What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy? It is not that God did not design marriage to make us happy, for some of the greatest joys are found in marriage. But God’s grand design in this life for his children is to make them holy, not happy. In this post I want to encourage struggling marriages that God wants to use your marriage, not just to grow you as a husband and wife, but as a Christian.
3 simple truths I want to consider in this post: Marriage has the power to reveal you, change you, and grow you.
Marriage has the power to reveal your flaws and sin. Indeed, all relationships have the influence to bring friction into your life. Siblings, friends, church members and parents all have the ability to bring frustration. Yet because of the close nature of marriage, it really has the power to frustrate you. Marriage has exposing influence because it is a one flesh relationship. God’s design in marriage is for men and women to get married and become one flesh until death (Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:8; Matt. 19; Ephesians 5:31).
This God-ordained relationship puts you in closer quarters than any other relationship possibly could, including emotionally, spiritually, socially, financially, and physically. In every way, shape and form, marriage puts you in a relationship where you cannot escape the sins and flaws of your spouse, including bad moods, personality disputes, and irresponsibility.
I heard a quote recently that went something like this: “You never learn you are sinner by being told, you learn you are a sinner by being shown.” Marriages have a way of showing, to a certain degree, the potential of sin in our hearts.
Yet please don’t misunderstand, marriage does not make you sin. Agitations (selfishness, manipulation, domination) just naturally have their way of bringing out sin that is already in the heart. When a hurricane sweeps over a forest and breaks trees in half, the hurricane did not put the weakness in the trees. The hurricane simply exposed the weakness of that forest.
And so it is in marriage. Pride, inflexibility, impatience, undisciplined actions, rash anger and silent treatment are not creating sin in your heart or marriage. They are the winds and force that go through and break the trees. Marriage doesn’t allow or create the wickedness in us; it just gives it a fertile ground to come out.
I would like to point out that there is real hope in this. A marriage relationship has the ability to expose your heart for what it truly is, and that is your opportunity to repent and grow in the Lord. The beauty of this is that you can grow. If you duck away or start quitting on your marriage because of an agitation or frustration, then you will never deal with the real sin issue below the surface in your heart. You will tend to blame something that should not be blamed. We tend to blame the hurricane, when it actuality the tree should have been stronger. When a trial comes in and exposes a weakness, we can turn to God in repentance and trust knowing that He wants to bring forth “peaceable fruits of righteousness” from that trial (Hebrews 12:11).
Second, marriage will change your course spiritually. Marriage not only has the potential to change your course, but it can only change your course. You cannot be brought that close to someone and have it not move you in one or two directions (Prov. 27:17). The frustration, aggravations, and even personality differences will either extinguish or kindle your spiritual fire.
Marriage will never leave you where it finds you. When frustration comes, we can react in one of two ways. We can either grow bitter and avoid the sin, or we will be the kind of people God has saved us to be. James 1 tells us that “the testing of our faith produces steadfastness.”
I Peter 1:6-7 proclaims
“so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;”
All trials in life, especially those that enter through marriage, will either bring spiritual fruit or spiral you into bitterness and frustration. We can second guess why God brought our spouse or any other problem into our lives. Or we can “know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Here are a couple things that will help you grow in the Lord. First, realize that God has a purpose, that He is the author of the story. God brings things into our marriage for a purpose, and that purpose is to grow us to be like Christ.
According to Acts 17, we understand that God determines the place where we will live and the precise details of each relationship we find ourselves in (Acts 17:24-28). God has determined at what point our stories would intercept with our spouse. There is a temptation to look at our lives and attribute hardships to bad luck or a mess of our own making. But God is right there in the middle of your struggle. God has a plan, and in His infinite wisdom, He has put you in your marital situation.
Marriage reveals your flaws, it doesn’t create your flaws. It shows you a real and often unflattering picture of who you are. You can either get out of that situation, or you can confess that is who you really and seek God’s grace (James 4:6).
Amos was not only one of the authors of the Old Testament, but he was also a picker of figs. One of the neat facts about figs is that there is a kind of fig that only ripens when traumatized. So then in order to see a fig ripen, you would need to grab a fig and smack it against something. Marriage has a way of smacking your spirit, puncturing your inner man. Through the testing of marriage and many other avenues, God wants to make a new us, a new people for His glory, a people who are growing in fear and admonition of the Lord.
Our culture says to quit on hard relationships. I say make a hard commitment to God’s work in your life through marriage. Commit to God’s avenues of sanctification. Just as Jesus is committed to our sanctification, we ought to be committed to sanctification in marriage. If you are entering friction, let friction reveal your flaws. Repent and seek restoration with your spouse. As you repent and your marriage affects your spiritual course, make a commitment to grow in the grace that is found in Christ Jesus.