By Madison Hetzler, Crosswalk.com
COVID-19 is draping itself over our world like a wool blanket in summertime heat. Every household has felt disruption at some level as workers are sent home, the school year is truncated, and all are encouraged, if not mandated, to stay inside. Countless others face the loss of jobs, shelter, or mental or physical health.
Marriages are being tested as they bear the weight of so much change in one fell swoop. Intentionality and care are required if we are to persevere in joy, as the Bible extols Christ-followers to do in the midst of trials (James 1:2-4). Consider these seven ways to love your spouse well during this global pandemic.
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Praise before a God such as ours is never inappropriate. He is always worthy of all our praise, no matter life’s circumstances. It’s a simple truth, but one we readily forget. When we focus on what is immediately around us, anxiety and distress can seem far more fitting than declaring the goodness of God. Instead, let us be like Job who blesses the name of the Lord even as difficulty invades his home (Job 1:21).
Together with your spouse, praise the Lord for His character and His promises. He is good (Psalm 34:8) and true (John 14:6). Remind one another of the everlasting truth we hold in God’s Word. Rejoice in those truths and declare them daily.
Praise the Lord for His providence. Look for the ways in which He has made Himself known in day to day activities, no matter how small. The scent of spring flowers reminds us that He makes all things new (Revelation 21:5). Good food reminds us that He satisfies cravings (Psalm 63:5). Opportunities for rest remind that ultimate rest is found in his grace and presence (Matthew 11:28).
Praise rebukes anxiety, fear, and worry. Partner with your spouse in delighting in the Lord.
While instruction from governmental authorities and health organizations have merit and should be heeded (Romans 13:1-2), Christ-followers recognize that God is the ultimate ruler. He is sovereign and in control (Colossians 1:16-17). What’s more, He listens to the cries of His people (1 John 5:14).
It is important that praise precedes prayer because, in praise, we remember the God to whom we pray. Knowing His character, His plan for us, and His heart for His people guide our prayers and shapes our desires. Commit with your spouse to pray for personal sanctification, discernment in stewarding resources, comfort for those suffering, and opportunities to share the gospel.
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3. Bear Fruit
Consider the vitality of a marriage exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, gentleness, and patience (Galatians 5:22-23). Those fruits encompass what it means to reflect Christlikeness to the world around us, but surely in our homes as well.
It can often be the hardest to live out these traits with the one who knows us best, the one who promised to stay with us always. Yet, healthy, godly marriages recognize the importance of bearing fruits of the Spirit because marriage doesn’t just boil down to a trifling certificate. Marriage is an earthly representation of God’s covenant relationship with His Church.
Marriage is a thing to be highly prized and honored. As we treat marriage with the sacredness God intended, we display the gospel message to those around us. Think about how potent that message appears when it is hardest to live out. The trials of our world today, especially when they hit close to home, present abundant opportunities to share of God’s redemption plan.
Remember, good fruit is fruit of the Spirit. We bear fruit when we abide in the Lord, making daily time with Him and submission to His Word of paramount importance (John 15:4-9).
4. Communicate Well
It follows that good communication will take place if husbands and wives are bearing good fruit. Good fruit yields patience in conversation, spouses eager to listen to one another, and intentionality in asking good questions. Check on one another daily and seek to understand how the other is coping.
With so much information available to us, much of it conflicting, there is room for different perspectives about what is unfolding around us, so long as they do not conflict with Scripture. Listen to one another and collaborate together on what steps your family should take in living out God’s Word.
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5. Serve One Another & Others
We all find ourselves in different positions and endowed with different resources, but we all have opportunities to serve. If we are bearing fruit, we will desire to serve because we desire to be like Christ. We will serve out of love for others, not withdraw out of fear (1 John 4:18).
Service first begins unto the Lord and then carries into our marriages, our families, and our community. We are to follow in the example of Christ. In what ways can we pick up our pitcher and put a towel around our waist, poised to wash the feet of those around us as Jesus did (John 13:1-17)? Can you offer grocery assistance to someone in need or help someone in a financial crisis this month? If you can't offer material things you can offer your prayer and your voice with an encouraging phone call or video chat. People need to be reminded that they are not alone and, especially in the body of Christ, that they belong to a community of people who love each other.
6. Stay Active
There are a number of practical steps we can take in boosting our energy levels, which in turn help us to thrive in our relationships. Daily activity, like exercise and discipline, honor the way God designed our bodies. By caring for our bodies, we help ensure they are better primed for the tasks of our day.
Our health is a resource. Like all resources, we are called to use what measure of health we’ve been given to serve one another. Health is a thing to be stewarded. By doing so well, we’ll have more energy and drive with which to love our spouses, families, and neighbors.
We should pay attention to our government's restrictions, but in most cases, it is okay to walk or bike outside with your spouse or family keeping distance from others as you enjoy your neighborhood or local park.
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7. Develop a Routine
Most of us are facing upheavals in our daily routines, which means we need to establish new ones. Routines help guard against unmet or uncommunicated expectations. While much of the fear generated by this pandemic comes from what we don’t know, routines help provide a measure of stability and reliability. Take time to identify goals and desires for the time and then work to create a schedule that gets you there. Break up household responsibilities and keep up with them.
Don’t forget to carve out intentional time for one another. Be creative and find ways to enjoy one another, even if normal date night staples are closed. When restaurants and movie theaters are off the table, go on walks or cook dinner together. Put aside electronics and invest in good conversation. My husband and I, though neither of us are any good, will paint canvases to Frank Sinatra. Every couple is different, but every couple can benefit from creativity in spending time together.
We will reap joy in the Lord and peace in His presence when we focus on Him and are obedient to His Word. While newspaper headlines and community panic compete for our attention, Christ-followers first and foremost rest in the Lord and act according to His instruction. That includes His instruction for marriages – pandemic or not.
With a heart for teaching, Madison Hetzler is passionate about edifying fellow believers to be strong, confident, and knowledgeable in the Word of God. Madison graduated from Liberty University's School of Divinity and now instructs Bible courses for Grace Christian University. She cherishes any opportunity to build community around cups of coffee and platters of homemade food.
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