Suzy and I often say, “Marriage is the best thing we’ve done, and also the hardest thing we’ve done.” And maybe having and raising a child comes in seconds!! The reason we believe it is difficult is because we are two sinners coming together with a real enemy who wants to destroy what God has joined together. As a result, spiritual intimacy is difficult to cultivate with the enemy against us.
Our primary purpose in marriage, which is found in Genesis 1, is to reflect the image of God. God wants to use our marriage to point people to Himself. How amazing and challenging is that? With that being God’s primary purpose in our marriage, it’s no wonder the enemy wants to step in and make it fail.
When we talk to couples about where they are in their marriage, many of them mention that they don’t feel close to their partner, or that they don’t feel like they have the same spark as they used to. One way we describe it is that there is no intimacy, and we don’t have to talk about sex. Often we talk about spiritual intimacy. Loss of intimacy doesn’t happen overnight; it fades slowly.
Are you right with God first?
For many couples, the marital relationship feels more like they are living as roommates than as God’s perfect personal provision for one another. They lose touch and do not experience all that God intended for them and their partners. One of the main reasons is that each does not have a vital relationship with God Himself. They have neglected their personal intimacy with the Father.
Often we try to manage our situation at home. We manipulate to get what we want, and the cycle of unfulfilled expectations goes round and round. No wonder we become frustrated and discouraged. God does not intend for us to walk through this marriage bond in that way, nor does He intend for us to do it alone.
Romans chapter 12 is a great chapter in terms of better understanding our role in relationships. There is nothing wrong with Paul writing the first verse in this chapter that talks about our relationship with God.
Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I beseech you, brothers, out of the mercy of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to the God who is your spiritual worship.”
When we discuss relationships, especially with our partners, and how to strengthen them, our encouragement is to look at our personal relationship with God! David prayed in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there is any pathetic path in me and lead me in the eternal path!”
Spiritual Intimacy is not our Natural Goal
Our natural tendency is to see our partner’s faults. We point them out, frustrate them or even offend them with our words in hopes that they will change or understand us better. We don’t like to look inside personally to see where we are considering what the scriptures teach us. And we usually don’t go to sources that can really reveal what’s in our hearts and help us perfect it and improve it.
You cannot invest life in your marriage when your own personal soul is drained.
Our capacity to show love, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, tenderness, and self-control in our marriages begins with Him who can produce them within us. We can pretend for a short time, but without an intimate relationship with God, you only want yourself for now. God wants this to be a lifestyle for us.
How God Loves Us Changes Us
When Suzy and I shared all of this with a couple who just told us they were struggling with closeness with their partner, the common response we got was, “We thought we came for marriage counseling, not individual counseling.” Our response was, “Yes, this is marriage counseling, but if you are not personally right with God, you will not be right with your partner. It starts with you and God.”
Our ministry uses an expression called “LOVE OF FAITH”. We like this expression because by faith we enter into a relationship with God. And it is by faith that we can love our partners as God loves us. When we better understand the message of the gospel, and God’s unconditional love for us, then we can begin to love others in the same way. If you do not experience the intimate love of the Father, you will never have the capacity to love by faith in the same way.
We’ve taken the word faith and broken it down this way:
F is for Forgiveness! We will never experience reconciliation with anyone until we first make peace with God.
A is for Admission! When we are loved unconditionally, we are always accepted and never rejected. It’s hard to accept your partner for who they are if you don’t feel accepted and loved unconditionally by God yourself.
I’m for Initiates! God relentlessly pursues us and desires deep intimacy with His children. If marriage is to reflect our relationship with Him, shouldn’t we be willing to pursue our spouses in the same way?
T is for Trust! Creating an environment of emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual freedom while keeping God in mind will provide the kind of intimacy we all crave in our marriages.
H is for the Holy Spirit! You can have all the good advice and Bible knowledge possible and still struggle in your marriage. Your surrender to the Holy Spirit by faith is paramount.
Our prayer is that as each of you focuses on your relationship with God, it will continue to draw each of you closer to one another so that you can grow in spiritual intimacy. This will produce a beautiful picture of the union God wants with Himself and with our partners!
our book Two Become One has more of everything we talked about on this blog, and we have workbooks that you and your partner can go through together. We encourage you to study the material in a small group setting so you can hear from many partners and many perspectives and have the opportunity to be vulnerable. Please get in touch if you are interested in starting a group or sharing this with your church!