Tag: Marriage

17 Keys for a Happy Marriage

17 Keys for a Happy Marriage

hey are the tragedies of divorce—bitter ex-spouses, broken promises, and confused children. Don’t let this happen to your family! Whether your marriage is going through tough times or is experiencing marital bliss—or even if you’re not yet married but are considering it—the Bible offers proven guidance to help your marriage last. It’s advice from God, the one who created and ordained marriage! If you’ve tried everything else, why not give Him a chance?

Seventeen Keys for a Happier Marriage

1. Establish your own private home.

“A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

Answer

Answer:   God’s principle is that a married couple should move out of their parents’ homes and establish their own, even if finances require something modest, such as a one-room apartment. A husband and wife should decide this together, as one, and remain firm even if someone opposes. Many marriages would be improved if this principle were carefully followed.

2. Continue your courtship.

“Above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins’ ” (1 Peter 4:8). 

“Her husband … praises her” (Proverbs 31:28). 

“She who is married cares … how she may please her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:34). 

“Be kindly affectionate to one another … in honor giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10).

Answer

Answer:   Continue—or revive—your courtship into your married life. Successful marriages don’t just happen; they must be developed. Don’t take one another for granted or the resulting monotony could harm your marriage. Keep your love for one another growing by expressing it to each other; otherwise, love might fade and you could drift apart. Love and happiness are not found by seeking them for yourself, but rather by giving them to others. So spend as much time as possible doing things together. Learn to greet each other with enthusiasm. Relax, visit, sightsee, and eat together. Don’t overlook the little courtesies, encouragements, and affectionate acts. Surprise each other with gifts or favors. Try to “out-love” each other. Don’t try to take more out of your marriage than you put into it. Lack of love is the biggest destroyer of marriage.

*The Revised Standard Version of the Bible, (C) 1946, 1952, 1971 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. Used by permission.

3. Remember that God joined you together in marriage.

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. … So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:56).

Answer:   Has love nearly disappeared from your home? While the devil wants to break apart your marriage by tempting you to give up, don’t forget that God Himself joined you together in marriage, and He desires that you stay together and be happy. He will bring happiness and love into your lives if you will obey His divine commandments. “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). Don’t despair. God’s Spirit can change your heart and your spouse’s heart if you will ask and let Him.

The wrong kind of thinking can destroy your marriage.

The wrong kind of thinking can destroy your marriage.

4. Guard your thoughts.

“As he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). 

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” (Exodus 20:17).

“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). 

“Whatever things are true … noble … just … pure … lovely … of good report … meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

Answer:   The wrong kind of thinking can profoundly harm your marriage. The devil will tempt you with thoughts like, “Our marriage was a mistake,” “She doesn’t understand me,” “I can’t take much more of this,” “We can always divorce if necessary,” “I’ll go home to mother,” or, “He smiled at that woman.” This kind of thinking is dangerous because your thoughts ultimately govern your actions. Avoid seeing, saying, reading, or hearing anything that—or associating with anyone who—suggests being unfaithful. Thoughts uncontrolled are like an automobile left in neutral on a steep hill; the result could be disaster.

5. Never go to bed angry with one another.

“Do not let the sun go down on your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26). 

“Confess your trespasses to one another” (James 5:16). 

“Forgetting those things which are behind” (Philippians 3:13). 

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Answer

Answer:   To remain angry over hurts and grievances—big or little—can be dangerous. Unless addressed in a timely manner, even little problems can become set in your mind as convictions and can adversely affect your outlook on life. This is why God said to let your anger cool before going to bed. Be big enough to forgive and to say, “I’m sorry.” After all, no one is perfect, and you are both on the same team, so be gracious enough to admit a mistake when you make it. Besides, making up is a very pleasant experience, with unusual powers to draw marriage partners closer together. God suggests it! It works!

With Christ in your hearts and home, marriage will be successful.

With Christ in your hearts and home, marriage will be successful.

6. Keep Christ in the center of your home.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1). 

“In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:6). 

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

Answer:   This really is the greatest principle, because it’s the one that enables all the others. The vital ingredient of happiness in the home is not in diplomacy, strategy, or our effort to overcome problems, but rather in a union with Christ. Hearts filled with Christ’s love will not be far apart for long. With Christ in the home, a marriage has a greater chance at being successful. Jesus can wash away bitterness and disappointment and restore love and happiness.

7. Pray together.

7. Pray together.

“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). 

“Pray for one another” (James 5:16). 

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally” (James 1:5).

Answer:   Pray with one another! This is a wonderful activity that will help your marriage succeed beyond your wildest dreams. Kneel before God and ask Him for true love for one another, for forgiveness, for strength, for wisdom—for the solution to problems. God will answer. You won’t be automatically cured of every fault, but God will have greater access to change your heart and actions.

8. Agree that divorce is not the answer.

8. Agree that divorce is not the answer.

“What God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6). 

“Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9). 

“The woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives” (Romans 7:2).

Answer:   The Bible says that the ties of marriage are meant to be unbreakable. Divorce is allowed only in cases of adultery. But even then, it is not demanded. Forgiveness is always better than divorce, even in the case of unfaithfulness.

When God ordained the first marriage in Eden, He designed it for life. Thus, marriage vows are among the most solemn and binding for a person to take on. But remember, God meant for marriage to elevate our lives and meet our needs in every way. Harboring thoughts of divorce will tend to destroy your marriage. Divorce is always destructive and is almost never a solution to the problem; instead, it usually creates greater problems—financial troubles, grieving children, etc.

9. Keep the family circle closed tightly.

9. Keep the family circle closed tightly.

“You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). 

“The heart of her husband safely trusts her. … She does him good and not evil all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:1112). 

