A strong marriage forms the foundation of our society. But in our current culture, “till death do we part” has been replaced with “till I don’t love you anymore”, “till you stop meeting my needs”, or “till when I’m not happy anymore.” Divorce has ransacked every portion of our society, with the church sadly leading the way. Couples now prepare prenuptial agreements, maintain separate bank accounts (without the spouse having access), and forgo adopting or changing to the husband’s last name. It’s an issue of the heart. It’s the mindset of separation when God has designed marriage as the joining together of one flesh – sharing equally in all aspects of our lives together and committing ourselves to being together. The idea of separation in these financial and personal aspects is a mentality of preparing for our divorce before it even happens. If the enemy can tear down the marriage, he can tear down our society. Marriage is designed my God to be a beautiful reflection of His relationship with His church, with His people. It requires self-sacrifice. It requires laying down our own desires and seeking the others interest, and that is where our joy can be found.
Christ must be the center. My dad always gave me one piece of advice for selecting a mate: “Make sure he loves God more than he loves you.” This has stuck with me through it all. He must be one who is more desirous of pleasing Christ then pleasing me. And the same must be true of me. If I don’t keep Christ on the throne in my life, I will start wandering towards raising up ungodly expectations for my man. Because if Christ is the center, then our marriage will be strong. If Christ is the center, I will be passionate about exalting Him and magnifying His name, not exalting my own interests and feelings. Marriage is a beautiful way to exalt Him. It is the dance of a husband and a wife to join their various giftings together in bringing the most glory possible to their Maker. My husband is strong, steady, sensitive, compassionate, and servant-hearted, and I compliment him with my love for hospitality, organization, and support. Together, if we aim straight and true, by the grace and mercy of God, we accomplish much for the furtherance of God’s glory. Sisters, God has given you beautiful gifts and your husband beautiful gifts. Have you sat down and considered what they might be? Have you acknowledged them? Partner together in utilizing them.
Because ultimately, marriage is not about meeting your needs. It’s about God’s glory. And the beautiful thing is that when God’s glory is first, our needs ultimately are satisfied, either by our realization that they are not really needs but the idolatrous desires of our heart, or by the Lord blessing us in fulfilling them through the dance. The emotional, physical and spiritual needs must be satisfied first in Christ followed by the extra blessing of joyful intimacy in marriage. When we get beyond seeing our needs as the end result, we will become less susceptible to the attack’s of the enemy, our marriages will grow stronger, and our joy will be greatly increased.
Marriage is a covenant. It is a commitment. Let’s commit together to not even allow the “D” word to enter our vocabulary. Aaron and I have committed our lives to each other. Divorce is not an option no matter what happens. Through the greatest trial or conflict, God desires to bring about His beautiful work in our lives. Conflict is for the purpose of pruning away the dross and making us clearer reflections of His character. Let’s not run from it but fully embrace it.
So in what practical ways can we grow in keeping our marriage strong? This is far from an exhaustive list, but a few areas that I have personally experienced radical growth in our marriage when we practice them. I will be expanding upon some of these in the upcoming week.
1. Pray together.
I have been challenged this year to commit to praying together with my husband once a week for at least 30 minutes in the morning before our little ones are awake. Why? Because I have seen it bear much good fruit in my parents lives, who have faithfully prayed together every Saturday morning, and another couple in our church who prayer walk together early every morning. It is beautiful! When we started, I found it a beautiful way to pour out my thoughts, burdens, and fears before the Lord rather than dumping them on my husband. It was a way to share with him my struggles, but not burdening him with discovering the solution. God is our solution-maker. It also helped us start praying more intentionally for our family ministry, our church, and the nation. Now, we don’t have any specific formula for doing this…we simply just take turns praying whatever the Lord lays on our heart. And it truly has been a bonding experience.
2. Pray for your man.
I yearn to be more faithful in this area myself. My husband needs my prayers more than anything else I could give him. It is the way I can serve him in helping to guard his purity and diligence in the workplace, to being a man of the Word, to being a strong husband and father. It is the best way I can be his help-meet. Check out the 31 Days of Praying for Your Husband Prayer Guide to help you out. This is a powerful free tool that I keep in my Bible for daily prayer prompts on his behalf. And remember, before you consider confronting your husband in regards to some conflict or sin issue, take it to the Lord in prayer.
3. Take consistent date nights.
Whether it be once a week, twice a month, or once a month, make a commitment to getting out together on a consistent basis. Put it on the calendar. Especially for couples with young children, it is so easy to get caught up in their care that we neglect our marriage. We need time alone together to invest in each other’s lives. If you have family in the area, ask if they can schedule it on their calendar to watch the kids on a regular basis. If not, build a babysitting co-op. We have being doing this lately with two other families. Tuesday night is date night and we take turns watching each other’s kids. So we get dates out three times per month and every third week we watch all the kiddos. It works. It doesn’t have to be expensive either. Utilize services such as Groupon.com and Restaurant.com to find cheap dinner dates at 50% off in your local area. Take a coffee or dessert date. Go browse a bookstore together or simply take a walk. The key we have found is (although there are exceptions)…it really helps us to just get out of the house. Away from what needs to be done and various technological distractions and just enjoy each other no matter what we do.
4. Take time to evaluate and grow together.
One of the elders in our church recently offered a helpful document titled State of Our Union for couples to utilize in prayerfully evaluating where they are at in their marriage, recording specific things they appreciate about each other, and steps they can take to grow and enrich their relationship. It was such a beautiful tool and one I want to use regularly. Download your own copy and take some time to go through it separately and then together. Your eyes will be opened in good challenging ways.
May you be blessed and equipped to keep your marriages strong for the glory of God! Embrace it as your opportunity to reflect the self-sacrificial love of our Creator!