Category Archives: Inspirational

Allowing Grace to Fill the Gaps

We once heard a marriage mentor tell us to ”let grace fill the gaps in your marriage.” This mindset has been so helpful in our own marriage.

Marriage consists of two imperfect, at times broken, individuals. We get something perfected, or so we think, like forgiveness within 30 minutes or tolerance to ongoing health challenges. Or, we may commit to staying on the same page with disciplining our children or what our shared finances should look like. Honestly, it could be any topic.

But, none of us are perfect. Only Jesus is. Our external circumstances can shake us to our core & even make us feel like we can’t persevere any longer.

But God..

His mercies & grace are new each day! We fall down, but we get right back up!

Often times, we must allow grace to fill the gap. Maybe we aren’t on the same page, maybe we haven’t reached a compromise yet, but if we allow grace to stand in the places where we are lacking understanding or patience, we allow God to do His work in bringing us back together.

I often think about how much God has to put up with me; my disobedience and my lack of faith & trust. Yet, thankfully, he is merciful with me. If Jesus is our example, let’s follow that example!

Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT

22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
23 Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.

Grace wins every time!

Chemistry or Commitment

Proverbs 16:3 
Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established. 

It takes more than chemistry to keep your marriage strong and healthy; it takes commitment to God first and then to each other.

While chemistry may have brought the two of you together, that alone will not sustain a healthy and strong marriage. Like all marriages, there will come a time of adversity and conflict within your marriage. Our attraction to one another will be tested.

We must ensure that our marriage is rooted in our personal commitment to God first. We can do this by forming healthy daily habits, such as spending time in prayer and in quiet conversation with the Lord. I find myself asking Him to show me the areas in which I need strengthening as a spouse. Then, I ask for His strength to help me change my ways, which He is always faithful to do. Without His help, it is impossible for me to have lasting character change that will benefit my marriage. I am convinced that staying unwaveringly committed to my spouse is only possible through my commitment to Christ.

We must also ensure than we have both committed our marriage to God. We can do this by inviting the Lord into every area of our marriage, with Him at the center. This means we can go to Him in times of adversity and seek His wise counsel, as opposed to seeking someone or something outside of the marriage. My spouse and I pray together several times throughout the day to keep God actively in our marriage and we have learned not to make any big decisions without bringing them before the Lord first in prayer.

It is our commitment to God, both personally and in our marriages, that gives us the ability to stay committed to another imperfect human until death. This is how we find the strength to forgive and offer grace to one another. Being committed is also how we endure hard times of trial and testing.

Being a Husband of Encouragement

Husbands,

How often do you give your wife encouragement? Is it only when something big is upon her or do you make it a daily habit?

I have been married to my wife for over two decades and I can honestly admit that for the first decade of our marriage, I was lacking as an encourager. I can practically count the times on my hands when I gave her encouragement. For instance, when she wanted to go back to college to get her Master’s Degree, I offered plenty of encouragement, but if I am being honest, I would say that encouragement was for my own benefit. The more she worked on her career, the better off I would be financially.  I know this makes me sound very shallow and worldly, but this is about as transparent as I can be.

But God….

When I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior over a decade ago, He began to transform my heart and my thoughts. He grabbed a hold of me and went to work! See, I was deeply in love with my wife. Yet, I did not understand that many of the goals and ideas that I brought into our marriage were rooted in anything but Christ.  Yes, I was a great provider; I went to work each day and helped with raising our children and with errands. Yet, when it came down to offering compassion and encouragement to my wife, I often failed.  We were both busy in our careers and raising our sons and we were lucky to keep our heads above water.  We allowed the busyness of life to take away our focus on each other and our marriage.  My mindset was that as long as my wife and I had “teamwork” in our marriage, then we had a good enough marriage.  Boy did meeting Jesus personally open my eyes to how much we both were fixated on the wrong things.  And He told me to drop everything and follow Him. What? How?

Well, you see, Jesus has taught me a thing or two about encouragement. In scripture, we read how Jesus encouraged His disciples. Jesus even told His disciples to love sinners (Matthew 9:10-11). That’s right, a sinner just like me. We are all sinners. If Jesus can forgive our sins and encourage us to follow Him, then why can’t we encourage our wife when she is down and on hard times?

Sometimes I tend to believe that my wife should think identically to me. Yes, she often has the same issues as I do and we often have the same routine, but let me assure you, she does not think identically to me. Her needs are different. She is also called to a different role than I am, biblically. Thus, she will often see things differently than I. She won’t always agree with what I agree with.  You see,  sometimes, my wife is fragile, yet I want her to be as tough as I am. This is not what God wants, though. God created man in Genesis 1:26, but man was not yet complete. Man needed a help-mate, essentially an encourager, so we see in Genesis 2:21 that God created woman. Now, man was complete. He had his perfect help-mate. I know how thankful I am that God has given me my perfect complement, my encourager. She is a gracious gift from God. I am thankful for her, even though I wasn’t always the greatest encourager to her. This is how Jesus has transformed me. No longer do I take my wife for granted or view her as an inconvenience. I love to encourage my wife as often as I can to be a godly woman. I can say the simplest thing to her and her face will beam with joy.

