Tag Archive | gratefulness

An Important Hidden Key To Massive Spiritual Growth – Especially During Hard Times

When I first met my husband, I can still remember my very first thoughts I had about him.

My sister had been seriously dating a young man and we had just gotten word he had been in a horrible car accident. After finding out my sister’s boyfriend had to be life-flighted to a specific hospital, we wasted no time in getting there.

And that’s when I saw my husband for the very first time … in the emergency room.

As I was comforting my sister…I saw him – all 6’3 of him – walk into the ER.

I was instantly mesmerized.

He was the best looking guy I had ever seen, y’all.

And I must’ve looked at him longer than I thought because my sister looked at me and said, “seriously, Kim?”

Nobody had to tell me to be drawn to my hubby in that ER…or to want to get to know him. And as he looked at me, I somehow knew he would become an important part of my life.

Now I must say…I was not looking for love.

…I don’t believe in love at first sight.

…I hadn’t dated anyone in over a year.

…And a relationship was definitely not something I was seeking at the time.

My heart had been deeply hurt the year before, so I had completely sworn off relationships and marriage. My plan was to never get married while continuing my college education with the goal of becoming a pediatric cardiologist. A life of singleness forever. Blissfully helping others. And I was very, very happy, comfortable, and content with that decision.

But God had other plans.

The very first weekend after the accident, just a few days after I saw my husband for the first time in the ER, my husband and I went on our first date.

My sister’s boyfriend (who I would later find out was my husband’s cousin) ended up being in the hospital for an entire year.

Throughout the year at the hospital, my husband and I would go to the hospital coffee shop together and we’d talk while we were waiting in the ICU waiting room.

We talked about everything…life, God, family, friendship, mutual friendships we shared, sports (he’s an amazing basketball player), movies, music, the Bible, our life experiences while growing up, college, heartaches, past relationships we had been in, current events, what we loved about life, future goals and dreams, where we wanted to travel…everything.

Slowly, my heart began to melt and I began to think about dating and marriage differently.

As we continued dating, talking, and spending time together, my husband eventually opened my heart back up.

He asked me to marry him after three weeks of dating (his spontaneity is one of my favorite things about him). As we headed out on a date, I asked him what was the plan for the evening. He suggested we elope that night.

Although we didn’t elope that night, we did get married a few years later. We had become very close due to spending hours together every day at the hospital – and also due to a hidden key that I believe is the most vital ingredient to any relationship.

The hidden key to the openness and growth we experienced is the exact same key to how we’ve weathered massive grief and storms in our 28 years together.

It’s the same hidden key that allowed me to experience incredible, explosive, extremely meaningful spiritual growth with God.

This special Hidden Key is what sustained us after my sister’s boyfriend died after that hard year in the hospital…and when my sister died three weeks later…when our son was diagnosed with tumors…illnesses…deaths…grief events…a midlife crisis…disagreements…etc. It has sustained us our entire marriage.

More importantly, this hidden key is the very thing that has grown my relationship with God and has sustained me through debilitating grief.

I previously used to think the best way to grow close to God and His heart was to read the Bible…to pray…to memorize scripture…to attend church.

Sure, these are definite ways to grow close to God. They’re absolutely vital and necessary too…but they’re only part of the equation.

Growing up, I did all of the above. My mom worked at the church we attended so we were frequently there – especially every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night. My mom made sure we knew our Bible frontwards, backwards, and in between. My siblings and I took Bible memory classes, participated in Bible drills, and prayed everyday.

I had the head part down…but I lacked the heart part.

After a few grief events crashed into my life, I didn’t have the ability – the important hidden key – to grow through my grief.

To be honest, I turned pretty bitter for a season of about 6 years…so bitter that it transitioned into deep rebellion. I count these years (12-17 years old) to be the most wasted years of my life.

Toward the end of these 6 years, my parents and sister asked if I would attend a seminar with them…and for the first time, everything I heard made sense to me. The heartache. The grief. Everything I had been through.

I found the hidden key to getting through grief and trials…and (what I believe to be) the greatest key to spiritual growth.

Whether it’s spiritual growth with the Lord or growing in any human relationship, it’s vital if you’re going to be close:

Enjoyment.

Genuinely enjoying God and others.

With God, it’s sincerely and genuinely enjoying His presence.

Talking to God…sharing the deepest waters of your heart, mind, spirit, and soul…diving in deeply…spending precious time with Him…finding out what He loves and enjoys…and looking forward to each and every moment with Him. This has greatly impacted – it has been the greatest impact – for my close relationship with God. Enjoying Him, His love, and His presence.

It’s not hard to enjoy God because He gives us lots of practice with loved ones on earth.

Example:

My husband is someone I genuinely enjoy. I love my time with him. I love watching sports with him, singing in the car together (everything from Hillsong/praise music, Broadway musicals, Spice Girls, to Red Hot Chili Peppers), traveling with him, and talking about politics together – even though one of us is a Republican and one is a Democrat. I love that anytime his favorite band comes on the radio, his face instantly lights up and he dances. I love seeing him have fun with the kiddos in our family.

Whatever you do with loved ones, do similar activities with God.

In dating relationships and marriage, you can do all of the “correct” things. You can go through all the right motions. You can have all the intelligence in the world…you can have or create great wealth…you can do all of the chores in your household…you can be the hottest thing since sunburn…but if you and your partner don’t genuinely enjoy each other, the relationship will eventually fold, become massively stale and boring, or evaporate altogether.

The same is true with our relationship with God. We can do all the “right things”: read the Bible…memorize scripture…pray…go to church…etc…but if we don’t genuinely enjoy God and His presence, our relationship with Him has the danger of becoming stale…and worse, merely optional – especially when hard times hit.

