A perfect marriage is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other.
Love is not a feeling; love is a commitment. Our world has redefined love to be nothing more than a fickle feeling that comes and goes. Based on this hollow definition of love, married couples often call it quits simply because they’ve “fallen out of love” or “don’t feel the same way they used to feel.” Resist the temptation to base your marriage on your feelings. Build your marriage on a rock-solid commitment and your feeling will usually have a way of catching up.
“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13:7 (NLT)
Question for reflection: How am I communicating my love and commitment to my spouse every day?
Be an encourager; the world has plenty of critics already.
Choose to be your spouse’s biggest encourager; not his/her biggest critic. Choose to be the person who wipes away their tears; not the one who causes them. Choose to become a cheerleader for your spouse’s strengths instead of always pointing out his/her weaknesses. Encouragement is a simple-but-powerful tool to bring fuel to your marriage and joy to your spouse.
“Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.” Proverbs 12:25 (NLT)
Question for reflection: Through both my words and my actions, how can I be a better encourager to my spouse?
Secrecy is an enemy of intimacy.
Trust is the foundation of marriage and trust requires honesty and transparency. When God created the first married couple, they were naked and that nakedness isn’t just a picture of physical intimacy; it’s a picture of total transparency in all aspects of the marriage. Nakedness vividly conveys the message, “I have nothing to hide from you.” If you desire total trust and transparency in all aspects of your relationship, confess your secrets and get vulnerable and “naked” in all aspects of your marriage.
“And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” Genesis 2:25 (ESV)
In what ways am I not being completely honest, transparent, vulnerable and “naked” with my spouse?
Marriage means being there for each other no matter what!
A strong marriage rarely has two strong people at the time. It requires a husband and wife taking turns being strong for each other in those moments when the other feels weak. Your spouse should never have to face any obstacle without your full partnership, encouragement and support. You might not always be able to offer the perfect answer or the perfect solution, but simply by offering yourself and your support you can create a perfect opportunity for growth in your relationship.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 (NIV)
Does my spouse know that I will be there for him/her no matter what?
Don’t just be physically monogamous; be mentally monogamous too.
In our world we are constantly bombarded with lust-fueled images that objectify people, cheapen the sacred gift of sex and tempt our minds to wander into dangerous and sinful fantasies. Jesus taught that to look at someone lustfully is to commit an act of infidelity. Resist the urge to let your eyes or your thoughts travel to places that could pull you away from your spouse. Lust views people as objects to be used; love views people as souls to be cherished.
“I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28 (NIV)
Are my thoughts honoring God and honoring my spouse or are my thoughts harming my marriage?
Never stop flirting with your spouse and never start flirting with anyone else!
Flirtation is an act meant to bring a romantic connection between two people. Within marriage, there are daily opportunities to make these connections through touching, talking and a myriad of other ways. There are also opportunities throughout the day to create these moments with people other than your spouse. Be very careful to keep your flirtation focused on your spouse alone and to always remain captivated by his/her love.
“You have captured my heart, my treasure, my bride. You hold it hostage with one glance of your eyes, with a single jewel of your necklace.” Song of Solomon 4:9 (NLT)
Do my words to my spouse clearly communicate that I love him/her now more than ever?
Your habits will shape your marriage, so keep the right habits and quit unhealthy habits.
Keep being thoughtful. Keep writing love notes. Keep doing the things you did at the beginning of the relationship and adding new marriage-building habits to the old ones. Don’t let your marriage get on autopilot, because anything left on autopilot will eventually crash! Remember that consistency is the most powerful force in a marriage. Make sure you are consistently doing the right things.
“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9 (NLT)
Which habits do I need to keep and which ones do I need to quit?
Treat your spouse like a priority; not like an interruption.
Never take your spouse for granted. Make sure he/she knows that you value your marriage more than any other part of your schedule. You can show your spouse the place of priority he/she always holds in your heart by simply answering the phone whenever he/she calls, always being thoughtful, and remembering that you’re never too busy to be thoughtful and respectful to each other.
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10 (NIV)
Do my words and my actions consistently communicate that my spouse is a top priority?
