Dating with a Purpose: Praying and Planning for Relational Success

Few decisions in our lives shoulder the weight of success or sabotage like matters of the heart. While our choice to follow Christ is the most significant choice that impacts all others, who we link with in dating or in marriage, polarizes our path. It either fuels us in fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives or frustrates us in walking toward destiny.

Our hearts cannot always be trusted to make the wisest decisions and they often become obsessed with external appearances or are tempted by sin. God has given us wisdom in His word to help us make healthy and wise decisions. The Bible equips us to live a godly life (2 Peter 1:3). The Lord created us and knows our beginning and our end. He has given us all we need in His word.

Since we don’t automatically know the wisest course of action, we require the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. As we seek a marriage partner to be part of our life, we must pray and plan and seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness.

Pray purposefully

God speaks to us through His written word and illuminates what seems obscure or confusing (John 10:27-30). God’s Word tells us how to communicate with Him, and it clarifies and confirms His guidance. When we are single, and ideally undistracted, we can embrace our singlehood for purposeful prayer, asking God to bring the right person to us in His perfect timing.

Praying with a purpose allows us to grow in intimacy with the Lord. He already knows what we think and how we feel. Sharing our real experiences and emotions, then surrendering them to Him allows us to become more confident and better able to hear His voice speaking through His word. Submitting to the Word and His commands empowers us to actively resist the enemy’s influence (James 4:7).

Plan intentionally for dating

God, who is Beginning and End, has ordained our life to reflect His glory on earth (Revelation 1:8). He wants you to see the wonder of His image in you. As you pray, ask Him to harmonize your ideas and plans with His. Pay attention to the wisdom of the Scriptures as you form plans and goals that maximize your gifts and align with His purpose.

Process authentically

We tend to view our pain through a lens of shame, but God can heal the unresolved pain that we hide. Participating in a process to work through past issues often hurts before we feel the effects of healing.

That involves offering our wounds to Him with open hands and a surrendered heart. His supernatural strength targets and triages our weaknesses. He beckons us to approach Him boldly, and He responds by lavishing us with fresh mercy and grace (Hebrews 4:16).

Awareness and acknowledgment

Only the searchlight of the Holy Spirit can bring awareness of the hidden parts of our hearts. Is there repeated sin poisoning us from the inside out? We often become numb to it, unaware that we are partnering with forces that oppose our faith (Ephesians 6:10-12).

When we are seeking dating relationships that lead to marriage, we need to be aware of negative mindsets that influence our behavioral patterns. Dysfunctional cycles surface, circulating the issues that have disrupted our progress and success with relationships.

Ask the Holy Spirit to highlight where these offenders entered, even if they have lingered through your family’s generations. God champions your future marriage. Working through issues while unmarried reflects an active partnership with the One who authors your destiny. As you return to Him, repentance welcomes healing and deliverance, bringing the freedom to connect from a whole and healthy heart.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9, NIV

Addressing the issues in dating

Beyond the sin factor, our mates weren’t meant to carry every emotional load. When we avoid attending to heart matters while single, we place undue expectations and weight on our future marriages.

As the Holy Spirit reveals “thorns” or areas of weakness, He also furnishes God’s grace and practical remedies that transform us (2 Corinthians 12:9). Wisely using the gift of the present affords us the space and strength to prepare with God, and perhaps a counselor, to work on matters that may make us better dating partners and spouses.

Aligning hearts

We are not serving ourselves or our future spouses well when we short-circuit necessary steps for repentance and faith. Although physique and chemistry play a key role in attraction, cultivating spiritual, mental, and emotional development affects the longevity of a connection.

We mask our real selves with illusions like Adam and Eve who fashioned clothing from fig leaves. As clever as they may have thought themselves, the cover betrayed their sinful hearts. Not only do we want to present our real selves to potential spouses, but we must get right with God first.

Allied and agreed in dating

Scripture causes us to reflect on the importance of alliances. Every believer’s walk with the Lord is unique, so every potential partner might not be in the same spiritual place.

However, walking in agreement, that is aligned with Jesus and not in step with the world, is foundational to establishing a dating partnership and eventual marriage. While the external person initially attracts, the internal is integral to what nurtures a marital covenant over the long term.

Being equally yoked is often mentioned in single circles, but it is more than sharing a set of morals. Our core values, gifts, goals, and purpose factor into our suitability as a mate. We need counsel from the Holy Spirit, other mature believers, and perhaps a trained professional.

From these places of contemplation, we can develop questions and form criteria to gauge whether we will advance our dating relationships. God doesn’t move accidentally, and following Him will enable us to act with intention.

Do not be mismatched with unbelievers; for what do righteousness and lawlessness share together, or what does light have in common with darkness?2 Corinthians 6:14, NASB2020

Next steps for dating

Let’s use our singleness to nurture our first marriage with Christ, our Bridegroom. We, as the Church, inclusive of male and female believers, are joined to Him in one Body, much like the illustration of two becoming one woven throughout the Scriptures.

In the natural and spiritual, we can pray, plan, and process to become a better fit for our potential mate, but even more so, for our King of Kings. As we communicate with the One who inspired and authored Scripture, He aligns us with His own Heart and prepares us to walk in agreement with a partner.

While you cannot control the timing for encountering dating partners and potential spouses, you can influence your preparation. God has outfitted you with resources. Avail yourself of the options for counseling on this site. Locate the support and sustained care that will make you ready to recognize and receive what awaits as you pray, plan, and prepare for adventures with God.

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Becoming a Blended Family

Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of bringing together two families. For whatever reason, you are now navigating a home life with a mixture of feelings and habits. What seems like an angry child could be a child who is scared of losing everything that was comforting to them. Creating a home for a blended family takes patience and grace.

Each person in the family is affected by the new dynamic of a blended family home. The children may feel as if they have no voice, the parent may feel like it’s all a mistake, and the step-parent may feel like an intruder. Even though all of these different feelings and mindsets may be happening, there are ways to ensure that your home is blended in a way that conveys love and peace.

By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established. – Proverbs 24:3, ESV

Where do we start?

Blending families happen because of loss in some way or another. Whether your spouse has passed away or you are surviving divorce, you have gone through a painful time. This pain is not just for adults. Our children feel the pain just the same and they have to know that this new change in their home life is not going to negate how they feel about their other parent.

First, you should make sure that each child knows that this new family dynamic does not change how you feel about them. One of the easiest ways to help this would be to allow them to express any frustration with the new dynamics of the home. Even if you don’t want to hear how they are having an issue with the other parent, allow them to express what’s going on.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10, ESV

Children and blended families

Some say that children are resilient to changes in their lives. While it may be true that they seem to bounce back after some life-changing events it isn’t always easy for them. They still have to learn to navigate the change in the best way they can. Losing a parent is traumatic for children. Whether it is by divorce or death, not having that parent in their everyday life can cause lasting emotional problems.

Hearing “You’re not my parent!” or “I don’t have to listen to you!” are a few of the more common statements step-parents may hear when the family is just starting to create a new space for this new family. Even though these may be the most prevalent words that you hear during the first few weeks or months of learning to blend families, they don’t have to be statements that you hear forever.

Take time to talk to them and try to understand why they are so angry and hurt by this new home. Don’t expect them to always be okay. Some children have a hard time with change even though it may be the best thing for them. Let them voice what’s going on with their emotions. God understands that life happens and He will guide you through this rocky time with your child as well.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not quickly broken. –
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, ESV

Parents and blended families

As parents of a blended family, it is your responsibility to ensure that the home is healthy and safe. The first aspect of creating a healthy home is to make sure that you are committed to a solid marriage. The family starts with marriage. When the marriage is solid and respectable, then the home will follow suit. The hard thing about blended family and marriage is that you are having to learn to be a couple while adjusting to parenting.

