Over the last several posts we covered some challenging ground! We began by talking about choosing Whom we will serve and what it means to build our homes on the firm foundation of Christ and the gospel. We’ve also talked about the attitude, values, and language characteristics of a household culture of emotional safety and joy. Throughout this series, we’ve emphasized that marriage sets the tone for this culture and have focused heavily on the aspect of emotional safety. Today’s post will continue to focus on marriage as the tone-setter, but as the title implies, the spotlight will be on creating a culture of joy.
While we will get into the practicality of cultivating joy in marriage later in this post, let’s first look at this topic theologically.
As stated previously in this series, one purpose of marriage is to reflect the joy of the union between Christ and His Church. Hebrews 12:2 reminds us that it was for the joy set before him that Jesus endured the cross. And what was that joy? It was the joy of being our Savior, of reconciling his bride to himself. Although he suffered more than we could ever imagine, it was the joy before him that kept him on that cross. John Owen described this perfectly when he wrote, “He did all this that he might enjoy his bride, that he might be for her, and she for him, and not for another” (from his book, Communion with God.) While we will experience this joy fully only when we are with him in heaven, we have a piece of it even now as we have fellowship with his Spirit that is within us.
If this is not enough to convince us that God created marriage to be joyful, consider the following verses:
Proverbs 5:18- “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth.”
Proverbs 31:10-11- “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.”
Song of Solomon 8:6-7a- “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.”
These verses demonstrate that husbands and wives are to rejoice and delight in one another. Yet so often marriage lacks this joy. This happens for a myriad of reasons: we become easily preoccupied with our jobs, household tasks, and childrearing; we get tired in all the ways- physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually; we harbor resentments toward one another; or, we may even forget that marriage is meant to be joyful. Whatever the reason, it is well worth our effort to intentionally cultivate joy within our marriage; for as joy in the marriage increases, so does the joy of the entire family. But most importantly, a joyful marriage is a true picture of the joy of Christ toward his bride.
Let’s turn our attention now to 4 ways we can intentionally cultivate joy in our marriages:
- Joyful Greetings and Partings. Part of everyday life includes the comings and goings of our day. These are prime opportunities for connection. Don’t waste these moments! Take the time to wish your spouse a good day and give some affection before parting ways. Similarly, take a moment to greet one another upon return. As the title of the entire series implies, the idea of “Welcome Home” is to make our homes a welcoming, inviting, safe place to be. A simple way to create this culture is with a smile and warm greeting when our spouse walks through the door. Even on the days we’re feeling tired, stressed, or annoyed with our spouse, we can still choose to be intentional about the way we part with and greet one another.
- Cheer in Shared Activities. It’s always a great thing when spouses enjoy the same activities/hobbies. If this is true of you and your spouse I encourage you to set aside time in your week to engage in that activity together. If shared activities have been lacking in your marriage, think back to the activities you enjoyed together when you were first dating/married and make a point to begin doing these again. (And if this means hiring a sitter to make this happen, then, by all means, hire the sitter!)
If you and your spouse struggle to have a commonality in your preferred hobbies, this is an opportunity for compromise. For example, fishing may not be your thing but if your spouse asks you to tag along, then do it! Or, maybe you don’t really love going on walks but your spouse has been asking you to join them…again, just do it! But here’s the catch: leave any grumbling behind. Just as God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7) we create joy in our marriage when we cheerfully compromise and give of ourselves to one another.
- Keep the Conversations Going. It’s easy for our conversations with our spouse to center on the day-to-day things such as finances, schedules, work, and the kids. All of these transactional topics are good and necessary! But there is much joy to be had when we share in transformative conversations. These are the conversations that allow us to really know our spouse. Transformative topics can be heavy or light. For example, we can discuss goals, fears, struggles, politics, or spiritual matters. But we can also take time to talk about lighter matters such as favorite childhood memories or lighthearted hypotheticals. The point of all of these conversations is to know and enjoy our spouse more intimately. One great way to get these transformative conversations started is by using the Gottman Card Decks app. This app has so many great categories of questions! It’s free and awesome, so check it out!
- Keep the Gospel Central. From the beginning of this series, we have stated that Christ and the gospel are the firm foundation on which we build our homes. As we continue abiding in Christ through prayer and time in the word, we will bear the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. All of these fruits add immeasurably to the quality of our marriages- and I especially love that joy is named among them. The more we continue to grow in our walk with God, the joy within us will be displayed in our homes and in our marriages. While this point may be less practical in nature than the previous three, I wanted to include it as a way to encourage a continued gospel focus within your own life as well as your marriage.
Joy is needed to reflect the glory of Christ and his Church and it is needed to create a stable and loving home environment. I pray this post has renewed your perspective on joy within marriage. As the one writing these words, I can attest that this post has been just as much for me as anyone else. May we spur one another on as we intentionally pursue joy together.