After almost 10 years in full time marriage ministry in the local church, I have identified one trait that I believe separates couples who do well from couples who struggle. Whether premarried, newly married, or married for years/decades, this one characteristic seems to distinguish the couples who not only survive, but thrive in marriage. What is this one characteristic? Read on to find out.
In January of 2015, I started praying three specific passages for the year: John 3:30, 1 Samuel 16:7, and 1 Peter 5:5b-7. Each of these passages addresses the condition of our heart:
- John 3:30 – Who is going to increase, me or Jesus? Is my life going to be like John the Baptist’s who sought to decrease so Jesus could increase? Or, will I be about making my name great?
- 1 Samuel 16:7 – The Lord sees not as man sees. Am I going to be more concerned about my outward appearance or about the condition of my heart?
- 1 Peter 5:5b-7 – Is God going to oppose me because of my pride, or give me grace because of my humility?
For as long as I can remember, I have sought to increase. I am more concerned about the outward appearance and how I am perceived by others. And, my life tends to be marked by pride, not by thinking too high of myself, but by thinking way too often about myself.
Maybe because I have prayed these specific passages all year, I have been more in tune with the condition of my heart and the hearts of those I lead in marriage ministry. So here’s my answer. Drum roll, please! The characteristic that separates couples who struggle from those who do well is whether or not they are teachable.
As we often do in life, we tend to have two main choices. For example, we can either build our life on sand or on rock (Matthew 7:24-27). We can either return to our vomit, or we can see the folly in our ways and turn the opposite direction (Proverbs 26:11). Likewise, we need to decide if our lives will be marked by pride and stubborness, or by humility and teachability.
The teachable couple:
- Seeks counsel before he puts a ring on the finger (Proverbs 15:22, 18:22).
- The same couple is willing to break-up if they find significant reason to call the wedding off before they say “I do.”
- Gets the log out of his own eye without focusing on the speck in his wife’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5).
- Opens their marriage up to the input of others when changing jobs, buying a house or making a big financial decision.
- Exhibits the fruit of the Spirit and not the fruit of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-23).
- Puts the needs of his spouse before his own. She does nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but rather considers the other more important than herself (Philippians 2:3-4).
- Doesn’t just hear the Word, but also does what it says (James 1:22-25).
This is just a small list of what the teachable couple does. These are examples of couples who open up their lives and relationships to the input of others.
Over and over I have watched premarried couples get married against all wise counsel. I have watched these same couples struggle in marriage. Likewise, I have watched married couples struggle . The unteachable ones either continue to perish in isolation or they choose to cry for help but avoid or ignore the counsel they receive.
On the other hand, I have seen similar premarried couples trust in the Lord and wise counsel around them and call off a wedding. I have watched struggling couples humble themselves before the Lord and before others. These couples are not just surviving, but now help lead others.
There are more factors in play that determine whether couples make it. But after watching thousands of couples over the years either perish or thrive, I can say with confidence that you will never regret choosing to be humble or teachable in your marriage.
- Ask the Lord: Am I prideful or am I humble and teachable?
- Ask your spouse the same question. What does he/she say?
- Ask your community group/small group: Am I teachable and humble, or prideful and unteachable?
For the Family,
Scott, @ ScottKedersha.com