7 Rest: Find Peace
Saturday, September 12, 2009 at 05:06PM
Caring for Marriage

I asked a man who had had conflict in his marriage what he was looking for in life. He had trouble identifying any specific goals or vision for the future. “I just want peace, that’s all,” he said. He was finding that marriage was harder than he expected it to be.

Many people who marry find that marriage is not what they expected. When we date, relationships can be easy and fun. Both people are on their best behavior, and they spend their time doing things they love—movies, meals, music, sports, hanging out. They each get the impression that this relationship is easy, relaxing and fun, and that marriage will be the same way.

Then once they get married, work becomes a big issue. They have to share household chores, accommodate to each other’s careers, take responsibility for children and other family members, and on top of it all they have to work hard on their relationship and on themselves as they build their marriage. Many couples, even those with very happy marriages, have found that marriage takes more work than they had expected.

In the creation story, God created the world in six days, and on the seventh day He rested. If we were taking this spiritual parable as a literal science lesson, we might wonder why the omnipotent God who has the power to create billions of galaxies would need to rest. But the real story is—always—about our spiritual life, how God works on us, and then rests.

This part of the creation story gets into the Ten Commandments (which are also about how God works together with us). 

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

In a way it is simple: God worked, so we work. The Lord rested, so we rest. We are created in His image and likeness. But it is not just that we copy God: we cooperate with Him. When God works, He works in us and through us, and when we work, it is His life and love that stirs our intentions and moves us. “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). At the core of our beliefs there must be a willingness to do what is good because it comes from God and belongs to God, and to do it as if we were doing it on our own, still recognizing that it is the Lord doing it. This is the fundamental paradox of life—that we can feel God’s life in us as if it were our own life, yet acknowledge that it is His life.

As we grow in our spiritual life, we can only gradually resolve that paradox. In the beginning there is a conflict between having our own life and living God’s life. Some people simply leave God out of it entirely, becoming atheists. More often, we just go part way to God, asking Him to help with the big things while we handle the details; being agreeably good, but doing it our own way; cheerfully doing God’s will while fully expecting some reward; or doing what's right as long as it is convenient. We want to be spiritual, but we are still attached to possessions, pleasures and having our own way. This leads to conflict, because those attachments get in the way of being genuinely loving.

For example, we may have an attachment to money and possessions. We may worry about how we will pay our bills, and if our partner spends money on things we don’t value, we get upset. Sitting down and talking about our budget rationally would not be difficult if emotions didn’t get involved. The trouble is, as soon as the subject of money comes up, lots of feelings come up as well. Worry about the future, feelings of inadequacy about income levels, resentment about not having control or being a part of every decision, anger about money that gets wasted, fear of bill collectors....  all feelings that arise because we have a lot of attachment to money and possessions.

“Those who trust in the Divine are altogether different. Though concerned about the morrow, yet are they unconcerned, in that they are not anxious, let alone worried, when they give thought to the morrow. They remain even-tempered whether or not they realize desires, and they do not grieve over loss; they are content with their lot. If they become wealthy they do not become infatuated with wealth; if they are promoted to important positions they do not consider themselves worthier than others. If they become poor they are not made miserable either; if lowly in status they do not feel downcast. They know that for those who trust in the Divine all things are moving towards an everlasting state of happiness, and that no matter what happens at any time to them, it contributes to that state” (Secrets of Heaven 8478).

The reality is that the Lord is taking care of us all the time. He is providing everything we need to live a happy, productive life that leads to heaven. I can do my best to be a good provider without worrying about it because the Lord is the real Provider. “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1).

Developing that kind of trust in the Lord does not come quickly or automatically. We may struggle for a long time with selfish and worldly desires before we find peace. That struggle is the six days of labor that come before the day of rest. We could say that it is labor for the Lord, because we make it hard for Him—we keep resisting Him.  When we let go of our selfishness and cooperate with Him, it becomes easy for Him to make our lives happy—we can say that He is then at rest.

Our task for this day of creation is actually one of the Ten Commandments: “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.”

Article originally appeared on Caring for Marriage Home (http://caringformarriage.org/).
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