(originally posted on October 19, 2016)
Have you ever heard of a child or an adult being referred to as “strong willed”?
When I was 28 to 31 years old and serving as an associate pastor in a small country church, I developed a penpal relationship with the late great Elisabeth Elliot. This ultimately culminated in our meeting in person one time in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I still have a couple of signed letters from her in storage somewhere.
This friendship started with my writing to Mrs. Elliot as a single adult, asking her questions about dating, marriage, and selecting the right life mate. Her responses to me usually started off like this, “My Dearest Jeffery.” I so cherished her prayers for me at that time in my life, as well as the godly, biblical advice she gave me during those very hard, painfully lonely, days of singleness!
One of the great truths that Elisabeth help me to understand is the misnomer of someone being “strong willed.” She helped me to see that those we often think of incorrectly as being “strong willed” are in reality very “weak willed,” because the problem is they cannot say no consistently to themselves.
You see, at the core of a “strong willed” individual is a very prideful, “self-loving” heart. Unfortunately, selfishness is not a great quality for maintaining long-term, healthy relationships–especially in marriage.
At the bottom of every broken relationship is someone’s selfishness. Someone wanted their way, but couldn’t have it.
According to Scripture, both salvation and sanctification require a faith which practices daily self-denial and cross bearing (Luke 9:23-25). It is believing and repenting as a lifestyle. Without genuine salvation and a growing sanctification, it’s going to be very hard, if not impossible, to have a joyful, life-long, spiritually healthy marriage.