There are several ideas about what makes a marriage strong. McLanahan, Donahue & Haskins (2005) share that some believe healthy marriages consist of either strong commitment, low conflict, or one that “provides economic and social security” (p. 3). Others, such as those found in the PREPARE/ENRICH (Olson, 2009) assessment, posit that communication, though complex, is critical in a marriage. Olson (2009) defines communication as an understanding of each other and sharing feelings. Having this type of communication leads to a Positive Couple Agreement (PCA) and, therefore, results in higher levels of relationship satisfaction (Olson, 2009).
The idea that communication is essential is also highlighted in The Couple Checkup by Olson, Olson-Sigg & Larson (2008). The authors measured happy versus unhappy couples and reported that 95% were very satisfied with how they talk to each other, 79% agree their partner understands how they feel, and 96% find it easy to express their true feelings (p. 34). Further, Petersen (2015) emphasizes communication and suggests that “real listening gets us inside each other” (pg. 7). Additionally, those who are “willing to work at listening better can improve their relationships across the board” (Petersen, 2015, pg. 7).
Another idea on what makes a marriage strong is found in the article The Most Important Relationship Strength You Must Have (Carter, 2017). The author equates strength within marriage to that of being selfless. Carter (2017) continues, one must be “cognizant of nurturing another’s needs,” and that “seeking the welfare of others, sacrificing everyday individualities, ignoring desire for self-glorification, and giving great dedication, devotion, and love for someone or something is the goal.” A marriage’s resilience is related to a desire for togetherness.
A couple should devote time to developing their friendship through shared experiences, and in doing so, they will experience intimacy (Hawkins, 1991). Companioning is of high importance to a relationship, according to Hawkins (1991). He believes that investing time and energy into the relationship is also directed in Scripture, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” Genesis 2: 24 (ESV). In addition, the idea of closeness is also found in The Couple Checkup (Olson, Olson-Sigg & Larson, 2008) and ranked as second to communication in distinguishing between happy and unhappy couples. The authors define couple closeness as “the level of emotional connection between partners and the degree to which they balance separateness and togetherness (pg. 23).
Should couples be similar or different given the various views of a couple’s strengths? While researching this subject it seems there is evidence for and against similarities impact on relationships. However, the similarities being measured varied, making it difficult to come to an overall conclusion. For instance, Luo (2009) suggests that previous research was conducted on well-established couples to predict relationship satisfaction, and therefore sought to examine similarities in couples who recently started dating. The study concluded that there was a strong correlation in age, ethnicity, extrinsic and intrinsic values, and political attitude (Luo, 2009, p. 5). Further, Keizer & Komter (2015) measured companionate factors, defined as “emotional affinity between partners,” and concluded this domain was not a prime determinant in relationship satisfaction (pg. 964). As you can see, different measures provide varying results.
In a perfect world, similarity in faith would be number one. Paul says that we ought to be holy and set apart to God, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 2 Cor. 6:14 (ESV). However, the Pew Research center reported that four in ten Americans have a spouse of different faith and one in five are married to unbelievers (Murphy, 2015).
Perhaps the focus in every marriage should not be on your partner but on “you and God” while considering that struggles and challenges of marriage can draw individuals closer to Him (Heffernan, 2002). Hawkins (1991) furthers this idea by sharing that God “frequently exercises our faith through trials and sorrows” (pg. 65), and continues, “intimacy is not possible without forgiveness and commitment to completing that which is lacking in the lives of our loved ones” (p. 66). Phil. 1:6 proclaims, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (ESV). We are not promised an easy life or an easy marriage. We know this by 2 Cor. 4:8,9 “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (ESV). I believe marriage requires a commitment to God’s purpose in the life of each individual and as a couple.
I also agree that selflessness and communication are foundational to the strength of a marriage. Selflessness, the idea of putting others’ needs before our own, is also found in Scripture. Some examples are “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others” Phil. 2:4 (ESV), and in Luke 6:38 (ESV), we are instructed, “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
If you are engaged and would like to participate in premarital counseling, OR you would like to further enrich your marriage by taking the assessment and receive feedback, please contact us at educatingcouples.gmail.com
Ayers, D. (2019). Christian marriage: A comprehensive introduction. ProQuest Ebook Central https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu
Carter, Z. (2017). The most important relationship strength you must have. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/clear-communication/201707/the-most-important-relationship-strength-you-must-have
Gande, T. (2017). How are personality traits and marital satisfaction related? Retrieved from https://canvas.liberty.edu/courses/86420/pages/watch-how-are-personality-traits-and-marital-satisfaction-related?module_item_id=8899058
Hawkins, R. (1991). Strengthening marital intimacy: Elements in the process. Baker Book House.
Heffernan, C. (2002). God’s design for marriage. Retrieved from https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/gods-design-for-marriage/
Keizer, R., & Komter, A. (2015). Are “Equals” Happier Than “Less Equals”? A Couple Analysis of Similarity and Well-being. Journal of Marriage and Family, 77(4), 954-967. ,
McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T., Jr. (1999). A Five-Factor theory of personality. In L. A. Pervin & O. P. John (Eds.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (p. 139–153). Guilford Press.
McLanahan, S., Donahue, E., & Haskins, R. (2005). Introducing the Issue. The Future of Children, 15(2), 3-12. Retrieved June 9, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3556560
Murphy, C. (2015). Interfaith marriage is common in U.S. particularly among the recently wed. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/06/02/interfaith-marriage/
Olson, D. (2009). PREPARE/ENRICH. Life Innovations, Inc.
Olson, D. H., Olson-Sigg, A. & Larson, P. J. (2008). The couple checkup: Find your relationship strengths. Thomas Nelson.
Petersen, J. C. (2015). Why don’t we listen better? Communicating & connecting in relationships. Petersen Publications.
Sakaluk, J. K., Biernat, M., Le, B. M., Lundy, S., & Impett, E. A. (2020). On the strength of ties that bind: Measuring the strength of norms in romantic relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 37(3), 906–931. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407519881748
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (2016). Crossway, a ministry of Good News Publishers.
A god or THE GOD?
What does the cost mean to you? For me, it meant giving up certain movies, music, activities, and even unhealthy relationships.
If you proclaim Jesus as Saviour, then the workings of the Holy Spirit will regenerate. Through this regeneration, we grow toward Christlikeness…and away from people and things that encourage our sinful nature. God’s word is alive and active; therefore, our Walk must also reflect this Truth. We are, after all, created in His image.
Some foolishly believe simply knowing there is a god is enough. Merely saying “I know god” believes that a god exists; however, it is not a basis for faith. Thinking in your head apart from believing your heart is useless. Just as you may acknowledge, a fire extinguisher puts out fires, but unless you pick it up, squeeze the trigger, and activate it, that fire will consume anything in its path. So, what does “I know god” really mean in the eternal? Even Satan knows God.
The Fruit of the Spirit
The Holy Spirit indwells the sinner, the sinner responds and submits, and through His workings within us flow the Fruit of the Spirit. The sinful must believe in Christ Jesus, “That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (Also see John 5:24, John 7:38, John 12:44-46, John 6:35, Romans 4:5, 1 Peter 2:6, 1 John 5: 1-5, 10).
Once the Holy Spirit indwells the child of God, The Fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal. 5:22-23) begins to develop. Yes, people can be kind, good, gentle, but without the indwelling of the Spirit, those attributes are limited and temporary. Even if you have never read the Bible, you’ve seen the Fruit of the Spirit somewhere. It has become a popular decorative piece, I know; I own one of them!
SO, what exactly is the Fruit of the Spirit outside of home decor? The Fruit of the Spirit is a direct outpouring of His love into our families and the community. It is a result from our communion with God. Therefore, saying you know god with your mouth is fruitless until you are filled with the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit indwells a sinful being, they begin to think and act differently. They make better choices. They seek God. They actively grow into Christlikeness by putting off sinful ways and, when failing, fully repenting. They put on Christlike attitudes and behaviors. They are visibly different from what they used to be—a new creation.
