I recently argued that marriage, despite the lingering effects of the Fall, is a good thing. But in as much as our marriages are meant to portray the relationship between Christ and the church, many do fall short. As Christians, it is actually a good thing to walk into marriage expecting no bed of roses, for there is no perfect marriage. How then are we to anticipate and enjoy marriage, knowing this?
We need to remember the following truths that God has mercifully revealed to us in his word.
In a marriage set-up, it is easier to be self-righteous. I, for instance, am ever quick to point a finger at my husband whenever anything goes wrong. I like to feel right…all the time! Our generation does worse to fuel this idea in my head when I hear it stated countless times, "The wife is always right!" I forget what Romans 3:10 says about none, not even one, being righteous. Still Paul, this time writing to the Philippian church (2:3), exhorts thus, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourself." How my flesh pushes me to constantly see my husband's sin and not my own is a stark contrast. I forget mercy and allow my passions to take over, proving myself a transgressor over and over again.
I know this scenario is not unique to me. Most marriage conflicts will stem from a similar script. It is never easy for one to take a step back and remember their own sinfulness during a conflict. However, when God has shone his light upon a heart through the gospel, one is able to appreciate their depravity and the mercy and grace God has shown them better. The reality of the enormous debt Christ paid on the cross makes forgiveness a small price to pay.
Accepting that I am the foremost among sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) does not imply that I will always be wrong and my husband will always be right. It means that whenever my husband wrongs me, instead of sitting on the opposite side of the table accusing him, I will be beside him; one with him. This way I can be peaceable, gentle and open to mercy (James 3:17). With the help of the Holy Spirit, my husband and I will both be able to clearly see who the real enemy is.
My marriage faces an enemy, and it is not my spouse. That is good news. Many marriages suffer because this fact is overlooked. I personally forget this truth often. Ephesians 6:12 reads, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." This might sound a bit farfetched for our present context, but it is in fact true. This verse exposes the root of our strife as Christians, and certainly strife between a man and his wife. The heavenly places spoken of here, refer to the spiritual realm; an invisible reality with supernatural beings. To fight a supernatural enemy, we must arm ourselves appropriately. Verses 13-20 of Ephesians 6 tell us to put on the whole armor of God and what it entails.
My marriage faces an enemy, and it is not my spouse. That is good news.
When a man and his wife are armed as such, they are indeed able to "keep alert with all perseverance" (Ephesians 6:18). Troubles are bound to come, but God is faithful to work all things out for their good. Their marriage then becomes a tool in God's hand. He uses it for their sanctification as they march hand in hand towards their perfection at the Day of Christ Jesus.
When looking for a marriage partner, one can be tempted to set out looking for the perfect guy/girl (or is it "the one"?); a knight in shining armor, the princess with the golden slipper among other fantastic imaginations. (Let's blame that on the movies.) Many are ignorant of the fact that "…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…" (Romans 3:23), and it is hence pointless to expect another sinner to love truly out of sheer will and strength. What often results is disappointment over unmet expectations, heartbreak, and even the prevalence of serial dating tendencies. What then should be our hope?
As Christians, we must never forget that Christ is the only One who is truly perfect. A potential partner might come along, seeming all perfect, yet he or she is not. Eyes fixed on the perfect One who died on the cross and resurrected will enable sober discernment of wolves in sheep's clothing. A potential's Christlike character, seen in bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit ever increasingly, is what we must judge by in attempting to discern whether they are truly a child of God, and therefore a worthy fit.
As Christians, we must never forget that Christ is the only One who is truly perfect.
Marriage, to be enjoyed, requires continual application of gospel truths. Aware of the log in my own eye—even when sin would have me see the speck in my husband's as bigger—I will take more seriously the threat that my own sin poses to my marriage. Self-righteousness would unravel even as I continue recalling whose I am. Forgiveness would therefore not be a far-flung possibility should I suffer offence. As unrealistic as this might sound, we need not forget that this is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Thus, the reality of there being no perfect marriage should not push us to despair. We are free to enjoy the gift of marriage—even with its imperfections—because our sovereign God has chosen to hand it to us. Ours then is to rest in his good and perfect plan for our lives now as we await the return of the good and perfect King, Jesus Christ.
Isla is wife to Joseph and mother to one child. Her favorite things to do, apart from writing and editing articles, are baking, crocheting, indoor gardening and reading books. She currently works as a stay-at-home mom and a freelance editor. Isla is a church member at the Hope City Bible Church, Nairobi.