May: I Do Every Day
The Divorce Announcement
By Tracy Lane
The Good Stuff: The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. (Psalm 9:9) https://www.biblestudytools.com/esv/psalms/9-9.html
Action Points: Where does your marriage take priority in your life? A marriage that lasts is a marriage that carries top spot. Thinking through how you choose to spend your time, can you honestly say you place your marriage above your career, kids, hobbies, or extended family? Would your spouse agree?
For My Birthday, I Got You a Present
I don’t know about you, but when birthday rolls around, my thoughts can be a bit self-centered. I’ve got excitement. Anticipation. I wonder what surprises my husband might have planned to celebrate my special day.
After all, isn’t my birthday supposed to be about … well, me?
At least that’s what I thought until recently, when my daughter, Tiffany, decided to do something radical.
When I asked what she wanted to do for her upcoming birthday, she told me she wanted to arrange a special surprise for her husband, Chris.
“Um . . . but it’s your birthday,” I sort of protested.
“Yep, and what I want to do for my birthday is surprise Chris with a trip to Florida and tickets to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game.” She beamed with excitement. “Seeing his face when I surprise him with those tickets is going to be epic!”
Vacation time for Chris, a first responder, is hard to come by. He had scheduled time off for her birthday. He’s also an avid (or should I say rabid?) Bucc’s fan.
Tiffany understood Jesus’ words in Acts 20:35: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Selflessness. I wanted that for my relationship. Her example was an inspiration to me to be more of a giver in my marriage.
Being that kind of a giver is more often about the little things, like watching her favorite show tonight in lieu of the baseball game, washing the dishes when it’s his turn, or giving your spouse the last bite of your favorite dessert. (I’m a foodie. That offering is huge, people.)
Being a giver in marriage doesn’t just reflect God’s heart (see James 1:17). It speaks love to your spouse (maybe even inspiring them to selflessness). It’s the type of gift that keeps on giving—blessing both the receiver and the giver.
Is self-care the same as selfishness? Listen to this FamilyLife Blended® Minute.
The Good Stuff: The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:6-7)
Action Points: What’s one practical way you can give generously to your spouse this week (particularly in a situation where it would be appropriate for you to be the receiver)? Ideas: If it’s her turn to cook dinner tomorrow night, get home early and have dinner waiting on her. If he’s the one who typically gasses up the cars, surprise him with a full tank. Get creative—and have fun with it!
Snorkelers and Scuba Divers
By Andy Allan
“I feel like we aren’t connected,” my wife confessed. “I want to be better friends.”
“What do you mean?” I retorted. “We’ve been hanging out all week!”
We’d spent the past five nights catching up on our favorite TV shows: The Amazing Race, New Girl (please don’t judge) and The Bachelor (okay, judge). I loved hanging out with her—and she did with me, she explained. To her, though, a friendship meant more than watching TV with a buddy. She needed a scuba diver.
When it comes to friendships, I’m a snorkeler—I love to shoot the breeze about light stuff like NBA basketball and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Every so often, I’ll ask a deeper question, diving a bit under the surface. I’ll quickly resurface, though.
My wife is more of a scuba diver. She enjoys grabbing a cup of hot chocolate (in all four seasons) and asking insightful, intimate questions to really get to know how her friend’s doing. She’s got a great tank, able to linger in the depths.
The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV) that love “…is not self-seeking.” Self-seeking me is content to watch AFV blooper vids for hours on end. Yet, being a loving friend to my wife means learning to scuba dive and ask some thought-provoking questions.
So, we set up some simple questions we ask each other to dig below the surface. For example: “What was the best part of your day? What was the worst?”
Turns out, I like hearing about the deeper things on my wife’s heart. For her part, she’s learned to embrace and enjoy my style of lighthearted activities and topics, too. Moving away from a self-seeking love, we’ve found something better.
Feel like your current season of life has you and your spouse acting more like roommates? Listen to this episode of the FamilyLife Blended® podcast.
The Good Stuff: “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” (1 Corinthians 10:24)
Action Points: Next time you have a moment with your spouse, ask the following:
How would you rate our friendship on a scale from 1-10? Why did you choose that number?
What’s something that you would really enjoy doing together this week?
When the Fairy Tale Goes South
Our marriage started with a slight fairy-tale feel. We even left our wedding in a white, horse-drawn carriage.
I began to think our marriage was immune to the problems others faced. It felt like everything we touched sparkled with pixie dust.
Until it didn’t.
And when we did face a serious conflict, I didn’t know where to turn.
Who do you talk to when the fairy tale goes south? We found help in a few places.
A friend who comforts by always agreeing you are right and your spouse is wrong is not the kind of friend you need.
Sometimes you are the one who is wrong. A good friend will help you see that.
The best way for your parents to help you? Relaying their own experiences. The wisdom and experience of emotionally healthy, wise parents with healthy marriages is invaluable. Learn as much from them as you can.
Talking to your pastor doesn’t have to happen only when there is a crisis. Schedule an annual marriage and/or personal checkup with your pastor, and have the courage to get real.
Don’t struggle alone. Attend a marriage event, listen to marriage podcasts, complete a marriage-focused Bible reading plan, or read a marriage book. Learn from those who have been there.
Counseling might cost money. Divorce costs more. And not just financially.
One of the greatest investments you can make in your marriage is prayer. Only God can work to change a heart (yours or your spouse’s). By praying, you are asking the Author of your story for supernatural help—to do what only He can do.
Turns out “happily ever after” usually happens after fighting your way to your one true love. Rather than the end, maybe the horse-drawn carriage is just the beginning.
Wondering if your marriage needs professional help? Read, “Do You Need Counseling?”
The Good Stuff: Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. (Proverbs 19:20)
Action Points: Who do you go to for help? Make a list of three people you could talk to when your marriage (inevitably) sees trials.
Sayonara, Cheez Balls
They landed at the base of the stairs with a satisfying thwap: 11 trash bags, most containing my husband’s clothes.
But I’d felt inspired, too—chucking that sweater shaped like a grocery bag. That skirt for the type of occasions the likes of me never attended. The shirt I was sure I liked, until I really didn’t.
Interestingly, my whole body felt about 11 bags lighter.
God had been rolling us both toward a similar conclusion, see. We believed in personal disciplines like prayer, community, studying the Word.
But more and more, there was one that beckoned: simplicity.
Africa, where we served five years, had folded a jewel in our hands—one we’d been in danger of losing.
Simplicity carries a certain freedom most Westerners (me, included) can’t know. There’s a joy; an undistracted, undivided heart; a gut satisfaction in liberation from excess.
For my husband and me, it’s eliminating life’s Cheez Balls: “junk food” possessions, information, activity, entertainment—generally full of a lot of air and fake stuff that sticks to everything.
It prevents us from acknowledging a hunger for God.
As a couple, that’s meant training our minds and hearts away from our constant appetites and the idea that more equals happiness, comfort, and convenience. (Check out Luke 12:15.)
