Just like the roses that symbolize romance, too many marriages bloom for a brief time, then wither and die. But God intended marriages to last a lifetime. It is possible to enjoy lasting love, if you follow biblical counsel in your relationship.

Here are some ways you can move your relationship from one of just romance to a deeper, lasting love:

• Remember the importance of marriage. Realize that God intended marriage to be the foundation of human society. Know that your faithfulness and fruitfulness in marriage will have a significant impact not just on you and your spouse's lives, but on many other people for a long time to come. Decide to choose the best partner and work hard at building a thriving marriage.

• Seek your parents' guidance. Seriously consider your parents' thoughts and feelings about potential mates. Know that, while you should never be forced to bow to their decisions, you should pay attention to what they have to say because of their love, wisdom, and experience.

• Look to your will, not just your emotions. Understand that love isn't just a feeling, but a decision to act in love toward another person. Decide to commit yourself to your spouse and serve him or her daily. Expect that, as you serve, you will discover joy that flows deeper than any romantic feeling. If you're not yet married, don't let emotion sway you into making a lifetime commitment to someone before you've been able to think and pray enough about your decision. Be sure that the person you say, "I do" for is the person for whom you're willing to say, "I don't" to everyone else. Be sure that you're willing to make the personal sacrifices necessary to build a new, shared life with your partner where each of you surrender your own wills to God's will.

• Be kind to each other. No matter what kinds of struggles you may face, know that there is never any reason to be unkind to each other. Understand that your words and actions have great power to either encourage or wound your spouse. Decide to cherish your partner, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you be kind each day as you interact with him or her.

• Give your partner the gift of sexual purity. Remember that God Himself dwells in our bodies in the form of the Holy Spirit. Take care of the body He has made for you, and respect its sanctity. Guard your emotions as well, so you can be free to focus them on your beloved without being haunted by someone else. Remove yourself from temptations that can lure you into making destructive decisions about sex. Set boundaries to maintain sexual purity.

• Prepare for marriage responsibly. Consider the responsibilities involved before getting married. Expect that marriage will cost you everything, but that it will be worth it. Be sure that you're willing to invest your entire life into your marriage, spending the time and energy necessary to build a real home together. If you will be the major breadwinner, be sure you're a peace with the extra expenses you will incur. Get the best premarital counseling you can. Appreciate the differences in each other's personalities and backgrounds. Learn how to resolve conflict effectively.

• Develop healthy spiritual habits. Begin each day with time in prayer. Read and study the Bible on a regular basis. Become actively involved in a local church. Grow toward God together, and you'll discover that you're growing closer to each other as well.

• See the face of God when you look at your spouse. Remember that God has made your partner in His image. Receive your husband or wife as a gift from God, and ask the Holy Spirit to constantly reveal your spouse's good qualities to you. Focus on those good points and accept your partner's flaws, remembering that we all have flaws in our fallen world and that God loves us unconditionally.


Adapted from I, Isaac, take Thee, Rebekah, copyright 2004 by Ravi Zacharias. Published by W Publishing Group, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tn., www.wpublishinggroup.com.

Ravi Zacharias is president of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. Born in India and educated in Cambridge, England, he has lectured in the world's most prominent universities as well as in more than 50 countries. He is the best-selling author of several books, including Jesus Among Other Gods, Can Man Live Without God?, Cries of the Heart, Recapture the Wonder, and Deliver Us from Evil. He and his wife, Margie, are the parents of three grown children.