It’s wedding season! Our refrigerator is plastered with save-the-dates, invitations, and thank you cards from wedding gifts… and we love it! Two close friends are getting married this week, two just got engaged, I am in a friend’s wedding tomorrow, and next week, my wife and I will be celebrating another year of learning, growing together, and experiencing deeper intimacy with one another and with Christ. So, I thought it would be appropriate to share some wisdom (not advice) I have gained thus far. I have chosen to be clay in the Creator’s hands, ready to be shaped, pressed, molded, re-shaped, fired, decorated, and put on display. From the moment we uttered our “I do’s,” we decided that the Word would be the compass that leads and guides our marriage. On this, our third wedding anniversary, I know that we have only scratched the surface of how to have a successful marriage, but I humbly present three Biblical truths that really work and, when practiced and put into action, ensure that your marriage will be full of life and vibrancy.
Here are three vital questions:
1. Do you seek to put the interests of your spouse above your own?
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others,” (Philippians 2:3-4).
Paul is not saying that we should give up the things we love or surrender all of our personal interests. He is not saying that we should speak negatively about and shame ourselves. When did we confuse the word “humility” with “humiliate?” Humiliation means a loss of self-respect and deterioration of value… humility has nothing to do with this. Humiliation is a side-effect of a lack of humility in our own lives. Humility means lowering one’s pride and arrogance and putting God first. What Paul is really saying here is that when we become focused on “getting our way” and selfishly pursuing our feelings and “needs” above our spouses, not only will there be conflict and failure, but embarrassment and guilt. Seek to SERVE your spouse. Pursue them relentlessly to greater depths of intimacy.
“The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31).
Let’s just focus on two words…“love yourself.” If you are a Christ-follower and find that it is hard to love yourself, go back to the promises that God gives throughout Scripture. Seek counseling to combat hurt caused by others in your past.
Jesus would never have died for you if He didn’t think you were worth it.
God would never have placed eternity inside of you and I (Ecc 3:11) if He didn’t think you were “good enough.”
We would never be entrusted with the Spirit of God inside of us if He thought we were invaluable. In 2 Corinthians 1:22 it says, “He set His seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come!” Would you ever take ownership over something that you thought was worthless? No! So why would our Father do such a thing?
What am I saying?
You have worth, value, and you are good enough! But, if you do not learn to love yourself the way that God loves you, there will be a constant battle to love your spouse (your neighbor) and others. I love how Pastor Todd White puts it: “All He’s asking you to give up is who you weren’t created to be!”
2. Do you use your speech to build up one another?
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).
“Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it” (Eph 4:29).
The most common issue in couples who seek counseling is “communication issues.” I would like to propose that communication is not the problem, but a general lack of love and respect (Eph 5:33) in the way that you speak to and about your spouse is the real issue.
No one enjoys being yelled at or hurt by other people’s words, but who isn’t encouraged by a compliment or recognition of a job well done?
The New Living Translation is the best here: “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences,” (Prov 18:21).
It is not a good excuse to say “I have a hard time thinking before I speak…” Try being silent and practicing the words before they make the journey from your mouth. Practice makes perfect. If you speak death, people around you will “die” and become negative and cold. If you chose to speak life, you will reap the wonderful consequences of experiencing people who are life-filled and encouraged by the words you speak.
Your spouse is counting on you, the one they have committed themselves to for the rest of their lives, to be the one person who can encourage them when they are down or to help them to see optimistically when they have had a challenging day at work. You are responsible for the words you speak to your spouse, make them count. People tire of endless apologies and constant excuses such as “I wasn’t thinking, I didn’t mean what I said.” That is the most confusing “apology” of all time; “not thinking” before you speak is a crime in itself.
We all will have differing perspectives and expectations in our marriages that lead to disagreement, but it is unwise to assume that “disagreeing” and “fighting” are even on the same continuum. I am sick of hurting couples (regardless of their years of marriage) attempting to advise my wife and I on “how a real marriage works.” They often equate “fighting” with wisdom or experience and therefore devalue the edifying and respectful way we choose to communicate with each other…. I do not take this as helpful advice, but as a projection of hurt highlighted by healthy and Christ-centered relationship. You are very wrong to think that a “normal” relationship is one filled with constant bickering, screaming, name-calling, arguments, and fights. Speak only life to one another, even in your disagreements… seek to understand your spouse’s perspective.
3. Do you stay gratitude-focused and practice contentment?
“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment,” (1 Tim 6:6).
First, do not take your spouse for granted. This should be a given, but happens all too often. Your spouse is an amazing treasure, full of value and love. Your spouse is not someone who you can become “so comfortable with” that they get the brunt of your anger, blame, and criticism. They do not deserve that.
Secondly, as a couple, praise God for the immense blessings in your life. If you struggle to find anything to be thankful for, spend some time making a list of the things you see around you. Start with materials (my house, my car, my internet, my phone), then relationships (my spouse, my parents, my siblings, my best friends, my leaders), and then move to more abstract blessings (my talents, skills, gifts, wisdom). You will find that as you practice thankfulness, you will experience the presence of God, and all of His glory and light, in such an intense way that all negativity, discouragement, and bitterness are destroyed.
Gratitude is a weapon.
This weapon leads to contentment which the dictionary defines as “satisfied with a certain level of achievement, good fortune, etc., and not wishing for more.” This is a profound statement. People who are more content are more joy-filled. Do you desire to find peace and happiness in your marriage? This is one way to find it. God has given you so much. The ironic thing about contentment is that by being satisfied with and praising God for the life He has given us and all of the things that fill it, He will see our stewardship (our taking responsibility and care of things) and bless us with MORE.