And as a happy side benefit? We’re closer to each other. When our schedules have wiggle room and we’re more focused on each other, it’s amazing how that creates room for presence. Attraction.
For us, simplicity is slowly manifesting in ways like
- Simpler meals; less wasting of food.
- Not being fooled that activity or screen time is the same as connectedness and presence.
- A little less doing for God, more being with and enjoying God (see Luke 10:38-42).
- Relentless decluttering.
- Waiting before ordering something on Prime.
- Organizing so we don’t buy what we don’t need.
What do you have to lose?
Are finances (and excess) a family issue? Read, “The Cost of Raising a Child: How to Tell Kids, ‘We Can’t Afford That.’”
The Good Stuff: But the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the Word, and it proves unfruitful. (Mark 4:19)
Action Points: What’s one area of your lives and home that feels chaotic, suffocating, or weighed down with excess? Ask God to reveal areas where less could mean much more: less frantic, less cluttered, less entertained, less distracted—leaving more for what matters.
I’m Sorry … Again
By Lisa Lakey
Here we were again. Or, rather, here I was again: wishing I could take back the words I spit at my husband. Words of anger and a hefty amount of snark.
The way I saw it, I had about three options.
A. Laugh and say, “Just kidding. Gotcha!”
B. Pretend I didn’t say what he thought he heard.
C. Say, “I’m sorry.”
Obviously, I chose D, none of the above. Instead of apologizing, I ignored my own wrong behavior (if you still aren’t clear, I should have picked C). In fact, the more I ignored it, the more I justified it in my head (But if only he …).
And the more hurt my husband felt by my sharp tongue and resulting silence.
Saying “I’m sorry” isn’t taking blame for the entire argument. It’s owning the part you played. Proverbs 15:1 reminds me, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Sometimes that soft answer is “I’m sorry.”
From creating far too many situations requiring one, I’ve found an apology works best when I keep to three simple steps.
- Say “I’m sorry,” and mean it.
Mumbling an apology in anger or like a petulant child doesn’t count. In a flash, the person receiving it will pick up on its lack of genuineness. And it only deepens the hurt.
- Say “why.”
This isn’t your moment to let them know why you were angry in the first place. Instead, tell them why you are apologizing. It simply lets them know you see what you did wrong.
- Fix what you can.
What can you offer to rebuild their trust? Often, there’s nothing you can do to fix a situation broken by words.
But you can pray. Ask God to work to repair what cracked.
And ask His help in choosing a better option than I did that day. Doing nothing when you offend is never the right answer.
You know their love language, but do you know your spouse’s “apology language”?
The Good Stuff: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Action Point: What wrong have you done that you owe your spouse an apology for? Ask for their forgiveness, then add a fourth step to above: accept it.
I Thought Our Debt Was His Problem
A few years into marriage, we weren’t living the life we dreamed of.
We both worked full-time jobs, we lived paycheck to paycheck, and we were drowning in debt. I compared our circumstances and what we didn’t have—like a large home and goods that filled it—to other couples we knew.
I believed the lie that we were less than others because we had less than others.
And I blamed my husband for it. I saw the debt as his responsibility, since he was the one who went to college and accrued it.
After many difficult conversations, we agreed on one thing: God’s Word.
Matthew 6:21 reminded me, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
My heart was treasuring the wrong thing. My marriage was more important than anything money could buy. And I had to shift from a “his problem” perspective to an “our problem” perspective. Besides, Jesus didn’t leave me alone in my debt (see 1 Peter 1:18-19).
Through this season of our marriage, I learned three things about money and debt:
- We must be on the same page and working together about money to be debt free.
- We had to live with a debt-free mindset. We agreed to avoid debt at all cost.
- We needed to practice generosity. Being generous, especially with money, is a way to keep one’s heart far from the love of money.
We wish we learned these important values sooner. But when we did learn and apply them, the Lord took this contentious part of our marriage and transformed it.
Don’t let money be a source of his and hers division in your marriage. Instead, let it be a reason that unites you, together against the problem.
Read more on “Money Management for the Christian Family.”
The Good Stuff: The borrower is the slave of the lender. (Proverbs 22:7)
Action Points: What money issue do you and your spouse most often disagree on? Sit down and discuss how you can work together to turn this into a moment of unity.
How Do I Find a Healthy Balance Between Work and Family?
My wife and I love a good House Hunters episode on HGTV. It’s all about the granite countertops, home-theater rooms, his and hers closets, and the pool.
But as a family counselor, I assure you the most stately homes often harbor loneliness and heartache. More stuff means more bills. And more bills require more work.
Yet it’s not the size of the closets or the number of cars that determine our quality of life. It’s the time spent building relationships and investing in the things that matter most.
I was one of those who didn’t always have my priorities in order.
Far too often, I allowed the needs and issues of other people to dictate my time—to the detriment of my own family. But some intentional choices on my part could have proven helpful to my relationships with the ones I love most.
Here are a few tips for anyone trying to achieve healthy work/life balance:
Control your calendar. Don’t let it control you.
Prioritize your spouse and kids. That means putting their names on your calendar every single week.
They deserve your best. Not your leftovers.
Understand the difference between wants and needs.
You might want the big house, the new car, the fancy vacation that Facebook friend just posted about. But among other concerning aspects of this being a driving goal (see Colossians 3:1-3 for starters), if getting that means going into debt, then it’s probably not a choice that’s going to serve you well in the long run.
Focus on what matters most.
Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” These words of Jesus refer specifically to the importance of discerning between what is temporary and what is eternal.
Constantly reevaluate your life work/life balance.
Our priorities change with each season of life, and that’s OK. Keep evaluating your life and making choices consistent with your “important things,” and know God will help you figure it out.
It’s easy to get distracted. Read “4 Ways to Prioritize Your Spouse Above Your Schedule.”
The Good Stuff: Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
Action Points: Take some time to honestly evaluate your work/life balance this week. What changes can you make to give your family a larger portion of your focus?
Walking Through the Wilderness
By Gayla Grace
I’ll never forget the phone call that changed our family forever. “She just passed away,” my husband said. “The kids were with her.”
My mind wandered to my 14-year-old stepson and 19-year-old stepdaughter. How unfair for them to now face life without their beloved mom.
After nine years of marriage, our stepfamily relationships were in a better place. Relationships were finally coming together, and I was looking forward to the years ahead. What I didn’t know then was the wilderness season our marriage would endure after that devastating loss.
Emotions ran high, and we didn’t easily agree on answers to our struggles. The needs of our marriage sidelined as we agonized over how to navigate the road ahead. When we realized our marriage needed attention, it wasn’t a quick fix.
Your wilderness may look different than ours. Maybe it involves a prodigal child, a broken marital vow, a stepchild who doesn’t want to be part of the family. Regardless, you don’t have to stay stuck wandering in the wilderness.
