Overcoming Doubt

When Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday and presented Himself to the disciples, Thomas wasn’t there. When the disciples told Thomas that they’d seen Jesus, Thomas didn’t believe them.

As described in John 20, Thomas told them he wouldn’t believe it unless he saw Jesus and experienced Jesus for himself. He doubted. That’s why we know him as Doubting Thomas.

He didn’t stay a doubter, of course. Jesus appeared to him, allowed him to touch His hands and side—at which point Thomas said, “My Lord and my God!”—and Thomas ended up taking the Gospel to India, where he was eventually martyred.

It’s easy to focus on Thomas’ doubts, but we need to realize that all the disciples doubted. Luke 24 says they were frightened when Jesus first appeared to them in a room. Matthew 28 says that they doubted him when he appeared to them on a mountaintop in Galilee.

When the Bible uses the word translated doubt, it literally means “two ways.” It means double vision—that we can see belief and trust on one hand, and we can see the other way, too. We hesitate. We can’t make up our minds.

Do you know that many famous characters in the Bible doubted? Abraham, the father of the faith, doubted when God told him he’d have children. Moses doubted God. David doubted God. Peter doubted God when he tried to walk on water.

This Easter, here are three things I want you to know about doubt.

First, doubt is honest. It is different from unbelief. Doubt is saying, “I cannot believe.” Unbelief is a refusal to believe. Doubt means we are trying to find a place of faith—we are looking for the light—but we are struggling. On the other hand, unbelief is contentment with darkness.

The second thing you must know is that Jesus is always gracious to doubters. If you are dealing with doubt, God is not your enemy but your friend. Jesus was not hostile to Peter, nor to Thomas. He did not reject them because of their doubts.

Please know that Jesus can handle your sincere doubts. He is sympathetic to them. He is not offended or troubled by them at all.

Thirdly, realize that doubt, in and of itself, is not sin. It only becomes sin when it causes us to disobey God—especially long-term.

If you have doubts this Easter season, make up your mind that your doubts are not going to define your life. Don’t let doubt become something that keeps you from doing what God wants you do to in your life.

Give your doubts to God and ask Him to help you resolve them. Continue to pursue Him. Continue to read and obey His word. Romans 10:17 says “Faith comes from hearing the message… through the word about Christ.” That means you can trust God’s word to resolve your doubt. Not skeptics, not experts who oppose God, but God’s word.

This Easter, I hope you choose God despite your doubt. Refuse to be overcome by your questions and hesitations and turn toward God. When you do, He can take your overcoming doubt and turn it into overcoming faith.

For more about this topic, watch this week’s show!

Sexual Fulfillment in Marriage

Sex brings more pleasure and satisfaction to marriage than anything else. And sex causes more disagreements and frustration in marriage than anything else.

Sex is one of the main reasons we get married…and sexual problems are one of the main reasons people get divorced.

When I talk about sex to married couples, I like to refer to it as both a thermostat and a thermometer. In your home, you control the temperature by turning the thermostat up or down. Sex heats up a marriage. It makes it better.

Sex can also be a marriage thermometer: it tells the temperature. If the sex is bad or infrequent, then a married couple probably isn’t communicating well. You may have stress, or unresolved anger, or a host of other issues. Poor sex is a symptom of these problems.

So a married couple’s sex life not only can make their marriage better, but can also reveal whether or not they have problems. What kind of sex life do you and your spouse have? What does it reveal about your marriage?

I believe there are three truths that we need to understand about sex. The first is that God created sex for pleasure and lifelong enjoyment. Our God is a fun God! He wants us to enjoy sex in marriage.

The second is that God gave us sexual boundaries to protect us. Just like vehicles come with an owner’s manual that tells us what not to do, God gave us sex but set parameters for it. Things like adultery, fornication, incest, and lust—the Bible says these things are wrong.

No one gets mad because their owner’s manual says to put oil in their Fords every few thousand miles. No one says, “Ford Motor Company doesn’t want me to have any fun!” Ford wants us to treat the car right so we can enjoy it.

God is the same with sex. His rules aren’t to keep us from having fun, but from getting hurt. He wants our bodies to be places of pleasure and delight for our spouses…but for no one else.

