Marriage. Is. A. Gift.
Yet if yours is unhappy there may be moments when you think of returning it. But wait.
In any lifelong marriage good times and bad abound with problems ranging from your mental outlook — those pesky negative thoughts, to resentment and bitterness, stress, too much to do with too little time, all work and no play, lack of intimacy — both physical and emotional.
There can be wounds and baggage from the past, selfishness and pride, lack of love and respect, differing values, objectives or dreams; mounting debt, pressure from caring for a mate or child with special needs, lack of sleep, health problems, money, religion, politics, sex. The list is endless and some marriage are harder than others.
And we know how hard marriage can be, how much it hurts. Both Michael and I have experienced the death of marriages in the past and the devastating pain involved. We understand how a gravely difficult marriage puts a constant drain on your soul, robs your body of vitality and health, can plummet you into depression or acedia, and make you want to give up. And while some marriages must be let go of, other troubled marriages just need to make some changes:
- In the short term focus first on your own traits as a spouse, both the good and bad you bring to the union.
- With God’s help let go of your bad and actively seek to grow the good.
- Think deep and long and ask yourself questions that lend insight about where and how you get off track with your mate.
- Pray for your spouse and marriage.
- And finally choose to put into practice right ways of relating, believing that God is for you and your spouse and that grace is sufficient.
Now if you and your spouse are deep in serious marital issues you need professional intervention. Such things as verbal or physical abuse, addictions, adultery or pornography require assistance both in terms of counseling to heal and rebuild, or in protection and finding a safe haven while waiting to see if your wife or husband will realize the degree of their problem.
To redirect your marriage to higher ground, marriage mentoring can help. But if you and your mate fall into a less serious pattern of unhappiness, here’s what Michael and I have learned works best.
Since it is love that sets the followers, the true disciples of Jesus, apart from the rest of the world, making the world sit up and take notice when it is practiced the way God who is love intends, how are you doing?
Perhaps you could do a little better? Dare I say we can all always be learning to love better!
Begin by coming on bended knee seeking Love who loves like no other. You truly cannot love your spouse until you understand how much God loves and values you and this is where you find your worth. So does your mate. You both need to honor God first and then the other.
Will you allow God’s love that never leaves or forsakes to fill you?
And bring you the joy and contentment you desire so that you can love your husband or wife in a healthy way?
We show God our love for Him as we choose to live according to His principles and values. But to do this we must abdicate allegiance to self and surrender to His waiting, loving arms. Humbly, without fear or resentment.
Michael and I have known a few times in our nearly five years of marriage when we have been deeply at odds with one another, desperately unhappy. Yet during those harder times we have stood on our vows and gotten up after stumbling, always choosing to keep growing up and being more and more good for Goodness sake.
And this is the way that we have transformed our rough, rocky patches into lovely green oases that refresh our hearts, rekindle our love and bring us closer to the ideal God had in mind when He first established marriage. As a blessing, a covenant of companionship where husband and wife both love and honor, help and serve as wedded equals deliciously distinct.
This is the Promised Land in marriage where milk and honey flow and dreams materialize and we drown in God’s delights. So we keep coming to Father asking Him to give us strength to live the ways of love, not just think or talk about them. Because it doesn’t matter how many scripture verses we know by heart if we are not living love.
And this is the secret to marital success: Love and obey God and love and serve your spouse more than you do yourself.
This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience—it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.
Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad when truth prevails.
Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
So let’s love one another not just on the good days, but the bad ones, too. Not just when we feel well, but when our bodies, hearts or minds ache. Let’s put more than mental ascent into the commands. Let’s give them our blood, sweat and tears.
And aren’t there sometimes tears and tantrums when self must abdicate and lay down its prideful will for the good of the Almighty and the good of the marriage?
Yet when married lovers come together, shielded by faith and humility, love wields a sword that slays the little foxes before they grow into ravenous, destructive wolves.
And that makes for happier marriages everywhere…
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