We watch Peter take a risk as he steps out of the boat and tries to walk on water (Matthew 14:30-31). He takes His eyes off Jesus and fear takes over. “Lord, save me!” he yells as he begins to sink. Jesus immediately stretches out His hand to catch him.
Ask God for courage. You’re not alone … But you have to make a move.
- Ask for forgiveness.
- Get help resolving conflict in your marriage.
- Take a hard look at your role in an unhealthy cycle.
- Tame your tongue and commit to offer grace more freely.
Wilderness seasons are likely for any marriage. But a resurrected marriage is possible. Ask for God’s power and grace to move you toward reconciliation.
Not every marriage or family has the same dynamics. So how do you embrace the differences?
The Good Stuff: Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)
Action Points: Lately, have you felt like you’re walking in the wilderness alone? Look at the bullet points in today’s devotion. What steps do you need to take to start walking alongside your spouse and face the challenges of life together?
Then I Heard a Thump. And Not the Good Kind.
My house snuggles up to the mountains. And wildlife makes this place interesting.
My husband treed a bear once when he pulled home from work. While garage-saling, I once saw one crossing the street, cubs in tow.
The deer are less fascinating. Nearly every day a six-point buck wanders through my yard. They consume my pumpkins in the fall, antlers clacking against the front door.
We can spot the summer tourists because their cars slow, cell phones held aloft through the windows—the equivalent, to me, of photographing squirrels.
The deer overpopulation has become a nuisance, traffic accidents escalating as they traipse across the road.
We all know what a deer in the headlights does, right? Where should I go? What should I do? (Thump.)
It can be the equivalent of a cell phone in marriage. (Work with me, here.)
There are so many bright, shiny, doggone distracting things on there.
American adults touch their cell phones an average of 2,500 times daily.* Many refer to them in terms of addiction—to the point of causing (wait for it) traffic accidents.
But what if your spouse gets the idea your phone is more compelling than they are?
What if your budget’s slaughtered by Candy Crush? What if you’re playing Minecraft, and your spouse decides it’s not worth the wait to talk about the day together?
What if you could be present with your spouse, and instead, you’re present with one of 13 notifications?
The vanishing gift of attention is one our spouses will not get until we mean it, decide on it.
It is culturally subversive to be all there with people. But it’s one of the most precious gifts you could hand your spouse: Eliminating the deer-in-the-headlights, destructive distraction.
Give your spouse the gift of undivided presence. Let’s stick our attention in the places it deserves.
How do you engage an unresponsive spouse?
The Good Stuff: Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)
Give your spouse 10 minutes of undivided attention this week. (The average American spends 325 hours monthly on media consumption.** We can start with 10 minutes, right?) Work to communicate more presence with your spouse than with your device.
You’ve heard of a weight-loss plan. Develop a screen-loss plan—complete with goals, rewards, and consequences.
Sex Education Class Now In Session!
My 5-year-old granddaughter made my day when she recently inquired, “Nani, when are you going to make gumbo again?” Even at her young age, she appreciates the tasty dishes I enjoy cooking up.
Funny thing is, when I was first married, I burned a pot of tomato soup.
But after that disaster, I decided it was time to learn from the best (my mom and mother-in-law).
Maybe you’re a master in the kitchen. Or maybe your culinary skills range from nuking frozen dinners to ordering gourmet take out. And that’s okay!
But here’s food for thought: Are you and your spouse cooking up great sex?
Much like with cooking, my husband and I discovered that the best way to master this art is to learn from the best: Each other.
It’s true: The best way to improve your sex life is to become a student of your spouse—the only one who knows the perfect ingredients and techniques to a five-star experience for him or her in the bedroom.
This doesn’t just improve your reviews. God cares about it, too. He created sex as a means for unity (see Genesis 2:24), intimacy (see Ezekiel 16:8), procreation (see Genesis 1:27-38), and of serving each other (see 1 Corinthians 7:3-4).
But He also created sex for enjoyment and pleasure in marriage: “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love” (Proverbs 5:18-19).
Like that new chef learning curve, being good students of each other requires patience, gentle honesty, a lot of practice, praise, and tender instruction. Tell each other lovingly, “I like it when you do this …” “Do more of …” “It feels really good when you …” Or “Let’s try this …” And even, “Let’s do less of that.”
Above all, be creative and have fun! Enjoy each other, serve each other (see Philippians 2:3-4). And together, cook up the best sex ever.
Here are 10 surprisingly effective ways to improve your sex life.
The Good Stuff: “How beautiful and pleasant you are, O loved one, with all your delights! Your stature is like a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters. I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its fruit. Oh may your breasts be like clusters of the vine, and the scent of your breath like apples, and your mouth like the best wine. It goes down smoothly for my beloved, gliding over lips and teeth. I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me” (Song of Solomon 7:6-12).
Action Points: Start the conversation to spice up your sex life. Keep it fun, light, and positive. (No criticism allowed.) Ask each other: What are some ways in which I can better serve you in the area of sex?
When you respond to each other, start with affirming him or her (Philippians 2:3-4). Share what you’ve enjoyed most, what you’d like to do more of, and what you’d like to try. Keep the conversation going by occasionally revisiting the topic. And remember, it’s about learning and growing in an area that will bless your marriage, and is important to God.
How Can I Break a Porn Addiction?
My first exposure to pornography was in sixth grade. And I still remember it 35 years later.
Can you remember your first exposure?
As a conference speaker and pastoral counselor, I’ve asked that question hundreds of times. Everyone has an answer. Many confess they’ve struggled to break the habit for years.
If you or someone you know is struggling with pornography, here are some ways to begin breaking the addiction.
Admit your problem
Even if you felt remorse over your past use of porn, you’ve also likely struggled with a slew of internal justifications: “I’m not hurting anyone.” Or “I’m not really cheating.”
In Jesus’ eyes there is no distinction between lust and adultery (See Matthew 5:27-28). You are hurting someone—your spouse and yourself. And yes, you are cheating. Confess your problem to God and another trusted believer.
Understand your longings
Porn provides more than sexual stimulation. It can be used as stress management or to help you feel wanted, desirable, or in control.
To beat a porn addiction, you must understand the “benefit” porn provides you beyond the sexual fix. Deep down, there is a need that must be understood and brought to Christ.
Cancel your online-streaming services. Install blockers on your phone and computer. Give a trusted friend the password to your phone and the right to check it at random times. Or go old school and buy a flip phone.
Take whatever steps necessary to give yourself the best chance of success in the future.
Shame often keeps us from receiving the help we need. But it shouldn’t.
Talk to a pastor, counselor, or another believer who can give you the support you need when you are at your weakest.
If you find yourself struggling to break free from addiction, take heart. God’s love for you is not dependent upon your ability. He understands your struggle.
And He will help you. Victory is possible.
For more help, read “How Can I Break a Porn Addiction?”
