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You listen to a friend whose heart is breaking as her marriage is crumbling around her, you sit with a mom whose child is facing a serious illness, and you hold her hand tightly as you pray with her. You pray with another who has just lost a loved one, and you hold her as you cry with her. Then you go home, drained and exhausted.
How do you keep your marriage together when stresses are threatening to pull you apart? How can you fill your children’s emotional cups all day long, be there for a dear friend who is struggling, get dinner on the table, and manage to have anything left over for your husband?
What happens when you are so busy pouring into the lives of others that you feel like you have nothing left to pour into your marriage?
Is it o.k. to neglect our marriages in order to better serve the Lord? How do we “bear one another’s burdens” without having those burdens overwhelm us and strain our marriages?
We have to learn how to care for others without becoming overwhelmed by their needs or problems. We do this by setting boundaries and priorities and leaning heavily on the Lord:
1. Share their burden but don’t carry it FOR them. You can love them, encourage them, empathize and pray with them, but you must not carry that burden as if it were your own. Point them to the Lord. You want them to be leaning on Him, not on you.
Sometimes we may find ourselves stepping in and taking over in a situation. Soon we can find ourselves doing things for people that they really should be doing for themselves.
Help them as the Lord directs, but don’t take away their opportunity to help themselves. Remember that the burden is theirs to carry, not yours. Taking on the problems of others will only add to your own burdens.
2. Don’t bring it home. When you are home, be HOME! When we care about someone it can be so easy to let our minds get discouraged and overwhelmed by their needs.
If we aren’t careful our evenings will be filled with other people’s problems and concerns instead of being filled with the love and laughter of our own family. Take those burdens to the Lord and trust Him to take care of them and let it go. We won’t have time to do the things God has called us to do when we are too busy trying to do His job.
3. Set boundaries. There are some lines that must not be crossed. You don’t have to be available 24 hours a day. It’s o.k., and healthy even, to set boundaries that protect you and your family. Shut off the phone when you need to, let the answering machine answer it, don’t answer the doorbell. Know that it’s o.k.
“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:9 (NIV)
4. Guard your relationships. Make your loved ones a priority and view your time with them as something to be protected. You can’t do everything, and you can’t BE everything to everybody. Remember your priorities. You are a wife and mother FIRST. Be prayerful about anything or anyone who tries to monopolize your time or doesn’t respect your boundaries.
5. Know how and when to say no. It’s o.k. to say no, you can’t do everything. Is the request in line with your priorities? Do you have the time? Have you prayed about it? Does it cross your boundaries?
6. Go to the Lord daily for your strength. You have to continually go to the Well and fill up or you’ll be running on empty. Find someone to hold you accountable to time in the Word and prayer and to the boundaries and priorities you’ve established.
Your relationship with the Lord is a wall of protection around your marriage, and your marriage is a wall of protection around your family. Don’t let it crumble.