Should you fight for your marriage? Is it worth the trouble? Simply, yes.
Here are nine reasons why you should fight for your marriage.
- God owns your marriage. Jesus said, “What God has joined together, let not man separate” (Mark 10:9). When at the alter you say “I do” to each other and make a marriage covenant together, you uncover God’s design for your life. In every wedding ceremony the officiant asks if you will make a promise to live together in marriage. The vows may be worded a bit differently for each person, but in every case you are pledging your love exclusively to this person for life. This is your choice.
God’s sovereign plan for your life is revealed as you make this freewill choice together. The covenant created on your wedding day stands. Jesus says that God keeps the authority exclusively for Himself for the dissolution of your marriage. What He put together through your individual choices, He expects not to be dissolved.
- Remaining faithful to your wedding covenant imitates God. The Bible says that each person should strive to live like God. “Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1). One of God’s primary and most treasured attributes is covenant faithfulness.
The Old Testament term for covenant faithfulness combines several key values of love, faithfulness, mercy, grace, and kindness. God always lovingly remains faithful to His covenants. Promises that God makes, He never breaks. God acts for the benefit of the covenanted one without asking, “What’s in it for me?” God never looks for the simple way out. God chooses covenant fidelity and faithfulness over covenant dissolution or infidelity. In the Bible, insurmountable evidence points to God’s enduring faithfulness: consider God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph; the infidelity and unfaithfulness of Israel; the beautiful love story of Ruth with Naomi and Boaz; Hosea’s marriage to Gomer, and others.
- Christlike, sacrificial love toward your spouse obeys God. After the reminder that all Christians are to imitate God, Paul continues, “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:2).
For the Christian, as we have received Christ’s love, we are to walk in it. To walk in love simply means to live lovingly as Christ in everything we do. How does Christ love? Christ’s love looks outward not inward. Christ’s love sacrifices willingly for God’s glory and the benefit of the other person. Christ’s love works even to its own harm. Christ’s love moves toward the other person even when there is a cold response in return. Christ’s love stands ready to forgive. Christ’s love provides what is best to grow and flourish. Christ’s love sacrifices. This is the standard and goal for love in marriage.
- Your marriage is an earthly picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:23-33). Imperfect picture – you bet. Marriage perfection evades all of us. Therefore, an imperfect marriage or spouse fails as an excuse for lack of involvement in your marriage, or worse, for leaving your marriage.
Instead, the opposite is true. If you have an imperfect marriage, then sacrificial love and covenant faithfulness demonstrate the best picture of how Christ loves the church. Jesus married the church which is made up of sinners like you and your spouse. Yet, in spite of the ups and downs, sensitive and non-sensitive responses, good days and bad days, the selfishness and thoughtlessness, Christ still loves, forgives, remains sensitive, and endures. As you do the same, you provide a picture of the love between Christ and the church.
- Your emotions fail you. Regardless of how you feel right now about your spouse and your marriage, what you know concerning God’s desires for you is greater. As a Christian, God provides through the power of the Holy Spirit in you the ability to persevere. Our emotions often say, “I can’t…!” or “I won’t…!” or “Because you did, I will…!” Your emotions fail to point you toward truth, grace, and perseverance.
Instead, our emotions want us to take a break, demand fairness, be served rather than serve, get my own way just once, and the like. Your emotions want to just be happy, to not have to fight for marriage, for marriage to be simple, for your spouse to be what you want, for your spouse to change, etc.… Your emotions say, “My will be done!” instead of “God’s will be done.”
For all these reasons, emotions are to be considered but not followed. Your emotional upset serves as a warning light on the dashboard of a vehicle that lets you know something is not right, that something needs attention. Therefore, your emotions serve you to make positive changes in your marriage, not to provide you the motivation to give up on your marriage and on your spouse.
- Incompatibility is an excuse not a reason. Everyone’s circumstances leading up to marriage are different, like length of relationship, length of engagement, and marriage preparation. You date the salesman. Pre-marriage is not the same as post-marriage. What seemed cute often wears as real life together happens. Real pressures build. Disappointment happens. Circumstances change. New circumstances happen. Happiness seems to wane.
Before long, couples begin to think that they are incompatible. Often the thinking goes like this, “Since God wants everyone to be happy, and we seem so incompatible, the best thing we could do for each other is just leave our marriage.” This is an excuse on multiple levels.
To do what God forbids is never good for you or your spouse. Compatibility and incompatibility are empty categories. All you need to remain in marriage is a spouse. With hard work, using the resources God provides for you, you can persevere. Strive for friendship. Spend time together. When you embrace God’s purpose for marriage and for your individual sanctification, you will find that you are compatible because pursuing God’s purpose as one flesh means you are compatible.
- When marriage fails, no one wins. In the moment of marriage frustration, struggle, and dysfunction, it is understandable to believe that another spouse would be better. You may not want to win personally, per se, but you can’t stand to think your spouse will win.
Reality is this: a new marriage does not make life any easier or better for anyone. It takes energy to be divorced. Divorce adds more pain on top of your initial pain. Divorce dishonors God. Divorce discourages God’s people. Divorce distorts the picture of Christ and the church. Divorce complicates the lives of those you love – especially your children and extended family. Divorce minimizes God’s grace, forgiveness, and power in your life. Divorce does change things, but leaves no winners, only waves of hurting people.
- Imperfect marriages benefit you and your family. You may be wondering, “How is this true?” This is true because God uses pressure-filled circumstances in our lives to help grow us into Christlikeness. In God’s providential control of your life, He utilizes pressure in His plan to help you change, mature, and strengthen (Romans 8:28-29; James 1:2-18).
As you turn to Him in humility, prayer, and repentance, He uses His Word, His people, and your circumstances to transform you into a better person. Therefore, when you embrace your marriage struggles and see them as sanctification builders, growth opportunities, and part of God’s gracious plan for you, your attitude will change. Instead of complaining and living with constant despair, you build contentment, begin to welcome the challenges, and recognize God’s provisions in the midst of the struggle.
God provides grace, the power of the Spirit, the presence of Christ, the encouragement of His people, and the promises in His Word to help you. As you persevere, you grow, your family benefits, you demonstrate the covenant faithfulness of God, and help other people who observe the process.
- You have hope in Christ. As children of God, God is working in you both. If your spouse does not have a relationship with Christ, you can still rest in the fact that God is working in you and in your circumstance. For the latter case, possibly God will use your faithfulness to help your spouse become a follower of Him. If the former, you can have confidence in truth.
“Being confident of this very thing, He who has begun a good work in your will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Here, Paul identifies the good work God has begun in them, He will complete. This is true not just in the kindness of the Philippians to Paul; this is true in all those who follow Christ. In a different letter, Paul writes, “You are His workmanship” (Ephesians 2:10). God is at work in you. God is at work in your situation. Whatever you believe and see is going on in your situation today is not the totality of the story. God’s work is greater than what you can see. Do not be weary in well doing (Galatians 6:9). God is with you and for you.
Fight, that is, for your marriage, not with your spouse.
If you are in the midst of struggle, get help. Ask your pastor. Contact a biblical counselor. Talk with a trusted friend. Work on your walk with Christ, that is, your daily relationship with Christ. Pray. Get started fighting for your marriage.
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Pastor Kevin’s Blog | Walking together through life as friends in Christ sharing wisdom along the journey