Tag Archives: Marriage

5 Simple Ways to Love Your Spouse

Create and sustain a healthy marriage by loving your spouse well.

Life is busy. Between carting the around kids and keeping up with a calendar full of commitments, we sometimes forget about the responsibilities that don’t get penciled into our planners. But God calls us to honor Him in all areas of our lives—and our marriages are no exception. Here are five ways to help you create and sustain a healthy marriage by loving your spouse well.

Compliment Their Character
Instead of commenting on the way they look, build them up with a compliment that focuses on the way they handle conflict, their work ethic or their trustworthiness. This type of compliment shows both love and respect to your spouse.

Give Them Your Undivided Attention
Surprise your significant other by making sitter arrangements for the kids and spend the night cooking a meal together or snuggling up and watching a movie. Taking care of any distractions in advance will show them that you’re interested in focusing on their needs.

Hold Their Hand
Show them affection during the most ordinary moments. Grab their hand while you’re grocery shopping or walk up to them in a crowded room and give them a hug. Showing physical affection in small ways, when they least expect it, will speak volumes.

Give Them A Gift
Stop by the store on your way home or order their favorite gifts, just because. These sweet surprises let your loved one know that they’re on your mind. Make sure they don’t feel like it takes a special occasion for them to be appreciated.

Take Care of the Honey-Do List
Is there an unfinished task that has been weighing on your spouse—maybe a closet that needs to be organized or yard work they haven’t gotten to? Remove that burden from their shoulders by taking care of it for them.

Keep your relationship thriving amid the demands and conflicts of everyday life by understanding The 5 Love Languages that define how men and women give and receive love. The 5 Love Languages books are all 40% off now through Valentine’s Day.

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Valentine’s Day Gift Guide: 7 Christian Gift Ideas for the Whole Family

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Preparing for Marriage: 4 Must-Read Books for Newly Engaged Couples

Preparing for Marriage: 4 Must-Read Books for Newly Engaged Couples

Love

You’re engaged! Excitement sets in and your head spins just thinking about all of the details to work out – the dress, the venue, the invites. But what about your marriage? Planning for your life together after your big day is an important and often overlooked step. Set yourselves up for a relationship rooted in Christ with these must-read engagement and marriage preparation books.

All books are Buy One Get One 50% Off at Family Christian now through August 25. Buy one for yourself and one for your soon-to-be spouse! Then discuss what you learned together.

Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married
Bestselling author and marriage counselor, Gary Chapman, put together this practical book to help couples prepare for marriage and learn the skills of working together as intimate teammates. This book is packed with wisdom and tips that will help you develop the loving, supportive and mutually beneficial marriage both men and women long for.

Preparing for Marriage
Begin the lifelong task of building a strong Christian marriage with eight sessions of fun, romantic study that will help you target areas for growth in your relationship. You can work through the book as a couple, with a pastor, with a premarital counselor or with a small group. Don’t just plan your wedding, prepare for your marriage!

Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts
Relationship experts Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott offer time-tested marriage principles to help couples debunk myths, establish lines of communication, fight a good fight, master money management, and become true soul mates with seven questions to ask before and after you marry.

Before You Say “I Do”
This popular and helpful interactive workbook is designed to strengthen your love relationship and deepen your bond. You’ll find all you need for fun and thoughtful discussions as you explore what the Bible teaches about marriage, what makes you feel loved and how to handle conflict.

What’s the best marital advice you received before tying the knot?

Sandpaper Spouses

Karen Ehman February 24, 2016

Sandpaper Spouses 
KAREN EHMAN

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)

“This is NOT what I signed up for!” I cried out to God as I sat cross-legged on the bedroom floor of our first apartment, my eyes stinging with hot tears. Out in the living room sat my husband — bewildered, completely exasperated, unable to handle his wife’s volatile emotions.

I was a brand new bride of just six weeks. Our thank-you notes for the wedding gifts hadn’t even been sent! But already I had buyer’s remorse. Or I guess more accurately, “bridal remorse.” All I knew was that this “Happily Ever After” thing was not-so-happy after all.

The first few years of my marriage were rocky and rough. I had envisioned a relationship of marital bliss. Flowers. Candlelight dinners. Holding hands at the movies. Long strolls on the beach.

Then the wall of reality hit. Instead of the candlelight dinner, it was burnt roast. When he once again came home late from work, I wrongly interpreted that as him caring little about my culinary efforts. We didn’t get to the hand-holding at the theater much because we couldn’t make up our minds about which show to see. And I strolled on the beach, all right — all alone — just after I stormed away from my husband following yet another argument.

