In this particular season of my life, God is showing me how to rest fruitfully by not wasting my free time on myself. Instead, God is teaching me to invest more time and energy into the people in my life. This week, I’ll be posting about how to reignite different relationships in our lives based on the Bible and practical ways.
I’m starting with marriage, because for me, this is the most important relationship right now (besides the one with Jesus!). I spend most of my time with my husband, John. We eat dinner every evening together. We cuddle with our cat. We attend church and small group together. When we’re not at work, we’re usually at home, together! Yet, there are times where I feel a million miles away from him. And that’s saying something because we were long-distance for most of our relationship prior to getting married.
I’ve only been married for a couple of years (since 2012), and I definitely do not claim to be an expert. But based on conversations that I’ve had with other married couples, and other wise older sisters, many of them shared similar experiences. So before we go into the “how to reignite”, I’d like to discuss one of the main reasons why marriages “fail”.
We Have Unfair Expectations
One of the things I stress to seriously-dating and/or engaged couples is pre-marital counseling. Some of them look at me like I’m crazy for suggesting that they need help. But it’s the truth. Marriage is a totally new journey that many of us are not prepared for.
During pre-marital counseling, you will hopefully discuss things like what your childhood was really like, and how that affects the person you are today. Work through some of the potential personality clashes, and learn the basics of how to honor, respect, and love one another. But one of the things that should definitely be covered is expectations.
Sometimes we expect the other to satisfy us–emotionally, physically, socially. We want them to elevate our status. Help sustain a stable lifestyle. Make us happy beyond our imaginations. Before you get married, you need to seriously ask yourself, “What do I expect out of marriage?” If your answer has anything to do with what the other person can do for you or vice versa, then you are in trouble. You have placed unfair expectation on that person.
The truth is, you will never be fully satisfied by your spouse:
Why do you need so much from him? Why do you need so much from her? You can’t blame your unhappiness on another person. It’s probably ’cause you don’t really enjoy the Lord like you should and you don’t love Him with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind and so, you’re tryin’ to find this fulfillment in an earthly relationship. -Francis Chan
Whether you’re married or not, we all have the same great commandment:
New International Version (NIV)
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
So our expectation for marriage should be, “How can I love God more through this marriage? How can I help my husband/wife love God more?”
Based on this point of discussion of why marriages run into obstacles, I’d like to suggest three ways that you can reignite your marriage:
1. Pray for your spouse.
I know, I know. It’s so basic. But when our marriage was in a rough patch, I felt like prayer was all I had. I knew that only God could change my husband’s heart. And you know what happened? God not only answered my prayer, but he also strengthened my faith. Reignite your marriage by praying for God to work on your spouse’s heart.
2. Give time and space for your spouse to be with God.
While I enjoy praying, reading the Bible, and singing praise songs together, I know that it’s special when we can also be alone with God. Giving that time and space for your spouse to be with God will be so rewarding. Perhaps your wife wants to attend a women’s conference. Perhaps there’s a leadership retreat that your spouse wants to check out. Maybe your spouse needs 30 minutes after s/he gets home from work to decompress and settle into “home mode”. Whatever it is, work it out and give each other time to work on that first and greatest commandment–to love God with everything first.
3. Explore God’s calling together.
I think marriage is a beautiful thing because you can accomplish so much more when there are two of you! I always believed that the person you marry will eventually be your ministry partner. Not necessarily a pastor/pastor’s spouse relationship, but just in general ministry. You may both have a heart for hospitality. Maybe you have a heart for discipleship. Whatever it is, God brought the two of you together so that you can accomplish a greater purpose for His glory. Explore it by sharing what’s really on your heart. What breaks your heart. What seems to grab your interest lately. And then be open to how God can use both of you together.
I know this post might sound discouraging at first glance. But it was really meant to be hopeful. Some of you may be experiencing a dark time in your marriage where you and your spouse are on completely different pages. If you are, take these three steps seriously. It is not our job to change our spouse or nag them into loving God more. Only God can do that kind of work. And it may take months, years, even decades. But as long as you are continuing to love God first, He will give you the heart to continue to love your spouse.