“The Lord has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously” (Malachi 2:14). 

“Keep you from the evil woman. … Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, nor let her allure you with her eyelids. Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? … So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; whoever touches her shall not be innocent” (Proverbs 6:24252729).

Answer:   Private family matters should never be shared with others outside your home—not even parents. A person outside the marriage to sympathize with or listen to complaints can be used by the devil to estrange the hearts of a husband and wife. Solve your private home problems privately. No one else, except a minister or a marriage counselor, should be involved. Always be truthful with each other, and never keep secrets. Avoid telling jokes at the expense of your spouse’s feelings, and vigorously defend each other. Adultery will always hurt you and everyone else in your family. God, who knows our mind, body, and feelings, said, “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). If flirtations have already begun, break them off immediately—or shadows could settle over your life that cannot be easily lifted.

10. God describes love make it your daily goal to measure up.

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4–7).

Answer:   This Bible passage is one of God’s greatest descriptions of love. Read it again and again. Have you made these words a part of your marriage experience? True love is not mere sentimental impulse, but rather a holy principle that involves every aspect of your married life. With true love, your marriage stands a far greater chance for success; without it, a marriage will likely fail quickly.

11. Remember that criticism and nagging destroy love.

11. Remember that criticism and nagging destroy love.

“Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them” (Colossians 3:19). 

“Better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and angry woman” (Proverbs 21:19). 

“A continual dripping on a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike” (Proverbs 27:15). 

“Why do you look at the speck [splinter] in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank [whole board] in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3). 

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Answer:   Stop criticizing, nagging, and finding fault in your partner. Your spouse might lack much, but criticism won’t help. Expecting perfection will bring bitterness to you and your spouse. Overlook faults and hunt for the good things. Don’t try to reform, control, or compel your partner—you will destroy love. Only God can change people. A sense of humor, a cheerful heart, kindness, patience, and affection will banish many of your marriage problems. Try to make your spouse happy rather than good, and the good will likely take care of itself. The secret of a successful marriage lies not in having the right partner, but in being the right partner.

12. Do not overdo in anything; be temperate.

12. Do not overdo in anything; be temperate.

“Everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things” (1 Corinthians 9:25). 

“Love … does not seek its own [selfish advantage]” (1 Corinthians 13:45). 

“Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). 

“I discipline my body and bring it into subjection” (1 Corinthians 9:27). 

“If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). 

“Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4). 

“Do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts, and do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin” (Romans 6:1213).

Answer:   Overdoing will ruin your marriage. So will underdoing. Time with God, work, love, rest, exercise, play, meals, and social contact must be balanced in a marriage or something will snap. Too much work and a lack of rest, proper food, and exercise can lead a person to be critical, intolerant, and negative. The Bible also recommends a temperate sex life (1 Corinthians 7:3–6) because degrading and intemperate sex acts can destroy love and respect for one another. Social contact with others is essential; true happiness won’t be found in isolation. We must learn to laugh and enjoy wholesome, good times. To be serious all the time is dangerous. Overdoing or underdoing in anything weakens the mind, body, conscience, and the ability to love and respect one another. Don’t let intemperance damage your marriage.

13. Respect each other's personal rights and privacies.

13. Respect each other’s personal rights and privacies.

“Love suffers long and is kind; … Love does not envy … does not behave rudely, does not seek its own [in selfishness] … does not rejoice in iniquity … believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4–7). 

“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10).

Answer:   Each spouse has a God-given right to certain personal privacies. Do not tamper with each other’s wallets or purses, personal email, and other private property unless given permission. The right to privacy and quietude when preoccupied should be respected. Your husband or wife even has a right to be wrong part of the time and is entitled to an “off-day” without being given the third degree. Marriage partners do not own each other and should never try to force personality changes. Only God can make such changes. Confidence and trust in one another is essential for happiness, so don’t check up on each other constantly. Spend less time trying to “figure out” your spouse and more time trying to please her or him. This works wonders.

14. Be clean, modest, orderly, and dutiful.

14. Be clean, modest, orderly, and dutiful.

“In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel” (1 Timothy 2:9). 

“She … willingly works with her hands. … She also rises while it is yet night, and provides food for her household. … She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness” (Proverbs 31:131527). 

“Be clean” (Isaiah 52:11). 

“Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). 

“If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). 

“Do not become sluggish [lazy]” (Hebrews 6:12).

Answer:   Laziness and disorder can be used by the devil to destroy your respect and affection for one another and, thus, harm your marriage. Modest attire and clean, well-groomed bodies are important for both husband and wife. Both partners should take care to create a home environment that is clean and orderly, as this will bring peace and calmness. A lazy, shiftless spouse who does not contribute to the household is a disadvantage to the family and is displeasing to God. Everything done for one another should be done with care and respect. Carelessness in these seemingly small matters has caused division in countless homes.

15. Determine to speak softly and kindly.

15. Determine to speak softly and kindly.

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). 

“Live joyfully with the wife whom you love” (Ecclesiastes 9:9). 

“When I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11).

Answer:   Always speak softly and kindly to your spouse—even in disputes. Decisions made when angry, tired, or discouraged are unreliable anyway, so it’s best to relax and let anger cool before speaking. And when you do speak, let it always be quietly and lovingly. Harsh, angry words can crush your spouse’s desire to please you.

16. Be reasonable in money matters.

16. Be reasonable in money matters.

“Love does not envy [is not possessive] … does not behave rudely, does not seek its own [selfish advantage]” (1 Corinthians 13:45). 

“God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Answer:   Household income should be shared in a marriage, with each partner having the right to spend a certain portion as desired and according to the family budget. Separate bank accounts tend to remove the opportunity to deepen trust, which is vital for a healthy marriage. Money management is a team effort. Both should be involved, but one should take ultimate responsibility. Money management roles should be determined by personal abilities and preferences.

17. Talk things over freely with one another.

17. Talk things over freely with one another.

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up” (1 Corinthians 13:4). 

“He who disdains instruction despises his own soul” (Proverbs 15:32). 

“Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 26:12).

Answer:   Few things will strengthen your marriage more than open discussions on major decisions. Changing a job, purchasing something expensive, and other life decisions should involve both husband and wife—and differing opinions should be respected. Talking things over together will avoid many blunders that could greatly weaken your marriage. If, after much discussion and earnest prayer, opinions still differ, the wife should submit to her husband’s decision, which should be motivated by his deep love for his wife and his responsibility for her well-being. See Ephesians 5:22–25.

18. Do you want your marriage to reflect God’s unselfish, committed, and joyful love for you?

18. Do you want your marriage to reflect God’s unselfish, committed, and joyful love for you?

Answer:   

Thought Questions

1. Which marriage partner should be the first to make peace after a quarrel?

The one who was in the right!

2. Is there a principle for in-laws interfering in our family decisions?

Yes! Do not interfere with your son’s or daughter’s marriage unless your counsel is requested by both partners. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:11.) Many marriages that might have been a little heaven on earth have been damaged by in-laws. The duty of all in-laws is to leave the decisions made in the newly established home strictly alone.

3. My spouse is godless, and I am trying to be a Christian. His influence is terrible. Should I divorce him?

No! Read 1 Corinthians 7:12–14 and 1 Peter 3:1, 2. God gives a specific answer.

4. My spouse ran off with another person. Now repentant, she wants to return home. My pastor says I should take her back, but God forbids this, doesn’t He?

No. No, indeed! God permits divorce for adultery, yes, but He does not command it. Forgiveness is always better and is always preferred. (See Matthew 6:14, 15.) Divorce will seriously mar your life and the lives of your children. Give her another chance! The golden rule (Matthew 7:12) applies here. If you and your wife will turn your lives over to Christ, He will make your marriage supremely happy. It is not too late.

5. What can I do? Men are always coming on to me.

Being a woman in this culture isn’t easy because some men refuse to control their impulses. However, a few things you might do to help ward off unwanted attention is to dress modestly, avoid suggestive conversation or flirting, or engaging in activities that invite attention. There is something about Christian reserve and dignity that keeps a man in his place. Christ said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

6. Can you tell me plainly what God’s counsel is to one who has fallen but is repentant?

Long ago Christ gave a pointed and comforting answer to one who had fallen into immorality but was repentant. “Jesus … said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more’ ” (John 8:10, 11). His forgiveness and counsel still apply today.

7. Isn’t the “innocent party” in a divorce sometimes partially guilty also?

Certainly. Sometimes the “innocent party,” by a lack of love, inattentiveness, self-righteousness, unkindness, selfishness, nagging, or downright coldness, can encourage evil thoughts and actions in his or her spouse. Sometimes the “innocent party” might be as guilty before God as the “guilty” one. God looks upon our motives, seeing past our actions. “The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

8. Does God expect me to live with a physically abusive spouse?

Physical abuse can be life threatening and is a serious problem that demands immediate attention. The spouse and family members who have been physically abused must find a safe environment in which to live. Both husband and wife need to seek professional help through a qualified Christian marriage counselor—and separation is often appropriate.

Quiz Questions

1. Marriage is (1)

_____   The joining of a man and woman together by God for life. 
_____   A temporary, experimental arrangement to see if two people are compatible. 
_____   Not even necessary. Men and women are free to live together without it. 

2. God recognizes only one reason for divorce. It is (1)

_____   Incompatibility. 
_____   An irritable spouse. 
_____   Adultery 
_____   Godlessness of marriage partner. 

3. The courtesies of courtship (1)

_____   Should be continued in the married life. 
_____   Should be dropped quickly after the wedding. 
_____   Are really silly and unnecessary. 

4. The best guarantee of success in marriage is (1)

_____   Having Christ in the hearts and home. 
_____   For the husband to force his wife into line. 
_____   For the wife to get her way by threatening divorce. 

5. For safety in quarrels, do the following: (3)

_____   Speak softly and kindly to one another. 
_____   Make your spouse admit error. 
_____   Call in neighbors to settle things. 
_____   Force your spouse to keep quiet. 
_____   Walk out and stay away for several days. 
_____   Pray together. 
_____   Get over your anger before going to bed.

6. Check the items that are keys to success in marriage: (2)

_____   Close the family circle to all third parties. 
_____   Live in your parents’ home. 
_____   Run home to mother when angry. 
_____   Tell close friends your spouse’s faults. 
_____   Establish your own private home. 
_____   Write an old boyfriend for counsel. 
_____   Never confess first after a spat. 

7. The best ways to improve your marriage partner are to (2)

_____   Threaten to leave unless you get your way. 
_____   Nag and criticize. 
_____   Improve your own relationship with Jesus Christ. 
_____   Make your partner sleep alone. 
_____   Be loving, appreciative, and forgiving. 
_____   Force your partner to change. 

8. Check the items below which endanger a marriage: (6)

_____   Criticism. 
_____   A stingy husband. 
_____   A money-wasting wife. 
_____   Laziness. 
_____   A Christian home. 
_____   Praying together. 
_____   Disorder and filthiness. 
_____   A forgiving spirit. 
_____   Jealousy. 

9. For success in making major decisions, (2)

_____   Husband and wife should counsel together. 
_____   You should force your will on your spouse.
_____   Seek God in prayer together. 
_____   Insist upon having your own way. 

