How You Can Offense-Proof Your Marriage

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How do you break the chains that negative words have created in your marriage? Everything in the Christian life begins with forgiveness, and it is the same way in your marriage. You must forgive each other for the many hurtful words that have been spoken in the past. Forgiveness is the oil of the Spirit that leads to healing and restoration.

Next, you need a new pattern. That's where the 40-day fast comes in. Through the fast, you will seek to deal a death blow to negative words and habits in your marriage. These things have stunted the growth of intimacy in your marriage for long enough! The whole perspective of your relationship has a chance to change as you fast words and pray together.

In situations where you once returned unkind words with unkind words, you are going to start responding with kindness. Where you once speculated and thought the worst, you will now look for the best in your spouse. You will look for opportunities to brag about your spouse. Where you used to become angry, you will find yourself being patient. You won't always think of yourself first, and you won't insist on your own way. You will discover new intimacy.

There is magnificent, astounding power available to you to change your marriage by fasting negative words. Keep an open mind as I introduce you to biblical principles that may provide a new paradigm for your spiritual understanding. Two core passages—2 Corinthians 10:3-5 and Ephesians 6:10-18—make it clear that we have two offensive weapons to fight the enemy: the Word of God and prayer.

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Fasting, when linked with prayer and the Word of God, becomes one of the ultimate weapons in the spiritual life to combat the world, the flesh and the devil. Fasting takes us deeper into the spiritual dimension. You can proclaim a fast to humble yourself and draw near to God (Ezra 8:21). And Jesus made it clear there are some things that only come about by prayer and fasting. There are strongholds in the way you speak to your spouse that can be broken with prayer and fasting. You can cleanse your marriage of criticism, sarcasm, complaining, judging and gossip by fasting negative words.

The Benefits of Fasting Words

Consider with me this thought that may have never entered your mind: fasting words can be just as effective spiritually as fasting food. Fasting words, when linked with prayer, can render the following benefits.

Humility. Fasting words is a concrete expression of humility. By limiting your words and using no negative words, you are saying to God that you are totally dependent on Him. You want every word that crosses your lips to be pleasing to Him. Each one of us needs the Lord to search the depths of our heart and cleanse our words. It is sobering and humbling to recognize that speaking reveals the state of our hearts.

There is no better position to be in with God than humility. This is where you discover His rich grace: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6b).

Brokenness. When you limit your words, you are admitting your brokenness. Fasting words is an outward sign of what you want to take place in your heart. It is an admission of the sin of your words. It is a confession that you have unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips. You are laying the foundation for God to cleanse your heart.

The commentator Matthew Henry said a fast shows true sorrow for sin. Acknowledging your sinful words of criticism, complaining, judgments and other negative words is the first step toward becoming a person with clean lips.

Passion. Passion drives life. God promises that if we seek Him passionately, we will find Him (Jer. 29:13). God spits a half-hearted and lukewarm faith out of His mouth (Rev. 3:16). A true heart seeks God intentionally, with desire and sincerity: "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse them from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water" (Heb. 10:22).

Fasting words and silencing selfish motives, judgments or other sinful words sends a message to God. You are communicating to Him by your actions that you are focused, purposeful and genuine in your desire for change in your heart.

A listening heart. Fasting words, by definition, means your speech is not characterized by wordiness. You are choosing to be quiet and listen. When you fast words, you will experience acuity in listening that you have never known. Not only will you hear more intensely and deeply, but your discernment will increase. When you open the Word of God, it will speak more clearly than ever. When you choose to guard your heart and close your mouth from speaking judgments, criticism, complaining and gossip, all your relationships will change for the better.

Have you ever wondered what Jesus' prayer life was like? How did He arrive at a place where He could make the bold statements He did? He gives us the most pointed illustration of the power of being quiet and listening. He is always our signature example to follow in life, and He spoke and did nothing on His own initiative.

"Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does" (John 5:19b, NIV).

"And I know that His command leads to eternal life. So I speak exactly what the Father has told Me to say" (John 12:50, BSB).

Here's what Jesus, the man, did: He quieted himself and listened to the Father, particularly in the morning and then throughout the day (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16).

For Jesus, His prayer life was more about listening than talking. He heard what the Father wanted Him to say and do, and that's what He said and did. Keep reminding yourself that Jesus was 100% flesh and blood. He needed to listen to the Father to know the Father's will. He came to intimately know the Father through this kind of listening.

It may seem like common sense, but you are going to need to spend a lot more time listening than talking if you want to know someone better. Jesus shows us that quietness opens our spiritual ears to hear God's thoughts and direction for our lives. In fasting words, we gain control over our ideas, our experiences, our education and our biases, and we submit them to God. We can turn off all the voices speaking to us and hear just His voice. This is the example Jesus left.

Growth in Relationships

The other majestic, hidden benefit of fasting words is what it does to the relationships around you, in particular, your marriage. One of the most precious gifts you can give a person is the ministry of listening. So often we think we have the answer to someone's problem and rush to fix a situation.

In reality, the most important help we can offer a Christian brother or sister is usually to be quiet and listen. In his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls it the ministry of holding one's tongue. He also says that by just being quiet, we can curb our own evil thoughts. And even more, we are freed to see the richness of God's creative word in other people—specifically in our spouses.

I once heard Kathryn Kuhlman say, "No one can give to anyone else any more than they have experienced themselves." What we share, teach and tell others should be something that comes from the depths of our own lives. There, it is tried and tested by God. Here's a brief on my experience of fasting words.

"I was in the middle of complete, physical failure after seven years of daily, chronic pain. I ended up with opioid addiction, for which I had two years of methadone treatment. My life was brought to an ugly, complete halt.

"I had to quit working and eventually move out of a large house I could no longer afford. Life got desperate. My marriage was suffering dramatically. In the midst of it all, I became a person who complained, was judgmental and was full of negative words.

"As I sought the Lord about how my life could be saved and restored, He spoke to me through His Word to fast complaining, criticism, sarcasm, gossip and judgments. I had never heard of such a thing. I solicited a close friend to fast words with me. The results changed the course of my life and marriage. I can now wait on the Lord in peace, which has changed the atmosphere of my home. As humiliating as it is to admit, I had become a gossip—untrustworthy—and got a consolation in others' failures. Now people readily share confidences with me because I have proved to be 100% trustworthy. My marriage was a disaster waiting to implode. As miraculous and unimaginable as it is, my wife and I have become intimate and are entering into the unity we dreamed of."

The same could happen for you. That's what the 40-day word fast is for—to set you on your way.

Tim Cameron has a master's in teaching arts from the University of Tulsa. He also graduated from Oral Roberts University, where he was director of admissions and financial aid. He is also the author of The Forty-Day Word Fast and 40 Days Through the Prayers of Jesus.

This article was excerpted from the December issue of Charisma magazine. If you don't subscribe to Charisma, click here to get every issue delivered to your mailbox. During this time of change, your subscription is a vote of confidence for the kind of Spirit-filled content we offer. In the same way you would support a ministry with a donation, subscribing is your way to support Charisma. Also, we encourage you to give gift subscriptions at shop.charismamag.com, and share our articles on social media.

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