Sadly, as someone who studies marriages, I see more and more marriages that are just going through the routines of marriage without really enjoying the journey. At the same time, I do know couples who have learned how to make their marriage work for the good of both spouses and are truly enjoying life together. My wife and I want to be included in the latter group.
What does it take to put or keep fun in a marriage?
Here are a few tips I shared recently at a pastor’s retreat:
Prioritize your marriage – Make your marriage a priority in your life.All of us would say that our marriage is a priority, but do we practice what we believe?Our marriage should take precedence over every other human relationship and every other activity. My wife knows when I am putting her first and when something else has my greatest attention.
Schedule time for fun – We should schedule time to simply enjoy life with our spouse. Everyone I know is busy, but we should make sure our schedule never gets too crowded to enjoy time with the love of our life. As a pastor I am never really “off work”, but I try to “be home” when I am home. Still, I will often hear my wife or my children ask me something like, “Are you really listening to me or are you thinking about your next appointment?” We must set boundaries between our home and our work or other activities. We should schedule opportunities to have fun together. When is the last time you and your wife went on a date?
Let worry go – Life is full of struggles. Struggles will never completely disappear, but we should learn how to balance the need for control in our lives and the desire to live at peace and trust God through the hard times of life. It is important that we not allow struggles that come into the marriage to tear the marriage apart, but instead we should let our trials draw us closer to each other.
Expect surprises – Stuff happens! We know that; we see bad things happen everyday, but for some reason we are caught off guard when they happen to us. We should not be surprised when our marriage needs a little extra help because of the struggles of life.
Celebrate along the way – I have been told that it takes three or four positive life occurrences to offset every negative. If this is true then each of us need to look for opportunities to celebrate the good things of life. When times are especially stressful my wife and I try to make sure we are remembering the positives in life. They are always there, but we have to sometimes look for them. Recently in an especially stressful week on an especially tedious day, my wife and I were slightly tense with each other. One of our boys said something, which may have otherwise seemed insignificant any other time, but helped us remember on this day how blessed we have been together.
Enjoy each other’s interests – It’s okay to have outside interests, but one of the goals of marriage is to enjoy life together. That usually involves enjoying each other’s activities together. I don’t like to shop necessarily, and there are certain stores where I refuse to shop, but I go shopping regularly with my wife because I love my wife and she loves shopping. It’s always amazed me that when I invest the time to shop with my wife she always tries to give back to me by allowing me to enjoy one of my interests.
Get away – We all need time away from everything. On a pastor’s income I can’t usually take fancy vacations, but I am not afraid to invest in my marriage. My wife and I love to travel. One of our more fun things to do together is to plan an inexpensive day trips. There is something about physically leaving the environment in which we are comfortable that pushes us closer to the ones we love.
Serve Together – We have discovered that the more we serve other people together the more fun we have in our marriage. Taking mission trips have become a fun way to spend time together. Serving our church together brings us closer to each other.
Little things matter – Moments in a marriage that may seem to be minor details have the potential for major impact on the marriage relationship. It is important to handle little issues or conflict before they become big things. If a husband and wife have a minor disagreement it can easily escalate into a major division in the relationship if left unattended.
We should also allow little pleasures to bring happiness to the marriage. One of my favorite times of day is the walk my wife and I take around the neighborhood in the afternoon. That few minutes each day keeps us close relationally and helps me to see my wife in a fun setting.
Laugh at life – I read a statistic once that preschoolers laugh an average of 300 times a laugh an average of 17 times a day. The older we get the less we laugh. Laughter is good for our health and laughing together builds stronger relationships. Couples need to learn to laugh through life together.
Dream together – When couples are dating they seem to have fun discussing their future plans. Once we get married we tend to lose the art of dreaming. Dreaming inspires and encourages the heart. Dreaming together as a couple keeps the relationship fueled with new passions and desires.