Being able to create a solid relationship with your spouse before blending families is essential in understanding how each of you intends to handle the issues that will come up in the beginning. You have to assure each other that you will support each one’s decisions even if it hurts your parent’s hearts. When you promote your marriage as a team that wants what is best for everyone, the likelihood of continued problems will decrease.

When you create a home that revolves around respect and compassion it will make the transitions easier for everyone. Learning to interact with each other civilly is key to overcoming any tension that may be present in the dread of facing changes.

Respect given and taken between all family members is a must if there is to be peace within the new family dynamic. It will also take an understanding that everyone handles change differently. These things will allow for growth in all areas of the family dynamic.

How to begin a blended family

When you know that it is time to begin the process of moving into a new home with your new family, you should consider how to make this process easier for everyone.

Take time to consider how the change will affect everyone. Too many changes at one time can be considerably overwhelming for all of those involved, especially the children. Don’t rush into any lifelong changes without considering how your children may be handling the previous change.

Discuss parenting styles beforehand. Bringing families together that use two different parenting styles is an open door for problems. Not only can this cause a problem between parents, but the children will also begin to show signs of resentment and anger.

Don’t rush the relationship with the children. As you and your spouse begin to create this new home, remember to take time to get to know the children. Don’t expect them to be eager to accept the new dynamic. They will begin to see your role in their life and how that will look for them.

Do life as a family. Make time to have family time with everyone, and then go a step further. Include them in everyday life. Allow them to interact with the other parent in real-life situations such as housework, shopping, and Bible study.

Make respect a priority. Whether or not the children like your new spouse does not negate respect in the home. Along with respect make sure that ultimatums are not tolerated by either parent. This also goes for the parents. Each of you should be the example of respect and grace that your children will need to see as they learn to become a blended family.

Challenges of blended families

As with anything that combines two things, there will be challenges. Creating a blended family is not exempt from challenges even if you have followed the above ideas to help create a peaceful transition. These are just a few of the more common challenges you may face as you create a blended family.

Relationship changes. When children find themselves in a new relationship, they may seem distant and reserved. The changes in the family will bring changes in the roles of each person. A child who was the youngest may now find themselves as being the oldest.

While this may seem like a small thing, it is a big change for a child to adjust to. When a child loses the uniqueness of their role in the family dynamic, they may need more time to adjust to losing that part of their identity.

Age differences. When you bring together two families you are bringing the likelihood of children being closer in age than they would naturally be. This can be a challenge when it comes to celebrating birthdays as individually as possible.

Experience as a parent. It’s a challenge when both of you have been a parent, but when you have a spouse that has never been a parent it can bring another challenge to the dynamic. As a person with no parental experience, your spouse may not understand the various developmental stages that children experience.

Changing family traditions. One of the hardest things for children to accept is new traditions that replace the old ones. Children grow accustomed to traditions when it comes to holidays and vacations. Changing these dramatically can have a negative impact. It’s best to comprise between the two families.

Activities and events. Trying to plan events with a blended family can be trying due to considerations that must be met. When you have to consider visitation rights for divorced parents it can be hard to plan an event for everyone to enjoy. Children may have a hard time accepting that activities change because of the need to include everyone.

Bonding and growing in a blended family

Creating a blended family that works and grows together is possible. When you focus on keeping faith-based values within your home you will promote a healthy environment in which everyone to bond. Don’t allow the roles to become confused with the overall picture of being a family.

You will need to create boundaries for children as well as parents. These boundaries will allow for healthy relationships to be built. Be sure to keep all parents involved in the child’s life. Co-parenting children of divorce is a key factor in helping them heal from the experience of divorce.

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Premarital Counseling: Strengthening Your Future Marriage

For some, getting married is the fulfillment of a long-held dream. Finding the person you want to spend the rest of your life with is no mean feat. The world of dating is peppered with false starts, dead ends, unmet promises, people who aren’t what we thought they were, and much more. So, when you make it through that minefield and find that person you love and want to build a life with, that’s cause for celebration.

Having gone through the dating ordeal and confirmed your intentions for one another, talking about premarital counseling seems like putting one last obstacle in your way just before the finish line. Do you need premarital counseling, or is it something for people who aren’t sure about what they want?

The broad consensus is that doing premarital counseling is a wise decision for couples. Instead of looking at it as an obstacle to your happiness or a buzzkill for the planning around color schemes and your wedding menu, premarital counseling is one of the cornerstones in building your marriage.

It’s a vital step that will challenge you, but it will strengthen your commitment to one another while giving you the tools you need to navigate married life. It will confirm that you made the right decision to marry your beloved or provide you with insight and wisdom into your relationship so that you make an informed decision about the future.

What is the value of premarital counseling?

The value of premarital counseling is that it will help you prepare for married life with your partner. Pre-marriage counseling provides you with a space to reflect on aspects of your future lives together that will be vital for a flourishing and committed marriage. Sometimes, in the thrill of our intoxicating emotional connection with our partner, we don’t always ask the probing questions we ought to.

Or we simply assume that we’re on the same page about everything, even though we may not have gone into the specifics. Pre-marriage counseling is infinitely practical, getting you into those conversations that will make sure that as you set off on your life together you are united in purpose, clear about your expectations of one another and your relationship, and you have the skills you need to manage conflict well.

What kind of questions will come up?

Pre-marriage counseling covers a wide range of topics for discussion. Depending on your sessions and areas that need more focus than others, you may cover some or all these questions in depth.

Finances

Some of the fiercest and most common fights in marriage are about money. Money has a significant impact on your married life, from where you live, what you eat, whether you can take vacations, and what charities you can support financially.

There are many decisions to make that concern money in a relationship, and these include who works (one of you may earn enough to support you both, or both of you may need to work to support your family), who handles the finances (balancing the checkbook, managing your savings and investments), how will you use money in your spending, saving, investing, and giving.

These and other decisions need to be made within a marriage, and pre-marriage counseling addresses these so that the couple thinks through the practicalities of their married life.

Children

Another important question for a couple is whether they want children. How many children would you want to have? If biological children aren’t an option, would you consider adoption? Some couples find out when they do marriage counseling that their partner doesn’t want to have children, and they may want a house full of them.

Being clear about your hopes and expectations can save you from heartache later. During sessions you may also think through your own parenting beliefs and styles, to discern whether you are on the same page and share the same values around raising children.

Relating to family

In many cases, the couple that plans to get married is part of an extended family. Some people are close to their families, while others aren’t. Depending on those relationships, a couple may need to figure out practical things like where they will spend the holidays, how involved they want the family to be in their lives, and who will broach the subject if there’s an issue with the in-laws. The couple will need to set boundaries that work for both partners.

Goals and goal setting

Pre-marriage counseling can help a couple to speak openly about their life goals as individuals and as a couple, along with helping them be effective in setting and meeting goals together. Perhaps one of you wants to go to school, and you’ll have to work out for how long, how you will afford it, and then pivot to focus on the other partner’s development.

The goals can be renegotiated later but agreeing on goals and setting expectations early helps with accountability for a couple. Additionally, during pre-marriage counseling, a couple can be taught how to set and meet goals together.

Roles and distribution of tasks

The families that we grew up in taught and gave us our basic ideas of who does what in the family. Those ideas may change over time, but they are often our first and most important influences in that respect.

The times have changed, and more than ever there needs to be a discussion about what roles each partner assumes. Some people passionately believe that the man takes a leading role, while others would hold to equality in all things. Who does the dishes, who takes the car for a service, who works, or who takes care of the kids?

