The Holy Spirit Will Help Your Marriage

Unfortunately, when it comes to marriage we often feel alone. God’s standard for husbands and wives is so high that we ask, “Who is going to help me obey these commands?” The answer is the Holy Spirit will help you! Two words that summarize what it is like thinking about being the husbands and wives God commands us to be are “intimidating” and “overwhelming.”

  • As a husband, it is intimidating to think of being to your wife what Christ is to the church. If you are not intimidated by it, you do not understand what is expected of you.
  • As a wife, it is overwhelming to think of submitting to your husband as you should to the Lord. If we had to obey God’s commands on our own, we should feel not only overwhelmed or intimidated but completely hopeless. Because of a promise Jesus made us, though, we can feel hopeful.

Jesus told His disciples, “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16). If you have embraced the gospel, then the Holy Spirit lives in you. You are not alone! The Holy Spirit will help you do what God has commanded you to do.

Be filled with the Spirit…so the Holy Spirit will help you!

The first half of Ephesians 5 is about living in the Spirit, and the second half is about marriage. This is fitting because if there is any area of the Christian life in which the Holy Spirit’s help is necessary, it is marriage. In Ephesians 5:18, the apostle Paul states:

Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.

It might sound odd to compare drunkenness with being filled with the Spirit, but we can sum up Paul’s point with the word “influence.” People who are driving drunk are “driving under the influence.” Just as alcohol has the potential to influence, so does the Holy Spirit.

The Greek word for “be filled” is pleroo, which means “keep on being filled” or “stay filled” with the Spirit. Paul is talking about something that should be ongoing in the lives of believers. Christians need to allow—and trust—the Holy Spirit to influence them as husbands and wives. The following verses are promises from God’s Word. As you read them, consider how they apply to your marriage:

  • 2 Corinthians 9:8—God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
  • Philippians 2:13—It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
  • Ephesians 1:19–20—The exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.
  • Hebrews 13:20–21—May the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ.

Wouldn’t God want us to have strong marriages?

God gives us what we need to obey His commands. He is the One working in and through us to accomplish every good work. He makes this possible through the incomparably great power that raised Jesus from the dead. God wants us to be equipped to do what He has called us to do, and of all God wants from us, what could be more important than our relationships with our spouses?

Marriage is a reflection of Christ and the church. Does God want Christ and the church to have a great relationship? Absolutely! Does God want the world to witness Christian marriages that wonderfully represent Christ’s relationship with the church? Without a doubt! God has given us His indwelling Spirit to help make that happen.

When we become discouraged in our marriages, these are the truths that we need to remember. It is as if God has said, “The standard I have set for husbands and wives is high, but you do not have to do this alone. My Holy Spirit will help you. I would not command you to do something without also giving you what is necessary to obey.”

Help the Holy Spirit while He helps you!

Some balance is needed. “I will help you” is very different from “I will do everything.” The Holy Spirit helps us, but we still have responsibilities. The Holy Spirit is not going to supernaturally take control of a marriage when the individuals involved are not committed to putting forth the necessary effort. So help the Holy Spirit while he helps you!

The apostle Paul reveals the relationship in Ephesians 2:10: “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” God prepared good works for us, but we have to “walk in them.” We do not want to miss out on what God wants to do in our marriage because we are being lazy or selfish. Consider the responsibilities placed on our shoulders elsewhere in the New Testament:

  • Romans 13:13–14—Let us walk properly . . . Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
  • Colossians 3:12–14—Put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; [bear] with one another, and [forgive] one another . . . Put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

Note the calling we are given to walk, put on, make no provision for, bear with, and forgive.

How do we help the Holy Spirit while He helps us?

What does this look like in practical terms? How does the Holy Spirit’s help work with our free will? Here are some examples.

  • Husband, you normally plop yourself down on the couch next to your wife, but the Holy Spirit has been compelling you to be more affectionate. So the next time you sit next to your wife, you put your arm around her. The Holy Spirit has also been leading you to be a better listener. Instead of simply hearing your wife speak, this time you nod and verbally affirm what she says. Perhaps even paraphrase her words to validate her sentiments. Since she is not used to this, your wife will notice and appreciate the extra effort.
  • Wife, you are riding in the car with your husband when you notice the low fuel light come on. Normally you point this out and “remind” him until he pulls into a gas station. Though he does not like this, you think it beats running out of gas. Lately, however, the Holy Spirit has been directing you to trust your husband, so this time you simply mention it and let it go. He pulls into a station, and since you have had a habit of telling him what to do, he notices the difference and is pleasantly surprised. Maybe at the pump he even says, “Thank you for not repeatedly telling me to pull over!”