There’s just something about enjoying God and creating a fantastic loving friendship with Him that makes the greatest difference in your spiritual walk.

Enjoyment is where you find the heart of God.

I’ve written on my blog about delighting in God, but enjoyment dives much deeper than delighting.

What if like me (how I described not being interested in a relationship when I saw my hubby earlier in this post)…what if something has happened in your life and a relationship with God is a turnoff to you?

You may be mad at God. You may be thinking, “this chick is crazy.”

I encourage you to dive in…headfirst. God loves you and wants you right where you are.

I’m frequently asked how I’ve weathered so much grief…how I’m not bitter.

The hidden key is loving and enjoying God…experiencing a deep intimacy and enjoying a very rich relationship with Him.

It makes all the difference in the world.

Today, consider how you can create and enjoy a deep relationship of enjoyment with God.

It’s very similar to how we develop strong relationships with our loved ones…just like I did when I met my husband. Just like how we thoroughly enjoy and build our relationships with our children, families, and friends.

Nobody has to tell us how to enjoy our loved ones. I’ll tell you this: with God, it’s so much stronger.

…It’s a brilliant, vibrant, most loving friendship that infuses every cell and fiber of your being.

…It molds, challenges, and changes every ounce of your heart. Over and over.

…It’s the best relationship you’ll ever experience in your entire lifetime. Nothing can compare to God.

…It develops a trust and bond like no other.

And it all starts with getting to know God for yourself…and finding – and continually creating – ways to massively enjoy Him.

Francis Chan once said that our ability to know and understand God is the equivalent of God being the entire ocean…and our ability to know and understand God is a mere thimbleful of water in comparison.

I want more of God than just a thimbleful…I want to experience God as much as I can. I want to know, love, enjoy, and understand God as much as possible so that when I finally meet Him face to face…I can know, love, enjoy, and understand Him even more.

You may be wondering, “what does a typical day of enjoying God look like? How can I enjoy God?”

God is in every detail of the entire day. There are so many opportunities and ways to enjoy God!

A few examples:

•God is my very first thought in the morning as I enjoy the start of my day with Him. I make my coffee and prepare my senses to thoroughly enjoy God (coffee drinkers: Wolfgang Puck’s Jamaican Me Crazy is a current favorite…smells sooo great! Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for the ability to smell and enjoy coffee). I start my time of enjoying God through communicating about the upcoming day as I pray. I then ask God how He’s doing, how I can serve Him that day, and simply enjoy His presence.

•Next, I begin a more in-depth prayer time and ask for God’s perfect Will to be done in my life, my family and extended family’s lives, and everywhere in the world. I share everything that’s on my heart and mind and ask for God’s direction. I then pray more specifically for my loved ones, my authority figures, my local, state, and national leaders, my pastors, all pastors and church staff everywhere, all churches, and everyone I minister online to in the Grief Bites family.

During times of occasional conflict, I’ll pray for that situation and also for anyone involved. I have found that when I have conflict with “life” or others, it’s a great opportunity to not just look horizontally at the problem between me and the situation or other person…it’s an incredible opportunity to look at the situation vertically and see if I am doing the same things/offenses to God or others. This has greatly helped me to resolve life’s conflicts, enjoy God during life’s storms, and seek God throughout difficulty…and not become bitter. Every situation we go through in life is to be looked at vertically as we enjoy God’s feedback … There is massive spiritual growth in that! I seek God’s heart through every life situation – all of the good and all of the bad – and find new ways to love, obey, and enjoy God through it all.

•I talk to God quietly in my heart and have an ongoing conversation with Him throughout the entire day. If something good happens, I thank Him. If something bad happens, or something irritates or annoys me, I share that with Him too. I continually try to create an ongoing relationship of enjoyment with God throughout the day and greatly enjoy my friendship with Him.

•I pray at mealtimes and thank God for providing for me. When I spend time with family and friends, I thank Him for the splendid gift each person is to me. If I use an appliance or anytime I use water, drive my car, listen to music, watch TV, or use heat or the AC, I thank Him for it. Anything…everything…we have, it’s evidence of God’s goodness. Every experience of every single day is a great opportunity to talk to God, enjoy His goodness, and extravagantly thank Him. We are so blessed to have and enjoy so many exquisite gifts from Him…my goal is to enjoy God, be grateful, and never take Him, His blessings, anyone, or anything for granted.

•As I cook dinner, I talk to God about anything that’s on my heart. I ask Him to help me see life and situations from His perspective.

•When I exercise, especially running, I carry on a conversation with God about family situations or any character quality I’m working on. Sometimes, I’ll talk about work too.

•I close my night by talking to God about the day and the upcoming day…I also pray for loved ones and anyone or anything else that’s on my heart. If I’m reading or meditating on a particular Bible verse, I’ll talk to God about it and ask Him to help me understand it better. Closing the day with God is an extravagant treat. How incredible is it that God…the Maker and Creator of everything and everyone…wants to spend time with us, love us, enjoy us, and talk to us? What a supreme privilege!

•Do a themed Bible study and genuinely get to know God’s heart. I’ve done studies on specific topics, and it truly makes the Bible come alive. The Bible goes from being something good to read…to truly breathing life into you. It encourages your heart…instructs you…helps you…molds you. And it is so very applicable. The life stories illustrated in the Bible vibrantly come alive. I’ve done specific studies on so many great topics – God’s names in the Bible, the fruits of the Spirit, wisdom, love, friendship, how to treat family, grief, health, how negative emotions can affect health, character studies, marriage, parenting, money, time management, fear, sorrow, trusting God, suffering, how to grow through trials, forgiveness/bitterness, alcohol, the best ways to live life, joy, success, how the Bible applies to current events…so many great topics. The Bible is packed with God’s love, revelation, and instruction. It’s the ultimate interactive Book. Reading 5 chapters of Psalms and 1 chapter of Proverbs every day…and then allowing the Bible to fall open to any given chapter is one of my favorite ways of reading and enjoying God’s Word. It’s applicable each and every day. Not a day goes by that God’s Word doesn’t convict my heart, instruct me, and wrap it’s pages around my heart. You find out what God loves…what God hates…what His plans are…how to develop a rich friendship with Him…all God has done and what is to come. You find the heart of God so you can better enjoy the heart of God. The Bible is an extraordinary, extravagant, priceless gift! If you want to do a really cool themed Bible study, do one over the words ‘enjoy’ and ‘enjoyment.’ You’ll be very surprised what God says. He talks about enjoyment a lot! God created us to enjoy Him and life!

