by Eric Elder
Believe it or not, all the tips I’ve shared with you up till now were just the preface, the introduction, to what I’d like to share with you today about how to have a stronger marriage.
When my friends asked me to talk about marriage at their wedding, and what made my marriage to Lana so special, I began to think through all the tips I’ve shared with you up to this point.
But as important as each of these tips are, I felt like the most important thought I could share with them was the one I’m going to share with you today, and it focuses on just 3 words that tie all the other tips together. (And the 3 words aren’t “I love you,” “I was wrong,” “I am sorry,” “I forgive you,” or, as one reader suggested, “You’re right, dear!” as helpful and important as all those words can be!)
You can read below what I shared with my friends on their wedding day. You can also watch their wedding online if you’d like at the link below. It was a beautiful outdoor ceremony, complete with birds chirping and bales of hay on which the guests sat (plus the ceremony is only about 30 minutes long, so feel free to take a look!)
Here’s the text of what I shared with them that day…
When I met with Korey and Makayla a few months ago to talk about their wedding, Makayla asked me to share some thoughts about what marriage means and what made my marriage to Lana work so well. She said she looked up to us and just wanted to hear from my heart.
So I’m going to tell you three short highlights, three little snippets from my life and my marriage that I hope will be helpful to you. Really it’s summed up in 3 words; 3 words that I hope you’ll remember today; 3 words that I hope you’ll be able to put into practice.
You might think those 3 words are “I love you,” but they’re not. They’re these:
“And be thankful.”
There’s a passage in the Bible that says many things about loving and caring for others. The passage talks about all the things that we associate with love, such as:
“…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12b-14).
These are all wonderful things. But then Paul goes on and adds these 3 words to all the rest, words that seem to go beyond even just loving each other. Paul says,
“And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15b).
Then he says it again in a lengthier way at the end of the passage:
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17).
I just want to tell you 3 little snapshots from my life about giving thanks to God for my wife.
On our wedding day, Lana and I wrote our own vows, like you’ve written your own vows. In my vows, I said to Lana: “Lana, you are a gift from God to me, and I plan to treat you as a gift.” From that day on that’s what I tried to do. That day was the most amazing day to me, to be able to receive this gift from God and to be able to unwrap it over and over and over again, discovering layers of her that I had no idea about.
On our wedding day I said, “Thank You, Lord, and thank You, Lana, for saying ‘Yes!’ to marrying me.”
Then I just kept saying that throughout my whole 23 years. When I would see how she raised our children, I would say, “Thank You, Lord, for this incredible mother of our children and thank you, Lana, for being a godly mother and wife.” When I would see how she cooked meals for us, took care of us, edited my manuscripts for my ministry, I’d say, “Thank You, Lord, and thank you, Lana.” Lana was a gift from God, and I was so thankful for her.
There was another snapshot I’d like to share with you. Our wedding day was one, but there was another snapshot, and you, Makayla, were actually in the vicinity. We were in Israel and Makayla and Jeanette had come with a few of us in our family to Israel and we were in the hotel at the Dead Sea. We had just had a beautiful worship night, worshipping God in our room with our whole team. After everyone had left, Lana and I went out on the balcony on a beautiful night, and we had a wonderful, romantic, intimate night together. In the midst of that precious night, I just looked up to heaven and I said, “Thank You, Lord, and thank you, Lana.” I can’t count how many wonderful nights I’ve had like that with her, so often saying in the midst of them, “Thank You, Lord, and thank you, Lana.”
A third moment I’d like to share with you, a little snapshot, was just a few years ago. We were in the car at Walmart, sitting in the parking lot after shopping. We were having a really hard conversation; one of those where you say, “Wow, this is hard.” We didn’t have many of those, but that night we were both feeling very passionate about what we felt and what we believed, and we just weren’t on the same page.
The conversation had to do with what kind of treatment plan we were going to do for her cancer. I had one idea. She had another. And it just got heated and more passionate. The doctors had told us no matter which one we chose, it wouldn’t make any difference in the outcome.
We were at the peak of that conversation when I had to stop and just say to myself, “Lana is a gift from God to me; she is not the problem here.” Rather than face each other and think that we were each other’s problem, we had to turn shoulder to shoulder and put the problem to one side and work on it together.
I just had to back up and say, “Lana, you are a gift from God to me, and the reason I feel so passionate about this is because I just don’t want to lose you. I want to do anything I can to keep you. And I want to remind you, in this conversation, in this heated moment, the only reason I feel so passionate about this is because I love you, so, so much.”
And that eased the tension. It changed the dynamics.
In the end, it turned out the doctors were right and it wouldn’t have mattered which plan we chose. Lana died a few months later.
But I am so thankful that in those heated moments in the parking lot, I decided not to keep arguing over it, but rather to give thanks in all things and say, “Thank You, Lord, and thank you, Lana.”
With all the other wonderful things you can do for your marriage, remember these 3 words because they can carry you through your whole life:
“And be thankful.”
You understand what it means to forgive. You understand what it means to make a lifelong commitment. You understand love and graciousness and kindness and humility and being second and all those things.
I think you understand this, too, but I just want to highlight and emphasize, even beyond just loving each other, which is incredible, to be thankful.
“And be thankful.”
“And be thankful.”
“And be thankful.”
And with those words, I married my friends to each other and I prayed that they, like you, would have a long, wonderful and thankful life together!
Will you pray with me?
Father, thank You for Your wisdom, which You’ve given to us through Your word to help us to love one another in the best ways possible. Help us to apply these words to all of our relationships so that we can love one other more fully and be more thankful in all that we do. Fill us with Your Spirit to do everything You’ve put on our hearts to do today and every day, from this day forward. We pray all this in the strong name of Jesus, who has the power to make all our relationships stronger, too. Amen.
P.S. Thank you for reading these marriage tips and this conclusion today. Several people have asked if I would put this series together into a small book for either for themselves or for their family and friends who are getting married, newly married or could just use a boost in their marriage no matter how long they’ve been married. So I’m putting together that book now and will let you know when it’s ready. I’m glad to hear so many of you have enjoyed this series, and I pray that it will help many, many more people in the years to come as well. Sincerely, Eric Elder
As a thank you for your donation of any size to our ministry, we’d be glad to send you a paperback copy of another book I’ve written on marriage that focuses specifically on intimacy. If you’d like a copy, just visit The Ranch Bookstore online to make a donation of any size, and we’ll ship a copy to you anywhere in the world. Your gifts help us to keep sharing about Christ with others, and we’re happy to send you a gift in return!