Spread the pain – I am trying to model my pastoral responsibilities like the Acts 6 model in the Bible. I am learning that I cannot do everything.I shouldn’t try to live my life alone. Don’t be afraid to say “no” in order to protect your marriage. Many couples I know are so busy they never have time just for the two of them. It is also important, however, to have some close friends with whom we can share life’s burdens. None of us were meant to live on an island to ourselves and the same is true for married couples.
Try these steps and see if the fun comes back into your marriage. Marriage is supposed to be fun!
What tips do you have for making marriage fun again?
Today we elect a new president. Will your man be selected? What if he’s not?
One of the disappointments to me in current culture is the disregard we have for the office of presidency. I realize President George W. Bush is experiencing historic low approval ratings, but he is still the Commander-in-Chief. Regardless of our agreement or disagreement with the person in office, as believers I think we have an obligation to respect the office and the office holder. That goes for John McCain or Barrack Obama. Tomorrow it will either be President McCain or President Obama.
Romans 13 is clear that our responsibility is to submit to authorities. This doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything they do or even work to change their policies. It certainly doesn’t mean we have to reelect them in four years. It does mean that we are to show them respect as we criticize them and as we disagree, because they are the elected leader of our nation.
My best example of this is in my own family. My boys may not always agree with me. I am certainly not always respectable. They are expected, because of my position, to always respect me. They don’t have to agree with me. As they become adults they may not even have to obey me, but my position as their father should garner their respect. (I hope they are reading!)
My 17 year old son Nate (www.nateedmondson.com) works with our church’s youth group. Recently a 6th grader came to him with some questions. He was struggling to understand two main questions. 1) How can God hear everyone’s prayers at one time? And; 2) Why does God allow the suffering that has happened in his family? My son asked me how he should address the boy’s questions.
Of course, these are simple questions when you are as mature and experienced as a pastor as I am, so I quickly laid out for him the proper, convicting, easy answers for this 6th grade juvenile.
If I had easy answers to those questions I’d write my book and retire! Those questions are just as relevant today if you are a 6th grader or a 60 year old. God is big and I can’t fully comprehend all His ways.
The dilemma of the ages is this:
If God is all powerful, why doesn’t He stop all suffering?
If God is all loving, doesn’t He care enough to intervene on our behalf?
If God is all knowing, then why doesn’t He stop the trials before they come into our life?
Yet the Psalmist David writes, “One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. (Psalms 62:11-12 NIV)
John writes, “Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions.” (John 16:30 NIV)
I don’t have answers to those questions. I have some, but as soon as I attempt to answer them something else will happen that I don’t understand and I will be faced with a new dilemma. No, in order to make peace with questions like this my only option is to believe in what I cannot see. I must have a faith that’s larger than my experience. I must choose to trust a God who is the answer to all the questions that I have.
I close with the “answer” God gave Job when he was asking similar questions.
Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. (Job 38:1-3 NIV) You can read God’s complete answer HERE.
Don’t ever be afraid to ask the tough questions. I’m glad this 6th grader is asking them. Just know that God holds the answers and there are many questions in this life you and I may never fully comprehend.
And now I want to urge you, dear lady, that we should love one another. This is not a new commandment, but one we had from the beginning. 2 John 5 NLT
Repetition is sometimes used to emphasize a point. If anyone closely examines John’s 2nd epistle they surely see the repetition John uses. The point John makes by repetition is that you and I are to “love one another”.
If you have spent any time in church then you have heard that repeated over and over again. The problem is that most of us are slow learners. We can know the truth, but following through with it is often hard for us to do. So let me ask you, Is there someone in your life that you really are having a hard time loving? Maybe you’ve told others that you’ve forgiven this person, that you have no hard feelings towards them, but the truth is there is still an element of hate in your heart that just won’t go away. If you think about the hurt this person caused you, you would get angry all over again. Maybe you would even secretly wish harm upon this person. I have often said that if the first thought you have about someone is the hurt they once caused you, then you haven’t truly forgiven them. Is that the case with your story?
