2 Secrets Every Marriage Needs to Be Successful
I’m Gonna Love You Forever
Have you heard those words before?
Have you said those words before?
Perhaps you recognize them from a popular country song by Randy Travis called, Forever and Ever, Amen?
In the beginning of your relationship, into the first few weeks and months of marriage, it’s so easy to say those words: “I’m gonna love you forever.” We mean them with our whole heart, body, and mind.
That’s why- when we stood at the altar on our wedding day- we did NOT say, “In a few years, my passion for you will wane. I’ll lack the energy to finish this marriage journey. I’ll look at you and wonder: Did I marry the right person?”
No! Most of us said something along the lines of, “I’m gonna love you forever. ‘Til death do us part.”
But let’s be honest. If you’ve been married for more than a handful of years, and have faced the many ups and downs of marriage and life together, you’ve probably experienced waning passion for your spouse and a lack of energy to put forth the effort in fueling your marriage. You may have even wondered: DID I marry the right person?
First of all, you’re not alone.
So, take heart...
Underneath the struggle, I bet there is a deep, desperate desire to reignite the passion for your person, stoke the flames that fuel your marital fire, and look at your spouse- heart, body, and mind screaming I’m gonna love you forever!
That’s why you’re here, right? Reading this post?
Keep reading. You will discover two secrets that help your marriage go the distance and be successful.
Think about it
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to forget the good and remember the bad?
As a teacher, I can attest to this fact. I do it to an almost ridiculous degree. Every teacher knows what I’m talking about.
I could have 50 positives in one day and only 1 negative, and guess what sticks with me? The one negative. It’s why I have an “Encouragement” folder filled with heartening letters, notes, cards, pictures, and emails from students and parents. Whenever a negative pops up, I open that folder and recall a positive.
Can you relate?
How about in your marriage?
It’s easy to recall the past hurts and focus on the current frustrations. We may even cling to future disappointments- ways we’re sure our spouse will let us down.
This is especially true if your marriage has faced a tough year. Job loss/change? Financial struggle? Miscarriage/infertility? Infidelity? Constant fighting? Aging parents? Wayward children? Promises broken? Expectations unmet? Commitments that seem impossible to keep? (All of these can easily lead to resentment in a marriage. If you're struggling with resentment toward your spouse, click HERE.)
As you reflect on the last 12 months of marriage, is it the good or the bad that instantly comes to mind?
When our history as a couple leans more toward the negative than the positive, it shakes our faith. We may question God, our spouse, ourselves:
God- Where are You? Are You really still working here?
Husband/Wife- I need you! I need my partner, my teammate, my lover, my friend. Why won’t you come through for me? (For more on the roles we fill as husband/wife, check out How Fulfilling Your Role Can Change Your Marriage.)
Self- Look at all this- see this mess? Can you still hold on to hope?
Perhaps- if we reflect honestly- we notice our faith wanes in the exact moments we begin to fixate on the negative; on all the things that are “wrong” in our marriage. It becomes almost paralyzing. Hopeless.
I wonder if that’s why all throughout Scripture God tells us to keep our eyes fixed and hearts stayed on HIM?
God knows that when HE becomes our focus, we can press forward in faith, not wallow in pain or regret.
But, how do we do that? What’s the secret?
There are two: Remembering and Forgetting. We cannot have one without the other; they’re two sides of the same coin.
Let’s start with…
I’ve already talked about how easy it is to forget the good and remember the bad. But we need to flip the script. Simply put, we need to forget the bad and remember the good.
It can seem impossible at times. Certain hurts, painful words, betrayed trusts cut so deep they leave a permanent scar.
But God is ALWAYS calling us to something bigger than we can imagine. He has prepared good works in advance for each of us to do. People’s words and actions cannot stop what God has planned.
People who love us WILL say and do things that hurt us, including your husband or wife. It is the inevitable result of two sinners being joined together as one flesh. But…
The history of you and your spouse’s sin does NOT define your future! GOD does. HE is not thrown by life’s curveballs. He knows exactly how to work all situations for His glory and our good: a metaphorical homerun.
So, how do we stop letting others’ words shape our lives and decisions? How do we forget the hurt they’ve caused? How do we trust and believe that God IS at work?
Forgiveness helps us move forward; it frees us from the negative impacts of others, and places us in God’s will for relationships.
Will you forgive the people (including your spouse) who have caused you pain? Will you forgive them for the hurtful things they said and did? Will you let go of the “what ifs” that stem from staring at the past?
Forgiveness is POWERFUL. Forgiveness keeps our history from defining us. Because Jesus has redefined us, we can move forward in faith.
Galatians 2:20 says it is true: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
The challenge comes in shifting our focus. Forget the bad: the hurt, pain, worry, and disappointment. Look at the good: a trust in God and forgiveness for our spouse (and ourselves).
We are called to forget. Forget what? How others (our spouse, our family, our friends, anyone) have offended us. Just like God removes our sins from us- as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12)- we are to forgive and stop rehearsing the effects of others’ sins against us.
Forgive and forget. How many times have I heard that? Too many to count. How about you?
