While we’ve still got love on the brain, I’ve got a wonderful new post with lots of helpful marriage advice to share with you from Christy. =) Enjoy, sisters!! ~Kristen
So this past December Josh and I celebrated our sweet sixteen years of marriage. There was no pomp or fanfare really. Our anniversary is near Christmas and we have five little people running around. We go on dates as often as we can and usually for our anniversary we do something special -this time we plan to see one of our favorite comedians in March. I am super excited!
I was thinking about our years together – the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows, the proud moments and the disappointments. While we do not have a perfect marriage and certainly we do not always demonstrate God’s perfect plan for us, we do look to Him and to His Word for admonishment and encouragement.
During the holidays I started contemplating what has “kept us together” and “how we make it work” as some might inquire. Here are six Biblically-based concepts that I believe have fueled our marriage through the years. I hope and pray you or someone you know can benefit.
- Marriage Lesson #1: Commitment
Commitment, as defined by Oxford’s Dictionary, is the “state or quality of being dedicated to a cause or activity” or “engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action.” We can understand this word in relation to our careers as we are committed to a company or we have a business meeting commitment. I really think both definitions can apply to marriage. As husband and wife, we should be dedicated to each other. We should be devoted to each other as the old song suggests “I only have eyes for you…” Proverbs 16:3 tells us to “Commit to Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” I have seen a triangle drawn: God at the top point and then the husband and wife at the bottom two points. If you follow the lines, it is God alone that brings us and keeps us together.
In Ephesians we see the beautiful analogy of Christ and the church as compared to the husband/wife relationship. This devoted love is so strong that He died for her and presented her to His Father. Jesus was committed even in death. He was proud of His bride, the Church. So commitment should follow in marriage.
Are we proud of our spouse? Are we willing to make sacrifices like our Lord did to protect and save our marriage? The only way a marriage can stand is if EACH spouse is committed to the Lord first. Think of Paul’s commitment when he says in I Timothy 1:12 “I know whom I believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto him against that day.” Have I obeyed God as I should? Have I served others as I should? Have I studied His word as I should? If each spouse commits to the Lord, they simultaneously commit to each other.
On a personal note, when Josh and I were dating I knew he was the one for me when I witnessed him pull over on the side of the road and help a father and daughter who were stranded. He gave his time and energy and sacrificed his own comforts to help them in need. He was eighteen at the time and wise beyond his years. He has always been a servant to others and I have always admired his love for souls. That is why I wanted to commit to him in marriage. I knew his priority was to get to heaven and bring others with him.
- Marriage Lesson #2: Curiosity
Not too long ago Josh and I were talking to the children about some of the candy they had received over the holidays. One of the children’s teachers had asked me what her favorite candy was and that started the discussion of everyone’s favorite.
Out of nowhere Josh announced that his favorite candy were the classic Sweet-tarts. I was speechless. “Really?” I have known the man for 18 years and I never knew or remembered him saying anything about or wanting Sweet-tarts! It got me curious and thinking a bit about how much I really know about my husband and why it is so important for us to keep that sense of wonder in our marriage.
Do I still look at my husband with the desire to know him more? Should I not be excited at the opportunities to learn about his dreams or desires or his disappointments? Do I have him completely figured out or is there more to him? This is why I am a big believer in dating your spouse. Make time to go out with your spouse WITHOUT the kids. I cannot stress this enough. Why did you marry this person? What is it that attracted you or made you want to learn more about him? Keep the fire going by staying curious!!!
One of the best Biblical supports for this, I believe, is in the book in Ruth. Please take time to read the small book. Naomi guides Ruth into how she should meet and interact with Boaz. She encourages her to make herself desirable and to only reveal what is necessary and proper. This wisdom resonates today I believe in that allowing yourself to be a mystery (one full of godliness) and that you allow your spouse to unfold these layers through the years.
- Marriage Lesson #3: Confession
Peter is quick to tell husbands and wives that how they treat each other affects their relationship with God. In I Peter 3:7, tucked between the admonition to submit to our husbands as Sara did and other general Christian admonitions, he states, “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them [wives] according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”
I am in awe of the idea of my husband and I being “heirs together.” Followed by that beautiful promise, we are reminded that if we do not practice submission and understanding with each other, our prayers may be hindered. This reminds me of the Lord’s command to make things right with our brother before bringing our offering of worship to God (Matthew 5:24). How can I pray to God and ask for his favors and blessings without being right with my husband first. I am sure you have heard the sound advice: “Don’t go to bed angry.” The same rings true of the practice of confessing and forgiving one another. Oh, how many struggles and strife would be avoided if we simply opened up with our husband about our shortcomings, faults, and sins?
Not too long ago I finally made my husband aware of a sin I had been struggling with in the past that had emerged again. I was so scared to share it with him and didn’t want him to be angry with me. I even wrote down my thoughts because I was too ashamed to say the words out loud.
I was relieved and grateful for his loving response. He accepted my confession and granted the forgiveness I had asked for. Not only did he do that, but he also told me that he would never bring this up again. Not only did he say that, but he was then open and honest with me about sins he, too, wanted to be forgiven for. We had a beautiful moment together in which great burdens were lifted and we were happy to move forward together and right with each other and God.
