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What Went Wrong? Barriers to Intimacy, Part 1

From the series Experiencing God's Dream for Your Marriage

When it comes to marriage we want it to be deep, open, affirming, and fulfilling. WE want that, GOD wants that for us, so why do so few marriages enjoy that kind of closeness? Chip explores the barriers to intimacy and what it takes to overcome those barriers to experience the love and intimacy you long for.

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Message Transcript

If you’ve been married more than about six weeks, you found out that it’s not exactly what you thought it was going to be, right?

And if you’ve been married a long time, you’ve realized, there’s a lot of hard stuff that comes in marriage.

And a lot of people, when it gets hard, they give up. Because they think something’s wrong or I married the wrong person instead of, this is normal.

My experience is, when you can define a problem, it’s about fifty percent solved.

And what I want to talk about in this session is: what went wrong? Or what are the barriers to intimacy in marriage?

Now, in your notes you’re going to see I have four premises. They’re taken from Scripture and a lot of research I’ve done over the years.

Premise number one: we all have legitimate needs and longings. The need to have open, honest, vulnerable, completing relationships. Accepting relationships. Relationships that are affirming. I long to have those. Most especially with my wife. But we all long those.

Second premise: God originally designed our spouse to be a major tool in His hands to meet those needs and longings.

Not the only tool. Your mate cannot come through for you. They can’t solve your problems. But a major source of meeting the deepest longings and desires that you have.

Third premise: the Fall or sin, Genesis chapter 3, short-circuited man’s relationship with God, his mate, and this world.

Okay, sin entered the world and we have these longings and, literally, it’s like the wiring now is short-circuited so that premise number four becomes the reality.

What was once the most natural, relational response – others-centered, grace-giving – is now the most unnatural responses requiring supernatural enablement and hard work to achieve.

In other words, the unconscious response to every situation before sin entered was others-centered, grace-giving.

And the picture is, we have God’s blueprint, right? We got the blueprint. God’s at the top, equilateral triangle, we want to have a relationship with God whose desire is for oneness with one another.

But notice what’s been added. There’s now a barrier between us and God. Something happened. We’re not in fellowship with God now. There’s a barrier and that barrier is sin. And now there’s another barrier. There’s a barrier between one another.

But it’s not the only barrier. See, most of us think, here’s that myth. If you really love one another, it’ll all work out. Loving another person is the most natural thing. You’ll be kind and others-centered. If you really love one another, it’ll be easy and it’ll be great.

That is the farthest thing from the truth. If you really love one another, it will require supernatural enablement from God and an amazing amount of hard work.

And it is the grace of God that teaches us to say “no” to worldliness and lustful passions and instead to live sober, self-disciplined lives of caring for other people.

And so I want you to pull out your pen and I want you to roll up your sleeves and I want to walk through the four barriers so that you can identify what they are and the first one is the biggie. I’ll spend the most time on the spiritual barrier of sin, shame, and selfishness.

And if you would, open your Bibles again to Genesis chapter 3. And I would love to spend a bit more time than we will but let me give you an overview of how the barrier occurred, the impact that it had then, and the impact that it has now.

Beginning in verse 1. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord has made. And he said to the woman, ‘Did God really say you must not eat of any tree in the garden?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat from the fruit from the trees in the garden but God did say you must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden and you must not touch it.’”

Two quick observations. The first attack in sin entering in the world is in God’s Word. The first attack is, you can’t trust God’s word about what’s real, what’s right, what’s true, and how life works.

The second error, the first theological error of mankind was to add to God’s Word. God never said, “And not touch it.”

And when you add to God’s Word and then, you know what? Can you imagine what happened when she took the piece of fruit? She’s touching it. She’s not dead. Well all of a sudden, it raises, “Well, I guess the rest of it’s not true.”

We go on. He goes on to say in verse 4. “You will surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you’ll be like God, knowing good from evil.”

“And when the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some of it and she ate it.”

The first attack is on God’s Word, the second attack is what? It’s on His character. God doesn’t have your best in mind. Don’t do it God’s way. Don’t handle your money God’s way, He’s trying to keep you from all this stuff. You can just put it on time, now.

There’s an easy way to do everything. He attacks God’s character.

You know, don’t be a prude. Are you kidding me? You know, sex before marriage. He’s trying to keep something good from you. Every command of God is guardrails because He loves you so much to protect you from getting something second-rate or something that would hurt you.

