Sisters, I am anything but a marriage counselor. Marriage is certainly not my expertise, nor do I claim to hold any special secret formula to enjoying a healthy one. What I do claim though is boldness in Christ and I will gladly boast of the Lord every chance I get.
What I am is a testimonial to the Lord’s unspeakable healing, restorative power. This is my '"toast" to the Lord for transforming a severely broken woman and marriage. What I have is 16-years of a true beauty for ashes journey in my marriage. As for "the formula" I’m about to share – totally, 100% the Lord’s.
I write this today for two reasons. One, with prayerful hopes of encouraging you in your marriage, and two, to jump on the opportunity to give God shouts from the mountaintops for His faithfulness. Every ounce of the woman and wife I am today is the direct result of the powerful transforming grace that comes through Jesus Christ alon. I pray it blesses you.
In 2001, my husband said, “I do” to a badly broken, deeply damaged, emotionally and physically unhealthy woman. He loved and accepted me, but for the first half of our marriage he paid a steep price for my wounds. My husband came into the marriage with his own brokenness. We entered into the ride of holy matrimony with a multitude of sin belted in with us. If I were a betting woman I wouldn’t have put two pennies on us. The simple odds of us making it were not good. Honestly, we nearly didn’t. Build-up of unresolved hurts, selfishness and sin culminated until we hit a breaking point. We were ready to end our marriage.
We knew and loved God, but He certainly wasn’t the center of our marriage. To claim that ours was a “Godly marriage” would have been a gross misrepresentation and an insult to God’s design. I knew there had to be another – a better way. In utter desperation I fell to my knees and begged God to help us – or, at least help me – to live out the kind of marriage He had in mind. I literally asked God to provide me a written plan - a marriage blueprint - to follow. A plan that would notonly to save my marriage, but to shape it into something God was actually proud of.
You can probably guess what happened. The Lord, faithful, kind, generous, forgiving, tolerant God did just that. He picked me up off that floor, put a pen in my hand, and though me, wrote out a specific, detailed plan for the marriage He had in mind. What you're about to read is the literal, written plan Jesus himself gave me that day.
Is my marriage now perfect? Far from it. Is my marriage healthy, strong and glorifying to the Lord? Most of the time, and infinitely more so that I ever dreamed it could be. I wont lie to you. Getting here took work. Getting here required commitment to heal myself, and, it took time. I know Eric and I would both tell you though that it has been 120% worth it. If your marriage needs help, or even if you just need a reminder and refreshing to commit to living a life worthy of your call as wife, I pray this gives you help and hope.
Don't be easily offended
“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11
“Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.” Ecclesiastes 7:21-22
In my broken state, the Spirit of Offense had a firm grip on me. My poor husband tiptoed around me for soooo long. He really just never knew what might cause me to strike at him like a poisonous snake. I was so incredibly defensive. I was so easily offended. I was also so insecure and terrified. Friends, I say this to you in love. If you find that you are repeatedly and easily offended in your marriage, it’s time to take a step back and look at your own fears and insecurities. Defensiveness and offensiveness are almost always a symptom of emotional injury, not the actual wound itself. Defensiveness and offensiveness are an effective, albeit, unhealthy protective mechanism. With all the encouragement I havein my entire being, I point you to the Counslor. Allow the Lord to get in and heal what’s really being triggered. I promise you, this is one of the most healing steps you will ever take, not just in the marriage relationship but in every relationship.
Holiness not happiness
“The goal for your marriage is holiness, not happiness.” I’ll never forget the moment of surrender that occurred in my heart the day the Lord spoke this truth. It was a moment of submitting my will to the Lord’s. It was exchanging my selfish impulses for righteousness. This, perhaps more than anything in the Lord’s plan was the game changer. Now, am I suggesting that the Lord doesn’t desire that we enjoy happy marriages? Of course not. I know that the Lord loves to give good gifts and enjoying our spouses is one of them. What I am saying is that if we are motivated and satisfied by seeking “feelings” of happiness in our marriage we are set up for a collision course rooted in unstable emotions. If, however, our ever-present, unchanging focus is on keeping our marriage holy, we can be confident that we, a.) have the blessing of God as we seek His will first, b.) will receive strength we don’t understand to fulfill that goal, c.) will minister to our husbands as they observe us choosing the Lord, and seeking right standing with Him above our own selfish needs and rouge emotions, and d.) will reap joy versus happiness. Happiness is a constantly changing response to external circumstances. Joy is a state of being. It's the deep sense of satisfaction and gratitude we experience when we walk in holiness regardless of our situation.
