It is a beautiful thing to behold when two people stand before their families and friends and enter into a covenant of marriage, a commitment to love, cherish, and stand alongside each other until death do us part. That day is filled with such gladness, promise, excitement and joy for the newly-wed couple. So why is it that their chance of survival stands no better than the odds of getting heads in a coin flip? How does one go from such love and joy to bitter heartbreak?
Because what makes marriage so wonderful also makes it so difficult.
The Bible talks about the marriage between a man a woman as two becoming one, or put in math terms 1 + 1 = 1. Even grade one kids know that is bad math. And yet, that is exactly what happens in marriage. Two people, from two very different upbringings, with different expectations (some unspoken or even unknown) come together to live as one in the most intimate relationship imaginable. Throw in the stress from paying bills, work and raising children, is it any surprise that every marriage will experience difficult times?
For some, these difficulties, without some outside help, will eventually destroy the marriage leaving behind a wake of hurt and bitterness for both spouses, their children and countless others. Hurt that leaves a lifetime of scarring on the heart. And being a Christian does not make one immune to this possibility as the divorce rate within the church is the same as for those outside.
Father's word spends relatively little time discussing marriage, but what it does say is both profound and powerful. It can essentially be summed up in the verse Ephesians 5:33 - "husbands love your wives and wives respect your husbands." This makes perfect sense, because too often within a marriage each spouse does not feel loved or respected by the other. The disappointment of these unmet needs produces a wedge that drives the couple a part.
Often, it is at this time when couples begin to search for books and/or marital counselling on how to improve their marriage. The most common approach with this form of help is to try and fix things by improving each person's communication skills. Improving skills such as how we listen and the words we use. We learn to try and 'fight fair' and ways to express our feelings with one another that hopefully won't lead to an argument. These and other techniques can be helpful but they often fail to bring the depth of change and growth required and desired by each person.
That's because it is not just any love and respect that we are called to give, but rather we are instructed to love and respect with the exact same love and respect that Jesus has for His church - namely unconditional. And this is where the problems lies.
For if we are honest, this command to love and respect unconditionally as Christ does is not difficult for us, it is impossible. At least on our own. For this, like everything asked of us by God, can only be accomplished by our learning to depend upon Jesus in us. This is what every marriage needs to learn, more than better communication skills or any of the other popular, but often insufficient, marital advice out there.
Imagine a marriage where each spouse is trusting Jesus to live in them. Would that change the kind of husband/wife and even parent they are? Of course it would. And it is to this end that God is working towards, using the good, bad and ugly times in a marriage to conform us into the very image of Jesus - that Jesus would live in and through us. (see Romans 8:28-29)
This is the Christ-centered approach to marriage counseling that Crossways to Life uses. We help each spouse discover what hinders their dependence upon Jesus and then how they can begin to trust Jesus to minister through them. This approach has proven to transform countless marriages.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling in their marriage and would like to discover the hope and power that comes from a Christ-centered marriage, then please contact our office to make an appointment. We would be more than happy to help walk alongside both or even only one spouse and discover the life only found in Jesus Christ.
For more information on our Christ centered counselling approach please check out the following resources: