Start Taking the Medicine – Before You Get Married:I (Rich) have high blood pressure but I am in constant denial. I take medicine, but deep in my soul I believe that I don’t need it. I will drop a few pounds, start walking for 45 minutes each day, and then, stop taking the medicine.When I take my blood pressure the day after stopping the medicine, my blood pressure is still normal. This confirms my wishful spin: I don’t need the medicine. A week later my pressure is still normal, but a little higher than it was before I quit taking the medicine. Two and a half weeks later, my blood pressure is very high and I stop spinning: I need the medicine. I immediately take a pill and check my pressure the next morning. My pressure is still out of control! Two days later, my pressure is still high, but not as high as it was earlier in the week. It takes several weeks of taking the medicine before my blood pressure finally drops back into the normal range.
There is a medicine designed by God for every Christian. When we take it, it promotes health in every aspect of our lives, especially our marriages. The ingredients of this medicine might sound, at first, as new and exciting as the description on the side of a pill bottle, but once you start taking this medicine, the results are powerful!
Ingredient 1: Consistent time in prayer
Dr. Phil (Phillip C. McGraw) in his book, Relationship Rescue, states,
an interesting statistic shared by David McLaughlin in his wonderful series entitled The Role of the Man in the Family reflects that the divorce rate in America is at a minimum one out of two marriages. But the reported divorce rate among couples that pray together is about one in ten thousand. Pretty impressive statistic, even if you reduce it a thousand-fold.
There is something about prayer that not only engages the support and presence of the God who loves us, but also increases the intimate authenticity we share, as we open our hearts before God and each other.
Ingredient 2: Consistent time in the Bible
The Bible promises to promote health and wellbeing in our lives as we apply its truths. Through the Bible we gain wisdom, discretion, and direction in our lives. We should not be surprised that it is an important ingredient in God’s prescription for living.
Ingredient 3: Consistent time in fellowship
Not long ago one of my friends confessed that he had given up on the church. His thinking was “I’m a member of the universal Body of Christ; I don’t really need church as much as other Christians.” Ironically, our conversation began with his confession that he had become depressed and discouraged with life in general and had questioned the value of his marriage. Without realizing it, he was suffering from not taking the medicine. The church is the body of Christ into which we have been baptized. Most of the New Testament is a collection of letters sent to local churches, churches where people met and encouraged each other. Church is a place where teaching promotes health and maturity, where authenticity and supportive friendships create a caring community. Without these a Christian can find neither spiritual health nor maturity. It is in the day to day interactions of honest and caring people within our local church that we find our unique connection to other believers. Scripture implies with phrases such as “when one member suffers, we all suffer” that we cannot live authentically without each other. You cannot make it without me, and I cannot make it without you. Our Christian relationships (including marriage) center on being partners with Christ and each other. Our relationships will never flourish without fellowship with other believers in the context of the church.
Ingredient 4: Consistent time in service
Every Christian is gifted to serve. Serving is normative in the Christian life and cultivates richness in all of our relationships. Learning to wash feet adds a healthy dimension to every relationship, especially marriage. We were saved to serve.
When we quit reading the Bible, pray only over meals, consistently fail to participate in real church friendships, and find serving too time consuming, the delights God created for our marriages are diminished. Over time our attitudes begin to show the effects of the missing medicine. Our relationships are affected – maybe not the first two days, maybe not even the first two weeks, but our spiritual bloodstream begins to notice the difference. When a crisis occurs, we pray, but feel that our prayers don’t get past the ceiling. We read the Bible, but it doesn’t make sense. Church feels like a room full of strangers. It seems like a waste of time – especially when compared to sleeping in! At this point we’re too distracted by our own hurts to know the happiness and health that comes from doing things for others. Like blood pressure medicine, the first pill doesn’t usually work on its own; but taking the medicine over time completely changes our condition.
As pastors, our advice to dating couples who are anticipating marriage is to begin taking the medicine together. Taking the medicine at this stage of a relationship will provide more insight and wisdom than a weekly visit to your general practitioner. It will change your relationship. It will add authenticity in your marriage. It will promote meaning in the context of God’s blessing and approval. Taking the medicine now is a prescription for a fulfilling marriage and life. We all need the medicine.