Updated: Dec 1, 2022
Last Monday, November 28th, my wife, Shawn, and I celebrated 30 years of marriage together!! Hard to believe it has been 30 years since we stood in a church in Houston, Texas and declared our love and commitment to each other and to God. As with all couples, we have had some fantastic moments of joy in those years, but also experienced some very difficult seasons of life in our marriage relationship.
So my wife and I wanted to share some thoughts on our years together - thoughts we hope can help you and your spouse on your journey of marriage. Starting with #1….
#1: So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27 When God tells us in Genesis 1, “male and female He created them”, there is a lot wrapped up in those six words! In a world that tries to make men and women interchangeable, God’s design is that we are created different on purpose. As our old friends at FamilyLife share, “equal in value, but distinct in roles”. We are not made to compete with one another, but rather to complement one another. The sooner you, as a husband or wife, stop trying to make your spouse like you, the sooner you can begin to enjoy the gift God has given you in your spouse!
#2: Memorize this phrase: “Not wrong, just different”! This is wisdom shared from author and speaker Emerson Eggerich from his book Love and Respect. He is speaking to the reality that most of the disagreements we have in marriage are not fundamental issues of right and wrong but rather over our personal preferences. Maybe the way she loads the dishwasher or the way he folds the clothes is different from you, but let’s have some grace with one another. God is the ultimate grace-giver. And as His image-bearers, let’s give out some of the grace He’s so freely given us!
#3: Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29 This is a very familiar verse for most folks who have been around the things of the Christian faith. The writer of Proverbs shared a similar truth when he said, “life and death are in the power of the tongue”. Both authors are sharing the importance of guarding your mouth in how you speak to one another. We believe it is critical to learn to build up your spouse with words that fit the occasion and are graceful. This does not mean we cannot share hard truths with our spouse. But when we do, we are humble in our attitude and motivated by the desire to give grace that builds up our spouse into the man or woman God created them to be!
#4: When it comes to communication, ask the Lord to help you truly discern the heart of what your spouse is trying to say, rather than just hearing the words that come out of their mouth. Anyone can hear another person’s words - but it takes God-given patience, repeated practice, and seeking understanding to actually discern the heart of their message and why this is important to them. We all need help growing in this area!
#5: And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 22:37-40 When Jesus summed up all the Bible with “love God and love your neighbor”, He had in mind that your “closest neighbor” is your spouse. We grow tired as counselors when we hear spouses say how much they love God, but see little of the “overflow” of that in their marriage. If you are truly growing in your vertical connection with God, that relationship will overflow into loving your spouse as your closest neighbor. Ask the Lord how you are doing loving your “closest neighbor” - then make the adjustments needed with His help!
#6: Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly. Colossians 3:19 One of the temptations we face as men is being tempted to treat our bride like she was “one of the guys”. Harshness in speech or attitude towards your wife is an affront to your Heavenly Father, because you are sinning against His beloved daughter. When you are convicted by the Spirit of this harshness toward your bride, be quick to repent and ask for forgiveness. Ask the Lord to help you treat her like fine china - like a prized possession. She is a great gift from the Lord to you - treat her like the great gift she is!
#7: A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands. Proverbs 14:1 So fellow wives, how are you building your house? And this means so much more than the physical address of where you and your husband currently live. If you are in a season of kids in the home, this certainly means pouring into them as part of building your house. But how about your marriage - what are you doing to build it? An important way to build your marriage is by building up your husband. A great way to build him up is by being his biggest cheerleader and encourager. You can also build your husband up by praying for him regularly. Make regular investments into your marriage now because they will pay great dividends in the future.
#8: Keep pursuing your spouse!! Don’t let the “dating” stop once you get married. Be a student of your spouse. Continue to learn their likes and dislikes as you did during your time of dating. Marriage is not a business partnership but rather a lifelong covenant ordained and empowered by God. Remember that a date is not less than, but is much more than, just putting an “event” on the calendar for the two of you periodically. Pursuing is a mindset of always wanting to grow in caring, sacrificing, and serving your spouse. And your spouse, like all of us, is ever-changing, so this is a lifelong process. Jesus continually pursues His bride, and we are called to do the same!
