By Michelle Lazurek, Crosswalk.com
Ever watch an older married couple act in public? It is downright touching to watch as an older husband holds his wife’s hand, opens the door for her, or gets her a favorite drink. Ever wonder how a marriage like that lasts? Here are some tried and true mindsets to practice so your marriage can withstand the test of time:Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/bernardbodo
1. Stay humble
Pride has a way of creeping into a marriage, doesn’t it? Whether it was the Pharisees during Jesus’ time, or in our modern- day churches, pride has a way of creeping into our souls without even realizing it. When both partners are stuck in his/her ways, unable to budge in viewpoint or opinion, it serves as a recipe for marriage disaster.
Make a point to analyze your marriage regularly. As the Holy Spirit to call to mind any ways in which you may have hurt your spouse without even realizing it. This can be both in what you do—and what you don’t do. Neglecting to do something is just as important as what you actually do. Jesus entrusts us to do what is right all the time, not only in our speech, but also in our actions. If we neglect to speak the truth or speak the truth with the aim to harm our spouse, both do not honor our marriage as we said we would do when we made our vows when we got married.
If your marriage has problems, enlist the help of an accountability partner: a person in whom you can trust to tell when you are struggling in your marriage, and who will truthfully challenge you to be the person you promised your spouse you would be. Keeping a mindset of humility will help you and your spouse strive to change—both for your own benefit as well as your spouse. Spouses that don’t want to change do not grow into the Christlikeness character God wants—turning a marriage stale and shortening its life span.
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2. Realize no one is perfect
Psalm 53:3 says ..."no one is righteous, no not one." This means we all sin, and when we live together with someone for a long period of time, there flaws are exposed. This can get on our nerves! Yet, God is using every relationship in our lives (including our marriages) to demonstrate His great love for us, and the mirror image of the way He loves His bride, the church.
Therefore, we need to choose to love each other each and every day. Even when our spouse is grouchy, stressed or downright unlovable, we need to remember that Jesus chose to lay down His life for us. And it was because of His choice that we are able to commune with Him. We need to choose to love Him, too. Marriages endure with spouses who choose to love their spouses every day because they become the people most likely to lay down their lives when sacrifices need to be made. We must accept that our spouses are not perfect, nor will they ever be perfect, no matter how much we may try to "fix" them.
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3. Forgive, and often
Matthew 18:21-22 says, “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus said, don’t forgive seven times: but, seventy times seven.” While the apostles were asking the question as an excuse to not forgive a repeat offender, Jesus had the quick response to extend forgiveness as many times as it takes.
Marriage gives us many opportunities to forgive each other, and sometimes we need multiple extensions of forgiveness of repeat offences. But by forgiving the person who is closest to you, you are not only avoiding divorce court, but also growing into Christlikeness –one of God’s main reasons for marriage. A marriage harboring unforgiveness cannot withstand the weight of the jail cells each spouse puts each other in. Soon one spouse is inside the cell—leaving the other out in the cold.
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4. Choose to love (even when it is hard)
When Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, he asked God to “take this cup from me.” It was clear Jesus would have chosen another way to pay the penalty for our sins. Yet, when God said no, he still chose to do it anyway. The love for His Father outweighed His personal wants and desires.
Love is a choice. Reflect for a moment on why you married your spouse in the first place. There is a myriad of good qualities that aided in falling in love with him/her. Take a moment and write them down. Ask God to give you back the heart you once had for your spouse. If John in Revelation can ask the church of Ephesus to “return to their first love” then so can you.
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5. Cheer your spouse on
One thing I enjoy most about my marriage is that my husband and I do whatever it takes to support each other in whatever God is doing. That may mean a sacrifice of time, money or other resources. Sacrifice—whether it is big or small—lets your spouse know in a special way that they are loved—and you appreciate how God has wired him/her.
Be of the mindset of wanting the best for your spouse. Don’t get envious when your spouse receives a promotion at work while you have worked tirelessly with not so much as a pay raise? If your spouse doesn’t have your support, to whom can they look to for what they need? Spouses who know they can lean on each other during times of difficulty endure because they know they can count on each other when times are tough.
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6. Never go to bed angry
Ephesians 4:26 tells us, "In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and don’t give Satan a foothold.” Nothing could be more true—especially in our marriages, Although not every conflict can be resolved within an evening, you can at least seek to resolve the little tiffs that, if gone unresolved, lead to a root of bitterness that wraps around our hearts, which becomes increasingly difficult to extract.
Do your best to talk about whatever is bothering you at the time it is bothering you. Don’t wait until days or weeks before discussing it. It may be hard at first and lead to anger and frustration from your spouse, but in the end, it will leave you feeling excited about your marriage because you know God is in control of everything, including the little irritants that can cause a heart to become infected with bitterness and resentment.
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7. Pray together
How can a couple think about separating when they are keeping each other accountable, praying for each other’s needs and aware of each other’s struggles?
However, due to people’s busy schedules, it is easy to skip one day, then two, and the next thing they know they can’t remember the last time they prayed together. As with any other spiritual discipline, prayer is not only how we connect with God, but when we do it together as a couple, connects us with each other as well.
If it has been a while and you don’t know how to start, begin by purchasing a small devotional for couples. Many Christian publishers have good, quality devotionals that deliver deep material that can be digested in as little as fifteen minutes. Start by reading that together and then pray about what you discussed. Take baby steps and begin with only fifteen minutes.
As you practice, it will become a habit and soon you won’t remember the last time you didn’t pray together. The more you pray together, the more you bond with each other. The more you bond, you become not only are significant others but best friends. Best friends helps a marriage thrive instead of merely survive.
The Holy Spirit is responsible for the conviction, and challenge in our lives. Ask Him to soften your heart towards your spouse. Our hearts are not fixed on one emotion; our heart is actually desperately wicked and cannot be trusted! Just because you feel one way now, doesn’t mean it can’t change. Choose to love your spouse in the way they best receive it.
A great resource to learn more about this is Dr. Gary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages.” Dr. Chapman lists five ways your spouse receives love: words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts, quality time and physical affection. Do what you can to love your spouse in the way he/she best receives love the best. It will pay dividends in the closeness of your relationship. Spouses who feel closer to each other want to be together for the long haul.
Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children's Book of the Year and the Enduring Light Silver Medal, she is a member of the Christian Author's Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. Her first book with Leafwood Publishers, An Invitation to the Table, came out September 2016. She also teaches at various writers' workshops, such as the Montrose Christian Writers conference. She and her husband live in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, with their two children, Caleb and Leah. For more information, please visit her website at http://www.michellelazurek.com/.
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