In each case, the spouse would do well to verbalize his or her appreciation for the changed behavior.

These are only simple examples of how the Holy Spirit works with us. Look for other ways in your daily life with your spouse! Be submissive and receptive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Consider this encouraging verse that ties these thoughts together: “To this end I labor, according to [God’s] working which works mightily in me” (Colossians 1:29).

The apostle Paul was discussing working side by side with God to accomplish His work. Similarly, we should see ourselves working side by side with God in our marriages. Yes, we labor to be the husbands and wives He wants us to be. But what an encouragement that while we are laboring, He also “works mightily in” us.

Discussion questions and activities for husbands and wives

  • Read John 14:16, 26, and 16:7. What three areas of your marriage most need the Holy Spirit’s help?
  • Read 2 Corinthians 9:8 and Philippians 2:13:
    • What “good works” do you recognize in your marriage?
    • Which works are you more naturally inclined toward, and therefore they are easier for you?
    • Which works, or areas of your marriage, do you find to be more difficult, and therefore they:
      • Require more of God’s grace to abound toward you as 2 Corinthians 9:8 says?
      • Require more of God’s work in you as Philippians 2:13 says?
  • Read Ephesians 1:18–20 and Hebrews 13:20–21:
    • Using the language of these verses, what parts of your marriage seem dead and in need of resurrection? These could be your financial situation, intimacy, communication, or unity in parenting.
    • When considering the power discussed in these verses, what encouragement can you take away for these “dead” areas of your relationship?
  • Read Romans 13:13-14. List three ways you are “making provision” for your flesh.
  • Write down the above verses on index cards or sticky notes. Post them in places where you will see them frequently, such as a mirror, dashboard, a lampstand beside your bed, the hood over your stove, or inside your iPad cover. When you see them, pray for God to show you how you can change your marriage, through changing yourself—enabled and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
  • Provide three practical examples of how the Holy Spirit might compel you to treat your spouse better.
  • Since it’s so important to verbalize your appreciation for your spouse’s changed behavior, provide three examples of ways your spouse has tried to change.

Marriage God's Way bundle—1 book and 2 workbooksNOTE: Most of this post is from Marriage God’s Way and the Marriage God’s Way Workbook.  Save %30 and purchase the bundle—one book and two workbooks!

Why we should follow the script (or Scripture)

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

We homeschool our children, taking them through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons when they’re around four. We’ve been pleased with the book, including the way the instruction is presented like a script. The words Katie is supposed to say are in red, and our child’s responses are in black. There’s a response provided if a child answers correctly, and a different response if a child answers incorrectly.

“Don’t deviate from the script!”

Corrective Reading
Corrective Reading

When I taught elementary school, I was taught a very similar program, called Corrective Reading. I remember thinking at the training, “Anyone could do this!” One of the most common instructions they told us was, “Don’t deviate from the script.”

Unfortunately, when I went back to the classroom to teach my own students there were times I completely disregarded the instruction I was given:

  • Sometimes I thought something was unnecessary.
  • Sometimes I thought I could say it better myself.
  • Sometimes I thought it would be better if I added something.

Here’s what I noticed very quickly:

  • When I followed the script, things went well.
  • When I deviated from the script, there were problems.

If I had to say why I deviated from the script, I believe the answer is obvious. I thought I knew better than the author. Continue reading “Why we should follow the script (or Scripture)”

When It Takes More Faith Than Willpower to Obey

I’ve realized the most difficult times to obey are those requiring us to walk by faith. For example, we know it’s wrong to steal, murder, commit adultery, etc (Rom 2:14-15). It might take some willpower not to do those things, but it doesn’t take much faith. There are some situations though where we have to obey when it doesn’t make much sense…and that’s when it gets really tough…because of the strong temptation to justify disobedience.

Katie and I had to provide counsel and explain God’s Word in two identical situations where I knew it was going to be very difficult for the individuals to hear what Scripture had to say. The two situations took place less than a week apart, and in the second counseling session I remember thinking, “This is exactly what I said a few days ago.” It took a lot of faith for the listeners to do what God’s Word said, for the simple reason that it didn’t make much sense to them. In other words, they just had to obey by faith.

