Draw a Line in the Sand

There is often so much talk about troubled marriages, dysfunctional families, and divorce in our culture that we sometimes forget to acknowledge and honor couples who are staying together, growing stronger, and whose love is being renewed as the years roll by. You are more likely in the latter category than the former, a good marriage eager to get better. Every week through our social media, in our conferences and on our podcast, 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 email is from a man whose wife is always nagging him.

 Photo by Stas Knop from Pexels

Photo by Stas Knop from Pexels

To be sure, the world has plenty of hurting families. But how refreshing it is for us to receive calls and letters 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’ seventeen 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’ve heard you say several times that we have to ‘close the loop’ when we hurt each other. I’m calling to say that it works! Brian and I have been learning to confess our offenses to each other, forgive each other, and let the problem go. Every time we do, our marriage gets a fresh, new start. Sadly, even after 21 years together, we still hurt each other from time to time. But thanks to the biblical principles of forgiveness, we know what to do about it. And thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit within us, we can do something about it. Thanks for your Christ-centered coaching!”

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 endure 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 drew a line in the sand. In so many words, you proclaimed 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 growing 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 the 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 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 for our individual lives of service to God. We need Jesus to make it!

What a marvelous, marriage-blessing, family-enriching God we serve! Our marriage isn’t perfect, and neither is yours. But 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.

*For more practical advice on connecting with your spouse, we'd recommend the Renewing Your Love devotional. It's available in our online bookstore!