The third truth I believe about sex is that God created our sexual differences to make marriage more fulfilling and dynamic. Men and women are very different sexually. For men, sex stimulates our emotions. For women, emotions stimulate sex. We’re two halves of a whole.

A woman becomes more sexual as her husband becomes more romantic and emotional. At the same time, men tend to open up more emotionally when their wives become more sexual. It all works together.

Because sex is so important, I tell couples that there are five basic ingredients of a healthy sex life. Husbands and wives should:

Commit to meeting their spouse’s sexual needs.
Communicate their sexual needs to their spouse.
Commit to sexual purity (thoughts and actions) to protect the integrity of their marriage.
Be honest and accountable about temptations that can hurt a marriage.
Refuse to be close friends with those who violate the marriage covenant.
Those ingredients will keep a couple’s sex life active, fulfilling, and healthy. God created sex in marriage to be an Eden of pleasure and delight. Embrace it. Talk about it. Pursue it within the safe boundaries of your marriage. And most of all, enjoy it together.

For more about this topic, watch this week’s show!

Destructive Husbands and Wives

Early in our marriage, Karen and I were both destructive. We both entered marriage with destructive tendencies, and we justified these actions by blaming the other. “You’re too sensitive,” we’d say. Or “you’re making me act this way.”

But when our behavior is destructive, blaming a spouse doesn’t help anything. The only way to fix it is by recognizing it for what it is, and correcting it.

What causes people to become destructive? The number one reason is very basic: it’s ignorance.

Karen and I got married at 19 years old. We didn’t know anything. We had learned math and science in school but no one taught us how to succeed in relationships. When you grow up in broken homes, you have nothing but failed marriages and unhealthy relationships to learn from.

That’s why our ministry exists, by the way. We speak and write and teach about how to have a good marriage so people don’t struggle like we did. That’s why we recommend that every couple read at least one book on marriage together every year. Just to educate yourselves, to learn how to succeed at relationships.

Past hurts also cause destructive behavior. Both of us entered our marriage with serious pain from our pasts, from self-esteem issues to anger to an inability to really receive love. These unhealed hurts breed shame. They impact how we relate to others, and how we allow others to relate to us.

Pain that we haven’t dealt with—unforgiveness and emotional wounds—can deeply damage a marriage. To address them, we first have to be honest that they exist. We have to say to our spouse, “I’m hurt.” We have to let the light of God’s healing into our spirit, and then take responsibility for our actions.

Negative influences and bad friends also cause people to be destructive. “Do not be deceived,” Paul writes in 1 Cor. 15:33. “Evil company corrupts good habits.” Your friends predict your future. If your friends commit adultery or get divorced, the odds are greater that you will, too.

That’s why finding a healthy church to attend is so important to newly married couples. You need to surround yourselves with friends who encourage you to do the right thing. Now, not everyone at church is perfect—in fact, far from it—but you’re more likely to find good influences at church than in, say, a strip bar.

There’s one other thing that causes destructive behavior, and that’s defensiveness. Researchers have characterized defensiveness as a predictor of divorce, because it doesn’t give your spouse the right to complain.

When someone is trying to tell you something about yourself, defensiveness shuts that door. In fact, defensiveness says, “You’re the problem, not me.” A person who is emotionally healthy can listen to anything, and functional families talk. Defensiveness destroys intimacy and inhibits the ability to share openly.

Are any of these behaviors present in your marriage? Ignorance, past hurts, bad influences, and defensiveness can be major obstacles to a healthy marriage. If you recognize any of them in your relationship, ask God to help you grow beyond it. And talk to your spouse about it. Admit it, and start to move forward together.

For more about this topic, watch this week’s show!

God Redeems Your Scars

James and Kyla seemed like the perfect couple. He was a successful architect. She was an ophthalmologist who put her career on hold to raise their children. They had a nice house in the suburbs and appeared to have a wonderful marriage.

But when Kyla first came to me for a counseling session, she told me they were near divorce. She had fallen out of love with James, who seemed to value his work more than he valued her. He worked long hours. She felt disconnected from him.

