Way back in 2012, One Flesh Marriage ran a series asking marriage bloggers their best advice about marriage. Specifically, the question was:
If there was only one thing from the story of your marriage that you could share, what would it be? What lesson learned, revelation, heart change or profound moment is a testament to God’s plan for marriage?
I answered with a guest post on their blog, but I’ve talked about this lesson many times elsewhere. Today, I want to share my answer with my audience here. Specifically, here’s what turned my marriage around … and might do the same for yours.
If there was only one thing from the story of my marriage that I could share, it would be this: No matter how weird your own family is, your spouse’s family qualify as aliens! Just kidding.
The Poltergeist Years
My husband and I went through several years of rocky relationship. At times, it felt like our marriage was moving through a movie haunted house, never knowing what other monster would pop up to attack and make us battle for our existence. Perhaps I should call them The Poltergeist Years, as it seemed we were both cursed and constantly cursing each other.
Thank goodness for three things that kept us going: our commitment, our children, and our sex life. We wanted to have a long-lasting marriage; we wanted to keep our family together for our kids; and we experienced loving tenderness in the bedroom that reminded us what the rest of our relationship could be.
Yet no matter how much we tried, we continued to fail. We communicated about our problems. We attended marriage retreats. We went to counseling. We prayed. I prayed a lot.
I couldn’t figure out why things weren’t getting better. We were an A+ on commitment and effort, but the relationship faltered over and over. We began to discuss divorce and tears flowed. I prayed more. We hung on by a thread, attended another marriage class, went to another counselor. I read a book about whether I should stay or go. He went apartment-shopping online. I prayed even more.
God did not answer that prayer. Things didn’t get better. Then.
Miracle or Quick-Fix?
The one thing I would share about what I have learned in marriage is simple: Don’t expect a miracle or a quick-fix to solve your problems; rather, the answer is to live daily as God commands.
Things got better when I stopped looking to experts for the formula to make it all come together and when I stopped praying to God for a Red-Sea Parting. It doesn’t work that way. Even with the Red Sea, the Israelites had to follow a cloud day-in and day-out, put one foot in front of the other mile after mile, and be obedient in many other ways before the big Ta-Da happened. Daily obedience matters most in bringing forth God’s best in your life.How to Turn Your #Marriage Around: "Daily obedience matters most in bringing forth God’s best in your life." Click To Tweet
When I began to ask myself if I was treating my husband with Christ-like character, I had to answer no. I was caught up in how he had hurt my feelings over the years. I was caught up in changing external processes. I was caught up in my hopes that God would fix him, fix me, or fix the marriage in quick order.
But God didn’t answer that prayer. Or rather, He had already answered my prayer, but I wasn’t paying attention. I wanted Him in my corner, but I had yet to take God’s commands to heart and live them out day-by-day, minute-by-minute. Everything I needed to make my marriage work was in His Word.
“Love is patient, love is kind . . .” 1 Corinthians 13:4-13
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, . . .” Galatians 5:16-26.
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Luke 6:31
“. . . in humility consider others better than yourselves . . .” Philippians 2:1-11
Theologian Soren Kierkegaard said, “When you read God’s word you must constantly be saying to yourself, ‘It is talking to me, and about me.’” I had to commit to being the kind of Christ-follower God wanted me to be.
Simple to Understand, Hard to Do.
Often we know what to do. We simply don’t do it. We find excuses for not being as loving, patient, selfless, and kind as we should. We don’t give the other person the benefit of the doubt. We focus on defending ourselves and thus offending our spouse. If God directly responded to many of our prayers for a better marriage, Jesus might simply pop into our living rooms long enough to say a “Woe unto you” for neglecting His commands.
Good marriages don’t just happen. Our Western concept that if you fall in love with the perfect someone you can live happily ever after isn’t represented in the Bible. Instead, God’s command is that once you are married (whether by falling in love, arranged marriage, or whatever), you can have a terrific marriage if you both live out a godly life.
The marriage advice that I soaked up during that time, and since, is not wasted. We have used much of what we learned as tools in our kit. Counseling highlighted specific issues to address. And prayer helped us to hang on as long as we did. Yet the foundation of what has made our marriage so much better is living out the Christian life.
When people open up the Bible to see what God has to say about marriage, they often turn to Ephesians 5 or 1 Corinthians 7. Perhaps they head to Song of Songs to read about the intimate relationship of a husband and wife. Those are good places to go! But every passage about how Christians should treat others is instruction for marriage.
Marriage is not about happy, heady feelings that swirl like a whirlpool around your insides and make you crave your mate. It’s a way for God to stretch us, to test us, to grow us into the kind of people we should be. Hey, if you can learn to be patient about your spouse’s irritating habits and practice saying kind words each and every day to the person you live with, you are growing in God. And the result of seeking a holier, healthier marriage is a happy marriage.
Pray by all means. But be sure to pray that God will help you to live out what He has already commanded us to do.