Several years ago, Gary Thomas wrote Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? It’s an interesting but for the most part foreign concept in our culture. Whether you are a family of faith who follows Christ or not, conflict in marriage can be exhausting. That’s the trouble with tension. When a relationship is strained consistently over time, it begins to drift apart.
Even the best marriages have conflict some of the time. However, unhealthy marriages have trouble seemingly all the time. It isn’t that conflict is a bad thing. Actually healthy conflict is good because it has the potential to produce needed change in a relationship. For many married couples, conflict is anything but healthy.
Are you in a season of conflict in your marriage? James reminds in James 3:17-18, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, fully of mercy, and good fruits, impartial, and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
Here are 5 ways to nurture P.E.A.C.E. in your marriage.
Patience. Patience can be defined as “the ability to bear provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, paint, etc., with fortitude and calm without complaint, anger or the like.” In describing the way of God’s love reveals the fact that “Love is patient…” When I am patient with my spouse, I give them the benefit of the doubt. I respond to them in a way I would prefer them to respond to me. When they are annoying and might even provoke me… Love is patient.
Express interest in your spouse. In Philippians 2:4, Paul encourages, “Let each of you look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Often times when marriages are stressed and strained couples begin to focus upon their own needs and interests rather than the interests of their spouse. A great exercise is to create a “Top Ten List.” Each person creates a list of ten ways their spouse can make them feel loved. Then swap lists. Expressing interest in one another has the potential to energize your relationship as you begin to express interest in one another.
Accept your differences as strength not as weakness. Let’s face it, opposites attract. Initially in a relationship, it is often times the differences that attracted you to your spouse. Over time what initially was fascinating and adorable becomes dreadfully familiar and frustrating. Chances are your spouse doesn’t think like you all the time. Wouldn’t that be easier? In reality, God uses the differences in our marriage to complete us. It is the differences that unite you and make you a stronger team. I think about my own marriage. My wife and I are polar opposites in many areas. I’m an early riser. She is a night owl. I enjoy nearly every genre of music and could listen to it almost 24/7. My wife… not so much. Even though I’m getting older I still consider myself an athlete. My wife was in the band. I love the outdoors. She would rather take a nap. After nearly 25 years of marriage, we have learned to not only accept our differences but to celebrate them. It’s how God has knit us together as husband and wife. And I love everything about my wife as different from me as she is.
Commit to never go to bed angry. Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” Taking time to talk through whatever conflict you might be having before going to bed can prevent a relational wound from festering and worsening. It’s not that you necessarily have to solve everything before bed. It’s an opportunity to say to one another, “There are things we need to work through to make this better, but I want you to know I love you no matter what and we will work on this together.”
Extend much grace. The opposite of grace is harshness. To nurturing peace in any relationship, especially marriage, requires extending grace that is not deserved. Proverbs 19:11, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. In stressful marriages, both spouse feel like they must look out for themselves or the other will take advantage of them. Marriage is not about “me” and “mine” but about “us” and “ours.” Begin today extending the same grace to your spouse that you desire them to extend to you.
Imagine the difference in your marriage if, as James says, you began to experience a harvest of righteousness. It can happen by the power of God as we sow seeds of peace not with an agenda or with impure motives but as we sow them with peace.
If you are experiencing difficulty in your marriage and you and your spouse would like to talk with someone I recommend visiting www.prepare-enrich.com for helpful resources. To find a listing of local pastors and counselors who are trained in the Prepare Enrich assessments in your area, click here.