On the 12th day of 40 days to a Joy-Filled Life, Tommy Newberry discusses marriage.
His major premise in this book and in his other works is what he calls the 4:8 Principle. Based on Philippians 4:8 (NLT), “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and praiseworthy. In this installment, he states, “Marriage is good and bad.” He goes on to say that every thought you think about your spouse either strengthens or weakens the foundation of the relationship. Warm, caring thoughts build up; cold, selfish thoughts tear down. He adds, “As relentlessly as you may try, you cannot think one thing about your mate and experience something different in the relationship” (p. 67-68).
I am divorced. This lesson is a restatement of something God has been showing me. It was not my actions or the actions of my spouse that destroyed our relationship. It was those secret thoughts, never voiced, that brought it down. Slights magnified. Characteristics denigrated and vilified. All while going about everyday life, acting as if everything was fine. Fine and dandy. We were blind to what was “true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable” about each other because of where we put our focus. It is humbling to realize that, at least for my part, things could have been different. If I had been aware and open to the idea that I can choose my thoughts and, therefore, my reactions, things might have been different.
Newberry shares what I found to be true, that by continually replaying grievance in their minds, by continually marinating in thoughts of frustration and discontent, husbands and wives build mental habits that destroy love and intimacy.
I am in a new relationship and determined to apply this hard-won lesson. Even in this new rush of happiness and discovery, there are opportunities to think the best and focus on the positive or to add an action to “the list”. It is always a conscious choice. Whether you are in a new relationship or a 40-year marriage, it is an ongoing choice where to put your attention.
This doesn’t just apply to a romantic partner. It could be about a parent, a child, a co-worker. Don’t think you are off the hook on this one if you’re not in a relationship right now. We all have many relationships and they all suffer when we fail to follow the ground rules of love expressed in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Being irritable and keeping a record of wrongs are especially destructive in my experience.
The exercise for Day 12 is to identify three of your spouse’s positive qualities and indicate the significance you find in each trait. Once that is done, Newberry suggests you brainstorm a handful of ways you could demonstrate more appreciation for your spouse. If you don’t have a spouse or significant other, do this for that person that gets your goat the most. To go the extra mile, assume that God intentionally brought you together with the person in question. Think of four reason’s He may have had for doing that. Thank that person for the gift they are in your life.
What is your favorite thing about your spouse or other important person in your life?