Knowing of God versus being in a relationship with Christ Jesus, which produces Fruit as you live out your faith, are two different things. The faith of every Believer is VISIBLE. There should be no believers who keep their religious beliefs to themselves—this is not the way of a True Believer. In God’s perfect design, He created community. This truth is revealed in the Trinity—all commune as One but is separate in themselves, with different functions. This same “community” is reflected in the Body of Christ. We are of One Body, with individual talents/gifts, and different functions.
In that community, the outpouring of the Fruit of the Spirit reflects Christ in us. We are to reflect Jesus Christ in all that we do. We are to profess His work in us to others, being thankful that He is drawing us nearer. We are to share His love with others in word and deed. This reflection is how Believers know the difference between those who profess to know god (Pharisees and scribes) and those who have a relationship with THE Holy God. There is a distinction. What is the cost then? What does it mean for you? “It is one thing for you to be in a church building, another thing to be in Christ Jesus” -Steve Lawson
Following Jesus requires us to unfollow the world.
Acts 16:31 says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved”
When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soulIt is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soulThough Satan should buffet, though trials should come
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ (yes, He has) has regarded my helpless estate
And has shed His own blood for my soulIt is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soulMy sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought (a thought)
My sin, not in part, but the whole (every bit, every bit, all of it)
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more (yes!)
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soulSing it as wellIt is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soulAnd Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend
Even so, it is well with my soul!It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soulSing up to Jesus, it is well!It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul
Why Don’t We Listen Better? James C. Petersen (2015) is an invaluable resource for every individual. It is written in a conversational form, making it easy to digest the wealth of information provided. Throughout the text, Petersen shares everyday examples making the material relatable, sometimes humorous, and convicting. While many would consider themselves a pretty good listener, the author reminds us that “people who are willing to work at listening better can improve their relationships across the board” (Petersen, 2015, p. 7). Further, the author uses repetition of concepts throughout the text; some he develops deeper, others remind the reader that changing our thinking and behavior is a difficult task but achievable.
One of the text highlights is his use of catchy terms for behaviors you may or may not exhibit and tools that are easy to revisit for habit building. One example of a catchy phrase is Chapter 17, entitled Avoiding Ten Communication Traps (p. 149). Petersen coins the behavior of disguising statements or accusations with question marks as Perry Masons (Petersen, 2015, p. 150), challenging the reader to be more direct while communicating. Further, the author says that avoiding the traps will strengthen relationships and avoid unnecessary conflicts (Petersen, 2015).
In addition to the catchy phrases, Petersen provides tools and visuals that are easy to follow and retain. The Talker-Listener Card (TLC) is most notable, which allows individuals to take turns while communicating, creating a better habit of being a good listener (Petersen, 2015). The Talker is the one who is most bothered, with goals to share their feelings and thoughts, without accusing, attacking, labeling, and judging. At the same time, the Listener is the calm one who is willing to hear, provide safety, understand, and clarify without agreeing, disagreeing, advising, and defending (Petersen, 2015).
Further, he introduces a theory called The Flat-Brain Theory (Petersen, 2015, p. 19) and includes a simple visual depicting how individuals struggle with the difference between feeling and thought. The goal is to help the reader understand how both affect relationships and avoid The Flat-Brain Syndrome (Petersen, 2015, p. 29). When Flat-Brain Syndrome occurs, the individual has difficulty hearing well, seeing is distorted, thinking becomes skewed, and acting sensibly becomes difficult. The theory is broken down into three functions: stomach, heart, and head. He tackles such topics as rationalizing to hide from uncomfortable emotions and our tendency to react based on feelings. An important point the author makes regarding our feelings is that they can build or destroy (Petersen, 2015, p. 22). With this in mind, every individual should seek to build up those with whom God places around us.
Why does becoming a better listener even matter? Petersen provides thirty-three helpful How to Listen Better Techniques to spur the reader on to personal and relational growth throughout the text. As we move about in our daily lives, being an effective listener and communicator may be the one thing that can make or break a person’s day, including our own. The benefits of being a good listener do not merely make for better personal relationships. Still, they may even affect those with whom we may have brief encounters—such as a stranger contemplating suicide, or in my case, the cashier at the grocery store who is having a bad day.
