“Mawwiage, that bwessed awwangement. That dweam wivvin a dweam. And wuv, twue wuv, wiww fowwow you fowevah and evah.” – Princess Bride
Marriage – Princess Bride puts it so perfectly (and hilariously!): that blessed arrangement -that dream within a dream. When we are young (especially us young ladies), we picture marriage as true love that WILL follow us forever and ever. But, as we grow older and the young years of marriage turn into decades, we realize that those idealistic thoughts of marriage just simply aren’t true. That those thoughts of marriage and what we thought it would be – only hindered us from a truly blessed biblical marriage.
It is time that we turn away from our society and pride driven fantasies/ideologies and truly prepare our young people for what marriage really is. I mean after all, Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 7 that it is better to stay unmarried like he was. Why would he say that? If marriage was this amazing fantasy that everyone longs for? I mean after all, doesn’t God say that it is not good that man should be alone? Paul knew that marriage meant not only handling your own sin, but that of another. Making your life into one meant that you were taking two people’s sinful natures and creating one sinfully saturated person. But what he didn’t know -because he wasn’t married – was the beauty of seeing a uniquely defined grace of God only through the eyes of marriage.
My husband and I have been married for over 20 years. We have been with each other half of our lives. We have seen, felt and been privy to so many ugly facets of marriage. We have gone through fiery trials that should have, could have, and well..honestly almost completely wrecked us. We have stared Satan in the face as he tried to ruin the union that God had joined together. Yet, here we are, stronger than we ever have been in our life together. How? Why continue to struggle through it? One answer – a promise and commitment to God and one another that God has used tremendously to bring us to the foot of the cross in humility to HIM!
God saw it fit to join my husband and I in matrimony and I truly believe that God does not allow ANYTHING to happen that He will not work for good to those that love Him (Romans 8:28). When God makes a promise, I don’t believe He takes that lightly. Therefore, neither will I. I will be the first to tell you (and so will my husband) that marriage is not easy. It is a rough road God uses to sanctify and mold you into the Son He promised He would. This world is sinful, we are sinful. You take different people from different backgrounds and belief systems and put them together and then say, “ok figure it out.” How does that work? Only one way: with God at the center.
For the first 20 years of our married life, my husband and I struggled to find what that meant: to have God in the middle. We were both believers (although raised completely differently and had varying degrees of who we thought God was/is) and thought we were each doing what was right in the sight of the Lord. Thank God, He did what He promised…never left us, never forsook us, would fight to change and grow us, and bring us to His true saving grace and knowledge of Him! Through this growth, we have seen that neither of us were doing what God wanted us to do, neither of us saw God correctly. Neither of us had truly found the “narrow gate” (Matt. 7:13). The path God had us on over the last 20 years has been one with some truly dark, grieved filled, hopeless moments, but God showed us tremendous grace and truth. I wouldn’t change any of it for anything. Why? Because we both are now seeking who God truly is, we see who He has made us to be and what He desires our purpose on this earth to be about. It has given us a desire to seek a truly godly marriage that strives (we fail daily…several times… but the drive to strive remains), that defends, that loves, that forgives. I honestly cannot begin to iterate how the Lord has grown me personally in the last few years. I am a completely different person in so many ways. I am beyond thankful for that. I hold in my heart a true yearning to pursue only the identity that God has put in front of me and not the one that society defines, whether in my marriage, as a mom or as a daughter of God.
It’s time to step out into the light when it comes to marriage. Through the last few years I have seen how many people struggle, hide, fake, conceal, and beat down their marriages. God says that we are to bear one another’s burdens. We are to be the light, not the judgement of the world. I think all too often we feel so much judgement that we don’t ask for help! We don’t share! But it is in the sharing that we allow God to truly work. It is in the sharing that we are brought forth to the truth of who God is, the mercy He has for us, and the miracles and blessings He is working in and through us. We need to let go of pride and fear and be ready to step into selfless mercy. God is our defender, our refuge, our strength, our shield, and our utmost identity. You can find such peace and strength in the truth of Him.
I am so thankful to be married. I am so thankful to my husband. I am so thankful to my God for giving us one another. We see each other as true helpmates with specific strengths from God. Puzzle pieces meant to fit together to strengthen the larger puzzle. We are a small piece of a greater design.
