These spiritual disciplines will help you establish a foundation and begin to build a marriage that can withstand the storms of life.
By Dennis Rainey
Years ago, when we were on a family vacation in Yosemite National Park, we were fascinated and awed by the magnificent redwoods. As we walked among the forest giants, we came to what appeared to be a huge redwood tree about 40 feet in diameter.
We were puzzled, however, by the sign at the base of the tree, which read, “The Faithful Couple.” This looked like it was a single tree, not two.
A ranger explained that some 1,500 years ago, two trees had sprouted as seedlings on the forest floor about 15 feet apart. For several hundred years, the two trees grew individually, but as they got larger their trunks grew closer and closer together. After about 800 years the trunks literally touched, and they began fusing together as one tree. There they stood throughout the centuries—the “Faithful Couple.”
What a perfect symbol of a godly marriage that knows oneness in Christ and spiritual vitality! As two people sink their roots deep by following Christ, studying Scripture, and responding to the leading of the Holy Spirit, they also grow together as one—a faithful couple.
Founded on the Rock
Marriage first and foremost is a spiritual relationship. It works best when two people are connected individually to God, walking with Him, obeying Him in the Scripture, and praying as individuals and as a couple. If you push the spiritual dimension to the side, you are ignoring the very God who created marriage and the One who can help you make it work.
Jesus spoke about two different foundations for a life. His statements are equally applicable to a couple building a home together:
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27)
Jesus was talking about the need to build your spiritual house on solid stuff and the way to support your life through increasing obedience to God and His Word. When you build your house on that Rock, you can withstand the cultural storms and the “currents” of your selfishness and shortcomings.
How do we help each other set Jesus Christ apart as Lord and Master in command of our lives? We must know Jesus Christ personally and diligently follow in His steps, growing toward Christian maturity. Paul wrote that we should “no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:14-15).
Is there an insider’s secret on how to make the most of time and build a marriage on the solid-rock foundation of Jesus Christ? Many people in our “do your own thing” world may not care for the answer, but followers of Jesus for centuries have recognized its critical importance: discipline.
Certain spiritual activities contribute to the training of a growing disciple. I am not proposing a lifeless list of legalistic tasks that will turn the Christian life into a graceless, joyless religion based on works. No, these are basic exercises that will change a flabby, weak faith into a strong one.
Prayer. Every good relationship survives or dies on its communication. Prayer is the way we communicate with God. You need to pray as individuals and as a couple. Perhaps the two of you can pray briefly before you go to sleep at night.
Bible study. In the Word we learn everything we need to know about God, His promises, and what He wants from us—and we see Jesus in action and can learn better how to follow Him.
Worship. We are commanded to worship God, individually and collectively. If we are not worshiping God, we probably are worshiping something else. Find a vibrant, Christ-worshiping, Bible-believing church.
Giving. We are stewards of resources on loan to us from God. We need to be diligent in sharing with others so their needs are met and they in turn give thanks and glory to God. Regular tithing (giving 10 percent of your income) to your local church and giving to other Christian causes is a great way to share God’s goodness to you.
Fellowship. The body of Christ is our family; we need others and they need us to accomplish the work of the kingdom as a loving team. How about joining or offering to lead a small-group Bible study at your church?
Service. It is a privilege to serve others in the name of Christ, particularly those who are needy or alone. In every community of any size there are agencies that need volunteers to feed the hungry and help the poor. Seek one out.
Witness. Jesus entrusted to His followers the task of reconciling the lost to God. That involves all aspects of the process, from cultivating friendships with neighbors and others who are not believers, to planting seeds by sharing testimony and the Word, to actually reaping the harvest by asking those made ready by the Holy Spirit to receive Christ. Do you work with someone who needs you to live out the gospel by showing genuine love?
Growing together in Christ
These disciplines are as important to develop as a couple as they are as individuals. As you seek God together as a couple, you will also draw closer to each other as you develop a deep, close spiritual intimacy.
The problem is that most Christian couples wish they spent time together praying and encouraging each other from the Bible, but they just don’t do it. They let other priorities crowd out what should be the most important aspect of their marriage relationship.
That’s why Barbara and I have developed our devotional books for couples—Moments With You and Moments Together for Couples. Each one-page devotion gives couples the opportunity to read Scripture, pray together, and discuss biblical topics relevant to their marriage and family.
Couples who have used these devotionals have reported that this daily time together took their relationship to a new level of oneness and intimacy. Art and Jen Powell wrote:
God has used this devotional in a mighty way in our lives. It opened up communication between the two of us. It got us talking about important issues that we had never had the courage or the idea to discuss in the past. We were fairly new in our faith at that time. In the spring of 2002 we went through a major medical crisis resulting in financial distress and serious life changes. God had prepared the way through this book. We knew how to pray together. We knew we could turn to Him. We learned we had Scripture to “hold on to.”
The Powells’ words confirm Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7 about the storms of life. Many couples never stop to consider that they will face hardship and suffering as they live their lives together. They aren’t prepared spiritually, so these elements overtake them.
Spending time in prayer and in the Word as a couple helps you anticipate what will come in your next seasons of life. It helps you make prayerful, thoughtful application of Scripture—for example, to prepare for a child, or for a child leaving the home. It helps you work on your values as a couple and what you want to build into children, and it helps you determine your priorities in the final years of life.
Spiritual intimacy will draw you closer as a couple … and it will help you stand strong in every season that comes.
Copyright © by FamilyLife. Used with permission
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