Today, spouses often tend to give thanks only when something good happens in their relationship, overlooking the Bible's guidance in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." But the Aldens gave thanks even during terrible suffering.  

You can use this Thanksgiving holiday as inspiration to renew your marriage by making a new habit of thanking God together for whatever is going on in your lives -- whether good or bad -- because God can use it all to draw you and your spouse closer to Him.

Here are some ways you can strengthen your marriage by giving thanks in all circumstances:

You can learn to value each other in new ways. Going through hard times together can teach you a lot about each other that you couldn’t have learned otherwise, since crises tend to reveal people’s deepest thoughts and feelings. Responding to those hard times with gratitude will train you to appreciate each other in fresh ways. Consider what happens when illness or injury changes a previously beautiful or handsome spouse’s body, or when job loss changes a previously rich spouse’s income. The hardship forces you to see each other from a different perspective – and gratitude opens your eyes to new aspects you can appreciate about each other.

You can both develop stronger character. Every time you or your spouse chooses to give God “a sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15) by following His call to thank Him in all circumstances, that obedience strengthens your character so that you become more like Jesus. The more each of you become like Jesus, the more His love will flow between you, strengthening your marriage.

You can focus your mind on what God wants you to think about. Hard times present you with a stark choice about how to respond: You can choose either to focus on your negative circumstances, or you can choose to focus on the positive fact that God is greater than your circumstances. Giving thanks sets your mind in a positive direction. As you start to notice the good work God is doing in your lives even during hard times, you’ll renew your minds, and Romans 12:2 promises that then “you will be able to test and approve what God's will is” for every part of your lives, including your marriage.

You can learn more about God by trusting in His sovereignty. Pilgrims like John and Priscilla Alden often emphasized the importance of trusting God’s sovereign will in any situation. They made a habit of thanking God for who He is (which remains constant) rather than just for His blessings (which vary). When you and your spouse choose to give thanks no matter what – simply because God is good and involved in your life – you’ll discover that you serve a God of love who will constantly give you fresh doses of His love to strengthen your marriage.

Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the new Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.

Publication date: November 20, 2013