•I go on weekly “dates” with God. He’s my absolute favorite to enjoy life with. Throughout life, we are only guaranteed two lifelong relationships: our relationship with God and our relationship with our own self. Our relationship with God is all of the ways we interact with and enjoy Him. Our relationship with our self is every facet of developing our character, spiritual growth, and any other way God wants to develop us. I enjoy my dates with God so very much! Sometimes, I’ll go to a restaurant and just enjoy a meal with God as I talk to Him silently in my heart. Other times, I’ll go to our local zoo, aquarium, park, nature trail, or drive out by the water, and just talk with God as I enjoy His amazing, beautiful creation. Every year, during the Christmas season, I get some hot chocolate and drive around looking at lights as I talk to God in my heart. Another time, I spent a day at Disney World just with God. As I rode rides and ate at a favorite restaurant in the park, I just thoroughly enjoyed that amazing, fun experience alone with God. Later that evening, I found a quiet spot to enjoy watching the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks and ended the day by praying as I watched the sky beautifully light up. Many times, I’ve just gotten a cup of coffee and watched the sunset as I enjoy God and His presence. I love to play praise music and thoroughly enjoy worshipping Him. Recently, I asked God where He’d like to go on a lunch date. The very next second, I received a text message with a coupon to a local ice cream store. This specific ice cream store only has a drive thru, so I ordered my ice cream and sat in the car and spent time with God. This year has brought a few serious grief situations, and I also recently found out that a good friend was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. March-June were extremely hard months due to several situations. As I sat in my car, eating ice cream, I poured my heart out to God about these situations and worked through some tough emotions… deep sadness… hurt… worry… fear… deep concern for my friend and her precious children and husband. Prayed for all of my family. It was a much needed time with God in prayer and enjoying His love, comfort, encouragement, and presence. Enjoying God isn’t just for the good times…it is also for the hard times in life. That’s when the enjoyment becomes most real. I thoroughly enjoy God, spending time with Him, and finding ways to know and love – and enjoy – Him better through every opportunity and situation in life.

As I was growing up, I was taught (by my parents and our church) to read the Bible, pray, attend church, memorize scripture, do nice things for others, and serve God… These things are great, but they really didn’t help my growth with God to explode. I could do all of these things in action, but it didn’t necessarily mean that I had a solid relationship with God – or a heart change.

It was only when I learned how to thoroughly enjoy God (get to know God for myself…find His true heart by looking at the Bible as a personalized interactive experience…do special themed Bible studies…learn how to thoroughly enjoy His heart and presence)…that is when I had a head-on collision with God’s love and goodness.

The hidden key to exponential spiritual growth is absolutely enjoying God.

What ways can you begin to enjoy God, or further enjoy God, today?

Think of some cool things you can do to build your friendship with God. Breathe Him in deeply. Love Him. Delight in Him. Purposefully seek to see His goodness. Ask and allow Him to change your heart. Never let go during the hard times…when you go through deep grief or after you sin, fail, or make a huge mistake…that’s when you need Him the most. Seek to enjoy God every single day!

Thoroughly enjoy Him! He is waiting for you with open arms.

Enjoy this upcoming time of massive spiritual growth.💕

Here are a few past blog posts of how to delight in God:

https://griefbites.com/2016/12/30/making-2017-your-best-year-yet-43-ways-to-delight-in-god/

https://griefbites.com/2015/12/27/delighting-in-god/

https://griefbites.com/2016/04/03/delighting-in-god-through-trialspart-2/

Gratitude & many blessings,

Kim

©2019 Kim Niles/Grief Bites. All rights reserved.

❤️If you were encouraged by this post, please feel free to share it to encourage others!

⭐️For more encouragement:

❤️Making peace with God: http://peacewithgod.net

❤️Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): https://m.barnesandnoble.com/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/1112403330?ean=9781449725617

❤️Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

❤️Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

❤️FREE YouVersion reading plans:

1. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships

2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed

3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites

4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays

5. Experiencing Holidays With Jesus: Christmas: http://bible.com/r/3V5

6. Experiencing Holidays With Jesus: Happy New Year!: http://bible.com/r/3Zv

7. Valentine’s Day: Experiencing Holidays With Jesus: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/14059-valentines-day-experiencing-holidays-with-jesus

⭐️All content on the Grief Bites blog and website is copyright protected material. Please ask for permission to copy, use, or print.

⭐️⭐️All content on the Grief Bites blog and website is for encouragement purposes only and is not in any way to be construed as medical, emotional, mental, relational, or psychological advice. We hope to serve as a bridge to encourage others by sharing our personal grief and life experiences. Please contact a qualified healthcare professional, mental health professional, or qualified pastor for guidance.

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The Life Lesson You Won’t Want To Wait To Learn

There I was…sitting in a college classroom.

My books neatly stacked, pen and paper out to take notes, as I waited for my professor to start her lecture on the material that would be on the final exam in a few days.

