Before Aaron and I got married, we went through premarital counseling. As much as I want to say we sat on a couch and had deep conversations with our pastor, this was not the case. Our reality was walking into a huge gym and sitting at a table with total strangers who were either seriously dating, engaged, or newly married.
Actually, in our group, we had all three! Each week our teaching pastor would talk about a topic and then we would discuss it in our group.
In one of our sessions, 4 words stuck with me. “Selfishness is the enemy!” Those 4 little words have literally shaped the way I see the world. It’s not the person, but what’s inside that causes strife.
A person cuts you off in a parking lot, Selfishness is the enemy. Your spouse is rude to you, Selfishness is the enemy. No more cookies in the cookie jar, Selfishness is the enemy. Whether you are married or single, I challenge you to see your relationships through this lens.
The Problem with Selfishness
Often times selfishness rears its ugly head in arguments. “ I have to have the last word.” “I am the right one,” “You are in the wrong,” Because both selfish spouses are together, it just fuels the arguments more.
As Christians, we know that" we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. " (Ephesians 6:12)
Satan wants to destroy our marriage.
I remember having an argument with my husband about where the onions go. In my family we always put them in the fridge, but in his family they would leave them out on the counter. Why did something so simple turn into an argument...? Because our selfishness rose up, ready to battle.
What Happens When We feed Our Flesh?
Flesh feeds flesh so arguments become more heated, more hurtful, and build more division. I have found that when arguing, if I repeat to myself “selfishness is the enemy” I can remain grounded. By repeating that, I keep my flesh in check and can love Aaron a whole lot better. I am able to stay more calm and clear headed instead of getting caught up in my feelings.
Aaron always tells me that feelings don’t always line up with the truth. (He is so right, but don’t tell him I said that!) Feelings are temporary and ever changing, but the truth is reliable regardless of feelings. If we can ground out truth in Christ and his perfect will for our lives, then we can strengthen our spirit and weaken our flesh.
How do we overcome our selfishness?
Overcoming selfishness will be a lifelong struggle.
Paul reminds us of that in Romans 7: 22-25. "For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin."
There is a constant war waging within us between our flesh and our spirit. Although we want to live out the gospel well, our sinful nature will continue to rear its ugly head until we are released from our sinful bodies and with Christ.
Paul tells us that Christ is the answer. Isn't he always?
Knowing that selfishness will always exist in your life is such a gift. It helps us to be gracious towards our spouses because we recognize that sometimes their sinful nature will act upon its desires. We constantly encourage our spouses to pursue the Lord, strengthening their spirit so they will be able to stand.
We don't keep a record of wrongs because we know that they have their own record they can keep. We speak truth in love when we see an area that we feel we need to address.
In the beginning of marriage, my husband and I had a really rough time. Selfish desires reigned as time and time again, we would hit impasses that seemed impossible to get through. But now 3.5 years later, we have learned to love each other well.
We have realized that the time we spend arguing and being selfish towards each other, can never be regained. It is lost forever.
Our lives are too short and we have too much to do for the sake of Christ to let our selfishness rob God of the time that he graciously gave us.
Take some time and examine your actions towards your spouse and God. Where does selfishness rear its ugly head the most? What are practical ways that you can weaken your flesh?
Spoiler Alert: Spend time with God. Worship, pray, fast, and read his word. Do it together and individually. Go in Peace.