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Thursday, February 10, 2011
Apparently, somebody decided that every year the week before Valentines Day (February 7-14) should be designated National Marriage Week. It makes sense to give such a designation to the week immediately precedes The Day of Love. But how many of you were even aware that such a thing exists? Sadly, I wasn’t, at least not until I discovered it through an obscure reference on another blog (thanks to Lori at Marriage Gems who does such a great job keeping us up on all the latest marriage research!)

Through the National Marriage Week website I discovered another resource that I was not previously aware of: The National Marriage Project, which is run out of the University of Virginia. Hearing of the institute and perusing their website actually caused me to at least slightly improve my general opinion of The University of Virginia (mind you, I am a Hokie, with a degree from cross-state rival Virginia Tech!). Both the National Marriage Week and National Marriage Project websites provide some outstanding resources and research on marriage trends in our nation. (For information on marriage week in some other countries go here.)

As I began looking through the studies on these websites it fueled the sense of discouragement that has been growing in me since I wrote my “Are You Promoting (Your) Marriage” post.  In a few upcoming posts I’ll be reviewing and reflecting on some of this research, but before I get to that I want to relay my recent personal struggle with discouragement.

Maybe some of you are in a similar place of discouragement and can relate.

Saving Marriage: A Daunting Task

As I mentioned, I’ve been really feeling the weight of the hugeness of the task I have undertaken to encourage and promote stronger Christian marriages. In increasing measure for the past week or so I’ve been struggling with discouragement about this whole marriage-building endeavor. Reading through some of the dismal statistics on marriage hasn’t helped either, though there are also some encouraging signs.

There are times, and the last week has been such a time, when the task seems too daunting and overwhelming. Do you ever feel the same about what God has called you to do?

I begin to doubt whether my feeble existence in this little corner of the web and in my limited real-world efforts will really ever make an impact. I sometimes start to think I am just another empty voice in the wilderness. I begin to tell myself all the reasons I should give up: I have a demanding full time job, I am not professionally trained in any of this stuff, I need to take care of my own marriage and family first, the societal forces working against marriage are just too huge, etc. etc. etc. You probably have your own set of voices in your head sewing your own seeds of discouragement.

Have you ever struggled with discouragement about something you know you are called to, but that you just aren’t sure you can actually do? Are you sometimes doubtful of your ability to accomplish the vision that burns within you? Do you sometimes wonder if the limitations of your experience, skills or circumstances will keep you from having a meaningful and lasting impact on the world around you? Are you sometimes tempted to do the easy thing and give it all up?

The truth for me is that I sometimes struggle with these things. My guess is that many of you do to.

Prayer is the Key

I mentioned briefly in my post on Watchfulness that I seek the Lord at the beginning of each year for a “theme verse” for that year. As I try to do repeatedly throughout the year, I turned again last night to my verse for this year:
For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God ; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience ; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. Col 1:9-12

I was immediately and dramatically struck by the direct way in which these verses address my battle with discouragement. Here is Scott’s Revised and Amplified Version of this passage:
I will pray without ceasing to be filled with the knowledge of His will in this marriage-building endeavor to which I am called. I desire to serve from a supernatural impartation of the heart of God for marriage, with wisdom and understanding from on high; wisdom and understanding that goes beyond the mere knowledge and learning of my natural mind.

This is what propels me forward on the path he has set me upon: the knowledge that the Lord’s delight is in me, and my desire is to respond with a pleasing sacrifice to him. I don’t do this to get his favor – I already have that in limitless and unmerited amounts. I need to remember, however, that I’m not doing this for the favor of men either; not for more subscribers or followers, not for better page load stats or for any other worldly measure. The fruit I wish to bear is the fruit of and for the Kindgom. Mine is but to listen and obey.  Fruit is the business of the Holy Spirit.

I will rely on his strength to sustain me and trust in his power to enable me to walk with confidence into every good work to which I am called. In him I find the ability to endure, to continue patiently ever onward, remembering to find joy in the process and in the doing of the thing, not just in being done. Above all, I will remember to always be thankful that God has chosen to make me part of his strategy to see his heart for marriage revealed in the earth, whatever part that may be. I don't know where this thing will go, but I am willing to follow wherever the Lord leads.  I trust in his leadership and goodness.

If you ever struggle with discouragement in your calling, and who doesn’t, I would highly recommend you pray the Apostolic Prayers found in the Bible, like this one from Colossians 1. These are the prayers that so burn on the heart of God that he recorded them for us in his Word. These are prayers he longs to answer for us. These aren’t wish-list prayers. They aren’t prayers for God to do stuff for us. They are, for the most part, prayers that we would change the way we think and thereby change the way we live. Powerful stuff!

Get your spouse to pray them for you and with you. My whole family exchanged our yearly theme scriptures so that we could regularly pray for one another.  Remind yourself with these scriptures how much God is for you.  Renew your mind with them. Click to see and/or print a whole page of these prayers. They are so wonderful and encouraging!

Read them, pray them, and let them propel you forward into whatever it is God has called you to!


Strong Man said...

Thank you for being honest. We all struggle with discouragement. That's why faith and hope are the antidotes.

Prayer does change the way we think and live. If we're to rely on and fully submit ourselves to God to strengthen our marriages, it's vital.

The good news--most huge discoveries or new positive breakthroughs came right after a near complete failure or on the brink of total disaster.

Lori Lowe said...

It's so true that discouragement is a regular part of our life and following our calling. There's a familiar cycle of being terribly energized then at times feeling like a failure. Daunting is a good word for how I frequently perceive my work. Building one another up is so important. Your honesty and encouragement are beneficial to many.

Scott said...

Thanks Lori and Strong Man for your words of encouragement and for taking the time to comment.

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