Jimmy Evans - The Habits of Emotionally Healthy Couples
You can change a bad marriage simply by changing the habit patterns in your marriage and the wonderful thing is it doesn't take a long time. In a matter of days or weeks, you can have a new marriage simply by changing the patterns, the disciplines, and traditions in your marriage so that you have and maintain a healthy marriage for the rest of your lives. So let me talk about the four habits of emotionally healthy couples. Number one is praying together and trusting God.
Now this is one that came very difficult for us as a couple, but it's the most important thing. If I had one thing to say to couples that would make your marriage good and keep it good is praying together and trusting God. Now, I want you to listen to me. God makes promises for two of us that he doesn't make for one person by themselves. You say why? 'Cause God doesn't want us by ourselves. He wants us to come together as couples, come together as families, the more we join our faith with other people, the more miracles God does. The devil's the one who wants us by ourselves. The wolf always goes for the stray sheep. The devil wants us isolated, off by ourselves, 'cause that's where he can discourage us and just beat us to death. But if two of you would agree, symphonize together in faith, I'll do it, for where two or three are gathered together for my purposes, I'm right there in the midst of you. So every married couple can claim this right here.
Now I want you to listen. I was in a meeting this week and I heard a statement that I've never heard before that I agree with. Now I wanna share it with you. I was in a meeting this week and we were actually talking about Bible translation, worldwide Bible translation, and one of the people that was present in this meeting said, the devil attacks at the point of unity. He kinda said it in passing, and I said, wait, wait, wait. What did you just say? But 'cause he was talking about their experience because they're translating their Bibles in the languages all over the world and he said, no, the devil attacks at the point of unity. And when he said that, I just thought, I totally agree.
For example, in Genesis two, God made Adam and Eve one, they two shall become one, the word one means perfect unity, and Genesis three, Satan attacked and Adam and Eve became divided, Adam rejected Eve, they were separated hiding behind fig leaves. Every time you see unity in the Bible, the devil will attack it. Listen to me. The devil attacks at the point of unity, but unity is how we overcome him. The unity of a husband and wife joining together in prayer, that's how you overcome the devil. Where two on Earth come together, symphonize, and you agree together, you don't let the devil divide you. You don't let the devil attack you. You don't let the devil separate you. You come together in agreement and you'll win every time. He attacks at the point of unity, but unity is how we overcome him.
And by the way, you know where God has been working 'cause there's unity there, you know where the devil's been working 'cause there's division there. Unity is the mark, the unique mark, of the Holy Spirit. Emotional health is promised in Philippians four to people who pray. Okay, Philippians four, be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. So when you don't pray, you worry. If you're not a person of prayer, you're a worrier. Anxiety is another way to say it. Stress is another way to say it.
Number one marriage killer on Earth is stress. God didn't design us to operate with stress. Stress is the number one reason for physical illness in America, number one reason for doctor's office visits is stress, number one reason for prescribed medications in America is stress. It is a marriage killer and it depletes us emotionally. The more you're under stress, the more it wears you out emotionally. Remember what I said that love is an emotional commodity. So we need emotional health to love each other with but stress robs us of the emotional energy to love each other and it wears us out and inevitably we're going to start fighting. So here's what this says. Be anxious for nothing.
Listen to me, listen to what I'm about to say. Anxiety is a choice, not a condition. You say, I'm a nervous person. No, you're not. You choose nervousness. Well, I've always been a nervous person. You chose it, whether you realize it or not. Anxiety, stress, nervousness, the Bible would never command us to do something we couldn't do and this says be anxious for nothing. Can I give you some good news? You can live your life anxious for nothing. You can live your life without worry and with that, the Bible would never ever command us to do something we couldn't do. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God.
So here's the issue. So this is an ethic in our marriage. The ethic in our marriage is we're not gonna worry, we're gonna prayer, and some people say, well, I don't know what to pray for. What are your worried about? I know you're worried about something. You're worried about money, you're worried about kids, you're worried about your health, you're worried about your parents, you're worried about your job, you're worried about this, that's your prayer list. When you're worrying, you're telling yourself you need to be praying because you're anxious because you're not praying.
