6 crucial lessons about marriage
The Bible calls us to honour our marriages, yet nothing in our lifetimes really prepares us for marriage. What exactly does it mean to honour our marriages in real, practical terms?
Marriage is a covenant that unites two differently shaped lives to become one entity. Friction and compromise are inevitable. Let’s admit it, there will never be a perfect fit … without God. But how can we blend in with another person as God intended?
Hebrews 13:4 NIV Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure…
Mark 10:8 ESV … the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.
Lessons about Christ-centred marriages
After 11 years of marriage, I have learnt that no amount of human advice, coercion and cajoling will bring unity in a marriage like God can. Even though I am married to a God-fearing man who honours God in all his ways, we still face challenges in being “one”. Only when we both submit all our ways to God do we enjoy a joyful godly marriage.
Here are some things I have learnt over the years.
1. My spouse is not my main source of intimacy
There is intimacy, security and joy in being accepted and understood for who we are, at our very core. We like to be able to say little and be understood much. No spouse however, will be able to meet such a desire completely. Neither can sex fulfil our deepest desires for intimacy. Physical intimacy, while great, cannot satisfy the deepest needs of our souls.
My spouse is my best friend. Yet I have found that in the midst of deep anguish and struggles, it is God who is ultimately my BFF, Best Friend Forever. He is with me 24/7 and for eternity. No human being can know me so intimately – no matter how much they love me.
John 15:12,14 ESV This is My commandment, that you love one another as I loved you. You are my friends if you do what I command you.
Hebrews 4:15 ESV For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Lesson #1: “Allow God to meet your deepest emotional needs. Only then will you be released to love your spouse unconditionally, as you are no longer hindered by your own issues.”
2. “Becoming one” means giving up all of ourselves
The idea of becoming one with somebody else can be terrifying. How do two people become one, unless we give up part of our identities?
Most people try to ensure that they do not “lose out” by being the ones who make the rules at home. Trying to make our marriages reflect what we want is idolatrous. We are to let God show us what He has planned for each spouse, and not what we want from each other. On the other hand, some people go to the other extreme by making their spouse simply an appendage to their lives, so they don’t lose anything at all. There is no concept of been coming one with another person. This too is unhealthy.
To become “one flesh” with our spouses requires us to completely surrender everything to God. We cannot hold on to our own agendas. When God holds the agenda, He will work things out for our marriages in ways that are far better than we can ever hope for.
Lesson #2: “God is the One who joined us with our spouses. We must continuously surrender our marriages to Him and let Him show us how to flourish.”
Mark 10:9 ESV What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
3. I can’t “fix” my spouse, I only fix myself
We all have own faults, weaknesses and sinful tendencies, yet it is always easier for us to spot our spouses’ issues, rather than our own. If we don’t actively work at becoming more like Jesus, we can cause many marriage problems.
We should never take over the Holy Spirit’s role in our spouses’ lives by telling them how to “fix” their issues. Instead, we should pray for and encourage them to seek God’s counsel first. Conversely, we too need to be open to hearing the same from our spouses. Marriage is a test of humility and submission to each other.
Now, I prefer to take all my grievances and gripes to God first – and not “dump” them on my spouse. When we all put this into practice, we can be a greater blessing, rather than an added burden, to our life partners.
Lesson #3a: “Don’t talk to your spouse about your problems. Go to God first and then testify to your spouse about how God helped you solve your problems.”
Lesson #3b: “We need to continually check for the “log in our own eyes” and ask God to purify our hearts.”
Matthew 7:4 ESV Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?
4. I need to protect my marriage from my relatives
Filial piety is a big thing in Asia. Left unchecked however, filial piety can go against God’s Word. We must always obey God before our biological parents. They may have raised us, but they don’t “own” us. It is God who owns us.
Psalm 24:1 ESV The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,
The Bible teaches us that a man must break off from his parents’ dominance and become the spiritual leader in his own home. A woman needs to submit to her husbands’ leadership, not her parents’. We should not defer our marriage and family decisions to our relatives, no matter how good their intentions or advice may be. Our wedding vows were made to God and our spouses, not to anyone else, and we must seek God first in all things.
Genesis 2:24 ESV Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Lesson #4: “Honour your parents and provide for your relatives, but remember that it is God who has the final say on your marriage and family.”
Exodus 20:12 ESV “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
1 Timothy 5:8 ESV But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
5. I learn a lot about my spouse by observing my in-laws
Like us, our spouses’ behaviours and value systems are moulded by their upbringings. Any exposure and “training” someone receives as a child will be hard-wired into their subconscious behaviour as an adult, unless something radical happens to change that. For example, if our spouses watched their parents fight with each other when they were little, it is likely they will either tend to fight things out with us (because their parents condoned fighting) or avoid confrontations (so as to avoid unpleasant childhood memories of family discord). We can certainly learn a lot about our spouses simply by asking about how they were raised as children.
Proverbs 22:6 ESV Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Lesson #5: “If you want to understand why your spouse is the way he or she is, spend time with his or her parents and extended family and observe how they interact with each other.”
6. Marriage tests my commitment to God
Few things challenge our ability to honour God like our marriage vows; “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health”. If we enter marriage with the idea that a divorce is always an option, we really need to re-examine our relationship with God.
We are imperfect people who marry other imperfect people, and our spouses’ brokenness will test our commitment to honouring God in everything we do. If we are self-seeking and neglect God, having a godly marriage is next to impossible. The challenges we face in marriage will become daily reminders of our personal rebellion against God.
Matthew 16:24-25 ESV Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Lesson #6: “For a godly marriage, surrender all of yourself to God.”
Marriage is a beautiful thing when it in God’s hands. If we commit ourselves to God, He will use it transform us into becoming more like Christ.
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