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It appears that the majority of the Christian culture believes like the secular culture, that marriage should be different from a “sweat of your brow” mentality. We embrace a “Disney-centric worldview” rather than a biblio-centric one. You can assess yourself on this matter by measuring the level of disappointment that you have toward your spouse.
There are virtually no passages in the Bible that proffer a “happy ever after” worldview in the way that most people think about that perspective. But the Bible is full of passages that talk about sin, imperfection, obedience, one another, sacrifice, cross carrying, and walking in the suffering steps of Jesus (1 Peter 2:21-3:7).
Though there does not have to be anything wrong with a “what’s in it for me” perspective, you will be set up for significant disappointment if that is the first thing you’re looking for in a mate. The benefits of marriage are always secondary to the other-centered work that is non-negotiable if you’re going to enjoy those benefits. And the reasons for this are obvious.
Many other texts speak to the other-centered direction of the gospel’s activity. This kind of life is what God is calling you to emulate. Your marriage will never be satisfying if your first thought is what you can get out of it. Your long-term and consistent call to action must always be what you’re going to put into your marriage.
If you have a self-focused marriage, you will be more in-tune with your spouse’s inadequacies because the union is more about you and what you can get out of it. When you have an other-centered focus, you will see the same deficiencies, but you’ll mobilize more quickly to come alongside your spouse to make him (or her) better. That kind of attitude and action has the gospel in view.
And, ironically, if your first response is transformative activity, there will be a future benefit that will loop back to you. It is exceptional for young couples to think this way.
They like what they like about the other person because the main thing that they are looking for are the things that they want. And the reason their disappointment accelerates after marriage is that their spouse’s inadequacies interfere with the things they like.
If they understood the doctrine of total depravity, they would not only guard their hearts against disappointment, but they would mobilize–like Jesus–to bring soul care to that person, so sin does not abound and accumulate in their marriage.
Like a wise farmer, always “working the garden” because he knows that without his preemptive and proactive care the weeds will come and there will be no harvest.
Every spouse comes into their marriage with varying degrees of brokenness, imperfection, and personality quirks. There is no other option but to marry a fallen person.
Scene #1 – It is possible that your primary purpose for marriage is to help your spouse untangle from their problems, and you do not reap the “happy benefits” that you anticipated when you first married. God is calling you to do this until death comes to dissolve your marriage.
There are many illustrations of individuals in the Bible who spent their whole lives laboring under unchangeable situations. And they girded their attitudes by keeping an eye on the real prize. (Read Hebrews 11)
Scene #2 – It is possible that your marriage is for you to do what I said above, but your spouse will begin to change in such a way that you reap the “happy benefits.” In the first scenario, the enjoyment of a job well done will be in heaven. In this second scenario, you experience the satisfying fruit of your labor on earth.
There are no other biblical options to marriage than these two. If you want to experience a peace that transcends your understanding and a joy that is unspeakable, you must think through how this is working out in your marriage and make necessary adjustments. Your “best marriage now” will happen in proportion to the implementation of these eight ideas into your life.
Abuse Caveat: Some marriages have deteriorated to such a place that one or both spouses are abusive. If your marital relationship is in that place, you must find help immediately. This article and podcast are for couples who have yet to become so toxic that they need that level of intervention.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).