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The Day I Broke A Promise to My Husband

Written By Dawn Ong, Singapore

“Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26b).

This verse was close to our hearts as my husband and I went through pre-marital counseling. We promised each other that we would not allow anger to fester overnight, that we would make up and forgive each other before the day was over.

I broke that promise not too long ago.

 

The Disagreement

It was a lazy weekend. My husband and I wanted to run some errands without the children. We started to squabble due to a minor dispute—whether or not we should let the kids watch TV while we were out.

I did not want the children glued to the screen. My husband insisted that we needed something to entertain the kids so we could leave in peace, and the helper could have an easier time. I said no. He said yes.

Our voices grew louder and louder, in front of the kids. They were either glued to their program, oblivious to the heated atmosphere, or they did not know who to side with, and kept silent.

I grabbed the remote control and turned the TV off in a huff, with major protest from the kids. My husband and I were still disagreeing as we stepped out of the house together. I was fuming, and wanted to speak up for my cause. He cut me off mid-sentence, not wanting to listen to my rationale. Of course, that left me seething.

I remained indignant throughout the evening and allowed animosity to permeate the air. I made sure he knew I was mad at him—ignoring him when he asked for my opinion, walking far in front of him with a stomp in my steps, making no eye contact, giving one-word answers, and other childish manners imaginable.

I nursed the thought that he should apologize, since he was the one who shut me off in the first place. I continued to sin in anger, with an unforgiving heart.

As we lay in bed that night, I told him I was still annoyed with him, and left it at that, rolling away from him. I did not hear an ounce of apology. I went to bed mad and disappointed. I couldn’t sleep that night and was still grumpy the next morning.

 

The Next Day

Still upset, I raised the issue the next day. My frustration surprised my husband, as he thought we had reached an understanding. Before I had turned away the night before, he had gently told me, “Sleep on it. We will talk about this when you are less angry.”

I fumed over the fact that he did not care to make up—except I learned that he did. In my frustration, I hadn’t heard him, and allowed anger to linger through the night. I had given the devil a foothold.

We had made a promise during marriage counseling, and I broke it.

In the case of what we had argued about, there was no right and wrong. It was simply a matter of different perspectives. But I had allowed harsh words to strain the relationship, and in my anger, I had sinned.

My husband said he was trying to reach out to me the entire evening. He thought he was being extra nice to me, and was gentle with his words. But I was blinded by resentment, and insisted on an apology. When I did not receive one, that’s all I could focus on.

On my part, I assumed my unhappiness was obvious through my actions. But my husband was unaware of my infuriation, and I didn’t voice my concerns to him until the end of the day. It was a matter of communication. We had not let each other in on our respective thoughts and feelings.

 

Moving Forward

When we finally talked things through openly, we realized that we were both wrong. He was annoyed that I had shut off the TV in anger. I was upset that he did not hear me out. But instead of taking necessary steps towards reconciliation, we had allowed our evening to be taken captive by anger.

If I could do this over, I would have taken time to calm down before anger took over. I could have allowed the kids to watch TV, while explaining my rationale calmly to my husband. He, on the other hand, could have listened to my justifications patiently.

I apologized for switching off the TV in a frustrated fit—both to my husband, and my children. My husband shared his regret for not being proactive in listening to me. We made up, in front of the children, as we shared our marriage counselor’s words, and the promise we made to each other.

I am reminded once again, exactly why anger can be so dangerous. If we ignore it, anger can become like a knife—plunging deep into our relationships, cutting the ties that bond us. When unresolved, it consumes us, blinding us to reason and logic. Anger leaves us prone to let hurtful words spew from our lips, and for our hearts to be filled with soreness.

Paul was wise when he gave the Ephesians these words. They have been proven true time and time again.

“’In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26-27).

God, Give Me A Husband Who Loves Washing Dishes!

Written By God’s Little Flower, China, Originally in Simplified Chinese

Embarrassing as it is to admit, the title of this article had in fact been a prayer of mine.

I had only been a Christian for a short time then and was encouraged to pray for my future marriage, I listed out 10 items I expected in my “ideal husband.” “Loves washing dishes” was number nine. The rationale behind my request was, “Lord, I really don’t like washing dishes. Wouldn’t it be perfect if my future husband truly enjoyed washing dishes?”

