Protecting Your Marriage to Thrive – Part Four: Removing the Thorns – A Couple’s Bible Study

Do you worry? Do you focus on what you don’t have? Or are you always striving to get more?

If you answered yes to any of these questions (and who among us hasn’t at one time or another), read on. For God’s Word has a lot to say about these things and how they affect your marriage.

All of us want our marriages to thrive. But a thriving marriage doesn’t just happen. It takes preparation. And the best place to find what that preparation requires is in God’s Word. This Couple’s Bible Study looks at one of Jesus’ parables–the Parable of the Sower–to learn what it takes to make sure our marriage is in the best condition to be successful, enjoyable, and honoring to God. You can read this parable in these three passages–Matthew 13:1-9, Mark 4:1-9, Luke 8:4-8.

As we have seen in this study of the Parable of the Sower, Jesus discusses several types of soil that a farmer may have to deal with as he plants seed. The condition of the soil determines what will come from the seed that falls. That is why it is so important that the farmer prepare the soil if he wants the best possible results.

Of course, Jesus is not really talking about soil. He is using it as an example of the condition of our hearts–where our thoughts and actions begin. Just as the farmer should prepare the soil for the seed, we should prepare our hearts for God’s truths, so it can produce Godly fruit in our lives and marriages.

In our study so far, we have discussed “the path” as found in Mark 4:2-4, and the “rocky places” as found in Mark 4:5-6. This week we want to look at the third type of soil–“among thorns.”

“Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain.” – Mark 4:7

GET RID OF Thorns

God warns us throughout His Word about thorns. Proverbs 22:5 says: “In the paths of the wicked are snares and pitfalls, but those who would preserve their life stay far from them.” This is the New International Version of this verse; but the New American Standard Bible is closer to the literal Hebrew translation. It reads: “Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse; He who guards himself will be far from them.” God is telling us to watch out, for thorns are bound to crop up in our lives.

Soil not well tended will become infested with harmful things...and so will our hearts. | Preparing Your Marriage to Thrive - Part Four: Removing the Thorns | Simply One in Marriage.

Last week, I told you about the concrete Sabra and I had to dig up from our overgrown yard. Only after that rock layer was removed was the seed able to take root and grow. Well, in that same yard, we also had to pull out a lot of weeds and keep pulling them as they came up.

The only other house we owned, unlike that old house, was brand new. But its yard was also full of weeds when we moved in. We had to start from scratch to get the ground ready for planting. It required months of preparation and cultivation before we could plant anything that would survive. And even after it was well established, the yard had to be carefully tended to keep the weeds out and plants thriving.

Every garden or yard will become infested with weeds if we do not prepare the soil well for planting the good seed and carefully tend to it after planting. Likewise, if we do not guard our hearts from the ways of the world and nurture them with God’s truth, our hearts will become infested with things that are harmful. When they do, our relationship with God will not flourish, and our marriage cannot grow and be strong.

The person Jesus is describing as this thorny soil looks just like everyone else in church. But his heart is infested with the things of the world. He has a hard time concentrating on the sermon. He is thinking about what he has to do in the week ahead. He thinks about his family problems, his financial situation, or even the ball game that afternoon. He is so distracted that God’s Word does not take root in his heart. And his walk with the Lord is being strangled by the worries and attractions of the world.

What are some of those things that choke out our walk with Christ? That take away the fruitfulness and joy from our lives and marriages? What prevents us from having the marriage that God wants us to have that will honor and glorify Him before the world?

Jesus explains this to us in Mark 4:18-19: “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”

Jesus does not provide us with an exhaustive list here, but He mentions specific things that we are all vulnerable to.

Mark 4:18-19 | Preparing Your Marriage to Thrive - Part Four: Removing the Thorns | Simply One In Marriage.

Worries

We can worry about so much in this life. It might be our families and their well-being, our health or that of our spouse and children. It might be about our future and that of our children. Or it might be about our jobs. And I know you could add to this list.

God tells us so often in His Word not to worry, but to trust Him with all these things.

Jesus told us, for example, in Matthew 6:25-34:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Jesus tells us not to worry about all those material, physical things in life. But isn’t that what we spend so much time worrying about? In essence, it becomes a thorn in our hearts. I certainly have found this to be true in my own life and marriage. And it has been the cause of many conflicts in the marriage counseling I have done.

Money and Worldly Desires

In Mark 4:19, Jesus includes among the weeds “the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things.”

A preoccupation with money and the things of this world will destroy any budding godly life and marriage.

This is why Paul warned his young protégé Timothy with these words: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:6-10).

We must not allow our lives and marriages to become focused on material things. When we put all our effort into holding onto what things we have or seeking to get even more, we will be left with no time for God or each other.

As Jesus said in Matthew 6:24: No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

When we put God first, everything else will fall into place. | Preparing Your Marriage to Thrive - Part Four: Removing the Thorns | Simply One in Marriage.

Focus on God and His Glory

Our focus should always be to please and serve God. A focus on anything else will become a thorny weed that will grow up and choke out what is good in our lives and marriages.

Paul gives us these instructions:

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” – 1 Corinthians 10:31

“So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it” – 2 Corinthians 5:9.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Colossians 3:17

“We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:4

When we put God first, everything else will fall into place–our marriage, our children, our jobs…everything. But when He isn’t given His rightful place in our lives, nothing else will be right. Our lives will suffer and so will our marriages.

The busier and more complex our lives become, the more vital it is that we keep our focus on God and His truth. Making time to pray and study God’s Word—for ourselves and as a couple–is essential. It is our only hope to keep those thorny weeds of worries and worldly desires from taking over. This is the preparation we need for our lives and marriages to thrive.

(To help you with your prayer and study time together, we’ve put together some free resources. We especially recommend using Couple Connect as a weekly time to communicate, pray, and study God’s Word together. You can download our free ebook here: Couple Connect – A Simple Weekly Plan to Stay Close for a Lifetime.)

 

Questions for Discussion
        • Read this week’s teaching and talk about how it applies to your marriage right now.
        • What things distract you from studying God’s Word and following what it says? What can you do to eliminate these “thorns”? How can you help each other with this? Be specific and carry it out this week.
        • What things are you worrying about right now? What will you do about it? How do the verses about worry help you? Are there other promises from God’s Word that can help you right now deal with your worry? Share them with each other, and use them to pray to your loving Heavenly Father about what is worrying you.
        • Honestly discuss where you are focusing your lives right now, both individually and as a couple. Is it serving and pleasing God? If not, pray and confess this to Him, and ask Him to help you give Him first place in everything. Thank Him for His promise that as we do, He will make everything else work together for good: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Next week we will conclude this series with some good news. We’ll see what God teaches us about how to prepare the soil of our hearts fully, and what He does for us when we do.

Until then, may God bless you in all His wonderful ways,
David

Other posts in the PREPARING YOUR MARRIAGE TO THRIVE series:
Part 1–The Importance of Your Heart’s Condition
Part 2–Softening the Hard Places
Part 3–Breaking Through the Rocky Places
Part 5–Cultivating the Good Things
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Scripture quotations marked (NASB) taken from the New American Standard Bible® (NASB), Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.Lockman.org
Header photo by Paul Jarvis via Unsplash (CC0), cropped/text added.
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Photo 2 by Torriatte via pixabay (CC0), text added.
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Do you worry? Do you focus on what you don't have? Or are you always striving to get more? This Couple's Bible Study looks at these things we do that will harm our marriage. | Simply One in Marriage.

About David Penley

A devoted husband and father, former pastor and seminary professor, who longs to grow closer to the likeness of Christ each day and share God's love and truth with everyone.