Each of us may think the answer to those questions is obvious, but too many couples find that their assumptions are wrong. A couple may choose to divide tasks according to capability, or they may stick to traditional roles in some things while mixing it up in others. The point is, each couple must figure out what works for them, and the starting point is asking probing questions.

Spirituality

For people of faith, their relationship with God is important and they want to nurture it. How will you cultivate this relationship? At which church community will you make your home? This is important and relevant if you aren’t in the same community.

Will you pray, fast, and read Scripture together or separately? How will you keep one another accountable and growing? Through this process, you may discover that you may have radically different or opposing ideas about spirituality, which means that tough decisions lie ahead.

Sex

Sex is a huge part of the physical and emotional connection between a couple. Questions will have to be answered about each person’s expectations about sex. How frequently does one expect it? What are the boundaries you’re establishing about sexual intimacy? These and other questions must be asked to ensure that this aspect of their lives is also addressed.

Time

With busy lives taken up by various commitments, how a couple uses their leisure time is another key area to reflect on. How will you use your leisure time? Will you use it to volunteer, chill at home and watch tv, start a sport or a hobby, or spend time with friends? When children come into the picture, how you use your time may need to be renegotiated as your priorities and commitments shift.

Conflict

Lastly, though a couple may hate to think it, there will be some disagreements and conflict that arises within a relationship. Each person handles conflict differently. Some avoid conflict, preferring not to bring up thorny issues, while others are confrontational.

Pre-marriage counseling can help a couple to figure out their individual “conflict style,” developing their communication skills, along with how to help one another address conflict in a healthy way so that you address the issue and don’t attack each other. Being able to manage conflict will go a long way to helping a couple face life’s struggles together.

Is premarital counseling right for you?

Premarital counseling is advisable for all couples, regardless of their age, ethnicity, socio-economic background, level of education, or whether they’ve been married before. Addressing issues ahead of time and gleaning wisdom to conduct your marriage wisely are some of the benefits of pre-marriage counseling.

Premarital counseling spaces can be found within religious institutions such as churches, but the services are also offered at community centers and private practices. You can even access pre-marriage counseling services online if your work hours or other obstacles don’t permit an in-person visit.

Whether in private sessions with a counselor or as part of a group with couples walking the journey toward marriage together, taking up pre-marriage counseling may be the best thing you can do to prepare for and strengthen the foundation of your future marriage.

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How to Forgive Someone: Biblical Guidance on Forgiveness

Have you ever been asked to do something that seemed impossible? How did you respond to the challenge? Sometimes in life, we face situations that take us to our limits and beyond. The sort of people we are – our character – shows in those moments. Though we may fail in the attempt, being willing to give something a go has great value.

If we are familiar with what the Bible says about living a life that is rooted in love for God and neighbor, then we know how challenging living such a life can be. We don’t always meet our self-expectations, and that’s to say nothing of the high standard to which God holds his people.

Nonetheless, we try to live faithfully, to be just and loving people through the power of the Holy Spirit. We may not get it right, but we try; and when we fail, we dust ourselves off ask the Lord for His grace and mercy and try again. It matters that we keep going despite the challenges and setbacks. The life of faith as a disciple of Jesus means staying in alignment with the Word of God.

One area that most of us find challenging is forgiving others. When people wrong us, we may find ourselves inclined toward wanting to see them pay for what they did. In other instances, we may not wish them harm, and many times we certainly want nothing more to do with them.

The sins we and others commit are many, varied, and complex in the kinds of effects and traumas they produce. In the Bible there are three categories of sins mentioned: sin, transgressions, and iniquities. Forgiving others is thus not always a simple matter, and it may feel like we are betraying ourselves and our experiences to forgive someone who has wronged us.

What is written below is in no way intended to guilt us into forgiving someone or to do something we aren’t ready to do. Forgiveness is ultimately a choice we must make to let go of our anger and desire for revenge and forgive as our Father forgave us.

Forgiveness is for the person doing the forgiving, not the person receiving the forgiveness. That’s not a choice anyone can make for another person, but we must reflect on the biblical teaching about God’s will for us to live free of resentment and vengeance.

After all, holding onto unforgiveness, according to some research studies, negatively affects our physical and mental health by making us more vulnerable to stress, heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression.

We too are forgiven

One of the realities with which we are regularly confronted in the Bible is that we all need God’s forgiveness. The word “sin” doesn’t roll off our tongues easily, but essentially what that word conveys is the notion that we are morally bankrupt. We miss the mark in a variety of ways, whether it’s by not doing what we’re meant to do, or by doing the things we aren’t supposed to. We sin because we seek after fleshly gratifications.

Our attitudes towards other people may be less than generous; we might treat others with more respect because they are like us in one way or the other. We show favoritism or partiality; at other times we are unwilling to consider the feelings of others. In our thoughts, feelings, and actions, none of us is perfect and lives the way God wants us to. For this and more, God has forgiven us.

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.Ephesians 2:1-10

This is a powerful message that shows how God has bestowed on us his undeserved favor. The first few verses of that passage read, “Though we were disobedient, God forgave. us and gave us new life.

This forgiveness isn’t a thing of the past. We continue to sin, and God continues to forgive us – “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” –1 John 1:8-9

God meets us in our weakness and forgives us. Even as we consider how others may have wronged us, we must also consider how we have wronged God and others, and yet we are forgiven.

We forgive others as we are forgiven

Forgiving others is likely one of the hardest things about the Christian life. We mustn’t make the mistake of thinking that forgiveness means that you aren’t taking a person’s actions seriously. On the contrary, because we understand that God’s forgiveness came to us through Jesus and the sacrifice he made on our behalf, we know that forgiveness is serious business.

It’s so serious in fact that we are reminded that if we understand just what it is God has done in forgiving us, we will extend that forgiveness to others. Ephesians 4:32 reminds us to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Matthew 6 Jesus teaches his followers to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” and then he adds this difficult word – “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins”. The gift we have received from God, we are to pass along to others; if we have understood God’s gift to us, that is.

Additionally, forgiving another person is more about us than it is about them. Have you ever noticed how stressful it is to be around someone you have something against? You either try to avoid them, or you grit your teeth when they’re speaking all the while thinking less-than-healthy thoughts.

Forgiveness allows us to let go of our toxic emotions such as hatred towards the other person. We reclaim our thoughts and don’t allow them to live “rent-free” in our hearts and minds because of the negative emotions we bear toward them. When we forgive them, we can move on with our lives, free of resentment.

We forgive often

The things that people do that require forgiveness may vary, but the act of forgiveness, the choice of letting go of the desire to pay back remains a tough one. It often doesn’t happen overnight; we must sometimes choose to forgive daily. If you live with the person, or if the things the person does occur often, that makes the act of forgiveness a daily choice.

Peter, one of Jesus’ closest disciples once asked Jesus the question “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus responded, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22). Peter’s question is all too relatable. It would be nice to have an upper limit when it comes to forgiveness, beyond which we can hold onto our resentment with divine approval. Jesus scuppers that hope. We forgive as often as we must.

Of course, we must understand that forgiving someone doesn’t mean that no natural consequences will flow from their actions. If a crime has been committed, forgiveness doesn’t mean the law can’t take its natural course. If a person repeatedly breaks their word to you, forgiving them doesn’t mean you are required to give them anything more than that forgiveness.

We can do all things

Forgiveness is hard. But in this, as in other areas of life, God has not left us to our own devices and to figure it out on our own. We “can do all things through him who gives [us] strength” as Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13. God gives us strength to do the impossible – to forgive those who sin against us and to trust in God’s good judgment, leaving vengeance to God alone (Romans 12).

