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.

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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.

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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.

More encouraging marriage quotes and images

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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?

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