It took everything in me to be present in class that day. My sister had just died six days earlier, and her funeral was the day before this particular class. And just a few weeks before my sister’s death, my other sister’s fiancé (who was also one of my best friends) had died. It was a small miracle I made it out of bed, but I didn’t want the whole semester to be wasted.

As I prepared to listen to my professor’s review, a girl sat right next to me.

This young lady began complaining to me (and the guy sitting next to us) for the next 10 minutes about her job, getting up early to make it to class, her boyfriend buying her the wrong color of roses over the weekend, and she complained about the manicure she had just gotten.

Then she complained about something that pierced my heart: she complained about having to go on vacation over Christmas break with her parents and sister.

Out of all of the mornings I had decided to arrive early to class, this was a day I wished I had slept in.

A mere month before, the young lady’s complaining would have gone in one ear and out the other. I would’ve thought, “wow…this girl is having a bad week.”

This particular morning though, I wanted to tell her – more like scream at her – how lucky she was to have both parents alive…lucky to have her sister to go on vacation with…blessed to have a boyfriend who bought her roses…and her fingernails…really?!…fingernails are something to complain about just because one chipped!? I thought, “wow…this girl needs some serious perspective!”

Sitting in that classroom, I wished my greatest problem was something as vain as a fingernail that could be fixed within half an hour. I wished my sister had her fiancé still here to buy her roses…she would’ve been grateful for any color. I wished I could go on a vacation…any vacation…with my sister and dad again. Instead, I was wondering how our family was going to make it through the grief and storm we were just catapulted into.

The fact is, grief deeply changes you. You see things so very differently!

It truly is like life is a glass “window” that has always been covered in thick glittery paint. Grief comes along and power washes all of the paint and glitter away.

…But having all of the thick glitter washed away doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

Once you experience deep grief, and all of the glitter is washed away, you see people, things, and life – everything – much more clearly.

I’m not trying to be hard on the girl. I bet everything she was complaining about made perfect sense to her. It would’ve made perfect sense to me a few weeks earlier.

To be fair, I wonder how many times I have complained about trivial things to someone who was going through grief or a major life challenge?

And the bigger question:

How many blessings have I missed in life – especially pre-grief – due to not having a proper perspective or the ability to see a bigger picture?

The fact is, every “problem” we may have is an absolute lost “blessing” someone else deeply misses:

•The man or woman who is struggling to get along with their spouse? Someone else only wishes they could bring their spouse back from Heaven or back from divorce. Some are single and have never found love or marriage yet at all.

The job we may absolutely hate? Someone else has recently been laid off or disabled and would love to have their job back.

The child who is rebelling or making poor choices? Someone else would give everything they own just to have one more minute with their deceased child. Others have never been granted the privilege and gift of being a parent.

The person who complains about the wrong haircut, a bad manicure, or “having to go to the gym”? Someone else is in a hospital fighting cancer or battling another illness. They only wish they still had their hair or the energy to go run or workout again.

The person who complains about “having to go see their family,”…how long they have to stay at family gatherings and holidays…or who complains about their parents, siblings, children, extended family or in-laws? Someone else would give everything they own to have the luxury of having any family members at all. Family is a true gift – an EXTRAVAGANT gift – even if they (or we) don’t always act like one!

There are many more scenarios I could list of all the ways, and all of the people and things, we each take for granted or complain about. The opportunities and scenarios are unending.

Note: I’m not downplaying life challenges, difficult family members or challenging people, because life challenges and difficult people are always there and can be very painful. I, myself, have been guilty of complaining about people, things, and life events. I think we all have.

Once we truly put life in proper perspective though, and gain gratefulness in each area, the problems won’t seem near as big, annoying, inconvenient, or insurmountable.

We’ll find that some things in life are not quite the tragedy or crisis we make them out to be.

No matter what, at the end of the day, life is a tremendous gift! We may have to change our perspective, but life truly is.

Take some time today to truly see your blessings. Choose to continually create a grateful heart and genuinely appreciate each family member, person, gift, experience, opportunity, and modern day convenience we each are SO VERY blessed to have in our lives.

I have found that it seriously is a choice.

Rinse off the thick paint of the “window of life,” developing proper perspective, so you are clearly able to see, appreciate, and enjoy life…and the loved ones you have…to your best ability!

Don’t wait for life – or grief – to teach you a most painful lesson: The ability to see your pre-grief life with crystal clear perspective…to clearly see all of the treasure you once had in your life and held in your hand!

Learn this most important life lesson today…right now. Like great treasure in your hand, never allow perspective, blessings, or time to fall through your fingers. Life is precious. Family and good friends are a treasure. Time is a gift.

You may have already experienced a major loss or great grief. Perhaps you are currently going through a tragedy or crisis and life may not feel like a gift today.

Take the time to be kind to your heart. Even if it’s just baby steps, you truly can make it through.💗

🌺Encouraging quotes:

To change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.” ~Stephen R. Covey

“Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of.” ~Charles Richards

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough” ~Oprah Winfrey

“The optimist sees the donut, the pessimist sees the hole.” ~Oscar Wilde

“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and for deeds left undone.” ~Harriet Beecher Stowe

“Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways.” ~Stephen Vincent Benét

“I held a moment in my hand, brilliant as a star, fragile as a flower, a tiny sliver of one hour. I dropped it carelessly, Ah! I didn’t know, I held opportunity.” ~Hazel Lee

“If you woke up breathing, congratulations! You have another chance.” ~Andrea Boydston

Gratitude & many blessings,

Kim

©2018 Grief Bites. All rights reserved.

❤️If you were encouraged by this post, please feel free to share it to encourage others!

⭐️For more encouragement:

❤️Making peace with God: http://peacewithgod.net

❤️Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): https://m.barnesandnoble.com/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/1112403330

❤️Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

❤️Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

❤️FREE YouVersion reading plans:

1. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships

2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed

3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites

4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays

5. Experiencing The Holidays With Jesus: Christmas (available November 2018) http://bible.com/r/3V5

⭐️All content on the Grief Bites blog and website is copyright protected material. Please ask for permission to copy, use, or print.

