Let me commend you for prioritizing your marriage! You went beyond simply reading Your Marriage God’s Way to also purchasing this accompanying workbook. Second to our relationship with Christ, our relationship with our spouse is the most important relationship in our life. We should invest in it so that our marriage can resemble Christ’s relationship to the church. That’s what this workbook is—an investment of time and energy (spiritual, mental, and emotional), for your joy and God’s glory.
In Your Marriage God’s Way, I wrote:
The importance of going beyond hearing (or reading) to obeying is a regular theme in Scripture. Jesus said, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it…If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (Luke 8:21; John 13:17). We do not learn God’s Word simply for the sake of knowing it. We learn it so that we can apply it.
James 1:22 urges us to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” This verse reveals a common mistake people make. They learn God’s Word and believe they have done enough and fall short of applying it to their lives. Husbands and wives do this when they believe they have a marriage built on Christ simply because they know what the Bible teaches, read Christian marriage books, and attend Christian marriage conferences. But none of their learning will have any effect if they are not obeying Scripture’s instructions. As believers, our responsibility goes much further than simply obtaining information. We must obey what we have learned (pages 241‑242).
You are doing your part to be not just a hearer (or reader), but a doer (or obey‑er) of the Word. What better way to apply what you have read than to go through a workbook with your spouse? I am confident your investment will pay great dividends for you and your spouse. Why am I so certain? Two reasons: First, the instruction in Your Marriage God’s Way is drawn from the Bible. As the Author of marriage, God knows exactly what husbands and wives need to have healthy, joyful relationships as He intended.
The second reason is less spiritual and more practical. Before becoming a pastor, I was an elementary school teacher. That’s when I learned how people learn. When I started preaching—telling people to open their Bibles versus telling students to open their math books—it was another form (albeit infinitely more important) of teaching. Whether I’m delivering a sermon, speaking at a conference, or guest preaching, I do my best to provide those in attendance with message handouts that have lessons and blanks to fill in.
Why do I do this? Because as you’ve probably already heard, people retain more information when they take notes versus only listen.1 But did you know their retention is even better when the notes are handwritten versus typed?
Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve written much by hand. We’ve moved away from letters to emails and many of us rely on our computers all day. But you can be encouraged in knowing the answers you write in this workbook will have a much better chance of staying with you because you wrote them down. Plus, this will help you remember the content from the book as you cement the material in your heart and mind, especially as you put things into practice. An added benefit of writing your answers is you will have a record you can refer back to. It is always exciting and humbling to see how God changes us along our journey.
USING THIS WORKBOOK
I know you are eager to begin, and here are some guidelines that will allow you to receive the most benefit from the Your Marriage God’s Way Workbook:
- Within this volume are questions for each section of Your Marriage God’s Read the corresponding section in the book before you look at the workbook questions.
- Instead of reading an entire chapter of the book and then answering the questions, it is best to read one section at a time, then answer the corresponding
- Some questions are addressed to both spouses, while others are for only the husband or Whatever the case, be sure to discuss all your answers with your spouse.
- Husbands and wives can share a book, but they should each have their own
- While the goal is for couples to talk about their answers with each other, they should not do the work together or use the same workbook. That’s because some questions are designed to be answered separately from each other, then discussed when you are back
- Plan the location and atmosphere in which you will discuss your responses: Would it be best over a meal together, or while on a walk? Most couples find it easier to be more consistent if they choose the same time and place each
TAKE YOUR TIME AND PRAY!
There is no rush. Allow time for prayer, conversation, and reflection. Do not hurry to answer questions, ask questions, or share your responses. So that you both have the opportunity to make the most of each lesson, consider working through no more than one chapter per day. Pray as a couple when you begin and conclude your times together. (If for some reason you are not able to do the workbook with your spouse, you should still pray.) When you begin, pray specifically for
- graciousness and honesty in answering the questions
- humility in receiving your spouse’s responses
When you conclude, pray specifically for
- your spouse to be the husband or wife God wants him or her to be
- the Holy Spirit’s help in applying what you have learned and making the appropriate changes
Finally, remember to thank God for the gospel that equips you to have the healthy, joyful, Christ‑centered relationship He desires for you.