So, men, I encourage you to start encouraging your wives as much as possible. Let the words you say to your wife be for building her up (Ephesians 4:29). Let her know that you really see her. Set aside all of your own pride, stubbornness and anger and openly encourage your wife. I promise you that even a small amount of positive encouragement towards your wife will not only bring her joy, but joy to you too.

Praying as One

Do you and your spouse pray together?

One of greatest things we get to do as Christians is pray. Our personal relationship with Jesus Christ allows us to develop an intimate relationship with Him where we can talk to Him with complete openness and vulnerability. As such, prayer becomes an individual routine or practice. When we get married, we maintain many of our personal routines. However, we believe that praying with your spouse, or marital prayer, is an important part of deepening your own personal relationship with Christ and a routine that needs to be developed together. Every married couple should incorporate praying together into their daily marital routine.

Unfortunately, Tim and I did not have the habit of praying together as part of our marital routine for the first decade of our marriage. Sure, we prayed at dinnertime and sometimes before bed with the kids, but it was more of an afterthought and not the kind of intimate prayer I am referring to. We had no idea what we were missing by not having this in our daily life together.

After we started attending church regularly and were experiencing some marital strains, a fellow Christian friend asked us about our prayer life together. Gulp! Were we supposed to be actually praying, like aloud, with one another? We had not been doing that. If prayer is so personal, then why would we need to pray together as a couple?

In the Bible, James describes why we should pray for one another:

16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

James 5:16 NLT

We all are in need of some amount of healing as far as our marriages are concerned. In a union of two people, things will get messy at one point or another. Ugly words and regrettable actions come from each spouse, whether we are prepared for them or not. Praying together petitions healing to occur within our marriage. So, what does it look like to pray together practically?

Let me give a quick example of how we started praying together as a couple. One afternoon, we were in the car having a discussion over something insignificant that led to an argument. As the tension grew, and my heart began racing, I could sense that this argument was leading to nowhere quickly! I knew now was the time to try this “praying together thing” our friend had mentioned. I asked Tim to pull over and stop the car. Reluctantly, he pulled off of the road and stopped the car. I immediately grabbed his hand and said we need to stop talking and pray, right here and right now. Admittedly, it was awkward praying together like this in the midst of an argument in the middle of the day. But, all things are possible with God, including this.

What do you think happened when we stopped to pray in the midst of heated fellowship? Both of our hearts were immediately softened and our focus shifted to the Lord instead of on our issue. Rather than trying to prove the validity of my side of the argument, I began to pray for resolution and most of all, I prayed for my husband’s feelings, in front of him. Not only did this show him love, honor and respect, it helped me to validate his view over my own view. I wasn’t worried about saying the right things in front of him and I wasn’t embarrassed to outwardly express my love for him in the form of a prayer.

Scripture also tells us the importance of inviting the Holy Spirit into your prayer life, especially when we don’t know what to pray for:

26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers[a] in harmony with God’s own will.

Romans 8:26-27 NLT

By praying together, we invited the Holy Spirit into our problem and He gave us peace in the midst of it all. Praying together has become a staple in our marriage over the second decade of our marriage. It is the part of the Armor of God that we clothe ourselves in daily (Ephesians 4:6-18).

According to the Bible, when you get married, you are to become one flesh with your spouse. The deep level of intimacy you experience by praying with your spouse helps you achieve oneness.

24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24 NLT

Tim and I refer to this as the marital sanctification process. As we become one flesh, we are constantly being stripped of our selfishness and of the “ugly” parts of our personality that don’t mesh well with being fully committed to another human being. The trials we face together as a couple help us in the sanctification process, for ourselves and for each other in unity. Our goal in marriage should never be to fulfill our own desires, but rather, to become more like the spouse Jesus commands us to be. It means to become more like Jesus in our every day walk. The deep level of intimacy that is gained from becoming one flesh is an ultimate expression of the love God has for us, because we are filled with the Spirit. Praying to become one flesh together draws the Lord into your marriage.

The next time you and your spouse aren’t on the same page and you get stuck out of unity with one another, stop everything and pray together. If you can’t pray in person together, pray over the phone together. Submit your differences to God in the form of prayer and invite the Holy Spirit to be the mediator. Also practice praying together when you are in sync with your spouse. The Lord welcomes your praises and rejoices with you!

