How To Choose A Godly Wife (Part 3)

How To Find A Proverbs 31 Woman

godly husband and wife just married

Welcome back for the final  post in our mini-series about choosing a wife who will help you fulfill God’s calling as a pastor, planter or ministry leader.  In Part 1, we covered four traps to look out for, and in Part 2 we discussed four essential qualities to pursue.

We all know, though, that in practice it’s not a formula, right?  We, and any woman we might pursue in marriage, are complex beings living in a seriously fallen world.  And we’ve all seen ministry marriages crumble.  So in this final post let’s talk about steps you can take to actually find a Proverbs 31 wife who will bless you and the people God calls you to serve.

Read the rest of this post at Am I Called?…

[While this post is written for ministry leaders, it’s relevant for any man seeking a godly wife.]

How To Choose A Godly Wife (Part 2)

Four Essential Qualities To Pursue

In the first post in this series, we began with how to find a godly wife who will help you fulfill your calling as a pastor, planter or ministry leader.  We focused upon four traps that men can fall into.

Ultimately, though, we’re not just trying to avoid losing the game, as if we were a backup quarterback. No, we’re trying to win the game by finding a godly, Proverbs 31 woman who will make a maximum impact for Christ and his kingdom. Even more importantly, we must focus upon becoming the kind of man who can love and lead such a woman.

Here are four qualities to look for as you search for a godly wife. We’ll continue by focusing (mainly) on Proverbs 31.

Read the rest of this post over at Am I Called?

Godliness Attracts Godliness

If You Want To Find A Godly Wife, First Become Godly Yourself

godly man and wife get married on boardwalk

Here’s an important, overlooked truth about marriage:

You will wind up marrying someone similar to you in spiritual maturity. 

Sure, you can probably think of exceptions.  But you can probably count them on one hand.

If you want to find a godly wife, first become godly yourself.  There are no shortcuts.

You can read the first article in my series on Finding A Godly Wife for Am I Called? over at their site.

By the way, this is an excellent site for men who are either in ministry, or heading in that direction.  And although my series is slanted toward guys with that background, nearly any Christian guy can apply the principles with just a little thought.

Finally, I’ve just created a short, free guide on 6 ways the gospel will transform your marriage.  It includes key principles, scripture, and a challenging question that will help you take the next step in the most important areas of your marriage.  Even if you’re not married yet, I think you’ll find it helpful.

Read the article at Am I Called?…

 

 

9 Surprising Reasons Your Wife Doesn’t Want To Have Sex With You

“Anyone who believes that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach flunked geography.”

     – Author Robert Byrne

So today we’re going to talk about something really important to men.

Sex.

Man sleeping on couch.

Photo credit: bp6316 via Foter.com / CC BY

In fact, research shows clearly what the quote above suggests indirectly: that sex is the most important part of marriage for about 80-90% of men.  (No doubt many of you wives can confirm this!)

Despite Hollywood’s portrayals, though, sex is also one of our biggest areas of frustration.  For most couples, there’s a difference in sex drive, with guys typically wanting it a lot more than most women.

But you already know that.  This post is about 9 surprising reasons our wives may not be as interested in sex as we’d like them to be.  And, what you can do about it.

By the way, guys, if you’re not married yet, this post is for you, too.  I had no clue about most of these things and had to learn the hard way.  I hurt my wife along the way big-time, too.  You can avoid a lot of that by learning from my mistakes.

If you are married and experiencing some frustration in your sex life, putting some work in on one or more of these areas will help.  And, more importantly, bless your wife, too.

Continue Reading »

5 Early Marriage Hurdles & How To Overcome Them

The early days of marriage are awesome.  You get to wake up every day with your best friend, experience physical intimacy and enter into everything you’ve been waiting for.

But it’s not all butterflies and violins.  Many couples go through some really deep waters during their first few years together, trials they were not expecting.  Let’s talk about the hurdles you can expect, and how to handle them so that your marriage thrives.  (Even if you’ve been married for awhile, a refresh never hurts!)

hurdle photo

My wife and I had a really tough time our first few years together.  We had some conflict before the wedding, but afterwards it got worse. Much worse.

We argued about which way to put the toilet paper on the rack.  Whether or not we’d turn inside-out laundry right side out.  How much time I’d spend on my studies.  And… you get the idea.