The Good Stuff: No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Action Points: Does today’s devotion resonate with your own struggles? Take a moment to pray now. Ask God’s help in finding the strength to overcome the battle within you.
Don’t Mix This One Up
By Ben McGuire
My dad coached almost every team I played on. But baseball was my main sport.
As a dad-coach, he had to live within the tension of wanting his son to do well and still know how proud he was (like the time I hit my first homerun). He also had to correct my mistakes, sit me on the bench, motivate me, and put his arm around me when I failed. Like when I blew the lead as a pitcher and we lost.
I needed both in my life: coach to develop me, cheerleader to encourage me—but in the proper measures and ways.
Now as a spouse, I have to play both those roles and determine which is needed.
The Apostle Paul talks about this kind of discernment. “We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
“Idle” is elsewhere translated as “unruly” (NASB, KJV) or “lazy” (NLT). In other words, Paul is identifying those willfully neglecting responsibilities—an issue we all struggle with.
You or your spouse will sometimes be idle and need to be admonished, or be fainthearted and need to be encouraged. But it would be unwise to admonish the fainthearted or help the idle.
Admonishing your spouse may be uncomfortable, especially if they resist for the wrong reasons.
Encouraging them may feel unnatural, especially if you have a hard time expressing your feelings.
There are times when my wife has to help me see that what I need most is a coach, not a cheerleader. There are times when fear and apathy hold me back from stepping in to help or encourage her.
Knowing when to be a coach and when to be a cheerleader takes wisdom, sometimes courage, and above all, patience and love.
Learn how to both encourage and challenge your husband in his two biggest fears.
The Good Stuff: And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
Consider how you can more wisely come alongside your spouse to appropriately admonish, encourage, and help. Ask for forgiveness for the ways you have been unwise or hurtful. Pray for love and patience toward your spouse.
Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired
By Lisa Lakey
We were sick and tired. Figuratively and literally.
Flu-ridden and homebound months after our wedding, I was questioning whether our marriage would make it after all.
We glared at each other over the hem of our tissue-strewn blankets and said little to each other after accusations over who drank the remaining orange juice and chose the last movie.
Our demise was close, but we persevered. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, sickness sucks the fondness right out.
Neither one of us could care for ourselves, let alone each other. So instead of sympathy and love, our words were filled with contempt, and later … regret.
Sickness is no time to battle it out with your love. When you don’t feel well, emotions run high and anger triumphs over common sense.
So if one or both of you is under the weather, let me offer a few tips from my failure:
- Rest. A lot. Sickness makes us tired. Being tired makes us cranky.
- Count to 10 before responding. Calm those nerves so you don’t lash out.
- Don’t argue about orange juice. It’s not worth it.
- Take a break. Take a nap in the spare bedroom, read a book in the tub. When we feel confined from sickness, we need a little break from other people.
- Say “thank you.” Even if your spouse does something minor, make sure to show appreciation.
- Help where you can. If you are both sick, grab an extra juice when you head to the fridge. Even if they don’t say so, your spouse likely appreciates it.
It’s the trying times that show what we’re made of.
No, not the viruses in our bloodstreams, but the fruit at our core—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Even when you’re sick. Cough, cough.
Vows are more than just words said at your wedding. Read “I Still Do … Every Day.”
The Good Stuff: If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:25-26)
Action Points: Reading over the “fruit of the Spirit” listed at the end of this devotion, which one is hardest for you to show in regards to your spouse? How can you prepare yourself to respond to them in the Spirit when you least feel like it?
The Foreign Country Behind Your Front Door
In college, I was a woman on a mission.
I gobbled up every Spanish course offered, which was perfect for my cross-cultural services minor. I entertained mental images of doling out rice to refugees. Chapel speakers prodded logs of a fire already lighting up my eyes—to live a big life for God.
But something confusing happened: I fell in love.
The guy was a superb match to my ferocity for life. He preferred authenticity to appearance, being with God before doing for God.
But when I squealed yes to marrying him, I didn’t see how bewildering the six months before the big day would be.
Because he didn’t see himself going overseas.
My internal war of wondering if I was a sellout is a devotion for another day.
It took me 10 years—and a life in suburbia complete with a picket fence, dog, and four rowdy kids—to realize something. Part of my desire to live a big life for God was my desire to feel significant. I wanted a special life that meant something.
That was a critical decade for a truly missional life—a missional marriage. Because no matter what ZIP code God stuck us in, our lives were His to use.
That meant my spouse wasn’t the enemy of my call. He was integral to it.
As columnist Andree Peterson puts it, “I figure if the King tells you to conquer the hinterlands one day and tells you to shoe his horse the next day, you should do them both without slacking. He is the King.”
When Paul says, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 3:14), it’s about the prior verses (10-13): knowing Jesus, His sufferings,His resurrection.
It’s not about a job description or place.
Living missionally, a life poured out for God?
It starts at your front door, with the spouse God has given you. With those squirrely kids who probably smell like they need a change. And from there, to your own neighborhood, country, and the world.
Could your marriage be a mission? Listen to this episode of FamilyLife Today®.
The good stuff: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
- What menial tasks (“horse shoeing”) might God be asking of you in your own home, away from glory, appreciation, or a sense of significance?
- If you enjoy a healthy marriage, what’s one missional next step beyond your own home?
Thank You, Apollo 13. I’ll Try Again.
By Ed Uszynski
“I hate trying to lead this family.”
That’s an exact quote to my wife, Amy, as she chased me down while I was fleeing to the garage.
I’m not even a “find peace in my garage” kind of guy. But at that moment, I would’ve taken anywhere away from my wife and four kids.
My latest attempt to lead, suggesting Bible time as a family, received the usual eye rolls, slumped bodies, and complaints accompanying every other try.
So I stormed out, a reaction I’m guessing impressed even the 9-year-old. I wouldn’t know for sure. I was headed to the garage.
When I finally got there, I started constructing my argument to God. He’d need someone else to nurture the spiritual life of the crew inside.
Then, out of nowhere, I heard Gene Krantz from Apollo 13 in my head: “Failure is not an option.” (Sometimes God uses Isaiah. Sometimes He uses a donkey. Sometimes He uses Gene Krantz.)
Failure’s not an option because no one else is called to be the husband and father in this house. It’s on me. There’s no bull pen for relief. The ball is in my hands.
And sometimes I hate that—resent it even—but I can’t run from it. I need to just keep pitching.
Leave the balls and strikes to God. You just keep throwing.
God isn’t measuring me by their response. He’s measuring me by mine.
To keep trying. To show up repeatedly in the power of the Holy Spirit, as Cru founder Bill Bright used to say, and leave the results to God.
So I headed back inside to try again. “Bible Project video anyone?” “Can I tell you how I met Jesus?” “Chapter of Proverbs a day to keep the devil away?”
When I’m in my right mind, it’s actually a great privilege. I just don’t like the feelings of rejection and failure that often come along with it.
