This article is part of the 10 Things You Should Know series.
1. Your marriage is rooted in worship.
When the Bible says that we are worshipers, it means that every human being lives for something. All of us are digging for treasure. All of us are in pursuit of some kind of dream. Behind everything we do is some kind of hope. Every one of us is in constant pursuit of life.
Being a worshiper means that you attach your identity, your meaning and purpose, and your inner sense of well-being to something. You either get these things vertically (from the Creator) or you look to get them horizontally (from the creation). This insight has everything to do with how a marriage becomes what it is. No marriage will be unaffected when the people in the marriage are seeking to get from the creation what they were only ever meant to get from the Creator.
When we celebrate the Creator, we look at one another with wonder and joy. When you look at your spouse and see the Creator’s glory, then you feel blessed by the ways he is different. You are amazed and respectful of the experiences and perspectives that he has brought into your life, which you never would have had without him. And you look for ways to communicate your honor for him and what the fingers of the Creator formed him to be.
2. Marriage will always require work.
Watching and praying, couples must work to protect our relationship. There are few things more dangerous to a marriage than the feeling of “arrival.” When a couple loses a healthy sense of need, patterns of laziness and inattention grow. No longer does the couple carry around the sense of the enormity of the task they have undertaken. No longer do they live with a shared sense of need for God’s help and protection. No longer are they looking down the road for potential difficulties that may threaten their union. No longer is their marriage protected by humble prayer.
Every marriage requires divine intervention. Every marriage needs divine wisdom. Every couple will be pushed beyond the limits of their character. Every couple will need strength beyond what they have. No husband and wife can do what they were designed to do in marriage without assistance. One of the beautiful things that marriage is meant to do is drive each of us away from habits of self-reliance into patterns of dependency on God.
3. Marriage requires regular confession of sin.
Confession is the doorway to growth and change in your relationship. It is essential. It is fundamental. Without it you are relegated to a cycle of repeated and deepening patterns of misunderstanding, wrong, and conflict. With it, the future is bright and hopeful, no matter how big the issues that you are now facing.
4. A marriage cannot survive without forgiveness.
It is the only way to live in an intimate, long-term relationship with another sinner. It is the only way to negotiate through the weakness and failure that will daily mark your marriage. It is the only way to deal with hurt and disappointment. It is the only way to have hope and confidence restored. It is the only way to protect your love and reinforce the unity that you have built. It is the only way not to be kidnapped by the past. It is the only way to give your marriage the blessing of fresh starts and new beginnings. The cost of forgiveness is great, but the harvest of forgiveness is a beautiful thing.
5. Selfishness is the biggest enemy of your marriage.
Selfishness. The one thing that lurks in every heart is the enemy of the unity, love, and understanding that we all say we want in our marriages. Sure, you’ve married a less-than-perfect person. And, yes, your life will be complicated by his or her weaknesses and failures. Your husband or wife will have bad days. He will make regrettable choices. She will not always be as lovable as she was in courtship. It is true—you just don’t get to be married to perfection. But even with all this being true, your biggest problem is not the imperfection of your spouse. No, it is this antisocial thing that lurks in the recesses of your heart. Your biggest struggle is with the selfishness that tempts and seduces us all. We must all pull this weed again and again, along with all the weeds of destructive words and actions that attach themselves to it.
Every marriage requires divine intervention.
6. Your marriage needs the church.
To be healthy, your marriage needs to be connected to a larger community that offers you resources that you could not offer to one another if left to yourselves. The community of help that God has designed for you is the church. Right near you in the body of Christ are couples who have been through what you are now going through. the sacraments of the church that so powerfully remind you of who you are as a child of God and the amazing gifts that are yours because of the broken body and shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
7. Marriage is the in-between.
Everything we say and do, everything we commit ourselves to, and every situation, location, and relationship we experience is experienced between the already and the not yet. You will never understand the things you face every day until you understand that you live in the middle. Everything in your life is shaped by what the middle is like.
Knowing that you are living between the already and the not yet tells you where you are located in God’s story of redemption. Stay with me; this is intensely practical. Already God has given us his Word as our guide. Already he has sent his Son to live, die, and rise again for our salvation. Already he has given us his Spirit to live within us. But the world has not yet been restored. Sin has not yet been completely eradicated. We have not yet been formed in the perfect likeness of Jesus. Suffering, sadness, and death are not yet no more. It is hard to live in the middle, but that is exactly where we live. We live in a world that is still sadly and terribly broken.
Your marriage will not escape its brokenness. We live with flawed people. Your marriage will not be protected from those flaws. When you start unpacking what life is really like between the already and the not yet, you gain perspectives that are enormously helpful for understanding the things you need to face if you want a marriage that is wholesome and healthy in the eyes of God.
8. Your marriage exists in a fallen world.
Our marriages live in the middle of a world that does not function as God intended. Somehow, someway, your marriage is touched every day by the brokenness of our world. Maybe it simply has to do with the necessity of living with the low-grade hassles of a broken world, or maybe you are facing major issues that have altered the course of your life and your marriage. But there is one thing for sure: you will not escape the environment in which God has chosen you to live. It is not an accident that you are conducting your marriage in this broken world. It is not an accident that you have to deal with the things you do. None of this is fate, chance, or luck. It is all a part of God’s redemptive plan.
9. You are a sinner married to a sinner.
Many people get married with unrealistic expectations about who they are marrying. Here is the point: you both bring something into your marriage that is destructive to what a marriage needs and must do. That thing is called sin. Most of the troubles we face in marriage are not intentional or persona. In most marriage situations, you do not face difficulty because your spouse intentionally did something to make your life difficult. Yes, in moments of anger that may happen. But most often, what is really happening is that your life is being affected by the sin, weakness, and failure of the person you are living with. So, if your wife is having a bad day, that bad day will splash up on you in some way. If your husband is angry with his job, there is a good possibility that he will bring that anger home with him.
At some point you will be selfish. In some situation you will speak unkindly. There will be moments of jealousy, bitterness, and conflict. You will not avoid this, because you are a sinner and you are married to a sinner.
10. God is faithful, powerful, and willing to work through your marriage.
You are not alone in your struggle. The Bible says that God is near, so near that in your moment of need you can reach out and touch him because he is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:27). Yes, you live in a bad neighborhood (fallen world), and the two of you are less than perfect (sin), but in all this you are not left to your own resources. The God who determined your address lives there with you and is committed to giving you everything you need.
This article is adapted from Marriage: 6 Gospel Commitments Every Couple Needs to Make by Paul David Tripp.
Popular Articles in This Series
What does it mean that God condescended in Christ and dwells with us through His Spirit?
From the very beginning, Eden was not meant to be static; it was headed somewhere.
Thomas Schreiner shares 10 important things you should know about the biblical covenants—the backbone of the biblical story.
What is Christian ethics and what role should it play in the life of a believer?