Of course, as you have probably guessed, God did not bless me with a husband who loves washing dishes. However, God did use the mundane task of washing dishes to teach us an important lesson in marriage.

 

Who Will Wash the Dishes?

When my husband and I were engaged, we attended a few seminars and classes on marriage. Many of the speakers mentioned that one of the primary reasons for conflict between spouses was the unreasonable division of housework.

So, to avoid future argument over minor housework, my husband and I discussed how we should divide the chores when we got married.

Since neither my husband nor I planned on managing the home full-time, we both agreed that it was best to divide the chores equally. As for who was responsible for which specific chore—that depended on each person’s strengths, personality, preferences, and energy levels.

 

Speaking Truthfully to Each Other

Based on the principle of “speak[ing] truthfully to your neighbor” (Ephesians 4:25), I honestly told my husband that I did not enjoy doing housework. There are a few reasons for this. First, I did not have high standards when it came to the state of my home. Second, I dislike simple, repetitive work. Third, I get physically tired easily. Instead of doing housework, I would prefer to help him with other activities, like creating PowerPoint presentations and proofreading articles.

My husband’s views were similar to mine. He had even lower standards for food than I did, and did not expect the home to be neat and tidy all the time. Instead of enjoying the luxuries of life, he would rather have a simple life and a happy wife. If I could assist him with simple things in his research, he would be very happy.

Therefore, we decided that the goal for our housework would be simply to ensure that the condition of the home wouldn’t obstruct our daily living and so minimize our time spent on housework.

After this, we would review our division of chores every so often, share our thoughts and feelings, and adjust our plans based on our work situations. For example, we originally ate mostly at home over the weekend, but in seeking more time for rest, we decided to eat out more frequently.

 

No Fear in Love

Besides the issue of housework, my husband and I applied the same principle to other aspects of our lives, and would honestly discuss other issues as well. For example, how we spend time at church, how we spend our money, how often we visit each set of parents, how we respond to various opinions from family members, how to maintain communication when one of us is traveling for work, how to invite friends, etc.

We would share our own thoughts and feelings, identify a common goal, define our expectations, and finally come up with a reasonable plan we can both agree to. Every so often, we would re-evaluate the plan and make adjustments if necessary.

Most things in married life are neither absolutely right nor absolutely wrong. It is enough for both husband and wife to come to the same view. And the foundation of a common understanding is that both parties are willing to communicate honestly.

My husband’s love and acceptance allow me to express my thoughts and feelings without reservation. He is often willing to admit his weakness, and helps me understand his needs and sympathize with his feelings. Seven years of married life has helped us more deeply experience God’s love as expressed in 1 John 4:18—“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear”.

Recently, I mentioned again to my husband that prayer I made about dish-washing many years ago, and he smiled playfully, “I imagine there are few people who ‘like’ washing dishes. I would guess that even the Lord Jesus didn’t ‘like’ washing dishes!” Clearly, all these years he has been willing to take on the responsibility for washing dishes merely because I did not like washing dishes.

Looking back, I thank God for not answering my self-centered prayer. Instead, He has allowed me to experience His love through a husband who does not like washing dishes, but was willing to lay down his own self-interests for my sake. That’s the most important lesson I’ve learned in marriage.

4 Ways to Know It’s Time to Move On to Marriage

Our relationship was unusual from the very start. I came from Mexico, and Brian lived in the United States, but we ended up meeting in Hong Kong (his native city) while working in ministry at the same church. Along with romantic interest in each other, our attraction sprung from a mutual pull towards missions.

Three months after our first meeting, we prayerfully entered into a relationship. The next nine months were full of falling in love, facing hardships that come with an interracial and cross-cultural relationships, as well as experiencing immense spiritual growth. We prayed about our love for each other and our hearts for mission, and realized we were ready for the next step in our relationship. So it came as no surprise when he asked me to marry him. And I replied with a joyous “Yes!”

As wonderful and exciting as it was when Brian proposed, there was a lot to process and consider before we committed to marriage and a life together. How did we know when it was time for us to take our relationship to the “next level”? We had to really press in to hear God’s voice, and ask Him to help us understand the purpose of marriage, the grounds for it, and whether we should pursue it together.

These are several tips that helped us confirm our decision to get married:

 

1. Seek the Lord in Scripture

It may be easy to set the Bible aside and make our own decisions since the Bible doesn’t seem to say anything about engagement. But nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible talks heaps about marriage (Colossians 3:18-19, Ephesians 5:25-33), family (Joshua 24:15), sacrificial love (1 Peter 4:8), and our future (Proverbs 3:5-6).

As Brian and I studied these and other passages, we were reminded that marriage is meant to reflect the relationship between Christ the Groom and His Bride the Church. Christ’s sacrificial love unites us to Him and gives us access to the Father (Ephesians 5:25-33). As we contemplated marriage, we had to ask if we were ready to love each other sacrificially. Were we willing to take on the privilege of pointing and spurring each other on towards God as a couple?

It is well worth taking time to study what Scripture has to say about love, family, and marriage. By studying these things and allowing the Lord to show us whether or not we were ready to embrace these responsibilities, Brian and I were able to make an informed commitment to each other, with an understanding of how significant marriage truly is.

 

2. Seek the Lord through prayer and fasting

Throughout Scripture we see fasting as way of drawing near to God. When we fast, we let go of physical comforts in order to depend entirely on God. Traditionally, this has been done by forgoing food for a period of time, but can also be done by temporarily giving up social media, entertainment (e.g., movies, video games, shopping), or anything that might take up our time, so that we can focus instead on prayer and listening to the Lord.

While we were dating, Brian and I made time to fast and pray both together, and on our own. It is a discipline that gave us space to listen to God without earthly pulls distracting us from being near to Him and seeking Him specifically about the marriage we wanted to have together.

 

3. Seek the right counsel

When we first started dating, we had friends who committed to supporting us as we navigated our new relationship. It was important for us to listen to these people who were a part of our lives—people whom we knew loved us, who had provided godly guidance in the past, and wouldn’t hesitate to do so again.

For Brian and I, the Lord used our parents to help us grow by considering their perspectives on marriage from our varied cultures and traditions. It proved very helpful and necessary for us to seek our parents’ counsel about the future of our relationship, and to do so with a willing heart, free of pride and full of humility.

Of course, there have been those who have tried to be discouraging and even demeaning of our relationship (one of the reasons being that Brian and I come from extremely different cultures). But through this, we really learned to recognize who God had placed in our lives that knew us and truly cared to invest in us. All this was key to our growth as a couple.

We found that in seeking advice, it was important for us to go to people who loved Christ, and had produced fruit that showed it. These people were well-equipped to offer us Kingdom-focused advice instead of getting caught up with worldly concerns.

 

4. Make sure it’s a relationship that drives you TO Christ

At the end of all this, we had to take a step back and ask ourselves, has our relationships drawn us closer to the Lord? Have we matured in our faith during our time together? Will we be able to work well for the Kingdom together? Our answers to those questions helped us move forward into engagement together with great anticipation.

If the answer to any of these questions is, “not really”, this might be a signal to slow down and revisit the guidance we can get from Scripture, prayer, fasting, and fellow believers. It would be worthwhile to ask God to guide the relationship and give wisdom for the decisions that need to be made in the relationship.

 

Marriage Is A Lifetime of Faith Together

I am encouraged to know that God’s grace and forgiveness—which Brian and I have placed our faith in—is evidenced in the continued transformation in our hearts. We don’t walk into marriage blindly, but we walk by faith with boldness, expecting God will do great things in our lives together.

We remember the finished work of Christ on the Cross, and that our lives are defined by that work because we are saved, we are loved, and we are called to share that good news with all nations. The idea of getting to share this kind of life with another like-minded, passionate worshipper of God is unspeakably beautiful.

 

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a two-part series on dating and marriage. If you’re considering entering into a dating relationship or are currently in one, you can read the first article here.

5 Ways to Refresh Your Marriage This Valentine’s Day

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[1] 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.

 

[1] 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.