I met recently with one of our church’s younger couples. They’re like so many couples in our community: both are hard-working; they love their kids; and they both know the Lord and are serving him here in our church. And in one other respect they’re also like many couples—they’re struggling in their marriage.
The pressures of young kids, finances, jobs and the demands of family life have just worn them out. They didn’t intend for their marriage to reach a critical place but it did. We started meeting together a couple of months ago. We’ve talked and cried and prayed together. Then they started the hard work of reclaiming their marriage for the Lord. And, I’m happy to report, over the last several weeks they’ve come to a new place. They’re discovering that their love for Jesus gives them a new capacity for doing whatever is necessary to build a godly home. They’re finding out that they love each other more than they realized. I’m hopeful for them that they’ve turned the corner.
The last time we met I challenged them to do four things. I called these “Four Ways to Strengthen Your Marriage.” Sure, they’re simple. But I believe when couples put them into effect in their marriages, they’ll see a difference.
- For the husband, when he walks in the door each afternoon, before he does anything else, to take his wife in his arms and just hold her for ten seconds, to let her rest in his strength after a full day of taking care of kids, home and job. I even made the couple I was ministering to practice while standing there in my office. It was pretty cool.
- For the wife, to celebrate small victories in the daily improvement of their marriage. Instead of focusing on things she felt her husband wasn’t doing to her satisfaction, to instead look for those small things that he’s working hard to improve.
- To prioritize the margins of their home life. By “margins” I meant the space between our resources and our needs. For many families, the two major margins we need to pay attention to are our money and our time. For many of us, we spend every dime (and borrow more!) and so eliminate any margin. And when it comes to time, we fill up every available minute with commitments, activities, trips, whatever. So there isn’t any time left. And when we have little margins left, we have little life.
- I encouraged both of them to place their marriage at the center of their home instead of their kids—something many modern families have trouble doing. When a marriage is functioning as God intends, stress in the home lessens dramatically. The kids (kids often act out in concert to the stress levels they sense in their parents) start acting better without the parents addressing their behavior directly. God puts husbands and wives together first then adds children later. For all of us, attention to our relationship with our spouse is the first order of business if we want our homes to reflect biblical values.
This couple isn’t alone. Marriage problems are everywhere today. Young couples especially are under the gun. Not just because of the natural pressures of the stage of life they’re in. But also because so many of them come from families where their parents’ marriages were either broken or so dysfunctional that their home life didn’t prepare them for a successful marriage of their own. They’re looking for help. And the more we in the church provide that help—in terms of ministry, counseling and encouragement—the more we’ll help them make their marriages into places of true faith and grace.