbands. When I feel particularly pressed in this area, I try to remind myself over and over and over again the words of Paul in 1 Timothy – “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am the worst.” Do you believe that? Do you believe that your sin is just as offensive to a living God as the people around you? Does your sin cause the same reaction out of you that you show to your husband’s sin?

3 . Confession is a huge deal.

I know that confession hurts sometimes. Gosh, I really know it does. But, remember that sin lives in darkness. That’s where it grows and thrives. When sin is brought to the light, healing can begin (Ephesians 5.13-14, James 5.16, 1 John 1.9).

When our husbands confess to us, they don’t need our forgiveness. Instead, they are giving us an opportunity to be the helpmates that God has designed us to be, and to reflect the Gospel back to our husbands. Forgiveness comes from God through Christ alone, but when we show unforgiving hearts, we are missing our opportunity to be displays of the Gospel.

I have done this wrong so many times. I hate to think about how wrong I have done this. Please take a lesson from me, and when your husband confesses sin to you, fight the temptation to shame him, fight the temptation to accuse him. Instead, work to create a culture in your home where confession is comfortable and life-giving. I think anger is normal, but let’s fight against anger that communicates “You’re an idiot!” or “Can’t you control yourself!?” and fight to be women that have righteous anger – anger that comes from a place of hating sin because God hates it.

4.  Live in community.

When my husband first confessed his fight against pornography, he asked that we not share with anyone. For six weeks, we lived in complete silence with the people around us. I felt like I was drowning. Neither of us had anyone but each other to talk to, and at the time, neither of us were very helpful for each other. We desperately needed people in our lives to help remind us of the gospel and to stand in our blind spots and help point us back to God, and to each other.

We need each other. God created us for community; we can see that in the scripture with the Trinity and the New Testament Church. God did not intend for us to live in isolation. Use your community, fight for transparency with them and ask them to come alongside you and fight with you and fight for your marriage. And when your community fails to display perfect grace, or when your community seems non-existent, because you have God, you can pursue community and you can give more and more grace out of His sufficiency.

5.  Have a lot of sex.

Again, not an area that I excel in, but one that I really want to be better in. Sex has a few purposes – to pro-create and to serve as a reminder of our marriage covenant. When we have sex with our husbands, we are helping to protect their holiness.  When we help to protect their holiness, we are helping to protect our marriage… not just for marriage’s sake, but so we can better display true things about God.

I want to be careful with this point, and not convey that you are responsible for anyone’s sin but your own. Like I said yesterday, my temptation was to start to blame myself – maybe I wasn’t sexy enough, maybe I wasn’t risqué enough. I don’t want you to hear that from me. Sure, I could break out of my Southern Baptist upbringing and own a little more sexiness, but even with that, I am not responsible for my husband’s sin. But, as helpmates, we can certainly help to fight against that. And having a lot of sex is one way to do that.

There you have it. Those are the highlights of things that God has taught me over the last four years. Those are the things that I am praying God will not let me forget, and will continue to cultivate in my life. Those are the things that God has used to sanctify me and persevere my marriage.

Gosh, I really know that if you have lived through any part of our first year of marriage, that it is really hard. I know that on any given day, you may feel so sad, so angry, so hurt, so confused. I hope that you know that you are not alone. I hope you feel encouraged today. I have been there. Some days, I feel like I am still there. But, God has not given up on me. And when I remember how much I have been forgiven of, I am moved to forgive others more freely.

The points I made above are not a secret combination to healing your hurts and reconciling your marriage, but hopefully they are just tools that you can lay before God and ask for Him to make them real in your life – to propel you to love your husband better, give him more grace and more forgiveness, and ask for Him to continue to work out your own sanctification.

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