Can I share a secret with you? Maintaining a healthy marriage is one of the hardest things I do. It’s much easier for me to preach multiple times each week, lead a large staff, and pastor a church with a couple of thousand members than it is to take care of my most important area of ministry. I’m not proud of my shortcomings. I am, however, constantly – and consciously – working to improve in this important area of my life. I want to do what the Lord tells me, and what my wife needs from me, so that we can have a healthy and happy marriage.
As as result of recalling where I’ve blown it over the years, I’ve come up with Seven Secrets (they’re really not all that secret) for a Healthy Marriage that I want to pass along to you today. I hope that they help you avoid some of the mistakes that I’ve made that have hurt my Love and my Lord.
1. Make a commitment for life and growth. It’s not enough to make a vow “Until death do us part.” You must be committed to doing what is necessary to help your spouse grown spiritually, emotionally and personally. This includes spending time with each other in prayer and Bible study. I means that you learn how the Lord made them and what they need to be healthy in all of the areas of their life, and then do whatever is necessary to help them become the person God designed them to be.
2. Learn the keys of effective communication. I would have trouble tallying up the number of hours I’ve spent in class or working on papers and presentations dealing with preaching or public communication. In fact, I probably spent more hours working on these areas than many of my classmates because of a personal desire I have to be the best preacher I can. But, one of the things that I’ve noticed is that very few people really know how to talk to others, including the one that they’ve promised to love and cherish above all others. This goes along with the first secret in that you must learn how they are made if you are going to effectively communicate love, hurt, disappointment, hope, thanks, etc. as you walk together through life.
3. Always work on teamwork. A marriage is made of two individuals who come together to do what they could not do on their own. We see this in the very first book of the Bible when God saw that it wasn’t good that Adam was alone so He brought to him a helpmate named Eve. I think that many times we fail to realize that the differences that make it hard to communicate at times are the very things that help us overcome obstacles that we couldn’t manage on our own. So, learn to say quickly and sincerely, “Let’s try your way.”
4. Never go to bed angry with your spouse. Kim and I are both strong personalities. Now, I’m loud and she’s not, but we both have VERY strong opinions about how things should be done. This has lead many times to discussions that can be heard at the end of the street. I personally don’t think that having conflict in a marriage is as much of a problem as those where there are never any dissenting opinions. I do, however, think that those times where we both went to bed – me on my side, and Kim on hers – mad at each other were some of the lowest points in our marriage. The Bible tells us to not let the sun go down on our wrath and this certainly, and firstly, must refer to our mate.
5. Ask for, and give, forgiveness quickly. Dr. Adrian Rogers often said that “Bitterness is an acid that eats its own container.” That’s why it’s so important to seek forgiveness from your spouse when you’ve blown it and give forgiveness when you’ve been wronged. As a matter of fact, one of the most important traits that I’ve found in healthy marriages is that they have very short memories and what’s been forgiven has truly been forgotten.
6. Create a marriage “on purpose.” We hear a lot today about “purpose-driven” living. I suggest that if you’re truly going to have a healthy marriage that lasts a life-time it will only be because you both have come to an agreement as to what kind of life you wish to develop and deploy. Don’t take what life throws your way or be blown this way or that by any situation or circumstance. Conceive a picture, a vision, of what you want your life together to look like and then work tirelessly each and every day on the elements that make up the life you would have together.
7. Keep Christ in the center of your marriage. Solomon once wrote that “a cord of three strands isn’t easily broken.” In reality the only way to have a healthy marriage is not to have two become one, but three woven together for strength and stability. Determine today to put Christ above anybody else in your life – including your husband or wife – and you’ll find that you will love and be loved in a way that would be impossible otherwise.