- Marriage Lesson #4: Communication
One of my favorite bands from years past is Better Than Ezra. They often write meaningful lyrics, and in one of their songs is the statement: “I love it when we fight; at least I know you still care.” This rings true to my marriage with Josh. We are very different people. We are not two peas in a pod like many adorable couples I see. We are night and day. He is neat and tidy. I am messy and disorganized. He used to want the sink empty every night and I never cared. (I will say after having five kids he doesn’t really care about the dirty dishes in the sink anymore.)
I am a true extrovert who often speaks before I should. He is introverted and restrained. And yet…we fell in love and chose this life of commitment. I believe it is because we both love souls and want each other to go to heaven more than anything else in the world.
Communication plays a role in dealing with challenges in a marriage. We should not be cryptic or passive, misleading or manipulative with our spouse. We need to be honest and assertive, not aggressive or even passive-aggressive. We communicate by our words and our silence, our actions or lack of them. What are we communicating to each other?
I suggest to communicate love every day. Say it. Show it. Say “I love you” as often as you can. Show it by picking an act of service to perform (I Corinthians 13). Show it be bestowing compliments (Ephesians 4:29). Show it by being honest with your feelings (Proverbs 25:11). Show it by confessing. Show it by touch. Show it be giving of yourself physically even sometimes when you don’t feel like it.
Fight it out, as the song suggests. Extended periods of the silent treatment often are signs of “I’m done” or “I’m over it” or “I don’t care anymore.” These are dangerous. We MUST communicate. So if it means to argue to get your feelings expressed, so be it. But please apologize and find each other before you lay your head on your pillow at night (Ephesians 4:26).
Heed the scriptures when it comes to being argumentative. Do not look for fights or provoke each other. If you know your husband’s weaknesses, do not dangle them in front of his face. Anticipate his needs and avoid conflict. Take time to look up the following verses. Meditate on these as you consider how you communicate with your husband.
James 1:19, Proverbs 15:1-2, II Timothy 2:16, Colossians 4:6, Proverbs 10:19, and Proverbs 18:13
- Marriage Lesson #5: Compromise
Let me start by saying I am not suggesting we compromise the truth or disregard the New Testament teachings to fit our own agenda. What I am suggesting is to “pick your battles” as some say. What is worth “fighting” over?
The laundry in the floor or our church attendance?
Where we go on vacation or whether or not we should send our children to church camp?
Burning the bread or inviting our neighbors to dinner?
If my husband is concerned about what I am wearing, I should listen to him. If my husband is concerned about the way I make a sandwich, I might suggest he consider learning other ways of making one.
Remember, men and women are so very different. Let’s be patient with each other and listen to each other before making hasty decisions. Let’s find ways to resolve our conflicts with the ultimate goal of pleasing God. Matthew 6:33 should help us in our decision-making. If what we are concerned about doesn’t really apply to “kingdom” things, then we should, like Elsa, “let it go.” Consider Romans 12:18 as Paul reminds us if at all possible to live in peace with others. Surely our spouse should be at the top of the list of whom we want to be at peace with. And guess what? We are blessed to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9).
- Marriage Lesson #6: Courage
Finally, courage! That’s what it takes! To be able to practice all of the above, it takes courage! “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid!” Joshua may have shouted this to the people on the verge of battle, but are we not in a daily battle to save and protect our marriages? We must fight for our husbands!
We must battle the temptations that are surrounding us daily: promiscuous people, pornography, drugs and alcohol, worldliness, pride, and greed. All of which can destroy our marriages. I Corinthians 16:13 tells us: “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” We find strength in the faith of God’s word. He wants our marriages to succeed. We must look to Him in prayer and His Word for constant guidance and encouragement.
Perhaps you might say that you have done all these things and you have tried so hard to help your marriage and your spouse simply does not contribute or struggles in doing so. I have heard it once said, “If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me.” We must not lower the standard of loving when someone hurts us.
If screaming and yelling is getting me nowhere with my spouse, perhaps we should try a different approach. One of love in action, humility, tenderness, and forgiveness. Have the courage to start the conversation towards healing. You may be surprised that your husband, too, wants to let go of the burdens of anger and bitterness. Maybe some scars and wounds are too deep to heal on your own. Counseling also may help your marriage. It takes courage to admit that, too.
No two people are perfect. No marriage is perfect. But we can be perfect for each other. We choose commitment, stay curious, confess our faults, practice good communications skills, compromise when we can, and have the courage to never quit. God bless you all! ~Christy
P.S. One more personal note: Does your husband hate made up holidays such as Valentine’s Day like mine does? Just another way for people to make money off of us!! Right? Remember that I mentioned how important dating your husband? You don’t have to spend lots of money or wait two hours for a table at a five star restaurant.
One of my favorite dates with Josh is when we get our favorite Mexican food at our favorite taco truck and then sit in our parked van listening to our favorite comedians. Doesn’t cost much and we enjoy lots of laughs. So think about fun ways to date your husband and just enjoy your time together. =)
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