The hardest part, though, was that we didn’t expect all of that.  Older, battle-tested couples told us that it wouldn’t be easy, but looking back we didn’t really believe them.

5 Early Marriage Hurdles

But you don’t have to be as naive as we were.  Here are some of those early-days-of-marriage hurdles you can anticipate.  Later, I’ll talk about how you can handle them in a way that helps you move forward, together.

Preferences

When you live together, you find out that you do things differently.  These aren’t issues of right or wrong, but little things you’ve taken for granted (like the toilet paper) when you were single can become surprising annoyances when you have to work a bunch of them out with someone else.

How much time you’ll spend together

Almost invariably, one person needs more alone time than the other.  It gets tricky to work out how you’ll spend discretionary time you’ll spend together.

Differences in how you spend money

When you get married and share finances, all of a sudden this area comes into focus. Early on, my wife was much more generous than I was, and we had some conflict around that.  With limited resources, how we spend money reveals our differences in priorities, which can be painful to work through.

Disappointment from experiencing the other person’s flaws

The key word here is ‘experiencing’.  Before you’re married, the other person’s weaknesses and flaws can annoy you, but now there’s no escape!  Also, when you were dating, you were trying to impress each other, and willing to do the kinds of things that make a relationship great. Over time, you discover that this wasn’t sustainable, and, that you’re both more selfish than you realized.

Arguments and conflict

When you put two sinners together, fighting of one kind or another is bound to happen. If you grew up in a home where conflict was avoided or swept under the rug, this can be especially discouraging.

I’m sure you can add to this list, but these are some of the things you can expect after tying the knot.

How To Overcome Your Early-Marriage Hurdles

But what do you do about all the problems?  What difference does following Jesus make?

These are the things that helped my wife and I, and the things we share with the couples we meet with for premarital counseling.

It’s totally normal to have disappointment and conflict

In fact, if you’re not having any a few months into your marriage, you should probably check your pulse.  When two people who are deeply committed to themselves come together, there’s bound to be some eruptions.  Adjusting our expectations helps a lot.

Look for God’s work in the challenges

‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20) applies to your marriage, too.  Instead of wishing whatever’s negative would disappear yesterday, start looking for what God is doing in you and your spouse. For example, when my wife and I were fighting daily, God showed me he was exposing how much I wanted everyone (especially my wife) to like me.

Look for the issues of your hearts

In Mark 7:14-23, Jesus makes it clear that he’s ultimately concerned with our hearts – our innermost selves.  In marriage, we tend to focus on what we can see.  Like an angry comment or ongoing disrespect.  But Jesus says that these things come from a heart that is ‘evil’ (see Mark 7:21, 23).  When we own that and seek God’s forgiveness and healing, then our behavior starts to change.

Pray

We prayed before we got married, but the early challenges we experience there show us how much we really need God.  Let that lead you to ask for God’s help, on your own and together with your spouse.  It does wonders for our trust to see Him come through time and time again.

Listen first

When someone calls us out, our first response is to be defensive.  God tells us to do the opposite: ‘let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger’ (James 1:19). When we look for what’s right in what our spouse is saying, we become more like Christ, they feel loved, and our marriage flourishes.

Seek forgiveness when you blow it

Don’t let an offense blow over… it doesn’t.  Ask God to help you be truly sorry for what you did, then go and confess it as soon as you reasonably can.

Rely on your friends

God makes it clear that we need others to do life well.  Make sure you’re really connected with other couples of a similar age and marital stage.  Let them in on your joys and challenges and invite them to do the same with you.

Find an older, godly couple

Make sure you have an older couple who can encourage you, share some wisdom, and (above all) model for you that God is faithful in the ups-and-downs.  And don’t be afraid to get biblical counseling if you’re stuck.

No magic bullets

The American poet Robert Frost famously said, ‘The only way out is through’.  He was right.  The only way to get out of your early marital struggles is to go through them.  One conflict, one forgiveness, one undeserved act of grace at a time. If you’ll be faithful in the little moments, they add up and your marriage will be transformed.