If you’re anything like me, you often equate “forgive and forget” with “pretend like it never happened.” That is not what it means.
Sin happens because we live in a broken, fallen world. Sin has repercussions and consequences; some that are short-lived, others that can be felt for years to come.
Sin is inevitable.
God knows this, and knows how entangled we can become in it.
So, He asks us to forgive (even if forgiveness isn’t sought). Be free. Do not hold grudges. He knows we can’t move forward with regret and disappointment gripping us in the past.
When we forgive, we are focusing on what GOD has done, instead of what others have (or have not). Our eyes must be fixed on His faithfulness. His constant provisions. His miracle-working power.
(Are you having trouble forgiving your spouse? Do you feel your marriage is “stuck”? Check out this post for encouragement.)
Perhaps you’re thinking: I may be able to forgive, but I CANNOT forget.
This is where the other secret comes into play…
It may be very hard to forget a painful past. Thankfully we have something, or rather someONE, to remember. When we focus our eyes and stay our hearts on HIM- our Creator, Redeemer, Father, and Lover of our souls, we will want nothing more than to be closer to Him.
And the closer we are to Him, the easier it will be to forget, or not be influenced by, the pain of the past.
John Piper says it beautifully in his book Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ: “Christ is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. And when we are satisfied in Him, we are crucified to the world.”
Crucified to the world.
That means we are dead to works of the flesh: enmity, jealousy, strife, fits of anger, rivalries, divisions, bitterness, resentment, etc. (Galatians 5:19-21).
We repent. We let go of the anger, bitterness, resentment, disapproval, disappointment, and whatever else we may feel as a result of our painful past.
Instead, we turn our focus from our flesh, to Jesus Christ, in Whom we find life anew and renewed hope.
Do you believe He’s still working?
With our eyes on Him, we start to remember all He has done for us.
When you read the question “What has He done for you?”, what thoughts come to mind?
If you’re struggling, take heart. James reminds us in James 1:16-17, Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, Who does not change like shifting shadows.
Take a second to pray right now:
Dear Lord, please help me recognize that every good thing is from You. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Give me a thankful heart that remembers all You have done in my life, and provide opportunities for me to share Your goodness and faithfulness with others. You are a good, good Father, and I love You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Now, take a moment to recall all God has done for you, your marriage, and your family. When have you known without a doubt in your mind that it was God’s hand at work in a particular situation? It could be something…
Physical- a healing/recovery, a “one inch to the left or the right and it could’ve been a whole different story”, or even a gratitude for God has taught you through physical ailments
Emotional- God’s peace that passes all understanding, His fruit of the Spirit that enables us to love like Him, even in the most difficult and challenging of situations
Spiritual- the salvation of our loved ones and friends, witnessing the spiritual growth of ourselves and those closest to us
Mental- the Holy Spirit bringing truth to mind at just the right moment, to help fight against the enemy’s lies
Keep these moments in mind as we look at this week’s homework…
Vow to change: an encouraging call to action
Refer back to the list above and WRITE DOWN your answers to the question: When have you known without a doubt in your mind that it was God’s hand at work in a particular situation? For a more tangible, visible representation of what God has done, make your own “stones of remembrance.” (Read Joshua 3-4 for scriptural reference.) Get a clear bowl/container and buy/find several smooth stones. When a prayer is answered or something significant occurs that is clearly at the hands of God, use a Sharpie marker to write it on one of the rocks, (include the date); put it in the bowl. How faith-building it will be to sift through those stones, remembering everything God has done specifically for you and your loved ones!
What is God asking you to forget so that you can step forward in freedom? (Be specific.) Who is He asking you to forgive so that He can build your faith? Right now, before you read further, pray: God, please help me forgive ______________. Every time I am tempted to pick up the burden of remembering how ________________ has hurt me, help me instead to remember what YOU have done. You have redeemed and set me free. You have big plans for my life. Keep me from falling into anger, bitterness, resentment, and other faults of the flesh. Draw me close to You, so that I remember and recognize Your goodness and grace. Help me be most satisfied in YOU, that You may be glorified in me. I love You. I trust You. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.
Tonight, spend time talking with your spouse about what God has done. Have the “Remember when?” conversations. Initiate a prayer of praise to God. Build up both of your faiths by proclaiming TRUTH: we can trust God is doing something good and new. Why? Because we remember what He has done. Forget the wrongs of you and your spouse. Refuse to be defined by Satan’s condemnation. Two hearts will be softened: both yours and your spouse’s.
For extra encouragement, listen to God Turn It Around (feat. Jon Reddick) by Church of the City. Be reminded that God IS working; always. In our finite faith we may have trouble believing, but that doesn’t make it less true. GOD IS WORKING. Jesus tells us Himself: “My Father is always at His work- to this very day- and I, too, am working.” (John 5:17).
When we forget the bad and remember the good, focus our eyes on HIM, stay our hearts on His goodness, we find freedom to step forward in forgiveness and faith. We fall more in love with Him (and our spouse!). And we won’t be able to help but say: I’m gonna love you forever. Forever and ever, Amen!
For more encouragement, listen to the corresponding podcast:
2 Secrets to Go the Distance in Marriage:: [Episode 137]