Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. — 2 Corinthians 9:7
In a recent Marriage Partnership article, author David Goetz talked about “marital drift.” He said that in our busy age, we schedule time for everything and everybody, and as a result, we neglect our spouses. Before we know it, we’ve drifted so far apart that the person we share our bed with no longer shares our life.
“The pursuit of marriage needs to be intentional,” Goetz said, “because if you default to the values of our culture, you’ll pursue the sprawling house, the great body, the accomplished kids. But you’ll let your marriage drift.”
Goetz said that passivity—not taking initiative in marriage—is a spiritual issue. Its core is me-centered. When I’m pursuing other interests and not actively pursuing my spouse’s interests, I’m putting my needs first.
“That’s a spiritually dangerous and crippling place to be,” Goetz said.
Although 2 Corinthians 9 deals with attitudes about giving money, the general principle can also apply to giving ourselves—our time, energy, attention, focus, even our bodies—in sexual intimacy and friendship. If I hold back any of these from my spouse, I put our relationship at risk.
When it comes to giving, the apostle Paul made three points:
- Decide beforehand. Drifting comes naturally. It’s easy to slide into a pattern of relational laziness. When my husband and I hit a rough patch of arguing and disagreement, it’s much simpler to sit in front of the TV and zone out. But if I decide beforehand to attend to my spouse and his needs because it glorifies God to do so, then I will reap the benefits of doing what’s right.
- Don’t give out of guilt or obligation. Guilt is a poor motivator. It may initially spur me to action, but eventually it will turn into resentment. If my heart is not in my decision, I need to ask God to change my heart.
- Do it cheerfully. When I decide in my heart that my spouse is my priority and the one whom God has given me to serve, then I won’t be reluctant to give myself to him. The more I give—depending on God to meet all my needs (see Philippians 4:19)—the more cheerful I become. God loves a cheerful giver, and so does my spouse.
A marriage that is fulfilling is a marriage that is not passive, Goetz said. It’s “always initiating, as God always initiates with us, always loving even when it’s not easy.”