Although we possessed a mutual love for each other (really we did) our personalities and approach to life could not have been more different! In fact, we joke today that if we went on one of those online dating sites, instead of matching us up as perfect soul mates, the computer screen would blink a bright red message “DO NOT DATE! TOTALLY INCOMPATIBLE!”

Often, my husband and I just plain rub each other the wrong way. Yep. We’re different. We are what I call “sandpaper spouses” and our rough-around-the-edges relationship often finds us turning to God when we feel like turning away from each other.

When we encounter conflict, I am verbal and process my thoughts quickly, backing him into a corner. He prefers to pause and ponder before sorting his thoughts or sharing his feelings. This difference makes him view me as critical and combative. And I label him an avoider, accusing him of caring little about resolving conflict.

When making decisions, he is methodical and thorough, carefully weighing all options. I prefer to decide in a snap and forge ahead to the next thing. This difference causes me to label him as indecisive and tempts him to brand me knee-jerk and impulsive.

Having a spouse who faces life differently can often tempt us to attack each other. But what if instead we were to flip the situation, and see things that rub us the wrong way as blessings instead … that enable our spiritual growth?

Today’s key verse states, “Iron sharpens iron.” If your kitchen knife is dull, you sharpen it by grinding it against a rough stone, not by rubbing it on cushy cotton. In the same way, the rough patches in our personalities can help sharpen us in the areas of love, compassion and patience — mostly patience!

And I know from experience that my less-than-perfect marriage has grown my prayer life immensely as I take my concerns to God during times of tumult.

My husband’s slower-paced decision making causes me to pause and pray before I forge ahead and consider other options I might not have thought of initially. My verbal processing encourages my husband to talk through issues rather than stuff his feelings inside, where they might fester and explode later. And our different philosophies teach us patience and perspective.

Will you join me today in thanking God for sandpaper spouses? Rather than our differences driving us crazy, instead may they drive us all straight to our knees.

Father, I want to see the differences in my marriage as opportunities for growth as I take my concerns — and my attitudes and responses — to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Colossians 3:12-13, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the LORD has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (ESV)

Hebrews 13:4a, “Marriage should be honored by all …” (NIV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
For a free printable entitled “10 Ways to Love Your Sandpaper Spouse” and a chance to win Karen Ehman’s book LET. IT. GO.: How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith, visit Karen’s blog.

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
In what ways does dealing with personality differences in marriage help to smooth out your rough edges? List what it has done for you. (For example: developed patience, driven you to prayer, etc.)

© 2016 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

Miles Apart and Didn’t Even Know It

JACKIE BLEDSOE FEBRUARY 16, 2016

Miles Apart and Didn’t Even Know It
JACKIE BLEDSOE

“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.” 1 Peter 4:12 (NLT) 

A couple years ago my wife, Stephana, and I were at a marriage retreat. We were asked to participate in an exercise where we rated the state of our marriage. After revealing our answers to one another, the difference was shocking.

We were miles apart and didn’t even know it.

That little exercise quickly revealed we were in what I call the “marriage danger zone.” It was dangerous because at least one of us was ignorant about how the other person was feeling, how they perceived our marriage and whether or not their needs were being met in our marriage.

The worst part was we’d been there before.

There have been many times when things seemed to be going great for one of us, then a conversation revealed the other was completely dissatisfied, frustrated or hurt. To the spouse who thought everything was going great, it came as a complete shock, and left us wondering, Where did this come from?

On our wedding day, most of us say “I do” or utter heartfelt vows along the lines of, “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health …”

We think we’ll never forget those words.

Yet it seems we do. Somehow, we forget we made that promise. We forget that challenges are inevitable — especially when the “worse,” “poor” and “sickness” parts of marriage head our way.

Based on our wedding vows and the percentage of married couples who divorce, it seems like we would expect challenges in our marriages. That’s why we vow to our spouses we will be there and will still love them when — not if — these challenges arise. Yet we also know it’s much easier said than done.

As Stephana and I have learned, a lasting and truly fulfilling marriage only happens through persevering. Indeed, marriage is hard and takes work, but great rewards often come as a result.

As our key verse reminds us, we shouldn’t be surprised when we face challenges, as if it were something strange.

One of the biggest challenges in our marriage came during the times we were homeless. Yes, I said “times” with an “s” at the end, as it happened twice.

We went from two regular incomes with some pretty good benefits and financial perks to two very inconsistent incomes with no benefits and zero financial perks. And we had no idea when it would end. Yes, it was a huge obstacle and one that has destroyed many marriages. But our marriage came out stronger in the end.

