Late at night around their dining room table, we sat for coffee, tears, and way too much pain for any couple to be experiencing. “We need help,” is what she said on the phone and I jumped in the car and drove to their home. They were Christians, but their marriage was falling apart. Christianity doesn’t guarantee anything but Heaven after we die. Being Christians does not guarantee a happy marriage, a happy home, or anything else. Being a Christian does open the door for us to receive the promises of God which include a happy marriage, a happy home, and so much more. God did tell us that His plans for us are even greater than what we could dream or imagine. Finding this plan is not so easy and He reveals it to us step by step through the transformation of the way we think about life.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV 1984)
Most marriage start off heading the wrong direction but neither spouse realizes it at first. That honeymoon period of the relationship can be so deceiving. Each spouse works very hard to make sure the other only sees the best of who they are. It is a continuation of the courting ritual. I have known women who for the first several months of the marriage went to bed with full make-up on so that their husband would not see them without it. Wow! You can’t do that forever. At some point, he will see you without makeup and you will see his nasty underwear. It’s just going to happen. Then, what do you do?
I want to share with you what I believe is the #1 secret for Christian marriages to get on track for the wonderful, abundant blessing God has intended for their marriage to be. You see, the problem with the dating/courting and honeymoon period of the relationship is that we are doing everything we can to be attractive to the other person. Our goal is to be liked, appreciated, and loved and we work very hard at this. Women spend hours getting ready and men try not to burp at the table after dinner. Like I said, we put a lot of work into this. After a while we stop trying so hard, but our goal in the relationship remains the same. We want to be liked, loved, appreciated, respected, doted on. And this is our goal.
If your focus in the relationship is whether or not you are being loved, romanced, respected, appreciated, you are taking a long walk on a short pier. You have fallen into the trap set by Hell. Like a mouse excited to see a tasty piece of cheese right in front of them, the thought of finding someone who will love and appreciate you, you are about to get snapped!
The problem is your focus. You are focusing on the wrong thing. In fact as long as you focus all of your energy and attention to being loved, your marriage will never be what God wants for you. We say it in our vows, but by the first dance of the reception, we’ve lost it. Most people enter marriage with the hope and expectation of finding someone who will love them, but this is not God’s design for marriage. God’s design for marriage begins and ends with all of your efforts being focused on loving your spouse not being loved by your spouse.
The #1 secret to a super-fantastic marriage is to change your focus. Stop expecting and trying to get the other person to love you and focus all of your energy on loving them no matter what they do in return. Wait!! Don’t stop reading now!!
As Christians, do we not love Jesus? We do, but why? The Bible says we love Him because He first loved us. I didn’t wake up one day and love Jesus. No, it is as I realize how much He loves me, even when I am sinning and not really loving Him back, that I am drawn to Him. Don’t you remember the woman who wet Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair? Jesus said about her, “For those that have been forgiven much, love much” (Luke 7). The more I see how God loves me when I am not showing love to Him by my sin or neglect, the more I want to be near Him. When I know there is never condemnation from Him, no matter what I have done, He is my safe place where I run in times of trouble. We all have a need to be loved and we are drawn most to those who love us consistently without condition. This is human nature.
When we chose our spouse. We did not promise to sit there on the couch eating Cheetos and twinkies while they loved us. No, I believe the promise was to love them…to love them. The foundation of marital bliss is found in our promise to love them for better, for worse. If we stop being patient and kind, lose our temper, and bring up the past, we have stopped loving them. And if our response to their worst is to give them our worst, the marriage is doomed to be mediocre at best. But if we keep our promise and focus every day on loving them instead of being loved by them, then we are loving them as God loves us. This will draw their hearts back to ours. This change of attitude and effort changes everything little by little. The most pivotal moments in your marriage are found in your response to your spouse when they have failed to show you the love you desire. If you keep loving them even then, giving yourself no excuse, your marriage will blossom into what you desired when you stood before the preacher to say, “I do.” If you withhold your love and pour out your disappointment, anger, resentment, or neglect in these times, your marriage will never be the source of extreme joy God has intended.
Each morning, let your focus be on how to love your spouse better, and all the more when they struggle to show you love and appreciation. The more they experience this love, their hearts will be drawn into you. The depth of your love will more than you ever thought it could be. Now, go and change your marriage.
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