Written by Stacy Joy, USA
No matter how many or how few years anyone has been married, the word “refresh” always sounds appealing. For those of us who desire to grow closer to Christ and to our spouse, it is essential that we set aside our never-ending to-do list and take time to process where we are at in our marriages.
My husband, Andrew, and I try to get away at least once a year to do this intentionally. While away, we evaluate where we have been, where we are at, and where we want to go. Whatever our circumstances that year, there are always a few key areas—aside from the continuing need to grow deeper both individually and together in our walks with the Lord—that have helped us to renew our marriage.
1. Practice spiritual disciplines together
Our spouse is the person we live with, raise children with, and impact the world with. In other words, our spouse is our God-given teammate for life. That makes it utterly essential that we grow spiritually together.
But how is this done practically? Start by praying together. Andrew and I make a prayer list for each day of the week and pray over it together, as well as regularly ask how we can pray for one other. These seemingly small moments go a long way towards building an intimate foundation that relies upon God—and not ourselves—to lead our lives.
Another practical idea is to read together. If reading Scripture together hasn’t been a habit before, find a devotional that is Gospel-centered and start there. Make it a habit to spend time praying and diving into a devotional every day together, and take it to the next level by reading and discussing godly books together.
2. Have a mentor couple keep you accountable
No matter how many years we have been married, none of us know everything. The sooner we realize this, the sooner true growth will be able to happen.
As newlyweds, one of the first things Andrew and I did was to seek out Scott and Dianne—a wonderful Christian couple in our church. We asked them specifically because we knew from previous interactions that they would hold us accountable on hard issues, yet we also knew that they cared for us deeply. It has been critical for our marriage to have them asking us questions, challenging us, giving us an outside perspective, and pointing us back to Christ, not just in the early years, but even today.
The reality is that sometimes our struggles in marriage are so deep that sharing them with peers or family would be slanderous towards our spouse, and could perhaps cause more pain, distrust, and brokenness of relationship. It is therefore essential to have a couple we both trust that we can talk to.
In finding mentors, we need to look for people who love the Lord and stand on the foundation of Scripture as they help guide our marriages—with their goal being to draw us closer to the Lord and our spouse, and away from ourselves. They also need to be comfortable discussing normally taboo and uncomfortable topics with candor and openness, such as sex, pornography, and finances. Pray that God will bring you such a couple, and make meeting with them a top priority.
3. Make “apologizing first” a habit
“A soft word turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
The Bible urges us again and again to humbly serve one another, humbly apologize, and humbly forgive—even if the other person is being difficult or stubborn (Colossians 3:13, Ephesians 4:32, Hebrews 12:14). This is important not just in interacting with people around us, but even more so in marriage.
Andrew is usually the first to apologize. In the heat of a moment, my pride frequently blinds me to my failures. Instead of being humble, I have way too often dug my heels in and sat in my anger. Without Andrew modeling humble tenderness in the midst of arguments, I have no idea where our marriage would be. His humility has taught me a lot about the Christian walk—how being honorable before the Lord is more important than getting our way or proving we’re right.
No matter what the argument, I have always been able to find something I can apologize for. Striving after unity over proving a point or being right must be a habit in all of our marriages. May none of us allow pride to keep us from having a unified, flourishing marriage! If this is an area you struggle with, like I so often have, start praying for God’s help to overcome whatever pride or arrogance may be blinding you to sin.
4. Renew your intimate life
Sex is a vital part of a godly, vibrant marriage. It was not created by accident—God created it intentionally, fully aware of how much we would desire it, how good it feels, and also how much it can hurt when not used the way it was intended. Sex was created by God to be frequent (1 Corinthians 7:5), pleasurable, exciting and unashamed (Song of Songs; Genesis 2:25). It should never be used manipulatively. Instead, it should be a selfless act between a man and a woman within the covenant of marriage.
When we take a biblical approach, we have the opportunity within sex to create a foundation of selflessness and trust in our marriage that can extend to all other areas. If we seek to make the bedroom a place where we are selfless lovers instead of selfish lovers, we will not only find ourselves having a more vibrant sex life and a happy spouse, but a marriage that is drenched with the blessings that comes from obedience to God. Use the bedroom as a training ground to love one another selflessly—again and again and again. If you’re not making love frequently or are being selfish within intimacy, surrender that to God, ask for His help, and renew your commitment to love your spouse in this incredibly personal way.
Until recently, Andrew and I have never really prayed about our sex life. But we have realized that since we believe in the power of prayer, we have been foolish to not seek God in such an important part of our lives! We pray specifically for the ability to love selflessly, for pleasure, and for purity (that our minds would not wander to other people or experiences).
5. Date and get away often
The Bible calls husbands to die for their wives, giving up themselves as Christ gave Himself up for the church (Ephesians 5:25). The Bible also calls both spouses to love the other as their own bodies (Ephesians 5:28-29). It is clear that aside from Christ, marriage is our highest earthly priority. Do we reflect that in how we choose to spend our time?
Time with our spouse—away from our normal routine, away from the kids, away from the house—breathes life into a marriage. And so we must prioritize it, schedule it, and budget for it. Set guidelines for this time. Does scrolling through our phones, talking about the budget, or discussing about the kids distract us from connecting? Turn off the phones and make kids and finances off limits. Not sure what to talk about? Print out questions from online or get books that have questions in them.
My hubby and I do this from time to time. We’ll bring fun questions into restaurants, have them along for car rides, and we are often shocked by the basic answers we either don’t know about the other or that have changed over time. Carving out these times regularly will rejuvenate our connection on all levels with our spouse.
Let’s make it our goal to never stop discovering who our spouse is. God is continually at work in those who are His, drawing us nearer to Him. The person we are married to today, even if we just got married last week, is different from the person on our wedding day. Make it a challenge—an exciting adventure—to continually get to know your spouse.
On this Valentine’s Day, may we give the gift of refreshment to our marriages. Anything in life that is worthwhile takes time and often sacrifice, and our marriages should be at the top of the list. As we all walk into the next months, may we be willing to do what is necessary to make our marriages not just survive, but thrive.
 Some of our favorite devotionals have been, Taste and See by John Piper, and the John MacArthur Bible Studies devotionals by John MacArthur. Some of our favorite books, The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller, The Holiness of God by J.I. Packer, Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper.