To spouses seeking to improve their marriage…

February 19, 2008

I wrote about the first chapter of “Love That Lasts” last week. In this excellent book the authors give this counsel that struck me as very wise: 

“Ladies, this is Betsy. If your husband begins to demonstrate biblical love after a long season of neglect, be patient and receive his love thankfully. Please don’t think, Oh, he’s only doing that because it said to in the book. He doesn’t really mean it. It may feel that way for a while, but he needs to start somewhere. He is trying, perhaps for the first time, to love you as God intends. God’s call to you is not to read this book and then judge his progress but to give yourself to God’s will for you.

Guys, Gary here. The first steps to restoring or rejuvenating a drifting marriage can be very awkward. It’s difficult to admit, “You know, I’ve never said this to you before, but in my heart I really want God’s glory and your best in our marriage. I haven’t done a good job at pursuing this, but I want to. I don’t exactly know how yet, but please be patient with me as I try.” Just this sort of simple statement is a great next step.”

I’ve seen people try to bring about change in their marriage only to have their spouse refuse to give them a chance. While I understand this in light of all the pain and “baggage” that can exist in a marriage, it saddens me because it discourages the one trying at the very least, and completely short-circuits change at worst. I think the authors were very wise to not just talk about “being an excellent spouse”, but to recognize that this is far harder to do when there’s pain and “baggage” to be addressed and worked through. I’m not yet married and I don’t presume to be any marriage expert, but based on God’s Word, I encourage you in these things:

  • Believe God can change you, your spouse, and your marriage. The challenge before you can seem impossible, but with your God, it is not. Remember who He is! Remember His promises! This will fuel your efforts with hope – The same God who created the Universe with His Word, brought His people out of Egypt with power, and raised His Son from the grave is at work within you (Eph. 1:18-21)! And He has said He will complete that work (Phil. 1:6). To truly believe that means stepping out and trying, believing that you will see improvement by His enabling grace.   
  • Pray. You need God! Depend on Him through prayer – it accomplishes much (James 5:16-18).   
  • Find people whose walk with God and marriage you respect, and ask them to walk with you. Scripture says there’s wisdom in receiving counsel (Prov. 15:22), especially from those who will speak frankly (Prov. 27:6).  It’s also good to confess your sins to others and have them pray for you specifically (James 5:16).  
  • Be prepared to initiate change – don’t just wait for your spouse to act. It’s much easier to love someone who is showing you love and treating you the way they should (or at least trying to) (Matt. 5:43-47). Spouses could spend a lifetime waiting for the other to initiate change. Someone has to step up and start the process – why not you? You’ll make it far easier for your spouse and you’ll be showing forth godly love (Matt. 5:43-47). God initiated reconciliation with us (Rom. 5:7-8, 2 Cor. 5:18-21), at great cost (John 3:16), even though He was not the party at fault (in any way!). Even if you feel like you’re less at fault than your spouse has been, you too have been less than God has called you to in your marriage. To love as God calls you to is to get your eyes off who’s most at fault and to quit expecting the other to make the first step – it’s to proactively pursue reconciliation yourself.   
  • Ask your spouse to forgive you for how you have sinned against them. Just trying to be a better spouse without first confessing your sins is like pretending everything is fine. It’s not! You’ve hurt them, and you do not deserve a second chance. You should ask them to show you grace – undeserved favor.   
  • Strive to show God’s grace to your spouse. Remember the grace God has shown you! Forgive them for their sins against you, and as they try to be a better spouse, remember this process is tough and they will still sin (just as you will). (Luke 17:3-4; Col. 3:13)
  • Show appreciation for your spouse’s efforts, and take every opportunity to encourage. So often an encouraging word makes all the difference in the world! (Hebrews 10:24-25)

And finally, I encourage you to read my post from last week entitled “When Marriage meets Grace”. If you don’t have much time, just read the words in bold and italics.

If you’d like me to pray for you and your marriage, e-mail me at donovand@bethelgrace.org. I’d be happy to pray for you, and I will keep your requests confidential.

Thankful for His grace,

~ Donovan

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