Keep going on the journey with us for our Devotional Challenge!
As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
There is often so much talk about troubled marriages, dysfunctional families, and divorce in a culture that we sometimes forget to acknowledge and honor couples who are staying together, growing together, and whose love is being renewed as the years go by. You are more likely in the latter category than the former, a good marriage eager to get better. During our conferences and on our call-in radio program, we hear countless stories of relational heartache and heartbreak. Here's a couple on the verge of separation. There's another woman whose husband is cheating on her. Another call is from a man whose wife is always nagging him.
To be sure, the world has plenty of hurting families. But how refreshing it is for us to receive calls from wives and husbands, parents and children, and grandparents who are happy to share with us something that's going right with their relationships. This is the heartbeat of renewing love. Some of those calls sound like this:
"Gary and Barb, when we said ‘I do’ 17 years ago, we really meant it. We are totally committed to love, cherish, honor, and care for each other ‘until death do us part.’ Yeah, we've had our fair share of problems and conflicts – some pretty tough ones, in fact. But when stuff happens, we deal with it in the light of our lifetime commitment instead of questioning our commitment in light of the problem. We talk about it, pray about it, seek God's answers, and then act on them as best we can. And for us, marriage just keeps getting better and better. Keep up the good work."
"I just want you to know that it's possible for a man to stick with one woman for life – and be happy about it. Jill and I will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary next year. We met at a church social when we were in high school. Both of us were virgins and planned to stay that way until marriage. We fell in love, and the temptation was strong, but we stayed pure. I'm 74 years old now, and in all those years I've had sex with just one woman – Jill – and only after we were married. I'm living proof that God's Word is true and that a life of purity and devotion is thrilling and fulfilling. Some fellows used to chuckle and say, "You don't know what you're missing, John." I just smiled and said, "You don't know what I've got."
You probably have your own success story to tell. Marriages around you may be crumbling, but yours is not one of them. Some of the couples you know fight constantly and hurt each other deeply, but you don't. Couples in your church may ednure loveless, unfulfilling marriages, but the happiness and contentment you feel with your spouse is real. A lot of marriages today seem old and lifeless, but yours seems to be getting better. Why are you so "lucky"?
Marriages that are strong and growing got that way because two vital elements have come together to make something good happen. These are the foundation stones of renewing love. (If the following paragraphs do not describe your marriage, you will want to pay special attention.) Renewing love starts right here.
First, at some point you draw a line in the sand. In so many words, you proclaim to God and to each other, "We are committed to building a Christian marriage and family. We will have nothing of the world’s approach to marriage. We are committed to keep our love fresh, new, and growing – for the sake of our marriage, for the sake of our children, and for the cause of Jesus Christ. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
To be sure, your wedding vows were a large part of that statement. And perhaps you review and renew those vows occasionally. But as in most flourishing marriages, you affirm this commitment daily in the way you talk to one another: "I would choose you all over again"; "You are my one and only"; "I love you more today than yesterday."
Second, God took you at your word and is working through you to fulfill your commitment. Your marriage is going deeper and stronger because God is empowering you to strengthen your marriage. Your parenting is making a positive difference in your kids’ lives because God – by your invitation – is actively involved in your life as well as theirs. The two of you are not alone in this battle to ward off the world’s twisted view of marriage and family because yours is a marriage of three – you, your spouse, and Jesus. And even if your spouse does not share your depth of commitment to Christ or to your marriage, you don't have to go it alone. You and God form a majority. His Spirit within you is greater than any worldly spirits working against you. Your marriage is ever new because God and his truth never grow old.
We urge you and your spouse to settle for nothing less than God's best in your relationship. Your commitment to live in renewing love starts with a commitment to Christ. Only by staying connected to Christ will you find resources for the journey God has for you. Jesus said, "I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I am in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). This is as true for our marriages as our individual lives of service to God. We need Jesus to make it!
What a marvelous, marriage-blessing, marriage-enriching God we serve! Our marriage isn't perfect, and neither is yours. We are determinedly working at renewing our love day by day. Where it is strong, where it is growing, and where it is fulfilling, it's mainly because of God's goodness.
What is going right with your marriage? What areas of your relationship would you be happy to offer to other couples as an example of how to do it? To what do you attribute your success in these areas? Other than your marriage vows, how have you expressed your line-in-the-sand commitment of renewing love to your spouse? What people and/or circumstances has God used to keep your love fresh and new?
Gracious Father, where would my marriage be without you? Whenever I succeed in my commitment to love, honor, and cherish my spouse, your Spirit’s power is behind it. My patience under stress, my endurance through adversity, my joy when nothing at home seems to be going right, my willingness to forget when wrong – it all starts with you. Thank you for helping me keep my marriage new and growing. Continue to work through me and my most precious relationship as I lean on you for wisdom, direction, and strength. Amen.
Renew Your Love
Renew your commitment to renewing love. Sit down at the computer keyboard or with pen and paper and carefully craft a statement outlining your commitment to keep your love and marriage fresh and new. Describe your determination to rely on God to make you the spouse he wants you to be. Mention an area or two where you know you need a fresh touch from God. An area where you sense your relationship is not as vibrant. When you finish, plan a time to share your statement with your spouse and pray together.