It was such a small point — almost a throwaway line, but it hit with such force in the middle of my sermon that a woman in the church made plaques using it, and those plaques now grace many homes in the Houston area: God is in the room.
Most believers know that God is in every room we walk into. But we forget, and then we act as if He's not. God is relegated to a belief, a memory, a "system of principles," not a real presence.
If you want to transform your marriage, consider how you can make God's presence the center of your home.
When we remember that God is in the room, all the verses about how to treat each other take on an added importance: "Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Ephesians 5:21, emphasis added). Because my wife matters so much to God (Ephesians 5:1 calls us "dearly loved children" in the NIV), she should matter so much to me. When God tells me, "Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them" (Colossians 3:19), it takes on a little added significance when I remember that God is watching me every time I speak to my wife — on the phone or in person.
Being more aware of God's presence has led me to focus on having a more God-ordered marriage. I ask myself much different questions than I used to. As a young man, I'd end the day by thinking, Am I OK with how I was treated today? Am I happy with my marriage? With God as the center of our relationship, I now often reflect on, How does God feel about the way I'm treating His daughter (my wife)?
Loving with God's help
By putting God at the center of my marriage, I am able to enlist His help to love. Johann Sebastian Bach famously wrote the letters "JJ" at the top of the page when he was beginning a new musical composition. The letters stood for a Latin phrase Jesus Juva, which essentially means, "Jesus, help me." God doesn't give me an impossible list of things to do as a husband and then say, "Go do it." On the contrary, He says, "Let Me love your wife through you." He's here to help.
Consider this, because I don't think it's a coincidence: Just before the apostle Paul lays out how husbands are to love their wives and how wives are to love their husbands, he wrote (in Ephesians 5:18), "Be filled with the Spirit." A fuller translation of the Greek would be, "Let yourself be continually filled with the Spirit."
God knows that on our own we can't love the way He calls us to love. Furthermore, He doesn't even expect us to. But He does want us to go to Him, lean on Him and learn to let His power course through our sinful hearts and minds so that we can be the kind of people who so excel in love that others take notice (see John 13:34-35).
If we would ask more of our God and less of our spouse, we'd all have happier marriages. But we often do the reverse, don't we? We argue with each other and then go to God as a last resort. Now, before I talk things through with my wife, I try to talk things through with God to get His perspective. I've learned to depend on His strength. Sometimes I have to pray, "Lord, help me to care about this; I know it's important to my wife, but in my apathy it's just not that important to me."
Literally every morning, I ask God to help me think of something to thank my wife for that occurred the previous day. When I ask Him to help me affirm and encourage my wife, God is good at reminding me of things I've forgotten. He wants His daughter to be cherished and is delighted when I ask Him to help me do precisely that.
Seeing God more clearly
In applying myself to love my wife as God's daughter, God makes himself more real to me every day. He answers my prayers. He gives me His strength. He offers His perspective. He gives me hope, conviction, encouragement and counsel. The more I invite God into my life and marriage, the more real He becomes to me. He was there all along, of course, but now my eyes are open to Him wider than ever before. I see Him more clearly.
This may be especially true if you're in a difficult season of marriage. When things are easy, you may not feel the need for God so strongly. But when you know you just don't have what it takes, God is far more than a distant friend; He becomes your only hope. And with a God like ours, leaning on Him as your only hope is a very safe and certain thing to do.
When you put God's Word at the center of your marriage, the Scriptures will find a way into your heart, not just your mind, so you can be convicted by God's Holy Spirit. When your spouse does the same, he or she will regularly go to God to receive His strength to love you even more and will open up to be a conduit of God's love. Why wouldn't you want this? When the apostle John wrote, "We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19), wasn't he implying that without being loved by God we may not be as motivated or as capable of loving others?Gary Thomas is the author of The Sacred Search and Cherish: The one word that changes everything for your marriage.