Celebrate together in the good times and lean on each other in the hard times.
Marriage is “for better or for worse.” Your marriage will experience both extremes. When your spouse is happy, you should be the first to share in the celebration. When your spouse is sad or even heartbroken, you should be there for support. In those moments of pain your spouse won’t need you to cheer them up or to offer advice. Simply be there. Hold each other. Pray together. Cry together. These moments of shared pain will become some of your most intimate shared memories.
“Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15 (NLT)
How can I better celebrate with my spouse in good times and better support my spouse in difficult times?
The little things in marriage can make a big difference!
Small acts of thoughtfulness done with great consistency can make a massive positive impact in a marriage. Conversely, seemingly-small negative actions or habits can erode intimacy and eventually stifle a marriage altogether. Watch out for those “little foxes” that seem relatively harmless. Don’t let them weasel their way into your home. Protect your marriage from negative thoughts, negative influences, negative habits or negativity in any size or form.
“Catch all the foxes, those little foxes, before they ruin the vineyard of love, for the grapevines are blossoming!” Song of Solomon 2:15 (NLT)
What are the “little foxes” that are stealthily causing damage in our marriage and how can we get rid of them?
The happiest couples are a little “weird,” because they’ve learned that “normal” isn’t working.
What our world calls “normal” when it comes to marriage is actually unhealthy. When we look around at our culture, it’s apparently normal for a couple to be unhappy, disconnected and eventually divorced. If you want your marriage to be healthy and happy, you must be countercultural at times. Be willing to do things others don’t seem willing to do. Base your value system on God’s timeless truths instead of the world’s fickle trends.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” Romans 12:2a (NLT)
What habits to healthy couples embody that stand out as different or maybe even “weird”?
Let laughter fill the soundtrack of your marriage!
Even in seasons of struggles and pain, strong couples make it a priority to laugh together. They’ve learned that while they won’t always “feel” happy, they can always have a joy that transcends the circumstances. Choosing to laugh together isn’t being blind towards the difficulties. Rather, it’s a faith-filled declaration that, “We will get through this! Nothing can steal our joy. Because of Christ, all our pain is temporary and all our joy will be eternal!”
“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 (NLT)
Do we laugh because of temporary circumstances or because of permanent joy?
Thoughtfulness is a source of fuel that keeps a marriage going strong.
You don’t need a lot of money or any special set of skills to be thoughtful and considerate towards each other. Don’t let selfishness or pride distract you from consistently putting the needs of your spouse ahead of your own. When a marriage has both spouses intentionally being considerate and showing thoughtfulness to each other, the marriage will thrive. Make sure your spouse knows that he/she is always on your mind.
“Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do.” Philippians 4:5a (NLT)
Am I consistently thoughtful and considerate towards my spouse?
A strong marriage requires two people who choose to love each other even on days when they struggle to like each other!
Many modern love stories would have us naively believe that love is little more than a fickle feeling that comes and goes. The truth is that love isn’t a feeling; it’s an action-oriented commitment. It’s a choice to give your best to someone even when they are at their worst. It means serving someone even when they are in no position to repay. It means giving more grace that we feel like giving. That’s what Christ did for us and what He calls us to do for each other.
“Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14 (ESV)
Am I showing my spouse “love” by God’s definition of love or by the world’s definition?
Choose an attitude of gratitude everyday.
It’s not happy people who are thankful; it’s thankful people who are happy. Choose to say “Thank you” to your spouse for all he/she does and always remember to say “Thank you” to your Savior for all He has done. Let gratitude replace grumbling in your marriage. The next time you feel like complaining about your boss, stop and give thanks that you have a job. The next time you feel like complaining about a messy house, pause and give thanks that you have a family instead of a clean-but-empty house. Give thanks for everything.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)
How would my marriage look differently if I spent less time complaining and more time giving thanks?
God’s timing is almost always different than our own timing, but His plans always prove to be perfect.
