10-Point Check-Up for Your Relationship, Part 2

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Last time, we looked at five check-points from I Corinthians 13 to help us evaluate if we are loving our spouse, significant other, and other loved ones well. Today, let’s round out the list with five more points. Can we truthfully fill our names in the blank? More than likely, we all have some areas needing God’s refining work.

#6: I ______ am not self-seeking.

Do you take an interest in what interests your spouse? One of the best ways to show your SO that you care is to actively engage with his interests instead of demanding your preferences. For example, James enjoys watching cross-country biking. I honestly didn’t know that was a “thing” before we met, but guess who now knows the top racers by name? Yep, I do. Go ‘Merica and Kate Courtney!

When we seek others’ interests above our own, we cultivate the mind of Christ. In Philippians 2:3-4, Paul wrote these words:

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (NKJV).

Although Paul was referring to unity in the church body here, I think the mindset of humility has far-reaching applications for our relationships. We can love well when we put others’ well being  and preferences above our own.

#7: I ______ am not easily angered.

There is never a reason to raise our voice to someone we care about unless perhaps his personal safety is in danger. “Watch out for that falling tree!” Yes, that would merit screaming. However, our common speech should “always be with grace” (Colossians 4:6 NKJV).

Realistically, the people we love will anger us at times. We live in a fallen world, and anger is an emotion we experience. However, how we respond to that anger is up to us. If your SO makes you angry, express that you’re feeling angry and ask to talk after you’ve been able to work through your emotions. Responding in the heat of the moment will only hurt, not help, the problem.

#8: I ______ do not keep records of wrongs.

I once heard the story of a newly-wed asking for guidance from an older woman. The young bride complained, “My husband makes me so angry sometimes. How many times do I have to forgive him?”

The older woman said, “I decided my husband could do ten hurtful things, and after that, I would have a right to be angry.”

“What was on your list?” The young woman asked eagerly.

“I never wrote them down,” the wise woman replied. “But whenever he did something hurtful, I told myself that was one of the things on the list I needed to forgive.”

Such wise advice! Relationships aren’t sparring matches. Don’t try to count your love’s faults. Prayerfully examine your own. (See Matthew 7:3.)

#9: I ______ do not delight in evil but rejoice with the truth.

A relationship that delights in evil is headed to the gutter. That seems like a no-brainer, but how do we rejoice with the truth?

When we face discouragement in our relationships (and we will), we should tune our thinking as Philippians 4:8 instructs.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (NKJV).

Let’s rejoice in the beautiful parts of our relationships and entrust the areas that need work to God in prayer.

#10: I ______ always protect, trust, hope, and persevere.

When James and I took our marriage vows, we pledged to have and to hold, for better and for worse. Daily, we must guard our marriage by making it a priority. We must trust, hope, and persevere even when rain clouds darken the sky.

I admit that we’re still in the newly-wed stage. However,  the other day James reminded me that we will always get to choose our attitudes toward our marriage. Our marriage will be what we make it. By God’s grace, I’m trusting for a beautiful, though imperfect, story.

Love Never Fails

You may have noticed I left off verse 12 from out checklist, the verse that begins, “Love never fails.” There is only one Love that never fails, and that Love is Jesus Christ Himself. He is our Model and our Example.

In our earthly relationships, we are going to fail, but that doesn’t mean we should stop striving to love well. As a runner, I’ve always appreciated Paul’s metaphor of life as a race. I think it applies to relationships as well.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV).

Regardless of any past mistakes, let’s press forward and love well the people God has placed in our lives.

Free Download

I hope this check-up list is helpful to you! Maybe you can use it as a dialogue starter between you and your SO. If so, click on the image to download the PDF of the full checklist.

May we all keep short accounts with those we love so we can be quick to root out and keep out any stumbling blocks to our relationships (1 John 2:10).