⭐️⭐️All content on the Grief Bites blog and website is for encouragement purposes only and is not in any way to be construed as medical, emotional, mental, relational, or psychological advice. We hope to serve as a bridge to encourage others by sharing our personal grief and life experiences. Please contact a qualified healthcare professional, mental health professional, or qualified pastor for guidance and advice.**

Divorce Prevention: Questions To Ask Before Getting Married

Marriage can be one of the most incredible experiences of your life…or it can truly drain and destroy your heart every. single. day.

When starting my grief ministry, I was surprised by the amount of people who sought help for marriage, family, in-law, and dating relationship related grief issues. All of these types of relationships – especially in this day and age – can be stressful and cause an extreme amount of grief and conflict.

Yet few consider the huge impact these relationships can have before taking the plunge.

My adult son once told me a marriage joke: “There are three rings in marriage…the engagement ring…the wedding ring…then the suffering.”

This was funny when I heard it..but it is an all-too-true reality for so many.

My husband and I have been marriage coaches at our church the last several years. We also have many couples contact us now due to word-of-mouth and recommendations from couples who we have helped. With God’s grace, we have an over 90% success rate with helping couples to turn their relationship around, and it’s not because my husband and I have a perfect marriage. It’s because we experienced years of marital turmoil, and we also experienced many life, family, and grief experiences throughout our marriage – so we have gained priceless practical insight on how to help couples. We are also very real, authentic, honest, and transparent when we help others.

When rebuilding our marriage, we found what worked…and what did not…and we are very open about what we learned.

My husband and I have been together for almost three decades. During the first 14 years, our marriage was horrible…absolutely terrible. There were ten years we genuinely despised each other. We only stayed together because we didn’t want to ruin family members’ birthdays…or divorce around a holiday…or we had a vacation or special occasion coming up that we didn’t want to ruin for anyone. For me, it was also because I didn’t want all of our photo albums and home videos to turn from being a source of joyful memories for our family to being a visual source of pain – evidence of what “once was.”

At our lowest point…I sought to improve myself and our marriage, as I deeply pondered how things got so bad.

Nobody plans on things going bad, but it does happen…frequently. Too frequently. In fact, around 50% of marriages fail.

Most people (my husband and myself included) get it backwards: we wear rose-colored glasses before we get married and then we wear magnifying glasses after saying, “I do.”

It is much wiser to wear magnifying glasses while dating so you can truly make a solid decision about who you will be spending the rest of your life with…then wear rose-colored glasses after you get married.

When someone gets married, it literally can affect everything in, and about, that person’s life…who they are, their joy, their relationship with God and others, their family, their health, their present or future children, finances, goals, dreams, job/education/career, beliefs, their self-esteem…everything. Since they are willingly placing their self…and their life…in a position of extreme vulnerability, it’s important to be very thorough in making sure they’re giving their heart and life to someone who truly deserves it.

Nobody is perfect…that’s for sure. We all are a work in progress. We all have room for improvement. We all have a bad day here and there. Always. But there is a huge difference between being with a partner who is willing to work at figuring things out vs. a partner who will simply wear you out.

Many people — like I stated earlier, one out of every two people — will either file for divorce or be served divorce papers…so it makes sense to ask a few very important questions before getting engaged or tying the knot.

Consider these statistics:

  • The average marriage lasts 8.2 years
  • 45-50% of first marriages end in divorce
  • 67% of second marriages end in divorce
  • 74% of third marriages end in divorce
  • Nearly 60% of spouses admit to cheating…45% will go on to cheat again
  • The average divorce costs $15,000 to $30,000
  • BUT you can beat these odds with prayer, and a lil preparation and prevention.
  • A good marriage can be an incredible joy and blessing…but a bad marriage can negatively impact both spouses, their children, and both spouse’s families – and each person’s spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health…sometimes for years!

    Contrary to popular belief, a gold band or diamond ring doesn’t have magical abilities. It doesn’t sprinkle pixie dust on the wearer’s finger and make them a magically better version of their self. Brides and grooms come “as is” – no warranty.

    Some go into marriage not only thinking they can change someone…they try to make the marriage or potential spouse “fit” their expectations.

    If a person has to force their foot into a glass slipper (marriage) to make it fit, they will, no doubt, have a very uncomfortable walk throughout their marriage…or worse, the glass slipper will eventually shatter and they’ll carry the scars for a very long time. And if someone is made to feel they never measure up, they, in turn, will resent their mate.

    So now that I’ve been a much needed Negative Nancy so far in this post, how about some positive statistics?😍

    • Married women are 30% more likely to rate their health as excellent or very good compared to single women
    • Married people report lower levels of depression and distress
    • Married people (over 50 years old) are more likely to maintain daily health routines like exercise, eating right, not smoking, and routinely receive annual health physicals
    • Married people are twice as likely to go to church as unmarried people
    • Marriage does more to promote life satisfaction than money, sex, or sometimes even children (source: Wake Forest University psychologists)

    Okay, so what if you’re already married and you believe you made a huge mistake or you think you married the “wrong” person? Please consider a few statistics:

    • 50% of those who divorce regret ending their marriage, and 80% of those who divorce during an affair regret the decision…so it is vital to talk to a trusted pastor or qualified marriage therapist before making the painful decision to separate or divorce
    • 86% of those who rated their marriage as “unhappy” reported having “improved” or even “great” marriages five years later after choosing to stay married
    • once you get married, your spouse becomes the “right” person. God has the incredible ability to heal your marriage

    At some point, I’ll write specifically about each of these questions, but for now, I’ll leave these questions without answers so each reader can come up with their own individual answers. As you read each question, be sure to also answer how your partner would answer or rate you if they were the one reading these questions.

