“The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is
because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful
at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves
than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more
loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us.”
Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage
Marriage. It always seems like a walk in the park when you’re about to say the vows with your love for the rest of your life. You think, “Our love will carry us through any difficulty we might face.” But to be honest, that is a Hallmark phrase and life is not a Hallmark movie.
People tell me that I’ve “been married long enough to know it’s difficulties but short enough to still enjoy it.” Most of the time, I get joking comments from couples who have been married for a while telling me that I am “lucky” to still be in the beginning stages. I laugh with them, but while I know marriage is not a simple task, the jokes and sarcasm seem to rub me the wrong way.
Why do we feel the need to tell younger couples the negatives of marriage?
“And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works
of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and
seriousness of your teaching.” Titus 2:7
I’m all for telling the truth, but doing so in a way that will not discourage and disarm the joy of those who may be looking forward to the union God has called them to. Why do we refer to it with phrases such as, “ball and chain,” “last night as a free man/woman,” and “being tied down?” If marriage is supposed to reflect the direct relationship of Christ and the church, why do we use those terms? And would we still refer to the relationship between Christ and the church with those same negative referrals?
But I believe the words we use have power over our lives.
“The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.” Matthew 12:37
If we speak life, even in the midst of the trials, it can enable us to have hope, peace and joy. The way you love and respect your spouse even when you are frustrated, disappointed and deeply hurt by them can bring honor to God and is ultimately a witness to everyone around you.
So I want to challenge you. Whether you are married, dating or single – I think these thoughts can be of use to every stage in life. Take 5 extra minutes each day to apply these words of advice and allow God to transform the way you think, talk and what you ultimately believe about marriage. And let’s begin changing the way people value, view and understand marriage to be.
1) Pray for your spouse. This simple, yet powerful, act can drastically transform the way you see your spouse. I have found in moments of frustration and hurt that the best way to love and forgive your spouse is to bring them before Jesus. He takes care of the things you want to change, heals the wounds that may need healing, and lightens the burden that you might be carrying. Talk to Him, tell Him what you need, and watch Him work and change your heart towards your spouse.
2) Work on your relationship with Jesus. This can be partnered with the first challenge. I found it difficult to understand my new role as a wife. There were new changes and responsibilities that also brought along a newness to my relationship with Christ.
Each season we go through, God is exactly who we need. He meets us where we are and is our portion for the specific journey we are on at each point in time. When my relationship with God shifted because of my new role of new responsibilities as a help mate, I found myself having to guard my time with Him. Sometimes we have to fight for and protect our time with Him. I have found that the way you treat your spouse and marriage is dependent upon time spent with Jesus. He is still what you need and still has many things to teach you in every season.
3) Keep it positive.
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8
No matter what you are walking through, work hard to keep your speech and thoughts about your spouse encouraging. Any negative and angry thought that pops up throughout your day, pray immediately and work to replace it with encouraging thoughts and actions. You will not like your spouse every day even though you will always love them. Learning to press through and see the good, will help every situation. Even if it’s simple and sweet, it still counts.
4) Encourage younger people. I feel very strongly about this. I love my husband. I also know that neither of us are perfect and will continue to not be perfect until we reach heaven. The people who spoke negatively about marriage honestly brought tears to my eyes. I heard some positive words, but a lot of people would talk about how difficult and tough it was. I do believe we need to share our wisdom and experiences that marriage can, in fact, be very difficult. But I also firmly believe we are to point people to God’s Word and share how Jesus says to handle the difficult seasons of life. Arm them, don’t disarm them. Offer advice. But also remember to give encouragement and love as well.
And always remember, we are a picture of Christ and the Church. We reflect the very heart of God. I recently read an article that coined the phrase, “Always More” in reference to her marriage. There’s always more love to give, more hope to have, more dreams to dream, more grace to give, and always more of Christ to add. So let’s honor Him and begin to love our spouses in a new and holy way and remember that there is always more.