Today I’m thinking about marriage. We are planning a marriage conference this weekend at the church so I have it on my mind a lot.
For those listeners that are not married, I think you’ll get something out of this too because all of it applies to relationships of all types.
With any topic that I teach on, I try really hard to distill things down to their most fundamental elements. That’s especially important with a topic like marriage, because the marriage relationship is really complicated. There are always multiple things going on, at different levels, all the time. Personality, history, sexuality, finances, doctrine, leadership styles, and more come into play.
So, I am wary of over simplifying. Remember, this is a short 15 minute podcast not a full treatise on Christian marriage.
So that being said, I think I could get married couples to learn and internalize one thing it would be this:
HEALTHY PEOPLE MAKE HEALTHY MARRIAGES
Another way of saying it is that marriage is about sanctification, not satisfaction. I’ve heard it said, “Marriage is about holiness, not happiness.” I don’t like that as much because it makes it sound like you have to choose between the two. That’s a whole other podcast, but suffice it to say you do not have to choose between holiness and happiness.
WHAT I MEAN BY THIS
We all have a strong tendency to think that the answer to the problems in our marriage is the weakest link in the relationship. And the weakest link is the other person. We build lists in our minds of their weaknesses and failings, and with as much sanctimony as possible, we petition God to change them because their sin is making us sad.
This goes back to Adam and Eve, the first dysfunctional married couple on the planet. (and the first couple, period)
When God confronted Adam about his sin, he blamed Eve. He called her “this woman you gave me” like she was a defective model that needed to be sent back to the factory for some serious retooling.
When God confronted Eve, Eve blamed the serpent, hinting at the fact that God had created the snake so why is she to blame?
From the first sin, with the first couple, there was competition. Blame shifting. An inability to see their own culpability in the dysfunction of their relationship.
“Yeah, yeah, I know I shouldn’t have eaten the apple. BUT EVE KEPT NAGGING ME ABOUT IT!”
Really? You just single-handedly brought sin and death into the world, and that’s all you’ve got? My wife bugged me?
But I think you probably recognize this syndrome in yourself. I know I sure do.
The Single Greatest Thing You Can Do…
The truth is that the single greatest thing that you can do for your marriage, or any other relationship, is to grow in your relationship with God. To put it in theological terms, “to be conformed to the image of Christ.”
So, when I say “healthy people make healthy marriages” this is how I define what “healthy” is. It’s not just about becoming emotionally healthy, or well adjusted, or self actualized. It’s about taking on the character of Christ. That certainly would include your emotions, but quite often when we limit our need for growth to emotional growth we still make it about the other person and not us.
Jesus was emotionally healthy. But he also laid down His life for us. Jesus had boundaries, but His boundaries included a lot of people.
Want to Get Closer to Your Spouse? Get closer to God.
But, Wait, My Spouse is a SCOUNDREL
This still applies to you. As you repent of your sin, and draw closer to Jesus, your prayers for your spouse will cease to be self-serving. Your motivation will shift from simply getting some relief, to genuine love and concern for your spouse that THEY would draw closer to God for the sake of their own souls and the glory of God.
Your joy gets untethered from their behavior, and gets tethered to the grace of God instead.
I need to point out, however, that I am NOT saying you should take the blame for things that your spouse is doing (unless you actually do share the blame). You can’t repent for someone else’s sin, even if you love them. And, I hope this is obvious, this doesn’t mean that any kind of abuse is your fault.
Where to Go From Here
1- Forgive them – many times over if needed. This is not making excuses. Forgiveness is giving up your right to enact justice. Instead, you give that to God while you embrace the humility of the cross.
2- Take Responsibility for your own soul – your relationship with God is between you and God. If it isn’t good, it’s because you aren’t pursuing it.
3- Repent of only your sin – Deal with your own sin before God, confess it to one another, ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen you against it. But don’t bother listing your spouses sins before God in complaint. They aren’t your sins to confess.
No matter what state your marriage is in right now, this is your best shot and making it better.