Strengthen your Marriage
Some advice and biblical ideas worth
Growing up I hoped to one day be a flower girl in someone’s wedding. I envisioned donning a frilly white dress and presenting rose petals with a flourish. I recently learned my sister-in-law had – and, let’s be
honest, still has – this same ambition. There is something
about weddings that intrigues us as women from a young
age. A mystique. A glowing expectation. The dream of
happily ever after.
Prior to our marriage last year, my husband and I were
warned about the realistic challenges and hard adjustments couples face once they cross the altar. Sadly, many
well-meaning folks focused on the trials and forgot to mention the blessed assurance of knowing God has brought
you together. My husband and I often look to one another
and say, “This is so right.”
Right and sacred and beautiful. God’s design for
marriage is all these things, yet often society – even the
Christian subculture – sends subtle messages of defeat
and discouragement. “Even Christian marriages have a
50 per cent failure rate,” they say, forgetting to mention
this statistic means there is also a 50 per cent success rate.
As my husband and I recently counselled an engaged
couple, we shared the following encouragement that had
been passed on to us, biblical wisdom to strengthen every
married couple, whether newlyweds or lifelong loves.
You are a sinner. The book When Sinners Say I Do –
Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage by Dave
Harvey (Shepherd Press, 2007) delves deeper into this
topic, but suffice to say you married a sinner and so did
your spouse. Remember that whole “plank in your own
eye” thing? Consider your own sin the biggest problem in
your marriage before criticizing your husband.
Seek to outserve one another. Your husband is not meant to
fulfill all your needs – only God can do that. This is not about
simply serving your spouse, but seeking to outserve them.
Delight in serving them, rather than waiting to be served.
Allow your spouse to serve you. Sound contradictory,
even selfish? In Tim and Kathy Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage – Facing the Complexities of Commitment
and the Wisdom of God (Dutton, 2011), they describe a
vacation when Tim hoped to visit a seminary bookstore
(my husband can relate!), but didn’t mention this desire to
Kathy – who would have been left alone to care for their
children. When Tim finally shared his disappointment,
Kathy replied, “Yes, that would have been inconvenient for
me, but I would have loved to have given you that freedom.
You denied me a chance to serve you!”
Don’t expect your spouse to read your mind. There’s nothing wrong with hoping our husbands will offer a compliment on a new hairstyle, but we set them up for failure
when we succumb to overly romanticized daydreams.
If special occasions seem especially prone to this trap,
discuss expectations in advance so you can both enjoy.
When our daughter was born I hoped my husband might
give me jewellery to celebrate her birth, but also knew his
practical mind might discard the idea since he has given
me jewellery in the past. A short conversation assured him
jewellery is always appreciated and that her birthstone
could make a unique gift. This lifted the pressure he felt
in finding the “perfect” gift, while still giving him the joy of
seeing my face light up when I saw the beautiful, meaningful emerald pendant necklace he chose.
Walk with others. Don’t wait until your marriage is on the
brink of disaster. Marriage mentors provide encouragement
and support during the good times, not to mention observing potential trouble areas to work on before they explode.
It’s also never too late. If your marriage is struggling, seek
a godly couple to walk alongside you towards restoration.
Be filled with the fullness of God. During our marriage
ceremony, Pastor David Robinson exhorted us through
Ephesians 3: 14-21 that a thriving marriage is not based on
our own efforts. Instead, as Christ dwells in our hearts, it
is our Heavenly Father who will root and establish us in
love, strengthening us by the power of His Holy Spirit to
be filled with all the fullness of God.
The triangle metaphor is cliché but true. Picture you and
your husband at each corner of the base of a triangle with
God at the top. As you grow closer to God, you grow closer to
one another. You may need to be creative in new seasons of
life – late night feedings of our newborn daughter now provide the perfect devotional and prayer time for our family!
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly
than all that we ask or think, according to the power at
work within us, to Him be glory in the Church and in
Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.
Amen” (Ephesians 3: 20-21). FT
MiCHeLLe (NAGLe) ARTHuR is Bruce’s wife, Elisabeth’s
mommy and executive director of Women Alive, a
Canadian ministry equipping women and teen girls to
become dedicated followers of Christ, partly
through mentoring ( womenalive.org).