10. A good rule for in-laws is to (1)

_____   Leave newlyweds alone.
_____   Insist that newlyweds live with you. 
_____   Determine to counsel newlyweds whether they want it or not. 

11. In case of unfaithfulness by your spouse, the best thing to do is to (1)

_____   Leave at once and never come back. 
_____   Immediately tell everyone how “low-down” your partner is. 
_____   Be willing to forgive and to preserve your home, if at all possible. 

12. Thoughts should be guarded carefully because (2)

_____   Impure thoughts lead to impure acts. 
_____   Your spouse can read your thoughts. 
_____   Wrong thinking can severely harm your marriage.

13. I want my marriage to reflect God’s unselfish, committed, and joyful love for me.

_____   Yes
_____   No

40 Lessons From 40 Years of Marriage

40 Lessons From 40 Years of Marriage

Four decades ago, I married Barbara Ann Peterson. Looking back now on the first 12 months of our marriage, I’d have to describe myself then as an idiot—repeatedly ignoring the dignity of the woman that God had brought me.

But after six children, 19 grandchildren, and decades of married life, I’ve learned some things. I think of them as 40 lessons from 40 years of marriage … and family … and life.

1. Marriage and family are about the glory of God.

Genesis 1:27 makes it clear, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” From the beginning, marriage has been central to God’s glory on planet Earth. The Bible begins with a marriage and ends with a marriage. What God designed, lifted up, and gave a transcendent purpose, man has dumbed down.

Many today make the purpose of marriage to be one’s personal happiness—of finding another person who meets myneeds. God created marriage to reflect His image, to reproduce a godly heritage, and to stand together in spiritual battle. Your marriage, your covenant-keeping love, will be your greatest witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Marriage is about the glory of God—not about the happiness of man.

2. Marriage is taking place on a spiritual battlefield, not on a romantic balcony.

Satan’s first attack on the image of God was to destroy the image-bearers’ relationship with Him. Then Satan went after Adam and Eve and their relationship with one another. If he targeted marriage to begin with, why would we think our marriages would be any different?

I think we often forget that our marriage—our family—can be targeted by the enemy to destroy the image-bearers, to destroy the legacy that is passed on to future generations.

I believe that the very definition of marriage is under attack today because of who created marriage, God.

3. Your spouse is not your enemy.

Ephesians 6:12 tells us that our battle is not against flesh and blood. Have you ever looked at your spouse in the morning as your enemy, asking God, “What did you do in bringing us together?” I have.

But the Scriptures tell us, your mate is not your enemy. Your mate is a gift from God to you. In all his imperfections—in all her imperfections—God has given you a gift. You can either receive it by faith, or you can reject it.

4. The couple that prays together stays together.

In the first months of my marriage, I went to a friend named Carl Wilson and said, “Carl, you’ve been married 25 years. You’ve got five kids. What’s the best single piece of advice you can give me, as a young man who’s just starting out his marriage?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” he said. “Pray with your wife every day.”

I said: “That’s it? ‘Pray with your wife’?”

“That’s it.”

So I went home, and Barbara and I started praying together. This worked really well for a couple of months … until the night when we went to bed facing opposite walls. Although it wasn’t the most comfortable position physically, it expressed where we were spiritually and emotionally.

There seemed to be a tap on my shoulder that night, and it wasn’t Barbara. God was speaking to me in my conscience. He said: “Hey, Rainey! Aren’t you going to pray with her tonight?” I said, “I don’t like her tonight!”

He said, “Yes, but you made the commitment to pray every day with your wife.” And I said, “But God, you know that in this situation, she is 90 percent wrong!”

God said, “Yes, but it was your 10 percent that caused her to be 90 percent wrong.”

I wanted to roll over and say, “Sweetheart, will you forgive me for being 10 percent wrong?” But after the words got caught in my throat, I said, “Will you forgive me for … ?”

Barbara and I are both strong-willed, stubborn, rebellious people. But we’ve been transformed by praying together. Now we are two strong-willed people who bow their wills before almighty God, on a daily basis, and invite Him into our presence.

Praying with your spouse will change the course of your marriage and legacy.

5. Isolation is a subtle killer of relationships.

Genesis 2:24 gives us a prescription from Scripture: Leave, cleave, and become one. The enemy of our souls does not want a husband and wife to be one. Instead, he wants to divide us.

In John 17, Jesus prayed for the church to be one. He realized that when we are in isolation, we can be convinced of anything.

Isolation kills relationships.

6. It’s easier for two broken people to build a marriage and family from the same set of biblical blueprints.

What would a physical house look like if you had two different architects, two different builders, and two different sets of blueprints? You’d get some pretty funny-looking houses, wouldn’t you? The same thing will happen in your marriage if you and your spouse are building your relationship and family from different plans.

For the past 37 years, FamilyLife has hosted Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. If you haven’t been to this with your spouse, I encourage you to go. Weekend to Remember speakers explain God’s blueprints for a successful marriage and family, and transparently share from their own lives.

7. It is healthy to confess your sins to your spouse.

James 5:16 reminds us, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”

If you want to be healthy, develop a marriage relationship where your spouse has access to the interior of your soul. Are you struggling with bitterness over a betrayal? I’ve been through that. I’ve asked Barbara, “Will you pray for me?”

Maybe you’re struggling with a bad attitude … a sense of rebellion … toying with something you shouldn’t be toying with. Bring your spouse into the interior of your soul so that you may be healed.

8. It is impossible to experience marriage as God designed it without being lavish in your forgiveness of one another.

Ephesians 4:32 says we should forgive each other “just as God in Christ forgave you.”

Failing to forgive or to ask for forgiveness kills oneness, and unity, and life in a marriage.

