Suzy and I often say, “Marriage is the best thing we have done, and it is also the most difficult thing we have done.” And perhaps having and raising children comes in a close second!! The reason we believe it is difficult is because we are two sinful people coming together with a real enemy that wants to destroy what God has joined together. As a result, spiritual intimacy is hard to cultivate with the enemy against us.
Our main purpose in marriage, found in Genesis 1, is to reflect the image of God. God wants to use our marriages to point people to Himself. How amazing and challenging is that? With that being God’s main purpose for our marriage, it's no wonder that the enemy wants to come in and make it fail.
When we talk to couples about where they’re at in their marriages, many of them mention that they don’t feel the closeness with their spouse, or they don’t feel like they have the same spark that they used to have. One way we describe it is that there is no intimacy, and we are not necessarily talking about sex. Oftentimes we're talking about spiritual intimacy. Losing intimacy does not happen overnight; it’s a slow fade.
Are you right with God first?
For so many couples, the marriage relationship feels more like they are living as roommates rather than as God’s perfect personal provision for each other. They are out of touch and not experiencing everything God intended for them and their spouse. One of the major culprits is that each do not have a vital relationship with God himself. They have neglected their personal intimacy with the Father.
Oftentimes we are trying to maneuver our situations at home. We manipulate to get what we want, and the cycle of unmet expectations continues to go round and round. It is no wonder that we get frustrated and discouraged. God did not intend for us to walk in this marriage union in that way, nor did He intend for us to do it alone.
Romans chapter 12 is a great chapter when it comes to better understanding our role within relationships. It is no mistake that Paul pens the very first verse in this chapter talking about our relationship with God.
Romans 12:1 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
When we discuss relationships, especially with our spouse, and how to strengthen them, our encouragement is to look at our own personal relationship with God! David prayed a prayer in Psalms 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me and lead me in the way everlasting!”
Spiritual Intimacy is not our Natural Go-To
Our natural tendencies are to look at the faults of our spouse. We point them out, frustrate or even offend them with our words in hopes that they will change or better understand us. We do not like taking that personal look inside to see where we are considering what scriptures teach us. And we don’t usually go to the source that can truly reveal what is in our hearts and help us flesh it out and get it right.
You cannot invest life in your marriage when your own personal soul is depleted.
Our capacity to show love, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control within our marriage starts with the One that can produce that in us. We can fake it for a short time, but without the intimate relationship with God, you are only willing yourself for the moment. God wants this to be a lifestyle for us.
The Way God Loves Us Changes Us
When Suzy and I share all of this with a couple that has just told us they are struggling with closeness with their spouse, a common response we get is, “We thought we came in for marriage counseling, not individual counseling.” Our response is, “Yes, this is marriage counseling, but if you personally are not right with God, you will not be right with your spouse. It starts with you and the Lord.”
Our ministry uses a phrase called “FAITH Love”. We like this phrase because it is by faith that we enter into a relationship with God. And it is by faith that we can love our spouse the way that God loves us. When we better understand the Gospel message, and God’s unconditional love for us, then that we are able to begin to love others in that same way. If you are not experiencing that intimate love from the Father, you will never have the capacity to love by faith in the same way.
We have taken the word faith and broken it up in this way:
F is for Forgiveness! We will never experience reconciliation with anyone until we first reconcile with God.
A is for Acceptance! When we are loved unconditionally, we are always accepted and never rejected. It is difficult to accept your spouse exactly how they are if you yourself do not feel accepted and loved unconditionally by God.
I is for Initiate! God relentlessly pursues us and desires deep intimacy with His children. If marriage is to mirror our relationship with Him, shouldn’t we be willing to pursue our spouse the same way?
T is for Trust! Creating an environment of emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual freedom by keeping your eyes on God will provide a type of intimacy we all long for in our marriage.
H is for Holy Spirit! You can have all the great advice and Bible knowledge possible and still struggle in your marriage. Your surrender to the Holy Spirit by faith is paramount.
Our prayer is that as you each focus on your relationship with the Lord, it will continue to draw each of you closer to each other so you can grow in spiritual intimacy. This will produce a beautiful picture of oneness that God desires with Himself and with our spouse!
Our book Two Becoming One has so much more about everything we talked about in this blog, and we have a workbook that you and your spouse can go through together. We encourage you to go through the material in a small group setting so you can hear from multiple couples and many perspectives and have a chance to be vulnerable. Please reach out if you are interested in starting a group or sharing this with your church!