Although I'm a Christian therapist who works with couples, and while I've been married myself for 35 years, no one ever has it all figured out. It can be exhilarating, challenging, rewarding, frustrating, and humbling--oftentimes all at once. But recently a friend reminded me wisdom is wisdom, so with those words of encouragement, I share some "there's nothing new under the sun" tips to care for your marriage from many experts that have come before.
The first tip is for myself: Try to practice what I preach. Every marriage, even mine, can benefit from a re-tuning to God’s voice.
The second tip is to remind ourselves of God's purpose and design for marriage. In Sacred Marriage, marriage counselor Gary Thomas says that God instituted marriage, in part, to move us, as individuals and as a couple, towards holiness and not necessarily happiness. Perhaps the challenges, conflicts, and the triumphs that come with marriage are all for the purpose of refining us and making us more and more like Christ, towards the furtherance of His kingdom. Gary challenges us to spend less time striving towards our own happiness and more toward purity and holiness as per God's plan for marriage and relationship.
The third tip is to remember that God's design for marriage is for it to last a lifetime, knowing full well that a marriage unit is comprised of two sinners who sin a lot. Forgiveness and humility will be essential daily. Ephesians 4:32 instructs, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."
The fourth tip is to accept the biblical but not so glamorous concept that we are now stuck with each other (for better or worse, for richer or poorer, till death do us part). We had best work harder towards celebrating what we have together.
The fifth tip is that working toward a good marriage should be motivated and driven, in part, by a desire to be a good model for our children, grandchildren, friends, and other observers. Grace displayed in a dark world is a powerful witness to God's work in us. Marriage works better when we align our priorities by placing God first.
The sixth tip is to remember that, with our fallen human natures, it is natural to have the temptation that the grass is always greener somewhere else. But it's not. Jesus instructs us in Matthew 26:41 to, "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” God can strengthen us to withstand temptations. If we acknowledge temptation, we can better resist it.
The seventh tip is that the process of becoming holy requires vigilance, hard work, endurance, and patience. "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" (Prov 27:17). Marriage chips off our sharp and rough edges, but no one likes getting chipped.
The last, but not least, tip is to remind ourselves that, in God’s holy plan, He designed sex as a priority for us to figure out, work on, and enjoy within the confines of marriage. As men and women, each uniquely made, with different perspectives and abilities, it’s incumbent upon us to enjoy the almost limitless possibilities. "Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control" (1 Cor 7:5).
These tips I offer to care for your marriage and for mine, with thankfulness that God equips us for the journey.
Rev. Deb Koster
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra