BCC Staff Note: You’re reading the second of a special BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on marriage—timed to coincide with the week of Valentine’s Day. You can read Part One, by John Henderson at 7 Truths for a Christ-Centered Marriage.
What Is Good Marital Counsel?
If you are standing with a couple who are minutes from getting married, what last minute advice would you give them? What would you say to help them have a successful marriage? What would you tell them to help them enjoy each other? One well-meaning father told a newly married husband to simply say, “Yes, dear” to everything his wife said. He ensured him that if he practiced that simple phrase he and his new bride would enjoy many years of marital bliss. Do you concur?
Over the years, I have had the delightful privilege of counseling couples who are getting married and performing their wedding ceremonies. At the end of the ceremony I like to conclude by talking to the couples personally (it’s sort of our last counseling session in front of their wedding guests). I tell them two crucial precepts to live by.
One, they must remember that their family and friends do not always give them good counsel. The counsel is well-meant advice, but it isn’t always right. I tell the couple to depend solely on the Word and counsel of God.
Two, I tell them to enjoy each other. Life will be littered with trial, heartache, misery, suffering, and pain (real hopeful and happy stuff for a wedding ceremony). I tell them to never stop enjoying one another. Together they will face all those trials and troubling times and the ability to enjoy one another will be tested over and over again.
But, how do they enjoy each other? What practical ways can they enjoy each other? And, how do they sustain that enjoyment?
Enjoyment Is Our Personal Decision to Make
In my study of the book of Ecclesiastes, I was astounded that Solomon had a more to say about enjoyment than I had been led to believe. Most people quote “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” in response to any mention of the book.
Ecclesiastes 9:9 says, “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun…” Solomon puts the onus on the husband to enjoy his life with the wife he has been given. Our spouses have been given to us and we decide whether to enjoy them or not.
All too often we think about how much more we’d enjoy our spouses if they loved sports like we do, if they liked going shopping, if they served us more, if they agreed with us more, etc. We all have our wish list for our spouses. But, our spouses are to be enjoyed as they are. Of course, we pray for them to grow spiritually and we exhort them at times in order to promote biblical change, but we mustn’t focus on what they can do to be more enjoyable, but what will we do to enjoy them.
Enjoyment Is Our Precious Promise to Keep
Solomon says we are to enjoy each other “all the days of [our] vain life that he has given [us] under the sun.” What Solomon means by ‘vain life’ is our life here and now. Our lives are short; they are a mere breath or vapor. We enjoy our spouse in this short life given to us by God.
Did we ever think about that when we made our wedding vows? Did we make a covenant with our spouses to enjoy them until death do us part? Sadly, we sometimes emphasize the drudgery of marriage instead of the enjoyment of marriage. Marriage is to be enjoyed and we can enjoy marriage for a lifetime by:
1. Thanking God Consistently for Our Spouse
Solomon points to the benefits of companionship in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. He says, “Two are better than one…” With our spouse we can enjoy greater effectiveness in our work, we can enjoy help, protection, and comfort that come from having a companion. We can thank God for these things.
We may not regularly experience those benefits and for some we may have a spouse that isn’t living life in a way that makes those benefits real to us. However, we must thank God for our spouse regardless of their present walk with God. We thank God that we have the privilege of ministering to our spouse. We thank God for the lessons we are learning about our own hearts and the struggle it truly is to battle the flesh. We thank God for the compassion and mercy He showed us and ask Him to help us show that kind of grace and compassion toward our spouse. We thank God that He strengthens us and provides for us all we need to be the companion to our spouse He wants us to be.
We will also enjoy marriage by …
2. Loving Our Spouse Persistently
Isn’t it amazing how selfish we realize we are when we get married? And, when we start disliking our marriage we typically focus our attention on our spouse (blameshifting). Our spouse isn’t the cause of our misery. Loving ourselves is what makes us miserable. It is the most hopeless venture. True enjoyment is found in loving God and loving our spouse.
Consider practicing some of these:
- Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and write out specifically what you will do to love your spouse. What will you do to be patient, to be kind, to be polite, etc.? What will you stop doing that has been impatient, unkind, rude, etc.?
- Read Philippians 2:3-4 and write out what you will do to show deference to your spouse. What have you done that has been about you and your needs? In what ways has pride been expressed in your marriage? What specifically will you do to show you prefer your spouse over yourself; that you see them as more important than you? For example, when you go to the kitchen to make yourself some coffee do you consistently offer to get your spouse something?
- Read Philippians 4:4-9 and write out what you will thank God about your spouse. Keep a journal of your spouse’s character qualities. Write down steps of growth you have noticed in their life. Write down what you have learned from them and how God has used them to show you areas of your life to improve. Thank God consistently for these things. Write our specific prayer requests for your spouse and ask them often for prayer requests. When thinking of your spouse, dwell on the good and what is true, not on your impressions or speculations about your spouse. Resolve to be the best companion you can be.
Let’s look into our spouses’ eyes and let them know they have a companion for life. Enjoy your spouse and enjoy your marriage.
Join the Conversation
What additional biblical counsel would you give couples for enjoying one another in the Lord?