Today my husband and I celebrate our 49th anniversary. We married young without any teaching on how to make a marriage flourish or counseling on building relationships. Couples stayed together because they’d made a vow to God—only death would separate them. Extended family, the church, the community, and the culture supported that commitment.

Although James and I had been in church all our lives, we didn’t know how to apply biblical principles to daily life. And we had no concept of the depth of love God intended for marriage. I studied the Bible, hoping to find a list, “Ten Commandments for a Successful Marriage.” I didn’t find it, but I discovered the Bible overflowed with relationship principles.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1).

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up…Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger…Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:26-32).

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8).

What a surprise to discover that putting God’s instructions into practice in my life had nothing to do with my husband! My anger is my issue with the Lord. My critical spirit is my issue with the Lord. My stinkin’ attitude is my issue with the Lord. If my husband has an anger problem, a critical spirit, a stinkin’ attitude, his issues are with the Lord, not me. At the end of the day, I am accountable only for my life of obedience.

When I became concerned with my individual, personal walk of obedience, I found doing what God says not only made me happy but also blessed my marriage. Only two essentials are required for a flourishing marriage:
• A conviction that God has a standard of conduct for our lives.
• A desire to live that way—to walk in obedience to His Word.

I found this in Leviticus 22:31 Amplified. “So shall you heartily accept my commandments and conform your life and conduct to them. I am the Lord.”

One person in the relationship, willing to obey the Lord, can by his grace change the relationship. Time, maturity, and following Christ made amazing changes in both of us as the Lord quietly worked, doing his typical Ephesians 3:20, “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”

Marriage problems are a spiritual problem—failure of one or both spouses to put God’s principles into practice. That’s a moment-by-moment choice…a personal choice.

To begin a marriage transformation, try paraphrasing Ephesians 4:26-32. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building up your spouse…you get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger…you be kind and compassionate to your spouse, forgiving, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

About sixty percent of married couples, including Christians, are calling it quits. I’m grieved and baffled by that statistic and feel an urgency to do something to help couples anchor their marriage against the divorce tidal wave. I have a book coming soon: Help! I’m Stuck and I Can’t Get Out! The Maximum Marriage Maintenance and Repair Kit.

It’s my conviction that couples would work harder to stay together if they saw themselves as stuck. What would you do if you knew you were stuck in this marriage for fifty years? Wouldn’t it make sense to do everything within your power to make it as sweet as it could be?

If I bought a house with the intention of spending five decades there, I’d gather tools and paint and start to work making the place as comfortable and pleasant as I could make it. Instead of wasting time griping about all the features I didn’t get, I’d appreciate what I got—after all, I chose this house for its appealing qualities—and I’d give my best to turning it into everything I dreamed.

Our Lord said when a man and woman are joined in marriage, “…the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matt. 19: 5-6). I understand that to mean don’t let anyone separate you…ever. Someone said marriage is like gluing two pieces of paper together. You can’t rip them apart without damaging both.

We only have three options: escape (divorce); endure (tough it out); enrich (make it the best it can be). Why not consider yourself stuck in this marriage? Don’t waste time looking for fine-print loopholes and an easy escape route. Get out the tools and paint and start to work!

As long as divorce is an option, we will never fully invest in our marriage. Why bother, if we’re not sure we’re staying the course?

Happy anniversary, James Barker, the love of my life!

Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it:
except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
Psalm 127:1

© Dianne Barker 2014

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