    With any and every relationship, you must keep perspective and look at all viewpoints and sides!😊 It is an absolute must for both people to reflect on not just their partner, or their own individual wants and desires, but it is also important to reflect – and be real about – what both people are personally bringing to the relationship. It most likely will be a mixture of good strengths along with some flaws.

    Each person needs to do their own self-work to ensure they are continually becoming a skilled “master” of their relationship, instead of being the “disaster” of the relationship.

    We’re truly either an asset or a liability to our partner’s heart and wellbeing.

    There are also a few issues many do not consider before marriage that my husband and I frequently hear while coaching:

    • a spouse influences their partner to “write off” or limit their spouse’s time with their spouse’s parents, siblings, or family…then a family member dies…then the spouse who was influenced becomes extremely bitter towards their spouse.
    • a spouse makes more money than one spouse and holds it over the lesser paid spouse’s head.
    • when children are born, a spouse compares their spouse to their own parents.
    • a spouse changes direction in their life without considering how it will affect their spouse (moving, going into missions, etc.)

    There are many reasons – too many reasons to count – why a marriage can fail. These questions are designed to eliminate possibilities for divorce.

    While reading this list, you may be tempted to point fingers, argue with your partner, or dish out blame. That is not the goal of this blog post. The questions are a great opportunity to reflect on what self-work needs to be done by each individual, and it may reveal deficits so you can make an overall decision to either work toward a happier, healthier, and much more fulfilling relationship – or discover that you (or they) may need to upgrade your/their value…or if you choose to stay together, upgrade the value of your relationship together.

    In any bad or challenged relationship, it is rare if it is just one partner’s fault. Both people need to take responsibility for their part and work toward creating a “team” mentality together. When my husband and I were repairing our marriage, I shared with him, “Well, we’ve already found out what doesn’t work for our marriage…let’s now focus on finding out what will work.”

    The truth is: marriage – just like all relationships – are work…sprinkled with love, times of joy, memories and purpose.

    If you’re experiencing a bad time in your relationship or marriage, or you’re in need of good, solid, unbiased advice, there’s no shame in seeking out a qualified and trusted pastor or marriage therapist. My husband and I went to several before we found one who we both liked who could genuinely help us. To this day, we still go to this therapist when we run into issues we can’t easily resolve. The best advice he’s given is, “Treat one another how you would want to be treated and seek to improve yourself!”

    When tempted to think that it’s all one partner’s fault, it’s best to consider the impact – both the good and the bad – both are contributing. As my husband’s and my marriage therapist always says, “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.”

    When my husband and I coach couples, usually one partner will initially drag their feet and truly dread it…until they realize they can custom create a marriage where they and their spouse both feel treasured and fulfilled.

    Your relationship and marriage is yours. You do not have to have a perfect marriage to be happy. You don’t even have to resolve every problem to get along and feel fulfilled. You are not required to pattern your marriage after anyone else’s marriage. You get the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make your marriage exactly what you both want it to be!

    Before reading this list, take a few minutes to pray. Ask God to speak to your heart and to guide and direct your life and relationship.

    Realize there are probably some of these that your partner and you are not favorably doing, and one or both of you may not be up to par. This list simply reveals what needs to be worked on.

    Some of these may be high priorities for you both as a couple…some may not be. Each relationship – especially a marriage – needs to be custom created by the couple. Parents, siblings, friends, etc. certainly care…and a couple should prayerfully consider and contemplate the advice and wise counsel of anyone who cares about them…but at the end of the day, both people need to take ownership of their relationship and do what works for them.

    My husband and I wouldn’t have suffered as much turmoil in our marriage had we discussed a list of questions like this before we got married. We pray this list truly helps others to avoid the heartache and grief we experienced for so long.

    Marriage is definitely a huge decision and commitment. And lifetime love, joy, purpose, and commitment are the goals — for both you and your partner!

    Things To Ask Yourself Before Taking Your Relationship To The Next Level:

    1. Is your partner into you…really into you? (Are you truly into them?)

    2. Do you both love, honor, & fear God? Is your relationship with God the top priority…individually and as a couple? Are you comfortable praying together and encouraging each other spiritually?

    3. How do you both treat your own family? How do you treat each other’s family? How does their family treat you…how does your family treat them? Do you both respect and love your families? Are you both under authority…or are you rebellious? Are you both capable of leaving and cleaving (even though you will still love and respect your parents and families)? Will you (and your partner) be able to set solid boundaries after the wedding so your spouse and marriage truly come first?

    4. Are they mature, responsible, compassionate, caring, and kind? Are they bent towards mercy in how they deal with others? (Are you?)

    5. Do they – and will they – handle hardship, grief, and stress well? (How do you think you handle these things?) If either of you were to prematurely die, can you trust and depend on them to be compassionate to your family and treat them well (and if there are children, will they be fair to your parents/family)…or would there be conflict? 80% of couples will divorce after the death of a child. How people handle grief and tough situations is more important than most realize.

    6. Do they protect, respect, and honor you? (Do you seek to protect, respect, and honor your partner?)

    7. Are they loyal, faithful, and will they truly put you first? (Are you truly wiling to do and be these, too?) Are they prone to cheating? Has a parent cheated? If a parent has cheated, there is a greater likelihood a child will cheat if they’ve failed to forgive their parent.

    8. Do they have a solid ability to communicate, process, and work out problems/issues and restore harmony in the relationship? Are they good at taking the initiative to work problems out? Will you truly have a partner who invests in the relationship to prevent issues? (Do you communicate and work problems out well? Do you invest in the relationship and do your part to prevent issues?) Are you both willing to learn new communication and relationship skills?