I love this statement by Ruth Bell Graham: “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” Why is this true? Because forgiveness means we give up the right to punish the other person. In a marriage relationship there are plenty of things (either committed or omitted) where you’re going to have to give up the right to punish the other person. Bitterness does not create oneness.

9. One of the greatest threats in any marriage is losing a teachable heart.

Proverbs 4:23 reminds us, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Most of us do all we can to prevent a heart attack. Why? Because there’s a simple equation: If the heart dies, you die.

The Bible is filled with references to the heart. In fact, the Great Commandment is one that calls our heart to love God totally and fully, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Pay attention to your heart. Guard it lest it become hardened or not teachable.

A teachable heart is a spiritually-receptive heart. When was the last time you asked your spouse to forgive you? When did you last listen to a child who had perhaps been hurt by you?

Remember, from the heart flows the springs of life.

10. Every couple needs a mentor couple who is one lap ahead of them in the seasons of life.

Who’s your couple? Who’s your person? If you’re a newlywed, you need someone to coach you on the habits you establish at the beginning of your marriage. If you’re starting out with your kids, you need someone just to say: “You know what? This is normal. This is the way it happens.”

Even if you are moving into the empty nest with adult children, I’ve got news for you: You really need a mentor in that phase! Relating to adult children has been more challenging than the terrible twos—not because our kids are bad kids. It just didn’t turn out the way I envisioned it.

Who’s your mentor? Be careful about who’s speaking into your life.

11.  What you remember is just as important as what you forget.

We tend to suffer from spiritual amnesia.  Wanting to remember God’s faithfulness, I started a spiritual milestone file in 1998. It now has 920 reminders in it—remembrances of the little things, and the big things, that God has done.

Milestones remind us of three things: what God has done; who God is—His provision, care, and deliverance; and the need to trust God and walk by faith.

When we forget the deeds of God, we will ultimately forget to trust Him.

12. Marriage was designed by God to be missional.

Matthew 28:19 says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …”  And Acts 13:36 says, “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep …”

I want to be about the purposes of God, in my generation, with my wife.  She is a partner in ministry.  We are not two individual people who are just successfully going our own way.  We are two people who work at merging our life purpose and mission together so that we increasingly share it as we move toward the finish line.

The other evening, Barbara and I sat in our living room in two chairs that we bought in 1972 for $5 apiece.  They’ve been reupholstered three times.  We sat in those chairs, talking about, “Should we reupholster them, or go buy new ones?”  I turned to her and I said:  “You know what?  We have not given our lives to stuff.”

Now, do we live in a nice home?  Do we live better than we deserve? Absolutely. But as imperfect as we are, as many struggles as we’ve had, we are headed toward the same mission.  We are a part of the Great Commission.  We want to be fulfilling the great commandment, together as a couple.

My challenge to you is this: As a couple, believe God for too much, rather than too little. Remember what A.W. Tozer said, “God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible.  What a pity we plan to do the things we can only do by ourselves.”

Life can wear you down.  It can wear you out.  Disappointment chips away at faith.  As a couple, you have to work on this to go to the finish line.

13. It’s okay to have one rookie season, but it’s not okay to repeatedly repeat it.

I was an idiot in our first 12 months of marriage—repeatedly ignoring the dignity of the woman that God had brought me.

The lessons that you learn need to be applied. It’s not good to repeat rookie errors in your 39th season of marriage.

14. Never use the d-word in your marriage.

Never threaten divorce in your marriage. Never let the d-word cross your lips, ever!  Instead, use the c-word—commitment, covenant, covenant-keeping love that says, “I’d marry you all over again.”

I can still remember an argument my parents had when I was five years old and divorce was not in vogue.  Your kids are highly sensitized to what your relationship is like and how you communicate when you disagree. Let them hear of your commitment to one another.

15. Honor your parents.

Exodus 20:12 is the first commandment with a promise: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”

Our marriage was brought to life as we honored our parents.  We are a generation that has bashed and blamed our parents, ignoring this commandment.  It is time for us to return home to our parents with honor.  A practical way you can do that is by writing them a tribute and, then, by reading it to them.

Instead of giving your parents a dust buster for Christmas, or a tie, or a pair of house slippers, give them a tribute, thanking them for what they did right.  Barbara did this with her parents.  I did it with mine.  Honoring your parents is a life-giver.

16. Different isn’t wrong; it’s just different.

We marry one another because we’re different, and we divorce each other because we’re different.  When Barbara and I moved into the empty-nest phase, we discovered that we are much more different than we ever imagined.  Here’s the key—your spouse’s differences are new capacities that God has brought to your life to complete you.

Barbara’s an artist and as we began our empty-nest years I told her, “Wherever you go, you make things beautiful.”  You see, I didn’t appreciate beauty.  I had no idea how beauty reflected the glory of God. Your spouse is God’s added dimension to your life.

17. Marriage and family are redemptive.

Being married to Barbara and having six kids has saved me from toxic self-absorption.  The way to have a godly marriage and family is the same path as coming to faith in Christ.  It is surrender—giving up your rights to Him first, then to your spouse—serving them.

I have a confession to make.  I mistakenly thought that God gave Barbara and me six children so that we could raise them. Now I think that He gave me six children, so He could finish the process of helping me grow up.  Nothing has taught me more about self-sacrifice and following God’s Word than loving and leading my children.

18. A man’s wife is his number one disciple.

Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ (now called Cru in the United States), said countless times that a man’s wife should be his number one disciple.

Husbands, help your wife grow as a Christian. It’s the smartest thing you could possibly do. When your wife grows in this area, not only does she triumph at life, but you benefit as well.

19. Go near the orphan.

When you go near the orphan, as a couple, you go near the Father’s heart.  Barbara and I went near the orphan, and we adopted one of our six children. I’ve learned more about the Father’s heart through adoption—of choosing a child and unconditional love. This is pure and undefiled religion.

