Focus on the Family

Guarding Your Heart in Marriage

by Cheryl Scruggs

We seemed to have it all: professional success, adorable twin daughters and a good marriage by worldly standards. But our picture-perfect image concealed a widening chasm between two people unable to connect on an intimate level. This led to 10 disappointing years of marriage, seven painful years following our divorce and one remarkable, true-life story of a love rescued by God.

After years of frustration, my longing for emotional fulfillment led me first to an affair and finally a divorce, leaving my husband utterly devastated and seething with anger. Yet, incredibly, seven years later we once again stood at the altar, promising to "love, honor and cherish" one another. A new and vibrant love had risen from the ashes of our family's pain.

In our book I Do Again, we share our story  – a story that reveals the hidden secrets that slowly destroyed our marriage and demonstrates how God opened the way to healing. We learned that prayer and God's redemptive power offer renewed hope for even the most troubled marriages. The rewards of restoration are well worth the wait.

Yet we live in a culture of divorce. Everywhere we turn, a marriage is in trouble or a couple is separating. The statistics are staggering, and no couple is immune to the possibility – not one!

May I ask you a question? Are you guarding your marriage? Better yet, are you guarding your heart in your marriage?

Most of us enter marriage so in love, and so positive, that we would never think of divorce much less take the time to guard our hearts against it. "Divorce and marriage problems happen to other people, not us," we often say.

However, God's Word instructs us: "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life" (Proverbs 4:23,). God knows what He is doing, and He knew there would be reasons for us to guard our hearts. This is why He includes it in His Word. There are many ways to guard your heart in your marriage, but I will focus on the deception that can lead to divorce and the deception of divorce itself; and how couples believe the lies –  that divorce will bring peace and fulfillment rather than destruction.

From a Biblical perspective, Jesus Christ should be the central focus for a marriage. Jeff and I experienced a 10-year first marriage not centered on Christ, a divorce and seven-year separation, followed by the miracle of a restored and healed marriage  that is now Christ-centered. I will conclude this series by sharing what our redeemed, restored marriage looks like today.

Many marriages start on rocky soil. Ours did. Jeff and I were ignorant of the fact that we needed a strong foundation. Love was our sole foundation. And love is important. But love alone is not enough.

What do I mean by rocky soil? I'm talking about a marriage that has a shaky base. A foundation that may be weak or wavering. One that may not last long or may be not be sturdy. One that is likely to collapse. One that is unreliable, uncertain, wobbly or unsteady.

But in His Word, God thankfully laid out a solid biblical plan – the sturdy soil He intends our marriage to stand on!

Through our ministry, we've met hundreds of couples who've taken their marriage commitment lightly. Not much thought is given to what the purpose of marriage is, and many couples believe that love alone will sustain them! When these same couples experience rough spots, that's when they discover how rocky or sturdy their soil is.

Most of us lack the necessary knowledge and wisdom about marriage, and thus often choose a spouse based on emotions and feelings. Do not get me wrong, emotions and feelings definitely play a role, but marriage is about much more than what we simply feel. Marriage is about God and glorifying God. It is about becoming holy and sanctified. It is about seeking His Will for a spouse, and – once married – glorifying Him as a couple. That's why it is so important to choose a spouse wisely and not just depend on feeling butterflies in our stomach.

Oftentimes we dismiss potential red flags in the name of love, convincing ourselves that they are not that big of a deal, or that our love can conquer all. However, in reality, a red flag almost always signals a deeper problem. You will never find the perfect spouse and you will never be one yourself, but it is important to be discerning, because marriage is a lifetime decision.

God wants us to seek His wisdom and His knowledge in choosing a spouse and cultivating a marriage. But our culture has a way of luring us away from this gift that God designed for a man and a woman. John 10:10 says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Satan will try to destroy your marriage, but God has a wonderful plan.

As you read this series, pay close attention. Ask yourself the hard questions. Are you deceived into thinking there is no hope for your marriage? Are you deceived into thinking that divorce is the answer for your unfulfilled expectations? Are you deceived into thinking there is another spouse out there for you? Are you deceived into thinking divorce is a peaceful, fulfilling option?