Need some ideas? Read “25 Ways to Spiritually Lead Your Family.”
The Good Stuff: Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:2-3)
Action Points: What do you find habitually discouraging about attempts to lead your family toward Jesus? How do you think God responds to your disappointment or frustration? What do you think it looks like to just be faithful today?
I Don’t Love Him Anymore
Several years ago, I found myself in a bad season. I was struggling in my marriage and frustrated with life. A dark cloud shadowed my heart.
And I no longer felt anything for my husband. A constant thought in my mind terrified me: I don’t love him anymore.
My mind wandered down some dark trails. Would I be happier with someone else? … I knew we’d end up this way.
Should we even stay together?
I’m married to a man in full-time ministry. I work part time for our church, and we speak at marriage conferences. Talk about feeling like a hypocrite!
But over the years, I’ve found relationships are a lot like the seasons. They change.
We enter our marriages in springtime—everything fresh, green, blooming. Then reality and life bring on the other seasons.
All marriages experience it. The challenging part is learning how to get through the chilly seasons. And it isn’t as easy as booking a beach vacation.
Love is so much more than a feeling. It’s a promise, a vow, and a covenant.
If you’re thinking what I thought—I don’t love him anymore—you’re not alone. There’s hope! Here are some practical ways to move forward:
Tell your spouse how you are feeling. Make sure to include what you want to feel!
Discuss what you believe has caused this disconnect—stress, work, family issues, unresolved hurt. Communicate these things. Find a counselor to walk you through healing.
Pray for each other and your marriage. Praying together out loud has the amazing ability to draw you closer not just to God, but to each other. Pray specifically about your feelings and ask God to renew your heart.
God answered my prayer. It was worth living through the long, cold winter to see a new, refreshed spring in our marriage. I know now this doesn’t mean our marriage won’t ever go through hard seasons again.
But next time, I’ll have my coat, scarf, and mittens ready!
What do you do if you find yourselves drifting apart?
The good stuff: Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)
Action points: If you feel you’ve lost all feelings for your spouse, find a trusted friend (of the same sex as you), pastor, or counselor to open up to. After praying, approach your spouse about what is going on inside of you. And fully express your desire to change it.
My Spouse Is in Chronic Pain (Part I)
She’d been perfectly healthy.
But quick as a gunshot, my bride began experiencing an incessant, peculiar, unrelievable pain.
Shin shocks, nerve flares, agonizing flurries in her spine, spinning in her head, aching in her stomach. All the time.
Her constant refrain: “This is so overwhelming.”
Only a year in, the pain has been unrelenting.
A dozen doctors (at least), a hundred types of supplements (at least), a thousand tears (at least), a million questions, doubts, and false hopes of sure-fire remedies (at least).
From John the Baptist to Elijah to Jesus Himself in Gethsemane, we know that even for the most mature disciple of Jesus, life gets dark.
As I asked my wife to reflect on her new normal, here’s the steel God has formed in her soul:
However confusing, agonizing, and potentially depressing the day is, ask Jesus to reveal the task He has for you today. You matter to Him, to your family, and to this Kingdom. He is a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). For my wife, this task is often keeping a raw and honest journal—and watching our three boys.
She has to be okay with a smaller to-do list. Laundry? Nope. Kids happy in bed? Yup. OK, good day.
To well-intended people, she has to advocate for herself as a valued image-bearer of God. She’s not crazy. She doesn’t just need an aspirin, a nap, or the right smoothie.
And since it’s not un-Christian to tend to yourself, I love to see her make healthy food choices, exercise regularly, take nightly detox baths, and snag her favorite tea from Starbucks.
Scripture anchors her to what’s true when gales of fear sweep in. She’s found that her mind could morph into a battlefield of chronic fear and stress. I like when she asks me to do dishes so she can memorize another verse of Isaiah 43 (her current project).
Although every morning she and I wake to unknowns, we also wake knowing God has provided us new mercies. That God has provided us with Himself.
Marriage is rarely what we expect. Read one man’s story of life after his wife’s stroke
The Good Stuff: But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside. (Job 23:10-11)
Action Points: What’s one way you can, together, form a healthy self-care plan for the spouse in pain? What anchoring Scriptures could you memorize together? What expectations need to be re-evaluated in your new normal?
My Spouse is in Chronic Pain (Part II)
A long road awaits with my wife’s unrelenting pain. For both of us.
Marriage is a sack race. As one flesh, we’re in this together, even though it’s my spouse who physically suffers.
We’ve got more to learn. But here’s what we’ve gathered.
- Fight on your spouse’s behalf.
Your spouse did not choose to be sick. It’s easy for them to feel burdensome, with downward-spiraling guilt aimed toward the pit.
Give your spouse safety to be sick. Believe his or her pain. Financially, prioritize treatment options.
- Offer next-level service.
Without being asked, aim to serve strategically, in the tasks that trigger anxiety or worthlessness.
- Communicate wisely.
Whether listening, offering counsel, simply crying with them, tactfully changing the subject, or “talking them down” because they’re all up in their head, pray for wisdom.
Be God’s presence to your spouse.
- Remember: Our suffering makes us more like Jesus.
When my wife hits another dead-end diagnosis, or abominable pain roars, she is sharing in Jesus’ suffering, in His death to Himself (1 Peter 4:13). And not just that: She is sharing in His glory, His resurrection (2 Corinthians 4:10, Philippians 3:10).
She is becoming more like Him. Swords are forged by heat and hammers. Gold turns bright as it’s purified by fire.
My wife’s capacity for life’s demands has expanded. Her gratitude for what most of us call normal and take for granted has multiplied. Her Jesus-dependence has deepened.
No matter what that dark path in front of you looks like—I find it’s less about the path, and more Who you’re walking with.
For more on suffering, read “7 Truths to Remember in Troubled Times.”
The Good Stuff: And if [we are] children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:17)
Action Points: Reflect together: How have you changed amidst your pain? What’s one kink you would each like to work out as you learn the dance of this new normal?
Rocky Balboa Was on to Something
In the original Rocky, starring Sylvester Stallone, Paulie—trying to see the connection between Rocky and his sister, Adrian—asks “What’s the attraction?”
“I dunno,” Rocky replies. “She’s got gaps, I got gaps, together we fill gaps.”
We all have gaps. And amazingly, most couples tend to complement each other. Where one is weak, the other is strong.
For instance, I‘m an impulsive shopper. My husband is a saver. He tends to be impatient. I’m just the opposite. We fill each other’s gaps.
But there are some gaps in marriage only God can fill.
As flawed humans, we sometimes ignore our spouse’s need for attention, because we’re “too busy” or “too tired.” We can’t resist pointing out that annoying habit of theirs, yet again. And occasionally, we’ll even remind them how much we do in comparison or bring up a past hurt we claimed to have forgiven.
Yet God calls us to put our spouse’s needs above our own (Philippians 2:3-4) and to never keep score (1 Corinthians 13:5).