At the same time, James felt tremendous pressure at work because he was the family’s sole provider. He worked hard because Kyla always pressured him about family finances. At one point, without asking him, she even borrowed money from her parents to pay off a school loan. James felt betrayed.

Like many of us, James and Kyla began marriage with lofty expectations, but the realities of life hit them hard. They lost touch with each other. Their lives became chaotic and lonely. Their hearts became deeply and severely broken, and their behavior reflected those wounds.

People who become brokenhearted always feel alone—like no one can understand or relate. And yet James and Kyla aren’t the only brokenhearted people in the world. We’ve all felt the sting of hopelessness and despair.

We’ve known the death of a loved one, and asked God for answers.

We’ve known sickness and disease, and questioned “Why me?”

We’ve struggled with money, and wondered if we’d ever turn the corner.

We’ve seen our dreams die, and when our dreams die, our hearts break.

Why do some pains hurt us so deeply? It’s because our deepest wounds are felt where they meet with our greatest gifting. “Show me a man’s wounds,” someone once told me, “and I’ll show you his purpose.”

Whenever Satan sees someone born with a unique talent or ability, he instinctively understands that God must have a special purpose in mind for that person—and he goes on the attack.

Why does God allow this pain? It’s to prepare us for His purpose.

God has a dream for your life, and he has a dream for mine. Realized dreams are almost always the product of gifts and wounds working together in the human heart. God uses both to make us into what he wants us to become.

That’s why the early struggles in our marriage resulted in Karen and I having a marriage ministry—because God redeemed our marriage. He turned our wounds into hope. He uses our past to help hurting couples build a bright future.

It’s through brokenness that we are forced to admit our inability to make it on our own. That’s where we see our need for Jesus. The apostle Paul put it best in 2 Cor. 12:10—“For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

God saved James and Kyla’s marriage. They are still together. Their marriage is growing stronger, and someday God will use their wounds to help others.

What plans does God have for your scars? You’ll find out when you give Him your brokenness.

Healing is a Partnership

Karen and I began our marriage with a host of sins, hang-ups, and personal wounds. From the start, our relationship was rocky. Our struggles took us to the brink of divorce until God stepped in and healed our marriage.

Much of that healing occurred when the two of us, as individuals, turned away from harmful behaviors and began to bring good things into our marriage. But we truly believe the overall result was supernatural: God healed our broken spirits.

However, divine healing isn’t always permanent. It can be lost. A friend of mine has a national healing ministry and often we’ve spoken about the tremendous number of people who find miraculous healing at his meetings.

One day at lunch, he told me that more than half the people he sees getting healed eventually lose their healing. I asked why, and will never forget his response. “Because they immediately go back to the same way they had been living,” he said.

Divine healing is available to us, but if we expect God’s healing to last, we have to be willing to change those lifestyle habits that put us in bondage to pain.

When God healed our marriage, Karen and I knew that we had to change the way we had been treating each other.

The dysfunction in our marriage was caused by our damaging and sinful behavior. My emotional bullying had wounded Karen. God healed those wounds, but I also had to completely change the way I spoke to her and treated her. Otherwise, every area God had healed would revert to the way it had been.

Healing is a process. I had to learn new patterns of behavior. So did Karen. We each had to do our part, walking with God and changing our lifestyle.

By the time our marriage’s healing was complete, Karen and I had become different people—with new habits, new customs, new behavioral patterns and an entirely different vocabulary toward each other.

Often I hear people pray, “God, please heal our finances” when what they’re really asking is, “God, please give us more money.” They want God to snap His fingers and change their lives.

God is willing to bless His people financially, but the primary reason people don’t have money is that they don’t know how to manage it properly.

He’s not going to drop a bucket of money on your lap if He knows you’ll misuse it. What He will do is come alongside you as you work with Him to heal your financial problems.

This applies to God’s works of healing across the board. He will heal your marriage, but that healing comes with the expectation that you’ll change—your lifestyle, the way you speak to one another, the things you expect from one another, the way you communicate with each other.

Healing is a partnership between you and God. It isn’t a one-time event. It’s a process that requires a long-term commitment to change.

Do you want Him to heal your marriage? He can and will. Are you ready for it?