Navigating Marriage

Marriage is not a contract, which is explicitly written in case of a breach of promise.  Marriage is a covenant designed by God to express His unconditional love for us regardless of how often we may breach. His design is that marriage lasts forever (Matthew 19:4-6; Hebrews 13:4).

We’ve been digging to find out what God’s Word says regarding building our relationships as His disciples under His Lordship. We’ve applied the truths specifically to marriage with the commands and keys that enable us to build marriages that are blessed and that bless our families and His Church.

There are volumes, and even libraries of writings, that address the “how to’s” in marriage. The purpose here is to help us make sure that our hearts and minds are aligned with Christ’s. While practical steps are important and helpful, if our hearts are not set on Him we will eventually just exchange one selfish desire for another and the enemy will wreak havoc in our life, marriage, and all relationships.  I’ve seen this over and over again…far too often!

I know your desire is to honor God or you wouldn’t be reading this now.

With this understanding we continue with Scriptural principles that will reveal and/or help us deal with some of the underlying and prevalent issues and problems that arise in marriage…heart issues. Using the foundations, commands, and keys discussed in previous articles we can apply His Word and begin to see how He changes our hearts and guides us through them.  Let’s start with a HUMDINGER…

Authority in Marriage (Matthew 20:24-28; John 13:1-5, 12-17; Ephesians 5:23; 1 Peter 3:1-5)

Having already discussed this in previous artilces, I simply want to give you a couple of acronyms to help you remember what authority in Christ’s Kingdom, and therefore in our lives and marriage as His followers, is to look like. This will help you remember and understand what Godly Authority looks like and how to apply it in your marriage.

You need two pair of P.A.N.T.S to succeed in marriage…really the same pair…

P. A.N.T.S. – Who wears them in your Marriage?

The first pair – Proper Authority Needed To Succeed

The second pair – Proper Attitude Needed To Serve

Remember, in Christ’s Kingdom and His Kingdom authority, you’re not really wearing the first pair if you’re not willing to wear the second.  Keep this in mind as we move into another touchy area in marriage…

Forgiveness and Trust (Matthew 6:14-15; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13; John 2:24)

In almost every case with struggling couples, no matter what the symptoms are, there are major foundational issues rooted in unforgiveness and distrust. Here are some Scriptures and insights that have helped many.

Forgiveness is mandatory (Matthew 6:14-15; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13); Trust is earned (John 2:24).  I’ve talked before about this tweet, “God’s grace is amazing, but it never compromises His Truth.” If it did, He would be a liar and we know that’s not the case.

Unfortunately, we have compromised His Truth. Many have fallen into this trap (with good intentions, but we know where that road leads). The only way I can be assured that I’m forgiven in Christ is if it’s evident in my forgiveness of others.

Numerous couples have been told that forgiveness is a process and they would not be able to forgive until they had “processed” the pain and moved beyond the emotions, hurt feelings, accusations, or “fill in the blank.” Stay with me here.

There is a process. It’s just that forgiveness is not that process. Emotions and feelings associated with the offense or violation require time and processing. Forgiveness, on the other hand, is a choice that you can make immediately because it’s what God in His Grace has done for each of us who believe in Christ. And He says that we absolutely must forgive. (Matthew 6:12, 14-15; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13)  Trust, however, is earned…more on this later.

According to His Word, forgiveness is a mandate—a command (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). The only thing that Jesus repeated after His “Model Prayer” or “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13) is the issue of forgiveness (vv. 14-15)…”If you do not forgive, then your Heavenly Father will not forgive you.” If I want to know His forgiveness, then I must forgive everyone, period.

I’m pretty sure you agree that we want and need His forgiveness.

This is the subtle deception that has entered into our humanistic counseling and wreaked havoc on countless marriages, families, and relationships. If I’m not ready (i.e., don’t feel like it), then I should allow time to “process” my feelings before I forgive. Don’t miss this…This ties forgiveness to our feelings rather than His Truth. I don’t see that concept in God’s Word. Again, His grace is amazing, but it never compromises His Truth to any degree.

If you are willing to be deceived and allow feelings to trump God’s Truth, then you give the enemy territory and ammunition. He will use your flesh through your emotions to kill, steal, and destroy you and others in the struggle and process. It’s not a good ride or a gentle landing.

On the other hand, this Truth has helped many couples and people: If you are obedient to God to forgive, choosing to do so by His grace in and through you, then His Spirit and Truth guide you through the emotional pain and process.

Know that you are now forgiven and free in Christ as you give the same to others!

While forgiveness or unforgiveness is tied directly to trust they are not the same. If we are willing to forgive, then we can rebuild trust but it takes time. Even Jesus did not trust others because He knew what was in their heart (John 2:24). In less than three years after this text, He entrusted His life story, The Gospel and His Holy Spirit, to 120 men and women in an upper room (Acts 2:1-4).   He could do this because He had taught and modeled truth, love and forgiveness for them, and His forgiveness had allowed His life to be formed in them and that is what He was trusting…and what He trusts in those of us who believe in Him today.

We can do the same in our marriage and in all relationships, including in His Church, if we are willing to walk as His disciples, forgive others and learn to live as He did, so they see Him in us and we begin to see His life in them. 

And now for our final heart issue when it comes to relationships and marriage…

Unconditional Love in Marriage

Marriage is based on Commitment and Unconditional Love. Here’s a simple and great definition for love, based on Christ’s love for His Bride demonstrated on The Cross (Hebrews 12:2; Ephesians 3:17-18): Give 100%, Expect 0%! Maybe I should say “Demand 0.” Here’s why…

Expectations and demands will naturally occur in our flesh. The issue is not whether you’ll have them or not, but how you’ll respond and how you’ll define your spouse, yourself, and your relationship based on unmet expectations. We will all experience expectations— and unmet expectations— in our lives and marriage. Trouble comes when we play God and demand that our expectations always be met based on our wants, needs, and desires.  No matter what…love them anyway just as God loves us!

Food for Thought – God’s love compels us to learn to love and serve even when our expectations are not met…love them anyway!  That’s exactly what Christ has done to and for us. Not only will more of your expectations likely be realized over time, but also you will become the person who is more interested in looking to meet your spouse’s and other’s needs, rather than always expecting yours to be met. (Philippians 2:3-5)

Love in Action

  1. Read the Scriptures in this article. Ask The Holy Spirit to change your heart to love your marriage and spouse as Christ loves us.
  2. Which pair of P.A.N.T.S. are worn in your marriage?
  3. Practice forgiveness as loving obedience rather than an emotional process. Consider how to give and build trust so you can earn it. 
  4. Love your spouse (and others) regardless of whether they meet your expectations or not.

Prayer Focus…Heavenly Father, help me to understand Your Love and Authority and practice them accordingly in my marriage and with my spouse.  Help me to forgive in obedience to You and learn to trust Christ in others. Finally, help me love unconditionally, without my love being defined by expectations, met or unmet.  In Jesus Name. Amen.