20. Make your home a storm shelter.

I grew up in southwest Missouri and spent many a night in a cellar, down with the potatoes and green beans. It was a musty smelling place. I was down there trying to dodge a tornado that never hit.

In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus compares two builders of two homes—both in storms.  We should get a clue from that: We’re going to build our marriage, our family, our home in the midst of storm warnings, floods, wind, and rain.

Barbara nearly died on four different occasions; she had a heart rate of more than 300 beats a minute. I often imagined life as a single dad, until we got her heart problem fixed. And then there was a 13-year-old son, our athletic son, who was stricken with a rare neurological disorder.  There was a prodigal.  There was the day my dad died.  There were short paychecks in ministry.  There were challenges in my ministry—all kinds of issues with people.

Your marriage covenant is more than just saying, “I do,” for a lifetime.  It is for better and for worse.

Make your home a storm shelter—a safe place to go in a storm.

21. Suffering will either drive you apart, or it will be used by God to merge you together.

Scripture teaches that our response to God and His Word is the difference-maker in how we handle suffering.  You and your spouse have to decide to suffer together rather than falling apart.

22. Men and women process suffering very differently.

It is a wise husband who gives his wife space and grace to process loss and suffering differently from how he processes it. After Barbara recovered from several near-death experiences when her heart raced over 300 beats a minute, I remember wanting her to flip a switch and move on with life.  That was easy for me to say. I hadn’t been the one who they took away in an ambulance with a heart beating so fast that the bed was shaking.

23.  Loss is a part of life and increases as we age.

How you and your spouse process loss, by faith, will determine whether you grow old and bless others, giving them life, or whether you grow old and curse others, becoming a bitter crotchety old person.

Process loss well.

24. Communication is the life-giver of a relationship.

Simply put, find a way to get five, ten, fifteen minutes together to talk every day.  Turn the TV off, set the computer aside, take a walk, and just talk with each other.

Barbara and I used to do this and walk in our garden.  The kids thought we were just going out there to see the flowers bloom.  We were going out there to get away from them, so we could have a complete sentence between each other.

25. No shepherd can lead any faster than the sheep can follow.

You are the guardian of your marriage and family’s direction and vision. C. H. Spurgeon said, “It was by perseverance the snail reached the ark.”  Sliming my way to the finish line is the great hope for me as the spiritual leader of my family.  After you fail (and you will), get back up.

When the kids were young, our family devotionals were chaos—flipping peas, spilling milk, crawling under the table.  Who knows what they heard?  No shepherd can lead any faster than the sheep can follow.

26. Maximize your wife’s talents, gifts, experience, and passion as you would an Olympic athlete.

Ephesians 5 talks to men about loving their wives as they love their own bodies. Help your wife accomplish everything that God has in mind for her.

Do an inventory of her gifts, her talents, her passions.  What motivates her?  What demotivates her?  Pray for her and her vision.  What are her core competencies?  Dream some dreams together, and don’t wait until you’re in the empty nest to dream the dreams.  Start dreaming even when you’re building your family.

27. Wives, your respect will fuel your husband, and your contempt will empty his tank.

Ephesians 5:33 commands wives to respect their husbands.  Ladies, keep in mind that 93 percent of all communication is non-verbal.  How are you expressing belief in your man non-verbally?

Barbara’s belief in me as a man has helped me excel.  It’s not a blind belief, but it’s a belief that speaks the truth in love.

28: Women spell romance differently than men.

Women spell romance r-e-l-a-t-i-o-n-s-h-i-p. But men spell it: s-e-x. God, in His cosmic genius, has brought two very different people together in marriage who are to dance together. And what an interesting dance when I think that I understand my wife. For example, I bring her roses, and I write her a note, and I fix dinner, and put the kids to bed, and that equals sex.

So, as a man, I begin to think, “A+B+C=D.  It did last night.”  So, I try it again the next night or perhaps a few nights later.  Roses, a nice meal, put the kids to bed—“Huh?”  Nada.  “Huh?”

So, I went to Barbara: “What’s the deal?  You changed the equation.”

Would you like to know what she said: “As a woman, I don’t want to be reduced to an equation.  I want to be pursued as a person relationally.”

29. Your marriage must be built to outlast the kids.

Our romance gave us children, and our children tried to steal our romance.

Barbara and I had to make an effort to have special dinners together and go on short getaways two or three times a year. We fought to keep these times on the schedule.  It was a hassle finding a babysitter, but time alone together was worth it.

30. Build too many guardrails around your relationship rather than too few.

Men, don’t trust yourself alone with the opposite sex.  I have asked people to go out of their way to take me to speaking engagements instead of one woman taking me.  I’ve got a friend who won’t get in an elevator alone with a woman.  You may say that’s a little extreme.  Let me tell you something.  Given the fallout today in ministry, I’m not sure it’s extreme.

31. Wives generously use your sexual power in your husband’s life.

I think that one of the mistakes we make when we read chapters 5-7 in Proverbs (which is a father’s advice to a son about the harlot) is to believe that sexual power over a man is limited to just a woman in the streets.

I think Proverbs 5-7 gives women an interesting glimpse into how to encourage and bless her husband—by speaking love to him in the language that would encourage him.  Ladies, use your sexual power liberally with your husbands.

32. The first essence of rearing children is “identity.”

This has to do with disciplining your child to know his or her spiritual destiny and spiritual address.  It also has to do with his or her sexual identity as well.  This culture is seeking to distort the image of God imbedded in boys and girls; we have to help our children know how to navigate those waters.

