On Tuesday, we released another podcast episode on Sex Chat for Christian Wives, but this one was unusual: we hosted a male guest. Kevin A. Thompson is the lead pastor at Community Bible Church in western Arkansas, speaks at marriage and parenting conferences, and has authored two marriage books, including Friends, Lovers, and Partners.
I don’t know how I originally connected with Kevin, but I’ve read his blog for some time and interacted with him online. I’ve been impressed with his willingness to address tough topics from a biblical viewpoint. And he came at it again in his most recent book, Happily: 8 Commitments of Couples Who Laugh, Love & Last.
(Note: I received a copy of this book free from the author, but I promised nothing but to read it. My decision to write this review is entirely my own.)
Kevin starts by discussing our tendency tend to believe that happy and unhappy marriages occur through luck or by getting certain rules right, like “you must find and marry The One.” However, the real way to both avoid divorce and have a happy marriage is to embrace eight contrarian commitments he outlines in the book.
These contrarian commitments are Jesus’ contrarian principles for our lives, laid out in the Sermon on the Mount, the section we call the Beatitudes.
The First Commitment
For example, the first commitment is to Happily Humble Yourselves. Easier said than done, right? And yet, think how many marriage struggles are caused or exacerbated by our lack of humility. As Kevin says, “At the heart of nearly every marriage problem is pride,” but he also points out that “most of the people we meet who lack humility are not arrogant; we are insecure.”
What if we instead had a right perspective of ourselves in comparison to God? What if we understood our value, so we didn’t fall prey to insecurity, as well as our insufficiency, so we didn’t fall prey to arrogance?
What if both of you approached your next conflict with humility? And what if you approached your marriage bed and all the issues surrounding it with true humility—neither arrogant nor insecure? Wouldn’t you listen better, make your requests in a more loving way, pursue help more quickly?
The Second Commitment
Now take the second commitment he covers: Embrace the Hurt. What?! you say. I didn’t get married to get hurt!
Well, are you breathing and in relationship with anyone on this earth? Then welcome to some hurt. In our broken world, that’s how this goes. We will disappoint one another. But that does not mean you cannot have genuine joy, because hurt can result in healing and growth.
Kevin reminds us, “Marriage reveals our flaws and exposes our greatest wounds.” It’s the iron sharpens iron principle, which I discuss at more length in my devotional book Intimacy Revealed. That friction reveals our flaws and gives us an opportunity to improve ourselves and serve others.
Of course, there’s a big difference between the regular, inherent hurt we feel when our differences rub against each another and the pain of abuse. If you’re experiencing the latter, you do not happily endure that. Kevin states that we need to distinguish which pain is a caused by a problem not to be tolerated and which is the result of our imperfection and need for growth.
For those in abusive situations, seek help. Today. Now. Stop reading this blog post and go research abuse resources in your area.
For those in the regular conflict of marriage, Happily‘s prescription is to mourn the emotional pain we feel when let down by others. Which will inevitably happen. But then seek how to grow together through the hurt.
The Commitments & the Beatitudes
As you can see, these two commitments reflect the first two Beatitudes from Matthew 5:3-4:
- Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
The remaining six commitments do the same:
- Happily Avoid Both Apathy and Aggression (“Blessed are the meek…”)
- Happily See Marriage as Bigger than You (“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…”)
- Happily Refuse Power Struggles (“Blessed are the merciful…”)
- Happily Live in Truth (“Blessed are the pure in heart…”)
- Happily Make Peace (“Blessed are the peacemakers …”)
- Happily Endure Whatever May Come (“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness…“)
Maybe some of those commitments surprise you, especially when paired with the word Happily.
Yet what made the difference in my own marriage when it was failing? Yes, I benefited a lot from specific resources that helped me work through issues in our relationship. My ministry is all about providing that kind of resource for couples who are struggling or simply want to improve their sexual intimacy.
But the key for me and my marriage was, through prayer and intention, living out biblical principles day to day: principles like those found in the love passage in 1 Corinthians 13, the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, and the Beatitudes as covered in this book. Once you shift your attitude to that of Christ, you can make real progress in your marriage.
And as Kevin says, those who put in the effort to have a good marriage may feel lucky, but it’s because they put in the effort that yielded the blessings. I recommend this as a book for a couples to read together and discuss, but it’s also good for one spouse to read and put into practice. Check it out here:
And be sure listen to our podcast episode with Kevin here: