My thoughts this morning are about Christian marriage, those who are Christians and married, seeking to live out God’s will for their marriage and home. If you are a Christian and married or know someone who is, you likely know it can be hard. Even when two people are seeking the Lord, there are still the challenges of miscommunication, unmet expectations, and a host of other hurts that come to us in our fallen world, courtesy of our flesh, the world, and the devil.
I’m aware of some situations that seem hopeless (this from the human point of view). This is not going to improve, they think, so they tough it out, lead separate lives, or even part ways. Is there any hope?
Can we acknowledge that for most, marriage is work and requires that we invest in it? We can’t hope for those initial “feelings” of love to carry us through. Though we want something to be easy and not require much from us, isn’t it often (always?) the hard work that yields the best fruit. Our marriages take commitment in ways the world doesn’t understand.
I liken it to when we are physically sick. If we get pneumonia or some kind of bacterial infection, we see a doctor and get an antibiotic. If we become dehydrated from a violent stomach virus, we see a doctor and get an IV of fluids. If we fall and break a bone, we see a doctor and have it set. We go take care of these obvious physical ailments.
But when it’s a marriage (or any number of other spiritual things), when it’s something that can be internalized or ignored, something that’s easier to let it go than to work hard, something we think we should just accept that it is what it is and not work to cultivate it, we leave a gaping wound and walk around sick inside without getting the help and attention to the ailment that is so desperately needed. We settle for status quo.
Don’t you want to rise up against that? If I’m sick, I go to a doctor. If my marriage is ailing, why would I ignore it and let days and weeks and years pass?
It’s true – we can’t control the other person, but there are some things we can do. Those are the things I’ve been looking for in Scripture as I’ve been thinking about this as I pray for a number of marriages that I know are in need of some resurrection power.
First, go to the Scriptures. Look up the passages on marriage. See what God asks us to do as husbands and wives. Write that down. I guarantee you’ll walk away with some new realization and thoughts. God’s Word is so instructive and true. This morning I read through I Peter 3:1-6, Eph. 5:22-33, Col. 3:18-19 to see what my role is.
Second, recognize that our obedience to God, our right actions in our marriages, are not BECAUSE or IF our spouses are so worthy and deserving of this, but are actually IN SPITE OF our spouses and regardless of their behavior. Our obedience comes because we trust God and believe what He says, and we fear Him. Read that I Peter 3 passage. Wives play a role such that their unbelieving husbands might be won without a word by their conduct. They imitate Jesus who is described at the end of Chapter 2. Their quiet and gentle spirit is precious in God’s sight and demonstrates that they trust in Him, not their spouses.
Husbands are also told how to live with and honor their wives — not because their wives are acting in such a way that deserves it — but so that their prayers might not be hindered. Our actions shouldn’t be dependent on what our spouses are doing; rather, they should be regardless of what they do, in obedience to God and trusting what He says.
Third, recognize who the true enemy is. There is an enemy, but it’s not your spouse. Your spouse may be in sin and may be struggling, but the spouse is not the real enemy. The enemy is the devil. Our flesh and sin may also be involved, likely so. But the one we need to be delivered from is not our spouse, but the schemes of the evil one.
Read Exodus 14, particularly verses 13-14 – “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace [be quiet].”
Look who is doing the active work. The LORD will fight, the LORD will accomplish it. We should not fear, but should stand still and hold our peace. At the same time, remember Ephesians 6:10-18 so that you may be strong in the Lord and his mighty power and stand firm.
Fourth, pray. Have we even begun to see what God will accomplish when we cry out to Him, seek Him, ask Him, believe Him. Study verses on prayer and what we can expect. What are God’s promises to us in His Word?
You get the idea – these truths came to me this morning while reading God’s Word and praying for many friends’ marriages and my own. I know there are many other practical things we can do, such as reading good books on marriage, perhaps together with our spouse (Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs, The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller, What Did You Expect? by Paul Tripp all come to mind); talking to your spouse to come up with some goals for strengthening your marriage; praying together as a couple; and on the list goes.
Do we believe God’s Word is true? Does He indeed have for us the path of blessing and joy in this and in every circumstance? Let’s try to honor Him, believe Him, and see.
I must note here at the end: these are merely reflections as I’ve been reading this morning. I am not a counselor, a psychologist, or a theologian. I am writing about the general challenges we face in marriages, not about the extreme situations that someone may find themselves in, such as physical abuse. If that is the case, seek safety and get help, of course. Some of these principles may apply to all situations (pray, trust in God, etc.), but do take care to get professional or other help in such an extreme case. These are thoughts for the everyday challenges, but also those things that seem impossible. Let’s ask God and see what He might do.