How to Have Hope In Marriage

Hope for marriage

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Hope springs eternal!”?

  • The farmer plants his fields every season and hopes for a good harvest.
  • The golfer heads out again and hopes for a good round.
  • The Cub’s fan faces each spring with the hope of a World Series. 🙂

Theologian Martin Luther said “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.” Conversely, without hope why put forth the effort to even try to do something? Without hope, we are left with fear, doubt, despair, and distrust.

One of the qualities of love listed by the Apostle Paul is that “Love…always hopes.” (1 Corinthians 13:7). Through the course of our ministry we meet individuals and couples going through deep relational pain…and yet they hold out hope for their future. We also meet those who face similar hurts and have lost all hope.

Anne Lamott wrote, “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: You don’t give up.”

What really is “hope” and how do we infuse our marriage with it? How do we guard our hearts from losing hope?

For the sake of clarity, lets address what hope is not.

Hope is not:

Unrealistic: Hope isn’t wishful thinking. It recognizes when things are hard and it chooses to trust in the future.

Enabling: Hope doesn’t protect from natural consequences of bad behavior. It is willing for things to get worse in the possibility that things can get better.

Without boundaries: Hope doesn’t relegate one to being used, abused, and treated like the proverbial doormat. Hope is strong, not stupid.

Always fulfilled: Hope longs for what is yet to be realized, but it cannot control all outcomes.

Hope is:

Grounded in God’s greatness: Hope is most realistic when its basis is deeper than a whim. In your marriage you may be going through dark valleys that can seem impossible. But when you lift your eyes from your situation and look to the One who created everything, the One who rules in heaven, and the One who loves you sacrificially, you gain the perspective that brings hope. You can join with the psalmist who wrote: “Why so downcast, O my soul?…Put your hope in God.” (Psalm 42:11)

Founded on God’s goodness: Hope is confident that God will be good to us. The Bible declares that “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him….” (Jeremiah 3:25) Ask God to pour his goodness onto your marriage. Ask him to open your eyes to see his goodness at work in you and in your marriage.

In the unseen activity of God: Hope is knowing that even when we don’t see progress in a difficult marriage, God is at work. It realizes that we are not alone, but that God is at work on behalf of our marriage.

Believing the best: Hope is expecting our spouse to succeed. It anticipates and cheers on their accomplishments. Hope is expressed through our words and actions that what is yet unrealized in our mate’s potential can be fulfilled—and we believe it! You can read about believing in your spouse here.

How have you experienced hope in your marriage? Keep your focus on what hope IS as you build your marriage!

 

I Believe in You

I believe in you

Have you ever had someone say, “I believe in you” and then follow their words up with ongoing support? You may be able to think of a handful of people through your life who have done so—and you know how far their words carried you.

You may have been in athletics and had a coach or fellow player pull you aside and say, “I know you can do it! I believe in you!” Or a teacher or parent encouraged you saying, “You have great potential. I just want you to know that I believe in you.” You felt empowered to do your best, achieve more, and press through difficult times, didn’t you?

In your marriage, you have the ability to lift your spouse up to their fullest potential through your belief in them. In the “love” chapter of the Bible the Apostle Paul writes that “Love…believes all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7) To believe all things is to assume and expect the best. In marriage, “believing all things” means making the decision to assume the best of your spouse—their motives, intentions, and potential.

To not believe the best is to predetermine the worst of our spouse. It immediately creates barriers in the relationship, shapes our thinking toward failure and not success.

One of the deepest expressions of love in marriage is to communicate through your words and your actions your belief in your spouse. Here are three things you can tell them:

1. I choose to trust you

Trust is vital for a healthy marriage. Conflict can arise when we choose to distrust our spouse’s intentions, motives, and behaviors. Our minds can easily concoct reasons why our spouse has done what they did.

When you catch yourself imposing negative assumptions, stop yourself and say, “I choose, instead, to believe the best and to trust my spouse.” Then, let them know that you trust them.

We recognize that trust can be broken—repeatedly and sometimes devastatingly. In situations like those there should be appropriate boundaries in place and there will be a season necessary for rebuilding trust. But overall, each marriage should be characterized by, “I choose to trust you.”

2. I choose to encourage you

To believe in our spouse is to let them know that they can reach their full potential with our support, that we see good things in their character. We know their skills, heart, and abilities.

A simple handwritten note, a post-it on the steering wheel or mirror can refuel their passion and zeal for days. You may just wrap your mate in your arms and tell them the traits you admire and appreciate.

3. I choose to support you

Life can be hard. Discouragement can set in. Setbacks happen. In the low points of life it’s important to know that we’re not alone in the journey.

Someone once said, “A shared burden is half a burden,” and in marriage you have the privilege of letting your spouse know that no matter what, “I believe in you, support you, and we’re in this together.”

What have you said or done to let your spouse know that you believe in them? Take the steps today to love on your spouse with your belief as you build your marriage!

Building a Safe Marriage

smiling-couple-safe-relationship

How safe is your marriage? Is it a refuge from the storms of life or do the storms break loose in the home? Each spouse is responsible for making the relationship safe. The purpose of this post is to guide you in looking at your part. A favorite quote that we learned from Dr. Emerson Eggerichs of Love and Respect Ministries is: “Your response is your responsibility.”

