As we were planning our wedding, JD and I got LOTS of advice. Every time someone learned that we were getting married, even strangers, they wanted to give us advice! Being the youngsters we are, we were looking forward to this advice. After all, many people who were close to us that knew we were planning on getting engaged had given great advice!
But then we actually got engaged.
Let me preface this by saying that I really think most people were trying to be helpful. But I think most people’s brains had fallen out of their heads. Here are the most common pieces of advice that we got:
Don’t go to bed mad. (okay- decent enough!)
This is your last chance to run. (thanks. real inspiring!)
Good luck! I pray you’ll stay together. (seriously?!)
Why get married? Live together and see if it works out. (not even worth addressing!)
The first year is the worst.
The years with kids are the hardest.
Being an empty-nester is the hardest. (apparently all of marriage is hard!)
You know that most marriages fail these days? - Oh. But you look like a nice couple. (I bet you're a motivational speaker!)
You could buy a car with that wedding budget. Don’t you think you should spend your money more wisely? After all, we are God’s stewards.
Don’t be a dope- just elope. (That one is from a certain bald pastor)
And the final - RUN!
As funny as these are looking back, I must say that they truly terrified me at the time. We had seen plenty of marriages fall apart and the ever-looming statistic of “50% of marriages end in divorce” was always in our minds. It got so bad that one day after church, I broke down and cried. With all of these people telling us how hard it was, was it really worth it? Was it worth the heartache and hard work that seemed to dominate everyone’s time? After a while, clarity started to set in as I realized that what these people said reflected more on them than it did on us. But still, it stung.
One day in Ministry Leaders’ meeting, I mentioned that this kept happening. A day or so later, Marcia Jacobs walked into Hannah’s office and told me how discouraged she was to learn that this was what people were saying. She went on to tell me how much joy Craig had brought her and how her marriage was her most treasured relationship. The next day, JD called me from work and told me of a coworker who had found out that he was engaged that morning. The coworker found JD and told him how much he loved his wife and how happy he was for JD that he would get to experience the same joy that he had. As the wedding drew closer, I had various church members and friends who wished us well by saying, “I pray each day that you find the joy and happiness in your marriage as I have in mine.” Now these were encouraging conversations and the pieces of advice that we needed and treasured!
I can honestly say that I was discouraged in the beginning. But as these stories and real sentiments came from people, I was encouraged.
I think we often forget the impact that our words have on people. Many people’s negative comments about marriage were short, passive sentences or even jokes. But with so many people saying them to us, we began to believe them.
After a lot of reflection, this reminded me that we really need to think about what we are saying. Are we discouragers or encouragers? When we see someone struggling or someone who is having a difficult time, do we sympathize with them and say, “Yeah, I know it stinks, doesn’t it?” or do we take time to encourage them? Do we give into the worldly way of complaining about everything or do we lift one another up?
For me, joking is a part of most conversations, but I know I have to be careful not to joke negatively for very long. Negative comments have become so pervasive in our society as people use social media to “vent” and feel more and more entitled to always share their opinion. But we have to remember that our words reach ears. Our words truly do influence people and we can’t be so wrapped up in our own problems that we forget that what we say really does influence the people we say it to!
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. -1 Thessalonians 5:11
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. -
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. - Ephesians 4:29
So today, I encourage you to use your words to encourage the people around you. Whether it’s about work, kids, marriage or whatever, encourage one another! Think about whether what you’re about to say will encourage or discourage.
This past Sunday, June 8th, we sang:
"Here For You" by Chris Tomlin or Matt Redman
"Reign in Us" by Starfield (an all-time favorite of mine!)
"The Upside of Down" by Chris August (that whole album is fabulous!)
and "Jesus, Son of God" by Chris Tomlin