Challenges, Commitment, Communication, Love, Priorities

4 Reminders to Help When Your Marriage is Tough

I sometimes doubt our ability to help marriages. Even as I write this, Selena and I are having communication difficulties. This morning we had a minor, stress-induced argument about trivial things (taking out the garbage, walking the dogs, and cleaning the bedroom). I left to do some work, she’s at home doing the most important work: loving and instructing our daughter. We’re both feeling unresolved and irritated.

In my rush to get working, I was shorter with her than I should’ve been.  I hate to say it, but this has happened often lately. We’re in a weird season I guess.

My doubts…

  1. How can we teach couples about the truths of marriage when we so obviously don’t have it figured out?
  2. How can we operate with authority on a subject we clearly don’t understand?

That’s just it. We don’t have it figured out–spend a few days with us and that will become painfully clear! Ask our parents, ask close friends, and ask the flies on the walls – all have witnessed our dysfunction. Don’t get me wrong, we have lots of great times too. We’re just far from perfect.

Despite our flaws, we are committed to discussing marriage because it’s so incredibly important. It is the most significant human relationship on the planet.

Our recent struggles have forced me to distill my thoughts a bit – to see the grand scheme of our marriage and the idea of marriage as a whole. Out of this moment, I wanted to share a few important things for you to apply to your marriage.

These ideas have helped me remember the big picture when my own smallness occludes my vision:

1: Marriage is all about Jesus and it always has been.

If the ultimate aim of marriage is Christ-like love, then it's primary purpose is to make us more like Christ.

Click to share.

We serve a God who operates covenantally. We see this covenant theme throughout the bible, specifically with the analogy of marriage layered in. God expresses His love through covenant and he wants us to do the same. Jesus is the most vivid example of God’s unwavering, unflinching covenantal love. The early scriptures spoke of a coming Savior, Jesus came as promised, and we now live in unprecedented grace because of his life, death, and resurrection. (too many verse references to list… read: The Bible)

When we love our spouses well, we love Jesus well – and vice versa. Loving each other God’s way isn’t always the easy way, but it is always the right way.

2: Marriage is less about perfection and more about perseverance.

Love is patient: God isn't done with either of you yet and neither should you be.

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We vowed. We vowed to love each other “in sickness and in health”, “for richer or poorer”, until death. Notice that those vows don’t include a promise to be perfect. Your marriage vows include promises to persevere and to be present, but they don’t include a guarantee for perfection.

What does this mean? It means you’re both works in progress. You’re not completed yet. God isn’t done with either of you yet, and neither should you be. Stay together, keep going after Jesus (this is the key!!), and enjoy the adventure!

(I needed this one today.)

3: Marriage is less about happiness and more about holiness.

God loved us so intensely that he sent his son to die. To die… a very painful death. Jesus didn’t want to go through with the cross, but he did it anyway.

The lesson? Sometimes happiness gets trumped by the greater goal: holiness. Happiness is a byproduct, not a goal, of a healthy marriage.

We have a video on this topic here.

This concept was first introduced to us by Gary Thomas in his book Sacred Marriage.

4: Your marriage is your ministry.

Christ is not merely a means for a better relationship with your spouse, your spouse is a means for a better relationship with Christ.

Click to share.

Why do we fight for our spouses? For holiness and honoring God. By delighting in God and gladly obeying him, we’re endowed with a rich, deep joy that is lasting! Marriage is great, love is great, and all that goes along with it is amazing. These are all by God’s grace and goodness.

The other way we honor God through our marriages is by ministering out of them. How does God want to use your family to extend his glory? How can he use you both to love people outside of your family the way Jesus teaches?

This is a hugely important reminder: your marriage isn’t just about you! Yes, it is in part, but it’s also about others. How can you be a light for Christ to others through your marriage?

Here’s a whole post about that exact question.

I needed to be reminded of these today. I needed to be reminded that it’s still all about Jesus, I don’t have to be perfect, and that holiness is my main goal. I’ve found that marriage is much more rewarding and manageable when I keep the larger picture in mind.

I hope this post has helped you find the same.