Difficulties in marriage are hardly positive experiences at the time, yet the Bible paints a beautiful picture of them. The reason is simply because struggles, trials and hard work are part of the development process God uses to get the most out of us and the best for us.

These difficulties are necessary in God’s way of doing things. This includes our marriages as well. As we experience and embrace this, we can approach challenges in our marriages from a completely different viewpoint.

I don’t know what obstacles your marriage may be facing today, but I do know you can overcome them together. What you are facing is intended to strengthen you and your marriage, not destroy it. If you have faced trials before, be encouraged by our story, and get ready to tell your story of overcoming marriage obstacles.

It may be the story that saves another marriage similar to ours and yours. They, too, could be miles apart and not even know it.

Dear God, thank You for how You are working in my marriage, even through trials. I ask for Your help to persevere and see how trials in my life can be used for good. Empower me to choose joy even in the midst of trials because something amazing will be produced. Help me to hold on, not give up and allow You to complete Your work in me through them. Thanks, God, for Your grace, which allows me to persevere during the tough times of marriage. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (NIV)

Romans 15:5-6, “Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement allow you to live in harmony with one another, according to the command of Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with a united mind and voice.” (HCSB)

RELATED RESOURCES:
From the engagement ring to years after the wedding ring, every season of a marriage requires renewed commitment, fresh perspective and practical biblical wisdom. Jackie Bledsoe’s DVD-driven Bible study and book, The 7 Rings of Marriage, will teach couples to view their marriage with the end in mind.

If you’d like more encouraging thoughts on marriage and parenting, stop by Jackie Bledsoe’s blog.

Enter to WIN a copy of The 7 Rings of Marriage by Jackie Bledsoe. In celebration of this book, Jackie’s publisher is giving away 5 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here. {We’ll randomly select 5 winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, February 22.}

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Think of a time when you faced a trial with a positive attitude and a time when you didn’t. How does your attitude make a difference?

© 2016 by Jackie Bledsoe. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks LifeWay for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

Click here to view our policy on 3rd party links.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

When You Hate Valentine’s Day

Amy Carroll FEBRUARY 8, 2016

When You Hate Valentine’s Day
AMY CARROLL

“The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:17-18 (NIV)

I remember the year I skipped Valentine’s Day and created my own personal boycott. I glared at cards and roses in the store as I shopped, snorted at commercials with lovey-dovey messages, turned my head away from couples holding hands and built a wall of protection around my aching heart.

Just months before I stared uncomprehendingly across the table as my first love and fiancé repeated his previous sentence, “I just don’t know if I can be faithful to you for the rest of our lives.”

Suddenly, I felt an unfamiliar feeling. Instead of being drawn to this man, I had the overwhelming need to flee. My ears heard my mouth form the words, “Then I guess I can’t marry you,” as I stood and walked out of the student union.

In the exhaustion of mid-finals study, my tired mind and thudding heart could hardly grasp what had just happened. Not only had I allowed myself to love deeply and completely, but I was convinced marrying that man was God’s plan for me.

Until that moment. When it all shattered.

Where once I felt loved, I now felt rejected. Where once I felt secure, I felt rocked. Where once I felt sure of my happy future, I now felt lonely and unsure of myself.

The despair lasted for months; the fog just wouldn’t lift. I kept trying to fix things, but the relationship was too broken. Still, I couldn’t seem to move on.

I continued my regular activities with a plastic smile to cover my broken heart. I even went to church and kept going through the spiritual motions, but instead of turning to God for healing, I withdrew inside.

One night, alone in my apartment, I felt God drawing me. At first I resisted. Finally, with a sense of dread (I was convinced God was angry with me for pushing Him away), I lay flat on my bedroom with my face to the floor. Waiting for God’s wrath, I experienced in a way I’ve never felt before or since, the overwhelming, physical presence of God’s love. He surrounded me, enveloped me, comforted me and began healing me.

Maybe you’re facing Valentine’s Day this year without that loving feeling. Maybe you’ve been betrayed by a friend, rejected by someone you love or rocked by a bad romance.

Can I gently remind you of an important truth? A truth that made all the difference to me?

If you are God’s child, you are involved in the greatest love story ever created. Jesus created you, knows you inside and out, and loves you from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. You can celebrate love this year just like everyone else, knowing that you’ve got a deeper understanding than anything that’s advertised or on the shelves in a store.

Twenty-seven years later, I think back to those devastating days with a wry smile. The younger version of myself, who thought that things couldn’t get better, has walked through the hurt into a future that has turned out to be bright — not perfect, but definitely joyful.

