It’s ludicrous to see that a plant can grow and be healthy if it was planted in a dry, barren wasteland. It’s going to shrively up and die before it even gets a chance to grow. Yet, we are mystified that our marriages struggle and wobble along, when the fact is that WE are not giving our relationship the very thing it needs to actually BE healthy. Healthy, consistent communication. This episode, we’re going to look at the issue and consider what the scriptures say.
LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE
It’s probably not a surpise to you that a marriage podcast like this is going to deal with the issue of communcation. Most marriage podcasts, if you look through their list of topics, you’re going to find it there, it’s a big, big issue in any relationship. And there’s a whole lot of things that go on in communication. If you take a moment just to ponder the reality of communication, it’s an amazing thing.
First off, did you realize that the word “commune” is the root of the word communication? So think that through… this exchange of sound waves, flowing from our throat and mouth, to another person’s ears, is the main way that we commune with other people. Isn’t that just a fascinating thing? But it’s also amazing how easily communication can get messed up.
It seems like there’s just an opportunity at every step along the way for things to get messed up.
- There’s what you want to say when you’re about to say something.
- Then there’s what you actually say, because it doesn’t always come out right.
- Then there’s what you think you said, which may not be what you said.
- Then there’s the body language and the facial expressions that accompany what you said.
- And then there’s what the other person hears you say.
- And then what the other person interprets that you said, you know, there’s an aspect of interpretation in there.
- And then there’s what they wanna say in response and then what they actually say.
- And then what you hear them say.
And you get the point. There’s all these places in the communication process where it can just break down. So obviously, the better we can communicate, the better we’re going to understand one another, the better we’re going to be able to commune with one another and to work together in our marriages to honor Christ. So good communication has got to happen.
What the Bible says about communication
First, God is a communicator, Hebrews 1, 1-2 says…
“…long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets. But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world.”
So we see in this section that God Himself communicates. He speaks. If you stop to think about the miracle of that, that the God of the universe speaks to us and He says that now He’s speaking through Jesus Christ, you can see that the gift of unity with Jesus we have is an extraordinary, amazing thing. It’s how God continues to speak, how He continues to commune with His people. That’s such a wonderful privilege.
Secondly, through communication we have the power to bless or to harm.
Proverbs 18.21 says…
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
Wow, death and life. Your communication toward your spouse, toward your kids, toward those you work with, fill in the blank… can be either death or life to them. Those two extremes come from words.
Can you think of an example of life-giving words? Those would be words of encouragement, or affirmation or praise. Those would be giving life.
And words of “death,” I think we all know what that’s like. We’ve experienced it. Someone who said something condemning or hurtful. Those things suck the life out of you.
And when the verse says, those who love it will eat its fruits. It sounds like he’s saying, “If you love the fact that you can communicate and you love the fact that you can commune with other people through this means, you also need to love the good kind of fruit you can produce through it.” It’s also an admonition to learn how to communicate well. Because bad communication could very well be death to your marriage and good communication would be life to your marriage.
This may sound extreme, but that’s what we have noticed in our marriage and in many other marriages we’ve come alongside in our years of ministry. Much of the time, the problems these dear couples are experiencing come from the fact that they’re not communicating or their communication is bad or harmful.
Think about the last tense conversation you have with your spouse. The place where that conversation turned really negative is usually when someone said something hurtful or damaging and sucked the life out of the other person. And then defenses go up, insecurities flare, all kinds of bad things begin to happen. Many times communication stops, and then it starts to fester under the surface and that’s when the marriage starts breaking down.
HOW we should communicate
There are loads of passages we could reference, but we’re just going to hit some of the most important ones. Let’s start with Ephesians 4:29…
“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.”
We’re to avoid corrupting talk. That’s what the ESV says. Some translations say “unwholesome words.” The idea is that we are not to say things that are harmful. So examples: a harsh tone, harsh words, personal insults, cutting someone down, criticizing them unfairly, personal attacks, threats, lies, and slander. All kinds of things could fall into this idea of corrupting talk.
That list may sound extreme, you may think that most people don’t struggle with those, but stop and think about it. In our conversations, don’t we shade the truth sometimes to make ourselves look better? Don’t we do little jabs to try and push the other person away because we’re feeling threatened? Corrupting talk is easier to do than we think. Corrupting talk or harmful words could be words that lead to a dead end. They are words that cut off communication or characterize the person unfairly. You’re not building someone up when what you said leads to a dead end. You’re not giving them grace. You’re not giving them help when it leads to a dead end.
Notice also that this passage says we’re to say what’s good for those who are listening. How many times, when we’re trying to get out what we’re trying to say, are we thinking about saying it in a way that’s good for the other person? Not usually. We’re trying to convince, we’re trying to persuade, we’re trying to schmooze. We’re not thinking about the other person’s good.
And this doesn’t mean you never correct someone, or call out a wrong they’ve done. Correction can be good if it’s for the good of your spouse. If there’s a way you’re wanting to encourage your spouse to be better at something. It can be words that will be building up because it’s for their good. So you just need to be really careful to make sure you know why are you saying what you’re saying.
This verse also says we are to say what fits the situation. It’s kind of hard sometimes to know, what’s the best thing to say right here? How can I get past this misunderstanding that we’re having?
This is a vital time for us to ask God for wisdom.
Another very helpful passage is James 1:19-20…
Know this, my beloved brothers, let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
James is telling us that a massive part of communication is listening. My grandma used to say, “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.” That’s the idea James is communicating here. You should be listening. You should be trying to understand the other person. Many times when you’re sitting there listening, it will give you an opportunity to ask the Lord, “Help me to understand my wife. Help me to understand my husband. What are they trying to say? I want to love them well.”
So take the time to listen to your spouse, but also take the time to listen to the Holy Spirit, who’s guiding you during that conversation.
And truly listen. Don’t be thinking of how you’re going to respond to what they’re saying right now. Don’t be thinking of the next point you wanted to make. Truly listen. Be intentional in your listening. Look them in the eye. Really try to understand the words they’re saying. Mine the conversation for all its worth because that’s where understanding really comes from, from communing in a way where what they’re saying is clear to you and you… you got it.
And this all ties in with humility, which we talked about on our last episode.
This passage also says we should be slow about allowing anger to enter our communication. I don’t hear this passage saying you should never be angry in a conversation. There are sometimes legitimate righteous reasons to be angry. But he’s saying that oftentimes the anger that’s manifested is man’s anger, that’s what he calls it, and it does not fulfill the righteous purposes of God. So we just have to be very leery about anger. We have to be cautious about it.
The next passage we want to look at is Ephesians 4:11-16… and this is a little bit longer passage with a little more context before we get to the part about communication. But I felt like the context is important.
“Jesus, gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”
Let’s pause there for a moment. That’s the context. He’s talking about our goal, both from a leadership perspective within the church and as members of the church, is maturity. That’s what we’re aiming at. And so now he’s going to bring communication into that context. He says, rather than being deceived by all these things…
…speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body joined and held together by every joint with which it’s equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
So his point about communication is that truthful communication done in love helps the body grow. And it grows in love. So truthful, loving communication in a marriage helps the marriage grow and love.
Sometimes those two things, truth and love, feel like they’re at odds with each other because we sometimes think that in order to say the truth it’s going to hurt, or it’s going to be offensive to the person, or they’re not going to understand, and so it’s going to turn into a conflict. But it doesn’t have to be that way, especially if you’re growing in humility. Communication is a tool that God has provided for our growth as believers. And each of us in a marriage relationship need to be working on our ability to speak the truth in love.
What we need to take away from this section is that we need to keep in mind that the words we say and how we say them can either help or hinder the growth of others. Our spouse primarily in this context is what we’re focusing on. Our mindset in communication needs to be coming from love and needs to be for the purpose of building up and helping our spouse.
This is vitally important because communication often devolves into a “he said, she said, my opinion versus your opinion” mentality. We need to adjust our thinking so that those attitudes are out of the equation. We’re on the same team. We’re working to help each other grow. We’re loving each other as Christ loves His church. And so our goal is to become unified.
Communication should not primarily be venting and complaining, and it needs to be for the help of the marriage, for the help of the individual husband or wife. When we are, first of all, loving our spouse and, first of all, considering them as more important, that’s going to help us to think twice before we just want to vent or complain at them.
So let’s talk about some practical suggestions based on these scriptures.
- There needs to be daily communication between the husband and wife.
- Focus on understanding first, rather than being understood.
Assignments for this episode
Set aside time every day to talk about important things. We’ve compiled this list of practical questions that you can use in this time of communication. Of course, it’s not an exhaustive list, and of course, you don’t have to ask every question every time you sit down. It’s just a resource for you to draw from as needed.
LISTEN SEPARATELY then set a weekly appointment to discuss what you’ve heard, pray about what God may want YOU to adjust or implement, then plan how you will do so.
LISTEN TOGETHER: Set a standing weekly date to listen together, pray over what you’ve heard, discuss, and strategize how to implement relevant things into your relationship.
DO THE HOMEWORK: The more you invest, the more you’ll grow and experience God’s blessings!