For the sake of our mental, physical, and spiritual health, forgiving others is a healthy practice that is tough in the doing, but worth it in the end. Ephesians 4:26-27 states, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”

Prayer for forgiveness

This prayer was written by Sue Fernandez in her book, Deliverance for Christians: Claiming Your Freedom In Christ.

“Father, in Jesus’ name, I ask that You take back the ground that was given to the enemy when (Name of Person)(List Specific Incidents). I ask that You break every stronghold from my soul. And as an act of my will, I choose to forgive (Name of Person) and I ask that You give me Your Grace to do so, from the bottom of my heart. I renounce unforgiveness. I renounce bitterness, and I ask that You remove every root of bitterness.

“If anyone has been defiled by my bitterness, I ask that You show me who that is and what I need to do. I ask that you bind the enemy from (Name of Person); take off all the veils of the enemy: and open his eyes, ears, heart, and soul to the truth of God. I also ask that You bring someone to him who can lead him to salvation. I release (Name of Person) now to You, Lord, for You to work in his heart, soul, and life, as You will.”

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8 Marks of a True Friend

In a world where people count friends by the hundreds on social media, one may want to consider how you can determine whether someone is indeed a true friend. There are many kinds of friendships, colleagues, and acquaintances, but not all friends are the kind of friends that one would want to keep close or allow into your deepest confidence. So how does one recognize a true friend?

8 Signs of a True Friend

1. A true friend is loyal.

A true friend is the kind of person that will stand by you no matter what. They will have your back when it feels like everyone else is against you and will defend you to anyone that questions your integrity. A true friend will not participate in gossip and will not stand for others gossiping about you.

When a friend has been around long enough to know your weaknesses and failures, but they think that you are worth having around anyway, then you know that you have found a true friend. They will accept that you are not perfect and not expect perfection from you. A true friend will remain committed to you despite your faults, flaws, and mistakes that you may have made in the past.

Their friendship isn’t fickle or changeable when the seasons in your life change. When a true friend is hurt or offended by you, they will allow you the chance to make it up to them and keep the door open to reconciliation. They won’t easily give up on you and will want to make the friendship work, even if for a time it is difficult.

2. A true friend is trustworthy.

A true friend is someone that you can always count on. They will have earned your trust over time, and you will know that whatever you share with them will be kept in strict confidence. You can also count on a true friend to keep their promises and do the things they commit to doing.

Not all people are naturally dependable, and some people will struggle more than others to show up when they say they will, but if someone is a true friend, they will prioritize the relationship to the point that other things will rarely stop them from doing whatever it is that they have promised to do.

You will also find that your deepest feelings and concerns are always safe with that friend. You can trust that your friend’s intentions towards you are good, and they will not be looking for ways to do things that would hurt you. They will respect your boundaries and not push you to do anything that you do not wish to do.

3. You can be real with a true friend.

When you have a true friend there will be no need to put your best foot forward on every occasion and you will know that you can truly be yourself with this person. When a friend can join in with you in everyday activities and participate in your daily life without finding such activities mundane or boring, then you will know that you have found something special.

A true friend will find joy and freedom in knowing that they are included in your more personal moments and that they can relax and be who they are around you. True friends will be content spending time in each other’s homes and will become well known to each other’s families.

Some may even begin to feel like they are a part of each other’s families. They will enjoy the freedom of being able to be completely real with each other and not worry about censoring themselves about any topic of conversation. This is because there will be a level of trust that they will be accepted wholly as they are, even if there are areas where you may disagree.

4. A true friend will show their care in practical ways.

While there is room for showing affection for a friend in a variety of ways, whether through gifts, words of affirmation, quality time, and practical help, etc., a true friend will make the effort to show their care in some or other practical way. The true friend will make the time to help in ways that show they understand your needs at the moment.

If you are going through a tough time emotionally then a true friend will be the first to call just to see how you are doing. They are the kind of people who will send an unexpected gift or note of encouragement when you need it.

They will also step up to help where they are able when you are in need, whether in need of a ride somewhere or of something material, like bringing by some groceries or a cooked meal if you are unwell. They will take the time needed to be there in a way that will lighten the load and help to ease any burden that you carry.

5. A true friend will share common ground.

This one seems obvious, but true friends enjoy spending time together and this is usually done around things that you both enjoy. Most friendships are initially formed around things that two people share, whether an interest in similar things or a shared activity.

With a true friend, shared things will likely hold a higher significance in your life, whether through a shared history or shared values. While true friends do not need to share the same faith and can have a mutual respect that allows for different beliefs, true friends usually have the things that are most important to them in common, like their faith. That way true friends can pursue their faith together, encouraging one another in that journey.

6. A true friend celebrates your success.

There is no room for envy in a true friendship. True friends will celebrate each other’s successes and be each other’s greatest cheerleaders. A true friend will want you to succeed in your endeavors and provide support and encouragement along the way.

7. A true friend will challenge you to be better.

On the other side, a true friend will also be willing to challenge you when you do something wrong. They will challenge any negative thinking or actions that are unhelpful to you. They will also be brave enough to speak out when they think you are making a mistake or acting in a way that is unhelpful or unkind or to those around you.

If you share a common faith or belief system this may also be something that they challenge you on. They won’t be afraid to risk offending you if they believe that challenging you in something is for your good. They will want you to grow as a person and will be ready to challenge you to do better whenever it is needed. They will also feel secure enough in the relationship that they will feel it is safe to do so.

So, if you have a friend who is brave enough to disagree with you, or to challenge a decision you have made, don’t be quick to discard them as a bad friend. Rather, recognize the courage it takes to confront someone and take the time to weigh the wisdom of what they are saying before deciding whether you will act on what they say or not.

8. A true friend is a rare treasure.

While a person may have many friends in their lives, many sharing characteristics of true friendship, a true friend is a precious and wonderful gift. True friendship takes time to develop and doesn’t happen without a solid commitment on both sides to push through the challenges together, even on the hard days.

It is only when a friendship has survived the storms and stood the test of time that its sweetness can best be appreciated. This kind of friendship only happens when both parties are equally committed to it, and willing to put in the effort for each other. Nothing dulls a friendship like one where a person feels like they are constantly giving and not receiving similarly from the other party.

A true friend will give without expecting to receive, but for the friendship to last, at some point, the amount of investment must be reciprocated. The way to determine how important a friendship is to you is to ask yourself how much you are willing to invest in it to keep it. To slightly modify the adage, the best way to gain a true friend is to be a true friend.

Photos:
“Watching the Sunset”, Courtesy of Briana Tozour, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Watching the Sunset”, Courtesy of Cynthia Magana, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Sitting on the Dock”, Courtesy of KaLisa Veer, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Buddies”, Courtesy of Jonas Weckschmied, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

Marriage Won’t Make You a Better Communicator

In the Christian world, marriage is held in high esteem. It is largely considered a natural step toward a mature and fulfilling Christian life. This emphasis, while in many ways positive, can overly-glorify the experience of marriage. It’s not that marriage isn’t a significant gift from God, but that gift does not come without relational difficulties.

The tensions of marriage are not as often discussed as the beauty and sacredness of marriage. This absence can create an unrealistic expectation of marriage and even make newly married Christians think that marital problems are abnormal, creating a sense of shame surrounding getting help for their marriage.

Spoiler Alert: Marriage Won’t Make You a Better Communicator

One specific area of conflict not openly discussed is communication. Other than saying something like, “communication is key,” pastors and Christian leaders rarely spend much time illustrating the need for clear and honest communication or teaching on how to become a better communicator in marriage.

As a result, when seriously dating or engaged Christians experience conflict and poor communication, there is the temptation to brush it aside, thinking something along the lines of “when we get married this will get better.” That is a false reality.