Jesus was there through every painful step of those early days of break-up, and He truly used heartbreak to do good things in me. Although I couldn’t see it then, God, in His infinite goodness, was there cupping His loving hands around my broken heart and shaping something beautiful. Even if you can’t see or feel that healing at work, I can confidently tell you He’s doing it for you even now.

God, I come to You shattered and brokenhearted but with a heart full of faith. I believe You not only can heal me but You can turn this despair into joy. You can use my healed hurt to make me more compassionate. I pray You would give me the determination to celebrate Your love story this Valentine’s Day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
John 15:9, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (NIV)

Zephaniah 3:17, “The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (NKJV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
Amy Carroll’s book, Breaking Up with Perfect, is full of stories showing how God redeems the imperfect circumstances of life. Purchase it today for more encouragement.

Amy invites you to visit her blog today where she has a Valentine’s giveaway for singles. You can enter for yourself or for a single person you love!

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Using the gift of hindsight, write a list of hard circumstances God has lovingly used to shape you.

When the opportunity comes, spend time listening to a hurting friend. When the time is right, share one of your stories of hope.

© 2016 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

How Every Wife Can Fight Like a Warrior

Alicia Bruxvoort FEBRUARY 5, 2016

How Every Wife Can Fight Like a Warrior
ALICIA BRUXVOORT

“Take … the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray always. Pray in the Spirit. Pray about everything in every way you know how!” Ephesians 6:17b-18 (VOICE)

My littlest boy pattered down the stairs in the dark before dawn and found me sitting in the big leather chair by the window. On my lap were my Bible and the book I’d used for over a decade to prompt prayers for my husband.

My son sidled up beside me and reached for the book. He examined the tattered cover with 5-year-old curiosity then flipped through the yellowed pages inside. He studied the words splattered with coffee stains and rainbow highlights and cast me an inquisitive gaze.

“What is this thing?” he asked.

“It’s a book that helps me pray God’s Word over Daddy …”

My 5-year-old’s green eyes grew wide. “It looks like it’s been in a battle, Mommy!”

I planted a kiss atop my son’s unruly tuft and murmured, “It has, sweetheart. It has.”

My son leaned his sleepy head against my shoulder and as we sat in comfortable silence, I remembered the day when God had called a younger and floundering me into combat.

I’d stepped into marriage with grand plans to dance happily through life with the man I loved. But seven years and three kids later, our union felt more like a stumbling shuffle than a tantalizing tango.

There were bills to pay and children to feed; problems to solve and jobs to keep. And as life settled heavy on our shoulders, our marriage spiraled into a jaded jitter of frustrations and unmet expectations.

Sadly, I could name my husband’s shortcomings faster than I could list his strengths, and I could articulate my disappointment more keenly than I could define my delight. I knew God intended marriage to be more than a baffling boogie, but I didn’t know how to reclaim the joy that had once spurred our steps.

One day in Bible study, I aired my grievances to an older and wiser woman. She listened quietly, then pulled me into a one-armed hug and whispered words of truth: “Honey, you’ve gotta decide if you’re gonna spend your energy fighting with your husband or fighting for him.”

My stomach lurched with conviction, and she held my tear-filled eyes in a silent gaze. “Every wife was made to be a warrior,” she said with resolve.

I felt a sliver of hope stirring deep inside, and when I got home, I scoured the shelves for that book of prayers I’d been given as a young bride. Maybe somewhere on those crisp white pages I’d find ammunition for battle.

Later that night, I sat on the couch and begged God to teach me how to fight.

Day after day, I took the Apostle Paul’s words to heart —“Pray about everything in every way you know how!” And like a baby learning to walk, I learned to speak God’s truth over our waffling and weary union.

When I was tempted to fling hurtful words, I asked God to help me swing the sword of the Spirit instead. When I felt weak and discouraged, I asked Christ to infuse me with His strength and His hope.

Eventually I found myself choosing to battle rather than belittle, to praise rather than pester, to believe rather than despair. And one day I woke up and realized I was no longer blind to the gift of my husband. My prayers had granted me fresh vision.

Slowly and surely, our marriage dance began to change. We found ourselves waltzing to a new rhythm of joy. Not with flawless steps or perfect poise, but with confidence in the One who had joined our hearts.

I looked at the worn book on my lap and whispered a prayer of thanks as my son’s sleepy stupor gave way to playful frolic. “Let’s have a sword fight before breakfast, Mommy!” he said as he leaped off my lap and raced up the stairs in search of his plastic saber.

He paused at the landing and cast me a reassuring grin, “Don’t worry, Mommy. We’re just pretending.”

I mirrored his smile and swiped my Bible through the air like a dangerous dagger. “I’m not a bit worried,” I replied. “I’ve had lots of practice in battle!”

