Family Fortress ministries have been strengthening families for 25 years. Through their books, resources and hundreds of conferences working with men, woman and children, they have proved that strong marriages don’t just happen by chance. A great marriage requires you to be intentional about building it each day. In this guest post, Fortress Ministries co-founder Sam Wood outlines 12 very practical and timeless ways that you can strengthen your marriage this month.
Make Your Marriage a Fortress
Do you want a happy marriage? Of course you do, but a happy marriage is the fruit at the end of a tree that must be grown from a seed, nurtured and cared for.
The bad news is that your marriage must grow in an age that is hostile to it, and there are plenty who seek to undermine and destroy it.
So you need to make your family a fortress able to withstand the attacks on it.
The good news is that you are not alone in fighting for your marriage. There is one who is greater than your enemies, who loves your marriage and longs to help you strengthen it. No battle is easy, but the rewards are not just a happy marriage, but a magnificent marriage, a fortress marriage … and will be more than worth it.
Here is your challenge: Get serious and make your marriage a fortress against your enemies by applying these 12 practical commitments.
1) Daily Pursue a Passionate Relationship with God
Over the last 38 years, I discovered there is one thing that I cannot do. I cannot make my wife change. Debbie has also found out she cannot transform me. The best way to effect a modification in my spouse is to adjust my life. I cannot make her change, but I can change me.
The most effective way to change me is to daily pursue a passionate relationship with God. This pursuit starts with a daily quiet time in which I read and meditate on scripture, and commune with God through prayer. Sometimes I supplement this time with biblically based books that draw me into a closer intimacy with Christ. The horizontal relationship between husband and wife will not be all that God intended until their individual vertical relationships are right with Him (Mark 12:28-31). We must make daily personal devotions a priority. This practice will not only enrich our personal intimacy with God, but will positively impact our spouse.
In addition, when spouses daily commune with God together as a couple their relationship advances a step deeper (Ephesians 5:26). This devotional time should include the Word, discussion, and prayer. Our new book, Time for Three provides 365 simple and practical devotions that inspire couples to work toward more profound levels of spiritual intimacy.
2) Regularly Worship together
Statistics indicate that those who attend church only occasionally or rarely experience almost twice the rate of adultery as those who attend every week.
Also, those who attend church more consistently experience a lower divorce rate than those who attend less frequently.
Weekly worshipping at the same church with other likeminded believers will strengthen your marriage as you focus your hearts together on the Lord Jesus Christ. Hearing the Word accurately expounded will also cleanse your marriage with truth. Find a church that is faithful to the teaching and preaching of God’s Word. Make it a priority to regularly attend.
3) Continually Read Biblically Based Books on Marriage.
Of course the main emphasis of our reading should be the Bible. However, God also has gifted many of His servants with the ability to write instructional scripturally based books on marriage, the roles of the husband and wife, communication, sexual intimacy as well as more in depth books on doctrine. Studying and applying such books blesses the reader with godly counsel (Psalm1:1).
A few of the books that we recommend are:
- What Did You Expect? By Paul Tripp
- The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller
- What is Marriage? by Sam & Debbie Wood
- The Complete Husband by Lou Priolo
- The Exemplary Husband by Stuart Scott
- Creative Counterpart by Linda Dillow
- Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney
- War of Words by Paul Tripp
- Intended for Pleasure by Ed Wheat
- Intimate Issues by Dillow and Pintus
- Time for Three by Sam & Debbie Wood
All of these books are available on our ministry store.
When we were first married someone advised us to read 15 minutes every night before we went to sleep. Since then we have made this a habit and often do much more reading. This has proven extremely valuable advice for us personally and in our ministry. Read a little, talk a little, kiss a little. You will sleep more soundly with the right thoughts on your mind.
4) Attend a Marriage Conference Yearly.
Give your marriage a regular tune up by attending a biblically based marriage conference every year. It’s easy to become “comfortable” in your marriage and enter a stage where you let down your guard. Refresh your marriage by continually being reminded of and learning biblical principles that will build a marriage that truly glorifies God. We never “arrive” in marriage. We must keep tuning up with biblical truth!
Our ministry offers three different marriage conferences that churches can host. Check our schedule to see if one is listed in your area. Or offer your pastor your services to organize or promote a conference at your church.
5) Schedule Regular Date Nights
Prioritize your week to include a date night. The time together should be enjoyable, and romantic. This could be a dinner and movie, a bicycle ride together, a hike, a picnic or some other activity that you both enjoy. Remember, dates don’t have to be expensive to be fun. The goal is some quantity and quality time together. Make a commitment to keep scheduling date nights even after you have children or maybe I should say especially after children come along!
Check out the messages on “Cultivating Romance” in our ministry store under mp3′s.
6) Never Go to Bed Angry. Be Forgiving!
Harboring bitterness and un-forgiveness will destroy any relationship. Continually exercise forgiveness to your spouse (Ephesians 4:32). Never go to bed angry (Ephesians 4:26-27). Be quick to reconcile disputes. Keep short accounts. A helpful book to read is “Choosing Forgiveness” by Nancy Demoss.
7) Make Good Sex a Habit in your Marriage.
God commands husbands and wives to regularly enjoy sex with each other (1 Corinthians 7:5). The only exception He gives is when the couple consents to fast and pray and their attention is on Him. But, after fasting and prayer spouses are commanded to come together again sexually. God declares that if these sexual needs are met in marriage, a couple will not be tempted to get them met outside marriage. Habitual good sex protects a marriage from infidelity.
8) Parent as a Team.
