When it comes to tackling the challenges of marriage, an ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of cure. If you’re intentional about preparing yourself for the realities of everyday life in marriage it can help start your marriage off on the right foot. Preparing for marriage can also help you have realistic expectations for what married life will be like.
Gospel-centered marriages don’t come naturally to fallen creatures like us. We have to be intentional about exposing ourselves to resources that will encourage us to remember Christ and rely on Him. One way to prepare for marriage is to read reliable books that take the Bible’s teaching on marriage and apply it to the realities of marriage in the 21st century. There are two books that I would especially recommend picking up and reading before you get married: The Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller, and What Did You Expect? by Paul David Tripp.
The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy & Kathy Keller
There are many books out there on marriage from a Christian perspective, but The Meaning of Marriage is always one of the first ones I recommend. Many marriage books written after The Meaning of Marriage quote it at length, and for good reason. Tim Keller pastored a church in Manhattan that was overwhelmingly made up of young and single people. He preached a sermon series on marriage to Redeemer Presbyterian Church in the summer of 1991, and the content of that sermon series largely became the content of this book. The bulk of The Meaning of Marriage was originally meant to be received by an audience predominantly made up of not-yet-marrieds, which is why it is the first book I recommend you read before you get married.
Before you get married, you should be able to answer the questions, “What is marriage?” and “Why did God create marriage?” Especially if you did not grow up with examples of godly marriages around you, this book will help you to get an idea of what a God-honoring, gospel-centered marriage looks like. One thing that Tim and Kathy Keller do exceptionally well in this book is identify the common misperceptions Western 21st-century culture has about marriage, and respond to those misperceptions with truth from Scripture.
The Kellers draw out the Bible’s definition of marriage as a covenantal rather than a consumer relationship. In a consumer relationship, the needs of the individual are placed above the relationship. If the other party of the relationship does not hold up their end of the bargain, the relationship can be terminated in an instant. On the other hand, in a covenantal relationship, the relationship takes priority even over the needs of the individual. The Kellers explain how this reality flips our culture’s concept of marriage on its head.
The Meaning of Marriage explains the Bible’s teaching on marriage in a way that lifts marriage up and makes it look like a commitment worth pursuing. You will look forward to the covenant of marriage as you read this book, and that is why it is the first book I recommend you read before you get married.
What Did You Expect? by Paul David Tripp
The Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller does an excellent job teaching the reader what marriage is and why God created it. In What Did You Expect? Paul Tripp complements The Meaning of Marriage by teaching the reader about the day-to-day little moments that ultimately make or break a marriage. Tripp recognizes that all of our marriages are taking place in a world that is not functioning the way that God intended. Our marriages are happening in a post-Genesis 3 world, which means that every marriage will have some measure of trial and suffering as a result.
Every time I crack this book open, I am in awe by just how realistic the marital issues that Tripp describes are. His many years of experience as a counselor have given him a large pool of real-life examples of marital strife. He’s able to apply the gospel to those examples, and he makes many of his experiences come to life on the pages of What Did You Expect?
In What Did You Expect?, Tripp explains that our marriages and lives are made up of a series of little moments, and it is in those little moments that we are either building up or tearing down our marriage. Tripp advocates a lifestyle of confession, repentance and growth that can improve your marriage even if only one person in the relationship is practicing it. This book will help you recognize the importance of every single moment in marriage, and to make the most of them.
The Meaning of Marriage and What Did You Expect? are two books that you should read before you get married. The Meaning of Marriage will give you a gospel-centered understanding of what marriage ultimately is and why it exists. In a world confused about the nature of marriage, Scriptural clarity is helpful. What Did You Expect? will help you to navigate life as a sinner married to another sinner. You will learn to make every little moment count, to confess your sin, and to forgive your spouse for the sin they commit against you.
Have you heard of the The 31-Day Pursuit Challenge?
Every marriage begins with passion, purpose, and pursuit, but few stay that way. That’s why we wrote Husband in Pursuit and Wife in Pursuit Together, they make what we’re calling the 31-Day Pursuit Challenge. Couples are encouraged take the challenge together. We’re already starting to hear stories of transformed marriages! Are you up for the challenge?