Dear God, Teach me to fight for my marriage on my knees. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
James 5:16b, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (NIV)

Matthew 21:22, “If you believe, whatever you ask for in prayer will be granted.” (VOICE)

RELATED RESOURCES:
Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Capture His Heart, can help you strengthen your marriage and see your husband through fresh eyes.

Stop by Alicia Bruxvoort’s blog today for more encouragement and for a warrior wife giveaway.

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Find one Scripture to pray over your marriage this week. Declare God’s truth out loud by reciting it frequently and fervently.

Next time you are tempted to tear your husband down, lift him up to God in prayer.

© 2016 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

Just Because

Lysa TerKeurst JANUARY 27, 2016

Just Because 
LYSA TERKEURST

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” 1 John 3:18 (NLT)

Grace looked up from the old, worn photo album to see Richard the postman making his way through the cold to her door. What a sweet young man, she thought.

Grace loved her walks to the mailbox in late spring and through the summer, but the cold winter air seemed to whip through her thin skin. Though in her heart she still felt like a young, energetic girl, her age was evident to her. Aches and pains made her careful and slow. As the air turned cooler, Richard made it a habit to deliver Grace’s mail to her door.

Today was an especially lonely day for Grace. It was the seventeenth. No one but her Jim would have known what a special day this was. It wasn’t her birthday or their anniversary. For 42 years the seventeenth of every month was their unique day, as Jim would say, just because.

Though they never were rich with money, they were determined to be rich with love. For this reason, on the seventeenth Jim always found some special way to say it and live out 1 John 3:18, “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”

Over the years the gifts had been as simple as a scribbled note or as elaborate as a bouquet of store-bought flowers. But the message was always the same: “Just because.” Once he’d secretly taken Grace’s wedding band from her jewelry box and had it engraved with their special saying.

She found such comfort, confidence and connection in those two simple words. To Grace it was more than a gesture of love; it was an outward symbol of much more.

When she’d gotten sick and couldn’t keep up with the house, it meant I love you for who you are, not what you do. When they had an argument, it meant even when we don’t see eye-to-eye I love you still. When she started aging, it meant yours is a timeless beauty. Though Jim had never been a man of many words, his “just because” was perfect and poetic to Grace.

Jim had passed away three weeks earlier. It wasn’t a sudden death; they both had known his end was near. They’d had a sweet time of reminiscing, hugging, crying and then as quickly as he came into her life all those years ago, he was gone. She missed him terribly but had peace.

They’d had a wonderful life and left nothing unsaid. Now Grace loved flipping through their old photo albums savoring pictures, but even more so she loved touching all the mementos from over the years written in his masculine handwriting.

Though she’d seen the postman coming, the doorbell startled Grace. Carefully, she made her way to the door. She graciously took the few letters he handed her and apologized for not having cookies. Maybe tomorrow. She then walked slowly to the kitchen to open her mail. A bill, another sympathy card and something that made her heart jump and melt all at the same time.

Her eyes filled with tears and her hand trembled as she slid her finger underneath the envelope’s back flap. It was a simple letter as they always were, delivered on the seventeenth as they always had been. Before his death, Jim had arranged for Richard to make one last special delivery. “Not even death shall stop my heart. Just because, Jim.”

~ ~ ~
Sometimes a short story illustrates a point better than pages of instruction on how to be more intentional with relationships.

All relationships take work. And I know firsthand how hard it can be. I imagine some of you have prayed for a more tender relationship with your spouse. I’ve been there. I understand.

So I wrote this story to remind myself to pursue this kind of intentionality with Art during the good days and the really hard ones too. This kind of love — not flashy, but forever; not commercial, but committed — isn’t always easy, but it truly is honoring to the Lord and to your spouse.

I pray this story settles into your heart and encourages you that even the smallest acts of love toward your spouse can bring about the most loving legacies.

Dear Lord, I am so thankful for who You are — the Great Lover of our souls. Cultivate in me a heart of generosity and intentionality so Your love can shine through me into my relationships. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
You don’t need to feel alone. We want to help you get the resources you’ve been looking for to help you through the ups and downs of marriage. Click here for our top picks for helpful marriage resources.

Let the decor of your home tell the story of your love with the “We Still Do” sign and frame. Find out more here.

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Who do you need to be more intentional with when it comes to expressing your love? Ask the Lord to show you one simple way you can say “I love you” to that person today — no fancy packaging required.

We don’t have to wait for special occasions like Valentine’s Day to show others how much they mean to us. Do something kind and out of the ordinary for someone this week — just because.