And so don't be anxious for anything, but in everything with prayer and supplication. Supplication just means fasting, Bible reading, agreeing with other people in prayer, adding to what you're praying for. With prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. What does that mean? Prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. It means I'm not praying lobbing up a prayer worrying about whether God's gonna answer it or not. When I'm praying, I'm saying, God, I thank you that you're hearing my prayer. I thank you that you're a father in heaven that you love me and you care about me and I thank you that you're going to answer this prayer just as surely as we pray. With prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, with faith, with a declaration of faith, let your request be made known to God and the peace, the peace that passes all comprehension.
What does that mean? You shouldn't be this peaceful. The average person in your circumstances would never be experiencing this kind of peace. It means you're either very godly or very stupid. You're either a very godly person walking in the supernatural peace of God or you're not smart enough to be worried. The peace that passes comprehension will guard your mind and your heart. Your intellect and this is emotional health. Don't be anxious for anything. Don't let the devil worry you. Don't be worried about circumstances. You have a friend in heaven. With prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God and the peace, this is the promise. The peace of God, the unique supernatural peace of God that passes all comprehension will guard.
The word guard there is the Greek word phrouré. It means a military guard that is stationed to keep the enemy out. The demon spirits of fear and anxiety, the demon spirits of division and assault on your marriage that come after you to worry you and to cause anxiety and fear and there are demons and they are real and they want to ruin our marriages. They want to drive us crazy. They want to wear us out emotionally and when we're walking in anxiety and fear and worry and all of that, we're laying this promise on the table and it dramatically affects our emotional health. It dramatically affects our marriages.
So Karen and I, over the years, I'll tell you a story in just a minute how we learned to pray together, but over the years, we're human beings and we had every kind of issue that came against us. Early in our marriage, we worried. We prayed a little bit individually, but we really didn't know how to pray that well anyway. But it was several years into our marriage before we prayed our first prayer together. In fact, I think it was about four years into our marriage before we prayed our first prayer together. It changed everything and today we don't worry. We do not, one of the ethics in our home is we do not let anxiety into our home about anything.
When there is the first hint of worry, anxiety, we hold hands and we pray and we bind and we loose and we agree and the peace of God is in our home because of that and our emotional health and mental health is protected because of that and our marriage flourishes because of that and every single couple can have the same promise. Somebody say amen. It is something that we can all do. The promises of God are right there. Well, what I say is, you say, well Jimmy, we don't do this. How do we do this? I believe that husbands should take the lead and just in case husbands aren't motivated to take the lead, let me give the husbands a little motivation here.
One of my friends, Gary Rosberg, he and his wife Barbara wrote a book called The Five Sex Needs of Men and Women and they interviewed over a thousand couples and asked men, Christian men, Christian women, what are your sex needs? They varied completely. The five sex needs of men are completely different from the five sex needs of women. But one of the major sex needs of women is to pray together with their husband. When women are asked, what are your major sex needs, women, Christian women, overwhelmingly said, I want my husband to pray with me. It makes them feel connected. It makes them feel unified. It makes them feel safe. And spiritual intimacy is the deepest intimacy that you can experience and sexual intimacy is built upon the foundation of that kind of intimacy so I'm saying to all the men, you ought to initiate praying with your wife. If that doesn't motivate you, I can't help you. Just trying to help you out here.
Did you give a little offering in the offering container this morning? Okay, so and find the time and the place for it. Karen and I used to walk in the mornings together for many years. We don't do that as much anymore, but we still have times that we pray together. We like to sit on the back porch at night and talk and if there's anything in our family goin' on, that's the time that we pray together, in the car, or just around the house, or whatever. But find a time for it and you know, it doesn't have to be legalistic, but you should be praying together as a couple two or three times a week, especially if there's something going on that causes anxiety or stress. It really, really dramatically helps.
