Utilizing Discernment with Secular Tools
Last Monday, I shared thoughts on the benefits and disadvantages of utilizing secular content as a tool for improving your marriage. Today I want to discuss using discernment.
I don’t want to give you a checklist to approaching secular content because I don’t want to counter the point I have already made. However, I am a kinesthetic learner and for those of you who don’t know what that means, it means I learn by doing. I like to have practical steps to try in order to live out what I am learning.
This goes back to what I said earlier – “walk in the way of love.” Walking is active. Faith is active. I hope that you don’t just hear my words and dismiss them, but that is a personal choice. It is my hope that you hear God’s Words and His truth spoken into your life and that God was able to utilize me as His servant in the process. To walk in the way, to live out your faith, to live out what you are learning, requires active participation.
So without further adieu or caveats, I leave you with a few humble suggestions to navigate secular content (and even Christian content, as everything should be filtered through prayer, Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit).
Begin with a heart of respectfulness and harmony.
- Make the time to pray (seek God’s truth together).
- Make the time to discuss (invite each other into respectful conversation and share your concerns, frustrations, needs, and desires in a loving way).
- Make the time to plan (figure out appropriate and beneficial action steps for overcoming the problems).
When you begin with a heart of respectfulness and a desire for harmony and unity, you will be better able to achieve your purposes and goals. These three steps are also a good way (though by no means is it the only way) to clarify your intentions and expectations when you start and to set the tone for your conversations and actions.
Decide what your purpose and end goal is.
In the context of the article, if you and your spouse are experiencing a dry period in your marriage bed, together, you might decide your end goal is to overcome the dry period and to rejuvenate your sexual intimacy. If it helps, write this goal down as you pray and look for resources. The purpose is a bit more specific to guide you through the process. You might decide your purpose is to grow closer to one another, to honor one another and God through your goals and action steps toward your end goal.
Decide what tools you will utilize.
As stated above, there are some benefits to utilize secular tools as long as you view these tools through discerning eyes and prayer. Allow prayer, God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit to guide you in finding resources (i.e. Internet research, reading an article or blog post, seeking counsel with a physician, pastor, or counselor, finding a book, etc) to aid you in your process.
Humbly remember your source of strength is Christ.
Read an article, book, blog post, etc through the eyes of faith. Listen to counsel and advice through the ears of discretion. Ask God to give you discernment and wisdom as you make decisions and create action steps based on something you have learned. Ask Him to give you the strength and to help you recognize you cannot fix problems or overcome brokenness on your own.
Recognize there may be value even in earthly things.
I often find well-intended, positive secular content helps to get me thinking about things in a new way. Perhaps I am not experiencing the same problem as the content suggests and I might not use the same tools or steps to work through the problem, but the content might open my eyes to something I have not otherwise seen or recognized. Ask God to show you what nuggets of truth He might have for you through an article, secular or Christian.
Acknowledge the root of the problem.
Ask God to reveal the root of the problem rather than just the symptoms.
For example, a couple might be having a dry spell in their marriage. He might be working longer hours than normal and she might be busy with church and social activities and they are both “too tired” when they get home at night. Perhaps one of them had a sinus cold recently.
The root of the problem isn’t the longer hours or the activities or the sinus cold. Those are surface problems. The secondary level of problems is prioritizing or things outside your control. The root of the problem is selfishness. While that may sound harsh, “too tired” and “too busy” shouldn’t be an excuse. Personally, I don’t want to be “so selfish” that I use “too busy” and “too tired” as excuses all the time because I don’t want to make the effort to make love and show love to my husband.
Perhaps the couple needs to examine what in their lives is necessary and what can be let go in order to make more time for sexual intimacy. Perhaps the couple needs to re-frame their concept of sex and stop limiting themselves to the act of intercourse itself. Perhaps the couple needs to start thinking creatively about their time to include opportunities for intimacy more regularly.
There are many possible solutions to the problem and I only named a few, but the point is – ask God to help you see the truth of the matter – to acknowledge the root issues – because without acknowledgement and understanding of the root issues, you can’t make any progress and you only slap a bandaid on the problem, or worse, ignore a deeper issue.
Take the focus of “me” and put the focus on “us.”
Remember you and your spouse are a team. Self-help and self-guide and self-evaluation and self-reflection may all have good intentions, but in order to fix a problem in your marriage, you need to focus first on God and what He’s saying and then on the “us” – you and your spouse.
Don’t misunderstand me – take the time to reflect and evaluate in your personal quiet time. Spend time in prayer alone, praying for your spouse, your marriage, and your marriage bed. Take the time to search Scriptures and find the truths God is speaking directly to your heart. Confess sins that are causing you to stumble in your marriage.
However, don’t get caught up in the worldly lie that YOU can fix your marriage problems if only YOU try harder, do better, or follow the guidelines illustrated in an article, book, seminar, blog post, etc. News flash! YOU can’t fix your problems alone. YOU can’t fix your spouse’s problems alone. YOU BOTH cannot fix your marriage problems alone.
YOU CAN, however, recognize you and your spouse are partners in this life in the context of God’s grace, love, and redemptive purposes. Fixing the problem is not a one-way street. It’s a three-way street – or better description – problem-solving requires the Cross of Jesus Christ – up, in, and out.
- an upward focus on God (acknowledging His strength, truth, and purposes),
- an inward focus (asking God to cleanse your heart from sin),
- and an outward focus (inviting your spouse into the creative problem-solving process and ultimately modeling Christlike love in your marriage to the world around you).