The world in which we live is filled with negativity and unrest. As Christians, our example is Jesus. Jesus heard many hearts cry to him before responding in wisdom. Proverbs 16:24 shares, “gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (NIV). Petersen provides the tools needed to listen, not to hear, so that responses can be healing to the bones. Lastly, Matthew 5:13-16 calls us to be both salt and light. To be Salt is to enhance the lives of others and continually show the love of Christ. We cannot do this without learning to listen to others truly. Christians should strive to grow closer to God, being refined every moment, so that the world may know Him through us.
I was thinking about the simplicity of words and how some words create a sense of fullness. For instance, the mention of Jesus or love. While synonymous with one another, each carry a different “weight.”
What words do you find carry weight in your heart?
How can I pray for you?
26Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Reading Genesis 1 reminds me of the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness…”Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided.” Surely this would be the foundational praise as God meticulously created every living thing. As He creates, He deems them as “good.”
It is not until we come to His final creation, Man, that He concludes with, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was VERY GOOD” (emphasis mine). Perhaps this is where we get that old saying, “save the best for last”? This is clearly speculation on my part. Nevertheless, Genesis 1:31 boasts of God’s love for His created beings. We are His “best for last.” He was pleased with all that He had created, but he rejoices when it came to man. We are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” Ephesians 2:10 (ESV).
Do you view yourself as God’s workmanship? Have you thought about the things which God gifted us? (vs. 28-30) Everything He created is ours to use for HIS Glory. We are uniquely created and infinitely blessed! It is because of this that we rejoice! Even in our trials we rejoice because He loves us that much that He is willing to draw us nearer to Him. The trials of life are opportunities to Glorify Him and grow or ignore Him and fall prey to our adversary. Which will you choose?
He created us in His image (imago Dei). No other part of Creation can claim this truth. We witness His hand in all of Creation but WE are the only created ones in His image. Let that sink in for a moment. How beautiful is this truth? Praise His Holy name! Commit to running toward Him instead of away from Him.
You are His masterpiece created to bring Him Glory BECAUSE He loves us so.
The Me I want to Be by John Ortberg (2010) is a valuable resource for every individual. It is written in a light-hearted, conversational form, making it easy to digest the abundance of useful information. Throughout the text, the author shares real-life situations, making the material relatable, sometimes humorous, often convicting. You will discover yourself in the pages, people you know will come to mind, relationships that you engage in will be viewed slightly differently, and woven in between, challenges to become a better you.
Among the many highlights is his ability to be genuine with the reader. With each page, you witness a humble servant who, like many, are striving toward Christlikeness. Practical personal assessments are provided throughout the book. One such assessment is unveiling “The Me I Don’t Want to Be” (p. 22). The author brings to light the different me in each of us; the one we pretend to be, think we should be, fail to be, and finally, the one we are meant to be. Assessing who we are is challenging but necessary to take part in transformation, where the inner self and character are being formed (p. 29). Further, the author encourages the reader to discover how you grow by examining desires, thoughts, and attitudes so that you can live in the flow of the Spirit to become “The Me I Want to Be” (Ortberg, 2010, p. 35).
Why does becoming a better you matter? Ortberg (2010) shares the idea that there is a battle between a flourishing self and a languishing self (p. 17). The goal of every Believer is to grow more and more into His image. This task is indeed challenging and laborious. Paul writes about the process in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (ESV). There will be things about yourself that you did not realize has taken up residence in your heart, or maybe you did but did not want to face the challenge of dealing with it. Ortberg (2010) lays out a plan of action in discovering your attitudes, desires, and hopes.
To become the person God wants, you must realize that working out problems and overcoming challenges is part of the process (p. 247). In Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV), Paul reminds followers of Christ to lay aside the old self; “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, to be made new in the attitude of your minds, and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Becoming the person God intends will allow you to flourish personally and will ultimately benefit the Body of Christ and unbelievers.