10 Ways to Keep Jesus at the Center of Your Marriage

10 Ways to Keep Jesus at the Center of Your Marriage
My husband and I had been leading in marriage ministry together for two years when we realized that at the core of every couple’s problem was this: a lack of connection. But there is good news! In marriage, you’re tied by God and with His help, you can remain untangled from the snares of this world that threaten to tear you apart. Keeping Jesus at the center of your relationship is key. Here’s how:

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  • 1. Be honest.

    1. Be honest.

    I have been the queen of passive-aggressive communication. Essentially, saying one thing and meaning something completely different characterizes this behavior. If you are hiding your true emotions and feelings because you’re afraid of confrontation, trying to induce guilt, or omitting something that could be helpful, you’re not being honest. Failure to be honest breaks trust. I love this analogy of trust to a china plate:

    “If you drop it and it breaks, you can put it back together with a lot of work and care. If you drop it and break it a second time, it will split into twice as many pieces and it will require far more time and care to put back together again. But drop and break it enough times, and it will shatter into so many pieces that you will never be able to put it back together again, no matter what you do.”

    With God, anything is reparable, so don’t lose heart if trust has been broken in your marriage. Going forward, do your very best to be honest about your feelings with your spouse and communicate clearly. If you can’t (or don’t know how) pursue help—individually or as a couple.

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  • 2. Remember that love is sacrificial.

    2. Remember that love is sacrificial.

    Maybe you, like us, had 1 Corinthians 13 read at your wedding. On that special day, we have no doubts that we can love the man or woman of our dreams who stands before us. Of course, we will be patient, always kind! We will never hold a grudge. We won’t insist on our own way, be irritable, or ever think of leaving when things get tough, because, well, things won’t ever be tough. We have love!

    Idyllic, right?

    And then, eventually, real life sets in. Our humanness is revealed. And it gets hard to be kind. It gets hard not to hold a grudge because they keep doing the same things over and over and over. We get irritated and snippy. And when true disaster comes—when addiction rears its head, when trauma is unveiled, when our pasts follow us into our present—we think we never signed up for this. We start looking for an out. How could I possibly endure this, we think.

    But this kind of love—1 Corinthians 13 kind of love—is agape love. It’s sacrificial love, the love of Jesus, the love that compelled him to die on a cross because of our human affliction—sin.

    Both people have to make sacrifices for the marriage to thrive, to put aside themselves and their own agendas for the betterment of your relationship. Sometimes you’ll be the one sacrificing. Sometimes your spouse will sacrifice for you. But keeping in mind what will help the marriage will be helpful in determining who makes what sacrifice.

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  • 3. Communicate.

    3. Communicate.

    All over the Bible, we see God communicating with His people—Moses, Abraham, all the prophets. Jesus Himself gives us a template for how to pray. We see David crying out to God in the Psalms. If God knows the way to connect with Him is talking, why would we assume it’s any different between two people made as one under His doing? If we also know that God wants us to tell Him what is in our hearts—our desires, our fears, our thankfulness—why would we neglect to share these things with our spouse?

    Well, yes, God is perfect and our spouse is not. Point taken.

    However, one of the ways God refines us to be more like Christ is through our relationship with our spouse. In many cases, we have to learn how to really listen. We have to learn new ways to show empathy. We have to stretch ourselves to communicate our love for each other using more than just three little words.

    If you’re just communicating about logistics or bills or kids, there is so much more that awaits you in your relationship. Share your hearts with each other.

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  • 4. Have fun.

    4. Have fun.

    I never thought about God having fun until I read John Piper’s book, The Pleasures of God. I remember only one thing from that book, but it profoundly changed the way I saw God and myself. He wrote that God is a happy God and that He created this world out of the overflow of joy that He had in His relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

    So, sounds like He had fun with all this creating.

    Jesus was funny, too, I think. John Eldredge in his book, Beautiful Outlaw, shows how Jesus had a sense of humor. Sometimes we get so bogged down by the seriousness in the Bible that we never try on different tones when we read His voice.

    So if Jesus and God and the Holy Spirit had fun creating in their relationships, it seems to me that it would also be important for us to have fun with our spouse.

    Fun brings freedom. Fun brings laughter. Fun relieves stress and takes you back to the beginning days of your relationship that were likely much more carefree than they are now. Fun makes you remember why you fell in love in the first place.

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  • 5. Use your gifts.

    5. Use your gifts.

    None of us are really equipped for marriage, just like we feel very unequipped for parenthood. We learn as we go. But we do have tools at our disposal. We’re all made in the image of God and we all have characteristics of Him. If we believe that just as iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend, this means that our gifts will play a role in helping our spouse to become more like Jesus. If we don’t use our gifts, we rob our spouse from an opportunity to be more like our Creator.

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  • 6. Acknowledge your weaknesses.

    6. Acknowledge your weaknesses.

    If you have gifts because you’re made in the image of God, so does your spouse. S/he probably has gifts you do not have and that is a good thing. But we have to allow ourselves to be teachable and humble. We must admit our weaknesses and freely accept the help we need so we can be more like Jesus, too.

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  • 7. Remember you’re a team.

    7. Remember you’re a team.

    If you’re both bringing something to the table and learning from each other, chances are, you’re a pretty formidable team. Formidable teams, though, tend to come under spiritual attack because strong marriages build strong families. Strong families, rooted in Jesus, are a threat to the enemy’s plan to destroy us. As such, he’ll throw all sorts of things your way to try to divide you. Learn to recognize this as soon as you start to feel the spirit of division between you. Know your weak points (see #6) and have good conversations (see #3) so you can shore them up and get on the same page.

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  • 8. Keep Him at <em>your</em> center.

    8. Keep Him at your center.

    Your spouse is not responsible for your relationship with God. You cannot wait for him/her to be in the same place spiritually before you continue on with your journey. Is it nice to be on the same spiritual wavelength? Of course. But it is often not the case in many marriages. The more in tune you can be with Jesus, the more you will be able to love your spouse well. It can be so easy to get fixated on their problems and ignore your own. The whole speck ‘o sawdust is a real thing. Dealing with your own issues usually makes you even better equipped to help them with theirs when the time comes.

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  • 9. Pray together.

    9. Pray together.

    I have to confess: it took a crisis for Craig and I to start praying together on a regular basis. Even after that crisis abated, we had formed the habit and recognized the relational benefits it affords us. There is something so vulnerable about praying your heart with your spouse, which is why it often feels awkward at first. But push through these feelings and start tonight. It doesn’t have to be long or formal. Just hold hands and go.

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  • 10. Live in community.

    10. Live in community.

    Marriage is hard. We need people who are supportive of our relationship to rally around us, encourage us, and help us keep going when times are tough. Joining a small group together, attending church as a family, and serving together are all great ways to meet people who need the same sort of support for their relationship!

    Jen Ferguson is a wife, author, and speaker who is passionate about helping couples thrive in their marriages. She and her husband, Craig, have shared their own hard story in their book, Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography and are also creators of the Marriage Matters Prayer Cards. They continue to help couples along in their journeys to freedom and intimacy at The {K}not Project. Jen is also a mama to two girls and two high-maintenance dogs, which is probably why she runs. A lot. Even in the Texas heat.

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