Originally published Thursday, 15 September 2016.
“His” and “hers” might be embroidered on towels and printed on mugs, but in reality, once we get married, the baggage we carry in our hearts belongs to us together, as a couple. And the hard part is that sometimes one of us unknowingly plops our baggage down right on a sore spot in our spouse.
My husband and I both came from troubled childhoods, and so our entire relationship we’ve been aware of how these issues could affect us as a couple. We’ve prayed. We’ve sought God’s truth and perspective. We’ve wrestled for faith and trust in His sovereignty over our lives. And over the years, we’ve seen the Lord’s hand working in our marriage more than our baggage.
While we thank the Lord and give Him all the credit for all the marital joy we’ve shared, there’s been seasons when our baggage weighed a bit more on our hearts than we would wish. And there’s been times when our baggage bumped right into sore places in each other.
Here’s a few things we’ve learned from those painful experiences:
- Let your baggage humble you, instead of just weigh you down. When past issues tangle with present life, let it be a reminder of how much you need God’s grace and how desperately you need to stay connected to Him as an individual and as a couple.
- Use the experience to highlight the weak places in your individual devotion and devotion as a couple that need reinforcing. Are there “light leaks” in your heart that are letting the good God has for you leak out of your life? When we hit rough patches, if we let the experience, it can throw us into the arms of God more deeply. Pray about how God might want you to grow in His word, in prayer, in fellowshipping with other Christians who might bless your marriage and family. Pray over the ways you spend your down time as a couple (this is where I find it’s easiest to get lazy in our relationship - we’re tired and spent, and the little bit of margin that is in the day gets sucked up with activity that lets us zone rather than connect to each other and God.)
- Allow the experience to draw you closer to each other. When we hurt, it is so very much our nature to withdraw from one another. We just want to stop the hurt. But sometimes it isn’t the other person that is really doing the hurting. Sometimes it’s our issues and baggage that are doing the hurting. If we are patient with each other and prayerful, we can, as couples, with the Holy Spirit, help each other sort through those things. In the end, it can actually draw us into deeper emotional and spiritual intimacy.
- Be aware of the spiritual battle involved. Baggage begets bitterness and generational bondage. Wherever the enemy can get a foothold in our hearts, he will! Scriptures warns us about anxiety and bitterness, two emotional responses that come quite naturally to us, but that act like giant spiritual bullseye targets on our backs. When you hit a rough patch in life/marriage where old baggage is getting kicked up, be extra vigilant in your prayer life. Guard your heart with forgiveness and intentionally suit up in your spiritual armor.
- Be mindful that forgiveness can happen in a moment, but trust takes time. If you hurt your spouse, it is up to him or her to forgive (and vice-versa). But re-establishing trust (especially if there’s old baggage involved) requires time. Ask the Lord to guide you to be sensitive to the ways you hurt that trust and how you can shore it back up. Ask God to supernaturally intervene in that area and give you both grace and patience for each other. In most relationship conversations I hear people discuss forgiveness, but we often don’t talk about reconciliation. It’s messier. And it requires a lot of guidance from the Lord!
Lastly, don't allow the baggage to define who you are as an individual or as a couple. You are defined by your Maker alone! No one and no circumstance gets that honor except your Lord! In case you need some reminders about how God sees you, click here, here, and here.
We know this marriage road can be hard. We are praying that you would be refreshed in your love for one another, but if there is a specific way we can pray for you, email us at info(at)motlministries(dot)com. We would be honored to pray for you!