If January was the health month, then February is the month of love. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and soon many of our thoughts will be consumed with showing love to our closest friends and family.
This year, I am focusing on getting healthy physically, spiritually, and relationally. I plan to devote a large portion of my blog posts to these particular topics! February is just another good reminder of the importance of relationships. The next few weeks you will see a multi-post series on 4 exercises that will help you stay fit in your marriage.
I am writing this series on marriage because I need it. And maybe you need it too. I’ll be honest; I learn best from my own shortcomings and failures. And just when I think I’ve got this thing figured out, I get another dose of reality that leaves me humbled. But the best part about community is that we can learn and grow together. So join me these next couples weeks as I share the vital lessons I am learning from my own marriage.
If you’re not married, check out my earlier post on Finding Mr. Right: 10 insights from those who are married.
Don’t Be Surprised
Being healthy takes work. And lots of it. Marriage is no different. A good marriage is not something you automatically start out with on your wedding day. It’s something that is carefully and intentionally crafted over time.
Marriage is hard. So don’t be surprised when you hit some bumps along the way. The race is long and the road can be rocky. You may not be able to avoid the tough times, but you can prepare for them.
Prepare Your Mind
How should you view the tough times in your marriage? Everything that comes your way is not by chance or accident. God has a very specific and detailed plan for your life. That plan includes both the highs and lows, the good and bad, the mountain top experiences and the valleys of difficulty. While God doesn’t cause or approve of evil, He does use it for our good. If God allows trouble in your marriage, you can be sure He is using it in your life to bring about good.
When your marriage is tested, see it as an opportunity. If times are hard, you are being given the opportunity for your faith and character to grow.
James 1:2-4 “When troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”
The purpose of marriage is not to make us happy but to make us holy. We often want the by-product of faith and maturity, but many of us aren’t willing to go through the painful process to get there. God is at work through the trouble and difficulty to bring about future growth, healing, and holiness in our lives and relationships. So let it grow. When the road gets rocky, let suffering do its work in your heart. Yield to what God is doing in your life and allow it to renew your mind and shape your character for the better.
Train for a Purpose
It’s not a matter of if but when your marriage will experience hard times. So train yourself in advance so that you are prepared to handle it when it comes. Otherwise, you’ll be tempted to quit when the going gets tough.
Just like your health, there are exercises you can practice in your marriage that will keep you fit and strong in the face of hardships. Approach your marriage as you would a race. You don’t just get up and run a marathon. You don’t just “hope for the best” when you show up at the starting line. You set goals. You exercise. You practice. You train with forethought, discipline, self-control, and perseverance. In the same way, there are certain disciplines that build up the muscles of marriage. Practicing these disciplines in your marriage over time can safeguard you against an environment of bitterness, resentment, division, and disrespect.
1 Timothy 4:7-10 “Train yourself for the purpose of godliness; for physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come…this is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.”
The point? Training yourself in godliness will provide the character, endurance and longevity needed to go the distance. Following God’s blueprint for life always yields life. Doing whatever is “right in your own eyes” at some point or another will bring destruction and death to your relationships. Time always tells. When you want to be healthy, you train yourself by exercising and eating right. But when you want a healthy, growing, life-giving marriage, you train yourself in godliness. God’s words aren’t just suggestions for life. They are the way to life. Putting into practice the principles God outlines in the Bible will actually generate abundant life and transform your marriage.
Staying fit in your marriage may be a lot of work and effort up front, but the end result is worth it. Training yourself with godliness can be the difference between longevity and divorce. Going into it with the right perspective, preparing yourself to respond rightly, and doing things God’s way will lead to a greater sense of joy, companionship, intimacy, and fulfillment.