There are many people today who would like to demote marriage by labeling it a human invention. But Scripture tells us marriage was created by God and as such it is a holy institution. In this traditional wedding season, let’s take a moment to look at the components of a stable, healthy marriage.
Imagine your marriage as a three-legged stool, and the three legs are selflessness, forgiveness and communication. Without one of the legs, the stool will fall down. A good marriage needs all three components to be well-balanced and strong.
The first component of a blessed and healthy marriage is selflessness. We live in a self-centered world, and this focus on self is destroying marriages. The concept of “looking out for number one” is creating division between husbands and wives. But Paul tells us, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
Immaturity and selfishness tell us to focus on our own desires, comfort, and self-protection, but maturity leads us to focus on other’s needs. Maturity is a key to selflessness.
Selfless love manifests itself in graciousness. It focuses on the other person’s thoughts, feelings, and needs. In marriage, the focus is on our spouse’s needs. A selfless love makes sacrifices without keeping a running tally of who has contributed the most in the marriage. It puts aside selfish stubbornness for a willingness to yield to each other.
While selflessness goes against many of the world’s teachings about personal ambition, self-importance, and self-protection, selfless love is a critical component to a healthy marriage.
The second component of a blessed and healthy marriage is forgiveness. Sometimes forgiveness is hard, especially when we allow little annoyances to build up over time. But the Bible tells us, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
In Matthew 18:22, Jesus told Peter that we are to forgive each other not merely seven times, but seven times seventy. In other words, we are to forgive so often that we lose count.
So, how can we forgive that readily?
First, begin by forgiving the things which seem insignificant—the irritating habits and the annoying characteristics. These can build up over time and can destroy a marriage. Forgiving them will require daily discipline.
Second, “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). You will find it harder to forgive others if your own mind is waging a battle against old hurts. Focus on Christ in your relationship, not on keeping score.
Third, maintain your identity in Christ. Our old sinful nature is filled with resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness. But through Christ, we are able to offer mercy and forgiveness to those who have wronged us. Problems of selfishness and unforgiveness may seem apparent in a relationship. But there are also enemies that stealthily creep into a marriage like a choking vine. Busy schedules, apathy and even exhaustion can lead to a deadly trap, a breakdown of communication.
The third component to a healthy and blessed marriage is communication. When communication breaks down between husband and wife, Satan is always waiting in the wings. Then what often takes place is a power struggle, the silent treatment and deception.
How many hours—or minutes—did you spend this week engaged in conversation or activity while solely focused on your spouse—no TV, no children, no computer or cell phone interrupting? Many of the larger problems in marriage stem from poor communication.
Poor communication stems from not making the time for your spouse, letting the children come before the marriage relationship, and from a fear of conflict. Inevitably, there will be conflict but keeping the lines of communication open will provide the opportunity to resolve the conflict rather than allowing it to take root. The ultimate outcome is a growing and thriving relationship.
Maintaining the components of the three-legged stool of marriage is not easy. We will always be competing against our sinful, selfish nature. We will always be seeking God’s strength to forgive. We will often struggle to find balance between our calendars and our marriage. But, if you keep Christ at the center of your marriage and allow Him to give, forgive and communicate through you, yours will be a blessed and healthy marriage.
Prayer: God, show me how I can improve communication in my marriage. God, I need Your help to be the godly spouse I should be. Help me to keep You at the center of my marriage and to be on guard against selfishness, to be quick to forgive and to be vigilant to communicate. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.