In just a couple of days a couple we admire will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. We also have friends who celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary a couple of months ago. What is unique, apart from longevity, is the way they look at one another. In their eyes you can still see the sparkle of love and excitement just being with their spouse. Why is it only a few couples have long marriages and within those marriages there is only a small amount that still have that sparkle in their eyes?
The secret to this kind of long lasting love comes from the last resource most people would turn to. That resources is Jesus himself when he says, John 15:12 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Jesus is telling us that real love, sacrificial love, go the extra mile love even for your enemies is not based on how hard we try but on how thankful we are for his love toward us. Our level of genuine thankfulness empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit gives people the ability to love even when the emotion of love does not exist.
So what do you need to do in order to have a marriage that is a blessing, healthy, long-lasting and genuine? The Word of God points to three factors that make all the difference in the world and can last a lifetime.
- Be thankful to Jesus for his love, his sacrifice, his resurrection his presence in you life. In thankfulness there is spiritual power that can literally move mountains. Sadly only a few seem to discover what genuine thankfulness is all about but for those who do they experience the very same power that brought Jesus back from the dead.
- Husbands and wives need to pray together as often as possible. In nearly 40 years of marital counseling with a host of psychological, couple, and communication training I have not found anything more powerful than when a husband and wife take the time, daily, to hold hands, pray, repent, forgive and express their love for Jesus and in turn one another. While we often hear that Christians divorce at the same rate as the culture, nearly 50%, in-depth studies has found something quite interesting. Those who claim to be Christians and actually take time to pray together have less than a 1 out of 1500 chance of separation or divorce. The answer is quite simple. In prayer they are going before the best marriage counselor in the universe who can heal, forgive and grant hope.
- The power to forgive one another because we have been forgiven. Couples hurt one another just by being close together on a daily basis. We all say and do things we later regret. We can act foolishly and without much thought. We can overlook one another’s feelings and needs without batting an eye! We are humans who daily sin and make great blunders.
I remember a great cartoon showing a women sitting in a marriage counselors offices. She said, “When I got married I was look for the ideal, then it became an ordeal, and now I want a new deal!” Believe me it doesn’t get any easier or better when you change partners. The real power of love is the ability to forgive one another daily because Jesus has forgiven you. When we hold on to anger we hurt others and ourselves. When we forgive for Jesus sake then we can be healthy and effective.
“I know, I know. You’re thinking, Ok but what if my partner doesn’t repent?” Did I say anything about them repenting? It is always marvelous when they do repent but that is not what we are talking about. We forgive because we have been forgiven! Most of us love the Lord’s Prayer from the Gospel of Matthew. Few of us read the closing words of Jesus after he has taught the disciples this prayer. Listen to what he says:
Matt. 6:14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Our willingness, out of thankfulness, to forgive even our spouse, even when they don’t repent, keeps us in good shape with God the Father. Wisdom and health for a confusing world comes to those who have his mind. We get his mind by thinking and behaving just as he does.
So how is your marriage going? I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that you can’t fix it no matter how hard you try. The good news is that Jesus is prepared to heal your marriage, give you joy, and let your light shine to others when you live in thankfulness to him, pray with your spouse and forgive them just as Jesus has forgiven you.