#9: Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you Ephesians 4:32. Learn to forgive one another. There will be times when you hurt your spouse and times when they hurt you. And while forgiving big hurts is never easy, it is possible for a Christ-follower. We are commanded to forgive as Christ has forgiven us. But this forgiveness cannot merely be words, but rather from the heart, if we are to walk in the freedom of Christ-centered forgiveness rather than being entangled in bitterness and unforgiveness. Forgiveness is such an important subject for marriage that we did two podcast episodes on it. Check them out - Podcast #4 and #7. Listen on: Apple Spotify Stitcher Our Website
#10: “Conflict is an opportunity to grow together.” In all honesty, when I first heard that statement, I laughed! I grew up thinking conflict is bad and conflict was a sign of a bad relationship. But now I know the truth - that every couple has conflict - good couples learn to work through it in God-honoring ways and actually grow in the process! So if you are a natural conflict-avoider, then begin to ask God to help you re-frame your view of conflict. And if you are a spouse who has no issues with confronting, ask the Lord to humble you so that you can listen more than you speak. This will likely help your spouse engage in resolving conflict in a way that helps you both grow.
#11: We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19 Understand and never forget that the reason that you can love your spouse, or anyone else for that matter, is because Your Heavenly Father first loved you! That should both humble and empower you. God created you in His image so you could demonstrate His love to your spouse. How are you doing with that? And while it is easier to love your spouse when things are going well, we can powerfully demonstrate God’s love for our spouse when they have messed up and know they are undeserving. May you recognize that the Lord gives you His grace and love so that you can choose to love your spouse in every season and circumstance.
#12: In Matthew 19, we hear Jesus speaking about marriage and divorce, and we should study what He says. He reminds those in His audience that the foundation for marriage was established in Genesis when God made them “male and female” and brought them together. But then they press Him about why Moses allowed a certificate of divorce. Jesus does not mince words in His reply: “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended.” Jesus says that hardness of heart is the primary reason for divorce. A husband or wife is not willing to bend his or her will to the Lord’s. All of us are by nature, people who do not like to be under authority, even after our salvation. But our rebelling against the Lord’s will often leads to many being hurt in the fallout of divorce. We do not share this to further hurt those who have endured divorce, but share it rather as a sobering reminder that we need to have hearts that are soft to God’s Word and the prompting of the Spirit that lives within us. Is your heart hard or soft toward the Lord and His Word?
#13: It is so critical in marriage to begin to understand and verbalize your expectations to your spouse. Unspoken expectations are a huge source of strife between husbands and wives. This most often happens when we expect our spouse to somehow “know” what we want or need, but have not clearly communicated that to them. Don’t get upset and hold your spouse responsible to meet expectations that you have not clearly communicated!
#14: Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6. Finances is an area of marriage where many couples experience conflict. And finances have been cited as a major cause of divorce. We encourage you to take advantage of the great, biblically based help available to allow you, as husband and wife, to steward well all God has given you (time, talent, and treasure). But one thing we want to communicate to you is the blessedness of contentment. Paul echoes what Hebrews 13:5 says in Philippians 4: “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have”. In the marketing culture we live in, being content with what you have is countercultural. But God has promised to provide all of our needs and always be with us as well! Ask God to help you, as a couple, be both content with all the Lord has given you AND a good steward of His blessings as well!
