For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live…
Marriage is most definitely a mix of both good and bad. And God uses that mix to do one thing: to make you more like Jesus. Yes, marriage is a place where good things happen. It can be full of love, romance, excitement, the erotic, adventure, and satisfaction. But I’m convinced those are by-products of God’s purpose in marriage, to sanctify (make holy, like Jesus) people through relationships.
In my short, nearly ten years of marriage, I’ve noticed that the longest marriages have seen some of the most trying times. Whether it’s differing sex drives, infidelity, financial ruin, death, permanent disability, or leaving a toilet seat up, it seems all marriages face something difficult.
In his book, Sacred Marriage, Gary Thomas lays it out like this:
“We can run from the challenges of marriage… or we can admit that every marriage presents these challenges and asks us to address them head-on. If we find that the same kinds of challenges face every marriage, we might assume God designed a purpose in this challenge that transcends something as illusory as happiness.”
Life in a fallen, sinful world isn’t easy. In fact, it’s incredibly messy and difficult. Remember, God didn’t design it like this. But he is redeeming it. And in his sovereign work to redeem it, he makes even sinful things an opportunity to show his greatness (Eph. 2:10; Rom. 8:28). It’s as though God is broadcasting, “I can take even the most wicked and corrupt thing and make it a beautiful masterpiece.” The person who can turn a murderer into an apostle like Paul is truly amazing!
This is exactly what he wants to do in your marriage. It’s a sacred place where God turns sinful people into the likeness of Jesus.
A close, monogamous, heterosexual relationship with one person is by far the best seedbed for this path to spiritual growth. Two people who are wired differently (male and female), from different backgrounds, and different families coming together has a way of pushing the boundaries of our patience more than anything else in life.
The vulnerability of sex and intimacy pushes us to expose our weaknesses and flaws. Living under the same roof, using the same toilet, and sharing a single bed put two people together in such a way that it’s impossible to keep these flaws hidden. Even when we disconnect from the relationship and drift apart, it exposes a flaw in our ability to connect with another person.
If you want to make the most of this relationship and become more like Jesus, it will take a deep look into the flaws that come to the surface when your spouse leaves their shoes in the middle of the room for the tenth time this week. It will take a long hard look at the flaws that come out when your spouse decides to go elsewhere for sexual fulfillment.
God has given you and your spouse to each other for the sake of making you more like Christ. If grace is the foundation of your relationship with God that enables you to become more like him, it should also be the foundation of your marriage where he makes you more like him.
This is much, MUCH easier said than done. Broken marriages can bring deep pain and lasting damage. But there’s an opportunity for growth in even the worst situations. Fill those situations with grace and determine to work together to become more like Jesus. Use the problems to your advantage. I’m not arguing that couples should stay together even in the midst of physical abuse and a spouse that has completely abandoned the relationship. But I am arguing you should take advantage of those times when the relationship is strained and stretched. God can use them to make you more like Jesus.
Making the most of difficult times,