Question: How have you worked through difficult times in your marriage?

Please share your story in the comments below.

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  • vanessa

    Great article! It was amazing that you could share what you struggle with everyone.That helps people feel like they can relateGod bless you for that . My husband and I also help couples and of course would also question our selves. However what i found out through the Years is that as soon as we would past through the problem. It would help us help others that needed help with a similar issues as leaders it felt like we where paving the way. You and your wife are doing the same. One of the things that helped me is grace… And a class called grace in a marriage. It emphasized that just the way JESUS died on the cross for a undeserving me . Than I have no right to wait for perfection for my spouse before I take care of his needs and wants. Giving love even though he or she might not dereve it And another thing that helped us is to remember that we got married knowing we wanted to make the other persons needs first happy u can say. And as soon as our happiness comes first we go back to God because obviously the relationship with god must be lacking to have it be all about me me me . I hope you and your wife the best and may God protect your marriage and strengthen your relationship. In Jesus name amen.God bless your family.

  • João

    Good post. One of my pastors has recently asked me to get him some good marriage texts. I shall translate this one and pass it on to him. It will probably be used in our church’s couples ministry. And if you’re curious, I live in Brazil.

  • Taylor

    If you want to teach as Christ did….Live as He did. We are instructed to live to enrich each other. If a Hero is needed Be One.


    Keep up the Good Fight for through Christ the battle is already won.

  • What sets you apart from many couples if how you have examined what happened, and the fact you have not put it all on her. These skills mean you will work things out, and teaching others these skills will help them do likewise.
    Thanks for being transparent, and hang in there!

  • Dana

    When I find myself annoyed at my spouse I find it helpful to pray and ask God to help me see him the way that HE does. I also asked to be reminded of all the reasons I fell in love with him. It has always worked and been a blessing. He is a good man who tries and that is more important than the stupid little things that I hate.

  • Chris

    When we get annoyed with our spouse or engage in an argument, the underlying reason is because we think we are right and our spouse is wrong (at least on some level). One of the things that has helped me the most in my marriage and in fact transformed my marriage from the brink of failure to flourishing is a single line from the book, “Every Woman’s Desire”…

    “It is always better to be righteous than to be right.”

    Get that right and you’ll be surprised how it will transform you, your spouse and your marriage.

  • Serdee

    Ryan, point 4 is being lived out as you share this. This blog has been such a blessing to me as i prepare for this new phase of life of marriage (still have some time to go yet :P). Your posts are super encouraging and i think a good balance of humor, transparency, and doctrine are put into these! My girlfriend loves your blog and is learning too.

    Thank you so much for your time. it’s a huge blessing!

    Point 3; this verse goes right along with it. :) Even though we’re still being made holy, we’re considered perfect!

    And one more :)

    • Thank you for sharing Serdee. And thanks for your kind words!

  • Emay

    We spend 20 minutes a night together…Talking! Not just watching tv or working. We sit and talk, work on our family mission statement or discuss anything! If we have more time we listen to. Podcast and discuss it. Life and Marriage altered for the better since we started this!

    • That sounds great Emay, thanks for sharing! All couples should practice this.

  • Imelda

    It is not easy to live under the same roof when God put 2individual of different background n upbringing together. There is no winner or loser in any fight or arguments but at the end of the day everything will be forgotten and both become friends again as advised by God.

  • Jodi Shockey Sloboda

    I just read this (and discovered this blog) yesterday. I started a long post giving our background and all that we had been through (even the Reader’s Digest version is too much to ask anyone to read) to let you know how much I appreciated the hope that you gave…but let’s just leave it with the fact that this gave me the first glimmer of hope that our marriage could actually minister to others in spite of it’s (huge) imperfections and flaws. I used to believe that, but years (and years) of lost integrity tend to wear a person down. Thank you for your honesty and your vulnerability. I plan to take some time to read over some past posts, and I will sign up for future ones. God bless you and your wife.

  • AJ

    How do you do this when your spouse is a sex addict? Do I really sit idly by being supportive and pray that he stays sober? How is this a marriage? Thx.