Thankful..for that?

I thank God for my marriage. I am quite certain we have a love made in heaven, but as the saying goes -- thunder and lightening are made in the heavens, too! Since there are no perfect individuals in the world, there are also no perfect marriages. So what do we do with the hiccups and hurts that come from our imperfections and weakness?

On vacation a few years ago, my husband and I were struggling with our family's luggage. After pulling each laden suitcase from the stuffed trunk, we set them up outside the rental car. I tried holding on to the handles to prevent our crammed luggage from toppling over, but as I released a handle to reach for something, a domino effect unfolded with the remaining six suitcases. I giggled but then thought about the tired state of my hubby - would my laughter irritate him? Thankfully, he started laughing too, and soon all the tension from rushing around washed away.

Just as a little laughter can brighten a tense situation, an attitude of gratitude can give us a proper perspective on those things that trip us up as couples.

1Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to, "give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."  It isn't difficult to give thanks for the things we want to come our way; it is the hardships that threaten our stance of praise. Hebrews 13:15 calls this a sacrifice of praise; the kind of worship and thanksgiving that requires laying down my hopes, expectations, "rights", etc and submitting them to God's good sovereignty.  God has given my husband and me a few lessons in this area. Perhaps you can relate:

Praising God in the midst personal weakness. Eric and I have very similar core motivations. One of the areas where we more frequently don't think alike, however, involves money. At the beginning of our marriage, a trip to Wal-Mart was stressful. I was a saver; he's a spender.

It's been a long journey, but both of us have learned some very valuable lessons about money. I learned that having money saved up in the bank does not equal control and stability - only God can truly gives those things. As I surrendered my need to store up money to the Lord, I also surrendered Eric's tendency to spend.

In the meantime, Eric learned from some not so awesome financial decisions. In fact, we both learned a great deal from those mistakes. Eric grew so much from those financial hiccups that any losses we incurred have since paid for themselves. He has learned how to be much more responsible with what God has given him. We've also learned how to listen to the Lord's leading in financial matters and learned how to listen to each other. It's 100% God working in us and we are so thankful!

Eric and I also have more compassion for people who don't have a spotless financial record. I thank God for the way He used our personal weaknesses to teach us these valuable lessons.

Praising God in the midst of difficult circumstances.  My husband and I were serving in ministry when the Lord led us to leave our current positions. Besides the emotional hardship of leaving our church family, we had no other position awaiting us and no means of support. God's call was a total leap of faith.

We moved from our home (which I loved) into a one-room studio that was less than three hundred square feet. Even our cat didn't like our new living quarters! In the middle of this not-so-fun circumstance, God showed us His provision. We had not shared our financial need with anyone. But a man from our small group came to Eric and told him that he had never heard God speak so clearly to him, and that he needed to give Eric his tax return check.The check covered our studio rent and deposit. Just days after we moved into our new shoebox of a home, we received a call from a pastor in the exact area of town we had one day hoped to serve. One month later we were embraced by a new church family.

During that time we witnessed God's provision and leadership in our lives. Sometimes God will use the hardship you endure as a couple to lead you up a mountainside where He can show you His majesty.

Praising God in the midst of hurts. After a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, a marriage is the most intimate union between two people. Yet often, relational junk piles up between husbands and wives.  The junk pile consists of little irritations (such as his candy wrapper that has been in the living room for three days or her scrapbooking stuff which has taken over the dining room for what feels like the better half a century) to deep hurts (name calling, purposeful insults, dishonesty, infidelity).

One way we worship God is through forgiving one another. Forgiving your spouse follows God's design for life. All the stuff standing between you two can be dealt with through the graces of forgiveness! Nothing else cleans it away.

One of the keys to forgiveness is remembering all that God has forgiven you for. To extend that same forgiveness to others is an expression of gratitude for all He has done for you. This Thanksgiving season, consider offering a sacrifice of praise to God by forgiving your spouse.

So, what are those hiccups and hurts in your marriage?  What has God been developing within you as an individual and as a couple through those hard times that you can praise Him for? The following are a few ideas to help you cultivate an attitude of gratitude within your marriage:

This Thanksgiving, start a praise box.  End your day or week by writing a praise on a slip of paper that you place in the box to be read next Thanksgiving.

Set aside some time everyday to pray together.  Include praise and thanksgiving in your prayer time.
Hold hands while you sing during the worship service at church as a physical reminder to unite for the purpose of seeking and praising God.

Spend time each day thanking God for your spouse and then write a note telling him/her what qualities you thanked God for.

Pray together about the things that are hard in your marriage and thank God for the good He promises to work in your lives through it (Romans 8:28).

Practice forgiving each other for every offense, little or large.

Surrender the weaknesses you and your spouse have to God and thank Him for the lessons He might want to teach you through them.

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