Here are some simple suggestions to help make loving your spouse a top priority, second only to your relationship with Christ. Remember, giving your marriage the time and attention it deserves truly matters to God. He will help you implement these steps if you are willing to order your life and marriage according to His will.

1. Pray together before the day begins.
As we learned earlier, couples that pray regularly together experience less than a 1 percent divorce rate. Daily bring your marriage, children, financial needs, spiritual obstacles, and other concerns to God together in prayer. The Bible assures us heaven is always open: “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Making prayer a priority in your marriage will invite God’s love and presence into that day’s events. It will glue your hearts together as you worship the God who created your marriage.

2. Act out love to experience feelings of love.
One of the mysteries of keeping a softened heart is that we must continue to act that way even when we don’t feel that way. When our emotions are upset or difficult to control, we need to still speak and act with a softened heart. Even if we are out of sorts, our feelings will eventually catch up with our right actions. Love is an action word in Scripture, not an emotion: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God’s love was demonstrated by His actions, not His emotions. The same is true for us. If we will act and speak lovingly, our hearts will overcome our feelings, and love will carry the day.

3. Spend thirty minutes a day in a shared activity and intimate conversation.
It’s a truism that men communicate as the result of a shared activity, while women view communication as the activity itself. For example, if you want your husband to talk to you, then you should both engage in some simple activity such as walking, biking, or working on a project together. You’ll find that sharing an activity with your husband will open him up to interact with you in a way he doesn’t when sitting at the kitchen table. Make spending thirty minutes together a top priority so that you can stay connected through intimate conversation.

4. Give your spouse the right to access you any time day or night.
One of the important ways to communicate the priority your spouse is in your life is to allow them to interrupt your schedule. When I (Bob) was a pastor, I gave my secretary instructions to put my wife’s telephone calls through any time day or night (and that of my children as well). Regardless of who I was meeting with, I was willing to take at least thirty seconds to talk to my wife. It was my way of communicating to Cheryl and everyone else that my marriage and kids were the first priority of my life. Of course, there were moments when I had to ask Cheryl if I could call her back later, but the important point had been established that she comes first.

5. Submit your time decisions to the fifty-year rule.
It’s a good idea to stop and evaluate the way the two of you allocate your time each day. The fifty-year rule simply asks, “Fifty years from now will we be glad or regret the way we used our time today?” Will the two of you make wise choices regarding your use of time? Or will you let the tyranny of the urgent drive your schedule? How we spend our time is perhaps the surest indicator of what we value most in life.

A father who kept a diary once wrote, “Wasted the whole day fishing with my son. Didn’t catch a thing.” Later in life he discovered the diary his son kept from that same period of their lives. Opening it to the same date, he read, “Went fishing with my dad. Best day of my entire life.”

Let’s make sure we stop and evaluate how we spend our time with those closest to us-starting with our spouse. We won’t have this life to live a second time. Once gone, the hours and minutes given to us cannot be regained. We will either use them to build cherished memories or to leave a blank space in our souls. We will use them to connect our hearts for a lifetime or to leave us lonely and separated. We will either value them for all eternity or squander them for all time.

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We need to take this advice of Scripture to heart,

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

Our marriages all come with an expiration date. We may have only this day to connect our hearts; tomorrow may not come. We need to ask God to give us the wisdom to see our marriage as He sees our marriage. Once we do, we will make it the first and highest priority in our lives after our relationship with Christ.

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…”

Lord Jesus, thank You for making it so clear in Your Word that my marriage relationship is to be among my highest priorities, second only to my devotion to You. I ask You to forgive me for allowing other things to confuse that divinely ordered plan. Today let my marriage be a clear example and message to the world how much You love Your Church. Use my softened heart toward my mate as an avenue to draw people to the gospel. Let our heart connection in marriage make it easier for our children to come to a lifelong faith in You. Finally, may our home be a small foretaste of the joys of heaven. I ask this in Your Name, Lord Jesus, the One who is soon returning for us, Your bride. Amen.

Questions for You and Your Spouse to Discuss
1.    Why does the example of a loving and committed marriage have such an impact on others? What will people say was the legacy of your marriage?

2.    Which of the nine reasons for keeping a soft heart impresses you most? Which of the negative consequences of a hard heart do you wish most to avoid?

3.    Why does it matter that your marriage comes with an expiration date? What steps can you each take today to redeem the days you have left together?

Excerpt from The Marriage Miracle, by Bob and Cheryl Moeller.

Copyright © 2010 by Bob and Cheryl Moeller, published by Harvest House, used with permission. All rights reserved.