Based on personal experience, we can tell you that divorce is not the answer to eliminating marital strife. Jesus is!


Divorce Begins With Deception

Lies lure us away from God's plan for marriage, as we depend more on what our culture says rather than what the Bible instructs us. This being the case, why are we so surprised by the number of divorces?

by Cheryl Scruggs

Marriages ending in divorce are at a pandemic level. Lies lure us away from God's plan for marriage, as we depend more on what our culture says rather than what the Bible instructs us. This being the case, why are we so surprised by the number of divorces?

Many types of deception lead us into the hands of divorce. Again, John 10:10 reminds us: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy … ", and Satan desires to destroy your marriage.

What types of deception are we talking about?

When we begin to feel disgruntled in our marriage, negative or faulty thoughts begin to formulate about our spouse or our marriage. We begin to believe the lies swirling through our head. We convince ourselves that "the grass must be greener on the other side"; that "this is not the same man or woman I married"; or that "I must have married the wrong person." When this begins to happen, it is important to remember 2 Corinthians 10:5: "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

Many times, blinded by love, we falsely perceive the object of our affection as nearly flawless. Yet in marriage, our weaknesses, and our spouse's, eventually surface.

Deception #1 – We married the wrong person

Instead of accepting these "less than attractive" things about our spouse, we often feel duped. We may begin to convince ourselves we married the wrong person. Warning: Allowing these thoughts to fester and penetrate your heart could cause your thoughts to spiral out of control and can set your marriage up for failure! You might begin to pull away from your spouse emotionally and/or physically, without even knowing it. I experienced this. Part of the deception, for me, was not addressing my thoughts properly, and not realizing how I was pulling away. My heart was growing hard, yet I was oblivious.

We all, at one time or another, wonder if we married the right person. We must guard our hearts when feeling disconnected from our spouse. If disconnect happens, we often convince ourselves that we somehow messed up and missed out on marrying our "soul mate."

Is there such a thing as a soul mate? A soul mate is someone with whom we can share deep feelings and attitudes. Marriage takes work, and learning to share deep feelings and attitudes is part of the work necessary to enjoy intimacy in marriage. Jeff and I frequently remind other couples that when they got married, their spouse became the right person! According to Scripture, when you said "I do," you became a one-flesh union, and, "Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate" (Matthew 19:6).

Deception #2 - We misunderstand love

Often we think we understand what love is supposed to look like, and enter marriage with our own definition. This definition may have been influenced by the examples we had growing up, the shows or movies we watched, the music we listened to or even relationships we've experienced. We tend to spend a great deal of time comparing our fabricated definition of love with the love we think we are experiencing – or not experiencing – in our marriage. How we judge love is often based on our own definition, rather than the Bible's definition.

Deception #3 - We believe we deserve to be happy

Focusing on our own happiness is a shallow approach, especially compared to God's greater plan for our life. God is OK with us being happy, but His greatest desire is for us to seek Him and glorify Him in all that we say and do. With this in mind, as we seek to glorify God with our lives, joy and contentment become a byproduct of this obedience.

I prefer the word contentment over "happy," because I believe discontentment prevails in our culture. Is it realistic for us to be content in all circumstances? Philippians 4:11(ESV) says: "Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content." It is possible to be content, but it takes hard work.

How does this play into your marriage? When you feel discontent or unhappy, what do you do with it? Do you start making a laundry list of all the things your spouse is doing wrong? Do you emotionally and/or physically disengage? Do you try to fix things by passively addressing it without your spouse knowing of your discontent? Have you ever entertained the idea that you need to examine your own heart? Do you ever go to God with your discontentment and ask Him what He is trying to teach you?

Asking yourself these questions can help you discern your own heart and confront these lies before they potentially destroy your marriage. Why do we believe these lies? Many times, it is because we want to. Romantic movies, TV shows, music – and our sinful thoughts – cause our thinking to become distorted. Many people (yes, Christians) convince themselves that they are hearing a message from God telling them to get out of their marriage, or that there is a better spouse out there for them. They often feel they deserve freedom and happiness. Yet where in the Bible does it say we deserve anything?