The good news is He not only knows what our gaps are, He has the ability to fill them.
The Bible includes many examples of men and women who felt inadequate when called by God to a specific task or responsibility. Yet in all these cases, God used these people mightily through their dependence on His ability. Not their own.
When I think of my own gaps—such as my task-oriented bent that can discourage my relational husband—I’m reminded of God’s promises to fill those gaps. Like the one in 2 Corinthians 9:8: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
Just as He was with Moses, David, Joshua, Esther, and many others, He’s with us in marriage—providing for us, equipping us, and enabling us to go the distance (see Isaiah 41:10).
If the gaps in your marriage are feeling particularly spacious, listen to Greg Smalley talk about loneliness in marriage on this episode of FamilyLife Today®.
The Good Stuff: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Action Points: Take a few minutes to pray together. Thank God that He is with you, that He will strengthen you, and help you build a loving, lasting marriage. Ask Him to fill your gaps as a husband, as a wife, and as a couple. And pray you will consistently rely on His power and abilities and not on your own.
I read last year there were five medical dramas on the big four TV networks alone. Makes sense. Hospitals feel so … dramatic. Everyone rushing around! Everything life or death! Tears and blood all over the place!
Even I, who (true story) nearly fainted from a clearly painted-on black eye in a college play, love the gravitas hovering over a human body. As long as I’m not, y’know, eating a salad or something.
Any veteran watcher of medical dramas will tell the onscreen doctor that, should you find yourself in the middle of surgery, and a pool of (fake) blood begins rising in the (fake) body cavity, you need to find the bleeder, STAT. Or your fake-patient is going to fake-die.
It happened on the drama I was watching last night: The doctor himself actually died from his own internal bleeding. (Shouldn’t he have seen this one coming?)
Then again, when I look at marriage, it seems an environment ripe for internal bleeding. (Metaphorically speaking only, of course.) Real life doesn’t leave us unscathed.
I’m not talking about self-healing injuries in a healthy relationship: the argument where you need to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11). The hangnail of irritation—his constant over-talking, her forgetting to unload the dishwasher again.
I’m talking issues that keep causing damage: Her lack of organization in finances or doing what she said she would, which means he can’t trust her. Abuse from a past that she never speaks of. The breach of trust when you first married. The way he treats her stepkids.
Lesson from Medical Drama Land, and very real life: You must locate the bleeders in your marriage and actively address them (tips in today’s further reading).
They’re leaching life from your relationship. And the consequences might be more dire than you’d imagine.
Struggling to face the ongoing conflict in your marriage? Read on for six steps.
The Good Stuff: Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16)
Action Points: What’s one below-the-surface issue, current or past, “internally bleeding” in your relationship? Make a doable plan to actively, tenderly, and firmly address your bleeder. Stick to your plan.
Something Worth Celebrating
By Lisa Lakey
When my husband and I were dating, we celebrated all the little things: monthiversaries, the anniversary of our first everything—dates, kisses …
But over time, we left those things behind. Which in some ways, is a good thing. What do you get a guy for your 211th monthiversary anyway? I wonder if Emily Post had protocol for that.
And those little things that seemed so big early on? They pale in comparison to what we’ve experienced over the past 18 years—both the highs and lows.
Yet … I sometimes miss those little things—the celebrations of every happy moment shared together.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not wishing to bring back monthiversaries (seriously, who has the time?). But lately, I’ve been trying to not miss the little moments we’re given, because I know each happy moment with my husband is a gift from God.
In Isaiah 65, God tells His people they should be celebrating, happy for everything God has provided. Instead? The Israelites grumble and complain.
He commands them, “But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness” (verse 18).
So, in addition to my husband’s and my annual September shindig, I’m looking for other reasons to celebrate.
Like when he comes home from work early, we can celebrate with an afternoon coffee break. Or when one of us has a great day at work, that’s worth a dinner out (or dessert after the kids are in bed). Hey, I might even start celebrating half birthdays.
Looking for a reason to celebrate your spouse? Here are a few days coming up to put on the calendar:
Say Something Nice Day—June 1
Love Is Kind Day—July 27
Sleep Under the Stars Day—August 8
Kiss and Make Up Day—August 25
Does enjoying the simple things in life honor God? Listen to this episode of FamilyLife Today®.
The Good Stuff: But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. (Isaiah 65:18)
Action Points: What can you celebrate with your spouse this week? Plan a mini-celebration (no streamers needed, but cake never hurts) to enjoy the moment together.
When a Season Becomes the Standard
I grew up on a farm in the midwest, fields of soybeans and corn stretching out flat as a felted pool table. My father worked long hours on our farm, but as the sun finally gave up and sank into night, my dad was there at dinner, and then wrestling with us after.
The only exceptions were harvest and planting time. We all knew that with the capricious nature of rain and frost, good weather could not be wasted. During harvest, Dad might not get in until I was sleeping. During planting season, he might not make it to my spring choir concert.
But harvest wouldn’t have been a sustainable pace for my dad or my parents’ marriage or for our family. Even if harvest had brought in twice the cash, the cost wouldn’t have justified the ongoing exhaustion, the price we paid in everything that wasn’t money.
Unfortunately, the norm for a lot of families now is that of max capacity—where harvest season, so to speak, has become the norm. One of the greatest obstacles to any marriage isn’t just the usual suspects, but the actual lack of white space for us to breathe, rest, savor, and simply be, both as individuals and as a couple.
We work just a little longer, have the kids in a couple more activities, volunteer for one more project at church … and fall into bed only to do it all over again. We have become experts at hustling and frantic accomplishment. But our relationships and our hearts bear the results of malnutrition.
What if the goal of life and love wasn’t to do as much as we can?
Delighting in one another, nurturing one another, knowledge of one another—these take luxurious amounts of time. How could our marriages fill out if they weren’t always living on scraps?
There are seasons when all of us have to pull out the stops to make life happen. But frenetic must be the exception—the unique season—rather than the rule.
What do you do when life’s circumstances feel hopeless?
The Good Stuff: For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Action Points: What’s one thing for which you need the wisdom and courage to say “no,” in order for your family and marriage to get the right “yeses”?
Money Is a Spiritual Issue
By Doug Grimes
In many marriages, one spouse is a saver and the other is a spender. Unfortunately, Susan and I entered marriage as two spenders.
And it doesn’t take an accounting degree to figure out the problems we faced. Let’s just say that our spending habits did not lead to peace or contentment.
I still remember the frustration and shame I felt when we spent more than we had in our checking account and faced mounting overdraft fees. We were angry and disappointed—in ourselves and at each other.
We knew we needed to do something. Our first step was a 12-week course on biblical financial principles. But the first lesson wasn’t learning to budget.
Rather, we learned to go deeper to the heart level and understand God’s perspective on money.
