Mark: Yesterday Jill and I left our youngest at college in downtown Chicago for his last semester. It’s hard to believe he’s finishing up and getting ready to fully move into adulthood.

As we were driving home from Chicago–a two-hour drive for us–we discussed the next few months of #marriagemonday posts. When we wrote our No More Perfect Marriages book we identified the 7 slow fades every marriage experiences and the 8 God-Tools needed to turn those fades around.  The 8 God-Tools are so practical and needed each and every day of marriage so we decided we’d explore those for the next few weeks.

Mark: Of course, we can’t possibly cover them on the blog as much as they are explained and explored in the book, but if you’ve read the book, this will be a helpful review and reminder of what tools you need to be using TODAY and if you haven’t read the book yet, it will give you a peek into these tools you need in your marriage toolbox!

Jill: So here’s why we need God-tools: You are an imperfect human being. You are married to an imperfect human being. Two imperfect people who have to figure out money, make parenting decisions, be sexually intimate, take care of a home, make meals, do laundry, deal with car maintenance, and simply live in the same place are destined to find all that imperfect togetherness challenging. When we bump into imperfection—our own and our spouse’s—we often don’t handle it so well. This is when many of our feeling fades begin. However, we don’t have to allow the fades to create distance between us. We have some valuable tools available to us that most of us aren’t using often enough, if at all.

Mark: I love tools! After twenty years, I left church ministry and started Sawhorse Homes Inc., a home repair and remodeling business I had dreamt about for many years. When I’m working on a project, having the right tools makes all the difference in the world. I’ve found it’s the same in marriage. When I use the right tools in my marriage toolbox, conflict is averted, communication improves, disagreements are resolved faster, and our marriage
is strengthened.

Jill: The concept of God-tools comes from 2 Corinthians 10:3–6 in The Message Bible (emphasis ours),

“The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.”

Mark: The Perfection Infection is a warped philosophy that most of us impose upon our marriage. When we have unrealistic expectations of each other and of marriage in general, this sets the stage for disappointment, discouragement, and disillusionment. When we unfairly compare our spouse to others or even to our “imagined spouse,” this warped philosophy prepares the soil of our heart for seeds of discontentment to be sown.

Jill: Our God-tools help us tear down the barriers we erect in our own hearts. That’s honestly where most marriage issues begin and end . . . in the heart. The condition of our heart is directly connected to the condition of our marriage.

Mark: The eight powerful God-given tools of courage, grace, love, humility, forgiveness, wisdom, acceptance, and compassion are designed to line our heart up with God’s heart. They keep us on track or get us back on track. These right choices strengthen and mature us to become
more like Christ each and every day.

Jill: The God-Tool we want to focus on today is COURAGE. Doing things God’s way isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but it is always the right thing to do. Courage is not the absence of fear; it is determining something is more important than the fear. Your marriage is more important than your fear of conflict, your fear of taking off your mask, your fear of intimacy, your fear of disagreement, or your fear of honest conversation.

Mark: Prior to marriage I was confident and courageous. I had operated successfully in a family business with responsibilities that included operations, sales, collections, and cultivating new clients. All of these roles took courage and confidence.

Marriage, however, seemed to be a different ballgame. I found that I was confident and courageous in business, but not at home. I’d had role models in business, but no role models at home. Because of this, my insecurity began to surface. The only way I knew how to assert myself at home was with anger; so instead of courage, I used my anger to control. It didn’t show up often, but when I felt fear, I responded with control instead of courage. This was after I said yes to God, but before I really understood my value in Christ, so my God-tools weren’t gathered
into one place where I could access them easily.

Jill: My tendency to not be vulnerable with my emotions put emotional distance between Mark and I. I would cry in private, not share what I was feeling (because I honestly didn’t KNOW what I was feeling!), and keep my struggles to myself. I didn’t want to “burden” him. Unintentionally, though, I was indirectly telling him I didn’t need him because I could handle things on my own.

Mark: Now I’m using my God-Tool of courage to speak up before I am angry. To say something when I’m first bothered instead of letting it build up in my head and my heart. This was scary for me at first because I was raised in a family where I didn’t have a voice so it took HUGE AMOUNTS of courage at first to find my voice. It still requires courage but I’m now creating a new normal for me of speaking up calmly early on.

Jill: And I’m using my God-Tool of courage to tune into my emotions AND let Mark know what I’m thinking and feeling. Honestly it’s “easier” for me to just keep them tucked away. However, doing that keeps my husband at an emotional distance that isn’t healthy for our relationship. I’m pulling out courage every time I’m tempted to pull away from my emotions or from my husband.

Mark: Want to know the secret for taking your marriage deeper? Using the God-Tool of courage will change the dynamics of your relationship! Joshua 1:9 tells us to “…be strong and courageous.” Use your God-Tool of courage today!

What about you? Where are you letting fear keep your heart guarded and inaccessible to your spouse? What are you hiding behind? How do you need to be using your God-Tool of courage to get more honest and close the distance between your heart and your spouse’s heart? 

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