For Better or Worse
Duane Vander Klok
Have you ever watched an Olympic ice skater? It’s difficult to imagine how much work and dedication went into preparing for that performance. Marriage is similar in many ways—it takes practice, devotion, and lots of falls. You can succeed if you just remember to get back up!
A lot of people share the idea that if you marry the right person, everything will just work out. But the truth is: marriage is difficult. In 1 Corinthians 7:28 Paul tells us, Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. Marriage is work and there will be disagreements, but you can choose to follow the example of Jesus and grow closer to God and your spouse throughout your marriage.
Marriage is a covenant, and you cannot decide on your wedding day how you will feel toward your spouse for the rest of your life, but you can decide how you will act. Love is not a feeling, love is a choice. Jesus said, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends,” John 15:12-13. When He was going to the cross to lay down His life for you, Jesus wasn’t feeling love, He was acting on it. The night before He was on the cross, He was in the garden sweating drops of blood asking God if there was another way. You see, even though He did not feel like dying on a cross, He went out of love for you. Love is a choice.
When it is difficult to love, you may think, “It would be so much better if I was single.” But when you are single it is easy to say, “It would be so much better if I were married.” The truth is that every situation is going to present challenges. But as a believer, you are able to discern how God calls you to love in every situation—you are called to be like Christ in every encounter. Marriage is a wonderful opportunity to grow more and more like Jesus.
God designed marriage in the Garden of Eden to include Adam, Eve, and Himself. He should be that third strand in your marriage that binds you together. Too often people enter into relationships thinking that their spouse will fill all of the empty spaces in their heart and life. However, marriage was not designed to fulfill you, but to bring you closer to God and help you understand His love in a deeper way. If your spouse could meet all of your needs, you wouldn’t need God. Conflicts arise when you look to your spouse to fulfill you where only God can. You cannot be complete without God.
It is important to keep in mind that men and women have different needs, and it can be difficult to recognize the needs of your spouse without consistent communication. Ephesians 5:33 tells us, let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. This verse highlights two of the different desires between men and women—love and respect. Remember that your spouse may not love or respect you perfectly, but the greatest love, security, and honor you will receive can come only from God.
It is important to fill your heart with God’s Word and Spirit so that your heart overflows with the right attitude toward your spouse. Your character will determine the quality of love that you can give; you can only give out of the abundance of your heart.
A marriage is built over time. Decision by decision, you build a healthy marriage or build bad habits that can tear down your relationship. The saying goes: practice makes perfect, but usually practice just makes permanent. A good marriage is built with intentionality because without choosing to be like Jesus, you will keep practicing the same bad habits in your communication, problem solving, or decision-making. If you are not open to correction, practice will not make perfect, it will only make bad habits permanent.
As your relationship grows, you will find areas where you need to grow and change. Remember that love and correction go together. When you know you are loved, it is much easier to receive correction. Like driving a car, in order to keep moving in the right direction, you have to steer and course correct the car every once in a while. And a good marriage uses power steering—the corrections are gentle and well-received.
It is not easy to be corrected, but when you allow the Holy Spirit to guide you, feelings of rejection and bitterness can be addressed with love. Proverbs 9:8 tells us, Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. Truth without grace is like surgery without anesthesia. But when we include the wisdom of the Holy Spirit in our communication, we can receive correction in love.
Every marriage faces conflicts because the relationship is made of two imperfect people. Remember how Paul warned us in 1 Corinthians 7:28 of the troubles marriage would bring? Jesus asks us to humble ourselves and forgive rather than harbor grudges and bitterness. As conflicts arise, ask God how you can be part of the solution.
Ephesians 4:2-3 ESV instructs us to live with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Keep in mind that your words carry power; they do not evaporate after they are spoken; you cannot take them back even when you didn’t mean what you said. And you cannot sow a bad seed and expect a good harvest. Remember that your words are an important part of building your marriage, and if you are building with bad blocks, your marriage will not be very stable. Stop and think: what are a few things that you could say to your spouse that would bless your marriage?
When we choose to follow the example of Jesus, God honors that decision. In Mark 4:20, Jesus explains that those who hear and receive the Word can bear fruit thirty, sixty, or one hundred times more than what was sown. So when you sow good seed into your marriage, you will reap a great marriage, but the opposite is true when you sow bad seed.
Walking in grace is more than just forgiveness, it is a divine influence that affects your daily life and perspective of others. Grace equips you to follow Jesus beyond your own ability or strength, and when confronted with offense, grace responds with love and forgiveness.
Marriage is hard work—a good marriage will cost you but a bad marriage will cost you so much more. Whether your marriage could use a small course correct or a completely new foundation, put your hope in God. A great place to start is praying as a couple; invite God into the middle of your joys, conflicts, and daily routines. How is God calling you to grow in your marriage?
Note: Abuse should not be tolerated inside or outside of marriage. If your safety or the safety of your children is being threatened, contact the authorities in your area.
In order to invite Jesus into your marriage, you must first invite Him into your heart. Have you surrendered your life to Jesus? If not, here’s a prayer you can pray:
“Dear God, I believe that Jesus died on the cross, was buried and rose again, and I believe His blood paid for my sins. I surrender my whole life to You and hold nothing back. Thank you, Jesus, that you are my Lord, that I’m forgiven, that I’m a part of your family and on my way to heaven. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.”
If you prayed that prayer, we encourage you to read Pastor’s free book, Your New Life, to help you grow in your relationship with God. You can request it, or download it, by going to our Your New Life page or by calling (800) 988.5120.
(All scriptures are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise stated.)