As you grow together, you may be surprised to discover bumps along the way. In chapter 2 of Your Marriage God’s Way, on page 26, you’ll read this:
As you work your way through this book, if you find yourself feeling frustration toward your spouse, recognize that God can use this for your good. Romans 8:28 says, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” This can apply to marriage problems too. God is calling your attention to the areas in which you need to improve, and the best way to help each other grow is to be willing to ask each other tough questions.
This will be true as well when you use this workbook. Whenever you experience tension, remember, God is at work strengthening the weak areas of your relationship.
FOCUS ON THE WAY YOUR SPOUSE FEELS
Many questions in this workbook include the word feels. This is because
- it is not a question of whether a husband thinks he loves his It is a question of whether his wife feels loved.
- it is not a question of whether a wife thinks she respects her It is a question of whether her husband feels respected.
Consider these two passages from Your Marriage God’s Way:
- “Note the emphasis here is on how a wife feels. A husband might insist, “My wife is the supreme priority in my She is more important than anything else.” But the wife might not feel that way. A wife’s perception is her reality. It’s not about what the husband thinks, but about how the wife feels” (page 125).
- “A wife who does [these things] will have a husband who feels respected” (page 137).
Focus on the way your spouse feels. Then, after learning that, make the appropriate changes that will make it possible for your spouse feel differently. The unwise alternative is to disagree with or try to talk your husband or wife out of feeling the way he or she does. In the section titled “Embrace the Struggle,” you’ll see this:
For example, a husband might say, “Outside of the Lord Himself, do you feel like you are taking second place to anything in my life?” If a wife answers that she does not feel she is the supreme priority in her husband’s life, the husband should not try to talk her out of the way she feels or persuade her to see things differently.
Likewise, a wife might ask her husband, “Do you feel I respect you?” If the husband shares how she makes him feel disrespected, the wife shouldnotarguewithherhusbandandtrytoconvincehimheiswrong.
To try to disagree with how your spouse feels could make things worse. Rather, each spouse should listen to the other, acknowledge any weaknesses that are pointed out, and try to make changes that will remedy the situation (page 26).
Similarly, if your husband or wife is hurt by something you have done, do not try to make him or her feel wrong. As you listen to your spouse’s thoughts, commit to not interrupting or arguing. Do your best to thoughtfully consider your spouse’s feelings. If you make a genuine effort to understand how your spouse feels, then you will better learn how to treat him or her the way he or she wants to be treated.
CRUCIFY YOUR FLESH
What do I mean by flesh? Part of Galatians 5:19‑21 says, “The works of the flesh are evident, which are…hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions…envy.” As you continue through this workbook, you are going to hear answers that reveal your weaknesses, hurts you have caused, ways you have failed (even if unintentionally). Your flesh will want to flare up, exhibit the previously mentioned works, and threaten what God wants to do in your marriage. You must crucify these responses and exercise patience and compassion. Keep these verses in mind:
- Romans 6:6—“Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.”
- Romans 8:13—“If you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will.”
- Galatians 5:24—“Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
List three ways you will need to crucify your flesh:
Stay on guard against your sinful nature tempting you to get angry. Do not let pride have victories in your marriage! Instead, humble yourself and ask for forgiveness. There are right and wrong ways to do this.
APOLOGIZE THE RIGHT WAY
Conflict is part of every marriage on this side of heaven. Because fault is almost always on both sides, if we’re going to experience healthy, joyful relationships, both husband and wife must apologize well. When we do, God can strengthen the weak areas of our relationships. Having this kind of heart and perspective can encourage humility and allow us to view tension in our relationships positively.
