( Noah Filipiak does such a great job writing this piece that I feel compelled to share it ! )
Porn is Not Your Problem. Entitlement Is.
The greatest enemy of your marriage is not pornography. It is not lust. It is not fantasy.
It is entitlement.
PORN ISN’T YOUR PROBLEM
My wife and I were both virgins when we got married. My church upbringing and sexual purity books I read in college told me that if I saved myself sexually until marriage, God would bless my marriage and specifically, my sex life. (Another way of saying “bless” would be: “everything you desire,” a la Psalm 37:4.)
A deal was struck with God: I do my part. He does his.
This is entitlement: the feeling that I deserve something, that I’ve earned something. And if God doesn’t do his part, then I can take things into my own hands.
A lot of Christians are unintentionally raised to think God owes them something if they do things His way. It’s how a lot of our spiritual life is motivated and why we feel so much heartbreak when our prayers don’t get answered. When God lets us down.
The irony of this is that the foundational step to receiving the gospel of Jesus is to admit I deserve nothing. In fact, to be more precise, I deserve hell. Apart from Jesus’ saving work on my behalf, I am a rebellious sinner who deserves to be in hell this very moment.
I’m not using hell as a doom-and-gloom threat here. I’m using it to show how far we really are from God’s holy standard and that realizing this causes a drastic change in our posture toward our spouses.
Entitlement says I am worthy.
The gospel says I am unworthy.
These are two very different postures.
The False Cure of “Kickback Love”
At the root of almost all marriage problems are unmet expectations. And sadly, the foundation of most of the popular marriage books and counseling strategies out there only reinforce the entitlement we feel toward having these expectations met. These books sell in droves because we typically see instantaneous results, thinking we’ve finally figured out the formula to get our spouse to do what we want. But these results seldom last and by nature do more harm than good in the long run.
Some marriage books will go as far as calling the expectations we have for our spouse “needs.”
How many times have you read a marriage book with your spouse or gone to counseling together, only to be disillusioned and frustrated later? Only to feel like you are the good spouse? You are the one doing what the marriage books say when your spouse seems unchanged.
These marriage strategies are based on “kickback love”: I want my spouse to fulfill my “needs,” so I figure out what my spouse wants me to do for them. I don’t do it for them because I want to serve them, I do it because if I do, it will soften them up and then they’ll do for me what I want.
The ultimate motivation in this approach is selfishness. Ironic, sad and sobering that 1 Corinthians 13:5 tells us that love is not self-seeking, yet this strategy of selfishness is the go-to fix for today’s marriages.
As soon as I expect a kickback, I build a scoreboard. I’m doing my part, but my spouse isn’t doing theirs. What gives?
And if these are needs that my spouse is depriving me of, then I have no choice but to look to get these needs met elsewhere. In fact, it’s like my spouse pushed me to it.
Mercy is the True Cure
“Mercy” is something you don’t deserve. It is completely unmerited.
As Christians, we have incredible worth as sons and daughters of God. But who supplies this worth? God does. Are we worthy of this apart from God’s grace? No.
And how unworthy are we? Well, how big is the divide between us and our Holy Almighty God?
That’s how unworthy we are.
If there were a scoreboard in our marriage, our side would light up as negative-infinity.
If I realize I’m a sinner and that I deserve hell, but that Jesus gave me life instead, it should change everything about the way I view my marriage.
It’s okay to pray for your spouse to change. But the prayer you really need to focus on is that you will change. Pray that you will realize that your spouse will never be able to meet your needs, no matter how smooth or rocky your marriage is. To think otherwise is to make your spouse into a god, which will have disastrous results. Only God can meet your needs!
Your spouse may never change.
If you’re living entitled, you’ll leave. Or you’ll shake your fists at God. Or you’ll continue living in the prison of a marriage you wish you could get out of because you deserve better.
But has God still been merciful to you?
If you have the mercy of the gospel, you’ll realize all of your needs have already been met in Jesus and whether single, happily married, or unhappily married, there is nothing more on earth you could possibly need than this mercy.
In fact, you’ll realize that everything you already have is a mercy you don’t deserve. When you deserve hell in this moment, you become a lot of appreciative of the coffee you’re drinking and the chair you’re sitting in. Even bad coffee is better than hell! In fact, that coffee and that chair are unimaginable gifts for people like us, people who deserve hell but have been given so much mercy instead.
But it’s not only the coffee and the chair.
It’s also your spouse.
Your spouse is a gift of mercy from God that you don’t deserve.
Treat them as such.
And be freed from the endless treadmill of unmet expectations.
The question isn’t if your spouse will change or not, the question is, will you allow the mercies of Jesus to change you?