© 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

A Wrecked Marriage Saved

Sharon Glasgow SEPTEMBER 23, 2015

A Wrecked Marriage Saved
SHARON GLASGOW

“A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered.” Proverbs 17:27 (NLT)

“I can’t STAND my husband. I’ve had enough; it’s over. I’m finished with this marriage, Sharon. I’m done … DONE!” Kate yelled as I held the phone away from my ear. When she stopped to take a breath, my friend started sobbing. I could hear her children fighting and her baby screaming in the background.

Before I could respond, Kate asked, “May the kids and I come over for lunch? I need your help. I don’t know what to do.”

Everything in me wanted to say, “NO!” We were renovating our house and using my bedroom as a makeshift kitchen. I hadn’t been grocery shopping and had no idea what I’d feed all our kids, the two of us and the construction crew.

Despite my hesitations, I said, “C’mon over and …” Her phone disconnected before I finished the sentence.

Rummaging through a box, I found lunch — oatmeal, walnuts and maple syrup. I boiled water on a tabletop burner, wiped 15 bowls that were covered in construction dust and prayed for God to help me help my friend. I knew if her marriage was going to be saved, it wouldn’t be because of my words. It’d be because of God’s.

Kate didn’t seem to notice the messy house. She had tunnel vision and only saw her wrecked marriage. After we ate lunch, the kids played outdoors while my friend and I stayed inside. I let her talk for over an hour. As she told me her story, I thought to myself, Oh my! I can’t imagine being married to this man either! He’s an inconsiderate jerk.

At the end, Kate looked at me and asked, “Well, what do you think?”

I paused before answering. My flesh wrestled with my spirit big time. The more she talked, the angrier I became for her. Part of me wanted to come up with mean jabs for her to say back to her husband. Or encourage her to give him the silent treatment. Or go yell at him myself!

But I knew none of these “solutions” would help heal Kate’s heart or her marriage. Do you remember the old saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? Scripture tells us a similar thing in today’s key verse of Proverbs 17:27, “A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered.”

Sitting with my friend, I took a deep breath, silently asked God to forgive my anger and instead of giving advice, I said, “Let’s pray and ask God what He thinks.”

I prayed for help to say only what He wanted me to say. Words rolled out of my mouth that I hadn’t planned. Words based on Scripture, not my emotions. Words of kindness, not contempt. So much better than my thoughts.

Oh my goodness — I can count more times than not when I’ve blurted out words that should never have been said, especially in the heat of the moment. Do you know what I mean? Mercy!

But, let me tell you something — if we consistently read God’s Word and pray, the most amazing thing will happen: We’ll follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, even when our human desires want to do or say something different.

I’m thankful I paused and invited the Lord into my conversation that day. Kate said, “I’m going to need more prayer to get through. Everything you prayed convicted me. I do love him and have renewed hope that God is going to turn this around.”

Notice she didn’t say she would need tons of conversations, clever words or plans to retaliate. Just a short prayer based on Scripture revived her. We have continued to pray together, and her wrecked marriage is being restored.

The next time you’re tempted to give someone a piece of your mind or spout long-winded advice, pause first. Invite the Lord, through prayer, to lead your thoughts and guide your few words.

Lord, help me not to lean on my own understanding but in everything acknowledge You so that You can direct my words, thoughts and actions. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Proverbs 15:28, “The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking; the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words.” (NLT)

Proverbs 15:7, “The lips of the wise give good advice; the heart of a fool has none to give.” (NLT)

RELATED RESOURCES:
Visit Sharon’s blog for more encouragement on ministering to hurting people and enter your name to win a free gift.

Learn how to resolve conflict with kindness and confidence in your most important relationships with an Unglued Devotional by Lysa TerKeurst.

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Do your words reflect the fruit of the Spirit, as described in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

Take note of your words each day. Are they few or many?

