When Janine and I were first married, I remembered hearing an older couple say how they were in love more that day than when they first got married. A sweet sentiment, I thought, but how is that possible? Aren’t the most vibrant and passionate years in the beginning…and then you hang on to the end?
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I would never have publicly acknowledged the “hang on” part, but it was inconceivable that I could love my wife any more than I did that first year.
I was wrong.
Janine and I have been married 29 years and continue to learn more about one another, what it takes to have a healthy marriage, and about our relationship with God. More importantly, we are just now beginning to catch a vision for what it takes to be a powerful couple — a couple committed to loving Jesus and helping other couples love and serve Jesus.
While we’ve learned that God uses marriage to make us holy more than make us happy, we’ve pleasantly discovered that when we strategically pursue God and help others know God, it makes us happy. Imagine that, getting both. Sounds like God.
But it’s not easy, and we are still learning as we go. Here are a dozen ideas in four categories that can make you a powerful couple.
Intentionality communicates “this matters.” It’s your GPS that helps you determine what to do, so you not only grow as a couple but also make an impact on others’ lives.
1) Get into a group with other couples
We were spoiled when we were first married because our church had a “newly marrieds” group hosted by a seasoned couple. We not only established new friendships, but we were relieved to learn other couples had developed similar bad habits. Even better, we acquired ideas on how to replace our bad habits with good ones. Regardless of your season of marriage, identify 5-6 other couples and meet each week or every other week to work through a Bible study on strengthening your marriage.
2) Write a family mission statement
Your business has a mission statement, and your church does, too. How about writing one for your family? Start with identifying a key Bible verse you want to live out, and explore ways to do that as a couple and with children, whether you have them now or in the future.
God takes two individuals and makes you one through marriage, and then you spend the rest of your lives learning to live that out.
3) Get away to get it together
Janine and I attended the Family Life “Weekend to Remember” five times in our first six years of marriage. We have not kept up that pace, but those conferences laid a terrific foundation and served as a helpful annual tune-up. Whether you attend a planned weekend, go away as a couple to brainstorm goals for the year, or review the family calendar for the next quarter, it’s nice to hit “pause” on daily activity and think strategically about your marriage.
4) Transform your dinner table to a learning lab
Use meals (or desserts or walks) as a way to invest in other couples or individuals. Find out how they’re doing and ask permission to speak into their lives. Similarly, invite others over you want to learn from. Ask question after question. Don’t hold back. Ask about areas in which you’ve always struggled as a person or as a couple.
5) Talk about it
Pick a few meals during the week where you share what God has been teaching you. Discuss what you’re learning from your Bible reading or podcast listening, or discuss your pastor’s weekend message.
Creativity reminds us that God is not confined to the box in which we often place him.
6) Rocks to remember
In Joshua 4, after God led Israel across the Jordan River, God instructed Joshua to have a person from each of the 12 tribes take a stone from the middle of the Jordan and place them in a pile on the river’s bank. The rocks served as a reminder for generations of God’s provision and faithfulness. You can do something similar in your home. Gather a handful of smooth stones (or purchase them) and write on a stone each time God provides for you as a couple. If you don’t like the idea of rocks in your home, keep a journal. Chronicle God’s activity in your family.
7) Take a walk
Take a walk through your neighborhood and pray as a couple. You can pray out loud or silently, but take time to see those around you through God’s eyes. Spend some of the time in silence, just looking and listening. God may give you new ways to pray for people or an idea of how to encourage or serve others.
Adventure is stepping out of your comfort zone and a reminder that following Jesus can be fun — and scary.
8) Increase your giving
How well do you steward the money and resources God has provided? Do you give regularly? Sacrificially? Prayerfully? If you’ve reached a place where that has become the norm, begin to grow your giving. As newlyweds, our pastor challenged us to increase our giving 1% each year. We did so until our 9th year of marriage. I’m not sure if that’s where our faith stopped or God redirected how we were to give, but it was an exciting time watching God provide.
9) Take a local or global mission trip
As a couple or as a family, look for ways to serve. Identify a big trip you can take for a few days or a week annually or every other year, but set aside time each month where you help another person or family in your church or neighborhood.
Be Prayerful (and patient)
Prayerfulness is a reminder that your life and marriage might not be what you want them to be, but to believe that God is always at work.
10) Learn one another’s “God language”
How you connect with God may be different from how your spouse does, and that’s OK. Stop trying to make them like you and–instead–encourage them to keep following Jesus. (See Gary Thomas’ terrific book on this topic.) If your spouse seeks a quiet place to be still before God, don’t interrupt her. If she likes to play worship music while she reads or prays, don’t criticize her. If she wants to leave the house to walk with God, celebrate the fact that she is seeking to grow her faith.
You and your spouse are different, but you can be united.
11) Understand “seasons”
If you’ve been married for many years, you’ve experienced this. And if you’ve been married a short time, you will discover that the ways you grow as a follower of Jesus individually and as a couple will change based on your season of life. What works now may not work in a few years. If it feels like nothing is currently working, hang in there; a new season is coming. Your life before and after kids will look radically different, but don’t ignore your growth while the kids are home. You may no longer be able to sip coffee and read your Bible without interruption, but get creative and find moments to pause and connect with God throughout the day.
12) Focus on your heart
You are not in competition with your spouse for being the most spiritual. Pray for and support one another. Learn from one another. And be patient with one another. You cannot make your spouse love Jesus more. But you can choose to love your spouse and pray for him or her. Pray for your spouse, but focus on your growth. Ask God to transform your heart and follow God as he leads.
God takes two individuals and makes you one through marriage, and then you spend the rest of your lives learning to live that out. You and your spouse are different, but you can be united. Catch a vision for what God wants to do in and through you. Ask God for unity in your marriage and the ability to grow together. Pray that he would make you a powerful couple, equipped to impact and encourage family, friends, and neighbors. But recognize that God may answer your prayer differently throughout your marriage.
Too busy to grow your faith as a couple? Click here for ideas and resources so you can grow a vibrant faith without destroying your marriage.
QUESTION (leave a comment below)
Which idea intrigues you most? Or, what’s another idea you want to suggest?