Marriage By The Book
When I think back on my wedding eleven years ago, I can remember the exact date. The place, of course. The people in our wedding party. What we served at the reception and what song we chose for our first dance.
But when I think about the readings, the scriptures or words read aloud during the ceremony by loved ones, my wife and I cannot for the life of us think of what those scriptures were. I don’t think we are alone on this either.
While it is true that marriage doesn’t come with an actual manual to follow, the Bible details God’s intention for marriage in numerous key passages. These scriptures are often chosen to be recited as part of the wedding ceremony for this reason, and yet, they rarely commit themselves to the memories of our wedding day. This could certainly be because the day itself is overwhelming, bringing with it the kind of nervous energy that comes from months of planning for a single event that is over in hours. But it is also true that sometimes, we learn more about a road by traveling it by than consulting a map.
When we look at these key passages on marriage through the lens of having years of matrimony under our belts, we can understand their meaning with the benefit of experience. Here is how I understand these scriptures eleven years into my marriage.
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him. Genesis 2:18
From the beginning of time, we were created for companionship and community. Community in the simplest form is defined as: “a unified body of individuals.” The community first intended for man was woman. God wants our marriage to be a community. He wants us unified in our roles, values, and beliefs.
When my wife and I first entered a courtship, many of our individual ideas and opinions were based on how we were raised. Naturally, they differed. But as our marriage grew, so did our sense of community with each other. As a couple, we now have a firm mutual foundation of values and beliefs on which to raise our own family.
If your marriage is struggling, it can feel like you have lost your community. Remember that this isn’t what God intended. Before accepting this, remember that His plan was never for us to be stagnant, passive, and detached from the ones whom we love (or once loved) the most. The community that you have created within your walls called home deserve to be elevated high.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
My wife is the person I share everything with. She listens to me even when she doesn’t feel like it. She understands that part of her role as my partner is to reward my efforts and lift me up. In particular, she is great at supporting me with ministry related things. Somehow, I always end up in teaching, writing, or leadership roles although these areas are far from what I consider my strengths. Instead of allowing my doubts keep me from these opportunities, my wife constantly reaffirms that I am capable, and I have what it takes. With her support, I know these things are possible.
Likewise, although my wife is undoubtedly a wonderful mother to all who know her, this season of life with busy schedules, homeschooling, raising a toddler, and constantly trying to keep up with the house can be overwhelming. I am always praising her patience and creativity with our sons and reminding her of what a fantastic mother she is. Even this far into our relationship, I still enjoy doing small things for her such as opening the car door for her and sending her flowers to work to show her how much I appreciate her.
A marriage should be both sides of the partnership putting forth the most effort to ensure that the other person is lifted high and feels loved or respected. Focus on this and overlook what the world tells you – it isn’t all about you. Whenever possible, put your spouse’s needs before your own and trust in a mighty God to address your needs.
But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.
1 Corinthians 7:2
One thing that marriage teaches a couple is the stark difference between infatuation love and lasting love. It can be hard to overlook the flood of hormones and feelings in a new relationship, but if we are entering a relationship based solely off of infatuation, we are putting our eggs in a fleeting basket.
Infatuation love is appealing and attractive. However, it relies on human effort. I believe the love of Christ which extends to all and overflows in an amazing form of AGAPE love is the real glue that holds the pieces together. When both sides of the party have that same goals and beliefs, everlasting love happens.
Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. James 1:19
The gift of being a believer is the Holy Spirit living inside of us to help guide us toward right and away from wrong. However, particularly in our deep relationships, our pride can get in the way. We find ourselves acting out of anger rather than love. Slowing down our responses to our spouses can be a huge benefit in avoiding unnecessary hurts.
We also have to learn how to change our habits in regard to how to respond to our spouse. In his book The Crazy Cycle, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs writes: “…many couples get stuck on the “Crazy Cycle,” in which the husband feels disrespected by his wife, so he withdraws. As he withdraws, his wife feels unloved, so she reacts in a disrespectful way…and the cycle continues. We must break the cycle and learn to display love and respect toward our spouse” (Eggerichs).
The Crazy Cycle Bible study was one my wife and I enjoyed immensely as it opened our eyes to things that were both true and present around us. It is practical and helpful information that any couple can easily understand and apply to their relationship. It is currently streaming for free at RightNow Media if you and your spouse are interested in learning more.
So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. Matthew 19:6
The current state of the institution of marriage demonstrates just how many of us have lost sight of the above. I remember once hearing of a spouse say: “I told you the day we got married that I love you. If I ever change my mind, I’ll let you know.” This couldn’t be farther from the idea of matrimony God planned for us or the model He provided in how Christ loves the church.
Promises, commitment, and saying “I do” was never intended to be an agreement between man and woman. It’s the bringing together of two people in holy union with the Heavenly Father. When we wed, we make a commitment to God to be joined to our spouse under His contract. His contracts are not meant to be overruled by man. When you honor your spouse, you are honoring the contact that you agreed to with God.
Notice that nothing in these scriptures leads us to believe that marriage is easy. It isn’t. It takes work. But what God does promise in His Word is that when we put our combined focus on Christ, only then do we find the full reward in being unified as a couple. If we stay rooted in Christ, He will bless our marriages for pursuing Him and oneness together.
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