© 2015 by Sharon Glasgow. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

Ciera Horton

50 Shades of Irony: The Black and White of Grey

I don’t always speak up every time I see another upwelling issue in our culture — quite frankly, sometimes it’s easy to become immune to what you’re surrounded by daily.  But when it comes to the release of Fifty Shades of Grey, I cannot sit by in silence.  It already made 8.6 million the first day of its release, while some places (like the entire country of Malaysia) have banned it completely.
What is so compelling about the enigmatic Christian Grey (interesting name) and his relationship with Anastasia Steele (who is softer than her name implies)?  This BDSM romance has captured the hearts of women across the country, spurring on new and unnatural sexual fantasies.  The danger is that we as a culture are normalizing the perversion, turning our gaze away from truth and we as Christians are forgetting what it means to be audacious.
I believe we should not only boycott what I’m calling “Fifty Shades of Irony” but we should continue to speak out the truth with boldness — we don’t need to read the book or see the movie (neither of which I ever plan to do) in order to be informed about it and understand its negative influence.  Here’s why.
The film presents a warped view of sex.
For those of you who don’t know, BDSM stands for Bondage & Discipline (BD), Dominance & Submission (DS), Sadism & Masochism (SM).  Sadism is the tendency to get pleasure from inflicting pain or humiliation and masochism is pleasure in self inflicted pain.  The relationship is not equal, but is consensually based on one party being the dominant and the other the receiver.
This need to dominate or to be dominated by another illuminates an underlying longing to be led, a longing that can only be filled by the Lord.  Whatever your thoughts are on this kind of role-play, mine is simple: This portrayal of sexual gratification though pain and humiliation is not sharing the deepest intimacy out of self sacrifice, gentleness, love or true passion.  It is fundamentally self serving.  Seeking to bring pain to another, even in a consensual context, seems to deviate from Scripture’s truths about love and sexuality.  Hebrews 13:4 says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”
So, dear Christian, do not foster curiosity.
Recognize that most negative aspects of our culture are warped versions of good things.  God’s blessing of sex is turned into pornography, erotica, prostitution and rape.  Freedoms turn into abuses; wisdom into intellectual pride with declarations of autonomy; innovation into a reliance on man’s accomplishments.
But culture itself is not evil.  Humans are.  Our battle is not one of Christian culture vs. secular culture.  The clash is between hope and despair and the first step to this kind of epistemological humility is recognizing our deep need for God’s mercy and His blessing of hope.
Romanticizing pain delegitimizes it.
In the book, Christian Grey has a Red Room of Pain where he carries out his sadistic pleasures.  These include handcuffs and whips.  In one scene, he takes a riding crop used for horses and strikes her.
This breaks my heart — we are making this kind of relationship the ideal!  This is the kind of context people flee from, are wounded by, carry emotional scars from because this kind of relationship is not based on mutual respect for another individual.  And when we romanticize pain and tell women “This is what you should want!” then we delegitimize the actual pain of people who have endured abuse.  It’s just that simple.  This encompasses emotional and physical abuse, sexual molestation, rape and by extension even human trafficking.  According to Equality Now, there are over 20 million adults and children in sexual bondage being trafficked around the world, forced into servitude.  I’d like to argue that we serve them the utmost disrespect in supporting a film of this nature.
The woman’s identity is found in the man’s.
Anastasia Steele, our protagonist, is a shy virgin with a low self esteem, no self sufficiency, a fear of abandonment and no sexual identity.  All of these things are fulfilled in the charismatic and controlling Christian Grey.  In the trailer, Anastasia asks him, “So you’re a control freak?” and his reply is, “I exercise control in all things.” Interesting.
All of this is along the lines of the common “He completes me” relationship mentality which only makes me gag.  Her worth, identity and confidence are all dependent on one man, which is both deeply sexist and also dangerous for women who claim to identify with Anastasia.  Anyone who watches this film and resonates with her insecurities is now being told to find worth and satisfaction in a controlling figure who is both abusive and self absorbed.
Instead, we shouldn’t be dependent on others or self sufficient, but we should recognize our own inadequacy, genuine desire for relationships with others and desperate need for the relationship with Jesus, the only one which can fulfill.
Sin supposedly leads to freedom — the ultimate lie of a fallen world.
To see this matter more clearly, look at the titles of the books themselves.  Fifty Shades of Grey.  Fifty Shades Darker.  Fifty Shades Freed.  We start with grey – between black and white, between right and wrong in the blurred “grey areas”.  Then it goes darker, accepting a lifestyle of sin.  Then freedom.
Let me make myself clear.  Darkness does not lead to freedom.  Shackles of slavery do not lead to liberty.  Indulging in sin is not going to lead to victory over it.  This mindset is humanistic, individualized and part of the relative truth age in which we live.  In our postmodern world, we are encouraged to “love” in a way that is only accepting, encouraging, unprejudiced and never challenging.  For the world, this leads to a tyranny of immorality in which standards are scorned, and the tolerant are intolerant of dissension.  I laugh when I consider how Nathaniel Hawthorne might write the Scarlet Letter about today — our culture wouldn’t ostracize immorality, they would shun purity.
For Christians, this often means a watered down faith that is no longer bold or audacious or proclaiming truth.  The truth is hard!  The Gospel is not easy and Jesus was culturally controversial.  Why are we on the defensive?  We should stand nobly for what is honorable, virtuous and holy.  We should strive to both encourage and challenge.  Our culture, in an attempt to accept and love all, has lost sight of the beauty in tough accountability.  I’m learning more and more that to speak the truth is loving and to love is to be truthful.

