By Judy McEachran, Crosswalk.com
“God created marriage. No government subcommittee envisioned it. No social organization developed it. Marriage was conceived and born in the mind of God” (Max Lucado).
Marriage between a man and a woman is God's joyful and valuable gift. The love between a man and a woman is irreplaceable and is a challenging yet wonderful gift of life on earth. Marriage may seem like a Lego project without instructions.
But, God’s plan, complete with instructions, will make marriage last a lifetime. Since it’s His idea, being bone of bone, equal before God, and each carrying unique attributes of our Creator, we are declared “one flesh” (Genesis 3:23-24).
One of the first words a toddler learns is “no.” “Mine.” Human nature tells us sex is free to share without the bonds of marriage.
Although human nature is self-centered, God’s is selfless, grace-giving, and merciful. A successful marriage calls us to emulate God’s love, and sacrifice, as Jesus did for us. God’s principles applied reap powerful rewards.
God designed Eden to be a perfect, pristine place for Adam and Eve and provided everything needed to share a lifetime together.
Adam and Eve were driven away from God's care because of Satan's deception and their prideful decision to ignore God's love. As always, self-pride, thinking we are smarter than God, leads to a fall (Proverbs 16:18).
God’s established boundaries for our safety and freedom. The world says you can become your own god. You’re smart. You know what is best. Put yourself first and obtain what you desire.
But, in God’s economy, we are to serve others first and “in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
Throughout Scripture, the selfless way Jesus loved the Church and gave Himself for her is the prime example of marriage and an ideal to live up to. God wouldn’t have told us to aim for it if it weren't possible.
Although “the heart is deceitfully wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9), God is the One who changes hearts and gives the strength to become what we think may seem impossible.
We can expect God’s help to lay down selfishness and pride. Selfishness and anger of quarreling lead to separations that break vows and hearts.
Growing in God’s love and grace will enhance self-control and forgiveness, the fruit of a lifelong marriage. The Holy Spirit transforms selfishness and pride into righteousness, emulating the nature of Jesus (Galatians 5:22-23). When we love Jesus more, we grow to love our spouse more.
We just celebrated our 54th year of marriage. The most significant “tool” that has shaped our lives is Scripture. Applying God’s Word strengthens our ability to serve each other as we grow in understanding and generosity of spirit.
By God’s grace, and with His principles for life and love, these few practical aspects have worked on building a lifetime marriage.
1. Go to Bed Together
In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat — for he grants sleep to those he loves (Psalm 127:2).
This is a crucial moment for intimacy. A wise woman gave me this advice early in marriage.
God’s gift of marriage is a sacred covenant that enjoys the deepest bonds, even when we don’t feel like it. Giving to the other, from either spouse, is an act of love.
2. Pray Together Every Night
“For where two or three have gathered in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20).
Prayer builds a strong bond in marriage. Praying was a significant part of life, but we didn’t pray together at bedtime until we were co-pastoring a difficult church.
Then, the bedtime praying built a new strength of encouragement, direction, and wisdom. Today, we continue our bedtime prayer together.
We name each family member, from our sons to our great-grandson. We also include friends, churches, missionaries, and more.
3. Do What God Says to Do
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
If we did what these four love verses entail, marriages would thrive. Feelings are often fickle and are not good leaders. They need to be trained by God’s truth that sets the boundaries of behavior, curbs appetites, and turns selfishness into serving.
Obeying God’s commands and principles enables us to “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).
4. Be Generous Even When You Don’t Feel Like It
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38).
Learning to be generous towards your spouse’s needs before your own will add many deposits to your love bank. God’s principle of generosity never falls short of rewards.
5. Deal Quickly with Anger and Quickly Forgive
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:13).
“Do everything without complaining or arguing…” (Colossians 1:14).
Don’t let anger take root (Ephesians 4:26). The relationship is more important than the quarrel which reveals our own selfishness. “Why do you fight and argue among yourselves? Isn’t it because of your sinful desires? They fight within you” (James 4:1-2).
Avoid the silent treatment, which is harmful and doesn’t resolve the conflict. Learn when your spouse is open to conversations without the emotions or heat of anger.
If there is no remedy, pray and ask for God’s help. He will. He “opposes those who are proud, but gives grace to those who are humble” (James 4:6).
Ruth Bell Graham said, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”
6. Remember to Say Please and Thank You
Let your speech always be with grace (Colossians 4:6).
My husband says thank you so often. Those two words are keys to grace-filled conversations. Sugar goes a lot farther than vinegar. Thankful people are cheerful people.
7. Be Grateful
“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
A thankful heart goes a long way. Being grateful for your blessings can shift your perspective from wanting more to acknowledging God's work and gifts in your life.
8. Laugh Often
A cheerful heart is good medicine (Proverbs 17:22).
In the most unexpected times, John makes me laugh. I complimented a green shirt that brought out the color of his hazel eyes.
When I bought an apricot-colored shirt, he tried it on and said, “It matches my eyes.” I looked puzzled, but he explained, “You say a shirt brings out my eye color?” I just giggled. Life is short. Laugh every day.
9. Don’t Criticize
There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18, NASB).
Being redemptive in motives and conversations rather than critical strengthens the marriage bond. Criticism often arises from my selfishness at work rather than thinking of him.
We are all unique, with unique skills and gifts. Encouragement towards Christlikeness can replace attempts to change one's spouse.
A gentle conversation can tackle issues of difference without the heat. James 3:8 says the tongue is “full of deadly poison.” Our words can honor Christ or hurt like a sword.
Words wound or heal. When it is unkind or mean, it can’t be recalled. So, we must guard our tongues and bite them if needed.
Why Does This Matter?
Many of God’s principles take work and effort. They may seem impossible to achieve. However, with the Holy Spirit’s help and guidance, we can develop deeper love, become less self-centered, and honor God by our behavior and words.
God’s principles work! He is perfect and knows what is best in relationships since He’s the Author of love. Implementing His commands reaps success.
When we cannot measure up to love like Jesus, God continues to help us. The Holy Spirit convicts, corrects, comforts, and instructs us as we yield.
God promises success in everything in life when we obey His Word and live out His principles (Joshua 1:8). Marriage is God’s idea, and He will help us achieve a marriage that lasts a lifetime, especially when we are addicted to His Word and do what He says.
For further reading:
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/CherriesJD
Judy McEachran loves to worship the Author of life and love. She is an ordained pastor and gifted musician who writes and speaks to encourage believers. She pastored churches in the Midwest and after retirement moved to Arizona. She is humbled not only by the gracious love of God but by her devoted husband, two sons, and ten grandchildren. You can visit her website at God Secrets that Impart Life. Find her music on YouTube. Judy’s natural musical giftings invite worshippers into the presence of the Lord.
LISTEN: Overcoming Fear in Marriage
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.