We live in a self-centered world, and this focus on self is destroying marriages. The concept of “looking out for number one” is creating division between husbands and wives. The Bible tells us, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). Immaturity and selfishness trick us into focusing on our own desires, comfort, and self-protection, while maturity leads us instead to focus on others’ needs. Maturity is key to selflessness.
Selfless love manifests itself in graciousness. It focuses on the other person’s thoughts, feelings, and needs. A selfless love makes sacrifices without keeping a running tally of who has contributed the most in the marriage. It puts aside selfish stubbornness for a willingness to yield to each other.
While selflessness goes against many of the world’s teachings about personal ambition, self-importance, and self-protection, selfless love is a critical component to a healthy marriage.
The second component of a blessed and healthy marriage is forgiveness. Sometimes forgiveness is hard, especially when we allow little annoyances to build up over time. The Bible tells us though to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
In Matthew 18:22, Jesus told Peter that we are to forgive each other not merely seven times, but seven times seventy. In other words, we are to forgive so often that we lose count.
So, how can we forgive that readily?
- Begin by forgiving the things, which seem insignificant—the irritating habits and the annoying characteristics. These can build up over time and destroy a marriage. Forgiving them will require daily discipline.
- “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). You will find it harder to forgive others if your own mind is waging a battle against old hurts. Focus on Christ in your relationship, not on keeping score.
- Maintain your identity in Christ. Our old sinful nature is filled with resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness. But through Christ, we are able to offer mercy and forgiveness to those who have wronged us. Problems of selfishness and unforgiveness may seem apparent in a relationship, but there are also enemies that stealthily creep into a marriage like a choking vine. Busy schedules, apathy, and even exhaustion can lead to a deadly trap of a breakdown in communication. When communication breaks down between husband and wife, Satan is more than ready to take the wheel. What often follows is a power struggle, the silent treatment and deception.
The third component of a blessed and healthy marriage is open communication. How many hours—or minutes— did you spend this week engaged in conversation or activity while solely focused on your spouse—no TV, no children, no computer or cell phone interrupting? Many of the larger problems in marriage result from poor communication, which often stems from a fear of conflict, not making the time for your spouse and letting the children come before the marriage relationship. There’s conflict in every marriage, but keeping the lines of communication open will provide the opportunity to resolve the conflict rather than allowing it to take root. The outcome you ultimately want is a growing and thriving relationship.
Maintaining all of these components is not easy. We will always be competing against our sinful, selfish nature. We will always be seeking God’s strength to forgive. We will often struggle to find balance between our calendars and our marriage. But, if you keep Christ at the center of your marriage and allow Him to give, forgive and communicate through you, yours will be a blessed and healthy marriage.
It’s imperative that we live by the scriptures if we want our marriages to work. I truly believe that, which is why I designed these Abide Marriage Glasses as reminders. These glasses include scripture we should all live by: “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understandings” (Proverbs 3:5).