If your job, your kids, your in-laws, or your bills don’t kill you…let the church try. My church and most I’ve experienced are well-meaning. They want us to develop a meaningful faith, commit to growing our marriage, and invest in building healthy relationships with our kids, parents, and neighbors. Those are fantastic goals, but we still have houses to clean and repair, mortgages and car payments to cover, and guilt to conquer before it crushes our souls.
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The tried-and-true formula of pray more + try harder is exhausting. It rarely satisfies and causes more frustration as we compare what we are not accomplishing with all the achievements we imagine others enjoy. Stop trying to have it all—as defined by magazine covers or, possibly, your church. Concentrate on two achievable goals: experience a vibrant faith while growing your marriage.
First, take a deep breath. If you were successful with that, enjoy another. You earned it. Next, be willing to say “no” to lots of great opportunities, “can’t miss” time management resources, and “inspiring” Bible studies. Focus on ways to maximize your time—whether alone or together as a couple—while selecting spiritual growth content you can do by yourself or with your spouse.
Things you need to know about time
Time is your most precious commodity, but it is not a renewable resource. You cannot earn more time or reclaim any that was lost. But you can use it strategically.
Identify a formal time each day to connect with God as a couple. Some of you may be rolling your eyes, but “formal” does not require a sixty-to-ninety minute period, nor does it require you to sit. And if “each day” overwhelms you, start with two or three times a week. At a minimum, identify one time during the day (or week) where you can pause and look each other in the eye and do one or more of the following:
- Share a prayer request
- Identify a highlight from something you read or listened to (see the resource list below)
- Memorize a Bible verse together
- Write down some dreams or goals as a family
- Admit that you haven’t read or listened to anything
- Ask for a hug
- Pray together
Spiritual interest ebbs and flows in the life of a couple. Take advantage of opportunities when you both are inquisitive. But never demand participation or demean the other when only one of you seems to care.
Depending on your schedule or season of life, this could last for sixty minutes or sixty seconds. Don’t battle over the length. Focus on consistency and listening to one another.
In the ideal world, you can sit and talk over a meal or while taking a walk after dinner. If that’s nothing but a dream, start with a bit of conversation while standing in the kitchen sipping coffee or washing dishes. How about sharing a thought in the bedroom while getting dressed, or conversing before going to bed? Even talking on the phone during a commute can work, but whenever possible, look for times when you can be within an arms distance from one another.
Things you need to know about maximizing your time
Formal times are set and either met or missed, but informal times abound. Informal times allow you to randomly send text message encouragements, reminders that you are praying (don’t forget to pray), quick calls to tell your spouse God loves them, follow-up on a prayer request, or to say “hello.”
Informal times are your secret weapon. They are suited for spontaneity, but the wise spouse plans their inspiration. Set an alarm that prompts you to pray and then send a quick text to your spouse that you prayed for them. Informal time “power users” slip notes into briefcases or tape them inside the fridge. They write out prayers and email or snail-mail them to homes or jobs on particularly stressful weeks.
Things you need to know about content
Just as a husband and wife can connect formally or informally, it’s plausible to consume content on your own or as a couple. If you plan to share reading highlights during your planned (or spontaneous) connections, first decide if you’ll be reading (or listening) independently or together.
Stop trying to have it all—as defined by magazine covers or, possibly, your church. Concentrate on two achievable goals: experience a vibrant faith while growing your marriage.
In our first year of marriage, Janine and I enjoyed reading through a book together—literally shoulder-to-shoulder, where I read the page on the left, and Janine read the page on the right. Cute, right? We’d been married three months, so anything was possible. We haven’t come close to an experience like that since. But now I forward articles that inspire me, and we discuss them over dinner—or while rushing to get ready in the morning.
I text video clips or podcast highlights I enjoy, and Janine does the same. The key is to strive to grow in your faith and include your spouse in the process. We love sharing and talking about what we independently are learning from God through our Bible reading.
But what if you’re interested in growing your faith in Jesus, but your spouse could care less?
That’s certainly not ideal, and pray it only lasts for a season. However, be prepared for a long season. Additionally, remember these keys:
- Focus on your faith instead of wishing your spouse would be more interested.
- When you pray for your spouse, keep it positive. Pray he or she experiences God’s love and grace and wants more of it.
- Don’t compare your spouse with other husbands or wives. It’s always dangerous to compare what you know about your relationship with what you don’t know about another’s.
- Don’t force your spouse to read or listen to anything spiritual if they’re not interested. Instead, ask what they are learning about or enjoying in life these days. Ask about their dreams and goals.
- To reiterate, focus on your growth and on listening to and encouraging your spouse.
It is possible to grow your faith independently or as a couple, but don’t allow that pursuit to destroy your marriage. Spiritual interest ebbs and flows in the life of a couple. Take advantage of opportunities when you both are inquisitive. But never demand participation or demean the other when only one of you seems to care.
When your pursuit of God combines with exasperating your spouse for their lack of participation, you are planting seeds that can be destructive to a marriage. Instead, pursue God and do all you can to enjoy a vibrant faith. When you do that and love your spouse regardless of their spiritual interest, you’ll have a higher likelihood you will simultaneously grow a healthy marriage.
Looking for some resource ideas to grow your marriage and your relationship with God—independently or as a couple?
Here are several by Gary Thomas plus two others:
Devotions for a Sacred Marriage (weekly devotions)
Simply Sacred (daily devotions)
Cherish (learn how to grow your marriage by cherishing one another)
A Lifelong Love (practical tools for lasting intimacy, friendship, and purpose in marriage)
Hedges (a book about affair-proofing your marriage but much more. Learn to honor one another and communicate well.)
Bottom Line Bible (my app that overviews each Bible chapter and includes a letter from God from each chapter)
Looking for some more ideas to grow the faith in your marriage? Here are a dozen ideas to make you a powerful couple.
QUESTION (leave a comment below)
What encouraged you or stressed you out in this article?