When and how do we succumb to deception? We are capable of giving way to temptation at anytime. When we do not understand God's plan for marriage, are not reading God's Word, are not in healthy Christian community, are feeling unloved, or are emotionally or physically deprived, we can succumb very easily.

Lastly, we must guard ourselves into thinking we are incapable of being deceived.


An Affair: 'The Beginning of the End'

The fatal blow to any marriage is an adulterous affair where one or both spouses think they "finally found his/her soul mate."

by Cheryl Scruggs

The fatal blow to any marriage is an adulterous affair where one or both spouses think they "finally found his/her soul mate." Once convinced that he/she married the wrong person or that God put someone new in his/her life, the idea of divorce can take root and grow. Blinded by the deception of the affair, most people have no idea how they got there.

How does an affair start?

Many of us who have fallen prey to an adulterous affair did not see it coming. We were blindsided, and – before we knew it – were involved emotionally, physically or both, with a person other than our spouse. Many times the other person is a complete stranger, but the sudden emotional or physical connection deceived us into thinking we had known them all of our life. This new "love" was the missing puzzle piece to our happiness – or so we thought.

In most cases, no one intentionally seeks after an affair that could potentially destroy their marriage. Forming such a connection to someone else may seem unlikely, but may be easier than you realize. All it takes is one conversation, one innocent flirtation or one look. If you are vulnerable, the ball is rolling.

How do we succumb to an affair?

Easily! Like me, most of us never dream we are capable of such sin. Unfortunately, we are both capable and susceptible. I gave in because I was not guarding my heart. It never crossed my mind to be cautious about my relationships with other men because I never realized I could be so vulnerable. I started having an "innocent" conversation with an acquaintance of mine. I felt compelled to share with him the unfulfilled state of my marriage. Yet that evening was the beginning of the end of my marriage. I quickly developed a deep emotional connection with a man I barely knew! I falsely sensed that I was falling in love with a stranger.

I couldn't stop thinking about him. I craved his voice. I couldn't concentrate on anything else.  I was duped and falling fast. Within a matter of days, the negative feelings I had long been having for Jeff reached a heightened level. I somehow "knew" I didn't love him and told him so.

Jeff was flabbergasted and caught completely off guard! What could have gone so terribly wrong overnight? In truth, I was completely deceived and I could not see  it. When Jeff asked if there was someone else, I denied it. The truth is that I'd allowed my heart to be stolen.

When do the symptoms start?

The warning signs often appear long before the actual fall into adultery: when our thoughts begin to derail; when we fail to take negative thoughts captive, constructively deal with them, and face the issues in our marriage. The emotional and physical disconnect is subtle and sometimes goes unnoticed until we find ourselves in the arms of another person.

What are some of the symptoms?

Symptoms are not easily pinpointed, but once you become aware, they are easy to recognize. Here are a few:

How do you combat the temptation of an affair?

Once the temptation of an affair presents itself, many people focus on getting out of their marriage. They choose to stop working on their existing relationship and focus, instead, on this new and exciting relationship.

God gives us every opportunity to walk away from temptation, but many of us choose to walk toward it instead. God also offers us guidance and direction when we are tempted to have an affair. Most important, He reminds us that adultery is a sin.

We must not ignore this fact, rationalizing why we deserve to have an affair or why we think it is right. Bottom line: We do not deserve it, and it is wrong! Period.

To guard against this, two important things are necessary. First, submit to God's Word instead of to the temptation. Ask God to show you the truth and what is right in His eyes. Second, share your struggles with a trustworthy friend, pastor or counselor! When a secret is brought into the light, the excitement of it lessens.

I regret not having told someone. It may have saved my marriage.


The Truth About Divorce

When the going gets tough in marriage, many people take what they believe is the easy way out.

by Cheryl Scruggs

When the going gets tough in marriage, many people take what they believe is the easy way out, assuming that the answer to finding true joy and happiness is separating from one's spouse, finding someone new, or divorcing.

When pain, hurt, discord, selfishness or unhappiness make their way into one's heart, many convince themselves that divorce will free them. Yet exactly the opposite is true. Let's look at the false freedom we think we will obtain by walking away from an unfulfilling marriage.

What does divorce really look like?

