Anyone who has been married a certain amount of time will tell you that marriage is hard. In fact, sometimes it can be a downright struggle.
Sure, you love each other. And you were, in all likelihood, definitely in love with each other when you got married.
But somehow in between life happening and yourselves being yourselves, time eroded the goodwill, affection, and romance into dull familiarity, and the sweet and enjoyable conversations you thought would go on forever all but dried up. And you now face moments or even days where you just plain dislike, and practically detest, each other.
We look at celebrity couples and admire the picture perfect marriages and picture perfect families they appear to have, then feel horrified and crushed when they break up over cheating scandals or petered out love, before starting all over again with another model celebrity couple, taking far too long to come round to the fact that it takes a lot more than 2 attractive and passionately in love people to make a marriage last.
Neither does it mean that when a couple are Christian and they are in church, they will have a problem-free and strife-free marriage.
Sadly, it’s not uncommon to find Christian marriages that appear to be so ideal and strong in public to actually be crumbling behind closed doors, simply because people subscribe to a misplaced notion that things must automatically become perfect when they are Christian, and they become too embarrassed to speak out when they face real-life issues just like everyone else.
When I got married to TJ, it felt like a fairy-tale and a dream come true. I thought I had married the cutest and sweetest guy I’ve ever known, and he still is. He thought he had married the loveliest girl he had ever met. We talked about everything and anything. But we still each have our quirks and issues, and we still have those days of not being able to stand each other.
It takes more than being Christian and being in church to have a strong and intimate marriage. Because it takes actively involving Jesus and putting Jesus in the centre of your marriage.
Far too often we end up putting the focus on each other and making ourselves or our spouses the centre of our marriage, which inevitably drains the life out of any marriage eventually.
It won’t matter even if we leave the marriage and get married to someone else, because we’ll just repeat the cycle, seeing as every marriage we enter into will have at least one imperfect party – us.
The problem isn’t with us or our spouse. It is with our focus.
When Jesus walked past the man born blind (John 9), His disciples asked Him whose sin was it, the man’s or his parents’, that he was born blind. Jesus simply answered: “Neither, but it was so that people would see what God will do in him.” Jesus stepped right past the finger-pointing and dwelling on the problem to go straight to the solution – which was simply to heal the man.
Putting Jesus in the centre of our marriage isn’t just doing the right things to glorify Him and be a good testimony. More often than not it is simply seeing Him for who He is.
We need to realise that God designed marriage as a picture of Jesus and the church – His bride, which is each and all of us in Christ. There’s only one party that is constant and steadfast in this union, and it’s not the church.
There are days we forget to pray. There are times we get so caught up with things that it’s weeks before we even open the Bible to read it for ourselves. There are seasons where we get so discouraged and disappointed with God that we walk away from Him altogether.
But His eyes never leave us. His mind never ceases to dwell and linger on us and think loving thoughts towards us. His love for us remains unwavering, as strong as on that day He laid down His very life for us.
And the moment we turn back and lift our eyes towards Him, we see Him looking at us lovingly with the same affection He always has, waiting with arms outstretched to welcome us back into His strong, loving embrace.
It is the same in our marriages. There will be times when one or both of us act out on impulse, under stress, or simply because we’re in a bad mood. Our love for our spouse will waver according to circumstances and seasons.
But Jesus, as the third party in our marriage who holds us together, remains constant and unchanging. His love for us and our spouse individually never wavers, regardless of how badly we behave.
And when we see the unceasing torrent of His unfailing and steadfast love for us personally, our hearts cannot help but melt and soften towards our spouse.
We don’t have to wonder or be horrified when we act out; that is simply a product of our flesh. The Bible tells us that “in our flesh dwells no good thing” (Romans 7:18). Which explains why we often end up doing the exact opposite of our inner intentions and the goodness that we actually desired to show our spouse.
But the Bible also gives us the key to getting out of this destructive cycle, through the apostle Paul:
But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16, NET)
When we live according to the leading of the Holy Spirit, we will certainly not fulfill or act out our desires of the flesh, whether anger or depression or any such thing.
Living by the Spirit is not following certain principles or guidelines we set out in our minds or even trying to obey God’s laws – the subsequent verses that link the law to the flesh clearly tells us that.
Instead, it is simply following the prompting of the Holy Spirit as He leads us. It is a flow, that is exactly appropriate for every situation.
We become more sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit by praying more in the Spirit, and also when we spend more time in God’s Word and His presence.
And as we learn to follow the Spirit’s leading more and more, our marriages will become less and less of a struggle and more and more an effortless flow.
But know this: It won’t always be perfect. There will surely be occasions when we miss or fail to follow the Spirit’s leading. We will still act out according to our flesh at times. Don’t be surprised, it happens.
It doesn’t matter. Just keep moving forward, and keep focusing on the solution.
Look to Him afresh, and invite Him into the centre of your marriage once more.
And let the love of His Spirit be shed abroad in your heart to change you from within, to fall in love with your spouse all over again, and experience the joy of marriage just like on your wedding day, and even above and beyond.
Because when we encounter Jesus, we encounter grace.
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God wants your marriage to be a flow and not a struggle. This 2-DVD album containing 4 sermon messages by Ps Joseph Prince reveals how building your marriage around Jesus at the centre is the key to a solid and happy marriage, and will help you to refocus your relationship in the right direction:
God designed marriage to bless you, and this union is still His priority! In this humorous two-DVD set, Joseph Prince not only shares practical, scriptural truths that will help couples develop solid and happy marriages, but also provides a refreshing look at ways in which everyone, whether single or married, can enjoy days of heaven on earth, either with their spouses, or while waiting for that special someone. Knowing God’s heart concerning marriage will also help you better understand the exceeding love Jesus has for you, and the church, His bride.