Matthew 6:24 tells us we cannot serve two masters—God and money. Simply put, our perspective of money is a spiritual issue. How you handle your money exposes your priorities, and where you find happiness and peace.
If you had asked us early in our marriage what emotions we experienced when the subject of finances was brought up, fear and frustration would have been at the top of the list.
Yet after years of moving in a God-honoring direction, we would now be able to say peace and contentment. And that also applies to our marriage.
One of the biggest reasons financial troubles lead to divorce is that couples are too scared or embarrassed to talk about it with each other. Communicating about finances means talking about mistakes and poor choices.
But it also means forgiving each other for poor choices.
Give this area of your lives over to God, and trust Him to help you handle your finances wisely. Peace and contentment are waiting for you.
Not sure how to start that conversation? Read “10 Principles for Talking With Your Spouse About Money.”
The Good Stuff: No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despite the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24)
Action Points: How have money and possessions competed with your spiritual life? Confess any poor attitudes about money to God. Then ask for wisdom and courage to make the necessary adjustments.
Quick Tips to Boost Your Spouse’s Confidence in the Bedroom
Maybe you’ve found yourself in that place where you’re wishing sex in your marriage was … better. Or closer. Or just more o-f-t-e-n, for Pete’s sake.
Just to be clear, if you try to manipulate your spouse into more sex, that’s kind of aside from the whole point. Sex isn’t your end game here.
Sex is an expression of your love and togetherness, your plural-ness.
Better sex starts in your own heart.
Talk to God about your sex life. (Kid you not. He made it.) In what ways could you be failing to love your spouse above yourself? What can God show you about the whys behind your spouse’s reticence?
If the issue is confidence—stemming from body image, passivity, timidity? A few tips to get you started.
- Praise your lover.
Get verbal about what works and what you love. Song of Solomon is chock-full of This is what I love that you do. This is what I love about how you look. Get specific in your appreciation.
But don’t overpraise, which becomes unbelievable (Okay, I know I’m not the most beautiful woman in the world). Don’t fake anything, praise included. Keep your marriage “naked and unashamed” (Genesis 2:25).
- Move toward honest communication.
Start by asking a question. Can I move your hand a little? Would you try this?
Honesty can seem vulnerable, even opposite to safety. But make your bedroom—and your marriage—a place where you’ve got enough trust to be yourself rather than a pretend version.
- Keep the lights on.
So many of us struggle to silence messages fueling body hatred. (Porn furthers this message.) We think we should hide.
This might require prayer as you both reprogram your brains to contentment and gratitude for this God-given body that does so much for your family.
- Let the non-dominant partner lead.
Learn to love this partner’s expression, courage, creativity, and pleasure.
Like learning a dance, expect stepped-on toes and awkward laughs. But soon, expect something beautiful.
What are your “sexpectations”?
The Good Stuff: Draw me after you; let us run. The king has brought me into his chambers. We will exult and rejoice in you; we will extol your love more than wine; rightly do they love you. (Song of Solomon 1:4)
Action Points: Create a safe environment to talk by first demonstrating your affection non-sexually (maybe a foot rub, a long chat, and expressed affection), then getting vulnerable about your own fears or sexuality.
Then ask, “What could I do to be a better lover for you and make our bedroom a better place for you? I would love to know.”
I’m Blocking You!
I like to talk. And talk, and talk.
Endless ideas pop into my head between four and seven every morning. My mind is like a factory of innovation prior to sunrise.
But idea-sharing with my husband before work can go south in a hurry. And he’s not the only one wanting to block me out.
Neither the kids nor their dad have time to ingest and implement all of mom’s “great ideas” before choking down a breakfast sandwich.
So how do we find a family rhythm that works? I’m learning to change my approach and pursue something other than my standard conversation script.
- Focus on only one or two ideas at a time. Be mindful of the clock.
- Be realistic about expectations.
- Resist becoming defensive. Avoid emotional detours.
- Seek common ground.
- Agree to revisit the conversation.
Have you ever read the Old Testament book of Hosea? It’s a heavy book. God guided Hosea to do hard things for a bride who did not deserve it—and coincidentally, was blocking him out.
God deals with us as individuals with a heart for restoration because He knows us. So it makes sense that we also seek to understand how our spouse best takes part in conversations so we can tailor our approach to them; that way, our relationship remains connected and responsive.
Need help finding common ground? Check out the FamilyLIfeToday® podcast “The Common Ground of the Cross.”
The Good Stuff: Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth. Hosea 6:3
Action Points: Commit to better learn your spouse. Where do they seem down? Where do they seem up? Ask God to increase your awareness and your commitment to lovingly follow through when conversing.
Keeping Your Marriage a Priority (Part I)
“It feels like he’s cheating on me, right in front of my face!”
These were the words of a young wife who had become frustrated with her husband’s gaming habit. “He seems to enjoy playing video games with his friends more than spending time with me.”
She believed his hobby was taking her place as his top priority and felt they were drifting apart.
I remember when my husband felt this way. I was working full time, serving in the church every time the doors opened, attending to the needs of our four little girls, and writing late into the night. It seemed I barely had time for him, for our marriage.
I didn’t realize my marriage was suffering or that my husband felt neglected until he shared his feelings and asked, “When are you going to make time for me … for us?”
Like that wife, my husband had become jealous. He felt like I had allowed other things in my life to take his place.
I discovered this kind of jealousy isn’t negative, it’s natural. The Bible says God is jealous when we allow something in our lives to take priority over Him in Exodus 34:14: “… (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God).”
Our spouse, who is our number one priority in marriage (see Genesis 2:24), can experience that same type of jealousy at times.
Sure life can get a bit hectic with many things, even good things vying for our attention. But we can still make sure that the priority of our marriage doesn’t get lost.
We can find ways—like spending time with her before gaming with friends, or cutting back on time spent serving others to lavish attention on him—that communicate, “You are my number one. Nothing is more important than our marriage.”
Are you married and lonely? Or feeling like you and your spouse are drifting apart?
The Good Stuff: “Let marriage be held in honor among all.” (Hebrews 13:4)
Action Points: What would you guess is the main priority stealing attention from your marriage? What are some things you can do differently in your daily life and routine to keep the priority of your marriage from getting lost? Or to regain it as your top priority, and communicate to your spouse that he or she is your number one?
Keeping Your Marriage a Priority Part 2
“When are you going to make time for me … for us?”
Yesterday, I talked about how my husband felt other things in my life took his place, our place.
As you work together to keep your marriage a priority, here are seven ideas to help—with links to (mostly) free resources making it oh-so-easy.
- Pray together daily. It was awkward at first, but we stuck with it and found praying together helps our relationship with God and each other grow deeper and stronger. Get started with a 30-day couples prayer guide.
- Grow together spiritually. Reading the Bible together before bed continues to produce fruit in our relationship—like patience, kindness, and faithfulness. Other fun ways? Join a couples Bible study or read a couples devotional.
