For many singles, marriage looks like the solution to years of loneliness. What could be better—after years of waiting—than being committed to another person for the rest of your life?
While marriage is a beautiful depiction of Christ and the church, a place of support and encouragement, and God’s design for exercising sexuality, it comes with a significant challenge: Every marriage is made up of two sinners who fell in love.
If marriage were like the wedding day—a handpicked environment with sweet vows and background music—divorce rates would plummet! But real marriage is a journey of two hearts, two pasts and two sets of priorities. Just like singleness, marriage is a process of sanctification.
When we get married, we bring two sinful natures and two very different personalities and attempt to make them spiritually “one.” This would be hard enough in a perfect world, but in the difficulty of day-to-day living, it can sometimes feel impossible! When the honeymoon ends and the novelty wears off a little, the mundane duties of 9-to-5 jobs, weeknight dinners and busy social schedules threaten to steal the joy of many young couples. For girls who put marriage on a pedestal, it can be an overwhelming disappointment.
Two flawed people trying to make a life together is an uphill battle against selfishness and pride. On our own, we have all the potential to destroy our closest relationships. If a marriage is based on the “feeling” of love, it’s just as easy to fall out of love as it was to fall in. Our sinful natures clash with one another, and the resulting conflict can make us doubt whether we’re cut out for committed relationships. But the problem isn’t commitment; the problem is within ourselves.
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
Our hearts “want what they want.” But God expects us to think outside our own heart’s desires to fulfill the desires of others. This is what makes marriage so difficult!
The world tells us to give up when things get hard, but God’s way is the path of perseverance. When two sinners fall in love, the vow of commitment is designed to protect their vulnerability. Just as God commits to us for eternity, the covenant of marriage sets a high standard of faithfulness. This standard holds us accountable and demands that we persevere through conflict for the sake of our relationship.
This is no easy task. For imperfect people, it’s impossible! But God offers His strength and grace to both husband and wife, granting them the wisdom necessary to navigate difficulty. As we accept God’s grace for our weaknesses, we learn to offer grace to those closest to us. As we move into God’s love, we learn to give love unconditionally. And as we revere God and His expectations, we learn to respect other people for the value God has given them—even when it’s not reciprocated.
However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:33)
Marriage is a covenant between two sinners, but marriage is not 50/50. Marriage is 100/100: giving our all to one another because Christ gave His all for us. Singleness sanctifies us as we wait patiently on God’s timing. Marriage sanctifies us as we seek God’s strength to give unconditional love and respect. Neither one is greater than the other, because both draw us near to God!
In any relationship, we can expect to be disappointed, discouraged and hurt at times. But we will also grow in wisdom, courage and grace as we depend on the Lord to preserve our marriage—whether present or future.