“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” ~ Galatians 5:22-23 NAS
As Christians, all of us have the Holy Spirit of Christ living in us and His power available to us. If we are fully surrendered to Him, there should be evidence of it, and one of the most obvious signs is the presence of the fruit of the Spirit. In the last two months, we talked about the fruits of LOVE and JOY being evident in our marriages. This month we’re talking about PATIENCE.
Who needs patience in marriage?
Everyone! During “hunting” and dating, we tend to put our best foot forward, and we see everything through those rosy lenses of new love, but as our sweethearts grow into that curious position of lover AND family, the relationship changes, and we do too. As with so many things, we have to find a balance– in this case between being honest and giving our spouse our best. I can put a good face on any mood I have for a while– I’m a choir teacher, after all, and I can perform with the best of them! But a performance is not what you want in a marriage relationship.
On the other hand, indulging every mood or hormonal fluctuation because “it’s the real me” can put an unrealistic burden on our spouse. There are some expectations that are reasonable in a marriage– faithfulness, kindness, contribution to the family… I hesitate to say that we have “rights,” because as Christians, we are called to mutually submit to one another. But there will be times when one spouse doesn’t meet the needs of the other. At those times, patience is called for.
With that being said, let’s talk about how to respond when you are on the receiving end of one of those hormonal shifts or moods created by external circumstances that are crushing your spouse.
First of all, does God expect us to show patience when our spouse is letting us down? I think so.
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy… Ephesians 1:11 (He empowers us to be not only patient, but joyful in the midst of it!)
… as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance … in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love. 2 Corinthians 6:4-6
Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? Romans 2:4.
And we are called to be Christlike. There is no question that we should be kind and patient in our dealings with everyone, and I think ESPECIALLY our spouse.
Sometimes patience means living off the reserves in our love tank when our love language isn’t getting spoken and our tanks are running low. The biggest impediment to my speaking my husband’s love language is BUSYNESS, which in my case leads to EXHAUSTION. Lots of days it’s all I can to get in the house and collapse on the couch. I’m pretty sure if I were the devil and wanted to destroy marriages I would be sure that husband and wife both worked demanding jobs, put media pressure on them to “keep up”, would guilt them into enrolling their kids into activities 5 days a week, and nobody would have any down time.
When I’m exhausted/distracted, how do I do on speaking the language? Not very well, I’m afraid.
AFFIRMING WORDS? Are you kidding? I can’t string a sentence together even if I do think something nice.
ACTS OF SERVICE?
Supper? Oh wait. No groceries. How about frozen pizza again? Cereal? Peanut butter and crackers?
Did I pick up the dry cleaning? Oops.
Clean the house? It can wait another… day.
PHYSICAL TOUCH? Don’t even think about it.
GIFTS? That would mean I’d have to stop somewhere between work and the couch.
QUALITY TIME? This is my best bet. I asked my Facebook page readers if passing out on the couches in the same room counted as quality time, and the overwhelming answer was YES! But I don’t really think it does, if that’s all you get. Things can build up when you don’t have real, honest communication. And you’ve got to have the physical touch, too.
Fortunately, we have been married long enough (32 years) to know that these seasons will come and go, usually tied to particular events. We have realistic expectations of what to expect during them, and have developed honest, open communication to deal with them. And my husband is very patient!
If you are newly married, don’t be surprised when your marriage goes through phases where patience is needed. It will happen! Realize what it is. Pray through it. Do the best you can, and talk about it with your spouse. Talk about it before it happens, while you are in a great place, and develop a game plan. And while you are NOT in a marital low spot, consciously make lots of deposits in each other’s love tanks!
Know what you both of you need from the other.
Know both of your triggers for stress and/or withholding your spouse’s love language. (For instance, December is very hard for me because of my high school choir’s Christmas concerts and activities. The end of the month is my son-in-law’s really intense time at work. Identify these events.) Plan accordingly!
- Even in the midst of a high-stress event or season, take time to pray together– just a short 10-minute devotion!