Number one, praying together and trusting God. This should be a habit in your marriage. Number two, resolving negative feelings daily. This is scripture I talked about a little bit last week so I'm not gonna go into a lot of detail right now, but it's Ephesians four, it says be angry. The Apostle Paul is telling us how to deal with anger. Be angry, don't sin, don't let the sun go down on your wrath nor give place to the devil. So I talked about that last time. Be angry, it's okay to be angry. There's nothing wrong with anger. God gets angry, so yesterday's anger is a problem. Today's anger is not a problem. Don't sin, don't be unchristian, don't be mean spirited.
A lot of times, Christian people, especially in marriage, do really immature, non-Christian things justifying it. Don't do that. Go ahead and have anger in your marriage. That's a healthy thing when it's present. Don't sin, don't let the sun go down on your anger. This is a habit. Don't ever let the sun go down on your anger. You make a habit in your marriage, we're not gonna go to bed angry. Let me say about this, and that is, the later it gets, the more humble you'll become. If you make just a discipline that says we're not gonna go to bed angry. Karen and I both go to bed early and so the later it gets, the more humble I become. About 10 o'clock, 11 o'clock at night, it's all my fault. Six or seven at night, I still have a lot of fight in me, but later it comes, so. I just say I'm sorry, let's go to bed.
We're not gonna go to bed angry. You'll give the devil a foothold. If you go to bed on anger, Diabolos, the slanderer, will interpret your spouse's behavior and after three years of marriage, every belief I had about Karen Evans came from the devil. I was completely convinced that Karen was all of the problem and she was the wrong person for me and that I had made a mistake. That's what happens when you go to bed on anger. I was under the influence of Diabolos. So let me say two things. If you're going to have anger in your marriage and be able to process it, see, good marriages are not marriages without anger. Everybody gets angry. Good marriages are marriages where you can process it quickly. You can get bad emotions out of your marriage quickly, okay.
So how do you do that? Number one, you give your spouse the right to complain. In a good department store that you go to, they have a good customer relations counter and they don't shame you when you bring something back 'cause they're trying to please you. They're trying to be a good store. That's a good spouse. A good husband, a good wife, says to their spouse, I wanna do the best I can, I know I'm not being a good husband 'til you tell me I am. I know I'm not being a good wife 'til you tell me I am. I'm trying to please you. I'm not trying to please me. So I'm not gonna be defensive. And so if there's ever anything that I'm doing that's bothering you, I won't shame you, I won't yell at you, and I won't make you pay a price.
Now, I may not agree with you. We may have to talk through it. But I want you to know that I have a customer relations counter 'cause I really want to be the best spouse I can be and if you have something to say, I want you to say it. Let me say this now. In all the marriage counseling I've done over the years, you find a really bad marriage, they can't talk, and if someone complains, they go ballistic. You have to be able to get things out if you're gonna have a functional healthy marriage. The second thing is this. So I have a customer relations counter where I want you to complain, but there's a big difference between complaining and criticizing. Complaining and criticizing are opposite.
Listen, you can't criticize in marriage. Criticizing is pointing your finger and making accusations and you come to your spouse and your spouse says, well, I want you to complain, if you need to complain to them, you did this, and you did this, and you. You can't do that. Immediately people get on the defensive when you begin to come at them and criticize them. Complaining is not about you. Complaining is about me. So let's say Karen says something that hurt my feelings and I come to Karen and say, Karen, I need to say something to you and I love you, and we're on the same team, we're gonna get through this, but you said something to me that bothered me, I have no idea what you meant by it. You probably didn't mean anything by it, but can I tell you how it made me feel?
That's what complaining is. I'm just telling you how I feel. So I'm not making any accusations at you, I'm not attacking you, I'm not impugning your character. I'm simply saying, and I may feel this way because I'm immature. I may feel this way because I misunderstood. I may feel this way because I'm just sensitive because of something that happened before, but I just wanna be honest so I can get this out in the open and we can get this done.
Okay, criticizing, Karen says something to me that hurts my feelings, here's what criticizing is. You know Karen, you said that and it hurt my feelings and I know exactly what you meant by it 'cause you're evil like your mother. And you were trying to pay me back, I know exactly what you did. So the judge and jury have met, you're guilty, but if you'll confess we'll go light on ya. See, everybody hates that. Everybody hates that. So in a good marriage, we can process anger because we're not gonna go to bed on it, give the devil an opportunity, but we have an open customer relations counter where you can come and complain and we're going to deal honestly and righteously with each other. Anger comes and goes and the love stays.
Number three habit of emotionally healthy couples is having fun together and being best friends. It's how you fell in love. You fall in love havin' fun together. You fall out of love because you stop having fun together, and by the way, this is one of the most important needs of men. When the top four needs of men, period, being friends with their wives is a major, major need of men. We want to be buddies with our wives. We don't wanna be mothered by our wives. We had a mother, we don't want another one. We want a wife and we want our wife to be our buddy.
There's a preacher in Houston that tells a story of a couple whose marriage had become very bad and they were really dealing with a lot of problems and so the husband was going hunting and the wife did not hunt. But this is a very smart wife, and the wife said to her husband, can I go hunting with you? And they'd been having a lot of trouble in their marriage and he said, you don't hunt. She said, I know, but I wanna go hunting with you. He was a little worried she wanted to get him in the woods with a firearm. And as you can imagine, that was a little troublesome. But it healed their marriage. She came out of her world into his world, they had fun.
Listen to me, you're never better than when you're having fun. You show me a husband and a wife having fun together, you're at your very best. We fall in love because you take sex and fun away from marriage, you have a business relationship, and marriages are rotten business relationships. We need to be having fun with each other in marriage and it just simply means, one is a date night. You oughta have a date night every week. It's a good discipline, it's a good habit of good marriages. A date night means our kids are not gonna run our lives. We love our kids, we're gonna get our kids taken care of, but we're not gonna let work and kids and everything suck out the romance and fun from our marriage. We're gonna find something fun to do. We're gonna go to a lot of trouble and we're gonna go do it regularly so that we do not lose the skills of pursuing each other in romance in our relationship. And if we have lost them, they'll come back.
The other thing is just having time alone together. Karen and I, when our kids were younger, we were broke. We didn't have any money. I mean, we were broke. But we made a discipline of going somewhere every six or seven or eight weeks together for a night or two. We would get my family or somebody to take care of our kids. We would drive, we would scrape together as much money we had to buy a cheap motel room for a night or two, and we would take our food with us 'cause we couldn't afford to eat out and we would just go in many times into a motel room, shut the door and stay there for two days. And we came out and I'm tellin' you, we were refueled for another six to eight weeks. There was never a time that we didn't have something there that we would look forward to to be together. Karen and I have fun together and so having fun together and protecting that is important.
Number four, this is the last one. Number four habit is building close relationships individually and as a couple with other believers. This is 1 Corinthians 15:33, do not be deceived. Evil company corrupts good habits. Your friends are your future. Remember here, it says evil company corrupts good habits. If you raise children with good morals and put around bad kids, those bad kids will corrupt your kids. If you have good beliefs and you put yourself, your close friends are unbelievers, people who don't value God, they don't value their marriage, you're gonna end up like your friends. It says if you don't believe that, you're deceived.
And so Hebrews 10 says, let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as is the manner of son, but exhorting one another in so much more as you see the day approaching, and the word day there is capital D. It means the coming of Jesus. It means as the coming of Jesus draws near, the world is going to be so evil, we need to get together with other believers more than ever before. And I'm saying to you, this is the most evil time in the history of the world. If there's ever been a time when we need to pursue and build relationships with other believers, it is right now.
And I'm saying to you, your friends are your future, and you can love everybody whether they're, wherever they are in their walk with Christ, but your closest relationships need to be with strong believers and the very best place to meet strong believers is in church, is in a life group and like that. But when you look at couples who are chronically healthy, they are people of prayer and people of faith. They don't let anxiety build up in their relationship. They have the ability to resolve negative feelings and get the anger out of the way so they can keep the love there. They're friends, they enjoy being with each other and they value their relationship and prioritize their time together and don't let anything get in the way of it and they have other believers around them who are a support group and help them do the right thing.