Less than two months ago, Terrie and I celebrated our fortieth wedding anniversary. When we got married in 1980, I never could have imagined how our relationship would deepen over the years or how profoundly grateful I would be today for Terrie and the blessings of four shared decades of life and ministry together.
We’ve made lots of mistakes, and we’ve had our moments of frustration and conflict. But I’m thankful that early in our marriage we made some foundational decisions that we’ve held to over the years. Some of these decisions weren’t even intentionally made to strengthen our marriage specifically, but they have had that result.
If you are a Christian and you are married, I encourage you—whether you are just starting out or are decades down the road—to make specific decisions related to these six areas and to seek God’s grace to practice them.
1. Have a growing relationship with Jesus.
God designed marriage to be a picture of Christ and His bride the church (Ephesians 5), thus Satan fiercely attacks Christian marriages. Without continually abiding in Christ and growing in His grace, you will not have the strength to love, understand, and grow in your relationship with your spouse as God intends. If you want to get closer to your spouse, get closer to Jesus and allow Him to love through you.If you want to get closer to your spouse, get closer to Jesus and allow Him to love through you. Click To Tweet
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.—1 John 4:7
2. Make a commitment to a local church.
If you want a strong marriage, you need a local church. Not just good sermons from multiple churches on YouTube, but a church where you are part of the body, committed in attendance and service, and hearing God’s Word faithfully preached. You need the relationships within a church, including the accountability of a pastor and church leaders who can help counsel and encourage through life and family challenges. Faithfulness to your local church and commitment to the body life of the church are not only needful for the growth of your spiritual life, but they are also invaluable to the strength of your marriage relationship.
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.—Hebrews 10:24–25
3. Place a financial priority on tithing.
Money issues are infamous for creating marital strain. But in a marriage of two Christians, money can also be a way to affirm your joint commitment to honor God as well as to trust God to provide for your needs.Money issues are infamous for creating marital strain. But in a marriage of two Christians, money can also be a way to affirm your joint commitment to honor God and trust Him to provide for your needs. Click To Tweet
When Terrie and I were dating, we read a book together on basic principles for Christian finances. One of the results of this reading was that we committed to always tithe and to always do it before paying any other bill—even if that meant other bills would go unpaid. God has been faithful to provide for us over the years, and this single decision has strengthened our marriage as well as our commitment to the Lord and to His work.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.—Matthew 6:21
Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.—1 Corinthians 16:2
4. Never say the word “divorce.”
Some couples use the threat of divorce in an argument to get one another’s attention. Some use it in heated moments of frustration. But it never has the result of strengthening your marriage.
Before Terrie and I stood at an altar and promised that we would love one another “’till death do us part,” we privately discussed our commitment to the sanctity of the marriage covenant. Knowing the vows we were about to make, we also determined that we would never use the word “divorce.”
Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.—Matthew 19:6
5. Always be willing to get help.
Sometimes couples think of counseling as a last-ditch effort to save a deeply-fractured relationship. It can be that, and I’ve seen God heal marriages that were hopeless without Him. But counseling can also be a tune-up. As a pastor, I’ve been thankful when couples in our church have asked for biblical input from their pastor before a minor disconnect or a repeating struggle became a major issue.
Terrie and I made a commitment before we even got married that if either one of us ever felt the need for help in our marriage we would get counsel. We have done so a couple of times, and it has been helpful.
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise….Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.—Proverbs 12:15, 19:20
It’s worth mentioning here as well that some sources of counsel are better than others. When young couples go to another young couple in a similar life stage, they usually miss out on the practical insight and spiritual maturity they would benefit from if they went to their pastor or a godly couple who has been married for fifty years.
A good marriage is made of two good forgivers. This is because even the best marriages are made up of two sinners. If we don’t forgive, offenses build, and bitterness sets in. Be quick to apologize, and be quick to forgive.A good marriage is made of two good forgivers. Click To Tweet
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.—Ephesians 4:32
Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.—Colossians 3:19
From this day forward…
Perhaps you read this list and feel regret that you didn’t receive this advice earlier or practice it more consistently in the past. If that is you, I want to encourage you to borrow a phrase from your wedding vows and apply it to the truths in this post. What would it look like if you determined that from this day forward, you will commit to practicing these six truths?
Perhaps you are a Christian and your spouse is not. These truths may be even more meaningful for you to practice, for they may be the way that your unsaved spouse sees the difference God’s grace can make in a marriage.
And His grace can make a difference—in every life and in every marriage.God's grace can make a difference—in every life and in every marriage. Click To Tweet