God's Word is a powerful weapon against sin and against the enemy of our souls and marriages. But I need to know how to really make it work for me and my marriage. Following are some basic principles that help open the door to letting God's Word effectively change me.
1. God's Word can't work if I don't use it. Pray for God to help me listen and stay calm. And if I find myself moving into defensive action, ask for a break.
2. I must remember that the heart is deceitful above all things. When issues arise, I'm my number-one fan. But my reality isn't reality at all. I'll always side with myself: the way I think, the way I interpret things or people, and the way I act. My skewed thinking is not truth. God's Word is truth! Being easily hurt or carelessly hurting others can easily be passed off as "the other person's issue." Hearts cannot be trusted!
3. I need to set myself up for success. How? I need to know my weaknesses. I need to have Scriptures available (by memory or in a handy place) so I can retrieve them when necessary. I had done that, yet when I failed to obey the verse, I allowed Satan to spray-paint a big letter L, for loser, all over my mind. Another weakness of mine is not immediately receiving God's forgiveness when I've blown it. Yet Scripture says, "But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness" (1 John 1:9). That was just what I needed that night, not self-condemnation from the enemy.
4. I need to do regular head checks. What exactly am I allowing myself to think about? Whatever I bring into my mind and ponder becomes a part of me. I need to go back to God's Word and fill up with "what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise" (Philippians 4:8). What a life-changing moment when God showed me that verse was my "husband" verse. If the thought about my husband that flitted across my mind didn't fall into one of those categories, I needed to take it captive and yank it out of there before it could sprout roots and ultimately ruin the foundation of my marriage. That was a huge aha for me.
5. In the heat of the battle, I have to remember the fundamentals. Sometimes God doesn't take away a weakness or issue in our lives or marriages right away because he wants to continue to shape and mold our character. We have more to learn. But we can be assured that God will use the truth we are feeding our minds and souls to give us strength until we are ready to submit fully to the Holy Spirit's leading. When we continue to pursue those initial baby thoughts of truth, God eventually can take us where we need to be.
6. I need to remember that God is for me. Every circumstance, every misunderstanding, every disappointment is useful for God to develop me into the child he wants me to be. Why? He is for me. He will let nothing get in the way of his ultimate goal: to conform me to the image of his beloved firstborn. I will never be happier or more satisfied in my life or marriage than when I am most like Jesus. How does this process happen? It happens through the very precious breath of God: his whisper, his voice, his Word. "God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns" (Philippians 1:6).
7. I need to remind myself that "It is through faith that a righteous person has life." I often repeat this phrase to myself and my three teenage daughters: "What God says matters more than how I feel." We chant it together and repeat it when one of us needs that tidbit of truth. That is choosing to live by faith, not feelings. That choice can be difficult, yet it is possible.