Millions of people were glued to their TVs last Sunday night as the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots battled it out in Super Bowl 51. When the winning touchdown was scored in overtime and the confetti rained down on the world-champion Patriots, everyone agreed this football game was one of the most memorable championships in history.
But who could have predicted that a husband and wife appearing in the pre-game ceremony would receive just as much applause as the two football teams?
“You each need to go 75 percent of the way.”
Just before kickoff, former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, approached mid-field for the ceremonial coin toss. This was a truly inspirational moment. The former fresident and first lady were just released from the hospital, and only weeks earlier they celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary. The Bushes were married on Jan. 6, 1945, making them the longest married couple in presidential history. What an achievement!
Numerous biographers have written about the happy union of George H.W. Bush and his beloved bride — most recently by their son and former President George W. Bush in his book “41.” In that biography, George W. Bush lovingly reflected on one of the best pieces of marital advice he ever received from his parents: “You each need to go 75 percent of the way.”
Americans are always on the lookout for quality marriage advice. But few seem to remember that since God is the creator of marriage, the best insights for vibrant marriages are found in His Word, the Bible.
What are some key biblical insights that can help marital love last a lifetime?
1.) Stay in pursuit of God. What should be your first priority in marriage? Some advisers say the most important thing is to love yourself first. Others say the key is to keep your spouse in first place — above employment, hobbies, friends, and even children. But both of these earthly perspectives are wrong. Your ultimate focus should not be on yourself or your spouse, but on God.
Imagine two mountain climbers scaling the same mountain. As both climbers get closer to the peak, they also get closer to each other. As both you and your spouse pursue God “with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind” (Matt. 22:37), you will find your marriage strengthened with a supernatural bond. Marriages that are united in this God-centered purpose are more likely to stay united.
2.) Hold fast to your commitment. In my pastoral experience, I have observed a number of discouraging wedding trends. Grooms used to wear tuxedos and bow ties, but in recent years skinny pants and suspenders have become the new fashion. In addition, many couples have changed the traditional wedding vows from “till death do us part” to “till love do us part.”
Sadly, these couples have rejected Jesus’ divine instruction: “What God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matt. 19:6). If your marriage is going to reach the finish line, then you and your partner must hold fast to your commitment, affirming that no matter what comes your way, you will stay together. Today’s massive aircraft carriers hold fast in the ocean’s wildest storms because they carry a pair of 60,000-pound anchors forged from steel. What is your anchor? Commitment.
3.) Communicate with kindness. The Bible has much to say about the power of words. Just like a tiny match can burn down acres of forest, so only a few words can cause massive destruction (Jam. 3:6). I can still remember when a female classmate back in sixth grade unleashed a hurtful comment about my high forehead. That was 31 years ago — but I remember it as vividly as if it happened this morning.
Oh, the mighty power of words! We need to be extremely careful of the words and tone we use with our spouse. Apologies can be offered and forgiveness can be granted, but one harsh word can wound a spirit for a lifetime. Communicate with kindness, and you’ll guard your marriage from trouble.
4.) Show forgiveness. Hazleton, Pennsylvania, is in the heart of coal country. Several years ago our city leaders discussed bringing in dredge mud from New Jersey rivers to fill in some empty mines and stripping pits. But local citizens were appalled to think that their precious drinking water might be contaminated by the murky sludge.
In similar fashion, many spouses poison their marriages by continually dredging up polluted memories from the past. But maintaining a healthy marriage means both spouses must let former things remain in the past. Every Christian has been granted forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ, so we must learn to forgive our spouse as we have been forgiven (Col. 3:13). Your Heavenly Father makes it a practice of forgiving and forgetting — and so should you (Heb. 10:17).
Every year, Americans spend millions of dollars on books, videos, and weekend seminars searching for advice that can improve their marriages. But the world’s best insights on marriage have already been revealed by your Heavenly Father — absolutely free of charge — in the pages of His written Word.
God wants your marriage to be marked by lasting joy and deep satisfaction. Will you open His Book and commit to His instructions? You may not be so privileged as to experience 70-plus years like George and Barbara Bush. But by the grace of God, your marriage can have an unwavering love that goes the distance.
Pastor Ryan Day is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where he has served for 17 years. He is a regular contributor to LifeZette.