One of the greatest sources of conflict in marriage is differing opinions on raising children. For instance, one spouse may believe in correcting rebellion through using the rod (spanking) while the other spouse believes this type of correction is unwarranted. How vitally important to remember the plumb line for family relationships is the Word of God, not what a family therapist or secular psychologist claims. Our loving, all wise Heavenly Father gives clear practical instructions for raising children. Parents should shift to the same page in their parenting philosophy. That Page is found in the Word! Joshua challenged the Israelites by saying, “Choose you this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). Parents too, must choose whether they will parent God’s way or man’s way!
“Shepherding a Child’s Heart” expounds caring practical training methods for young children. Reading it together will direct your thinking to the same page. Review the principles in the book often as your children mature and change. When my children were teens, the book “Age of Opportunity” profoundly impacted the way I parented them. I believe these two books are lovingly and biblically based instruction and will be an invaluable help in rearing Godly children. These resources can be found in our ministry store.
9) Avoid Toxic Relationships and Compromising Situations.
We all come in contact with two types of relationships — inspiring and toxic. Psalm 1:1 warns that toxic people can destroy us. Notice the progression of toxicity outlined in this verse. Walking (listening, receiving counsel, associating) with sinful or toxic people advances to standing (considering and adopting their ways.) Eventually walking and standing with such individuals leads to sitting down with them (settling in and promoting the lifestyle) by scorning what is right and godly.
How do we determine what or who is toxic? Four revealing questions to ask are:
- Is it helpful spiritually, physically and mentally (1 Corinthians 6:12a)?
- Does it bring me under its power (1 Corinthians 6:12b)?
- Does it hurt others (1 Corinthians 8:13)?
- Does it glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31)?
If you are struggling in your marriage, instead of seeking empathy from a scorner who has been through several divorces and bases their perspective in their own reasoning, seek advice from a Christian couple who strives for a successful marriage built upon the principles of God’s Word, Be cautious of toxic advice which hinders your personal walk with the Lord and crushes your capacity to love.
A compromising situation can be every bit as alluring and destructive as empathy from someone who discourages righteous responses to frustrating marital challenges. Compromising situations emerge when opportunities prompting emotional or physical attachment to someone other than your spouse are allowed to materialize. Flirting or even innocently grabbing lunch or dinner alone with someone of the opposite sex who is not your spouse opens the door for inappropriate attraction. In addition, porno and risque movies possess a hellish power to capture the heart of viewers. Eliminate opportunities for pornographic temptation. If you allow yourself to indulge in sites or media that promote lust, immediately seek godly intervention and accountability. (Finally Free). A wife, also, has to be careful not to be drawn into romance novels, soap operas and other entertainment where she becomes so emotionally charged that she develops unrealistic expectations for her husband. Healthy romance in media should inspire one to give love regardless of whether it is returned. Christians need to train themselves to faithfully and quickly respond to any uncomfortable feelings the Holy Spirit causes to surface. These are often blessed warnings from God that a compromising situation could be eminent.
10) Be Cautious Using Social Media
Social media is a convenient way to stay connected but, at the same time, can open a door for the devil to tempt Christians to easily get involved emotionally with someone other than their spouse. Use discretion in what you post and with whom you communicate. Never use social media to divulge marital problems. Continually clarify in your posts that you are married. Do not accept new friends without knowing who they are. Many singles are on the prowl for vulnerable unhappily married people that they can entice into a relationship. Be careful!
Texting can also open a door to infidelity through emotional connection with someone other than your spouse. Be accountable to your mate when using social media. There should be no secret communication. While technology can be used for the glory of God, the devil will do all he can to use it to destroy you and your marriage. Be on guard!
11) Take a Financial Course Together
One of the greatest sources of conflict within marriage is finances. The majority of married couples have never taken a biblically based financial course. To achieve unity in marriage and glorify God in their finances, couples need to be on the same page (God’s page). For example:
Time magazine states that… 57% of divorces were rooted in arguments over money.
The Detroit News says: “Statistics show that as many as 70 percent of divorcing couples attribute the breakdown of their marriages to arguments over money.”
If you have never taken a biblically based financial course, plan to do so as soon as possible. Many churches offer Financial Peace University and are glad to open the enrollment to others. Learn to be a good steward of the resources God has blessed you with. Avoid debt. Be generous by regularly giving at your local church and by giving offerings to special needs as God directs.
12) Remember, You Have an Enemy Who Hates Your Marriage.
Since God designed marriage to be an earthly manifestation of the heavenly relationship between Jesus Christ and His bride, the church (a picture of Christianity), Satan despises and hates marriage! No wonder he designed his first attack to destroy the perfect marital harmony that existed between Adam and Eve in their communion with God (Genesis 2:25-3:7). Couples must realize they are in a spiritual battle for their marriage and family. Fighting a spiritual battle requires spiritual weapons. There are three important weapons every couple needs to utilize to protect their marriage and family:
- Prayer – Make prayer a priority in your marriage both individually and as a couple.
- The Precepts and Promises of the Word – Daily time in the Word of God both individually and as a couple is essential.
- The Power of the Holy Spirit – Everyday pray that God will anoint you afresh with His sweet spirit! The command to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) prefaces all of the interpersonal relationships given between the husband and wife and between parents and children in Ephesians five and six. Walk in the spirit so that you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).
When you said “I do,” it didn’t mean, “I’m done.” Maintaining a vibrant marriage requires effort! Commit to review these twelve directives regularly. Make it a priority to protect the most important and foundational institution of God – your marriage!
This post is copyright Family Fortress Ministries. Reprinted by permission. Read more at familyfortress.org