Joy in God, Joy in Marriage
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Dave and Ann WilsonDave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus churc...more
What you believe about God impacts a lot in your life. Dave and Ann Wilson talk about how to have a happy, healthy attitude with a lot of laughter. They teach listeners the four habits for joy in marriage.
Joy in God, Joy in Marriage
Bob: The Bible tells us we are to “rejoice in the Lord always.” Ann Wilson says there are times in our lives when we have to fight for that joy.
Ann: My mom was in memory care. Just a few months ago, I walked up on the third floor of this memory care: everybody’s in wheelchairs; all their heads are down. It’s sad; it’s just sad. I walk in there, and I go around to every single one. I know them by name now—I’ve been there enough. I kiss them; I hug them. It was so interesting: “What are we doing today?” All their heads start to lift up—you know, because joy—that’s what joy does! [Applause]
Isn’t that what Jesus does?—He’s a lifter of our heads. In the midst of pain, He’s lifting us!
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, March 2nd. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You’ll find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Fighting for joy, especially in our marriage, is a big deal. We’re going to hear more about that today from Dave and Ann Wilson. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. We haven’t talked about this over the last couple of weeks, but we just got off the tenth anniversary Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise. It was amazing.
Ann: It was fabulous.
Dave: I’m still there; I don’t know about you guys. [Laughter]
Ann: I want to be there.
Dave: You guys might be back in reality; I’m still sailing in the Caribbean.
Bob: Well, when you live in Detroit, you have to sail in the Caribbean as often as you can. [Laughter] We had a great week with 5,500 people who joined us on the cruise this year. It was a great getaway, but it was also full of rich content about marriage and about family. I think the thing that I love so much about being on the cruise is—everyone you meet, it’s like you’re meeting an old friend.
Ann: That’s true. I think the relationships that you make—it feels like, “I know these people!” because we’re all in it together.
Dave: Yes; I underestimated what a Love Like You Mean It cruise would be. I knew it would be fun because you’re cruising, so it’s like a vacation. But the marriage content/the family content that’s available—really every day, any time—and even when you go back to your room, you can watch on the TV what you might have missed. It is enriching for your family and for your marriage.
Ann: I feel like it’s probably some of the best content you’ll receive in the country. I really think that.
Bob: We stepped off the boat, and we’re already nearly 60 percent full for next year. I said to the guys—I said, “What about FamilyLife Today listeners? How can we make sure there are some rooms for them?” They said: “Okay; here’s what we’re going to do. Between now and March 16, any FamilyLife Today listener, who wants to sign up”—we expect this could sell out by the end of March—“but you sign up, here, in the first two weeks of March, you’ll save $300 per couple off your stateroom,”—that’s the best rate we make available. “You can lock down your room, and you can get in before the cruise sells out.”
All the details about the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise are available online at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can register online; we’re ready to have you join us. It’s Valentine’s week next year. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about the cruise.
You two did a devotion one morning on the cruise that I just thought was really good. You talked about the importance of joy in a marriage/the importance of joy in our lives. We’re going to give listeners this week a taste—I was going to say, “You can’t really get a taste because the cafeteria is closed,”—[Laughter]—but we’re going to give you samples of some of the content that we heard on board the cruise. This devotion, I thought, was one of the highlights of the week.
Dave: There’s two beliefs, I believe, will dictate every decision you make every single day. Here’s the first one: “What you believe about God,”—I call that theology—what your belief/understanding of the attributes of who God is. “What you believe about God/theology,” and “What you believe about yourself,”—I call that identity.
So, here’s the question. We don’t have time to talk about theology and identity. I will talk about identity some other time. We’re just going to take a couple of minutes to talk about: “What do you believe about who God’s character is?”
Ann: Yes; if you had to say, “This is what I believe about God, and these are His attributes…” what are some of the top things that come to your mind, when you think of God’s attributes?
Dave: Just yell it out real quick.
Audience: [Responding with attributes of God]
Dave: Loving. Just. Faithful.
Dave: Awesome. Merciful.
Dave: Forgiving. Grace!
Ann: Grace. Those are good.
Dave: Okay; that was great. Here’s one we didn’t hear: joyful! Happy! Laughter! Let me tell you—those are part of the character of God. Everything you said is also part of that. Could we do a message on any one of those?—of course: righteousness, justice, holiness.
Ann: But think about that: “Where does happiness/where does joy come from?”—from the heart of the Father. Yet we don’t always attribute those to the top.
Dave: Can you, in your mind’s eye, picture a God who laughs?—a God who smiles? I love what John Ortberg says in a book, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, to talk about celebration. He says, “I believe, if you study the Scriptures, you will conclude this: ‘God is the happiest being in the universe.’”
Ann: I love some of the things that Scripture says, too.
Jesus said, “I have said these things to you so that My joy may be in you, and your joy should be complete.”
Psalm 34:8 says: “Taste and see that the Lord is”—what?—“good. Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.”
Psalm 16:11: “You make known to me the path of life. You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasure at Your right hand.”
Then Hebrews 1:9: “You love justice and hate evil. Therefore, O God, Your God has anointed You, pouring out the oil of joy on You more than anyone else.”
Then Nehemiah—I love this verse! But you never really think about it! Nehemiah 8:10: “The joy of the Lord is our”—what?—“strength.” Think about that! “The joy of the Lord is our strength.”
Dave: It’s interesting—if you think about what that means, right there—the people of Israel were in immense tragedy and trial when Nehemiah says this. When you’re in the middle of a valley—some of you are right there, right now—you need to know the strength you need actually comes from the joy center of God.
I love what John Piper says about “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” Listen to this; he says, “God does not give us any joy outside of the joy He has in Himself already; which means, God’s happiness is our strength.” He says, “It is a remarkable point delivered to Nehemiah and a people, who are ravaged by war, weakened by insecurities, and constantly reminded of their own fragility. This is where we find our strength for life, for pain, for trials, for marriage, for child-raising, for missions, for everything; the strength we need for life”—listen to this—“is found in the essential joy of God.”
Here’s the thing—we want to take just a few minutes to talk about: Joy can shift a marriage. I’m telling you—joy is contagious!
Ann: I would say this: “Joy can shift a household.”
Ann: I feel like, in our culture, there’s a storm outside of our homes. When our kids walk in the door, or when Dave walks in the door, we have the power to create an atmosphere of joy, of love—of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
For us, this has been big; because you don’t always feel happy. I love James 1, because what does it say?—“Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials.” We’ve been passionate about this. Because we don’t always feel it; but: “How can we create an atmosphere of joy in our home?”
Dave: The question is: “Where do you find joy?” Paul said in Philippians—anybody know? “Rejoice—in—the Lord always. Again, I say rejoice!” He’s being very specific here. It isn’t like you’re going to find joy in a drink, or joy in your spouse; right? We think, “I get married; I’m going to finally be happy.” It doesn’t always work that way; right?—trying to find it here [in marriage], trying to find it in a job, an amount of money.
He says: “No, no, no. You want joy; you find it in the Lord always. Again, I say it—I’m emphasizing this—this is where you find it.”
It’s really interesting—I don’t know when it was—Bob brought/we brought in these two guys to do radio [broadcast]. Their book was called The Four Habits of Joy for Your Marriage. They were brain science guys.
Ann: Here’s one of the things they said: “One of the key discoveries of brain science is that Freud was wrong. He taught that the fear of death and the desire for sex were the most powerful motivators in the world. However, the discovery of the brain magnet has shown that attachment—specifically, joyful attachment—is the most powerful motivator in life.”
Dave: He said, in what they discovered about the brain, is: “Where do you go to try and get joy?”—people. We go to people to find joy. And guess what? We marry—you’re sitting beside the person right now that you married, thinking they’d bring you happiness. How’s that working? Hopefully, you’re like, “Yes.” There are days it’s happy; there are days it isn’t happy. You know our story—there’s a lot of unhappiness there.
But here’s the thing—there are habits you can develop that can bring joy into your marriage. We’re going to give you the four joy habits they talked about in the book. We’re just going to do them the “Wilson way”; we’re going to spin them. All they did was take the word, “PLAN.” You need a plan; habits are a plan. You take these four words as an acrostic, and you have them; okay?
So, here’s four joy habits. You know what the “P” is?—Play!
Ann: Yes; play together.
Dave: Play! You need to bring play into your marriage. It’s interesting—I am married to a woman who loves to play. Even in tough times, she brought a sense of joy. One time, I was standing in the kitchen. My oldest son was 16; he just got his first used car that he bought with his own money. It was a shift/a stick shift; it was sitting in the driveway. I’m standing in the kitchen; and there’s a window here, a window here, and our driveway sort of slants down.
I see the car rolling, from one window. I look out and see nobody’s in the car. I start running because, if it goes off the basketball court, it’s going to go into the woods. It’s a pretty good slant, so it’s picking up speed. I start running; and as I get out there, it goes down the hill. Splat!—front bumper—bam!—right into a tree. I saw a dent in the bumper.
I had one thought; anybody with me? I’m a tightwad; what did I think?
Dave: “That’s costing money.” I got mad; it’s like, “I can’t believe that!”
Ann: He was so mad.
Dave: “What happened?!” I’m standing there: “Who did this?!” She comes out—she looks at the whole thing and goes, “[Dave faking Ann’s laugh]” She is hysterically laughing.
Ann: He was not laughing; and he didn’t think it was funny that I was laughing, either.
Dave: Oh, no; it made it even worse.
Ann: He goes: “This is serious! This is money! This is irresponsibility!” [Laughter]
Dave: The more she laughed, I saw the boys just go like this—they moved away from me, over to her—[Laughter]—and they started laughing! Why?—because laughter’s a magnet! It’s contagious!
You don’t want to go to a church, where they don’t laugh. You don’t want to go to a cruise, where they don’t laugh. You don’t want—I mean, just like—isn’t there joy in Christ?! Yes!—but why don’t we every show it? [Laughter and applause]
In this moment, there shouldn’t have been that much joy. [Laughter] At some point, that laughter over there—those four people—it sifted over here. I was fighting it: “I’m not going to smile at this!” Eventually, I just had to laugh because you know what? It’s a bumper; it can get fixed. It’s only going to cost about $12,000; but other than that—[Laughter] I mean, it wasn’t even $500; but still, there was joy waiting for me.
Here’s what I’d say about play. Some of you are like: “I can’t do it. I can’t find joy.” It’s in the Lord; you’ve just got to go there.
Here’s the “L”: “Listen for emotion.” In other words, in your marriage—especially with your kids—as your wife or your spouse is speaking and telling you something, don’t listen to just the words. There’s a story behind the story: “What is she saying?” “What is he saying?” “What is the emotion behind there?” Often, we don’t listen close enough to lean in and find joy; there’s something being said.
I’ll share something real quick that we put on our Vertical Marriage small group. If you get that and watch it, you’ll hear this story—it’s this simple: Preached all day Sunday, three services, exhausted; was on the Lions’ sideline that day. Come home that night, lay down in bed. I’m exhausted; it’s 11:30. I’m just closing my eyes; and here’s what Ann says to me, “I just wish the man who led Kensington Church lived in this house as well,”—that’s what she said.
I was just about asleep. I’m like—I didn’t really register—like: “What?!” She says, “Well, you know, I wish the way you led spiritually in our congregation…”
Ann: Yes; Dave is an amazing leader. At our church, I just sit there, and I admire him as he’s on the stage. He’s passionate; he’s godly—he’s leading us. I know that, when he comes home, he’s tired. You guys feel like this when you come home from work; you’re tired. I just said—I was thinking it was good—like I said, “You’re an amazing leader”; right?
Dave: She didn’t say that that night.
Ann: No, I did! I did say it!
Dave: She just said, “I wish the man…”
Ann: He just didn’t hear it! You just didn’t hear it.
Dave: I did not hear that.
Ann: The other part just killed him.
Dave: All I heard was: I don’t lead at home; I don’t pray at home like I do on the stage—blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I got really mad.
The next day, I went into my little home office—just a bedroom that I use—and I got on my knees. I said, “God, were You speaking last night through Ann?” It was a loud, “Yup!” I thought, “What was she really saying?” I had not listened for emotion; I had only gotten defensive about what she said.
Then I started processing what she said. I’m like: “Oh, my goodness! Here’s what she’s saying: ‘I don’t feel loved,’ ‘I don’t feel seen,’ ‘I don’t feel led,’ ‘I don’t feel like you’re my spiritual…’” It was all the things that the congregation may feel about me, publicly; she was not feeling about me, privately.
Here’s what I know—it’s more important that I lead her and my family than I lead a congregation of thousands of people. [Applause] It is! That’s important. If I lose this, and I don’t do this well—I remember saying to God, right there: “I missed it! I missed what she was really saying. I need to go back and have another discussion and hear her heart/hear her emotion.”
Bottom line—I’ll say this to the men; it’s true for men and women—“Men, step up!” It was that simple! I was like: “Gee whiz! If I’m going to lead a church, then lead at home!” [Something is bumped over]—sorry about that. It’s like: “Get angry about this to say: ‘I can lead her. I’m not coming home and being lazy.’”
Ann: I don’t think, as women, we’re looking for someone to like [speaking in a masculine voice], “Let’s pull out the Word today.” We’re just saying, “Initiate prayer.” When you go to bed, grab your wife’s hand or get on your knees. The most attractive thing you could do, as men, is to pray—to lead spiritually. [Applause] It could be as simple as this—it could be just: “God, help us. Help me to be the man You want me to be.” If you prayed that prayer, your wife would be like crying.
Dave: It is amazing how that spiritual leadership is important. So, we’ve got “Play.” What’s the “L”?—“Listen for emotion.”
“A” is: “Appreciate daily.” Proverbs 18:21 [talks] about the words you speak. It says: “The power of life and death is in our words,”—in what we say/in our tongue. Appreciate daily. Many marriages don’t do this. Speak life! Speak words to her/speak words to him that bring life, not death.
Ann: A consistent prayer for me has been: “God, show me the greatness in my husband;—
Dave: Yes, amen!
Ann: —“then help me to speak that out loud to him.” That’s been a prayer for me with our kids, too: “God, show me the greatness in our kids, and help me to speak that out loud to them.”
The enemy of our marriage, Satan, only gets me to see the negative; and he always gets us to speak that. What if we used self-control?—and said—because God is always cheering for us; He’s always saying: “Look at him! Look at the greatness in him!” Satan always says, “Look at the weaknesses,”—and we want to point that out. So speak life.
Dave: This woman speaks life more than anyone I’ve ever known.
Ann: It’s because I spoke death for years and years.
Dave: She speaks life every day. She says stuff to me I don’t even think is true: “You’re an amazing man.” “No, I’m not.” She says it, and you start to believe it. That brings joy.
Okay; last one—we can do this in one minute. “Play,” “Listen for emotion,” “Appreciate daily,” “Nurture rest; nurture rest.” We run so fast; our life is out of control. You’ve got to stop and take a Sabbath. The Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments from God; because He knew we needed it, and we wouldn’t do it.
If you’re never stopping to refresh—never looking each other in the eye and say, “How are you doing?”—whether it’s on a cruise ship or in the backyard on the deck, where you get an iced tea and you sit there. You turn off the TV; please turn off the TV, and have some rest! It’s that critical.
We said in our book this: “You need to pray daily; you need to play weekly; and you need to retreat annually.” Think about this: “What if you took some time every day to pray together?—weekly, go out on a date and sometimes just play; make it fun! Retreat annually—it’s: once a year, get away.” Guess what you’re doing right now?—you’re doing that! Go to a Weekend to Remember® once a year; go to a Vertical Marriage® conference once a year. Why?—that recharges you.
Ann: I know that some of you are thinking: “We can’t be joyful. You don’t know what we’re going through right now.” For Dave and [me], in the last five weeks, our dog died; my mom passed away; my dad is dying with congestive heart failure; and my brother was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer. That’s all happened in five weeks.
I know—like the pain, even for me is—when I sit, the pain is so great. I sat with God, because that’s our hiding place/that’s where we go. He is the strength of our souls. I sat with Him; and I told Dave this, too: “I feel like I’m in a field. I’m this little reed, bent over because the wind is so hard on my back right now. I’m so fragile; I feel like I’m breaking.” I sat with God and I told God—because confession is speaking truth—“God, this is where I am. This is what I’m feeling. This is what I’m going through.” I said: “God, do You see me? Do You see me? I don’t feel joy.”
It was so interesting—in my head, as I was asking, “Speak to me”—He speaks so powerfully in His Word; but in this instance, I had a picture in my head of an oak tree. I had this picture of these roots going deep, deep into the ground. I felt like God said, “You may feel like you’re a fragile reed getting ready to break, but you’re a mighty oak; and your roots are so deep—that the wind is blowing so hard—but I’m holding you up.”
The thing that came to my mind was Isaiah 61, where He calls us righteous oaks. I sit there and I think Satan is telling us, “It’s too late; you have nothing.” But God is always speaking life to us. He’s showing us the truth of: “This is who you are. This is who your spouse is, and this is your future.” He has us in the palm of His hand, and we can rest there.
Dave: I can tell you—just watching her through this season of our life—and by the way, this is a season, not our story. If you’re going through something really hard right now: “It’s a season; it’s not your story. There’s a God walking with you in that season; and that God gives joy, even in pain!” I’ve watched her have this joy that draws me in, even though you heard the truth underneath it; it’s really, really hard.
I’m going to pray, and I’m going to encourage you: “Go do the PLAN, and rejoice in the Lord always!”
Father God, thank You for who You are. Thank You for joy that emanates from Your being to us. And Lord, I know You’re saying to us, “You’ll never experience complete joy apart from Me.”
Lord, may we go to You—not our spouse, not even a cruise—that’s not going to…You, Jesus, are the only true source of true, deep joy—joy that’s deeper than happy, a joy that’s not dependent on circumstances, a joy that permeates through the valley and the mountains because it’s from the heart of You, Jesus.
God, I pray that we would know You that well, and we could experience Your joy in this place. We love You; we thank You in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Dave: Thank you! [Applause]
Bob: We’ve been listening to the morning devotion from the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise with Dave and Ann Wilson. This was just a couple of weeks ago on board the cruise. I was struck, as I listened to you guys, with the idea: “We think joy is something that should just happen or should just be there. There are times you have to fight to get to joy”; don’t you?
Ann: I think, too, as we talk about the Scripture that says, “The joy of the Lord is our strength,” we have to fight for that. I find myself running to God to get that, because it doesn’t come through circumstances.
Dave: And as we shared in that message, I’ve watched Ann do that in this season, with her mom dying—and it sounds trivial: your dog dying—but just the struggles we’ve walked through—
Ann: —that everyone walks through.
Dave: Yes; I personally have watched you fight for it; find it in the Lord. There are lots of times you think, “I can’t have any joy unless life is somewhat stable.” In some ways, that’s true; but you can have a real joy. It’s not a “happy.” We’re not jumping around, like this sort of fake; but there’s a deep contentment and joy because you know the Lord’s in control, and He gives strength in that moment.
Bob: We live in a fallen world. The circumstances of a fallen world will not always produce happiness; but Jesus said, “Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” What is good cheer?—it’s joy.
That was such a great attitude adjustment, I think for all of us, which, again, is a part of what we’re doing on board the cruise. We are pointing people, regularly, to the Lord and to one another in the midst of a great season of rest on board the cruise. I say, “rest”; there’s a lot of activity. People are tired, but it’s so different than what your normal environment is.
I’m saying this because we’re 60 percent sold out for next year’s cruise. I’d love for some of our FamilyLife Today listeners to be able to join us next year. If you’d like to take advantage of a special offer we’re making between now and March 16, you can sign up to be on next year’s cruise; and you’ll save $300 per couple off the cost of your stateroom.
The information’s available online. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. We expect this cruise may sell out in the next 30 days; so let me encourage you: “If you’re interested, at all, in joining us Valentine’s week of 2021 for the cruise, go to FamilyLifeToday.com to find out more; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get registered.”
Dave: Here’s my line: "If you snooze, you lose on the cruise.” [Laughter]
Ann: Oh, that’s good!
Bob: My line is: “On the cruise is a good place to snooze.” [Laughter]
Ann: That’s good, too.
Dave: Either way, jump on it!
Bob: Tomorrow, we’re going to hear Dr. Gary Chapman, who was one of our speakers on board the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise. He talked about how we can do a better job of seeking forgiveness from one another—apologizing to one another, which, honestly, is something not all of us have mastered at this point in our lives. You can tune in to hear Dr. Chapman tomorrow. I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch; we got some help from James Youngblood today. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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