My pastor joked in a recent sermon that he had been married for 14 years, which his wife referred to as the best 10 years of her life. I can identify. We’ve had 12 years of marriage, maybe 8 of which have been the best years of my life and 4 of which were the toughest (and not necessarily consecutively). I have certainly learned that marriage is not the end all of the Christian woman’s life. It’s not the place to rest, to find fulfillment, and so forth. Instead, marriage is the tool God uses to move me toward the end all for the Christian woman’s life – rooting out my sin and conforming me to Christ. It’s painful and hard when sin is exposed through marriage. I HATE those times. But it is beautiful and glorious when sin is addressed and reconciliation occurs. I LOVE those moments – those miracles of God’s grace that bring balance and equilibrium back to the marriage relationship. Marriage is a constant tension between the two. Though I hate having sin exposed, I love the results of being conformed to the image of Christ. Along that journey, here are few very crucial Bible truths that have made all the difference.
First, I can never meditate too long or too hard on the Biblical characteristics of love in I Corinthians 13. The term love in our culture is such a wimpy, needy word. But Biblical love is strong. Love suffers long, love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs, love isn’t resentful, love is ever ready to believe the best and give the benefit of the doubt. That last characteristic has become one of the most important ones to me. I have often assumed the worst of my husband and watched the light leave his eyes under my accusation. It’s never a good idea to assume anything in marriage. Ask straightforward questions if you need an answer. Don’t “read into” his answers (or lack thereof). Ask him what he means. In the early moments of a potentially serious conflict, I have come to respect the tremendous practical value of being ever ready to believe the best of this one to whom you are called to love as God himself commands. It can diffuse a conflict that may explode otherwise.
Second, grace beats the heck out of manipulation or guilt in terms of facilitating real reconciliation and change. Men are different from women, and it’s taken me years to fully understand how profound those differences are. Conflicts, some real and some just misunderstandings, are inevitable. Maturity is not that you stop having conflicts. Maturity is realizing how Biblically to handle conflicts. People think of grace as a wimpy laying down of your rights that makes you a doormat. But the truth is that while grace is definitely laying down your rights and not repaying in kind, if you do it from a position of strength in Christ, you are anything but a doormat. And grace is POWERFUL – it is miraculously life changing.
Paul’s closing words of I Corinthians 13 are particularly poignant as I look back on all Christ has taught me through marriage thus far. There is faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love. Faith is key – when conflict or trial arises, I have to call on all I know of the character of God. He exists, and He rewards those who diligently seek Him. He is in control, He loves His children, and He knows what He’s doing. Confidence in that is faith, and it is vital to my marriage. Next is hope. So many days the sustaining thought that causes me to persevere is that when I sit with Jesus in heaven I will NOT be disappointed. Whatever the disappointments in my marriage in this moment, my hope is God’s promise that long term, I will not be disappointed. But of faith, hope, and love, only love endures for eternity. Once I’m with Jesus face to face, I will have no need for faith or hope. But for eternity I will love. Each day as I practice the choices that reflect I Corinthians 13 kind of love with my husband, I am practicing for eternity.
God has been very kind to me in the gift of my husband. My husband sacrificially loves me as Christ does His church. I thank God for him daily. But marriage still disappoints me regularly, and there are an infinite number of things over which to conflict and sin against each other. So I praise God today for His gifting from His Word with precious tools for enduring when marriage isn’t fun or fulfilling and the miraculous way Biblical love and grace transform situations that seem utterly unredeemable. Viewing my marriage through the lens of the gospel has been life changing. The gospel does indeed change everything, even marriage.