When you think of the winter ahead, what feelings arise? A well of:
Or one of:
Cold (literally and figuratively)
For me, it's the second category. I dread the winter and when my marriage is feeling cold, I dread trudging through just to get to the other side. Do you feel that way too? How quickly I succumb to negativity. (If you struggle with negativity in your marriage, read 2 Secrets Every Marriage Needs to Be Successful.)
I can tend to turn inward rather than making a plan. I know that with God's help, this season can be different. I need a new outlook. I need a fresh truth from God, a breath of promise from Heaven, a word of hope that sets me on a joyful trajectory.
In this post, let's learn together how to embrace the season ahead with five essentials: Promise, Purpose, Path, Perseverance, and Praise.
A quick overview before we dig deeper:
Knowing & believing God’s Promises →
Gives us Purpose. →
When our Path is clear →
We are able to Persevere even in imperfection. →
We live lives of Praise to God because we joyfully walk with Him (and see His promises fulfilled).
Let start the reset with …
Oh, the promises of God. Too many to count, but it is estimated there are around 8,000 in the Bible! And 2 Corinthians 1:19-20 says that in Christ, each and every one of them will be fulfilled for me, for you. (All of God’s promises are yes and amen.)
How many of us take God’s promises for granted, or don’t live as though we believe they WILL be fulfilled? (Remember I wrote about this in the last post?)
We should not only be thinking about them daily, but also searching them out in Scripture, meditating on them, committing them to memory. (To help you get better acquainted with God’s promises, check out God’s Promises for Every Day.)
Here are a few to get us started:
We can count on His Word and trust His promises (Numbers 23:19)
He hears our prayers (1 Peter 3:12)
He will never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5)
(For daily reminders to help you focus on Him, check THIS out.)
When we turn our hearts to Him- the One from Whom every good and perfect gift comes- our focus shifts away from ourselves. We look to His promises and know how we are to live, act, speak and think.
He doesn’t leave us alone to figure it out for ourselves. Instead, He promises us a Helper.
John 14:26 says: But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to You.
God’s promises bring hope in every season. Standing on them increases our faith AND our gratefulness.
Knowing and believing God’s promises gives us…
Our purpose? Simply put, whatever God has planned to help us love Him and love others. And He DOES have things planned for you if you are a follower of Him.
You don’t have to just wait around ‘til things get better. God has a plan and purpose for you and your marriage today.
(Unsure of what God’s purpose for your marriage is? Find out HERE.)
What IS His purpose for your life? My life?
Ultimately, it’s loving Him and loving others.
How concise, really.
Here’s what God says about it in His Word: ‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:30-31).
But it can be so darn hard, seemingly impossible, sometimes, can’t it?! Especially that second part: love others as you love yourself. Others (our spouse included) can hurt us deeply, make us so angry, act so undeserving of our love. BUT…
God’s purpose for us does NOT change or depend on things like:
Our spouse’s behavior
Our childrens’ behavior
How things are going at work
Our age/stage of life
Our sin, mistakes, regrets
Our purpose always begins today. Right now. No matter what happened yesterday. His mercies are new every morning.
I see in God’s purpose for me that He has made my path clear: “Love Me. Love others.”
But He doesn’t leave us alone to muddle through our murky human nature; trying to love but failing over and over again.
Take a moment to read Lamentations 3:22-25. I LOVE this passage. HIS steadfast love NEVER ceases. HIS mercies NEVER end. HE is good to those who seek Him.
This means God is compassionate toward us. He not only gives us second chances, but 1,000th chances. All we need to do is stick close to our Savior, put our hand in His every day, and be reminded of His love for us so we can give it away to others.
But what about the days when our spouse (and others) are at their worst? This is where we need…
Grit. Determination in the face of struggle. Hope. A willingness to obey the Lord whether we feel like it or not. Perseverance will pay off.
God tells us in James 1:2-4, Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of many kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
So, we shouldn’t be surprised by our trials, we should be joyful.
Oy… I stand convicted.
Why does God say we should be joyful in struggle?
Because He knows that trials test us to produce perseverance.
How can we persevere?
We can persevere on the path of loving God and loving others- even when it’s hard- because we know our purpose. And we know our purpose because we know God’s promises.
And what are His promises? He does NOT promise personal comfort or earthly pleasures. He promises love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) in every trial- if we walk in His Spirit. (Need more? Refer back to the “Promises” section above.)
Perseverance always comes before…
It inspires us to say: God, You are amazing. You sustained me when I wanted to quit. You provided exactly what I needed, when I needed it. You never left my side. You are awesome and I love You. Thank You.
We live joyful, prayer-filled lives of praise to God when we’re walking closely with Him, seeing His promises fulfilled.
Praise and thanksgiving are organically the end result of knowing God and walking with Him.
That doesn’t mean we will always feel like praising Him, (that’s why Hebrews 13:15 talks about giving the sacrifice of praise.) BUT our lives will bring Him praise and glory; eventually our mouths will follow.
If you’re like me and millions of other midwesterners, you struggle with the January/Winter/after-holiday blues. Or perhaps your marriage is in a “winter” season. Whatever your “winter,” the process that gets us to a grateful heart always starts with knowing God’s promises and ends with the natural outflow of praise.
The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41)
Even though this is a great process to follow, we will battle with our emotions and flesh every day, especially if things haven’t been going well for a while.
In my seasons of winter (whether it's the actual season or just life), here’s what usually happens. (I wonder if you can relate?)
I get SELF-CENTERED quickly, defaulting to selfishness. I focus on what’s NOT going right, and my desire for instant gratification grows but is never satisfied.
So, I start counting the days, weeks, and months until I can be “me” again. Until I can have it MY way. Until this season is over.