We all have our own ideas and agendas, and we tend to get frustrated when our plans don’t work out the ways we want. In those moments when doors don’t seem to be opening fast enough or when you and your spouse feel frustrated that your plans aren’t happening like you thought they would, remember that God is with you and His plans for your life and your marriage are better than your own. Trust Him and praise Him even in moments of disappointment. He knows what He’s doing.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Are we trusting in God’s timing or are we trying to force our own agenda?
Pride is the soil where all other sin takes root.
Pride, on the surface, seems like a “harmless” sin. In fact, we often don’t even think of it as a sin, but it is dangerous indeed. Pride is the primary cause of divorce. Pride is the whisper in our ear that seduces us into believing that our way is always the best way and being “right” is more important than being loving. Pride is the enemy of love. Choose humility instead. Humility doesn’t mean you lack confidence or courage; it simply means you’re led by love instead of selfishness.
“Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18 (NLT)
Would my spouse consider me to be filled with pride or filled with humility?
Celebrate your spouse’s strengths instead of pointing out weaknesses.
When we focus on something, it starts to seem bigger. If you choose to focus on your spouse’s strengths, they’ll seem even bigger, but if you focus only on weaknesses and flaws, you’ll see them even when they aren’t really there. If you must focus on flaws, always start with your own flaws. You are the only part of the marriage that you truly have the power to change. Always be willing to build up your spouse instead of looking for ways to tear him/her down.
“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?” Matthew 7:3 (NLT)
Am I better at celebrating my spouse’s strengths or at pointing out his/her weaknesses?
Treat your spouse the way you want to be treated.
We learn the “Golden Rule” as small children, but too often, we don’t apply this timeless truth in the one relationship that should matter most. Always treat your spouse with thoughtfulness, respect, kindness and encouragement. Treat him/her the way you want to be treated. This doesn’t mean that you should assume your spouse’s needs and desires are the same as yours. Be more focused on his/her needs than you are on your own needs.
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12 (NIV)
Do I consistently treat my spouse the way I want to be treated?
Strive to be a peacemaker; not a pot-stirrer!
Unity in marriage doesn’t mean uniformity. You won’t always agree, but should always be agreeable towards each other. Even in moments of disagreement, don’t look for ways to stir up conflict or belittle each other’s opinions. Instead, work together with mutual respect to bring peace to every conflict. Be quick to apologize when you’ve hurt your spouse’s feelings. Work together to create an oasis of peace in your home. Make your relationship a place you want to escape to and not a place you want to escape from.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18 (NIV)
Am I creating peace or creating conflict in my marriage?
Worry occupies the part of your heart where faith should live.
All of us are prone to worrying sometimes, but worries can unravel the peace of your home and the unity of your marriage. Worrying gives us the illusion of control over situations that feel out-of-control, but God never called us to control our circumstances. He calls us to trust Him with our circumstances. The next time you and your spouse are tempted to worry, try praying together instead. God sometime uses our prayers to change our circumstances, but He always uses our prayers to change our perspective.
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6 (NLT)
How would our marriage improve if we worried less and prayed more?
Don’t treat your spouse the way your spouse treats you. Treat your spouse the way God treats you.
There’s a natural tendency to want to “keep score” in marriage. We want credit for all our good deeds and we want payback for any wrongs our spouse might have committed towards. The problem with keeping score in marriage is that both spouse’s always lose. God gave us His best while we were at our worst, and He calls us to love each other in His perfect example of love. Give your best even when your spouse is at his/her worst. People need love most when they deserve it least.
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.” Romans 12:17 (NIV)
Do I freely give my spouse the love and grace that God has freely given me?
The best spouses are good communicators and the best communicators are good listeners.
Listening is the most effective form of communication. Most of us listen only to form our response instead of listening to fully understand what the other is saying. When your spouse is talking, put down the distractions and give your undivided attention. Taking the time to listen with undivided focus and wholehearted compassion communicates much more than your words ever could.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19 (NIV)
Would my spouse consider me to be a good listener?
The tone of your words will shape the tone of your marriage.
Think about the tone of your words when you are talking to your spouse. Are you rushed and annoyed or are your tender and thoughtful in your replies? One of the most powerful (and tragically underused) pieces of marriage advice is to simply be nice to each other. There’s never a good excuse to be unkind to your spouse. Kindness is contagious; but unfortunately, so is rudeness. Make sure you’re spreading the right one.
“Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Proverbs 16:24 (NLT)
Am I creating a climate of kindness or of rudeness in my marriage?
Your mistakes don’t define your character. It’s what you choose to do after you’ve made the mistake that makes all the difference.
If we make a poor choice once, it’s a “mistake.” If we make the same poor choice again, it’s a deliberate and destructive decision. Are there choices you are consistently making that are harming your marriage? Are there habits that need to stop? Are there words that need to cease? Don’t get stuck on autopilot and continue to make decisions that need to stop. Anything left on autopilot will eventually crash. Examine your choices and stop repeating the bad ones.
“As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.” Proverbs 26:11 (NLT)
Am I repeating any negative behaviors that need to stop once and for all?
Your family can do with less of almost everything if it means having more of you.
The Bible clearly calls us to hard work and to a sacred duty of providing for our families, but in our culture the sin of laziness doesn’t seem to be nearly as common as the sin of overworking. If you are too busy to consistently spend quality time with your family, then you need to immediately re-examine your priorities. On your deathbed, your faith and your family will be all that matters to you, so please don’t wait until then to make them a bigger priority than your work.
“Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit.” Proverbs 23:4 (NLT)
Am I consistently showing my spouse and family that I love and value them above my pursuits and possessions?
Choices made in anger lead to regrets.
Anger is a natural human emotion. We all feel it, so the Bible never says that anger itself is a sin. Anger, however, can easily lead us into sin. We tend to make our worst choices when we’re responding in anger. If you are quick to anger, you should pray and ask God to reveal the root causes that are robbing you of joy. You should also be very careful not to allow your anger to control you, because it could also sabotage your marriage.
“Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.” Proverbs 29:11 (NLT)
Do I make my choices in anger or do I make my choices with wisdom?
Storms are inevitable, but destruction is optional. The right foundation makes all the difference.
The strongest homes and the strongest marriages all have one thing in common: A strong foundation. Storms will come in your marriage. Circumstances that are out of your control will rock you and threaten to destroy you, but if you have the right foundation, you will weather any storm. Every marriage needs a foundation of faith in God, commitment to one another and resolve to face every obstacle hand-in-hand and side-by-side.
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.” Matthew 7:24 (NLT)
What is the foundation of our marriage?
It’s not our job to fix people; it’s our job to love them even while they are broken.
There will be times you are tempted to “fix” your spouse or change something about your spouse, but resist that temptation. When one spouse tries to change the other, neither of them are changed but both of them end up frustrated! Instead of fixing or changing or coercing, just love each other. Love is what God uses to change us all. Love is the very tool God will use to fix us and change us into all that we were intended to be.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 (NIV)
Your marriage won’t be defined by the size of your struggles but by the size of your commitment to overcome the struggles together.
Couples who make it work “til death do us part” aren’t the ones who never had a reason to get divorced. They’re simply the ones whose love and perseverance were always stronger than their reasons for quitting. Those two ingredients (love and perseverance) might be the two most powerful forces in a marriage. If you remain steadfast in your love for each other and unshakeable in your commitment to each other, your marriage will never fail!
“May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” 2 Thessalonians 3:5 (NIV)
Are both love and perseverance at the heart of our marriage?
A husband and wife must function like two wings on the same bird. They must work together in harmony or the marriage will never get off the ground.
Marriage is a partnership. It’s not just a partnership in a business sense, but it’s the most sacred type of partnership. It’s two people committing their lives to God and to each other. It’s a promise to be there for each other through every season. It’s a vow to bring out the best in each other and to always have each other’s back. It’s a selfless act of placing the needs of your spouse ahead of your own need. When both spouses will consistently do this for the other, the marriage will soar!
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:21 (NIV)
In what areas of our marriage do we need to develop a stronger partnership?
Thank you for reading this 31-Day Marriage Devotional and investing this time into building a deeper faith and a stronger relationship with your husband or wife. If this resource helped you, please share it through email and social media so we can help others too!