There was a time in our marriage when Lisa and I were offended with each other for about eighteen months straight.
The same argument resurfaced over and over again. We even made subtle jabs at each other in front of our children. The older ones were not oblivious to what was happening, and they would make comments like, “Can you please not talk about this during dinner?” Our pain and disunity were a source of constant tension in our household, and they were eating away at our marriage and family.
One night, after we berated each other in our usual fashion, I stormed out of the house. I was furious with Lisa, and I immediately started complaining to God. I lamented Lisa’s shortcomings and shortsightedness. I felt like God had stuck me with a wife who was unsupportive and unnecessarily critical. How, I wondered, could I continue in life with a wife like this? I’ll never forget how God responded. The Holy Spirit didn’t say a word to me about how sorry He felt for me, nor did He address the pain I was in; rather He simply whispered to me, “Son, I want you to think of one thing you appreciate about Lisa and then thank Me for it.”
It took me a while to respond, but I finally mumbled, “She’s a good mom.” As the words escaped my mouth, I felt a stirring of life in my soul. God prompted me to continue. I said, “Lord, thank You that Lisa’s a really good cook.” Then, “Thank You that she’s beautiful.” More words began to flow, and I proceeded to gratefully list Lisa’s good qualities at the rate of a machine gun. At that point I was no longer upset with Lisa; I was upset with myself. I thought, You’re a complete idiot! Your wife is amazing, and you’ve been a jerk to her. What is wrong with you?
I became painfully aware of how horribly I had treated Lisa. She was my chosen wife and the mother of our children, an absolute blessing from God, and I had treated her like an inconvenience to my calling.
When I left the house, Lisa was fed up with me and I with her. But now I just wanted to go and tell her how grateful I was for her. As I rushed home, I thought to myself, I may not be well-received, but I just have to tell her how grateful I am for her.
Once I arrived at the house, I found Lisa and exclaimed, “Lisa, I am so sorry! I’ve been such a jerk. Please forgive me. You are an amazing mother and excellent wife, and you are the desire of my heart.” I shared what God had brought to my remembrance, then started praising her for all her magnificent traits, qualities, and gifts. The words poured out of my heart like a river.
As I spoke, Lisa softened and began to cry. Unbeknownst to me, while I was gone, she had prayed, “God, if you bring John back and he tells me he’s sorry, I’m going to open my heart again.”
I was able to experience the transformational power of gratitude firsthand. When I made a conscious choice to focus on who God had created Lisa to be and began to thank Him for it, my heart toward her shifted. Gratitude became a catalyst for healing and restored intimacy in our relationship.
Wherever you find yourself in your marriage, consider the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:18:
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (NLT)
What are some things about your spouse that you are grateful for? No matter how easy or difficult this may seem, begin expressing these things to God in prayer. Then take it one step further and go tell your spouse what you appreciate about them. Whether you are seeking healing in your marriage or simply a deeper intimacy with your spouse, I promise you the result will be worth it.