#15: For your marriage to thrive, you must really work on growing your communication as husband and wife. And while you may realize this already, the question is “What are you doing to grow in your ability to communicate effectively as a couple?” Here is a starting place: read and meditate on Proverbs 18:2 which shares the important principle of seeking understanding. And listen to our Podcast #1 to hear more on this. Listen on: Apple Spotify Stitcher Our Website
#16: Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way. Psalm 25:8-9 Humility is a foundational characteristic of a Christ-follower. The Psalmist is encouraging us to walk in humility so that God can teach us His way. How are you doing with humbling yourself in your marriage? Are you quick to confess your mess-ups, or do you tend to blame-shift or minimize your sin? Be honest with yourself, and ask God to show you His answer to that question. He desires for you to grow in humility as you become less, and Christ becomes greater! If you want to take up the challenge to grow in humility, take a few minutes to focus on this worksheet from LifeAction Ministries.
#17: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3 (emphasis mine). Patience is one of the greatest gifts we can give our spouse. One way of thinking of patience is “bearing with one another in love”. Not just bearing with one another, but doing so in Christ-centered and Spirit-empowered love. Ask the Lord to help you continue to grow in patience in all areas, but in particular in your relationship with your spouse!
#18: One of the signs of a growing and maturing marriage is that both husband and wife are moving more quickly to repent and humble him or herself after they mess up. Are you a quick repenter? And we don’t just mean saying “I’m sorry” to try to make things better. We mean genuine repentance that leads to a humble confession of the wrong done. Ask God to help you grow in this area. We encourage you to check out a blog post we did on making a Biblical apology further help you and your spouse.
#19: Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between husband and wife. God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex. Hebrews 13:4 MSG. What does it really mean to “honor marriage?” Well, I think we get a sense of it from what follows “guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy”. But let’s make sure we are thinking of guarding this both inside and outside of the bedroom. In our opinion, most of the things that threaten the sacredness of your marriage are found outside the bedroom. Put up guardrails in two specific areas: opposite gender relationships (especially at work), and social media connections. If you put up guardrails in those areas, you will be guarding and honoring your marriage covenant.
#20: We need other people to help us on our journey of marriage. If you have not sought out a mentor couple for your marriage, then begin to pray and take steps to do that even today. Marriage was not designed to be done in isolation from others — but rather in a community of “fellow strugglers” who can help and encourage you along the way. You may see this as optional, but we would say it is something critical to your growth and connection as a couple. To hear more, take a few minutes to listen to Podcast #9 on this: Apple Spotify Stitcher Our Website
#21: At our first FamilyLife Weekend to Remember Getaway, we learned a vital truth: “your mate is not your enemy”. This is so critical to remember, because at times it seems as though they are your enemy. The truth is that you and your spouse do indeed have an enemy - Jesus called Satan a liar and the father of all lies. He is out to divide you and your spouse - to make you fight against each other instead of standing and fighting together against Him. When conflict escalates and it seems your enemy is living with you, call out for God’s help. Pray a prayer using 2 Thess. 3:3 or a similar verse: But the Lord is faithful; He will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.
#22: Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together! Psalm 34:3. Make it your lifelong goal to grow in your spiritual connection with your spouse. This is often the most neglected connection for Christian couples. This does not mean you have to have a 30-minute Bible study together or read a marriage book together, although those things may work for some couples. But persevere in finding ways to connect spiritually. My wife and I have tried many things over the years, some good and some really bad, but we continue to work on this. Ask other couples you know how they connect to get more ideas. And continue to ask the Lord to help you grow this spiritual connection so that you can truly magnify and exalt Him together.
#23: Rebuilding trust is never an easy process in marriage when one partner has been untrustworthy. A simple definition of trust is “consistent behavior over time”. We most often take couples in this process to Jeremiah 17:5-8, because the Lord lays out a picture of trust in Him versus trusting other things. If you are on either side of the rebuilding trust process, spend time meditating on those verses from Jeremiah. Ask the Lord to speak and then follow in however He would have you respond. Also take time to read this very helpful article by Desiring God Ministries. Finally, don’t try to walk the road of rebuilding trust alone - find others to help you. We would want this to be a mature, Christ-follower who has walked this journey using a God-honoring approach. Each of you needs someone walking with you.