Today I dare you to listen to the encouragement of John? “This is not a new commandment, but one we had from the beginning….We should love one another.” Allow God today to look deep into your heart, examine your love quotient for those who have hurt you the most, and ask God to help you love these people (or this person) the way Christ loves you. If you can ever get there you will find a freedom in true love and forgiveness that cannot be achieved any other way.
But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won your fight with these false prophets, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. 1 John 4:4 NLT
Of what are you afraid? Why has the world shaken your trust? Don’t you know that you are a child of the King and that everything is under His control?
Sometimes the Christians look like everyone else when it comes to how we deal with the pressures of life. We tend to allow stress to be our motivator, instead of relying on God’s light to direct our paths. Christians should have a power that the world cannot measure. We have been bought and paid for with the blood of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Recently, during one of those really hectic days, I saw myself getting caught up in the fast-paced rat race of life. I was moody, sarcastic, easily angered, all because the world was tossing more at me than I could handle. I walked into my son’s bathroom and my eyes were attracted to a plaque on the sink which reads: WISE MEN STILL SEEK HIM!
I realized that I was fighting this “battle” completely on my own. I don’t have to win the victories of life. My battle is over! I am on the winning side! My life can now be focused on building eternal treasures. I am now in the process of decorating my Heavenly mansion.
Suddenly my disposition changed. I had a new perspective as I reflected on who He is and who I am with Him instead of the problems surrounding me. It was a great way to end the day!
Do you need a new perspective? Is life getting you down? Focus on your victory in Jesus! Remember you are on the winning team!
“announce now to the people, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.”" so twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained. Judges 7:3 NIV
I can almost hear Gideon now, approaching the people with this one:
” Okay now, listen up men, if any of you are just too afraid to do this, let it be known now or forever hold your peace. If you’re scared, now’s your chance to opt out of this deal.”
Over two-thirds of the men volunteer to let someone else do it! Isn’t that the way it is today! Actually, I think now the statistic is much worse. (Don’t “they” say that 10% of the people do 90% of the work?)
I know serving God isn’t always easy. We can think of dozens of excuses to keep us from fully being obedient to God’s call on our life. The economy is struggling. You have a busy schedule. You are afraid you don’t have what it takes. You have a past that embarrasses you. You have been hurt before. I have had all those concerns at times before too!
Thankfully, there were 10,000 who said yes! (God would later reduce that number, but 10,000 were willing to go.) These were the faithful. These were the ones willing to put God’s agenda ahead of their own. These were also the ones whom God can reward! They were setting themselves up to see God’s strength and glory displayed through their life!
Thankfully there are those men and women today, who though they may still have fear, or think they don’t have what it takes to get the job done, are still willing to commit to work for Christ; regardless of the cost. They realize the reward is worth it in the end!
Are you among this elite group?
Has a divorce in your past kept you out of church?
“Not one person from that church has ever called me in three years.” That was the response from the man I ran into at a store recently. “I’ll never set foot in that church again”, the man concluded. Sadly I’m not sure he’s setting foot in any church these days.
Little would need to be said to convince people that divorce is a major problem in our society. There are now more people in families that have experienced divorce than there are families never touched by divorce. If the church today wants to reach families for Christ it must learn how to minister to divorced people.
There are no easy answers. As a pastor who has experienced the pain of divorce personally, I feel it is imperative that we continue to teach Biblical truths and never allow our culture to dictate our teachings. (I realize there are plenty who feel a divorced person can’t be a pastor, and for that I would just say we disagree.) On the other hand, we must live within our culture and find ways to reach the people within the context of that culture. In my counseling of people who have experienced divorce, I have learned there are a few things which are imperative for people who want to be accepted into the church following divorce.
Don’t Be Plagued by Divorce. Most divorced people feel that they are no longer welcome in the church. Many times this feeling is self-induced, but often it is a result of attitudes within the church. Divorced people tell me they are often made to feel dirty in the church, rather than being ministered to with God’s grace as any other person would be. The Bible is clear that God hates divorce, not because He hates divorced people, but because divorce hurts the people God loves. Church is the place where hurting people belong! You should feel welcomed into the church following divorce. Don’t allow bad representations of who Christ is by other Christians to keep you from worshipping God.