33. The second essence of rearing children is “relationship.”

Disciple your child to know what real love is, how to love another imperfect person, and how to experience love as a human.  The Great Commandment makes it clear (Matthew 22:34-40). Life is about relationships.  It’s about a relationship with God, loving Him, and it’s also about loving others on the horizontal.

34. The third essence of rearing children is “character.”

The book of Proverbs talks about this, obviously.  It is disciplining your child to be wise and not be a fool.

35. The fourth essence of rearing children is “mission.”

It is no mistake that the Scriptures compares children to arrows in the hands of a warrior.  Arrows are meant to be pulled back by an archer, aimed at a target, and let go.

What are you aiming them toward?  What are you challenging your children to give their lives to?  The Kingdom’s work is paramount.  We’re going to need another generation to carry on should Christ tarry.

36. Determine your core values as a couple.

In the early years of Barbara’s and my marriage, we went on a little retreat together. She got alone and wrote down the top ten core values that she wanted to produce in our children.  I got alone, separate from her, and wrote out my top ten core values for the kids.

Then we got together and prioritized them, agreeing on our top five.  Those five helped us to not compare our family with other families, but to do just what God had called us to do.  And it helped us be one as a couple

37. Interview your daughter’s date, and train your sons not to be clueless.

May I suggest two books that I wrote: Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date and Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys?

In today’s culture, even our little eight year old/nine year old boys are being preyed upon by older girls. It is bizarre.

I was recently told about a young man who went away for a Passport2Purity® weekend, which is a weekend getaway, with his father.  He was 11 years old.  After learning about the birds and the bees for the first time, he arrived back home. Two days later, two eighth grade girls asked him to have sex with them.  He said, “No”—told them to leave.

38.  Become smaller, not bigger, in the lives of your adult children.

As Barbara and I have watched our grown children manage their own families and extended families, we have learned that we must become small.  By this I mean that we cannot fix their problems. We can give advice when asked, but not unless we are asked.

39.   As I get older, I want to laugh more with my wife, gripe less, and be found guilty of giving her too much love, grace, and mercy rather than too little.
40. Have a view of God that will guide you all of your days.
10 Steps to Find a Godly Woman

10 Steps to Find a Godly Woman

My brother is in his final year as a college student at Texas A&M. I am writing this post for him and myriads of other young men like him—young, single men that I have conversations with almost daily about life and relationships. I know that God does not call every man to marriage, but for the many that he does, it is a good thing that they find a godly wife. Outside of salvation in Jesus Christ, a godly wife brings more joy and happiness to a man than anything else on earth. As the Scripture says, “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:10–12). What man does not want to find that? A woman that he can trust with every ounce of his being. An honest woman of upright integrity that desires her husband’s success. But where does a man begin if he wants to find a woman like that? Where does he start to begin the search for a woman of such value? By no means is this list exhaustive, nor or these necessarily in order of importance, although the first one is.

1) Pursue the Lord with all of your heart

This might seem contrary to the objective, but it is actually primary in reaching it. Before a man finds a godly woman, he first finds the living God. He begins to long to glorify Jesus Christ with his life and sees Christ as infinitely valuable and worth all of his time and energy (1 Corinthians 10:31). A godly woman will not settle for anything less! She wants a man that could be a spiritual leader for her, a man that she can respect (1 Peter 3:1). So be a man after God’s own heart and don’t look back!

2) Know your value in Christ

Your value is found in the fact that you are created in God’s image and that if you are a believer in Christ, God loves you as much as his beloved Son (John 17:23). If you are seeking your validity or worth in a woman, you will not find a godly woman, because you will be looking for qualities that the world esteems rather than the qualities that God esteems. Rather, you must find your value in God’s love for you displayed at the cross.

3) Pray every day for a godly wife

If you are not praying for a godly woman, do not expect God to bring you one. Seek the Lord in prayer and ask him to bring you a godly woman. It is OK to do that. Remember, you are asking the Lord for “a good thing.” Not a bad thing. And as Jesus reminds us, “How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:11)! Also, pray for wisdom and discernment. God is more than willing to give that to you as well if you will ask him for it (James 1:5–8). Also, start praying for your future wife. Pray for her protection and her own growth in godliness.

4) Search the Scriptures

Read the Scriptures daily and God will give you wisdom, and the Holy Spirit will use the Word to transform and renew your mind to be more like Christ’s (Romans 12:1–2). You will read passages like Proverbs 31 and Titus 2, and you will see and learn about what God considers to be a godly woman. A vision for what type of woman God is leading you to will begin to form in your mind as you listen to the Word of God. Most importantly, your own heart and character will begin to become more like Christ’s.

5) Join a church

Do not just attend a church. Join a church. And by joining a church, I mean a church where the Word is taught as the inerrant and infallible Word of God, where the Word is taught and preached, where the Gospel of Jesus Christ is cherished, and where people are on mission to bring the Gospel to the world. Not only will your relationships with other believers be edifying and challenging, you will now be surrounded by other godly men and women who will pour themselves into your life. Also, this should be obvious, but church is where the godly women are! If you want to see a football game, you go to the football stadium. If you want to find a godly girl, go to a church.

6) Embrace God’s call on your life

A godly woman wants a vision that is bigger than her. She wants to join a man on mission that is doing something with his life. She wants to be a part of something special. It is your job to figure out what this is. What are you to do with your life? Where are you to go? How are you going to invest in building the kingdom of God?

7) Work hard

A godly woman does not want to marry a lazy man. She wants to marry a hard worker whom she can respect. She’s looking for a Proverbs 22:29 man: “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.” This means that it is time to put away childish things—like playing Call of Duty for hours every night—and for you to become good at something! Take ownership and pride in your work and work hard. Strive to become the best at what you do.