Then it got really interesting…

Only a few days later, Katie and I felt blindsided when we found ourselves in the exact same situation. We had to follow the counsel we’d recently twice provided. The conversation between Katie and I went like this: “We have to trust God. This is what we have to do, not because it seems right to us, but because this is what God says to do. We have to believe He knows what’s best…just like we told those people.”

Most people believe willpower is the necessary element in obedience. I would at least disagree so far as to say faith is equally necessary. Perhaps this is why God says, “Without faith it is impossible to please Me.” (Heb 11:6). Obedience is about looking at Scripture and saying, “This is what God says, so I’m going to trust Him and obey even though it’s difficult and argues against everything inside me.” Faith really means saying, “This doesn’t make sense to me, but I believe God knows what’s best so I’m going to do what His Word says.” Faith is about walking in obedience and trusting God with the consequences.

I think we all recognize the tremendous temptation to look at Scripture and say, “I know what the Bible says, but in this situation it doesn’t apply to me because of _______ so I’m going to do this instead.” Faith is what’s required to deny that temptation and obey.

Physical consequences of obedience or disobedience

Tuesday night I was at the young men’s study and Brendan covered Proverbs 3:8 which discusses obedience bringing “health to your body and nourishment to your bones.” I thought this was interesting because we don’t normally think of the physical benefits of obedience; usually we just think of obeying God affecting us spiritually, and perhaps mentally or emotionally. If we do think of the physical consequences of sin our minds immediately go to struggles with drugs or alcohol, but sin in general takes a physical toll on us. Listen to these words from David following his sin: “My bones wasted and I groaned all day long…my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer” (Psa 32:3-4), “My strength fails because of my iniquity, and my body wastes away” (Psa 31:10), and, “There is no health in my bones because of my sin” (Psa 38:3).

This past week I was watching a health lecture on YouTube. The doctor was talking about ways to avoid disease, keep a strong immune system, stay young, etc. He went through the normal recommendations regarding nutrition, exercise, sleep, etc. Then he started talking about avoiding things like bitterness, anger, and even unforgiveness. He described what happens in our bodies when we get angry: capillaries restrict, the heart has to work much harder, hormone levels are negatively affected, we become less reasonable, and our bodies become slower to heal, and experience poorer pulmonary function. One study showed individuals with the highest levels of anger had twice the risk of coronary artery disease and three times the risk of heart attack.

It was pretty hard to believe, but some scientists claimed chronic anger may be more dangerous than smoking and obesity as factors contributing to early death. The bible also tells us not to worry, and there’s plenty of evidence to show the physical harm in worrying. God’s Word is filled with tremendous spiritual, mental, emotional and physical ways to be blessed. Instead of milk it should say, “Obeying God does a body good.”

Obeying and Good Things Happen

We recently finished looking at Simeon and Anna, two appointments that took place in the temple for Joseph and Mary. I wanted to share something that I’ve been thinking about regarding those meetings…

God orchestrated everything through Joseph and Mary’s obedience. What I mean is, Joseph and Mary were at the temple fulfilling their obligations under the Law, and God used that obedience to bring them into contact with Simeon and Anna. It was their obedience that provided the opportunity for these meetings to take place. I think it should encourage us to trust that when we’re obeying God He’s going to use our obedience to orchestrate events and situations in our lives.

Here’s another thought: Joseph and Mary weren’t trying to set up these meetings. All they were thinking about was obeying God. This made me think about how many times I try to make things happen. Sometimes I feel tempted to try to manipulate circumstances instead of just letting God work through my obedience. I feel like I need to help. I end up striving in my own effort when all I really need to do is focus on obedience and leave the results up to God. He doesn’t need my striving or help or effort. Part of walking by faith is just saying, “Lord, I’m going to go about my life and really let you take care of things. I’ll focus on obeying You and I’ll let You focus on everything else.”

Interestingly some of the most trouble I’ve had in my life after becoming a Christian has taken place when I’ve tried to help God. I’ve had problems when I thought I knew what was best. I’ve had problems when I thought I could bring about the best outcome instead of letting God do it. Those are times I didn’t walk by faith. It’s interesting Hebrews 11:6 says it’s actually impossible to please God without faith. That means no matter what I do, no matter how great it looks, if it’s not done in faith it’s not pleasing to God.

Looking back I’m sure if I would’ve just focused on obeying God – like Joseph and Mary were doing – God would’ve taken care of everything else. I probably would’ve saved myself some unnecessary frustration, while also being able to experience the blessings God put in Joseph and Mary’s lives.