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Chapter Seven: Working on Marriage Alone

Chapter Seven Working on Marriage Alone

Photo: ©KatarzynaBialasiewicz from Getty Images via Canva.com

When a marriage grows cold, and only one spouse is willing to work on it, that spouse must juxtapose two Biblical responsibilities: being free in Christ while working on the marriage alone for the advancement of the gospel. Paul said in Philippians 1:12, reflecting upon his prison sentence, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has served to advance the gospel.” I wanted Mable to have a firm grip on the gospel, and how it can free her in the prison of her marriage while releasing her to be a redemptive force in Biff’s life. Mable needed to know that she could walk in the Savior’s steps with supernatural joy, regardless of the future state of her marriage.

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I was offering Mable freedom inside her marital covenant, which meant she would stay in her marriage. If we live in such a way that the gospel is why we do what we do, we are well on our way to a proper understanding and application of the gospel in our spheres of influence. Paul was living in the good of the gospel, and we can too. Here are a few examples of how the gospel situates our motives while advancing practically in the lives of others. This worldview is what I call living in the good of the gospel.

  • The gospel-motivated person will serve an undeserving spouse.
  • The gospel-motivated person will ask others for forgiveness.
  • The gospel-motivated person will forgive others.
  • The gospel-motivated person will work for the glory of God.
  • The gospel-motivated person will think the best about others.
  • The gospel-motivated person will ask more questions than accuse.
  • The gospel-motivated person will be an encourager.
  • The gospel-motivated person will seek courageous mentors.
  • The gospel-motivated person loves to serve others.
  • The gospel-motivated person expresses gratitude to others.

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Mable is ready to model these gospel attitudes—and more—in her life, especially to Biff. Rather than running from God by choosing her way, Mable recognizes how God is working in her even during her suffering. She began to see her suffering not so much as something happening to her but as something God was doing in her. She had positioned herself to understand and embrace her marriage problems because of her growing awareness and application of the gospel to her personal life. Admitting that God was doing something in her was more than a courtesy nod or wave of the hand. It was sobering.

At times she admitted that this new awareness and acceptance of who God is was frightening (see Job 23:15). Often, in our suffering, we focus on the wrong question. We can be more concerned about whether God is safe than whether He is good. Sometimes our craving for self-protection can overpower His excellent work in our lives. The cross of Christ is the most profound testimony of the safe-good dynamic. The Jews saw the cross as a stumbling block, while the Greeks saw it as foolishness. From God’s perspective, the cross was wisdom and power (see 1 Corinthians 1:18–25).

Sometimes, the safest path is not necessarily the best. In those moments, we must understand and believe that God is good and working good in us. Like the baker kneading the dough, our great God works His desires into us to make us vessels fit for His use. When entering the crucible of suffering, my appeal to her was to make copious mental notes of what He is doing in her. Remember the pain. Embrace the suffering. By embracing the suffering, you embrace the God who is working the suffering into your life.

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Though Christ asked for the cup to be taken away from Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, ultimately, He embraced the Father’s work in His life when He said, “Not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Jesus submitted to His Father, even though it meant He would die. He believed in the good purposes of the Father. When we stop resisting our Father’s work in our lives and start believing in Him, there is hope for change in us. However, accepting the crucible of suffering does not mean our adversity will pass. As in Mable’s case, it simply meant she would trust the steady hand of God, who was working for her good, regardless of the consequences.

Trusting God does not mean things will turn out as she had hoped. Christ embraced the will of the Father and was later crucified on the cross. Joseph embraced God’s will, and his life involved one disappointment after another. Job said, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15). Paul believed in God and was beheaded. Peter followed his Savior to his crucifixion. Trusting God during adversity reveals a desire to know and follow God regardless of the path. Though you may not know the outcome of God’s good work in your life, you can rest knowing that you will be more than satisfied by relinquishing your rights to Him.

Call to Action

  1. How do you define good from your perspective? Give an illustration of something that happened to you that aligns with your definition.
  2. How would you define good from God’s perspective? Illustrate something good, but our culture would not see it as such.
  3. Why is it sometimes hard to accept God’s view of goodness?
  4. Talk about a time when something bad happened to you, but you now see how it was a good thing in your life.

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