Love has a name…

What do you think of when you hear the word love? Do you immediately think of the love you have for your spouse, child, parent or pet? Or do you think of your favorite food, vacation spot or hobby? Is your love for God the same as your love for anyone or anything else?

The world defines love as an intense feeling of deep affection or a great interest and pleasure in something. When we feel strongly for someone or something it is easy to spout off statements like “I love you just the way you are” or “the love of my life is the sport of soccer.” But, truthfully, do we feel this intense love when our spouse is acting unloving towards us? Will we always love the sport of soccer, even if the star athlete falls from grace and the team is ousted by culture somehow? Will we love God like this even if the hardest imaginable suffering comes upon us in our lives?

Love, as defined by the world, is a slippery slope, wouldn’t you agree? Our love for others (or things) is conditional and always changing and often is replaced by someone or something we feel more love towards. Think about it- what (or whom) did you claim to love 5 years ago that you no longer have deep affection for or great interest in?

The Bible defines love much differently than the world does. Love is mentioned in the Bible hundreds of times, no matter which translation you are reading. God has much to say on the subject of love through His word, including how to love and what to love and what not to love.

I don’t know about you, but I know that I want to be more loving towards others and I don’t want to be misled into loving the wrong things! The less strife and more love I experience in my life, the more peace I have in my life. If there is roadmap for how to give and receive love, sign me up! I can confidently say that the Bible is the only instruction manual you will ever need on love, as it never changes and is always applicable in our relationships.

Scripture outwardly and definitively defines love as God.

God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them

1 John 4:16 NLT

But, what does it mean to abide in God? To abide means to observe, follow or adhere to without yielding, as opposed to dwelling for a current period of time. This speaks directly to the constant and unchanging nature of God’s love for us. God’s love for us is unconditional (known as agape love). Even in our ugliest of moments, there is One who doesn’t turn His back on us…ever.

God commands that we love one another.

This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.

John 15:12 NLT

This is a powerful commandment that is not a suggestion, but an instruction! I am to love others with the same love that Jesus has shown me. Ouch! This can be quite convicting! If I am feeling or showing contempt for someone else because of something said or done, I have to ask myself if I would want that same contempt held for me by God based on some word or action of mine?

God describes love in action.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 NLT

I can evaluate my circumstances and my behavior through this lens and it will reveal how loving I am being. I might be great at being patient with my spouse, but horrible with keeping score of his wrongdoings. It is in these horrible places that I can learn to cultivate my true love for others, in the way God instructs me to. I need to be patient and forgiving of past wrong-doings, as patience alone may not be enough for me to release any built up bitterness. This scripture also provides a way to sustain a loving relationship. We must never give up and we must endure even the toughest of circumstances with love. This is how we know that God’s love is never-ending. This is also the way that God shows His love for us.

God shows us how love is sacrificial.

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.

Ephesians 4: 2-3 NLT

We know that it is sacrificial to be married. You are giving up half of yourself for another person in a committed relationship. You know that you will not always get your way. But, is it sacrificial to be humble when being criticized by your spouse? Yes, because typically, we naturally feel the need to defend ourselves to others and we often voice this feeling.

If my spouse tells me that I haven’t been very respectful towards him lately, and I respond by listing all of the instances I recall where I have been respectful, then I am not being humble (or respectful)! I am telling him that his perspective is not valid. Thus, a sacrificial response would require humility, or the ability to see myself as not so important or not so right. Instead, I can keep silent, listen, and then constructively apply the criticism to my life. I will experience personal & spiritual growth and maturity. My relationship with my spouse will grow deeper, as will my relationships with others. The sacrifice is giving up my natural tendency to be right for the love of another. You show love when you listen and choose peace over being right. You respond with humility when you are being loving.

Tim and I love marriage and we love helping other married couples on their marriage journey, which is why we created Marriage Sanctified. We believe that we can help others through our own triangular marital experiences with Jesus. But, most of all, we love Jesus and we want others to love Jesus like we do. We personally have experienced what Jesus has done in our own lives as individuals, as a married couple and as a family with our sons. We want others to experience what Jesus can do in their lives too.

We chose this as our first blog post because in order to love your spouse, you must first love God. You must love his Son Jesus and accept Him as the Lord of your life and as your personal savior. You must then make Him the Lord over your marriage. This is the best insurance you can get to cover the multitude of sins that will become part of your marriage, at one point or another. The blood of Jesus covers a multitude of sins!

If you have not accepted Jesus as your personal savior, we would love to share with you what this means. Please be sure to subscribe with your e-email address so we can share this news with you and pray with you!

When you understand the magnitude and depths of love that God has for you, you will also understand how to love your spouse and others like Him.

Love indeed has a name- His name is Jesus!

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