February is too short, it has only 28 days! That's why our Celebration of Marriage will go on, possible for one more week. There is just too much to share, and I am sure you are enjoying these posts.
Today, I am very grateful to my friend Trisha who blogs at A Multitude of Mercies for her willingness to share in this place about marriage. May you enjoy her company very much as you read her words.
I waited for the laugh. When I told our oldest son that my friend Becky had asked me to write a guest post about marriage, I just knew that would be his reaction.
Instead, he offered the very thing that has preserved my marriage for so many years...the grace of God.
I'm not writing here because I have the perfect marriage. I can't offer you ten tips for the best relationship ever or clever tricks for getting your man to do things your way. Those self-centered goals increase discontent and keep you in bondage to a fairy tale notion of marriage.
Instead, I offer you lessons learned from a married life that has known conflict and pain and joy and celebration and love and, most of all, God's grace.
Joni Eareckson Tada aptly observed that marriage is not about success but about faithfulness. How true this is. Marriage is about faithfulness in the big things and the little things. So, how do we as wives demonstrate this faithfulness when it's hard? And how do we encourage our children towards godly marriages when we fall so far from what we want to model? I encourage you to make your own list, but here are a few ideas to get you started...
1. Remember the endless volumes of God's grace. Daily remind yourself of the volumes of grace God has poured out on you. We know the supply is inexhaustible, and yet, all too quickly we treat our husbands as though all grace is gone. We get annoyed with their habits and discouraged with their sins. We must remember how kindly Christ has dealt with us and extend most generously that grace to our husbands.
“He who grows in grace remembers that he is but dust, and he therefore does not expect his fellow Christians to be anything more. He overlooks ten thousand of their faults, because he knows his God overlooks twenty thousand in his own case. He does not expect perfection in the creature, and therefore, he is not disappointed when he does not find it.” ~Charles Spurgeon
2. Embrace God's sovereignty. Cast off those foolish thoughts that you were meant to marry another or that your life would be easier if you had married someone else. It is God's will for you to honor your vows, your husband, and honor Him. Every trial, every difficulty, every hardship in your marriage has a purpose in making you more like Christ. Truly, He is working it all for your good. Do you believe Him? Are you living out that belief?
4. Be honest with your children when you sin. If you've disrespected your husband or sinned against him in some other way, don't call it something other than what it is. No excuses, please. Identify it as SIN. Humbly ask for forgiveness and ask them to pray for God's grace upon you to be an excellent wife.
6. Pray diligently for your spouse and for yourself. How different would your marriage be if for every second you've spent complaining about your husband, you instead prayed for him and prayed for yourself? In the midst of conflict, don't respond with anger. Take a deep breath, give a kind word, and continue to pray. Ask God to make that your first reaction.
7. Refuse to believe the lie that your sin disqualifies you from teaching your children the importance of a godly marriage. Haven't you heard this in some form before? “Well, because I've struggled with sin in this area, I'm not qualified to teach my children otherwise.” I'm not speaking of a hypocrite here. I'm speaking of those who sincerely know the battle between the flesh and the spirit, that never ending war within to mortify sin. Don't waste those painful lessons learned from your sin by refusing to warn your children of the consequences.
For example, when I married my husband, he wasn't a Christian. It's ridiculous to then say, “Well, I was unequally yoked. Therefore, I can't tell my children not to be.” I emphasize to them the hardship and sin that comes when we don't walk in God's ways. I speak of the grace God has given in calling my husband to Himself and later saving him, not as license to sin but as a testimony of His kindness and mercy in spite of my disobedience.
8. Praise your husband loudly and constantly to your children. Make sure he hears, you, too! Is this a struggle? Ask for help! The Holy Spirit will bring to mind those praiseworthy traits that too often get buried after years of marriage.
9. Remember that despite hardships and hard words and disappointments, there is a blessing unique to a lasting marriage. There is an intimacy, a “being known” that doesn't come after just a couple years....it comes as a result of being faithful and diligent over lots of time and experiences together. As frustrating as my husband and I can still be to one another, we know each other like no one else knows us. That is a gift from the LORD. Be patient in your marriage for that kind of familiarity is priceless.
10. Soak up God's Word daily. You can't get around this one, and you shouldn't want to. To respond faithfully in marriage especially when it's hard requires being filled with His truths. There are lots of voices coming your way each day, but few of them are speaking Truth. You'll hear how you shouldn't put up with such and such, how you deserve the best, how it's all about YOU. What we need to hear is, “Die to self. Put others first. Don't be easily provoked. Love suffers long. What God has joined together let no man put asunder,” etc. What you fill your mind with is what will come to mind when the conflict starts.
11. Remember that faithfulness isn't grounded in our feelings. It's great when we do FEEL like it, but when we're experiencing trials in our marriage, the feelings are normally the first thing to go. What a capricious wife I was in my first years of marriage because feelings were too often in the driving seat. My poor husband didn't know what to expect or what to think. One day I'd be telling him how happy I was to be his bride, and the next I'd be calling the airlines threatening to leave him and fly home to my parents. A mature and faithful love responds consistently in a God-honoring way, especially when it's hard.
12. Be careful not to play the martyr or the victim to your children. We are to joyfully glorify God in all we do, so when we choose to be faithful in our marriages, especially when it's just plain hard, we aren't to do it with an eye to having our children feel sorry for us. “Yes, poor Mom or poor Dad suffered all those years.” Don't be a glory-thief, trying to take away what should be God's alone. Get your children to fix their eyes on God and His faithfulness and mercy and grace to your family instead of any sacrifices you've made or hurts you've suffered.
In one of my favorite books, Marriage to a Difficult Man: The Uncommon Union of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards by Elisabeth D.Dodds, the author makes this observation about the beauty of mature love:
“Enough has not been said about the beauty of love in the middle years of life. By such a time in a marriage, the trying habits of one's partner have either been accepted or are no longer noticed, while the precious aspects of the other have become so much part of the consciousness that they are like leaf prints stamped in stone. Memories, both of happy times and of sorrow endured together, are glued into the marriage.”
Let our marriages reflect such beauty. Let us be women who have a legacy of faithfulness. Not resigned-to-a-hopeless-situation or woe-is-me women, but women who honor our marriage vows joyfully, knowing that we truly can be faithful because He is faithful.
May our children say of us, “Mom and Dad didn't have the perfect marriage. They battled their flesh daily and had to repent often. But they did model faithfulness and forgiveness. They are a testimony to the goodness of God and what His grace can do when two sinners become one.”
©Trisha Poff. Please, if you wish to distribute or use these words contact Trisha at her blog