Marriage will not make you a better communicator. Only you can make yourself a better communicator, and it will require time and effort. However, if you push it to the side and continue to hope for marriage to solve the problem, then your frustration at your or your partner’s inability to communicate will continue to grow into deeper and deeper marriage problems.

The reality is marriage will not make you a better communicator. Acknowledging this fact is a step toward building a better marriage. Once you are aware of this, you can begin identifying the communication issues in your relationship and work toward establishing healthy patterns of communication to fortify your marriage and intimacy.

The Marriage Lie

The marriage lie is the idea that marriage will fix the problems in your relationships. These problems can be financial, relational, in-laws, career – the list goes on and on. It doesn’t matter what the problem is, if you think marriage is the solution, you are mistaken. In fact, marriage often times intensifies the conflict. For the sake of this article, we will only discuss the issue of communication and how to become a better communicator.

How does marriage make your communication conflict more intense? For starters, marriage is initiated by the wedding, a season that often brings tremendous emotional, financial, and relational stress. Many couples survive the crucible of the wedding rather than thrive through the experience.

Even if your wedding is a positive experience, there is still the added stress of covenant commitment. When you are dating someone, there is always the security of separating if things don’t work out. This may sound callus or uncaring, but it’s human nature. If in the back of your mind you know that you can walk away, then there is always a certain level of security you feel. You have control and can opt out if you feel the need.

Once you get married, however, the commitment is final. If you are seeking to honor God with your marriage, then Biblically, there are very few circumstances that allow for a divorce. This sense of commitment can escalate your conflicts because where before you felt like you had a back door (whether you planned on using it or not), now, you are committed to this for better or for worse.

So when you experience conflict, things can get primal and instinctual very quickly as you fight for what you feel you need. It should come as no surprise that primal and instinctual are not great qualities for communication.

While you may have hoped for marriage to help your communication issues, you will quickly discover that the added commitment of marriage can actually create more stress, resulting in more marital problems.

It is important to note that marriage doesn’t create the problems. The problems were already there. It’s just that marriage cannot and will not deliver on the promise of solving your problems. That will require patience, love, commitment, and humility. You know, the hard stuff.

Communicating through Marriage Problems

So if marriage is not the solution to your communication issues, then what will help you handle your relational and marital problems? There are a lot of answers to this question. Each person and relationship will need something a little bit different. But that being said, there are some universal practices that can help you become a better communicator and resolve communication issues.

The first is recognizing your communication style. Are you someone who speaks what’s on your mind and can’t hide your feelings? Or are you someone who stuffs everything you feel inside hoping to avoid conflict? Step back and consider how you usually communicate.

Consider asking your partner or close friends to get their input. If you are struggling to understand how you communicate, then you may want to meet with a Christian counselor who can help you reflect on how you communicate with other people.

Second, consider the communication culture of your family. Was your family a place of healthy, mediated discussion where everyone got to share and express their emotions? Or was there an unwritten rule that the family does not discuss problems openly? Or maybe your family was more characterized by explosions of anger followed by peace as family members recovered from the intense outbursts.

You and your partner will likely repeat or continue the patterns you learned in your family. Discussing the pattern of communication in your family can be a helpful way for married couples to recognize their own issues in communication and set a vision for how they want to communicate.

If you begin to seriously explore your family patterns and find them painful or difficult to understand, then you should give serious consideration to working with a Christian counselor. Family of origin issues are complicated and very difficult to parse out on your own. Having a trained professional to help guide you and draw out your experience with your family is tremendously important.

Finally, recognizing the patterns in your marriage is key. Marital problems don’t appear overnight. They take time to grow and develop. Once you’ve considered your own style of communication and how your family communicated, it’s time to look at the details of how you and your spouse are communicating.

Look for patterns in your conflict. Are there topics, phrases, or behaviors that set you or your partner off? It is very important to recognize the detailed progression of your communication conflict in order to stop and resolve the issues before they get out of hand.

If things are already extremely tense between your partner and yourself, and you need relationship help, then consider Christian marriage counseling. Don’t wait until you are in a serious crisis to get professional help. A Christian marriage counselor can help mediate the conflict and explore the deeper issues behind the communication conflict.

These kinds of marital issues are not uncommon and there is no reason to feel ashamed to seek relationship help. Christian marriage counseling is too often seen as a last resort when it actually is much more effective at resolving issues earlier on in the process.

Don’t wait to get relationship help

In marriage, like in any other relationship, there will be conflict. But marriage is different because the commitment level is much, much higher. Most people put hope in marriage to solve their problems and are surprised to find that marriage can actually aggravate the problems.

Don’t let the shame of acknowledging issues in your marriage prevent you from seeking relationship help. Christian marriage counseling can turn a struggling relationship into a healthy, strong relationship. It will take openness, sacrifice, and humility, but remember resolving conflict in your marriage is possible.

Photos:
“Coffee”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Who Gets the Cat?”, Courtesy of Hutomo Abrianto, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Knock Down Drag Out”, Courtesy of Afif Kusuma, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Conversing”, Courtesy of Christin Hume, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

5 Tips for Life After Divorce

There is a saying that “you never step into the same river twice.” Transitions and movement are a part of life – we change, or our circumstances change, or we find both changed in ways that are irrevocable, and sometimes painful. One of life’s changes is when you get divorced, a reality that has been in decline in the last few years in the US, but still affects thousands of people every year.

Getting married is usually attended with joy at the transition into life with someone and getting divorced separates you from the person with whom you shared life and dreams for that life together.

How to Navigate Life After Divorce

The situations in each marriage are different, and so divorce can bring with it a broad mix of emotional responses, from anger, relief, confusion, grief, or a combination of these. Life after divorce is about navigating a new reality with its own complexities that others may struggle to relate to. How do you move into life after divorce in a way that allows you to flourish?

Grieving loss

One aspect of life after divorce for some is that it is a time of grieving loss. Even in the most difficult marriages where their end comes as a relief, there is still a sense of loss. Sharing a life with someone isn’t an easy thing; you form emotional, physical, and other ties to one another, and that includes whatever hopes and dreams you shared with the person you married.

When you get divorced, all of what could have been, all that you’d hoped for and desired from a shared life must be laid to rest. The relationship changes in profound ways, and that’s something you must come to terms with, whether you’re happy, feeling regret, or lost because of what’s happened. Grieving is about giving yourself the room you need to feel your feelings, whatever they may be, and not gloss them over or pretend they aren’t there.

One avenue for this important work is through therapy. Group and individual therapy might be helpful as a part of your process of coming to terms with what’s happened and addressing issues in your soul.

The work of regaining your sense of self can happen in a therapy setting where you have the support and understanding of others. And if you need to heal, take time out for that to happen. The point behind grieving is not to wallow in self-pity but to acknowledge that in getting divorced, something profound has happened in your life, and you need to come to terms with the full scope of it.

Practice self-care

Being able to take care of yourself is important no matter what stage of life or experiences you’ve gone through. Divorce is one of the most stressful things a person will ever experience. Stress has many negative impacts on one’s health, and that includes comprising the immune system, something that many studies have shown.

Going through a divorce and dealing with the aftermath of it can have a significant impact on your overall health, which heightens the need for practicing self-care. There are several ways to deal with stress and make sure that you’re staying healthy.

Get some sleep. Good sleep allows the body to recover from whatever wear and tear it has experienced during the day. Not only does it help with energy, creativity, and emotional intelligence, but sleeping well also helps with what you eat.

Poor sleep has been linked to the consumption of foods that aren’t good for you because they are too refined, are high in sugar and the fats your body could use less of. You make better eating choices when you sleep well, and when you eat well it also impacts your sleep positively.

