I am not even 30 years old, and yet 5 friends my age
have already gotten divorced. I cannot even describe to you in words how it saddens my heart.
On top of that, I know many more who have (thankfully) chosen to remain married but have the scar of infidelity on their hearts.
Marriage is under fire. The enemy hates marriage.
Why does he hate marriage? Because marriage (and the family unit) is a beautiful reflection of Christ's love for His church. It is a depiction of what is to come when we are finally joined together with our Savior for all eternity. Marriage and family is intended to be a testimony of Jesus and His love for the world, so that all may see and believe in Him!
To the enemy, broken marriages = broken families = broken lives = lost souls.
Marriage represents unfailing love, forgiveness, compassion, determination, perseverance, sacrifice, repentance, "dying" to the flesh, joy, peace, and hope. (The list goes on.)
If the enemy can destroy our marriages, he can destroy our families, and then society. It's a snowball effect. Strengthen marriage and family and you strengthen the world.
In battle, commanding officers know the war tactics of their enemy. There is strategic planning (offense) involved in battle, not just defense. The same should go for our marriages. We can't just sit back and hope everything goes well. Just like anything in life we work hard for (a job promotion, our children's education, planting a garden, learning an instrument), our marriages deserve our focused attention.
I could write a million posts on this subject. Due to the fact I am a tired mom, I can only write a portion of the ideas swirling in my head. I hope and pray the Lord uses it to give you wisdom and determination to protect your sacred vows.
1. Pray for your marriage. Pray together with your spouse. (If your spouse is an unbeliever, don't give up praying for them in your private prayers alone with God!) Ask your spouse what is on their heart, what they need from the Lord, then hold hands together or lay hands on one another and bring your petitions to God. Dedicate your marriage and family to Him and ask for continued protection and wisdom daily!
2. Study the scriptures on marriage. The Lord has much to say on this subject. After all, He is the genius mastermind behind the idea of marriage :) Study what your role is as a wife/husband/mother/father. Seek out the Word as your number one source of knowledge on this subject.
3. Read books/articles/websites that give Bible-based Christian advice and counseling on marriage. Even if your marriage is strong and wonderful, continue reading books that strengthen your marriage. Study topics that are hard to talk about- don't be afraid to dig into deeper issues that you may be embarrassed about. There are a plethora of Christan resources on the subject. A few I recommend off the top of my head are Real Marriage
by Mark Driscoll, Intended for Pleasure
by Ed Wheat and Gay Wheat, The Excellent Wife
by Martha Peace, Love and Respect
by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, Captivating
by Stacie Eldridge, and Wild at Heart
by John Eldridge.
4. Get connected with other Christian couples who will encourage you in your marriage. Many of us have friends who talk bad about their spouse, complain, gossip, and criticize them in public. It is important to reach out to these friends, but they cannot be the ones pulling you down and affecting your marriage. For your closest friends, surround yourself with others who honor their spouse, lift them up, and are striving for a Godly marriage even behind closed doors.
5. Meet with a pastor, elder, or mentor in times of trouble. When we are struggling in our marriage, the last thing we want to do is admit it to someone else. But everyone
has marriage issues they are continually working out. You are not alone! We are all on this journey together, striving for healthier, Godly marriages. If you think someone's marriage is perfect, you are wrong. There is always something to be worked on continually.6. Never, ever, ever, (did I say never?) have a best friend of the opposite gender if you are married.
I cannot stress this enough. This fact has gotten more people in trouble then I can count. I don't care what the argument may be, this is never
acceptable. Your best friend should be your spouse (and if that's not the case, this needs to be worked on). Next to your spouse, your best friend without a shadow of a doubt
must be your same gender. If you would try and argue me on this issue, I would defend it to the grave.
Even if your marriage is strong and wonderful now, you never know when you and your spouse will hit a "speed bump" or rough patch along the road of life. When you are disagreeing or working through an issue and don't feel especially close, you will tend to gravitate towards your other
best friend. (Which is fine as long as your other best friend is of the same gender and is giving you Godly advice admonishing you in holiness and unity with your spouse). If your other
best friend is of the opposite gender, your are headed for trouble. Let's not play stupid. Boy and girl connect emotionally. They talk for hours and spend time together alone, even though they insist it is strictly friendship. And it very well could be. At that time. But then time happens, you grow closer emotionally, and eventually, sometimes surprisingly, you become attracted to them. It's called "emotional strip-tease". You start bearing your heart and your deepest emotions (the first layer, you could call it). Then the emotional game turns physical. More layers come off. You get the idea.
Keeping your (second) best friend as your same gender is offensive
more than it is defensive. By doing this you are preventing yourself from running to someone else for emotional connection/affirmation/love other than your spouse.
1 Corinthians 6:12
Everything is permissible (allowable and lawful) for me; but not all things are helpful (good for me to do, expedient and profitable when considered with other things). Everything is lawful for me, but I will not become the slave of anything or be brought under its power.
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people.
What does "not even a hint" mean? It means even if nothing inappropriate is going on, don't give people reason to believe it might be. If you are spending too much time with someone of the opposite gender who is not your spouse, people will start thinking there is something going on. You can insist it's not (and that may be the truth), but the fact that you are "giving a hint of evil" is a bad testimony to others. Our lives should reflect the purity and humbleness of Jesus. If we have to keep explaining ourselves to others, then it's time we realize we are entering deep waters.
7. Keep the line of communication open with your spouse. Continually ask each other deep questions like, "How are you really doing today? Is there anything I can work on personally lately that has been bothering you/hurting your feelings? How is our intimate life- are you satisfied? Have you been struggling in any way that I need to be aware of?" These are hard questions to ask your spouse. But we need to be open and honest with each other. If you close up from one another, you aren't fulfilling each other's emotional needs, and then you will turn somewhere else to fill them. It's hard to bring up these topics, I am the first to admit that. But that shouldn't keep us from asking them.
8. Always say "I'm sorry" even if you feel like you didn't do anything wrong. That's our motto in marriage. So many times our first year of marriage we would say to each other, "But I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. You shouldn't have taken it that way." Finally one day we sat down and discussed the matter in full detail. We agreed that from that moment on, if the other was hurt in any way, we would apologize no matter what. We would refrain from saying, "But..." or "That's not what I meant..." We always say, "I'm sorry I hurt you. I didn't mean to. Will you forgive me?"
9. Always say "I love you" and kiss your spouse regularly throughout the day. Don't just wait for bedtime to show your love and affection. Continually hug, squeeze, kiss, touch, and verbally praise your spouse throughout the day. Keep the love alive and blooming. At least once a day try and stop to kiss for at least 5-10 seconds, focusing on how much you love each other. Even if you are busy parents with young children, you have to make time to show affection throughout your hectic day. We often do this in the kitchen in the midst of cooking dinner/cleaning/taking care of the kids. We especially want our children to see us doing this- they love the security they feel as we are being an example to them.
10. Stay. Connected. To. The. Body. Of. Christ. We are not islands. We cannot do this alone. Get involved in your church or small group. We need each other to encourage us, point out our weaknesses, draw out our strengths, and ultimately point us to Jesus.
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
There are also many conferences, study groups, and retreat centers focused on marriage. Take advantage of these tools- your marriage is worth it. Danny and I went to a FamilyLife marriage conference our first year of marriage, and also went through The Marriage Course (based out of England) when we lived overseas. Both of these strengthened our marriages and revealed issues we needed to work on.
My prayer is that Jesus Christ would strengthen your marriage. I pray He would continue to draw you closer to Himself and deepen your revelation of His unfailing love!
Your marriage is worth it. Fight for it.