Make Your marriAge Work
Pathways to Paradise
By Laura J. Bagby
CBN.com Sr. Producer
CBN.com For those who clicked on this article without reading part one, you might want to read Reclaiming Paradise in Your Marriage. Now, here is the rest of the good stuff.
Author and marriage counselor Jimmy Evans, of MarriageToday™, gives insight into what a God-designed marriage is truly all about in part two of this series. Let’s begin with this concept of working at a marriage.
Use It or Lose It
It’s funny: we expect to put forth effort when preparing for a marathon, we know that if we want to be successful in our jobs we must add a bit of perspiration to our inspiration, but somehow we don’t see how that same mindset also applies to the marriage covenant. Yet it does, as Jimmy explains, and provides a really good illustration by paralleling marriage to the necessity of consistent exercise.
“Marriages deteriorate just like muscles deteriorate,” he says. “They atrophy because you stop using them. You never have a good marriage because you did the right thing for two or three years and you are just going to coast in—50 years later, you are still running off the fumes of the great trip you took back when. You only succeed in relationships to the proportion that you work at them.”
Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? So, everyone, make sure you are stretching your marriage muscles.
The Manna Principle
Our tendency as humans is to live off of yesterday’s counsel, yesterday’s dreams, and yesterday’s revelations, notes Evans. It’s simply just easier than asking, seeking, and knocking on the doors of heaven every day. Coming into God’s presence daily takes effort and it takes being purposeful. And when we choose not to seek the face of God continually, our passion for Him can quickly die.
“My relationship with Jesus, what I have found, is that if I go two or three days without praying and keeping my heart toward Him, my emotions change toward Jesus. The passion leaves.”
To keep our relationship with Jesus fresh and passionate, we must come to Him daily. We can’t do what the Israelites tried to do when God sent them manna from heaven to feed them in the desert and expected them to go and gather that heavenly bread each day. They tried to accumulate a big supply of God’s provision all at once, but what they got for their efforts was food filled with worms. When God says daily bread, He means daily.
Why does God expect us to come to Him each morning? Evans believes it has to do with understanding God’s faithfulness. And this manna principle is key to a happy marriage.
“Love is a commodity that cannot be stored. It can only be experienced today. And when today is over, you are going to have to re-experience it tomorrow, because yesterday’s love means nothing,” he says. “If I don’t have a fresh dose of love and affection and goodwill and good words coming into my life through my wife, through a person’s husband, love gets stale.”
‘I Don’t Love You Anymore’
And when things sour in a marriage, partners can experience that “falling out of love” feeling. But Evans puts a really different spin on that concept. He reasons that when two people love God’s way, they won’t ever fall out of love. How does that work, you ask?
Well, according to Evans, we can still love even when the passion dies, because love isn’t all about gushy feelings. It’s not about the other person making us happy or unhappy. The kind of love marriage requires is ultimately agape love, which Evans defines as “God’s kind of love, a love that flows out of our wills.”
Evans thinks it is dangerous to rely solely on feelings. Rather, each person should resolve in their heart to love the other, no matter what.
“If love is a feeling, I just can’t predict it,” Evans says. “If you make me mad or do something wrong, all of a sudden, I wake up one day and look at you and say, ‘I don’t love you anymore.’ That’s devastating. But if love is a decision, what happens is that decision creates a stability of activity in marriage.”
Evans goes on to say, “People who live in bad marriages and people who live in bad lives are always people who respond to their emotions. But people who live stable, quality lives are always people who can act beyond their emotions. And agape love is the only kind of love that can say, ‘I am never going to forsake my God, and I will never leave you or forsake you in this marriage.’
The Power of Prior Agreement
One of the major conflicts in marriage is that one person wants to go one way, and the other person wants to go the other way. It makes it very difficult when both spouses are not headed in the same direction, when they don’t share the same vision or goals.
That’s why Evans notes what the Bible says in Amos 3:3, “Can two people walk together unless they first agree?” and then says, “Marriage is the longest journey of life, and it is the most intimate. You are walking more closely with a marriage partner than any other person in your life. So the question is can we walk together unless we first agree? No. You are going to have to agree. To agree, you have got to talk, and you have got to discuss some of the deeper issues in the relationship.”
Being a marriage counselor, Evans has sat with many, many couples who have never discussed key issues such as children or finances before getting engaged. He says that more than 95 percent of the couples he has listened to in pre-marital counseling haven’t had a deep conversation about key goals. The result is that couples break up or even divorce later.
To help solve that dilemma, Evans teaches couples how to have a vision retreat. The idea is for a couple to spend two or three days hashing out important issues such as work, stress, spiritual life, love life, finances, and so on. Then they pray together until they each believe that they have God’s mind on what they are to do. The result typically, as Evans says is “you stop fighting. Most people fight because they have never agreed. And the reason they never agreed is that they never talked about the deeper issues.”
Most of the worst fights in marriage have to do with each spouse not knowing and respecting their mate’s dream. That dream might be staying home with the children, having a clean house, being financially secure. Not talking about those important dreams and desires will ultimately lead to conflict.
Why the Devil Hates Marriage
Do you feel condemned in your marriage? Are you inclined to accuse your husband or wife? Do you have negative feelings toward your spouse that make you want to reject the person you love? Are you tempted by the pleasures of this world? If so, then you are experiencing Satan’s ploys to shatter your marriage.
“We have to understand that the devil hates marriage,” Evans explains. “When a couple is standing at the altar getting married, the devil has an assignment on that couple.”
That assignment is to split up what God brought together. Christians shouldn’t fear this scheme from the enemy. They should expect it and remain watchful and prayerful.
Says Evans, “In order for us to be married God’s way, we have to build our lives on the lordship of Jesus Christ, on the Word of God, on a commitment to God, on purity in our relationship. That’s what makes marriage work.”
But why exactly would the devil care so much about marriage? Evans notes, “Marriage is the first institution that God ever created on the earth, and it is the basis of every other institution on the earth. We have learned in the last 50 years and in human history that as goes marriage, so goes society.” If Satan can destroy marriage, he can tear up all other levels of society.
The Road to Recovery
I hope that what Jimmy Evans shared will help enlighten you and inspire you to rebuild your marriage or avoid those traps in your future marriage if you are single.
As you apply these principles, there might be times that you feel overwhelmed. Just take one step at a time. Evans cautions against taking an all-or-nothing approach to righting your relationship. No marriage is either completely perfect or completely in despair. But as each spouse successfully deals with one issue at a time, improvement will be the natural by-product. Making a marriage work takes action. No marriage can succeed when partners are passive.
“The journey of healing is a road and not a couch. You don’t just sit there and get better,” Evans says. “Great marriages are never ever made by two compatible people who don’t have problems. Great marriages are always made by two people who are generally compatible but have a lot of really bad issues. You get on that road and you learn to resolve issues, to meet each other’s needs, to respect each other through the fires and trials of life. You learn to do that and marriage gets better and better and better.”
Read Part One: Reclaiming Paradise in Your Marriage
Check out Jimmy and Karen Evans' Web site www.marriagetoday.org.
Purchase your copy of Our Secret Paradise.
Send Laura an e-mail
CBN IS HERE FOR YOU!
Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.