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Making your home secure for your kids

When you spoke your marriage vows to your spouse and committed yourself to loving and caring for that person for the rest of your life, you made a holy promise to your husband or wife, as well as to the Lord. You may not have realized then that you were also making a commitment to a few special people who weren’t even in the church that day—your children.

When fears and troubles threaten to overwhelm your sons and daughters, they will need to be able to hang on to the rock that is your marriage relationship. Security for children is rooted almost entirely in their parents. For the sake of your marriage and your children, you might want to adopt a Bill and Gloria Gaither tune, “We’ll Be There,” as the theme song for your family. The lyrics read, in part: “We’ll be there…when you need us to hold you tight…when…you’re scared of the dark…when you dream your first dreams…when you stand or you fall…when you go on a date, and you’re out too late, and you quietly slip up the stairs.…You can count on it. We’ll be there.”

As described in Scripture, the winds will blow and beat (Matthew 7:25) against the house that is your marriage. Yet if you keep your holy commitment and depend on the truth and power of God’s Word, your “house” will stand firm, providing a lasting haven for your family.

Have you ever not liked your spouse?

As much as I don’t like to admit it, I’m not always the easiest husband to like. My wife and I share many of the same interests but my attitude on certain matters can be a bit frustrating to my born planner wife. How does the couple deal with the days when differences lead to tensions? Simple. They embrace their differences. Here are some suggestions to do that:

Confess your struggle to God.

Complaining or pretending may be easier, but admitting our own need for help in our marriage allows us to see God working on our relationship. We have to humble ourselves first instead of immediately trying to “fix” our spouse.

Then, differentiate between personality differences, preferences, and sin.

The truth is that much of what frustrates us in marriage often boils down to our preferences in how someone should act. Just because they take a different approach doesn’t mean it’s the wrong approach. We have to examine our motivations. Consider adopting these “commandments” into your marriage:

Thou shalt serve one another. A good marriage practices mutual submission. Ephesians 5:21 commands us to submit to one another out of reverence to Christ. Marriage is not a 50/50 deal. It’s a 100/100 deal—each willing to surrender all to the other person. How are you at serving your spouse? Would they say you strive to serve them more everyday? Are you more the giver or the taker in the relationship? Be honest.

Thou shalt love unconditionally. Unconditionally means without conditions. I’ll love you if… is not the command. It’s I’ll love you even if not. God commands us to love our enemies. How much more should this commitment be strong within a marriage? Are you loving your spouse even with the flaws that you can see better than anyone else? Here’s a quick test: Does the way you communicate with your spouse indicate you have the highest regard for them—always?

Don’t stop believing

Okay, that was a shameless plug for a favorite song, but consider: Have you ever had a day when you just didn’t want to get out of bed? Even before the day had started you had a sense that it was going to be a no good, awful, simply terrible day. You had more month the money, your health has gone sideways or perhaps your marriage doesn’t have the spark you would like. These are times when it is important to dig deep into God and keep on believing. When everything around us seems to be spinning out of control, we can trust in God, who is always the same. “Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heart Psalm 119:89) .

Do you think your spouse is crazy?

Maybe you should look in the mirror first. Do you ever look around at your family tree and wonder? Do you ever look in the mirror and question yourself? Welcome to the human race. We’re all a little crazy. Who of us hasn’t struggled with some kind of addiction, some type of emotional disorder or some erratic behavior? Of course all of us fit into one or more of those categories. What should we do about it? Scripture tells us to forgive others as we want to be forgiven. The next time you’re tempted to judge someone (especially your spouse) for their behavior, remember what they might say if they knew about your shadow side. Be gracious to them and perhaps they’ll be gracious to you. 

A marriage that your children need

Granting love and attention to your kids goes a long way toward establishing a stable atmosphere at home. But the best way to foster security in young hearts and minds is to cultivate your relationship with your spouse. When children see, close-up, your ironclad commitment to each other—as well as your unshakable faith in Jesus Christ—they’ll begin to develop a sense of assurance about their own future that is likely to stay with them for the rest of their lives. How can you improve your marriage? Do your kids see you demonstrating love and respect for each other? Do they know what you are doing to make your marriage last?

Meltdowns in marriage

Most of us understand what it means to meltdown – to lose it, to go off on a person, to crumble or to explode. What about when this happens in marriage. Here are some tips to deal with this issue.

First, anticipate the meltdown. As much as I’d like to say you can avoid any meltdowns, it is unlikely. This doesn’t mean you have to be pessimistic about your relationship, but rather practical in assuming you will have tough times. 

Scripture tells us that in life we will have troubles. The Apostle John said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 1633)

Notice that John has an optimistic perspective—“take heart,” he says. The Lord comes into our lives to give us both hope and peace. 

Second, initiate contact to your mate. Let your mate know you wish to have a connection with them. Reach out to them. Even if you are initially rebuffed, don’t let that deter you from doing your part to make positive contact. Again, be the first to reach out.  

Third, take responsibility for your part in the meltdown. Humility is the great elixir for a healthy marriage. You simply cannot wait for your mate to make the first move or even to necessarily own “their stuff.” They may and they may not. This, however, need not stop you from taking responsibility for your issues. Let the ownership start with you and notice the positive shift in emotional connection.  