~ Kristen

Tweetable

10-Point Check-Up for Your Relationship and Free Download- @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

To Guard Your Marriage, Guard Your Tongue

Special thanks to my friend and author Ashley Jones of BigSisterKnows.com for sharing her words of wisdom in this guest post. Whether you’re newly married like me, been married a while, single, or dating, the biblical command to guard our tongues is relevant to all of us.

***

As you know, Kristen just tied the knot with a great guy (woo hoo!). Now, I know she’s overwhelmed with newlywed life, and she’s being bombarded with advice she probably didn’t ask for. Still, as the “big sister,” I feel the need to share the following bit of wisdom I’ve learned over the course of eight years of marital bliss:

To guard your marriage, guard your tongue.

Here are a few practical ways to bless your marriage through your speech.

1 – Don’t be Ugly

One day your hubby will spill his drink on your beautiful new couch, forget your anniversary, or run over your favorite rose bush with the lawn mower. In that moment, you’ll want to scream at him for being careless, forgetful, lazy, or just plain mean—but don’t do it! Instead, take a breath. If that’s not enough, take a hot shower, put on your comfy jammies, and blast the BeeGees.

Remember that this is your partner in life. You’re on the same team. Then sit him down, make sure you have his attention, and tell him how you feel. Even then, don’t yell or say anything ugly because you’ll regret it later.

“There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18 NAS).

2 – Don’t be Critical

Reality check: your hubby will never cook, clean, or take care of the kids the way you do. He is a man, after all, and men always approach these things a bit different than we do. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t help around the house or that his quality of work should be less than yours. However, when you see him wipe up a disgusting mess on the floor with your dish towel, take a breath. (There’s a lot of breathing in marriage. Go ahead and practice counting to 10 now.)

Start by thanking your hubby for cleaning up the mess. After all, if he were still living alone, it would probably stay on the floor for a long, long time. Then say something like, “Hey, honey, I like to use those towels for the dishes, so it’s probably best not to use them on the floor. Let’s use paper towels next time, okay?”

If your hubby understands why you do things a certain way, he’ll be more apt to follow your lead. But be careful here! If you correct everything he does, you’ll become overly critical, and he’ll start to tune you out. No one wants to be a nag (or live with one), so pick your battles wisely.

“It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman” (Proverbs 21:9 NAS).

3 – Keep His Secrets

As soon as you get married, you learn little things about your new hubby. Some might make you giggle—like his penchant for bubble baths after a rough week. Others may make you cringe—like when his frugality leads him to buy frozen steaks from the dollar store. You may feel the desire to share these little secrets with your mom or best friend, but don’t! Marriage is a sacred union of two, and when you share your hubby’s secrets with others, you let them into your marriage … and nothing good comes from that. Enjoy this time as you get to know your new hubby, and assure him that he can trust you with his heart as well as his little quirks.

“He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip” (Proverbs 20:19 NAS).

4 – Speak in Love

While it’s important to avoid negative speech with your hubby, it’s just as important to fill your conversations with positive speech. Is he worried about work? Tell him that you’re proud of him and that you’re praying for peace and new opportunities. Did he spend all day planting new flowers for you? Tell him how much you appreciate his hard work and how great the yard looks (but avoid mentioning the fact that he ran over the last batch of flowers). This isn’t about platitudes but about finding something good, something sweet to say to the one you love.

“A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4 NAS).

Those are four different ways you can guard your tongue—but that’s easier said than done. The apostle James had this to say about it:

“But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison” (James 3:8 NAS).

That’s less than encouraging, right? So what is the answer?

“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the LORD weighs the motives. Commit your works to the LORD and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:1-3 NAS).

The truth is that we can’t control our tongues through our own efforts, but if we submit ourselves—including our speech—to the Lord, He will give us the strength and desire to do so. Here’s a simple prayer you can repeat as often as needed:

“Lord, please guard my marriage by placing a guard over my tongue. Keep me from saying things that would hurt our relationship, and give me the humility to speak in love and kindness. Thank you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

~ By Ashley L. Jones of BigSisterKnows.com

Tweetable

To Guard Your Marriage, Guard Your Tongue – @kjhogrefe & @BigSisterTweets (Click to Tweet)

Questions from the Bride, Part 2

I’m excited to share part two of this interview with Tami Myer of MannaForMarriage.com. Once more, she graciously answers my questions, drawing from her thirty-plus years of marriage. As a bride-to-be, I so much appreciates her wisdom, and I hope that her words bless you as well.

