One of the great joys of pastoring is officiating weddings for the members of our church. It’s a special blessing to me when two young people who grew up at Lancaster Baptist Church fall in love, desire to serve the Lord together, and ask me to perform their wedding. Another blessing is when I have the privilege of conducting the wedding for the son or daughter of those I united in marriage twenty or twenty-five years ago.
But as special as a wedding day may be, it is not the marriage. It is only the beginning of a marriage. And whether or not that marriage will be healthy and growing over the years has much to do with the continuing practices in which the couple engages.Whether or not a marriage will be healthy and growing over the years has much to do with the continuing practices in which the couple engages. Click To Tweet
As a pastor, another privilege I have is helping couples who are struggling in their relationship to find help in the pages of God’s Word. Marriage counseling is not as exciting or approached with the joyous anticipation of a wedding. And often (although not always), couples come to the point where their relationship is no longer healthy because they are neglecting the continuing practices that make a marriage strong.
We could list many of these habits or practices, but the three below are core. As a husband, these three are ones I have to continually work at; they don’t come naturally. And as a pastor, these three are ones I have consistently seen as key to building or rebuilding a healthy marriage relationship.
1. Surrendering to the Lord
A union of two selfless people is made of two surrendered people.A union of two selfless people is made of two surrendered people. Click To Tweet
Surrendering to the Lord is the beginning place of being filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), and being filled with the Spirit is an absolute necessity for a Christ-centered, God-honoring marriage.
A marriage where two people live by the dictates of their flesh is a selfish relationship, with each spouse demanding (vocally or in silent expectation) their way, their rights, their gratification, regardless of what that means for the other.
But a marriage where two people are surrendered to the Lord and walk in the Spirit is a Spirit-filled relationship, with each spouse ready to serve the other.
This kind of surrender to the Lord is not just a one-time decision (although it starts there). It is the daily dying to self and yielding to the Holy Spirit.
And the best part of it is that regardless of what your spouse does, you benefit when you surrender to the Lord. Not only will your marriage be stronger than it would be if neither of you were yielded to Christ, but your relationship with the Lord flourishes when you walk with Him in the practical, daily discipline of surrender.
2. Yielding to your spouse
Because of the instruction directed to wives in Ephesians 5:22—“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.”—some Christian husbands assume that yielding to the other is a one-way street. The verse prior, however, says, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”
Husbands are to provide leadership in the home, and in any healthy relationship, the person who is not the leader submits to the person who is. That is the context of verse 22.
But in any healthy Christian relationship, marriage included, both parties delight to serve one another and to submit to the desires and needs of their spouse. That is the context of verse 21.
In a healthy Christian marriage, both the husband and wife are making dozens of daily choices to yield to one another. To not have to win an argument, to not have to prove who is right, to serve the other before they serve themselves, to listen, to care, bear one another’s burdens…to yield.In a healthy Christian marriage, both the husband and wife are making dozens of daily choices to yield to one another. Click To Tweet
3. Forgiving one another
A good marriage is made of good forgivers.A good marriage is made of good forgivers. Click To Tweet
Too often, however, couples gunnysack offenses committed by the other. Then, when there is a repeat offense, the other spouse pulls out past offenses (verbally or internally) to emphasize why the offender is unworthy of forgiveness.
Forgiveness, however, is not something we offer because the other person is worthy. It is because we have been forgiven. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
The potential for relationship-corroding bitterness is real. This is why God commanded, “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them” (Colossians 3:19).
Like surrender and yielding, forgiveness is not a one-time requirement for only the greatest of offenses. It is practiced in the daily decisions of a Spirit-filed Christian who chooses to forgive for Christ’s sake. And it’s one of the strongest elements of a great marriage.
The healthiest marriages are not made in a moment. They are forged over years by couples who practice the daily disciplines of surrender to Christ, yielding to one another, and forgiving as Christ has forgiven them.The healthiest marriages are not made in a moment. They are forged over years by couples who practice the daily disciplines of surrender to Christ, yielding to one another, and forgiving as Christ has forgiven them. Click To Tweet