Eat well. As pointed out above, eating well by eating foods that help with your digestion, boost your immunity, and improve brain health not only keeps you physically and mentally healthy, but it aids good sleep and the emotional benefits from that. So, eating good fiber, taking in nuts, citrus, fresh vegetables, oily fish, and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids all help to boost your health.

Move. Whether you’re a runner, swimmer, cyclist, dancer, or walker, do whatever you enjoy doing that gets you moving and that has your physician’s backing. Not only does exercise reduce stress, but it keeps your body healthy, and your mood elevated.

Deal with the negative self-talk. In some situations, there may be negative talk from the people around you about your divorce, but also from yourself. You may be blaming yourself, calling yourself names, or feeling unworthy of love. Practicing self-acceptance and speaking gently with yourself are effective ways to counter this negative self-talk that only serves to paralyze and disempower you.

Lean on your circle

At all times, community matters. Life after divorce is no different, even if your community might shift a little during and after the process. Divorce may cause your circles to change – people can take sides about your divorce, and friends can be lost in the process.

However, you need your people – whoever they may be – in your life after divorce. This may be to help with chores that your partner used to do or to take the kids when you can’t, or just to come alongside you in support.

As mentioned before, group therapy can function as a supportive community to help bear some of the load of a new situation. Your spiritual community, as a community of people also on the way, may also be a bastion of support. Instead of shying away from the community, drawing nearer towards others who are safe is vital for emotional and mental health.

Dealing with the new you

Life after divorce doesn’t stop, and neither does your growth as an individual. God has built us in such a way that even the devastating events in our lives aren’t the end of us, and the evil that comes upon us can be used for good by God (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28), though it’s hard to tell at the moment how pain can birth anything good.

Part of life after divorce is to deal with the new you and come to terms with the changes your new status brings. Being married shifts not only our self-understanding but how other people relate to us. Getting divorced can have the same impact, and that sense of who we are and how people treat us can shift because of the new status.

Where you may have gotten used to going certain places because of and/or with your spouse, including the people you mingled with, you now must figure out doing life without them. The things you liked, and indeed the entire trajectory of your life may have changed because of your contact with your ex, and rediscovering who you are again away from that relationship becomes a whole new adventure. Take your time in figuring out what comes next for you.

Continue living your life

Divorce is not the end of your life, but a new chapter in it. If you have children with your ex, continue being present for them. They need to be reassured and know that their parents love them and that though things have changed for the adults in the room, how they are loved hasn’t.

Whatever may have happened between you and your ex, being present for your kids is important, as is protecting them from whatever issues you may have with your ex. They don’t need to be read in on the messier points of the relationship, used as spies to find out what your ex is doing or as messengers to communicate with your ex.

Go to work, keep enjoying your relationship with God, your hobbies, your church community, your friends, and continue developing yourself as a person. Though you may not be ready for love again just yet, it’s a possibility that may lie ahead in your future, and something that you can remain open to.

Photos:
“Broken Heart”, Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pensive”, Courtesy of [ik] @invadingkingdom, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Lego Lady”, Courtesy of Jackson Simmer, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Barrier”, Courtesy of Eric Ward, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

3 Ways to Save Your Marriage

You are here because you want to save your marriage? Good for you! We are proud that you are not giving up so easily as many others do. The divorce rate is steadily increasing to 60% in many parts of the U.S. and sadly those are the ones that are being reported.

For example, my wife’s parents want a divorce, but they can’t afford it, so they have just agreed to separate. Their hearts, though, are divorced. There are many couples like that and despite the sad reality, we offer you a fresh way to look at your marriage in hopes to help you retake back that amazing relationship that God destined you to have!

3 Ways to Save Your Marriage

There are three C’s that we will be covering today: Compatibility, Compromising, and the most powerful one, Complimentary. These three stages of relationship maturity can help put some perspective to see where you are at in your marriage to see what is next for us to move on.

Sometimes having perspective can guide you in a gentle practical way that disarms both partners instead of having to make one of you the villain and the other the hero. My perspective has always been not to make one person the terrible monster but to understand the other person’s upbringing and what has transpired throughout the relationship that has aided both partners to be who they are today.

If there has been infidelity or betrayal, we don’t excuse that behavior by looking away. We confront it and deal with it so that there can be a resolution between both spouses, where appropriate. The 3 C’s are designed to help the partners in a relationship start a dialogue that will show them how they can move together to the next step.

Compatibility

Compatibility is a nice start to any relationship because it’s about sharing common interests. I’m sure both you and your partner were mutually attracted to each other. You both shared great moments that bonded you together.

Many couples love hiking, dancing, watching movies together, traveling, working on projects, they love pets, they have strong academic values, they want kids, they don’t want kids, etc. They have a common sharing that defines who they are that joins them together.

The riff between compatible people is when the sharing runs out. One spouse may like sports and that spouse may choose to watch ESPN instead of going on a date with their partner. That can cause tensions that turn into arguments. That same couple will then argue because the same spouse who loves watching sports may now want sexual intimacy but the spouse who was neglected will feel distant and say that they are tired.

By now I’m sure you see that these issues can slowly begin to turn a marriage into a rusty and withered relationship. How can compatibility save your marriage? This can save your marriage because you can talk to your spouse about how both of you had a great start but how you need to move forward. The start needs to be celebrated. Reflect on the enjoyable times you had together which will help you both to bond again.

It’s hard to stay angry when both of you reminisce about awesome times that both of you had. This can disarm the angriest of spouses and turn their cynicism to hope. Compatibility is not the complete answer, however, because no couple on this planet relies only on compatibility.

There will always need to be a sacrifice made to support the other spouse. Unfortunately, many couples end their relationship right at this step and don’t move beyond because the differences separate them to the point of no return. The good news is that it doesn’t have to end here and that it can mature and move on.

Compromising

We need to humble ourselves sometimes with big decisions so that as a couple we can mutually benefit. This is a noble perspective and helpful for compatible couples to understand. My wife and I use to argue about our dates which ended up ruining some of our Saturday nights. We made a pact to alternate our dates by giving each other two dates per month for us to coordinate.

When it was my turn, I would love to go to an open mall, eat some spicy food and then go see an action movie. Not the most romantic I know. When it was my wife’s turn, we would go to the beach and then eat dinner at sunset which was definitely romantic. We were able to learn about each other and appreciate how the other loved to have fun.

We learned to compromise which helped us to grow in our relationship before it got stale. Maybe your relationship is stale at this point, and it needs some saving. Most couples may be at this stage, which is a great step to be on, however, sometimes there are betrayals and hurts during this stage and we must compromise to make the marriage work. Many couples are in this stage because they have been dating and been married for years.

If you have suffered pain because of your spouse or both of you are in deep stuff my heart goes out to you. I want you to feel validated and supported by this article which may spark a talk between you and your partner to talk about this stage. You can talk about how you have compromised in certain areas in your relationship which can then uplift the marriage in its strengths.

A positive tone will help a lot with communication because it can win someone over. The main issue with the stage of compromise is that it can take you far but not all the way. It’s great to compromise however, one spouse may get burned out if they don’t have the constant refreshment.

Hebrews 3:12-13 says that our hearts need daily encouragement to remain soft. If we aren’t open and don’t encourage one another then it will take only a day to harden our hearts. Compromising also begs the spouse who is constantly sacrificing to request love in return. I sure feel that way when I sacrifice for my wife. If I help her with the home or take care of the car, I can expect favors in return.

However, she may not be so ready to return that love the way that I expect. I confess that it hurts, and I feel resentment in my heart, so I become quiet and resistant. It happens the other way around too. My wife may help me out with m projects or take care of responsibilities in the home and then she can expect me to be grateful for her efforts. Sometimes I don’t notice which hurts her and I let her down. Compromising is a great stage to be in, but it won’t be the stage to save your marriage.