Bride: Forgiveness is something couples must generously extend, but, of course, that’s not always easy to do in the heat of the moment. What has helped you to be more forgiving as a wife?

Ruth Graham, the wife of Billy Graham, said that “a happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” How true! Learning to forgive is a marriage essential.

In fact, pastor Ron Zappa says, “If you are having trouble in your relationship, I guarantee you’re having trouble with forgiveness.”*

I have had a lot to learn about forgiveness! One thing that I have come to realize is that the moment I sense that my heart has been offended, I must take action. My natural reaction is to sink down into my hurt, to feel it, and to hover over it solicitously.  But that is a dangerous trap! I must act quickly to prevent an offended heart from becoming a deformed heart.

Here are a few key thoughts that I try to keep written across my mind:

1. A chance to forgive is a great opportunity! Forgiveness is perhaps the most powerful spiritual assault which we can hurl against the enemy. The opportunity to forgive is an opportunity to re-enact the gospel. I can advance the Kingdom of God in this moment, or I can walk into the enemy’s snare. It is a God-enabled and God-reflecting privilege to forgive someone, and I am a fool if I harden my heart instead.

2. I do not have the right not to forgive. It is easy to resent the command to forgive. We feel that a burden has been unfairly dropped on us, and we chafe against it. It seems, in fact, that forgiving would be an injustice! But when we think this way, we are believing the lies of the enemy.

The truth is this: it is an injustice for God’s people not to forgive. When we do not forgive, our spirits are demanding payment from someone when God has already paid in full. Insisting that someone still owes us after God has suffered severely for that person’s wrongdoing, as well as for all of ours—this is a great injustice which God will not overlook. (See Matthew 6:15.)

3. Forgiving will always enrich me. Forgiving puts us in a spiritual posture which allows increased intimacy with Christ. When I do not forgive in my marriage, it is as if I am putting up walls around me, creating distance between my husband and myself. My defective sin nature tells me that these walls will protect me. But I know now that walls of bitterness will always entomb me.

Bitterness does not build healthy protection, but forgiveness does. Forgiveness shields me from the corrosive acid of resentment. Nothing a spouse says or does has the power to truly harm us (although those things can hurt!), but our own reactions of bitterness can poison our lives.

On the other hand, forgiving serves to heal me. How encouraging! When I forgive someone else’s brokenness, some of my own brokenness is healed. How could I not see the opportunity to forgive as a blessing from God?

Elizabeth Elliot said that the best consolation is obedience. Perhaps we can adapt her statement to say that the best consolation for hurt feelings is the obedience of forgiving.

When we forgive, we are being conformed to the image of God. We definitely feel   s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d  in the process, but we can be confident that we are being shaped for greater effectiveness and for maximized joy.**

Bride: Do you have any resources you’d recommend to engaged or newly married couples? What are some of the resources you offer on your website MannaForMarriage.com?

Pre-marital counseling is valuable; but in many cases, there is something else that is just as important and even more helpful: marriage mentoring.

In your pre-marital counseling, you are eager to learn, and you are trying to listen, but you don’t really have a hook to hang these truths onto yet. It is like sitting in a classroom and listening to a lecture on how to drive a car. It is hard to fully process that information until you are actually in a car with your hand on the steering wheel. Once you are out of the classroom and onto the road, you suddenly have many “teachable moments”!

Make a commitment now–before you get married–to meet with someone a couple times during your first year of marriage. Schedule an appointment for several months after your wedding with your pastor or with another married couple. Another good option is for you and your spouse to meet with separate mentors.

You don’t need to plan anything formal; it can be a conversation over lunch at a nearby restaurant. But get your plan written on the calendar.

