THE DELICATE TOPIC OF RELATIONSHIPS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Part 1/3: Whenever I prepare to speak at a conference, I check in ahead of time with the local pastor or leader of a women’s group asking what they want me to speak on. Usually the reply is “relationships.” Every culture and region has nuances and struggles with relationships, but in countries with strong Islamic or Hindu influences, often the accepted cultural “norms” spill into the Christian community with a confusion that can be deadly to the plan God has for couples and families. This confusion begins on a basic level; personal integrity and character, fidelity, church governance, etc.

Attend any funeral and you’ll likely hear good things about the diseased, deserved or not. But when a marriage dies, no one goes on about how good things actually were when the marriage was alive. In fact, dis-tasteful whispers like “I knew he (or she) was no good,” or “I thought they wouldn’t last” surface. And the kids? Children pick up generational relationship habits, and pack away mental images of epic arguments and violence, internalize deeply and often repeat the whole cycle.

Recently I spoke on marriage in a two day women’s conference in Baghdad. It was such a privilege to look out on the women’s faces as I stood to greet them, but as I looked to my left, I also saw a number of men quietly looking back at me. I was surprised, as it was a women’s conference, but they had come because they heard I was speaking on relationships.

God’s Word has clear guidelines for marriage, but throw in a war or two, refugee status, poverty, significant physical and mental health neglect, and the heart of peace and stability in a marriage turn into powder kegs armed with lethal force. And when they blow, the force, like the IEDs (improvised explosive devises) they are so familiar with, is horrific, The injuries not only include the couple but everyone around them. The very thing Iraqis and Syrians hate the most – violence and instability – become what they experience, only this time it is in their very own home. This brings questions, does God care that we suffer? What can God do about this level of pain and suffering in a post-war Christian culture? Can this be healed?

Yes, God cares greatly when a marriage, especially a Christian marriage is in trouble; he is acquainted with pain and suffering, and yes, he specializes in healing. God, the maker of the universe, the Alpha and the Omega, is the God of miracles, and he has no limits or boundaries. He not only can improve a healthy good marriage, but he actually delights in resurrecting dead marriages because in those “only God could do this” moments, he gets the glory and once again draws people to himself. Part 2 will be in July’s The Liaison.

Written by Dee A. Cook