If they can just get through the court dates and all the paperwork, the spouse who wants out thinks it will be incredibly liberating. We fail to recognize the ramifications of divorce until we experience it. For a while, it may seem pleasant or enjoyable to be away from the spouse that "made you miserable." But speaking from experience, divorce is awful!

We had what you might call a "model" divorce. We shared the kids well, rarely fought and maintained a friendship "for the girls' sake" during our divorced years.

And it was still awful! Our lives never felt settled. Why? God never intended for our marriage to end or our family to be broken.

" 'I hate divorce,'  says the LORD God of Israel." (Malachi 2:16)

How does divorce affect you?

For Jeff and me, a sense of unsettledness permeated our post-divorce lives, which were often characterized by a lack of order or stability. We found it hard to rest. There were constant reminders of how fractured our family was: birthdays; sports and school activities; when the kids got sick; or simply being around intact families.

Parents splitting custody have the constant challenge of working out visitation while balancing the emotions of children. Our girls often mentioned not feeling settled or relaxed, because the next location change was constantly in the back of their minds.

The folloing excerpt from our book, I Do Again, describes the state of my heart the day our divorce was final:

August 21, 1992. The worst day of my life.

Ten years after walking down the aisle as a young, hope-filled bride, I walked into a courtroom to claim a different kind of hope: liberation from my awful marriage. This was the day I'd obtain the freedom to be with my new love, the soul mate I thought I'd finally found. Today I'd hold in my hands the piece of paper I'd been coveting, the ticket to a whole new and much better life. I stood in front of the judge and told him I wanted a divorce.

Earlier that morning, the alarm had gone off and I lay in bed for a moment, groggy with sleep. Something's happening today. What is it? I tried to clear the fog from my brain and then my heart gave a little lurch as I remembered. Today's the day!

I waited for the excitement to kick in. You're free today, Cheryl! You've been waiting for this for so long! But I felt heavy and unable to move. What is wrong with me?

The morning passed in a haze as I readied Brittany and Lauren for preschool and got the three of us out the door. I tried to ignore the dull ache in my stomach. Breakfast was out of the question and it was all I could do to sip a cup of coffee.

After dropping off the girls, I sat in traffic on my way to the Collin County Courthouse in McKinney, Texas. With a few moments to think, I tried talking some sense into myself. Buck up, girl! This is what you wanted… the day you've been waiting for! You're finally going to be happy.

For the tiniest moment, I glimpsed a truth I didn't want to see, through a crack in the strong façade I'd built around myself. What if I was making a mistake? What if the warnings from my traitorous stomach were trying to tell me something?

No.

I won't go there. I'm almost to the courthouse  -- I'm about to get what I wanted. I've always worked so hard, and getting what I want has never come easily. Right now, what I want is freedom and by gosh, I am going to get it. I can't allow any negative thoughts to distract me.

The cold institutional hallway of the courthouse gave me shivers as I stood waiting for an elevator. Although the hustle and bustle of people surrounded me, I had never felt more alone. But I had on a classy suit and stylish heels and my patented smile, and I maintained my composure like a pro. Nobody would know I had the least bit of emotion in me, while in reality the feelings swirled about my head and heart and I just wanted to go back home, pull the covers up and pretend my life did not exist.

I met my attorney at the door of the courtroom.

"Good morning." His voice was low and smooth, all business. His eyebrow raised. "Today's the day."

I nodded, uncharacteristically mute. 

I don't remember what happened next. I suppose there were other cases before the judge, other lives being turned upside down. All I know for sure is that my internal battle was raging and I fought to keep it quiet, to disregard it altogether, and make sure the cool detached expression remained plastered to my face.

Finally it was my turn, and I stood trembling visibly next to my lawyer, facing the judge. Words were spoken, questions were asked. Did I want a divorce? Yes.

But at the moment, I couldn't remember why.

The judge wanted to know why my husband wasn't there. How could I tell him that Jeff had not wanted the divorce? That he'd fought against it? Through tears and hurt he'd pleaded with me to change my mind. He prayed for reconciliation. He hoped for another chance. He yearned for my heart to soften. But he lost.

