Every marriage is unique with its own blend of personality styles, family backgrounds, and life circumstances. Even the “secrets to success” can vary from couple to couple.
However, there are four concepts that add immense strength to any marriage. Relationships that build on these four principles will be resilient and healthy. However, couples who fail to establish these qualities in their homes can expect pain and crisis.
Developing these core strengths will make all the difference in your marriage: honor, attentiveness, commitment, and kindness.
1. Honor. Learn to maintain an inner posture of honor toward your spouse. In your spirit, keep saluting your husband. In your spirit, keep bowing to your wife.
Work on developing this discipline until it becomes your default position. There are no “days off” and no “time out” when it comes to honor. It is the oxygen in your marriage.
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. (Romans 12:10, NLT)
Your spouse is created in the image of God. That was true on your wedding day, and regardless of how long you’ve been married, it is true today. And it will still be true on your most difficult days. Your spouse will always be worthy of honor because of the eternal spirit that God created him or her to be. (Continue reading HERE.)
I am honored to be guest writing today and next week for my talented friend Kristen Hogrefe. Continue reading HERE to learn the four core strengths for any successful marriage (Part One).
You may have guessed that we would not be able to watch the dancing king without noticing the seething shadow up in the palace window. If the king had noticed, it may have been because he felt the scathing heat of that shadow reaching him even in the streets below.
When King David brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, he set a great example for his people by worshiping God with gratitude and with celebration. However, on the same day, his wife Michal set a very different kind of example: she modeled for wives what not to do.
With one caustic sentence, she tore down her marriage “with her own hands” (Proverbs 14:1). With bitterness, she belittled. With contempt, she criticized. With disdain, she despised. Michal accused David of not knowing how to be a king, but the truth was that Michal did not know how to treat a king! As a result, Michal suffered immense heartache and personal loss.
Just as husbands can learn from David in verses 12-19 of 2 Chronicles 16, so wives can learn from Michal in verse 20. A woman is wise who guards against sarcasm, scolding, and scorn–not only in words, but also in thought. Unlike Michal, a godly wife uses life-giving words and a respectful attitude to “build her house.” In that kind of house, the hearts of both the king and the queen can dance.
Old Testament Nazarites, such as Samson, wore long hair as a symbol of consecration to God. In the New Testament, married women wore long hair as a symbol of marital consecration. The Scriptures say that this sign of submission is important “because of the angels” (1 Corinthians 11:10, NIV). Could it be that godly submission to a husband provides a wife with a spiritual covering which is recognized by angels?
The writer of Hebrews tells us that angels are “ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:4). Do angels see a spiritual mark, as it were, on godly wives, indicating that these are the ones whom the angels are to serve?
A man who is not considerate and honoring toward his wife loses spiritual strength; his prayers become impotent. (See 1 Peter 3:7.) Perhaps in the same way, a woman who is not submitted in spirit to the needs and glories of her husband loses the personal ministering of angels to herself.
Although the sign on the head need not be literal, the spiritual principle is firmly established: the way we obey God in our marriages has profound implications for our spiritual status—and, therefore, our entire being.
When Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, was He cognizant of the fact that He Himself would soon be in the same situation of being exposed before others? As He hung on the cross, Jesus experienced all of the varying “responses to nakedness.” There were accusers (like the serpent); there were those who mocked and sneered (like Ham); there were those who fled and “hid their faces” from another’s disfigurement (like the priest and the Levite); and there were a few who honored and ministered to the wounded one (like Shem, Japheth, and the Good Samaritan).
How do we, as God’s people, respond to revealed brokenness in our spouses? How do we respond to exposed neediness in their spirits and souls? We can reflect God Almighty, the One whose image we bear, when we do the following:
when we resolve always to move toward our spouses emotionally and spiritually,
when we graciously offer healing,
when we pour out from our own lives (although we are also broken and needy),
and when we resolve to bring honor to our covenant partners.
In hanging on the cross in nakedness and shame, Jesus did what the Good Samaritan could not do: He took the wounds onto Himself, took the nakedness onto Himself, and offered His own clothing and wholeness to the broken man. This is what God offers to do for each one of us: take the shame that we are trying in vain to hide with our flimsy fig leaves, and fully cover it instead with His own skin.
God’s response to our nakedness is to make it His.
Do you think of one more person in the Scriptures who lay naked and vulnerable before others? Jesus told the story of a man who was brutally attacked by robbers on the road leading from Jerusalem to Jericho. In this parable, we again see contrasting responses to nakedness:
1. Both the priest and the Levite saw the wounded man, but they “passed by on the other side.” (Luke 10:31, NIV). This represents a common response to the exposed vulnerabilities of others: we turn away. Whether we walk away because of fear, indifference, or some other motivation, our turning away functions as rejection to the wounded person.
2. The Samaritan, however, did not turn away. When he saw the wounded man, “he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.” (verses 33-34, italics mine). From his own resources, the Samaritan provided the care that he could, and he enlisted others in appropriate ways to provide additional care.
The Samaritan models for us another godly “response to nakedness,” a response that is critical in our marriages and sometimes in other situations, too. When neediness is revealed to us, we may be tempted to turn away. We may be fearful or limited in ability and resources. However, we can respond with courage and with compassion, resolving to move toward the other person; we can pour out from our own lives to bring healing and to restore honor.
Drunk and naked in his tent? That is how we find Noah in chapter 9 of Genesis, and it is a startling situation to find. After all, Noah was introduced to us as “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God” (Genesis 6:9, NIV). This unusual situation, although it may be uncomfortable for us, provides an excellent illustration of the “approaches to nakedness” principles.
1. Noah’s son Ham “saw his father’s nakedness and told” others about it. This is the way of the serpent: when nakedness (weakness, wounding, or sin) is revealed, it is used to shame, dishonor, or accuse.
2. In contrast, when Shem and Japheth learned of their father’s nakedness, they “took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s nakedness.Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father’s nakedness.” (Genesis 9:23, NIV) This is God’s way: when nakedness is revealed, the one who loves will seek to bring healing and to restore honor.
In marriage, when we encounter the wounds and brokenness (“nakedness”) of our spouses, we can choose to respond like the serpent and Ham, or like God, Shem, and Japheth. If we choose to shame or degrade, we reduce ourselves spiritually to crawling on our bellies and eating dust, like the serpent. If we choose to dishonor, we will find ourselves cursed as “the lowest of slaves,” like Ham (Genesis 9:25, NIV).
However, instead of shaming, we can work to bring healing and honor. Like Shem and Japheth, we can walk into the darkness and make effort to restore honor. While we do not love the brokenness, we willingly enter those areas and work to love well in those areas. When we do this, we are responding as God responded to us.
In the first few chapters of Scripture, we learn that Satan seeks to reveal our nakedness in order to shame us and to accuse us. But God seeks to cover our nakedness in order to honor us and to heal us. He was willing to give us His clothing at Calvary; He was willing to be naked and shamed and accused in our place.
Within marriage, spouses are revealed to one another. If they follow the serpent’s lead, they will use their “knowing” of one another to shame, to accuse, and to destroy. If they choose to reflect God instead, they will use their knowing of one another to honor and to heal. They will be willing even to suffer so that the other is healed.