#24: But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this. 1 Cor. 7:28 This is a verse that no one we know of has ever read at their wedding ceremony! Paul says the reality of marriage is “facing troubles in this life”. And while most of us understand this going into marriage, many times on the other side of saying “I Do”, we forget that reality. It is so easy to buy into the culture’s version of marriage that says the goal of marriage is your happiness and fulfillment. God’s version of marriage says that there are “troubles in life”, but that those troubles are meant to draw us to Him and to also cling to each other. Which version of marriage are you believing?
#25: One of the keys to following Christ is understanding your identity in Christ. In order to live out the design God has for life AND for marriage, we must first understand, and then walk out what it means to be “in Christ”. When we understand and walk in this, we live out our lives and marriages FROM a position of being His redeemed and ransomed kids, rather than living our lives in order to try to please Him. One Bible teacher put it this way: “We don’t walk with Christ so that God will love us, but because He does love us. It is motivated out of GRATITUDE, not out of a desire to earn merit.” Take time individually, and as a couple, to read Ephesians 1:3-14 and soak in the description of those in Christ: chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, etc. Then ask the Lord and other Christ-followers you know to help you walk in your identity in Christ!
#26: It is so vital in marriage to take time to verbally thank and appreciate your spouse for the things they are doing. Much like with parenting, it is so easy to focus on the things your spouse is not doing well. We often tend to “major” on all the negatives and forget to acknowledge the reality of the daily things our spouse is doing - that often go unrecognized. Of course, there are things that we need to discuss as a couple (we are not saying to avoid those), but we all know how an encouraging comment or verbal thanks can really make our day and lift our spirits. And no matter where you are on the spectrum of verbally thanking and appreciating your spouse, we ALL can grow in this! Take time to read this great online post from Marriage Revolution on this very topic.
#27: Find ways to laugh and have fun together! There is something about having a good “belly laugh” together that helps us connect as husband and wife. God has a sense of humor and so we, as His image-bearers, should enjoy a good laugh, especially at ourselves, on a regular basis. Don’t allow the mundane and routine of everyday life to spoil the moments of connection and laughter He has designed you to have as husband and wife! And as a warning, never get a laugh at the expense of your spouse. This is dishonoring to them and to the Lord.
#28: Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:9-10 (emphasis mine). What would it mean for you to “outdo one another in showing honor” to your spouse? I don’t know what the answer is for you, but as I read what Paul is sharing, I know whatever my answer to the question, it would have to involve real, sacrificial, Christ-like love. How can you begin showing honor to your spouse today, as a fellow image-bearer?
#29: Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24 In God’s design for marriage, this is foundational - to leave, cleave, and become one flesh. But what does that really mean for you and your spouse, even if you have been married for decades? There is much to say on this, but in the short space we have, let's summarize by saying that, after “I do”, your marriage is now the priority human relationship in your life. So learn to prioritize your spouse while still honoring your parents and family. Check out podcast #8 we did on this very topic. Apple Spotify Stitcher Our Website
#30: Marriage, here on Earth, is supposed to be a living picture of the ultimate marriage - Jesus and His bride, the church (Eph. 5:32). And although your marriage and my marriage fall short of perfectly reflecting Jesus and His bride, we can make it our goal in human marriage to more and more consistently reflect Christ’s grace and love for His bride. We can also grow in our obedience and surrender to Him, as His bride. Question: So how are you and your spouse doing at more and more consistently reflecting these things to the watching world? We do not say this to discourage you, but rather to encourage and motivate you to make it your goal to work on one aspect of your marriage that will allow you to reflect Christ to a world in need. Maybe it’s patience with each other. Or perhaps it’s something more challenging like rebuilding trust or choosing to forgive your spouse. Whatever it is, we want to remind you that you and your spouse cannot do this without God’s help! May the coming year be a year of growing surrender to the Lord, both individually and as a couple, so that you can increasingly reflect Christ to the world!
Written by Glen and Shawn Solberg, Abiding Marriage, 2022. All Rights Reserved. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for any comments or questions.