Consider keeping these 10 resolutions to improve your spiritual health and strengthen your marriage. They are found in 1 Thessalonians 5:
Be alert and self-controlled (6).
Encourage one another and build each other up (11).
Live in peace with each other (13).
Be patient with everyone (14).
Be kind to each other (15).
Be joyful always (16).
Pray continually (17).
Give thanks in all circumstances (18).
Test everything. Hold on to the good (21).
Avoid every kind of evil (22).
Self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit. It is a gift from God, available to anyone who approaches God with a humble and contrite heart (1 Pt 5:5). Self-control requires dying to self. Christ is the example of self-control in the midst of severe emotional and physical suffering. Root out selfishness in your marriage. Ask Christ to give you His heart, a heart that loves at all times. In the midst of conflict with your spouse, focus on how you can be a blessing to him or her. Great joy is found in giving one’s life for the betterment of another.
- ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER
Look for ways to encourage your spouse. Married life is hard work, especially when you have children. Daily life can become drudgery. An unexpected note or kind word will lift your spouse’s spirits. Build each other up by showing appreciation for each other’s contributions to family life. Men want to know that they are respected and women want to know they are loved. Praying together as a couple is a good way to affirm each other.
Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount declares “blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt 5:9). Peace comes from giving one’s life and concerns totally over to God. Can you trust God with your future and all of your cares? Are you able to give God all of your concerns regarding your marriage and family life? Do you want to be free of all the turmoil plaguing your life? Trust in Jesus. Peace is another gift of the Holy Spirit; ask God to give you peace in the midst of the chaos that is part and parcel of family life.
The book of Proverbs is chock full of wisdom regarding family life. One particularly helpful passage is “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (Prv 19:11). In family relationships, overlooking petty offenses ensures harmony and peace. We all make mistakes. It is not worth risking the relationship over some petty infraction. We are all sinners in need of God’s mercy. Be Jesus to your spouse and see how his or her attitude towards you changes. Forgiveness and mercy is healing. Patience with others is a virtue that cannot be over emphasized in its importance in keeping families healthy and strong.
This was most likely the first lesson our parents taught us in dealing with family members and friends. “Play nice” is a common exhortation of parents wanting to instill the virtue of kindness in their children. This is still true for us today in our adult relationships. Quarreling and bickering closes a person’s spirit while kindness opens it up. In Scripture, God’s mercy and kindness in the midst of rejection softens hearts. By showing kindness to your spouse in the midst of tension and disagreement and not condemnation, will defuse these situations. Kindness is a healing balm; sweet to the taste and fragrant to the senses.
Spend time with your Creator. Get to know Him personally. Get comfortable sharing your greatest needs and desires with Him. He wants to spend time with you. He has given you a love letter in Sacred Scripture. Read it. Pray over it. Let His words sink into your mind and your heart. Let Him teach you in the quiet moments of your time together. He in turn will fill you with joy in His presence. Bask in the light of His presence. He will renew you and strengthen you. “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul” (Ps 94:19). As you fill yourself with God, the joy of the Lord will flow through you to spouse and children.
Prayer is nothing more than conversation with God. That conversation should be a two-way communication; we offer our praise, thanksgiving, repentance and petitions to God and then, in the quietness of our hearts we listen for His response. Prayer is more than just placing our petitions before God. We need to also listen to Him so that we may align our wills to His will. God desires a relationship with us. He wants to show us the depth of His love for us. God created us for friendship. Prayer is where we meet God face to face. Make it a daily habit to pray for the needs of your spouse. Watch how this simple act will bring renewed vitality to your relationship!
- GIVE THANKS
God has your entire life in the palm of His loving hand. You can rest assured that He loves you beyond compare. God is compassionate and loving. He knows the trials and struggles that you face in family life. Many times God uses the difficulties in our lives to draw us closer to Him. Give your burdens to God and let His love flow into your heart. Rejoice in His love and give Him thanks for the many blessings that He has given you. And thank your spouse often for the great blessing they are to you and your family.
- TEST EVERYTHING
We live in a toxic culture that is constantly bombarding us with messages that are detrimental to marriage and family life. Where can we turn to discern what aligns with the will of God? St. Paul in his second letter to Timothy provides the answer:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Tm 3:16-17
Husbands and wives need to test everything against the Word of God to ensure that their actions align perfectly with His will for their lives. Is God pleased with the media that you are allowing in your home? Does it promote holiness or does it exploit others for selfish desires? Measure everything against the yardstick of God’s Word to determine its suitability for your family. Satan will look for every opportunity to infiltrate your family so be on guard against his subtle ploys to destroy your family.
- AVOID EVIL
Society is a morally decadent cesspool filled with temptations to sin. Lean on God when faced with temptation. Every time we say the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to “deliver us from evil.” Do you mean it? Seek the strength of the Holy Spirit to stand firm and endure whatever temptations come your way. God will give you the strength to avoid temptation. All you need do is ask.
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. 1 Cor 10:13
Fill your mind with God’s Word so that you can recall scripture when you are tempted to sin. Live a chaste, pure and holy life. God will bless your obedience to Him.
1 Thessalonians 5 is a recipe for a happy and joy-filled marriage and family. May God bless your family as you live out these resolutions to the fullest.