At that instant standing in the courtroom, I felt like the most horrible person. I wanted to turn to the strangers around me and let them know I was a good person. I really was. I loved being a wife and wanted to be a good one. I absolutely loved being a mom. Yet I could not go on in the emptiness… or in the dreadful lack of intimacy. I was dedicated and loyal, trustworthy and sweet. But I could not see any other way out of the excruciating pain I had felt for years. I had worked it out in my mind, and saw no other option but to escape and start over. I knew I would have a label now, even in Jeff's mind, of being an adulterer and a mean person. But the truth was I was broken and hurting. How do I tell everyone this when my actions seemed to say the opposite?

"Jeff needed to work today," I told the judge, who nodded. I don't think he believed it for a second.

Jeff was at the office, all right. I stood in front of the bench, wondering what was running through his mind as he sat at his desk attempting to work. Would he cry? Was he angry? How was he dealing with the fact his marriage and family were being ripped apart? How did he feel knowing he would soon officially be a single, divorced dad?

And what right had I to be worried about any of that? I was the cause of it. It was a little late for me to be worried about Jeff's feelings.

"Divorce granted." The gavel went down with an authoritative thud. Was it my imagination or did the judge look a little sad? Perhaps disappointed. I wondered what it must be like to preside over the dissolution of families all day long. That word—dissolution—so cold and impersonal. I think the judge knew better. I think he knew he was seeing devastation… wreckage… sorrow… and there was nothing he could do but bang his gavel.

The sound of that gavel nearly did me in. My hand went to my chest as I felt my heart explode into a kind of palpitation I'd never felt before. The urge to throw up became overwhelming and it took every ounce of willpower to steady myself and walk to the rear of the courtroom.

My echoing footsteps seemed to pound in my head as I walked down the dreary hallway. Next to me, my attorney was oblivious, moving quickly as always, focused on his dinner plans or his next case. He stopped when we reached the front entrance to the courthouse. At the top of the steps he offered his hand.

"Congratulations," he said, offering up a satisfied I-just-won-a-case smile.

"Mmm hmm…" I shook his hand, but could not muster up a response.

Congratulations. Did I deserve that? Did he? Something told me the answer was no. But this was what I'd wanted, fought for, worked toward. And here it was.


Putting Jesus First

Most couples do not realize that glorifying God is the deeper meaning of a Biblical marriage.

by Cheryl Scruggs

Most couples do not realize that glorifying God is the deeper meaning of a Biblical marriage. In most marriages, the focus on Jesus is the missing puzzle piece to the abundance God planned. We seek the ways of the world (riches, lust, vanity, self-absorption) to guide us in marriage, while Jesus is waiting for us to seek Him through His Word. Gary Thomas, in his book Sacred Marriage, says, "What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?"

A marriage between a husband and wife is not about them, but about God, and how running after Him, and taking the focus off of ourselves, gives us the abundant marriage He wants for us.

Does this mean a marriage cannot be successful without Christ? No, it does not. By the looks of things, Jeff and I had a wonderful marriage, but did not know what we were missing. Now we know our ignorance, and understand what it means to allow Christ into our marriage and to capture our hearts. This time around, we are experiencing far more than we could have ever asked or imagined.

How do we miss the importance putting Jesus first? Many times, it is ignorance. We had no idea how the depth of our spiritual focus related to the state of our marriage. Now that we know the difference, we cannot imagine going back to how we were living, back to the lack of focus we had.

I wrote about the dawnings of this realization in I Do Again:

For six weeks I sat nearly disbelieving as I listened to [pastor] Tommy Nelson. He was teaching that God intended us to experience deep emotional, sexual, and spiritual satisfaction in marriage. He spoke about keeping romance alive, about growing closer together while resolving conflicts, about treating each other with respect. He explained how a marriage with God at the center looked completely different from a "worldly" or godless relationship. He was talking about a marriage filled with greater love, joy, and commitment than I'd ever known. I felt numb as it dawned on me that Jeff and I had lived our marriage very far from God's plan. I had not even known God had a specific plan for marriage. This was all new to me. Relationships, God-style.

Another way we miss the importance of this is to ignore it. We humans are prideful, and often think we can control our lives better than God can. We did this for years. Look where it got us, 10 shallow years of marriage, and seven years of painful divorce.

