Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Craig and Amy Groeschel’s new book From this Day Forward: Five Commitments to Fail-Proof Your Marriage (Zondervan, 2014).
No matter what your marriage has been like up to this point in time, it can be better from now on, because the Bible promises that God’s mercies are new every morning. Think about a phrase that’s often part of wedding vows: “From this day forward.” If you and your spouse both commit to moving forward in your marriage in certain ways from this day forward, God will create a new, successful marriage for you.
Here are 5 commitments that will make your marriage fail-proof if you and your spouse make them together:
Seek God. Make your relationship with God your highest priority, so that God is number one for you, while your spouse is your number two. Center every part of your life around your relationship with God, seeking him with your spouse in ways such as: reading the Bible together, worshiping together regularly in a church and at your home, participating with other Christians in a small group that meets regularly, asking your friends to hold both of you accountable to grow together spiritually, using your spiritual gifts to serve together in church, doing volunteer work together to serve your community, leading your children toward eternal values, and developing spiritual traditions together and with your children. Be careful not to idolize your spouse; keep in mind that he or she is only human. Rather than expecting your spouse to meet all of your needs, rely on God alone to meet your deepest needs. Keep an open line of communication between you, your spouse, and God, by praying together regularly.
Fight fair. All couples fight, but not all couples fight fairly. Instead of handing the conflict between you and your spouse in an unhealthy way by fighting for personal victory, work through it in a healthy way by fighting for resolution. Rather than trying to win against your spouse, aim to work with your spouse to achieve victory over the issue at hand by finding a solution to the problem behind it. Be quick to listen carefully to your spouse’s thoughts and feelings, slow to speak by carefully considering whether or not you should say what you’re thinking right now, and slow to become angry. Avoid unhealthy arguing behavior, like: calling your spouse derogatory names, raising your voice, bringing up your spouse’s past mistakes, threatening divorce, criticizing, stonewalling, getting defensive, or showing contempt for your spouse. Deal with your disagreements daily, not going to bed angry, so you won’t have time to build up bitter grudges that can poison your relationship.
Have fun. Incorporate fun times with your spouse into your schedule on a regular basis. When you’re pressed for time, remind yourself that you don’t have time not to have fun together, because having fun with your spouse is vitally important to the emotional health of your marriage. Enjoy a weekly date night together whenever possible to connect face-to-face through fun conversations and activities that build emotional intimacy between you. Support each other’s interests by accompanying each other on outings that one of you especially enjoys (such as going golfing with your husband if he loves that or going antiquing with your wife if she loves that). Make your sex life with your spouse fun, and don’t neglect opportunities to enjoy sexual fun together, since it’s vital to keep romantic passion alive in your marriage.
Stay pure. Be vigilant in protecting your marriage from sexual immorality that can damage or destroy it. Realize that every little step you take for sexual pleasure that isn’t directed toward your spouse – each text, flirty conversation, website, mouse click, or sensual fantasy – will lead you a step away from the holy marriage God wants you to enjoy. Keep in mind that allowing sexual impurity into your marriage is like dripping poison into your relationship; you don’t want any amount of poison in your marriage, because it only takes a little bit to kill your relationship. Every day, ask the Holy Spirit to help you grow in both inward purity (the things you think about and feel) and outward purity (the things you choose to do and choose not to do). Whenever you encounter temptation to be sexually impure, don’t flirt with it, but run completely away from it as fast as you can. Take precautions to limit how often you encounter the temptation to sin, such as by: using computer filters and monitoring software, placing restrictions on your mobile phone, refusing to meet with members of the opposite sex alone, sharing a Facebook account with your spouse rather than having separate accounts, avoiding certain types of movies and television shows, dressing modestly, and meeting regularly with an accountability partner or two whom you trust. Read and reflect on the Bible often, asking the Holy Spirit to renew your mind so your thoughts will align with biblical truth and you can view the issue of sexual purity from God’s perspective. Deal with sexual temptation and your failures as they happen to prevent yourself from sinking deeper into them. Be honest, transparent, and accountable. Confess your sins, embrace the forgiveness that God offers you, and rely on him to strengthen you moving forward.
Never give up. Choose to keep investing time and energy into making your marriage better, no matter what. Keep in mind that your marriage can be as good as you decide it will be, as long as your spouse chooses to work with you to keep improving it. Remind yourselves that marriage isn’t just a contract that can be broken when the relationship isn’t working well; it’s a covenant that’s meant to be fulfilled for a lifetime as a sacred promise to God and each other. Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you and your spouse to give each other love, forgiveness, and grace every day. Never give up on your marriage, because God can do anything with it – with God all things are possible.
Adapted from From this Day Forward: Five Commitments to Fail-Proof Your Marriage, copyright 2014 by Craig Groeschel and Amy Groeschel. Published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.zondervan.com.
Craig Groeschel is the founding and senior pastor of Lifechurch.tv, a pace-setting, multi-campus church and creators of the popular and free YouVersion Bible App. He is a New York Times bestselling author and has written several books, including Fight, Soul Detox, Weird, The Christian Atheist, and It. Craig, his wife Amy, and their six children live in Edmond, Oklahoma.
Amy Groeschel is a home educating mom and leads LifeChurch.tv’s women’s ministry. She is also the founder of Branch15 (a nonprofit housing ministry that helps marginalized women) and has co-authored SOAR, a Bible study for women.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, produces a site about angels and miracles for About.com. She is author of the inspirational novel Dream Factory (which is set during Hollywood's golden age) and writes about the power of thoughts on her “Renewing Your Mind” blog.
Publication date: January 26, 2015