    9. How do they consistently treat their parents/family, waiters/waitresses, store clerks, pets, children, and others? (How do you treat others?) How a person treats their parents/family/others is a solid indicator of how they’ll eventually treat you.

    10. Will they be a good parent…and will you want your kiddos to be just like them once they’re grown? (Will you…and would you…want your future children to emulate your life/actions/habits?)

    11. Are they forgiving or do they hold grudges? Are they a peacemaker? Are they vindictive? Are they mature and work issues out…or do they resort to immature tactics such as throwing fits, cussing, sweeping issues under the rug, ignoring problems, or doing the silent treatment? (How do you handle forgiveness issues?)

    12. Do they have their finances in order and have a stable job/work history – do they quit easy? (How about you?)

    13. Are you (or they) controlled by any addiction or toxic behaviors? Will either of you have a hard life due to these issues?

    14. Do they have anger, bitterness, or attitude issues? Do they “make people pay”? (Do you?) Are they humble or prideful?

    15. Have they unpacked their “baggage” in life – the unprocessed baggage their parents (knowingly or unknowingly) passed down to them, as well as their own – and do they continually seek ways to grow and improve their self? (Have you taken – and do you continually take – the steps to do this?)

    16. Have you or they ever cheated in a relationship…and if either has a history of infidelity, did you/they learn from it? If someone has cheated and failed to self-reflect to figure out why, they have an overwhelming chance of cheating again.

    17. Do they respect sex and are they respectful towards you in this area? Do they respect boundaries on social media? Do they make inappropriate comments about the opposite sex? Do they use premarital sex to entice you so you overlook issues or fail to see their personal flaws? (Are you respectful in these areas? Do you do these things?)

    18. If you were ever disabled or diagnosed with a serious illness, how would they accept and handle that? (If your spouse became disabled or seriously ill, would you leave…or love them enough to stay?)

    19. Are they continually self-centered? (Are you?) Do they frequently talk about what they can get from you and others…or do they seek to give to others?

    20. How does your partner make you feel…and if nothing ever changes or improves, can you genuinely live with how things currently are? (How do you make your partner feel…and are you willing to do whatever is necessary to improve your relationship?)

    21. Do you have a good education, a trade, or skill set to provide for yourself – and any children – if the marriage ends or your spouse dies? (Are you committed to ensuring both you and your partner have this important ability?)

    22. Are you/they in love or in need? Getting married for financial purposes will bring problems and deep heartache – for both people.

    23. How do your parents/family feel about your partner? (How do your partner’s parents/family feel about you?) Are any of their concerns justified? Will your parents welcome your spouse after the wedding…will your spouse treat your parents/family fairly? Will you ensure that your parents/family loves and respects your spouse…and will you ensure that your spouse loves and respects your parents/family? You’d be surprised how many marriages end due to not ensuring basic love and respect by all parties.

    24. Is your partner genuinely good to you and are you genuinely good to them…and are you genuinely good for each other?

    25. Do you genuinely like them as a person? (Do they genuinely like you?)

    26. Do you have similar values, life goals, and beliefs? Are there any deal breakers?

    27. Do you have compatible ideas on the hot topics of marriage: religion, money, parenting, family, sex, chores/jobs/responsibilities?

    28. Do you have fun together, have a strong friendship, and genuinely enjoy each other? Do you value and celebrate each other on important “couple” holidays (anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, etc)?

    29. Are you attracted to your partner – spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, etc.? (Is your partner attracted to you in these areas?)

    30. Do you and your partner make gratefulness and valuing each other a priority? Are you (they) more grateful or ungrateful? More valuing or demeaning?

    Hope these questions are helpful! Keep in mind these questions are not the gospel…they’re simply a tool for self-reflection and self-improvement.

    Rome wasn’t built in one day and neither are relationships. Marriages take a lifetime to grow and perfect!

    So, what if you read this list and are now discouraged?

    Here are a few resources I have personally found to be very helpful. Some are websites and some are videos. All are helpful for building relationships and self-improvement:

    http://www.familylife.com/weekend-to-remember

    https://saddleback.com/watch/how-to-build-a-love-that-lasts-a-lifetime/growing-a-love-that-lasts

    http://www.focusonthefamily.com

    http://www.life.church/media/from-this-day-forward/

    https://saddleback.com/watch/the-purpose-driven-family

    https://www.drphil.com/advice_categories/relationships-sex/

    https://www.celebraterecovery.com

    http://www.life.church/media/the-vow/

    http://www.purposedriven.com

    http://www.life.church/media/samson/

    http://www.chazown.com

    http://www.rickwarren.org/devotional

    http://www.rejoicemarriageministries.com

    http://www.familylife.com

    https://www.gottman.com

    Marriage can truly last a lifetime and be one of the best experiences of your life!

    Your heart is one of the highest, most prized treasures you can give to someone. Give it to someone who will take good care of it!❤️

    Gratitude & blessings,

    Kim

    ©2018 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

    ❤️If you were encouraged by this post, please feel free to share it to encourage others!

    ⭐️For more encouragement:

    ❤️Making peace with God: http://peacewithgod.net

    ❤️Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/mobile/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/

    ❤️Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

    ❤️Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

    ❤️FREE YouVersion reading plans:

    1. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships

    2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed

    3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites

    4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays

    ⭐️All content on the Grief Bites blog and website is copyright protected material. Please ask for permission to copy, use, or print.

    ⭐️⭐️All content on the Grief Bites blog and website is for encouragement purposes only and is not in any way to be construed as medical, emotional, mental, relational, or psychological advice. We hope to serve as a bridge to help and encourage others by sharing our personal experiences we have gone through with our own personal grief and life experiences. Please contact a qualified healthcare professional, mental health professional, or pastor for guidance andadvice.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️Websites are not necessarily an endorsement. They are included for encouragement and informational purposes only.