What does a marriage focused on Christ offer? It offers us guidance from the Bible, such as insight on how to love one another, how Christ looks at our spouse as a broken sinner just like ourselves, direction on how to live out Scripture, and God's wisdom and knowledge about how to love each other. The fullness of God's plan and order works so well because God created it, "and God saw all that he had made, and it was very good" (Genesis 1:31).

When we ignore God's plan, we end up frustrated, trying to control our lives on our own. The focus in our marriage can become a form of, "if you scratch my back I will scratch yours." It's like we have an unwritten contract where each spouse maintains a list in the back of their mind, hoping their spouse will perform. Yet this only leads to anger, bitterness and frustration. When expectations are not met, conflict only grows.

God's plan for us is just the opposite. He wants each of us to forsake our own desires and live for Christ, not ourselves. A biblical marriage is one in which each spouse submits themselves to Christ and seeks after God's purposes, not their own.

In God's order, Christ is the head of the husband, and the husband is the head of the wife. The wife then submits to her husband, who is called to lead and serve his wife while he simultaneously submits to Christ. Couples who follow these biblical roles in marriage give their marriage the opportunity for great blessing and fulfillment.


Our God of Second Chances

Jesus must be the focal point in marriage, not your spouse. Much of the time, without being aware of it, we end up idolizing our spouse, and making them our God, instead of allowing God to be our God.

by Cheryl Scruggs

A godly marriage is one of deep abundance, peace and joy. This does not mean it is free from tough issues or without problems, as there is no such thing as a perfect marriage.

Jesus must be the focal point in marriage, not your spouse. Much of the time, without being aware of it, we end up idolizing our spouse and making them our God, instead of allowing God to be our God.

How do we make Jesus the focal point? We begin with recognizing that marriage was God's idea. He had the plan for it. We often act like marriage is only about our happiness, but marriage is designed to glorify God.

In the New Testament, Ephesians 5: 21- 31 gives us direction and guidance on how to submit to Christ and one another. It explains how husbands are to love their wives like Christ loved the church and love them like they love their own bodies. It also addresses how a man should leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, thus the two be united into one unit. Lastly, this passage talks about how a wife must respect her husband.

This is a tall order for all of us! What stands out is that, ultimately, we are each to submit to Christ out of obedience, submit to each other, and pray to have a servant's heart in our marriage.

Trouble is, our culture lacks an accurate concept of what serving means. Husbands, how is God calling you to serve your wife in Ephesians 5? It points out that men are to love their wives like Christ loved the church. Was Christ not the greatest servant of all? He is our protector, our provider, our covering. Men, He is your example! Jesus shows us how to serve.

Jeff and I often share with couples this analogy: What kind of marriage do you think you would have if the two of you were competing to "out-serve" each other?

During our first marriage, Jeff and I had no idea how to serve one another. We fought infrequently and were polite to each other, but there was no real attempt to understand true servanthood. We both ended up selfish and self-focused, each waiting on the other to come to our service.

Yet God gave us a second chance! This time our marriage is different. We now wholeheartedly seek to learn how to better love God and each other. We made so many mistakes in our first marriage, but now have the opportunity to do it His way. Even after 10 years back together, we remain so very grateful for the opportunity. Our goal is to live out Galatians 5:16-25 (ESV):

But I say, walk by the spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such things there is not law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

So how can we serve each other practically in the different aspects of a relationship: spiritually, physically and emotionally?

Scripture calls us to serve each other spiritually by learning and following what it means to take on the character traits of Jesus and living these out. We also serve each other spiritually by being obedient to God and seeking His ways through His Word.

Scripture calls us to serve each other physically by being gentle, kind, patient and displaying self-control. The Bible also calls us to serve each other sexually: "Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control" (1 Corinthians 7:5).

Finally, God calls us to serve each other emotionally through a loving nature, by pursuing peace in the marriage, and by being joyful in our relationship. 2 Corinthians 2:3 (ESV) gives us a great example of how our joy can benefit others: "Surely you all know that my joy comes from your being joyful".

God is trying to teach you many things through your marriage. He desires to mold and shape you into what he wants you be. Our focus in marriage, this time around, is on serving God and each other, rather than focusing on ourselves.


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