Remember what marriage is all about

When things get rough, remembering the meaning of marriage is like the North Star.  It keeps you on track and serve as a point of reference when life gets disorienting. Your marriage will make you happy at (many) times, but that’s not mainly what it’s for.  God’s primary purpose for your marriage is to be a living, breathing picture of God’s love for us (Ephesians 5:22-33).

So there you have it: 5 early marriage hurdles, and 10 ways to clear them.  I hope that your early days of marriage are filled with lots of bumps in the road so that you see God at work and become more like Christ, together with your spouse.

Questions for reflection:

  1. What hurdle are you facing most intensely right now?
  2. What would help you begin to overcome it?

Could Your Family Of Origin Ruin Your Marriage?

Getting Ready For Marriage Series #3

Imagine with me, for just a moment, your perfect wedding day.  From the moment you wake up, everything is going exactly as you had hoped.

Celebrities everywhere are seething with jealousy as your guests shut down Instagram with one perfect photo after another.

Finally, it’s time for you and your (almost) spouse to exchange vows.  You get misty-eyed as the pastor says, ‘Repeat after me…’

I, John, take you Elizabeth…

your parents and your extended family…

to be my lawfully wedded wife…

As you start to mindlessly repeat the pastor’s words, something doesn’t sound quite right… After exchanging an awkward glance at the pastor and Elizabeth, you notice that she’s not alone.

There, just behind her, are her parents, brother, sister and other relatives.  As you look more carefully, you see that each one has a heavy suitcase with large lettering.

Her father’s says ‘kind but aloof’.  Mom’s reads ‘sweet but controlling’.  Seized with fear, you frantically try to make out what the other suitcases say without looking too obvious.

After all, 200 pairs of eyes are locked in on you.

One by one, the family hands their baggage over to Elizabeth, who receives them with a bizarre mixture of eagerness and regret.

With a look of fear and hope, she tries to hide the uglier suitcases under her dress.  All of a sudden, she turns back to you, awaiting your response.

As you try to remember what you’re supposed to say, you wake up in a cold sweat, thankful it was all a dream.

Or was it?

Who Do You Think You’re Marrying?

In their book Great Expectations: An Interactive Guide To Your First Year Of Marriage, Toben and Joanne Heim write, ‘Let’s face it; you marry more than just your spouse. In a sense, you marry your spouse’s family too.’

Over the years, in our premarital counseling with couples, we have found this to be true.

Many hopeful couples are like ‘John’ above.  They’re surprised to learn that their family of origin has shaped them in quiet, profound ways that will powerfully impact their marriage.

Other couples look more like ‘Elizabeth’.  They seem to recognize that they’ve inherited a lot of (mixed) baggage from their families.  While they’re still excited to get married, they worry that the negatives will bubble to the surface at some point and cripple their marriage.

Of course, many couples contain both a John and Elizabeth.  What about you and your future spouse?

And, how should you think about the role your family of origin may play long after you say, ‘I do’?

Your Family Of Origin & Your Marriage: Biblical Insights

So which is it?

Can we easily overcome what we’ve inherited from our families growing up, and go on to have a great marriage that proves them all wrong?

Or, are we bound to eventually succumb to the damaging patterns we picked up from our families?

When we look at the ways families influence their children and future generations in Scripture, here are some quick observations.

Sometimes children follow directly in their family’s footsteps.  The Books of 1-2 Kings provide many examples of this.  For example, after Israel was divided into two kingdoms, the northern kingdom never had another good king.  Every son followed the bad example of his father.

Other Scriptures, thankfully, paint a more positive picture.  Timothy, for example, had a ‘sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in [his] grandmother Lois and [his] mother Eunice’ (2 Timothy 1:5).  Timothy’s strong faith appears to be – at least in part – a result of the investment these godly women made in him.

Sometimes children walk away entirely from their family upbringing.  Returning to the Books of 1-2 Kings, sometimes kings with great fathers turned out to be lousy rulers. This happened when Ahaz took over for his father, Jotham (2 Kings 16-17).  Other times, the reverse happened, as when good King Asa followed on the heels of his evil father, Abijam (1 Kings 15).

I know a million caveats are in order, but these passages show that, spiritually-speaking, our relationship to our lineage isn’t always entirely linear.  There’s a real tension here, and it’s not always easy to sort out.