Some people—whether intentionally or unintentionally—act like they are apologizing, but their “apologies” are simply ways of making excuses and shifting blame. This only serves to increase frustration and hurt. Sincere apologies have the opposite effect—they diffuse aggression and prevent bitterness. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath,” and there are not many softer answers than apologies made the right way. To do this, make sure you avoid two words:
- Avoid the word but because it is the destroyer of When an “apology” contains this word, it is an excuse disguised as a confession:
- “I’m sorry, but if they hadn’t done that…”
- “I am sorry, but this happened…”
- “I’m sorry, but I never would’ve done this if not for…”
- Avoid the word you. When an “apology” contains this word, it is often a manipulative way of shifting blame and making the other person feel bad about being hurt or upset:
- “I’m sorry you did this…”
- “Well, I’m sorry you are mad…”
- “I’m sorry you are offended…”
Instead, make sure you apologize the right way, which involves two steps:
- First, say, “I am sorry for…” or “I am sorry I…” followed by confessing the offense you
- Then, say, “Will you please forgive me?” The second step is important because it
- reveals you recognize you have done something requiring forgiveness
- shows you are not minimizing your actions
- engages the other person and requires a response
Although Saul was the king of Israel, a more appropriate title for him would have been the King of Excuses. Do not be like him! Read 1 Samuel 13:1‑14 and 15:1‑29. What was wrong with Saul’s “apologies”? What excuses did he make? Who did he blame? Provide three examples:
The Negative Consequences of Failing to Apologize Well
A sincere apology can diffuse aggression, while an insincere apology that shifts blame or makes excuses will increase frustration and hurt. Hebrews 12:14‑15 says, “Pursue peace with all people…looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.” Some couples who have been married for years or decades have become more like roommates than people in love. They have built‑up resentment toward each other from hurts that have been piled on top of other hurts. Often this is because they have let pride and stubbornness prevent them from apologizing well and taking responsibility for their actions. Their marriages have suffered terribly as a result. Don’t let this happen to you. Apologize the right way. And when your spouse apologizes to you, forgive the right way as well!
Forgive the Right Way
If your spouse asks for forgiveness and you say, “I forgive you,” you are obligated to do your best to forgive the way God forgives. God does not forget our sins, but He does choose not to remember them:
- Isaiah 43:25—“I will not remember your ”
- Jeremiah 31:34—“I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no ”
- Hebrews 8:12 and 10:17—“Their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no ”
We cannot cause ourselves to forget offenses that have been committed against us, but we can strive to be like God and choose not to remember what has been done to us. When we say, “I forgive you,” we are committing to do our best to
- not think about our spouse’s sin
- not hold the sin against our spouse
- refuse to bring up the offense in the future
There will be times you don’t want to forgive your spouse. You may feel like he or she doesn’t deserve it. You know what? You’re right. He or she doesn’t deserve it. But you know what else? You don’t deserve to be forgiven either. Not just by your spouse, but by God Himself. You are forgiven, though, because of what Jesus has done for you. And because Jesus has forgiven you, you should forgive your spouse. This isn’t merely my opinion. Consider these two verses:
- Ephesians 4:32—“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave ”
- Colossians 3:13—“Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must ”
Why are we expected to be tenderhearted, forgiving, and patient with each other? Simply put, because of Christ! It is important that you draw on this truth as you continue through the workbook. When you don’t want to forgive your spouse, remember what Christ has done for you. You aren’t forgiving your spouse for your spouse, but you are forgiving your spouse for Jesus.
You are taking steps to have Jesus’s teaching serve as the foundation for your marriage. I hope this excites you because Jesus said, “Whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock” (Matthew 7:24‑25). You should have much confidence that your marriage will survive the storms of life because you are wisely striving to build on the rock.
I have been praying for you, will continue to, and if you have any specific requests for me, I invite you to please let me know. I would love to hear from you and how God is strengthening your marriage.
Your brother in Christ,