I had just landed after a 13-hour flight from Europe. I was extremely tired and exhausted after several intense weeks in Germany. I could feel myself getting very sick. I phoned my wife to let her know that she could come to get me only to have her tell me that I needed to call a man from my church, that it was an emergency. When I arrived home I made the call and through his heartbreaking tears, he told me his marriage was falling apart, that he found out his wife had had several affairs. He was devastated, I was heartbroken for him and on top of that, it involved several other couples I knew well.
I got off the phone, my fever getting higher, my throat getting much sorer, and I knew I would need great, divine help, strength, and wisdom for this broken, complicated situation. I began by meeting first with the man who called me along with his wife. I then met with each other couple involved and did my utmost to help salvage their lives and their marriages. Unfortunately, over the next year, only one couple made it.
As a pastor for 33 years, I have had a front-row seat as it were to the tragic, devastating dramas of life and witnessed firsthand the consequences of the cumulative effect of couples who did not guard and protect their marriage. I will tell you a great truth that most seem unaware of. Marriage does not grow, thrive, and survive on its own. Left to chance they will die. If you and I do not intentionally, deliberately, vigilantly, reverently guard and protect our marriage, it will eventually collapse, often from within. Marriage is not self-sustaining!
I have been married now for over 40 years. I have learned a great deal about what it takes to make a marriage survive and thrive. Almost all I learned was from God’s word the Bible, as we put it into practice. I want to pass on to you today some of those vital lessons. You ignore them at your peril. Please, I beg of you, pay very careful attention.
So guard yourself; remain loyal to the wife of your youth. “For I hate divorce! says the Lord, the God of Israel. It is as cruel as putting on a victim’s bloodstained coat,” says the Lord Almighty. “So guard yourself; always remain loyal to your wife.”
Malachi 1:15-16 (NLT)
1. Never, ever take your marriage for granted. Men and women, these verses above are for both husband and wife to obey. Guard over your marriage, remain loyal to your spouse. All around us today couples are faced with temptation, the temptation to think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. This could happen to you through social media, online garbage, it can even happen to you at church, in your friendship with other couples or friends. Don’t be a fool and think you are immune. If you do, you are already beginning to slide. Don’t be lazy with your marriage!
2. Protect and guard your heart, emotions, and thoughts. Do not let your mind and thoughts tear your spouse apart in your head. A CRITICAL SPIRIT IS A DEADLY CANCER TO YOUR MARRIAGE. CRUSH THE NEGATIVE, CRITICAL THOUGHTS, CUT THEM OUT LIKE A DEADLY TUMOR, OR THEY WILL DEVASTATE YOUR MARRIAGE.
3. Face your issue or issues. Do not pretend you don’t have them. I have known both husbands and wives who have refused to address their issues and as a result, continue to do damage to their marriage relationship. I have known wives who are so insecure that they are always accusing their husbands of doing something wrong. I have known husbands who are oblivious to their inconsiderateness and trample on their wives’ feelings. I have known wives who are so cruel with their words, so demeaning, and demanding and nothing seems to make her happy. I have known men who are overbearing and harsh. I have known wives who are so contentious, argumentative, and impossible to lead. Do not be surprised that you bring some of the dysfunctions you grew up with, in your home life as a child, right into your marriage. Don’t be afraid to face them, don’t be ashamed of them, simply, honestly face them and deal with them. Get whatever help you need to face them and deal with them. God will greatly bless and honor you for doing it. Husbands, wives, deal gently with your spouse. They may not even be aware of how the dysfunctions or deep wounds of their childhood are affecting them now.
4. If you don’t sing the praises of your spouse you will soon sing the funeral song of your marriage. I am serious. If you and I don’t concentrate on what is good, what is lovely, what is positive about our mate, the very thoughts that nurture and sustain a marriage, you will begin to concentrate on what bothers you and it will begin to kill your love and attachment to them.
5. Focus on what unites you, not what divides you. I would urge you to write out a list of things in your own words that unites you. Here are a few examples for my wife and me:
Mark and Kathy believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the world.
Mark and Kathy love Jesus Christ with all their hearts.
Mark and Kathy are committed to their God-given roles.
Mark and Kathy love their children and grandchildren.
Mark and Kathy want to honor God with their lives more than anything in the world.
Mark and Kathy believe in living a frugal, simple, and contented way of life.
Mark and Kathy believe in prayer and put prayer into practice, every single day.
Mark and Kathy believe in the Bible and read it.
Mark and Kathy believe in obeying God.
6. PRAY TOGETHER, STAY TOGETHER, THRIVE TOGETHER. I mean it. I am a broken record, but nothing is more powerful than a husband and wife coming before God in the humility of prayer, every single day, the very act that says together, “God, we need you, we can do nothing without you, we need and value your blessing above all else, we need your divine intervention in our lives, we bring our worries and concerns, our problems and request before the only God who can answer and give us any of these things.” Truthfully, anything less is arrogance and folly.
Almost 37 years ago, after several years of marriage, I began to realize that I had some very important difficult issues to face in my own life. I was so convicted by God that I needed to face them that I determined that I would let nothing stand in the way. I acknowledged to my wife that I was not a man with self-control, that I had said things and acted in ways that were very hurtful to her. Honestly, I was overwhelmed by my failures. God, in His great mercy, picked me up from the dirt and over the next 4 years helped me in some very significant ways. It was not easy, and in fact, these are things I have battled and fought my whole life, but God answered prayers, God intervened, God helped me see and face my biggest issues and I can honestly tell you that had I not faced them head-on, and worked very hard in those areas of my life, I would not be married today.
There is nothing too hard for God if you are willing to humbly admit your need and face the issue, or issues of your life. God is full of mercy and He alone has the great power to change your life. God can change even you. Will you let Him? Will you acknowledge your issue? Will you face it head-on and get whatever help you need? God will greatly bless you if you do, and your spouse will be forever grateful. Your marriage will thrive.
Please hear this message.