    Remembering & Thanking Our Brave Military!

    In loving memory of our fallen military members who paid the ultimate price for their courageous service! And in honor of all the men and women who have served (and are currently serving) our country. We deeply and sincerely thank you for your courage and all of your sacrifices!

    I wrote and posted this awhile back on the Grief Bites blog in honor of my family members and friends who have served! I appreciate those who serve so very much!

    “A Vet – whether active-duty, retired, The National Guard or U.S. Army Reserve – is someone who, at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to the ‘United States of America’, for an amount of up to and including their life.”

    ❤️

    Today, when you play with your kiddos, there’s a serviceman or woman who doesn’t get to enjoy that freedom…and many of them miss huge milestones such as the birth of their children, their child’s 1st birthday party, other birthdays, Christmas mornings, graduations, 1st day of school, goodnight kisses, bedtime stories, and other special occasions.

    ❤️

    When you kiss, or spend time with, your spouse or significant other, there’s a serviceman or woman who is missing their loved one beyond words! They miss wedding anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, Valentine’s Day, special events, and they don’t get the luxury of regular “date nights.” Some are divorced or betrayed by their spouse (through no fault of their own) due to being away serving our country.

    ❤️

    When you get together with your best friends this weekend, realize there’s a serviceman or woman who not only buried their best friends…but may have actually witnessed their best friends being killed during combat. Some have friends who experienced PTSD or committed suicide, too.

    ❤️

    When you talk to or hug your spouse, kiddos, parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces/nephews, or any other family members…or you’re tempted to complain about any of them…remember there’s a serviceman or woman who would love to be able to enjoy that freedom—but can’t due to their service and/or being stationed many miles away. They miss many family events, celebrations and special occasions!

    ❤️

    When you go to the gym this week, or go do a physical activity, there’s a serviceman or woman who is learning how to live with a severe disability because they fought for our freedoms.

    ❤️

    When you go to work…or a place of worship…or speak your opinion…or go to a sporting event…or attend college or another school function…or vote…or speak your mind about a presidential election...it’s all because someone willingly signed up to protect and ensure our safety and our freedoms—knowing it could very well cost them their very LIFE—so we can wonderfully enjoy all the joys and privileges of a free country!

    ❤️

    When you go about life, dreaming, making plans, and setting goals, there’s a serviceman or woman who is denied these precious, exquisite gifts and opportunities – since they willingly laid down their life and died while serving and fighting for our freedoms.

    💕“Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder if they have ever made a difference in the world, but the Marines (and armed forces) don’t have that problem.”

    – Ronald Reagan

    Please join me in THANKING and praying for all of our wonderful, incredible veterans today…and let’s keep them in our prayers each and every day!

    If you personally know of someone who has experienced the death of a family member or friend who died while serving in the military, please reach out to them.

    If you know of someone who is currently serving, or who has served, (or you know a spouse who holds the fort down while their loved one is away serving…or you know a parent of a serviceman or woman) sincerely thank them the next time you see them!

    Our military (and their families) truly deserve so much more remembrance, honor, and gratitude than we can ever give them for their sacrifices!

    Beyond grateful today to everyone who has served! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    And if you’ve experienced great heartache, challenges, or disability due to serving, I’m truly genuinely sorry for your pain…and sorry Americans (including myself) haven’t understood it from your perspective.

    You truly are amazing heroes! 

    Thank you so very much for your service, courage, and sacrifices!! We all love you, are grateful to you, and pray God richly blesses you!!💕

    Gratitude & many blessings,
    Kim

    Originally posted ©2015 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

    🇺🇸If you were encouraged by this post, please feel free to share it to encourage others!

    For more encouragement:

    ❤️Making peace with God: http://peacewithgod.net

    🇺🇸Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/mobile/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/

    ❤️Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

    🇺🇸Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

    ❤️FREE YouVersion reading plans:

    1. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships

    2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed

    3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites

    4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays

    Grief & Gratefulness

    Going through intense heartache made me a huge advocate of intentionally developing gratefulness into my heart during times of grief.

    After a very good friend of mine and my sister died 3 weeks apart from each other, I sunk into a deep depression.

    After seeking God for His help, He placed it on my heart to write letters to anyone who had made an impact in my life…God, parents, siblings, family members, selected friends, pastors, Sunday school teachers, school teachers (Kindergarten-12th grade), college professors, coworkers, my former ballet teacher who had taught me many years and had given me discounted lessons after my dad died, former coaches…basically everyone who had significantly poured into my life.

    I wrote each person a letter, telling them thank you and sharing with them how they had made a difference in my life.

    Doing this, made a huge impact in my life and dramatically eased my depression.

    Several of my former teachers and college professors even wrote back and shared that I was the only student who had ever thanked them in their teaching careers.

    The impact of this caused me to develop true gratefulness in every area of my life…and made me want to show gratefulness to my loved ones on a frequent basis.
    I also developed the habit of thinking of 5 people & 5 things I was grateful for every morning & night.

    Today, if you are struggling through grief, consider writing thank you notes to all who have made a difference & an impact in your life.
    Think of 5 people & 5 things you are grateful for every morning & each night.

    Give thanks every day to God for everyone & all the good remaining in your life!

    A grateful heart can do wonders & bring healing to a grieving heart!

    Give thanks & develop gratefulness starting today!

    Gratitude & blessings,

    Kim
    ©2014 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

    If what you read was helpful, please feel free to share it❤️

    ❤️
    Resources~

    Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (book): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/mobile/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/1112403330?ean=9781449725617 

    Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

    Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

    FREE YouVersion reading plans:

    1. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships 
    2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed 
    3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites 
    4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: (Coming November 4, 2015)