Marriage built to last

Living intentionally, loving biblically

By Jonathan Harvey, Captain –

My wife and I are in our 22nd year of ministry together and this year will celebrate 20 years of marriage. It would be fair to say that it hasn’t all been roses, but through it all we have maintained a strong commitment to love one another the way Paul reminds us to in 1 Corinthians 13.

Colonel Bruce Harvey conducted our wedding and within the ceremony he reminded us that love must be more than a gushing emotion and that as we change over the years our love for one another, like Christ’s love for us, must remain steadfast. These wise words created a foundation for us that has stood the test of time and periods of pain and hurt in our ministry journey.

We have encountered countless relationships in crisis—married couples, couples living together and even many in serious dating relationships already struggling to find the kind of peace that can be obtained when the relationship is based on some solid principles and a commitment to Christ. These individuals may not be in need of food or utility assistance as many traditionally view the ministry of The Salvation Army. Yet their need is nevertheless real and leaves devastation when relationships fall apart.

Relational dysfunction seems to be reaching an epidemic level, affecting so many couples and families that we were compelled to, in the words of William Booth, “Do something.” We explored common denominators that consistently cause couples to struggle and then searched for material to help us address them with the consistent flow of people God placed in our lives.

We discovered a number of recurring stumbling blocks for couples both old and young. First, it seemed that often couples enter into relationships with unrealistic expectations of each other. Those expectations are built upon experiences in past relationships with parents, previous marriages and the environments that influenced them. As a result, couples enter relationships with expectations of each other that will never be realized and thus they will never be truly satisfied. We also determined that poor communication was a theme that ran through every challenged relationship along with the inability to effectively resolve conflict to a point where issues are either buried or constantly generating explosive interactions.  Fulfilling and healthy intimacy also became a glaring issue as many people express feeling like the relationship does not reach the kind of deep intimacy God intended for us.

Couples have a tendency to build walls that ultimately separate them and prevent them from reaching the closeness, unity and abundant joy God intends for us in marriage.

At the Suisun City Kroc Center, we’ve now taught three six-session group courses on a “Marriage Built to Last” and used the material with countless couples. I have seen relationships transformed as a result. I now see couples thriving in their relationships, better able to communicate, valuing their differences, breaking down the walls that divide them, having realistic and attainable expectations of each other and reaching a deeper level of intimacy.

The class concludes by exploring a couple’s commission. Understanding what God has for a couple to do “together” can project a relationship to a new level of understanding and mutual respect. The course aims to help couples learn to “live intentionally and love biblically.” When we live with intentionality our decisions, interactions and gestures reflect God’s desires for healthy relationships and when we love as God commands us to through his Word our level of honor, humility and spiritual intimacy with each other is heightened.

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