The Best Marriage Advice I’ve Ever Received
Quite possibly the best marriage advice I’ve ever received, came from a wise couple who led our first married community group.
“War breaks out when resources are scarce,” they cautioned.
Honestly, their advice went over my head at first. But over the past three years, David and I have found their statement to be resoundingly true. In fact, we’ve adopted the phrase as a mantra in our own marriage. Nearly every large decision we make is filtered through this principal: War breaks out when resources are scarce.
So what does it mean? When there is a lack of resources of any kind (e.g. time, money, space, etc.) conflict nearly always follows. This is true on a global, historical level. For example, a scarce supply of oil and natural gas has been the catalyst for conflict on an international scale for decades. But in our experience, this is just as true on a relational level.
Nearly all of the arguments in our marriage have been sparked by a scarcity related situation. When resources like time, finances, or grace are limited, conflict quickly follows.
Since we’ve noticed this pattern, we do our best (as far as it depends on us) to make decisions that don’t unnecessarily deplete our resources.
Let me share a few candid examples…
The Resource of Time
Here’s a confession… I am a serial overcommiter. I love to stay busy and hate missing out. The combination of dozens of passions and a serious case of FOMO consistently leads me to overstuff my schedule. David is similar. We both tend to lead busy lives. (Don’t we all these days?)
Time is a resource we often lack in our marriage.
More times than I’d like to count, David and I have found ourselves snapping at one another towards the end of an exhausting week. Why? Because lack of margin (time) has prevented us from communicating like we should, leading to misunderstandings. Or simply because we didn’t have time to go to the grocery store and now it’s Thursday night and we are both hangry!
Once we understood that time together is a vital resource for a healthy marriage, we began to view scheduling decisions as important choices that directly impact our relationship. We began trying to manage and protect our time more carefully. (I say try because we are still not good at this.)
Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” When we do it right, we filter decisions regarding our time through Scripture. We ask: Does this commitment help us pursue the Lord better and bring Him glory? When we put Him first, things nearly always fall into place.
However, often managing our time is a grey, amoral area—one where God usually gives us the freedom to choose either way. In those cases, we ask each other:
- Are well allowing ourselves enough margin in our schedule to serve one another well? (If no, what changes do we need to make?)
- How will saying “yes” to this commitment impact our marriage? Will it cause unnecessary stress? Is it worth it?
- What does our community have to say?
The Resource of Money
Here’s another confession… I want to buy a house really badly. I would love nothing more than a space of my own with room to host friends and family. The 16 Trulia emails I get a day and everything around me says it’s the next step to becoming an established, grown-up citizen in America. Plus, interest rates have never been so low, so it’s good timing apparently. And also, all our friends are doing it and I’m really starting to feel like we are falling behind…
Twice now David and I have put offers on homes that we could almost afford.
Both times we have backed out. During the few days we were under contract, we found ourselves feeling anxious and panicky and selfish. We noticed how tightly we began clenching our fists around what we had instead of living joyfully and obediently with the resources God had given us. When we were thinking about scraping together money for a hefty mortgage, it became much more difficult to be generous. We still gave, but we were not cheerful givers.
Just the idea of scarcity caused conflict in the craziest places —I got mad at David for buying red pepper flakes (they were $3, y’all!) at the grocery store when we already had some in the pantry. We gave each other the silent treatment for an entire afternoon over the price of a hypothetical couch for our hypothetical living room. Ridiculous.
I don’t think God wants us to fight over money. (Hebrews 13:5)
I think He wants our marriages to be sold out for Him. I think He wants us to experience abundant life together (John 10:10) and what it feels like to run hand-in-hand, the race marked out for us—with perseverance and great joy. But the thing is, running our races well, requires that we, “throw off everything that hinders us” (Hebrews 12:1).
More often than not, what hinders our race is our distraction with chasing success, keeping up. This temptation has the dangerous ability to stretch us too thin financially or pull us into debt (Proverbs. 22:7).
Thankfully I live with a man who leads us well in this area. (Let me reiterate: we are far from perfect here but learning everyday.) Here a few questions we ask ourselves to ensure we are managing the resource of money responsibly in order to prevent war in our marriage:
- How much are we giving away? (David has taught me how to enjoy giving our resources away — the more often we are obedient to give, the less money seems to be a distraction for us. If we are not giving, we probably shouldn’t be accumulating.)
- Will this purchase or financial commitment stretch our resources unnecessarily?
- Does this purchase help or hinder our ability to glorify God?
- What does our community have to say? (“Plans fail for lack or counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22).
The Ultimate Resource: Grace
Here is the honest truth… there will be times when earthly resources are scarce. We are not promised financial prosperity or entitled to spa days to recharge. In fact, as Christ followers, we are promised that we will have hardships in this life (verse). Sometimes that might lead to a schedule that’s fuller than we prefer or bank accounts that are scary small. But grace.
Jesus Christ and His grace. These are, hands down, the most valuable resources on the planet.
When He is central, “my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:19. He does not want us to live bound by worry over limited resources.
God wants His people, unleashed to love and serve and radiate His joy in a way that shines warmly in dark places. He wants our marriages to be a beautiful picture of the way He loves His church! That only happens with His grace.
You see, without Christ, I am a selfish, nagging, over spender of a wife. But “His grace is sufficient for me, His power is made perfect in my weaknesses” (2 Corinthians 12:9 paraphrased).
When Christ is not central to our marriage David and I are quick to anger, slow to forgive and self centered. Jesus is the resource that trumps all the others. No amount of quality time or money will salvage a godless, graceless marriage.
God, our selfless, compassionate Father, is the author of love.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” 1 John 4: 7-12 (AMEN!)
Here are questions we often ask ourselves to keep an ample supply of Jesus and grace in our home:
- Are we, individually, right with God? What confession or repentance might need to take place? (“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Acts 3:19)
- Are we prioritizing our relationship with God? How can we help one another grow Spiritually?
- How can we be praying for one another?
We’d love to know, has the principal, “War breaks out when resources are scarce” been true in your experience? What lessons have you learned in your marriage about managing resources?