So how do we get to this point of thankfulness, mercy, and striving in our marriages?
- Acknowledge the sin. There is and always will be sin in a marriage. Both parties are sinful people who are selfish, full of pride, environmentally shaped, and comfortable in their ways. Plain and simple! Both people need to acknowledge this and their part in the breakdowns of the relationship…however big or small you “think” your part may be. This is honestly where counseling/mentoring plays a huge part. Most often we don’t see our sin (blindspots) and then we cannot ascertain for ourselves how to put off those sins and put on what is necessary. Allow someone in who can help you “see” and be open to what they are telling you.
- Repent. God is your first and foremost priority. You sinned against Him first, not your partner. Go to the Lord in humility – asking for Him to make things new. Ask for revelation of hidden sin and to release you from pride and selfish ambition.
- Start over. Get ready for the newness to begin. Once the first two have taken place and the Holy Spirit is at the helm of your actions and Jesus is your new identity, it’s time to start a new. This can actually be a daily renewal (and should be) for God says that His mercies are new EVERY morning (Lam. 3:23). Soak yourself in the forgiveness and love of God and move forward as a son or daughter yearning to live a life as a thank you to His great love and mercy of you.
- Accountability. Here is where you allow others to help bear your burden the most. Allow those God has put in your life to keep you accountable to those things you struggle with. We all have sins that are hard to keep ourselves from. There are many different sins and aspects of my personality that are at the helm of so many sins that I ask people in my life to keep me accountable of. It is so freeing to be able to go to your friends and ask them to help you, to bear with you and give you strength. We are God’s hands and feet…we are the strength He gives. We can be there for other people to help them in their times of weakness. It is so powerful to have people rooting for you and believing in you! Get a good group of believing friends behind you that will uplift and root you on.
That’s it. Yep, really? There is no secret sauce. Your life – defined by Christ, strengthened by His grace, and rooted in His Word and your fellow believers is all you need. Because it is with this that love flows, grace abounds, and the fruits of the SPIRIT are manifest. I mean after all, love, peace, gentleness, mercy, forgiveness, joy, long-suffering, goodness, meekness, temperance – these are all things that God manifests through us…we are not the ones who do it – He does. That is why they are the fruits of THE SPIRIT and the attributes of GOD not humans. IF we are aligned with Him through the blood of Jesus and the indwelling of the Spirit then we have all we need to live a life of godliness – and that includes a peaceful, meaningful, and blessed marriage. Of course, there will be days when our sinful nature will win out over the Holy Spirit because we are – well sinful natured selfish beasts. But the amazing thing is, that even when we do, the forgiveness, mercy, grace and love we are met with throws us right back on track.
I have seen miracles take place and that has taken me to a new level of trust and belief with my God. I have seen His true hand at work in the darkest of hours. I have seen His mercy reign, His love prevail, His plan not be thwarted, His grace be a stronghold! With God at work for me there is absolutely nothing that can stand against or thwart His plans. He may allow darkness in but it is for His good purposes. I am blessed that I have been able to see the purpose in my marriage. Most often times we don’t get the opportunity to the answers of “why.” We have to just trust that God has good purposes to the things that are happening in our lives. But knowing the true character of God will allow us the ability to trust in a way that allows grief and sorrow, yet peace and joy knowing God is always in control.
(And quickly on the note of an unbelieving spouse…God says that you will win them over by your actions (1 Peter 3). God can work miracles. Believe me…like I said before…I have seen them. I know it is hard. When both spouses are not on the same page, it is DEVASTATING. Pray, pray harder, believe God can and will work! Seek help, strength and guidance from your church and friends! Don’t sink back in the shadows. Allow God the ability to use those around you to help you and your spouse. And know that God is yearning for your spouse even more than you are! There is so much to be said about this topic…but we are talking in this article about relationships where both parties are God-fearing and yearning to make the marriage work)
So I encourage you, If you are having troubles in your marriage, know that so is EVERYONE else. There is NO picture perfect, have it “all together” marriage. Yet, know that there is hope, help, love, and peace knocking at the door wanting to help you strive for a better and healthier relationship, you just need to take the first step to answer it. I am praying for you and with you!