When we first get married, we often have a grand illusion of what it will look like. We are in denial that we could be anything but blissfully happy after the honeymoon. We might have unrealistic expectations as to how we will handle conflict or never allow anything damaging to occur. When the honeymoon is over and real-life sets in, we can often feel the strain of a new way of life and maybe feel disheartened with struggle as the sometimes-ugly reality of marriage rears its head.
This is normal. Struggle is normal. Conflict is normal. Real-life is inevitable, and obstacles will come. But don't lose heart. God knows our weaknesses and sees the struggles we have with our spouse and within ourselves. When things get hard, know that you are not alone, and you have a great God that is ready and willing to walk beside you through even the most difficult of circumstances.
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." -Joshua 1:9
You may be in a place where you know that your marriage is struggling with things you need to work on, or your spouse may be struggling with their own issues. There are so many reasons that a marriage can be in trouble or mundane at best. There is help out there. Help that comes from the Lord. He designed marriage as a beautiful union, it is not to be taken lightly, and He desires, more than anything, to bless your marriage and watch it flourish.
If you find yourself at a crossroads in your marriage and you don't know where to turn, or maybe your marriage is just okay, and you want to reignite the flame, here are some books that can help.
1. The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God
This book is an amazing place to start. Whether you're engaged, newlyweds, or married for many years. The Meaning of Marriage explains the foundation of marriage - why God created it and how we are supposed to view it. Our current culture puts high value on the idea that everyone has a soul mate. We believe that romance or physical attraction is the basis for marriage and that your spouse is supposed to fulfill all your needs and that if it doesn't work out, you can walk away. These are ugly lies that the enemy wants us to believe about marriage before we even walk down the aisle.
The one takeaway that I gained from this book is that it is not my spouse's job to make me happy. Marriage is not created to fulfill needs that only God can fill. Timothy Keller states, "Marriage has been instituted by God and that marriage was designed to be a reflection of the saving love of God for us in Jesus Christ. That is why the gospel helps us to understand marriage and marriage helps us to understand the gospel." The purpose of marriage is to help our spouse reach their full potential in Christ. If each spouse has that perspective, think of the possibilities.
2. 30 Ways to Your Best Marriage by B&H Books
This is a book divided into 30 sections or chapters. Each one teaches about an important aspect of marriage. It is an easy read and designed for one chapter to be read each day. It can be read alone or with your spouse. I recommend reading one chapter before bed every night. This, along with daily prayer with your spouse, will put God at the center of your marriage. This practice will give your relationship the best possible attention, allowing it to thrive. The first chapter starts at the foundation, putting God first. Set this on your nightstand to remind you to dive in every night.
3. Thirty-One Prayers for my Husband: Seeing God Move in His Heart by Jennifer Smith
This is my favorite go-to prayer book for my husband. I have highlighted and dog-eared so many of these prayers, and I read them so much that I have nearly memorized several of them. There are thirty-one prayers covering a multitude of subjects, including being the leader of the home, confidence, wisdom, freedom from lust, breaking strongholds, integrity, and many more. Jennifer Smith states that while using this resource, wives will be "Encouraged to pray for specific areas of his life, challenged to make prayer a priority and transformed as your desires will align with God's."
Take the 30-day challenge as you and your spouse pray for each other each day and relish the beautiful change that will take place in your lives and your marriage. Jennifer also wrote the sister book Thirty-One Prayers for my Wife with her husband, Aaron. This is the same format only designed for men praying for their wives.
I can personally attest to the prayers in this book. I have witnessed change in my husband's heart in certain areas and highly recommend this become part of your daily time with the Lord. Read it together to cultivate closeness.
4. Love and Respect: The Love She Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs by Dr. Emerson Eggeriches
Are you in a cycle of conflict, a hamster wheel of negativity in your marriage that you can't simply seem to get out of? Are you feeling disrespected or unloved in your marriage? Love and Respect addresses these issues and brings to light the things that we may be doing to keep the cycle in motion.
"Cracking the communication code between husband and wife involves understanding one thing: that unconditional respect is as powerful for him as unconditional love is for her. It's the secret to marriage that every couple seeks, and yet few couples ever find. While both men and women deserve both love and respect, in the midst of conflict the driving need for a woman is love and the driving need for a man is respect. When either of these needs isn't met, things get crazy." Dr. Emerson Eggeriches
Whether you are happily married or living in crisis, Love and Respect is a must-have. This book is for you and everyone you know that is married or single. God intended you to experience closeness, peace, and value in your marriage. Unlock the communication keys in this book to take one step closer to a thriving marriage.
Marriage is hard, but it is not meant to cause unhappiness and strife. God has inspired so many authors to write about marriage so take advantage of all these books have to offer. Key things to remember are that God being the center of your marriage will change everything, and PRAYING for and with your spouse is tremendously important. These things will be life-changing for both of you. If your spouse is unbelieving, continue to pray, don't lose heart. This dedication to praying will strengthen your relationship with the Lord and bring healing and restoration to your marriage. Here are Bible verses to help guide you and encourage you to pray for your marriage journey.
Heidi Vegh is a writer living in Gig Harbor, WA. She is a remarried mother of four, navigating the blended family life after the loss of her first husband to cancer in 2013. She longs to use her writing as a way to encourage others who have experienced loss and guide them on the road to healing. She contributes to her blog found at www.thebreathingmama.com, sharing stories and devotionals of faith stemming from her loss and healing, mothering, and her blended and complex family. She graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a degree in Creative Writing and English and is working on her first book. When she is not writing she loves to travel, craft, and experiment in the kitchen. Visit her Facebook and Instagram (@breathingmamalife) to learn more.