by Gina Gardner, Steppes of Faith
“And now abide in faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
If you have been married for any length of time, you know that not every day is fun and games. It’s not always the stuff of romance novels or Hollywood movies (at least not most of the time). The reality of living with someone 24/7/365 is that he or she is going to get on your nerves sometimes.
Does it mean we love our spouse any less for their shortcomings? It shouldn’t. But how do we deal with our frustrations on these less than desirable days? The answer lies in making some daily decisions.
Some Days are Just Hard
Be honest. Even though we may love our spouse in every way, aren’t there are still some days when they annoy us? It doesn’t really matter what it is they’re doing to get on our last nerve. It could be how they loaded the dishwasher wrong (read: not your way), that the toilet seat is up again, or they’re binge watching their favorite TV show or YouTube video instead of helping you put the kids to bed. Maybe they forgot (again) to pay a bill or put gas in the car. From the tiniest of things to the biggest of things, our spouse sometimes annoys and frustrates us.
If we’re feeling extra tired lately or we’re not feeling so well, it’s easy to let things bother us. We don’t handle the stress or conjure up enough patience when we’re not feeling 100%. And we don’t handle it well at times when our spouse continues to do the same thing again and again. It just gets irritating. Doesn’t it?
The good news is that there is a way to navigate the hard days and keep your marriage boat on even keel regardless of the circumstances, and it has to do with making seven decisions every single day.
God Has the Right Clothes for You
If you want a successful, happy marriage- one that allows both of you to grow together- then you both need to put on the clothes that God has picked out for you. They’re not shirts and pants, but rather attitudes that you consciously have made the decision to have and put in your heart. Consider it an alternate form of the armor of God found in Ephesians 6:13-18.
We find out what these attitudes are in Colossians 3:12-15:
12Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”
Let’s look at each daily attitude more closely, how they connect, and why making a daily decision to have them is so important.
Mercy. I don’t know if God listed each attitude in Colossians 3 in any particular order, but mercy is the first one He mentions and it’s probably for good reason. If you are in Christ, then you know the power of mercy and forgiveness. The Lord reminds us that we are to forgive others, including our spouse, just as He has forgiven us.
The Lord’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23) and He is faithful. He is a God of second chances. So, just as He forgives us, we also need to forgive, even when we don’t want to. That’s the essence of mercy. It’s nothing that we deserve, but as God freely forgives us each day, so should we freely forgive others.
Kindness. I’m often reminded of the bumper stickers that say, “Just Be Nice.” Then there’s sometimes a local “Day of Kindness” when people pay forward the kindness they have received from others. How much better would our world be if we made decisions to practice kindness every day? What if you practiced it with your spouse? Just a little goes a long way, especially in a marriage. With kindness comes an element of joy in a relationship simply because it requires thoughtfulness on your part. The Lord is kind to us, so shouldn’t we also be kind to our spouse no matter the circumstances of the moment?
Humility. The Lord always honors a humble servant. It takes humility and letting go of pride to receive His blessings, whether its salvation or special favor. Psalm 147:6 says, “The Lord lifts up the humble,” and James 4:6 tells us, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble…Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” And Psalm 9:12 adds, “He does not forget the cry of the humble.” We are also told to humble ourselves as a nation so that the Lord will heal our land.
There are many more verses that discuss humility and the goodness it brings, but it’s not always easy to practice. Make daily decisions to have humility in your marriage. Pride is a destroyer of good relationships. Humility offers grace and peace. Whether you think you’re right and he’s wrong or you think your spouse is just plain being ridiculous about something, humble yourself so that you can be the peacemaker in your home.
Gentleness. Gentleness is a product of humility. You can’t help but be humble when you have an attitude of gentleness. It also helps you to stay in control of your emotions. Maybe you know someone who seems to have a gentle spirit, who never loses their cool, and always seems to have a loving disposition. Wouldn’t you rather be around people like that instead of someone who is known as a drama queen and always must be the center of attention? I would.
An attitude of gentleness keeps the drama away and allows you to show love to your spouse much more easily. Philippians 4:5 says, “Let your gentleness be known to all men.” That doesn’t mean just the people outside of your home. Practice gentleness first with your spouse and watch their reaction. An attitude of gentleness sets a beautiful tone in your marriage and with everyone around you.
Patience. Back in January when everyone was picking their one-word them for the year, I chose patience. With a house full of boys getting older and more rambunctious, I decided I had better grab hold of this attitude fast or else misery would take me over. Five months in, I’m happy to report that practicing patience (along with gentleness and calmness) are serving extremely well. My husband doesn’t often understand why I’m not getting upset about the little things anymore, but he’s learning.
Patience is such a vital attitude to have, not only with your kids but also with your spouse. And, sometimes, you need extra heaps of patience with your spouse on certain days (tell me I’m not alone on this point). When you make decisions to practice kindness every day, make sure you do it hand-in-hand with patience. I promise you, you’ll see your marriage and your entire family transformed. It’s not the first listed fruit of the Holy Spirit for nothing.
Love. Paul advises us to clothe ourselves with love above everything else because it’s the bond of perfection. Since the God we serve is a God of love and in Him is all creation and perfection, it only makes sense that love is of utmost importance and needs to be the most important part of our relationships. Without love, we cannot ever obtain the fruits of the Holy Spirit and we cannot ever truly be close and obedient with Him. It was love that conquered sin and death and it’s the only thing that will conquer our marital troubles too.
On the days when it’s hard to love your spouse, find a quiet place where you can close your eyes and think about all the reasons why you married your husband or wife. All of those qualities are still there, just sometimes they get buried in the chaos and stress of life. Make the decision to love your spouse no matter what, through good times and bad, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. Choose to love your spouse as Jesus loves you, then mix in some patience, kindness, and gentleness. You’ll find it gets easier to love and forgive.
Thankfulness. Late November isn’t the only time to be thankful. There’s so much to be thankful for every day of the year, and your spouse is one of them. Your husband or wife is a gift from the Lord. He or she was specifically chosen for you by the Creator of the universe who has a unique plan for your life together. If you practice counting your blessings, no matter how small they may be, you’ll develop a deeper appreciation for your spouse and all that he does for you and your family.
There’s a Veggie Tale cartoon that teaches kids that “a thankful heart is a happy heart.” Daily decisions to be thankful, as well as humble in your thanksgiving, will help you to rediscover all the wonderful qualities of your marriage so your happiness together stays alive.
Time to Make Some Decisions
All successful marriages require daily decisions to love and honor each other. It takes the right attitude, open communication, and solid commitment to your relationship to make it last “til death do you part.” Without making these God-based decisions, married life will get incredibly difficult. Don’t let this happen to you. Decide now to clothe yourself every day in these seven attitudes so you can navigate the hard days throughout your years together more easily and happily.
“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:17
It’s normal to have difficult days with your spouse. Life is like that. How can deciding to love them with mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and thankfulness help you push through? Is one of these attitudes hard for you? Is one easy? How can we tap into God’s love so we can love them better? Let’s talk about how we can enrich our marriages and ourselves no matter what the circumstances may be.
Author Gary L. Thomas challenges us to stop going through the motions of marriage and instead choose to daily cherish our spouse through our actions and words in his new book, Cherish. Married for over 30 years, Mr. Thomas is the author of 18 books about relationships and marriage that have read worldwide. You can order your copy of this wonderful book from both Faithgateway and Christianbook. Just follow the link to Faithgateway here, or to Christianbook here.
Note: I am not affiliated with either Faithgateway or Christianbook. I’m just a huge lover of these online Christian resources. I encourage you to check them out.