Develop a healthy sexuality. If sex with your spouse is painful or unpleasant, seek help from a Christian therapist or resources like books and videos that you and your spouse can use together to openly discuss the issues. Remember that God intends sex between spouses to be a wonderful gift that both embrace and enjoy. Pursue healing for any sexual abuse you may have experienced in the past and work with your spouse to pursue healing together for any sexual sins that have damaged your marriage, such as adultery or an addiction to pornography. Confess and repent of any sexual sins in your life and ask God to regularly help you remain sexually pure. If you’re single, ask for His help to remain celibate as long as you continue to be single. Grieve the sexual losses you have experienced in your life, whether through broken relationships or any other ways. Educate yourself on what sexual techniques you and your spouse can use to enjoy this part of your marriage. Pray for God to help you relax and approach married sex with a spirit of joy and fun.

Grow healthy relationships. Think and pray about who you are as a person, and once you’re confident that you know yourself well, pray for the courage to share who you are with others. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, or avoid sharing your thoughts and feelings with other people. Be open and honest with others, knowing that the risk is always worthwhile. Intentionally work to build close, meaningful relationships with others. Allow other people to be who they are – who God created them to be – instead of who you would like them to be. Don’t try to make decisions for others, change them, fix them, or control their choices and opinions. Ask God to help you respect and value the unique people they already are. View other people’s talents as gifts to appreciate rather than as threats in competition with you. Ask God to give you confidence in yourself that can’t be shaken by other people. Take good care of your own needs so you won’t unrealistically depend on others to take care of you; make sure you get adequate sleep, exercise, and nutrition. Practice seeing the good in all the people with whom you interact, and value all of your relationships (not just those with your family and close friends). Cultivate intimacy in your relationships by creating a safe space for honest sharing. Ask people questions about themselves and their lives, and genuinely listen to them. Let them know that you care about them and that you’re interested in their stories.

Restore your broken heart. Acknowledge the reality of the wounds you’ve suffered from broken relationships in the past. Allow yourself to experience the entire range of emotions associated with that. Talk with a trusted confidante about your feelings, and pray about them, too. Clean out the wounds by letting go of the bad stuff – either abusive relationships that you must end, or unhealthy relationships patterns that you need to identify and change. Get rid of bitterness that poisons you and choose to forgive yourself for your relationship mistakes and other people for the ways they have hurt you. Know that God expects you to forgive, and He stands ready to help you do so. Pray for the courage you need to keep on reaching out to others in love. Write your autobiography to reflect on your life. Then ask yourself what you can learn from your story, and where you see God at work. Pay special attention to your relationships, noticing patterns and considering what ways you grew as a person through your relationship experiences. Remind yourself regularly of God’s promises to you in the Bible. Notice the ways God is at work in your life right now, and place for your hope for the future in Him, knowing you can always count on Him.

Reach out to a hurting world. Invite God to use your brokenness to help not just you, but also other people in need of wholeness. Ask Him to give you compassion for what other people are going through as you recall your own struggles. Reach out to hurting people by simply being present with them in their pain. Don’t try to rush them through their challenges or give them advice, clichés, pat answers or empty promises in an attempt to solve their problems. Instead, give them the valuable gift of genuinely listening. Ask God to help you be honest, patient, and gentle with others. Allow your own wounds to become a source of healing for them.

Adapted from Stronger than You Think: Becoming Whole Without Having to Be Perfect, copyright 2007 by Kim Gaines Eckert.  Published by IVP Books, a division of InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., www.ivpress.com

Kim Gaines Eckert, Psy. D., is an assistant professor of psychology and counseling at Lee University, Cleveland, TN. She is also clinical director of Kids’ Talk, the Lee University play therapy center.