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How to Get Out of "Survival Mode" in Your Marriage (Part 2)

How do we avoid apathy and stay zealous as we passionately pursue God’s purposes together?

In the last post, I wrote about the first part of investing in marriage: we must run with our spouse toward the same goal, investing in God’s purposes (not our own).

Did you do your homework? (If not, check out the "Vow to Change" section near the bottom of the last post and answer questions 1-4.)

In what areas do you see your energy, money, time, attention, and heart focusing on the wrong goals, leading to exhaustion, burnout, and stress on your marriage? (If you feel your marriage is in a state of burnout, check out THIS post from our series called A Marriage at Rest.)

In what areas do you and your spouse align, with the ultimate goal being to glorify God and grow His kingdom?

As you pursued answers to these questions, we hope you felt the conviction to be a doer of God’s word, not just a hearer. (Remember James 1:22-25?)

Knowing you’re on the right path heading toward the right goals with your three-legged marriage race partner (your spouse) is invigorating!

It’s like the start of a new year; a fresh, new perspective, and new goals are always motivating. It’s easy to have zeal and passion at the beginning.

If we’re going to stay tethered to our partner and enjoy every step of the race, we need that zeal to continue as we passionately pursue God’s purposes together.

But… (you knew that was coming)....

As time goes on, and the race seems unending, it’s easy to default to going through the motions. Especially when things get difficult. If you’re anything like me, you slip into “survival mode,” just trying to stay afloat as you wait for the storm to pass.

When my eyes drift from God’s purposes and back onto myself, I lose the passionate zeal to invest in my marriage (and all that truly matters); instead spending my time, attention, and energy on trying to be comfortable again. So I can feel “safe,” with some semblance of control.

The middle-ground may seem safe, but keep in mind: “Satisfaction is the grave of progress.” Going through motions, checking off “righteous acts” from our to-do list, is a veiled attempt at being faithful. To be blunt, it very often equates to unfaithfulness.

And our half-hearted attempts- if left unchecked- can become the status quo… without us even realizing it.

In Romans 12:11, Paul says Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.

So, how do we keep our zeal and passion for the purposes of God?


If something isn’t working in your marriage, the best place to start is to ask Why? We must get to the root.

Why are you lacking passion for the right things?

Here are a few of the big reasons:

Forgetting WHY God asks you to invest, or never having a Biblical WHY to begin with, leaves you with nothing to invest in but yourself.

(Remembering and forgetting are two secrets every marriage needs to be successful. To learn more, read THIS post.)

Remember Romans 12:11? Paul’s pep talk to work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically is encouraging, only if we:

  • Know toward what goal we are running

  • Remember we cannot run the race on our own strength. If we are to work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically forever, we need supernatural help. Otherwise, we’ll burn out in no time.

So, eyes on the prize, run in HIS might.

Perhaps you’re wondering, What IS the purpose of my marriage? Please check out the following resources for help understanding this topic; it is essential:

Spiritual independence kills/prevents investment in marriage.

God put you and your spouse together so you wouldn’t have to face life and all its ups and downs alone. What a blessing!

There are often times in our marriage when one of us is running toward a goal, and unforeseen hurdles get in the way. After jumping so many hurdles, it’s tempting to just give up and quit, but our spouse can encourage and challenge us to press forward, reminding us of the end goal. We must do the same for our spouse. We need each other! (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).

Watch your heart on this one though. It's very tempting to "keep score" and not be there for our spouse when they aren't there for us. Spiritual numbness, isolation, or a lack of effort on their part does NOT pardon our Biblical responsibility to come alongside them every single day.

Forgetting who you are in Christ and failing to recall, daily, what He’s done for you.

Remembering 1) what Christ has done for you, and 2) who you are in Him, shifts everything back into perspective. We are sinners saved by grace; now new creations free from sin because of Christ!!

If understanding the Gospel is something you need to dig deeper into, please check out these resources:

Why else may your passion and zeal to pursue God's purposes be waning? If spiritual independence or forgetting who you are in Christ are not resonating with you, perhaps one of the next two reasons will...

Staying enslaved to sin prevents us from being all-in for Christ (and our marriage); a complete zeal and passion-killer.

Be honest with God and yourself about any unchecked sin.

Confess and repent. Then rest in His merciful grace that has freed you from that sin.

You won’t be perfect, but your heart will be reminded of the truth that sets you free, and your zeal will be restored.

Eyes off yourself and onto the prize; run in HIS might, remember?

Comparing your life/marriage to others’ (aka coveting).

This is one to which I can easily fall prey, scrolling through the houses on Zillow, wondering how much easier our lives would be if we could just live in one of those houses.


That “prize” (the newer, bigger house example) is an idol. And idols will never, ever, ever satisfy in the long run.

What comparisons are you making? What things do you covet? Here are a few examples:

  • The marriage you wish yours was like

  • The job you wish you had (or didn’t have)

  • The perfect husband/wife you’ll never have

  • The children you wish yours behaved like

  • The body you’re trying to get

  • The salary you’re chasing

  • The ministry you think God should give you

This was Adam and Eve’s struggle, too (HERE is their story). They wanted more. Not more of the abundance God freely gave, but more of the one thing He asked them not to touch; the one thing that would cost them everything.

(For more information on idols and their impact on marriage, read THIS.)

So, which one of those reasons answers the question: Why am I lacking zeal and passion for the right things?

Which ones resonate with you?

Be honest with God, yourself, and your spouse (bonus points for that one!), knowing that no matter which one you’re in, it can be made right because of Jesus Christ.

He is our Redeemer AND our example by which to live.

Think about it.


Vow to Change: An Encouraging Call to Action

For motivation, think of Paul

Remember how Paul compares living the Christian life to running a marathon?

That means we need to stay motivated, trained, and fueled with our eyes focused on the end goal.

What kept Paul- one of the most influential Christ-followers in human history- motivated, fueled, trained, and focused?

He tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:9, God’s called me to live a holy life not because of anything I’ve done, but because of HIS purpose and grace.

That’s his fuel and his purpose.

God reminds us (through Paul) that He’s given us the resources we need to run for His purposes (like investing in our marriage). We have:

  • God’s Word, breathed out by God Himself, profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

  • The Holy Spirit who dwells within us. So we need not fear; we have power, love, and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7,14).

  • The grace of Jesus Christ to strengthen us (2 Timothy 2:1).

  • Godly examples to follow (2 Timothy 1:5).

Near the end of Paul’s life, as he wrote to Timothy from a Roman prison (which he was in for sharing the Gospel), he was able to say: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).

We, like Paul, are equipped to keep pressing forward with a purpose so that, at the end of our lives, we may say the same thing:

I have fought the good fight.

I have finished the race.

I have kept the faith.

And then… INVEST

Maybe it’s not you who’s losing zeal, it’s your spouse. Does he/she need encouragement? Guess what? That’s what you’re there for!

Because you’re in this 3-legged race together, remember?

So, how can you help?

  1. Be a student of your spouse. Know their “sin triggers” and what kills their zeal, then take action on their behalf consistently. This is NOT to be done in a judgemental or condescending way, so…

  2. It starts with you. YOU keep your zeal and passion by keeping in step with the Spirit, always investing in your relationship with the Lord. Then…

  3. PRAY for your spouse: Dear Lord, please change (spouse’s name)’s desires to match YOUR desires for (him/her). Open the eyes of (his/her) heart so (he/she) is reminded of the hope to which (he/she) is called. Give me patience, grace, and a merciful spirit to help them when they stumble.

  4. Remember, God is working. You and your spouse are still together because God wants to use both of you for His kingdom. He has good works prepared for you (Ephesians 2:10). He has a race mapped out for your life together, with an indescribable finish line and abundant blessings along the way.

So, let’s:
  • Press on toward the goal, forgetting what is behind and straining toward what lies ahead. Press on toward the goal and win the heavenly prize to which God has called us (Philippians 3:13-14).

  • Lift our drooping hands and strengthen our weak knees, making straight paths for our feet (Hebrews 12:12).

  • Not get tired of doing what is good, because we’ll reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up (Galatians 6:9)

  • Be steadfast and immovable, excelling in the work of the Lord, because our labor in the Lord is NOT in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Paul didn’t sit on the sidelines, satisfied with mediocrity. He knew God wanted more for (and from) him; that was his motivation to press on and keep investing in others. Let it be yours, too.

Invest in your marriage.

To live the Christian life is a privilege with responsibilities to love like Christ.

So today, love your spouse with a sacrificial love, because that’s how He loves us (1 John 4:19). (And remember, He never asks us to do that alone.)

God, tighten the rope that tethers my spouse and I together in this 3-legged marriage race. Help us keep in step with the Spirit. Give us zeal and passionate hearts to be all in for our relationship with You and our marriage. Make YOUR glory our goal; serving You with the spiritual fervor that You’ve served us. In Jesus’ Name. AMEN.

To go deeper, listen to this post's corresponding podcast:


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