Reclaiming Marriage as a Blessing


Your marriage is meant to be beautiful.  It’s meant to be a gift.  Do you know that?  God’s design of marriage is symbolic of the love Jesus has toward His church (Ephesians 5:22-32).  That never-ending, self-sacrificing, all-consuming love.  Does your marriage feel that way?  Are you enjoying your marriage?  Do you feel blessed by it? 

To be honest, I don’t always feel blessed in my marriage.  There are times my marriage is not enjoyable, and perhaps the furthest model from Jesus’ love for His church that you can imagine.  Sometimes it even leaves me wondering:


In an attempt to answer these questions, we’ll explore current cultural views on marriage, compare it with a Biblical perspective on marriage, and then discuss ways we might come to view marriage as a blessing and yes, even to rejoice in it.


Current Cultural Views on Marriage

More popular than ever before is the notion to not even get married.  Described as antiquated, there is a rising trend for young adults to not even see marriage as a consideration in their life goals (U.S. Census).  Indeed, in terms of experiencing life fulfillment, women rank having children higher than getting married (Pew Research Center).  Those that do choose to marry, however, are more likely to stay married (U.S. Census).

But once married, the roles of husband and wife are not as clearly delineated as in the past, leading to more occasions for arguments, according to Pascale and Primavera from Psychology Today.  From hazy distribution of household responsibilities, to power struggles in honor of gender equality, to ranking personal needs above a spouse’s needs in pursuit of individual goals, marriage today teems with fighting fodder.  It’s a struggle to redefine what marriage looks like in an ever-changing, equality-minded, success-driven culture.  It’s modern.  It’s new.  And, to many, it’s just not worth it.

“If you love someone, just live with them; there’s no need to get married,” heeds the cultural trends of the day.  Leaving the official documents and government out of it, couples still benefit from all other relationship perks.  And, should it not work out, they are free to just move on, no paperwork necessary.  Despite the rise of cohabitation, couples still feel more trust in marriage (Pew Research Center).

Biblical Views on Marriage

Hidden amongst the current cultural views of marriage exist couples who believe in, and attempt to follow, Biblical views on marriage.  What does the Bible have to say about marriage?

Marriage is a process of two souls becoming one (Genesis 2:21-24).  It reflects the relationship between Jesus and His church (Ephesians 5:22-32).  He loves the church relentlessly (Romans 8:38-39), endlessly (Jeremiah 31:3), deeply (Zephaniah 3:17), self-sacrificially (Galatians 2:20) and as the church accepts His love, it and Him become one (I Corinthians 6:17).  

Because marriage is a process of two souls becoming one, woven together in the Father’s love, (Ecclesiastes 4:12) divorce is generally dissuaded (Matthew 19:6-9). 

As the two souls seek unity, the Bible clearly identifies roles for each.  The husband takes on the roles of leader (Ephesians 5:23) and provider (I Timothy 5:8) while the wife submits to his leadership (Ephesians 5:24) and watches over the household (Titus 2:3-5).  The husband loving his wife; the wife respecting her husband (Ephesians 5:33).

From a Biblical standpoint, marriage is not considered the right choice for everyone.  Indeed, Paul advises people to remain single so they can keep their primary focus on God.  However, it does caution against living together outside of marriage (I Corinthians 7:8-9).

How to View Marriage as a Blessing

Okay, friends, now is where we get from the cold, hard, difficult-to-write, fact-reporting to the open, honest talk.  I know how controversial this subject is today.  I know that several people back away and consider not even reading this as soon as I mention religion.  It’s antiquated; it’s a fairy tale.  Or maybe you’re a Christian.  You believe in God.  Jesus is your jam.  You just think the Bible needs modernizing and it couldn’t possibly know anything about what your marriage needs.
 
Writing, as a woman, in a modern world, surrounded by modern views, I hear so many voices just typing this that sneer angrily at the word “submit” and seethe at being relegated to watching over the household.  I know your anger.  I hear your frustration.  But is it possible that we’re seeing these roles through worldview glasses?  As I read the commentary on Proverbs 5:18, would it surprise you to know that what emerged was advice on how the husband should treat the wife.  What would you think of a book that advised your husband to:

1.)    Make you happy?
2.)    Be faithful only to you?
3.)    Behave in a loving, affable and respectful manner toward you?
4.)    Live comfortably with you?
5.)    Provide well for you and your children?
6.)    See you as a source of happiness, a blessing God bestowed?

I don’t know about you, but for me, this is a book I could get behind.  And ladies, this is what God wants: for your marriage to be blessed.  The list above is John Gill’s exposition of Proverbs 5:18 and it reads as a list of ways that men can bless their “fountain,” here interpreted to mean their wife.  See, when a man leads you, God doesn’t mean for him to take ownership over you, but for him to love you relentlessly (Romans 8:38-39), endlessly (Jeremiah 31:3), deeply (Zephaniah 3:17), and self-sacrificially (Galatians 2:20) as Christ loves the church and lead you as an outflowing of this love for you.  If a man loves you this way, that’s leadership to which you’ll willingly submit.

Interestingly, Barnes’ Notes of Proverbs 5:18 turns to advice for the wives.  So, men, it’s you I now address.  First, I can only imagine, and it feels like it’s socially unacceptable to discuss, how it must feel being a modern man.  How can you lead well if your leadership is regarded as demeaning and archaic?  How can you successfully provide if your wife is torn between desires for achievement and guarding her home?  It must frustrate you to desire being a godly husband in the modern world.  Yet, if loved so truly and faithfully by your wife that the love the two of you produce together “streams forth in blessing all around, on children, on neighbors, and in the streets" could you find strength to keep fighting the good fight? 

