Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?

I have been reading the following book by Gary Thomas, and finding it one of the most inspiring texts I have ever encountered: “Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?” Following are some points that struck me as particularly insightful and comforting, which might help others also struggling at times as Christians in their marriage:

* While many people fight to receive respect, Christian marriage calls us to focus our efforts on giving respect. We are called to honour someone even when we know only too well their deepest character flaws. We can be thankful for our fellow sinners when we spend more time looking for evidence of grace in them, than we do finding fault with them.

* You will never find a spouse who is not affected in some way by the reality of the Fall. If you can’t respect this spouse because he or she is prone to certain weaknesses, you will never be able to respect any spouse.

* Take the plank out of your own eye (Luke 6:42) before trying to remove the speck from our spouse’s eye. Adopt a humble spirit. Respect your spouse, honour him or her, they deserve it.

* Instead of placing demands on your spouse (or others), look to God to get your needs met. Then approach others in the spirit of servant hood. From the desperate father in Mark 9:24 we learn that we could have all the faith in the world but if it is misplaced it will do no good. But weak faith placed in the One who can respond is all God needs, and He’ll take care of the rest.

* Struggle makes us stronger; it builds us up and deepens our faith. Jesus promised us that everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt (Mark 9:49). But this result is achieved only when we face the struggle head-on, not when we run from it. Our Lord has sovereignly ordained that our refining process take place as we go through difficulties, not around them. The Bible is filled with examples of those who overcame as they passed through the desert, the Red Sea, the fiery furnace and ultimately the cross. God doesn’t protect Christians from their problems – he helps them walk victoriously through their problems.

* If your marriage is tough, get down on your knees and thank God that He has given you an opportunity for unparalleled spiritual growth. You have the prime potential to excel in Christian character and obedience.

* Struggling successfully and profitably brings a deeper joy than even trouble-free living. It is meaningful. God created us in such a way that we need to struggle to stay alive spiritually. Challenge is what keeps us seasoned. But to be profitable, our struggle must have purpose, and it must be productive. It is only when we put struggle within the Christian context of character development and self sacrifice that it becomes profitable.

* Jesus portrayed struggle as the entry point into the Christian life, stressing that it would be a daily reality of our faith:

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me (Luke 9:23, King James bible)

* Our relationships can be looked at in the same way we would view mountain climbing. Instead of immediately thinking about how we can take a helicopter to the top, we might take a climber’s approach and think, “This is really tough. This is a challenge, no doubt about it. How do I keep loving this person in the face of this challenge?” Tribulation and adversity conform us to the Cross of Christ. There is no other way to be made holy, or conformable to His image.

* A good marriage is not something you find, it’s something you work for. It takes struggle. You must crucify your selfishness. You must at times confront, and at other times confess. The practice of forgiveness is essential.

* The blessings of God may only be found and enjoyed when they are persistently sought (Matthew 7:7, Luke 11:9). Faith must be active (doings-based), not passive.

* Don’t run from the struggles of marriage. Embrace them. Grow in them. Draw nearer to God because of them. Through them you may reflect more of the spirit of Jesus Christ. And thank God that He has placed you in a situation where your spirit can be perfected.

* A difficult marriage, in and of itself, may not cause us to grow. We have to apply ourselves to understanding, love and patience – commit ourselves to a pursuit of virtue – within that difficult marriage. We can’t control how our spouse will act or how the world will act, but we can control how we will act and how we will respond. We become the architects of a new character.

* As long as our pain and wisdom and lessons are “locked up in the heart” or “hoarded high in barns”, they remain sterile and unfertile. To grow in the midst of difficulties, we must “rip open” the bags of grain and seeds and pour them out wherever we see fertile ground. This is the classic death and rebirth theme of Christianity (John 12:24), in which the “seed of love must be eternally resown.” It is the essence of a spiritually meaningful marriage – and of ministering fruitfully to others.

6 thoughts on “Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?

  1. My husband and I just finished our Couple’s In Discipleship class after 6 months. It has been very eye opening. My marriage was already in a great state. I really appreciated this process in growing closer to God with my husband. No marriage is perfect. I thank God for His grace extended toward my husband and I. We both will continue to make Jesus the center of all in our lives! God bless you for posting this blog!

  2. I do not agree, when you marry someone hopping for the best and you invest 12 years of your life , devotedly to this marriage and things just get worse by the day , to the point that your safety and well being is in jeopardy, God will not ask to stay there, that is not a revelation from God , it is foolishness , God does not wants for either ,husband or wife to be put down every moment of the marriage, and be submissive to a man/woman that cheats physically and emotionally. Yes, life has challenges and a good and Godly marriage will conquer them , with the Lord Blessings, when is for everybody good and grow in faith.

    • Hi Lettu,

      Thanks for stopping by this blog and posting a comment. I had to do some checking in the bible and this has enriched the view of Christian marriage I held when this article was written several years ago. Apologies for the belated reply.

      What does the Bible say about marriage? It says that marriage is a blessing given to us by God to make our lives richer and more fulfilling. It says that a good marriage not only draws us closer to our spouse, it can draw us closer to God. “Whoso findeth a wife [or she who findeth a husband] findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22).

      After doing an online bible search, I have found only two reasons God permits the ending of a marriage: infidelity (“fornication” in Matthew 5:32), and when an unbelieving spouse is no longer willing to remain married to a new believer in Christ (1 Corinthians 7:15).

      From your comment it seems you have identified one major reason God permits a marriage to end: infidelity (“cheating”). You also mention physical and emotional abuse…but not whether the perpetrator of that abuse is a believer or not. I believe it is highly unlikely that a person whose behaviour to their spouse is on a constant downward trajectory would be a follower of Christ. If they were not a believer such behaviour, I contend, would be grounds for their spouse to leave them with a clear conscience. Under these circumstances the unbelieving, abusive partner is showing by their actions that they are no longer “pleased to dwell” with their believing spouse.

      But the bible also says that if an unbelieving spouse IS “pleased to dwell with” a believer, the marriage should be upheld. It (the marriage) is then a very important means by which God can work to try to secure the salvation of that unbelieving spouse. For example:

      (1 Corinthians 7:10-16)
      10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11 but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

      12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. 13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. 15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. 16 For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

      If you want to explore more of what God, through the Holy Scriptures, says about marriage I’d recommend the following article:

      Thanks once again for your comment.

      Love in Christ,

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