Complimentary

I don’t mean complimentary as in saying compliments to your spouse. All though I highly recommend that you verbally compliment your partner to lift them up. I can testify that verbally complimenting my wife has helped our marriage so much. My wife feels acknowledged and honored in our home. You can never go wrong with that.

However, the real meaning of being a complimentary couple is being a couple who helps elevate each other. This perspective and lifestyle will save your marriage. It takes both of you, no matter the past or present, to get this right on point. One spouse trying this out may not get it done but it’s a start.

After a few weeks if you don’t see a change in your spouse please reach out for help. Therapy, couples’ groups, church retreats, classes, training, support groups, group dates, being ministered by a shepherding couple in your church, all these things can help support you and your spouse.

Before I get derailed, let’s go back to what a complimentary couple looks like. That couple is first willing to help and initiate help. This is a stark contrast to Compromising (the second of the 3 C’s), because with Compromising you must sacrifice. Most times, when we sacrifice, we aren’t willing. We sacrifice out of nobility or necessity. We may be talked into it or discipled into it. It’s not from our willing hearts.

Most of us sacrifice begrudgingly and hope for the best. With this last C, the Compromising couple serves and helps each other so that the couple is elevated. They are thinking “How can I help my spouse so both of us succeed?” This is an amazing perspective because both partners will feel inspired by the other to the point where both are going to try to outgive themselves in a healthy way.

Think about that vision for a moment. Both spouses work together to help elevate each other. What kind of marriage do you think they’ll have? It won’t be just a surviving marriage; it will be a thriving marriage! This is the secret to saving your marriage. Both of you must sit down, most likely with another couple, and process this vision to help both learn to inspire each other. This cannot be done alone. Both partners must work together so both of you can prosper.

Remember that none of these stages are bad. They are all good. The point of this article is to prepare you to have a fruitful discussion with your spouse about where both of you are. You may be tempted to think that both of you are in different stages. Please remember that it’s both of you together. So, both of you would be in the same stage.

Maybe one of you is ready to move on, but I strongly encourage that spouse to slow down and wait for the other spouse to catch up before moving on. This way doing the stages together will help the other spouse feel loved by you and ready to move forward. Once you identify which stage you are in then you will be ready to discuss how to take the appropriate steps for the next one.

The process of the 3 C’s will help disarm both of you and help ensure that you are taking the same steps onward as a couple. Have another couple walk with you in this way so that you have accountability and support if there are any riffs between you. My deepest conviction is that if you give the 3 C’s a try, it can show you where you are and help you see where you want to go. And that’s to be the best marriage you can be!

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church – for we are members of his body.

“For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.Ephesians 5:21-33

Christian Marriage Counseling

If you’re looking for additional support, I invite you to contact me or one of the other counselors in the online counselor directory to schedule an appointment. It would be my pleasure to meet with you to help you not only save your marriage, but to strengthen it beyond what you’ve experienced before.

Photos:
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8 Important Pre-Marriage Counseling Questions

As you approach engagement or if you are newly engaged, it is important to the start of a thriving and successful marriage to take time to learn more about your significant other. This often means having difficult conversations, talking about the future, and digging deeper into your past to discover how it made you into who you are today and where you hope to go.

It is better to have important and life-shaping conversations before you vow to spend your lives together. These conversations can help you discover any red flags or draw you closer to one another as you prepare to spend your lives together, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health.

Having important conversations before you wed can help you set realistic expectations for your marriage, improve your communication skills, and strive to improve your conflict-resolution skills before you face any major relationship challenges and barriers.

Greg Smalley said, “Make it your goal to create a marriage that feels like the safest place on earth.” The goal of marriage is not to appear perfect all the time, the goal is to create a safe place for pure authenticity between two people.

Pre-Marriage Counseling Questions to Ask Before You Say “I Do”

Here are a few questions to delve into with your significant other as you prepare to say “I do”:

1. What does a marriage commitment mean to you?

It is important to talk through commitment and what it means to each of you. Once you walk down the aisle and vow to spend your lives together, does that mean through thick and thin? Does that mean you vow to keep working even when you feel disconnected and distant from one another? What does that mean when one of you gets a job offer in a different place? Take time to talk through marriage commitment and why you were drawn to your significant other.

Henry Ward Beecher said, “Every successful marriage is the result of two people working diligently and skillfully to cultivate their love.” Spoiler alert: marriages face difficult seasons, therefore having these conversations and vowing to put the work into your marriage will help it grow and thrive on a beautiful level.

2. What are your life goals?

You must talk through your life goals, not only so your spouse can support you, but so that you can support them. Ask one another about your personal goals, career goals, and spiritual goals. What dreams do you have for your marriage? Do you hope to retire to the Arizona desert and start a nonprofit one day? Dreaming big together can draw you closer and help you support one another now and in the future.

3. What is your financial plan?

The battle with finances and how to handle finances is one of the major causes of fighting and disagreements in marriage. Engaged and married couples must continue to have financial conversations and plan together. Sit down and create a financial plan. Put your expenses on paper. See if you need to cut any expenses so you are not living hand-to-mouth.

Take time to talk through the plan for handling money:

  • Will you have separate bank accounts, joint checking accounts, or both?
  • Who will pay the bills?
  • How will you handle disagreements about how money should be spent?
  • Do you plan and agree to have full financial disclosure with your spouse?
  • What kind of debt are you going into marriage with?
  • Do you have or plan to have credit cards?
  • What is your credit score goal and how can you work together to get there?
  • Will you have an emergency savings fund?
  • Do you plan to start saving for a home or another major first purchase together?
  • Do you plan to start savings accounts for your children?

4. What is your plan for living arrangements?

If you both have your own place right now, what is your plan once you are married? Where do you hope to live once you begin having children? Talking through your plans can help alleviate stress and begin your journey in the best way possible. Establishing healthy communication is one of the best things you can do for your marriage relationship.

5. What are your desires for growing your family?

Some couples wait until years into their marriage to talk about their hopes and dreams for a family. To avoid miscommunication in the future, it is helpful to just talk through what you pray for someday. Do you hope to have children? Are you wanting a big family or a small family?

Have you had an abortion in the past that you have not discussed with your significant other? Do you hope to raise your child in church? What are your hopes and dreams for your family? Do you hope mom stays home with the children or do you hope to continue working?

How did your childhood impact your hopes and dreams of having a family? If you were raised in an abusive home and previously felt reluctant to tell your significant other, now is the time. If there were parts of your childhood and upbringing that made you into the person you are today and hope the same for your family, share those memories and dreams.

6. What are your mutual expectations?

Talking through various parts of your life and relationship can help avoid major disagreements and fallout in the future. Just talking through mutual expectations for your marriage can help cut those disagreements and frustrations in half. It is crucial to know that couples will have disagreements. Marriage is a game of working together to find common ground.

  • Will you spend holidays rotating between both sides of your family?
  • How will you support one another through chaotic work seasons?
  • What are your hopes for physical intimacy?
  • Do you hope to attend church together?
  • What kind of relationship do you hope your children have with your parents?
  • How will you continue dating one another?
  • Do you hope to continue date night once a week?
  • Do you agree on time with friends – separately and together?

“Behind every great relationship are difficult and uncomfortable conversations we rarely get to see. Great relationships don’t just fall into our laps. They require people to move through their fears and insecurities and do the hard work to move wounds into healing.” – Vienna Pharaon

7. How will you resolve conflicts?

Having a plan for resolving conflict is one that every relationship can benefit from. If you are having a conversation that continues to escalate, how can you manage it before it spins out of control? Can you ask each other for a timeout to calm down and take a deep breath? Are you willing to get creative with your critical thinking skills?