In both commentaries, one idea sticks out to me: the blessing doesn’t just happen, you must work at it.  You must choose to find the blessing in each other.  You must choose to devote yourself only to your spouse.  You must choose to love.  It’s not magic.  It’s not a fairy tale.  It’s hard, on your hands and knees, scrubbing, buffing, refining work.  But in that, in consciously making that choice, in choosing to love your spouse and only your spouse, there are blessings to be had – a fountain full of them!

How to Rejoice with Your Spouse

We’re a society focused on achievement.  From a young age we're constantly asked: "What are you going to be when you grow up?" "How are you going to get there?" "List your accomplishments."  For any activity in which you endeavor to partake, a résumé you must first present.  Then, and only then, are you a consideration. 

Why doesn’t that achievement-mindedness extend to marriage?  If I presented my résumé to you and my first bullet point proudly listed wife of twelve years, would you laugh?  It is an achievement, an accomplishment, a career.  Friends, marriage is not easy. 

We pretend it is.  As a child, I always dreamed of the fantasy of marriage.  I mean, I felt it was within my reach, but my expectations of it were so far from the reality.  Marriage would make my life better effortlessly.  It would add enduring support to anything I wanted to accomplish.  It would never be a source of worry, but always a source of strength.  In my marriage, I would always be admired, valued, appreciated, and loved.

Then, once upon a time, I married, and my fantasy quickly became reality.  I was not always admired, nor did I always act in ways that deserved admiration.  Marriage worry happened, in droves, and it did not lend strength.  My desires toward accomplishment altered because while marriage has made my life better, I had to alter my perspective to see the better.

The rejoicing with your spouse bit in Proverbs hints at longevity: “rejoice with the wife of your youth.”  Be married.  Stay married.  Rejoice that the wife you married at a young age is still your wife.  Indeed, with the divorce rate still teetering around 46%, the odds of remaining married or divorcing remain almost equal (U.S. Census).

So, remaining married really is cause for rejoicing.  It should be on my résumé: wife of twelve years.  It has taken diligent work, following a steep learning curve with sacrifices along the way, but it also led to rejoicing.  We “get” each other so much more now.  We’re moving in a cadence that shows a unified front.  We choose each other daily.  It is a choice - a choice that’s cause for rejoicing. 



Being willing to self-sacrifice for the good of our marriage and choosing each other daily are, doubtlessly, key components to marriage longevity.  But there’s another.  One that has eternal impact: keeping God at the center.  It’s following His guidance no matter the situation and trusting what He has in store (Proverbs 3:5-6).  It’s acknowledging that His ways are better than your ways; His thoughts are higher than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).  It’s admitting that your creator knows what’s best for you and your marriage.  It’s desiring to honor Him in your marriage, which happens through continual scrubbing, buffing, and refining so that eventually your relationship may reflect Him. When I think of marriage this way - as a way to honor God - it feels like a higher calling, a divine purpose.  And perhaps, if we choose to live our marriages out this way, then our marriages will radiate Jesus, leaving others to wonder, “What do they have that we don’t?”  To which we’ll proclaim, “Jesus!  Friends, you need Jesus!”

Considerations

Just as there is no “one-size-fits-all” blueprint for life, there is no “one-size-fits-all” blueprint for marriage.  Every marriage is unique, as unique as the individuals that compose it, regardless of how similar they seem.  Marriages are like snowflakes.  Even two that start at the same time, from the same place, with relatively similar experiences, face different variables on the path they take – be it through the sky or through life.  So, I’m not here to tell you what you should or should not do in your marriage.  I’m not here to provide you with a list of rules to follow, nor to suggest that I have that list of rules.  I do, however, want to encourage you to fight for your spouse.  Choose to see your spouse as a blessing.  Choose him or her again each morning, and repeatedly throughout the day.  Be willing to sacrifice to the end of unity.  And, above all else, put God in the center.  Trust His word.  Trust His ways.  Trust His plan for you.  Then, one day, while lost gazing into your spouse’s eyes, may you see God peering back at you.

With Love and Prayers from the Kitchen,


P.S.  We'd love to hear from you!  Leave a comment below to let us know how you've been blessed in your marriage.

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References

  1. Bible Gateway, www.biblegateway.com/ Accessed 10 Mar. 20.
  2.  Horowitz, Juliana M., et al. “Marriage and Cohabitation in the U.S.” 6 Nov. 2019, Pew Research Centers: Social & Demographic Trends, www.pewsocialtrends.org/2019/11/06/marriage-and-cohabitation-in-the-u-s/, Accessed 10 Mar. 20.
  3. Pascale, Rob. and Lou Primavera. “How Do Gender Roles Impact Marriage?: A look at traditional versus modern roles.” 7 Jan. 2020, Psychology Today, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/so-happy-together/202001/how-do-gender-roles-impact-marriage Accessed 10 Mar. 20.
  4. “U.S. Marriage and Divorce Rates by State.” 15 Jan. 2020, United States Census Bureau, www.census.gov/library/visualizations/interactive/marriage-divorce-rates-by-state.html Accessed 10 Mar. 20.

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