What is Enough?

by Peter Eng

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“He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness”
(2 Corinthians 12:8-9)


When it comes to money, surveys show a majority of people give a number that is about 10% more than what they make. When it comes to a woman in your life, what is enough? Why do so many men have a desire for someone in addition to their wife? Is it the “10% more” discontent transposed to our wife?

When the other woman comes into our life, what is happening? What are the emotional and spiritual dynamics that will lead us astray or keep us true? Here we have the phenomenon of pleasure and pain once more. But the temptation is so well disguised that we often fail to identify it as temptation.

We are confident we can spot temptations and make the right decisions. The reality is quite the opposite. The simple temptations are apparent. But the most powerful temptations come in an insidious disguise. “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).

The husband about to abandon his wife for the other woman does not say, “I have been unfaithful to my wife; I cheated on her; I am going to dump her to gratify my selfish lust for the other woman.” Instead, he will invoke the best excuse known to our age—love. He will say, “I love my wife, but I also love the other woman.” In some instances, he will say, “I have a child with the other woman. I cannot ignore my responsibility towards my child.”

We use love as the reason to do many things that are really motivated by less noble passions. Men tend to think in a more compartmentalized way than women. Even then, men find it hard to sort out their own desires. Is it love? Is it lust? Is it a mid-life crisis? Is it an escape? Is it boredom? Is it an opportunity to start life over?

The Chinese culture in Singapore retains the social memory of a wife who is submissive in the home but strong and independent in society. She is like the idealized characters in Chinese wuxia (i.e. Kung-Fu) novels. These women may be powerful fighters, but the Chinese social order expects them to submit to their husbands.

The other woman is extremely accommodating. She taps into our social memory of the submissive wife who prioritizes her husband’s needs over her own. The Singapore man who is accustomed to a self-willed, self-directed wife, who perhaps, over time, has become kids-centered, now experiences something lying dormant in his social awareness. He now lives the pleasure of having a submissive partner, one who makes him feel ten feet tall.

Sufficient in God’s Provision

There will always be something the other woman has that your wife does not. This ignites the fire of romantic love.

Romantic love is powerful. It makes the grass greener, the sky bluer, the food tastier, the smell more aromatic. When we are in-love, life is just better. We need less, we enjoy more, we laugh more, we behave better, we try harder. Love is such a wonderful thing!

The passage of time in a marriage can make us lose a measure of romantic love. The other woman makes us alive again. The call to leave her and your child and keep to your wife is quite an unthinkable denial of pleasure.

And we justify the other woman easily by calling it “love.” But romantic love with the other woman is that disguised angel of light. It looks good, feels good, and when that relationship stands in isolation, it is perfect. Temptation is the enticement to sinful pleasure.

colossiansI will not dispute a husband’s love for the other woman. It may be lust, or romantic love, or a mixture of both. What so easily blinds us to sin, what makes it so easy for us to be deceived by temptation, is that it seems to have the glow of love surrounding it. It is not useful to argue about the nature of the feelings for the other woman. It may be love indeed. But wrong love is sinful love.

We are to love the Lord our God with all our being. If we love passionately, but assign that love to an object, it is idolatry. The wrong object of love makes love a sin. Love is good only when the object of our love is good. The amount of love, the nice feeling that comes with love, the need to make sacrifices for that love, all do nothing to turn a wrong love right. Loving is not God’s love when the object of love is wrong.

We choose to love God, we choose to love our wife, otherwise we choose to love an idol, or to love the other woman. Loving someone, in itself, does not make it right.

John Adams (2nd President of the US) and his wife Abigail lived in different cities in Massachusetts before marriage. They had a courtship that depended heavily on writing letters to each other. After their marriage, they suffered frequent separation because John was always away from home in the service of his country.

John and Abigail Adams were passionately in love throughout their marriage. We know of this through the letters they left behind. They exchanged 1,100 letters! In them, we see their shared burdens, hopes, and passions. They were never emotionally detached despite their separation.

They had a good share of parenting problems, financial problems, career problems, etc. But Abigail never forgot whom she gave her heart, and John never vented his suffering on her. They suffered many stresses, but they chose to suffer together. They chose to love the right person.

Abraham suffered terribly when God asked him to abandon Hagar and Ishmael. “The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.” (Genesis 21:11-13).

Abraham came to a time when he had to abandon his son Ishmael. But God’s promise to Abraham was that his provision and blessing will sustain him and Ishmael will also be a great nation. There are times in our life when we need to do the thing that is difficult and trust God for things over which we have no control.

If you have a child with the other woman, you need to hear God’s message to Abraham. And trust God for his provision for your Ishmael.

Sufficiency in Christ Alone

There are women who neglect their husband. Some wives practically drive their husband into the arms of the other woman; and then whine about their husband.

They all call him, “Doctor.” He was already ancient when I was a child. My relatives tell me, “Doctor is a Christian.” That is not remarkable. But they also say, “Doctor’s wife is mental. But he looks after her himself. When he is at work, he employs a nurse to look after her.”

I was only in Primary school. But this doctor’s devotion to his wife was indelible in my mind. I could not understand how he could do it. Of course, I never spoke with him since I was only a kid. But it was clear that my relatives attributed it to his Christian faith. I am guessing that he meant his marriage vow, “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health … till death us do part.”

Most of us marry because the other person makes us happy. And when we marry, we are supposed to become happier. What we forget is that happiness in a marriage is the result of a good marriage, not the purpose. If we marry to become happy, we forget the other person also marries us so that she can become happy. What we have are two sinful self-centered persons wanting the other person to make them happy.

Let us step out of marriage to learn a lesson about God’s purposes. Generally, what is God’s purpose for us to meet this or that person? We know not everybody makes us happy. God brings them into our life to make us holy. There will be some who encourage us God-ward and therein lies how they make us holy. But there are others who do the opposite. They bring out the worst in us. These people, no less, are also there to make us holy! They try our patience; they tempt us to anger, anxiety, frustration and other negative emotions. And they play a necessary role in God’s development of our character. They make us holy.

Marriage is the closest relationship two people have with each other. Marriage, more than any other relationship, makes us holy. There will be aspects of the marriage that fosters holiness in a positive way, as in mutual encouragement, love, doing things together, etc. But there will also be aspects of the marriage that are negative, like an indifferent wife. The indifferent wife with negative aspects is no less God’s instrument in characterforming to make us holy. The husband who has an indifferent wife is blessed in a unique way. If we are in this predicament, we will be in a situation we do not want, to learn something we need. We are about to learn sufficiency in Christ.

We will be tempted to reject this pain. We will say we have done our part and what we are going through is unfair. Life should not be like that. We should not be given pain for all that we have done. And we are right. There is pain that we ought to have because we have sinned. But when there is also pain when we have done right, that is a special position in life.

James I:2ff says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter different temptations … that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” It is in such a situation that we can know we are completely in God’s will and not suffering the consequences of our own sins. We are in a place of pain because we ought to be there. This is our Garden of Gethsamane.

This is one time when pain temptation is clearly laid before us. We are to embrace the pain of an indifferent wife and reject the pleasure of the other woman. When we accept the pain of “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health” we become “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The coldness of an indifferent wife is not reason for embracing the other woman. It is reason to embrace the pain.


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