Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas looks at the true purpose of marriage as he inquires, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” This book reveals how couples can deepen their relationship with God through their marital relationship. Marriage can be viewed as a spiritual discipline that can develop our Christian character. God can use our marriage partner to make us more like Christ.
Here are some thoughts from the book for you to ponder:
One of the best wedding gifts God gave you was a full length mirror called your spouse. Had there been a card attached, it would have said, “Here’s to helping you discover what you’re really like!”
Couples don’t fall out of love so much as they fall out of repentance. Sin, wrong attitudes, and personal failures that are not dealt with slowly erode the relationship, assaulting and eventually erasing the once lofty promises made in the throes of an earlier (and less polluted) passion.
Our Lord has sovereignty ordained that our refining process take place as we go through difficulties, not around them. The Bible is filled with examples of those who overcame as they passed through the desert, the Red Sea, the fiery furnace and ultimately the cross. God doesn’t protect Christians from problems, but He helps them walk victoriously through their problems.
If I’m in my marriage for emotional stability, I probably won’t last long. But if I think it can reap spiritual benefits, I’ll have plenty of reason to be married.
It took years for me to understand I have a Christian obligation to continually move toward my wife. I thought that as long as I didn’t attack my wife or say cruel things to her, I was a “nice” husband, but the opposite of biblical love isn’t hate, it’s apathy. To stop moving toward our spouse is to stop loving him or her. It’s holding back from the very purpose of marriage.
Perhaps the “simple steps” approach to marriage does not work because God didn’t design marriage to be easy. Perhaps God’s purpose for us goes beyond our personal happiness and comfort.
If the purpose of marriage were merely happiness and romance, I’d have to find someone new about every two years . . . but if holiness is God’s focus, then living with a difficult spouse is an opportunity for me to grow in Christlikeness, for me to be transformed.
Humans so often look to each other for things that only God can provide. Much of the dissatisfaction we experience in marriage comes from expecting too much from it.
If I’m married only for happiness, and my happiness wanes for whatever reason, one little spark will burn the entire forest of my relationship.
Our culture is obsessed with self-care, self-preservation, and self-promotion. We are losing the art of caring for others that God designed us for.
It’s too bad that I spent the early years of our marriage tallying up the pluses and minuses of my wife’s personality and that I spent so much time and energy dwelling on her minuses rather than on my own.
In 1 Peter 3:7, the apostle Peter writes that husbands must live considerately with their wives and treat them with respect so that nothing will get in the way of their prayers. Peter is not saying that a strong prayer life will benefit our marriages; instead he is saying that improving our marriages will benefit our prayers!
Marriage provides us the opportunity to reevaluate our dependency on other humans for our spiritual nourishment, and directs us to nurture our relationship with God. The truth is no human being can love us the way we long to be loved. Marriage is an incredible opportunity to learn the godly art of servanthood. St. Francis wisely said, “It is in giving . . . that we receive.”
Associate Pastor – Discipleship. The Church at LifePark
Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University
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