Note from Tim: I originally wrote this article for Lifeway’s HomeLife Magazine. It is republished here with permission & this blog post may be shared. By God’s grace we have now celebrated 17 years of marriage!
MY WIFE, MELANIE, AND I recently celebrated 16 years of marriage. Sometimes it seems people think that because our marriage is sweet that it must be easy. I’m actually skeptical of people who proclaim that marriage is easy. Joyful, yes. Easy, most days. A Christ-honoring marriage requires commitment, sacrifice, and a willingness to grow. We’re both sinners, but God in His great grace loves to empower, redeem, and bless couples that are committed to growing in love for Him and for each other.
Knowing that Jesus should make a difference in our marriage and yours, here are 16 Christ-centered insights gleaned from 16 years of marriage.
Hold onto hope & onto each other, no matter what kind of season you’re in right now.
- Stay Close to God
When I’m reading my Bible daily and talking regularly to the Lord in prayer, my relationship with my wife is usually improved greatly. Why? Your spouse was never designed by the Creator to fulfill for you what only He can.
- Don’t Forget Your Covenant Vows
Love is a wonderful gift from God, but feelings or even acts of love in and of themselves will not sustain a marriage. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from prison to an engaged couple in his church, “It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but … the marriage that sustains your love.” When you said I do, you entered into a covenant before God and witnesses. Remember that the vows you said at your marriage can sustain and even strengthen your love.
- Embrace Love as a Sweet Gift of God
Enjoy every moment of wedded bliss. Life in a fallen world will throw curve balls at you. Sickness and stress will remind you often enough that you don’t live together in Eden. So relish those moments that are echoes of Eden! There is a Bible verse that reminds me to enjoy life with my wife, and that not everybody is given even 16 years together: “Enjoy life with the wife you love all the days of your fleeting life, which has been given to you under the sun, all your fleeting days. For that is your portion in life and in your struggle under the sun” (Eccl. 9:9). Life is a vapor. Enjoy your spouse’s love and love your spouse back with all that you have.
- Help Each Other Grow in Christ-likeness
Encourage your spouse to take advantage of opportunities to grow in Christ. Make it easy for him or her to be involved in a Bible study. Talk about what God is doing in your life and what you’re learning about Him. Get deeply involved in a local church where you can worship, learn, and serve together.
- Have Fun Together
My grandparents, who were married for 64 years, used to say that one of their secrets for a happy marriage was laughing together. They were right. If your marriage seems more like a roommate situation than friends and lovers, maybe it’s time to plan a fun outing together that you will both enjoy. The happiest part of any of my days is seeing my bride laugh.
- Grow in Communication
Anyone married for more than a few weeks knows that we don’t automatically communicate in God-glorifying ways that lift each other up. God has put you on the same team to help each other out as you work, serve Him, create a home, and grow together. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thess. 5:11).
- Always Look to Christ
We, as married couples, have the awesome job of reflecting the relationship between Christ and the church to the world, our families, and other believers. Our marriage is to be a picture of the gospel to others. “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, since we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am talking about Christ and the church. To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband” (Eph. 5:22-33). When we look to Jesus for how to treat our spouse, He also gives us strength to do so.
- Plan Time Together
Work and life responsibilities can be consuming. I’m so thankful for the pastor I worked with when Melanie and I were married. He brought me to Deuteronomy 24:5 and taught me how the Israelite men would stay home from war for one year after getting married so they could focus on their new marriage. He taught me that spending time with my wife was never wasted time. God makes it a priority and so should we. Don’t coast in your marriage.
- Pursue and Embrace Forgiveness
Melanie has taught me more about how Jesus loves me than anyone else because she has lived with me point blank for 16 years and yet she continues to love me and forgive me when I sin against her. “And be kind and compas- sionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ” (Eph. 4:32).
- Remember That You’re on the Same Team
We clear up conflict much quicker than we did when we were first married 16 years ago. Why? Partly because we know that we’re on the same team. There is only one who is our enemy and that’s Satan. When you know deep down that you’re on the same team, it goes a long way to building the “one flesh” kind of unity that God calls us to in Genesis 2:24.
- Love With a Serving Love
The Savior wants me to love my wife like He loves her. One of the best ways I can do that is by learning to serve her. Jesus showed His love to His disciples with a basin and towel as He washed their feet. There is nothing God can call me to do for my wife that is too great of a sacrifice. “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Your Savior laid down His very life for His bride.
- Love With a Hopeful Love
God calls us to not only love our spouse for who he or she is, but also to pray for him or her to grow into godliness, even as you grow in your walk with Christ. Remember that God isn’t finished with your spouse yet. Who your spouse is 16 years from now will in part be a reflection of how well you have loved him or her.
- Pray Together
I’m still growing into this. Over the years, I’ve been challenged by godly men to pray every day with my wife — and more than just at meals. I’ve found that without purposeful planning, it won’t happen. Praying together will help you to pursue God as a couple. It will reveal and knit your hearts together as you come to the throne of grace as one.
- Hold Onto Each Other During the Changing Seasons
Your marriage will change with the different seasons of life as you both change over the years. I’ve known my wife as a college student, young professional, pastor’s wife, new mother, and mother of a middle schooler. She has known me in a similar way. One day, Lord willing, we will know each other as grandparents and retirees who are still serving the Lord. Some seasons are more difficult than others, but when we press into Christ and toward each other, even the trying seasons can become beautiful as God matures us. Hold onto hope and onto each other, no matter what kind of season you’re in right now.
- Build a Legacy
Live with each other not just for this moment, but also for the next decade and the next five decades. Having the perspective that our choices today will impact our children and grandchildren — even generations that we will never meet — will build patterns in our lives that put eternity first. The legacy of a couple that is deeply in love with God and madly in love with each other has a bigger impact than we will ever know until heaven.
- Expect the Best to Keep Getting Better
I thank God every day for Melanie. I can’t imagine life and love without her. She’s mine and mine alone. This applies to your spouse too. The pastor who married us 16 years ago looked at me during the ceremony and said, “Tim, Melanie is God’s best for you.” Then he looked at Melanie and said, “Melanie, Tim is God’s best for you.”
Continue to pursue your spouse, God’s best for you, every day. “Be lost in her love forever” (Prov. 5:19).