Um, I'm terrible at this. I’m not a silly person. Silliness makes me sweaty and uncomfortable. When people are being uncontainabley silly, be certain that I’m dying a thousand deaths and fidgeting uncomfortably. The Lord literally said to me, “Sarah, lighten up.” He can be a straight-shooter can't He? Friends, admittedly I’m still working on this one. In the midst of responsibilities and exhaustion, stress and soccer games it can be hard to just. be. fun. I want to be more silly. I want to be more lighthearted. I want to be fun and flirty with my husband. You know what? That’s what I offer the Lord on this one – my want to.
Be content and look for the good
I'm so very thankful for this one.
My husband left the house one morning and I was just fuming mad. I spewed sourly to myself, resolutely listing all the reasons he was responsible for my outrage. “Lord,” I said, “If he would just ______ and stop ______. And if he wasn’t so ______ and would stop for one second and change his _______.” My diatribe probably went on for 10-minutes when the Lord interrupted my litany of complaints with a simple question. He didn’t rebuke or correct me, He simply asked me, “Sarah do you desire that Eric accept you, be content with you, and think well of you?” With less hautiness I repied, “Yes.” The Lord totally opened my eyes to see how devestated I would be to know that my husband was thinking such awful things about me. When we're away or together, I’d hope he thinks well of me. I hope he looks for the good in me and gives me the benefit of the doubt in my shortcomings. This completely altered my thinking. Now, when cricitcal or crumby thoughts toward my husband try to sneak again, I do my very best to call upon this lesson and ask myself the very question the Lord asked me, “Sarah do you desire that Eric accept you, be content with you, and think well of you? Then, give him the same gift, focus on the good things about him and be content with the amazing man you’ve been given.”
Serve quietly and speak HIS language
My love language – that is, the way I express my love – is through serving. I'm a doer. I will “do for” my husband all day long. I make his breakfast, lunch and dinner. I do his laundry. I keep a clean, orderly house. I tend to many of the household chores. It makes ME feel like I’m loving him well. My husband’s love language is touch (all touch, not just romantic). So, while he appreciates all I do for him, it makes him feel supported, NOT loved. His tank is filled when I sit close to him, hold his hand, rub his shoulders, hug him, and of course, as designed by the Lord for man and wife, through romantic touch.
I have had to ask God to give me a heavenly heavy-duty zipper on my mouth. I confess that I desire acknowledgement for all the doing. I've bathed in bitterness over how he doesn’t know or appreciate all I do for him. I've made snarky, underhanded comments out of a spirit of martyrdom at least a hundred times. Icky, blicky, yucky, bleh!!! No!!! Don’t do it.
The Lord said, “Sarah if you're going to serve him do it with a right heart and do it quietly. Don’t do it for accolades.” If I choose to serve my husband because it makes ME feel good to care well for him - great! I can't be frustrated though when it doesn’t fill his love tank. I’ve got to serve with my mouth shut and speak to his heart in the language it understands.
Make the thing the thing
We have a saying in our family. When there’s bickering or strife going on, we try to pause and ask, “Are we making the thing the thing?” What we mean by this is, are we really arguing over who left the empty toilet paper roller or, are we feeling misunderstood, disconnected or unsupported? Am I snapping at my husband and shooting him with look daggers because he’s making annoying noises or, because that innocent comment he made in passing last night really hurt my feelings and I’m festering? Stopping to address the REAL issue that’s stirring up strife in your marriage is so very helpful. It improves communication, helps you understand each other better and allows those little bumps to stay bumps instead of developing into unnecessary hug mountains.
Pray even when you don't feel like it
This is hard, but do it. It’s easy to support your husband in prayer when it's smooth sailing. It’s harder to sincerely pray for him when you least “feel” like it. Prayer is not based on feelings, it’s the response of an obedient heart. Pray continually for your husband. Don’t give in and don’t give up. I promise you this - if you will respond with obedience to pray for him even when it’s the hardest, even when you don’t see him reponding, even when it seems unfair, YOU will have a change of heart. The prayers of a righteous wife avail much – you will bless your man, you will bless the heart of God, and you will reap unexpected peace and a softening of heart. Press on woman of God!
Prayer for marriages:
Dear Lord, thank you for today. Thank you for our husbands and the gift of marriage. You are an amazing God! Thank you for sending your Son and sacrificing him so that we could be free from the slavery of sin and spend eternity with you! We pray that our marriages would keep Christ at the center. Please help us to keep our focus, to understand the purpose of marriage, and to know how to operate it as you have intended. Lord, break the chains of selfishness, pride, and stubbornness. Help us and our spouses to be disciplined as your word has called us to be, through prayer, worship and studying life’s manual, your word! Thank you for sending encouragement to us and teaching us your ways! We love you! In Jesus’ name AMEN!