- Have meaningful conversations. We’ve watched our friendship strengthen and grow over the years simply by talking. Set aside a few minutes each evening to connect through conversation. Here are 30 conversation starters to get you going!
- Serve each other. Thoughtful gestures like waking me with breakfast in bed, or surprising me with a soothing bath on days I need to unwind, speak value to me as Aubrey’s wife. Remember, it’s the little things that often mean the most. Here are some ideas for husbands and for wives!
- Develop common interests. My husband and I love road-tripping, trying new restaurants, and binge-watching Netflix. We also enjoy mentoring younger couples. What are one or two things you could enjoy together? Check out this Q&A to learn how common interests can deepen your relationship.
- Fan the flames of romance. Maybe your marriage could use a little help keeping the fire burning. Here are 10 surprising ways to increase romance and keep your relationship exciting!
- Have sex regularly. Your relationship will be stronger, healthier, and more closely connected if you do! Find out why sex matters in marriage.
Find creative ways to make your marriage your number one priority. One, two, three … Go!
Find out why it’s important to get away with your spouse.
The Good Stuff: And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)
Action Points: Talk about the seven ideas listed above. Which ideas can you put into action this week? What are some of your own ideas that you can come up with together to add to the list? For this kind of list, there’s no such thing as too many ideas!
The Full Martha
By Andy Allan
Sometimes I have to say stupid stuff out loud to hear how crazy I am.
“I feel like I’m the only one doing anything around here,” I said to my wife. My pregnant wife.
The moment I’d said it, I wanted to take it all back. I stood there wearing clothes she’d cleaned and folded, standing on the living room rug she’d vacuumed—all done during the third trimester.
Imagine saying something like that, but to Jesus Himself.
“Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Martha scolded—scolded!—the Savior of the world (Luke 10:40 NIV).
I’m actually grateful Martha spoke up. I’m not the only one who’s struggled with feeling unappreciated. Jesus responds to her by showing He understands her issues and invites her to reconsider her priorities. “You are worried and upset about many things,” Jesus chides, “but few things are needed—or indeed only one” (see verses 42-42).
Trying to work for her Lord, Martha missed out on connecting with Him.
Back to me. Why am I fixing, cleaning, serving? Am I attempting to earn a compliment or a kiss? Am I looking to my wife to give me validation that can only come from Jesus?
Ultimately, I need to prioritize connecting with the One who loves me perfectly, so I can serve my wife without expectations. And affirm her for all the things she does for me on the regular.
Jesus sees and knows everything we do—time spent connecting with Him reminds us of His constant love for us. We can read Jesus’ encouragement, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” in Matthew 25:23, and know He appreciates our efforts, too.
So, when our spouses don’t happen to notice our efforts, we won’t go all Martha on them.
Need an attitude check? Listen to this FamilyLife Blended® Minute.
The Good Stuff: Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24)
Action Steps: Schedule some “appreciation time” with your spouse in which you take turns thanking each other for contributions you notice. Consider asking, “What’s something you did for me or the family this week that you’re proud of?”
One of Us Is a Fantastic Spouse (Hint, It’s Me)
By Lisa Lakey
I was so proud of myself.
On my day off, I had managed to clean most of the house, the kids were in great moods, and the air was thick with the savory aroma of the dinner I had prepared. Surely, by the end of the day I’d at least be getting a certificate for my wifely achievements.
But I’d have to hold off on the speech I’d prepared. Because my dear husband meandered through the door at 6:00, blaring the news of his day. He, too, had been super-productive and awesome.
Then he planted a kiss on my cheek as he walked by to go clean up before dinner.
Don’t get me wrong, I was proud of my handsome hubby. But …
What about me?!
Ever feel that way? I’m a fairly introverted person, so needing heaps of attention and recognition doesn’t plague me often. Except when it comes to my spouse.
Especially when I’m insecure, I need to be reassured my hubby still thinks I’m worth having around.
And when I don’t hear those words of affirmation? I feel slighted. I start puffing myself up to something I’m definitely not being in that moment—a fantastic (and maybe superior) spouse.
Second Corinthians 12:9 reminds me, ”But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
On the days where I screw everything up, I have to remind myself my worth doesn’t fade with my mistakes.
But on my better days? I have to remind myself my worth isn’t increased with my deeds.
And thankfully, my husband forgives my mistakes, too. Like when I depend too much on his affirmation.
And when I think a little too highly of myself.
What are you wearing? Read on for six questions to clothe yourself in humility.
The Good Stuff: When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)
Action Points: Instead of thinking of all the things you do for your spouse today, list two things they do to serve you selflessly. Make a point to thank them for it.
Dude (Not) Perfect
By Jim Mitchell and Janel Breitenstein
Janel: In this bookstore, I saw socks my Ruth Bader Ginsberg-lovin’ sisters would love. When you put the soles together, they read “I dissent!”
But another of her quotes volleyed through my head like a beach ball: “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.”
Scripturally, men and women fully portray God’s image (Genesis 1:27).
But I also know in many situations in the Church, women won’t be there.
This leaves me feeling weird. I fully respect God’s created order of men as the heads of their homes (1 Corinthians 11:3) and in the Church (1 Timothy 2:11).
But I can’t help but wonder if, for example, some decisions would carry more emotional complexity if women were present. Not as elders, per se, but just giving input.
Jim: Good thought. I don’t know what you’re like away from your husband, but without my wife I can descend into basic “dude-ness” faster than a two-minute drill: Frozen pizzas, stretchy pants, losing stuff in the couch cushions, and Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd booming like a theme song.
And I see that trend in my decision-making, too.
My brain’s default “guy” mode makes total sense to me. Unfortunately, it’s incomplete. Something’s missing. And no amount of other wise guys surrounding me will fully balance that.
My wife’s feminine viewpoint as co-heir of the grace of life and fellow image-bearer just makes me healthier and smarter (1 Peter 3:7). She sees things I miss. She’s attuned to things I don’t pick up on.
Janel: Exactly. And vice versa. That’s one way marriage, this intimate form of community, affects the community at large. The health of my marriage reverberates into the larger community in which we live and serve.
Jim: Conversely, when I grow comfortable diminishing women in my own life and home, I hamstring my church and rob the culture of its clearest picture of God’s beautiful design for gender—my marriage.
From the very origins of creation God said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” And made a counterpart “fit for him” (Genesis 2:18).
To the extent my male brain and behavior isolates me from a female perspective—whether in pursuit of sin or in serving God—I’m disobeying His design.
In this episode of FamilyLife Today®, learn how to live out your role in marriage.
The Good Stuff: Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (1 Peter 3:8)
Action Points: For both genders:
- In what areas of life do you tend to approach life without your spouse’s perspective and insight in mind?
- What strengths does your spouse consistently bring to the table, which when applied, could make your decisions wiser and more well-rounded? Verbalize this to your spouse.
- This week, bring them into a thought process you might have otherwise left them out of—but not for the better.