You have the ability to make your marriage a safe place for your spouse. You can foster an environment in your marriage where your spouse experiences:

  • Unconditional love
  • Reassurance
  • Acceptance
  • Trust
  • Understanding
  • Value

The apostle Paul writes about making a relationship safe in his first letter to the church in Corinth. He writes, “Love bears all things….” (1 Corinthians 13:7) The word that is used for “bears” in the original language actually means “to put a roof over something,” or “to protect.” The idea is to receive our spouse into the safe dwelling of our relationship where they can know that shame, guilt, and condemnation will not rain down on them.

Here are two ways you can do your part in making your marriage a safe relationship:

1. Promote the Best

We’ve all heard someone complain about their spouse, haven’t we? It usually begins with, “Do you know what my husband/wife did? He/she _____________” and the list of failures and sins are aired to an ever-increasing circle of itching ears. Unwittingly, the complainer has just made that circle of relationships unsafe for their spouse because that spouse is now viewed through the lens of failure by those people. Even worse, the complaints are sometimes delivered to family members, thus making future interaction strained and less safe. Keeping the analogy of the protective roof, they have been kicked out of the home and into the pouring rain.

Instead, leverage your interaction with family and friends to speak the best about your spouse. When your mate lets you down or fails, keep it between the two of you.

Practice publicly talking about their latest success, their character traits you respect, and the things they do that make you smile. The Bible says in Proverbs 17:9a that “He who covers an offense promotes love.” You can cover your mate’s shortcomings by promoting what is positive. This next week, see how many times you can inject the best about your spouse into conversations with family, friends, and colleagues!

2. Protect from Shame

Although Satan is known as “The Accuser,” some spouses take on the role of helping him out when it comes to their mate’s sins. We ache when we hear of a spouse reminding their mate time and again of their past failures. Their effort helps keep their spouse locked into the shame of the past instead of experiencing the freedom that is found through Christ’s forgiveness and grace.

To “bear all things” for your spouse includes taking the position of a protector and shield on their behalf. When you hear untrue things being said of them (perhaps by family?), be the one who takes a stand in defending them.

If your spouse is recovering from public sin or failure, you have the opportunity to make your marriage a safe refuge for healing and restoration. This isn’t to minimize what took place or to negate the consequences, but in the context of your marriage your spouse has to know that they are loved unconditionally. You can reassure them that they are safe “under the roof” of your love for them. That will propel them toward taking the next right steps. And, it will increase the intimacy and connectedness between the two of you.

How have you created a safe marriage for your spouse? List your ideas below and continue in the journey to build your marriage!

 

Expectations: Setting the Bar

Mediocrity, Setting the Bar Low

despair.com

What are your expectations for your marriage? Do you expect your marriage to thrive? Do you desire to grow closer to God together? Do you want to connect at ever-deeper levels as a couple? One would be hard-pressed to find any couple that wouldn’t want those qualities to be true in their marriage.

Now the follow-up question: Will your behaviors and values achieve your expectations? What we have found is that while couples will say that their expectations are for a growing, vibrant, Christ-honoring marriage, their choices and values lead them further from those expectations. As a result, expectations are not met and their joy in marriage is diluted at best and dashed at worst.

In the “love” chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 the Apostle Paul actually addresses our choices and values. He wrote in verse 6 that: “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” Evil is anything that is contrary to God’s standards of what is right. To delight in evil means that we justify it, approve of it, or simply accept it.

Paul contrasts that with “love…rejoices with the truth.” In other words, love embraces God’s expectations for our lives and how we should live.

So back to your expectations in marriage: where have you set the bar? Is it set at the world’s expectations or God’s? Here are some things to ask yourself and then talk about with your spouse:

“Love does not delight in evil”

  • Am I protecting my mind and expectations in what I choose to watch or read? Am I evaluating media by: how they portray marriage? Sexual purity? Roles in marriage? Faithfulness?
  • Have I compromised what I view or read by claiming, “But it’s real life!”? (By whose definition? Real life in marriage by God’s standards or the world’s?)
  • Do I indulge in “secret sins” of the mind that erode my purity? (e.g. unforgiveness, bitterness, lust, anger, jealousy, a critical spirit, etc.)
  • Have I been so focused on my spouse’s faults that I’ve failed to see their good qualities? Has this become a way to elevate myself and power-up in the relationship?

“Love…rejoices with the truth”

  • Do I pick and choose what I want to believe of God’s standards based on my desires—or have I fully given myself to His truth and following Him?
  • Am I guiding people I love toward God-honoring, God-trusting decisions in their marriage? In their sexual choices? In purity before marriage?
  • Will I consciously make decisions to do the things which will build my marriage rather than tear it down?
  • Have I encouraged and celebrated those who are making God-honoring choices in their life and marriage?
  • Have I affirmed my spouse for all of the good things about their character and life—the things that are true about them?

It takes guts to stand for what is right and to do what is right for your marriage. Make the right choices and fulfill God’s expectations as you build your marriage!