Sunday, July 5, 2009

Will You Take the Dare?

My husband and I did not make a mad dash to the altar; our journey to marriage was more like a slow-motion 4-year crawl. We went into marriage knowing it was a forever choice, but that hasn’t always made it easy. Over the past nine years, we’ve been through a lot of tough situations that loving one another just didn’t conquer, problems that could easily break up a marriage: infertility, two miscarriages, unjust prosecution, public humiliation, loss of a career and several jobs, and religious differences.

Lately, the media has covered several high profile couples’ decisions to divorce. This proves one thing—husbands and wives must guard their marriages no matter how long they have been happily together. No marriage is immune. This doesn’t mean divorce is inevitable. On the contrary. Remaining in a committed marriage relationship till death do you part is God’s plan for couples, and His Word speaks of how to guard your marriage.

1. Don’t Trust Your Feelings. You may not feel “in love” with your spouse every moment of every day. In fact, you may decidedly not love him or her at a particular moment. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” Even in the most loving marriage, those squishy feelings ebb and flow.

2. Take Your Thoughts Captive. Adultery isn’t just a physical act. Jesus said, “everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:27). No matter what the world’s psychologists say, it is not healthy for one’s marriage to fantasize about someone other than a spouse. Thoughts are dangerous. As a result, God’s Word says we should seek to “tak[e] every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5b). Pornography, graphic romance novels, and even “silly” daydreams about another man or woman have no place in a Godly marriage.

3. Fight Fair. Every couple will have disagreements, but there is a right and a wrong way to solve them. Paul says, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor. 13:4-5, NIV). Surely, words have wounded more throughout history than bullets. And dredging up a list of crimes your spouse has committed over the past month will not be helpful in solving the current problem.

4. Put Your Spouse Before Your Children. Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (KJV). The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament says “cleave” means “to cling to, join with, stay with.” Why then do many marriages focus mainly on the children? Parents used to come home to each other; now many come home to the children. The best thing for your children could be to work on your marriage, on “clinging” to your spouse. Children should not come first or even second in your marriage. God and your spouse should hold those positions.

5. Make Time for Intimacy. One huge problem I see in modern marriages is people are so busy and so tired at the end of the day that they don’t make time for intimacy. Paul warns his fellow-believers: “The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband….Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Cor 7:3-5). Schedule a date night. Put sex on your calendar. It may not be spontaneous, but it works.

I quickly learned the emotional feelings of “love” will never be enough for some of the hurdles marriages are forced to overcome. I love and cherish my spouse, but I know love must be a choice, a decision I, like other couples, must make on a daily basis, to stay committed to one’s spouse no matter what.

This week, I want to challenge every couple to fight for a better marriage. My spouse and I are presently working through the 40-day study, The Love Dare. No matter how many years you’ve been married, no matter how committed you feel you are to your spouse, it’s still worth your time. Don’t fall into the trap of complacency, of taking your marriage for granted. Relationships require work. Will you take the next 40 days to work on yours?

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