And the very first temptation, what do we have? God doesn’t have your best in mind. And the temptation always comes in the same three areas. It was for Eve, it was for Adam, it was for Jesus, and it is for us.

She saw. Lust of the eyes. The food. Lust of the flesh. It would make her wise. The pride of life.

And those are going to be the strategies of shortcuts that Satan’s going to use in this world system that we live in to pull you away and pull your marriage away from what God wants for you.

“She also gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate it.” And you might jot in your Bible, “the first passive male.”

And you know what? Isn’t it interesting that when we get to the New Testament and God begins to assign culpability to the Fall? It doesn’t say, “Eve fell.” Eve was deceived. Adam went in with his eyes wide open.

Adam had an issue of loyalty and Adam saw all the same things and he chose to disobey. Now let’s find out what happens.

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized they were naked so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”

Notice, psychologically, what’s happened. The first human experience of self-consciousness occurs. They’re aware of me. What’s going on with me?

They realized they were naked. Their response? Shame. After the shame, they hide. And that has been the response of human beings to God and one another ever since.

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day and they,” notice the hiding isn’t just from one another, “and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”

And now we get a rhetorical question. Obviously God knows all that has happened. But He wants them to learn. So he gives them a diagnostic question. He goes, “Where are you?”

And Adam answers, “I heard You in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” If you have permission in your Bibles, circle the word “afraid,” “naked,” and “hid.”

It’s how we relate to God. And that’s how we relate to one another. I’m afraid. Why I’m afraid? Something’s wrong with me now. I’m insecure. I don’t measure up. I’ve done something wrong. There’s both legitimate guilt and shame. I was afraid. And so what did he do? He hid.

It goes on to say, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

Now, I want you to just get there with me. Okay? Mentally, let’s just get there. They’ve been through this, they got some fig leaves on, their relationship has really changed.

They’ve had that relational click where they were in sync, now they’re out of sync. Now God comes.

And now Eve is going to get her first experience of what happens when things go wrong.

Ladies, I want you, in your mind’s eye, to imagine what it would feel like when God of the universe asked your husband this question and you listened to this response.

“The man said, ‘The woman that You put here with me, she gave me some of the fruit of the tree, and I ate it.’”

Sin, shame, fear, hiding, blame shifting. It’s not my fault. Probably not going to open up to a man like that are you? And she’s a quick study. So God then begins the interrogation with her.

“And then the Lord said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me and I ate.’ So the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and all the wild animals, you will crawl on your belly. And you will eat of the dust of it all the days of your life.’”

And he goes on to say, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers.”

And then we get this Messianic promise that comes out. We can’t develop. “But He will crush your head and you will strike His heel.”

And then to the woman He said, “I’ll greatly increase your pains in childbearing with a pain that you will give birth to the children. Your desire,” you might circle that word, “will be for your husband yet he will rule over you.”

So here we have it. Isn’t it interesting? What’s the problem? The man says it’s the woman. What’s the problem, woman? It’s the serpent. And kinda…and by the way, who makes that serpent, who made these animals anyway? See, ultimately, who do we blame? God. God, this is Your problem.

Now, what I want you to hear is God is going to give three curses. One on the serpent, we’ve heard. One on the woman. And then as you read the text, one on the man.

Now, a woman’s greatest desire is for emotional connection. And a man’s greatest desire is for impact and significance.

And what you’re going to see is that God’s curse is going to thwart the deepest longing in a woman’s heart and soul and then the curse will thwart a man’s deepest longing in his soul.

Because He’s going to say what to the man? Now all your work, it’s going to be toil, it’s going to be painful, and there’s going to be thistles.

In other words, you want to subdue, you want to make an impact, you want to be significant, you want to make a difference. That’s godly. That’s in you. You’re made in the image of God.

He’s going to say, guess what. It’s all uphill now. It’s always going to be difficult. And as soon as you make some progress, you’re going to look back and it’s going to deteriorate.

Why? The curses are an act of grace. The curses are the kind, gentleness of a heavenly Father who knows if a woman could have relational connection and get her longings filled in an easy way, she wouldn’t need God.

And this word for “desire” it has the idea of being in control over your husband.

See, a woman is afraid so what a woman does is she wants to control things. And she does it a lot of different ways. And she’s going to have this desire for her husband. But she wants to rule over him and God says: but he’s going to rule over you.