 

So Christians, stand for what is right.  This is one time when we don’t need to see the film or read the book to understand the deeply rooted issues.  Boycott this movie and speak out for purity and the sanctity of marriage.  This sense of truth and hope is what we can share to the Fifty Shades culture.  They need a million shades of light, not deeper depths of darkness.
Bio: A sophomore at Wheaton College, Ciera is a unique blend of academic and artistic: she reads Kerouac and Chaucer, paints still life and modern art and loves writing poetry on her typewriter named Ernest.  As a writer and champion public speaker, she grew up hanging out with Christian music stars, artists and writers who greatly influenced her culturally-engaging outlook on life, which she writes about at www.cierahorton.blogspot.com.
Ciera Horton

How to Rise Above the Terrible-No-Good-Very-Bad-Day

Chrystal Evans Hurst FEBRUARY 10, 2015

How to Rise Above the Terrible-No-Good-Very-Bad-Day
CHRYSTAL EVANS HURST

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4 (NLT)

It was his birthday.

We had a flight to catch.

Even though it was a working trip for me, I planned to make our trip a quasi birthday celebration for him. We were still about to leave the house without our kids. That always spells me-and-you time, honey.

We were supposed to wake up and look at each other with “goo-goo” eyes, remembering how much we actually like each other, because there were no distractions.

We were supposed to travel leisurely to the airport and stop somewhere for lunch on the way.

We were supposed to have a meaningful conversation on the plane about deep, important and beautiful things while we were soaring above the clouds.

Instead …

We woke up to plumbing problems, broken suitcases and a rainy day. We rushed to the airport and searched for a parking space while listening to each other’s bellies rumble. We missed our flight and had to run to catch another one that would get us to our destination on time.

Then we sat next to each other … in complete silence … and it was his birthday.

Part of my sullen attitude was because it really was a terrible-no-good-very-bad-day.

Part of my bad attitude was frustration that this yucky day was my husband’s birthday, and I felt so badly about it not being special for him at all.

Most of my gloomy attitude was because things weren’t going as I had planned, and I was pouting.

The cramped ride on the itty-bitty plane came to an end. He helped me get my luggage out of the overhead bin, looked over at me and smiled. He walked through the airport, pulling my suitcase and his.

It was raining in our arrival city too, but he went out of his way to make sure I didn’t get too wet as we got our things into the car. On the way to our destination, he started a pleasant conversation and kept it going until we arrived.

Somewhere between the frustration of the morning and the smile in the afternoon, my husband made a decision. He made a decision to rise above that terrible-no-good-very-bad-day and find something to smile about. He made a decision to choose joy.

And while it never stopped raining, the longer-than-expected-drive-time gave us more time to chat. And stopping at the drive-thru became a romantic birthday dinner for two.

I don’t know about you, but I have lots of days that just don’t go quite the way I want. Even when I’ve done everything I can to ensure my plans don’t go awry, they still do.

Sometimes it still rains and I’m tempted to pout.

I’m tempted to throw all efforts at rising above my situation to the wind and sit and sulk in a quiet corner, lamenting the difficult parts of my day or life. And of course, some problems are a whole lot worse than rain or a delayed flight.

But watching my husband reminded me of something.

I don’t have to let the events of a terrible-no-good-very-bad-day determine my actions and attitude. Like our key verse suggests, we can choose to consider trouble as “an opportunity for great joy” (James 1:2b). Life’s challenges allow faith to be tested and endurance to grow.

Some days are just difficult. Life can be hard. And many of those difficulties happen at the most inopportune time.

However, let’s not forget that it’s in the most difficult places where we derive our deepest life lessons. Even from hard spots beautiful things grow.

We can plan, prepare and put our best foot forward, but sometimes life just happens.

Thankfully, bad days don’t have to dictate our response or the ultimate outcome.

We get to choose.

So my friend, choose joy!

Father God, Help me rise above my circumstances, choose joy and find something to smile about. Even in the midst of a difficult day, Lord, help me have a joyful heart while the experiences You allow build character in my heart and produce beauty in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
Do you long to be a woman whose responses aren’t dictated by circumstances? Kingdom Woman by Tony Evans and Chrystal Evans Hurst can help set your heart and mind on things above.

Stop by Chrystal Hurst’s blog for more encouragement today.

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What small step can you take today to find joy in the midst of your terrible-no-good-very-bad-day(s)?

Are there people in your life who set a good example of choosing joy despite their difficulties? Ask them what they do to rise above their circumstances.

© 2015 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org