Lessons for a Thriving Marriage:

the author and his beautiful wif
Long before I made Jesus Lord, and before I married the woman I adore,  I was married before.  In my late twenties, before I made the Navy a career,  I was married and divorced for a complex history of unpleasantness.  Unlike today,   I  then had few positive role models and no spiritual understanding of the marital relationship.
But at the age of 41, after three years of dating “pure” (that is, guarding her honor with  no intimate contact) and a fundamental shift in my character,  I married the love of my life. It was work from the very beginning.   With both of us previously married, we knew how difficult and painful a lazy, un-spiritual and self-centered marriage might be.
anything worthwhile takes training and effort
Christian marriages will not fare better than relationships that are not Christ-centered without Christ remaining at the heart of our relationship.  But every endeavor needs role-models and training.  And that is the same with our marriages. which brings me to the subject today of a wonderful Marriage Workshop: Let Love Grow.
The couple that spoke to us that afternoon have been married thirty-three years and have counseled hundreds of Christian marriages.  Without a Jesus-centered life,  the lessons they shared – some basically were lessons derived from the mistakes they made – would be difficult to understand absent a faith-based approach.  As two people who form a union from two individuals with different experiences, habits, expectations, and upbringing, to be successful requires work, compassion, adaptability, and selflessness.
Here are some points made today:
Great marriages take faith, forgiveness, selflessness and prayer
Most of us did not have good role models from our parents’ marriage to build upon.  Marriage is not innately something we can go from self-serving, complicated individuals to a union of two thriving as one.  
Marriage is more than compatibility,  and more than a human invention for financial or domestic stability.    When spouses commit God as our authority, the Bible is treated as living and active; we seek improvement through study and application, and husband and wife have as a main purpose to help the other to get to Heaven.   
A FOOL’S MARRIAGE TIP:   If it’s Wednesday.  it’s”business time” .
Learn from others’ mistakes about marriage.   Marriage cannot be ‘winged’ successfully. Get a lot of advice from those who have had spiritually strong, long-term marriage. And learn to put these observations into practice:
  • NO reaction is BETTER than a BAD REACTION.  “Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble”. Proverbs 21:23 (NLT) 
  • Increase your GRATITUDE FOR YOUR SPOUSE.   ” Moreover, when God  gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil – this is a gift of God.  They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.” Ecclesiastes 3: 19-20 
  • Look for the GOOD and SHARE it generously. “Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right, Think about things that are pure and lovely and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about.” Philippians 4:8 (TLB)
  • Examine your EXPECTATIONS. “Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassion never fails. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:22 -24
  • Learn to PRAY for wisdom first in the (heated) moment. “Pray with all prayers and with all desires always in the Spirit and be watching with him in prayer every moment as you pray constantly and make supplications for the sake of all the Holy Ones.”  Ephesians 6:18  (ABPE)  
  • Seek to UNDERSTAND more than to be UNDERSTOOD. “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19 -20  
  • HIDDEN anger can be just as bad as anger EXPRESSED. “A man with hate in his heart may sound pleasant enough, bo don’t believe him for he is cursing you in his heart. Though he pretends to be so kind, his hatred will finally come to light for all to see.” Proverbs 26: 24 -26 (TLB)
  • Learn from older, more experienced role models.  “ Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to  much wine, but to teach what is good.”   Titus 2: 3 -5
With a renewed understanding of marriage and how to avoid the pitfalls described above,  the sexual relationship is the glue which binds a thriving marriage.   Giving to one another in a positive, loving and fun marital bed has been fundamental to healthy marriages.  If a married couple, however long they have been married, can seek to understand and apply these life lessons  and have a foundation such as described here,  how many marriages would be thriving !

Speakers: Bob and Barb Harpole, Los Angeles Church of Christ
Recommended reading: The Marriage Go-Round by Andrew J, Cherlin

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