Things like the change in seasons, crowded schedules, added stress, unexpected trials, even lack of sleep cause my focus to zero in on ME.
I wonder: What do I need to be happy? How do I get my needs met? I just need some rest. If I don’t make time for (fill in the blank here) to happen, it NEVER will. (If these thoughts resonate with you, check out Part 1 of our series called A Marriage at Rest.)
By that point, I’ve lost sight of my purpose: to love the Lord and love others. I must fix my eyes on Him, put my hand back in His, and say Lord, all I need is You. (For an encouragement boost, listen HERE.)
Another thing that happens in my “winter” is…
BOREDOM. Ho-hum… here we go again. Nothing ever really changes, does it?
You will NEVER experience a boring day in your life or marriage if you consistently and intentionally love like Christ.
But loving this way will NOT happen naturally. It’s going to take effort, planning, and prayer. Ask God to give you ideas which will bless others, and the energy to carry out your plans.
You may be surprised to discover that loving others is usually the antidote you need to squash selfishness and conquer boredom.
But that’s not natural for me. In my winters, I tend to isolate and withdraw, (even though what I most need is godly influence and accountability. For more information on having an accountability partner, click HERE). I quickly spiral into NEGATIVE THOUGHTS that lead to harmful words. Can you relate?
When we isolate, we usually believe things that aren’t true because we’re not remembering God’s promises - including His purpose for us.
Eventually, our negative thoughts become harmful words to others.
Need a remedy?
Try this: make it a habit to replace every untrue thought with thankfulness. When you catch yourself spiraling, replace the negative with a prayer or praise. Ask the Lord’s help in this! He is faithful. He WILL show up in big ways. You Are not alone.
(Need encouragement in knowing He is with you? Read THIS.)
Winters are also dangerous seasons for COMPLACENCY and STAGNANCY. We become indifferent to our circumstances, hardening our hearts to those around us. This is when our spouse becomes our roommate, and our children become little nuisances. (If you’ve been defaulting to this attitude, check out this post: Parenting is HARD!)
Once again, reminding yourself of God’s promises will place you back on the track to praise from a grateful heart.
Finally, let’s talk about LONELINESS. We all experience it, but the accompanying emotion gets stronger when we feel like no one understands or cares.
Next time you feel lonely:
Rejoice that God never, ever removes His presence from us (Hebrews 13:5).
Remember- we can meet the needs of others because our needs have been met by HIM (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). He promises to comfort us, then asks us to walk in that promise; comforting others as we have been comforted. We need not isolate. We come before His throne and ask Him to fill us once again so we can fulfill the purpose He laid out for us. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
Reflect: Who around you- including in your own home- needs to hear the truths you’re learning? When we share what we’ve learned with others, blessings abound! 1) God is honored and glorified. 2) Our love and gratitude for Him grows. 3) Others’ faith in Him may grow because of our witness. 4) Our loneliness dissipates and our relationships with others grow.
Vow to change: an encouraging call to action
Next time you feel “stuck” in the dead of winter, come back to the 5 essentials: Promise → Purpose → Path → Perseverance → Praise.
Let your heart be transformed into one filled with joyful thanksgiving.
Need a promise to get you going?
Memorize Philippians 4:4-7: 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
In that passage, what’s the Promise?
The Lord is at hand (v. 5). The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus (v. 7).
What’s the Purpose?
It’s always the same: to love God and love others.
What’s the Path?
Our passage says:
Rejoice in the Lord always (v. 4)
Be gentle to everyone (v. 5)
Do not be anxious about anything… how? PRAY. In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God (v. 6)
The word “supplication” is defined as: “the action of asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly.” It’s taking your “I wishes” to God. He knows them already, He just wants you to talk with Him about them, like you would your best friend. That’s how relationships are formed and deepened.
Every time thanksgiving is referred to in the Bible, it is linked to relationship. God doesn’t want us to go through our winter alone. He wants us to talk with Him.
When things get difficult, ask God for Perseverance. When it feels impossible to:
Love and serve our spouse because they’re so undeserving
Forgive the family member who deeply hurt us (Are you having trouble forgiving? Read THIS for help.)
Be patient with the kids as they navigate the excitement and expectations of the holidays…
Lean into Him.
Rejoice that He has given you a partner in this life. Ask Him to give you a deep love and passion to serve your spouse.
When you feel the anger, pain, and frustration arise in interactions with your spouse, children, and/or extended family, remember what Christ did for you. Call to mind 1 John 4:19, We love because He first loved us.
Ask God to help you be gentle and wise, using words that build up, not tear down (1Thessalonians 5:11).
As soon as anxiety starts nudging, pray. Thank God for knowing exactly what you need (Matthew 6:8) and trust that He is providing (Philippians 4:19). Pour out your heart to Him (remember supplication?).
Perseverance will lead to Praise.
Remember 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18? Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
Perhaps God asks us to be thankful in all circumstances because He desires to be in constant communion with us.
Think about it:
We know what His promise is: peace that passes understanding. (That’s just one of thousands!). If we pray, pouring our hearts out to Him in expectful thanksgiving, He PROMISES peace- guarantees it! Praise Him for it!
What other promises do you need to recall this holiday season?
Memorize 1-2 promises every week. Click HERE for a list.
Think about and write down specific circumstances God has brought you through in the past year.
What promises did you see fulfilled? What blessings did He bestow? How did He provide exactly what you needed? Write down your answers.
THANK HIM. How does your praise look? Is it singing songs of praise? Praising Him through writing? Telling others what He’s done for you?
Make this a habit, and a joy-filled life that honors God lies ahead. I am sure of it!
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