So let’s look a few more verses, see if we can make some headway, then end with a quick thought or two for your future marriage.  

Your Family Of Origin & Your Marriage: Biblical Insights, Part 2

Exodus 20:5-6 says,

I the Lᴏʀᴅ your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me.

Verses like these seem to say that the sin of parents can somehow (we’re not given details) become the sins of their children, too.

But then other verses, like Ezekiel 18:20, seem to contradict this.

The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son.

So again, which is it?

If your parents struggled with anger, are you destined to import that into your own marriage?  Or, can you pretty much leave it behind you?

While it appears – from the bible and our own experience – that the families we come from can predispose us to certain patterns of sin, God’s grace runs far, far deeper.

John Piper mentions that the bible makes this abundantly clear.  For example,

  • Leviticus 26:40-42: ‘If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers . . . if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember my covenant with Jacob.’
  • Acts 10:43: ‘To him [Jesus] all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’

In other words, as Piper puts it, ‘Nobody is trapped in his father’s sins — or even in his own sins.’  Is that great news or what?  

Three Takeaways For Your Future (Or Current) Marriage

As you think about your family of origin and its possible implications for your marriage, here are three observations.

  1. The key themes and patterns of your home growing up may well be the default in your own marriage.  What are three positive, and three negative, patterns from your childhood?
  2. God’s amazing grace means our marriages can be free from poor patterns we’ve inherited from others.  And, even our own!  Ask God to free you from repeating the negative patterns you identified in #1.  And, your own sin.  (See 1 John 1:9.)
  3. Because we’re broken in a broken, distracting world, we can’t assume that we’ll just keep doing whatever was good from our upbringing.  Grace is still required.  Ask God to help you see the good you’ve inherited, and pray for power to keep living it out.  

Regardless of your story, your marriage can be the beautiful picture of God’s relationship to us, his church, that he intended all along.

If you found this post helpful, you may be interested in the other posts in this Getting Ready For Marriage Series:

Marry Someone Who Will Call You Out In Love

‘Hey, I meant to tell you something.’

It was just a kind, casual comment. But years of experience had taught me that my wife had something important to say. Something I probably didn’t want to hear.

Without warning, I felt like I had two people inside of me.  The first was a ninja, ready to dodge any incoming criticism. (And maybe launch a counter-attack).  The second knew she loves me and had learned her criticism always makes me better.

I didn’t know who was going to win.

Continue Reading »

1 Incredibly Hard Thing Husbands Must Do For Their Wives

Anyone who’s ever been in a romantic relationship knows how awesome, complicated, and just plain hard it can be. What if someone you trusted could make it simpler and easier for you?

I’m a guy. I like to keep things simple and straightforward. So I’m thankful for Ephesians 5:21-33, the Apostle Paul’s cheat sheet for marriage. There, he tells us guys the one thing we absolutely must do to have a successful marriage. If we do this, the other things tend to take care of themselves.

But even if you’re not married or in a relationship, you can do this in your other relationships as the best way to prepare.

Continue Reading »

9 Topics You Absolutely Need To Cover In Your Premarital Counseling

So, you’d like to get married.  You’ve heard that premarital counseling is a good idea. (Good call.)

But not all premarital counseling is created equally.  How do you make sure you cover the things that matter most?

happy young couple in field of yellow flowers

Photo by Micah Camara

Continue Reading

7 Signs Your Relationship Isn’t Marriage Material

Getting Ready For Marriage Series #2

As he described the pain and frustration in his marriage, it tore me apart.  Although his wife identified with Christ, her lack of spiritual interest had only grown worse over the years, leaving him lonely and unfulfilled.  At this point, all he could do is pray.

In my first post in this series, I wrote about whether Christians should date people outside of the faith.  That certainly happens, but most Christians find themselves in a much murkier situation: wondering whether the Christian they’re dating (or thinking about dating) is really marriage material.

As this short story from my friend shows, getting this decision right is absolutely critical.

So let’s take a look at 7 warning signs that your relationship may not be marriage material.

This post is the second in my monthly Ready For Marriage Series, designed to help you cover essential premarital topics so that you can a great marriage that honors God and brings life to others. You can sign up here to make sure you receive future posts.
deep water sign photo

Photo by ell brown

Continue Reading »