Also, plan to attend a marriage conference together, such as Weekend to Remember.

There are a number of helpful resources on my website, MannaForMarriage.com:

  • I recommend several great marriage books and online mentoring videos on the Resources page.
  • You will find a group code for a $100 discount for a Weekend to Remember.
  • Join us as we pray for marriages! Every Thursday, we “fight on our knees” for marriages for fifteen minutes, and we would be happy to pray specifically for you—just email me at mannaformarriage@gmail.com. You may join the prayer call live each week, or you can listen to the recorded calls at any time. You can find all the information on the Prayer Call
  • Receive a free copy of Your Marriage: God’s Masterful Design, which is a short ebook (PDF) summarizing some of the basic principles of a successful marriage.

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge, its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.
(Proverbs 24:3-4 NIV)

I am excited for you, beautiful bride! May the Lord bless you and your husband with great joy as together you build a household of faith.

 

* The Marriage Knot: 7 Choices That Keep Couples Together. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2019. 58.

**Interested in learning more about forgiveness? Here are other articles by Tami Myer on the topic of forgiveness:

Tweetables

Questions from the Bride, Pt 2 – @kjhogrefe & @Manna4Marriage (Click to Tweet)

Ruth Graham: “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” – @kjhogrefe & @Manna4Marriage (Click to Tweet)

Why the Resurrection Makes Forgiveness Possible

Have you ever struggled to forgive someone? Though we know intellectually that we should forgive because God forgave us, we sometime struggle emotionally to let go of hurts that others have done us. But she wronged me. You don’t know what he did to me.

I’m not excusing others’ behaviors and actions. More than likely, we all have felt some form of injustice. Perhaps we have knowingly or unknowingly injured someone as well.

But the point is not what people do to us but how we respond to them. We can’t control their actions, but we can control our response to it. When Steven R. Covey tells the story of Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankle, he explains this man’s discovery while undergoing unspeakable mistreatment in a concentration camp.

In the space between stimulus (what happens) and how we respond, lies our freedom to choose.

Frankle found that although he could not control what happened to him, he still controlled how he responded to it. Even though he was a prisoner, he discovered freedom that his tormentors could not take away from him.

Yes, freedom. Most of us will probably never experience a concentration camp like Frankle or a satellite prison like my heroine Portia in The Revolutionary. But we will find ourselves in hard situations where others wrong us. When we choose forgiveness as our response, we can drop the burden of bitterness and live in the light of God’s grace.

The cross and empty tomb

The cross and the empty tomb represent forgiveness at its ultimate triumph.

In the cross, we see Christ’s sacrifice for us and the unimaginable sin debt He forgave by willingly giving Himself to die for us. Not only did He die for us, but Jesus also experienced the excruciating pain of isolation from His Father. He took on the full wrath of God so that we wouldn’t have to.

Even though we didn’t deserve God’s forgiveness, He made possible a way for us to find it (John 3:16). Shouldn’t we then extend  generosity to others who perhaps do not “deserve it”? I like how Paul explains this challenge in Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (ESV).

In the empty tomb, we see His complete conquest and victory over death. I Corinthians 15:56-57 reminds us that the believer can know freedom from earthy constraints because of the resurrection. “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (NKJV). 

I think that victory extends to all aspects of our Christian lives, including the challenge of forgiveness. We can live victoriously when we let go of pain and hurt and truly forgive. 

Forgiveness made possible

In the words of C.S. Lewis, the resurrection makes forgiveness possible for this basic reason:

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.

That’s the bottom line. What others have done may indeed be inexcusable, but we can forgive because God first forgave us.

Easter or Resurrection Sunday is a few short days away. Don’t carry unnecessary bitterness with you into this time of remembrance and celebration. Drop those weights at the foot of the cross and bask in the power of forgiveness, modeled perfectly for us through Jesus Christ.

~ Kristen

Tweetable

Why the Resurrection makes forgiveness possible – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)