Find a Church of Grace. I would never encourage someone to attend a church that doesn’t teach God’s Truth. God’s Truth, however, is that His grace is available for all. There are churches that apply God’s grace to divorced people, while maintaining their allegiance to the truth of God’s Word. Don’t be scared away from church by the legalistic and unloving attitudes of a few misguided Christians.
Be willing to learn from your mistakes. Ask for help in discovering the mistakes you made in your marriage and the things that led to its breakup. In every situation, each spouse contributed some part to the breakup. Be willing to humble yourself and admit your part.
Allow your hurts to help others. One of the greatest needs in the church today is for people who are willing to be real and vulnerable before other people. All of us can learn from the mistakes of others. If you have been hurt by the pains of divorce, your experiences are valuable to others and to the church. My divorce has “scarred” me in some people’s eyes permanently, but I know God has used my experience to minister to hundreds of others.
Prepare for future marriages. When my sons each turned 16 years old they spent about 40 hours in driver’s training. In most churches today they will be blessed if he gets ten percent of that time in counseling before marriage. Before you consider remarrying, invest some time in premarital counseling. If free counseling isn’t available, be willing to invest financially in professional counseling. A great marriage is worth the investment.
Find your strength in God: Divorce is hard on everyone involved, but the recovery is much faster if the person is growing spiritually. Even though you have been hurt by divorce, God still has a plan for your life. It is with His strength that you will be able to recover from the pain of divorce.
As a person who watches statistics, I have wondered if one of the reasons church attendance nationally is declining is that we aren’t reaching the divorced people of society; one of the largest segments of the American population. If you have been hurt by words and actions of people in the church because of your divorce, or if you feel unwelcome in the church, as a pastor speaking on behalf of the church, please accept my apology. The Jesus I know from the Bible would surely not want you to be further wounded by the church He gave His life for and would welcome you to His church!
The church should not embrace divorce, but it should certainly love and embrace the people who are being hurt by divorce and offer solutions to hopefully change the culture away from divorce. That will never occur if the subject of divorce is taboo in our churches. Certainly Jesus would have hated divorce. His father does. I have often told people that I understand God’s Word when He says “I hate divorce” better than most people. Divorce injures the people God loves so much. I have the idea, however, that if Jesus lived in our culture He would have contacted the man who had been missing from church these past three years. My question for the church today is this: Shouldn’t we do likewise?
Please accept my invitation today to be a part of the Church of Jesus Christ!
Our community group finished up Purpose Driven Life this week. I’ve been supplementing the text with my own questions from the material. Here are the questions for Purpose Number 5. What are your answers?
1. If “you were made for a mission”, have you figured out yet what that is?
2. What is your process of mission discovery? How do you think that takes place?
3. What fears come to your mind when you think about evangelism or sharing your faith?
4. Who do you know that needs more than anything in their life to hear and receive the Good News of Jesus Christ?
5. If we are to “give ourselves completely to God” what is the hardest thing for you to give up in order for you to follow Christ completely?
6. Are there areas of your life/struggles in your life that are hard for you to share with others? Could those be the things God most wants to use to win others to Him?
7. Are you certain of your salvation? Has there ever been a time of doubt?
8. In what areas of your life do you most need to “shift from self-centered thinking to other-centered thinking?
9. Is it difficult to see yourself as a part of the “global” picture of God’s story? What helps you/hinders you from doing so?
10. What do you think of when you read “Shift from ‘here and now’ thinking to eternal thinking”? How does that help you when you practice doing so?
11. What excuses do we usually use for not serving Christ as you should?
12. Where is your life out of balance? Where do you need to be more balanced?
13. If you had to give yourself a spiritual check-up today, how are you doing?
14. If your life purpose had a mission statement, what would it be?
15. What do you most want the “contribution” of your life to be?