8) Do NOT assume that every relationship you have with a woman is romantic

You must first learn to treat all Christian women as “sisters in Christ.” It is selfish and myopic to think that just because a woman was kind and had a conversation with you that she is interested in you romantically. Instead, develop appropriate friendships with Christian women in the context of service in the church. A godly woman wants to first see your godly character on display before she wants to trust you emotionally and romantically in a serious relationship.

9) Stop asking out the pretty face

Young men will often meet a pretty girl and immediately begin to think about asking her out—without first knowing anything about her character or whether or not she is a follower of Christ. Before you ask a girl out you should know something of her character and her godliness. Find out what church she is a “member” of and how she is serving. Please, stop asking out the girls that just add “Jesus” to a long list of other interests, because there are godly women out there who value Christ above everything else. See number 5. You will most likely meet a godly girl at church or serving at another Christian organization or institution.

10) Seek older, godly men as mentors

Older men who know the Lord are probably wiser than you are. They have seen more, experienced more, and most importantly have walked with God longer than you have. They will be able to invest in your life and impart wisdom to you in ways that your peers cannot. Also, more often than not, older, godly men are married to older, godly women, who know and are mentoring young, godly women. See where I am going with this? Long story short, pursue relationships with older, wiser men. Where do you meet these men? Got back to step number 5, and join a church!



6 Tips for Being a Godly Husband

6 Tips for Being a Godly Husband

When I applied for a marriage license a year after I had graduated from college, all I had to do was pay a fee.

There was no training, no video and no job description.

In spite of the fact that I lacked many of the fundamental skills on how to make a marriage work, the license was granted!

I know there are many men today who are trying to figure out exactly what God expects of them as husbands.

So I came up with a list of the things I believe are central to being a godly husband.

1. Love God More Than You Love Your Wife

After three years of dating Mary Ann, we began to talk about marriage. A little while later we broke up. I was devastated.

While praying one night, things became crystal clear: Mary Ann had become an idol in my life. I cared more about what made her happy than what made God happy.

It was as if God were saying, “You will have no other gods before me, and if you put something or someone else in My place, I will remove it.”

In 25 years of marriage, I still run into the same problem. I keep myself in check with this question: Whom do I fear more — my wife or God?

The level of pain may be more immediate or more pronounced when I don’t please my wife. Because when I don’t please God, He doesn’t go into the other room and get silent on me.

But God reminds me, “You do the right thing, even if for the moment it doesn’t make her happy.”

2. Be a Spiritual Leader

Your wife probably came into the marriage with some idealized image of the two of you beginning each day around the breakfast table with some fresh-squeezed orange juice, doing devotions together.

She imagined you leaving for work and saying, “I’ll be back this evening, and we can have devotions again.”

About a month into the marriage, your wife was probably thinking, “What happened? Reading the Scriptures and praying together is so important.” If I could rewind my marriage and start this practice earlier, I would do it in a second.

No matter how long you’ve been married, now is the time to develop a pattern that can work in your marriage. Remember, it’s a husband who ought to initiate this.

“A man may not be a vocational theologian,” says Doug Wilson, author of “Reforming Marriage.”

“But in his home, he needs to be the resident theologian.”

3. Lead With Humility

The reason there is such a debate about whether men ought to be leaders in a marriage relationship is because too many men have not led with humility.

Men may be called by God to lead their wives, but our leadership should be selfless.

Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (New International Version).

Put this verse into practice, and it will solve 95 percent of the issues you face.

I have never met a woman who says, “I resist my husband’s leadership even though he is very humble and Christlike.”

The women I’ve met are craving godly leadership in their marriages.

4. Have Godly Courage

First Corinthians 16:13 gives a clear definition of biblical masculinity: “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.” Before we can be godly husbands, we must be men of courage.

Wrapped up in that definition of what it means to be a man is the idea of courage.

And the essence of courage is to have such a great fear of God that you fear nothing else.

5. Be a Provider

The husband should bear the primary responsibility for the financial needs of the home.

In fact, 1 Timothy 5:8 says if a man fails to provide for his household, he is worse than a pagan. That’s not the kind of reputation I want to have in the community.

Part of the root meaning for the word provider means “to look ahead.”

A provider is one who anticipates and does the strategic planning for the household. He thinks about the goals. Not just the financial goals, but the spiritual goals and emotional goals.

In a sense, he is chief executive officer of the corporation. It’s his responsibility to set the direction.

And many times his wife is the chief operating officer. The two of them need to unify their direction for the good of the family.

6. Love Her Biblically and Extravagantly

To love her biblically, we need to ask, “What is God’s love for us like?” The essence of His love for us is reflected in His commitment to us and His sacrifice for us. That’s what our love for our wife needs to look like too.

For me, it often means placing her needs ahead of my own. And it means that I will still sacrifice for her even when we disagree. She must be my priority.

Remember the little line in the marriage vow, “Forsaking all others, until death do us part”?

That means your relationship with your wife is more important than any other relationship — friends, your boss or even your children.

Put simply, after our love for God, we must love our wives more than anything on earth. That is the essence of the marriage relationship.

D.L. Moody summed it up best: “If I want to find out whether a man was a Christian, I wouldn’t go to a minister; I’d go and ask his wife.

“If a man doesn’t treat his wife right, I don’t want to hear him talk about Christianity. What is the use of talking about salvation for the next life if he has no salvation for this life?”

This past May, Mary Ann and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in Maui, Hawaii. The surroundings were incredible, but really we were just happy to be together.

Over dinner that night, we could both say that in spite of any challenges that have come our way, we wouldn’t change the outcome of our shared 25 years.

That’s because God has used our relationship with each other more than anything else to make us more like Christ. And ultimately, that is His purpose for marriage.