8. What does your spiritual life mean to you and for your marriage?

I pray that your love for each other will overflow more and more and that you will keep on growing in your knowledge and understanding. Philippians 1:9

To marry someone of like faith is the beginning of a beautiful and one-of-a-kind love story. Marriage, God’s way, is a marriage of forgiveness, grace, compassion, and unique and selfless love. As you begin to embark on your journey together, take time to set goals, pray for your significant other, pray as a couple, and let your faith live larger and louder than your fear.

It is important to realize before you say “I do” that marriage is a journey, not a destination. You will face difficulties. You will have disagreements. You will make up and work through disagreements. You will have seasons of disconnect. You will have seasons of beautiful and one-of-a-kind connection. Marriage is a beautiful ride and one that is worth the difficult conversations.

Christian Premarital Counseling

As you prepare for marriage, consider pre-marriage counseling to help work through these topics and to help you set realistic expectations for your marriage, improve your communication skills, and strive to improve your conflict-resolution skills before you face any major relationship challenges and barriers. You can invest in the future of your marriage by attending pre-marital counseling with a counselor who wants to see your relationship soar.

Photos:
“Holding Pinkies”, Courtesy of Jasmine Wallace Carter, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Save the Date”, Courtesy of Olya Kobruseva, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Surprise Proposal”, Courtesy of Radu Florin, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Forehead Kiss”, Courtesy of Jonathan Borba, Pexels.com, CC0 License

How to Fix a Broken Relationship

One of the hardest parts about relationships is when they break down. Whether it’s a platonic friendship, or between siblings, parents and their children, neighbors, or between spouses, the heartache that flows from a relationship breakdown is unique among the many hardships we face in life. Human beings are social creatures, it’s part of our make-up as beings made in the image of a relational God.

We delight to connect with others, to know and be known and loved by others. In our relationships, we make ourselves vulnerable, build networks of mutual dependence and build parts of our lives based on those relationships.

The sad thing is that the breakdown of relationships is nothing new, and it’s a reality we will continue to face in our lives. Relationships break down for a variety of reasons, and some of those are things we can control and address, while other things need the balm of time and a refreshed perspective from the other person.

What can you do to fix a broken relationship?

What’s going on?

In some cases, when a relationship breaks down, we know precisely what happened. We may have had the power to prevent or slow down the breakdown, or we may have been completely powerless to stop it. In other situations, you may be at a loss as to what happened.

When that happens, it’s important to take the time and effort to figure out what happened. It may require some conversations with the person with whom you were in the relationship if they are willing to engage with you, but it may also require some introspection.

Whether you do this by journaling or talking with a trusted friend to process what happened, or you spend time with a therapist to do that, understanding what happened matters. If the relationship broke down because in your anger you said or did things you shouldn’t have, you need to address that otherwise it can prevent you from restoring your relationship and can affect other relationships as well.

Part of trying to address a broken relationship is to understand why it broke down in the first place and to do the challenging work that may be needed to change. It may be that in trying to understand what happened, you may uncover a misunderstanding and that gets things back on track.

Sometimes we misspeak, or people mishear us and our intentions, and that can be the cause of the broken relationship. But it’s also possible that the breakdown in the relationship is mostly or entirely our fault and knowing that can empower you by clarifying what needs to happen next.

Apologizing

Sometimes relationships break down because of things we’ve said or done. When we are the cause of pain to someone else, we must apologize, particularly if it was uncalled for. A good friend sometimes causes pain to their companion, but it is well-intentioned.

As the Proverb says, “Friends mean well, even when they hurt you. But when an enemy puts his arm around your shoulder – watch out!” (Proverbs 27:6). Not all truths are pleasant to hear, and we may lose friends because of truth-telling.

It’s important to say here that while the truth may sting and at times people who are unwilling to hear the truth would prefer to cut off those truth-tellers rather than face their issues, one must always be mindful of how the truth is told, and whether it’s our place to do so. Earlier we spoke about doing important soul work to figure out what may have happened to break the relationship. Even if you may have been right in saying what you did, that work is still necessary.

It may be that even if what you said was true, and even if the other person reacted out of anger and fear, you may still need to apologize because of how you said it. You may have overstepped a boundary if you and the person weren’t that close or didn’t have the kind of relationship with room for that.

In other words, it can get complicated, but being willing to examine ourselves and apologize may be a necessary precursor to reestablishing the relationship. This doesn’t mean backtracking and dismissing what was said but acknowledging the pain that may have been caused or boundaries traversed.

In a situation where what you said or did was wrong and hurtful, apologizing is an effective way to get the relationship back on track. The apology must be unambiguous, accepting responsibility for what you did without making excuses or justifying yourself, and stating clearly what you will do differently in the future.

Compromising

In addition to apologizing, it may be that the way to fix a broken relationship is to compromise with the other person. Each of us has our own ideas about how things should be, and that can cause friction in a relationship. Neighbors may have vastly different definitions of what constitutes “noise.”

While one thinks playing drums at 5 am is acceptable and drums are great, their neighbor may strongly disagree. Things can escalate, leading to the breakdown of a relationship.

One way to fix a relationship that’s gone down this way is to compromise. Perhaps you can play your drums later in the day when your neighbor is out, or you can arrange a pair of noise-canceling headphones for your neighbor, or you can play your drums somewhere else altogether.

Each of you, by yielding a little ground, might be able to find a way around the impasse. Acknowledging that each of you has legitimate needs, and then going on to find a way to co-exist, can go a long way toward fixing the relationship.

In each situation, you must be clear in your own mind what things you are and are not willing to compromise on and continue to exercise some empathy. Even for the things on which you’re unwilling to compromise, being empathetic may help you hold the line in a way that doesn’t alienate others.

Putting in the work of rebuilding

When a relationship is broken, both parties may agree that things went wrong, and that the situation needs to be resolved. When things go awry in a relationship, the sense of trust and vulnerability may be broken, and you become a bit more wary of one another. A relationship, even one that the people in it are willing to work at, doesn’t just snap back to what it was before the issue arose.

Working through the fresh questions that arise when things go wrong, doing the work of reconfiguring or reimagining your relationship anew, etc. all take time and effort to put into place. If trust was broken, it takes time to restore. A relationship can be what it once was, or even stronger than before, but it takes putting in the demanding work of rebuilding and listening to one another to get there.

Grieving what was

With God, nothing is irreparably broken. Even the dead things can be brought back to life, and that gives us hope that even broken friendships or marriages can be restored. However, it takes two to do the necessary work to restore a relationship, and you can’t compel someone to work on the relationship if they don’t want to.

In other cases, you may both agree to work on your relationship, but that doesn’t guarantee you will restore things. The relationship may never be what it was, but at least you’ve addressed the issues that broke the relationship and emerged on the other side of it.

Christian Counseling for Relationship Issues

Sometimes, the relationship doesn’t get restored at all as you’d hoped. In any of these situations, it’s appropriate to grieve what was. A broken relationship is a loss that we experience, and it’s important to process that loss. It’s not unheard of for a broken relationship to affect other relationships down the line.

Get the help that you need to process the loss of relationships, particularly the ones that matter most to you. Getting counseling and speaking to a trained specialist may be just the thing you need to deal with a broken relationship, and to gain tools to fix and strengthen your relationships.

Photos:
“Sitting on the Sidewalk”, Courtesy of Odonata Welnesscenter, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Talk to the Hand”, Courtesy of Vera Arsic, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Hold my hand”, Courtesy of Pixabay.com, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Teamwork”, Courtesy of Fauxels, Pexels.com, CC0 License