Fourth, renew your commitment of love. After taking ownership of your part in the melt down, and making positive contact with them, let your mate know that you love them. There is little more important in reconnecting then letting your mate know they are loved. A warm hug (if accepted) or tender words are often enough to melt a cold heart.  

Finally, discuss what you learned from the situation. In order to avoid the recurrence of the meltdown, or to at least mitigate the severity of the next trouble, learn what there is to learn from the troubled situation. After the situation has settled and a bit of warmth has returned, arrange to sit down and talk about how to handle the situation different next time. 

Things NOT to do in your marriage

We’ve navigated through tough stuff, but by His grace it hasn’t destroyed us. In the midst of everything, we’ve been able to search out God and thus find each other, once again. With that being said, here are five things not to do to keep your marriage happy: 

1. Don’t stop praying for your spouse.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5: 16)

Even when we’re hurt, we don’t stop praying for one another—we can’t. Because, it’s in the confessing and praying that the healing happens. It’s in the praying that power is released.

2. Don’t hold a grudge.

A grudge is just persistent resentment towards a person due to pain or hurt. And, that grudge can grow and fester until it bleeds even more hurt into a marriage.

It’s humbling and it’s hard to say, “I feel right, but I’d rather be one—together—than right.”

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4: 30-32)

3. Don’t say no to making love.

You can “make love” by making a cup of tea for your spouse, but making a cup of tea and creating space to physically connect results in different emotions, a different level of uniting.

“The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But this I say by way of concession, not of command.” (1 Corinthians 7:4-6)

God steps into marriage and tells us that we need to give our bodies to our spouse and our spouse need to give their bodies to us, but, as Paul writes, “by way of concession, not of command.” We give as an offering. 

4. Don’t underestimate the God inside of your spouse.

We can’t underestimate how God speaks to our spouses; we can’t underestimate the level of relationship they have with our Creator and the level they’re in tune with the Holy Spirit—even when we might feel like they’re lacking.

If there’s anything that God has taught me, it’s not to underestimate the God inside of my spouse. If you find yourself feeling like you can’t trust your spouse’s decisions, because you feel he or she has misled you in the past or you don’t believe he or she is searching the scriptures or listening to God’s voice, I’d refer you back to number one: don’t stop praying.

“That Christ may make His home in your hearts through faith.” (Ephesians 3:17)

5. Don’t stop speaking life.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” (Proverbs 18:21)

We can speak life over our spouses, not calling out their flaws, frustrations, and weaknesses, but calling out the gifts and the goodness that God has deposited within them.

We can speak hope and life and faith over them instead of death, darkness, and destruction.

As we each take steps closer to God, we inevitably take steps closer to each other. It’s like we’re on opposite sides of a triangle— as we move up the sides, we move closer.

Strengthening your friendship

Improving your friendship in marriage does not happen automatically. You have to work at it. Here are four more ideas to help strengthen your marriage.

5. Memory Building. Do you plan special vacations, outings with the kids and grandkids or just the two of you, and fun holidays? Friends value making special memories for each other.

6. Shared Values and Faith. You won’t agree on everything, but agreeing over the big things like faith and values will help you settle smaller problems when they arise.

7. Support Each Other’s Ministries. Give grace when ministry commitments mean less time at home (within reason). Encourage the gifts and talents of your spouse and urge them to make use of those gifts to the best of their ability. Offer helpful and encouraging feedback. Praise them for the good work they’re doing in their ministry. 

8. Keep Short Accounts. This may be the most important! Extending grace and forgiveness can be hard, but remembering that God has forgiven your sins can help put into perspective the shortcomings of your spouse. (This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: I am not talking abuse here. If your spouse is abusive toward you, you need to seek help).  

Maintaining friendship in marriage

I am privileged to be married to my best friend. Friendship, however, must be maintained by working to protect it and ensure its growth. What are you doing to strengthen your friendship in your marriage? For this week and next week, let me suggest some ways to strengthen your friendship with your spouse.

1. Focus on great Communication. Often, this just means making the time for conversation to happen—eating dinner together without distraction, for example. Great communication doesn’t happen without intentionality.

2. Becoming a great listener. Obviously this goes with point one. We can’t have great communication if we’re not listening well. Asking questions and making a point to remember what we’re told can go a long way in our relationships.

3. Loyalty. How faithful are you to your spouse? Are you a “safe place” for them to come and share from their heart?

4. Reliability. Knowing you can count on your spouse is so important. Being a man or woman of integrity and following through on your word isn’t just something your spouse should be able to count on, but it’s also a character trait you should strive for in all of your relationships.

More next time…

We were meant to walk this journey together

We were never meant to walk our journey alone. Throughout Scripture we read of God creating marriage and families moving forward together. We need each other. The Apostle Paul shares repeatedly that we are to “Carry each others’ burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Of course we cannot carry each other’s burdens unless we know them and learn about their needs. We must care enough to reach into their lives, ask gentle questions and listen carefully to how we can minister to them. Will you care enough about those in your life (your spouse, children, parents, friends) to ask how they are doing and what they might need from you?