Unsolvable Differences

September 2, 2013

in Reader Requested, Seeing Clearly, Series

Last week I did a post about Problems that Cannot be Solved which has generated some disagreement. I had several emails and a facebook comment suggesting this should not be the case for Christians, and there is a bit of a debate in the comments over this issue. Several have suggested dying to ourselves is the solution. 

© Ambro | freedigitalphotos.net

First, let me clarify as I was not precise in my wording. The kind of problem I was talking about is a difference of opinion or preference between spouses that does not involve a sin issue. As an example, let’s take Bob and Kathy. Bob dislikes cats a great deal. He’s not allergic; he simply doesn’t want to be around them – at all, ever. His wife Kathy is of the mind a house is not a home without a cat. It’s highly unlikely either of them will ever feel as the other does about cats, so the difference will continue for their entire marriage. One of them may choose to go against their preference – out of love, to keep peace, or just because they get tired of being nagged. Regardless of why one acquiesces, the difference still exists. If the reason for acquiescing was love, especially if the other person understands and appreciates it, it’s all good. If what happened is more one person giving in, then there may be problems down the road.

Dying to self is about dying to our own desires for our lives so we can live for God. I don’t think that includes dying to things like the foods we like, our favourite colour, or other preferences. God doesn’t call us to be mindless robots devoid of passion or preferences. That said, I do see biblical concepts about putting others ahead of ourselves, which would mean we should be ready to go against our preference so others can benefit. I’ve spoken several times about dying to our preferences. I think it’s a very good thing to do, but I don’t see it as a biblical command.

In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work John M. Gottman says his research finds 69% of marital problems are what he calls “perpetual problems” meaning, “they will be a part of your lives forever, in some form or another.” This is based on working with many, many couples and following up with those couples four years later. While we can argue about what Christians should do, the reality is many problems marital problems are perpetual. I think it’s best to admit this and work on how to deal with such problems. Chapter ten of Gottman’s book,” Overcome Gridlock” is about this very issue.

Endlessly fighting about things that will never be “fixed” is a waste of energy and harmful to your marriage. Work to identify unsolvable differences so you can focus on ways to work around them. You can’t end the differences, but you can find ways to keep them from limiting or hurting your marriage.

Note: No felines were harmed in the writing of this post!

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10 comments
Upwithmarriage
Upwithmarriage

Unless she's completely daft, Kathy knew that Bob hated cats - yet she married him anyway.

ChuckFisher
ChuckFisher

"Die to yourself". This is one of those, oh, so holy shibboleths that get cranked out as a pablum-solutions to problems, and does nothing but paper over fault lines and make the speaker feel good. Much like the "love with unconditional love" shibboleth, the foundation for the idea is the product of taking scripture out of context and trying to create a passive spiritualism that is a hollow copy of the real thing.

And as to cats, Mark Twain said it best: "A home without a cat -- and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat -- may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove title?"


Eleutheros
Eleutheros

Typiing 'dead', 'dying 'self', 'selves' etc ,in various combinations and tenses in a bible text search engine (e-sword), produced not one scripture that either explicitily nor implicitly implied that we are to die to ourselves, though I do read several scriptures that reveal some interesting things associated with the words 'sin' and 'dead'. So, where do Christians get this notion that we are to die to ourselves? Theology, perhaps?

It seems to me from reading Jesus' words that He is all about bringing life to us, instead of death. Besides, the dead don't asccomplish much, do they, being devoid of life and without desire?

Note: For some undiscoverable reason I can only ever comment 1 time to any  post here and that with a very limited number of characters. So, theological debates are out of the question. Besides, I point these things out for thoughtfulness, anyway, not for debate.

onewomanman
onewomanman

Unfortunately, in the area of sexual intimacy, the wife simply comes to this very same conclusion stating that "we're just different" and "deal with it" all but squashing any hopes of growth or real change. I prefer passionate, frequent, and variety in sex.  She doesn't.  That's that.  It's very disappointing and depressing that I'll have to live with this the rest of my life.  Finding that line between where I push for growth and change versus where I simply give up with the "we're just different" resolution is not an easy place to find.

TheGenerousHusband
TheGenerousHusband moderator

@Upwithmarriage And he should have known she loved them and yet he married her. 

However, people do things like this all the time. A man who wants  dozen kids married a woman who is not sure she wants any kids, and both assume it will work out.

Someone said love is not just blind, it is deaf and stupid.

TheGenerousHusband
TheGenerousHusband moderator

@ChuckFisher Very wise, and eloquent. At best it is offering a theoretical perfection that none other than Jesus can achieve, without any recognition of that fact. 

As to cats, they are never mentioned in the Bible....

TheGenerousHusband
TheGenerousHusband moderator

@Eleutheros Some of the common scriptures for this:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. [Galatians 2:20 ESV ]

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. [Galatians 5:24]

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. [Luke 9:23]

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. [Mark 8:35]

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. [John 12:24]

I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! [1 Corinthians 15:31]

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. [1 Peter 2:24]

Nowhere in there do I see dying to our personality, desires or preferences.

TheGenerousHusband
TheGenerousHusband moderator

@onewomanman So sorry!

This would be like you only needing four hours of sleep a night and preventing her from having more than four hours. Not that I think she would agree.

ChuckFisher
ChuckFisher

@TheGenerousHusband  Many times, these Job's Comforters offer advice that would have you do more than God Himself. "Love with unconditional love"? God doesn't to that, and neither does Jesus. God does have conditions. Yes, He loves us in spite of ourselves; He loves us where we're at; but He wants and expects us to change. Yes, He tells us to "die to sin" but "die to ourselves/yourself"? Not there.

Eleutheros
Eleutheros

Thank you for the reply. I re-studied these scriptures you provided- in context and in both the popular and more literal translations- and I still came away with something unlike the idea that is conveyed in the English phrase, ‘Die to yourself’.

Thank you, though, for the clarification of what you did not mean when you said, “Dying to self is about dying to our own desires for our lives so we can live for God”.

I feel a sentence that sums up what I get from some of these scriptures is: Give yourself to following Jesus that you may comprehend that Sin is dead in you, for your belief, so that you can live (the rest of your life on Earth) in righteousness before God. After all, human is what we were created to be, not something that we were created to ‘rise above’!!

(Well, whadda you know! This reply to you posted!)

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