Our anniversary next month will mark 31 years of walking out our vows side by side. Like us, if you’ve been married for more than a minute, you know the ways you fall short of your own ideals!
Maybe you let your spouse’s little habits stir up big fights and feelings. Maybe the demands of kids and work have pushed romance off to the side. Perhaps you’re way more quick to complain and criticize than to build each other up. Maybe you struggle in the now to see the amazing person you fell in love with back then.
In your heart, you know you need Christ in the center of your marriage. A close, loving relationship is simply too hard to sustain on your own.
Yet you also know that a Christ-centered marriage is more than just mealtime prayers or keeping Christian radio preset on your car stereo. It means inviting Jesus into every corner of your life together.
If you’re eager for more of Him in your hearts and home, we encourage you to weave these five patterns into the fabric of your marriage:
1) Show His Mercy
My pen would run dry if I had to list all the times we’ve tested each other’s patience or hurt one another’s hearts over the years. Like the time we collided our cars in the driveway. Or when I spent money he’d asked me to keep in the bank. Or when he wouldn’t back up my “no” to one of our kid’s requests. We’ve lost our tempers, given the cold shoulder, and failed to show basic courtesy or thoughtfulness. At times we’ve let other priorities rise above our relationship, leaving a wake of pain behind us.
So what keeps these irritations and damaging choices from breaking us apart? Mercy.
Mercy chooses to forgive. It says, You need grace just as much as I do. Mercy considers our partner’s level of stress and fatigue and cuts some slack. Mercy offers second, third, and 117th chances when our spouse shows they’re human. Mercy keeps a firm and faithful hold on 1 Corinthians 13 by always hoping, persevering, and believing the best in each other. The Spirit is ready even now to help us “be sympathetic” and “be compassionate and humble” so that love wins out between us (1 Peter 3:8).
2) Lean on His Love
The strongest couples have an honest, humble awareness that they’re not so strong at all. They recognize the cracks in their armor. They’re mature to recognize what triggers conflict, and they can discern outside threats to their devotion to each other. A strong husband and wife are well-aware that each day holds a spiritual battle against the enemy’s lies and the temptation to sin. Strength lies in admitting weakness and just how much we need God’s help to love each other well.
Today, let’s run to God to find what we need in our marriage. Let’s turn the pages of the Word and read what it means to be humble. To be faithful. To be tenderhearted and kind. Let’s immerse ourselves in the truth of how completely Jesus loves us so we take the burden off our spouse to be everything we need. When we fail (and we will), let’s seek God for restoration and help to do it better next time.
By seeking God as our Source of love, we can grow closer to Him and each other day by day.
3) Be with His People
As believers, and as believing couples, we were never meant to go it alone. This can be a tough idea to swallow in a culture that celebrates self-reliance and is experiencing profound isolation from one another. Yet in Scripture we see how Christians are adopted into a beautiful, eternal, connected family. You and I are part of something bigger: “You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Cor. 12:27). God wants us to know the help, encouragement, accountability, and wisdom of His church as we make our way forward in marriage.
Today, let’s recommit to sharing life with our brothers and sisters in Jesus. Let’s find the courage to be vulnerable about the areas we feel “stuck” in our marriage. If we’re sinning through a bitter spirit, selfishness, or harsh anger, let’s practice James 5:16: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” By joining our families to the life of the church—Jesus’ body—He can bring breakthrough to our relationships.
4) Pray All the Time
One thing you’ll hear us say over and over is that the closer you move to God, the closer you can move toward each other. And the channel God opened to keep us connected to Him is prayer. In Scripture, we see just how eager He is to hear from us as His children: “…pray continually… for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:17-18). It’s what He wants!
The Word also shows the power of prayer to change what seems ruined beyond repair. Through prayer, demons were cast out. The dying found healing. The divided were reconciled to one another. The proud were humbled, and the weak were raised up and rescued. Let Psalm 34 move you to pray—honestly, boldly, persistently—and watch God do more than you could ask or imagine in your marriage:
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.
5) Look for His Goodness
We don’t want to miss what gives life to our prayers, and that is gratitude. No matter how discouraged we grow in our marriage, we can always find glimpses of God’s goodness at work. So it is “with thanksgiving” that we offer our requests to God (Phil. 4:6). We thank Him for one another. We thank Him for the ways He provides for our needs. We thank Him for softening our hearts when the walls between us need to come down. When we experience moments of laughter or sweet intimacy, we tell God how grateful we are for those joys. In our suffering, stress, and pain, we thank Him for holding us up through it all.
Today, let’s ask God to open our eyes to see His kindness at work in our marriage. He’ll help us to remember “whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy” in one another (Phil. 4:8). He will refresh our hope that with Him, our love can grow and grow. We’ll find assurance that He is “doing a new thing” and will put a “new song” in our hearts as we put Christ in the center (Is. 43:19, Ps. 98:1).
With Him, we’ll never be the same.