The book of Proverbs has always been one of my favourite “go-to’s” when I need a quick dose of reality or word of encouragement. A book known for its’ gems of wisdom and to-the-point instructions, this section of the Bible has much to share for married couples needing a bit of guidance as well.
While I could probably produce an entire book about the countless verses relevant to marriage, I will stick to 3 major themes that are weaved throughout the book of Proverbs, offering practical ways to live them out on a day-to-day basis.
Watch your Words
The first Proverb that really struck me as I was flipping through was Proverbs 12:18 – “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing”. This Proverb, and many like it, stresses the value of watching our words.
Proverbs 10:19 says, “The prudent hold their tongues,” and Proverbs 15:28 says, “The heart of the righteous weighs its answers.” Think before you speak seems to be what the author is telling us – because careless words can never be taken back and sometimes cause irreparable damage.
To take it a step further, the author is also telling us that silence is often a better choice than speaking recklessly out of emotion. Keep your mouth shut, take time to process what is happening, pray, and then speak. Avoid attacking, blaming, and “you always” language.
Avoid name calling, criticism, and put downs. It’s far more beneficial to say “I felt unimportant when you didn’t call me last night” than to say, “You are selfish and inconsiderate for not calling”.
Ask yourself before you speak if you would say the same thing to a guest, to a friend, or most importantly, to God. If you wouldn’t, then maybe it’s not okay to say it to your spouse either.
Be Humble and Seek Correction
The second theme that I began to see while going through the book of Proverbs is that of humility. A very well known verse from Proverbs is this: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18).
Others like it are Proverbs 15:12, “A mocker resents correction,” Proverbs 11:2, “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom”, and Proverbs 13:10, “Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice”.
What the author seems to be telling us here is that effective relationships start with a foundation of humility. Pride in a marriage is an unwillingness to admit fault, to accept blame, or to recognize your need for growth or improvement.
It causes an inability to accept constructive criticism or to hear out your spouses’ grievances. It causes defensiveness and, as you can see in these verses, only leads to more fighting.
The reverse of this attitude, then, is humility, willingness to accept correction, and the ability to seek out advice. This may mean asking a friend or pastor for help, going to a counsellor, or reading a book about healthy communication. Whatever it is, it is you recognizing that you make mistakes, need guidance, and have room to grow and improve as a spouse.
This attitude will get you far in a marriage.
A last thread I see woven throughout the book of Proverbs stresses the importance of patience. Proverbs 15:18 says “A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.” Similarly, Proverbs 14:29 says, “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick tempered displays folly”.
Patience in a marriage is practicing self-control in those moments when you think you are about to explode. When a hot-button is pressed, you take a deep breath and process your thoughts before reacting immediately.
When your spouse is not doing something as quickly or well as you’d like, you attempt to let go of your timeline or standards and recognize that they are trying. Things to try and avoid as you are choosing patience include harsh start-up to conflicts, eye-rolling, sarcasm, and annoyance.
A formidable task
Sounds simple, right? Wrong. The purpose of these writings in Proverbs is not to set us up for failure, but to make us realize we cannot do it in our own strength. We recognize that there will be times when it will be extremely tempting to lose our tempers or to say a mean word to our spouse.
But we must also recognize that with God’s help, we can grow out of these bad habits and make use of the self-control that He has given us. It’s a formidable task, and one that we can only accomplish in His strength. But the rewards in the meantime will be so worth it as you see your marriage grow and flourish.
The last Proverb I have to throw in because it always makes me laugh is Proverbs 25:24, “Better to live on a corner of the roof than to share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” Oh, wives – You have some work to do, don’t you? What a personal God we have that He understands the difficulties of marriage. But what a gracious God He is to give us wisdom and insights into how to do it well.