Dr. Tonya D. Armstrong



Leveraging Hope to Launch Resilient Leaders

This past weekend, my husband and I were blessed to have attended a marriage retreat at the Sanderling Resort in Duck, NC, with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church Couples Ministry.  Along with Rev. Dewey and Lynne Williams, and Rev. Jeremy and Ashley Gilmore, we co-facilitated sessions around the theme of “A Joy-Filled Marriage.”  During the retreat, we defined what joy is and what joy is not.  We learned that joy is not happiness (i.e., based on circumstances), laughter, smiling, wealth or pleasure.  Instead, we learned that true joy is shaped in the crucible of suffering.  As counter-intuitive as it seems, we’re called to “count it all joy” when we endure various trials and tribulations, because the testing of our faith leads us to develop perseverance, which in turn leads to making us mature and complete (James 1:2-4).  Additionally, 1 Peter 1:6-9 says this: “In all this [new birth in Christ] you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  As a group, we also learned that joy is connected to sowing and reaping seeds of faith, which require sunlight (Jesus, the light of the world), dirt (the trials of life), water (God’s cleansing and nourishment), and air (the movement of the Holy Spirit) to make them grow.  When we incorporate these elements into our marriage, we will reap a harvest of joy, as well as other fruits of the Spirit.

We also reflected on some tools that are necessary for reviving and sustaining joy in marriage.  From a practical perspective, there are some fundamentals that every relationship needs to grow and flourish: Spiritual connection, consistent and effective communication, the provision and enjoyment of physical and sexual intimacy, engagement in the forgiveness process (which is different from cheap forgiveness), commitment to identifying and implementing reasonable money management strategies, and healthy interactions with other family members (whether children or extended family members).  A key element of marriage is knowing your spouse as well as knowing yourself.  Some aspects of your spouse you learned right away, perhaps even from the first date.  Even if your spouse is someone who communicates less content or less often than you’d prefer, you know a lot from observation of nonverbal expressions (e.g., tone, pitch, and volume of voice, facial expressions, posture, body language).  You know how your spouse is likely to respond to novelty, routine, conflict, and crisis, and as you develop in your own wisdom, you learn how to interact with your spouse to maximize the harmony in your relationship, as well as a positive outcome in each situation.  Your spouse, like you, is constantly evolving, and part of the richness of marriage is continuing to learn new things about each other.

The climax of our retreat was experienced in worship.  Reviewing Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine, we were reminded that when we do what Jesus tells us to do, God can create a miracle in our lives or in our marriages by creating a surplus out of shortage (John 2:1-11)!  We closed in song by reminding ourselves that, as Kirk Franklin penned, our lives are in God’s hands.  These spiritual and practical lessons, fellowship with other couples, leisure time with our spouses, surrounded by the salty air and the gently crashing waves, gave us great hopes for establishing and maintaining a joy-filled marriage!

À votre santé (“To your health”)


Dr. T

Tonya Armstrong