Nearly 30 years after our wedding, Stacey and I have learned that marriage is a four-letter word – work! We just returned from Louisiana, where we had the privilege of leading a couple’s conference at First Baptist Church of Houma. I’m greatly encouraged by the growing number of churches committed to equipping married couples. In recent months, we’ve talked with dozens of couples at conferences and listen to the issues and struggles they face. As a result, we are more convinced than ever that maintaining a healthy marriage is hard work. Allow me to explain what I mean with an acrostic.
Worship. Personal and corporate worship are vital for a strong Christian marriage. When both spouses maintain healthy personal worship of the Lord, they are more likely to engage in corporate worship. The local church should be a place where husbands and wives find help and encouragement. We’ve discovered over the years that worshipping side-by-side with other couples who desire to exemplify and glorify Christ has strengthened both our faith and our marriage.
Overcome. The world is in full attack mode regarding the definition and sanctity of marriage. Marriage is defined by God as a covenant agreement between a man and a woman. (For the sake of clarity in our present culture, I’m referring to those who were born male and those who were born female.) The core of covenant marriage is godly love. Now, how you define love is incredibly important. Godly love is unselfish because it’s Spirit-filled and Spirit-led. It motivates us to overcome the difficult times and circumstances that inevitably arise over the course of a lifetime. At times, it may seem that hell has set up an outpost in your living room. It is critical that both spouses commit to fighting for one another rather than fighting with one another. And that takes work.
Respect. Each person needs to respect what the other brings to the marriage. Instead of attacking how your spouse is different than you, realize how those differences make your marriage more effective. Just imagine what a disaster it would be if you both had the same strengths and weaknesses! When each spouse knows and appreciates the strengths of the other, the marriage becomes stronger. Remember, differences create diversity, not superiority.
Kindness. Too often, we reserve our kindest words and behavior for friends, and even strangers. But shouldn’t our greatest acts of generosity and consideration be given to our spouse? And yes, this too, takes work. Go out of your way to do something that your husband or wife didn’t have time to do (then don’t mention that you did it!) Refrain from comments that convey, “I told you so.” Ask for forgiveness when you’ve overstepped or been selfish. It’s simple. It’s elementary. Be kind.
Any successful marriage requires hard work, but I’d like to take it a step further. In order for a marriage to please God, both people must agree to follow God’s design. After all, He created marriage and knows how it works best. So yes, maintaining a healthy, godly marriage is hard work. But because I love Stacey, it’s a work of love!