So those desires that are blocked will bring levels of increasing frustration that God hopes that one day, out of His mercy, a woman will say, “You know something? Life’s just too hard. I just can’t make this on my own.” And she’ll realize she needs a Savior, and a Deliverer, and a Redeemer.

And a man will keep trying and keep trying and keep trying. “I’ve got to make an impact, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this.” And, ahh, then the stock market fails. Oh brother.

And I’m going to cut, I’m going to make this beautiful yard and now the weeds come up. And no matter how…

There’s always weeds in a man’s life. No matter how hard you try, how hard you work, how many degrees you get, how much money you make, how good you are at athletics, how good a musician you are.

There’s always going to be weeds in your life and there’s always junk. And you just feel like, well, I’m over the next hill, then, over the next hill, then.

And at some point in time, you wake up and smell the roses and you realize you’re never, ever going to do without tons of pain.

And God gave that curse to us as men to say: You were never intended to live like this. I’m going to frustrate you to the point where you come in dependency upon Me and realize only through My supernatural power and My forgiveness and My strength can you live out this life. Because there’s a new barrier. It’s a fallen world.

You know? It’s like the world got cancer. It’s like there was a coup. There was a cosmic conflict.

This world isn’t like this anymore. It’s tilted this way. And so living out this life is always going to be difficult and painful.

Now, notice what He says, after He disciplines the man. Verse 21. “Then the Lord,” this act of grace.

And He says, verse 21, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and He clothed them.”

He sheds blood as a prefiguring of what will happen. And then he covers their shame. Isn’t that awesome? He forgives them. There’s always a price tag to forgiveness and this foreshadows the great forgiveness of Christ. And so an animal must die.

And the word “covering” here we get our same word for atonement. He’s going to do something that will cover their sin and cover their shame.

“And then the Lord God said, ‘Now, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever.’ So the Lord banished him from the garden to work on the ground from which he was taken and He drove the man out and placed him on the east side of the Garden of Eden,” and then He put this cherubim. It’s this huge, powerful, I’ve never seen one personally, but the definitions I get are the most powerful angels with this flaming sword.

And another act of grace. You never can get back in here where the state that you’re in in this fallen state could become permanent.

Your marriage is always going to be hard. Forever.

Because you are married to a selfish person who wants their way. Now, they can get sophisticated and learn a lot of verses. And as God changes things in significant ways.

But at the core of the flesh of us as human beings, I want my way. At the core of my being, I want my wife to fulfill my needs on my terms.

In fact, I summarized all of Genesis 3. Here’s the changes that occurred. Notice in your notes. Differences. Okay, male and female, very different.

Differences originally designed to complement and complete one another have become sources of friction, confusion, and competition.

Second, sharing has turned to shame. Our insecurities in shame bring condemnation and fear. So, deep in your heart and deep in my heart, you’ve got to realize there’s a barrier. Your fears, down deep, you don’t measure up.

And so you don’t want to open up who you really are, to your mate. Because you’re afraid they’ll see who you really are.

Givers have become takers and manipulators. The unconscious goal in our marriages is: meet my needs, fix me, satisfy my longings.

And so love, by the supernatural power of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose Spirit dwelling in me, empowered by His word and the community of believers, I’m going to give my mate what they need the most when they deserve it the least at great personal cost.

You know what that’s a definition of? Love. And that’s what Jesus did for you and me. Didn’t He? It’s a choice. It’s not a feeling.

Now, I love all the good feelings that come with marriage but all of us, or most of us, have been so brainwashed by the culture that we keep waiting and manipulating, trying to get all the good feelings instead of realizing what we need to do is operate under, we got barriers, and learn to love our mate God’s way in God’s power. And then it’s an amazing thing, some good feelings really come.

Finally, openness has given way to hiding. Women fear abandonment, so they hide. See, at the core, core, core of a woman, the reason you want to control, you’re afraid you’re going to get left. Men fear failure so they hide.

The barrier, first and foremost, is spiritual. The answer is grace. The answer is grace. The answer is, I can’t do this. The answer is, I need someone to save me. I need someone to remove the barrier from me and God and I need someone to remove the barrier from me and my wife.

I need to have open access, supernatural power. I need to be covered with His blood. I need to be forgiven. I need His Spirit deposited in me. And then I need the strength and the power to give my mate what they don’t deserve. What I don’t want to give. When they don’t really deserve to get it from me and to pay a real cost whether I get anything back or not. Only grace does that.